Sunday, September 16, 2007


While I've been away from this space:

Alex nearly exploded from what we suspect was lithium toxicity. Seriously--he puffed up like a pufferfish, despite compression socks and diuretics, and then started having a multitude of additional symptoms, like scary-high blood pressure, kidney pain, a metallic taste in his mouth (I know--where ELSE would he have a taste, right?), nausea, etc. So the upshot of that is, he's off the lithium and back to Depakote, and the same med cocktail which wasn't working quite well enough back in the spring. Yeah. We're back where we started. But then, it's nearly fall now, so maybe this will be OK for a while. The tightrope-walk that is maintaining a working med cocktail when dealing with psychiatric drugs is NOT FUN. Anyway, that drama took up a solid week of my time and energy.

We went bowling. Twice. I'll be writing that up for the Times blog. Bella beat me both times, though to be fair, she WAS using the bumpers.

I survived the annual autumn mucus rampage, though I have yet to regain my voice.

Betty the poodle puppy flew to Nebraska, where she is happily settling in with Julie's family, and will be shown in multiple venues in the future. We wish them all our best, of course, and have confidence in the dog and human components of this new partnership. Go, girls!

I read lots of books. Check them out on my goodreads page if you like, and connect with me so I can see what you're reading. Because I'm nosy like that.

A home has been secured for Music the colt, who will be departing for New England within the next month. I'm grateful for that, because I know we can't support all these horses through another winter. Now to secure similar happy solutions for Kate and Victor.

I have repeatedly agonized over "WHAT'S FOR DINNER." Does no one else have this problem? It's easily the absolute worst part of my entire day, figuring out what to make for dinner. Every day. And shopping for the groceries. And doing the prep-work. And cleaning up afterward. What a drag. And you know, no matter what I feed these people, they just expect to eat again the next day, and the day after that. IT NEVER ENDS.

And while I'm whining, give me some advice, wouldja, parents of kids who were once in preschool? Isabella is responsible for "special snack" day this week at school, which means that *I* am responsible for "special snack" day this week at Isabella's school. Please, someone give me ideas for clever snacks to make for 4-year-olds, preferably something not entirely devoid of nutritional value. I saw a cute idea for tiny sandwiches cut with cookie-cutters somewhere, with a cream cheese and something else filling, but now I can't remember where I saw it. Such is my life.


  1. Weekly menus saved us. Not once-a-month cooking, not rigid "Monday night is Fish night", but just five dinner ideas written up on the whiteboard each Saturday. Shopping then ensures the ingredients are in stock, and you're away. You can also ensure a certain amount of food diversity that way (e.g. two chicken meals, one beef meal, one fish meal, one vego meal, or whatever works for you.)

    This week we've got:
    - smoked salmon with home fried potatoes/mushrooms and salad
    - honey soy chicken marylands with corn and vegetables
    - mini pizzas
    - spaghetti bolognese
    - risotto
    - and the other two night are leftovers, toasted sandwiches, takeaway, something out of the freezer, or spur-of-the-moment ideas.

    Preschool special snack, eh? Exactly how non-devoid of nutritional value does it have to be, and do you bake?
    - Berry muffins are nice (with fresh strawberries if you can get 'em, any random frozen berry if you can't.)
    - If I were doing cookie-cutter sandwiches, I'd do a variety of fillings, I think. (And make bread and butter pudding from the trimmings!)
    - Other snacks the lad likes to take are mini fruit and jelly cups (pears, peaches are favourites), or mini rice pudding cups (again with lots of berries, we love 'em).
    - Pikelets with jam are yummy, too!
    - Pita chips and dips (you could throw in some vegie sticks too)
    - banana bread
    - teeny mini pizzas: cut circles of pastry or flatbread with cookie cutters, a scrape of tomato paste, then put on a little pineapple and cheese (or whatever), and bake

  2. They actually let you make things at home and bring them in??

    We are not allowed to do that here. Pre-made grocery store bought snakes and birthday treats only, at Arianna's school.

    Because some parent might poison the whole class, donchaknow?

  3. hahaha!

