Friday, November 30, 2007

Advent Time

070792o_2 Yesterday a good friend made the following comment: "I'm not a fan of this time of year." And she didn't mean the sudden cold weather that descended on our little town last week.



I have more help than most (thanks to Bri, I've never had to hang a string of lights yet), but the to-do list is still intimidating. So much I want to do, so many memories I want to create, and at the same time, I mostly just want to snuggle with a good book next to Brian, with my yellow-blue blanket and a hot cup of tea.



I don't remember who sent me the link to Camp Creek Blog, but thank you. I love her take on holiday resolutions. Seriously funny.    (Five points to anyone who just read that and thought "oxymoron")



Even more, I am inspired by her effort to keep the focus on her sons: "they are so easy to please. they just want to eat ice cream in the living room while watching christmas cartoon specials, me to haul myself outside and play with them in the snow, messy craft projects, freedom to decorate the tree however they want ... giving up on the other stuff makes a better holiday for all of us!"



I'll be rereading that throughout the next four weeks to gain perspective. I get overwhelmed, but I always love this time of year. It was easily the happiest time of year in our household growing up. I suspect both my parents have some Dickensian Christmas memories, and they went above and beyond to make the holiday special for all of us. (I'm the one in braids below, in case it isn't obvous.)



Xmas_print



Nostalgia plays a large role in most of my holiday favorites:



Listening to the carols my parents played: Crosby, Sinatra, Cole, Ives...and of course The Muppets with John Denver! Maria gave this CD to Aidan a couple years ago, and it immediately took me back toYoungatheartmoviead 256 Myrtle.



  Watching holiday classics like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Young at Heart." Okay, maybe you never heard of that last one, but every O'Malley girl has. It may be a cheesy musical soap-opera, but after analyzing it for 30+ years, it takes on a Chekhovian depth. And it is the perfect background while wrapping presents late at night.



I don't care if it's a cliche, "It's a Wonderful Life" is my favorite movie---and was, even in high school, where I tormented loyal friends by quoting this scene of the movie ad nauseum. "...JustItsawonderfullifeboardmeetng_5 remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about...they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community..."



I so enjoy Mary and George's love story, that I am always caught offguard at how dark it gets. And then he finds Zu Zu's petals and the world is made whole again.



These are my Christmas memories: Mom's seven-layer bars, my brother File0483Kevin's punch. New pjs on Christmas Eve. Midnight mass. A vaguely familiar guy in a red suit and fake beard. Restaging the nativity scene under our tree for endless hours. Clementines at the bottom of our stockings. A younger brother or sister (whomever was in 1st grade that year) reciting the second chapter of Luke:

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

I'll try to come back this weekend and add new favorites, because that's the beauty of traditions. You keep some and you create new ones. The Advent wreath at the start of this post is one of our favorites, lit nightly at dinner. Though of course I can't photograph like that, and looking at this photo from 2006's Christmas Eve (note: we're toasting with Kev's punch!), I get the feeling we might need new candles this year.



Christmas_dinner






Thursday, November 29, 2007

O Tannenbaum & Follow Up

We bought our Christmas tree tonight. Very unplanned, and a little early, but Bri wanted to get it "before the good ones were gone. "


Sean and Aidan were out-of-their-minds excited. Sean has started wearing the Irish cap I got him from Gymboree, and if I may say so myself, looks too cute. Aidan kept scurrying between us, saying, "I'm searching for the perfect tree."


Actually his first reaction to the lot was to announce, "There's a big problem, Dad."


We all turn to look at him.


"None of these trees are big enough."Linus_xmas_tree


Apparently Aidan is under the impression our ceilings are 15' tall.


Following up on some past posts:


If you'd like to suggest some baby names, please click here. I'm rooting for at least 2 out of the 15 listed so far. Oh, and there's a prize involved!


If you'd like to know more about the Backpacks for the Republic of Georgia, please click here. A huge thanks to those who have already given me backpacks filled with goodies, and to those who've let me know they want to help out too. Dec. 14th is the deadline!


