Monday, May 30, 2011

5 Years Ago Tonight...

5 years ago tonight was the eve of the birth of our 2nd daughter.

5 years ago tonight I had a BLT at exactly 11:55pm. I remember the time because I had a C-Section scheduled for the next morning and was not allowed to eat after midnight. So my husband made me a BLT so I wouldn't wake up hungry.

5 years ago tonight I couldn't sleep. Neither could my husband. I had a very bad feeling that something was going to go wrong with the birth of our daughter. I didn't know what was about to happen, but I just had that awful nagging feeling that things weren't going to go well. So we laid awake all night, just watching the hours go by.

5 years ago tonight I had no idea how much our lives were about to change. We didn't know the nightmare we were about to be thrust into. We didn't know that for the first time in our marriage we would have to face such heart wrenching decisions involving our child. We also didn't know how strong it would make our marriage.

5 years ago tonight was my last night as a mom of just a typical child and my journey as a Mom of a child with special needs began. I just didn't know it yet.

5 years ago tonight- so much has happened since May 30th, 2006. I have learned more medical terminology than I ever wanted to. I have seen my child on life support. I have taken her to have an MRI and to get stitches in her head. I've sat and listened to a doctor tell me my daughter has brain damage and would never walk on her own or be able to do "normal" activities. I have worked with therapists to make sure that doctor was proven wrong. And he was. I have seen her fall more times than I can possibly count- and seen her get up and keep on going. I have watched her dance in her first ballet recital. I have taken her to her first day of school. I have watched her perform in a play with speaking lines- and get them all right!
We've been to Holland and then Italy ( if you've read the poem and have a child with special needs, you will understand what that means).

5 years ago tonight I started learning who my true friends are- the ones who stuck by us through it all- the good and the bad. The ones who didn't walk away when I couldn't handle being social- they understood my need to lead a quiet life for a while and supported me through that time. The ones who celebrated Sammie's triumphs with us, and still do. The ones who let me cry on their shoulders when I needed to, when I was feeling overwhelmed by all the uncertainty. The ones who never ever judged us, or how we raised our children, or why we had another baby. The ones who love Sam just as she is, and love us just the way we are.

5 years ago tonight I had no idea how much that one little girl about to be born would change me as a Mom and as a person. I had no idea how she would change my relationship with my husband. We had to learn how to work together even more than we already did. We became closer through her struggle to live, and through our struggle to make sure she has as normal and happy a life as possible.

Tomorrow morning when Sam gets up there will be birthday presents waiting for her, and we will have a special birthday breakfast. To her, it's a day to be special, to get some new toys, and bask in all the attention. To me, it's another year she's here with us. Another birthday that at one time I was so afraid I wouldn't get to celebrate with her.

Emily Perl Kingsley.

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

Happy 5th Birthday to my Sammie. And thank you for making Holland such a beautiful place to be.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer Menu Planning

I don't intend to do one of these each week, but as the seasons change, my grocery shopping habits change with them and I thought a post to show those changes would be a good idea.
During the winter we eat a lot of frozen veggies, but now that summer is here we are back to getting our fresh local veggies again. Today my Mom and I made our first trip of the season to the Farmer's Market at the Yorktown Riverwalk. I didn't go with a list this time, I wanted to see what vendors were participating this year. I didn't get a lot today, but I found some fresh tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, blueberries, and sweet potatoes. I also picked up some dog treats for our Golden Retriever. He's one of our kids too, after all!

I like to plan out my meals for two weeks at a time. It makes my life easier, and I don't have to make extra trips to the grocery store throughout the week. The initial cost is more, but in the end we actually spend less this way.

