Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's for Dinner Wednesday: Garlic Chicken

Growing up I don't remember eating boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  At least not until about, hmmm, maybe high school?  Before that it was always the bone-in chicken.  I assume this was largely due to affordability.  Since watching Food, Inc. I have a really hard time buying chicken in the store.  So when our local meat market was running a special on 'hind quarters' I bought a few to stick in the freezer. 

This is a recipe I remember my mom making when we were young.  It is a family recipe that came from my Aunt Candy (Hi Aunt Candy!!); I'm not sure where it originated, but I am sure that it tastes delicious.  Healthy, it is not. Yummy, it is.

Garlic Chicken
1 Cup melted butter (my mom's note says she uses 1/2 cup.)
accent with:
garlic powder
onion powder (or salt) (I used minced onion because I had neither of the other two)
parsley flakes
salt & pepper

Pour butter over chicken (don't have to brown first). Sprinkle other ingredients over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.

We had baked yams and steamed broccoli on the side and I have enough left over chicken (because OMG those were big quarters!) to use in tomorrow nights dinner.

What did you have for dinner?


Today was a rough day.  I could tell you about how I had to work until noon. Or how the boys Refused. To. Nap. Or how I heard "Tee, outside?" 8 bajillion, million, frillion times. Or how Keaton has started this throwing streak every time he doesn't get his way. Or how Hutt has to be held, facing out, otherwise he is not happy. 

But instead I'll just tell you this. 

Tonight I opened a bottle of wine and I'm on glass #2 and tonight Collin took the garbage out and partook in a cigar.  Or two.  THAT about sums up our day.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A week of sick. A weekend of travel.

It was a Thursday night, about 10 days ago now, when Keats first spiked a fever in the middle of the night.  We gave him Tylenol, which did the trick and he fell back to sleep for the remainder of the night.  But Friday afternoon he spiked one again, low-grade, but definitely still to the point of bothering him. And again on Friday night.

 Last Saturday morning we had plans to travel to Milwaukee for a birthday party and I called my cousin in the morning to tell her what was going on.  The Tylenol was always doing the trick, he looks fine now, but I don't know, he might be coming down with something.  My cousin has three kids and with each one she has become more and more relaxed, she said she didn't care, if he was puking just bring a bucket along.  So we loaded the boys up and they traveled well and had a great time playing with their cousins.  We got home that night and had decided that we thought Keaton was teething.  But then Sunday the nose started to run.  And run, and run.  And by Monday is was obvious that it was not teething, it was definitely a cold. 

He continued to wake up in the middle of the night for the next couple of nights, usually with a fever, sometimes coughing/choking on the stuff draining in the back of his throat. His nose continued to run and his cheeks became raw from him swiping the snot with his sleeve - which usually occurred right after I said come here, let's blow your nose, swwwwipe!  At the beginning of last week he was coming home from Mama Boosh's with droopy eyes and no appetite so we lathered him up with vick's baby rub, put balm on his cheeks and ran a vaporizer in the room. 

On Wednesday Hutt refused to eat, he was cranky, and he also woke up with a fever.  Now, we not only had one sick kid, but two. It was like a spa at our house that night...a sick spa.  Collin ran out to get a new vaporizer because ours is in need of a new filter but we can't find one, he got that running with a vick's vapor plug in, the boys were bathed, lathered, and everyone stayed in our room for the night.  I can't remember how many times Hutt woke up that night, but I'm pretty sure I nursed him almost the entire night through, it was the only thing that soothed him. 

Repeat that Thursday night and Friday night.  On Saturday we had plans to head to my parent's for the weekend and over to Michigan for Lucy's 1st birthday party on Sunday but we didn't know what to do.  Do you put sick kids in the car?  Make them travel?  Will it be good for them to get some fresh air?  Should I run them to the doctor first to make sure it's nothing more than a cold?? I don't know!!  It's times like these that parenting gig is so hard.  You're not just making decisions for yourself, and what is the right decision??