On a sad note, some of you may remember the two young women I mentioned in an earlier post, Mara and Julie, who were fighting melanoma. Julie passed away on Thanksgiving day. Please include her family and young children in your prayers. My brain can't quite register that such things are possible. Mara also passed away last month. She was a good friend of our friend Robert, and my heart hurts for him and her family. She accomplished more in her short life than I could imagine.

If nothing else (though I certainly hope that's not the case), death serves to wake us all up a bit more, to look around and see how precious this day is, these people we love, this life. I want to relish this day and season.

Peace.




Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Highlights

Angie and Jeff, our good friends in Flagstaff, invited us to join their family celebration.



So much to be grateful for.



My_3_guys_on_polar_express



Two boys who drove over 10 hours roundtrip without any car DVD and with very few complaints (I even got to finish  a book on the drive home). Being married to a man who likes to drive and gently wakes me up when we stop for lunch.



Thanksgiving_kiddie_table



A kiddie table with seven children, and not one squabble all weekend.



Mary Alice asked all the kids what they were most grateful for, and among others' answers of penguins and princesses, Aidan answered, "Life."



Thanksgiving_3_friends



Being reunited with old friends.



Thanksgiving_selfphoto



Getting to sneak away with my cutie for an afternoon. We saw "Dan in Real Life" which is a comedy, but I cried through the whole thing. Mental note: no movies featuring a widow or widower while pregnant and super-hormonal.



Houllis_family_polar_express



One of the highlights was seeing Angie's brother, Chad, who served in Iraqi most of this year, surrounded by his beautiful family.



Meg_playing_jingle_bellsWe got to listen to our god-daughter, Meagan, play "Jingle Bells" at the Winter Lights Festival.



Mary Alice gave us a sneak peek at her new project, and she had all the kids enthralled with her Mac photobooth. Carmen, Angie's mom, was "Grammy" to all, and helped keep the kitchen running smoothly while everyone pitched in to feed 15 people, not just on Thanksgiving but through the weekend.



Sean slept through each night in our hotel room (he normally thinks all of us in one room is a sign to party all night). He enjoyed flirting with all the girls and listing his "girlfriends" for us.



Angie and Jeff's Christmas gifts this year were tickets to the Polar Express. Both boys were spell-bound by the magic. Aidan announced that superheroes were no longer his favorite; now trains are. "Driving trains is in my blood," he declared on the way home (where did he hear that phrase?). Hard to get a good photo on the train , but I think Sean's little hand captures how they felt when Santa boarded our car:



Polar_express_santa



I still got pangs of homesickness for my family in Chicago. When I called my parents, my brother Kevin answered the phone, Karen got on to say hi, Mom described their great feast, Elizabeth cracked me up, and as we were saying goodbye, my sister Eileen was walking in the door.



Time to start saving for a Christmas '08 trip to Chicago.



For more Polar Express photos, click here.






Monday, November 19, 2007

Brian, Deirdre, Aidan, Sean and ?

Babynames_2



Just to be clear,  we aren't asking anyone else to name the baby;-)



But we are asking for suggestions. We have a list, but at least right now there isn't one we both agree on completely. So please post your top three boy names under the comments anytime between now and March. You can list one at a time or all three at once, but we are limiting you to just three (so you can't just list every name you think of).



It doesn't have to be Irish, but we do tend to prefer those. It does need to go well with the litany of this post's title, as well as Keating.



Aidan's idea for a prize was a "popcorn" party...so we'll go with a gift certificate to the movie theater of your choice, popcorn included, of course:-)



A_brotherly_duet



Top Toy #8: Music Makers



Aidan's godparents, Angie and Jeff, gave him a box full of kid-friendly musical toys/instruments a few years ago. He has since added his Kindermusik harmonicas, wooden spoons and some McCann's Irish Oatmeal containers (they make great drums).



These toys don't get pulled out every day (thankfully) but they d1701257_musicaltoyso have staying power. Sean seems  naturally drawn to them, and they are called upon for every parade through the house (which happens more often than you'd imagine). We're big fans of the Melissa & Doug brand, whose set is available at Amazon, and there's another at Land of Nod.



