Goodbye, Friend

 

We lost a very dear friend last week.  I needed a few days to process things before I wanted to talk about it.  Ivan passed away on August 9th, 2012.  We had just celebrated his 3rd birthday last month.

I am devastated.  He seemed perfectly healthy when I fed him his dinner and said goodnight on Tuesday.  Wednesday morning he looked so terrible, we rushed to the vet.  She took him in the back, ran some tests, did x-rays, and everything was normal, save for him being very dehydrated.  I thought that was good news, that he would be fine. I set him up in his carrier, said “see you later”, and went about my day.

Later, she called to tell us that he was looking better, but they wanted to keep him overnight just in case.

Thursday morning I had a missed call from her, and called back right away; thrilled that he got come home so soon.  But the news I received was the exact opposite.  Physically, Ivan would never be coming home.

The shock, complete and utter shock, has worn off, but not the sadness. My furry friends hold such a respected place in my family, and a tender place in my heart.

It is particularly breaking my heart that I didn’t get to say goodbye.  I had no idea he was going to leave this world.  He barely got an extra head pat because I was running around after Simon.

Speaking of the munchkin, I never imagined having to go through this.  Not being able to explain to my son where his friend is.  Ivan was obviously around since the day Simon came home from the hospital.  When he was younger, he just let Simon play on or around him.  Now that Simon is older, they played out in our mudroom together, daily.  To the point where Ivan was almost a live-in babysitter.  Simon’s second word (second only to dada) was cat.  When we leave the house, he still calls out “Bye cats!”.  He goes to Ivan’s room, and points in there and says “Cat?”.  He wants to know where his friend is.

I want to thank everyone who has shown support, and who will once they read this.  Also, thank you for all the love and prayers that were shared when he was sick in the past.  This was unrelated to his urinary issues.  In fact, I really don’t have any answer as to why he passed away; something else that will forever haunt me on sad days, I’m sure.

Our house feels empty. My heart feels heavy.

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Ivan,
My dear sweet friend.  I miss you so much.  As I sit here writing this, I miss you trying to fit yourself between my belly and the computer.  I miss you when we come home and you aren’t in your favorite sun spot by the door, and I miss the sound of your expectant “meow” for your breakfast.  I miss you trying to eat our food, and breaking into the groceries.  I miss you following me everywhere I go.  I am sorry for all the times I yelled at you, squirted you with water, and pushed you aside (because you really did follow me everywhere), but I am sure you know that I love you.  And I know you love me.  No one, feline or otherwise, will ever replace you, be certain of that.  You were truly a one of a kind, a wonderful cat.  So sweet, so loving, so mischievous, and full of energy and life.  I am so sorry that our time together had to end so soon, I will forever wish that we had more. You will always be fondly remembered, and dearly missed.
– Mom

His first day home.

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I am not sure how long it takes for it to stop hurting every day, but I’m not there yet.  I know it is different for everyone, so if it hard to understand that I’m still upset, I’m sorry.  We have been keeping busy and it is easier when we are out of the house, but…we always come home.

I am doing a few things to memorialize him/help make me feel better:

1.  I am going to put up a standalone bird feeder and plant a flower garden outside our big dining room window.  I had wanted to put one up for him since we moved in, but our trees are too tall to hang one.  I had thought of it the day he was at the vet, that he would be able to see great from that window, and it didn’t have to hang from a tree.  I might sprinkle some of his ashes in the garden, I haven’t decided yet.

2.  I bought a nice frame to print out a 8×10 of our favorite photo of him to keep with us.  It is a semi-shadow box, so I will put his collar and his favorite toy in there as well, along with one of our address labels that has pictures of all of us on them.

3.  I  love the symbology of the tree of life.  I have a few necklaces already, but I found a plain pendant that I really like, and I am going to add a paw print charm and a tiger’s eye charm to it.  Such a thing doesn’t exist, I’m trying impatiently to find a way to get it done.

We are not getting another cat yet.  I know it is a popular suggestion, and I considered it, but I just can’t.  As I said above, no cat could ever replace him, so it isn’t that.  We need the chance to mourn him as a family, and that hasn’t been completed yet.

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Thank you for reading.  This has really been especially hard for us.

“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)”

Goodbye, friend.

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Braving The Oven: Spinach Calzones

So here’s something you probably didn’t know about me:  I am terrified of my oven.

People who like to cook will tell you how much better it is to have a gas stove.  So after hearing this for a few years, I was thrilled that when we bought our first house it came with our very own gas stove.  But after almost a year, it is still scares me.

