Tuesday, November 21, 2017

7QT Nov 21

I'm really loving this 7QT format. 
It allows me to mind-dump all the little thoughts I have floating around, 
without sounding like the most totally random post 
(which it actually is). 

Let's start off by addressing the elephant turkey in the room...

1. Thanksgiving!  

We spend Thanksgiving at my parents' house. 
I'm in charge of the potatoes, 
the cheese tray, 
and the wine. 

This year I'm doing the make-ahead Pioneer Woman Mashed Potatoes
Most years I finish off the potatoes at my parents' house, 
but the problem there is my health-conscious mother. 
She balks at the amount of anything I put in the potatoes. 
Too much butter! 
Too much salt! 
Too much ... anything delicious at all
Thus, my new plan is to make them ahead so she can't see what's going in them. 
Half pound of butter, 
heavy cream, 
and enough salt to cover the driveway? 
YES. 


2. Black Friday 
(aka: Decorating Day) 

Black Friday morning first thing I jump on my laptop
and hit up a few sites that I know are consistently good: 
Hanna Andersson (PJ stock-up), 
GAP (kids jeans stock-up), 
etc. 

The rest of the day is spent transforming the entire house 
into a Christmas-obsessed Wonderland. 
Or, according to my Husband the Grinch, 
transforming the house into hell. 
But whatever. 
His entire job is to haul up the tree from the basement, 
and then he can settle his butt on the couch to watch football. 

Moving off the holiday theme...


3. Scallops. 

One of my New Year Resolutions was to expand my seafood repertoire, 
and I finally tackled my most-feared-of-all-seafood. 
It is very easy to overcook scallops to a rubber mess, 
but I'm also completely terrified of undercooking them 
(cue up my post from last week,
my top kitchen items: meat thermometer!)

but also dusted each side with flour, 
and used A LOT OF BUTTER. 
I had 30 oz of scallops and used a full stick of butter. 


The scallops were DELICIOUS. 
Absolutely, succulent, amazing delicious. 

I served them over a lemon parmesan risotto that was okay. 
It was light so it didn't overpower the scallops, 
but it was a pain to make and didn't reheat well the next day. 


Surprisingly, the scallops reheated very well. 
I warmed them up in the toaster oven on parchment paper, 
and they were pretty good. 


4. Pandora. 

I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to come around to Pandora. 
It's amazing and I love it 
and why the hell didn't I embrace this 10 years ago???? 

My Favorite Stations
- Taylor Swift Radio 
- Kids Christmas Favorites Radio 
Today's Christmas Radio 
Christmas Traditional Radio 
Instrumental Christmas Music Radio 

See a theme? 


5. New Crossbody Bag 

When I was in DC for the Army Ten Miler, 
my friend and I spent a day walking around downtown Alexandria which is gorgeous. 
I borrowed her crossbody bag, 
just big enough to fit my wallet and phone, 
and suddenly realized a gapping hole in my purse collection. 

Then cue up Nordstrom's Fall sale, 
and this Topshop crossbody showed up on multiple hit lists by The Mom Edit. 
I love it. 

I'm not a selfie person so you know I love a bag 
when it ends up in two different selfie pictures. 

wet hair and Oliver getting in my closet in the background 


I hate my bangs here, but I do love my first ever cold shoulder top.


6. Oliver is so stubborn it kills me. 

His only word is still "mama" 
but now he's saying it less and less
 (and not adding any new words). 
So I'm prompting him more and more to request "mama." 
This weekend, I went to get him out of his crib, 
and said: "Say mama?" 
And he proceeded to scream for 45 minutes rather than say mama. 
Wtf. 
Adam came in and starts playing a game with him: 
"Oliver, where's your nose?"
 [points to nose] 
"Oliver, where's your belly?" 
[points to belly] 
"Oliver, can you burp?" 
[fake burp] 
"Oliver, can you say mama?" 
"Mama." 

And then he got this look like oh shit they tricked me
FORTY-FIVE MINUTES he screamed refusing to say "mama." 
And then we "tricked" him in a game. 
Can you say stubborn? 
This child!!!!


7. Trump's Tax Plan 

Ohhhhh you thought you'd escape this 7QT without politics.  
Hehehe.