Georgia Update



A big thanks to those who've contacted me about helping with gift bags for children in the Republic of Georgia. You can learn more about the project by clicking here. Kathy's email today cracked me up so I have to share:



"There's a line of laundry products called Barf.  I see big displays of Barf in the bazaar.  I can't bring myself to use barf to do my laundry. The big supermarket is called the Goodwill Hypermarket.  I guess super and hyper mean the same in the dictionary of whomever named the store."



Wishing strength and perseverance to everyone heading to Hypermarkets in preparation for the holiday!






It's beginning to look a lot

Thanksgiving006



like Thanksgiving time around here.



Thanksgiving005



Sunday afternoon Aidan used my scalloped scissors, Zig Dot markers, glue dots and some paper to make window decorations. I'm glad someone is using my supplies despite the current state of chaos in the office.



Thanksgiving002



Brian's very-talented mom paints ceramics, and even teaches it now. We've received a lot of her creations over the years, and this is easily my favorite. I love teapots in general, and the fairytale nature of this set, and ---given my knickknack phobia---its seasonal appearance.



Mill_creek_fall



Photo  of Mill Creek by Kevin Delaney



Saturday we hiked Mill Creek. The boys played in the creek during the summer, so it was a little hard to convince them that going in the water was no longer a good idea. They both did great though. Sean was on Brian's shoulders through a few parts, more for my sanity than for Sean's sake.



I didn't take the camera, but there will be other opportunities to capture that area. What I want to mentally photograph is the image of Sean and Aidan, stretched out on a blanket after eating our picnic lunch of sandwiches and clementines. Aidan describing what the clouds looked like to us, and Sean laughing over the falling leaves. Of course Brian then had to pick Aidan up by the legs and pretend to be throwing him into the creek below. I did my best to control my panic that he could get hurt or that he looked scared---only to have Aidan announce, "Do it again!" when Brian landed him back on the blanket.



Check back tomorrow for the start of the Name Game!






Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fall Recipes

I love getting an email from someone who has just read the blog. It motivates me to keep updating. I'm sure the novelty of the website will wear off in a month, but I hope to keep it going for at least a year. Thanks so much to all of you for being so kind. I'm sure the minutia of our lives isn't very compelling reading but your interest and response mean so much.



A friend just pointed out I hadn't posted a Friday Favorite this week or last. I was so excited about surprising some children in the Republic of Georgia with little bags of goodies, that I completely forgot. If you haven't read that post, please scroll down or click on "A Time To Give" under recent posts. I hope a lot of people will participate, because that means a lot of kids will receive a much needed surprise.



I'm just giving links to recipes today. I love a good recipe, especially when a friend offers it so I know it works. These are three fall favorites:





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Photo: Dylan Nieman



No Knead Bread, adapted from Jim Lahey, appeared in the NYT's last year, and since then, has popped up everywhere. For good reasons--it's yummy and very easy.  One note: you need to start it the day before you want to serve it. While it doesn't take much time to make, it does take time to rise. The dough is very sticky, which shouldn't be a problem since you don't knead it, but you will have some very messy dishtowels. Lastly, if you don't want a flat bread, be sure the pot you cook it in is small enough. Oh, and I have burned myself (and my sister Elizabeth I think) while making this---which says more about me than the recipe, but watch out when pre-heating the pot.



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Pioneer Woman may be the funniest woman on the internet. And her recipes aren't bad, although they are tend to be very butter-happy. These, which she eloquently calls Jalapeno Bacon thingies, are also super simple.



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Finally, the greatest fall soup. Seriously, so good. It's called Chililicious, but it is really more like a tortilla soup than chili. Another funny woman, Cathy Z, posted it last spring, and I liked it so much, my family had to eat soup in the summer. If I knew how to link directly to the recipe, you could skip  all the scrapbooking stuff on that post, (though I can't understand why you'd want to), but at the end of the post she has a pdf you can download.



