Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Winning Dishes

For those of you who know me, you know that I really enjoy cooking. It's a somewhat new (say, within the last 5 years) interest, but I spend a lot of time researching, planning, and cooking. It's just fun for me. It can definitely turn into a lot of work, but overall I find the experience very rewarding, even cathartic, particularly the chopping. In any case, we have a pretty diverse palette around here. Lots of International foods and an affinity for spice, so it's not always easy to find a dish that suits the whole family, which now includes Monk -- that very good eater we know and love, but yet still a toddler. Of late, I've found a couple winning dishes, though, and am so proud. I seriously doubt that they will stick because it seems the kid is as fickle as he is ornery, but it's still quite a feat.

Last week I tried a recipe for Chicken Florentine out of The Big Book of Chicken -- just spinach and rice and parmesan and chicken in a casserole. I was shocked that he ate it. I'd have normally amped up the garlic and onions the next time, but since he and we liked it, I should probably add it -- as is -- to a normal rotation.

I like to make a casserole dish on Sunday or Monday of a week in case I'm feeling lazy on a subsequent night of the week and we can just have leftovers. Thus, I made a lasagna this week. And the kid ate it tonight for dinner. I was pretty impressed. I think he really ate mostly the cheese and noodles, but may have also managed down a few pieces of Italian sausage as well. Good times.

As I type this, I have some Palak Tofu brewing in the crockpot. I can't imagine Oliver will go for Indian food, but it's worth a shot. If nothing else, he'll grub on the rice, I guess.

Nothing too exciting in all this recipe trial and error, I suppose, but it is an interest (if not an obsession), so I thought my cooking should make an appearance in The Oliver Chronicles.

I love love love a cooking blog and find many of my recipes on blogs. The Palak Tofu recipe is from a blog called A Year of Slowcooking, where the author made a meal in her crockpot every day for 365 days. Wow. Impressive. I'm a fan of the crock, but haven't nearly mastered it. And my adventures in cooking are hardly worthy of a blog of their own, but you may see them make an appearance here now and again. Let me know what you think or if you have any must-try recipes or favorite cooking blogs. I'm always up for something new. In the meantime, I'm sure glad to move away from the soy nuggets and american cheese and frozen peas that has been the menu of choice up til now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Like mother like son. Oliver loves to pick at stuff. Woobie nubs, noses, and on Monday at the park: tree bark. For like 30 minutes. Slides and swings be damned. Made for some relaxing time on the neat sheet for mommy, though.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Adventures in Babysitting

Granted, the title of this post may be a little misleading to some, especially those who are familiar with the popular 80s film. But in our case, it's kind of turned on its head. I mean, it's us who gets an advenure when there is babysitting going on. And how lucky we are in that regard.

We are just kind of getting the hang of this babysitter thing to be honest. I mean, we like spending time with the boy and are otherwise pretty beat so, on most occasions, welcome the couch and the clicker. But sometimes, every so often, we get the gumption and actually put a plan together to get out and about for an evening in this wonderful city of ours. Wednesday was one such night! And many, many thanks go to Bubbie and Poppa (Eric's parents) for babysitting -- especially on such a late night out and especially without a TV (ours is in the shop).

About 6 times a year for the last 3 years (at least), Eric has been threatening to charter a moonlight sail. Seriously, I can't tell you how many times I've heard: "We should really get a boat and a group and go out. I'm gonna look into it." On a recent trip down Lake Shore Drive -- the route which so frequently inspires the comment -- I responded with an: "I'll believe it when I see it."

And it worked. Next thing you know, Eric is IMing me with dates and times and boats. And he called. And he confirmed. And we went. Wow.

Ryan (not pictured at left) and Catherine (at left) joined us for dinner at a place amidst the hub and bub on Broadway called Wilde. We sat outside and enjoyed some Irish pub grub -- and after stumbling upon their half-price beer special, stumbled out to Belmont Harbor and met our captain Ben (at left), who was good-natured and witty and charming and, of course, skilled -- everything you'd want in a captain.

It was the perfect night for sailing. Clear night, full moon, fireworks off of Navy Pier, and the first day of rides for that new weird air balloon thing. It really was gorgeous. And despite the modest wind availability, we were still able to put 'er up for part of the trip. Catherine and I even took the wheel for a bit. (Please excuse my lack of sailing terminology.) To be truthful, my time at the wheel was more of a photo op, but Catherine really did take responsibility for heading us south toward the pier.

We had such a nice time. It was enjoyable, right down to our Jamaican cab driver on the way home. I highly recommend the outing. I highly recommend it with the following cautions:
  1. Do NOT end the night on a cheap bottle of red wine purchased at Walmart in Beloit, Wisconsin.
  2. Tether your camera to your body so as not to throw it away in a park district trash can when disposing of the empty beer bottles.
  3. Don't even bother trying to take flash-less night photography on a moving vessel.
  4. Be prepared for one or more days of post-sail "sea legs."
  5. Try not to be such a "motor-mouth" that you miss the beauty and serenity of it all. (Eric's all-too-valid feedback on my overzealous conversational style that night. What can I say? It was good to catch up with R&C.)
  6. Watch out for foot-high plastic fences when you're walking into the woods to take a pee after dark. (This last piece of advice is courtesy of Eric who fell face first in the dirt due to said obstacle. Ouch!)
  7. Wear something nautical. Wish I had. Wouldn't that main photo of me have been that much more stunning in stripes?

