28 November 2012

Bisque, It's Where It's At

Another butternut squash down, only about 10 to go. At this point, I feel like I'm the only person in the world with a total butternut squash overload. Are you tired of reading about it? Imagine me: I have to live with it. But, after this recipe, I'm cutting the squash some slack. Man, this bisque is where it's at (what does that even mean?)!

Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Bisque
(adapted from a recipe on Epicurious)


One butternut squash, roasted
One head of garlic, halved crosswise
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh sage
1/3 cup whipping cream (milk is fine too)

(I keep Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon Cubes on hand because I don't always have a store of chicken broth in the freezer. Using these bouillon cubes makes the recipe vegetarian and gluten-free, if you're into those sorts of things.)


Roast the butternut squash and scoop the innards into a bowl, set aside. Drizzle olive oil over both halves of the garlic and put it back together. Wrap the garlic in foil and bake for 40 minutes on 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large pot. Sautee the onions, carrots and celery for about 10 minutes and then cover with broth. Simmer for about 25 minutes and add the butternut squash puree and sage. Sautee for another 5 minutes. Using a food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add the whipping cream.

Fresh from the garden: Butternut squash, garlic and sage.

27 November 2012

New Habits

As I get older (or as I mature, I guess), I've noticed that I have to change many of my long-established habits. Some of it is health-related, like brushing with a Sonicare toothbrush because my gums are "thin." Some of it is appearance-related, like applying lotion like it's my job if I don't want my skin to look like an elephant's. Much of it is kid-related. And some of it is sheer willpower to positively change my life and my impact in this world.

I've written about my return to biking before. I was inspired by several people last spring to start commuting by bike again, including a former student, a former co-worker and a friend who are all committed to driving less and riding more. However, my biggest motivator was Benny. It's hard to say no to a four and a half year old begging to go for a bike ride - every day.

When Benny was two, Nate and I took a vacation to Sonoma. We spent a day biking to various wineries. That was in 2009. I didn't hop back on a bike until 2012 (seriously).


It's taken nearly nine months, but I have finally reprogrammed my brain to commute by bike rather than by car. For example, a friend and I were going to see an author speak last week. She was driving to south Denver and I was meeting her at her house - a mile away. Despite the chill in the air and early darkness, I traveled by bike.

Last week, on a sunny, gorgeous day, I opted to run errands on my lunch break. Six miles and four stops later, I was back home and ready to work. Not long ago, I would have happily hopped in the car to run those errands.

Old habits die hard. But new habits aren't impossible to cultivate either.

26 November 2012

Book Review: Blindness

The most disturbing part of Blindness by Jose Saramago isn't a society that is struck by an epidemic of "white blindness," but that his description of the unraveling of that society is something that could actually happen.

The story is really about a band of seven - some of the first who were struck by the blindness and how they cope as their country grapples with the epidemic, which includes interning the first group of people at a vacant mental hospital. Six of the people in the group are blind. One is not. Although the entire country (and maybe world) goes blind, one woman maintains her sight and shepherds the group during their time in internment, when they experience indescribable misery, to their "escape" and eventual  quest to survive.

Without giving the ending away, it is interesting to think about how a civilized society would react to something like white blindness - a disease that seems not to have a cause or a cure. And if everyone regained their sight after one such epidemic, how would society re-organize itself. A thought-provoking read.

24 November 2012

Turkey Day and Beyond

A lovely trip to western Colorado is coming to a close. It's been a great trip. The weather: Gorgeous. The food: Delicious. The company: Engaging. The views: Amazing.

We spent a day in Ouray, my favorite mountain town. I finished my Christmas shopping there (on Black Friday no less!) with the pride at shopping at small, local businesses. We capped the day off with a soak in the hot springs. Now that the kids are more active in the water, it was less of a soak and more of a work out, but a great time!

We'll get home just in time to put our Christmas tree up and start preparations for the next holiday. Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend!

