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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cool developments

Some random cool stuff that Mira has done recently:

Mira has a book about puppies that has cartoon drawings of dogs doing various things. There are drawings of balls on 3 different pages of this book. After reading through the book a few times with her pointing out all the things on each page and me naming them, she turned the book to each of the three pages with a ball on it, pointed to the ball (and only the ball) on each page (with me saying "ball... ball.... ball...") and then got up out of my lap and went straight to her big toy ball and touched it and said firmly, "dat".

I had on an episode of Sesame Street (now that we've gone down to nursing only once a day, I find that watching TV is the only way to get her to keep still while I cut her nails) so that I could trim her nails. Elmo's World was about jumping and there were a bunch of kids on the screen jumping up and down. Mira, watching intently, began bouncing up and down on her bottom in my lap. Since it was clearly going to be impossible to finish cutting her nails until the bouncing subsided, I set her down on the floor and asked her if she'd like to try jumping. She stood there and, still watching the TV wide-eyed, began bending her knees to bounce a bit on her feet (not quite jumping, but still cool).

She loves to play with my cell phone, pressing all the buttons to make it beep. Recently, she started also holding it to her ear.
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Mira builds towers with her jumbo Lego-style blocks. (Thanks to Aunt Lindsey for the great birthday gift.)
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Mira dances to music. In this video, she's playing with some stacking rings that also sing. Whenever she makes it sing, she starts to dance. (Thanks to Aunt Vanessa for the cool Christmas gift.)
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Monday, March 22, 2010

King Ranch Chicken -

I've had several requests to hand out the recipe for my version of our families King Ranch Chicken.  I figured that instead of emailing it, I could just post it here and be done :)

Brian



King Ranch Chicken

Drake Family Style


Serves 10-12

Freezes well so make it all and stash some for later.  


Ingredients

1.    One medium size whole frying chicken.
2.    Low sodium Chicken broth (enough to cover the chicken in a large cook pot ~ 8 cups)
3.    Chicken seasonings -parsley, sage, basil etc - or an Italian style herb mix
4.    16 Oz Cheddar Block or 6 cups shredded
5.    16 Oz Monterray Jack block or 6 cups shredded 
6.    and 8 Oz block Monterrey Jack
7.    8 Oz Sour Cream
8.    1/2 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
9.    1/2 bag of frozen sweet corn (not on cob)
10. 1 onion - diced
11. 1 cup diced mushrooms
12. 1 jar of green salsa (medium spice lends a mild dish due to other ingredients)
13. 1 large or two small cans of diced tomatoes -or- 3 large fresh tomatoes diced
14. 1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup
15. 2 -3 cups Corn Chip pieces

Particular Cooking Utensils 

·         Large Cooking pot
·         2 Large casserole dishes
·         Large cooking spoon

Prep:

·         Clean and rinse the chicken
  • Shred the 16 Oz Blocks of cheese
·         Thin Slice the 8 Oz of Monterrey jack 
·         Dice onions & mushrooms
·         Dice tomatoes (if fresh)

Cooking

·         Cover the bottom of two casserole dishes with a small layer of corn chip pieces
·         Sprinkle shredded Monterrey jack and 1/2 of the cheddar in a layer on the corn chip pieces
·         Boil chicken until done.  Season with parsley, sage, basil etc.  
o    Typical whole thawed frier takes 45 min to 1 hour depending on size.  
·         Remove the chicken from the broth to cool
o    Save chicken broth for other recipes
o    Keep the pot ready to use
o    You can cook the chicken well in advance of other steps to allow time to cool the chicken.
·         De-bone Chicken
·         Sauté in a large pot the diced onions and mushrooms with a bit of oil or butter.  
·         Preheat oven to 350
·         Once onions are soft: add the frozen vegetables and tomatoes; cook uncovered on high until bubbling (~5 min) - do not add any liquid
·         Add Chicken pieces, green salsa, cream of mushroom soup and heat until warm - not fully cooked
·         Remove from heat and add sour cream
·         Spoon chicken veggie mixture over the chip & cheese layers in the bottom of the casserole dishes
·         Sprinkle top with rest of the shredded cheddar
·         Lay the thinly sliced Monterrey jack over the top of everything and cover the entire dish
·         Bake 15 minutes uncovered at 350

Serve Hot

Troubleshooting/ Tips & Tricks


When in doubt – add more cheese – I’ve used upwards to 1.5 the amounts cited above

Lightly grease the pans if you want the casserole to come up quickly and clean up easily. 

