Wedding Bells: An Open Letter to My Niece and Her Fiance

Chase and I are in Fort Wayne, IN for a wedding this weekend. My niece is getting married. I was 12 when she was born and it is hard to believe that

Photo by Chris Lake Photography

Photo by Chris Lake Photography

she and her fiancé will be starting their lives together. When Ryan and I got married, she had just graduated high school!

I have attended two other weddings this year. Each time I attend a wedding, I think back to day of our wedding and how we as a couple have faced each new experience and challenge since exchanging our vows. Three of the best pieces of advice I was given prior to our wedding are the following:

 

  1. You’re a team
  2. You’re still an individual
  3. The wedding is just the beginning

 

The first two ideas are broad and, on the surface, contradictory. I tell the couple at whose wedding I’m attending to remember: You’re Team “Insert Last Name Here” now. I think our society often pits husbands and wives against each other. So I think it is of paramount importance that we remember we are on the same team as our spouse or partner. Though you may have different personal goals, you as a couple want the same thing: to share a home, life, have pets and/or kids, travel, etc. or at least you should and if you haven’t discussed these things, you need to before inviting 300 of your nearest and dearest friends to witness your nuptials. In the course of your marriage, you should remember that it is not about winning. It is about making your partner feel respected and heard, while also getting what you need. And remember, you need to have team meetings every once in awhile to be sure that your needs are met and that you are presenting a united front.

Ryan and I don’t have a lot of disagreements or fights about things because we address our concerns right away when we have them and we choose our battles. Oh, and we know when to just walk away from the other person if they are in a not so lovely mood and address the issue later. Ryan is very good at that.

That being said, though you are uniting with the love of your life, you are still and always will be an individual. Your partner married you for a reason…that reason is because he or she loves you for you. “You” encompass a lot of things. Be sure to remember who you are as individual. Your personal goals are still important. Any partner will honor and encourage that.

Thank goodness for Ryan. He knows me well and understands that though I am enjoying being a married mom of two boys, most of the time, I still have both educational and professional goals. These things lie outside of the realm of marriage and motherhood. Though I will be tackling these challenges from the perspective of wife and mom, they are still my goals.

The wedding is just the first day of the rest of your life. Though the wedding day is a blast, it is one day. All of the planning and stress and worry of how that day is going to play out is for nothing if you are not prepared to put that much energy into your marriage. If you don’t have a plan for how you and your spouse are going to confront the issues you’ll face, get one started. I had a bridal binder that was by my side for a good 18 months.  Now, I work each day to approach my marriage with the same organization and clarity. I don’t carry around a binder but I am mindful of each decision I make as it relates to our family. TEAM FRIEDER!

So now that we have those important things established, it’s on to the fun of the weekend. Chase gets to see his cousins and I get to have dinner and drinks with an old boss, to whom I will now be related to through marriage! Pretty cool if you ask me!

Siggy-Q

 

Meatless Monday: Roasted Parsnips and Butternut Squash

It is that time of year again!  Though I have never had a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, I love the smell

Photo by Romulo Yanes from Epicurious.com

Photo by Romulo Yanes from Epicurious.com

of the spices go in them.  I also love butternut squash and parsnips.  There are so many things you can do with both.  If you aren’t well versed in Parsnip-ese, They are shaped like carrots and have a spicy-sweet-earthy flavor.  They are truly one of my favorite root vegetables.  You can use them in sweet recipes but in this one, the caramelization of both the squash and the parsnips are balanced by the salty kalamata olives.  I have been making this Epicurious.com recipes for several years.  It is one of Ryan’s favorites.

You can play around with this recipe.  You can add Brussels Sprouts, beets, fingerling potatoes, even carrots.

Roasted Parsnips and Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pound parsnips (4 medium), peeled
  • 1 1/4 pounds butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded
  • Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 12 Kalamata olives, pitted and cut lengthwise into slivers
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

1. Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 475°F.