21 November 2012

On the Road

With two kids a five-hour trip turns into an overnighter. Don't ask me how that happens, but somehow three hours is our magic limit. And by magic limit I mean that we are able to avoid major meltdowns by plying our children with food after hour two.

On our way to Montrose for Thanksgiving, we stayed at a cheap motel in Buena Vista. At this point in our lives, luxury isn't a big sell. No, luxury holds nothing to an indoor pool. Lila spent most of the ride last night declaring, "I want to SWIM!" And so swim we did.

Both kids were beat after their time in the water. After about five minutes of cartoons on the TV, they were ready for bed.

And then we were off in the morning. By 10 a.m., both kids passed out in the car. Driving in the mountains is hard.

We stopped at the Black Canyon for a quick hike before continuing on to Montrose. Everyone was ready to see the grandparents and get out of the car.

The weather in Colorado is nothing short of amazing lately. I ran comfortably in shorts and a T-shirt this afternoon. Looking forward another long run tomorrow to make room for some turkey.

Looking forward to filling our bellies tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!

20 November 2012

Fall Is ...


A time for dressing up

A time for school

Days getting shorter

Windy days

Jack Frost

Christopher Columbus

A time for turkey and dressing

Putting on our coats

That's what fall is

by Sara Struckman (age 7 or 8)

Now that Benny brings home various projects from school, I can appreciate that my mom saved my projects from school. It's interesting to see how young Sara interpreted fall - especially regarding the weather in western Nebraska (windy). Also, the picture gets a bit ahead of itself. That's Santa flying past the full moon. I think maybe young Sara was excited for another holiday.

This week is a time for turkey and dressing. We're headed out of town. Happy Thanksgiving!

15 November 2012

'No You Won't, I'll Be DEAD!'

The kids say so many funny, thoughtful things these days, I can't keep up.

Benny has become increasingly dramatic about things. He often rolls his eyes at us and sighs in frustration. He isn't doing the best job of eating lunch or dinner and often asks for more to eat before bed. Our philosophy: You eat at meals or you don't eat. We don't want to promote refusing food just because the kids don't like it. The other night, Benny was hungry before bed. I told him that he should have eaten more dinner. He told me that he was dying. I told him that he needed to go to bed and that I would see him in the morning. His response: "No you won't! I'll be DEAD!"

Lila is passionate about many stereotypical girl things: Dolls and strollers, pretending to cook and clean. But she's equally passionate about many stereotypical boy things: Blocks and cars and dinosaurs. We were driving past the Denver Museum of Nature and Science the other day and she yelled, "I want to see dinosaurs!" She has associated the museum almost entirely with its dinosaur exhibit. Since it was Friday and gorgeous out, we biked over to the museum. As we approached the dinosaurs, she squealed with delight.

Scene: In the car.

Benny: I have lots of friends.
Me: Umhmmmm (standard response to Benny when he's jabbering away).
Benny: I even have a baby friend.
Me: (interest is peaked because Benny isn't particularly fond of babies) Oh yeah, who's that?
Benny: Lila!

Last night I was getting ready for a meeting and changed out of my jeans and sweatshirt for the first time that day. When I emerged from my room, Lila said, "You look pretty, Mama." I walked on air all night.

14 November 2012


Or, how to remove Vaseline from hair and get rid of cradle cap.

After a dramatic 48 hours, we were able to remove all of the Vaseline from Lila's hair. I should have consulted internet before washing her hair upwards of seven times with various soaps. Turns out, Palmolive did the trick.

The good news is that the Vaseline did remove all of Lila's cradle cap as well. If it returns, well, I think we'll let it be. Or we'll try another method of removal, including applying any oil (olive, tea tree, coconut) directly to her scalp with a Q-tip. Oh, and Nate is not allowed near our children's hair again. Ever.

Please note the non-greasy hair.
On a completely unrelated note, some days I forget that I'm so fortunate to stay at home with Lila three days a week. I have to wake her up most Mondays and Wednesdays to pick Benny up from school. I love watching her sleep for a few minutes before rousing her.