Early this month, NY Times did an easy breakdown 
of winners/losers of the Trump Tax Plan 
and specifically why
(NY Times full article here.) 

Winners

Business, 
Multinational corporations, 
Some middle class families, 
the rich and their families, 
Hedge funds.

Losers

Real estate industry, 
sick people, 
charities, 
University endowments, 
Rare disease sufferers, 
electric car owners, 
the deficit. 

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. 

Sadly enough, while the above is appalling
it isn't actually surprising 
EXCEPT 
I thought Republicans are supposed to be all "reduce the deficit" people. 
So why are they pushing a tax bill that adds $1.5 trillion
 to the federal deficit over a decade? 
And please don't say "trickle down economics" 
because that has proven time and again to fail. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Top Five: Kitchen

I have wanted to do a series on my "Top 5" favorite things around the house. 
And by "series," I mean I have one post so far
and probably will fail to create any more after this. 
But carry on! 


My Top 5 Kitchen Items 



This small device has totally transformed my kitchen. 

For years we had tried a number of thermometers from BBB, 
all of which were slow and/or unreliable. 
In my fear of dying from food disease (I blame my mother), 
I regularly overcooked everything to death. 
My dad, who is a thorough researcher to the umpteenth degree, 
found this one ranked #1 by Consumer Reports. 
And it is perfection. 
It is crazy fast and crazy accurate. 
It also comes with a tiny laminated reference table of internal temperatures, 
which I check every single time I cook. 

We use this pan-frying fish, 
searing meat, 
grilling steaks, 
etc. 

And for the first time, 
our meat is moist, 
our fish is flaky, 
and I have total peace of mind. 



2. Food Scale. 




As someone who constantly struggles with weight fluctuations, 
a food scale is incredibly useful. 
Sometimes it's hard to estimate exactly what 2 oz of meat is. 
And every once in a blue moon, 
you find a recipe that uses "food weights" and like wtf is that. 
But mostly, I find this to be a huge diet aid. 
Ours is 6+ years old
but any food scale out there should be fine.  


3. GIR Spatulas



This was on my Christmas 2016 wishlist
I wanted one uniform piece (no spatula heads falling off), 
sturdy enough to turn the toughest doughs, 
heat resistant (not that I use it on the stove, but I could), 
and no seams or crevices for food to trap. 
It also has a good "hand feel" unlike some spatulas.  
Lastly, but equally important, it comes in a dozen super fun colors. 

I have the 11-inch Skinny in pink 
and the 11-inch Ultimate in teal. 
I use the Skinny for scraping out jars / cans
and the Ultimate for scraping bowls / dishes. 

Also, I now see they sell the Ultimate in a "bacon" pattern! 
Someone go buy that! 


4. Cutco Knives




Yeah, yeah, everyone swears that THEIR knives are the sharpest/bestest. 
So okay, add me to the bunch of annoying kitchen knives debaters. 
Here's the story I cling to: 
Back in the 90s, 
Adam's parents paid a fortune for 5 Cutco knives. 
And 2 decades later, 
they are just as sharp as the day they were bought. 

I haven't tried my hand at other super-expensive knives, 
but I've gone through two $100-knife-sets 
and can confirm spending the money counts. 

I won't link each one, but I have: 
Gallery + 6 Set Block (13 slots total)
Tables Knives - steak and other personal meats
Trimmer - juicy produce (tomatoes), meats
2-3/4" Paring - small produce (grapes) 
4" Paring - hard produce (apples)
6-3/4" Petite Carver - bread
7" Santoku - my #1 knife I use every day for chopping,
 although sometimes I wish I got the Chef Knife
Spatula Spreader - sandwich making/cutting
Kitchen Shears - can cut through anything 

And yes, due to their high cost,
 we acquired our knives/block very gradually over many years. 
In fact, we've had only 2 tables knives for years 
and just this Christmas we are getting the remaining 4. 
Then our set is finally complete! 


