Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Homemade maki rolls

Seeing as sushi is our number one budget buster, I’ve been wanting to go to H Mart for awhile now. Wow, there’s nothing like a huge Asian supermarket for fun! I love looking at all the stuff that I have no idea how to prepare. But more importantly, we stocked up on bao and bought sushi fix’ins.
Tonight I made two types of rolls for the first time. One was salmon, cucumber, avocado. The other was mango and avocado. Nummy. I had been warned by online sushi-making-sites that I would use too much rice. Photographic evidence suggests it is true.

H Mart even sells mangosteen, according to their weekly sales flyer. Sorry, Dad. I didn’t know at the time. They are open until 10 pm tonight. Hurry!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Grilling season now underway

Grilled Bratwurst in Beer

4 onions, sliced into ½ in rounds
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 12-oz beers (Bud or MGD are best for this)
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp caraway seeds
10 brats
10 sub rolls

Oil and pepper onions. Whisk beer, mustard, sugar, caraway, and some pepper in 13x9 in pan. Put pan and onions on the grill (separately). Grill onions on both sides, about 8 min total. Put onions in pan. Grill brats until brown. Then move them into the pan, and cook another 15 min. Then take out and grill the brats another few minutes. Continue to cook mixture down a little, then serve the brats in the rolls with sauce and onions on top.

More hippy dippy every day

So, not too long ago I mentioned our new yogurt maker. It’s been quite a success. I use organic 2% milk, and for about $1.50 I get 6 6-ounce containers of yogurt. You don’t flavor it until it’s done, and the kids love picking what to add! Frozen blueberries and a little honey are the top choice. My only small quibble is that I didn’t realize that you have to boil the milk and let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating and ultimately consuming the yogurt. It adds about an hour to the 10-hour cycle. Not the end of the world, but still a little more involved than I had anticipated.

Speaking of more involved than anticipated, I wanted to be all fancy and make one of those links that show you the product when you hover over the link. You see how well that went. Anyway, that's our yogurt maker. Very basic. I'm using baby food jars from a friend for a spare set. The tall kind.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Gardening underway

Since I started blogging in November, I haven’t had to balance gardening and writing until now. This week has been just perfect. In the 70s, sunny, gorgeous. All my seeds are finally coming up, after all the fretting and checking them every few hours. Perhaps you remember the Frog and Toad story where Frog starts some seeds and screams at them and jumps up and down in frustration. That was me. Then Toad comes and tells him to read them a story and sing to them, and then the seeds sprout. I have to find that book again.

Someone in town was giving away strawberry plants, so I got 10 free. I lovingly planted and watered them. One even had a flower already. Visions of organic strawberries with whipped cream danced in my head. Maybe berries with homemade yogurt. I went out the next morning and they were eaten down to the roots. So we’re putting up a chicken wire fence. Well, N is. On Sunday he says.

I’m telling you, gardening is one heartbreak after another. Sort of like parenting, really.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We like to call it "saving objects from landfill"

I went trash picking with a friend a few weeks ago. It was Large Object Waste Pick-up Day in a richie rich suburb near us, and man, did we have fun. I ended up with:

Lego table
2 high-end tomato towers
6 regular tomato towers
Tricycle (red, vintagey-looking)
wrapping paper (new in package)
2 5-gallon plastic buckets
red metal planter, other plastic planters
2 t-ball stands
wooden footstool
2 sets of BrainQuest
light saber (red)
assorted small toys
rocking fish ride-on toy
pink baseball cap
picnic basket
Halloween signpost decoration

The piece de résistance was a pineapple chimenea. We’ve already used it 3 times, while reclining on our new (actually purchased at a store) patio lounge set. It has transformed our outdoor living space into a thing of beauty.

