Thursday, January 31, 2013

Missing Vermont

We have had a crazy week of weather in Baton Rouge.  Sunday was so warm.  After church, we had a potluck picnic.  Everyone was running around with short sleeves and bare legs.  Then, mid week, it rained, and the past couple of days have been chilly (well 60 degrees chilly!).  This strangely warm weather made me think (well more than I usually do) about Vermont.

We are loving being back in the South.  And we were so excited to move back down here.  But I am realizing lately how many things, both expected and unexpected, I miss about Vermont:

1.  The Food

I knew this would be the case, but I didn't realize how much!  Vermont is all about local food.  Bech and I try to eat organic.  We try to only buy free range or grass feed meat.  And that is hard to find here.  Luckily, we have a Whole Foods in Baton Rouge.  It's a "big business," but it does sell meat, milk, and cheese that we like.  Plus, they have a bulk section for flour, sugar, and spices.

But I often find myself dreaming of City Market...

(side note, I found this picture online, but we know that girl!)



Or El Gato's, or Tiny Thai, or the Burlington Farmers Market...This list could go on and on.

2. The Snow

Yeah, I know, I am crazy for saying this.  And I don't miss this everyday!  But sometimes, when I can wear shorts in late January, I wish for a little snow.


I mean, that's pretty beautiful, right?

3.  The Library

While I was in grad school, I worked at the UVM library, Bailey Howe.  And I miss it!  It was such a fun job...being around books, organizing books, getting to know all of the wonderful workers.  

I absolutely love my job now, but I did love that job.  

4.  The People


(my good friend Chris and two of my favorite professors)


(The Amazing Angeline and her brother Jeff...he's not a Vermonter, but he's in the picture already, so he'll count!)

I think I was prepared for Vermonters to be really rude and not very kind.  I mean, isn't that what all Southerners believe about "Yankees?"  


(our friend Renee...seriously one of the sweetest people you will ever meet)

But I LOVED so many people in Vermont.  They were amazing.  We had friends that just loved on us so much.  And I miss them.



I think I am a nomad by nature.  I like to move.  I like to live in different places.  But one of the hardest things about that is that a piece of my heart stays in those places.

I still have dreams that we are back in Malawi.  That I am shopping at Foodworths, eating at Nando's, teaching at the Academy.  I always wonder if I will ever get to go back and actually do those things again!

And that is how I feel about Vermont.  Will I ever meet friends for tequila margarita's at El Gato's?  Even more, will I ever get to see my friends from there again?

I am so thankful to be back near Southern friends and families, but I am sure missing my "Yankee" second home!

Monday, January 28, 2013

This Weekend...

Well it's Monday and we are back in the swing of things around here.  We had a wonderful, busy weekend!

We started things off Thursday night.  Bech's coworkers came over, and I made yummy sweet potato soup.  We played Settlers of Catan--Bech and I hadn't played since last spring! (If you know us, you know that's a LONG time!)

Friday night, Bech taught a class at Workshop, a local pottery co-op.  I fed, bathed, and put Jack to sleep, then caught up on my Bones watching!

Saturday morning, Jack woke us up bright and early (okay, I'm totally complaining--it was like 7:30).  Bech suggested heading to Coffee Call, a local Baton Rouge beignet place.  SO good.  It was like a calmer Cafe du Monde.


Here's Jack's "cheese" face.


This boy can put down some beignets!  We have a little Louisiana boy on our hands!

Also, can we just talk about this outfit?  Yes, I know...my child is in denim.  It's a big deal.  But seriously, the cuteness.  I could die.  If you can't tell, the overalls have embroidered trains on them!

We stopped at Whole Foods for groceries on the way home.  Little man is slightly anemic, so we wanted to get some meat for him.  Whole Foods actually sells grass fed beef and free range chicken, so we made that fit in our weekly grocery budget this week.

Saturday night, we played a dice game with our neighbors.  I don't think I've talked about them before. They have a boy a day younger than Jack, which has been great.  The boys play together a lot, we swap free babysitting, and we love to hang out, too!  It's a great situation.