You can use/add/substitute frozen chicken breasts if you have a small chicken or just a bag of frozen chicken to work with.  It doesn’t even have to be boiled – just cooked and cut into bite sized pieces.  Grilled chicken might be a very good option

Stale chips work well for this recipe – I like to use that crushed pile of chips at the bottom of an old bag that no-one is willing to eat. 

Smash larger chip pieces into smaller to ensure good coverage of bottom of baking dish

If your dish is soupy:
·         Try adding the salsa to the onion & mushroom sauté and cooking off some of the liquid
·         Drain the can of tomatoes a bit before adding

To Spice it up:
·         Use a hot salsa
·         Add red pepper flakes to the sauté

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Language Comprehension


Mira's still not talking too much. She has three words that she says in context: cat, dog, mama. She also says baby and dada, but she doesn't use them to identify those things yet. HOWEVER (and it's a big however), it has become blatantly clear that she understands soooo much. She can now point to nearly any part of her anatomy, she can identify people she is familiar with by name (when asked "where's so-and-so?" she'll turn and wave at that person), she often listens to directions and follows them (for example, I can say "Mira, will you please bring me my socks?" and she does so), and she correctly identifies tons of objects by pointing to them when asked where they are. She has 3 favorite books and can identify any object in any of those books. And speaking of books, she has learned that reading is one of those things that I will usually drop whatever I'm in the middle of to do with her. So reading books has quickly become one of her favorite things to do. As I said, she has 3 favorites and we probably read those 3 books at least 10 times each per day. Plus when I get tired of those 3, I start hiding them so then we usually end up reading a handful of her other books too every day. It is crazy and wonderful how fast she is learning. And I really love teaching her. To the point that I try to find something new to teach her every day. Right now, we're working on colors. But I think that may be a difficult concept. Because I just said that that was a "banana". How can it also be a "yellow"? At least, this is what I picture her thinking.

On a completely unrelated topic, I recently took these pictures after Mira had decided she didn't want to wear the outfit she had on (the solid hot pink shirt and the light pink pants) and instead wanted to wear her striped onesie and one legwarmer. Yes, one legwarmer. After I changed her, she picked up her original outfit and held it up to me like she wanted to put that one back on. So I just tied the shirt around her shoulders. She was pleased as punch.






Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Getting outside


The weather has gotten so nice now that it's spring. So we're getting outside more and more. Sometimes we just hang out in our yard.





Sometimes we go to the park. Mira really loves to slide and to swing. (The last 4 pics in this set were taken by Becky.)







And last Sunday we went to the Zilker Kite Festival. I'm glad we got there early because it really got busy by the time we left!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Water play


On Wednesday, the weather got up to a high of 80 degrees. I figured that since it was so warm, Mira might like to play in the water. So I got some large tupperware dishes, a big pot, and a few cups and spoons. I took them all out on the back porch and filled them with water. Mira loved it!





Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mom's Clubs and a Loss of Income


I just wanted to take a minute here to express my enthusiasm for my Mom's Clubs. I am in 3 different Mom's Clubs, all of which are organized on Meetup.com. Oh what a glorious site! Meetup.com is wonderful! I would recommend that any mom, especially stay at home moms, check out Meetup.com for groups in your area.

As I said, I'm in 3 clubs: one for pre-school age children (0-5) and two specifically for babies born in 2009. The two groups for 2009 babies are really nice because Mira can hang out with kids who are her age, and therefore at her level, developmentally. And it's nice for me to be able to talk with moms who are going through the same things I am going through at the same time. The other group, the one for kids aged 0-5, is good because observing the older children gives me ideas for the future and prepares me for what's to come.

I've met some truly wonderful women in these clubs and Mira has made some great little friends. And between the 3 clubs, I have something free or very inexpensive to do nearly every day of the week.

I'm sure most of you have heard that Brian lost his job. That's something that is very scary for anyone, but especially so for a couple where one parent is at home with the kid(s). There is suddenly no income at all for the entire household. That's a stressful position to be thrown into. Brian and I decided that our primary goal was to find a way to keep me at home. We didn't feel that Mira or I was ready for Mira to be put into daycare and also we wanted to be able to continue our current attempts at expanding our family (we've been trying for another baby since November).

So with our family-oriented goals in mind, I decided that I would do everything I could to support Brian in his job search, but that I would not begin the process of finding a daycare for Mira and a job for myself until it became obviously necessary. Instead I chose to trust that Brian would find a way to take care of us. He's got loads of experience and a diverse set of skills and a great personality, so I'm sure that there are tons of companies out there who would find him to be a valuable employee. And I have every expectation that he will be our hero in the end because I see how he fights for us every day by putting himself out there and being aggressive in his job hunt. He'll find that dragon and slay it, and he'll be my knight in shining armor, the way he always does.

