Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Today's Comfort Food: Rice Pudding

My old-world looking rice pudding recipe is packed with sweetness.  Blandness be gone!

I'd never liked rice pudding as a child (or as a young woman) because I associated it with blandness and hospital visits.  (Right?  Isn't that always on the hospital menu?!)  My grandma made it quite often, and I never enjoyed it.  Once married however, I was surprised to learn that my husband really enjoyed rice pudding.

My decision to learn a good rice pudding recipe was born out of the need to re-purpose leftovers, and a prideful desire to wow my husband with his favorite dessert (and make it the best he'd ever tasted).  I combed the internet and cobbled together several of the yummiest sounding recipes.

I made a point to make rice pudding my way however; blandness and over-milkiness would not do.  I wanted my dish to be sweet, textured and hearty, not too" egg-y"or creamy, and to pop with taste. The result is that my version contains a bit more sugar and raisins than most other rice puddings out there.

Prep time: 10 minutes        Bake time: 45 minutes       Servings: 6-8
1-3/4 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup raisins
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease a 1-qt casserole, then add in rice and raisins (mixing the raisins evenly through the rice).

In another bowl, whisk together: milk, eggs, sugars, cinnamon and vanilla extract.  Pour this over the rice/raisins.

Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool and serve, with or without whipped cream.  Refrigerate leftovers.  (If serving later, remember to cool before covering dish & putting into the refrigerator.)

We are excited for this dish!  My husband has planned his Weight Watchers points for the day so that he can merrily indulge in his favorite dessert tonight.  And since I have two casseroles, I can have some for breakfast this morning, too.

That is an auspicious start to any day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

WIWS: Sporting the Baby Belly

Last week reminded me that I prefer to wear more form-fitting clothes while pregnant.  I like having a baby on board, so why hide the fact?  Furthermore, for my shorter stature body type, anything too flowing ends up making me look boxy.  Which breaks my heart, because I love the look of billow-y bohemian-looking skirts, but such is life.

In light of this fact, and thanks to the example of several lovely ladies who linked up last week, I decided to try a maternity dress as a skirt.  At which point I remembered that I still haven't had my husband climb up to the attic to bring down the maternity remnants from the last time I was pregnant in 2006.  No worries, I found a non-maternity cotton/spandex dress that would fit my belly thanks to its high waist.  The gathered/bunchy top kept me from piling a sweater over it, however; doing so just looked wrong.  Instead, I brought out a blazer and just kept it unbuttoned.

It is cold in New England, so today I opted to wear leggings instead of tights (not that I have any to accomodate this belly yet).

Yes, I wore the same jewelry and boots as last week.  Consider this a running a theme.

Gratuitous belly shot:

The blazer is at least 10 years old.  I am sure I bought it at Marshall's!
The dress definitely came from Marshall's.
You know the boots did, too.
My leggings came from Target.

That's all I've got.  Head over to Fine Linen and Purple and be inspired!

Friday, January 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Sickness, Star Wars & Various Heroes

--- 1 ---
Spoiler alert:  TMI to follow... This week I was hit by the Nasty Stomach Virus that has been sweeping the globe (why do I get to be "in vogue" with such things as these?).  Apparently, my husband and I picked this up while out on our date Sunday evening, because we fell ill at roughly the same time in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning.  Thankfully the kids did not catch this beast (at least not yet); Emre and I sequestered ourselves for the better part of 48 hours.

After the kids went to bed Tuesday evening, my mother-in-law drove me to the ER to get some needed IV fluids, and also a pill and a shot in the IV to stop my vomiting.  This was per recommendation of the O.B. on call.  I would not have normally undergone this hassle if it was only myself on board this body, but the baby brings an added need for prudence and care.  We are at 20 weeks; I admit I'd had a huge burst of interior anxiety when I first realized I was falling ill in a bad way.

--- 2 ---
While I'm glad I went, I must say that the ER waiting room would have been an excellent choice for Dante's Eighth Circle of Hell, if only he'd gotten that far along.  I sat for two-and-a-half hours in a room with other grumpy ill people, all of us cross-pollinating our varied flu and virus germs into a potpourri of misery.  I desperately fought to not actually use the "puke pot" I'd brought along "just in case."