Although Hutt had a rough morning, we ended up packing them up and hitting the road around 2 pm on Saturday afternoon.  I think it was a good idea.  Both boys slept the entire way and when we got there they had runny noses and Hutt was coughing, but they were in good spirits.  That night one of my best friends from high school came down for dinner and we got to spend some time catching up and on Sunday Collin and I headed over to Em & Drew's for Lucy's birthday party, leaving the boys at home with Mimi and Pa Grizz. 

The weather was perfect for a road trip, it was good for Collin and I to spend a little time alone (even if it was in a car), and of course, it was so great to see Em and Drew.  I got a little choked up singing Happy Birthday, it doesn't seem possible that Lucy is already one, and then I pulled Em downstairs with me to chat while I pumped.  Hey, whatever works for girl time, right?

We got back to my parent's around 9 pm last night and put bets on if the boys would be asleep.  I said Hutt yes, Keat no.  We walked in and I heard "Pa Drrr, Mama? Dada?" I was right, and that kid melts my heart.

Hutt had another pretty rough night last night, waking up just screaming in pain.  We decided we were going to get home and get him to the doctor to make sure he didn't have an ear infection but when I got home and called they couldn't get me in.  That's a little odd, no?  That NO docs are available to see a sick kid??  It kind of pissed me off.  But since I made that call he has seemed better and better.  Nose isn't running, only coughing a little, good spirits.  So I'm throwing my hands up, I have no idea what I'm doing here! 

We're giving him another night, if it goes as badly as last night we'll be taking him in tomorrow. I'm praying tonight goes better.  I'm praying everyone is on the upswing, getting healthy.  And I'm praying the weather warms up a bit so I can air out this house and rid of these germs.  Spring!  Where are you??

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dear Hutton: 8 Months

Dear Hutton,

At the end of February you turned eight months old. I mention ‘end of February’ because as I sit down to write this we are now nearing the ‘end of March’ in fact, you’re closer to nine months right now then eight months. I’ve decided to make it my personal goal to write at least one of your monthly updates ON TIME.

This has been a big month for you; you are so quickly exiting the baby stage, getting bigger and bigger and becoming more and more independent. At some point during this month I realized you were sitting on your own. I really have no idea when this started; it is quite possible that it was before you turned seven months. I know you were working on it last month, but I’m not quite sure when you mastered it. Either way, you are now sitting unassisted. Although you don’t sit for long. Oh no, you have places to go. This month you started scooting. I find it so interesting to watch you develop, even though you are our second child, you do things so differently than your brother that it is just as exciting to watch this time as it was the first time around. While Keaton’s scoot was of the army crawl variety you are much more an inchworm. You draw your knees up, butt in the air, and then propel your upper body forward. Knees in, butt up, propel. Over and over and over. You’re moving quite quickly these days.

The other big thing that happened is you got your first tooth. You’d been drooling at ton and waking up at night shouting out in pain and had had a couple of fevers. We knew what was going on so daily your Daddy and I were rooting around in your mouth, seeing if we could feel anything. And then one day there it was, a sharp little point sticking out ever so slightly. It was kind of a relief to finally have that guy make its appearance. Yes, your bottom left tooth was officially your first.

Another big first happened at the beginning of the month. Your first sleepover at Papa and Busha’s. I still cannot believe I left you overnight at only seven and a half months. I didn’t leave your brother for the first time until he was almost 13 months old. We hadn’t planned on leaving you there overnight, Daddy and I had spent the day getting our office set for my new job and then went out to eat and by the time we went to pick you up you and your brother were both sound asleep. We planned on packing you up anyway, but you looked so peaceful there on the couch and Papa & Busha said they didn’t mind if you woke up in the middle of the night, so we decided not to disturb you. Daddy and I got home around 9 pm and you know what we did? We went straight to bed. And slept until almost 8 the next morning. Although I was worried about how you’d react when you woke up in the middle of the night, like most things, you were totally unaffected. And when we got there on Sunday to pick you up you were all smiles in Papa’s arms. Once again, the time away was harder on me than on you or Keaton.

