Search Good Living

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Big Hot Mess

"Do you wanna make a CAVE, Ma?" The dreaded words pass Sam's lips four times at least each day. Actually he pronounces cave more like, "CAID," it's cute. Cute but so annoying to my obsessively anal, neat-loving personality.

This new stage has lasted approximately two months. At any point on any day Sam may decide to take all the cushions, pillows and blankets off our sectional couch, just for the heck of it. If he's lucky, either his father or I will prop up cushions and create a roof for him with a blanket. I never know when I'll come across an attempted "caid" in my bedroom, six king-sized pillows strewn everywhere in mounds.

It is such a challenge for me to allow him to do this freely. Why is that? Why do I feel the need to keep the house organized and put away at all times? It must be incredibly stifling for him, he loves to have all his toys out, where he can see them and go from one to another. I realize that developmentally this is important for him, and someday for Charlotte too, but every time I hear him ask for a cave my innards quiver and shake.

Maybe I should go see somebody about this little problem of mine. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10 Things I'm Grateful For

This list does not include anything meaningful, like God's grace or Scott's love for me. Duh. Just the shallow stuff, in no particular order.

1. A summer haircut that I do not have to wash or blow dry. Can't remember the last time I used one.
2. My Jura Capresso coffee maker named Brigetta (thanks to Cheryl for the name), and not having to leave the house to enjoy a caramel latte in the morning
3. Sanuks for summer shoes
4. Arnold Palmers by the pool
5. Two kids who enjoy sleeping through the night (thank you God!!)
6. Top Chef and No Reservations with new episodes on through the summer
7. Costco's Premium Margarita mix, $10 for a big bottle to share with friends as you grill out
8. Tomatoes in my backyard, slowly ripening
9. Horizon's Organic Yogurt Sticks, frozen, perfect for packing in a lunch for the pool
10. OPI's Tasmanian Devil Nail Polish
10b. The smell and sight of the orange freesia flowers in our bathroom...thank you to Scott who is leaving on a four day golf trip this weekend. :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Pictures

Here are some catch up pictures of the summer...the pool, Charlotte's bonnets, Sam and Scott in WI with a cousin...

Some Sam Stories

I completely fell off the face of the earth, didn't I? We headed out of town for a few days with Scott's family and now are catching our breath back at home after crazy flooding in our town. Thankfully no water in our basement, but our poor friends across the street...

Anyways. While on vacation, we were driving in our car and Scott was telling me about a couple who own a lakehouse and have a long list of rules posted throughout the house for guests that may stay over. He was going through a couple of the rules in a deprecating tone when Sam's little voice pipes from the back seat,
"Buaw buaw buaw, that ree-dee-quee-us!" ("Blah, blah blah, that's ridiculous!" for those who don't understand him.)

Guess we should be careful what we say, you never know who is listening.

And then again today, we're in the kitchen making our "coffees" together when he decides we need more sugar. Sam runs to the pantry, throws open the door and spys his little baking outfit-a little apron, mitts, and hat. He says, "Oh! I need to wear my stuff!" and puts it on. Sam then turns to me, points up to my apron and says, "You want yours Mom? You want to put on your breastplate?" (I think that one came from the Bible story about David and Goliath, there's a picture in there of little David in King Saul's armour.)

Hope you are staying cool today, we'll be hitting the pool for the majority of the week.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Strawberry Cherries

Has anyone else ever heard of these before? The organic southern Illinois farmers were selling these at the market on Saturday and they are fabulous! Bright red as the tart cherries from Michigan, but sweet and tangy inside like Rainers. If you spot them, buy a couple pints...I wish I'd bought more then one.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sam and his phone

Overheard in our car two days ago...

Sam is playing with his toy cell phone as we're driving somewhere. He hits one of the preprogrammed buttons and a little boy's voice pipes out,
"Wanna go out and play?"

Sam says to it, "No."

He hits another button and a fake mommy voice oozes, "I love you so much!"

Sam mumbles under his breath, "No you DON'T."

Monday, July 05, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

We celebrated by heading out to our town's parade and sat by Great Grandma and Grandpa, much to everyone's delight. Sam was crabby until they started throwing candy, and when asked at the beginning during the fire engines passage (sirens wailing) if he was having fun, "No, I not."

Charlotte enjoyed trying out her first pair of big girl shoes, shiny red leather ones, my thanks to the Bushong family for completing her festive outfit. :)

After a lovely housewide nap, we made a massive dinner just for the four of us: grilled wild salmon with a spicy rub, bbq ribs, fresh corn and basil salad, white nectarines and blueberries, roasted fingerling potatoes and black and white cookies for dessert. No fireworks, just watched Twilight on the couch with Scott and went to bed by 10:30 pm.

