Friday, January 29, 2010

Musketeer Maisie

Ten days and nary a post. Our days have been filled and busy and at night I've been battling insomnia while also working on keeping Maisie's fears and night terrors at bay so needless to say I've been tired. In addition, during the day and most nights I've been stepping back from and away from the computer so that I could focus more on other things. I've been getting some things around the house more organized, I've spent more time cooking and trying new recipes as well as spending more time doing one-on-one activities with Maisie.

As I mentioned, I've been doing a lot more cooking as I'm trying to cut sugar and processed foods from all of our diets and the easiest way to do that is to cook everything from scratch. Of course I've made some of our favorite recipes as well as some new ones. After our trip to England and an awesome moussaka dinner at a friend's home I just had the taste in my head so I worked on perfecting my moussaka recipe. After two different attempts I came up with a recipe that, to my taste, is the ultimate moussaka recipe. Of course we now have about 12 servings packed away in the freezer but that will serve us well for nights when I don't have the time or energy to cook or for Eammon's lunches...I love having freezer meals! Some of my other new recipes have been crepes filled with bananas and a small amount of Nutella (total yum!), Moroccan Beef & Cauliflower Stew (good but not a keeper), Coconut Curried Butternut Squash (a huge hit with everyone and will be made again), Red Curry Chicken (another huge hit which will be made again and again) as well as a super simple tomato sauce with butter and onion which was fabulous and Eammon enjoyed it as part of a veggie pasta dish. Ive also been on a roasted veggie kick and I think that because the roasting brings out the sweetness of the vegetables, both Eammon and Maisie have enjoyed almost all of them.

The other day Maisie received a video message from her Dutch friend Kayodee whom she met in Aruba. So today she decided that she wanted to write to him and also make a video to send back. I've included her little video and letter in this post...mainly because every post needs a picture and I've been a total slacker lately when it comes to taking pictures of Maisie... Yeah, gotta work on that one.

It was after Maisie's swimming lesson today that she decided that she needed to write to Kayodee and considering that she talked continuously about him and swimming with him in Aruba and would he come visit and will he be in Aruba this year, I wasn't surprised. Maisie told me what she wanted to write and I just helped her with spelling some of the words.

In the video Kayodee sent for Maisie, he sang for her. So in return for his performance Maisie decided that she wanted to be a Musketeer in her video for him. Lately Maisie, K & A, when allowed, have watched Barbie and the Three Musketeers and I swear that the girls now cartwheel everywhere. If I ask Maisie to go pick something up from the floor or table, it's cartwheels back and forth. Interesting though, because she's often holding something in one hand or the other, she now almost has a one handed cartwheel down.

We are in for a cold and wet weekend but that won't put a damper on our fun as we're having friends over to play so fun times and pictures to come. Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MLK Monday

After not the best weekend weather wise we finally on Monday had some nice weather so that afternoon Maisie and I along with Steve, Anne, K & A headed over to Kennesaw Mountain for a little hike. None of us had ever walked up the mountain before so it was an adventure for all of us. There were a lot of people and dogs all out enjoying the beautiful afternoon. Maisie and A were especially full of energy and hopped, skipped, ran and danced their way up the mountain and were so cute when we came back down, each trying to be the "line leader" but often forgetting that each wanted to be first and ended up walking together holding hands.

Maisie, K & A taking a little rest on our way up the mountain.

Maisie and I at the top of the mountain. Maisie just loves when our clothes match so here we are both wearing our Lands End fleece jackets.

Maisie and A hand-holding on the way back down.

We walked a two mile route from the visitor center to the top of the mountain but there are actually 18-miles of trails and Maisie can't wait to go back and do some more so when the weather is nice, she and I will definitely be heading back to explore some other trails.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Where does the week go??

Since we were away in December, Maisie didn't receive her report card until our return. She is still doing very well in school and her teacher's comments said that "Maisie continues to be a joy in class, is a very hard worker and is extremely bright." And even though her handwriting is completely legible, it's not always the neatest so her teacher commented that "Maisie's handwriting will continue to improve as she matures and that Maisie could benefit from working with small manipulatives to help strengthen her hand muscles." Maisie continues to love school and we're so pleased that she's happy and doing so well.