I'm sure it would work just as well with left-over turkey next week. Enjoy!






Friday, November 16, 2007

A Time to Give

I may have written too many PR articles for the local Happenings guide, because these toy posts are starting to sound like ads to me. Here's something more refreshing.



Vic_and_kathy_2 Our good friends, Kathy and Vic, are living in the Republic of Georgia, a former Soviet state, and are providing an opportunity to give directly to some very needy children.



I believe everyone wants to give to others, regardless of how much or how little they have to give. The challenge is often finding an organization that you trust to use your gift well. Here's a chance to give something small that will mean a lot to a young child.



From Kathy's last email: If you are interested in helping very needy people with a Christmas project here's some suggestions. New or clean and in good repair used winter coats for children - any sizes and for girls or boys. Other warm clothes will work also, long underwear, sweaters, etc. A small backpack (book bag type) full of goodies such as socks, mittens, caps, pencils, pajamas, slippers, colors, band aids. etc.



Many children here come from desperately poor families, especially children in the villages where there is no employment. Houses are heated with wood and are poorly constructed, leaky, and not very warm. I'm working with an American woman who is a social psychologist and visits the villages on a regular basis. She will help me distribute them to truly needy children.



I'm going to be in the states for Christmas so I can bring things back with me after the holidays. If you want to ship them directly to Georgia, please do it immediately or I'll be gone when it arrives and they charge a fee at the post office to hold things there. My daughter's address is PO Box 1047,Pacific City, Oregon 97135. My address in Georgia is Kathy Starostka, Tbilisi Youth House, Gori Street 11, Tbilisi 0112, Republic of Georgia.



394umcorbuiltschool_2



I'm so excited Kathy has found a way for us to give, without the huge challenge of shipping to Georgia (the shipping usually costs more than the contents!). If you can afford a winter coat or sweater, please mail it directly to the Oregon address before Christmas. I'm also inspired by AfricanKelli, who offered a similar opportunity last summer. She asked for people to put together a "Goody Bag" for a child.



I know I am more likely to do something with specifics, so here's what I'm asking people to contribute by Dec. 10th, and then we will ship a big (hopefully!) box to Kathy in Oregon:



Large Ziplock bag (or small backpack if you can) containing: Mittenswoolornamented



  • warm socks


  • mittens


  • hat


  • random goodies that you choose


  • a little note from you


Some ideas for the random goodies: pencils, soap, toothbrush, band aids, chapstick, hair ties, stickers, gum, art supplies, etc. Hotel-sized toiletries are perfect too. This will take some creativity considering the size of the goody bag.



Putting a bag together shouldn't cost much more than $20. So many American kids are encouraged to peruse toy catalogs and make 'wish lists' at this time of year; here's a chance to involve your children in giving to someone they've never met but who has so much less than them. Let them help you pick out the goodies and have them write the note or draw a picture.



Will you help? Email me if you have any questions. Thanks!






Thursday, November 15, 2007

Top Toy #9

  I_did_it_3



A gift from Gramare and Grandpa Keating when Aidan was two years old. Brio's Wooden Blocks have been a big hit in our house.



They are available at Amazon, Target, and Toys R 'Us, but I'm sad to say they have changed the design a bit. As well as a new "girl" set with pink and black blocks (because girls don't like primary colors?!), they also seem to be using more small blocks, especially those triangle roof tops---that aren't conducive to building really.



Maybe with a better Google search you could find an older set, or the one with lots of red columns. The boys always fight over the columns. You need those.



A lot of great information at Barclay Wooden Blocks, an American company that doesn't paint their blocks. More expensive, but, as they point out, this is one toy that children play with for years. Their baby set is priced competitively, and you can add to the set as your child grows.



Sean_blocks_whoa_2





I like their recommendation of storing them on a bookshelf. We use a large sterilite container. I love how these blocks get used during other imaginative play, to make a bridge for Batman, or a home for an animal. They always get pulled out during a playdate.



Sean_blocks_kaboom_2



Of course, the best part is the big "BOOM" when you knock it all down!






Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Daily Moments & Toy #10

Aidan's grace at dinner tonight:



"Dear Lord, Thank you for our life, and the turkey we are going to have at Thanksgiving, and for our good dinner, and for my dad and mom and Sean...and for my brother Talen who isn't here yet. Amen"



Sean sometimes gets into a monologue when it's his turn, but Aidan normally just says, "Thanks for this food. Amen." So we cracked up at this extemporization, and the sly plug for his latest name choice for Baby #3.  There is a little boy in his class named Talen, who has special needs and a full-time aid, anCutest_superhero_everd who obviously has made quite an impression on Aidan.



Meanwhile, Sean is in full superhero mode lately. Sometimes he's content with just a hat or a mask, but most of the time he requires the full ensemble.



What I enjoy most is how Sean automatically fits the rest of us into his new identity. I remember long debates as a child along the lines of, "Okay, I'll be (blank) and you be (blank)." For Sean, there is no discussion, he just assigns you a role. Aidan was having a fit when Sean refused to call him anything but "Woody" all weekend. And last week, when I nestled a Spiderman-dressed Sean into my lap and said "I love you", without skipping a beat Sean replied, "Me love you too, Mary Jane."



Which brings me to the first of our TOP TEN TOYS list!



#10: Costumes/Dress Up Items



While helping Sean change into a differeCute_clarknt costume for the 344th time today, I realized that when Aidan was his age, we didn't own any superhero costumes yet. If you can avoid doing so until your child is completely able to dress himself, that would be a plus!



Still, Aidan spent much of his time "in character" at that age...mostly as Mowgli from The Jungle Book, which consisted of stripping down to his chonies and wrapping a toy snake around his arm. My favorites are still the costumes he comes up with on his own, either characters from his own imagination or his own take on well-known ones. This photo is his version of Clark Kent after we watched the first Christopher Reeve "Superman" last year.



Now is a good time to fill your own costume box with reduced or resale halloween costumes. Much to Aidan's dismay, I don't even attempt to make their halloween costumes. Most of the boys' costumes have been Ebay finds, and well-worth the money because they are worn almost daily. Superhero PJs work just as well, and are often cheaper. There is something freeing about the costumes, where I see our boys able to express other sides of themselves and try out different postures and attitudes. And they often lead to elaborate rescues that they create.



Somehow I don't think the princess costumes that so many little girls have today work the same way.



  Label_photo_copy






Monday, November 12, 2007

So Grateful

Img_2689



that we live here. Brian took this shot early today while I was still snoozing away.



So grateful that my mom celebrated her birthday today! It's hard to believe it was a year ago that she received the scary diagnois of breast cancer. My mind boggles at all she has endured and accomplished this year, with the greatest attitude through it all. I know great things are ahead for her!





Mom_and_dad_anniversary_photo_2



So grateful to all the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country in the military, especially my father who served in the US Army even before he was a US citizen,



John_army_2 my brother John who served in the US Army,



my sister Elizabeth who has served our country for over  a decade in the US Air Force, Liz_and_her_boss_2004



Marty_and_jane my brother Martin, who served in the US Army, (somehow it seems entirely appropriate that I don't have a photo of Martin in uniform on my computer),



and my youngest brother Kevin, who is currently in the ROTC Navy. Kev_on_sub_yikes_3



I never think of us as a military family. A political family, yes. A debate-loving, book-crazy, movie-obsessed, fast talking, big Irish family, yes. And yet my dad's life is the story of the American Dream come true. How could we not be patriotic? I am grateful that we received patriotism hand in hand with an appreciation for a larger world view, with an emphasis on education and on service. With that in mind, it is no surprise that four of my siblings chose to serve our country in the military.



"Real heroes teach us that true freedom is to be found in faithfulness, responsibility, love, justice, and liberation from exploitation." -Elizabeth Groppe



May all the families with service men and women currently overseas soon feel the relief of knowing their loved ones are home and safe again.






