Monday, December 31, 2007

The wrong day to kill the TV

It doesn't take much prodding for me to rally behind movements to kill the family television. I am extremely sensitive to loud noises and general cacophony. I refuse to let a television enter my bedroom and I HATE commercials. I have even managed to keep the home television count to one.

Now, before you sit back in awe at these amazing feats, you should know that the ONE television happens to be a 47 inch HD flat screen with an XBox 360 attached to it and an array of cable channels and On Demand options at the viewers fingertips.

I still have to fight the good fight. SO, while reading Mitten Strings from God and being reminded of all the good things that can surface when your family is forced to find a different mode of entertainment, I went to bed last night vowing to keep the TV off today.

Like a total moron, I picked the day I need to work from home and a day that Sizzle's school is closed. But did I change the plan when the full realization of the challenge before me became clear? NO.
Did I abort the plan after I got Sticky Butt dressed and fed and loaded into the car, only to realize that her school was also closed today? NO.
Did I realize that this whole idea was ludicrous when my washing machine starting spewing suds from every orifice of its metal body? NO.
Did I try to go through a week's worth of email and read through an NIH press release on some new study about the DNA of MRSA while coaching Sizzles through her first attempt to make muffins solo? Possibly.
Did I mentally bitch-slap myself at 10:30am for invoking additional chaos into an already impossible day and race to return Little Bear to the proper center of our family universe? Um, pretty much.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"C" is for Christmas and Camping

Well, my parents headed out yesterday and the girls are sad to see them go. They had a walloping good time at the coach making smores and bringing a little chaos to their grandparent's lives.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Twas the day before Christmas

Thankfully, the freaky warm weather around here has finally subsided and we are back in our wool coats. My parents arrived on Friday in their flashy coach (also known as an RV, camper or giant roving single wide trailer to the rest of us).
I believe the term "coach" is used so that the public may know that their camper is a fancy thing, with Corian counter tops and a queen size bed. Simply put, "It ain't your grandpa's Winnebago."

The coach provides them the opportunity to come visit without having to cram themselves into our itty bitty house. The other bonus is that they have been taking Sizzles (oh did I mention this is going to be Lilly's new code name on this blog? Can you tell that Brian picked it out?) in the evenings so she can camp with them. They have decided to give Sticky-butt (Claire's new blog code name - also chosen by my husband) a couple more days to get used to them before they venture into camping with two children under the age of three. They are stocking up on the Merlot to prepare for the whirlwind. (I highly recommend self-medicating when living with two little girls in a 300 square foot automobile).

As usual, Brian has waited until the handful of days before Christmas to choose and purchase his gifts. This is an improvement. Typically he waits until the night before Christmas to do his shopping. Mind you, this is the same man who rants about the proletariat and having to hob nob with the masses. THIS man chooses to shop on Christmas Eve. Truly, it blows my mind.

I on the other hand, have been rummaging around the house trying to find all the gifts that I have stashed in our limited closet space from my early bird shopping at the end of November. Perhaps both of us could find a better way to work this whole shopping thing out. My plan for next year is to take the handmade challenge and to usurp the consumerism of the holidays by making everyone's gifts.

Stop laughing. I am going to do it. I swear. Okay, maybe swearing is a bad idea. I am going to try really, really hard to get my act together and attempt a 100% authentic Christmas spirit Christmas.

Perhaps the praying should commence NOW.

In the meantime, here is a recipe for our Christmas Eve breakfast - homemade Irish oatmeal. MmTasty!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Bundles

Okay, I am feeling guilty that I haven't blogged since Saturday. What is this blogging-addiction thing creeping in? I am not even completely sure if anyone even reads this thing. But then, what if there is someone out there in cyberspace, that was trying to find some kind of whacko porn site, and typed in MmTasty, and then read my blog by mistake, and then became totally impressed by what a great mom (or faker mom) that I appear to be, and then told everyone they knew to read my blog? And then no one ever wanted to watch porn again? What if by blogging I could crush one of the largest industries in this country?

Mothers everywhere are depending on me!

Hmm. This is why they say not to post your blog entry immediately after you write it. This is why they suggest that you wait a day to see if you really want your thoughts out there for the world to see.

Just in case your inner voice is a freak show. OKAY, enough of crazy girl.
Onto baking and advent and the celebration of all things wholesome and bright!

So, I have been trolling the blog world and running into a lot of people preaching about taking the handmade pledge or embracing the simplicity of life or hissing the consumerism in our culture and let me tell you this stuff has seeped into my skull.

As a result, I decided to make cookies for half of my office (about 25 people) AND stuff them into little cellophane bags AND tie them with some pretty holiday ribbon AND make the gift tags AND hand-punch the little circle for the tags to be thread onto the said ribbon AND hand write every person's name on each little package.