Listening to her teacher's suggestion and to help Maisie develop more strength in her hands, she and I have spent more time coloring, we've increased our play with small beads, we're playing more with play-do and we've started playing with fuse beads which Maisie just adores and has wanted to do again since she first tried them at Pete & Sam's home in England.

For the moment we have given up on the idea of Maisie sleeping in her own bed and since she's been allowed to sleep in bed with me each night, she's been sleeping through the night and we're both getting some good rest. Naps with her are hit or miss but everyday after school we do quiet time where she's in bed and allowed to have some books with her. This week though, each day she's ended up falling asleep and oh how I love when the girl naps!

Maisie and I have had a full week of school, gymnastics practice, home school, our new craft time and of course playtime with friends. We haven't seen Lisa & Briana in months so it was great to meet up with them as well as Liene & Emi at an inflatable jumping place where the little girls all had fun playing and the Moms had a good time chatting and catching up.

Also this week I caught up with some friends whom I haven't spoken with since at least Thanksgiving, if not longer. It seems with the holidays, all our travels and every ones busy schedules, the time just gets away and weeks or months pass without us finding a time to chat so it was great to catch-up again. Kathy was one of the people whom I caught up with via phone this week and when she told me about all that she had planned for the year with her bow shows and numerous trip it got me motivated to get another trip on our calendar. So now Maisie and I have a Salt Lake City trip planned for July and then all three of us are going on another cruise. In September we'll be heading to Grand Cayman, Isla Roatan as well as repeat visits for us to Cozumel & Belize. We're all totally excited as we just can't wait to cruise again!

It amazes me how our weeks seem to fly by and here it is the weekend again. I'm happy that we're back at least to normal winter temps and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that those single digit weather days are a thing of the past and that we'll see warmer days from here on out, even if rain is forecasted for the entire weekend. Now though it's time to head to bed because Maisie doesn't believe in sleeping in so morning comes early.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Too busy & too tired to blog

We have been busy, busy which has all been fun but tired, tired as I'm still recovering from being sick. Whenever Maisie's stopped, I have too, resting and trying to get some extra sleep, thus no time to blog!

Last week while Maisie was at school I did a bit lot of shopping hitting up some great sales especially at Lands End. I picked up fleece tops & fleece jackets for both Maisie and I, turtle necks, gloves, thermal tops, socks & a rain coat for me, great leather shoes for Maisie and even matching yellow vests for both Maisie and I. Thursday morning many of the school districts around us canceled school or after school activities because of snow (which was to start late afternoon) but Maisie had school and wanted to wear some of her new clothes. I matched one of her new fleece tops to a uniform skirt, added matching tights, her new shoes and her favorite, the yellow vest which she made me also wear so that we would match. She looked so adorable and received many complements on how adorable she looked.

Thursday afternoon gymnastics was canceled due to weather so Maisie and I did some cooking, played games and had a fun afternoon together.

We also watched some idiots playing on the ice out on the pond. Yes we've had some really cold weather and there's ice on the pond but it certainly isn't safe to be out there playing as evidenced by two teens who lost their lives by going through the ice on a local pond. Thankfully no one went through the ice on our pond but I wish people would use more common sense.

Friday morning all the local schools were canceled, not so much because of the 1/4-inch of snow but due to all the icing on the roads. I ventured out to the grocery and the roads were bad but since no one was out and I didn't have to go far to travel, it was all good. Friday afternoon K & A came over and played for a while then we all went over to their house where Anne and I played in her fabu, deluxe, commercial grade kitchen where we combined our ingredients and made my easy version of Cioppino & garlic toast which was a perfect meal on an extremely cold night. The guys watched some blue-ray Star Trek movie on Steve & Anne's new high-def flat screen with some high-end surround sound system (obviously I know and understand more about the kitchen then the electronics) and both thought it an awesome way to spend the evening. Maisie, K & A all had fun playing together so it was one perfect night for everyone. I think it was about 8:30PM and I was toast so Maisie and I headed home and immediately both went to bed. I'm not sure how late it was when Eammon made his way home but thankfully he didn't wake his two sleeping girls.

