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Cabbage and Noodles

I planted a bunch of different veggies in the spring to see how they did.  The cabbage did well – so now I need to figure out how to cook cabbage.  My first attempt produced pretty decent results.  Steve and I liked it a lot.  The kids not so much, although they liked the flavor of the noodles covered by the sauce they either didn’t like the texture of the cabbage or were psyched out by the thought of cabbage.  We made them each try several bites but didn’t want to pick an all out fight.  I’ll consider it a truce.

I started with this recipe.

The recipe I cited called it haluski, or halušky which Wikipedia explains is a Czech dish.  Our Polish friends who were with us at the weekend gave me the idea to add Sausage, and I want to try a traditional Polish recipe for bigos next.

Ingredients

1 large onion
1 large or 2 small heads of cabbage
8 oz. egg noodles
1 stick butter (more or less to taste)

1/2 lb sausage
salt/pepper

Directions

Brown sausage in a very large skillet.  Remove browned sausage, leaving brown bits and a bit of oil in the pan.

Thinly slice the onion and the cabbage. In a very large frying pan over medium high heat, melt 3 Tbs butter. Add the onion, cook for a few minutes until it smells good. :-)

Add the cabbage. You may not be able to add the cabbage all at once. Add what you can, cover and cook until it shrinks enough to add more. Cabbage shrinks a lot so you’ll eventually be able to fit it all. Once all the cabbage is added to the pan, cook it (covered) for at least 30 minutes. It should be very tender. Add sausage back to pan near the end of this half hour.  Then, raise the heat a bit and allow it to brown slightly in spots.

While you’re cooking the cabbage, boil the noodles according to the package instructions in well-salted water. When done, drain and add several Tbs butter. When the cabbage and noodles are both finished, combine. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Accents

Ever since living in England I have had an interest in accents.  I saw an article today where Helen Mirren was pointing out that the Queen’s accent has changed over the years, becoming less posh and more closely resembling what is broadly spoken. 

I was then reading about what defines these accents and found that there is such a thing as General American. This is the accent that is used widely in TV and radio and is also, interestingly, the accent taught to those studying English as a second language in the United States.

And – most interestingly to me – Standard American English is most similar to the regional accents of suburban, middle America and more specifically a region that includes my hometown at its eastern edge.

This finally explains why people from other parts of the world don’t think I have a regional accent – because my regional accent is considered to be General American.  I am so happy to finally be able to understand and articulate this!

But, as we prepare to travel back the UK next week, it will be interesting to hear myself against others speaking British English.  I don’t think I really have a good gauge of how much my speech has been re-Americanized.  I would love to have the time sometime to compile a list of the British words and constructions that I have continued to use and where I have reverted back to the American way of saying things.  (maybe if I have a sleeping baby on the flight I might get to do that)

I do know, though, that living in England improved my language in that it forced me to ennunciate more clearly, out of necesity to be understood.  I could mumble a lot more when those around me were more familiar with my accent, words and constructions.  Whether or not some people consider my continued use of some British terms to be an improvment is up for debate…

Before the remodeling.

We are doing some remodeling in the kitchen and enough people have asked what we’re doing and for the ‘before’ pictures so I’ll do a quick post.

The main drivers for the remodeling are:

  1. Opening up the rooms so that it functions more as one cohesive space, with a good view from end to end so we can keep an eye on the kids from the kitchen and enjoy more connectedness between what is happening in the kitchen and the family room.
  2. Improving the lighting.
  3. Replacing appliances with newer models that work better and are more suited to the way we cook.

View one shows the current view from the refrigerator towards the fireplace.

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We are having the cabinets that currently hang over the peninsula removed and they will be hung above the workbench in the garage.  The soffit will also be removed for a continuous flush ceiling.  Beyond that the wall separating the breakfast area and the family room will be opened up to have just a small return on each side.  I am most excited about these changes that will give us a great big kitchen/family room.  It will not read as one 44′ long room, as the flooring and partial wall will give some separation, but it will be open enough to allow for good family time.  Currently the cook is quite cut off from what is happening in the family room as even after you peek under the cabinets you can only see a corner of the family room.

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It will also allow more natural light from the sliding glass door to come into the main part of the kitchen.

