Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Oreos

Apparently, Oreos are celebrating their 100th birthday.

So.... they are on sale (and specially engraved with a birthday design)....which is convenient, because it's also Ryan's birthday.

And Oreos, (though a rare and dangerous purchase for our family) are essential for Ryan's birthday celebrations.  Almost every year, I create some kind of oreo dessert for my love.

Last year it was in a trifle bowl....

The trifle dessert was really delicious and decadent, but so deep and frozen, it was tricky to serve.  This year...a new creation using my (new) springform pan.  Oreo Ice Cream Pie.   An oreo crust (crushed cookies mixed with melted butter and flattened into the pan), vanilla ice-cream frozen into a round ice-cream cake shape, and topped with cool whip and crushed oreos.  I made up my own version, loosely based on other Oreo cookie cakes and pies found on google.  I also watched this video for added confidence.  Mine wasn't exactly like Gretchen Seigchrists's, but the girls watched her video about 10 times while they 'helped' me make it.  

Tonight, we brought it to El Burrito Loco for our traditional Taco Tuesday dinner.  There was plenty of oreo cake to share. We made sure to only bring one (big) piece home.  They honored Ryan with a sombrero, a song, free fried ice-cream, and (his favorite part)...whipped cream spread on his face.  

Another highlight of the birthday dinner: Maya lost her first tooth.  
Quite a day for celebrating in the Corbin home.  

Happy Birthday Oreos!

And happy birthday to my Love.  I am lucky to be yours.  
(And not just because I really like a good excuse to eat oreos)

Monday, February 27, 2012

packing a lunch box, and other small things.

The first time I logged into pinterest, I found this brilliant pin about lunch box ideas.

And this.  Another of my favorite (and first) pinterest discoveries.  Perfectly packaged apple slices.

I know, I know.  When did I turn into such a suburban 'mom' who gets excited about lunch boxes?? 

Source: athomewithrealfood.blogspot.com via Angela on Pinterest

Maya loves her apple slices in her lunchbox everyday.  The multi-level appeal of this treat is so impressive to her...it's a puzzle, it's apple slices, it's a whole apple, and best of all,  the slices don't get brown.

And I immediately started packing Maya's lunches differently.  She loves all the food surprises she finds.  We were only a few weeks into the school year when her lunches were getting kind of repetitive and boring.  I'd been a little creative, I thought, but we had (more than) overdone tabouli and sunbutter sandwiches (even if they were shaped like gingerbread men).   Preparing her lunch has become something special for us both.  I write her simple little messages too, just like my Dad used to do.  At first my messages were mostly just stick people, smiles, and "i <3 U," but now that she can read just about anything, my notes are a little longer.  Communication with my daughter through written words is pretty amazing.  Every day, that twinkle in her eyes (when we share something secret and special between the two of us) seems a little older and more 'knowing'.   She is growing. Fast.  

As a mom, a wife, a teacher (really in any life-role), preparing and repairing things for people out of love has to be something joyful and purposeful and faithful (like cleaning dishes, picking up junk, sorting papers, tuning little violins, answering repeated questions, folding clothes, sorting music, sorting dirty laundry, packing lunches, making meals, ironing, etc.) ....or beautiful things like service and selflessness and gratitude and contentment morph into something ugly like martyrdom, entitlement, bitterness, self-perceived underappreciation, and boredom.  Trust me, I know.  Those little things, ways of being responsible, neat, helpful, consistent, and goal-oriented...they are big.  Each task, an important, faithful, act of love.  

  I'm not really good at this.   I'm really NOT good at this.  Instead of actually living my life and doing the small things that make it work pleasantly for myself and everyone else who lives in my house.  I long to read, to write, to learn, dream about the big things, study my French, or plan (and internet hunt for) beautiful and artistic creations....and sometimes make them, or blog about them.  

In fact, I'm avoiding some of these loving tasks (folding clothes, ironing, organizing papers, picking up junk) at the moment.  

I know I can (and usually do) get it all done in a great flourish of energy and inspiration, but I just can't seem to be consistent.  The small tasks become really big ones before I want (or am forced to) tackle them.  Sometimes I feel hopelessly incurable in this regard.  But I know I'm not.  I'm far too optomistic to accept those hopeless feelings.  I think I might need a self- intervention, though. 

So I'm pondering some resolutions, maybe even some rules for myself.  Any ideas from my more practical, responsible readers?  How do you feed the creative, philosophical, word-loving, beauty-seeking, relational, story-loving part of your soul and still manage to be a responsible human being? 

