Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Home again, home again

Oh my poor neglected blog.  I have ignored you, and for that I am sorry.  But I had a good excuse!  A wonderful, though sometimes heartwrenching, excuse.

I took a vacation.

A real bonafide vacation.  And oh internets, it was lovely.  It was only the second big trip I have ever taken.  All other trips have been trips to see family, weekend camping excursions, or weekends in Vegas (twice).  Three years ago Husband and I took an amazing (belated) honeymoon trip to Spain.  On returning, we immediately began socking away money for another big trip.  Italy?  Belize?  New Zealand?  We didn't care, but we were saving.

We had socked up quite a little nest egg, or at least a pretty good one for two postdocs with a kid and a mortgage.  But ultimately neither one of us could afford to take much time away from the bench, and neither one of us felt comfortable spending a lot of money on a vacation at a time when the economy is so terrible.  

Husband convinced me that what we really were in short supply of was couple-time, so we decided to leave the Bean with her grandma and take a little 4 day jaunt to a warm and sunny locale which shall remain nameless (but which may or may not have been stricken by a horrible and fast moving virus).

Now, this all seemed like a good idea when we booked the trip in February... a few days of sunshine and margaritas, sleeping in and generally talking to each other about things other than poop and crayons.  But as the time approached, I became less enthused with the idea of being separated from Bean for 4 days.  In fact, if we had bothered applying for a passport for her, she would have come... I literally wouldn't have been able to leave her.  But as it was, she didn't have a passport and Husband said if I didn't go he was going alone... so we went and Bean stayed.

And apparently Bean did not miss us at all.  My mother said she never cried once because we weren't there.  I, on the other hand, was totally pining for my daughter the entire time.

But, while my mommy side was heartsick and missing Bean, the wife side of me had a fantastic time.  I can not tell you how lovely it was to not only spend time with my husband, but just to be outside in the warm warm sunshine.  And to swim in a lovely pool.  To eat ceviche.  To read 3 books which did not have animals as main characters.  To sleep 8 hours a night.  We went snorkeling (which we could never have done with a toddler).  We had wine with dinner.  We stayed up late.  We got up and drank coffee watching the waves.  It was lovely.


On the other hand, with Bean waiting back at Grandma's, I was more than happy to come home.  Bean met us in the airport, and I cried when I hugged her.  

Now we are back in Dissertation City where it is grey and rainy.  My commute has been a total mess.  Husband is taking time points in lab in the middle of the night.  Bean is working on one of her molars.  But surprisingly, I'm happy to be home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An Open Letter...

...To my Bean,

Sunday is your second birthday.  It’s trite, of course, to say that these past two years have flown by quickly, that you’re growing up so fast.  To say that it feels like just a heartbeat ago that I lay down in bed with you still nestled in my belly, breathing with my lungs.

The night before you were born I felt you try to turn.  You got your little body transverse, which must not have been an easy feat in that crowded little womb.  After a minute you settled back into position (little did I know your feet were pointing down).  I like to think that you knew that your birth was approaching, and that you tried your best to get into the right position.

Labor was like white noise, like static, isolating you and I.  The doctors around us, talking to each other, talking to me, but they were miles away.  It was just you and me, sweet girl.

Later in our room, as I nursed you for the very first time, daddy played a CD for us, Iron and Wine.  When I listen to that album now, joy still balls up hard in my throat.

I still have an image of you, in our first days home, napping with your daddy on his bare chest.  He’s asleep, you’re swaddled but you’ve slipped your thumb into your mouth, and my entire world is there resting in cotton sheets and new pillows, grey filtered sunlight and the smell of too much sleep.

Every night before I go to bed, I sneak into your room alone.  I pet your damp curls and stroke your cheek.  I slip a finger into your palm and you close your fingers around mine.  I stay just a minute and tell you that I love you.  Sometimes you sigh and my heartbeat responds, a perfect harmonic.

Last night after dinner we settled down for story time on the couch.  This is my favorite time of every single day.  You snuggle into my lap, thumb in your mouth, rest your head on my shoulder.  It’s one of the few times each day when I still get to hold you.  I kiss the back of your sweet little neck, or bury my face in your soft fine hair.

When we read stories now, you often show your little stuffed animals or dolls the pictures.  “Look Froggy,” you say, pushing your frog’s face into the page.  Sometimes you “read” the books to us.  I love to see how much you know and understand, to see you discern patterns in the prose.  You love rhythm and music, and are lulled by the cadence of my voice as it rushes over the words.

You’re singing, always singing.  Songs I don’t even know.  You make up your own words to songs sometimes, telling us what you see or wish to do.  You ask us to sing to you too, and sometimes ask “Mama and Dada and Bean sing all together?”

You’re growing quickly, my sweet, precocious, mercurial little girl.  But no matter how much you grow, how strong and independent you become, you and I will always be connected.  You will always be mine.

Happy birthday, sweet baby.  Happy birthday.