It isn’t the fire, I’m okay with that, its the gas.  Like if I put on a burner, and it doesn’t catch, and it smells like gas?  I won’t try again for at least a few minutes.  It doesn’t help that our fire alarm is so close to the stove that it alarms if the oven is set to anything over 400 degrees.

So when I pulled our pizza dough out of the fridge for dinner, I held my breath when I saw it wanted me to put my oven to 500 degrees.  500?  I didn’t even know home ovens went that high.  Go ahead, roll your eyes.

So I set it to preheat to 500.  Then, quickly decided that Simon needed his diaper changed, and turned it off.  You had better be certain that I wasn’t about to leave that oven unattended for even a minute.

After dilly-dallying for a few minutes after that, I went back, and clicked it back up to 500.  And waited.

Turns out it takes a long time for an oven to heat up to 500, so I had plenty of time to make our calzones while we waited.

Cheese and Spinach Calzones

You Need:
~20oz Multi-grain pizza dough, portioned into 4 pieces
(We buy ours from Hannaford, near the specialty cheeses. Of course, you can always make your own)
10oz frozen chopped spinach, defrost and squeeze out excess water
16oz low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup 2% shredded mozarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
a few pinches of nutmeg

You Will:
Each portion of dough should be pulled into a circle. Mix filling by combining the cheeses, spinach, S&P and nutmeg. Place approximately 1/4 of the filling on each portion of dough, fold over, and roll up edges so that it is sealed. Cut a 1 inch slit in the top of the dough. Bake at 500 degrees (yes, 500 degrees!) for 10-12 minutes.

In addition to being scared of my oven, homemade pizza makes me nervous.  This poor bag of dough had been in our fridge for at least a week.  But I’ve been trying to avoid simple carbohydrates, and pizza is really our most frequent offender in that department.  I really wanted pizza last night though, so it was time, and I was so surprised with how quickly this came together!  From making the rounds, to the filling, to baking, I think heating up the oven really was what took the longest!

Totally thrilled to have an easy pizza night option that is super easy, versatile, and free of those pesky white carbohydrates!  My oven fear isn’t completely over, I doubt I will ever leave the kitchen (or let Simon in), while that oven is cranked all the way up, but at least I can brave the scary oven to get some pizza out of it!

Vacation Pictures

Well hello!  We are back, and we had a fabulous time!  I am still running around a bit crazy-like, trying to get unpacked and cleaned, whilst restocking the fridge and preparing for our upcoming weekend visitors.  It never ends, does it?

Since I’m still feeling a bit in a whirlwind, I thought I’d just do a quick recap to share some favorite photos from our trip!

We spent the first two days at sea.  We didn’t do anything fancy, just walked around, looked at the water, took pictures, napped, and played in the pool.  Oh, and Mommy did get her hair cut!

 

On our third day, we got off the boat!  We stopped at Grand Turk, and discovered that Simon loves playing in the sand!  Then it was back on the boat for a nap and some more pool time.

Our second port of call was Carnival’s private island, Half Moon Cay.  This was definitely our favorite day, we had such a great time!  Simon took a nap on the beach, we swam in the gorgeous water, ate lunch on the island, and really got to spend most of the day relaxing on the beach.  Perfect.

Our third and final stop was in Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island.  I have been here before, back in high school, and we were not impressed, so we decided to do an excursion to the botanical gardens.  Simon is happy anywhere he can run around, but since there were also ducks, he was thrilled!

 

Back on the boat, and back to Baltimore!  We had another relaxing day playing in the pool with Simon!

And then we had to leave.  We got some time to hang out on the boat before we had to disembark, and Simon found his way into a window.

For our first family vacation, this went so well.  Everything was completely stress free, and we all had a great time!  Carnival has a lot of kids programs, but Simon was too small, so we did hang out with him for the entire week.  He had a great time just walking around, climbing the stairs, and playing in the pool.  If you’re looking to go to all the shows and hang out at the bar all night, you’d probably want to wait until your kiddos are a little older (at least over 2, which is when their kids programs start).  But at the end of the day we just wanted to spend time together, and this was perfect for that.

Now I have a pile of laundry staring me down that I must take care of.  Hope everyone had a lovely week!!

 

Last Minute Dinner

We are leaving for vacation in a matter of hours, and I am on my blog.  Which can only mean one thing.

I am packed!