My friend got a beautiful plastic playhouse for her daughter’s backyard fun and lots of other stuff. We had some trouble getting the playhouse into the minivan and ended up driving several blocks with the side door open. The plan was to drop those things off at a Safe Location and go back for more goodies. We had to jettison a hose reel to make room for the house, but we ended up finding it again on the way out of town, so it worked out perfectly.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fortune cookie says what?

If I apply for this job, should I mention that one of my very favorite read-aloud books is Baker, Baker, Cookie Maker?

Between that and my vast writing skills, I would think I'd be a shoo-in.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lost and found money

What if you had a refund due to you but didn't know it? I emailed six people last night to tell them they are listed in this registry (site for Illinois). I know, sad, isn't it. Clearly I need better hobbies.

If you haven't lived in Illinois, try this missing money site. Each state should have its own site -- perhaps a little digging is in order? OK, fine, here's California. Aren't I helpful?

When the money arrives, buy yourself a little something from Amazon, and don’t forget to click through from this site! Handy clickable ad, on the left. Proceeds help our local Easter Seals branch.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Stupid Pull-ups

For some reason, the “girl” print of Pull-ups are sometimes cheaper than the “boy” print, at least at the Target where we shop. Girl, naturally means “stupid Disney princesses.” Boy means “Cars” (as in the movie).*

I hate Pull-ups. I think they are stupid. Nevertheless, we are using them now. I also hate spending money on disposable diapers. So, the first time we bought stupid Pull-ups, I bought the girl ones, because they were cheaper. Now that it’s time to buy another stupid package, I walked into the store knowing that I couldn’t do girl ones again, despite the very slight pleasure I felt at knowing they were going to be pee-soaked and possibly beshatted before they were discarded.

Nea loves the Cars movie. She was very pleased with our purchase. Even though she's a GIRL.

I haven’t purchased from this site, but I read about this really cool offer somewhere and thought I’d mention it. Try an assortment of cloth diapers for 21 days for $10. See details.

We are using the Imse Vimse training pants some of the time. Boy, we sure love potty training! We’ve been doing it since New Year’s with hardly any progress! It’s every parent’s dream! Ha ha! Ha ha. Heh.

*I just went to their web site, where they actually call them girl and boy prints, if you click to view the new pant graphics. How I loathe them.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tragic news

The German deli nearest our house is closing. Although some items are easily found these days (pretzel rolls have become much more popular of late), we will sadly lament the passing of local Leberkäse.

Leberkäse, the best German comfort food. Although it literally means “liver cheese,” it has neither liver nor cheese in it.

It’s impossible to explain what this rare delicacy is without making it sound revolting. It’s sort of a bologna/meatloaf concoction. A giant loafy hotdog-textured meat blob without a casing. Mmmm. Leberkäse.

At any rate, I plan to be filled with self-pity and lounge around the house sighing loudly for the remainder of the decade. Oh woe, oh woe is us.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A household full of household appliances

You’re hanging out, all happy with your small kitchen appliances. You’ve got your coffeemaker, crockpot, bread machine, popcorn popper, Cuisinart food processor, your Kitchen-aid, a toaster. A microwave. A stick blender and a regular blender that you never use because you have a stick blender. A waffle iron. A George Foreman grill that was a hand-me-down and will go into the garage sale this year because you never use it.

None of them are recent acquisitions, except the stick blender, which you bought recently to replace the old stick blender.

La la la. Living your life, not looking for more small kitchen appliances. Suddenly, BAM. There’s a garage sale with a brand new Cuisinart ice cream maker for $15. Oh, the kids would like that. Then you go to the dentist. Seems harmless enough, except he’s a really nice guy who discussed the necessity of rice cookers with you (and your lack thereof) at your last appointment and sets you up with one. Then you get some “reward points” for being helpful at work. Look, you can get a yogurt maker with your points! You’ve always wanted a yogurt maker.

So, within a week, you have three new small kitchen appliances. “How did this happen?” you wonder. “Where will we put them?” you muse. “Will I take my homemade yogurt and put it into the ice cream maker to make frozen yogurt this summer?” you doubtfully frown.