 I failed.

But the bonus to this failure in containment (and my concurrent miserable weeping) was that a nurse arrived to administer an anti-nausea pill pronto.  Way to start treatment before admittance to a room!  (So remember this if ever you find yourself in a similar situation.  You're welcome.)

Prior to its actual use, my puke pot also served as a talisman against those people who were hacking away with respiratory-flu-sans-ER-requested-mask,  from sitting next to me.  For over two hours, other stranded-in-the-waiting-room types eyed me with distrust as they coughed, sputtered and chatted on their smart phones: "There are so many sick people here, it is ridiculous..."; "....So I guess my broken-off toenail isn't life-or-death, because everyone else is still ahead of me..."; "...They said my wait is two hours, unless they get an emergency called in..."  Well...  Duh!

Again: if it weren't for this Baby Boy, I would not have ventured to the ER in the midst of what appears to be a rather impressive flu pandemic.

And:  Thank God for our health care professionals.  They get this from all of us. all. the. time.

--- 3 ---
Speaking of thanking God, have you pondered the awesome gift to parenthood that is The Complete Star Wars Saga?!  Admittedly, at the time of Episodes I's release, I was just as disappointed in the unveiling of Jar Jar Binks and cheesy two-headed pod-racing announcers,  as my other co-generationalists.  However, now that we have three children ages 6-9, Emre and I see Episodes I-III with appreciation; these movies were made for them.  And they've hooked our kids into the good-vs.-evil storyline of Darth Vader, Obi-Wan, Luke, Han and Leia, that we'd loved in our own youth.

On Super Sick Tuesday, as we parental types took turns checking the well-being of our kids, setting out snacks, and  stumbling our way back to bed or bathroom, our children decided to stage a Star Wars marathon. They played all six movies, in order, and for the first time since their shared toddler-hood a day passed without fighting, whining or hurt feelings.  They were completely captivated, co-operative, and wonderfully happy, no mayhem required.

George Lucas is now my hero.
--- 4 ---
In other movie-related news: Australia, as everyone knows, is entirely peopled with criminals.  For example, there's this guy (evidently, he's on the Brute Squad).

 This man is my hero, too.

--- 5 ---
My children are just one classic of American Pop Cinema away from finding this really cool:

--- 6 ---
However awesome that aforementioned Qantas passenger may be, there is a man who trumps even his heroics this week:  Michael Garcia, a waiter from Texas.  If you have not already heard his story, do yourself a favor and check this out.
--- 7 ---
 Thanks and congratulations to everyone who marched in Washington, D.C. today; you gave a beautiful and enduring witness on behalf of all of us who believe that women and their children deserve better than abortion. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Post of Absolutely No Interest to Men, Whatsoever (WIWS)

Welcome to this, my first "What I Wore to Mass Sunday" post, in which I totally embarrass myself because a.) I am in no sense a fashionista  b.)  I 've been (happily) preggers for 20 weeks now, have newly "popped" this month, but I still have not established a maternity wardrobe extending beyond myriad shades of yoga pants, and c.) when I got dressed at 7am Sunday morning, warmth and comfort were my primary aims; style seemed irrelevant in the face of my stretching-growing girth.

I also admit that I have been somewhat conflicted about Mass-wear this month.  Typically, we dress "up" as a family on Sunday.  I normally make Sundays a don-a-dress-or-skirt-only day for myself, since I am going to see the Lord and all of that. However, my belly is no longer loving my pantyhose, and I am too cheap/lazy to go out and get something to fit me at this point in pregnancy.

I have therefore given myself a "pants pass"(thank you,  Simcha Fisher, for so awesome a phrase).

That said,  I still wore boots with heels, and I actually applied make-up.  I mean, I'm going off to see Jesus for heaven's sake... I feel I should do a little something extra.

I have two outfits to share today: one that I almost wore to Mass, but then didn't, and the actual outfit I settled on in its place.

First, what I actually wore to Mass:

I like the color, but the print and cut make me look twice as large...