5. Le Creuset Dutch Oven. 


While I love this pot dearly, 
the truth is I'm sure the cheaper alternatives work just fine. 
Le Creuset is heavy and bulky and expensive
but oh my do I love it. 
It goes from stove to oven with no problem, 
and it maintains even heat beautifully. 
It is enameled cast iron, 
so no Teflon toxins 
but also no issues with acidity eating away at it
 (an issue for stainless steel pots). 

I make at least 75% of our meals in here, 
and the other 25% are things like fish and chicken 
that do best in non-stick Teflon. 

Since they are so expensive, 
I recommend hitting up the outlets if you can. 
Unlike Coach and other merchandise outlets, 
Le Creuset outlet products aren't sub-quality. 
They run great deals on "one-time" colors. 
For example, my dutch oven is some sort of specialty ocean color that I can't find online anymore, 
so no Martha-Stewart-matching-kitchen-cookware for me! 

*** 

Any that's my top 5. 
What are your kitchen favorites? 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Check it out!

This is the shortest post I'll ever write!

Just patting myself on the back for finally getting a new blog template. 
Goodbye sad Microsoft Paint design. 
I got this one from Blogaholic Designs
recommended by Allena 
and really it was super easy. 


Also, just pointing out I finally added an "About Me" page at the top! 
Only like 3 years overdue for that! 


Ok, I'm done patting myself on the back. 
But you can feel free to leave congratulatory remarks as well. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

7QT Nov 10

Amended to add: 
It's Veteran's Day! 

Today, I beg you all to go follow "emflem" on Instagram. 
She is a military doctor and mom.  
She was deployed for months in Afghanistan when her daughter was a toddler, 
and I cry big fat tears every time I read her story. 
Her IG posts are just the most beautiful treasures of writing. 
Please, go follow her! 


***

Another round of 7 Quick Takes. 
You'll notice that these "quick takes" 
start off as mini novels, 
and then end as actual quick takes
Because I over-complicate everything. 
Sigh. 


1. Panty Drawer Overhaul. 

Yes, you read that correctly. 
A few months ago I was filling out my "Q&A a Day" journal
and the question was: 
"What's the oldest piece of clothing you're wearing?" 

And I realized with TOTAL HORROR that the answer was my underwear. 
Time for a panty drawer overhaul! 

I replaced my cotton Victoria Secret hip-huggers 
with Soma's Super Soft Hipster
They feel more luxurious, 
but the lace/elastic are already starting to go, 
after just a few months of washing
 (and I follow the washing instructions!). 
Any other lace-waist hipster recommendations? 

On the flip side, my new thong game is strong. 
Amanda introduced me to Hanky Panky
The price tag is high, 
but these are the most fantastic thongs I've ever owned
Move over, Victoria's Secret Lacie 
(and by "move over," I mean "move into the trash can") 
Hanky Panky is taking over!


2. Small Election Victories
(I almost made this #1,
 but I slid it to #2,
 are you proud?) 

Me watching Election 2016 Results vs Me watching Election 2017 Results: 
credit: Liz Laribee

No crazy overhaul, 
but just many small victories. 
For example, in case you weren't watching / don't give a shit, 
Virginia elected: 
- First transgender delegate in the country 
- First out-lesbian delegate in the state
- First Asian American woman delegate in the state 
- First two Latina delegates in the state 

Another example? 
Across the nation, every single gun-sense candidate 
supported by Moms Demand Action was elected! 
In a time where we are plagued with mass shootings
this is a step in the right direction! 


3. Stranger Things. 

Despite it's high ratings, 
I put off watching the show 
because I cannot stomach anything 
where children are in danger. 
And the whole premise is that a kid goes missing. 
Well, a friend finally talked me into it, 
assuring me that it's more like Terminator than CSI. 

And... 
I freaking love it

Adam and I binge-watched Saturday night, 
staying up to the ungodly parental hour of 12midnight (gasp!). 
Haven't done that in a long time!


4. Fingerless Gloves vs Tech Gloves. 

Which do you prefer? 
I should make this an IG Stories poll. 
I bought a pair of tech gloves from Target and they seem to work "meh." 
I'm thinking fingerless gloves will also be much easier for car seat buckling. 
So far I'm eyeing these adorable  Kate Spade convertible knit mittens
but am hesitant to pay $50 for something 
that I most likely will lose before winter is up. 


