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Archive for February, 2011

Wish list

Over the last few weeks Seth and I have been frustrated at best as we have looked at the housing market in the DC/ NOVA area. Our tentative plan has been to aim homeward, back to the US for a time. Buy a house…which we have never done. And make it our home. That is still our plan. Not sure even after all of our frugality and saving that we will get very far but that is beside the point. I still want to make my wish list of what I would love in a home. Because it’s fun to dream.

 

Hardwood floors

A kitchen with windows…since I spend most of my time in the kitchen

bead boarding…somewhere in the house.

Enough space for our family to grow…no hints here. I am not pregnant and likely won’t be anytime soon. After being in this large house I would much prefer a smaller place…much smaller. But still one where everyone can have their own space when they need it.

A room for guests.

Closets….we currently have no closets in our room. My clothes pile builds throughout the week because I HATE having to go down the hall to hang things.

A master bathroom…currently, we are in a house with plenty of bathrooms but our bathroom is shared with the boys. Which means it is filled with all things kid. It works for us now but I wouldn’t mind not sharing that space.  I try to take a bath whenever I clean the tub, before the boys even get a chance to take a bath.

A yard with a garden. My thumb is more sage green than Kelly green. I would love to have a garden but I am also aware that that might fall more on a miracle list not a wish list.

A fireplace with a pretty mantel

A front door step that is screaming for a big pot of seasonal flowers

A dining room that can fit friends and family!

 

A girl can dream

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A forgotten website

When I was working, (yes, at one point in my life I was a working, productive in the thinking kind of way, woman) I used this website regularly. I just recently hunted it down again for some new insights into our bustling toddler world around here. Because so many of my friends are dealing with this phase of life or will someday in the future I decided to post a link for you.

Zero to Three

And for your viewing enjoyment here are my crazies just yesterday.

This chair has become quite a source of frustration lately. I love the chair I just don’t love my 13 month old mounting it and thinking it’s for rock climbing. Anyhow, that has been one of our “Zero to 3” behaviors of the week! He has become more stable on it so I am having to fight it less.

and because I took Owen’s picture in this chair Jackson was dying for a turn….so here are a few shots of him entertaining.

this is Jackson acting out a sad face.

We are dealing with all sorts of sibling rivalry, jealousy, lack of gentleness. etc this week. This too shall pass!

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One of our most favorite types of food is Tex Mex. It’s probably good we have no access to those endless chip bowls and bubbly queso dip..but every once in a while we just NEED it. I have been on the hunt for some healthy recipes that remind us of back home. I have been googling knockoffs for some time now. The most recent find was a Chipotle knock off for barbacoa beef. I did it in the slow cooker and served it with cilantro rice and lots of fresh toppings. I had always wondered what people used the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for. This recipe was a way to try them out!   They smell, smokey and warm but are super spicy! I made the mistake of sneaking a little of the sauce after smelling it just to gauge how spicy I wanted out meet. Wowser! It’s hot. Both times I have made this recipe I have made it with less peppers.  The meat never came out too spicy…in fact Seth had to stop the boys from eating it all one evening!

Gina’s Weight Watchers blog is one I have been finding some good finds on lately, including this barbacoa recipe.

http://www.skinnytaste.com/2010/04/barbacoa-beef.html

I followed her recipe mostly…I used less peppers, added a little beef broth (because I cooked mine on low all day in the slow cooker and I didn’t want it to dry out, and I used the whole roast without cutting it up so I could cook it longer and not have to check it through the day).

When I looked up the beef to add to this post I saw she has a slow-cooked pork as well. We will be trying this soon!

http://www.skinnytaste.com/2011/01/slow-cooked-sweet-barbacoa-pork.html

Don’t be scared away by the Weight Watchers name. I personally avoid all things Weight Watchers because I know my personality enough to know that if I ever attempted it I would become OCD about the points system. That’s another story altogether but anyhow, I like her recipes because they are lots of fresh, simple recipes. If she calls for reduced fat stuff we normally use regular because Switzerland isn’t on the low fat, fat free craze that the US is on. I prefer the real stuff in moderation than the chemically stuff. But that is just me.

Pappasito’s with the Seckinger clan before coming to Bern.

I think Seth would be lying if he tried to say it’s only worth it to fly home for family. I am pretty sure if I talked enough about tex mex over the next couple of days he would book us tickets home. But that would be super manipulative so I will continue to try my knock off recipes and save the money on flights home.

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Valentine’s visitors

On Valentine’s Day, the O’Leary chicas along with 2 friends came to visit for the week. We had such a fun time.  The boys got spoiled rotten by all of the attention. We walked by the river, shopped, toured Bern, Thun and a couple of towns in France, ate, laughed hard, and had a wonderful time!

One of my memories of living with Annie was of her making her famous devil dog cookies. They were awesome! So for her visit I made heart-shaped red velvet whoopie pies! They turned our better than expected. I was sure they would look like big blobs. And I had about a 4th of the food coloring I needed. So mine were hot pink and not so red but you get the idea.

here was the recipe I used…

http://annies-eats.net/2010/02/08/red-velvet-whoopie-pies/

Enough about the treats..here are a few pictures from our time. I haven’t uploaded them all yet.

