Friday, November 30, 2007

Annie's Three-Potato Soup

Once, when I still lived in Portland, Gabe was here in Texas visiting his family. My friend Annie found out I was home alone and she invited me over for dinner and out to a play. I don’t remember what play it was but we went to that theater at the top of Forest Ave. right at the corner of Congress Street. And I remember, quite well, what she made for dinner. I’ve tried many times to do it justice in replication/ imitation and have never quite nailed it, but it is still pretty good.

Recently Gabe suckered me into making it for him when I came home from work by responding to my hesitation in not just microwaving something for dinner with this line: “But it’s my favorite sick food. I never even had a sick food until I met you.” Here, he blinked innocently and stuck out his bottom lip a little. I made the soup.

Annie’s Three-Potato Soup

two white russet potatoes
one sweet potato
three cloves garlic
rosemary, preferably fresh
olive oil
salt and pepper

Scrub and peel your potatoes. Chop and boil them until they are soft enough to mash. Drain potatoes.

While the potatoes are boiling, warm olive oil in a small frying pan or skillet. Peel and chop garlic cloves and simmer garlic in the oil on low heat. There should be just enough oil to barely cover the chopped garlic pieces. Sprinkle rosemary, to taste, on oil and garlic.

Using the same pot you used to boil potatoes, put drained potatoes in and mash until, well, it is whatever consistency you like. If you like your soup to be soupy, mash a lot. If you like it a little lumpy, stop mashing sooner. Add two cups of water, a little more rosemary to taste and warm up to desired temperature.

Add the oil, garlic and rosemary mixture and stir well. Serve warm. Salt and pepper to taste.

We like eating it with steamed veggies (asparagus or green beans work well with this soup) and bread that I heat and broil Swiss cheese on.

Monday, November 19, 2007

But whenever Monday comes...

I am home sick again. Hopefully for the last day, for real this time. I finally called the doctor this morning to ask what kinds of cold medicines and remedies are safe while I am breastfeeding so I am now following this regimen: nasal strips, saline spray and Target’s version of Robitussin. (And Werther’s Original to, um, soothe my throat. No, serious!)

I remember when I was little I loved to take Dimetapp when I was sick because it tasted so good and grapey. I fought with my parents against the less desirable medicines and cringed and shuddered to choke them down. I had a flashback of being eight years old again today and swallowing generic cough medicine. Holy baloney, is there really nothing they can do about that wretched taste? I know it would add unnecessary sugars but I am willing to drink those unnecessary sugars if I can swallow that stuff without wanting to cry. Liam is napping or else I would have done a yucky song and dance in the kitchen. Instead I quietly gagged and my face quivered for at least a minute afterward. Well, I haven’t coughed in five minutes so maybe it’s working.

I put the nasal strip on wrong at first because this part of the directions confused me: “Make sure that the nasal strip spring is tangent to the top of the nasal flare.” Once I noticed the diagram it all made sense. I am not a dumb lady but I do have more phlegm lodged in my head than what’s necessary and it’s clouding my normal comprehension skills. I even had that sighing moment of relief, like, “Aahhhh!” when I did it right, like you see on the commercials. That’s the first time a commercial ever lived up to itself in real life. Thank you, nasal strips. I’m going to tell my friends about you.

I am really distracted my watching Liam sleep next to me right now. He has this adorable little shock of blond hair sticking up, off center, right on top of his head, and it’s glowing in the indirect noontime light. Both of his hands are tucked behind his head and the giraffe on his onesie is rising and falling with each deep belly-breath.

He takes my breath away every time.

Right now I am really missing him. He’s right next to me but I can’t nuzzle and cuddle and kiss him like I normally do because I don’t want to give him what I have. As soon as I feel better he’ll eat up the attention from me at first but I’ll be making up for lost time and he’ll end up trying to push me away. “Enough kisses! I get it! You love me!”

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Did you know they could put Vicks INSIDE of your tissues???