Here is our menu:
Saturday: Leftover chuck steak with bok choy, fresh sauteed squash, and leftover mac and "cheese" casserole.
Sunday: Cookout with friends- Burgers and brats, cold salads and baked beans
Monday: Going to my best friend's house for a Memorial Day cookout
Tuesday: Sam's birthday dinner at my Mom's- she's requested pork chops
Wednesday: Taco Night (Kids' choice)
Thursday: sauteed cauliflower with grape tomatoes over pasta
Friday: Black beans and rice with andouille sausage
Saturday: Homemade baked chicken fingers, tater tots, green veggie* (Kids' choice)
Sunday: crab cakes, with salad and veggies* (husband's choice)
Monday: Potato gnocchi with Marinara sauce and veggies
Tuesday: Brinner- pancakes with fruit, bacon, hash browns (kids' choice)
Wednesday:Stir fry veggies
Thursday: Fried polenta with marinara sauce
Friday: South African style Lasagna (Kids' choice)
Saturday: Steaks on the grill with veggies.(Husband's choice)

*Not sure what veggies we will be having until we get our next CSA bag.

Also on the menu:
Breakfasts: cereal, overnight oats, pancakes, or scrambled eggs, and fresh fruit
Lunches: tomato basil soup (will share recipe), veggie wraps or leftovers

My grocery list:
Soy milk- 4 cartons, cereal bars, Tatar sauce, cocoa powder, banana chips, dried mango, 2 cans green beans, polenta, mini toasts, eggs- 1 and 1/2 dozen, garlic powder, buns, bananas, tortillas-2 packs, strawberries, graham crackers, walnuts, lemons, ginger, guacamole, chicken breasts, white basmati rice, peanut butter-2 jars, sandwich bread, prosciutto, cauliflower, watermelon, grape tomatoes, parsley, mint, pasta noodles, soy sauce, canned whole tomatoes- 2 cans, vegetable oil, potato gnocchi, 2 jars marinara sauce, bag spinach, 2 avocados, bag of limes, fish sticks (The oldest one asked for them), tator tots, pancakes, organic instant oatmeal, olive oil spray, bagels, hash browns, wine, Corona (we are having a cookout with friends tomorrow afternoon)

We managed to get most of what we need for the week from Trader Joes this week. Our bill came to around $180.00 for 5 people for 2 weeks. Not bad! Keep in mind- that is also because we get the CSA veggies, and I visited the Farmers Market today- that was around $14.00. My goal is to bring our food bill down more than I already have.
I am also going to freeze some of our veggies from the CSA so we can keep them through the winter. I will start doing this as we get closer to the end of summer.

The 3 kids and my husband went grocery shopping with me. We are all involved in the meal planning and grocery shopping. We also let the girls pick out one treat while we are shopping- this week they picked bananan chips and dried mango slices. They did that all on their own! Never even asked to go to the cookie aisle. I am so proud of them for making these healthy food choices so early in their lives- I just hope they keep it up!

For now... Happy Cooking!

Macaroni and "Cheese" Casserole

One of the hardest foods for me to give up when I had to completely give up dairy 4 years ago was macaroni and cheese. Mac and cheese has always been one of my favorite foods, ever since I was a child. It was one of the first things I learned how to make on my own, and I practically lived on it in college. During my first year out of college as a high school teacher, mac and cheese with hot dogs or ground beef was a regular meal for my husband (then fiance) and I.
This one simple dish was such a huge part of my childhood and young adult life, and when I couldn't have it anymore it was really hard to find something to replace it. I could live without pizza, or cheesecake, or even nachos but Mac and cheese? I had to find an alternative to it.

I have been on the hunt for a good dairy free mac and "cheese" for 4 years now. I tried Amy's-it's good but too much soy or something in it gives me a stomachache. I tried a couple of recipes and they didn't turn out well. The flavor or the texture was way off. Then I stumbled upon the recipe I am going to share with you. I found it on Go Dairy Free. If you have not yet visited this site and you are looking for information on being dairy free, this is the best resource on the web!

I made this dish a couple weeks ago as an experiment. When it turned out so much better than I expected, I emailed Alisa- the chief editor of Go Dairy Free- and asked if I could please share this recipe on my blog. She is so incredibly sweet and told me that yes, I could share it with you all.
So thank you Alisa, for first sharing this recipe on your site, and now allowing me to share it on mine.

