Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Recipe // Summertime Garden Primavera

Because it was to be our very first summer at our new house, we decided against planting a garden for a variety of reasons.  First, we thought we better focus on growing a lawn before a vegetable garden.  And second, we needed to live here a summer to get a feel for logistics.  Where will the kids play catch?  Where should the swing set go?  Where will we get the most sun?  Needless to say, we missed our garden a lot this summer, missed the satisfaction of growing our own food and the challenge of keeping it healthy and thriving throughout the summer months.  

We've been making due with frequent Saturday morning trips to the Farmer's Market, and were giddy when my brother's girlfriend's mom, who runs a substantial Farmer's Market business, sent Katie to our house with a box full of colorful vegetables last weekend.  I always love the challenge of finding new recipes to use up the produce before it goes bad, and love a good end-of-the-week stir-fry or primavera that uses just about anything.  So in case you have found yourself in that end-of-summer garden slump, with tomatoes coming out of your ears and no more ideas for those peppers, here is a delicious pasta recipe that is about as good the next day as it is the night you serve it.  

Garden Primavera // 

1 lb. pasta (I used penne noodles)
4 tbs. butter (I always use real butter)
3 tbs. olive oil
1/2 of yellow onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced (or a couple of heaping spoonfuls of that minced garlic you can find in your local grocer's produce aisle
4-6 cups of vegetables, depending on size

***For this recipe, I used one head of broccoli (chopped), a bunch of mini carrots (thinly sliced), one medium zuchini (sliced and halved), two small summer squash (also sliced and halved), and a red bell pepper, thinly sliced.  You could also use asparagus, mushrooms, other peppers, etc., pretty much whatever you have on hand.  The amount of veggies doesn't really matter, but you may want to adjust the amount of sauce you add in later.

The Sauce:

1/4 cup of dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
1/2 cup of chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
5-6 basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas (if you don't have them, don't sweat it)

1.  First, prep your veggies.  Set aside. 

2.  Heat 3 tbsp. butter with 3 tbsp. of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for a minute or two, until they start to turn translucent.

3.  Start to throw in your vegetables, starting with the ones that will take longer to cook.  I threw in my broccoli and carrots first, cooked for a few minutes, then added my squash, zucchini, and pepper.  After they are cooked, transfer the veggies to a plate.

4.  Add pasta to slightly salted boiling water and cook to al dente.

5.  To make the sauce, pour 1/4 cup white wine into the skillet.  Add 1/2 cup chicken broth, and the remaining 1 tbsp. butter and scrape the bottom of the skillet to pull up the flavor left from the veggies.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until the liquid starts to thicken.

6.  Add 1 cup whipping cream and 1 cup half-and-half.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add chopped basil and frozen peas, and stir.  Dump veggies back in the sauce and heat on low until your pasta is cooked.

7.  Drain pasta and throw in the skillet (if there's room!).  Mix pasta, veggies, and sauce and top with more parmesan, salt, pepper, and basil.    

Bon Appetite!  


Monday, August 24, 2015

You Are My Main Course...An Anthem for a New School Year

And just like that, another school year has begun.  I've been doing the-first-day-of-school thing straight since 1990, the year I started Kindergarten.  Packing my bag, planning my outfit, laying awake the night before with my stomach tied up in knots praying it will be the best year yet.  Whether it was a little girl in a new pair of Keds on the bus my grandpa used to drive, a high school girl driving her other grandpa's black Oldsmobile to school every day, that college freshman with ten minutes to get from the WRC to Lang Hall, or that first year teacher just down College Hill, standing in front of those seniors hoping I could get them to love Catcher in the Rye as much as I did.  No matter the age or the year, there's always something fantastic and equally scary about the first day of school.  It's a blank canvas, the perfect opportunity to start fresh and fill the pages of a crisp notebook with a unique story and lifelong memories you won't ever forget.  But anytime there's change, fear often accompanies it.  Fear of fitting in and making friends, of handling course loads and managing stress, of meeting deadlines and seeing evidence of learning in my students.  

And now that I'm a mom and a teacher, managing my own first-day jitters with my kids', I juggle a whole new set of emotions as we say goodbye to one season and ready ourselves for a new one.  It's always hard to say goodbye to summer, a season that allows me to spend so much time living slow days with my kids with fewer emails, meetings, and deadlines.  And every semester, as I start to feel my plate fill up once again, I wonder how I'm going to do it all.  I feel that stretch of busy start to loom over our family, and that same feeling of stress as I start new to-do lists and attempt to manage it all with mom things like meal plans and shared Google calendars and structured routines.  Since 1990, I'm afraid I've always been plagued with the desire to do it all, and do it all well.  It's a blessing and a curse and something I continue to work on with every first day that comes my way.