    Grocery store bought SNACKS...not snakes! That's an ENTIRELY different issue....

  4. Snacks are pretty easy if you think cut up stuff. DO NOT GO FANCY. The kids don't care. They like goldfish and crackers just as much as they like cut up sandwiches in shapes. Which are easier? Ahem.

    What is REALLY easy is getting a couple of big bunches of grapes, some melons, bananas, and making a fruit salad. Takes no time, kids love it. Bring paper bowls and plastic spoons.

    Also quartered oranges are good. Ditto for cubes of cheese and some nice crackers.

    Sorry to hear about Alex. Have you tried Invega yet? It seems to be a decent addition to the cocktail here, although the underlying asshat behavior continues unabated. I've decided we have some narcissistic issues going on as well as just plain old BP. Ugh.

    As for dinners, I know! It's driving me nuts too. It's almost time for the crock pot, which helps. But if you can get decent veggies, a stir fry one night is always a good and fast bet. You can even buy cut up veggies for the seriously lazy.

    Homemade pizza is FAST and easy. you can buy dough at your local market for $.99, add a 1/2 bottle of ragu pizza sauce, some mushrooms and a bunch of mozzerella. Cheap and good. Add a salad. Voilia, nice dinner.

    With no trader joes, many of my quick dinners are out of your possible choices. But you can probably get Patak's curry paste, right? Cube up some chicken breasts, add a big box of Pomi chopped tomatoes (or a can of good diced tomatoes), put in a couple of nice heaping TSPs of curry paste, and cook. While the chicken is cooking, make up a big pot of rice. Right at the end of the chicken cooking, add a big bag of frozen spinach or peas. Pour over rice. Dinner in a flash.

  5. Do you have the peanut allergy issue at Bella's school? Both Alan's classes do - so I have to read labels on what Alan brings. I usually send him with a prepackaged snack and he's happy. He has a sharing basket going around his class where he needs to bring a snack in also - I'm sending the cheese crackers from the dollar store he likes.

    Hope Alex feels better soon.

  6. So sorry about Alex and the difficulties he is enduring with med reactions. I hope he is feeling better soon.

    But......sooooo happy for Betty. i think you found her the perfect home and i can't wait to read about Julie's progress with her.

    As for snacks, i asked my daughter who is now a pre-school teacher. She said "please, please, please, nothing that requires utensils, nothing that is really juicy, and nothing terribly sticky"
    So, that leaves, ummmmmm, maybe a piece of bread.

  7. I used to feel exactly the same about cooking dinner...oh, the dread.

    Weekly menus worked for me, too. I spend a half hour on the weekend planning the week ahead, then I shop for the week ahead, sometimes on Monday. Weekend meals are a free-for-all or a good excuse to eat out.

    Seriously, this completely eliminated that blank staring into the fridge, trying to figure out what the heck to make.

  8. Life is waaaay too short to cookie cutter any snack for preschoolers. They don't care. I always sent grocery store bought Little Debbie Nutty Bars (big hit) or Marshmallow Treats or those packages of cracker sandwiches. Parenting magazine has my photo up in their office... Most Wanted For Nutritional Damage Done to Poor Unsuspecting Preschoolers. I'll drink to that.

  9. "no matter what I feed these people, they just expect to eat again the next day, and the day after that" - brilliant. That really is the problem, isn't it. I also do the set the menu weekly thing and it works out much, much better. Also we spend less on groceries because we're never doing that panicky run to the corner store at the last minute for over-priced, forgotten ingredients. As for the snacks, I always liked ants on a log - cheez whiz spread on celery stalks and raisins stuck in the cheez whiz. Use light "whiz" and celery and raisins are healthy, anyway.

  10. Unrelated but did you retag your entries or something? I got a whole slew of ninja poodles entry goodness on my LJ Friends page last night.

    Yes, the dinner cliche--I know it well. Try being creative when you first Get Home From Work at 6pm. Argh. We do a lot of salads and crock pot stuff. And, some nights, it's sanwiches or frozen pizza with a vegetable. I've decided recently not to get down about dinner anymore. We eat well, amazingly prepared meals on the weekends when I have time. And, thank goodness Charlotte isn't picky, that helps.