Sunday, after church, we stayed for a potluck.  I absolutely LOVE our church here.  There are so many people our age.  It's a small group, which makes it easy to try to know everyone.

When we got home (almost 2 hours after Jack's normal nap time!), Jack ended up sleeping for 3 1/2 hours!  Ah-mazing.  Bech and I both took super long naps too.  

We ended the weekend with yummy chicken, acorn squash and lime salsa verde tacos.  I have incredible husband who makes amazing food.

It's Spiritual Emphasis Week at my school, which means things will be a little busier than usual.  But only 2 more weeks until Mardi Gras break!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Movies...

I am so behind when it comes to movies.  I never go see movies in the theatre.  Partly because I get super antsy having to sit still so long, and partly because I hate spending the money.  We used to stay fairly up to date with netflix, but we cancelled our subscription when we moved and still haven't restarted it.

But thanks to Redbox and a local theatre that has $5 movies on Tuesday, Bech and I have seen a few recent movies.  Here's my take on our latest views, from worst to best!



To Rome With Love

Um, not a fan.  The preview made it look good, almost like a Love Actually.  It's not.  It's quirky, but not in a fun way.  The actors are good, and there were a few funny parts.  But overall, we weren't fans.


Zero Dark Thirty

This movie is up for a lot of awards.  Bech really wanted to see this movie, and I was somewhat interested.  

As a movie, it was done really well.  But the story was too intense--there was too much language and too much violence for me.  I felt like, after finishing it, it did nothing good for my soul.  Does that make sense?  Am I thinking too deeply for a movie?  Perhaps.  But I really felt like there was no reason for me to see it.  

Anyone watch it and think differently?


Les Miserables

Oh, this is a hard one for me.  I was SO excited to see this movie.  Les Miserables is my favorite musical. I have seen it once on Broadway and once traveling.  I grew up singing these songs in the car with my dad.

So I approach this movie with a lot of expectation which leads to hyper criticalness.  On the whole, they did an amazing job with this movie.  Enjolras, Marius, and Eponine--absolutely incredible.  I loved the boy who played Gavroche.  I love the way they shot so many scenes.  

But Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe were AWFUL.  Maybe not as actors (although I didn't particularly care for Hugh as Val Jean), but as singers.  If you've never really listened to the Broadway soundtrack a lot, it might not bother you.  But I know what those songs can and should sound like, so I was pretty disappointed in the two leads.

A lot of people have talked about their emotion during the movie.  I'm a crier.  I cry at that coffee commercial where the son comes home.  I cry at Disney movies.  I fully expected to just cry and cry at Les Mis, but I really didn't.  I think it's because I have already cried many times over the deaths.

But the scene that had me in tears was "Lovely Ladies."  My heart was absolutely broken during that song.  The way the director chose to film it was incredible.

Anyway, I will definitely watch this movie again.  I would suggest it to other people.  Was I absolutely thrilled with the movie?  Nah, but it would have been really hard for it to meet my expectations!


Beasts of the Southern Wild

I don't even know where to start with this movie.

A friend recommended it on Facebook.  I watched the trailer and knew I needed to see it.  It is absolutely incredible.  

The story is about Hushpuppy, a little girl who lives in the Louisiana bayou with her daddy.  The movie is chock-full of myth.  The director shot the whole movie from Hushpuppy's perspective.  There are so many beautiful scenes.

I also really enjoyed reading this article about the movie.  If you haven't seen it yet, please do yourself a favor and check out this movie.  Amazing.


So that's what we've been watching lately.  Any good suggestions for our next movies?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Life Lately

We have had a nice, laid back weekend around here.  We had friends over to eat Friday night, I organized all day Saturday, we watched a movie last night, and today was church and lunch with family.  I love weekends like this!

Unfortunately, I have school tomorrow.  The students won't be there, but we have in-service training.  Then a full week of school after that.  Only three more weeks until Mardi Gras break!  Yes, you read that right.  Mardi Gras break.  Apparently the wonderful people in Louisiana believe in taking a week off for Mardi Gras.  And I am NOT going to complain.

Anyway, here are a few random thoughts/updates...

