Wednesday, May 20, 2009

nature week

One of the things that seriously sucks about living way out in the middle of nowhere is that during the summer months, nature inevitably finds its way into your home and there is no escape. Our invasion began this week and it came with a vengeance. It all started on one particularly craptacular day, as I was trying to write some papers and birds kept flying themselves into our big sliding glass door. 4 in less than 30 minutes, and that was just the beginning. Because I couldn't concentrate on writing anymore, I went to take the veggie scraps out to the composter. I noticed there were a bunch of files around and then I saw the dead owl laying on the ground. Nice. Once I came back inside, 2 more birds catapulted themselves into the window. The dumb things seriously need to learn how to fly. Our windows aren't even clean (thanks to W and CB) and they are covered by a porch! It isn't like we put runway lights on the ground leading them to fly into the window.

Later that night as I was brushing my teeth, a mouse ran across my foot. It was like the icing on the cake to my craptastic day. Of course, we didn't have any traps because we used them all last year so I couldn't do anything about it, but cry, and sleep in the kids' room cause there was no way in heck I was going to let a mouse have an opportunity to be my bed buddy.

The next day was slightly less eventful, except for the fact that I managed to get bitten by a million microscopic monsters when I took W out to ride his bike. The bites were so bad and itched so horribly that I spent most of the day putting straight ice on my skin to keep from scratching it off. Oh, and one of the dogs managed to catch a bird and eat it.

The day after that, as I was out with the kids, I heard my mom screaming for help in the kitchen. So I ran my pregnant butt into the house, expecting to have to put out a fire or slam a robber over the head with a shovel or mop up a major dishwasher explosion of soap, but instead was greeted by a gutsy little mouse who wanted to play. Fine. You wanna play, I'll play. Game on. The next half hour was spent trying to trap the mouse in the kitchen so I could catch it and figure out what to do with it. Of course, we still hadn't bothered to buy traps, so I had to improvise. That is what we moms do. We figure things out. So out came boxes and buckets and canning jars to block off the space under the cabinets... it was a mess but I was pretty proud of my ingenuity. So proud that I took a picture:

I managed to trap the thing within my barricade but couldn't bend over far enough to throw a bowl over it because he was so fast, and there was NO way I was getting on my hands and knees because 1) I would never be able to get up again and 2) um, no, not getting that close to it, thank you very much. So he got away. Then that mouse either cloned himself or multiplied because the mice kept coming. And the bugs kept biting, and the birds kept dying.

The final count for the week?
1 dead owl
2 dead birds thanks to the dog
4 dead birds for other reasons
1 dead rabbit (we think) thanks to the cat
9 yes NINE mice that have been caught and disposed of
1 random rooster seen in the road
73,468 bug bites on my body

The bug bite count is no exaggeration. Ok, well it may be a little bit exaggerated, but it sure as heck feels like I have that many bites. I'd share a picture, but the pictures wouldn't be very appropriate and I don't want to scare small children. These bites are ALL OVER, horrendous, give me hives and make me itch like I have rolled in poison ivy and then licked someone who had the chicken pox and then rubbed my belly against someone who had shingles. I itch so bad that I sit and cry most of the day and wake up with my skin bleeding because I've been scratching in my sleep. Aren't I hot?? Don't you wanna come sleep next to me? There is nothing that cures the itch, not even the most off the wall folk remedies. Believe me, I've tried just about everything. And this is on top of all of the other itching I've been dealing with from the pregnancy.

I'm really hoping that our Nature Week is over or that we have at least seen the worst of it. I refuse to let the mice put me into preterm labor because I was over exerting myself while throwing bowls at them... or running as fast as possible the other way. Gotta love the country life. Really.

**Side note for those of you wondering: the doctor doesn't think that I have PUPPPS, but I'm beginning to wonder if he's wrong and these bites are really a PUPPPS rash because I am the only person in the house that has them and they aren't on my face or belly button... the only thing isn't convincing me that this is PUPPPS is the itching and bumps only appear after I have been outside and/ or in the sun but the itching and bumps calm down after a few days. I guess only time will tell.**

Sunday, May 10, 2009

you win some, you lose some.

One of my favorite things in life is cooking. I haven't done much, if any, of it for the past 20 weeks or so because I have hated food more than I hate the word "ladies" or "panties" or even more than I dislike Johnny Depp and the voice that does all of the "Leap Frog" toys, but I'm slowly getting back into it. Tonight I decided to make a gumbo for dinner and then brownies for dessert. I figured that because I was making the gumbo from scratch, it would be acceptable to make the brownies from a box. I pick my battles.

I got everything out for the gumbo, chopped the veggies, made the roux, got it all simmering perfectly, and then I started in on the brownies. Not hard, right? Open the box, pour it in a bowl, add a couple of eggs, some oil, and some water. Then I added some mint extract to spice it up a bit and poured the mixture in the pan. And something was wrong. It just didn't look right. It was clumpy and just kinda plopped out of the bowl. How on earth could I mess up boxed brownies? Oh yeah, it is easy when you don't add the water! I thought I had added the water. I distinctly remember filling the measuring cup and then putting the cup in the dishwasher... but whatever happened between the time I filled the cup and put the cup away is lost forever in some space/ time pregnancy black hole continuum, never to be recovered. I have NO idea where I poured the water. It could have been in the gumbo or I might have poured it right down the drain, watered a plant, gave it to a kid... No clue.

