Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

I had hoped to do a Thanksgiving post yesterday but Jordan came down with a fever and a bad cough. For whatever reason, his transplant team insisted we take him to the ER to be examined, and get a rule out for pneumonia. He went to a local hospital around 6:00 pm and was home by 9:00 pm. His lungs look clear and the diagnosis is that he has some bug. He's better today, and the fever is under control with Tylenol, so I'm calmer.

This year's Thanksgiving turned out to be more successful than I hoped. Armed with my legal-pad sized prep list, the tasks were easily managed, the meal came together surprisingly well, and I was really happy with the new recipes I can add to the ever-growing collection.

I'm going to have to recommend the list system for others out there. I know it sounds retentive. But, when it comes to keeping things calm, breaking tasks down into manageable parts makes life so much easier. I wish I could take credit for this system. I learned of it after reading something Ina Garten ("Barefoot Contessa) once wrote about her parties.

Like other famous hosts, she recommends being as calm as possible before guests get there (have a drink! I thought about this, but we were eating pretty early. The last thing this dinner needed was one sloshed chef.) But for her, that meant writing down everything that needed to be done up to the minute the guests arrived, including the times to do each thing, and laying it sequentially on paper. I've done that with other events I've hosted (birthday parties), and it makes such a difference. Particularly with my kids running around all day - I knew each day what needed to get done, and I could plan things according to nap, school, or bedtime schedules. On Thanksgiving day, I was actually pretty calm - for me anyway.

I took advantage of recipes that could be made ahead of time - spinach, stuffed shells, cranberry sauce, turkey stock, pies...

and tried out new recipes that could be reheated conveniently at the serving table - crock pot mashed potatoes.

And I enlisted some help:

The turkey was a big hit. Suvir Saran's recipe was awesome. I had to make adjustments with the timing, but his recipe for tamarind glaze and the brining mixture was so good!

The glaze caramelized the turkey, and the spices brought out a sweet and tanginess to the meat. The gravy I made from the pan drippings was really good.

His recipe for the cornbread stuffing was popular - seeing as there was nothing left for me the next day. And the big hit with everyone was the creamed spinach with parsnips. I know it sounds weird. And to be honest, I couldn't even remember what a parsnip tasted like when I found the recipe. But the picture looked really good. And it called for half and half. I figured that would make anything worthwhile.

Even Martha's pate brisee pumpkin pie worked out. My initial dismay at the recipe didn't matter so much in the end. Everyone ate it. I had a slice that day and it was gone the next.

I tried to get creative and keep the kids occupied at the table for awhile.
Knowing the real food wouldn't do it for them, I turned to the Internet. Behold - Oreo turkeys. This is what they are supposed to look like.

And here's what mine looked like.

Jeff called them my little turkey vultures.

But the kids were happy.

In fact, Jordan was the first one to the table.

So, I'd say that between all the food ...

And the family ...

And the day after Thanksgiving ginormous breakfast (aren't we awful?) .... (Thanks Helene and Michael for putting this together!)

It was a pretty good year! One of my favorite moments happened the day after Thanksgiving. Luckily, Monkey Sr. was able to record it for posterity. Here, Jordan and Mina climbed up on a chair together and shared munchkin sprinkles, while the rest of us watched in awe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I want to hate her...but I can't!

Last night, I prepared pumpkin pie for Jordan's Thanksgiving party at school. I love pumpkin pie. Love it. For me, it's pumpkin pie that signifies the end of a Thanksgiving meal. It's so seasonal - when else do you really make it?

When making the pies for Jordan's party, I worked smart. Just bought the pre-made pie crusts - chocolate graham cracker and regular graham cracker. Nothing fancy. No one sent any leftovers back today, so I guess they went over well.

On the other hand, when it comes to our meal on Thursday, I think I may have messed up. Why do I do this to myself? I fell for it. I decided to make a crust myself, following a Martha recipe. Deep dish Pate Brisee, she calls it. I'll refrain from sharing what I call it. Why did I attempt this? I can't even pronounce the damn thing. I love her, but I hate her too. She pulls me in with her promises of culinary perfection, and I fall for it every single time. I don't care how pretty the pictures are. Nothing is ever so simple.

It's 10:00, and I am still waiting for that pie to finish cooking. Oh Martha. Why???

And the sad thing is, I've made pie crusts before. I'm no baker, but I can do it. I've made apple pies, strawberry-rhubarb pies, cream pies, cherry pies... Why didn't I just stick with one of my tried and true recipes? I'm going to have to sample the pie to make sure it's edible before I serve it on Thursday. That's all there is to it. Either that, or I'm sneaking out to Costco tomorrow for one of their ready mades. Don't they look good?

And finally, this last picture goes out to Robin. I know you'll have an awesome Thanksgiving. Lists or no lists. Don't let my craziness infect you. Look at this monstrosity I have. I know I am crazy because even as I look at the list, I am mentally tallying the exact times I will do each item on the list, and part of me is itching to get my pen and add it in the margins.. look, I did it there with the turkey.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Now, I can cross one thing off the list.