Sunday, November 11, 2007

Toys

Toys are on my mind. We are facing the dilemma of moving the toy closet out of Sean's room, since it will become the baby's nursery. Only Aidan's closet will now also be Sean's closet, so there really won't be room for toys there. If only the basement were finished and all the toys could go down there, but that's not happening anytime soon. And perhaps for the best...because less really is more when it comes to toys.



I hadn’t been paying much attention to the "Year of the Recall", as coined on CoolMomPicks, (see their links to lots of lead-free fun stuff for kids). I was feeling cocky that most of it wouldn't apply to us. We have our share of plastic toys (as evidenced by our Buzz Lightyear, who might just be the first hard plastic toy to reach Velveteen Rabbit status). I'll even admit to driving through a fast food restaurant and ordering a meal ala Jack Nickolson in Six Easy Pieces: hold the hamburger and fries and just give us the cheap plastic toy please.



Overall though, we make an effort to avoid trends and find quality toys that allow a child to play. (Usually it is the toy that does cool things, and the kids are just supposed to wind it up or push its button or watch.) We still got hit with a recall. Earlier this year we had to send in a red train from the Thomas line. The majority of our train toys are Brio, so we only had the one train to mail, and they followed up nicely with a replacement and a bonus train. Still a favorite toy in our house.



And then this week I saw a second hit: Aidan's beloved George. 2_firemen 



They aren't replacing him, only refunding him. His face contains lead. He was once Aidan's constant companion, and is still often his bedtime snuggle choice. And he's not just another stuffed animal; he reminds us of the beloved friend who gave him, and of our exciting trip to LA to celebrate the premiere of "Curious George" with her.



So I found myself rationalizing, how much lead is too much lead? How often is Aidan or Sean or Baby #3 going to kiss or lick that monkey's face?



This is what I learned at Science Buzz:



Lead is invisible and has no smell. And most children with elevated blood lead levels have no symptoms. The only way to tell if a child has been exposed is to have his or her blood tested. Small amounts of lead can cause brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth, or hearing problems. Larger amounts can cause kidney damage, coma, or even death.



Most toy recalls are about a screw coming lose or some part coming off, and in looking up the recalls of this year, I see no company is immune. Sometimes the recalls seem more about lawsuit mania than real danger, but with lead, any amount is too much for a child's toy, in my opinion. The rise of learning disabilities, autism, and behavioral issues all have complex causes that aren't fully understood, but I can't help thinking unsafe toys might be a small part of that puzzle.



So George will have to go. Along with hoping for Aidan's eventual forgiveness, I hope that this news cycle will have larger ramifications. Hopefully everyone will be looking more closely at the gift choices they make this season. Not just asking, might it contain lead, but also, who made this toy? Were they paid adequately in safe conditions? How might a child play with this? How long might the fascination last? Can it be used in more than one way? Is it worth not only the price on its tag, but the space it will occupy in a home?



I don't know the answers for balancing globalization and safety and responsible consumerism. So instead I will share what I do know: less is more. The fewer toys we have out, the more my sons actually play with them. The less the toy is made to do, the more our kids can imagine it doing. 



I love this week's quote: it's "fun to have things, but more fun to make them." Aidan has taught me that more than anyone. His most common sleeping-companion of late: a paper "Stuart" he drew and cut out after reading Stuart Little. He's had to recreate it several times as Stuart doesn't take to water very well, and there's probably a few hanging out with the dust bunnies under his bed, but the act of creating it is where the joy really lies.



On a more positive note, throughout the month I'll be posting some of our very favorite toys for those who need ideas for their own kids this holiday season. Every kid is different, and it is often hit and miss as to what will capture their imagination and last beyond the two-day “novelty” phase. I’ll be back with toys that have had staying power for us.






Friday, November 9, 2007

Blackmail

Brian has been giving me a hard time for posting a childhood photo of him. I can't understand why, because, really, could he have been any cuter? Only if he had been holding a baseball instead of a football.



So he's forcing me to post one of myself as a child. Being what Pioneer Woman would describe as a typical middle child, I didn't need too much of a push.



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This is my favorite of the 5 photos that exist of me under the age of ten.