Saturday morning I made an English Sherry Trifle because that afternoon we were going back over to Anne & Steve's as they were having their first party to celebrate their new fabu space and since they were serving rib roast, Yorkshire pudding and roasted vegetables, Anne and I thought that the trifle would be a perfect ending. It was a fun afternoon and evening and the food and company was incredible. We had so much fun but I was feeling really run-down so when we got home I immediately crawled into bed with Maisie but sleep eluded me and it was probably 2:30am before I finally fell asleep.

Sunday, Eammon spent the morning with Maisie and I headed out to do some shopping at Costco and the International Farmer's Market. I bought so much and now have a lot of butchering, packaging and cooking to do this week. Once home my lack of sleep caught up with me so I got in bed with Maisie at nap time and ended up being the only one who slept as Maisie was full of energy. We had plans to have leftovers next-door for dinner so after nap we were at Steve & Anne's eating yet again. Because it was a school night and Maisie didn't nap and I'm still fighting pneumonia and a sinus infection, we made it an early evening and she and I went to bed at 7PM and were fast asleep within minutes.

After a good nights rest I'm feeling better and ready to take on the week. The Cioppino that Anne and I made on Friday was so awesome I decided to make another pot so that we could have some more this week and I could also add some to the soup supply in my freezer. While I was making the soup I was also checking the Internet as I've now been home from a trip for 10 days and have no other trips scheduled so I was feeling antsy. After checking airfares and dates and back-and-forth calls to Tiffany I now have my first trip for 2010 scheduled. Come July, Maisie and I are heading back out to Salt Lake City, woohoo!! Can't wait to see all our Utah friends and who knows, maybe some of our other bloggy friends who in years past have met in SLC will decide to join us again this year.

Now I'm off to bed where I'll hopefully get some good sleep as it's going to be a busy week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this arctic weather will pass and things will warm up as I am not a cold weather gal.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Home cooking

It always amazes me just how much needs to be done when we return home from a trip and how quickly we seem to fall into our normal routine. Having the suitcases around irks me so during our first two days home I managed to wash and put away all the laundry from both our Aruba and U.K. trips and all the suitcases have been emptied and put away. I sorted through weeks worth of accumulated mail making three piles. The first and easiest was the trash pile and thankfully that got rid of a big portion of the paper. The second pile was bills and things that need to be read but could wait a few days before opening. And the third pile was my favorite, all the holiday cards which I opened immediately. Thank you to everyone who sent a card as I truly appreciate and enjoy opening and reading every one of them and especially seeing all the wonderful pictures. Each year I have good intentions of getting out a holiday card but somehow I never seem to get my act together and then Thanksgiving is upon us, we're off to Aruba and then it's Christmas and I've missed another year.

For me, one of the most difficult parts of traveling is eating out all the time. I do enjoy going out to restaurants here and there, especially trying new foods or things that I don't make at home but in all honesty I really like my own cooking and I miss it when we're away. So on our first morning home I went grocery shopping and purchased over $50 of just veggies plus other groceries and then went on a two day cooking binge. I roasted broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, yellow summer squash, Chinese eggplant, carrots and Maisie's new favorite, parsnips which she thinks are french fries*. Then since it's so brutally cold here I decided to make some nice hearty food too and in each instance I made extra as I figured, why not get a couple of meals for my effort so I'm stocking the freezer. I made Red Curry Soup, Bolognase Sauce, Hearty Beef Curry and a new recipe, Guinness Braised Short Ribs.

Eammon said that the house smelled wonderful with all the cooking but I couldn't tell as I'm sick and have absolutely no sense of taste or smell. Though I follow basic recipes, I found it quite odd and a bit difficult to cook missing these senses as I realized that I do check for balance of flavors and the right smell to make sure that everything is seasoned properly. Eammon did a lot of taste-testing for me and gave everything big thumbs up.