* Seeing as it's Mardi Gras season, I have had a student bring a King Cake almost every single day for the past two weeks.  NOT good for my goal of losing weight!

*  Did you know that King cakes have different flavors?  I didn't!  In Mississippi, I grew up just eating cinnamon flavor.  But there are TONS of flavors--cream cheese, bavarian creme, eclair, strawberry, blueberry.

*  But don't get blueberry!  I got blueberry flavored King Cake for my 7th grade advisory group (10 7th grade boys that I meet with once a week).  They said, "Oh, we can tell you aren't from Louisiana!"  Apparently, blueberry is a "weird" flavor.  Really?  And Bavarian Creme isn't?

*  Did anyone see "Parks and Rec" this week?  They were playing Settlers of Catan!  It made my day.  My favorite show and my favorite game.  Perfect.

* Bech and I have a running joke about my Redbox/Netflix movie choices.  I always manage to suggest the worst movies.  I redeemed myself by choosing Beasts of the Southern Wild.  And then I ruined it again with my choice of To Rome With Love.  We were definitely not fans. 

I hope y'all all have a wonderful week.  I still need to post about the Mardi Gras ball...I'll do that soon!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Soups!

Kelly's Korner is doing a soup link-up.  I know I just posted two of these soups the other day, but I'm going to share them again for the link up!

I LOVE soups.  Soups are my go-to recipes and probably my favorite thing to make.

Here are some new, delicious soups I've been making:

1. Mexican Tortilla Soup


Here's the recipe.  It's a Martha Stewart recipe.  It's a brothy soup, which I'm normally not crazy about.  But the broth is so flavorful and you mix in lots of yummy ingredients (green onions, cilantro, chicken, avocado, and tortilla strips).  Bech and I both loved it, and so did Jack!

2.  Black Bean Soup


This recipe is originally from the gluten free cookbook, Cooking for Isaiah.  My mom made this two years ago, and I've never forgotten it.  The other day I tried googling to see if I could find the recipe online, and then I made it that night.  SO GOOD.  I absolutely love this soup--it's spicy and filling.  And you puree 2 cups of the soup at one point then add it back, so it has a really interesting (in a good way) consistency.

As a side note, any soup that begins this way...


...I am going to like.  I absolutely love the smell of onions cooking in oil or butter.

3.  Curry Pumpkin Soup


This recipe is from Tables of Content (a cookbook from the Jr. League of Birmingham).  I can't find it online, but, if you email me, I could send it to you.  It's very filling.  I am not always crazy about curry in dishes, but it's not very much--just enough to give a slight taste to the soup. 

The first two soups are meals in and of themselves.  I made this third soup last night, and we ate them with ham and swiss sandwiches too.  This soup is good, but because it's pureed, I felt like the meal needed something else (plus I love dipping bread into soups!).

Hope some of y'all make these yummy soups!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Life Update...

2 weeks into 2013, and I've already slowed down on my blogging! Oh well, I will just have to pick back up.

We had a busy week last week.  It was my first full week at school since Christmas, and there was lots going on!  Plus, we met my mom halfway on Friday night and headed to New Orleans for a Mardi Gras ball (which deserves and will get a post of its own!).

Jack spent the weekend with Doc and Bella and had a BLAST!


I mean, seriously, who else lets you have a sucker in the bathtub?


Also, those curls...melt my heart.


I know I have referenced it before, but there is a TCBY literally right around the corner from us.  And on Wednesdays, they have 99¢ waffle cones.  Do I even need to add that we go EVERY week?  It's such a good hump-day treat!

Usually, Jack just eats off of ours, but this past week we gave him his own.  He went crazy!

Here's my little man.  He is all boy.  He has an orange baseball cap that some family friends gave him, and he LOVES it.  And he always puts it on backwards to crack it up.  He's playing with his Thomas train set...he is obsessed with that thing. 


It is cold in Louisiana right now!  I am so amazed at how quickly I have lost any Vermont cold tolerance.  We have a fireplace in our apartment, so Bech has built us a couple of fires.  I love it!


And since we have so many pictures of Jack, here's a recent picture of Bech (and his cute hipster glasses) and me.  This is from New Year's Eve.  We went to our friends, Bess and Julian, and had so much fun--we even, amazingly enough, managed to make it to midnight!

