Monday, January 24, 2011

Adventures in Food

I've written before about LE's adventures in eating. This month, it's been my turn to experiment with food. Most people this time of year vow to eat better, healthier, and perhaps less. The start of the new year for me has, for some reason, spurred a desire to cook things I haven't cooked before, and it's been fun.

Going strictly by memory here's the stuff since January 1 that has come out of our kitchen that has not come out of our kitchen before {all from scratch}: chicken pot pie; latin chicken and rice; Oreos; chocolate lava cakes; spicy ginger & shrimp stir-fry; skillet tamale pie; hearty chicken noodle soup; toffee; and today's adventure... marshmallows.

If you look straight and see boiling sugar and if you look down and find yourself looking into the big dark grey eyes of your 10 month old climbing up the cold oven towards the boiling sugar...

something needs to change.  Solution? 

Goldfish in the living room. Carry along with the recipe as you were before.


More yum.

Pour the marshmallow fluff into the pan, let it chill, and then get your neglected 10 month old her lunch. 
And take a picture of her because she's adorable and her huge top tooth has not been documented. 

Try not to lick the mixer bowl in front of her since she isn't allowed to have sugar yet. 

Three hours of waiting later, you can chop up your marshmallows and enjoy them with some hot cocoa. Look at them melting in there. 

After I chopped mine all up into rectangles like the recipe showed, I read a comment about cutting them out with a cookie cutter and dipping them into chocolate and nuts. I'm definitely doing that next time. This time around I need to figure out what to do with 96 marshmallows that need to get consumed in one week. Rocky road ice cream in my new ice cream maker from my parents? Brownies? Yes, please. 

Life with LE

If you stand still for more than 2 minutes in the kitchen, this may happen to you.

Our Christmas Card 2010

I wrote before Christmas about how I am conflicted between going the cool design route or the route that we ended up taking, which is focusing on Christ.

We've gotten a good amount of compliments with the photos from this year's card. I guess it helps when you have a cute subject!

Rejoice Lord King Religious Christmas 5x7 folded card
Personalize the christmas season with Christmas photo cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Shutterfly kindly is offering a $25 gift card in exchange for this blog post.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

One reason I love Madison

Photo is from the Graze website
For some reason, on Saturday, I got a craving for a good hamburger. Maybe it was because we were having chicken again. For the fourth day in a row. Maybe.

So, Sunday we went after church to a place we hadn't been to before but was sure to be good: Graze. It's the pub owned by the same people that own the fancy schmancy restaurant that John and I went to on our first date in Madison years ago. Its concept is hands down one of the top reasons I like Madison.

And I quote from their website:
We chose the name Graze because grass-fed animals and rotational grazing are important to us... The food we serve is literally inspired. It is inspired by the people who grew it and this land where it was grown. It is inspired by the wonderful meals that we have eaten in locales near and far, quaint and exotic. It is inspired by our love of people gathering over food and drink to spend some time together.
Graze is one of the many Madison restaurants that buys their food from local farmers. You will see the executive chef on Sundays at the farmers' market hand-picking his produce from the tables and filling his wagon with food for the week. He can tell you which farm each and every item in the kitchen came from. {You may or may not have seen him and his wife in your birthing class one weekend in 2010 like we did.}

You really can't beat that.

Like I said, there are a good number of Madison restaurants that follow the "eat local" mantra, but what made John and me leave Graze on Sunday and say to each other, "That was good," is what happened not only on our plate and in our bellies but rather what happened outside of it.

The atmosphere was casual. Open. Airy. Welcoming. Un-snooty. We felt like the staff was happy we were there and not just because LE was cute as a button.

We were seated next to another table with young kids. As LE munched on her goldfish at our table, I overheard the little girl at the table next to us place her order to the waiter. Not able to hear her squeak voice, the waiter squatted down and asked her to repeat. She wanted to order goldfish like LE had.

I leaned over and poured about 15 of LE's goldfish on their table, and they all thanked us for them. It wasn't just goldfish that I was sharing-- it was toddler meltdown prevention.

When our check arrived, our waiter let us know that our beignets were comped due to our kind deed of sharing a few goldfish. The $4 they picked up didn't set Graze back much, but it did give them a big boost in the now-that's-how-you-show-customer-appreciation category.

Even before they did that, we were planning on going back. We liked the atmosphere, that there were families there, and that John had a hard time picking out what to eat. All of those are good signs in our book.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Refreshing Change

In the month of December, I was starting to get really frustrated with customer service at a number of places. I hadn't experienced blatantly bad service before-- at least not repeatedly.  In fact, the last customer service experience that I had had was with Shutterfly, and they were great to work with.  But December was different. I experienced poor customer service from one company after another, and it was starting to get to me.

Many of the Pottery Barn gifts that we received for our wedding are breaking or discolored. I can deal with green towels that are now part yellow, but when our hinged lamp snapped in half in the middle of the night, I was annoyed that PB wouldn't do anything about it. 

Then, I rush ordered a Christmas present from Neiman Marcus that was supposed to arrive the Wednesday before Christmas. When it wasn't there on Friday, I contacted their customer service. The item wasn't going to ship until January 7. I was frustrated that they didn't indicate that before I was contacting them on Christmas Eve. They didn't even apologize or admit that it was inconvenient. All I got was an offer to cancel the order, and I accepted it. I expected more from them.