When I do "figure it all out".... I may even attempt to live by my resolutions a while before blogging about them.   That would take some discipline.  

Though....the blog therapy really works for me.  (At least I like to think it does.)

I'm off to fold laundry.  I promise.  I won't be back again until it's done.  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons

Or...Chicken breasts with mushrooms.  a la Julia Child...sortof.   Made for my almost-birthday boy husband.  He loves mushrooms, so they were an important ingredient for tonight's pre-celebratory dinner.  His real birthday dinner will be Tuesday, and the primary ingredient then will be oreos (for dessert). That's just a given.  Not sure about the meal yet.

I don't think I will ever cook in Mrs. Child's fashion, at least not on any sort of regular basis.  There is something about her meticulous care and time and planning and obsession for finding precisely perfect ingredients and doing each process the very best way every time....that doesn't exactly come naturally for me in the kitchen.  And honestly, this doesn't really bother me (at least not very much).  I do enjoy cooking, and baking especially.  I'm not incredibly adventurous (and also not a detailed meal planner), but have become braver (and a better at planning/cooking) in my late twenties and ....now my ...thirties. (Wow, that sounds disturbing, my "thirties")  Maybe in another season of my life this way of life and cooking will become a priority and a habit.  But for now, it's just not.  

But tonight, I was inspired by her Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons (mostly because I had chicken breast and mushrooms and was dreaming about a certain creamy flavor).  So I made up my own improvised version of her carefully tested and retested-to-predictable-perfection recipe.  She would be horrified, I'm sure.  I know this because I just finished her 'memoir' My Life in France.  In fact, I feel like we're sort-of friends now.  She might not know me, but I certainly know her.  And I think we could tolerate one another.  We'd find a few things in common.  I like honesty.  And she's pretty direct and opinionated.  I like to listen and learn, and she would have great stories to tell and advice to give.  I did love her book.  I could probably read it again, just to learn and retain more of her vast knowledge of french cuisine.  And to imagine I am living in her parisian flat, speaking fluent french, and eating delicious food all the time.  I certainly am not interested in a life-swap.  I know I have it far better. 

And now....my 'lesser' (but still quite delicious) version of "Supremes"...

1 Chicken breast, cut into strips
some (1 tablespoon?) butter
a tiny bit of olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper 
dried basil, oregano, parsley, garlic powder
1 pour of chicken broth (1/2 cup?)
1 package sliced mushrooms (already sliced, I know, lazy, probably 'tasteless' in Julia's opinion, but easy)
2 handfulls fresh spinach leaves 
1/3 cup white wine (I used Reisling, but a dry white wine would probably be better)
1/4 cup cream

Coat the chicken breast in lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and italian seasonings, cut it into strips, then sautee the chicken strips in butter.  Then, add chicken broth, wine, and mushrooms and simmer for a bit. Next, add spinach, simmer a bit more...and just before serving, stir in the cream.  Serve over angel hair pasta.  

I loved the lemon-buttery flavor of the sauce.  I think I'm going to try a chicken and gnocchi soup with spinach and the same kind of base.
And for dessert, puff-pastry brushed with egg and sugar, baked until puffy and golden and crumbling with flakes....with crushed strawberries drizzled on top.


My brain isn't quite as tired as it should be at 12:22 am.  I've tricked it with some caffeine (consumed a little too late at night) and now it is tricking me out of sleeping.  But a spontaneous and rare after-church evening spent around a table of friends sipping coffee was well worth my current caffeine 'buzz.'  I did switch to chamomile tea after only one cup of the strong stuff.  

But it's not just the drug, I feel deeply content and grateful...for friends and family, for people that love me, and people that let me love them.

I always relish being with my little Saturday-night church family and the larger Church (and church) family we belong to.  Tonight, looking around our table at church, and again around the other table (after church)... I just felt so 'lucky'.  To belong to so many loving people (the ones present and so many that weren't).  To share our laughter and happiness, our shared memories, our hopes, plans, ideas, frustrations, weaknesses, sorrows, disappointments...it seems a bit too wonderful.  Far more than I deserve. 

I get to share life with them. 

Their authenticity and courage through disapointment and loss and sorrow, as well as their steadiness and humility in success and times of blessing... teach me so much about love and life.  They listen to me and take my silly ramblings so seriously.   They genuinely celebrate my joys, and bear my burdens too.

