Monday, March 30, 2009


Tonight I didn't mind spending an hour working on homework.
Tonight I had the patience to work with Jack when he got angry and with Dean when he got frustrated.
Tonight I relished the simple act of laying down with my boys, listening to their breathing change as they fell asleep.
Tonight I am blessed, so very blessed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Random Tuesday

I owe you a menu, don't I? I didn't do one this week and I am woefully underprepared. But, there's a good reason for it.
I had sparring class on Friday night, then Tom and I painted the bathroom on Saturday, I scrubbed the floor in the bathroom on Sunday while Tom put the 2nd coat on the hallway (he started that Saturday during a "break" from the bathroom). I left just before noon on Sunday for a photography workshop and he took the boys to the Sullivans for some playtime after cleaning up a bit. I went straight from the workshop (noon to 5!!) to the Sullivans where we ordered pizza and then had some ice cream. Then it was straight home to quickly give the boys a bath and get them into bed.

Grocery store? No. Menu planning for the week? HA!

Thankfully, Tom picked up the boys from school yesterday which gave me a chance to stop at the store on my way home. I still haven't done any menu planning though. By the time I put the groceries away, ate some leftovers, checked over the boys' homework, and read them books . . . I was exhausted. I crashed when they did and woke up just long enough to smear some Cetaphil on my face and rub a toothbrush over my gums. Hot, right?

Anyway, enough sweet talk. Dean's surgery is scheduled for April 6th. It's the first day of his spring break so he doesn't have to miss any school. Jack will go to the daycare for the week and Dean will stay with me. I have every expectation that Dean will be pissed that he's missing out at the daycare and Jack will be pissed that he's missing out at home. I'm screwed either way so I may as well make it easy on myself. Mom's contemplating a trip though so that would make it fun for both.

I have conferences with both the boys' teachers on Thursday and am looking forward to hearing about their progress. I got Jack's progress report in advance so I already know that he's doing well, even better than he was in the fall, so that will make the conference a lot more fun. I've talked to Dean's teacher occasionally and know that he's doing better but I still expect some discussion about his behavior. We'll see. I am glad that I was able to schedule his surgery so he won't have to miss any school. I think it's especially important for him to stay in the routine.

I guess you can see why I haven't written in over a week. Not that much excitement going on. But, we're having visitors on Thursday and that's exciting and then it's surgery and spring break and Easter and another tournament and a birthday party for Emily in which I agreed to bake the cake (what was I thinking?) and then another belt test and then my brother and his family will be out at the end of April and then suddenly it's May and nearly summer and I'm contemplating a trip to the midwest for 2 weeks in July and before you know it I'll be 40 and then all hell will break loose. Let's just let that sink in for a minute, ok? FORTY! Seriously, how did that happen? Four decades? Really? I still feel like a kid and wonder what people think when I walk around with the boys like inside their heads their tongues are clucking and they're thinking, "how could someone so young have such old kids already?"

So, see? I couldn't possibly be nearly 40.

That's all for now. I'm off to give a tour of the building to a bunch of college kids who just want to know how to get a job here and then what do they need to know to become a director. Woo hoo!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I left my house at 6:30 this morning. It was still dark and the mountains were shrouded in a thick mist. I listened to Louis Prima because I like to sing along and I knew if I was singing, I was breathing. It worked. I didn't forget to breathe for the entire 60 minute drive to Pomona for the tournament.

Once there, I sat around and waited for my division to compete in forms. It took hours. Finally it was our turn. Two girls went together and I went alone. My form was solid, it had snap and power with a loud qihap (HA!) at the end. I felt really good about it. I got a silver medal for it. I wanted gold and Master Dylan thought it deserved gold but considering I just learned this form 2 weeks ago, silver's pretty damn good and I'll take it.

Then, and I'm not kidding, 7 hours of waiting around later and it was finally our turn for the sparring competition. I went up against another orange belt, roughly the same size as me - maybe a little taller - and I felt relaxed and ready, not nervous. I did a loud qihap at the beginning, hoping to freak her out a little bit. Then everything went right out of my head. She kept throwing roundhouse left, roundhouse right, roundhouse left combos and I just couldn't seem to get out of her way. I was behind after the first round and Master Dylan told me to throw my right leg and pivot out of her way. He reminded me about my ax kick. So I went back out and immediately did a stance switch followed by a side kick to the stomach and an ax kick with my left. It got me a point and it startled her a little. That's when I really should have started throwing some combinations at her but I didn't. I lost against her but I gained some valuable information. I ended up taking bronze in sparring.

And now it's 9:30 and I just got home 30 minutes ago and I'm almost too exhausted to go to bed.

