Celebrating bookwormism, if that’s even a word

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We found the perfect excuse to celebrate last weekend with this rare treat. A most decadent double fudge chocolate cake. One slice shared among the 3 of us girls (that’s how we roll)… and even then, we ended up pushing each other to finish it up.

choccake2

The reason for this excitement. Hip2bDaughter2 won a reading award for “student who has read the most books in high school”. And how many is that total? We don’t have the exact figure (she hasn’t got the tally back from her teacher) but we do know it’s in the region of oh, 400+ books in her years of high school combined! How anyone can read that many story books on top of all of her school work and activities is beyond me! But that’s my bookworm for ya!

No wonder there’s so much banging on the bathroom room – she’s always in there reading πŸ˜† , and some days, she’s curled up with a book and the house is so quiet I can hear a pin drop. I don’t recall ever buying her that many books though. Not even close. But the philosophy of my two bookworms is to beg, borrow or steal if they have to. Their love for books is insatiable.

Hip2bDaughter2 was the latest bloomer in terms of reading. Hip2bSon was reading by age 2 and Hip2bDaughter1 by 2.5. But because Hip2bDaughter2 is the youngest, I always think of her as a baby. Suddenly there she was, 3 years old and illiterate πŸ˜† . I was horrified. Bad mommy! How could I have let that slip? So began my mad scramble to get my “little sponge” caught up.

Fast forward to this week and my ‘baby’ high school senior is receiving a prize and a plaque, and giving a 7-minute speech to an entire school of 1,200+ students about the benefits of reading. She quietly wrote her own speech without any help from me or her sister, then stood up and rehearsed it to her ever-supportive audience of two – me and Hip2bDaughter1.

Since the award, she’s become a celebrity of sorts at school. Other students (even some she doesn’t know) are coming up to commend her, some to ask for a copy of her speech and many more to ask if she was nervous speaking to 1,o00 odd people. Apparently she surprised herself too that she hadn’t been as nervous as she had thought once she got past the initial jitters.

She’d told me the night before she might be “just a little nervous” and I thought yeah, maybe, this being the first time she’s speaking to such a big crowd. Then again, I took one look at that huge grin on her face and I knew that if she’s anything like her older brother and sister (surely it’s genetic, right?), she would be able to pull it off without a hitch.

Don’t you think she deserves a few bites off a slice of cake?

What we’re eating this week

What we're eating this week
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… as if anyone wants to know, right?

Well, we don’t typically eat out on school days. Instead I will throw together something that the girls love and look forward to eating when they get home from a long day at school. I mean, that’s what moms do, right? πŸ˜€ And I love cooking for my babies.

But this is a more exciting week for us than most, as far as meals go, and all because I bought 5 plump Portobellos last weekend. They were fresh from the farm and I couldn’t resist. I used one for the grilled salmon, and the others, I added to my chicken pie and beef marinara fillings for later use.

Monday, we had grilled salmon with Portobello mushrooms with spaghetti olio.

grilled salmon

Tuesday was vegetarian day for us. Raine, my budding chef, cooked scalloped potatoes for us.

spotato

Wednesday, Raine made us this chicken pot pie with the frozen filling I made the day before. Scrumptious because of the Portabellos.

chicken pot pie

Today, we’re having fish from a box with homemade fries and salad.

fishnfries

Friday, we’re making my version of cannelloni with that awesome beef-Portobello marinara sauce that’s calling out to me from the freezer. Can’t wait!

cannelloni

Good food doesn’t have to burn a hole in your wallet if you cook it yourself. All it takes is a little time and effort and I can whip up some of our favorite restaurant food. What I really love about cooking at home is that I get to play with flavors, experiment with different ingredients, and personalize it to the way my kids like it aka creating my own version of our favorites.

What kind of food week are you having? I’m looking for new meal ideas and would love to hear what your family favorites are.

The sweetest day

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There are times when it does get crazy around here. Last week was one of those weeks. Lots swirling around in my mind. And lots going on in school and college which means everyone was on edge and stressed out. Tuesday, I misheard Hip2bDaughter2 and missed picking her up from school on time. Yes, me, can you believe that?

Came Saturday morning and it was a whole different story. I woke up to a message from Hip2bSon in Cali saying he’s scored above average in his GMAT. That was a huge, huge whew for me, and him. In the couple of weeks leading up to the test, his schedule had been swamped with papers and projects, presentations and work all with looming deadlines.