2. Cut parsnips lengthwise into quarters, then cut out and discard any tough core. Cut parsnips diagonally into 2-inch pieces. Cut squash crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then cut slices into wedges. Toss vegetables with salt, pepper, and 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, then spread in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan. Roast, turning occasionally, until vegetables are tender and browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. While vegetables are roasting, heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil with garlic in a 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic just begins to sizzle. Remove from heat.

4.When vegetables are done roasting, remove garlic from oil (discard garlic) and toss vegetables with garlic oil, olives, and parsley.

Siggy-Q

So Far, Yet So Close

My lovely cousin Diana and her husband Milan just had their first baby, a girl, two weeks ago.
Diana created a group in Facebook that included family and friends (since she and Milan are in Chicago and so many of us are not). We were able to

I look forward to taking the boys on roller coasters…someday.

I look forward to taking the boys on roller coasters…someday.

follow their progress and toward the end, we were able to post our predictions on stats of the birth. FYI- baby girl is healthy and happy and parents are glistening in the usual newborn bliss.
I feel like I am not so far away from that reality.  Reading all of their posts takes me back to two years ago when Drew-Brew was born. Now that he is almost two…and we are done having kiddos, I feel we are closing a chapter and beginning a new one. We just switched Drew to the front facing car seat…and he is so happy.

When Ryan’s cousin was here, I gave her all of the gender neutral gear I could. We have a lightened load. Though I loved experiencing the baby stages with both of the boys, I am so happy to have kiddos who can walk, talk, and wipe themselves…oh wait. Chase says he’s not going to wipe himself until he’s 5. Drew on the other hand wants to do everything himself. “Mommy! Do it self!…Got it!”
This weekend, Chase and I are going my niece’s wedding. Ryan wants to convert Andrew’s crib to the toddler bed option…we’ll see how that goes. I have a feeling that we will have a bit of a challenge keeping Drew in his bed. Does anyone have some duct tape I could use?
I’m also debating switching Drew’s schedule from 4-5 half days to 3 full days. It is no additional cost and it would not only save me a trip in the middle of the day but it would also give me an uninterrupted block of time during the day to work on projects, weekly menus, clean etc.  The mommy guilt inevitably creeps in my mind each time I start to think about it.  Part of the reasoning behind putting Andrew in a program was to allow me some time to myself  (Along with the other reasons: socialization and moving on from having a nanny to just a regular sitter).  I feel guilty because we didn’t put Chase in a play school until he was 2.5.  I feel like I’m shoving Andrew out the door.  He loves it though.  To make myself feel better, I signed us up for a Music Together class on Mondays.  We haven’t taken a class since we left Santa Fe.  This will give us some good one on one time right?

In a year, Andrew will be going to school full time.  I feel like this is a countdown to the end of babies and the beginning of the next phase of parenthood.  Next stop: roller coasters!

Siggy-Q

Meatless Monday: Spicy Cashew Dip

I seriously cannot get enough of cashews.  Ryan’s cousin, her husband and their daughter are vegans.  They are visiting on their way back from a trip to

Crudite mix of cucumber and bell peppers showing Luke's MultiGrain & Seed Crackers

Crudite mix of cucumber and bell peppers showing Luke’s MultiGrain & Seed Crackers

California.  Though we eat vegan about every other day, it is always fun to find new recipes when we make a big family meal.  I found this delightful little recipe in Dr. Alejandro Junger’s book: Clean Eats.  The recipe does not say to soak the cashews ahead of time but I did anyway.  They become super creamy and reminds me of the the French Onion dip in which my sister Mindy and I would dip Mikesell’s potato chips.  I could go for some of that and a viewing The Breakfast Club.  I used about an inch of a fresh jalepeno but you can always use more.

For the full appetizer platter, I cut up Persian cucumber, bell peppers, carrots and used some of the most delicious gluten free crackers.  See the picture below.  They are delicious.  I found them at Costco.

