Friday, March 28, 2014

Last week we all went to see the Blackhawks play the Carolina Hurricanes.

Blackhawks vs. Hurricanes at the United Center

Despite the fact that the Hurricanes are essentially the old Hartford Whalers, I still rooted for the Blackhawks and was delighted to see them win.

Morimoto at the United Center

Not half as delighted as I was by the surprise appearance by Iron Chef Morimoto. This was potentially the most randomn and unexpected treat I could have possibly asked for making it the best Valentine's Day gift I could ask for.

Dinner at the United Center

In trying to keep with our new healthy eating initiative we attempted to have the most healthy dinner available to us at the United Center. This is what we came up with.

Found in the Melting Snow: Bag of Marbles

As the snow began to really melt recently I've been out in the yard, assessing its condition, and finding many strange things there. Like this bag of marbles . . .

Found in the Melting Snow: Empty Pack of Smokes

. . . this empty pack of smokes. I wonder why you never find a full pack of smokes . . .

Found in the Melting Snow: All Sorts of Cleaning Sprays

. . . all sorts of cleaning sprays and mold inhibitors . . .

Found in the Melting Snow: Dog Toy #3

. . . a wide range of dog toys, including this one that is apparently designed to teach your dog that it is a good idea to chew on a light bulb . . .

Found in the Melting Snow: Empty 2 Liter Bottle of Store Brand Sparkling Water

. . . all kinds of trash . . .

Found in the Melting Snow: Disgusting Bowl with Cigarette Butts Floating in It

. . . a disgusting bowl filled with soggy cigarette butts that makes me feel slightly nauseated to look at . . .

Found in the Melting Snow: Dog Poop in a Bag

. . . and numerous baggies of dog poop. While less disgusting than the cigarette butts I have my suspicions that these may be late Christmas gifts from my in-laws who are under the mistaken impression that when you have a bag of dog poop the proper thing to do with it is to toss it on the ground on the side of the garage. I was informed of this by my wife who also foolishly falls prey to this miscarriage of etiquette and falsely believes that this is acceptable behavior for a human being.

Toad in the Hole

To repay my in-laws (potentially) for their poop presents I decided to make them their requested birthday dinners. For my father-in-law: Toad in the Hole. Through much research I learned what this dish was, how to make it, and that it apparently can only be made properly with a good quality Cumberland sausage.

Cumberland Sausage

Since we are in America this sausage is not easy to come by so I found a recipe from an esteemed Cumbrian sausage maker and made it myself. It was only later that I would speak with my father-in-law to discover that he had never heard of Cumberland sausage.

Mediterranean Conchiglie

For my mother-in-law: this Mediterranean pasta, her all time favorite. This is convenient since it is basically the easiest thing in the world to make.

Last Day of Winter Beard First Day of Spring Beard

On the first day of spring I took the opportunity to trim my winter beard which had become out of control. The compliments (most of them backhanded) which followed leads me to believe I probably should have trimmed up a little sooner. Beardless people do not understand the underlying psychology and the mental games the bearded play with themselves. It was me against the winter and I won!

Broccoli and Mozzarella Pizza on Sprouted Grain Crust

Three Cheese Pizza on Sprouted Grain Crust

I continued our healthy eating extravaganza by making these two pizzas on sprouted grain crust with no oil and just a small amount of cheese. While the Sicilians believe that pizza does not need cheese, I believe that a small amount makes a world of difference.

Happy Book Time

On Wednesday when I picked them up from day care they were as happy as could be. Despite runny noses they were as pleased as punch. We had such a fun time playing around, reading books, and then eating dinner.

Elliott Eating Scrambled Eggs

Elliott had three helpings of scrambled eggs despite eating virtually nothing for the past few days.


Martin ate slightly less but asked to be put in his high chair to play alongside his brother.

All was right with the world.

Balsamic Roasted Onion Salad with Feta and Campari Tomato

After getting them to bed without a peep I made dinner, starting with this salad made with balsamic roasted onions, feta, and Campari tomatoes.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Roasted Indian Baby Eggplant, Ricotta, and Parmigiano-Reggiano

For the main course I made whole wheat penne with oil-free pasta sauce, roasted baby eggplant, ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Cozy Coupe Ride Appeasement

The following night was a little bit of a nightmare. The boys freaked out the second we came inside. The night before I had opened the door to the garage, allowed them to explore it for twenty seconds, then they came inside and were happy. That trick did not work last night and they freaked out until I caved and allowed them to ride in their Cozy Coupes. It was in the 40s, so not prime weather for such activities. I did a few laps around the block and tried to end the trip three times, they flipped out each time. After half an hour I had to get them inside to feed them and the thirty minute ride around the block had done nothing to satiate their Cozy Coupe needs.

