Friday, January 28, 2011

Fancy Fillo Chicken

Thanks to French Fridays with Dorie, I'm blogging two days in a row. Wow! Unfortunately, this week it became deadline cooking. But, the dish was worth the effort. This week's recipe from Around My French Table is chicken b'stilla.

It's a sort of Moroccan chicken pot pie. Although there were several steps and a few hours involved, it really wasn't a difficult dish to make. I love saffron and was excited to use it with a different combination of flavors.

I marinated the chicken thighs in onion, garlic, coriander, cinnamon, and ginger, and saffron overnight in the fridge. Then came slow cooking the chicken and making the sauce, which combined the savory of chicken broth with the sweet of honey. I followed the advice of fellow bloggers and tempered the eggs, which worked perfectly.

It was my first time working with fillo dough. It wasn't as difficult as I imagined.

It's like flexible paper, but a little more fragile. It ended up a beautiful color.

I did use some foil on top to keep it from getting too brown. I decided to forget about taking the whole pie out of the container and putting it on a serving platter. I thought it would just ruin what had looked pretty so far.

Of course, I couldn't wait longer than five minutes to dive in, which meant the first piece was not so pretty on the plate, but others looked better. Funny how it never looks like the picture in the book:)

It tasted great! It had a nice complexity of flavor and texture. I loved the little bit of crunch from the sliced almonds. My hubby thought it was a little too sweet. I would agree that the sweetness sort of takes over. The saffron ended up being a background flavor instead of the main attraction. However, I really enjoyed making and tasting something so different than the usual pot pie comfort food. It's been a long time since I've had Moroccan food, so this was a nice departure. I would recommend the recipe for a dinner party or other special occasion, since it does take some time and work.

I probably wouldn't have tried this recipe on my own, which is why this cookalong is so fun. Next week...basque potato tortilla (hey, isn't this a French cookbook? C'est la vie!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Now, we're talkin'

By being such a blogging slacker, I've really missed out on opportunities to keep a good record of what Hana's doing. She is developing so fast! Of course, this is all new to us. Mieko's development was completely different. I feel like a brand new parent.

It's funny to look back at my worries last year, when she was about 18 months old and only saying four words... "hi", "no", "Dada", and "uh-oh". Most developmental checklists will say a child has about 50 words at that age. I asked every speech therapist I knew for advice. I realized she was communicating with sounds and gestures, which was key. She also experimented with sounds, but just didn't have a lot of words. I learned some of the tried and true techniques for promoting speech.... information talk (narrating everything you do), following the child's lead, and giving them a reason to talk (don't do everything for them). We worked hard on filling her receptive language bank with words. If you want a child to talk, then you have to talk to them. But, you also have to give them time and space to talk too. Wait time doesn't come naturally to a lot of us, but teachers and therapists know it's important.

Hana is now two years and three months old. She has at least a couple hundred words (we stopped counting) and she's saying sentences like these...

"I like peanut butter"
"I missed you Daddy"
"Say hi kitties" (this means she wants to go upstairs and pet her kitties)
"I don't like it"
"Hana, stinky farts"
"Sit here Daddy"
"Come here Honey" (kitty Jordan)
"I see piggy toes"
"Where going?"
"What doing Mommy?"
"I love you"

We also worked on communication with Mieko, but in much different ways. I don't know of any children or adults with full Trisomy 18 that are verbal. Though Mieko didn't have words, she communicated with smiles and so many expressions. She made sounds and some gestures. We used sign language when speaking with her, but she did not sign. She used pushed buttons to activate toys and the touch screen on a computer. We were thinking about getting some kind of augmentative communication device for her. Unfortunately, we didn't have the chance before she passed away. We spent a lot of time repeating and responding to her sounds and expressions. She still let us know just how she was feeling. She loved to clap and we will never forget all the raspberries.

