Monthly Archives: November 2007

Friday Night Turn-Up-the-Lights


Tonight I get to be a chaperone at Sam’s very. First. School. Dance.

*cue disbelief, tears, and “I remember when you were a baby!” stories*

He brought a notice home in his backpack a few weeks ago and declared that he wanted to go. I don’t think he knows what he’s in for, but then, in 6th grade, did anybody?

I remember trying to make myself invisible by backing up against a wall with most of the rest of the girls, keeping very busy with pizza and Coke and highly important chit-chat, and trying to look oh-so-cool and entirely comfortable in this painfully awkward and awful situation, so as to have several excuses at all times why I just absolutely could not dance. No, thank you. No. Way.

I’m not exactly sure why anybody went in the first place, since, afterall, it was billed as a dance, at which one would expect, one would think, to be, perhaps, dancing.

But… N. O. No!!! How embarrassing!

Tonight, I’ll be the one hiding in the corner with a camera strategically placed in front of my face so as to hide my parental giggling. (Well, I’m also going so that I can be there to cue Sam as he navigates the social scene, fend off any bullies, and make sure he has a good time. But mostly, for the pictures and the giggling.)

Oh, I know, I’m awful. I’m going to be one of those horrible, mortifying parents who actually shows up at her son’s school dance with a camera. How could I?

But… how can I not?


This Is Why I Exercise

Again, with the soup. I’m sorry, I can’t help it. I blame my grandmothers.

Beef Stew with Herbed Dumplings

This is my favorite version of a winter beef stew, which is, as far as I’m concerned, one of VERY FEW existing saving graces of cold weather (the others are: 2) ice skating, and 3) hot chocolate.) This stew is very easy to make, but takes its sweet time getting cooked. However, the resulting rich, smoky flavor and incredibly tender bites of slow-cooked beef are well worth the time spent within stirring distance.

Making the stew:

3 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 TBLS peanut oil
5 thick-sliced bacon strips, chopped (I used Trader Joe’s Applewood Smoked Center Cut Bacon)
3 cups finely chopped onions (3 or 4 medium onions)
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 or 4 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or finely chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
5 1/2 cups low-sodium canned beef broth (can sub a cup or two of red wine for some of the broth)
1 14 1/2-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added purée

6 medium carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
3 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 TBSP cornstarch (optional; can be used to thicken stew if necessary)

And then, the dumplings. If you’re in a hurry, you can go the Bisquick route (Bisquick + milk + scallions tossed in the pot,) or skip them altogether, and serve up the stew with a hearty bread, instead.)

2/3 cup whole milk (sorry Bon Appetit, I used lowfat)
2 large eggs
3 TBLS minced chives or 2 scallions (green parts only, chopped)
2 TBSP minced fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (I subbed whole wheat flour for about half of the total amount)
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Place rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F.

Sprinkle beef with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat oil in large, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, cook beef until brown, stirring occasionally and scraping up browned bits, about 8 minutes. Transfer meat to bowl.

Add bacon to the same pot. Sauté until crisp, about 5 minutes. (I discarded about 2/3 of the bacon grease after sautéing.) Add onions, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cover and cook until onions are tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Return beef to pot. Add five cups canned beef broth and crushed tomatoes. Cover and bring to a simmer.

Transfer pot to oven. Bake until beef is just tender, stirring occasionally, about one hour. Add carrots and potatoes. Cover; bake until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until beef is very tender, about 25 minutes.

While the stew bakes, prep the dumplings: Whisk milk and eggs in medium bowl. Stir in chives and parsley. Let stand at room temp for 30 minutes. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into large bowl. Add milk mixture. Stir just until blended.

(The following step is optional — I didn’t bother.) Whisk remaining 1/2 cup beef broth and cornstarch in small bowl to blend. Bring stew to simmer over medium heat. Stir cornstarch mixture into stew. Return to a simmer, stirring until sauce thickens.

(This part is cool; alert the kids!) Spoon dumpling batter in 12 dollops on top of simmering stew. Cover tightly; simmer until dumplings are puffed and tester inserted into center of dumplings comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Tooooooo delicious.

Huh, I Never Knew

Sam: Mom, you know what I want for Christmas?

Me: What, Sam?

Sam: Aqua Dots.

Me: They don’t sell those anymore, pal.

Sam: Why not?

Me: Because they have a chemical in them that causes unconsiousness, drowsiness, seizures, coma and death made some kids get sick.

Sam: They won’t make ME sick! I was born hydrodynamic*!

*Never mind the definition; Sam thinks it means “strong.” When I asked him where he heard that, he said, “SpongeBob told me.”

Simple Needs

Life Rule #372: Never pass up an opportunity to toss a penny in a fountain.

… sometimes your wishes come true! (Occasionally, in a matter of mere minutes.)


Life Rule #373 (according to Abby): On those rare occasions when your mother grants you a tall vanilla creme frappuccino, always request extra whipped cream.

Uncle Doug’s Thanksgiving Recipe

1.) Remove cap from can of whipped cream.

2.) Spray liberally into the mouth of an adorable two year-old.

3.) Be thankful for her extremely tolerant mother, who indulges us by allowing such silliness, even after I insulted her dog.

4.) Repeat.

For This, I Give Thanks

1.) Love
2.) My children and their health
3.) Words
4.) a) Chocolate, b) venti iced quad nonfat cappucinos, and c) mashed potatoes (not necessarily consumed simultaneously)
5.) Outstanding teachers
6.) Four-leaf clovers
7.) Curly-girl hair care products that actually work
8.) Those who value kindness
9.) Big Papi
10.) Laughing until it hurts

What are you thankful for?

Air Travel Envy

Sam (jealous and pouting): What if I came in without a ticket and I snuck onto the plane?

Me: You can’t do that, Sam.

Sam: Why not?

Me: You’d get arrested at airport security.

Sam (smiling): What happens then? Will I get arrested, handcuffed, processed and jailed? Then killed, cemeteried and heavened?

Me: No Sam, I’m pretty sure they’ll keep you alive.

Sam: Will I still get fruit punch and a cookie?

Me: We have those at home, bud.