5. Fear of Flying. 

As you should know by now, 
I am batshit terrified of flying. 
Emily at Cupcakes & Cashmere is also a panicked flyer, 
and just posted an interview with a pilot
It's a really good interview, 
in terms of asking all those questions that fly through a Nervous Nelly's mind like mine. 
For my next flight, 
I may print this 
and tape it to the seat in front of me. 
Not joking. 

Also, fun side note, the person she interviewed is Mandy Moore's dad, 
as in Mandy Moore from This Is Us. 

6. Permanent To Do List. 

I need someone to sit me down 
and force me to not leave the computer until I have... 
a) Purchased life insurance for myself 
b) Ordered a new blogger template 
c) Ordered replacement parts for our grill. 

I have life insurance through Adam's work, 
but spouse life insurance is pretty low, 
and if I die in a plane crash (see above!), 
Adam is going to need a pretty penny to hire 
a permanent house keeper to keep this house running. 


7. Adam is going to Vegas this weekend
his first guys' weekend since his bachelor party in 2010. 
And not only am I home alone with 2 kids, 
but I am hosting Kid Swap
so I'm actually home alone with 3 kids

Adam be like: 


And I'll be like: 


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Oliver Update

Recap

At Oliver's 15-month appointment, 
he spoke no words. 
Zero. 
As such, the pediatrician referred him to Early Intervention for his speech delay. 
I spoke about that here


First Word

In October, I went away to DC to run the Army Ten Miler 
(as part of my Resolution to run 3 races). 

The first morning I was gone, 
Adam went in to get Oliver out of bed. 
(Oliver is used to be nursed first thing every morning.)
As Adam finished changing his diaper, 
Oliver looked around and said, crystal clear, 
"Mama?" 
And then proceeded to say it several more times that morning. 
"Mama?" 
"Mama?" 

Officially, his very first word is Mama

Second Word

A few weeks ago, 
we noticed Oliver doing this high-pitched squeal when he greets someone. 
And when he paid more attention, we realized he is saying "hi." 
He does primarily when he walks into the room with us, 
and with a great big smile says: "Hiiiiiii!" 


18-Month Doctor Appointment



Two weeks ago, Oliver had his 18-month appointment, 
where I circled back with the pediatrician on his speech. 

She made an interesting observation that hadn't occurred to me. 
The fact that he waited until I was out of town to request "mama" 
means he has known how to say the word for a while, 
but waited until it was absolutely necessary to speak it. 
She thinks he knows many more words 
but again, is not needing to speak. 

All in all, he has two words with meaning 
("mama" and "hi", not just "roar" or "woof") 
which technically checks the box on speech at this age. 
She said she's not going to recommend speech therapy, 
but just let him go 
and see what develops over the next six months. 

By age 2, he needs to be putting 2 words together 
(e.g. "mama up") 
or else she will be recommending Early Intervention again. 

My take-away:

I won't lie, a very small part of me was soooo ready to start speech therapy. 
I am so tired of our lack of communication. 
But so be it. 

Since his appointment, 
I' now demand he say "mama" before I pick him up. 
The first few times I demanded "mama", 
he stood at my legs SOBBING FOR 10 MINUTES 
before finally muttering "mama." 

Since that dramatic start, 
he's now much faster to say it. 
Occasionally he'll say it immediately after I ask. 
But usually it's after a minute or two. 
He has never said it unprompted, 
not since I was away in DC. 
What a bugger. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Dream Christmas?

Let me preface this with... 
I KNOW Christmas is not this month. 
I'm all for celebrating one holiday at a time, 
BUT I am a Super Planner
and so I'm already thinking 2 months ahead. 
Amuse me. 

***

What would be your dream Christmas? 

I ask because for the first time ever, 
we have the opportunity to create it. 
[Insert squeal of excitement!!!]

Background

From childhood through adulthood,
 both Adam and I have spent the Christmas holiday traveling. 

Adam's family is Jewish so their major holiday at home was Hanukkah, 
and then they spent all Christmas in NY with his dad's [non-Jewish] family.
For me, we woke up Christmas day at home in NY, 
but then spent the day traveling to 2 or 3 different grandparent houses. 