See a video of our view of the fireworks below (complete with a silhouette of Eric and ooo's and ahhhh's from me). Good times!

Friday, September 4, 2009


As a parent, one should be cautious about making rash, broad-sweeping statements having anything to do with their own or other's children. This much I know. For example, anything starting with "XXXX never..." or "XXXX always..." are especially dangerous. But I thought I was on the safe side with my proud announcements early on that Oliver was "take it or leave it" with his binky (pacifier) and woobie (security blanket).

Once again, he has promptly proved me wrong.

Literally overnight he has grown very attached to both items. Used to be he'd only use them at night and if I asked him for the binky he would gladly just hand it to me, but now he's having this odd behavior where he'll be playing and then all of the sudden start screaming for his "bee" and "oo'bee." And thank goodness the two usually travel in a pair because I wouldn't be able to distinguish the two requests given Oliver's toddler accent. This on-a-dime change in behavior is so amazing to me. In any case, I thought these photos say it best:

"What? So? I'm only marginally interested in my binky and woobie.
I could take 'em or leave 'em anytime. Really, I could."


"Ha-ha-ha, sucker! You actually thought I didn't like my bink?
You seriously fell for that feigned ambivalence? Ha-ha! Fooled you!"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Taste of Fun

Last weekend we made the trek to the big city of Fort Wayne to see Grandma. We like to hit the town when there is some sort of goings on. In this case, it was Taste of The Arts, "downtown Fort Wayne's premiere arts and food festival."

I started out the weekend by scrambling out of the house and out to a cafe near Oliver's school to do one last conference call and cram a soup and sandwich down and before grabbing him and hitting the road. This adventure started at 12:30 for a 1:00 call. Off to get Oliver at 2:00, then out to Eric's office to get him (in HORRIBLE traffic -- a 30 min trip took an hour). So at this point, I'm feeling like a CTA bus driver with all these stops and pick-ups and a little like the victim of poor route planning (again, not unlike the CTA -- sorry Emily) to go west to get Eric then to head east to Indiana.

[Blogger's confession: I had planned a told-ya-so commentary about the irrationality, inconvenience, and unnecessary length of our route. However, while generating the Google map to illustrate my point, I discovered that it's really just about a 10-mile difference to run out and get Eric before going east. It's just a long drive, no matter how you chalk it up. Still think I'm sticking to my guns and making Eric drive downtown next time instead of the perpetuating the standard of curbside service.]

In any case, suffice it to say that it was a LONG trip. We managed to arrive just before Oliver's bedtime, but of course, he fell asleep in the car just as we were pulling into town, didn't survive the attempt at smooth transition, got overly excited to be at grandma's house, and ended up staying up way later than he should have.

We had a great time at the Taste of the Arts on Saturday -- and on our way, a quick stop at the Barr Street Market, because who can resist a Farmers Market, right? At the taste, Oliver spent most of his time trying to climb up on this huge orange sculpture. We watched some belly dancers and some inner-city youth strut their stuff on the performance stage. We ate sausages and drank beer and sampled cheesecake and spicy pasta. Good times. Then we came back to the house for nap time -- for all of us. Lots of zzzzzz's in that house.

Upon waking, it was, of course, time for more food, so we whipped up some turkey burgers and fired up the grill. Before we could get very far into the meal prep, though, Oliver set his sights on some corn we had bought at the Farmers Market. So Grandma shucked it for him as she endured the sound of his gruntlike chant: "Co, co, co," which escalated in intensity to the point where I suggested snarkily, "Just snap it in half and give it to him raw," thinking that either he wouldn't be able to eat it or it wouldn't taste good and he would lose interest, at least until we could get some water boiled to properly cook it. But I was wrong. Very wrong. That kid ate every last kernel off the cob and then sucked any remaining juice until there was simply nothing left. We all thought it was very cute and funny and took a series of photos to commemorate:

What wasn't so cute was the diaper aftermath the next morning. Traumatizing. Seriously traumatizing. But anyway... I digress. After dinner Oliver was quite cooperative and went to bed (we must have really worn him out) and Eric and I took the opportunity to go see a movie: Away We Go at the "dollar" theater. I really liked it. Eric thought it was just OK. Really can't beat an Under $10 date, though: 2 McDonald's sundaes ($2.16), 2 Movie Tickets ($6), Change ($1.84).

Sunday we hit breakfast at Sara's, a home-cooking family restaurant and another of our Fort Wayne favorites (although I think we decided that our standby Ashley's Skillet over there has fallen from grace a bit). After breakfast, we needed our nature fix, so went to Fox Island (a 605 acre park, which contains the largest contiguous forest in the county. Six miles of marked trails through the preserve enable visitors to enjoy the beauty of the park.) While we didn't hit the full six miles of marked trails, we did have a nice walk around the small lake that is part of the park. So nice. A little mosquito-y, but so nice. And we got our fix of critters, too: frogs and butterflies and ground squirrels. Then it was home for naps again. As Grandma and Oliver snoozed, Eric and I hit the road for some toddler-free errand running. A little less than inspired, we went to Target and loaded up on fall clothes for Oliver. Then, sadly, it was time to pack up and head back home.