With Love,

your mama

Friday, April 3, 2009

Nerd Humor

Labmate 1:  I'm such a moron

ScienceMama:  You're not a moron, you are the complete opposite of a moron.  You're an anti-moron.  *thinks for a second* Hey Labmate 2, Labmate 1 is a subatomic particle... an anti-moron.

Labmate 2:  An anti-moron, huh?  

ScienceMama:  Yes, that's why LB1 and I are such good baymates.  She's the anti-moron to my moron.

Labmate 3: But wouldn't you annihilate each other?...

Labmate 1:  Maybe that's why my experiments aren't working.

Labmate 3:  ...and for the universe to exist, wouldn't there have to be more of one particle than the other?  Are there more anti-morons or morons?

Labmate 2:  I think we all know the answer to that.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Mother of All Recipes Carnival!

I asked, and you answered. The Mother of All Recipes Weeknight Cooking For Busy Girls and Boys Carnival (TMOARWCFBGABC) is here!

Dr. Isis tempts us with her Herb Coated Filet and Basil-Feta Pasta Salad. A easy weeknight treat, especially if you make the pasta salad the night before, and/or marinate the filet in the herb paste overnight.

Efficiency guru EcoGeoFemme takes us on a magical one-dish journey with her Asparagus Quiche, a.k.a Egg Pie. A true weeknight special, this dish has your veggies, your protein, and your butter food groups all in one convenient dish! Using a store bought crust, or by doing it as a frittata instead of a quiche, this recipe only takes about 15 minutes of active work. Throw in a salad and you've got yourself a well-rounded meal!

EthidiumBromide has a classic weeknight cleaning-out-the-fridge suggestion, Shepherd's Pie. Chock-full of veggies, but with minimum chopping requirements, this is another well-rounded dish that comes together with minimal counter time. (Also, her picture looks straight out of a magazine!)

ScienceGirl posted two great weeknight meal suggestions, including an awesome looking schnitzel. I'm drooling just thinking about it, and I know it's something Bean would LOVE. Throw in some steamed veggies and you're good to go!

Scientia Matris also serves up two loaded-with-veggies toddler-friendly recipes, Fried Rice and a yummy looking Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup. Both easily fulfill the nutritious, delicious, and quick and easy requirements.

Your favorite snarky postdoc, Candid Engineer, shares her weeknight standby Shut Up and Eat Pasta. She clearly knows the way to my little Bean's heart, who loves both eggs and pasta. Put 'em together? That's a happy Bean. This recipe scores points for being easily adaptable to whatever veggies you have in the fridge... throw in some asparagus, some cherry tomatoes, heck even some peas, and you've got yourself a nice well-rounded dish.

ScientistMother shares her weeknight standby recipe, Broccoli Chicken Casserole. This dish can be assembled in about 20 minutes (probably even the night before) and certainly looks like it makes yummy leftovers.

As for myself, I shared my Everything But the Kitchen Sink Pasta recipe, and now my favorite Jamaican-Spiced Chicken Thighs recipe.

Female Engineering Professor also recommended the Cook's Illustrated 30-Minute Meals Cookbook. Based on my experience with Cook's Illustrated (i.e. that their recipes never fail), I'm going to have to pick this one up myself. I'll let you know how I like it.

Thanks to everyone who participated! I'll be trying these recipes out in the coming weeks! I'm always happy to add new recipes to my stockpile of favorites!

And in the future, I think I'll post more easy weeknight meals. It sounds like something we could all use for inspiration!

Weeknight Recipe #2: Jamaican-Spiced Chicken Thighs

So this recipe is not a ScienceMama original.  It is ripped directly from my favorite cooking magazine Cooking Light.  It's been a standby in our house for a couple of years, though we've had to tone down the heat (i.e. leave out the jalapeno and cut the red pepper by half) to make it toddler friendly...

I wanted to have my own pictures for you, but I had some kind of stomach bug for the last two days.  A photo from the Cooking Light website will have to suffice.

Jamaican Spiced Chicken Thighs

1/4 cup minced red onion
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
optional: 1/4 tsp red pepper
optional: 1 Tbsp finely chopped, seeded jalapeno pepper
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

3 sweet potatoes, sliced up into french fry-like shapes
olive oil
salt & pepper

broccoli, green beans, salad or other green veggie

Mix together red onion, sugar, spices, cider vinegar, soy sauce, and jalapeno if using.  Put chicken into a ziploc bag and add marinade.  Marinate 20 minutes to overnight (I like to make this up the night before so the marinade really gets up in that chicken's business).  

Preheat oven to 450.  Combine sweet potatoes, 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, tossing gently to coat.  Spread sweet potatoes in single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet.  Put sweet potatoes in the oven for about 10 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the sweet potato "fries" and then return to the oven until crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, about 10 minutes more.

Grill or broil the chicken breasts until done, about 12 minutes.  Plate with sweet potatoes fries and green veggie of choice.