31 January 2010

BIG Boy Bed

There are now few things standing in the way of Benny becoming a big boy. He eats by himself (with utensils, I might add), drinks out of regular cups (sometimes spitting and/or bubbling his liquid of choice - we're working on that), washes his own hands, brushes his own teeth, and wants to do nearly everything "by myself."

We added another big boy task to the list tonight: sleeping in a big boy bed. We had planned to start the weekend off by converting the bed. Alas, Nate was out on Friday night and I didn't have the mental brain power to take apart the crib and reassemble it as a bed. I was out on Saturday night, so no-can-do there. Today we had an appointment with destiny.

Which is just as well, as it turns out. Last night Benny climbed out of bed when he was upset with Nate for not getting him a cup of water. I guess if you give a kid enough motivation, he will scale the seemingly unscalable rungs on his crib. And so, tonight was the night. Benny and Nate converted the crib this afternoon and Benny was in love. He laid on the bed, rolled - ever so gently - out of the bed. Sat on it. Read on it. Spent a good portion of the late afternoon/early evening on it.

Truth be told, we were a little worried about bed time and the stay-put factor. But, since Benny decided not to take a nap today, we didn't have to worry about that much. By the time I finished singing all of the songs on my bed time play list, Benny was snoring. He's out cold now. I have a feeling the long-term transition may be a little more challenging. For now, he's the cutest sleeping big boy I know.

Tuna Casserole

We started this week off right - in terms of food. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm quite disappointed about how our diets have evolved as we've become busier and busier. In an effort to take a step back to eating fresher and healthier, we sat down and made a list last night so we wouldn't short change ourselves this week. On the menu:

Pork Shoulder Roast (in the crock pot)
Potato Corn Chowder
Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry


Tuna Casserole

We made the casserole tonight. I know it doesn't sound like much, but we didn't take any short cuts (well, hardly any short cuts). For example, most modern day tuna casseroles call for cream of mushroom soup. You just sort of throw everything together and put it in the oven. We made our own creamy concoction for our casserole. We did use pre-made egg noddles. At some point, I'd like to make egg noodles from scratch. All in good time. The casserole turned out to be very, very good. We made it better by adding celery and carrots. Check it out, if you're so inclined.
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat (1%) milk
  • 1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons Neufch√Ętel cheese (reduced-fat cream cheese)
  • 1 6-ounce can solid white tuna packed in water, undrained
  • 1 6-ounce can chunk light tuna packed in water, undrained
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas, unthawed
  • 8 ounces farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
  • 1/2 cup crushed baked potato chips (about 1 ounce)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray 8 x 8 x 2-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Whisk wine and cornstarch in small bowl to blend. Whisk flour in heavy medium saucepan to remove any lumps. Gradually add milk to flour, whisking until smooth. Add broth and thyme and whisk over medium heat until liquid thickens and boils, about 4 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture and whisk until liquid boils and is smooth, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add Neufch‰tel cheese and whisk until melted. Stir in both cans of tuna with their liquid and frozen peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
It needs a little extra salt than you'd expect, but otherwise, it's downright tasty. Benny had three helpings, which is always the sign of a quality dish. We're on our way. Oh, yes. I'm also thinking about starting to make some cheese. I may need to slow down a little on that account. Happy tuna!

27 January 2010

1/2 Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

It may seem that my books have been gathering dust on my night stand over the past few months. In truth, they have. It's been difficult to get motivated to read when the kitchen is completely destroyed and we're trying to spend quite a bit of time on finishing it.

I have found the time to read about half of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The book is a recounting of Kingsolver's family's experiment of living off the land for one year. It's more than that though. It discusses the politics of food and the impact of those politics on our health, our environment, and our quality of life (which, I suppose is included in both our health and our environment).

The book, more than anything, has made me realize how far I've strayed from my ideals when it comes to food. As my profile indicates, I was once a vegetarian. I didn't eat meat for many reasons. But one of the most important reasons was that I don't agree with how many animals are raised. As a vegetarian, I learned more about how all food is produced. I tried, as much as possible, to buy local. This summer Nate and I tried to grow some of our food ourselves.

However, now that I have a full-time job and I'm a mom, my schedule has slowly shoved me into thinking about ease of use of food as opposed to quality and sustainability of food. For example, here's an average weekly menu for the Struckman/Brown household.
  • Sunday - grill
  • Monday - burritoes, tacos, or nachos
  • Tuesday - mac cheese (we have started to make our homemade recipe again, but still)
  • Wednesday - out to dinner
  • Thursday - leftovers
  • Friday - sandwiches
  • Saturday - soup

Throw in spaghetti or frozen pizza and you've got our weekly menu for an entire year. It's not fresh, it's not all that healthy, and it's boring.

I'm hoping that reading the remainder of the book will get me motivated to return to my ideals about food. It has reminded me that I do like to cook. I like to eat yummy, fresh fruits and veggies. I like to buy local. It makes me feel good and it makes me eat better.

I'll post the real review once I'm finished. Perhaps finishing the kitchen will help me return to my roots!

16 January 2010


Nate is painting this weekend, so Benny and I are in Brule with my folks. I found some fantastic old photos on my mom's computer. Dating all the way back to Christmas in Spain four years ago! Enjoy!

02 January 2010

This Old House

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! It's about time for a house update...

Our contractor finished all of his work on December 26th. He did a great job and left us with some really big projects. In an effort to save some money, Nate and I decided long ago to paint and tile the kitchen once all the more laborious work was finished. As a result, the kitchen is functional, but we still can't use it. The desk in the living room continues to function as a pantry, cupboard, and a general collection place for just about everything. The dust, once long gone from the kitchen, has returned.

We, er, I mean Nate, has sanded the inside of all of the cupboards. I just finished priming the last shelf. We should be able to slap on the first coat of paint this evening. Once the insides are finished, then we must move to the faces of the cabinets. Much sanding and swearing will ensue, no doubt. Then a couple of coats of paint. Then the walls. Then the tiling. If we're lucky, we'll be finished by 2011.

The good news is that everything looks great. With a coat of paint everything will look fabulous. And, for the first time in over a year, we have a functional oven. Definitely something to celebrate in the new year!

Happy holidays to all! Here's to home projects and 2010!