But last Wednesday, I was reminded that the key to managing all these first day jitters isn't really that hard.  It was a day that didn't go as planned, with all-day meetings that turned into more items to write on the to-do list and none to cross off, aka, my idea of a completely unproductive day.  My heart raced as I drove to pick up the kids, ninety minutes later than I had planned, and I was a mess of stress as I made it home that night.  I felt like we were starting off on the completely wrong foot and my patience was already thinned and my nerves shot before supper was even on the table.  As we cleaned up the kitchen, I contemplated two choices of how to spend the rest of the night.  One side of me said to punt - to turn on Dora, sit next to the kids with my computer on my lap and start over tomorrow.  Or, put it all away, choose them, and then start over tomorrow.  Sometimes, it's okay to punt, but this is the beginning of the year, we've got a story to write, and Dora is absolutely not happening on the first page.  

"Hey Cruz, want to play restaurant?"

For an hour and a half, the four of us played together.  I brought the cash register up from upstairs, got Cruz and Mila each their own little notebook and pencil, and assigned roles to each of us: Beau and Mila would be our customers, Cruz the host and waiter, Me, the restaurant chef.  Cruz took orders from Daddy, I cooked (and sorted play food) in the kitchen (a win win!), and soon our simple play morphed into this elaborate skit where Beau and the kids escaped each time to our closet, only to present themselves in a new get up with a different accent.  We had pirates, cowboys, archaeologists, and senior citizens visit our restaurant that night, and before too long, my stress was replaced with sheer joy as I watched Mila play along in her dark-rimmed glasses and Cruz completely overjoyed to have both his parents in his element.  We all went to bed happy that night, with plans for many more restaurant nights this school year, and I was reminded of the important lesson that as long as my family is the main course, everything else is dessert.  

I'm writing this today so I can reread this throughout the year, for I know the to-dos will pile up with the laundry, the deadlines will leave me feeling stressed, and there will be days when I punt, choose Dora, and feel like a poor mom because of it.  Those are the days I want to reread this, to look at those three faces that mean more to me than anything in this world, and know that creating special, simple, happy moments with them makes everything else feel like dessert.  The longer I've done this parenting thing and the opportunity I've had to work full-time and have my summers to be at home has only taught me that it's not the number of minutes you have with your babies, but what you do with those minutes that matters.  If I have one anthem for this year, it's to make those minutes my main course - to look at them and listen to their stories, play hard, and create moments that make us feel safe, together, and happy.  The first-days and crisp notebooks indeed fill up fast, and I want my kids' pages to include stories upon stories of restaurant play and pirate adventures, of a family safe, together, and happy. 

Wishing everyone a safe and happy school year, and a Facebook feed filled with sweet souls who will have the best year yet.  

Pictures from my feed...

Mila saw us taking pictures and came barreling through the house with her backpack, stuffed with board books from church yesterday that made it near impossible for her to carry.  This wild woman could probably take on preschool herself, but fortunately for all of us she has to wait a few years.  Happy first day, Cruz Man!


"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2015"

Cruz: It's a new start for Cruz today, his first day in the "5s" with the famous, Mrs. W, and his first day of MWF preschool.  He'll be attending preschool with Ms. Kenzie and Ms. Amanda three afternoons a week and spend the rest of the week learning with his friends and Mrs. W.  He's more than ready for this year ahead and I have a feeling it's going to be one filled with growth and learning.  

Mila: We celebrated a man we all love very much on Saturday.  Papa Merle turned 80 years old last Thursday and we spent the day in Allison eating wonderful food, listening to lots of stories from Grandpa's childhood, and soaking up the blessing he has been and continues to be for all of us.     

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cruz's T-Ball Season

Soon after Beau and I got engaged, I asked his mom if I could go through some of their old pictures to scan some of them for a slideshow to show at our wedding.  And there's something about seeing your future husband as a baby to make you fast forward and think all sorts of things.  I remember falling more in love with him when I saw just how adorable he was when he was little.  His dimples were as defined when he was four as they are today and his eyes were sparkly blue and full of mischief (a lot like someone else I know today :).  His smile was just as I assumed it would look - fun, full of charm, and a little bit wild.  I remember thinking I would have probably had a mad crush on him if we were in high school together, and that he probably drove the teachers crazy.  And then I came across this picture...