Or should I say “we” are packed.  Days of packing for one are long over.  I watch my husband pack with envy.  No worrying about remembering Simon’s toothbrush, or comb, or socks.  Scratch that, no socks this time, we are going tropical!

If nothing else, having to pack for myself and a little guy has made me a lot better at preparing for such events.  I can’t just throw my entire wardrobe and medicine chest in a suitcase anymore.  It takes a lot more planning, lists, and about a week’s worth of preparation.  But it is done.  And frankly, its a lot less stressful this way.

And in the midst of all this, I am supposed to be preparing dinner?  Hmph.  I usually do a pretty good job of not leaving much in the fridge, but I was way ahead of myself with this trip, and the fridge was pretty empty about a week ago.  Oops.  So I had to actually go shopping, less than a week before leaving, so that we wouldn’t also be running around trying to find food.

I made one of my new favorites.  I love finding an easy, simple, healthy staple.

From Appetite for Reduction, this is the 40 Clove Chickpea and Broccoli.  When I came home with the broccoli for this, I found that I already had broccoli (so much for using everything up already), so I doubled the recipe, which really only ends up being 20 cloves of garlic.

I love garlic, and doubled, I think I could have really added enough to make that 40 cloves.  But there would have been so much it wouldn’t have made finding those golden creamy cloves as special.

I don’t typically like to post recipes from cookbooks, especially when I don’t make a single change to them.  So if efforts to keep things even more quick and easy for myself today, someone else posted it here.

This is really good.  Roasted broccoli + roasted chickpeas + roasted garlic = wonderful.  Add in the little bit of brightness from the lemon zest, and you’ve really got yourself an easy winner.

Before I had Simon, I really loved to cook, and I almost never, ever, made the same thing twice.  I took pride in that.  These days I just don’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen, so we are definitely throwing some “regulars” into the mix.  Do you prefer to make the same dishes, or to always be trying something new?

I normally like this with polenta, but I didn’t realize we were out.  So I went with brown rice, making it gluten free, and vegan (of course, polenta would have been as well).  Considering the kind of food that is normally consumed on vacations, it is nice to have some nice, clean meals before we head out.

And with that, I think we are officially on vacation!

Playtime

Hello, my name is Gina, and I have a toddler.

I was in denial for awhile, but its true, Simon is officially walking.  We spent much of our weekend playing outside, walking around the yard.  All he really wants to do is hold someone’s hand, or push his new bubble mower from his uncle, and walk, walk, walk.

So while Simon got some time playing outside with his new toy (and Daddy put the new raised garden beds in the ground), Mommy got to play with her newest toy.

I can barely even say that I have a working knowledge of SLR cameras, so don’t judge.  I’m just playing with the automatic settings for now, until I have some time to learn what I’m doing.  But my hopes are that once I do learn, I’ll have Simon’s first little photo shoot to come back to and look at where I started.

That’s a mighty big camera, mom.

Mowing, mowing, mowing.  It would be too dangerous, but handy, if it actually mowed.

Really, we’re still doing this?

Hard to keep the hair out of his eyes lately.

He is up to 7 teeth now!

His hair might be getting a little bit long, but I can’t bear to cut it yet.

Make sure everyone sees my new necklace.

Whoa, can I chew on that thing?

Okay, camera off, I’m done.

I really am starting to think that maybe he needs a haircut.  But most of the time I just think he looks plain adorable and just can’t do it.  For those of you with kids, boys or girls, when did they get their first haircut?  Did they love it or hate it?  Did you love it or hate it?  Even though it is getting pretty shaggy, I don’t forsee it getting cut anytime soon.  I just don’t think either of us will like it!

Anyway, in addition to these being the first pictures I’ve done with this camera, they are also totally unedited.  While editing is on the list of things to learn, it ranks pretty low.  Still, I love the camera so far, and I’m really glad the warm weather is creeping upon us.  Simon and I have a whole summer of photo shoots ahead of us!

An Eggceptionally Eggcellent Egg Hunt

I don’t know if I’ve made this clear enough yet, but I love Easter.  I love everything about Easter.  Last year Simon was only 3 months old, and I dragged him and my husband to the Easter egg hunt on base.  It rained, so it was indoors, in the food court, with about 100 kids.  Very crowded.  Needless to say he didn’t get any Easter eggs.  Well, he did, but it had already been emptied and tossed aside, post-mayhem.

What the heck is going on here, Mom??