At eight months we’ve finally moved you into 6-9 months clothes, you are now taking a bath with your brother in the tub rather than in the baby tub, you love to babble da da da, and you are eating three meals per day. Speaking of meals, this month you’ve tried peas, avocado, squash, yams, bananas, and a barely/oat/spelt grain mix. This month you’ve also been learning how to use a sippy cup, interacting more and more with Maia, and getting into all of the buckets of toys, much to the dismay of your brother.

You are such a joy to be around; you light up my days Hutter Butts.
All my love,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What's for Dinner Wednesday: Sloppy Joe Pasta

I wrote Hutton's 8-month post today and when I got done I looked at Collin and said:

Hmm...I don't know if I should post this now or wait until tomorrow?

Post it now.  Why would you wait until tomorrow?

Well, because I have to post "What's for Dinner Wednesday" tonight.

Oh, that's right.  What is for dinner Wednesday?

We had chicken tacos on Monday and Tuesday this week so for tonight's meal I wanted to use beef, particularly, ground beef because we got a quarter of a cow in the fall and we have lots of ground beef to go through.  When we were thinking through dinner plans for this week I was trying to decide what to do with a pound of ground beef and making a casserole of some sort sounded like a good idea. 

I pulled out my Taste of Home Casserole Cookbook and flipped to the first page of "beef" recipes and went with the first option, Sloppy Joe Pasta.  I have this weird desire to go through my cookbooks and make every recipe so hey, why not start with option #1? 

I'm going to be honest, I didn't have high hopes for this recipe.  I mean, it's sloppy. joe. pasta.  But much to my surprise, it was pretty good.  Everyone liked it and it earned a

That, by the way, is the official rating system of the Merlot household.  Smiley means good, make it again.  Sometimes I'll write notes right there on the page if there is something I need to remember.  As I was flipping through I saw a note on another recipe that called for breadcrumbs and I had written "use real breadcrumbs, not out of can." Just little things I have no hope of remembering if I don't write them down.

Although I didn't write it down, because it is a given, I would tell you to write "use a Wisconsin cup of cheese" which means, throw in a little extra for good measure.  Because everything is better with more cheese!

What did you have for dinner?

We had a big storm roll in last night and because the roads weren't so great we ended up having a snow day.  It was perfect that it fell on Wednesday and I could lounge around with the boys rather than have Collin hideout with them in the basement.  We watched a Thomas movie in the morning and in the afternoon as Keaton was napping Collin set up his birthday present.  Yes, his birthday was in December.  Collin got sick right before it and never had the chance to set it up.  And, well, days turned into weeks, turned in MONTHS and we just now finally gave it to him.  Other than watch movies and play I can't think of much else we did today, which I suppose is a good thing.

Well, I'm off to bed.  Good night.  And big balls.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Plants Have Never Been Happier

I love plants. I love starting plants indoors with seeds and soil and a fresh potter. I love watching the seedlings break the top soil, sending cracks through the earth as they peek up into the air and sun. I love buying hanging baskets for our shepherd’s hooks and getting some sun as I kneel on my knees, flats of Impatiens by my side, and gardening gloves covering my hands. I love watching these grow and sprout new leaves and I can never wait for their buds to flower. I love to prune the plants that get to big, making new starters to give to friends. I love moving our plants to the porch when summer comes and bringing our outdoor plants in when the weather turns chilly, lining our windowsills with fresh foliage during the dreary winter months.

Of course, this is all in theory.

In reality, I suck at gardening. Oh wait, let me back up, I’m pretty good at starting plants, I mean…I can be… when I… you know, actually do it. But I am not good at maintaining or, to put it bluntly, I suck at keeping plants alive. I’ve killed spider plants people, spider plants! My mom always gives them to me and says, 'here, here’s a spider plant, you can’t kill a spider plant.' And then she comes to my house and says 'Oh my God, Kate, you have to WATER it!'

See that’s where everything goes wrong for me. I can’t remember to water my plants.