After marriage and babies, we have kept the same traditions, 
driving the 4+ hours up to NY on Christmas Eve 
then another 4+ hours back on Christmas or the day after. 
Sometimes we stayed at relative's house
 and sometimes a hotel 
(flashback to Christmas 2015 where the hotel fire alarm went off at 2am...)

Last year, I declared: 
"This is our LAST YEAR traveling for Christmas!" 
A declaration which was met by unexpected enthusiasm from both Adam's and my parents, 
as both were also sick of traveling for the holidays. 

Thus, this year, 
Christmas 2017, 
is the FIRST YEAR we will spend at home!
I am SO EXCITED! 


Christmas Eve Plan

Now that we aren't traveling anymore, 
Adam's plan is to work Christmas Eve 
(except this year which is a Sunday), 
so I'm not planning any daytime family traditions. 

I assume I'll spend much of the day prepping / finishing off cooking, 
but maybe I could do something fun with me & boys that morning? 
Nothing too crazy since I want them rested for the following day. 
Ideas? 

In the evening, we will go to my parent's house to open presents. 
I've been trying to plant the seed of a "Christmas Eve Assorted Cheese Tray" 
so we'll see if that idea catches on. 
My mother requested in advance that I make my cranberry white chocolate scones
so that will also be on the menu. 


Christmas Morning Plan

Last year before traveling, 
we did a "simulated Christmas morning," 
and it was fantastic. 
I'd like to mimic that simulated morning:




Wake up whenever (normal time for us is 6-6:30am), 
go downstairs to the lighted tree to start opening presents, 
take a break to eat donuts
 (purchased the day before, of course) 
and sip on hot chocolate. 
Then spend the whole morning opening/playing with new toys. 

(Remember, we don't "do Santa" - recap on that here



Christmas Lunch Plan
??? 
Oliver goes to nap by 1pm so nothing too crazy for lunch. 
My one grandma used to do a deli meat platter, 
which I LOVED, 
but I'm also wondering if we will even be hungry, 
what with eating donuts all morning...?
So... ???


Christmas Early-Afternoon Plan
Oliver will go for nap at 1pm 
and, being Christmas and all, 
we'll probably let Aaron skip his afternoon "quiet time." 
I'm thinking a family Christmas movie ("family" sans Oliver). 
perhaps The Grinch 
or Home Alone 3. 



Other option is to move this movie time to late morning, 
but I think the boys would rather play with their toys. 


Family Arrives

My parents, 
my two sisters, 
Adam’s parents, 
my SIL and her family. 

I was thinking of giving out a “come anytime in the afternoon” invitation
but that could be risky because even when I try to relax, 
I’m still a planner 
and may be annoyed at the uncertainty. 

Plus among our family members, 
there is a huge wide range of "perpetually early" to "perpetually late." 
And I wouldn't want the perpetually early to interrupt our movie, 
nor the perpetually late people to delay dinner. 

So maybe a 3pm arrival? 
4pm arrival?

The idea is to let everyone mingle with drinks, 
while the boys & cousins play with Christmas/Hanukkah toys, 
And end the evening with a big sit down meal. 

Menu Plan

Drinks
Holiday Sangria &
 Crock Pot Spiced Apple Cider
plus a champagne toast right before dinner

Main Course: 
My grandma’s lasagna

Sides/Apps: 
???????

Dessert:
 Wegmans' cannoli chip & dip tray
And ___? 

Everything MUST be make-ahead 
as I refuse to spend one second in the kitchen on Christmas. 
Sangria has to be made days in advance. 
The cider I can assemble spices ahead of time and dump in a second. 
Lasagna can be made days/weeks in advance and frozen. 

I also plan on using our fancy China. 
I may regret that decision 
but I’ll try it for at least one Christmas. 

Playlist
Trans-Siberian Orchestra 
plus a little bit of Bing Crosby thrown in there. 


*** 


So to recap, things I'd like your input on: 

1. What would be YOUR dream Christmas? 

2. Christmas Eve daytime ideas for me & boys (sans Adam)? 

3. Christmas lunch thoughts & ideas? 

4. Christmas dinner menu sides/apps ideas? 

5. Any other inputs/suggestions/comments?