So fun to have Annie, Suzanne and all of the girlies here! Wish we all lived closer! Still having some withdrawl!

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The big 3-2

I have to admit, Seth and I were both shocked to realize that he was turning 32 this year. All year long he thought he was only 30. Oh my. We are getting older faster than we thought. I think we still think of ourselves and post college, newly weds who just happened to have our kids at a young age. Anyhow, back to the birthday.

Last Sunday was Seth’s birthday. We let him sleep in and baked him a chocolate cake while he slept. When we woke him up we served him breakfast in…nope not bed, in a tent. And Ikea igloo tent. Jackson was so excited! He and Seth sat in the tent and ate breakfast sandwiches.

Late morning after Owen had napped we gave him his gift and had some cake (to avoid the boys having their sugar rush before their nap).  We gave him a tent to go camping with the boys! For those of you that don’t know we live just above the river and in particular the campgrounds along the river. I know the boys will enjoy lots of daddy bonding with the new tent!

Here are a few pictures.

being silly

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Valentine’s Day

Below my friends is a picture of the first Valentine’s day dinner that Seth cooked for me after we got married. I remember him seeing the recipe in my Southern Living magazine and saying “I’ll make that for Valentine’s day”. I will be honest my concern was more that it seemed like a funny thing to eat for a romantic dinner but had I been a little smarter I would have been more concerned about how he was going to accomplish it. The poor guy had hardly cooked pasta and was quickly spoiled as a married man with a personal chef. He enthusiastically prepared Chicken fried steak and nearly burned the whole apartment complex down.  He literally had to run to the front door with the hot skillet to dump out smoking char, which accidentally landed on and burned small spots in our carpet. All of this was followed by a really good laugh. You would have thought we would have ordered a pizza after the fiasco but if I remember right we were too cheap to do that. So here it is, V-day dinner 2006.

notice I ate everything on the plate but the chicken fried steak

But this, this is what Seth cooked on Saturday night. He planned an early V-day dinner since our friends were coming to town on the actual day.

(sorry my pictures are a little blurry but I do like the coloring better with no flash…still learning with this camera)

He researched and made the menu and whipped up London broil with herb butter, browned butter green beans and garlic bread. It was amazing! I was so impressed and decided that he will be cooking MUCH more often!

And did I mention that he did all of the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen! It was the best gift ever!  thanks, Seth!

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Winter Grillfest

During the late summer months when we arrived Bern was hopping with Saturday festivals. It was a great way for us to get down to the city and to get acclimated with the city and it’s culture. The winter months have been grey and cold and it seems the festival folks have been waiting for warmer days to come back.

A couple of weeks ago there was a Winter Grillfest held in downtown Bern.  It was really just an opportunity for the meat farmers of Switzerland to sell us on their amazing local meat. We still can’t afford their meat at the store here (which is why we drive 6 1/2 hours every 3 months to get meat) but it was fun to try some of their goodness.   They had meat plates with all kinds of sausage, beef and pork. A dream come true for Seth. They had cozy benches set up with sheep’s wool blankets and a bonfire where kids could roast free sausages. Much to the kids delight they also had big crates of apples around for people to grab. Jackson chomped one as we found our way around and Owen got to try his first whole apple! He loved getting to hold it all by himself. This was Jackson’s first time to roast anything over a fire and he made sure we knew he had seen George do it on Curious George. He talked about wanting to do it again when he gets to go camping with Daddy when he’s bigger.  We ate, drank some Gluwein, stayed warm around the fires and enjoyed running into friends.

enjoying an apple while watching daddy and Jackson by the fire!

enjoying the fruit of his labor!

Thankful for a festival mid winter! Looking forward to things picking up again in the Spring!

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Oh boy!

the atrium is now no longer Jackson’s “safe zone”. He got adventurous last week and I looked out to find him climbing the tree

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In Bogota, I had the privilege of being in the South African ladies club. It wasn’t actually a club, I am being silly but I met 2 great girls that were my age and in the baby phase and we spent lots of time together. We did lots of playing with babies, planned trips, went through a couple of exercise phases together, shared recipes, chatted about parenting, husbands and dreamed of when and how we would be living somewhere a little cleaner and safer that the BOG. A visit with Kima and Bronwyn rarely took place without Bronwyn’s bran muffins…or a cup of tea. The group slowly expanded as we met new friends. And the muffins and tea continued!

We now all find ourselves in places much cleaner and safer than Bogota. Whew. And even now, every couple of months I get a craving and mix up a big double batch to pop in the fridge and pull out when we need them. They are the kind that you can mix up and will last 30 days in the fridge. You scoop out batter into muffin tins and you have fresh hot muffins in minutes. They were the perfect solution post-baby because we were all growing tired of cereal and yogurt. They are so easy to mix up and you can add or subtract based on what your family likes. Owen is my super picky guy as I have mentioned before and I was able to make him think he was getting cupcakes for breakfast. After seeing that he would eat them I stirred in some pumpkin puree to his batch and sure enough I bamboozled him on that too! He loves them.

ta da! don’t they look yummy!