Spicy Cashew Dip

Ingredients:

1/2 cup raw cashews

Juice of 1 lime

Juice of 1 lemon

1-2 handfuls of cilantro

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 water

1/2 of a jalepeno

Directions:

1. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Blend until you reach the consistency you desire.  Chunky is good.

Gluten free and super yummy

Gluten free and super yummy

Siggy-Q

Courting My In-Laws

My in-laws are visiting right now and Ryan and I have been calm about the fact that they are considering moving here.  Of course we want them here but at the end of the day, it has to be their choice to move here.

They have looked at houses, my FIL is interviewing for a job, and we’re taking them to restaurants that have been pretty impressive!  My MIL is going to Barre3 each day and I think she is finding the classes challenging, which is good because she is a heck of an athlete.  I feel blessed that I get along with and enjoy my in-laws.  Not everybody does.

I think their heartstrings are pulled by the affection Chase and Andrew show them.  And, I hope they want to be around the boys.  I know the boys want them in their lives.  I know that we won’t see them every day.  Once they live here, they will have their own lives and schedules.  But it will be nice to have them over for family dinners.  It will be fun for the boys to stay overnight at their house.

We have been to two great restaurants so far: Tavolino Ristorante and Downtown Kitchen.  Both were fantastic!  I look forward to our next adventure: Cafe Poca Cosa.  More on that little gem later.

Come on Tucson, impress the pants off my in-laws…well wait.  I don’t need to see them in their underwear.

Siggy-Q

Barre3, How I Do Love Thee

I’ll be honest, I was crushed to leave my old gyms in Santa Fe.  I was a loyal client of Douglass Lawder and photoTara Lyons-Lawder at Buddha Fitness Club and the last month I was in town, I attended some spin/Barre classes taught by my dear friend May Gardner Wilson at Studio J.  I hit the jackpot when I found a Barre3 studio here in Tucson.

I took 3 in 1 when I was a kid, so I knew ballet moves.  I’ve done a lot of yoga, and dipped my toe in the pilates pool through videos at home.  Barre3 is all of the wonderful things about those three practices wrapped in one nifty little 60 minute class, complete with great music and childcare!

I can’t say enough good things about Barre3.  I love going each day and can see my body changing.  And, it gets harder as you get stronger.  As you become stronger, you push yourself even more.  If you are lucky enough to have a studio near you, go.  Sign up right now and go to a class.  The first one is free!  Where else can you  listen to 2Short while doing a “money 20″?  Go for yourself, go right now!

Siggy-Q

Meatless Monday: Lemon and Herb Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas

photo 1-2

Finished Dish…it is delish

I have been going to a class called Barre3.  No, you did not misread it, it does not read: “bar”.  It is an fitness class that is a combination of ballet barre, yoga, and pilates.  It is extremely challenging and fun.  I’ll do a full article on Barre3 this week.  When you join Barre3, you can also have access to lots of yummy recipes.  The one below is delicious.  Although, I admit, I had to make some changes to it (Nothing major but I added cumin, doubled the Dijon and lemon juice, toasted the pine nuts and did not toast the chick peas for 18 minutes at 425).  I made it last night.  It comes from the Barre3 website but it is by Andrea Bemis: Dishing Up the Dirt.

Lemon and Herb Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas

Ingredients:

Couscous:

2 cups cooked chickpeas

2 Tbsp EVOO

1 large head of cauliflower, cored and broken into florets (about 4 cups)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 medium cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

1 large avocado, cut in half and sliced

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

pinch sea salt

Dressing:

1 Tbsp tahini

1/4 cup EVOO

4 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp cumin

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp honey

1/4 cup parsley minced

pinch of sea salt and black pepper

Directions:

1. In a small pan toast pine nuts until golden.  Remove from heat.  Set aside.

2.  Pulse the cauliflower in batches, (about a quarter of the cauliflower at a time) in a food processor until it is

Cauliflower toasting in pan.  This is the consistency you want.  It looks like couscous!