So here it goes- the BEST mac and "cheese" I've had in 4 years.
Serves 5
30 minutes: 10 minutes to cook macaroni and make sauce, 20 minutes oven and grill time.
3 1/2 cups dried macaroni
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup plain white flour
3 1/2 cups boiling water
1 tsp salt, added gradually to taste
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
Pinch Turmeric
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Cook macaroni in boiling, lightly salted water according to directions on package. When cooked, drain in colander and return to pan to keep warm.
3.While pasta is cooking, melt margarine over low heat.

4.Beat in flour with a wire whisk

Continue to beat over a medium heat until the mixture (called a roux), is smooth and bubbly.

5.Whip in the boiling water, salt, soy sauce, garlic, and turmeric, beating well to dissolve the roux.

6.The sauce should continue to cook until it thickens and begins to bubble.

7.Whip in the yeast flakes.

8. Mix part of the sauce with the cooked macaroni

And put in a casserole dish. (I lightly spray my casserole dish with non-stick spray first)

9.Pour the rest of the sauce on top, sprinkle with paprika (I used smoked paprika for more flavor).

10.Bake for 15 minutes. Put under the broiler for a few minutes until the sauce thickens and gets stretchy.

I served it as a side dish last night with marinated, grilled chuck steak and sauteed sugar snap peas with chive, shallots, and lemon.

My husband, who is very picky about "fake" cheese really likes this dish. So if a cheese eater likes it, that says a lot!

You can find this recipe here.

Happy Cooking!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Our Second CSA Delivery (And an Easy Stir Fry Idea)

Every Wednesday from now until the end of September we will be getting a bag of fresh, local veggies from Clayhill Farms CSA.

This week we got:
Bok choy
Summer squash
8ball and patty pan squash
Red Skinned Potatoes
Sugar Snap Peas

As I was putting away all my veggies last night, I decided to use some of them to make myself a stir fry for dinner. We're trying to do a meatless night once a week, and last night it worked out perfectly. My husband was on his way back from a meeting, so I was just cooking for myself (the kids had already eaten). I love when I get to cook for myself- it's a great time to experiment and make things up. I followed no recipe, just grabbed a few items from my fridge and spice cabinet and went to work.

I used:
a handful of snap peas
1 small zucchinni
1 small yellow squash
1 small patty pan squash
3 large leaves of bok choy
a quarter of one of the huge onions we got last week.

All the veggies used were from our CSA.

Seasonings and oil:
sesame oil
hot sesame oil
soy sauce
ground ginger (would prefer fresh but I'm out)
lime juice
rice vinegar (Not pictured)

What I did:
1.I boiled the snap peas first for about 2 minutes in order to soften them a bit before adding them to the saute pan.

2. First I lightly sprayed my pan with non-stick spray. I find that this really helps prevent sticking, even if using other oils. I heated about a 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil in th pan and added the chopped onion. I let them cook until they were starting to become translucent.
While they were cooking, I cut my zucchinni and yellow squash into sticks, and cubed my pattypan squash.

3.I added the squash to the pan, along with a little soy sauce and ginger, and let them cook until the squash started to soften.

4. I added the snap peas, the hot sesame oil, and a little more soy sauce and let them cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently to make sure nothing stuck to the bottom of the pan.

5. While all of the veggies were cooking, I was also getting my rice noodles ready. Somewhere in that time I also added a splash of lime juice and a couple shakes of rice vinegar to the veggies. Like I said, I was making this up as I went along and adding things I thought would taste good.

6. At the very end, I added the bok choy- since it cooks fast.

7.Once the noodles were cooked, I drained them and added them to the pan along with a little more soy sauce. I basically added small amounts of soy sauce as needed, when the mixtured started getting too dry.

I was so hungry that I actually started eating this out of the pan! Since it was just for me, and I was doing at least 3 things at once, - answering the phone, putting the baby to bed, getting the big kids in their jammies- I just grabbed a few quick bites before I actually had a chance to put some in a bowl for myself.

It was an easy, filling, quick weeknight dinner, perfect for one person, or a family. Since I was making it for myself, I did make it spicy. But if my kids were going to eat it I would have cut out the hot sesame oil.

I highly recommend joining a CSA in your area if possible. We absolutely love ours! If you live in the Tidewater region, our Clayhill Farms CSA has open enrollment througout the summer, so we are still accepting registrations. Clayhill Farms also offers a Fall CSA that runs until the Holidays. It is most definitely worth every penny!

