Friday, December 5, 2014

The McArdle Family Chili Cookoff

We were thrilled to have one of Nathan's sisters, Jenny, and her husband, Brandon, visit us the weekend before Thanksgiving. We love any chance to have Eleanor spend time with her relatives. She's growing so fast, we want everyone who loves her to get to spend time with her at each stage, (especially those difficult stages.-Take all the time with her you want. I'll just be over here far away).

This visit was a particularly fun one because we tested out a game (Rapid Recall) during her nap and had a McArdle/Brooks chili cook-off.

The final four looked surprisingly different.

Photos by Jenny McArdle

Shown here in medaling order:

Nathan's Southwest Cowboy Chili courtesy of my birthday gift from Jenny, the Nom Nom Paleo Cookbook (top left)

Jenny's Pumpkin and Chicken Chili (no idea where she got the recipe from-I think this one is it, but she substituted some ingredients) (top right)

Brandon's modified Alton Brown Pressure Cooker Chili recipe (bottom left)

And my exotic Kangaroo Meat Chili [Original recipe from the Edgewater Cookbook (our neighborhood fundraiser cookbook) but with ground kangaroo meat instead of beef]. This is a somewhat similar recipe. (bottom right)

In order to pick the winner, everyone ranked all four dishes in order of their favorites and the ultimate winner was the one with the most points. Even though he didn't even rank his own first, Nathan's was a hands down winner. The broth was so velvety delicious that even when we ran out of beef by dinner, I still poured myself a bowl of broth.

I gave myself a last place vote because I was completely turned off by the kangaroo meat. Raw, ground kangaroo has a very fishy smell, which, though it was covered by the chili ingredients and didn't bother anyone else in the group, did me in. I just could not get behind it. I will say it completely mellowed by the next day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Homemade Halloween

Not even on my life list, folks, but I still broke out the glue gun and the sewing machine for this year's Halloween costume. Before anyone feels too sorry for Nathan's series of low key, uncrafty costumes, I must add that though it is painful for me to send him out in public this way, these costumes are exactly his preference. I might have managed to get him in a fox costume this year if I had finagled, but he was very excited to get to wear his TSC hat.

Monday, November 3, 2014

O Frabjous Day

Motherhood Notes:

I just sincerely prayed to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, for his help in returning the bacon puzzle piece that has been missing from the playroom for the last week...This was a last resort after fruitlessly looking on eBay to purchase a "Melissa and Doug bacon puzzle piece." Spoiler: no matches.

Update: DUDES, it totally worked. It better than worked! Day of the prayer not only did the bacon puzzle piece show up in Eleanor's room (which was the only room in the house I would have bet money on for it NOT to be in), but something I had long declared gone forever appeared after almost 2 months! I hadn't even asked for that one because I had so thoroughly given up on it!!! I told Nathan that I believe. I BELIEVE. I am converting to Catholicism. Or at least naming my next child Saint Anthony. Sorry kid, Mommy owed him one.

I was entirely too optimistic when I went to bed at 11 last night...I've been up since 5 AM because Eleanor doesn't understand the time change. We read Little Blue Truck (currently, according to my toddler, every animal moos) and the Babylit Jabberwocky twice. I always read Jabberwocky with a Scottish accent. I discovered this morning that my Scottish accent is much more authentic when I'm half asleep.

I currently have 3 pairs of shoes that need repair in my car trunk that have been riding around with me since last fall...The shoe repair place is less than a mile from my office.

I just discovered dried egg on my silk shirt that is suspiciously in the shape of a toddler face print...I've already had two meetings this morning.

Nathan has a surprise coming when he drops off this week's dry cleaning. I wonder how much they'll charge for the coat part of Eleanor's chicken costume?

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Place More Kind Than Home

My friend Aileen and I have been trading writing exercises as a way to sharpen our dulled writing skills. This week's, chosen by moi, was for us to write a Dear John letter from our favorite piece of furniture.

Please keep in mind that I took poetic license with elements here, so this is merely based on some facts (Sorry, Mom, I'm sure the Barrister wasn't really disappointed to be in your room. And there really haven't been any actual close calls, just many imagined ones that have made me a bit sick to my stomach...).

Dear Hanna,

I loved your grandmother very much even though I was not the center of her life. She brought me in to her home many years ago. I thought I was on my way to displaying valuables or even holding her husband’s important ledgers; however, to my disappointment she put me in your mother’s room where I housed your mother’s and aunt’s doll furniture like some sort of giant dollhouse. I came to accept this as my lot in life; at least I was out of the way of your rowdy uncle’s ever bouncing soccer ball. 