Cauliflower toasting in pan. This is the consistency you want. It looks like couscous!

riced, about the size of couscous.  Do not over process.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add EVOO and riced cauliflower allowing it to toast slightly, stirring often.  Remove from heat after 2-4 minutes.

4.  Combine ingredients for dressing in a food processor, use an immersion blender, or use a whisk and a bowl.   You may add EVOO to achieve the consistency you desire.

5. In a large bowl combine the cauliflower “couscous” with chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, raisins, toasted pine nuts and crushed red pepper.  Drizzle with dressing and toss until combined.  Divide among four plates and enjoy!

Siggy-Q

Meatless Monday: Falafel and Pitas

What did the one sick garbanzo bean say to the other sick garbanzo bean? I falafel!

Finished falafel with pita and a summer vegetable gratin

Finished falafel with pita and a summer vegetable gratin

Don’t worry you won’t feel awful after eating this falafel!  Sorry.  I had to.  So on Friday night, I wanted lamb in a bad way.  I have quite a bit of frozen ground lamb so I just had to defrost some and pick up some feta, pitas, and a couple of other things at the store.  I was so disappointed by the state of the pitas that I ended up making my own.  I know it sounds crazy but it really isn’t terribly difficult.  Plus, you can multi-task during nap time, housework (which I avoided that day) and picking up any older kiddos from school.  And, if you happen to have extras, you can have two wonderful mediterranean meals in a matter of days.

I have tried LOTS of falafel and falafel recipes.  I just like my recipe best.  You can use this recipe as a guide and tweak it to your liking and your family’s tastebuds.  For the pitas…it is just a no brainer.  If I’m going to eat bread, it had better be worth it.  A couple of tips: get

fresh yeast and if you live in a dry climate like I do, make sure you have plenty of flour. A pizza stone helps but it is NOT necessary.  A jellyroll pan (turned over in your oven) will work beautifully.

Falafel

Ingredients:

1 can garbanzo beans, drained

1/2 red large onion, roughly chopped

2-3 Tbsp chopped parsley

2 Tbsp either mint or cilantro

4 cloves of garlic minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp baking powder

4-6 Tbsp flour

oil for frying (Safflower, avocado, coconut or grape seed are all good for high heat)

chopped tomato, onion, bell pepper, olives for garnish (you may use some or all of them)

Side one.  Don't let your oil get too hot.

Side one. Don’t let your oil get too hot.

tahini

tzatziki sauce

Harissa sauce (North African/Mediterranean hot sauce)

pita bread (recipe follows)

Directions:

1. Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until combined but not pureed.  Then sprinkle the baking powder and several tablespoons of flour and pulse until combined.  Place in a bowl and chill for a couple of hours.

2. Form the mixture into balls about the size of walnuts still in their shells then flatten them slightly to  form little patties about the size of sliders.  Unless you have a deep fryer, it is not worth it to try and do true falafel balls.

3. When you’re ready to cook.  Heat  approximately an inch oil of your choice in a pan.  You can do a test

Crispy and warm as they drain on paper towels

Crispy and warm as they drain on paper towels

patty to determine if you need more flour.  If the test patty falls apart you can add the remaining flour a half tablespoon at a time.  You can cook up to 6-8  patties at a time without crowding or lowering the temperature of the oil too much.   Fry until golden brown, flipping once.  Then drain on paper towels and continue in batches until mixture is gone.

4. Stuff the falafel into pitas and add your chosen accoutrements and enjoy!

Pitas

(Note: my pita recipe is from the Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients:

2 cups bread flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 Tbsp sugar or honey

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 tsp active dry yeast

2-3 Tbsp melted butter, EVOO, or coconut oil

1 1/4 cups room temperature H2O

Directions:

1. Place all dry ingredients in to bowl (of a stand mixer or otherwise).  Mix by hand or on low in a stand

So, they aren't really round but they taste amazing.