The Cracker Game

The only thing that calmed them, though temporarily, was giving them a box of crackers that they wanted. I was so beaten down by that point that I just allowed them to crush the box and take bites out of each cracker then returning them to the box.

That, my friends, is effective parenting.

Unhappy Bath Time Buddies

I debated giving them a bath or not but I realized they were so unhappy that giving them a bath couldn't possibly make them any more unhappy. It turned out I was wrong but at least they were clean and unhappy rather than dirty and unhappy.

Conchiglie with Cassoulet Ragout and Pargmigiano-Reggiano

As the boys simmered down a bit I made this pasta with some leftover cassoulet from the freezer which I reduced down and finished with a little butter and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Last night took a mental toll. Poor Jen had to do four straight days of solo early morning drop-offs and I paid with three straight cranky-pants pick-ups.

Lisa is coming to visit this weekend so here's to hoping that the distraction of loving aunties will be enough to keep them well behaved for a while!

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Play

March rolls on and the countdown to being able to enjoy our backyard, a yard that really only exists in our imaginations, is nearly over!

Elliott at Kids' Table

I decided last week to set up their kid table for use to eat dinner rather than just for arts and crafts. Elliott took to it immediately, enjoying the idea of being able to put his feet up on the table, something he never did even once when the table was ten feet across the room.

New Dinner Table Disaster

This quickly turned out to be a disaster as they spent most of the time just pushing the table across the floor into their brother until one of them began crying.

Martin is Late for Snake Practice

Martin became obsessed with wearing his stuffed snake in the manner of Jake the Snake Roberts. He then ran over to the door yelling, "Bye! Bye!"

Martin is Late for Snake Practice

He desperately tried to make his escape. I'm not sure what his endgame was. I can only presume he was late for snake practice.

Kale Salad with Fig Tahini Dressing

The healthy eating streak continued with this kale salad with fig tahini dressing.

Baked Chicken Breast with Julienned Zucchini "Spaghetti" and Boiled Potato with Broccoli Stem

I also made an oil-free baked chicken breast (a term I have always despised) with zucchini "spaghetti" and a mixture of boiled potato and broccoli stem topped with a light dusting of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Broccoli Potato Soup with Sprouted Grain Bread

Witht he leftover potato and broccoli I made a soup with a splash of milk and vegetable stock.

Julienned Zucchini Pizza

I also turned the leftover zucchini "spaghetti" into a pizza on multigrain crust with a small amount of mozzarella.

On Friday night we got to watch Evelyn. The boys helped by rocking her violently and yelling Shhhhhh! in an impossibly loud manner.

Despite it all she fell asleep.

Elliott After Epic 2-Hour Nap-Resisting Struggle

Martin After Epic 2-Hour Nap-Resisting Struggle

On Saturday, before going to a friend's birthday party, they resisted their nap for a full two hours. This was a new record. They were in full-on sleepover mode and once again pants were removed and children collapsed in place when exhaustion finally got the best of them.

Two word sentences have been popping up here and there. Elliott says, "My Daddy!" Martin says, "Big Elmo!"

The Wombats with Pete

Saturday night, after the party, Lauren, Doug, Evelyn, and Pete came over. Pete has been hanging out with them since Jen's parents are in Montreal.

There must be some bad blood between Elliott and Pete because Elliott was chasing him around with his harness and seemed to be calling him out to face him. It was as if he was challenging him to some climactic battle, a final showdown between a dog and an overly-dramatic toddler.

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Pork Brats

Saturday night we made some corned beef and cabbage with pork brats and enjoyed some of Jen's homemade soda bread and Kerrygold Skellig cheese. Jen and Lauren enjoyed watching Frozen. Doug and I watched Frozen but we enjoyed drinking some tasty beers.

Passport Photo Shoot

Passport Photo Shoot

The next morning, while Jen was at yoga, I attempted to take the boys' pictures for their passports. The last time we tried to get their photos was at Walgreens. This had been a disaster as the guy was using a $59 point-and-shoot camera that had a fifteen second delay between pressing the button and the picture being taken. Also, he had the boys sit precariously on a 12 pack of bottled water on top of a stool and kept telling us not to get in the shot. This was more difficult than he probably suspected as it's hard to dodge a camera when you're constantly trying to save your child from falling to the floor.

Under the Counter

After lunch we played a good game of "Under the Counter" before getting them to bed for their nap and me going to work.

I returned home at midnight to find boy boys awake with their mother in bed watching Eureka. That was just the start to my evening, but certainly not my sleep. After about 5 hours of restless sleep we brought them to day care where apparently the had a fire drill five minutes after we left.