Things began to look up as the children left the nest and your grandparents made the long move to Vermont. They kept me even as they got rid of some of the lesser furniture (I was relieved that some of the coarser elements in the household were sold off. That bookshelf had always leered lasciviously at me from down the hall.)

I had hoped that I would have a more prominent placement in the new home and was thrilled to hear that I would be placed downstairs in the dining room for all to see. I looked forward to holding your grandmother’s beautiful wedding place settings or some of the lovely blue glassware she collected on lamp buying expeditions with your grandfather.

It was sadly not to be, however, as I was placed in the front entry hallway between the dining room and the living room. It took me years to realize the full disappointment of this placement. The family always gathered in the kitchen, and visitors did not come to the front door but to the side door down the hall. The hallway was merely a passageway between two destinations. Only children seemed to linger by my side with all others walking purposefully past without a glance in my direction.

I tried to find the bright side to my situation. I now held exotic, one-of-a-kind dishes and goblets. I had the company of a whole menagerie of animal serving dishes and pitchers-chickens, ducks, moose, a kitten, and even a bunny or two. I was safe from the clumsiest of newly walking grandchildren as they did not usually venture to the uneven slate floor on which I rested. But I could never quite see what was going on in the household-it was always maddeningly just out of reach, around the smallest of corners to my left or right.

I was devastated for your grandmother the day that your grandfather died, and devastated for myself when I discovered that your grandmother had died (I contend that it was of a broken heart), but I held out hope that I would go to one of the grandchildren who would care for me as your grandmother did. I had high hopes when I discovered you had claimed me (though immense trepidation to find how far I would have to travel to get to you). It was a terrifying and very bouncy ride though thankfully your father is a very thorough packer, meticulously wrapping each of my glass doors.

It was a happy few years at the center of your home, as I was able to continue displaying much of your grandmother’s dishes and even continued to have one of my chicken friends keeping me company. Yes, I had to get used to the hustle and bustle again (your house is much louder than your grandparents’ had been for many years), but I have not survived the past 100 years by being entirely inflexible. These old wood slats can still bend a bit.

However, I come to the point of this letter. This past year has required too much from me. There have been too many close calls as you have been distracted with broom and mop handles. There have been too many moments of frozen panic as a chair pushed quickly back from the table has nearly toppled into me, and there have been too many instances of last second snatches of that damnable wooden xylophone mallet from your feral toddler as she headed directly toward my delicate glass doors. (Pardon my language; I must take a moment to collect myself.)

Do you know how many years these curved glass panels have survived? I have not made it this far to see them smashed in a moment of mayhem! And let me point out that nearly every moment in your once quiet household is now filled with mayhem. I cannot live like this. My blood pressure is as elevated as my once exalted status as the best piece of furniture you own. Now, however, instead of being a source of pride, I am merely a liability.

Don’t think that I don’t know you now gaze at my pristine glass with dread. You and I both know that you would have a nearly impossible time trying to replace one of these panels should when your little hellion darling finally destroys me. I can no longer just sit and accept my fate. I am leaving for safer accommodations. I’m sure there’s a racetrack or bowling alley somewhere that requires a trophy case. Lord knows they’ll be quieter than your dining room.

Barrister Bookcase

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Want Wednesday-Tiny Kid Edition

Here are a few of the things I've had to talk myself out of buying for E this week...

A small collection of magnetic blocks with a carry pouch you can have in your purse...genius!

Talked myself out of it: Only thing happening with these blocks right now would be E eating them...

Tablecloth that doubles as an adorable playhouse...gorgeous!

Talked myself out of it: Only thing happening with this cloth would be her pulling it (and everything on the table) off and across the floor...

Marbleworks set that provided my sisters and me with hours of building and marble racing fun for at least a fact, I kind of want to play with it now even as an adult.

(Why I Should) talk myself out of it: Only thing happening with this is that she would eat ALL the marbles immediately.
(But I really really want it, and I'm having a Discovery Toy party on Friday so I might buy it and store it away for, yes, I know, a very long while.)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Looking for that Painless Dentist

I've run across some clichés lately that have really bugged me. I know you're not supposed to put much stock in clichés, but still they keep getting said for a reason-people seem to really believe they are sharing gems of wisdom. Every time I hear someone say it, I just want to interrupt with these rants.

I hear the statement (said with a sort of pitying condescension to those of us who haven't found one of our own to brag about) that "good relationships are easy." ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Who said this first, one of the Babysitter's Club kids? If not a child, then certainly someone who has watched way too many romantic comedies thinking that they were how-to manuals rather than fiction. That single statement explains in a nutshell why the divorce rate is currently so high. Yes, a good relationship may be easy occasionally, but on the whole, relationships take work. It's clearly up to every person to determine the balance of hard work to laughter in order to determine if a relationship is worth it in the long run, but stating that a good relationship is easy is like saying that a good dentist is painless (and I have had years of painful dental work).