But...

Just because he is so incredible and capable all on his own, doesn't mean that I can't give him a little boost from behind the scenes. ;-D

So I asked my fellow moms in the Mom's Clubs if any of their husbands worked in IT. And lo and behold... The mommy network got Brian some rather impressive leads! When I asked Brian if these were connections he wanted to follow up on, he said, "Absolutely because I know that those men make enough to support a stay at home mom!" I thought, "Oh yeah, good point." Anyway, one company has shown a good amount of interest in Brian, and he's got a third phone interview with them tomorrow. (Yes, I did say a third phone interview. My mommy friend warned me that they have a looong interviewing process; boy, she wasn't kidding.)

Ok so, moral of the story: Mommy Network For the Win. Every mommy should have one!

Oh and apparently, there's a referral bonus at this company and, if Brian gets hired, my mommy friend is lobbying for the bonus to go toward mommy pedicures or something since it was totally our connection that earned the referral. So double win. ;-)


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Girly-girl

It's funny how, even at such a young age, children can so clearly express their personality. Mira is turning out to be quite the girly girl.

In evidence, the following items for your inspection:
1. She already has opinions on what she should wear. I've never really given her choices about clothing. I guess I just assumed that she was too young to be interested in making that decision. Yet again, I seem to have underestimated her maturity because she has really taken a fondness to her leg warmers (the very ones she is wearing in the video at the end of this post). She wants to wear them all the time. To bed, to play, to go in the car, to nap, ... all the time. If she doesn't have them on, she'll find them and bring them to me or Brian and then hold them up to her legs and look at us expectantly. She also picked out her socks this morning, choosing the blue cookie monster socks to go with her red outfit. Now that's style.
2. She likes to do hair. Lately I've taken to trying to keep a barrette in her hair to keep her bangs, which are getting a little long, out of her eyes. Well, she loves to take the barrette out and put it in my hair. Then take it out of my hair and put it back in her own. And then back out of her hair and into Daddy's. I suspect Mira is the only person in the world for whom Brian would wear a pink bow in his hair.
3. She loves flowers. Today we were at the park with a bunch of my fellow mommy friends and their little ones. All the other babies were playing with the mulch under the playscape or the grass or the rocks. Without me even noticing, Mira managed to find the only dandelion flower in the whole area and pick it up. She then proceeded to try to give the flower to her little friend, but he was distinctly uninterested. I tried to get her to play with a stick, but she just threw it down with a disgusted look on her face.
4. She dislikes being dirty. When we're playing outside and she gets dirt on her hands, she holds them up to me, like "here, mom, wipe this junk off". When eating, and something sticky gets on her hands, she flings them all about until said sticky thing flies off in a random direction.
5. She's interested in makeup. Especially chapstick. See the video below.
video

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mira is officially a walker.

You may recall, about a week ago Mira took her first unaided steps. At that time, she took 3 steps, fell down, and hasn't tried again since. Until today.

Today after breakfast, Mira got down from her highchair and was standing up looking out the window. Once she'd had her fill of gazing at the backyard, she turned around, let go of the windowsill, walked 3 steps, and took hold of the dining room chair that was nearby. Well, it was like she all of a sudden realized "Hey, I can DO this!" She immediately let go of the chair and WALKED. And I don't mean she took 3 more steps and fell down again. No. She walked halfway around the kitchen island. And when she did finally fall down, she didn't stop there. She got back up and did it again. She was at it all day today.

video

video

Standing up is the hardest part for her. If she gets her balance after standing, then she can walk quite far. But she gets frustrated when she falls down and realizes she has to go through all the trouble of standing up and getting her balance again. It's so clear that she just wants to GO. At first we were helping her to stand, but once I realized that she could do that on her own, I've been making her do it herself, even though she clearly prefers to have the assistance and asks for help up by holding her hand out for us to take it. I figure she needs to practice it on her own. But that does tend to lead to her getting frustrated more quickly. Plus her little legs just get tired and that frustrates her too. So today was a bit of a challenge, having a perpetually frustrated toddler. I had to do a lot of distracting, reminding her that she had fun toys we could play with or books we could read and that life was not entirely about walking. But she was very focused and very determined.

I've been saying for weeks now that she has the balance to be able to walk, she just hadn't decided that it was time yet. Well, apparently, today it was TIME.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Mama"

Mira has started saying "mama". Mostly she says it when she wants something from me: more food or help with a toy or to be picked up or just some attention. Right now it's still new, so I love hearing her call for me by "name". It's endearing. For now. I'm sure later it will get old.