The challenges are completely different now, but the lessons from Mieko stay with us too. There's so much to learn, but we are learning together and having a great time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pieces of Chocolate Goodness

I'm interrupting this family blog to talk about food. I'm jumping into the Around My French Table Cookalong you'll find at French Fridays with Dorie. This week featured one of my favorite foods in the world... chocolate. It's called michael rostang's double chcocolate mousse cake.

It was actually quite easy to make with not a lot of ingredients. Melting the chocolate and whipping the meringue went well. I loved pulling out my Kitchen-Aid again, after a long hiatus. The recipe calls for twice baking the cake. First, you make a bottom shell using just the ring of a springform pan. This is where not following directions got me into trouble. You were supposed to put either a silicone mat or parchment paper underneath the ring and on top of a sheet pan. Well, I couldn't find either one, so I just put it on top of my non-stick and slightly warped cookie sheet.

As you can see, some of the cake oozed out the side. I saw that others had this problem too. The cake didn't puff up along the sides as described in the book. It remained a flat shell. I made the "warm" cake recipe. I chilled the shell for just an hour in the fridge instead of overnight. Then , I baked the remainder of the batter as directed on top of the shell. It came out looking and smelling lovely.

The big problem came when it was time to serve to some of my friends.

The cake was positively glued to the cookie sheet. There was no way of prying it off without turning it into cake "shards". So, that's what we ate along with some vanilla ice cream.

My buddies, the knitting chicas, were fine with that. All that chocolately goodness was still there, just didn't look so pretty. Lesson learned. Directions are there for a reason. At least the failure was still pretty satisfying. Next week...chicken b'stilla.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy 2011

Another year, and another opportunity to start blogging more. I've really been inspired by my friend Jen who has been blogging everyday of this year, so far. You check her out her blog Jfibers here. For more motivation, I've also decided to join my other good friend Heather on the cookalong for Around My French Table. It's connected to the author's blog French Fridays with Dorie. I will be blogging about the week's recipe every Friday. This week, I'll post my adventures with Chocolate Mousse Cake.

But, before we move on... let's cap off 2010. In mid-December, I finished my Early Childhood Special Education student teaching and submitted my portfolios (with help from some friends). Now that I'm done with my coursework, I'm just waiting for the Minnesota Department of Education to grant me a license. Then, I'll be an official teacher. Woo woo! In the meantime, I'm subbing for Osseo Public Schools in their Infant/Toddler program. It's been a great experience. Unfortunately, it's only a six week maternity leave fill-in. I'll be looking for a more permanent job after that. I'm enjoying the home visits with babies, toddlers, and their families. This time around I'm getting some great experience with assessments too.

OK. I digress. After finishing student teaching, we drove to California for the holidays. First, we went to Northern California to visit relatives, including Hana's namesake Auntie Hanami.

My brother and his wife also met us up there. Then, we headed down to LA for a few more days of sun, warmth, and time with friends of family. We were really excited to see Jess and her family, who were home from Australia.

Hana had a great time with Grandma and Grandpa.

It was a very Hello Kitty Christmas, as you can tell. Hana wanted to open EVERYTHING. All we heard all week was "open it".

We had the chance to see the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Shawn played as much golf as possible.

It was such a quick trip, but worth the effort to see friends and family. Hana did pretty will with all the driving. She entertained herself with the La Bamba puppy from the Aunties. You can see the yotuube video here.

As soon as we got home, we were surrounded by more friends and family for Eric and Sarah's New Year's Eve wedding. It was awesome. The bride was gorgeous, the groom got "Rick rolled", and the party was stupendous. Hana had so much fun dancing, she was out there bouncing around for about three hours. Amazingly, she made it to midnight. We couldn't think of a better way to ring in the new year.

Since then, it's been back to battling the snow. It's snowiest winter of the last eight years. Hana is back at daycare. She loves being around the other kids, but once again, she's been sick. I hope she has immunity of steel after all this. Otherwise, she's been happy. She loves to sing and often wakes us up in the morning singing a favorite song, like "Baa Baa Black Sheep". But, she's also become a very stubborn two year-old. We are going through many battles over putting on coats, etc. But, we are also thankful to have such a headstrong girl.