Well as I mentioned above, I'm sick but it's me in the winter so what else is new. Just before leaving for England I found out that I had pneumonia...for the fourth stinking year in a row. Thankfully it was caught early and I got onto antibiotics so that by the time I finished the course I was feeling significantly better. But then we were walking all around London in the cold, staying up too late at night, eating lots of not-the-best-for-you foods and well, I guess the pneumonia wasn't completely cleared up as my chest started feeling awful again. So first thing Monday morning I was booking a sick appointment with the doc. I still have a touch of pneumonia but it's no worse than it was when we left for England, so that's a good thing. What's exacerbating the problem is that I now also have a sinus infection which is causing me to drain and drip so much into my lungs that I can't handle it and end up coughing much more than I would with just the pneumonia. So now I have to do another course of super expensive antibiotics, a medrol dose pack (steroids) to help quickly reduce all the swelling and open everything up, Nasonex, Mucinex and codeine cough syrup at night so that I can sleep. Lucky me, by the 4th day of the new year I reached the deductible on my meds!

Today was Maisie's first day back to school and gymnastics. She's still a little off schedule with the time change but she had a very good day at school. Unfortunately though, she only managed a very brief nap before we had to head off to gymnastics. She was dragging a bit and that combined with her regular coach being out on maternity leave, she was a little out-of-sorts at the gym. She then decided that she just wanted to watch for a bit and told her coach that she wasn't feeling well. I went down from the viewing area to find out what was going on and Maisie told coach Dena and I that she was suffering with hypochondria, which totally cracked up Dena. I asked her if she needed a placebo to help her and she said yes. I told her that I had a placebo at home for later but that by participating it would help her feel better and that after practice I'd have a treat for her. Sure enough, after practice and eating her mint stick she said her hypochondria was better.

This morning when I returned home from dropping Maisie at school, something outside caught my eye and when I looked there was, what I think is a hawk sitting on the top of our umbrella pole so I snapped a piccie.

Maisie went to bed early and will hopefully sleep through the night and get back on a good schedule. My meds are already kicking in, especially the steroids making my breathing easier and I have no plans to be out in the cold so hopefully I'll be better soon. We're expecting a dusting of snow later this week so I'm sure school will be cancelled...hey it's the south so even a threat of snow closes the schools. My feeling, potentially one less day I have to venture out in the cold.

* I peel then cut the parsnips into pointer finger sized "fries", toss with some olive oil, thinly sliced onion, salt, pepper and garlic powder then roast at 450F until they start to caramelize and get a little crunchy on the outside. They need to be turned a couple of times while they cook so that all the sides brown up a bit. Maisie dips them in ketchup and gobbles them up so who am I to tell her that they're not real fries.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Home sweet home

After almost an entire month of travel it feels great to be home. Even though Maisie and I are both sick and it's ridiculously, outrageously, crazy cold here with talk of snow later in the week, I'm delighted beyond words to be once again sleeping in my own comfy, cozy bed and cooking our meals again!

We closed out 2009 and rang in 2010 with a really nice trip to the U.K. where it was good fun visiting, spending time with family and friends and introducing Maisie to everyone.

Here's Maisie all ready to go. The giraffe suitcase is all my stuff, the zebra case holds all of Maisie's items and the two huge bags are both Eammon's and not shown is his carry-on. Truth be told though his two big bags were only partially full as he wanted room to bring home all the books, chocolate and tea he planned on purchasing while over there but still, Maisie and I went carry-on and Eammon had two giant checked bags.

The trip was really planned so to spend time with family and friends but we did manage to squeeze in a little bit of touristy stuff too. When we first landed in London we were met at the airport by Eammon's brother Kevin & Sister-in-law Chris who totally set us up with a car, GPS, cell phone, mini-laptop and an air card. Big huge thanks to both for everything!

View Larger Map
We then headed to Cardiff, Wales via Southampton. Yeah not the most direct route but Kevin's car had some issues as they drove up to meet us so we had to take them back home before we headed to Eammon's eldest brother's home in Cardiff for Christmas Eve.

While in Southampton Kevin & Cris' youngest daughter Kelly along with her husband Anthony & their daughter Molly stopped over to visit with us for our brief time there.

Once in Cardiff we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas eve dinner and then stayed up until after midnight visiting with Eammon's brother Michael and his family.