But I will.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Menu 3/9-3/13

Monday Night
Fish Chowder

Tuesday Night
Baked Penne Pasta with Chicken, Mushrooms & Sun Dried Tomatoes

Wednesday Night

Thursday Night
Pork Tacos
Chips 'n Salsa
Avocado Salad

Friday Night

Here is how I planned it. On Sunday night I made the fish stock for the chowder. That way when I got home on Monday I just had to cook the vegetables (onion, garlic, celery, potatoes, corn) and the fish. It took less than 30 minutes. Then, after the boys were in bed, I made the penne pasta so tonight I just have to bake it in the oven to warm it up and brown the top. Also, I made enough for two dinners (plus lots of leftovers) and I froze one. So next week or the week after that I can bake it from frozen. The tacos are super easy. I'll just put some pork in the crock pot on Thursday morning with some onion and garlic and then it will be ready to shred when I get home that night. I have sparring class Friday night but there will be plenty of pork leftover for the boys to make more tacos. There was just enough chowder left over for Tom and I to have for lunch today and there will be plenty of penne left over for us for the rest of the week.

Here's the recipe for the Fish Chowder:

1 C diced pancetta (bacon works well, too)
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 lb fish fillets (cod or halibut works best but I used flounder in this recipe)
3 C fish stock
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 C frozen yellow corn
1 C heavy cream
Dash or two of Tapatio or hot sauce
1 T butter
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy pot over medium heat cook the pancetta (bacon) until crispy. Remove to a plate w/ paper towels to drain grease. Add the onion, celery and garlic to the pot. Cook until translucent - about 5 minutes. Lay the fillets on top of the vegetables, put a lid on the pot and cook until opaque, turning over halfway through. Remove the fish to a plate and keep warm. Add the fish stock to the pot then the potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are soft but not mushy - about 10 minutes. While it's simmering, flake the fish into chunks. When the potatoes are soft, add the corn, fish, and heavy cream and let simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the hot sauce and the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty sourdough bread and butter. Serves 4.

Fish Stock
1 Small onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, washed and coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
fish heads and tails (4 each - ask for it at the fish counter - I didn't even have to pay for it)
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients except for salt and pepper in a small stockpot and cover with water. Add salt and pepper and let simmer over a low heat for an hour or so. Let cool and then strain into a container for storage. Makes about 3 cups.


I've got a bunch of random bits rolling around in my head so here's a little bit of random for your Tuesday.
  • Saturday morning Jack got up and made himself and Dean sandwiches for breakfast.
  • Overheard on Saturday morning: Jack to Dean - you should have told me you had to go to the bathroom. I would have taken you Dean. (in the most helpful tone of voice)
  • What we bought at the Fishing & Boating Show: Thermal heat packs and a trip to Mexico. Note: no fish or boats.
  • Conversation between me and the grocery store checker on Sunday afternoon: He said, OH! Were you in the movie BOLT?? (I was wearing my tshirt). Me, Uh no but I worked on it. He, so you got to hang out with John Travolta and Miley Cyrus? Me, Uh yeah! They were great - really nice. ---- Ok, that's not what I said. I told the truth that I work in Animation and that we don't work with the talent. Blah Blah Blah. He was so disappointed that the next time someone asks me about that my answer will be YEAH! They were great. So down to earth, y' know? Because it will make their day.
  • Playdate drama: ok, so there's this mom at the school and she really wants to have a playdate with her kid. We did one playdate at her house and I felt so uncomfortable the entire time. This woman has no joy in her life. So I figured there's no chemistry here and even the kids weren't that into each other so that's the end of that. Then Jack asked me a few weeks ago if we could have a playdate with M. I said, sure we'll have to plan something. Which is my way of being very noncommittal. She called me on Sunday but I let it go to voice mail. I listened to the message and she wants to have a playdate next weekend or maybe one night after school. I DON'T WANT TO PLAYDATE WITH THIS WOMAN!! I feel like she wants to date me and I'm not interested but I don't know how to tell her I'M JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. I looked at the calendar and the next few weeks are busy - there's the tournament this coming weekend, I have a photography workshop on the following weekend and we have visitors coming the weekend after that. Then it's practically Easter, right? Last night at pickup time I decided to let the boys have 2 minutes on the play equipment and who shows up? I got my answer all ready. She asked me what was I planning for the boys for the summer. I told her they'll go to the daycare that they've gone to since they were babies. Oh you're so lucky, she says, I have to do all this research. She goes on to tell me how it doesn't get any easier and with each stage in their lives she has to do more work. See? No joy. So then I told her that I got her message but that we're pretty booked up through March. She says, Oh yeah, us too. I just thought I'd throw it out there. I wonder - am I off the hook? Has she gotten the message? What more do I need to do? I can't wait until summer vacation! How do other people avoid playdating with people they're not interested in?
  • And finally, the weekly menu thing is working out great! I decided that I'm going to publish my weekly menu here for my reference. I'll include recipes too if I have time.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Killer Shrimp

Back when we had disposable income and late bedtimes, we used to have dinner at this place called "Killer Shrimp". There were three things on the menu: Shrimp in broth with bread, shrimp in broth with angel hair or shrimp in broth with rice. We always ordered it with bread only. The broth was spicy and pungent with rosemary. We had to peel the shrimp so our fingers got greasy and hot but we didn't care at all because the broth was so good, even if we had to wipe the sweat from our foreheads every now and then.