It was lovely. Hope your holiday was as well.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

It's been a relatively busy cooking week around here, with a family reunion last weekend, a big dinner we brought up to Palatine for family and lots of great summer produce just begging to be used. Here is an excellent use of summer's tomatoes. I made it as an appetizer for the reunion we went to and had three people ask for the recipe. (Again, sorry for the lack of photos, I was too concerned with just trying to get it DONE in time to leave for Libertyville. It turned out great, good enough for me to want to recommend...)

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (Use Dufour's from Whole Foods, or Trader Joe's brand when they have it...unfortunately usually in the winter time)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
5-6 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 TB. extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 whole, fresh basil leaves
2 TB. fresh basil, minced

Whisk the olive oil, garlic and two whole basil leaves together, crush the leaves well. Let sit.

Adjust oven rack to lower position and preheat to 425 degrees. Lay defrosted puff pastry sheet on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with beaten egg.

Fold the edges over to form a 1/2 inch, low, rimmed crust all along the sides, keeping edges flush and square. Sprinkle the parmesan on the bottom of the crust. (You could also brush the crust with homemade pesto sauce instead, I think that would taste even better, frankly.) Poke the dough all over with a fork, and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, spread sliced tomatoes on a few layers of paper towels. Sprinkle the salt over top and let their liquid drain out for 30 minutes while you prepare the tart.

Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the baked crust bottom. Press extra liquid out of the tomatoes and shingle them in layers over the mozzarella. Drizzle the olive oil mix over top of the tomatoes. Bake until the shell is deep golden, 10-15 minutes.

Cool for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with the freshly minced basil. Slice into small pieces. It's delicious served warm or room temperature, perfect for parties.

I doubled this the first time I made it, since we were going to a family reunion. It worked great, especially considering there are two sheets of puff pastry in the package.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Worst Day Ever

To quote the words of the soaking-wet woman standing next to me in the airless alcove outside Park Grill in Millennium Park, Chicago, "Worst day ever."

Well maybe not quite, but close.

Last Wednesday Scott and I made the unfortunate decision to brave the sketchy-looking weather and head into Chicago for a picnic supper and free concert (Pink Martini) outside in the gorgeous Millennium Park. I packed everything we could possibly need for the afternoon and evening: Sam's swimsuit for splashing in the fountain, a big fluffy towel, a chair and blankets for the grass, two bags of food and yummy drinks, a massive golf umbrella in case it rained, (HA! IN CASE it rained! HA!), extra clothes, and gear for the baby.

Needless to say, the double Bob would be loaded down, with barely room to spare for the kids.

Back home, I checked radar at 3pm that afternoon, the steamy 90 degree forecast predicted rain at 6pm, and then at 9pm, but no big deal. We decided to go for it.

What followed should have absolutely nominated us for the Worst Parents of the Year award.

Driving in wasn't too bad, it took us the usual 45 minutes or so. After buying a lovely supper at one of my favorite spots, Fox and Obel, we headed south for the park. I made the extremely fortunate plea that we go ahead and pay for parking nearby, rather then circling the Loop and having to walk for blocks and blocks. We unload the kids, the food, the blankets, the chair and round the corner to the fountains where it began to spit big, fat, juicy raindrops on our heads.

The sky was grey, but at this point it didn't look too ominous. We changed Sam into his swimsuit so he could splash around with the other kids and I left Scott there with a towel and the golf umbrella, taking the baby in the stroller to find some cover from the rain.

I walked around in the drizzle, eyeing the heavy trees off to the side, and thought to myself, "Hmm, I probably better find a building or something to tuck under, just in case it gets worse."

A few yards ahead I spotted the small overhang for the entrance to Park Grill, a nice restaurant tucked underneath Millennium Park. Connected to it was an un-air conditioned tiny alcove where people could wait for the restaurant, the to-go cafe, or go down some stairs to yet another subterranean parking lot.

Suddenly it thundered. LOUD. I got a text from Scott asking me if I was ok, and texted him back that it was time to get Sam out of the water and under cover. Lightening. More lightening. Louder thunder. The rain turned from a steady flow to a downpour, soaking the half of the stroller that wasn't covered by the overhang. I took the baby out of the stroller and held her close, watching people flee in from the rain and join me.