Since I had already poured the batter into the baking dish and filled the batter bowl with water to be washed and I didn't want to dirty and wash yet another bowl, I took the lazy man's route and poured some water directly into the baking dish and then mixed it all up before popping it in the oven. And then I forgot to set a timer.

So there I was, making my gumbo, chopping up the chicken and peeling the shrimp when my mother reminded me about the brownies. Oops! Thankfully, I pulled them out in the nick of time. They were certainly different looking but I wasn't sure if the texture was because of the water issue, or because they were actually cooked a bit too long. Only time would tell.

I set those out to cool, added the chicken and sausage to the gumbo, simmered it away and soon, it was time to add the shrimp and eat up. And let me tell you, my gumbo was good. Like, really good. I've made a good gumbo before, but this was hit the spot, I'll take seconds even though I'm not hungry anymore, I'm glad I am supposed to eat 3500 calories and 150 grams of protein a day because I'm going to eat this entire pot, good.

Honestly though, I've never eaten anyone other gumbo so I don't really know if it is that great on the gumbo spectrum. I highly doubt Bobby Flay will be coming to my house and requesting to do a gumbo Throw Down with me... which is really too bad because every time I am pregnant, I seem to develop a mad innocent crush on him (goodness, that sounds so dirty. That is not what I meant, I promise!)... but I do think my gumbo is good, although it might be offensive to those native to the Land of Gumbo and know what REAL gumbo tastes like.

I don't really have an actual recipe for the gumbo. The mixture came after reading numerous recipes and taking the easiest and most delicious sounding parts from each of them. I'll try to write it out somewhat coherently if anyone is interested in trying it.

- 1/4 cup oil
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 3-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 smallish tomato, seeded and chopped
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- little bit of salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 cups chicken broth (I only use the low sodium kind)
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces
- 1 lb smoked sausage cut into slices and then halved (I like to use smoked turkey sausage but you can use kielbasa or andouille)
- about 24 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined.
- cooked rice (if you are a health nut, which you shouldn't be if you are eating this, use brown rice. I like to use regular white rice and if you are feeling extra daring, go Paula Deen on me and use some buttered rice)

Before you start cooking, send your kids outside with your husband or put them in front of a show or movie that lasts at least 45 minutes with snacks and drinks in hand, pour yourself a beverage and put your bluetooth in your ear so your hands are free and interruptions are kept to a minimum.

Make sure all of the veggies are chopped and ready to go.

In a dutch oven or other heavy sauce pan, combine the oil and flour over medium heat. Stir constantly until the flour and oil are smooth and the color of chocolate (can take 10-15 minutes). Slowly and carefully add the chopped onion, celery, green pepper and garlic. Stir until the veggies are mixed with the roux. Keep stirring until the veggies get a bit soft and the onions begin to get translucent (about 3-5 minutes).

Add the tomatoes, cayenne pepper, thyme, bay leaves and salt, continue to stir for another 2-3 minutes.

Slowly add the chicken broth, while stirring, making sure the veggie/roux mix combines fully with the broth. Bring to a slow boil and then turn the heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the chunks of chicken and sausage and continue to simmer for another 45- 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. The broth should be reducing and getting thicker at this point.

When you feel like it is done to your liking, and the rice is ready, add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp is pink. Take the pan off the heat and let it set for a couple of minutes. Stir before serving over rice.

I don't like a lot of salt or heat in my dishes so modify the recipe to fit your sodium limits and heartburn/ reflux threshold. If you want more spice, you can season the chicken before throwing it in the pot. The longer you simmer this, the more flavor it is going to have, but don't go more than 3 total hours because that is just nuts and you will be very hungry by then.

Let me know if any of this doesn't make sense. It is late and I'm high on sudafed and limeaid. If it sucks, or you get a horrific case of food poisoning, don't blame me. It's not my fault you just can't cook. I'm kidding, of course!! I hope this is as good as I think it is.

As for the brownies, well, they aren't my best work. But they are edible and will not go to waste because I'm pretty sure it is illegal in like 5 states to let brownies go to waste, even if they are a bit spongy and dense at the same time. Next time, I won't multi task while cooking. Clearly, my pregnant brain can only handle one task at a time.

Monday, May 4, 2009

side by side

My lovely friends who have seen my belly pictures have spent the past day trying to convince me that I am not the heifer that I think I am. They have almost convinced me. Almost. Looking at my pictures from this pregnancy, no, I'm not HUGE compared to other moms who carry twins. But compared to my previous pregnancies, dang. Moooooo. Woof.

I never measured larger than 33 weeks with W. He had severe growth restriction in the womb because the little stinker tied a true knot in his cord at 32 weeks and was born the size of a 33 week baby, at 38 weeks. So for me to be measuring 10-12 weeks ahead at 25 weeks makes me bigger than I ever was with my first pregnancy. Thankfully, CB was born at a very healthy 7 pounds, but I carried her so low at the end that I never measured larger than 36 weeks. Plus, she was born 11 days early, so I didn't get much of a chance to measure larger.

Tonight I was a bit bored (yes, I actually had a few seconds to be bored!) so I decided to dig through my old pictures and do some comparisons. It is pretty interesting to see how the same uterus (she said uterus, again!!) can grow so differently with each pregnancy.

So yes, my friends are right. I'm not a complete cow, just very large for what I am used to. Honestly, I have to say that I am (extremely full of myself and) pretty darn proud of my Buddha belly. I kinda like it. It certainly makes for a convenient spot to set my plates when I am eating and that is a definite plus.