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Black Bean Dip- a Crowd Pleaser

I never used to like black bean dip. In fact, I never liked black beans. Not sure why- maybe their color turned me off. I didn't start eating them until about 2 years ago. Ever since then we have added them into several dishes- enchiladas, tacos, chili- to name a few. I got the idea to make my own black bean dip after having some at a Micro Brewery in Kill Devil Hills, NC a few years ago. I figured it really could not be that hard so I threw a few things in a food processor along with the beans, and what came out was pretty good. Since then I have played with this recipe and I am really happy with the way it's turned out. I needed a quick, easy, dairy free dip for the party we had on Saturday, and this fit perfectly! It takes about 10 minutes to make.

2 can black beans
salsa of your choice
1 jalapeno
handful fresh cilantro
juice of half a ripe lime

Cayenne pepper
Chipotle Chili Powder
I added about 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and a tablespoon cumin. Adjust the spices to your personal taste. It's definitely not an exact recipe.

*Everything is to taste with this recipe.*
1.Drain but do not rinse the black beans and pour them into a sauce pan. Add about 1/4 cup of salsa (more or less depending on your taste). Add the cumin, cayenne pepper, and chipotle chili powder. Stir well. Heat over medium heat until heated through.

(Sorry about the picture-I can't get it to turn. Any thoughts on this?)

2.Pour bean mixture into a food processor.

Add the rough chopped 1/2 jalapeno (If you want it spicy add the seeds too, but to cut back on spice remove the seeds) and a handful of fresh cilantro. Blend until it becomes smooth and there are no large pieces left.

3. Add some fresh squeezed lime juice- I use half a lime- you don't want too much otherwise the dip will become watery. Give it another quick spin to mix in the juice.

4. Can be served hot or cold. We love it both ways.

Due to the lighting in my kitchen at night, I had a hard time getting a good picture of this. These are the best I could do:

It was definitely a crowd pleaser- the bowl was scraped clean at the party!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

1st Birthday Extravaganza Weekend!

Wow! This weekend has been a crazy whirlwind of 1st Birthdays! Our youngest daughter turned the big O-N-E so we had her party Saturday afternoon. I started the party preps on Friday afternoon with baking 3 dozen cupcakes and a heart shaped cake for Abby, washing out coolers, making sure the floors were spotless for the babies to crawl around on (and cleaning the rest of the house!) plus setting up some of the decorations like the Kids' table. In between all of that, while the Birthday Girl was awake, we played with her toys and had fun trying to get some cute 1st Birthday pictures.

The morning of the party I was up bright and early getting my BBQ into the slow cookers.

And decorating the cupcakes, slicing veggies, and making my black bean dip. I will post the bean dip recipe in another post.
I was in a bit of a rush because our oldest daughter also had her last soccer game of the season at noon.

Go Marlins!!

The party theme was African animals- since that is her nursery theme too. We were originally going to do a South African Braai- or cookout to fit the theme with the animals, but the menu planned to be too time consuming and very expensive for the number of people coming. Instead we decided to switch gears and have food that would easily feed a large crowd. Our menu ended up being:

My homemade Pulled Pork BBQ
My Curried Chicken Wings
Brats on the grill
Pasta Salad (Mom brought it)
Baked Beans (Again, thanks Mom!)
Fresh sliced watermelon and pineapple
Homemade Black Bean Dip with chips (Recipe will be posted)
Salsa and Guacamole ( both store bought because it was just easier) with chips
Fresh veggie platter with Ranch dressing- I was going to make my roasted red pepper pesto dip, but it has walnuts in it and one of our guests has a deadly allergy to nuts. So I opted for Ranch at the last minute instead and just stayed away from it.
I intended to blog the Curried Chicken Wing recipe but I actually did not have a chance to get pictures of the finished product. I will redo that recipe and share it soon. In fact, I didn't get any pictures of the food at all! I meant to, but visiting with friends and family was far more important than trying to get pictures. Maybe someone got some pictures and is willing to share them.

