Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ghoulia Child Cooks Here!

That title is for my Book Club girls…cause they’ll “get” it. Plus, I thought it was cute for Halloween.

It isn’t always easy to find the time to cook and bake like I’d like too. At least, not while Tommy is so young and needs our attention focused on what he’s up too. I’m not complaining though, because when I do get the time to cook or bake, I truly enjoy it.

We’ve had a lot going on both in our little family life and socially, since the beginning of the month. I find it’s nice to take a break from all the thinking, planning, and “doing” of things when I force myself to find a recipe that sounds interesting and to make it. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Fall always feels like the perfect time to try something new, or try a different recipe for a familiar comfort-food recipe. I’ve made a few different things from soups to meats to desserts. I thought I would share a couple with you. I don’t have pictures for all of them…but trust me – they were delish!

My supermarket had butternut squash on sale so I decided to make soup out of it. I’ve only had BNS soup once, but I remembered enjoying the taste and texture. I found this recipe from Food Network, and after reading the reviews decided to change things up a bit and make it my own. Here’s my recipe:
Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash, peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 Red delicious apple sliced
4 cups chicken stock
Cut squash into 1-inch chunks. In large pot melt butter. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add squash, apple and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender. Remove squash chunks with slotted spoon and place in a blender (or food processor) and puree. Return pureed squash to pot. Stir and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Serve.

* Note: I learned the hard way how hard it is to cut fresh squash…the tip from my friend Tana to you: Poke holes in the squash (like you would a potato), and put into the microwave for a couple minutes. This makes the squash more tender and easier to both cut and peel. Thanks T!!That night I grilled up some cheese sandwiches and served them along with soup. We all enjoyed it…Tommy even began to dip his sandwich into the soup before he ate it. Yum!!A few days later I wanted to make baked macaroni and cheese, but use the recipe for “Smart Mac.” The recipe is not as cheesey as some others I’ve had and light too – I didn’t feel stuffed after indulging in a bowl of it! We use Barilla Plus elbow macs, so tasty! Here’s the recipe I copied from the Ronzoni site:

Macaroni & Cheese
1 pkg ELBOWS
3 tbsp margarine or butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup minced onion
8 oz shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Directions: Cook ELBOWS according to package directions; drain. Preheat oven to350°F. In a medium saucepan, melt margarine. Stir in flour. Graduallystir in milk. Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat, until saucethickens. Stir in salt and pepper. Add onion and cheese; stir untilcheese melts. Stir cheese sauce into ELBOWS. Spoon into a greased 2quart baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Bake 30 minutes.
Since I clearly could not leave well enough alone…and I had book club the evening following the one where I made the mac n cheese…I decided to mix some of the BNS soup with some mac n cheese, and bake them in the oven together for a bit. The mac n cheese took on the sweet taste of the squash, and I LOVED it. Tommy and I had it for lunch the next couple of days. A great way to include a vegetable of the season into a comfort-food staple I’ve always loved. Sorry…no picture, just trust me – its good! Btw…I named my new dish: Squashed Mac n Cheese…get it! I know, I crack myself up!

I usually make dessert for Book Club meetings, and since we had just completed reading about the Julie/Julia Project (and no, I don’t recommend the book) I decided to create my own version of a mini tiramisu. Some mascarpone cheese mixed with pumpkin spice and some coffee, layered in between butter cookies and topped with chocolate sauce…and here’s what you get. Believe me…it tasted as good as it looks! Oh, and I even hand made my own whipped cream to dollop on top! Cute, right!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk October 18th

On October 18, 2009 we will once again participate in the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes in support of the Gandy Family who’s son was diagnosed with type 1 (Juvenile) diabetes in January of 2008. He was five years old. His pancreas does not produce any insulin. Without insulin, glucose (sugar) builds up in the body and causes severe damage. There is no cure and it is not a condition he will outgrow. For this reason, Matt's Wipeout Gang was established.