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We are also replacing the current cooktop with a gas cooktop.  We have always had gas ever since moving out of our first student apartment in Champaign.  I have ruined more meals for burning or not cooking fast enough here in the last 4 months than I have in the last 10 years.  I will not miss this ceramic cooktop.  More power to you if you have one and like one, just so long as I don’t have to try to cook on one ever again!  We are replacing it with another downdraft fan model.  Definitely not what we would choose if we were designing from scratch, but the expense of plumbing for a floating ‘island’ hood and routing the vent through the ceiling and out the back (brick) wall and then having a big hood hanging down where we just removed cabinets was a non-starter.  Moving the cooktop along the exterior wall would have necessitated new cabinets and floors, basically a gut-and-start-over remodel, and it just wasn’t worth that much to us.  So downdraft it is.

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We’re having all the upper cabinets taken down and the soffits removed.  They’ll be reinstalled a bit higher to allow for better countertop access and to allow for a taller fridge. Crown molding will go up around the tops of the cabinets, and there will be a gap between the tops of the cabinets and the ceiling. I won’t be filling it with accroturements or accent lighting. Just dead space, and the crown molding will hopefully hide the inevetible dust. I’d love cabinets to go to the ceiling, but not worth the expense.  The backsplash is also being removed and replaced with something less brown.  Between the brown floor, brown cabinets, brown countertops, brown backsplash and brown paint the kitchen is very, well, brown.  We’re doing creamy subway tile and that will give a nice contrast.

We are building an under-counter shelf for the microwave directly below its current counter-hogging home.  A wall mounted microwave would be more convenient for the microwave, but I just couldn’t bear to give up my prime upper cabinet space.  That lower cabinet is the least used in the kitchen and is along the food prep wall, so it will be quite convenient.

As for lighting the ceiling fan is a goner!  It is very fussy and creates terrible shadows, while also being totally inadequate light for a large kitchen.  We’re having cans installed throughout the kitchen and will go without a center fixture.  If anyone is in the market for an ‘elegant’ ceiling fan with a nice moodlight feature I know where you can get a great deal;-)

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To round out the kitchen plans we’re removing that nice scalloped panel above the sink, re-trimming the window with new, non-chipped casings, replacing the dishwasher, fridge and garbage disposal.

Oh, and I almost forgot I’m getting all new drawers!  Our 30 year old cabinets are still in great shape, but the drawers are on old, squeaky gliders.  The drawers are going to be replaced with all new drawer boxes and runners, the old ones will be removed, the fronts taken off and the old fronts attached to the new drawers.  It will operate just like new (well better than when these were new as it will have the fancy whisper shut action).  I’m happy we can mend and make do with the current cabinets, but these new drawers will make it feel all nice and new.

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On to the family room.

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Opening up the wall will be great for the family room as well. Those french doors are never closed, and they block the light switches and the kids think they’re fun to bang on. We won’t miss them.

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In here we are having can lights installed between each set of beams.  This will give us tons more light.  It is pretty cave-like in there now, relying on a couple eyeball cans along the fireplace and a couple switched outlets to power lamps.  We are also having the paneling primed and painted, to remove one of the big woody elements.  We’re not painting anything else yet…we’ll see how it feels and then if it is still too dark we’ll consider painting the bookcase backs, the bookcases, the mantle, and then only in extreme duress the brick or the beams.  Hopefully the lights and the paneling will do the trick.  We’ll see.

Then, all the ceilings will be patched and plastered and the entire space, walls and ceilings will get a fresh coat of paint.  (exact shades TBD after the wall and cabinets come out and I decide how it feels.

OK – more detail than most people needed, but I know at least a couple of my cooking friends care.

And for those of you who don’t give a hoot about my kitchen, but would rather see the kids I caught them in the pictures too:-)

Will post when it is all done for the before/after effect.

-Sarah

East Coast Day 2: Boston

On our first day in Boston we planned to hit our highest sightseeing priority, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Mrs Gardner was an eccentric heiress who knew what she liked in art.  She amassed a vast collection and built a fabulous Venetian style mansion in which to display it.  The museum is virtually unchanged from how she arranged it, due to a unique stipulation in her will that if any artifacts were moved that the museum was to be closed, the whole collection auctioned and the proceeds to go to Harvard University.  Thusly, it is a museum curated by a singular individual who was highly eccentric and is very dead.  Rooms are crammed with art and often the best pieces are hard to see.  But, it is not a museum to visit to appreciate the most important pieces of art in their best settings.  It a place to just enjoy.  I found that I liked a lot of what she liked – particularly the more contemporary and simple pieces in the Blue room.  I highly recommend it.  We were able to take the stroller into the museum and use the small elevator to visit the galleries.  Simon did quite well to be content and let us visit most of the 2nd and 3rd floors.  After that he wanted to run around, and we found a back hallway where he could run up and down the ramps while one parent at a time visited the last galleries.  Lily was a perfect angel in her pack.