Even during these busy times, we keep thoughts of Mieko with us. The holidays are always a challenge. For some reason, the new year is a hard time for me. Mieko would be seven this year. We try to think of all the wonderful memories we have together, but there will always be a piece missing in our lives. I'm looking forward to sharing what Mieko taught me during my new career.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Catchin' Up

Ok. It's been way too long. So much has happened since March. I've really neglected making this a baby book for Hana, but I guess it's never too late to catch up.

Let's see... we spent Spring Break visiting Grandma and Grandpa in California.

We took the kitties and all of their medications along and everything went well for them. Hana got some kind of unknown infection and ended up in urgent care with IV antibiotics for part of the trip.

We still had a great seeing friends and family in LA and SD.

I wrapped up my St. Paul schools job in June and continued with WCCO-TV through the summer. However, for those who don't already know, I left the station in September to start my student teaching. I've just finished up the preschool practicum and I'm starting seven weeks doing home visits with the birth to three program. I will be licensed as an early childhood special education teacher by mid-December. Yay!

Getting back to the catch up... Hana had a great summer. She and Daddy spent a lot of time at Cascade Bay water park while Mommy was at summer school at St. Thomas. She also played in the parks and went to visit her aunts and uncles in Detroit Lakes. We had a fun reunion with Uncle Dave and his family in August. We also attended the SOFT conference in Sioux Falls and released balloons for Mieko.

Hana started full-time daycare in the fall. She seems to be enjoying it, although she was kind of the class bully at first. She has since learned more about getting along with others (we hope). Hana remains a very active child. She loves running, climbing and jumping. We had been concerned about her speech development, but that seems to be improving. When she hit about 20-22 months she started saying many more single words. By then, she had about a hundred words. When she was 18 months, she was really only saying about three words. Now, she is putting two and three words together and expressing her wants and needs pretty well. Her favorite phrase this weekend was "Wow, whas dat?" Hana is a happy girl most of the time. She is also quite stubborn and knows how to throw a two-year-old fit.

Hana had her second birthday party at the Minnesota Children's Museum. She enjoyed the cake and presents and running around the party room. Then, everyone found their favorite thing to do at the museum. Hana also had her first haircut a couple of weeks before her birthday. The sucker got her through the whole experience.

At Hana's 2 year check-up , she weighed 27.2 pounds (57%) and was 34.1 inches tall (85%). We are fortunate she's a healthy girl, although several new bugs at daycare caused some problems.
Our doctor said kids are usually sick 21 of the first 28 days in a new daycare. I had no idea! But, daycare has been great for Hana's socialization and development. She's singing songs and reciting the alphabet. She can also count to 14. It's not all daycare. Daddy reads with her everyday, which is one of her favorite activities.

Shawn has been very busy with his position as secondary Vice-President of the Osseo Teachers' Union. He's also teaching both Sophomore and Junior English this year. I have a new found respect for all teachers after my first classroom experience as a student teacher. I had no idea how much work and energy it takes to keep everything running smoothly and meet everyone's educational needs.

Whew! I think that wraps up what we've been doing for the past several months. Hana enjoyed her first door-t0-door trick or treating experience. Garrison Keillor even gave her some M&Ms. But, she was a little scared of him and almost all the other adults in costume. Our little sharky sure was happy with the candy!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Darcy Pohland... the great adventurer

Every time I saw Darcy Pohland roll into the newsroom with her big smile, it brightened my day. She would usually have a funny story to tell and was full of enthusiasm. I loved catching up with her every week. Everyone loved Darcy. She was funny, compassionate, and just a genuinely caring person. She was real. She always told you what she thought, but also had a kind word for everyone. We all wanted to be around Darcy and share in her zest for life. But, I had another incentive. Darcy got it. She understood better than anyone what disability means. She was always so supportive of Mieko. She knew so well how fragile life as we know it can be. She always said just the right thing. She understood and she cared.