After dropping Jordan off at school, Miss Mina and I paid a visit to the local turkey farm. She marched right into the store, and plopped herself down on the floor - much to the delight of the other customers paying for their birds.

All I could think about was the herd of people, poultry workers, and miscellaneous sorts who regularly walked across those floors daily.


The farm itself was run very efficiently, and the bird I pre-ordered came neatly packaged and ready to go. I've passed by this place a dozen times on the way to a friend's house. We were in and out of there in ten minutes.

The plan is to to brine it Wednesday, and prepare it Thursday using a recipe I've been eyeing for awhile. It's a tamarind glazed turkey breast with cornbread jalepeno stuffing, courtesy of my favorite Indian chef - Suvir Saran. It took two attempts at various Indian and Pakistani stores (and lots of looks. I knew how to say tamarind, but I couldn't remember the right word for paste, and I didn't want chutney) to find the right kind of tamarind, but I'm hoping it will be worth it.

The menu:

Goat cheese dip with sour cream and spiced pepitas. Chips

Entree and sides:
Tamarind glazed turkey with cornbread - jalepeno stuffing
Ricotta stuffed shells
Creamed spinach with parsnips (this is a new one from Food & Wine magazine. It looked good)
Roasted garlic mashed potatoes
Cranberry sauce 2 ways
Corn on the cob (I'm hoping the kids will eat this)
Plain cornbread muffins (yawn - again, thinking of the kids)

Pumpkin pie
Chocolate dream pie

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Getting ready.

We had a relatively quiet weekend over here.

A quick visit from Uncle Riz, Aunt T, and Arman. A nice long nap....

And now, it's time to prepare for Thanksgiving. I've got my prep list all set for the week. The monkeys are hard at work too.

They're in charge of arts and crafts. It can't all be about the turkey, right?

While they busied themselves, I posted a bit about Jordan's new lunchbox. You can read about it here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Days of Our Lives.

At lunch today, I tried to talk to Jordan about school. This is never easy, because, according to him, he does absolutely nothing all day long. Since the tuition bill is as large as it is, I refuse to believe he's just sitting in the corner for three hours. So, I persist.

Me: So, tell me about the songs you sang today? Did you sing one or two?

Jordan: We sang one, Mom. The good morning song.

Me: Well, what happened next? Did you do anything then?

Jordan: I did arts and crafts with Miss Kathy. She plays with me.

me: That's wonderful! Do you like Miss Kathy?

Jordan: I love her. She saved my life. She understands me.

I looked over at Jeff, standing by the counter, and we both did a double-take. She saved his life? (yikes.) She understands him? Having met Miss Kathy several times, I was pretty sure Jordan was not her type. The fact that he's not yet four and she's probably about 40 would probably get in the way and all. What the hell was our kid talking about?

I pressed on.

Me: What do you mean, Jordan? Is Miss Kathy a friend of yours?

Jordan: (giggling) She saved my life. She understands me!

I looked over at Jeff again. The words sounded so familiar. He looked at me. I looked at him, and we both got it at the same time.

It's a line from the "Bee Movie." The main character - Barry Benson, says it about his human friend - Vanessa, a florist. I suppose I might be concerned, but I know his fleeting love of Miss Kathy is only temporary. Later in the conversation, he declared that "Gloria (the hippo from Madagascar), Daisy, and Minnie" are his "girlfriends."

At which point Miss Mina replied:

"And Mickey and Goofy are my girlfriends too!" (Another long sigh from Jeff in the corner.)

And so passed lunch. Who needs torrid soap operas when you have a preschooler?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cram it all in Tuesday!

Since I posted last week, we did get the results from Jordan's last clinic. Everything looks good, except he continues to have elevated levels of the EBV virus in his system. They noticed that months ago and put him on an anti-viral drug, which did the trick for awhile. But apparently it's high again. It may have been because he was coming off a cold when we did labs, but to be safe, he needs to continue taking the extra medication for awhile. Yuck. It tastes pretty gross, but he's somehow been able to swallow it down with a milk chaser.

The doctors also noticed he seemed a little dehydrated. They recommended he drink more water. Normally, Jeff and I would be concerned, but not now. We figure the reason he was dehydrated was because he was peeing every five minutes the day of lab.

In the potty.

Do I dare say anything? God help me if I'm jinxing myself, but what the hell. Ok, here goes. We're on week three now of Jordan using the potty voluntarily. He's been diaper free for three weeks, and I'm still in awe. Many of you reading this know the trials and tribulations we've suffered over the years with this topic. We finally just reached a point where we decided to go diaper free forever and face hell or high water - we were not going back. Three years and 10 months. That didn't take long. Ha.