By now it was lunchtime, and with naps needed shortly after we took a cab up to Copley Square and grabbed lunch at a bagel place.  The West coast is sorely lacking in good bagels and we appreciated some good bagel sandwiches.  Steve’s was black bean and avocado – I must try that combo on a sandwich sometime.

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Simon wasn’t quite ready for a nap yet so we just let him run around at Copley Square.  We enjoyed the outside of Trinity Church and Simon enjoyed everything.

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Several people came up to us and told us it was great to see our kids out enjoying the city.  And also to enjoy every minute as they grow up all too fast.

Steve and Simon took a nap and I took the opportunity to pop over to Newbury street for some shopping.  I had fun just looking in the shops and people watching on the vibrant street.

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(it is hard to get any photos to prove  you did take your youngest child on the trip when they are constantly strapped to you)

That evening we had snacks at the hotel lounge and then just called it a night and let Simon play in the hotel room and made a quick run to the grocery store for supplies.

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(Simon’s favorite play place in the hotel room. He’d line up the sample size toiletries and play with his trucks and ducks.)

East Coast Day 1

My brother is getting married on Long Island, New York.  We decided to make the long trip worth it and extend our stay into a vacation on the east coast.  We flew into Boston on Saturday 24-Sep and will return home on Monday 3-Oct, the day after the wedding.  We plan to spend three days in Boston, then a couple of days making our way along the Mass/RI/Conn coasts into NY and to Long Island on Thursday for some time with my family before the wedding on Sunday.

We left Seattle at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, a great time to fly as it gave us the morning to finish up packing and let the boy run off some energy.  He was great on the plane but, as usual, refused to sleep despite even trying some Benadryl this time.  It is a 5 1/2 hour flight so that is hard work for Steve.  Lily hardly made a peep hanging out on my lap and nursing more often than not.  All-in-all, a good flight with our two babies.

We got into BOS at 10pm and it was MUGGY!  Got a cart for our mountain of luggage and took a cab into our hotel (Lily’s first taxi).  Got checked in and plopped Simon straight into the tub to cool down and get the airplane grime off, plus some splashing time while I got us unpacked into our home for the next three nights.  We’re staying at the Fairmont, a beautiful old hotel.  I think they took pity on us traveling with the babies and upgraded us to a large room with a nook perfect for the crib.

Steve, Lily and I hung out in the bathroom so Simon he could just cry it out and fall asleep.  Ah the glamour of family travel:-)

Tips for flying with kids.

Since I seem to have pretty much stopped blogging – here is a link to a really useful post from someone else’s blog.

http://flyingwithchildren.blogspot.com/

This is a hugely detailed article with info and tips on all aspects of flying with kids.  It is written by a mom and former flight attendant.  I found it while looking for info on gate checking my urban assault stroller.  Hope you find it useful!

Welcome Lillian Beatrice

Lillian Beatrice was born Saturday morning, 12-March at 1:11 am.

We were blessed with an amazing birth.  I had been having contractions every evening for a week, and Friday night was starting out as usual.  But then my water broke at 11:20 and my contractions went from every 10 minutes to every 3 mintues almost immedietely.  We called the midwife and our friends who were arranged to watch Simon and we went straight to the midwife center.  We arrived around midnight and one very intense hour later Lily was born.  She was born in the tub, not something I had really ‘planned’ but the warm water did help me cope with the very fast labor.

My friend, the extremely talented Emily Weaver Brown, was there during the birth.  These were taken by her and there are a few more here.  (nothing too graphic of course, all safe for work and family and such:-)

We went home about 5:30am and were in bed for a nap by 6.  Scott and Yvonne brought Simon home after lunch and he got to meet his new sister. 

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He loves children and Lily is no exception.   

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Here is a little video of the first time Simon really checked Lily out.

The first night was rough, she was very hungry and isn’t attaching very well, so it looks like we’ll have to work hard at nursing, but hopefully we can find a way to make it work this time.  Sunday has been a very good day, Simon has been his usual happy self, playing and happy to have Daddy home and Lily has been eating well and taking some naps – although we’ll have to work hard to keep her up so she’s tired tonight:-)

We are overwhelmed with thankfulness for our two healthy children and a safe and amazing birth.  The Lord is so good to us.