Last night I attempted a homemade version of Killer Shrimp. We didn't have bread so I served it over angel hair. It didn't have the same heat as the original but I couldn't make it too spicy or the boys wouldn't be able to eat it. I'll be tweaking it a bit over time but for a first attempt, it was pretty darn close.

Killer Shrimp
Bag of Frozen Shrimp, defrosted (I get the kind that's already peeled and deveined but not cooked)
1 T Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C chicken stock
1/4 t rosemary
1/8 t basil
1/8 t thyme
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1 small lemon juiced
1 T fish sauce
2 T butter
Angel Hair Pasta

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the shrimp in batches and cook until opaque - just a couple of minutes on each side. Remove to a bowl. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, stir in the chicken broth and lemon juice, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Combine all the herbs in a mortar and pestle and crush together. Add the herbs to the pot and let simmer. Add the fish sauce then the shrimp with the accumulated juices. Swirl in the butter. Cook the angel hair according to package directions. To serve, pile the pasta in the bottom of a bowl, add some shrimp and a ladle of broth.

The next time I make this I want to have white wine to add to the broth and fish stock instead of chicken broth and fish sauce. And I would add more crushed red pepper if I wasn't serving this to the boys. I'm going to continue to tweak this and see if I can get it even closer to the original.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Oh the Places You'll Go

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!

Belt Testing and Bonus Lasagna Recipe!

I passed my test so now I’m an orange stripe belt. Woo hoo!

No trophy this time (the boys were disappointed) but I felt good about my test. Besides, what would I do with a trophy? I need to save room for my gold medals from my upcoming tournament, right? HA!

To celebrate, I made lasagna for dinner last night. I don’t actually think it started out as a celebratory lasagna but it’s what Tom suggested and it sounded good and it’ll feed us for the next 2 days so, why not? And, was it good. So, so good. I kept making delicious noises as I plowed through it. I just had it for lunch and I made delicious noises then too which must seem strange to the people who walk by my open door.


Now that I’ve prattled on about the mmm soo good lasagna . . . here’s the recipe:

1 lb ground beef
3 mild-medium Italian sausage links
½ cup diced pancetta
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
2 16 oz. jars your favorite tomato sauce (I like Newman’s Own)
2 pinches of dried oregano - divided
2 pinches of dried basil - divided
12 lasagna noodles cooked according to package directions
1 15 oz. package ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella – divided
2 eggs
2 cups béchamel (usually I make my own but this time I substituted with Aunt Penny’s White sauce doctored with a little freshly grated parmesan cheese)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brown the beef in a cast iron pot or dutch oven, remove and let drain in a bowl lined with a paper towel. Remove the casing from the sausage links, brown in the pot, remove and add to browned beef. Cook the pancetta in the pot until browned and crispy, add the onion and carrots and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so. Pour in the wine and scrape up the browned bits. Add the browned beef and sausage back to the pot and pour in the 2 jars of tomato sauce. Stir together, add a pinch of oregano and a pinch of basil. Let simmer on low.

In a separate large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of shredded mozzarella, and 2 eggs. Add a pinch of oregano and a pinch of basil. Mix thoroughly.

In a 9x13 greased dish, spread a cup of meat sauce on the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of lasagna noodles on top, slightly overlapping the layers. Spread half of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles. Add a layer of meat sauce on top of the ricotta mixture. Drizzle some béchamel sauce on top of the meat. Add another layer of noodles and repeat the layering: first the ricotta mixture, then the meat sauce, then the drizzle of béchamel. Add a final layer of noodles, top with the remainder béchamel sauce. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of shredded mozzarella on top. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes after before serving. Serves 6-8 people.

Homemade Bechamel Sauce
¼ C butter
¼ C flour
2 cups milk (warmed in the microwave)
Grated nutmeg to taste
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add the flour and cook until it has a nutty aroma. Whisk in the milk and stir until it becomes thick (place a spoon in the sauce, remove it and run your fingernail down the back of the spoon – if it leaves a neat line, the sauce is at the right thickness). Add the freshly grated nutmeg (about ¼ teaspoon), pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Makes about 2 cups.