Friday, February 27, 2009

black bean soup

Since people have asked:

My oldest brother introduced me to the cookbook "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman, and it is now a well used part of our kitchen life. (Followed up with How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, another good purchase). It is thanks to him and his recipes that Kiddo gets her weekly fix of black bean soup.

This is how I cook it, which is slightly modified from his directions, but given his proclaimed cooking style, I think he would encourage that.

I cook a pound of dry beans by 1) putting the beans and water about an inch above the beans in a pot to boil, 2) turning off the heat as soon as it boils 3) let it sit for two hours 4) rinsing the beans, 5) adding new water about two inches above the beans 6) simmering the beans for 1 1/2 hours. If you are at home all day, this is really easy. If not, find 3 - 4 cans black beans, and drain them.

Once the beans are ready, I finely chop a small onion (cause I'm not a huge onion fan, my husband uses more) and saute the onion, 1 Tbsp of garlic, 1 Tbsp chili powder, and 1 Tbsp. cumin in the bottom of a soup pot. Once the onions are cooked, I add 1 can beef broth, and the beans. Then I use our immersion blender to blend about half the beans, leaving the other half whole. You can also use a potato masher. (It's valuable to do this step before the beans and broth get hot!) Then I add between 1/2 - 1 more can of beef broth (or the equivalent amount of water) and a fair dose of pepper and salt. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the juice of a lime (about 1/4 cup I'd guess, we use the bottled lime juice), cook a little more. Serve with a garnish of sour cream.

This makes a pretty thick soup. You could thin it by adding more broth, or mashing fewer beans. It feed the three of us for one dinner, plus two lunches for Kiddo and me, without any sides. My husband cooks with the aid of a recipe, but tends to feel things out. I used to be a total slave to the recipe, but have found with some things (like this soup) I play it more by ear. That means it isn't consistently excellent (for example this last time there was a serious lack of salt) but that I don't have to look up the recipe, which makes my life (and my limited counter space) a little easier.

this is a fork

Kiddo's spoon technique leaves something to be desired. No surprise, given her age. But she wants to eat with utensils, and has been pretty determined as of late that she wants my fork, so we bought her a toddler fork the other day. She immediately caught on to the idea, and was happily stabbing away at her meatballs, and ate with it very well. Later in the meal when she had both a spoon and a fork I asked her to hand me her fork, and she looked to figure out what hand it was in, then handed it over. I'm impressed by both her knowledge of the name of the tool, and her willingness to share. This is often not the case.

Speaking of sharing, yesterday we were visiting with a friend who has a little boy about a year older than Kiddo. In this instance she did not share. In fact, she would hold a toy out for the boy, and as he would go to take it she would jerk it away. I found myself explaining that she was too little to know how to share. This is the same boy that a few months ago she took a toy from him, and he started muttering "share! share!" to himself, as he was (reluctantly) learning the concept, but my little girl obviously was not. Oh, I'm sure she will soon enough.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

dissertation primer

For those of you who don't know, and wonder what is this paper that I constantly refer to, a PhD is not earned without a dissertation. A dissertation is a five-chapter paper that, depending on your field of expertise, ranges from 100 - 400 pages. Mine will hover around 150. It is split up into five chapters: the introduction, which is a summary of everything to come; the literature review, which is a long explanation of all the research and ideas that have come before; the methods, which is an explanation of how the study was done; the results, which is what happened in the study; and the conclusion, which is the justification for all the time and frustration, why any one should think your work in worthwhile.

When doing a dissertation, you first have to propose it, which is when you write the first three chapters, then present it to a group of professors and you all determine whether or not this study will work. I proposed my dissertation about 18 months ago. I only wrote the first and third chapters though, because I was significantly pregnant, and working on a bit of a deadline if I was to collect my data before my baby was born.

I did collect this data (640 16-page surveys) that ended up on my kitchen table two days before Kiddo joined us. You can imagine that at that point my progress screeched to a halt. I have slowly been coming back to working on this. For the first semester of Kiddo's life I still had a job to do in my limited work time. In the summer I did my calling and taught a course. Then, about six months ago I got all other school work off my plate so I could get serious about finishing up.