...and my heart skipped a beat.  I dreamed about a little boy in a t-ball uniform, hopefully not this awful green color, but with a little face that resembled this one a lot.  I dreamed about his daddy coaching him just like my dad always did, and me in the bleachers with a full heart and a purse full of snacks.  I dreamed about being a mommy, about summer days at the pool, and nights at the ballpark, about a little boy in cute baseball pants, pep talks before and after the game, with ice cream to celebrate afterwards.  

Fast forward about nine years later... a little boy in a t-ball uniform, yes, that same awful green color his dad wore (God has a sense of humor), with a little face that resembles his dad, but looks a lot like his mommy, too.  A little boy whose dad is not his only coach, but his Uncle Jordan, too.  And, his cousin Charly is on his team.  His very first team, the Waterloo As, a team who learned a lot and made all of us laugh every Monday and Wednesday night.

Some of my favorite memories from this season include Cruz moon-walking to first base, conversing with the opposing team while he waited on base, attempting to run after and field nearly every ball, and actually paying attention when Beau put him on first the last inning of his last game.  Beau got quite the response from Facebook after posting a series of "Scouting Reports" after every game.  They seem to sum up Cruz's first t-ball season quite well, so I will let them do the talking.  

"His first game was, in the words of one observer, amazingly breath taking. Not only did he have his glove on the correct hand (sometimes), but he also killed it on the photos.  Scouting update:
Seems to be developing strong power to the pull side. Especially the weed pull side. Even though hitting off a tee, he has great pitch perception. I know that doesn't make sense, but the great ones never do.
  He fields the ball cleanly and throws to bases well. Sort of. He seems to beat out the doggy pile and throws like a sorority girl. A SORORITY GIRL BRINGING THE HEAT.  Kind of.  He eats tacos well... cheese quesadillas.  That's like a taco. It's a flat taco with no meat. BUT HE COULD FILL OUT.  And, he looks cute in a hat. Very important."

"Tonight's update on the #1 amateur prospect, Cruz Jorgensen, features the word commitment. Not only did Cruz play a dominant 1-2ndish base, but he showed some amazing commitment. After taking a scorching liner off the shoulder while drawing in the dirt (he's a Renaissance kid, not just an amazing athlete) he smothered the next ball hit his way. Not only did he knock down the ball, he also collapsed on it and kind of laid on it. No passed balls with this elite prospect.

I am sure you have seen it on Sportscenter, but Cruz also did the moonwalk from first to second. HAVE YOU EVER MOONWALKED ON GRAVEL? THAT'S SERIOUS AGILITY!

Cruz isn't the only amazing talent on the team. One of our girls got a double by running directly to second base, with the bat. WE ARE CHANGING THE GAME on the Monday/Wednesday 5:30 A's. She later cried when someone fielded a ball in front of her, so you know she has passion for the game. 

So really, we have 3 games left and the amount of pro scouts has been disappointing. We would even welcome college scouts from elite programs at this point. We will also be open to shoe deals (looking at you Nike)."

"Prospect update:

A grandmother of one of our team members brought cookies today. It reminded me of what t-ball is really about. It's a chance for kids to have fun learning about a sport while the coaches are bribed into accepting below market deals for elite talent. Sorry lady, but I realize that you are probably a scout from the Yankees getting ready to offer Cruz a developmental deal. To think...

Cruz showed HUSTLE tonight. Not only did he nearly field a grounder but he also talked to a kid on third base about who knows what the entire time he was on third. Mind games, baby! I couldn't hear anything he was saying but I bet he was in that kid's head.
One kid legitimately hit a ball into the outfield tonight. Just smashed it! That may have been Cruzy B Jorgensen! It might not have too, but again, I am not a scout.

Have you ever seen a group of 4-6 year olds rally around a cause? Have you ever seen a group of kids decide to support and lift up their fellow kid because he is such a singular talent that they all want to be a part of his glory? I am not saying that Cruz's teammates did that tonight, but i am saying that they shared helmets pretty well and that's almost the same thing. 

Look friends, next Monday and Wednesday are your last free looks until we take the signing private. I hope you keep it as secretive as I am because the bidding war that is about to go down will be super stressful. Game on!"