It was mid-day on Christmas by the time we awoke and Maisie was trilled that Santa had found her in Wales and had left presents under the tree. Her cousin Nancy-Claire was Maisie's constant companion helping her open gifts and playing with her all-day-long. Helen, Patrick & Laurence all entertained Maisie too but Maisie just really took to Nancy-Claire and demanded her attention.

Though it seemed like we had been non-stop eating Christmas day, huge English breakfast and endless chocolates and cocktails, we all somehow managed to find room for a Christmas dinner of beef Wellington, various roasted vegetables, roasted potatoes and Michael's terrine of three different homemade ice creams...yum!

Christmas night was another late one for us as we were so off schedule and hadn't adjusted to the time zone change so boxing day was another late start for us. While Eammon slept in very late I was happy to sit in the lounge in front of the fire while Maisie and her cousins went out into the freezing cold to walk through a park and look at swans.

After a late lunch it was time to head off to London so that we could visit with Eammon's sister & brother-in-law Ruthie & Don, their children Minnie & Steven and his girlfriend Sheila. When we were driving there I couldn't help thinking that at home with Maisie there was no way that we'd be planning to meet-up with people starting at 8PM but our body clocks were so all-over the place we just went with the flow. We had a nice visit and Maisie and Eammon managed to polish off Minnie's entire Selection Box but with Eammon and Minnie that's par for the course. Thankfully it was just a Selection Box and not Jaffa Cakes because if Minnie & Eammon are in the same room with Jaffa Cakes you need to watch your fingers and fear for your life and the life of your children as they are both Jaffaholics and love to torment one another.

I think it was after midnight by the time we got checked into our hotel and it wasn't long before we were all sound asleep as we had to get up at a reasonable hour in the morning.

Sunday morning we headed to Harrow for brunch and Maisie spotted a little airplane ride which she wanted to try so after we ate she took a spin and really enjoyed herself.

We then visited with more of Eammon's family, his brother Tim and his wife Jenny.

Maisie then got to meet her Grandmother Ruth Shanahan and Rodney. Both of Maisie's Grandmothers are named Ruth and I found it cute when Maisie would say that she wanted to see her Grandmother Ruth Shanahan so that we'd know which one she was talking about.

Kevin, Cris, Kelly, Anthony & Molly also showed up at Tim & Jenny's so we spent a nice afternoon with everyone. We were quite tired though from all our late nights so we headed back to the hotel at a reasonable hour and got some much needed rest.

Monday was one of our days to be tourists so we headed into London for a day of fun.
Right after coming off the underground we walked through Leicester Square where there was a fun fair and Maisie couldn't wait to get on the rides. Unfortunately Maisie was limited in her choices because of her height but she delighted in riding the Merry-go-round.

The only other ride she was tall enough to ride was the Waltzer so we did that one too. Maisie loved when we spun around really fast, giggling and shrieking the entire time. We actually returned to this fun fair later the same night as well as on Thursday. I think this little fair was the highlight of Maisie's trip. Guess that this summer it will be time to visit an amusement park or two.

We checked out Trafalgar Square, walked around Chinatown where we stopped at Wong Kei, our favorite place for lunch. We visited Covent Garden and watched a couple of very fun street performers. By the time we got to Covent Garden poor little Maisie was beyond tired and when we sat down for a drink she just passed out for a nap snuggled on Eammon's lap. He was quite happy to sit, rest and drink a few cups of hot mulled wine and I happily wandered around shopping until she awoke.

Just before we got on the train for the hotel we were walking through the Trocadero Centre and Maisie spotted a trampoline and wanted to have a go. She was actually a bit timid at first but once she got jumping she had a blast.

Tuesday morning we headed out to St. Albans to visit with friends. Eammon was in England five years ago but for me it's been about eight years and the last time I saw everyone there were no children in the picture but now there are seven between four couples. Funny thing too, there was a 2, 3, 4, two 5 year-olds, a 6 and a 7 year old. It was great seeing everyone again and catching up. A big thank you to Pete & Sam who hosted, wined & dined everyone, put us up for the night and for the wonderful accommodations.