About 6 weeks ago I got even more serious, and now work in every available moment of my day (which is not as much as I would like, but not bad given that adorable little girl who hangs out with me every day.) I cannot work when Kiddo is up. She is content to entertain herself unless I am 1) using the computer, 2) reading, or 3) writing, the three things one must do to progress on a dissertation.

So now that you know how I am doing this, I must announce my victory for today: I started another chapter! No, I have not finished a single one, but now four out of the five chapters are started, and that is a reason to celebrate. Plus, I really feel like I'm making progress right now, so that's almost as valuable.

Oh, there's my daughter waking up, I'm off to live my other life, as a mom.

Monday, February 23, 2009

solo time

My amazing visiting teacher is watching Kiddo for the afternoon so I can get some work done (see how focused I am?). I walked up the steps in the library, these halls are so familiar to me, I've roamed them for 5 years now. I can almost get lost in the beauty and comfort of the library. This place is so familiar that I can almost forget that I only have two hours to work, that I am soon returning home to my daughter, and that I have very specific needs at this library. I can almost believe I'm here, yes to find a book, but also to see what other interesting books there are to learn from. (I love a good stack of education books...)

I don't feel this way when I'm pushing the stroller and hoping Kiddo can stay quiet for the 10 minutes we'll be here. I also don't love a public library as much as a university library. But as I climb the quiet back staircase, and drift back to the incredibly familiar, I realize it's not quite the same. My heart tells me this is a part-time gig, that will end soon, then I can get to the real purpose of my current life: an adorable 14 month old that needs me more.

Friday, February 20, 2009

plate or bowl?

Today we had leftover black bean soup for lunch. My daughter is a big fan. As she steadily worked away at it (and vigorously signed for "more" after finishing her first bowl) I suddenly recognized that she was successfully using a spoon for the first time! It helps that the soup is thick, so stuff takes longer to fall off the spoon, but she was also getting the spoon to her mouth, and eating from it. She's so good that she used spoons in both hands.

Sometimes she eats this meal on a plate. Today she had it in a bowl. The bowl is good because it helps her with the spoon. But she can't lick the bowl clean, although she tried.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

get back up

This is a (headless) picture of my daughter standing up after falling down. She will only walk these days, there is no need for crawling. And she gets better and better each day. But when she's tired, sick, or really excited, then her balance just leaves her. So she falls every few steps. Falling is (usually) no big deal, she just positions her feet and legs, then pushes up, just like babies do, and starts walking again.

Last week when she was sick, and could barely make it five or six steps before crashing, I tried to imagine what life would be like if your hold on balance was so tenuous. I couldn't imagine just falling every few steps. And I certainly couldn't imagine consistently getting back up again.

It's true that this is all she knows, but really, when does the brain decide that failure is not okay, and stop trying when success is not quick and simple? I want to just keep getting back up. And to be happy about it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

abbu babbu

I know a joke in baby language. It's "abbu, babbu." I don't know what it means, but every time I say it to my daughter, she smiles really big, and sometimes laughs.

I know it's funnier than other things I say, because normally when I try to replicate her baby babbling (made more difficult because I am now just an english speaker, while she is still able to learn any language, thus can make more sounds), she just looks at me, or talks to me some more.

But abbu, babbu, that's some funny stuff.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

love, five years in the making

Five years ago today I went to the temple with four friends, or, more appropriately one friend,one roommate, and two people I knew from church. I didn't really want any of them to be there, except my friend, but felt guilty taking the four hour trek to the temple without trying to fill all the seatbelts, so there we all were.

What I didn't know was that my friend really liked me, and had for a while, and was about to give up on us ever having a relationship. But he talked to a nice sister missionary in the visitor's center, and (although he did not tell her his story) her message of the day helped him decide that we could be friends, and that would be a good thing.

It was a good thing that he didn't give up on us, because the next day I figured out that I liked him. And the day after that he asked me out on our first date. So, love happens, even on Valentine's Day.

ps - six months later we got married, so I think it's worked out really nicely. I love you, my husband.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

black beans

Kiddo loves beans. She seems to like all of them, but has a special affinity for black beans. Perhaps that is because it is the type we eat the most of. She will eat them just out of the can, but prefers a little lime juice sprinkled on them. She like them best in the form of the black bean soup we make. It's plate-licken' good.

