Sunday, February 28, 2010

A day at the park

I don't know why he's making that face.  No nap again today, and no rain either, so we tried the park.  Spring seems to have arrived overnight or some other recent time when we weren't looking.  It was all cherry blossoms, daffodils, and green, green grass today.  We went to a riverside park -- Liam has been excited about this park for at least a week and likes to discuss the river, the waterfall, and the name of everything.  He is quite interested in the names and locations of things these days.  A typical conversation goes like this:

L: Where is my school?
M: Across town near the grocery store with the train.
L: My school is across town near the grocery store with the train.  It's that way.  (Insert dramatic pointing.)
M: Close, it's that way, south west of here.
L: That way!

We do this about 125 times a day for various locations, the most popular being school, doctor, mommy's office, Japan (where the big ships go after they leave here), the Redwood Forest, the Gulf Stream waters, and the Deshutes River and Tumwater Falls.

This is a nice park at the foot of the river, where it is just getting ready to meet the Sound, a cascade of waterfalls (some natural some an artifact of the brewery that used to operate here), a fish ladder, and 3 separate play areas one with. . .wait for it. . .big ships made of concrete and wood.  Liam's favorite thing in the entire world is big ships.  So, that's all good.  Today Liam and Will especially enjoyed looking at the fish ladder, which runs under the grates Liam is sitting on.  In the fall there is a hatchery run of Chinook salmon (the native run goes up an adjacent creek).  Liam spent the rest of the afternoon running around demanding to be addressed as Deschutes River and/or Tumwater falls.

This was a vast improvement over yesterday which Liam and I spent in the local Urgent Care facility waiting for a doctor to help remove the dried blueberry Liam had put up his nose.  Imagine this.  Mommy is working on the taxes.  Liam is sitting on the sofa watching Wonder Pets and eating a snack: dried blueberries and goldfish crackers.  Liam starts whining and making a fuss.

M: Liam, what's going on?
L: I want my blueberry! I want my blueberry!
M: What? (Looking up) You want your blueberry, where is it? (Notices Liam is starting to cry and scurnching up his face.)
M: Oh no. . .Liam. . .did you put a blueberry in your nose?
L: Yes! It's in my nooooose!

We couldn't get it out with the tweesers or the stuffy sucker.  So, off we went.  He is none the worse for wear.  The removal was surprisingly easy.  The wait was long, but made tolerable by a large fish tank and a blue popsicle given by the triage nurse.  Liam had a choice of popsicles, blue or red.  After finishing the blue one he wanted a red one.  I said, no, only one popsicle per visit.  Liam thought about this and said: "The next time I put a blueberry in my nose, I'm going to choose the red popsicle."  Great.  Something to look forward to.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Our new favorite recipe

comes from Disney Family Fun, a magazine I'm not even sure why I get.  (I think when Cookie went away the powers that be started sending me DFF instead.)  At any rate, this embarrasses me a little, since I get virtually every food magazine known and, well, you'd think we'd end up loving something from one of those, but no.*  This is fast enough for weeknight especially if you do some of the vegetable prep the night before.  (Dinner is hard when you have a toddler and you work all day.  You have only a narrow window to get dinner on the table.  If I know I'm going to stir fry, or cook anything that has more than just a few ingredients I almost always do the vegetable prep the night before, after Liam goes to bed.  This practice has improved my evenings immensely.  For reals)

So, I made this pretty much as they described except I added some tofu because we happened to have some around and a little soy sauce (maybe a tablespoon or so with the other liquid ingredients) because I like salt.  And I added extra peppers and extra cashews.  Liam loves to choose colored peppers at the grocery store.**  Yellow and orange are his favorite colors, so we almost always have those on hand.  Here are the details:

Mix: 1 tsp cornstarch, 3T chicken stock, 3Toyster sauce, 2 tsp dry sherry and 3/4 tsp sugar.   (This is where I added the soy sauce.  I also used closer to a tablespoon or sherry and a tsp of sugar.)   Set aside.

Mince up 2 tsp fresh ginger, 2 cloves fresh garlic, and the white parts of 3 scallions.  (I did this the night before and put them in the fridge in a little dish with peanut oil to cover, which was maybe a little bit more than the 4 tsp they call for but not an excessive amount.  Worked fine.)

Assemble: 4 tsp peanut oil (you don't need this if you put the garlic, etc., in peanut oil the night before), 5-6 cups broccoli florets, 2/3 cup thinly sliced red (or orange or yellow) bell pepper (and we used more), the sliced greens from the 3 scallions, and 1/3 cup roasted unsalted cashews (we used more).