Earrings: Tiny diamond studs which I put in during Advent, and have not taken out since.
Shirt:  Duo Maternity, new-to-me via Savers, from my Mom
Pants: Yoga pants from Target
Boots: red leather from Marshall's, my favorite place to buy real, hip shoes at a deep discount

Upside down you're turning me... Round and round... (Why no, I will not properly rotate this photo.)

I almost wore this shirt to Mass, but after trying it on, I worried it might be crossing the line on modesty, even with the tank underneath.  Perhaps I am being overly scrupulous?  Since I err on the side of caution, I scrapped the idea of wearing the following outfit to Mass. (...but I then suggested to my hubby that he call his mom to babysit and take me to dinner tonight so I could wear this lovely new shirt.  He complied!  What a guy!)

So here is what I wore for our dinner date on Sunday, not to Mass.  The non-maternity skirt will be retired for the remainder of this pregnancy because the evening confirmed that it is now too. darned. tight. for comfort (Ouch.)
Hello, Baby belly!
 And finally:
Love these boots, but yuck... my floor is a mess.
These boots will also have to rest for a few months (sniff!); I am growing too clumsy to safely wear these now.  I mustn't tempt my back with aching, either.

This shirt: Apt. 9 (not maternity), also new-to-me-via Savers, also from my mom (love my mom!)
This skirt: Max Studio, from Marshall's, where I got it at a ridiculous discount last summer
These boots:  Marshalls again!  I buy all of my shoes there.

Seeing this contrast in photos between "frumpy" and feminine, has been a revelation to me; I really must do something about getting a proper maternity wear for being out in public.    Personally, I'm liking the baby-bump cling-wear more than I'm liking the baggy.

That second shirt was actually really comfortable, too.

Now that I have frightened away the handful of men who were following me (I'm sorry guys!  Please come back!!) the rest of you ladies might like to see what other, surely better dressed women, wore yesterday.  Why not click over to Fine Linen and Purple!

Friday, January 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Life Behind the "Game Face"

1.  I've been crafting a really swell post about dropping my "game face" (you know: that public "I've got it so together" persona moms feel compelled to project in front of one another) but to my chagrin, my thoughts and experience wouldn't coalesce into anything like a completed coherent thought; said post remains in the pipeline, unfinished.

Missing my self-imposed deadline honestly bummed me out.  What happened to the exorcism of writer's block demons?  Consider this round II.   Read on, and savor the irony of my not yet posting on how unpolished real life can be... because my thoughts on that topic aren't polished enough for prime time.

2.  Perhaps it was my staring at blank screens followed by words that wouldn't gel into anything close to engaging last night or this morning... but what a bummer morning this was!   I beat myself up for not taking the kids out today, then: for not being a "good enough" homeschooling mom, for not having a better daily routine established and adhered to, for sleeping in until 7:05 today, for not being consistent with family discipline and diet, for not modeling better manners, for not getting to Confession in who knows how many months,  and yes... for not having written/published anything on this blog.

I tell you, I do a number on myself.

As my kids grew impolite and whiny with one another and with me for intervening (in other words: as my children behaved like children) I heard the change in my voice and felt myself slipping into that dark chasm.

I was ready to quit, resign, give up.  I was a hair's breath from channeling Willie Nelson: take this job and...

3.  As my frustration built to boiling inside of me, I remembered this as my cue to detach from my brood.

I brought my lunch into my bedroom, glared at my still-unmade bed (as if it could make itself?), and ate pierogis on my rocking chair.  Meanwhile, I began an exasperated heart-to-heart with God.  I 'fessed up to my sins and failures, unloaded my self-doubts on Him, laid those feelings of "I want to give up!" right at His feet.

Guilt didn't descend upon me.  Love did.  Understanding did.  Consolation and comfort did.  My nags and interior pangs were replaced by a Gentleness that said: "Take it easy on yourself.  The expectations of the world are not the rules you need worry about.  You are okay.  Everything in your home is as it should be."

 Peace had descended.  An hour ago, I left my room ready to be kind to my kids, to meet their needs with patience and perseverance.  And to take some time for me, guilt-free.  I'll be better for it.