So, they aren’t really round but they taste amazing.

mixer for about 1 minute to blend all ingredients, then add the wet team.  Knead with a dough hook on low or by hand for about 10 minutes until dough is smooth, soft and elastic.  Add flour or water as needed.  The dough should be tacky but not sticky.  Transfer the dough to a well oiled bowl and turn it once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until double in volume, about 1-1 1/2 hours.  (It all depends on your definition of room temperature.  If your oven has a “proofing” setting, use it.  They are usually pretty reliable. Or put it in your laundry room while you’ve got the drying going.

2.  Punch the dough down, divide equally into 8 pieces and roll the pieces into balls.  Cover and let them rest for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  If you do not have a pizza or baking stone, place a baking sheet upside on an oven rack to serve as a hearth.

3. On a very lightly floured surface, roll out each ball of dough into a thin round, about 8 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick.  Spay the stone or pan with water and wait 30 seconds.  Then place as many dough rounds as will fit without touching, directly onto the hearth.  Bake until the dough puffs into a balloon, about 3 minutes, wait 30 seconds, then remove each bread to a rack to cool.  Or, if you’re my husband, shove one directly into your mouth and complain that it’s burning your mouth.

Enjoy!

Siggy-Q

I’m Inspired by The Real Housewives of New Jersey

Now, before you judge, read on.rhnj-s6-header-cast-v2

Let me first say that I am completely addicted to all things BRAVO!  I am what Andy Cohen calls a Super Fan.  I just read his book and found myself thinking: “We could totally be friends.”  I am still catching up on my backlog of shows but I am currently caught up on the ladies of New Jersey.  With Dina Manzo back on the show, I am once again reenergized and ready for the spunky Jersey girls.  From her tag line: “I’m back to bring the Zen.  Namaste Bitches!” to her new cat: Botox, I love her and am so glad to peek in on her life.

In the most recent episode, Theresa Guidice goes over to Dina’s house and Dina attempts to cheer up Theresa by suggesting she make a “vision board” a la Oprah to help affect the outcome of the trial that she and her husband Joe are going through.  Dina mentioned that when she was going through her first divorce, she created a board as a way to make a new start.  She had recently found it and when looking at it realized that she had almost everything on the board.  WHAT A GREAT IDEA!

So, thank you RHONJ!  I’m going to make a vision board for myself and state what my wishes are for the foreseeable future.  Stay tuned, I’ll post a picture of the vision board once it is finished.

Siggy-Q

We’re Making Progress

After a successful trial run in Idaho, Andrew is now in  a Montessori program here in Tucson.  Chase started at 3 years old but we decided that we weren’t going to hire a nanny so 3 half days of socialization for Andrew is a great start.  I feel guilty, of course, but he really seems to enjoy himself.  And the end of his official first day, I walked into his classroom and he looked at me, waived, and said: “Bye bye Mommy!”  That made me feel much better.

It will definitely be nice to have the morning to myself and to get things done in the office, which I was not able to do with Andrew here.  Our office is currently in our guest bedroom so Andrew always wants to jump on the bed and roll around or climb into my lap and make it impossible for me to accomplish anything.  I realize that I could stay up late each night and/or get up early to get things done, but I’m exhausted.  I like to sleep.  It seems like my sleep deficit isn’t getting any smaller.  I reluctantly nap sometimes during Andrew’s nap time but I’m still sluggish and worn down.

In addition, Andrew is coming to me telling me he wants to pee or poop in the potty.  I’m FLABBERGASTED!  With Chase, I didn’t even mention it until he was 28 months!  We’re 4 months ahead!  I secretly have wanted to be free of diapers by the end of 2014, but I never thought that it might actually happen!  I’ll keep you posted on that one.

So, this may sound crazy but the weather is really becoming nice here.  The high temperatures are starting to be a little more reasonable: mid 90′s.  After enduring temperatures of 108 on a regular basis this weather is delightful.  In addition, the monsoons here have made a huge difference in the landscape.  The mountains have a beautiful green hue.

We’ll be back to our regular schedule of posting several times week.  With travel and still settling in the house, I was off my game for awhile.

Cheers!

Siggy-Q

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