Sunday, January 29, 2012

Two Hour Makeover

I got bored today, something my husband, Pete, dreads.  Because when I get bored, I get busy doing.... something.  I rearrange drawers, tear apart bedrooms or paint rooms.

And that's what I decided to do today.  I painted the bathroom.  For, like, the fourth time.

Since we bought this house I've averaged painting that darned bathroom every other year.  What does that say about me?

More importantly, this whole thing drives Pete batty.  Mostly because I make a mess and don't always finish the project.  But, he's learned to not put up roadblocks (that only makes me more determined) and just walk away.  He hides in another part of the house and hopes I never need him.

One time I got a bug up my booty to strip the front door.  It had layers and layers of paint on it.  He begged me not to.  He told me it was much harder than I imagined and it would take a long time to complete.  Then he made the mistake of saying, "Don't do it, honey.  You can't do it."

Oops.  That was mistake.

Sadly, when someone says "you can't", I decide, "oh yes I can" (insert hand on hips and head bob).

So when Pete had to leave for some kid-related adventure that took about 4 hours that day, I just KNEW I would get that door done before he got back.  Why not?  People on the internet said you could.

A year and a half later, that door hung on our house half-stripped and looking like termites attacked it.  I was hoping the neighbors thought I was being rustic.

So, today was, "I gotta paint the bathroom".  It was a lovely shade of mellow spring green (yuck) and I wanted it go to a dark gray.

Before with the lovely green walls.  The blue is painter's tape

Another "before
Pete said he thought it was a bad idea because it was so dark.  Mistake.  I told myself, "you'll see".  And I got busy.

It's not a big bathroom.  Sadly.  So it didn't take very long.  Two hours at best.  But what do you think?  I dig it.

And guess what?  The hubby thinks it looks good, too.  Ha!  Told ya.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Roast your own almonds

My friend Shelley is a nut.  Well, a nut freak.  And, frankly, so am I.  I don't love nuts in my baked goods so much. What I really like is a nutty taste.  Peanut butter makes me swoon (I know, it's a legume, but you get what I'm saying, right?).  Almond butter is delummy.  Almonds, I think, are delicious in general.  But man, are they expensive.  And, if you buy the already roasted and salted ones, they are often too salty.

So Shelley showed me how she roasts her almonds.  It's so simple it makes me laugh out loud.  And it makes me and my belly really happy.  And an extra benefit - it's economical and healthier than many other options.

That's because you start with raw, unsalted almonds.  They sell them in nice big packages for about $3.99 at my grocery store in the produce section, of all places.

Pour a handful or so onto a microwavable plate.  Drizzle on some olive oil and mix 'em up with your fingers so some oil gets on all the almonds.

Pop the plate in the microwave and cook them for 3 minutes.  That's approximate.  You sort of need to play this one by ear.  I like them cooked for 3:30 minutes, but that sometimes means I get a more burnt almond - which I really don't mind too much.  It also depends on the strength of your microwave.

Then, salt them with as much or as little salt as you like.  I usually use kosher or sea salt.  I just like the texture better, but table salt works fine.

And here's the hard part.  Walk away and let them cool down.  Sure, you can eat them hot.  But, I think because the moisture still in the nut, they'll be kinda chewy.  Yuck.  Ten minutes later, they are fabulous.  Heck, when I get up in the morning, I often pop a plate of them in the microwave and let 'em sit until they are cool and then throw them in a little ziploc-style baggie and take them to work to snack on all day.

They are nutty and yummy and worth a try if you, like me, are a little nutty about nuts.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Growing Up and Up and Up

A few minutes ago, my baby, Quinn (he's 12, not a baby, I realize) walked up to me and asked a question.  I have no idea what it was.  I just knew I was staring this man-child straight in the eyeballs.  My only response was, "Are you taller than me?".

He's not.  But give him a couple of days.

For the past two months, Quinn is growing like a weed.  A half inch to an inch every few weeks.  I know because he asks me to measure him virtually every morning.

He's taller in the morning, he tells me.  The spine hasn't yet condensed.

Quinn, as I mentioned, is the baby.  My 14-year-old, Graham, grew past me about a year ago.  Left me in the dust at least 4 inches ago.  And I'm not tiny.  I'm 5'7" (in the morning, anyway).  He looks like someone took him and, like taffy, just pulled.  Nothing on his bones.  No meat.  No muscle.  Just legs.  Lots and lots of legs.  He runs cross country, which makes so much sense because of all those legs.