I will post Mardi Gras ball pictures soon--It was so fun!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Homemade Cheese

One of my goals for 2013 was to learn to make cheese.  

I know that may seem like a strange goal, but I have been wanting to learn for several years.  For Christmas, I received a starter kit from the Cheese Queen.  Last Saturday, I finally got the nerve up to make my first batch of mozzarella.

Seriously, I was really nervous.  The process didn't take that long (30 or so minutes), but I knew that everything had to be perfect temperature and time wise.  And I am the kind of girl who doesn't level off cups when I add flour.  So yeah, a little nervous.



First, I added citric acid to a gallon of whole, pasteurized (but not ultra pasteurized) milk.  Then I heated the liquid up to 90° F.




At 90°, I pulled the milk off of the stove and added the rennet.  This is the part where I messed up.  I (think that I) stirred the rennet in too vigorously.  This caused the curd to not set into a big piece.  

After I mixed the rennet in, I let the mixture sit for 5 minutes while the curd form.



If the curd had formed correctly, I would have poured off the whey and set the curd in a hot water bath.

Since I had broken the curd up into smaller pieces, I improvised.  I strained the curd through a cheese cloth, then shaped the curd into a larger shape.

Back on track, I then put the curd in 185° water, added cheese salt, and stretched it like taffy (the fun part!).


Because I messed up part of it, the cheese was a little harder (I like the really soft mozzarella).  But the flavor was still really good.  


Here is my completed mozzarella!  

Honestly, there was a point, when the curd wasn't setting right, where I almost cried.  That's my typical response to things not working right in the kitchen.  But I was determined to make mozzarella!  I am glad my improvisation worked!


Our pizzas that night with my homemade mozzarella!  

You can tell it's a little harder than I planned--I should have grated the mozzarella on the cheese, because it didn't spread very well.  


For both of these pizzas, I made the dough, the sauce and the cheese!

I am going to make one more batch of mozzarella (maybe Sunday?) and then try my hand at some more soft cheeses (Ricotta, cream cheese, goat cheese).  When I feel confident in those, I will move on to hard cheeses!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's Cookin'...

One of my goals this year was to be better at menu planning. 

I chose this goal for a couple of reasons:

(1)  If we don't have a set meal for that night, we end up eating so late!  And it's stressful.  No one likes to eat dinner at 8 pm!  (Okay, actually, some people do, but I don't!) 

(2) When we eat dinner that late, Jack can't eat with us.  I want Jack to eat more and more "table food."
(3) I like for us to have a family dinner together.

So far, I have done pretty well.  We have had several soups, panini sandwiches, spaghetti (my first time to make homemade sauce!), and pizza.   

Here are a couple of pics (warning--they aren't good quality!):


Mexican Tortilla Soup

The recipe is here.  It's a Martha Stewart recipe, and it's AMAZING.  Very broth-y, which I'm normally not a fan of.  But the broth is really flavorful, and you add cotija cheese, tortilla strips (super easy to make with corn tortillas), and avocado.
***side note--A month or so ago, a waitress at a restaurant, when asked which appetizer she suggested, told my mother, my sister, and I that she didn't like avocado.  My sister, who could subsist solely off of avocado looked at her like she was legally insane.  But, really?  Not like avocado???***
Anyway, it's a really filling and fairly cheap soup.  I will be making this again soon!


Spaghetti 

Okay, so this isn't technically a picture of my spaghetti.  But, I had to include a picture of Jack, right?  Plus, I didn't take a picture of the actual food, so Jack will have to do.  I am not usually a big spaghetti fan.  But Jack--he LOVES it.  My dad loves spaghetti, too, so I think it's cute.

Like I said, I don't love spaghetti, so I've never actually made the sauce.  But I tried this time.  I just saut├ęd garlics and onions, added Muir Glen's Fire Roasted Tomatoes (which were also in both soups in this post and are seriously amazing), tomato paste, and some spices, then pureed the sauce with Bech's new immersion blender.  It ended up being yummy.  I used Whole Food's 365 Organic brand of pasta, and it was really good.  A pretty easy meal that we ate two days in a row!