But, things have changed around here and it’s all thanks to Hutton. See, when Keaton was a baby we used one of those fancy shmancy bottle warmers to heat his milk and food. Poor Hutt, our second child, not only does he not have as many pictures or a bib that says “My 1st (fill in the holiday)” for each special occasion but he also gets his milk and food warmed up with a boring glass of hot water (BTW, this works just was well if not better than the fancy shmancy bottle warmer. Related: Also did not need fancy crib bedding set.) For the first several months I dumped all those glasses of water down the drain but a few weeks ago, as I was feeling guilty for more waste I thought, wait! I can feed the plants. And so each glass of water now goes to feed a hungry plant. And my plants have never been happier.

Of course, I hope they enjoy it while it lasts because Hutt is nearing 9 months, which means we’re fast approaching finger foods and sippy cups. It will soon be bye bye glass of hot water and bye bye nice green, leafy, hydrated plants.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!!   I hope you wore green, ate corned beef, threw back a beer or two, or did an Irish jig...whatever it is you do to celebrate this holiday.  Here's how we celebrated this year...


It's hard to tell in the picture but our grapevine tree was adorned with these little guys.  Keaton loved playing with them.

Remember how I said I was going to get one new decoration for each holiday each year?  This was my new St. Patrick's Day decoration, it's the Celtic Love Knot warmer from Scentsy.  We've been melting the Shades of Green brick and it smells awesome.

In the past we've always opted for corned beef and sauerkraut (made into Reubens) on St. Patty's but I decided this year I wanted to do a traditional St. Patty's Day meal: corned beef and cabbage and Irish Soda Bread.  For fun I also made a green yogurt jello salad and colored our milk green.

I'm not kidding you you guys, this was the best corned beef I've ever had ever.  I bought it fresh from the meat market last Saturday (and stuck it in the freezer for a couple of days;) I paid a little more per pound to get the "premium cut" and it was A-Mazing. My brother and Kira stopped by real quick while we were eating and I gave Justin a little to try. He told Kira he was in a "corned beef coma" I'd say that about sums it up. I'll definitely be making this meal again next year.

For dessert I made Irish coffee  for myself, but it wasn't that great and I ended up dumping half of it out.

Wearing Green

Catching Leprechauns
Did anyone guess what Keaton and I were making yesterday?

Hutton even got to help.

After Keats had it colored he added stickers..

...and when Collin got home from work Keaton showed him his Leprechaun trap!

Before bed last night Collin set it up for him...

...and told him he had to be really quiet if the trap was down in the morning because Leprechauns are quick and sneaky and would try to escape.

I wasn't really sure if Keaton would remember that we had set this trap last night, on Christmas morning we had to remind him about Santa coming, but this morning he woke up, popped his head up (he was sleeping in our bed), and said Yep-can?

He ran out to the living room and ripped that box up as quickly as he could.

When the pile of gold fell out he was not impressed. 

Where is my Leprechaun??

When we showed him it was special chocolate gold he was much happier. 

But for good measure he shoved Lucky in the box anyway.

Hope you all had a very Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What's for Dinner Wednesday: Barbecued Pulled Pork

Wow, I just rock at this.  So this is Week 3 of What's for Dinner Wednesday and if you remember I didn't cook on Week 2 and oh, guess what, I didn't cook again today!  Our "dinner schedule" is a little wonky this week because of St. Patrick's Day tomorrow. So instead of doing a big meal tonight we planned on doing leftovers/something quick and doing our big meal tomorrow.  It just so happened that we still had leftovers from Monday night so tonight we had pulled pork....again.  BUT, this recipe is so delicious we don't even mind eating it three nights in a row. 

From the Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly cookbook:

Barbecued Pork (pg 94)
2 lbs. boneless pork top loin
1 1/2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup diet soda
1 cup low-sodium barbecue sauce (I'm gonna be honest, I use any 'ol bbq sauce)

Place pork in slow cooker. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and pour over pork.
Cover.   Cook on high 4-6 hours or until tender.
Slice or shred.  Stir back into sauce.
Serve on wheat or multi-grain buns

One of the reasons I love this recipe is that is doubles (or quadruples or actually, I've done even bigger) really well and makes a great meal for a party.

What did you have for dinner tonight?