By Wednesday Maisie was stick-a-fork-in-her-done. She and I had been away from our home for basically three weeks, in addition to home we'd been in three countries, traveled on five different airplanes, had done lots of hurry-up and waiting, time changes, odd schedules, too much sugar and junk food, new people and places, different beds, being sick and still not 100%. For a four-year-old she had done oh-so-well but had reached her limit, exhausted and ready to return home to Georgia. So after leaving Pete & Sam's I knew that Maisie couldn't handle being confined and/or social and I wanted Eammon to have some more time with his Mum before we headed home but I really didn't want to run around too much so I had Eammon drop Maisie and I off at the Harlequin Centre so that she and I could just walk around, sit a bit, be alone and not have to be on good behavior. She and I did our thing and Eammon enjoyed spending some one-on-one time with his Mum. By nighttime I too was exhausted, run-down, coughing and sick so we all made an early night of it and I think we were all asleep by 9PM.

Thursday was our last day in London and we were to be tourists again but with family. It was an extremely cold and gray day but we met up at the London Eye with Kevin & Chris, their eldest daughter Tammy and Grand-daughter Molly. Just to show how gray it was, the picture above was taken just about noon time and is in color but it looks more like a black and white.

Maisie was still exhausted and not feeling well so she wasn't oh-too-thrilled with the whole London Eye excursion but the rest of us really enjoyed the views and experience.

After the ride we all headed over to Chinatown and Wong Kei for a repeat of Tuesdays lunch. After lunch Tim joined us and we all went over to Leicester Square so that Maisie & Molly could do the fun park rides together where they both enjoyed themselves. We all walked around for while, visited Covent Garden again and then took Molly over to the Trocadero so that she could jump on the trampoline. Though the weather was bone chillingly cold, totally overcast and gray it was a nice end to our trip and we enjoyed spending the day with everyone.

Thursday night, New Years Eve we packed our suitcases and were in bed early. At midnight I heard fireworks and saw some flashes but couldn't be bothered to get out of bed to take a look and I was happy to let both Eammon & Maisie sleep through till the morning.

Friday was to be a long day of travel and more hurry-up and wait. Kevin, Chris & Molly met us at the airport to see us off and pick-up everything they lent to us. I'm very sure that Chris is happy to have her car back, thanks again for allowing us to use it during our visit. Due to the new security measures it made getting onto the plane a lot more time consuming than ever before. We did the usual security checks but at our gate we had to do a second security check with all the hand luggage being hand searched and body pat-downs. There were separate lines for the men and woman so Maisie and I headed off in one direction and Eammon in the other. When my bag was searched it was decided that my nail clippers, though not on the TSA's list of prohibited items, posed a security threat and needed to be confiscated. Guess that they were afraid that with the 1/8-inch-opening on them I'd forcefully and maliciously clip someones hangnail...yeah whatever. Because of all the extra security and then a problem with the truck which was used to remove the stairs to the plane we left Heathrow over 90 minutes late and we didn't make-up any of the time in-flight.

Once we landed in Atlanta it took us over 2-1/2 hours to clear immigrations and customs as well as Atlanta's ridiculous practice of when you come in on an international flight, having to go though a security search again before you're allowed to leave the airport. FYI, if you ever fly to Atlanta on an international flight and you've say, bought a bottle of liquor or any liquid or gel over 3 oz. at a duty free shop, you can't just walk off the plane and out of the airport with that bottle...oh no. After you clear immigration you have to collect your checked luggage so that you can walk it through customs before having to re-check it so that you can pass through a security check before picking up your luggage again on the other side and then walk out of the airport. Well when you pick up your luggage after immigration you'd better stuff that bottle into your checked bag before re-checking it because even if Atlanta is your final destination, because you have to go though security again, you're not allowed to carry anything more than 3 oz and what fits in your one-quart bag out of the airport. Crazy, crazy, crazy I know.

Right now, all I can say is that it's great to be home and we're looking forward to returning to our normal schedule. Maisie's very excited to return to school and gymnastics and I'm ready to get things around the house organized and not be living out of a suitcase.
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