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Last week, I had the chance to meet my newborn twin nephews.  So wee (4 lb 7 oz and 6 lb at birth) and so adorable.

I started working on quilts for each of them in the fall. The tops were finished in October, but I set them aside when I knew they wouldn’t be ready for the baby shower. Instead, I embellished some onesies and sent a box of baby basics in time for the party (literally, it was delivered during the shower).

When I’ve made quilts in the past, I have quilted them by hand. With two on the docket, even though they are crib size, I was a bit overwhelmed. I decided to invest in a walking foot for my sewing machine. I finally sat down to figure it out this week and I feel totally justified in the purchase. With a couple afternoons at the sewing machine, I have one of the two quilted.

I’m hoping to get the second one quilted over the weekend. Binding will take longer, but I now feel confident that I can get these completed and delivered before the boys outgrow them. 🙂

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Big Girl had a sleepover last night.  Baby Girl, The Boy and I spent the morning in our pajamas.  We played Orchard and Memory.  The Boy offered to read to Baby Girl.  Not a bad way to spend a rainy morning.

Upon picking the big kids up from school

  • Me: Did you guys watch the inauguration?
  • Joshua: Yep. Listening to Barack Obama almost made me cry. Tears were, like, coming into my eyes.

While listening to the news on the drive home

  • Me: President Barack Obama! Sounds good, doesn’t it?
  • Sarah: Sarah watch ‘rack Obama Miss Sheryl house. I want watch ‘rack Obama again!

Singing songs at bedtime

  • All: I feel better, so much better, since I lay my burdens down
  • Sarah: (points to her eye) Sarah go doctor, eye feel better (in reference to a doctor visit to check for pink eye)

Just before Christmas, I was listening to MPR and heard a snippet about a cookbook called Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. I was immediately intrigued. Apparently, I was not the only one because the book was out of stock everywhere I looked. It wasn’t even available from the publisher. After Christmas, I finally found a lone Amazon seller who had a copy and I pounced.

It arrived in the mail today and I have never been so hungry in my life. As far as cookbooks go these days, it is fairly lo-fi. No glossy photos, no detailed techniques. It’s more like a treasure trove of recipes from your grandma. If your grandma is from Louisiana, that is.

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I grew up in Tennessee, but have a deep and abiding love for the food that comes from Cajun country. My grandmother, of Cajun lineage, was born in Louisiana and grew up in SE Texas. I really cannot think of my grandma without thinking of food. She embodied home cooking. Smothered potatoes, chicken fried steak, creamed corn, pie, pie and pie. But it is her gumbo recipe that has been passed down like an heirloom.

Gumbo is one of the only things my Daddy cooks (gumbo and Saturday morning pancakes). He learned from his mom and she learned from hers. It all starts with the roux. Not the light, butter-based roux of French cuisine. This is dark roux, cooked over medium heat for half an hour. Roux the color of chocolate. Roux is the heart and soul of gumbo. If you don’t cook it long enough, the gumbo ends up weak and flavorless. If you cook it too long, it is bitter and worthless. Get it just right and it is the taste of home (my home, at least).

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This is actually a shade or two lighter than it was by the end of cooking.

If you manage to track down a copy of Cooking Up a Storm, you should try the “Turkey Bone Gumbo” (p. 74). It’s pretty close to my family’s recipe. It won’t be as good as mine, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it almost as much. 😉

Meanwhile, I’ll be busy trying out beignets, grillades and grits, red beans and rice, Mr. B’s crawfish risotto, praline cookies, and at least a couple of the 6 different bread pudding recipes.

Laissez les bon temps roulez! Let the good times roll! (I may be rolling too after all this good food!)

P.S. In case you were wondering, now you have an idea of where the blog name came from.

My children seem to have an inordinate attachment to their blankets. Not just a Linus-like attachment to one. All of the blankets they have been given since birth are piled on the beds each night. Each children knows which blanket belongs to whom and who gave it to them. Layers of crib-sized blankets are topped with more appropriately sized blankets and comforters. This is not necessarily a bad thing given our location, but it does make bed-making more complex.

