“Attention, animals: shhhhhh, please.” – Henry

While on the cape, we spent one of our first evenings taking in the sights (oh, so many sights) at the Barnstable County Fair.  All of Cape Cod is in Barnstable County, and the fair itself attracts locals and visitors alike.  While there, we were treated to all the usually fair fare: fried dough, candy apples, cotton candy and other delicacies prepared on carts, carnival rides on the midway, and–our favorite–the 4-H animal shows.  My mom and I agreed that we remembered this fair being bigger in our memory; even so, it was just the right size for Henry, and he was elated to be there.DSC_0533 DSC_0534

The first order of business was checking out all the animals.  Henry loves animals, and sings Old MacDonald like a champ.  He was over the moon to see the rabbits– lops, dwarves, and big Rex rabbits– he was fascinated by them all.

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After the rabbit show came the poultry.  We moved from cage to cage, holding Henry up so he could see each hen clearly.  They puttered peacefully around their cages, waiting patiently, I suppose, to return home to their owners and a more free-range way of life.

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Did you notice a change in Henry’s expression?  A sudden glimmer of concern, perhaps? It’s not that he has a thing for fur over feathers (though I would totally understand if he did).  It’s that while we were enjoying the chickens, something happened.  Something that shook our two-and-a-half-year-Old MacDonald to his core.  A rooster crowed.

It seems that all of the humanoid animal impersonations in the world cannot adequately prepare a suburban subdivision kid for the horror of actual animals actually talking to each other.  He could barely even stomach the sweet little chick that this 4-H-er offered him to pat.

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“He’s from the suburbs,” I explained weakly.  The 4-H boy just sniffed and shook his head.

Henry spent the rest of our trip around the barns (cattle, goats, sheep, and the rest) doing his best impersonation of a terrified koala, clinging to any adult who could protect him from the horror of a mooing cow.

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As much as Mark and I loved being wrapped in his tiny arms, I was a little devastated.  I love all animals, fear none of them, and was growing more and more concerned that Henry’s impending first pony ride wasn’t going to be the joyful prelude to eventual pony ownership that I’d envisioned.

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Please. Don’t. Neigh.

As it turned out, no one neighed.  After a few times around the hot walker on a small pony mare (who barely had enough energy to move, never mind chat), things loosened up a bit.  I tried to sell that pony ride as hard as I could.

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We even got a sort-of smile.

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You know what, though? To Henry, animals who talk<animals who aren’t inclined to talk<animals who can’t ever talk.  Case in point:

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Happy Monday.

 

 

What we’re eating this week (a Pinterest project)

Chicken Enchiladas

I’m trying to do a better job of planning our meals each week.  We’ve historically had a tough time deciding what to eat until late in the evening when we’re starving and invariably make choices both expensive and unhealthy.  This week, I’ve decided to plan our meal for the week using a combination of found internet recipes (from Pinterest and other sources) and family favorites.  

Generally, Wednesday and Sunday nights will alternate between leftovers and take-out, leaving the other five nights of the week for cooking.  It’s worth noting that while I love to cook, I’m by no means an expert.  I like preparing meals that are varied, tasty, and, above all, simple.  There’s not much you won’t see in our rotation; ours is an omnivorous house, sometimes healthy, and sometimes indulgent.  I’ll try to let readers know what we think of each meal here on the blog and will post our weekly menus to a single Pinterest board, HERE.  You can also visit all my Pinterest boards by clicking the button in the blog’s sidebar.

Follow along for the food, both flops and faves!

WHAT WE’RE EATING THIS WEEK:

(T) Slow cooker chicken lo mein

(Th) Balsamic roast beef sandwiches

(F) Chicken enchiladas and green salad

(Sa) Chicken and chorizo paella

A trip to Super H Mart!

I ran into a common problem today while preparing to make a new recipe: weird ingredients.  I suppose they’re not really “weird,” but Shaoxing wine isn’t exactly the Canola Oil of cooking, right?  The recipe I’m planning is a common Chinese dish, but common Chinese ingredients (oyster sauce, anyone?) are remarkably uncommon in American supermarkets.  Having lived in a neighborhood of Chicago that included a strip of Argyle Street known as Little Saigon, I knew that Vietnamese and other Asian grocers were around, but I wondered if my move to the burbs was going to hamper my rice wine quest.

Thankfully, our town is both large and surprisingly ethnically diverse, so I didn’t have to wander Yelp very long before I found Super H Mart– and every Korean, Chinese, Japanese ingredient an amateur home cook could possibly need–just five miles from our house.