On top of everything else, he has to cook his own meals, and do his own laundry. It breaks my heart that I’m thousands of miles away and can’t be there to cook and clean for him, and hug his stress away. My poor baby. You would think with all this technology we should be able to reach into our monitors and touch somebody.

I’m tired and there just isn’t enough time to get any practice in, he said. It didn’t help that he read somewhere that some folks take between 2 weeks to 2 years to prepare for it. He only had days. Out of 1,000 practice questions, he’d only managed to complete 50. Yikes! I’m not going to do well, Mom, maybe I should just forget about the whole thing, he said in frustration.

And I know he wants to do well. It doesn’t matter how you do, I told him, just give it your best shot, I have confidence in you. Indeed I have every confidence that my kids can do whatever they set their hearts to do. And as it turned out, I was right again. Waking up to his score is the sweetest thing. Okay, so I’ve been grinning all weekend, can you tell? :mrgreen:

Confused

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It’s been crazy busy around here. When my cell phone alarm rang, I jumped into the car and drove to pick up Raine from college. I got there early and was parked outside the gate waiting and waiting. After what seemed like an eternity, I started to wonder why she wasn’t out yet.

For a moment, I panicked. How could she be this late? I texted her and it was only when I received her response that I realized today was the day she had to stay back to help put up the monitor display stands for a computer event next week. What was I thinking??

Pulled pork, letting the slow cooker do the donkey work

Pulled pork, letting the slow cooker do the donkey work
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So I finally pulled out my antique slow cooker from the forgotten corner, dusted it off and put it to work. Let me confess right here that I’m a noob with slow cookers. But I hear it’s easy and that you can’t go wrong. And me being me, I will do anything to get out of the kitchen fast πŸ˜† .

I also happen to be a lover of background tasks. What’s not to love about anything that toils away quietly and puts food on my table while I’m off having fun like sitting in traffic or dealing with folks who get on the road and leave their brains at home!

So this here is my first attempt at slow cooking. You might already have guessed I made (what else but) Pulled Pork. It just seemed the natural place to start my slow cooker experience. In fact, everything in this picture is homemade except the sesame bun.

Right, on with the Pulled Pork recipe. I used

  • 1 large onion, cut into rings
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4Β cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 pounds pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Into my slow cooker pot, I throw all the ingredients in and give it a good stir before adding the pork and making sure to coat it well with the sauce. Cover and flip the switch to low, forget about it, do what you do, have fun, and in about 8-10 hours, you have glorious, healthy food waiting for you.

I think mine took like 10 hours. But who’s counting? The slow cooker did all the donkey work. I was fast asleep, no kiddin’. And that’s exactly what’s so endearing about the slow cooker. It’s like that little elf that sewed all the shoes while the Shoemaker was asleep, remember that story?

Anyhoo, to thicken the sauce, remove the pork to a large bowl. Turn the slow cooker setting to high, cover and allow the sauce to thicken and reduce. Meantime, use 2 forks to shred the pork. Pour the sauce over the pork and give it a good mix. And you’re ready to assemble your lightly toasted sandwich bun.

We had our pulled pork sandwich with homemade coleslaw. It was really, really good. We had it for lunch and dinner. Would I make this again? The girls haven’t said anything but I’m sure I heard some muted ‘mmmm’s while they were eating. Maybe their mouths were so full they couldn’t articulate an encore, maybe πŸ˜‰ .

The rush of the wind

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I was browsing through my old college photos and came upon a picture of me perched on my 10-speed bike. Man, did I love my red bike! I remember buying it at Pep Boys and paying $10 for the guy to assemble it for me because I was sure if I assembled it myself, the nuts and bolts would go flying apart at some point.

Having a bike was crucial for getting to class on time. I was carrying a heavy load of classes which were often back-to-back and scattered all over campus and there was no way I could walk from one class to the next in 10 minutes. Riding a bike was practically the only way to get around.

After class, I would jump on my bike, maneuver the crowded walkways to another building, park it at one of the bike racks and rush to class. I rode my bike everywhere, sometimes for several blocks to the bank or to my girl friend’s house. That freedom, that rush of the wind on your face – that’s priceless!

I parked my bike in the living room of my apartment. Every day, I would physically lift up my bike on my shoulders, with my backpack on my back, and carry it up/down the stairs to my apartment on the second floor. Strangely it wasn’t a chore or anything. It was just part of the fun of owning a bicycle.