Clearly, I had not thought out what it means to take a handmade pledge. Apparently making a handmade pledge, means pledging to make something by hand. As those of you who know me can guess, I did not think through the magnitude of this project.

I can at least say that I was wise enough to put the kids to bed BEFORE I got hot and heavy into this hand making business. I can also say that I saw the writing on the wall two hours into the project and recruited Brian to assist with the ribbon tying and the gift tag threading. :)

In the end, they looked really cute and it seemed that most people were glad to get their cookie bundle. Perhaps next year, I will take the hand made pledge prior to seven days before Christmas.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Christmas Humbling

Occasionally I get cocky. Specifically, I have been known to tell people flat out that I am a great cook. To be fair, sometimes I truly am a great cook. But then every ten entrees or so I will fall flat on my face and serve up a totally crap meal. When it comes to baking (as long as you discount my constant muffin making) I tend to wipe out much more frequently than when I cook. Let's just say I have been kissing the hardwood floor this week.

I decided in all my Christmas shimmer that I was ready to try making gingerbread. Even better, I would go whole hog and make the COVER of the Martha Stewart cookie magazine I have been hitting like a stay at home mom hits the Merlot by 4pm on a Tuesday.

So, anyway, I thought I could hang with Martha.
Need I say more? (Yes, Yes, or this wouldn't be a very interesting blog would it?)

So I whipped up the gingerbread dough right before I had to go pick up Lilly from school. I was moving fast (I huge no, no in the baking world) and somehow managed to fly right by the molasses. As a testament to how uppity I had gotten in my Christmas cookie ways, I had gone to the supermarket JUST to get molasses two hours before this dough-making fiasco!

What is even more pathetic (and a reminder that I must humble myself before God and Martha Stewart) is that I didn't even figure this omission out until after I had split the dough, wrapped the dough, put it in my tinsle colored fridge and noticed the unopened bottle of molasses while grabbing my keys.

I won't repeat what came out of my mouth. It was very un-Christian like. It definitely wasn't in the Christmas spirit and I can only thank God (while apologizing profusely) that a certain three year old wasn't within earshot.

Sad. So very sad.

The good news is apparently you can totally take a kick in the pants while making this particular dough and still manage to throw down some spicy, chewy, gingerbread. So despite my fall down, I can still say I am great baker. Well, at least today. :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Heathens

The children were absolute heathens this weekend.

Actually, Claire was sick and stricken with green ooze coming out of her bright blue eyes so she had an excuse. Lilly was just a heathen.

On Friday night, we attempted to take the girls to Mellow Mushroom for pepperoni pizza. Heathens.

On Saturday morning, we attempted to take the girls to Dancing Goats (the newly opened coffee bar in Decatur from the Washington-based Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters). Heathens.

On Sunday morning, we attempted to take the girls to Oak Grove Methodist Church to listen to the Callonwalde Christmas Band. Heathens.

After a weekend full of stewing, steaming and screaming, Brian fell asleep on the couch at 7pm and I rolled up my sleeves in an attempt to teach some Christmas forgiveness. I explained to Lilly the word of the day (forgiveness) and told her that even though she was naughty (and boy was she naughty) that I was going to forgive her and still bake Christmas cookies with her. She smiled (I think she was also exhausted from her weekend of hullabaloo), hugged me and said, "Thank you Mommy."

We made Magic Muffins and she was an absolute angel.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas Crafting

At the Ott house, we have been Christmas crafting every night. Lilly is really into creating a Christmas Wish Box and cutting out snowflakes from my leftover bleached (that I stopped using) coffee filters. She has come a long way on the snowflake project. She began cutting things that looked more like Elizabethan collars. Then she saw one of my snowflakes and wanted a lesson on how to make my kind of snowflake. (Probably so she could smack down her show-off Mommy. Which I proudly announce, she did.)

Thanks to her montessori education (all 4 months of it), she is willing to sit down and have me demonstrate how to do a project, and then attempt it on her own. It is possible of course that she was in medical school in a former life and innately practices the technique, 'see it, do it, teach it.'
Anyhow, the point is, she is rocking-out in the snowflake category. Now, nearly all of our windows facing the street have paper snowflakes drifting down the pane.

I am hoping to have the energy to give a go at Christmas cookies tomorrow. In my evening prayers I will attempt a channeling of Martha Stewart so we can have a dazzling snowflake festival . I am petitioning God for the post-prison Martha who seems a little more low key than the previously hard-core, ass-kicker Martha. THAT Martha freaked me out a little when I saw a cooking with children recipe she wrote that required 45 minutes of prep time BEFORE the kid got involved. Obviously this is a woman who only reproduced once and then had the sense to surround herself with mulitple servants. Clearly, I do not have Martha's smarts.