Darcy accomplished so much without wanting recognition. She showed disability didn't have to keep you back. Though life as a reporter in a wheelchair wasn't easy, she didn't let it keep her from doing what she loved. She told me about the days she had to suffer out in the cold to get her work done because she couldn't get her chair into the live trucks. Sometimes she couldn't even get to interviews because the homes or buildings weren't accessible. Darcy was a straight talker. She wouldn't sugar coat things, but she always chose to be positive. That's how she made it. She didn't have to tout that she had overcome so much, she just did.

I really thought she could do anything. Recently, I was amazed at her composure during her mother's funeral service. She got up in front of everyone and spoke joyfully of her mother without missing a beat. I will never forget what she said to me after the service. I told her what an incredible job she did talking during such an emotional time. In comparison, I couldn't say more than "thank you" at Mieko's service. She said, "Well, that was different. I had my mom my whole life." No matter what she was going through, Darcy made you feel important and loved.

I'm still having a difficult time realizing that I won't see her rolling through the newsroom again, that I won't hear her laugh or the excitement in her voice when she talks about a game, story or show. She made all of our lives brighter with her sense of humor and sensitivity. I only knew Darcy for a short time compared to other friends and colleagues, but she taught me so much. Hellen Keller said "Life is either a great adventure or nothing". I'm so thankful to have been a small part of Darcy's adventure. I only wish it would have lasted much longer.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Switching Channels...temporarily

I started a new (temporary) job as a long term substitute special education teacher last week. I'm doing home visits for children from birth to age 3 years in the St. Paul School District. I'm filling-in for a teacher on maternity leave, so I'm very fortunate WCCO-TV has allowed me to take a leave through mid-Arpil. I'll be back doing the t.v. reporting thing 3 days a week after that.

For those who didn't know, I'm working on a licensure/Master's degree in Early Childhood Special Education at the University of St. Thomas. I'm a little more than halfway through, which means I could have a license by this time next year. I learned so much from Mieko and my experience with special education that this seemed the right thing to do. Mieko and all of the other kids I saw at Rondo School showed me every child has potential. I can't think of many things that could be more rewarding than helping a child overcome obstacles to live a better life.

After my first week of home visits, I realized that it's not that much different from reporting. I'm meeting new people from all walks of life, learning about them, and compiling and processing a lot of information. I've never had a "desk job" and I think this is going to suit me well. Of course,the goal is entirely different. I love playing with the babies and toddlers, but I still have a great deal to learn. Luckily, I have a supportive team to help me and I know several of the other teachers and therapists who took care of Mieko. In many ways, it feels like going home.

In other news... Hana had her 15 month check-up. She now weighs 22 pounds 8 ounces and is 30.5 inches long. She still doesn't have many words, but uses "no" and "uh-oh" pretty liberally. She's also starting to share toys and bring books to us. It's very cool to watch her hit milestones as I'm studying child development. Hana has become very good at climbing up stairs and can walk down stairs while holding the railing. She's just started having some separation anxiety, but it usually doesn't last long. Hana really gets scared by "Tracy the Talking Tree" at the Rainforest Cafe. I think she left a mark on Daddy's ears.

The only concern we've had lately is with her blood sugar. She sometimes shakes , especially her hands, so we had her blood sugar tested. It was low, so we started testing her at home. It's the same kit diabetics use, but low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is the opposite of diabetes. So far, she hasn't had any low readings. We hope it was all a fluke.

Luckily, we've been able to rearrange all of Hana's classes, so we're still going to baby ballroom, ECFE, and music. We're also enjoying weekends off together. Though Mommy and Hana don't get to play as much during the week, Hana is spending more time with her cousins. Hopefully, they won't eat her ;) They are great. As you can see, they love entertaining her. So, here we go on the next big adventure. So far, so good.