For drinks we had coolers with Pepsi, Sprite, and Capri Sun waters, 2 gallons of sweet tea, a glass drink dispenser with lemonade, a mini keg of Heineken, and a couple bottles of wine- white and red.

The cupcakes were chocolate with vanilla frosting. We had 13 kids at our party, and I figured that cupcakes would be easier. I made Abby's cake as well. It turns out she LOVES vanilla frosting!

I wanted the decorations to be African animals, but I also wanted to incorporate the 1st Birthday decorations as well. So I decided to do that by decorating a kids' table with their goody bags, a bowl of animal crackers ( which they LOVED!), their cups that matched the theme, and the nugget platter from Chick-fil-A that I got for them.

On the main table I put some 1st Birthday decorations, but I forgot to get a picture of it.

We had so many great friends make long trips to come celebrate with us.
This is my friend Beth- we've been friends since we were in college. Between us we have 5 kids- she has two boys who are so sweet! We live 2 hours apart from each other, and have not been able to see each other often. But she's one of those awesome friends that no matter how much time passes, it's like no time has passed at all.

Abby's Uncle Ed, her Godfather, made the trip from Charlottesville for the day.

So many other very important people helped to make the day very special for Abigayle- old and new friends who are all very important to us. And some were not able to make it and were definitely missed! Somehow I did not get one picture of Abby with either set of grandparents, or a family picture. We were just too busy having a great time!

We ended the day around the firepit roasting marshmallows. The party ended at about 9pm- that's when the last guests left.

The next morning we were up bright and early so we could take advantage of the beautiful weather and take the boat out for a ride.
My husband was very excited to finally get to take it out.

It was a bit warm, but Abby did like the breeze in her face, and as soon as she got some juice she was much happier.

The bigger girls enjoyed it too, but they did not enjoy their life jackets. Too bad- safety first! However, they did enjoy sitting with Grandpa.

We capped off our fabulous weekend with another 1st Birthday Party Sunday afternoon- for a little girl born 1 hour before Abby! They have become fast friends and loved getting to play together all weekend.

We had an absolutely fabulous weekend- huge thanks to everyone who shared it with us!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

From Boats to Birthdays

This is a big week for our little family for two reasons. The first is we made a rather exciting purchase that we had been thinking about for quite a while. We are surrounded by water where we live, and love spending as much time as possible near or in the water. Our girls are such beach bums- they start counting down to summer as soon as Christmas is over! We spend a week at the beach every summer, but that's not quite enough for us. So... we bought this:

We are looking forward to teaching the girls how to fish, day trips exploring the rivers, 4th of July fireworks with the best view in the area, and spending time with friends.
Here's a quick tour:

The cabin with the table up. To the left is a small sink and a fridge.

To the right is the:

Head. AKA the Bathroom. My girls think this is the coolest part of the boat!

I am already planning our picnic lunches and dinners that we will take out with us.

The other big event this week (and much more important than our purchase) is that our youngest daughter is turning ONE tomorrow! One year ago tonight I went into labor for the 1st time ( my other two were c-sections- one emergency after induction, one planned due to breech position). I remember being woken up at 1am with a sharp contraction and then my water broke. I never ever thought I would say the words "Honey get up, my water just broke!" but I did! And it was an incredible feeling! My doctor and I had previously agreed on a VBAC, as long as I met all his criteria, which I made sure I did! That started 21 hours of labor (most of it without an epidural), and at 9:26 the next evening our youngest daughter was born (again, via c-section due to her having the cord wrapped around her twice). She was only supposed to be 6.5lbs, but she was actually 8lbs!

Happy Happy First Birthday to my Little Doodlebug!

Saturday is her party, and I will definitely share that with you all. I am still working on the menu, and my Mom has offered to bring a couple dishes. We are so looking forward to it, because several of our closest friends are traveling into town to celebrate with us!

On a side note:
Yesterday we got our first CSA delivery of the season. Looking forward to 20 more weeks of fresh, locally grown veggies!
Here's what was in this weeks bag:

cucumbers, green peppers, HUGE vidalia onions, sugar snap peas, red potatoes, strawberries, and blueberries ( which I forgot to include in the picture-oops!)