In other news the boys and I had a great day today.  We made something special this morning (check out the Enjoying Today page, can you guess what it is?), we all napped together in the glider for a bit this afternoon, we played in the snow and Keaton and I made snow angels (related: my ass is really wide!), and we made Irish Soda bread for tomorrow night's dinner.  It was one of those "perfect days."  Well, that is until about 6 pm when Kira called and I said "I'm just at that point in the day where I'm ready for Collin to get home." Which was entirely the truth, a good day, but still, at the end you just need a break.

Wishing you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day, remember to wear green tomorrow!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hot Cocoa!

Congratulations to Jill!!  She was the first person to correctly guess that Keaton was drinking hot chocolate.  Or, as he calls it, hot cocoa (ha co co, with a pause between syllables for emphasis.)

If I had two prizes I'd also be sending one to Kate who not only guessed hot chocolate but guessed hot chocolate with marshmallows after snowshoeing. A couple of mornings ago I got up, read this comment on my phone and said, Collin, listen to this, and then started reading it to him. He cut me off though and said, I know, I read it last night, I almost woke you up to tell you about it!

Kate was dead-on.  After a day in the snow we came inside and Keaton and I got the cocoa out of the cupboard...

In the saucepan we put our cocoa, sugar, and water...

And then added the milk...

Pour it into a cup, add some marshmallows (or whipped cream) and ta-da! a cup of deliciousness.

Making the cocoa was the easy part.  Waiting for it to cool enough to drink it was a tad bit harder.

Finally, Finally!, the time came for Keats to try his first sip.

It's been a really long time since I've made real hot cocoa.  I put it on my Soul Season list last year but never got around to making it, so it went back on the list this year. I forgot just how awesome it is.  This stuff is like, gourmet, you guys. 

Keaton did come up for air once or twice...

But for the most part that cup was to his lips...

...until every last bit was gone.

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day Jill will be receiving one of these festive towels that my mom and I made last weekend.  Well, wait, we didn't actually make the towel, I bought the towel and hot pad at Kohl's, but we did sew them together to make them into a hanging towel.

I'll be back with another guessing game in time for Easter, I decided on the question and the prize today! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This and That

I love holidays.  Love them.  When I was in college I was really good about sending cards to all of my friends for each holiday.  I'm no longer good about sending cards but I do still love holidays.  And I think I love them even more now that Keaton is getting old enough to get into and remember some of the traditions we are starting.  All of this to say, I'm pretty giddy over the thought that St. Patrick's Day is next Thursday.  Today I found myself thinking over our menu, planning this weekend's project, and considering decorations for next year.

Sitting here, I totally thought it was Wednesday until Grey's just came on.  Dude! It's Thursday.  That's awesome.

I was planning on cleaning the mud room tonight.  I always have grand plans for the evening.  They rarely come to fruition. My typical evening is dinner, clean up after dinner, play with the kids for a little bit, bed time routine, nurse Hutt, putt Hutt down, snuggle Keaton, snuggle Keaton, snuggle Keaton, kid, go to sleep already! Fall alseep trying to get Keaton to bed.  Wake up a couple of hours later and decide I'm too tired to even brush my teeth, turn on alarm, fall into bed.  Then the mornings are wake up to alarm, hit snooze, hit snooze, hit snooze, oh crap I've been hitting snooze for 45 min., turn alarm off, finally get up when kids are awake, mutter curse words because we only have 40 min. before I need to be logged onto work, get kids fed, get kids changed, pack kids bag and food, push everyone out the door, log on, fill coffee mug, oh holy shit right now I'd just like to relax.  Oh yeah, that's right, now it's time to work.

I'm only 2 pages into this book and I can already tell that I'm going to love it. Amanda lent this book to me. We started this new thing for our birthdays; instead of getting each other gifts we exchange books.  This is great for me because Amanda reads good books.  This is not so great for Amanda because I rarely have time to read these days.  Every time we see each other we exchange, she's usually giving me three and I give her one...if she's lucky.

Speaking of Birthdays, March is the month of Birthday Parties for us. We have one party for each of the next three weekends.  Two of them are double parties which means I recently shopped for 5 different kids gifts. So far I've done all of my shopping online and I'm not going to lie, I've enjoyed every second of it.  I still have one more gift to buy....I'm looking for a girls sleeping bag with peace signs on it.  This doesn't seem like it should be so difficult, but.....