What I was doing 10 years ago: This was the November of my sophomore year of high school. I think. Freshman? Sophomore? Yeah, Sophomore. I think. The first weekend of November was the state finals for marching band and color guard and my second year as captain. I had a big crush on a snare drummer from South Portland High School and a boy on my history class named Nolan. I was still also harboring serious fantasies of meeting and marrying Nick Hexum from 311. Fortunately for me, Gabe and Liam, things never worked out for me with the snare drummer, Nolan or Nick. This is seriously all I remember about this time during sophomore year. Embarrassing? A little.

What I was doing 5 years ago: I was twenty and had just moved out of my parents’ house. I was living in my lovely little studio apartment in Portland and working at the hat store. I was wearing my mum’s jacket from 1976 and brown boots from Material Objects and walking happily around the peninsula. I spent my time outside of work by myself, cooking and cleaning and dreaming and looking out my windows. It was a bit of an Amelie existence. When I did have company, I was cutting their hair. One month later, I’d meet Gabe online and two months after that, he’d fly there to spend two weeks with me.

One year ago: One year ago, Gabe and I had been married for three months and I was two months pregnant. We’d just had our first exhilarating ultrasound and gotten out of our horrible apartment situation in Denton. This is around the time the All Day Sickness got really bad. It was pretty cold and I was really tired.

Yesterday: I tried calling in sick but no one was answering the phone. Afraid that I was the opening manager on duty and didn’t know it, I put a hoodie over my jammies and rushed to work to find four employees waiting outside of the store. I let them in and the alarm system didn’t like my password. Fortunately the security company called and got it straightened out, so the police didn’t show up with lights flashing and guns drawn. I called the store manager, who was on the schedule for the morning as well and found she’d been trying to call me at the store to let me know she was running late. When she arrived, I came home and coughed up a lung and a half, drank some OJ and napped. I spent the day on the couch, coughing and blowing my nose and guzzling water and napping, and Gabe went to Hobby Lobby to pick up our Christmas tree. It’s four and a half feet tall, $17.49 and pretty cute.

5 snacks I enjoy: Fresh fruit, fresh veggies and/or pita bread with hummus, crackers and Swiss cheese, desserts and leftovers.

5 things I would do if I had $100 Million: Buy a house in Maine, pay off our debt, buy a hybrid vehicle, get braces, and travel. There would also be charity, college funds, saving the earth, job quitting and shopping involved.

5 places I would run away to: Canada, Europe, Cape Cod, Hawaii, and Alaska.

5 TV shows I like: The Office, Golden Girls, Arrested Development, Roseanne, and The Soup.

5 things I hate doing: Dusting, driving on I-35E, chewing the inside of my mouth (yet why can’t I stop???), paying the electricity bill, and scrubbing the bath tub and shower.

5 biggest joys of the moment:
Liam (everything about him), Gabe (most things about him- oh, hi Gabe!), the upcoming holidays, it’s almost bedtime, and Puffs Plus with Vicks.


Nora's Favorite Cranberry Relish

This is a nice addition/substitution to your otherwise predictable holiday buffet (and there’s just something weird and wrong about canned, jiggly cranberry sauce).

1 bag cranberries*
1 medium size orange
1 cup sugar, more or less to taste**

Rinse cranberries. By the handful, grate them in a blender until there are no more whole cranberries. (If you blend more than a handful at a time, they will grate unevenly.) Use a rubber spatula to remove each little batch from your blender.

Once the cranberries are done, wash, peel and section your orange. This is the tedious part: peel as much of the membrane as you can from the outside of each slice. On the same setting, blend half of the orange, then the other half of the orange. It'll get really mushy.

Combine cranberries and oranges in a bowl and add sugar. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold as a side with your holiday meal. Pucker up and enjoy!

You can add chopped walnuts or sliced almonds if you so choose but I don’t choose- it’s pretty perfect (to my mouth) as it is.

*You know, the regular bags they sell around this time of year. I don’t know how many ounces it is. I usually only see one size and one brand: Ocean Spray.
**I prefer less because the orange lends a more natural sweetness and I don’t like losing the tartness of the cranberries.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Waffle Thief

Sometime while I was sleeping last week, Liam grew up.