Matt is an amazing and brave child. He is now seven years old. For almost two years we have watched him struggle to prick his finger to check his blood sugar and take insulin shots at least 6 times a day. In July, he started using an insulin pump. An insulin pump is attached to the outside of the body using a small needle and must be worn twenty-four hours a day. He continues to check his blood sugar multiple times a day, and must sometimes be checked while he is sleeping. After he eats, we program the pump to deliver the amount of insulin the body needs to process glucose. It is not a simple calculation. Everything he does factors into his absorption rate. Matt's pump injection site must be changed every other day, or more often, as needed. There have been too many times that he has had to stop playing with his friends and teammates because his sugar was low. The treatment used to correct the "low" can take at least 15-20 minutes to kick in. When he starts to feel better, he rushes back to join his friends. He will not give up.

We need your help. On October 18, 2009. Matt will lead his team, Matt's Wipeout Gang, on a walk around Cooper River Park. We are walking to raise money to find a cure for Juvenile Diabetes. Every dollar we raise will go directly toward research to help find a cure. No amount is too small. Each donation is tax-deductible. On behalf of the Gandy family, we greatly appreciate your support.

To donate please visit my walker page... (CLICK HERE PLEASE)
(Us At The JDRF Walk 2008)

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Battle With Infertility

This evening I was thinking about several couples we know who are currently in the midst or beginning to discuss options with their doctor's about Infertility. It is something that is becoming increasingly common, but still so many couples are either afraid to discuss their anxiety about it, and sometimes are too embarrassed to even bring it up. I'm here to say - DON'T BE - YOU AREN'T ALONE. Just because it was easy for friends or family members to get pregnant.... that doesn't mean that getting pregnant IS easy.

Not being able to get pregnant can be stressful on both partners, and can affect your relationships with not only your spouse, but friends, family, and can even affect your job. Which in turn causes MORE stress. It's a crazy emotional roller coaster that sometimes spins so fast you're afraid you may lose yourself and fall off. We found it most helpful when we could reach out and talk about our infertility battle while we were going through it with others who had not only been through it, but were in the midst of it as well. I don't know if my cousin and his wife even know just how much of a comfort they were to us during this time.

I know, it sucks not being able to get pregnant when you want...I've been there. Unless you yourself are going through it (or have gone through it), there is no real way to understand...though I can say from experience....even while going crazy and gaining weight on hormone treatments - it was nice to know I was still loved. And yes, I did know I was loved...I was just so miserable and frustrated, felt so helpless about the whole situation, that I couldn't get past it and feel the love all the way.

BUT I am also lucky enough to know the joy of finally seeing the words "Pregnant" on a silly little pee stick. Shock and surprise when seeing a tiny little heart beating for the first time on an ultrasound. Of feeling my child moving around in my stomach, even kicking me in the ribs. And going through the hell that is labor. It's worth it. It's worth ANYTHING to try and have a baby. And its worth learning to have patience about your situation.

I read an article today, that I found really insightful. If you're battling with infertility...or trying to get pregnant and want more information about your cycle, etc. I highly recommend It's a great site.