That said, we're using the pull ups at night because he can't seem to wake up to use the toilet. We tried two weeks without them, and that was a nightly disaster. And we're still dealing with some residual fear of using the potty for #2's. So, it's not all perfect. But he's been working really hard. No accidents while he's been awake, which is pretty good, I think. We've gone out in public with him many times now, and he's used the public restrooms. He goes at school without any prompting. And he seems really happy about finally becoming "a big boy."

Cross your fingers for me that I haven't ruined everything forever by posting about this. I'm so superstitious, I almost feel tempted to turn back and delete the entire entry.

In other news, I just got back from a great mini-break in Rhode Island, where I visited friends from law school. Robin - on the right, and her husband Jim - on the left, hosted a wonderful "Leiden Reunion." Our Leiden crew - Robin, Rachel, Rich, myself, and our UK compadre Tanya, met while in law school. But it was our adventures abroad that stand out in my mind as the highlight of our grad school years. Escaping school for six months to live in the Netherlands, while paying the same in-state tuition rate? Sign me up.

We talked politics...

Ate ginourmous amounts of food...

And celebrated our love of Dutch culture.

Being the lawyers that we are, the celebrating started at about 4:00 in the afternoon, and continued into the wee hours. Those of us who were unable to attend, were met with the late night phone calls. Hurray for technology! Hurray for early happy hours! Sorry, Tanya. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, I look back at it and wonder what we were thinking. Nothing like harassing a mom with four kids.

Thanks again, Robin and Jim for being such awesome hosts. It was great hanging out. Newport is an awesome town!

While I was away, the monkeys remained in the care of their father, Grandma H, and Michael. I knew they'd be well taken care of.

On Saturday, they visited a children's museum, where Mina made some new friends -

And on Sunday, they returned to the Central Park zoo.

The penguins were their favorite.

They had so much fun, I think I might have to take more of these mommy-time trips out of town.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Mom, I need a few more minutes.."

When we pull into the driveway everyday at 11:30, I know I can look forward to the "few more minutes" routine.

Jordan: Mom, I need a few more minutes.

Mina: Few mo' minutes, mommy.

me: Ok, a few minutes and then we're going inside.

A few minutes really means about 30 seconds, enough time for me to unload the car, remove the diaper bag, back packs, miscellaneous toys, soda bottles, other refuse, etc. During this time, the monkeys watch the dvd screen, entranced. I keep watching frantically to make sure no one steals the car (leased - that would be bad) or the kids (that would be bad too, I think... ) or that one of the neighbors isn't peeking out their front doors, phone in hand, ready to call child protective services. I have little fear of that since no one reported the entire family sleeping in the car for forty minutes one afternoon ... with the engine on. Remind me to tell you that story one day.

After the requisite "few more minutes," I get them out of the car, and we begin the "Mom, I just need a few minutes to play on the grass." Mina pipes in, " few mo' minutes mama, in da grass."

I had the camera on me today.



Go!!!!! (Mina didn't quite get the whole jumping in part.)

Jordan had his heart clinic yesterday, and we're awaiting results. Everything seemed normal, his echo looked good, same with the EKG. The doctor seemed pleased with him during the visit. I think Jordan is starting to handle these visits better than I do. The night before, we told him where we were going in the morning. He wasn't happy about it, but by bedtime, had forgotten and went to sleep without a fuss. He woke up the next day and we headed out.

On the other hand, I lay awake long into the night dreading the day to come. From time to time, I'd peek up and notice the time. Ok, 4:30. That's bad. I envisioned all sorts of mishaps - some of which did come to pass, others which did not. Having gone through this for almost four years now, I've learned that expecting the absolute worst, is the way to prepare myself. That way, I'm pleasantly surprised when the day turns out to be not such a dismal failure. It sounds horribly negative of me, but it's a strategy that keeps me sane. If I go in there thinking it will all be fine, tests will run on time, procedures won't take forever, no one will rip skin off of him - that's the way to court disaster.

Anyway, it's done. Assuming no major disasters, we can look forward to the big heart biopsy annual in January. That would be four years post transplant. I'll start celebrating after it's over.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

How we keep busy on dreary days...




Jordan did this one - entitled, "Mommy and Jordan playing hopscotch and a truck."

The truck theme continued here. This is "Jordan waiting for the ice cream truck." I particularly liked the ice cream versions - two!

Dress up!

Who am I kidding? Mina doesn't need a dreary day to dress up. It's Halloween year round over here.

On this dreary day, we had a very special outing to see Madagascar 2 - Escape 2 Africa! The kids got another chance to see all their animated friends...

And I got a chance to do battle against my childhood nemesis - Galaga!! Score!! Wow that was an added bonus! I'll admit, this had me very excited. If Jeff wasn't yammering in the background, I would have gotten on the high score board. I know it.

I got some writing done too - here's my latest kids' cuisine installment. In it, I shamelessly detail my fascination with all things celebrity and food related... as related to their kids, of course.