Crazy traffic, hurried meals and early shuteye

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It sure is quiet around here. Too quiet. I prefer a noisier house, a much noisier house filled with my kids and buzzing with 101 activities. Like it’s been the past two months. But both my older kids have gone back to college and it’s hard getting used to the sudden quiet after two whole months of loud fun and laughter.

Indeed there’s been a whole lot going on. We ate out practically every day. I cooked some, baked up a storm, had a coupla movie nights. But not often enough. Going out seemed to take precedence over everything else. When we were home, the kids were constantly blasting away at their computer games.

In other news, I finally said goodbye and good riddance to Siri. I need a phone that lets me dance around the stuff I want to do, not one that’s so proprietary it has me tripping over apple carts and craters. Siri wasn’t my choice in the first place, and let’s just say apples have never gone down well with me, they give me a belly ache, kinda πŸ˜† .

Today we’re back to eating in and eating healthier. With school in full swing, there won’t be time for much else besides sandwiches and simple meals hurriedly slapped together. Not to mention the joys of rush hour traffic, watching the clock, and hitting the sack before ten…

How’s back to school working out for ya? Frankly I can’t wait till Christmas.

Simple weekday meals

Simple weekday meals
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On school days, our meals are pretty simple. I typically don’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when the weather is this hot.

Monday was meatless Monday and the girls’ request was for scalloped potatoes (oops, forgot to take a pic) while I had myself a sweet soup of red beans, green peas and horse beans slow-cooked to yumminess. I couldn’t resist tossing in a few ice cubes.

After a meatless day, we’re like a pack of hungry wolves. For lunch, I cooked salmon shrimp linguine with broccoli, plum tomatoes in creamy red sauce (again forgot to take a pic). So so good we licked the platter clean. For dinner, I made 14 buffalo wings for the 3 of us. Mmm.

Of course there were leftovers. Enough to go nicely with homemade spaghetti marinara with carrots, broccoli and plum tomatoes.

What am I cooking tomorrow? I don’t know, we’ll see.

The eleventh hour

The eleventh hour
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This is the typical scenario in our house on the weekend before the exams.

  • “Mom, I need to go to the bookstore. Got to buy some workbooks.” — “Okay, when are the exams?” — “Next week.”
  • “I can’t find my Biology book! Has anyone seen it? It has a blue cover.” — “Isn’t it on the table? Thought I saw it there.” — “No, that’s not the one! Can someone help me find it please? My test is tomorrow!”
  • “Has anyone seen my test timetable? Think I need to text my friend to text it to me!”
  • “How can you study with those headphones on?” — “Music helps me remember.” — Wokay πŸ™„ !

  • 4:00pm with book over head: “Zzzzzzzzzzzzz!” — “Wake up and get studying!” — “I am, Mom… by the process of osmosis!”
  • 20th trip to the fridge: “Where are you going – again!?” — “Hungry, Mom, gotta eat!”
  • 10:00pm: “Going to sleep, Mom, goodnight.”

No grades were harmed in the actual exams.

Table for one

Table for one
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It feels strange to be eating alone today without my kids. Hip2bDaughter2 is in school and I’ve just dropped Hip2bDaughter1 off at college, and am sticking around to wait for her to be done with her one class today. The traffic has been insane this week so instead of driving all the way home and back, I parked myself at a nearby McD’s.

McD’s was often my savior when the kids were younger but we’ve moved on. We haven’t set foot in a McD’s for like 2 or 3 years now. So it feels strange to be sitting there,Β without the kids, having my second breakfast of the day – a muffin sandwich which isn’t half bad actually and a cup of Arabica coffee which I used to affectionately call dishwater coffee πŸ˜† .

I am reminded that I somewhat enjoy eating alone. Sitting backed against the wall and letting my eyes travel the room freely gives me a sense of an undercover detective in a movie. Back when I was working in Corporate Tower, I used to do that. a lot. I would leave for lunch an hour early, sometimes earlier even. Because I could.

There’s no squeezing into crowded elevators, waiting for my food and rushing through my lunch. I like walking into a food place and feeling like I own it. Somehow when a restaurant is busy, it rushes me into wanting to gobble up everything and leave. Today was nice. A quiet bit of me time to sit and watch the world go by. I do enjoy eating alone sometimes, do you?

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