    I agree with Leslie to watch out for the peanuts, and maybe eggs. Natalie had two kids in her preschool who had allergies to each, respectively. I found out, prior to being made aware of the allergies, these kids were just not having the snacks that parents brought in and substituting something from the kitchen chef instead, poor kids. Next time, I'm googling some non peanut, non egg kid recipes.

  11. I am glad that you found Music a good home and hope he does well there. I will miss him:o)

    I like cooking, but rarely cook an actual meal for myself, maybe once a week:o) I live on salads and sandwiches, with some fruit thrown in!!

    I hope the new cocktail works for a longer time with Alex and he is feeling better.

  12. Hope Alex is better.. I hate when my hubby is sick. :(

    I can so relate to the dinner issue. BUT - I'm always looking online for new (easy/low cal) recipes. I'd be definitely willing to share a few:

    Chicken Pot Pie
    Chicken Enchiladas (mild!)
    Easy, Cheesy Meatloaf (made with mild salsa)
    Easy Chicken Parmesan
    Garlicky Pork and Red Beans
    Homemade Mac and Cheese
    Vegetable Plate w/ Biscuits

    As for Bella's snack: never fails - Ants on a Log (celery sticks with Peanut Butter and raisins).
    What about an easy fruit salad and you can run to the Dolla' Sto' and get cheap utensils (if so required by the teacher). Just cut up some apples, bananas, strawberries, blueberries (optional), melon, and grapes?

  13. I will post what I make for dinner everyday this week, just for you. Also will post dumpling pictures.

  14. Space Sticks

    1 c. peanut butter
    1 c. honey
    1.5 c. powdered milk
    graham cracker crumbs

    Mix peanut butter and honey, add powdered milk. Roll into small balls (or sticks), then roll in graham cracker crumbs. Refrigerated or freeze.

    We used to keep a plastic container of these in the freezer, and if the boys needed a little snack to hold them until dinner, they could grab a stick or two. They're actually pretty good for you!


  15. I wholly commiserate on the "what's for dinner" thing. I don't get home from work until 6 or 7 pm and then get hit with that. (Although I've only *been* at work since 3:30, I like to pretend I was there all day and that's why dinner is not planned.) I act surprised every night, like, "What? Dinner? We did that last night!" I think they're catching on to me.

  16. Rice Krispy Treats? You could cut them into cool shapes as well!

  17. as someone who works in a preschool classroom, PLEASE DON'T GO FANCY! The kids like cereal (apple jacks and fruit loops are big hits; they can sort the loops by color before they eat them - great little lesson during snacktime! Graham Crackers and apple juice is very nutritional as well. The simpler, the better, for everyone. Trust me.

    Sorry about Alex's meds. Not easy for anyone. Miss you and can;t wait to see you guys soon!


  18. Our menu goes out ten days, we're metric like that, that's how we roll. We sit down for one hour every ten days with our binder of recipes clipped from Cooking Light and our go-to cookbooks. We make the grocery list at the same time as the menu, then go shop for the whole menu. The whole thing is quite flexible and easy.

    Doesn't anyone serve their kids Ants on a Log anymore? Celery sticks with cheez whiz, and raisins on top?? That was my favourite in kindergarten.

  19. There's a recipe for the cream cheese cutout sandwiches at , as well as tons of other recipes (for snacks and meals).

  20. Take 2 pretzel sticks - drop a little white almond bark in the middle to connect them. Add a yellow M&M to the top of the almond bark. Let set. It looks like mini bacon and eggs!!! The kids (and teachers) get a big kick out of it! Yummy too!!!

  21. Truly - the weekly menu has saved our marriage several times over. The STRESS of being me being hungry is hard on my husband. I can be a tad *ahem* grumpy when I haven't eaten recently.

    We usually (when we remember) buy a week worth of groceries at a shot, and organize 5 or 6 meals, preferably with one night's leftovers becoming the next night's main course (i.e. cook chicken once, eat chicken twice). I hate her TV show, but Rachael Ray's cookbooks are good for that, and give you a quick list of ingredients for each recipe. We also don't assign a dinner to a day, but rather go with what sounds good until we run out of options.