Here's one of my pizza's from the other night.  This may be my proudest accomplishment to date.  I'm not even kidding.  I made the dough, the pesto, AND the mozzarella (I will blog about that adventure soon!).  So I made this pizza completely from scratch.  

Yeah, kind of excited about that.  And I used my homemade tomato sauce to make a pizza for Bech with red sauce.


Tonight's dinner, Black Bean Soup.

I used this recipe, but the original is in Cooking For Isaiah, which is a gluten-free cookbook.  This may be my favorite soup I've ever made.  I know, that's a pretty bold statement, but it's SO yummy.  It's a little spicy and super flavorful.  Again, very filling.  And the avocado creme?  Amazing.

So far, so good.  Now I just have to keep it up all year!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Favorite Clothing Brands

We love to dress Jack in cute smocked and monogrammed clothes.  In fact, I told someone the other day that I didn't "believe" in denim for babies.  I know we are little old school, but I love how he looks in the clothes!

It is hard to find Southern style children's clothes when you aren't in the South, and it's hard in general to find these style clothes without breaking the bank.  I thought I would share some of my favorite brands for Jack


This is where at least 50% of Jack's clothes come from.  Several times of year, they put the clothes on half off.  If you go to clearance, you can get adorable smocked bubbles and rompers for $10 to $15.  Seriously, I LOVE this site.


This is a simple bubble from there that my mom had monogrammed.


This bubble was so cute in the summer.


I love this Santa romper.


I loved this roper.  It was short, so it worked well for summer and early fall.

2. Mudpie

Mudpie is another great brand.  They sell cute applique outfits.  Zulily has Mudpie clothes on every three or four months, plus lots of stores in the South sell Mudpie.  One warning--Mudpie runs on the smaller side.


This monkey Jon-Jon is still one of my favorite outfits of Jack's!


Patcake Kids is actually based out of Jackson, MS, which makes it local for me!  I love Patycake Kids clothes.  They usually run true to size and are great quality.  I might even host a Patycake Kids party this spring.


This was Jack's fall outfit this year.  I loved the colors in the smocking.

The last two are lacking in pictures, but check out their sites:

4.  Ragsland

Bech's mom and I were able to go to the warehouse sale this past fall (it's in BR!) and stocked up on some spring and summer clothes for this year.  Lot's of smocked and applique clothes!  We even got Jack some madras shorts for the summer.  I plan on getting some white polos monogrammed to wear with the shorts.


A random, fun fact...I used to wear Kelly's Kids all the time as a little girl!  They make applique outfits. Jack has had a few outfits from Kelly's Kids in the past, and he has a bunch for this summer.  Their outlet is in Natchez, and my mom was able to go to the big sale this year.

I hope this helps others out in searching out cute clothes!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2013 Goals

Last year, I made 12 goals.  My 12 in 12 list.  I am going to do an update soon about how they went, but I wanted to make a new list this year.

I like the idea of having goals, instead of resolutions.  If I don't accomplish them, it's okay.  But it still gives me something to work towards.

1.  Read the Bible/pray DAILY  

This was a goal last year.  It will continue to be a goal every year.  I had times where I did great at this, but I had a lot of times where I didn't!  I got a new Bible from Bech for Christmas, and I am excited in using it in quiet times.

2. Lose 15 pounds

Last year, my goal was to lose weight, and I did!  But I have a matron of honor dress to look good in, so I would love to get back down to what I weighed in college.  Plus, there are several dresses from then I would love to be able to wear again.

3. Run a 5k race 

Okay, I know lots of people run half and full marathons, but I am just aiming for a 5k.  I am not a runner, but I would love to run some.  I downloaded the Couch to 5K app for my phone, so I am planning to work through that.

4. Spend one-on-one time with Bech

Our neighbors have a boy 1 day younger than Jack, so we have been swapping babysitting with them.  It has been great.  Bech and I have had some fun dates already, and I want to keep them up  in the coming year.