Rather than suffer the same fate this year, we had our own Easter egg hunt at our house!  Everyone brought a dozen eggs, filled with little toys, bracelets, and bows, and after quickly “hiding” them, the kids were off on their Easter egg adventure.

What do you mean, put it in the bucket?

You mean, bang them together?

Like this?  

Yes, Simon, just like that!

The kids were pretty cute running (walking/toddling) around the front yard looking for their eggs.  Simon was really confused about taking them from their hiding places, but he did eventually put the ones I handed him in the bucket.  Smart little guy.

Of course it wouldn’t be a party without some sort of food, and I kind of went the easy way out this time:

Angel food cake + strawberries + chocolate =

With an empty bowl for toothpicks, and a bowl of extra chocolate, we were set to party.  The chocolate was just a ganache, 8 oz of chocolate and 1/2 cup of cream.  If you are wondering how I kept it warm enough to dip, that is a great question,  because it solidified way faster than I thought it would.  I always put ganache in the refrigerator to set up, so I hoped it would stay melted long enough.  Not true, and really, I knew better.  Oh well.  When life gives you ganache, make Easter truffles, right?

All in all, it still went over fairly well.

Do you have any fun Easter plans?  My husband has a 4 day weekend, so we have a bunch of things planned from not so fun (yard work) to lots of fun (the zoo!).  We are looking forward to continuing the Easter fun this weekend!

Happy Spring!

Remember when you were in elementary school, and you had to answer what your favorite season was, and write a story/draw a picture/make a collage about it?  Or in middle school when you were learning a new language, and when learning “season” vocab, you have to reply with what your favorite season is?  Everyone always says summer!!

Well, J’aime le printemps.

I love spring, I always have.  Sure, you had off of school in the summer, but I liked school.  Now, I can articulate how much I love the newness, the freshness, the flowers nudging their way through the damp ground.  As a kid, I think I just liked that gradual change from cool to warm.   But mainly the baby animals.  I still like anything with baby animals.

Spring has come for the North Country quite early this year, and it has come on strong.  Our daffodils rather suddenly shot up and burst open this morning.  Simon can do a little bit of walking now, and he has loved stomping around our backyard, chasing after a bird or his big green ball.  He is getting to be so much fun!

Happy Spring everyone!

 

“I Did This!”

I leave reviews all over the internet:  Yelp, food.com, and now Pinterest.

Yeah, that’s right, Pinterest.  I know that isn’t the intention of the site, but I just couldn’t help myself.  When I try something great, I want people to know.  I even more so want people to know when I try something horrible.  Example:  Bath Crayons

They do not work.  They looked just like the picture, beautiful!  I thought perhaps it was just my tub, but I put them in Simon’s gift bags for his birthday party (so I was extra irritated that they didn’t work).  Survery says: dud.

So I’m proposing a Pinterest revolution.  Okay, revolution is a strong word, let’s just call it a good idea:  The “I Did This!” Board.

The concept is pretty simple.  When I do something that I’ve previously pinned, I go and edit the pin, leave a short review in the description, and move it to the “I Did This!” board.

I have not one, but two such pins to move tonight.  First, a green onion trick.  Second, a veggie pad thai recipe.

A few weeks ago, I needed some green onions for a recipe, and remembered this tip.  I also happened to have an empty plastic bottle lying around (which is actually rare).  I chopped up what I needed, and threw the rest in the bottle, and threw that into the freezer.

Today, I took it out, and added it to the pan of pad thai I was cooking up.  This worked well, since I was okay with warming the onion in the warm dish.  However, most recipes that I use green onions for, call for them to be raw.  So, that made it not as successful.  I suppose you could defrost them, but I imagine they would be wilted.

The pad thai itself, came out pretty well!  Ever since watching Alton’s show on Pad Thai, I have never attempted any version of it at home.  I’ve had bad pad thai, and I didn’t want to go there.  Seeing what goes into a traditional pad thai sauce, coupled with my limited Thai cooking knowledge, I didn’t think there would really be any way to truly make a vegetarian version that could hold up.  This recipe does not come close to pad thai.  But it was still really good.  The directions were vague, and my recipe loving self was wary, but we were all really happy with the results.

I did make this vegetarian, my husband loves egg, and since it is still his birthday week, he is getting a few more things his way than he normally would!  The original recipe just leaves out the egg, but you could also make tofu the same way as I did in my vegan fried rice.

So what do you think?  “I Did This!” Boards for all?  Hey if nothing else, feel free to follow mine!