Being 'grateful for friends' seems a little cliche, a bit too obvious for a blog post, maybe.  But I am. Grateful.  Warm and full.    


I am painting a slightly 'soft-focus' lens version of the evening.  There were, in actuality, seven small children wildly taking advantage of a few unstructured hours together in a big house (and all were desperately trying to enjoy a major bed-time extension without falling apart emotionally).  

Still.  It was delightful.  And, hey....maybe the kids will sleep-in a bit in the morning?  

Friday, February 24, 2012

[French for beginners] 145 minutes to learn French grammar

Il n'est pas tres amusante ou tres interessant, mais il est tres bon. Je comprends et je parle un peu le francais!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Books I'm reading these days.

Sometimes, I'm not great at concentrating on one thing at a time.  This can be a problem.
It can also make for a great reading list.

If only I could finish one....

Sunday, February 05, 2012

a february flourish

Yesterday was one of those energetic, sun-filled days brimming with people and good things.  On my calendar, it didn't seem possible (to actually do all the things we were committed to), and I was a little nervous about attempting it, but somehow it worked, splendidly.

The girls woke up first (of course), playing and thumping around the house, gathering toys and setting up little "hide-outs"... until they got thirsty and hungry enough to barrel into our room asking loudly for some apple juice and 'frosting cereal' (Sophie's pretty serious about her daily frosted-mini-wheats).  We had whole-wheat apple and flax seed pancakes instead.  Saturdays deserve special breakfasts, I think.  Those extra hours (before anyone has to be dressed and prepared and somewhere-other-than-home) allow for a sunny meal at the table...usually waffles, pancakes, sausage souffle, or york-shire pudding.

Maya and Sophie usually have "sleep-overs" on the weekends.  We pull out the trundle bed in Maya's room and they stay up a little later, whispering silly things in the dark.  Sometimes, Ryan and I listen for a while by the door, stiffling our laughter and trying to remember everything.  I don't remember hardly any of their silly imaginings or conversations, but I remember the feeling of that shared moment, theirs and ours.

After our slow morning at home, we volunteered at a Symphony pre-concert event.  While clowns rolled around on unicycles, making balloon animals, giant animal-costumed characters roamed around the lobby delighting (and terrorizing some) children.  Pop-corn was popping, animal tattoo hand-puppets were being applied to children's hands, and I was helping children (and adults) try violins and cellos at the "Instrument Petting Zoo."  Maya and Sophie loved the whole thing. It looked like spring outside the windows of the Frauenthal lobby.  The Muskegon 'Snowfest' made the downtown a busy place (a rarity), street volleyball and chili cook-offs and people (sans the February winter coats) and bright tents filled the streets.

The symphony concert, though quite enchanting and beautiful, proved challenging for our 3 and 5 year olds.  Maya might have done okay if she could have seen better, but with her patch covering her good eye, I doubt she could see any details from our balcony seats.  Hearing the music might have also helped, but a terrible ear infection this week made her unable to hear the subtle sounds of the string section.  Eventually, the dark, and the music, the exhaustion from a busy day, and my fingers 'playing' the notes on her arm put her to sleep.  But both of them managed to sit relatively still and quiet through the first half.  We didn't attempt the second half.

After the symphony we raced to a 'Mr. Potato Head Birthday Party' for one of our favorite three-year-olds.  
By the time the house was filled with many of our closest friends, it was time to leave for church music practice and Saturday-night church.  Some kind friends volunteered to keep our kids and bring them later, so they didn't have to miss the rest of the party. Which turned out to be quite the event (including a special drive-by visit from a real fire-man with his firetruck delivering fire helmets to all the children)! 

At church, Ryan and I and our friends made music together (which is always good for my soul and mind), we played and sang to each other and to our creator... violin and 2 accoustic guitars... 

...heal my heart and make it clean
open up my eyes to the things unseen
show me how to love like You have loved me
break my heart for what breaks yours....
...then sings my soul, my Savior, God to Thee
How great Thou art...

After church, we ate tacos at El Burrito Loco around a wild table full of children and laughter, then headed home for a late bed-time (and for me....a late-night run and some yoga, then to bed with peach tea, new pajamas, a book light, and my Conversational French book.)

This may be the start of a flourish on the blog too....  I have lots of things to post about. Lots of things to be grateful for.  Did I tell you I'm going to Paris?  I am.  And I have lots to say about that.  Stay tuned.

Or don't.  It could be a long wait.