Second, "live every day like it's your last." This one is nuanced, I'll admit. In certain situations, I'll go ahead and give it a pass. (Such as the make sure the impact you leave is a good one because you may only get one chance version of this. The live life to the fullest-ok yeah, who can argue with that? But the whole follow-your-passion-because-this-might-be-your-last-day-thing I really can't get behind.) I'm not here to stomp on your dreams, folks, but the fact is that then this is terrible advice. You're going to wake up tomorrow, kid. You're going to need to pay your electric bills. Yes, if you're miserable in your job, let that be the impetus to find something you'll like better, but remember that even a dream job is a job. Don't let fear keep you from trying new things, but remember that you are not entitled to happiness no matter the cost. Remember, you'll be accountable for your actions tomorrow and the next day. And probably the one after that too.

Well, I feel better.
My judgy face (well, one of them anyway).
This does, actually, occur often while I'm driving.
People, ya'll. On the roads, they are Just. The. Worst.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I'm Soooo Literate, Guys.

Funny Gatsby comics via The Bloggess. (Also, the f-word makes things even more funny. Unless my daughter reads this one which case, the f-word is not classy, Eleanor; don't say it.)

More good ones from Hark, a Vagrant here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cross Another One Off the Life List

Got a little busy last year and lost a lot of my blogging inspiration. Just realized today that I never posted evidence of one of my Life List accomplishments: To make my children their first Halloween costume.

Though I only have one child currently, I am justified in crossing this one off the Life List because I'm pretty sure any subsequent children will wear the same costume for their first Halloween because it took forever to make and because it's pretty original. I made it all myself without a pattern. Even her little sweatpants were made using a second hoodie as they did not have any baby sweats in the right color.

Our first family Halloween costume theme: Chicago Hot Dog

Nathan went as our favorite hot dog restaurant worker (Wolfy's), while I went as your typical Chicagoan Hot Dog Eater, and Eleanor was a Grade A, one of a kind, 100% all Vienna Beef Chicago Hot Dog with all the fixings (poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, onions, pickle relish, sport peppers, and a tomato wedge). I even sprinkled her with celery salt for total authenticity.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mind. Blown.

I understand what he's doing here, but it still looks like magic to me anyway. Plus the music is lovely and relaxing.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Best Books of the Year (Probably)

I realize it's been ages since I've written a blog post. I have occasionally had ideas floating around in my head to blog, but I'll be honest that more often than not they have been fragments that never build to anything because I have a million other non-related fragments also swimming around in there. Perhaps I should just start posting smaller bits. Perhaps not as my current fragment is "Why is Snoop Dogg/Lion hanging out with Justin Beiber so much these days? Does he see himself as some sort of parental figure to him? I wonder if he even sees himself as a parental figure to his actual children as he seems sort of like a giant kid himself?"

Anyway, before another fragment rears its ugly head, let me get to the point of this post, which is to share the best books I read in December. I think they were my favorite books in all of 2013, but I honestly don't remember a rather large portion of 2013, so I could be wrong. Still these two were very, very good. Go read them now. They're good enough I feel secure in telling you that you wouldn't even regret buying them in hardback.

Life After Life-You may have heard some of the hype around this one, but I assure you that it's such an unique and creative concept that it lives up to the hype. It's super weird (it follows the varied lives and deaths of one character over and over again), but if you bear with it, you will find yourself sucked into the many lives of Ursula Todd, vividly experiencing WWII in a variety of ways, and regretting when you turn the last page. It's complex, and I think I don't entirely understand the conclusion (I'm not sure I could even tell you if there's a happy ending or not), but this novel was outstanding and I found myself thinking of Ursula weeks later as if she were a friend temporarily away on vacation.

 Tell the Wolves I'm Home-This will especially strike a chord with anyone who remembers the nationwide saga of Ryan White from the '80's. This book is a really wonderful deep, slightly dark young adult novel exploring love and grief. It's quirky but lovely, and includes a number of images with such a haunting painterly quality that even months later they stand out starkly in my sleep-addled, sieve-like memory. I really loved June, the main character; loved her dry sense of humor, her observations, and her humanity. Also, I thought Brunt really nailed the ending. Sometimes a story just builds and builds, getting better and better and the author just can't pull off a satisfying ending and the story just takes a big old bellyflop. Not here though, I found the conclusion to be fulfilling.