I don't know whether I feel relieved that I am not doing their bedtime tonight or happy that I will merely be working until midnight again.

Sorry, Jen!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Snow March

Book! Book! Book!

Bubs Book Club

It is the sound that fills the rooms of our mostly-empty home on a daily basis. The boys have developed an insatiable appetite for reading. Their definition of reading is that they get to bring you a book, sit in your lap, turn pages while you're reading, and excitedly point to pictures on the page to either identify them or eagerly ask you what they are.

Reading is exhausting.

Bubses Refusing to Sit on the Correct Side of their High Chairs

They have also decided that most of the time they would rather scream and writhe around like angered snakes than sit in their high chairs. This means that sometimes they sit in regular seats and eat from the other side of their high chair tray.

Sometimes we can trick them into sitting in their seats if we give them a fun activity like blowing on their stew to cool it down.

Leftover Turkey Chili

There hasn't been much cooking going on these days but I did make a turkey chili that I threw together late one night using almost exclusively foods rejected by the boys at dinner. While it's not typical to have broccoli in one's chili it actually worked out pretty well.

Grandpa Reads Peek-a-Zoo

Nana and Grandpa came to visit at the beginning of the month and this meant that we could once again break out the terrible Peek-a-Zoo book. I don't mean to disparage Peek-a-Zoo. It's a very nice book but it awakens an ancient animal ferocity in the boys such that it cannot be left in the normal book rotation. It inevitably leads to fights, hitting, and crying. Also, they enjoy ripping the book to pieces when given the chance.

They love it too much.

Elliott Checking his Email

The best part of Nana and Grandpa's visit is that they bring their various electronic devices and allow them to be played with. While the boys don't fully understand the use of such devices they do understand that they are portals to Elmo videos. The good part of this is that I think they now think that only Nana and Grandpa hold the keys to the Elmo treasure so that frees us to live a largely Elmo-free life.

Nana and Grandpa watching Elmo's World with the Wombats

At least for now.

Spencer Trappist Ale

My parents also brought me this Spencer Trappist Ale from the first Trappist brewery in America which is conveniently located a short drive from my parents' house where I grew up. This was a much more exciting moment

This was like my own personal Elmo.

French Onion Soup with Stout

For dinner I threw together French Onion Soup made with the stout beef broth leftover from the short ribs I made a while back. It came out very well with the stout taking the place of the more traditional red wine. Perhaps it was more like an Irish Onion Soup though I probably lose points for note making the crostini on top in the shape of a shamrock.

Two Brothers Polar Vortex Dunkel Lager

Doug brought over this local Polar Vortex beer to celebrate what has been one of the most hellishly cold (poor metaphor) winter.

Beefcakes Brushing

I don't remember which night it was but the boys somehow got their shirts so wet and/or dirty that they were forced to brush their teeth shirtless like a couple of beefcakes.

Martin and Elliott with Daily Day Care Reports

Martin has become frantic when I pick him up at day care. He insists that he be allowed to hold his daily report sheet for the duration of the trip home. Sometimes he is generous and allows Elliott to hold his own sheet but more often he wishes to hold them both.

Grandpa and Elliott Grocery Shopping

On a Sunday morning, while Jen was at yoga, we took the guys grocery shopping. It is an activity which can entertain them for up to 60 minutes before they get bored. While it's not a book about a zoo it is a chance to identify many produce items. I'd say that they are probably at a fifth grade level for identifying produce and possibly a college level for animals.

Nana and Elliott at Children's Museum

On Monday we took them to the children's museum where we also met up with grandma and they had a blast.

Martin at Water Table with Grandma

Martin refused to wear his apron and got completely soaked before I was able to force one onto him. It didn't seem to bother him that it was 15 degrees outside and he was wearing a completely soaked shirt.

Martin Knocked Out After Children's Museum

It also didn't stop him from falling asleep in the car and even allowing me to put him in his crib. He did wake up after about 45 minutes and I changed his shirt for him before he immediately passed out again.

Elliott Knocked Out After Children's Museum

Elliott had no such problems.

They had a nice three hour nap to build the energy back up to wrestle with Grandpa.

Mardi Gras Breakfast for Dinner

On Tuesday it was Mardi Gras and I threw together the quickest possible breakfast for dinner to keep with our tradition. While not as elaborate as years past it was tasty.

Daddy Eating Mardi Gras Dinner with Teething Elliott

Elliott would not calm down so we had to have him sit with us during dinner. Eventually he cried so much that I had to take him to to the doctor.