But Quinn's question in the kitchen happened to come after I had just walked through the hallway where Graham was working on homework.  Slouched in his seat a bit, he had looked up at me and I saw not the baby I once knew, cuddled and swathed, but a dude. He was a total dude sitting there twiddling his pencil in his fingers while he studied.  A total, handsome dude.  Who just happened, this day, to make a big decision as to which high school he'd like to attend.  Not an easy choice for this child who likes to please everyone.  But he did it.

And this also falls on the day that the 16-year-old in our family, Kristen, got her braces off and went from being a beautiful girl to an absolutely beautiful, stunning young woman.  She's not taller than me and never will be.  But we try not to rub that in.

And it also happens to fall on a day when my youngest, Quinn, had to call the eldest, Brent (who is "away" at college - as in 10 miles "away") and ask him if he could attend an event with him on Sunday (an NFL playoff day mind you).  Not only did the college kid call back.  He did something even more amazing.  He said, "Yeah.  Sure".  Ah-maze-ing!

You really may not fully appreciate how amazing that is until you've had a kid go to college and forget about your family almost entirely.  Until you do, please understand, this is a small miracle.

I've decided that this must be a "rite of passage" day in our family.  A day everyone grew up (literally and figuratively) a little bit.

Makes a mom happy and sad all at once.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Meet The Family

Over time, I'll be writing about those who fill my days with love and joy.

I'm talking about my dogs and the chickens.

Just kidding.  My children don't really love being talked about publicly.  I've learned that, the hard way, over time.  My husband is what we term "shy".  It's okay.  The fact that I'm not makes up for all of them.

Meanwhile, you must meet the family.  Starting with the dogs.

There is the patriarch, Buster, whose belly is large and his age is unknown.  He was an adult dog my husband adopted when he was a bachelor.  That's how old he is.  He's sort of a medical mystery at this point.  We keep thinking he'll drop dead any minute, yet there he is, stinky and tubby and lovable.  The smell, we've convinced ourselves, gives him character.  His breed, you ask?  In honor of all those popular mixed breeds, we're calling him a Shepherdlabricollie.  He's a mutt.

Speaking of mutts, meet The Griffer.  His name is really Griffin.  Ask my husband and he'll say he's named for famed Ohio State football player, and two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin.  Ask me and the kids and we'll tell you the truth.  He's named for Griffyndor, the fictional "house" Harry Potter finds himself in in all those wonderful HP books.  He is a Goldendoodle (see, trendy mixed breed name). He is my baby.  My love.  My doggie.

In fact, I got him almost four years ago when the eldest of our children was turning 14 and into a teenager.  I could see that it would be the beginning of angst and anger the teen years surely bring, so I bought an insurance policy of "love".  I got me a dog.  Griffin loves me through thick and thin (literally).  He never misses a chance to have me cuddle with him.  He is a giant, furry baby.  And now that my real baby is 12 and not spending as much time cuddling with his dear old mom, Griffin will have to do.

Then there are the chickens.  I don't really love them like the dogs.  Not even a little bit.  They are kinda cool.  They are certain funny and often funny looking and I consider at least one of them beautiful.  The birds are, in order of arrival in our brood;

Raisin - my youngest named her.  I don't know why he picked raisin.

Yolko - get the pun?  Yoko, but not really?  Egg yolk?  She and Raisin are Golden Comets.  They are excellent layers and lay brown eggs virtually every day of the year.

Goldilocks (i.e. Goldie) - she's an Americauna.  I was told she would lay pink eggs.  They really look more like cream to me.  She doesn't lay very often.  And hasn't since last fall.  We're thinking she may visit a farm soon.

And Elfiba.  We named her after the character in Wicked because of the greenish-black feathers.  She's the one I think is beautiful.  She's fat and pretty and she lets us hold her.  Goldie runs away like a freak. The farm is getting closer for her.  Elfi is cool.  She lays big brown eggs and I think she's pretty awesome.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

How many times have you heard that?  It must be true.

I am constantly on a quest to lose what I feel is about 10 pounds.   And every trainer, nutritionist and gym rat tells me, 'you gotta eat a great breakfast'.