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Super H Mart is, in many ways, a regular grocery store: fresh (good-looking) produce, meat and seafood counters, bakery– it just happens to include middle aisles chock-a-block full of all the Asian staples a person could never find at her local mainline supermarket.  Even if one is lucky enough to find, say, Soba noodles at the Jewel, Super H Mart offers a dozen choices while Jewel stocks only one.

Soy sauce?

Soy sauce overload.
Soy sauce overload.

How about a whole aisle, then another aisle of rice wine?  Don’t even get me started on the rice.  The store was clean (even if it does smell a bit of fish sauce) and well-stocked.  It’s easy to pick up the few non-Asian edibles while there, too; I refreshed my olive oil supply, and American super foods–Kraft macaroni and cheese, for instance–were very much in evidence, too.

I though momentarily about trying to fill the gaps in my recipes for the week with a trip to our local (and much-loved) Cost Plus World Market, but, even if they did carry everything I needed, I doubt I could have come away with huge bottle of olive oil and Shaoxing wine, some sesame oil, Tamari, and oyster sauce for under $20.

Super H Mart: restocking the Asian corner of my pantry since August 2014. (-:

Home Again

After over a week away, our little family is re-acclimating to our summer routine at home.  As email and Facebook posts keep reminding me, though, our “summer routine” is about to be swapped for another routine to which I’m not quite ready to return.  I’m sure I will be when the time comes, but for now, I prefer to savor the few remaining days we have left  instead of diving into what comes next.

We spent the past nine days on Cape Cod, with a little bit of time spent in my South Shore hometown and at the beautiful wedding of a cousin at my grandparents’ home in Rhode Island.  Henry was busy, took long naps, and went to bed late.  We saw lots, ate even more, and enjoyed the unexpected sunshine (the forecast looked less than promising when we arrived).

In the coming days, I’ll recap some of our favorite adventures (Duxbury Fire Department, Barnstable County Fair, trout hatchery, Mass Maritime Academy, Nantucket, Hyannis Harbor Duck Tours, and the wedding).  I’ll also roll out my latest effort to help our family plan grocery shopping and mealtime a little more effectively (you’ll be able to follow along with what we eat and cook, keeping me honest and well clear of Hamburger Helper).

Until then, here are a few of my favorite images from the past week or so.  There will be more to come!

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Yummy things…

Sometimes, we get lazy about our dinners around here.  Since my in-laws buy a share of a cow annually and keep us supplied with high-quality ground beef (ah-mazing), it tends to figure into a lot of our meals.  On Saturday night, we grilled burgers with a green salad on the side.  (Have you ever tried mixing a little dry salad dressing into your burger meat?  Delicious, and an interesting alternative to garlic salt, which we’ve used in the past.)  They were fantastic.

Often, though, the ample supply of ground beef lends itself to lazy, one-pot, Hamburger Helper-style meals, one after another after ANOTHER.  These are easy and fine, but, having grown up in a house with most dinner plates parceled out into little peace signs– a little meat, a little veg, a little starch, sometimes, it’s just not what I’m craving.  Unfortunately, when we’re not feeling ground beef, we tend to lazily order take-out.  This almost always has to do with a lack of prior planning on my part; we just don’t have the right staples on hand to cook up an alternative. Because we’re trying to pinch pennies in advance of our upcoming vacation (and because I’ve done a better job grocery shopping recently), we had a better option last night.

We decided to keep the beef in the freezer and cook up a little chicken in the crock pot.  We went with this Asian-inspired recipe, found on The Comfort of Cooking via Pinterest, for Honey Sesame Chicken.  In the interest of full disclosure, I quadrupled the amount of red pepper flakes it calls for, because really–1/4 teaspoon? What’s the point?  This recipe met our practical needs for the day (quick prep so we could enjoy the sunshine at the pool) and our taste buds’ needs for the evening meal (a different flavor than we usually cook up at home).

On the side, we prepared an equally simple DIY fried rice from Courtney’s blog, My Wifely Adventures.  We usually use frozen peas and frozen cubed carrots in this recipe but were caught without carrots last night.  We simply omitted them, and it tasted just as good.  I considered adding the frozen lima beans we found in the freezer (Are they really any different from Edamame?), but Mark gave that idea a serious side-eye.  The moral: use the veggies you have, and all will work out just fine.  I think Courtney’s advice of adding the cooked rice to your wok cold is probably worth listening to; it will keep the dish less sticky.  Steamed snow peas might have been a nice addition on the side.