Elliott at Urgent Care

The only time he cried this badly was when he had a double-ear infection. Apparently this time he was only teething so after some ibuprofen and cuddling he eventually fell asleep and spent the night with us.

Grumpy Elliott Face

Jackson Morning Face

Martin in the Morning

Evelyn Eating Mum-Mum

The next day we got a visit from Auntie Anne and Cousin Jackson. Evelyn joined in and even had her first taste of Mum-Mums. She got through most of them before Elliott ate her leftovers.

Guitar Time

The toddlers enjoyed guitar time. Daddy did not because it usually involves them holding the strings so that they don't make any noise then yelling, "Bye!" I'm not really sure why that is.

Cousins on the Big Bear

Grandad and Grandma gave us this gigantic bear after an evening where we complained about the sheer number of stuffed animals we were inundated with. This unwanted addition now increases the volume of our stuffed animal collection by 100%.

Elliott Climbing onto Kitchen Table

To add to our pain Elliott has become quite proficient at climbing up onto our tables and just sort of crawling around.

Martin Identifying Jackson

Martin has also become proficient at identifying his cousin Jackson which is no doubt a treat for Jackson to be poked on the head while having his own name shouted at him.

Martin Waking Up In Empty Crib With No Pants

After one nap where the ladies went shopping I came up to wake them from their nap and found Martin in a completely empty crib wearing no pants.

Elliott Asleep with Contents of Martin's Crib Including Martin's Pants

Apparently he'd run out of things to throw into Elliott's crib before he fell asleep and resorted to removing clothing. Elliott didn't seem to mind.

Elliott Pushing Jackson

Elliott also didn't seem to mind pushing Jackson around on his rolling zebra. This surprised me a bit because it seemed like riding would be the sweeter of the two gigs but as long as they weren't fighting over the toy I was going to obey the Prime Directive.

Saturday Dinner

The Saturday dinner at Jen's parents' house reminded me of what it would be like if I could actually have a few uninterrupted hours to actually make something nice for dinner for a change. It harkens back to a long ago time that I deeply miss.

But at least we have an obnoxiously large stuffed bear now.

20 Month Cupcakes

I picked up some 20 month cupcakes for the kids to enjoy and make a huge mess with since Saturday was the 20 month birthday for the Wombats.

Elliott Eating 20 Month Cupcake

Martin Eating 20 Month Cupcake

Evelyn with Cupcake

Even Evelyn got in on the action by frantically licking a cupcake.

Snowy Walk Home From Day Care

On Monday temperatures crept up into the 50s! It was hard not to resist a walk to day care to pick them up. This proved to be a little treacherous as I bounded through giant piles of melting snow and ice. I had to improvise on the walk home and take a somewhat more circuitous route on the return.

Snowy Wagon Ride

The whole way home they identified the sky, many birds, and incorrectly called vans buses. I had not ever walked to our new house with them so when we entered the garage they saw their cozy coupes and wagons and demanded many rides.

Big Boy Dinner

They also demanded to eat dinner at the table like adults. Adults that get food all over the floor and cry when they aren't immediately presented with more cheese.

One thing about Elliott: when eating avocado he will not eat a bite until you confirm his correct identification of it when he shouts "Av-ca! Av-ca! Av-ca!" I lost focus and didn't realize that he had been sitting their yelling "Av-ca! Av-ca! Av-ca!" for several minutes. When I confirmed, "Yes, avocado!" he immediately ate the bite.

"Zoo! Zoo! Zoo!"

Since Peek-a-zoo still remains locked up above the TV Martin will go over every so often and yell, "Zoo! Zoo!" There are fewer tears now but he must have seen me hide it because he has never forgotten.

Healthy(er) Dinner

The last five months have been the unhealthiest we've eaten in years. Quick dinners, more takeout, lots of heavy sauces, Thanksgiving, Christmas, family visits, and an overall lack of outdoor activity have contributed to (me in particular) feeling like an unhealthy ball of crap. This has lead to a greater focus on healthier cooking. So far, so good. We'll see how long we can keep this up.

Shoveling Again

This morning we got about five or six inches of extremely heavy snow in what most are hoping will be the last accumulation of the season. A woman from a few houses down came over and used her snow blower to clear our driveway before I was able to shovel it all so I feel like we owe her a debt of gratitude.

March Snow

The yard looks beautiful with the midday sun reflecting off of the fresh snow but I've seen enough. It's time to melt, go away, and leave my hard to be a Woodstock-like mud pit and usher in the inevitable 48 hours of spring before temperatures get over 100.

After eating dinner outside a grand total of zero times last year I am looking forward to once again grilling and having dinner outside, a joy that seems like an unthinkable reality at the moment.

Almost there.