Nothing external has changed; my younger two are still loud and silly, especially since they've noticed I am typing away at this keyboard.  But by His grace, this day is improving and I'll get to the end of it with peace and sanity intact.

4.  On a lighter note: Yesterday was time for baby's anatomy scan!  Did you catch my earlier speculations on the gender of Baby Akter IV?  Well, party on, Wayne; I was right!  Indeed, we have a second son boogying away in my womb.   He already seems every bit as lively as his older sibs; here you see him "high-five" the ultrasound wand:

5.  Speaking of lively sibs, we took another outing into New Haven last weekend, this time to the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.  We've brought our children to museums since all were in diapers.   Our kids have always known not to touch exhibits, to maintain inside voices and never to run around inside these places preserving serious artifacts.   Its like modified church behavior; we can talk quietly, but we remember to respect the space that we are occupying.

With that in mind, I present to you Gianna's interpretation of "Museum Behavior."

My child: naturally game-face free!

And also:
This is excitement, contained.

6.  Looking at these photos reminds me that I take myself far too seriously.  To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: life is too important for that.

7.  To that end, sometimes, life just needs a theme song.  Funny. What suited me at 23 still works:

For more Friday diversion from your own seriousness, visit Jen at Conversion Diary!

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Writing about Not Writing

I am giving myself permission to write a really lame blog post.  This is my attempt to exorcise the "you have nothing important to say" demons dogging me.  I defy them.  I will write and post despite them, to spite them even!

First, can I just say: Writer's Block stinks.

Is this the same phenomenon for all writers?  Or do the anti-creativity demons use different tactics with different souls?  For me: what begins as a self-imposed choice to not hammer out an inspired idea (I don't want to get out of the shower, the kids need food and civilizing influence, that pile of laundry can *not* be ignored, sleep really could be nice...)  at some point ceases to be a choice.  I hear or read something that inspires me, mull it over a few hours, and have a  seed-thought response germinating, but...I'm too busy completing XYZ crucial "real life" task; I must ignore this emotional interior tug to write what could very well produce something masterfully profound, because I just do not have time right now to sit still.

Most likely, I don't have the patience to reach down to that place in my gut and rip out/examine/parse out exactly what I am feeling or thinking.  There is not enough time or energy to respond in any way to do this idea justice.  Instead, I type my seed idea into a Word Folder and promise to get back to it... and before that happens I have another (separate or related) thought and do likewise with it... but then weeks pass and I don't make good with any of it.  Eventually, the urge to return to these ideas ebbs away.

 This is how I gunk up the mental-emotional works necessary to produce words worth the time to read.

I now have a folder full of half-started ideas spanning back four to six weeks, during which time I would sit for ten minutes and plop my impressions and "seeds" into a word document (my intention being to sit with it and dwell upon it later).  "Later" became after Christmas, then... "after New Year's Day."

Here we are on the fourteenth day of January, and I am finally taking the time to get back to these morsels.

You know what?   I feel like I've missed a feast; other bloggers have already been to the table and nourished themselves on thoughts very much like the ones I was too preoccupied to delve into myself; their opinions and reflections are uncannily like the very topics I'd ruminated on in bed, in the car, or in the shower, but never bothered to whip up into a proper meal.

There are still a few topics untouched, but they are merely crumbs.   Some of those crumbs that I'd been salivating over getting back to are now, quite frankly, stale.

Yes the holidays had me tired, busy, emotional...  I was also scared.  Intimidated.  Procrastinating. Avoiding; so much of my inspiration sprang from the painful and personal, and touched the controversial.  I held back because an inner voice nagged, "You can't talk about that; you have no right to it.  That experience isn't yours..."

I need to learn a lesson from my six-year-old daughter, Gianna: when inspiration strikes, drop everything and follow where it leads, with whatever tools you happen to have at your disposal in that moment.   Gianna created the above flower from her spring-summer memory via mundane mediums: Bic ball point pen and washable Crayola paints on ordinary printer paper.   When she showed her finished product to me, I actually gasped in recognition.  I knew this was a Tiger Lily, even when she herself couldn't recall the name of the flower, only that it grows in red-orange bunches by our front steps every summer.