There are more beautiful pictures of both recipes on their original blogs, but here is our end result (photo shot just moments before I devoured the entire bowl):

Hone ySeasme Chicken and Easy Fried Rice

Pinterest saves me again in the easy recipe department!  We went to bed happy and well fed after our daily dose of the Tour de France. We may or may not have eaten on the couch. Our house smells like sesame oil this morning which is absolutely delightful.

Happy eating!

 

 

Tonal stripes? Sure. I can do that.

I’m about to discuss putting together a nursery for a half-baked babe. While I realize that my efforts are coming far earlier than needed, as a teacher, the free time in my life is now, not later. Given this, I figured that getting the (figurative) heavy lifting done before returning to the classroom his fall would be wise. I still have a bit of work to do (art for the walls, repainting and repurposing our old bathroom mirror, window treatments, and a couple of small DIY projects), but the nursery is a project now well underway.

Before I even knew whether this baby was a boy or girl, I’d begun pinning beautiful wallpaper patterns on my secret Pinterest board. Wallpaper has really gotten a bum rap over the years. Not only is it notoriously messy and time-consuming to hang, but my own prejudice had that all wallpaper was inherently outdated (ridiculous, I know). As it turns out, there’s far more to wallpaper than borders with ducks and chickens on them. For as much as I love what I saw on sites like Thibaut and in individual pins all over Pinterest, I was overwhelmed. I knew I’d be tackling the project by myself, and I also knew that we had nearly our entire house to paint as well. In the interest of time and my own sanity (and in light of my limited skill set), I decided to save the beautiful paper for another day and experiment instead with expanding my painting skills beyond just a solid-colored wall.

I decided on this tone-on-tone stripe technique, found on This Old House.com. The directions seemed simple enough. Pick and apply a paint color (two coats), then, in whatever geometric pattern is preferred, overlay alternating stripes of this Behr technique glaze (two coats). If a person wants more contrast, (s)he could pick a different color paint for the alternating stripes in a glossier finish (semi-gloss, for example). The result of using just the glaze overlay, the site promised, was a subtle suggestion of a stripe because of the difference in sheen (high gloss for the glazed stripes, eggshell for my chosen base color, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray*).

Here was my approach:

1. Paint the room with the base color. Leave ceiling and baseboard tape in place on wall(s) to be striped.  I elected to stripe only the wall behind baby’s crib.

2. Settle on an uneven number of stripes (vertical, in my case) based on the desired stripe width. Mark the edges of each stripe lightly with pencil hash marks up and down the wall using a pre-measured tape template and laser level. Wall doesn’t divide perfectly? No big deal. Round off the last couple. The eye can’t detect a different of 1/2″. No one will be the wiser.

3. Using wide painter’s tape (I use ScotchBlue tape), tape the OUTER EDGES of each stripe to be glazed (just outside the pencil marks). It’s pretty easy to mess this step up if the tape is not properly placed. Keep reminding yourself of the proper width of each glazed stripe as you move across the wall.

4. As a visual reminder while glazing, mark each stripe that will NOT be glazed with a scrap of tape in a visible spot.

5. Using a credit card edge, burnish each strip of tape firmly into place from top to bottom to ensure hard edges without bleed-through.

6. Based on the desired number of stripes you’ll be double-glazing (NOTE: not the total number of stripes), you can calculate how much glaze to buy. Make sure that the outermost stripes remain in the base color to avoid extra cutting in and waste.

7. Cut in the top and bottom (or left and right end, if horizontal) of each glazed stripe using a good angle brush.

8. Roll each glazed stripe, then return for a second coat, removing the tape immediately after the second coat is applied, being sure to pull the tape away from the edge of the wet glaze.

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This was the look when I was finished. It was indeed a “subtle suggestion.” In fact, for all my perfect technique and beautiful edges, I had to stand at a 30-degree angle to the wall in twilight in order to detect that a stripe even existed. I wanted subtle, but not this subtle.

The following day, I re-taped (yuck). The day after that, I returned to the paint store and moved one step up my paint chip to Sherwin Williams Incredible White (which isn’t really white, in my opinion) in semi-gloss. I cut in a second time, rolled two coats, and pulled the tape during nap time. The result?

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One shade different was the perfect contrast for me– at least for this project. I didn’t need the glaze. The end result is not the beautiful wallpaper, but it is more interesting than a plain wall. Now that I know I can do it, I’m wondering what else I can paint stripes on…

*I use Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore colors a lot, but I always have them matched in Olympic One at Lowe’s. It’s a good paint, covers well, and is much less expensive.

A regular girl, her wonderful husband, a black dog, a baby boy, and a girl on the way.

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