To cook: (1) Toast the cashews in a dry skillet (or wok) over low heat until they are warm and your kitchen smells like cashews.  Set aside.  (2) Heat a large skillet (or wok) add the oil, scallion whites, ginger and garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute.  Don't burn them.  Add the broccoli and stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add about 1/4 cup or so of water, cover, reduce heat and steam until the broccoli is crisp tender.  (If you're adding tofu, this is when to add it.)  Uncover, raise the heat and add the peppers.  Toss and stir fry for a minute or so.  Add the sauce you made before, toss, and cook until it is bubbling and looks done.  Add the scallion greens and cashews.  That's it. 

*Note 1: my copy of Cooks Illustrated came today and they have a series of stir fried broccoli recipes including one with oyster sauce that is almost exactly like the DFF one (minus the peppers and cashews).  So, that's something, I guess. MS Every-Day Food also has a broccoli in oyster sauce recipe, so maybe DFF started a trend.

**Note 2: I have to brag on Liam a little bit.  Our baby eats the following vegetables, and by "eat" I mean he will reliably fork them into his mouth without prompting often to the exclusion of other things on his plate: broccoli, zuccini squash, winter squash, mushrooms, carrots, corn sauted w/ onions (or any corn), green peas, and red, yellow, or orange bell petters (but not green), burssel sprouts.  He also eats regular and sweet potatoes, but I'm never sure if those really count as vegetables.   If you feed them to him, he'll tolerate green beans, but he won't eat them on his own.

Liam is still interested in whales

 These photos are from a month or so ago, I think.  We have at least half a dozen non-fiction, kid oriented books about whales and half a dozen more fiction.  The whales are a regular feature around the house, and every night at bath time.  Liam's favorite is "orca whale" and we enjoy this beautifully illustrated book (it looks better in person than in the picture) and this one too.  He likes humpback whales too, and narwhals, but not gray whales so much. 

We're all hanging in there this week.  I've been super busy at work, and still won't bill all the hours I should this month.  Will is back on inhaled colistin, which is really hard on him but does seem to make the fevers go away.  Pulmonary clinic on Monday, so we'll see what they think.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A CF Update

It has been a while since I updated on Will's health.  He continues relatively stable on 3 liters of O2.  He is off inhaled antibotics 3 weeks on Monday (it is good to give the bacteria a break to try to reduce resistance) and he is tolerating it okay.  As is expected when he goes of antibotics, his congestion is steadily increasing.  He also had a few days of persistent low-grade fever last week, although that seems to have resolved.  Another way we know that his chronic infection is worsening is that his oxygen saturation is persistently lower than it has been; 98 is the highest it has been, and that was while sleeping.  His satruation tends to hover in the mid 90s during the day and drop into the low 80s when he does his breathing treatments.  Low 80s is pretty scary.   He's tired and feels draggy; appitite down, generally just feeling sicker than usual.  So, he will go on with this for as long as he can tolerate it (or until it gets worse) and then we'll call the clinic and ask about (probably) a corse of IV antibotics. 

In other news I'm sad to pass along that Eva Markvoot is likely in her final days of life.  Eva has CF and had a lung transplant a few years ago.  She has the same type of lung rejection as Will does, although hers has moved much faster. She was re-listed for another transplant, but it looks like she is now too sick and it won't come in time.  Eva has been a huge ambassador for CF and through her outreach on organ transplantation has doubtless saved many lives.  If you are moved to keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers or visit her site and wish her well, I think that would be super. 

And, on St. Valentine's Day, I encourage you to search your heart and, if you haven't already, sign up to be an organ and tissue donar and make your wishes known to your family.  You can find out how to sign up here, and can register on line in many states.  I hope today brings all visitors to this place many opportunities to give and receive love. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Making Valentines

Last year, we tried to get Liam interested in coloring valentines to hand out at school, but he really didn't have the attention span for it.  (He did color valentines for family, which was nice.)  This year I decided to use some of the paintings Liam had already made as the basis for his valentines and let his part be the thing he likes best of all: GLUE.

So, I cut out small hearts from some of Liam's paintings (he told me which ones I could use) and then he choose which heart went for which person and he and Will glued them to plain index cards.  Then I wrote the person's name on each one and signed Liam's.  The actually worked way better than I thought it would.  Liam probably glued about half (with Will) and choose specific hearts for slightly more than half the recipients.  "I want to make one for Zelleby.  Zelleby!  Zelleby!  No, Wynter!" or "This one is for Miss Sandy.  Miss Sandy will really like it."   So sweet.