I will add some pictures of Lilly's bitchin' snowflakes in the morning. Stay tuned! I know you are beside yourself with anticipation.

For now, I have to deal with Lilly's hallway hissy fit because we have told her she needs to go to bed early. She is blissed out with exhaustion.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Why Morningside has got me by the peanut butter balls

I'm considering sacrificing my children's free education at the 'oh so worshipped' Oak Grove Elementary in favoring of relocating to a 100 year old house within walking distance to Alon's Bakery and the Morningside Organic Farmer's Market. This is without even considering the new Swiss chocolatier shop that opened a couple of weeks ago!

I nearly stroked out with euphoria this morning when within ten or fifteen minutes I had gathered in my arms: a this-morning-made loaf of Ciabatta bread (all rough on the exterior and all spongy soft on the inside), a taunt chunk of Grayson cheese from Meadow Creek Dairy, two long slivers of smoked salmon spotted with peppercorn pieces and wisps of dill, a crispy croissant gushing with chocolate and a Saturday morning' doughnut plump with dulce de leche innards.

And this was BEFORE I went across the street to the farmer's market!

There I bought a fistful of peppers, a freshly plucked clump of purple lettuce and a doll's head-sized bundle of cabbage.

Did I mention that I also bought a pound of breakfast sausage from a female farmer's red igloo cooler? Oh, this sausage. This soft aromatic sage infused sausage that I fried up at home with gluts of scrambled eggs and crunchy Ciabatta slices.


I mean can't my children learn everything they need to know about this world from a weekly read through of The Economist?

I mean seriously.

Can't they?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Swiss Chard and the OTT girls

Many would have you believe that if you cook new foods with your kids, then your kids are more likely to try new foods. Tonight I tested that theory using some Swiss Chard I picked up from the local organic farmer's market.

Lilly was drawn to the red and yellow stems of the Swiss Chard and was thrilled to be in charge of pulling all the leaves off so that we could make a recipe for sweet and sour swiss chard from the cookbook Simply In Season.

I was hoping that since it had some raisins and sugar in the preparation that it would be a big hit. Hmm. I should have known better. Lord knows, proclaiming it to be "rainbow spinach" simply served to make Lilly suspicious. To her credit, she was willing to try the swiss chard after I plucked out a piece of the red stem from her plate to prove that this green clump was actually the pretty plant she had handled a few minutes before dinner.
She tasted it.
Then explained to me that Swiss Chard is "very, very YUCKY."
Claire communicated the same message in her own special way - she threw it on the floor.
The truth is hard. And very very messy.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Baby steps toward a tasty life

Alice Waters came to my office last week. Well, not my individual office but to the CDC campus to give a talk on food and health. Alice Waters is the famed chef/owner of Chez Panisse and founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project and huge figure in the movement to support local, organic and sustainable agriculture. Brian and I went to her restaurant many years ago as part of our San Francisco vacation. We both still remember that meal. It was beautiful, simple and soul nourishing.

Alice talked about food as spiritual nourishment and how America's obsession with speed has left our children at once malnourished and obese. She said so many wise things during her talk but this concept of the connection between eating good food and having a good life really struck a cord with me. Most of my best memories in life bloom around my grandmother's kitchen table and making slow foods like chicken and dumplings at her side.

When my grandmother was dying a couple of years ago she repeatedly told me how blessed she was and how GOOD her life had been. Her conviction about this gave me a lot to think about during her long journey toward death. She didn't graduate from high school (she finished 11th grade and then married my grandfather), nor did she have a prestigious job (she was a secretary for a life insurance agent).

She did have a basic kitchen and cooked with basic tools (no Cuisnart or Viking stove). Despite these factors, that our consumerist society would look upon mostly with disappointment, she was confident that she had been given the BEST life. She KNEW it.

Her life was Simple, Slow and Satisfying and SO much of it was about Food.

My mind wandered back and forth between Alice Water's talk and my grandmother's kitchen that day as I weighed the lessons that both women preached. Rushing around to catch the prizes of our world (a flashy home, a fancy job and expensive foods) leaves Brian and I pretty empty handed most of the time but when I take the time to cook good food our circumstances always seem a little bit brighter and our struggles with two small children, demanding careers and a lack of space seem a little less extreme when the meal is done.

So in homage to these two important figures in my journey for a tasty life I went to the morningside farmer's market and met some farmers, and bought their vegetables and carted it home to make some food that was spiritually nourishing.

Here are some pictures of the vegetables I bought and the girls checking them out. The recipes I used to cook the vegetables will be posted soon. :) Enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Roasted Butternut Squash? I don't like Roasted Butternut Squash."