5. Be more consistent with my blog

I have no desire to be a professional blogger, but I do want to keep up regularly with posts.  I love being able to look back on what we've been up to.  I would love to aim for 2 to 3 posts a week.

6.  Learn to make cheese

I got a cheese-making kit for Christmas from Bech's mom.  I have been wanting to learn to make cheese for several years, but I didn't really need to in Vermont (there was such good local cheese!).  Well, Baton Rouge is a different story.  I am starting out with some soft cheeses--mozzarella, ricotta, goat--then moving to hard cheeses.  I will definitely chronicle the adventure on here!

7.  Meal plan

I want to have set menu plans every week.  I hate not eating until Jack is in bed.  That's too late, plus Jack doesn't get to eat with us!  I want to consistently eat at a normal time and have a planned menu.

8.  Pass my comps!

I have to retake the poetry part of my translation exams, and then I will be able to take the history and philology parts.  I want to get those done!  I am ready to be finished!  So part of this goal will be to study for 7 hours each week.

9.  Learn about my camera

This was a goal last year that was NOT completed!  Bech and I bought a Nikon D3100 before Jack was born.  I use it a lot, but only in automatic.  I really do want to understand aperture, shutter speed, and all of the rest.  I would love to use this camera to the fullest.


I think that's it.  I have a busy year ahead!  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Jack--18 Months

Do you remember when I used to do month updates on Jack?  Yeah, me neither.  

Seriously, though, I loved doing those.  I don't really keep a baby book, so the blog is sorta my baby book on Jack.  I love to look back at those posts and remember what he was doing at various times.

I didn't want to keep up the once a month for Jack after he turned one, but I meant to do it every three months.  But 15 months is waaay past.  So we will pick it back up at 18 months.

A year and a half!


Jack is about 26 pounds.  He wears 18 to 24 month clothes (although we do have a few 2T's that he wears).  He wears size 6 shoes.  His cloth diapers are on the longest settings, and he wears size 4 in disposables.

He is such a good sleeper.  He goes down about 7 p.m., and will sleep to 6:45 or 7 in the morning.  He naps for 2 to 3 hours in the middle of the day.


He is, as usual, a great little eater.  He eats a ton of table food.  If I can, I try to make dinner for Bech and me before he goes to bed.  That way he gets to eat adult food.  Honestly, though, his favorite food is typical toddler food--pb&j sandwhiches, goldfish, graham crackers.  He drinks milk and watered down juice

He goes to daycare and LOVES it.  He has sweet sweet teachers and does really well there.  He usually naps well there, too.  He has had a few biting incidents, but I am hoping he is growing out of that phase.


We still do signs with him.  He uses: more, all done (which he says along with signing), please, thank you, and milk.  "Please" and "thank you" are so abstract that we usually prompt him to say those.  But this month, he started saying them on his own!

He has so many new words!  He can say: mama, dada, Doc, Bella, Nina, Nana, Papa, all done, ball, car, truck, bath, Jack, Coco (daycare teacher), meow, woof, moo, dog, cat, hey, bye bye, juice, uh oh, no, yes.

I am sure there are a few more, but that's all I can remember right now! 

Another fun thing is how much Jack can understand now.  When we talk to him, he understands a lot of what we are saying.  It is fun to ask him to bring us things or to get him to point out his nose, hair, etc.


Jack is OBSESSED with Thomas.  His aunt and uncle gave him a wooden train with 3 cars for Christmas last year.  This fall he started playing with it a lot, so I let him watch a Thomas movie on Netflix.  That was it...everything else ceased to exist for Jack.  This boy loves his Thomas.  He literally wakes up in the morning saying "Da-das?"  He has a Thomas set, Thomas plate and bowl, Thomas books, Thomas pj's, Thomas bath toys, the list could go on for days... 

He also loves cars, blocks, books, and puzzles.  He loves putting puzzles together.  It is so fun to watch his little brain at work.


We are loving this stage Jack is in.  He is so much fun.  He constantly makes us laugh (and he laughs with us!).  But he such a cuddle bug, giving kisses and hugs and sitting in our laps.

Jack, you are absolutely precious.  Your daddy and I love you so much.  We can't wait for a lifetime of joy from you!