So, I've learned to love oatmeal.  In all forms.  I make a wicked baked oatmeal, which I will definitely share later.  Delicious.  But mostly, I nuke a quarter cup of quick oats, add some almond butter and splenda and call this a done deal.

But as I said, I'm always on a quest.

So, at the gym the other day, I'm eating oatmeal and this 5'11" amazing blond instructor is creating a concoction fit for the birds.  Yet, I'm interested.  It was a combination of hemp seeds (yes, that hemp), chia seeds (as in, 'cha cha cha chia'), goji berries and almond milk.  Now, I like nutty flavors and textures. I love nuts.  And this combination was right in my taste and texture wheelhouse.

Plus, she says it fills her up all day.

All day?  Awesome.  I'm in.

A trip to the local Whole Foods bulk department and I left with Almond Milk (vanilla) chia and hemp seeds.  No goji berries. They were out.  So, I got raspberries.  I like them better anyway.

I've come up with my own little muesli of sorts, so here is what I"m eating (right now, as it happens) for breakfast:

2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp hemp seeds (if I test positive for drugs I will be so mad)
2 tbsp flax seeds
1/4 C vanilla almond milk (plus more because all those seeds suck up the milk in a hurry and it's like glue)

This will NOT be for everyone.  No doubt.  And, I'm not an extreme eater, let me just state that clearly.  But I'm giving it a shot.  Say, a week or two.  It's supposed to make me not jones out for food in an hour or two and give me energy.  We will see.  I'll keep you, as they say, posted.

Meanwhile, I need some floss.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why Call This Blog The Crazy Baby Elephant?

Because, that's who I am.  And, because it's what my husband suggested and it seemed just perfect.

See, I was a pretty clumsy kid.  A tomboy at my best, I had scrapes, scratches, bruises and bumps covering any part of my body not covered in dirt.  My mother tried to wrench any kind of grace into me by putting me in ballet classes, jazz, tap.  She even threatened finishing school.  Nothing worked.

She called me, lovingly, her Baby Elephant.  Not because I was big.  Because I was always falling or knocking something over.  If someone was going to knock over their milk at dinner, it was me.  If we went into a gift shop, I'd inevitably drop the glass figurine.

My husband added the Crazy to my Baby Elephant title.  And really, who could blame him?

After all, I'm like a whirling dervish.  I've always got a project (or two or three) going.  I'm cooking, creating, sewing, knitting, gardening.  I forced him to build a chicken coop so I could get, of course, chickens.  Why not?  Martha Stewart has them.  If she's got 'em why not me?

I wake up in the middle of the night with what my mom would term "ants in my pants".  I have to get up and do the laundry.  Bake cookies or oatmeal at 4:30 in the morning.  Build a headboard for my kid's room.  Why?  Why not?  Sitting and just watching TV doesn't really happen for me.  My hands are knitting or crocheting or looking through a design magazine for inspiration.

So, laid back is not my forte.

I'm pretty sure my kids, my husband, even my dogs think I'm a little nutty at times.  The chickens don't care.  They're not that smart.  People I work with (yes, I have a real job) know I'm crazy, but love when I bring in things I'm testing in the kitchen.  So, they put up with me.

And by the way, I don't live on a farm.  I live in a lovely neighborhood in the metropolis known as Cincinnati, Ohio.  On less than an acre of land we have chickens, dogs and a pretty nice garden that feeds us some delicious veggies and herbs.

Which is great 'cuz I love to cook.  Cook, bake, chop, saute.  I love it.  I love cookbooks and celebrity chefs.  I get chef crushes and fall in love with types of cooking.  Ina Garten, Lucinda Scala Quinn, Bobby Flay, the list goes on and on.

I am passionate about virtually anything that has to do with "HOME".  Decorating, cooking, gardening, photography,creating and last but not least, my husband and children.

You could say I'm a Jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.  And you'd be right.  And, yes I should have named my blog that.  And I would have.  But it was taken.

Strangely, The Crazy Baby Elephant wasn't.  Amazing luck, huh?

It's possible, quite possible, no one will ever read this but me (and I'll force my husband).  That's okay.  But I hope someone finds it.  Finds inside some inspiration, humor, maybe even an a-ha moment.