Today, we were also able to bike to meet a friend's new baby, have coffee with another friend and her daughter, bike to pick Benny up from school and now I get to watch Benny and Lila play together while I do laundry. Pretty happy with my life.

06 November 2012

Cheers America!

Admittedly, I was a bit worried that I'd be drowning my sorrows tonight. Instead, I'm celebrating! Granted, the kids are in bed, Nate is at band practice and I'm folding laundry while streaming election results, so not the most raucous celebration at my house. But a celebration nonetheless.

Four more years!

05 November 2012

The Unfortunate Vaseline Incident

It all started when Nate decided that he wanted to take care of the kids' cradle cap. Personally, cradle cap doesn't bother me. Both kids have enough hair to cover it up and it comes and goes on its own. It bothers Nate though and he decided to take matters into his own hands. He'd heard that Vaseline can help. So, he lathered both scalps (and hair) with Vaseline.

After a bath with two hair washings, it was clear that the Vaseline is not an easy foe. We put the kids to bed with greasy heads and vowed to take up the fight in the morning. A morning bath turned into two hair washings with adult shampoo and two hair washings with dish soap. Much to our dismay, the Vaseline remained in Lila's hair. Benny's hair, on the other hand, cleared up with dish soap.

Lila got another bath after her nap with more dish soap. Still nothing. After that many attempts, it was clear that we didn't know what we were doing. I took to Facebook for advice. From the advice I gathered on Facebook, Dawn is the way to go with Vaseline. We didn't have any Dawn in the house, but we did have Joy. After two rounds of suds, Lila's hair is nominally better. She's not a complete grease ball now - only a partial grease ball. She is also completely opposed to having her hair washed now. After at least seven washings in the past 36 hours, she has a right to be a bit peeved.

Consequently, I also received some good advice about how to get rid of cradle cap - none of which included Vaseline!!!
  1. Apply diluted tea tree oil directly to the scalp with a Q-tip and then use a comb to remove the cradle cap.
  2. Apply baby oil directly to the scalp with a Q-tip and then use a comb to remove the cradle cap.
  3. Apply coconut oil directly to the scalp with a Q-tip and then use a comb to remove the cradle cap.
Lesson learned: Used in moderation, oil will remove cradle cap (probably including Vaseline). Second lesson learned: Never, ever apply Vaseline to hair. Ever.

I'll be experimenting with the Dawn tonight. If that doesn't work, I guess I should be prepared to deal with greasy hair until Christmas or so...

04 November 2012

Biking to a Baby Brunch

Fall has been spectacular this year. Today was no exception. With a high in the mid-60s, I couldn't help but bike to a baby brunch this morning. The only thing that would have made the ride better was a partner. But, I'm not going to complain.

The brunch was in honor of Jamie, the cutest pregnant woman I know! I prefer baby brunches to baby showers very much. Case in point: mimosas!

Congrats to Jamie!

02 November 2012

Batman Lives

It took a whole village to make Benny's costume this year. I consulted the interweb for an appropriate model for Batman. Most of the costumes in stores are based off the new Batman movies. I decided to throw back to the Adam West model.

Plus, the grey, yellow and black seemed like they were the easiest to work with. I started with grey long johns. A mom from school mentioned that she had worked with felt and a hot glue gun for a costume and that seemed like the easiest route for a Batman logo. No sewing required! I traced the bat and cut out a yellow oval and black bat.

A friend kindly sent a black cape my way, but I wanted the logos on the shirt and the cape to match. My good friend Jen suggested that I make a cape out of a shirt. What? Could it really be that easy? It is! I followed these directions.

While the costume looked good, it wasn't very exciting. My neighbor mentioned that she put a light on her son's robot costume and I decided that Benny definitely needed a light on his belt. But, given my uncraftiness, I didn't know how to make that happen. I consulted with another neighbor who has a knack for constructing things. She had everything I needed to make a lighted belt! I used fun foam, leftover felt and a cheap battery-operated light (Benny added the sticker at his class party).