*Fall*ing For Autumn

Like most weekends, this one was here and gone in the blink of an eye. We didn't think we had a busy weekend planned but, somehow we managed to stay out of the house for most of it. After Tony got home from work on Friday he set about giving the grass a good cut...which I'm hoping will be one of the last times he'll have too, until next summer. Tony and Tommy don't get to spend a lot of time together during the week, and much of that time is spent with us cooking dinner. So as soon as Tony gets home from work on Fridays, Tommy wants to do nothing but spend time with "Dadgy." Unfortunately, there are so many things that also need Tony's attention, that sometimes that isn't possible. We try to find a way of having Tommy get involved in the various projects around the house so that they'll get to spend that time together. Tony cutting the grass is no exception. We sat outside watching Tony cut the grass. I distracted Tommy by having him point out the trees, birds, squirrels, etc. and Tommy even "helped" Tony a little. Afterwards we set up our Halloween decorations at the front of the house, I LOVE the way it turned out this year.
Saturday morning we got off to a late start. Tony wasn't feeling himself, and Tommy's still teething...oh, and my jeep wouldn't start...AGAIN. Hopefully Tony fixed it for good this time. Once we DID get moving, we stopped over at the Haddon Heights corvette car show and flea market. We attended the event last year as well. And just like last year we were able to spend some quality time with my Godparents Wayne and Karen, who own a classic corvette and entered it into the show. Station Ave, where the event is held each year has a variety of really cute little shops. Whenever we are there we make sure to stop into The Cheese Shop where we picked up some of my favorite cheese - which just happens to be Spanish - called Manchego - it's smooth but bold, a little buttery, and seriously delicious. I love to snack on it with a glass of wine. It's quite expensive ($17 a lb), but since we only treat ourselves to it a couple times a year, worth every penny. We had to leave early due to rain (and it being Tommy's nap time), but we really enjoyed spending time with W&K.
That evening it was rainy and gross, and Tony still wasn't feeling well, so Tommy and I worked on an art project. It was something I had made with my little guys in Daycare this we made one for friends of ours whom we had plans to visit with the next day. I love using bits of nature in art projects with the kids. It's even more fun now that I can do a little more with them without the fear that they'll put whatever we're working with into their mouths. They get so excited about the art projects we make in gives me motivation to be more creative while educational. Win/Win for all!
Sunday we visited with our friends Lauren and Bryan. Bryan is in a band called Mr. Pink and is also a teacher (as is Lauren). The band practices in L&B's when we stopped over, they let Tommy check out some of the instruments. I'm pretty sure my boy is going to be a musician when we gets older. He had the time of his life playing the drum set and guitar. The amazing part for me was watching him pick up those drumsticks and with only a little direction started to play like he was born to do it. My kid's got rhythm!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

One Of My Favorite Places

I took Tommy on a picnic Monday. To a local historic farmstead close(ish) to where we live.
When I was trying to get pregnant, I would go there sometimes to walk the trails. Its a quiet, beautiful place that you can lose yourself in while you do some soul searching. Whenever I am there, I feel calm, restful, and happy. It's just THAT kind of place for me. I would love to live in the community surrounding Barclay Farmstead...maybe someday we will.
I've been wanting to visit the farmstead and take Tommy to see it for some time now...but there never seems to be enough time to see and do everything one Wants to do...time goes by so fast. The weather was so beautiful Monday morning that I knew I had to "seize the day!" And so I packed us a little lunch, and we headed over. Aside from a few farmers tending their plots of land (you can rent plots in an area of the farmstead to grow flowers, veggies, whatever...some plots are truly breathtaking in the late summer/early fall), there was no one around. We sat on an autumn inspired tablecloth I have, and shared our lunch. Then we stowed our things back in the car and walked around exploring. We had an absolute blast with the bonding experience. I know how lucky I am to have Mondays off and to be able to do something just to two of us. The day was filled with love and laughter, it is a memory I will always cherish.
I highly encourage any and all parents to look into their local history. It's a fun and cheap way to have an adventure with your kids. Have a picnic, or just stop by somewhere and explore!

Everything, All The Time

Some weekends we think we have "nothing to do" and the weekend ends up going by in a blur. Then there are the weekends where we have so much going on that it seems we don't have a moment to sit still. This past weekend was like that.