School valentines are a little complicated this year because Liam is transitioning from the young toddler room to the regular toddler room, so instead of about 20 valentines to make, we had about 40.  Still, it took only an hour or a little bit more after dinner and now they're all done.  The few that "accidentally" got lots and lots of glue are still drying on the kitchen table; all I'll have to do in the morning in bundle them up to take to school.

I had to stop at the grocery store on my way to pick up Liam tonight  -- almost always a disaster at this time of day -- and I ended up with 4 bags of mini-MM-packages, thinking I would staple one to each of Liam's valentines.  But I chickened out.  Even though Liam received candy last year from some of the kids at school, I wasn't sure all the parents would approve.  So now I'm the proud owner of 4 bags of MMs.  I think I'll take them to the office tomorrow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Slide Series -- Again

Umm,  I gotta say: whose beautiful baby is that?

I'm sure all of you are avid followers of pacific NW weather.  Have you heard, we've broken pretty much all the records there are for warm days in winter this year.  Typically, our days have been warm and gray, warm and rainy, warm and misty, warm and cloudy. . .you get the idea.  Today was warm and sunny.  So, after Liam declined to nap, we went to the park. 

Same park we often go to.  Just like November 2008.  Here is then.

Here is now.


I guess they don't go around getting any smaller.  Liam loves the park.
Sorry for those of you, I know, there must be, what, hundreds? thousands? who were hoping to see what we ate for dinner every night this past week.  It turned out to be unexpectedly shitty couple of days, so, you know, that's how it goes.  I might try again some time -- maybe even next week.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chicken, Orzo, Carrots

Time to completion: 35 minutes, driven totally by orzo cooking time.
Work done ahead: pounded chicken, cut up carrots.
Work I should have done ahead: cut up onion/shallot, bought parsley.

For the chicken: pound some boneless/skinless chicken tenders until you have something pretty thin.  (I do this in big batches and freeze them in groups of 4 between sheets of plastic wrap.)  Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan (this is one of the few things I use a non-stick pan for b/c it never gets too, too hot).  As it is heating up dredge the chicken in flour.  Put the chicken in the hot frying pan.  Salt and pepper whatever side is up, don't worry about the othe side.  Cook a minute or two a side, until it's basically done.  Put on a plate or shallow dish, cover with foil, and put in a 200 degree oven.

Add whatever you're going to add to the frying pan to start making a sauce.  Usually I add a shallot and some capers.  Sometimes I skip the capers and add mushrooms.  Stir that around until it is cooked.  Add a third cup or so of wine.  (White if capers, red if mushrooms, usually.  Today I used vermouth.)  Cook until it is mostly evaporated. Turn the oven off or the chicken will overcook -- it will stay warm enough with the residual heat.  Add half a cup or so of chicken stock to your frying pan.  Cook away until it thickens slightly and is reduced by a third to a half.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Reduce the heat and stir in 1-2 T of unsalted butter.  Stir continuously until it's incorporated or you'll break the sauce.  Add some chopped up parsley (if you remembered to buy it).  Return the chicken and any juices to the pan to rewarm.

For the carrots: add sliced carrots and half a cup or so of water to a heavy pan with a lid.  Add a tablespoon or so of butter and some salt, a little ginger if you like, or maybe a little orange juice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cover to cook until the carrots are almost done.  Remove the cover, raise the heat and cook the rest of the way.  Towards the end, stir the carrots around so they get glazed by the residual butter in the pan.

For the orzo: heat a little olive oil in a pan with a lid.  Add some diced onion or shallot.  Add about a cup of orzo and stir around.  Add 2-3 cups chicken stock.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cover.  Cook 20 minutes or until orzo is done.  Stir in half to 1 cup Parmesan cheese.

Eaten: yes, definitely.  Liam loves everything about this meal and must have consumed half a cup or more of carrots.
Cleanup: not too bad, especially because I can usually get the nonstick frying pan washed and put away while Will and Liam are still gathering to the table.  Making the chicken sauce spatters, so that has to be cleaned up or avoided using something like this (which I always forget to use).

All these recipes owe reference to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, which I refer to almost daily and routinely give as a present.  (Jeeze, I see there's an updated version; now I want that.)

Tomorrow: leftover chicken pot pie and broccoli.  And I promise to work on the food photos.  I hope tomorrow night to have time to coment on all your blogs (you know who you are); I've been reading and thinking of you all.