I asked Bron if she would mind me sharing this around and she agreed! So here it is in her writing! If you need me to decode for you let me know (hint: bi carb is their word for Baking Soda)

Is nice and easy so here goes:

2  EGGS
half cup OIL
1 and a half cups BROWN SUGAR
2 and a half cups MILK
2 cups DIGESTIVE BRAN
2 and a half cups NUTTY WHEAT FLOUR OR JUST NORMAL SELF RAISING WHEAT FLOUR  (I use whatever flour I have..normally a mix of wheat and white all purpose flour)
half tsp SALT
2 and a half tsp BI-CARB OF SODA
1 tsp VANILLA ESSENCE
2 tsp CHOPPED OR SLICED ALMONDS (or any other nuts) – optional
500g DATES or RAISINS – optional
half cup COCONUT – optional
1 cup RAW OATMEAL- optional

Mix all ingredients together and place in an airtight container overnight in the fridge.  Half fill muffin pans and bake for 20min at 350 degrees  on middle shelf.  This mixture keeps for 30days in the fridge so you can just bake them whenever you want fresh.  Most of the time I double up the mixure as I make everyday.  It doubles up fine.  You can add or take out any of the following as you please to your taste: raisins, dates, nuts, coconut, oats

ENJOY!

Thanks, Bronwyn! Hope you are surrounded by some friends eating these now! I am sure they will be asking for your recipe!

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Why I cook…

It’s funny, I don’t think of myself as being a good cook but lately people have been asking for recipes. I am always embarrassed because all of my recipes are from my mom or friends. It’s not like I do anything original. I love to try new recipes and mess up a lot. Early in our marriage I was scared to try too many things because I wanted Seth to enjoy what I made and I hated failing. I still want him to enjoy the food I serve him but now I am more bold and even if the recipe contains mushrooms or beans I give it a go and tell Seth just to pick around! I vow to try at least one recipe from each magazine I get. And typically try one new recipe a week. Since coming to Bern I am getting Southern Living. It’s not tough to find something that looks amazing and is super easy to make. I cook because I enjoy it and I have been realizing lately that I cook because it connects me to my mom.

I hate being far from home. All through high school I would sit at the kitchen bar and “do homework”, ie chat with my mom and watch her cook. It was our time together. I learned so much just through watching her work. She was budget conscious but it was a huge priority for her to make fresh, delicious meals.  No matter how long she had worked that day she whipped up yummy things! So I think I am realizing that when I cook I feel connected to my mom. Even if she is in a different time zone and I sure wish I was watching her cook, somehow being in the kitchen helps stave off some of my homesickness.  Calling home with questions about recipes always gives me an excuse to call and chat so that helps too!  (on a side note, if I had a million dollars I would want to have a little restaurant with my mom..or a B&B)

My favorite recipes are the ones I have from my mom. My wedding gift from her was a book of her handwritten recipes. The book got lost in a box we mailed and she spent hours rewriting the recipes into a new book for me last Christmas. She is great at picking recipes and great at knowing what goes with what. She is a true foodie. You would think she would be obese by now with all of her great cooking and love for food but nope, she’s petite and has the best self control of anyone I know. If she makes a chocolate cake and has a piece, she’s done. She’s not the leave a fork on the cake plate just to make the next walk-by cake bite more convenient. Or if she was she was really good at hiding the fork and the bites.  I am the fork on the cake plate kind of girl. Wish I wasn’t but I am.

I have been trying lots of new recipes lately. Since coming to Bern I have had lots of time to focus on settling in and that has included lots of cooking. I love that I can be in the mood to try something, google it, and come up with a zillion choices to pick and choose from. And I am gradually getting more comfortable being more creative and doing things my own way.

On Sunday we had some leftover brisket in the fridge. I wasn’t in the mood to make sides and whip up a whole meal. So, we made a BBQ brisket pizza. It was delicious. We spread BBQ sauce on instead of pizza sauce. Layered it with brisket, onions, red bell peppers and cheese. It was delicious! Wait, I already said that. It was nothing you haven’t seen before but nothing I had done at home. Nice to try new things.

 

Other new things on our list last week were Southern Living’s Stovetop Potpie (We skipped the biscuits and the fattening crust!) and crock pot barbacoa beef (chipotle knockoff) that we used for burrito bowls. Both were a hit. In fact the pot pie called for wine and I normally shy away from things I think my kids won’t like. But Owen, who is my ornery eater, scarfed it down like he has been waiting for a splash of white wine to brighten up all of his meals.   We have also been having lots of salads for dinner to balance out all of the fudge and treats we had with Seth’s parents.  I am always on the lookout for a salad that is healthy but has enough pizazz to make it feel like a dinner not a diet meal.

Tonight is going to be stuffed green peppers. They weren’t Seth’s favorite when I made them like 5 yrs ago but he said he would give them a try again!

I wonder what my mom is cooking tonight.

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