Scott came sauntering up, towel slung over his shoulders, umbrella covering him. Sam is dancing and jumping and leaping along behind him, not scared in the least by the loud sounds of thunder crashing overhead. We, along with the 30 some people that are also watching from the windows of the alcove, laugh and chuckle at how well dressed he is for the occasion. His joy is near contagious, until the rain somehow manages to pour down even HARDER, and three particularly loud cracks of lightening and thunder send all four of us into the airless, hot, crowded alcove.

Scott is holding a wiggly Sam, trying to contain him in the small space. The baby is fussy, of course, poor thing, and our stuff outside is getting drenched. We look at each other and Scott decides to see if we can get to our car from the door off the back of the alcove. He disappears, taking Sam with him.

Not two minutes after he leaves, all hell breaks loose. Literally. The sky turns green. The wind tries to blow over the massive tent outside. Trees are bent sideways. Tornado sirens. Huge lightening and crazy thunder. Emergency personnel come to the door, "Everyone remain calm. We need to get you underground immediately."

People are running in from the streets, tourists off the double decker buses covered in big plastic bag ponchos, party attendees from a private event in that tent across the sidewalk, panic in their eyes and stricken on their faces.

And I wait in the corner, holding the baby, trying to figure out what to do. Scott and a no-longer-smiling Sam return, fighting the flow of people-traffic hurrying down the cement staircase to the parking garage below.

"We can't get to our car from here, but let's load the kids in the stroller and walk them down the steps. Can't use the elevator in case the power goes out."

Um, ok. Because that makes sense. Because our stroller and the precious bread from Fox and Obel matters. But neither of us was thinking rationally at this point. You are just panicked and horrified at yourself for even being in the situation.

So we brave the wind and wheel the stroller into the alcove, strap the kids in and get ready to lift it when suddenly, the sirens stop. Two minutes pass, people start to come up again from underground, security personnel escort party goers back to the tent. It's still raining, still lightening and thundering, but evidently the dire threat has passed.

We look at each other again, trying to figure out what to do. Scott thinks we should run for it, try to make it to our car where I can feed the baby, we all can dry off and then head home as soon as we are able. I am dubious but unsure of what the right course of action is. The baby is miserable, crying, and Sam is getting cold. I hand him a hunk of soggy baguette and he begs for the oatmeal raisin walnut cookie instead.

"Ok, let's do it," I say.

As we wheel the cumbersome stroller out the door, I hear an older woman mutter under her breath to her companion, "I wouldn't take MY children out into that for anything." I cannot even describe the shame and utter fear that swept over me in that moment. But we soldiered on.

Pulling the flaps down over the kids as low as they'll go, Scott attempted to keep the umbrella over them as we ran. I'm sprinting, trying to decide where the safest path lies as almost constant thunder and lightening play overhead. Do we weave our way through the line of metal sculptures? Hmm, no. Do we run by the block-long pool of water sandwiched by two towers? Hmm, no again. What are we doing?! The rain is like a waterfall, difficult to see in, drenching and heavy.

And then. AND THEN, just as we decide to run out to the street and race along Michigan to our parking lot entrance, the tornado sirens go off again.

If I had felt fear before, THIS was something else. They were unbelievably loud, echoing off the sky scrapers around us. I glanced around in a panic, we are the only people in sight. EVERYONE else is under shelter. "WHAT. ARE. WE. DOING?!?!?!?!?!!?" I scream at Scott in a mindless panic. We're about halfway to our car lot, do we turn around or keep going?

"You can do it, come on honey!" Scott shouts at me, and we sprint and sprint, running as fast as we can. I am regretting all the gear that I packed earlier in the day, to say the least. Breathless, I am regretting many things at this point.

We at last pull up to yet another alcove and there are 30 more people standing there watching us wheel our stroller in through the doorway. With trepidation I raise Sam's stroller covering, his feet are sitting in a deep pool of water. He beams out at us, causing a ripple of laughter to flow over the watching crowd. I raise the flap on my FOUR MONTH OLD BABY. Her face is a different story and will haunt me for a long time to come. Praise God she will have no memory of this, except for this blog post which I may end up deleting out of shame. Poor sweet thing.

We make our way down to the car, take a deep breath and regroup. I feed the baby. We change Sam into dry clothes. We eat some of our picnic. Or Scott and Sam eat, I can't swallow past the massive lump of guilt sitting in my throat. We decide it's ok to head home.

And then we sit. In traffic. For two and a half hours. Because we deserve it for being Worst Parents of the Year.

It was a horrible experience, but we learned from it. I can honestly say that was the first time I'd checked the weather and had the outcome be worse then what was predicted.

We were going on past experience. But I won't run that chance again with babies on my watch, that's for sure.