H&R Block did our taxes for the last two years, and this last year they lost all of our files. I had copies of everything, thank goodness, but still-- those are important and sensitive documents for them to just lose. They didn't give us a discount or do anything special. Just a "we'll call you if we find them after tax season." It's now approaching a year later, and we haven't received a call. I went on H&R Block's website, and I can't find a single customer service contact method. Once again... frustrating!

But then...

I went online to use our Land's End Canvas groupon that we bought back in the summer. When our order arrived, I discovered that I needed new sizes. I called their customer service and got a person within two rings. She was pleasant, and we could understand each other. She sent the replacement items out with free shipping, and returns can either be done in store at a Sears or sent back using the prepaid shipping labels that arrive with the replacements. 

The day after I called, the mailman delivered this...

Do you see what I see? A handwritten and hand addressed card from Land's End. Have you ever received a handwritten note from a company like that? I was impressed, and it was a refreshing change. Do you know what else I was impressed by? This:

Look how many ways you can contact their customer service. You can video chat with them, instant message them, call them, or have them call you. 

Ahhh. It feels good! Now PB, H&R Block, and Neimans... you all need to catch up! Especially you, H&R Block.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

LE at 9 months

I cannot believe it's already time to write up a synopsis of LE happenin's. This kid is getting cuter and cuter as the days go by.

LE is
  • a speed crawler. She is fast.
  • a dancer. She puts her arms up, arches her upper back a little, gets a concentrated look on her face, and bounces on her little booty to whatever music she hears. She normally claps for herself afterwards.
  • super ticklish, especially on her feet and ribs. 
  • waving when she's waved to. 
  • learning how to blow a kiss, but most of the time she ends up blowing french kisses, as her dad calls it. She puts her hand to her mouth and then sticks her tongue out when she pulls her hand away.
  • 18 pounds with clothes on according to the Pensacola airport scale.
  • eating almost everything that we eat except for cow's milk, eggs, sweets, and nuts. She still gets nursed and bottles as her primary nutrition source, but she will complain if she can't eat the same things we eat. 
  • saying "mamamamama," mostly when she's unhappy, and "dad," "dath," "da," when she's happy or playing. 
  • getting a 3rd tooth that is just peeking through at the top. 

Christmastime gifts and travels

Yummy blocks and books from Granny and Gramps.
LE is pulling up and speed crawling with such ease. Here she is in her Christmas jammies from Nanny.
The Cuisinart from Nanny is the perfect height for LE and boy is that spatula yummy!
Peekaboo gets her giggling every time. That was the secret behind getting a smiley Santa photo.
Whew! Presents and giggling are exhausting!
A present from Uncle Charlie & Aunt Kate arrived! LE immediately pulled off one piece of wrapping paper. She studied and waved it around for close to 20 minutes.
Finally, with a little help from Mom, she got the present open.
A shape sorter! Or, if you ask LE, she got more chew toys.
A bunch of presents arrived from Nanny, GrandBob, Nana, and Papa. She got a much needed cute coat (with big buttons, which LE loves), some Christmas jammies, a little wooden worm, a wooden stacking toy, and a Phonics Bus.
This was LE's first experience with something that sings. She puts her arms up, arches her back slightly, and bounces on her little butt to the sound of the alphabet. No matter what she's doing, if she hears that bus, she'll start to dance.
Of course, the people from the phonics bus have to go through the taste test for approval.
We flew down to Alabama for Christmas with my mom's side of the family. Here's LE with her great-grandpa, Gandaddy.
Everyone was surprised by how quickly she downs her bottles. She uses the "aggressive eater" size bottle top. 
Gamama was able to sit in her wheel chair for a few minutes to enjoy the chaos in the living room on Christmas Eve. 
The paparazzi showed up to take everyone's family photos in front of the tree.
Gandaddy and Gamama posed for a quick shot before wheeling Gamama back to her bed. It was great that she got to be out there for part of it.

Opening her presents
LE is in her new monogrammed dress from her first cousin once removed (aka my cousin), Madison. 

Christmas morning, Gandaddy made breakfast for us. Uncle Derek made faces at LE.
LE thought it was funny. She's in her new fleece jammies from Mimi (Christi) and sitting in the old high chair that supposedly all of us sat in growing up. 
The day after Christmas, we drove up to Montgomery to visit Charlotte and her kids. Will is just 2 months younger than LE and Lillie is 2 years 4 months old.  They are both sweet kids, and Lillie loved playing hide and seek with John. We went to the Williams abode afterwards, had dinner, caught Chris' cold, and drove back to Bay Minette. 

Janet also sent an Advent calendar she compiled that had a special gift for us to open each day in December until Christmas. I didn't document all of the gifts that came in, but we are thankful for everything that we received. LE doesn't know how to be thankful yet, but John and I know that we are so blessed to have so many people who care about us, a home that is warm, healthy bodies and minds, a steady income, and a God who was born in a manger. I hope that you took time over the last few weeks to think about all of the good things in your lives that you are thankful for, too. 

Now I must go change that diaper that I heard get filled a moment ago...