The other night, as I lay down in the girls’ bed to sing bedtime songs to Sarah, I noticed the different layers and started to think of the many different hands that made them. A small tied quilt and a knit blanket made for Lizzie by my mother-in-law. A blanket crocheted by a church member for Sarah and delivered to the hospital by the pastor right after she was born. A quilt I pieced and hand quilted for Lizzie. A blanket crocheted by a friend for Sarah. On top of all of these layers, there is a full-sized scrap quilt that my great-grandmother made.

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It’s hard to feel bad about tucking them in under so many layers made by hand with so much love.

Six years ago today, I was checking into the hospital for the 2nd time that week. Earlier in the week (Tuesday), I had been having contractions and was hopeful that the baby was coming. Of his own accord. Otherwise, I was scheduled for induction on Thursday. I was not looking forward to being induced. What was the urgency, you ask? Was it significantly past his due date? Concerns about health? Nope. It was insurance. Brad had been laid off from his teaching job and our insurance was ending 8/31.

On Tuesday, we got to the hospital and I was admitted. My contractions weren’t getting any stronger. We walked. And walked. Nothing. I was started on pitocin. The contractions stalled out completely. (Hmmm, that wasn’t supposed to happen.) Lather, rinse, repeat. We tried again on Wednesday. No luck. This baby was comfy and not going to budge. We called it a day and rescheduled the induction for Friday.

I went home and slept for 13 hours. I was exhausted from the ordeal and depressed at the thought that I would have to face it again. Even more depressed that I was subjecting myself and my child to this because of money, or lack thereof. (Go ahead, ask me my opinions on health insurance reform.)

Friday morning we went back to the hospital. I was so certain the baby was NOT coming that day, that I left my bags in the car. Once again, I was hooked up to monitors and pumped full of pitocin.

I guess he was ready to meet the world that day. Seven hours after checking in, we had:

Joshua Rivers Neuhauser

He quickly picked up the nickname Happy Buddha.

Since then he’s added the monikers Mr. Mayor and Mr. Personality.

On the one hand, I live my life confounded and frustrated by his behavior (all action, no impulse control). On the other, I can’t help but smile and acknowledge he is clever, funny, outgoing and creative.

Although he lost the chance to have a birthday party (he hit his sisters a few too many times), he doesn’t seem to be missing it. In addition to multiple Lego sets he received from grandparents, we brought down the mother load of Legos from the attic. Brad spent time sorting them by color into drawers of a CD-turned-Lego storage unit.

Although not as exciting as thousands of Legos, I couldn’t resist buying this print for him from Paul Chung‘s Etsy site.

For a child who claims “rice and tofu” as his #1 favorite meal of all-time and is currently obsessed with super heroes, how could I not buy it?

Happy Birthday, Buddy! Hope you enjoy your Lego-induced birthday high. Olive Juice!

Say cheesecake to a group of friends and a myriad of images can come to mind. People can get a little, ahem, opinionated about their cheesecake. New York purists vs. proponents of double chocolate, chocolate chip. I didn’t grow up eating cheesecake (mom is lactose intolerant and not much into baking), so I’ve never been too picky. Anything with that much cream cheese? It’s all good to me.

When Brad and I got married, I learned that he has very exacting standards when it comes to cheesecake (and sweaters, water bottles, pens…but I digress). The gold standard of cheesecake? His Grandma Miller’s. I’ve always loved baking, so with the family recipe in hand, I set off to make my husband his favorite dessert for his birthday. The fact that our young marriage survived this hurdle is a true testament to its strength. I worked diligently, following the recipe exactly. The first thing out of Brad’s mouth?  “It’s not quite right”. Bless his everlovin’ heart, tact is not always Brad’s strong suit.

Over the years, I came to understand the significance of the cheesecake in Brad’s family. His grandfather had vivid memories of a cheese torte from his childhood. Grandma Miller then experimented with the recipe until he proclaimed it to be perfect. I never met Grandpa Miller, but from all the stories I’ve heard, he didn’t seem to dole out such high praise often.

Although the first few were not up to The Grandma Standard, Brad was always happy to “suffer” through my attempts. 14 years and many cheesecakes later, I’m pretty sure my cheesecake would even pass muster at a Miller family function.

Happy belated birthday, Brad!