Collin just sat down next to me and said: you smell like booze!  I looked and him and said: That's cause I'm drinking (glass of wine.) Which reminds me, we need to have a talk.  I'm thinking about having a traditional St. Patrick's Day meal this year with corned beef and cabbage.  Him: That's what we have every year?! Me: No, we usually have corned beef and kraut.  Him: Kraut IS cabbage. How is this related to drinking?  Me: Cause I'm also planning on making Irish coffee.

 I mean, that connection was obvious, right?

These pictures?  This is a typical photo shoot with the boys.  Hey Keats, can you go sit by your brother?  Hey guys, look here, look here, at Mama!  Hutton.  Hutton!  Oh, what's that, what's over there?  Careful.  Careful of your brother.  ::sigh::

Collin is sitting next to me waiting patiently to use the computer. Tonight we watched Wipeout and I'm trying to teach Keaton a new phrase: Good Night! And Big Balls.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On hold for a St. Patty's Day game

We're going to take a break from What's for Dinner Wednesday this week....can you take a break from something you've only done once?  Probably not, but whatever.  I'm not cooking tonight because it is Ash Wednesday and because we are Catholic we can't eat meat.  Add that to we have an appointment with our Insurance Agent at 2 pm and Church at 5:30 pm and well, we're going to Subway for dinner (Seafood sub for Collin and Veggie Delight for me.  Keats will probably get turkey.)  Eating out on Ash Wednesday feels so wrong to me but right now I'm more worried about having hungry screaming children in church, so Subway it is!

But! the real reason we're taking a break is because next Thursday is St. Patrick's Day and because I had so much fun having our little guessing game before Valentine's Day that we're going to do it again!

The first person to leave a comment guessing what Keaton is drinking in this picture will win a little St. Patty's Day surprise from me. 

I'll be going to the post office on Saturday so the winner will be announced this weekend! What's your guess?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


One of the reasons I like winter is because I like winter activities; cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are the top two on my list.  In our pre-kid days Collin and I used to spend a weekend in February up at the cabin with Kira and Justin.  This was a feat for many reasons, one of which is because there is no running water up there during the winter.  My parents came up with us one winter, but that happened to be the year it got so cold that our cars would not start and we were stranded for an extra day.  We said: oh darn!  My mom said: never again!  I loved these weekends because our time up there revolved around being outside in the snow during the day and being inside playing cards at night.

Since having kids we have not been able to ski or snowshoe much at all.  So when my parents said they were coming up this weekend I said: pack your snowshoes! This was something on my Winter Soul Season list and I was bound and determined to get out there and get in the snow.

You know what else I love about winter?  Babies in monkey suits.

I mean, seriously....the cute!

So on Saturday afternoon we got the boys all bundled up and headed outside.  Hutton is an Eskimo baby, so we figured he'd love being out there.  And I think he did.  But what Hutton doesn't like it being bundled up outside in a sled that Is. Not. Moving!

But if Hutt is anything, he is a trooper.

For Christmas we bought Keaton his own pair of snowshoes. Papa took him out earlier this year but at that time the snow was too soft and he sunk in and his shoe came off when he tried to pull it back out.

This time he was and old pro.  I was impressed with the way he maneuvered in those things.  As if he has been snowshoeing for years.  Okay, 2 years.

For a good hour he led Mimi and Papa Grizz (which sounds like 'Pa Doe' right  now) around the yard exploring the wood pile and trees and who knows what else...

...while Collin pulled Hutton around in the sled.

Of course it wouldn't be a true Bender Snowshoe Outing without a couple of spills.

I'm not sure if I find it funny or humiliating that the 2 year old did not fall but my Mom and I both did.

P.S. I blame that sled for mine.  Mom was trying to walk backwards and take a picture.

I know Collin really hopes the boys grow up to love baseball and wrestling.  One of the things I hope they grow up to love is snowshoeing.

Oh hey, and look! Hutt decided this wasn't such a bad gig after all and we finally got a smile!