    We also, like several other commenters, keep good dried pasta, cans of sauce, a hunk of pecorino romano, and (this is key) the frozen garlic bread on hand at all times. Quick, delicious, and filling.

    Also, whenever I make something, I make a double batch of it. I freeze entire meals in the fridge and then we can just reheat them when we're feeling lazy. The husband's not such a fan of this, so it's mostly my meals that get frozen. But really, if you think about it, most everything freezes fairly well in Ziploc bags, and thaws in the sink in an hour or so. Once you get in the habit of buying and making double, it's pretty darned easy and saves a lot of the cleanup work.

  22. Ian's suggestions (he told me he had ideas after I'd submitted the first comment):

    We prep all our veggies when we get home from the grocery store after buying our weekly groceries (if we remember!). Put them in a tub and use as needed. The leftovers make great snacks.

    Also, salads with meats are filling, healthy, and incredibly easy to make. We're a big fan of steak salad here, with a nice vinaigrette dressing. SO easy and delicious. Ian has a recipe for oriental chicken salad that is TO DIE FOR. Email me if you want me to send you the recipe.

    Once you find a good set of meals that work for you (we have about 20 that we cycle through), don't feel like you have to make something new all the time. Stick with the favorites.

    Oh, and Ian mentioned that we try to incorporate everything (veggies, starches, proteins) into one dish, rather than making a meal that is composed of several different dishes. Less exciting, but so much less work.

    Okay, think we're done now.

  23. I love everyone's snack suggestions - great ideas!

    I HATE the dinner issue. It usually starts with me asking the hubby what he wants, which results in an "I don't know." The kid always wants fast food. And I just plain don't ever want to cook.

    Luckily, the hubby knows how to cook - so sometimes I get lucky and he does it for me.

  24. So I'm thinking about getting a Good Reads account even though I just signed up for Library Thing, LOL. I’ve always wanted to track what I read. It was my New Year’s Resolution that I broke a couple years back.

    Belinda, I can sympathize with prescription frustration. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s a year ago, and it’s scary to leave a medicine that is sort-of-not-really working for the unknown. Because the unknown could suck. I’m in the middle of that now.

    I always agonize over the dinner question! I’m still trying to find a solution that works.

    As far as little cream cheese sandwiches, you could always make some that are cream cheese, cucumber, and celery salt and some that are cream cheese, cucumber and salami. (Salami is not the healthiest, but a little goes a long way and kids tend to like it.)

  25. Hundreds of years ago, when I was a young mom with six kids under 7 ears old (Catholic, dontchaknow), including a multi-handicapped fifth child, I spend part of a morning adding up the number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners I would make until each kid left home at 18(HAH!) The number of meals staggered my floppy brain.

    This is when I decided that I would be the best cook I possibly could be and, since I had to cook, I would do it imaginatively, enthusiastically and willingly.

    Over the years we have had some awful failures, but also some extraordinarily creative ventures.

    I know I am old school, whatever that means, but it worked for me even as I worked part-time when the last kid was in primary school.

    I remember several outstanding meals cooked by a nine-year-old when I was ill. (Sadly, she is a young mom now and hates to cook).

    The secret to this stellar success was making menus, planning the meals for each week, and soliciting my dear husband to do the marketing since my going to the market during the day entailed an entourage of piteous midgets clinging to me.

    Do try the menu planning. You will be so glad you did. It eases that anxious angst about what the hell to deliver each evening.

  26. oh my goodness, hope Alex feels better soon. I love my Lamictal-- I had lithim tox at such a low dose that my shrink wanted to write a paper. Best wishes to you both!

  27. I like some flexibility, but needed a schedule. So, I ended up with
    Sun- Casserole (my partner takes leftovers for lunch all week so this works for that)
    Tues- Spaghetti/Pasta
    Thursday- Mexican
    Friday- Breakfast for dinner

    Which leaves Mon, Wed, Saturday for leftovers, or whatever sounds good.

    We are not above bowls of popcorn and cheese sticks, some nights.