Well, it has been another long week of crazy CDC escapades but somewhere in the mix I decided I needed to roast a butternut squash. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with it but I figured I would roast it first and figure out dinner next. It turned out to be a perfect little strategy and I discovered that Claire is pretty much willing to shove anything in her mouth and she may outpace Lilly for adventurous eater of the year. Perhaps in a related twist of fate she has all of a sudden sprouted a huge Santa Clause belly just in time for the Holiday season. But I digress (as usual).

So I roasted up this hefty squash and then rummaged the freezer looking for some of the goodies I had picked up that morning from an adventure to Trader Joe's. On that adventure Lilly, Claire and I purchased a frozen bag of gnocchi with gorgonzola. The super exciting thing is that the ingredients list was all real food and contained no bizarro chemicals. EXCELLENT.

But get this - dinner was whipped (or should I say sauteed) in a flash. I coaxed the gnocchi out of it frozen state with a skillet and olive oil and then tossed in the roasted butternut squash and SHAZAM! A speedy dinner that was organic, clean and TASTY.

You will see from the pics that Claire had chipmunk cheeks full of squash and Lilly saw her plate and said "Roasted butternut squash? I don't LIKE roasted butternut squash!!"

(Of course I forced her to take one bite and before she was allowed to gourge herself on slice after slice of sourdough bread and butter).

After tasting said one bite she said, "Hmm. Not bad, huh?"

And now she LIKES butternut squash.
Hooray for mommy!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mommy, can we make a star pie?

Lilly and I have been cooking like crazy this weekend. It began on Thursday night, when Brian was driving back from back and forth across the state of Alabama for work (Atlanta to Birmingham to Tuscaloosa to Huntsville back to Birmingham and returning home to Atlanta all in the same day). I was checking out various mommy blogs aimed at cooking with kiddos and saw a pie decorated with stars. Right about that moment Lilly's ability to leave me in peace for no more than 3 minutes kicked in and she was pearing over my shoulder to see if what I was doing was of more interest than what she was doing. She saw the pie. "Can we make a star pie?," she said. Um. Sure.

Her and I both know I am a sucker for a "let's cook together" type of request. Despite it being 8pm on a school night, we made a pie using outdated pie crust I found crammed in the back of the fridge and a can of Oregon cherries I had in the pantry. Of course I couldn't just dump the can of cherries into the pie crust and be done with it, I had to make a real pie filling with corn starch and sugar and then we had to find a tiny cookie cutter shaped like a star to do the pie crust top. As you can see from the picture, the pie looked pretty tasty and Lilly was pleased as - well, pie. :)

We cooked the rest of the weekend together: bannana muffins on Saturday and home-made granola on Sunday. (More later on why I should leave granola to the professionals at Bare Naked).

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sharing a room

Who ever is out there pimping the idea that kids sharing a room is a fabulous thing needs to be forced to live in my house (note very little house) for a week.

Kids sharing a room blows. It sucks for them and it sucks for me. The only thing getting me through right now is the delusion that the children are bonding because they are forced to share sleeping space. But that seems as believable as the science claiming breast-feeding doesn't give you saggy breasts. Um. Yeah. I just happened to teleport back from a weekend in Uganda doing a National Geographic photo shoot and accidentally came back with floppy boobs and a habit of leaving my left breast out for a snacking one year old.

But I digress.

So my 1 year old (Claire) goes to bed at 7pm and everything runs perfectly until the 3.5 year old (Lilly) is ready to go to bed at 8:30pm. For two weeks running, Lilly marches into her room, lies in wait until my husband and I have just calmed ourselves from the cacophany of the day and BOOM she walks over to her sleeping sister's crib and yanks out her pacifier, or pulls off her slippers or does God only knows what else that results in her sweet slumbering sister to start screaming her head off.

Now before you inhale to gather the air to make the words that informs my husband and I that we just have to get Lilly to stop waking up Claire let me just say to you - No shit sherlock!

We know this and it isn't going so well. We have attempted a variety of strategies and we have wittled our options down to beating the kid or making her sleep on the deck. She is not deterred by time-out, my harsh whispers within an inch of her nose, the loss of television priviledges and dearly loved items.

Simply put she doesn't give a damn what we do because she LIKES to harass her sister and she likes to create a commotion and she especially likes to make it impossible for her to fall asleep.

I am humiliated to admit that the clever little clam is having her way with us but it is the noisy, smirky truth.

I am at a loss.

Well not exactly - I am advocating that we hang her out the window by her toes and force her to hear us sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (a song she detests) but my husband is plainly ignoring me as he disagrees that this is ethical or will work.

His answer is yanking her out of their bedroom and putting her in bed with us.

Lord have mercy.