On Saturday we attended Tommy's school friend's first birthday party at Johnson's Farm, in Medford, NJ. Neither Tony or I had every been there before, but we had expected a small farm with maybe a picnic table or two and a couple farm animals. We were WAY off. Johnson's Farm is HUGE, and bustling with activity. There was a large animal farm feeding area, the party pavilion (which had about 5 other parties taking place during the two hour time slot we were there), tractor/hay rides, fields and fields of produce - you can pick your own apples, a huge market area, and even a little rag-time band. Seriously, the place is enormous.
We had a great time celebrating the birthday, and were excited to participate in the hayride, pumpkin picking, and animal farm activities. I especially loved watching how much fun Tony and Tommy had picking out Tommy's pumpkin, and snapping pictures of the beautiful fields. Before leaving we stopped in at the market for the ever-popular apple-cider donuts. Somehow, even with the wafting smell of cider and spices filling the car, we somehow managed to wait until we returned home to munch of the delicious confections. Seriously - they are melt-in-your-mouth good. If you find yourself at Johnson's farm you HAVE to buy one...or buy the half dozen, they come in a convenient bag all ready for you!
As if that wasn't enough activity for the day, we decided to catch a local high school marching band competition that evening. Tony and I were both involved in our high school's marching bands (he played quad drums, I was in the colorguard - colorguard and rifle captain my jr and sr years). Tommy really loves music, and the competition was about five minutes down the road from where we we bundled up, grabbed an umbrella, and headed over to watch for an hour. Tommy LOVED it. He was clapping and dancing! We had a great time, and even had a chance to stop and say hello to our Pastor and his wife who were there to support their daughter's marching band. A great time was had by all.
On Sunday we were up WAY too early because the munchkin is teething...seems those pesky molars have finally decided to make an appearance. I have been told that if adults had to go through the pain of our molars coming in, we'd have to be on morphine. Needless to say, the little guy is having a bit of a rough time. He's cranky crank cranky, and we don't blame him...after all, anyone who's going through that pain may be a bit of a bear. So instead of being on time for our friends' twins' baptism, we arrived in time for the celebration afterwards. Our poor lil guy was a bit of a handful, but we were able to catch up with some friends we haven't seen for a while, so that was nice. Afterwards, we arrived back home to an astonishing site...there was a brief break in the rainy weekend, and a lovely rainbow appeared in the dusk sky. A magical way to end a busy busy weekend.

Feeling Berry Orange

Although I can hardly believe October has arrived, it is finally starting to feel like autumn. The leaves have begun to change, and we’ve starting working on new display decorations for our Christmas lights. I’m anxious to delve into some “fall” recipes – including a tasty looking one I found for butternut squash soup. (I’ll post pics and the recipe next week.) I love when October arrives. It is the first of three full months of themes! I love when events, etc, are themed. I already have my planner all set up with a ton of cute Halloween and autumn art projects to do this month with the little ones I’ve been watching in my daycare. I even decorated the playroom a little, just to get myself, the kids, and their families into the excitement. I made leaves for the tree using the kids hands! This week’s theme was leaves (I may repeat the theme in November, since we had such a good time with it.) I took the boys outside and we picked a bunch of leaves. I pressed them in one of my cook books overnight, and then we made wreathes using the pressed leaves, construction paper, and with a bit of sparkly glue (I watered down school glue and added some glitter – we used paint brushes to adhere the leaves to the construction paper, and brushed on extra of the glue/glitter mix to add sparkle and longevity). I think they turned out really cute! Very toddler-friendly - perfect! I enjoy looking through decoration magazines. When I see something I think I could recreate…I challenge myself to do it. With a toddler running around touching everything, trying to stick things in his mouth and up his nose, and pulling things down (he can reach the stove now – scary!!), I decided to only set out a few country-chic decorations this year. I found fall berry vines at the craft store, and they became the “theme” for all decorations in the kitchen, dining, and family rooms. Here are a couple things I came up with. The little jars of berries are set in threes all over the kitchen. They are small so I have them set out of the way and not using up counter space. The Vase with flowers and berries, etc. is on a table in the dining area. The fall basket is in the family room, and the broom I made and attached to the front door. Also – We decided to make our own Halloween decorations this year. I didn’t want to make anything scary or gruesome…so instead I came up with these. They were easy to make. I drew out the figures on plywood and Tony cut them out with a handsaw. Next I painted them using paints we already had (from our Christmas collection), and polyurethaned them so they’ll stand up to the rain and wind, and we’ll be able to use them again. We haven’t finished setting up the front yard yet…Tony is going to attach stakes to the back of these, and along with some mums, and some corn stalks…well…you’ll see once we’re all finished.