He has more hair on his head every day and we’re coming to realize that he will probably be a blond child like his dad rather than a life-long brunette like his mama. His hair is really fine and it’s getting longer on top. For a while it was just a handful of stray inch-and-a-halfers, now it’s this little tuft right on top of his head and I call it his fuzzy ducky hair.

On the day he became five months old, I decided to start him on solids a.s.a.p. when he reached for my plate and nearly stole my waffles. Less than twenty-four hours later, he was happily, hungrily (and, at first, bewilderingly) sucking down organic rice cereal mixed with breastmilk. Five days later he tried applesauce and has not turned back. Tomorrow we go for the carrots. In his near future are bananas and green beans. (All organic- that’ll be another post.)

He got really excited when he saw the bowl and tiny spoon and realized it was for him…
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After his first taste, he wasn’t sure what to think (or do)…
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Once I started saying “Yum, yum, yum!” to him like I sometimes do while he’s nursing or having a bottle, he got the hang of it…
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But he still wanted to know, “Mama, am I doing this right?”
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Since he started eating solids, I swear he has gotten taller and stronger. He’s sitting up better with less of our help, and wobbles less when we help him stand.
Why, just this afternoon, after more than a month of tireless/tiresome efforts, he finally rolled all the way over, from back to belly, without getting his arm stuck under him! Gabe and I congratulated him and he just looked at us like, “What, it’s no biggie. I could have done that before, if I really wanted to.” He’s done it twice since, and he looks a little more triumphant for it.

He’s napping peacefully right now in his bouncer, his pacifier gone forgotten between his lips, his head tilted slightly toward the late day light coming in the windows. He really has an exquisite face, and from here his profile is just perfect. He has Gabe’s nose and chin, there is no doubt about that. He has long eyelashes like mine. He’s not as chubby now that he moves around a lot on his own, and his torso and arms are long, soft and strong. His legs are long and strong too but have retained those yummy baby rolls, probably until he starts crawling and walking. His hands- oh, his hands! His hands are wide, his fingers long, his skin satiny. Don’t be fooled by how delicate they sound; he has a kung-fu grip.

And his feet. I could write a whole blog entry about his feet.

Two or three evenings ago we were sitting on the couch and I was chatting to him to distract him from the fact that I was clipping his toenails. Out of nowhere he started laughing. Not his short, abrupt little baby giggles and squeals but full-on, decidedly non-baby, full-belly laughter. I wasn’t even tickling him. Apparently his toes are hilarious. And he kept doing it! A couple times he stopped when I cracked up, and a couple times he laughed again because I did. It was the most pure, beautiful sound I have ever heard and I will never forget the joyous look on his face or the way Gabe came running in from the kitchen when it happened.

I’m seeing Liam more lately not just as who he is but who he will be. I can envision him as a toddler now that his facial expressions are numerous and he is more interactive with his surroundings. I am seeing that I created and gave birth to a flawless creature who, just by existing, will become impure but remain beautiful and continue to actually make me feel new again just by spending time with him. He’s truly lovely.

Warning: TMI ahead, if you are squeamish, sensitive, or private about your body or other people's bodies.

On a strictly Nora note, I am sick. This is my fourth day home sick, and tomorrow will be my fifth and hopefully last. I’ve had this irritation in my throat now for a few weeks and it culminated in the middle of this past week to swelling, pain, coughing, eye-watering headache, congestion, fatigue and body aches. I actually have a burst capillary in my eyelid from coughing so hard. And ladies, all of this while suffering with my period. Yes, suffering. This month marks the thirteenth year of my monthly handicap. (“Visitor” sounds far too friendly.) As a woman I can see that the menstrual cycle is actually a beautiful symbol of fertility and life but during my five to seven (used to be eight to nine, sheesh) days of gushing blood, intense cramping, dizziness, exhaustion, etc., it’s hard to really focus on how lucky I am to be a woman. Being anemic really only bothers me outright during my period because I lose so much blood. I can actually feel the iron deficiency. It makes me want to swallow metal. So yes, I am confident in saying I suffer and not feel as though I am exaggerating.

This last part was just wanting to complain, I really just wanted to update about Liam.