Now, this is where creative writing takes an ugly turn. I could shut up now. The post above: it stands alone. However, I feel compelled to add that David Byrne is clearly doing Bert’s “Doing the Pigeon” dance at 43 seconds in. Compare this video at 1:45 in:

See, and there you have it, folks. Another perfectly coherent blog entry ruined.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Drive-by posting

I'm really swamped at work today. You know, first day back after an exotic vacation of playdates and trudging through the entire zoo.

So, instead of actual content, please enjoy this hilarious muppet blooper video.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Grow your own

What a beautiful weekend! Spent the whole thing in the garden, doing spring clean-up and getting things organized for the growing season. Rhubarb is coming up. No sign of the asparagus yet. Got the compost added to the veggie garden. The cold frame set up with seed pots inside. Ended up having to make a drawing of where to put everything, since I kept adding to the list. Right now I have started seeds for butternut squash, zucchini, cucumbers, four kinds of tomatoes (little red, little yellow, plum, and brandywine), basil, parsley, cilantro, green beans, bell peppers, and kohlrabi. Boo and I put in the onion sets that she wanted, yellow and white. I bought my seed potatoes, but they are still on the kitchen counter. Spinach, bok choi, and peas should be started tomorrow. I’m thinking the universe is telling me not to grow bok choi. I can’t find last year’s seeds, and I accidentally flipped the new ones I bought behind the stove. So irritating.

We are rethinking our long-term compost plan. We have tons of trees on our lot, so we said, “Oh we’ll just make a few huge piles and let time break it down without having to do much. It’s lazy man’s compost! Everyone should do it!” Sadly, that lazy slut Mother Nature is not holding up her end of the bargain. We put kitchen scraps and brown material (leaves) in there, and we don’t have enough green material (grass clippings, which we leave on the lawn). So it just sits there. It’s a very bad sign when your compost pile is actually frozen on a warm spring day. So, we might start having our fall clean-up done professionally, so we don’t have to bag all our leaves, or store them in giant inert piles for years. We'll only have two 4x4 piles of compost. The good news? This frees up yet another large garden area behind the garage. I’m thinking the potatoes and zucchini will go back there this summer.

If there’s anything cuter than your 3 year old asking via sign whether she can go graze on your chives, I’m not sure what it could be.

Although Boo telling me she wants her own garden with “strawberries, little red tomatoes, spinach, and peas” is pretty close.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Memory triggers

I laugh out loud most times when I drive past the corner of 83 and St Charles Rd in Elmhurst. Nearly 4 years ago I nearly gave birth there, and it's so funny now. It wasn't then, though.

Labor with Boo took forever, so I kept thinking it was too early to go to the hospital when in labor with Nea. Well, eventually when I first pushed at home in the back stairwell, we realized that maybe we should have left earlier. So, no, I'm not kidding about nearly giving birth at the side of the road. The doctor told me later that that noise I was making when I was being wheeled into the maternity ward is called a "precipitous scream." No need to feel embarrassed. It's instinctual.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Learn something new every day

Saw three butterflies in the garden today, which seems impossible when there are almost no flowers blooming (for nectar) or foliage (for the little caterpillars). Thanks to the power of the almighty Internet, I have determined that they were Mourning Cloak Butterflies (Nymphalis antiopa antiopa).

The other butterflies … belong to a large family known as "four-footed" or "brush-footed" butterflies because the two forelegs are too small for use in walking. The Mourning Cloak Butterfly is the largest of our butterflies that hibernate as adults. On warm winter days it may be seen flitting through the leafless woods and it is the first to emerge in spring. The wings, the color of dead leaves underneath, are purplish-brown above with a broad yellow border and a row of blue spots just inside. The larvae feed, side by side in columns, on the leaves of willow, elm and poplar trees.


I didn’t know they hibernated. I thought they sprung forth fully formed from the head of Zeus every spring.