She wasn't bogged down with hang-ups like, 'I don't know the name of that plant,' or 'I have no way of seeing this flower closely now that it's winter, so I won't bother painting one now 'cause I might get it wrong.'  She didn't think, 'I don't have an actual canvas,' or "These are not real artist brushes; they're from Wal-Mart, so I can't really make art now."   No.  She saw the flower in her mind's eye and, on impulse, set it down for me to see.  With that instantaneous simplicity of childish wisdom, unfettered by self-absorbed self-consciousness, she made something pretty darned good.

I'd always loved being a student, which is good, because motherhood schools me constantly.  Reflecting on this moment, on this joyful example of my six-year-old daughter, leads me to conclude that Voice doesn't come from authority.  Voice and art come from experience, which as an amalgamation of time and perspective, is not always "safe," and is rarely neat.  Sometimes we just have to dare to go there.

I need to trust the tools at my disposal, and learn to make such daring a habit.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Twelve Days of Christmas (or more!)

1.   Yesterday offered proof that I am at least growing in maturity, if not virtue. My geriatric/gimpy/grouchy/anxiety-ridden cat was hanging out behind the computer, as I prepared to multitask (make the kids pancakes and print off more of our family Christmas letter... because it was the 10th day of Christmas, and that is how we roll...) when, as I deposited more paper into the printer, an unmistakable and unwelcome smell drifted up past my big 'ole belly to my nostrils. Sage was lying behind the monitor, sure enough... and... did I smell cat pee? To save you the suspense: yes. Yes I did. 

I neither screamed nor wept (You see!? Maturity! Maybe virtue?) I groaned (who wouldn't?), whined "How could you!?" at the cat (but I didn't kick her!), got the kids snacks in lieu of pancakes, and set about finding rubber gloves, lysol, paper towels, and Lysol wipes. I spent the better part of an hour dealing with it all, and am happy to report that the computer desk/wires/accessories and even the mac mini itself has not been this dust free or disinfected since... um... how old is Gianna??

I could just feel the goodness percolating inside of me.

2.  The wider world has taken down its trees and lights, and here I feel like I've just found my Christmas groove.  There is still snow on the ground  (albeit frozen, with patches of ground in spots) and we are still rocking the Christmas hymns and carols.  Kemper Crabb is one of my favorites for this:  

3.  One reason to love Twelve Days of Christmas: these cards I am still mid-way through sealing are not actually "late" (yet).  Heck, if we observe all of Christmastide until Candlemas, then... I am right on time with everything, including: posting those packages to our godsons, making and bringing cookies to my neighbors, and sending out these cards!  I should also finish those photo gifts for extended family, too.   Add that to my list!

And I can survey these things I wish to have done without guilt or remorse because Christmas is a season, not a day. There's still time to rejoice!  I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge, throwing open my window in relief to shout, "I haven't missed it!"  

I am that thrilled to know the traditional Church calendar prolongs this celebration.  

I never did like to leave a party early.  

4.  Speaking of Christmas greetings: the montage effect was a popular choice for family photo cards this year, and I was more than happy to join that trend.  I'd waited to snap our card pic until after the 4:15 Christmas Eve vigil, thinking that would be the perfect time to capture the children in their new Christmas finery.  Heh!  In hindsight, I should have expected the kids to be... Excited.  Unfocused.  Levitating-Off-the-Floor-Silly.  Rather than the beautiful, artfully executed photograph I'd imagined in my sugar-plum-riddled brain, I got:


And also...

5.  The piece-de-resistance, in my humble opinion, is the following picture, which I just made the cover photo of my FB Timeline, much to the oldest's chagrin:

The above photo is a fine counterpoint to this, my Holy Family "profile pic":

6.  It now occurs to me: isn't January 5th the Twelfth day of Christmas?!  In that case, it is time to pull out this 1979 Christmas classic:  

7.  My thoughts and prayers remain with Jennifer Fulwiler and her family, for a rapid and full recovery.   While I do not personally know Jennifer, her steadfast, courageous and loving witness to Christ has helped me enormously over the years. 

 I am sure all of her readers could say likewise.

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!