"Tonight was the last night of an era. I think we can all agree the Cedar Valley shed a collective tear as mega-prospect, Cruz Jorgensen manned first base for the first and last time in 2015.  Did he flash some serious leather at first base? You know it. Did he run sideways to first after he hit? You betcha. Did he find a rock with polka dots and leave the dugout to show his mom? Your damn right he did.
But it didn't stop there! He also found the plastic collar from a Gatorade bottle and a cool stick. Now, I don't want to read into things, but I am pretty sure he was assigning a deep symbolic value to these items. The stick being a symbol of the roots of the game he is so passionate about that he only asked what time we could leave three times. The Gatorade collar symbolized the never ending cycle of the game and the endless pursuit of perfection, even when it means facing towards the batter when you aren't done drawing your X to designate your defensive position. The rock with polka dots represented a rock with polka dots. It was a pretty cool rock.

Amazingly Cruz was not signed to any endorsements or player development contracts. Look, I am as surprised by that as you are. Apparently scouts are terribly lazy and wouldn't know talent if it knocked on their door. 

We did have Popsicles after the game however, and that's pretty good, too."

It was a good season, Cruz!  Can't wait to see what next year brings. :)


Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Birthday Weekend

We celebrated my 31st birthday last week with so many of my favorite things, as well as a few surprises from the two boys in my life.  While I was at a meeting for work the day before, Beau surprised Cruz and snuck him out of daycare for a fun morning just the two of them.  Cruz picked out a few gifts for me, they baked a cake together, painted a sign, and documented the whole thing with my camera because Beau knew I would appreciate the pictures!  This was supposed to all be a secret; however, Cruz is definitely not who I would suggest going to with your deepest and darkest!  The minute I pulled in the garage, he met me at the car and informed me that he and daddy were not baking me a cake and wrapping up my presents. :)


Thursday was my birthday and we had an easy going day with lots of family and lots of food, two of my favorite things!  Mom came and met us at Panera for lunch, then Beau took the afternoon off and the four of us headed to The Falls for the afternoon.  It was nice to have one last afternoon at the pool just the four of us before packing away those swim passes for another year.  I've loved our pool days so much this summer and am so proud of my two little fish.  
While the kids napped, Beau and I got ready for a night out just the two of us.  But not without a little celebration at home first.  We had cake before supper, as all good birthday celebrations require, and Cruz loved helping me open up my gifts he so affectionately picked out himself.  My favorites had to be my pink bordered mirror for the bathroom (it's actually a locker mirror, complete with suction cups on the back), and my sweet birthday card he filled out himself, asking Beau how to write, "I love you, my darling" on the inside.  I'm quite sure I drop a lot of balls as a parent, but one thing I'm quite confident I've taught my children is how to celebrate special days.  Cruz knocked it out of the park and his daddy didn't do too bad either.  He made me a reclaimed wood bathtub caddy and gave me one of my favorite albums, I and Love and You, on vinyl.

While Mary from daycare came and stayed with the kids, Beau and I enjoyed a night on the rooftop at Montage.  It was the perfect night for it, and we took our time, ordered slow, and savored every single bite.  I decided that their raspberry chipolte pasta over spinach noodles is my choice for my last supper, complete with the single chocolate truffle they surprised me with for dessert.  Afterwards, we strolled down Main Street, stopped in Luna for a bottle of wine, and went back to our house to sit on our deck and talk about big and small plans to conquer in this decade or so.  

After a fish fry and a super fun night with lots of new neighbors on Friday, we invited my family over Saturday for one of my very favorite themed dinners.  We once again got out the old outdoor burner and steamer pot and had ourselves a family style seafood boil.  I love this for so many reasons.  Instead of everyone spending half the day making a side dish, everyone instead pitched in and brought a pound of seafood.  We threw in sweet corn, smoked sausage, red potatoes, shrimp, mussels, and two kinds of crab legs.  The only preparation was a cute galvanized tin tray I stocked with lots of seafood fixins - cocktail sauce, clarified butter, lemon, hot sauce, and paper towels, and lemon and lavender infused cake I completely botched the morning of!  Thankfully, I have a mom who swooped in and made it all better, with my favorite coconut cake, a bowl of coleslaw, and the prettiest dessert plates that have been on my list from Anthropologie for a long time.  

She even eats lemons. :)

We had quite the feast!  And my favorite part?  Four generations of family seated around a table now big enough to fit us all, laughing at our crab leg techniques and celebrating when some Iowa kid managed to pull out a large chunk of amazingly delicious crab.  It was all SO good and I don't know why we don't pick up a pound of snow crab more often.  

It was a great 31st birthday and a great way to celebrate the end of this summer season.  Maybe that's why my birthday always feels a little bittersweet, for it always falls at a time of transition and change.  But I wouldn't want to do these years with anyone else but them.  My people.     

And thanks for all the pictures, Beau, a present in itself.  It's so important for mommies to get in front of that camera, too. 



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