The light definitely made the costume. Benny rocked it!

Old-School Batman - What I Used

Grey long johns - from Hanes.com
Black boxer briefs - on super sale at Target
Felt squares (1 black, 1 yellow) - from Hobby Lobby
Batman mask - from Party City
Yellow fun foam - borrowed mine from a friend, but available at craft stores
Battery powered light - from Target
Hot glue gun - from Hobby Lobby
Men's large black shirt - used one of Nate's old shirts
Velcro - borrowed mine from a friend, but available at craft stores

Since I had over a month to make the costume, I gathered materials as needed. For example, one day I was at Goodwill and there was a Party City right next door. I decided to check it out to see if they carried Batman masks. Sure enough, they did. I made one special trip to Hobby Lobby. Otherwise I just looked for stuff while out and about. 

Lila's costume is a hand-me-down from Benny, which is a hand-me-down from a friend. Halloween wouldn't be the same without my friends helping out with costumes!

Butternut Squash Feast: Mac 'n Cheese and Muffins

Have you noticed a theme on the blog lately? Lots and lots of butternut squash going on up in here. Because I have butternut squash puree stocked in the freezer and fridge and butternut squash stored in the basement closet, I decided to incorporate it in our Halloween festivities. Turns out that butternut squash is a perfect compliment to macaroni and cheese.

Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheese
(adapted from a recipe on Two Peas & Their Pod)


1 large box macaroni noodles
2 cups butternut squash puree
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. chopped rosemary
1 cup aged white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare macaroni noodles as directed on package, drain and set aside. In a small bowl stir 1/2 cup of milk into the butternut squash puree and set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Whisk in flour and nutmeg and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining milk and  simmer until the it thickens. Add butternut squash and milk mixture and cook for about 3 minutes.

Pour butternut squash mixture over noodles and stir. Grease a casserole pan and pour in half of the noodles. Sprinkle half of the shredded cheese on top. Pour the remaining noodles in the casserole dish and top with cheese and bread crumbs.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Fresh from the garden/cellar: Butternut squash and rosemary.

Friends brought over apps and salads to add to the feast. We topped everything off with Butternut Squash, Chocolate Chip, Walnut Muffins. Sooo amazing! I would highly recommend that you run out and buy a butternut squash, roast it and make these muffins. STAT!

Butternut Squash, Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from a recipe on Take Back Your Table)


2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup butternut squash puree
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin pan.

Beat eggs in large bowl and add sugar, oil, applesauce and butternut squash puree. In a separate bowl combine and stir all of the dry ingredients - except the chocolate chips and walnuts. Stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Spoon into muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Check here for the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.

01 November 2012

Spooktacular Celebration! (aka Halloween 2012)

Happy November! I can't believe we're starting the 11th month of this year. Boggles my mind.

Halloween was a success again this year. Benny is at the perfect age for Halloween - he picks out his own costume, trick or treats without our constant supervision and generally has a great time. Lila is a little trickier. She loved her costume, but was in a pretty foul mood for Halloween. She refused to put her candy in her bag and preferred to carry it in both hands - along with a sippy cup of milk.She also refused to have her picture taken. She'll "get it" next year.

We continued the tradition of trick or treating with friends and neighbors and then gathering for a Halloween dinner. The kids had plenty of energy from all the candy they inhaled during the night. It's been fun to continue this tradition. The first year (2009), we just had two little boys dressed as Dumbo and a monkey. Then we had two little boys and a baby. Last year, there were six kids in the mix (from the original two!). Our neighbors moved with their two little boys. Our new neighbors have a little boy and girl, which makes the combination perfect. In the picture above, we're just missing Molly, who was also dressed as Dumbo.

Long story short: Halloween evenings have become increasingly chaotic, but have also increased in general cuteness and fun!

I'll post more about Benny's costume and our butternut squash feast soon!