Which obviously comes with a pretty big mess.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

another reason to work

It was 65 degrees today. Since it's supposed to cool down tomorrow (and continue down this path for the next few days at least) I made sure to get outside. Kiddo and I spent a half hour or so in the park behind our house. When we moved to our abode (and finally started using the park a year later) I was always vaguely sad that I would never have a kid here who could appreciate it. But lo and behold, I will have a kid to enjoy it.

She didn't remember the swings, but got very excited once she figured out what it could do. She stood in the mock fire truck and steered for a while. She loved walking on the big field. She was not keen on touching the grass in order to push herself back up after she fell, but we got around that by me holding her hand. (She won't crawl, but falls often while walking, so she's gotten very proficient at standing back up again). It is clear that she will love the park while we are still here.

So that is one more reason to work so very hard on my dissertation, so I can be done by the time the weather gets nice for good, so we can play, and there will be no guilt for not reading one more paper, or writing one more page. (Oh, there will be guilt, it's my way, just not about this.) Speaking of, I've got to get back to work.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

cough, cough

My baby is sick. It started on Saturday, and continues to be a concern. She has an ugly cough, and a low-grade fever. I am grateful for Tylenol, that keeps it all under control. In fact, when the medicine is working, she's mostly herself, except the fluids that keep coming and coming.

I feel so helpless when she feels this way. There is nothing I can do but be more patient and spend more time with her (as if we spent time apart). And pray. I pray lots and lots that she'll get better soon.

Today she had a coughing fit in the line at the store (to buy more Tylenol). I know the lady in front of us was not pleased, although she was trying to be casual about it. I tried to cover my kid's mouth, but she's 1, and each time I covered she got mad, so at the end she was bordering on hysterical between the cough and the frustration. I was grateful to get out of there.

I want her to be well, but it seems that I may need to join her in the fray before we're out of the woods with this illness.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I love staying home with Kiddo. I can't imagine letting any one else experience her day to day life, and only seeing her in the early morning and evening. It comes with sacrifices, but I am grateful to be here.

One effect of staying home though is a vaguely over-the-top joy when my husband gets home. I need an adult to remind me that life is not all about eating with your hands and electronic 10-bar versions of children's songs played by cheap toys. I usually do really well until about 4:30. Then I must exert significant mental discipline to not call my husband and say "Come home now." (And let's be honest, some days I lose the battle, and call any way.)

This desire for a 4:30 quitting time is particularly complicated because of my husband's teaching schedule. My husband is only teaching a two-credit class this semester (as opposed to two four-credit classes last semester), which is a huge blessing in terms of giving him additional time to work on his dissertation. More time to work = quicker to finish. But he starts teaching at 4:30. So two days a week, just when I'm ready to be done, he is just starting. 90 minutes later he finally gets home (and he gets here as quick as he can).

But no matter when he gets home, my husband throws himself into fathering full heart until bedtime, which is exactly the way I want him to be.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

in love

As I suspected, I love this time in my daughter's life. I have made a conscious effort to enjoy all of her stages, and I think I have, but really, a new toddler is fabulous. She is really enjoying life, and likes to wander around the house with garbage cans, and canned foods, and she gets so excited to see me, and pats her dolly, and is generally adorable all day long. She is so excited when we start to read any of her five favorite books, or play her favorite video on the computer, or play any sort of music. She gives sweet hugs, and disgusting kisses, and I just can't get enough of her. We laugh often, and life is good.

Monday, February 2, 2009

don't leave me

I left Kiddo at our neighbor's house while I went to the doctor today (routine dermatologist visit - no big deal). Although she did not cry, and was pleasant, she apparently stood near the door the entire time, uttering "ma" every so often (and I didn't even think she said any words...). She got visibly upset when my friend tried to get her away from the door, so she let her play there. Could this be the start of some separation anxiety? I hope not.

And speaking of standing, just in the last day or two Kiddo has started to stand herself up without the help of me or some other item that she could pull or push up with. This means that when she falls in the hallway, she can just get up and start walking again, as opposed to crawling. Until she regresses, I think crawling is now in the past.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

baby bites

Kiddo got her second tooth this last week, and apparently two is enough so they can actually be used as teeth. I will admit, I held her quesadilla piece up for my husband to see, because her little bite marks were so cute. But, with no upper teeth to help the process, the biting is still to a minimum. I think the top ones are coming soon.