For those of you who don’t know, I was born into a family of math people. Serious math people. My dad just retired after 37 years as a professor at the University of Memphis. He led the U.S. Math Olympiad team, including a gold medal-winning team, to at least half a dozen IMO (yep, it’s the Olympics for high school math geeks). I’m sure his curriculum vitae is a tome. I could go on and on, but I won’t. If curiosity gets the better of you, just Google “Cecil Rousseau” and settle in for a good read. At minimum, the first 3 pages were about him. It is bizarre.

My mom would never claim to be a “mathematician”. She did, however, teach math at the university for many years, mostly remedial courses. My sister majored in math, taught high school math, and is now a professor of math education. I was surrounded.

Just imagine my childhood! Dinners dominated by mathematical problems and solutions. The house littered with legal pads full of incomprehensible graphs and numbers. Apparently, my sister sucked all of the mathematical prowess out of the gene pool. I just suck.

Then I drew a sunflower. I was focused on the petals, until Brad mentioned how much he’s always loved the pattern of the seeds. To which I responded, “there’s a pattern to the seeds?”

Once I paid attention, I was enthralled. A double set of spirals going opposite directions. Lovely. The number of seeds in each spiral are adjacent Fibonacci numbers. Magnificent. I had to try to get the pattern right! After searching through books, on the internet and failing miserably at drawing such things free-hand, I finally ended up with this:

Can you see the pattern? This doesn’t really do justice to the real thing, but I tried.

I guess mathematics isn’t so bad. At least the pretty kind.

As we drove to Madison last weekend for a family reunion, we passed sign after sign touting fresh strawberries.  Oh the sirens’ song!  Friday seemed to be our only unscheduled time for the weekend, so I suggested that we go strawberry picking.  We were joined by Brad’s sister, her husband and their two kids.  A fun, summer activity with family.

Then the rain started.  The brief moments it let up, the kids dashed out to pick “just a few more”.  We were all pretty drenched by the time we left.

Even after eating and sharing our bounty all weekend, we still managed to bring home enough for a batch of freezer jam.  The whole process was quick and easy.  Lizzie helped mash the strawberries with the potato masher.   I hadn’t made jam before, so  I just used the recipe from the Sure Jell For Less or No-Sugar Needed Recipes.  It is true that the recipe calls for less sugar than the recipe with “regular” pectin, but holy buckets, there is still plenty.  Four cups of strawberries and 3 cups of sugar!  I used plastic containers as recommended in the recipe.  I would prefer glass, but the plastic containers were readily available and I couldn’t find lids for our pint and 1/2 pint canning jars.

2 of 6 cups

2 of 6 cups

So far, everyone has given it a thumbs up.  How could you not, with all that sugar?

I’m thinking about going strawberry picking again this week.  Or maybe raspberry picking.

I have already started researching different jam/preserve recipes.  I really would like to avoid all that sugar next time.  I’ve found a couple recipes that use agar flakes instead of pectin and honey instead of sugar.  There is also a different kind of pectin that doesn’t require all the sugar to set.  Here I go, down the rabbit hole…..

I’m still not entirely sure “vacation” is an appropriate descriptor for a trip involving 3 small children and 1 bedraggled mama, but why quibble? I will say that the visit to Memphis was a success.

  • We all survived airline travel and didn’t seem to make any lifelong enemies from fellow passengers.
  • The kids had a great time with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunty, Uncle and cousin.
  • I was able to enjoy three meals out with friends from high school, sans children, with only one “come relieve me of your screaming child” phone call.
  • And there was only one day that I seriously contemplated listing my children for sale on Craig’s List.
  • Despite days and days of rain, we were able to get out and see some beautiful signs of spring.

Our visit did remind me that there are things I really miss about Memphis:

  • the water – artesian well water, better than bottled
  • dogwood and cherry trees in bloom
  • seeing little girls in smocked dresses on an ordinary Tuesday
  • bbq!

It also reminded me of some of the things I don’t miss:

  • the politics
  • the crazy drivers
  • the fact that nobody walks anywhere

There’s little chance we will ever live in Memphis, but I am grateful that my children look forward to returning for a visit. The chance to spent time with Grandma and Grandpa is high on their list of fun and excitement and that means a lot to me.

Lest I forget, GO TIGERS! 🙂