I know, that's such a middle-child-cliche. But now you understand why I take at least that many photos of my boys every month... and why I wear my hair long.



Every year I see more of Brian in Aidan, but from the start he has always reminded me of my dad, and of my three brothers. And now here's more evidence that he's an O'Malley:



Aidan_and_d_at_age_5_2



Two more things, just for the record. I don't really believe in birth order theories, especially when applied to large families (almost all of my siblings were the oldest, the middle, and the youngest at different times in their lives). And, Maria is only 8 weeks pregnant, not 8 months. That's a doctored photo, people. Most figured it out when they actually read the post. I wish I could take the confusion as a sign of my pro skills at photoshop, but it probably had more to do with Maria being 5'11" and thin.



Enjoy the weekend!






Thursday, November 8, 2007

Recipe: Buffalo Meatloaf

A birthday filled with many favorite things: lots of little boy hugs, Thai food, and a full answering machine. Thanks for all the birthday wishes! The best part was Brian coming home early. All of us but Aidan are sniffling and sneezing, so we all crawled into bed, and Sean decided to tell us a story (about Buzz Lightyear--I mean himself---of course). Aidan followed up with another story, about Superman I think, and then Brian even told one. That is a minor miracle in itself. Major "my cup runneth over" moment.



I'm grateful for each of my 38 (gasp!) years, but I have to admit, I do hear Meg Ryan crying, "And I'm going to be 40----someday!" Only the "someday" part is a lot closer for me than it was for Sally.



This week's Friday Favorite is a recipe.



Viennabeef_2 I ordered Chicago Style Italian Beef for Brian's birthday. One of ways in which Brian is more of a Chicagoan than I am: he loves Italian Beef sandwiches. I'm not really a fan of them, but I do enjoy how much Brian enjoys them. Only problem is they didn't show up. Lou's To Go ships them 2nd day Air, and I had placed the order weeks in advance. But UPS was holding it for whatever reason and it was going to arrive 4 days later. Urrr. That left me with an unplanned birthday dinner to make.



Bri is a true Irish man. He likes his meat and potatoes. He'll eat vegetables, but he's not gonna get excited about it. So I made meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I like meatloaf even less than Italian Beef, but a friend shared this recipe, which is from a local restaurant in town, for Buffalo Meatloaf. Now if you like meatloaf already, you might not like this one. Otherwise you're in for a treat:



Buck’s Grill House Buffalo Meatloaf





Ingredients:



1 cup chopped onion



½ cup chopped carrot



½ cup celery



½ cup chopped red bell pepper



¼ cup vegetable oil



¼ cup Spice Rub (see recipe)



1/3 cup catsup



1/3 cup cream



2 large eggs



2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce



¾ cup rolled oats



¾ cup dry bread crumbs



1 pound ground buffalo



1 pound ground pork





Saute the onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper in the oil until the onion is translucent. Add the Spice Rub and cook for 5 minutes longer. Spoon into a large bowl and cool to room temperature.





Add the catsup, cream, eggs, and W. sauce, oats, bread crumbs, buffalo, and pork; mix well by hand. Pack into a lightly oiled loaf pan and strike the bottom of the pan on the counter to release trapped air. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 ¼ hours or to 160 degrees on a meat thermometer.





Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a serving plate.





Serves 8.





For Spice Rub: combine 1 tbsp each of sugar, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, kosher salt and pepper. Add 3 tsp of paprika and mix well. Store in airtight contaiPizzapackage1ner===use ¼ cup of each if you want to prepare a big batch.







The original recipe calls for 2 pounds of Buffalo and 8 ounces of pork, but Buffalo is a very lean (and very expensive) meat so we've gone with the even match. The key is to chop the veggies very finely.



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The happy ending to the Italian Beef story is that they told us to refuse the UPS package, and sent a fresh order that arrived yesterday, with two free Lou Malnati's pizzas as well to make up for the delay. Now that's more my style. Yum!














Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bedside Books

Bedsidebks_2 I'm in a reading dry-spell. I haven't read a good novel since summer, and the stack by my bed is growing taller and dustier. Of the books sitting there, four are books I've already read, but want to reread. Three have been there for at least six months and may never be finished. Several are from the library, and, therefore, the only ones ensured of being read. Since having children, I read more nonfiction than fiction, because it doesn't demand that I abandon my family the way a good novel does. For that very reason though, a library deadline is a good thing.



History of Love was my favorite novel of '06, and I've been amazed at the mixed reactions of others. When I mentioned it to DB, she told me she gave copies of it to everyone for Xmas, while another friend didn't like Leo at all. Personally, I am in love with this old Jewish man, and can't wait to revisit him...eventually. Personal Strength-Spiritual Joy is written by my good friend Jan and her husband. So much wisdom in it, I'll always be rereading it. Finally, The Hiding Place is a holocaust memoir I read in high school and had completely forgotten until I was reminded by WS's list on Goodreads.



Two of the long term residents are Understanding Exposure,  on photography, and Joan Didion's collected essays, We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live. Both are brilliant, and well worth their price, but they are the kind of books I enjoy a little at a time. I've been reluctant to find them proper homes because once a book goes on a shelf without having been finished, its fate seems sealed.



The library check-outs are mainly Harold Kushner, another old Jewish man with whom I'm in love. Best known for his classic When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Kushner takes scripture seriously without taking it literally. Definitely my favorite rabbi.



Please email some novel recommendations. I need some good fiction for the winter. This summer I read Jude the Obscure (yes, for the first time...I naively thought I knew what to expect); The Time Traveler's Wife and The Center of Everything. None of those, not even Hardy, compared to the highlight of my spring reading, Crossing to Safety. Maybe it was the modesty of its intentions, but it was oh so good.



I also read nonfiction this summer, but they were all library check outs. Deadlines work for me. Otherwise Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle would still be sitting on my bookshelf, unfinished, and making me feel guilty.



Instead, it's back on the library bookshelf, finished, and still making me feel guilty.






Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mimi is having a baby!

I'm so happy for my little baby sister, I want to share it with the world (or at least the world wide web).



This little one will be O'Malley grandchild #15---how wild is that? And our little one will now have three cousins basically the same age:-)



Of course, this is how I imagine Mimi will look pregnant:



Mimi_2



Congratulations Maria and Denys! This is going to be one lucky little babe!






Monday, November 5, 2007

Random Things Making Me Happy

Bris_birthday_cake



1. That for a few days at least, I am TWO years younger than Brian. It's a little exciting to be with an older man.



2. Honeycrisp apples are back. I didn't think I'd find them in our tiny town, but the produce man proudly pointed me in the direction of a little batch. You haven't had a crisp apple until you'vAidans_school_photo_07e tried these. Only available for a short while each year.



3. Aidan's class photo came back---and his eyes aren't closed, his hair isn't sticking up in the back, and he's not making a silly face:-) Family, let me know if you'd like a copy and what size.



4. The calls and emails of congrats from friends and family over our 3rd boy. I was a little wary of receiving condolences. Understandably, each subsequent child's arrival receives less hoopla compared to the first. So the sincere joy expressed meant so much. And as Angie pointed out, it is exciting just to know what our family will look like. I've always wondered and now I know---we're a family with three boys. Very cool.



56144mid_35. That I knew all the answers to our friend Dave's Movie Trivia quiz except for this one (ok, I'm not counting the Bond movie questions): What famous director created the propaganda films sponsored by the U.S. government during WWII? Why do I know Leni Riefenstahl, but not ours?



  6. This paper from Basic Grey and the entire Mellow line. Love it. Inspiration for the baby's nursery.



7. Not only did Bri and I get a whole day in Grand Junction on Friday sans kids (Thank You Amy!), but we also got to see a movie on Saturday night. "Michael Clayton" wasn't profound in any way, but totally entertained me. I love Tom Wilkinson. And our babysitter always looks completely surprised when we pay her, and says things like, "Oh, you really don't need to." Totally cracks me up. 






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