Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wednesdays with Logan

Wednesdays with Logan

One of my favorite ways to spend Wednesdays with Logan is a trip to the movies.  I absolutely love to go to the movies. I love the whole experience: the popcorn, the candy, the dark theater, the big screen, and the love of being entertained for two hours with no interruptions.  It wasn't that long ago that movies were completely out of the picture for us.  Logan was too young to sit still for any length of time.  By nature, he is an energetic child, who not only doesn't like to sit still but can't keep his mouth shut for more than five minutes at a time.  Taking him to the movies put fear in me.  How would I keep him quiet and in his seat without both of us losing our cool and having to walk out?

Over the past year, my growing boy has matured.  At least, he's matured enough to get us out to the movies occasionally.  The new problem is that most of the movies he wants to see are in conflict with what the older two want to see.  Getting a nearly fourteen-year-old teenager to sit through anything animated gets the big "No!".  I can't exactly take him either to watch Katniss and company fight each other to the death as they compete for food and their very lives.

Well, thank goodness I have Wednesdays.  And, thank double goodness for the wonderful new theater in Laurel, Maryland.  Yes, that's right! We went to Laurel for a fabulous time at the movies.  If you know anything about Laurel and this particular location, it was formerly the location of the doomed shopping mall.  When I first moved to Laurel, the boyhood home of my beloved husband, the Laurel Mall was beginning its rapid decline.  It did not have much to offer as far as shopping goes even back then.  At the time, it was home to three department stores: Hecht's (deleted from existence), JC Penney's (not sure about that one), and Sears (standing strong, kind of).  Laurel Mall was also home to about ten or so jewelry stores, all competing with one another and in the process succeeding in nothing.  I never understood the logic in approving yet another jewelry store to open when there wasn't a prayer of success. I'm guessing they were desperate for the rent.

In any case, this mall had one shining spot in our eyes and that was it was also the location of one of the best fried chicken spots I've ever been to (next to the Piggly Wiggly in Enterprise, Alabama).  I can't even remember the name except the word "Hen" in the title.  Gary and I went on almost a weekly basis back when we could actually eat fried chicken on a weekly basis.  Eventually, the restaurant disappeared as did all of those jewelry stores.  The mall became a joke in the area, the parking lot too sketchy to linger in, and it became the place where businesses came to die.

At long last, the mall was demolished. Out of the ashes has emerged a decent outdoor Town Center with various restaurants, a few stores, and this lovely theater.  Logan's movie choice was Home.  His only request for the day was that I wear my hair in a ponytail.  He knows how he likes his ladies.  My brief review of the movie in case you're wondering:  cute for about 30 minutes, dragged out and cheesy in the last 30 minutes, and maybe worth the video.  Not an extensive review, I know, but it's about all you need to know.  The theater, however, was definitely worth the trip and many more trips to come.

First of all, we had the entire theater to ourselves.  We didn't plan it that way, but going to the movies, especially kids movies, in the middle of the week definitely has its benefits.  The theater has roomy, soft reclining seats.  With a press of a button, our backs went back and our feet went up.

And, with a lift of an armrest, we had our own cuddling station.  All we needed was our cozy blanket to complete the moment and probably put me to sleep in about five minutes, give or take.  Each seat also had its own tray that swiveled in and out.  We could lay our treats out and not worry about balancing the food and spilling on our clothes.

The whole experience really made it worth leaving home to watch a movie.  These days many homes have the big screen tvs with surround sound, making it hard to want to sit in uncomfortable chairs and squished between strangers.  This took all of the comfort found at home and plopped it in the theater with a bigger screen and much bigger surround sound system.  Our added plus was the unplanned private screening. It didn't take long at all before my little entertainer was up in the aisles dancing to the songs.  And, yes, I took out my phone...IN THE THEATER!!!  I took pictures AND I texted them during the movie to Gary.  I even left the flash on. Gasp!! So obnoxious, but there were no witnesses.

Logan and I ended our day by celebrating Burger Week.  Did you know it was Burger Week?  Neither did I until the blogosphere erupted with picture after picture of every kind of burger you could imagine.  I'm not a regular burger eater, but I could not get them off of my mind.  What did Logan think? Well, you don't have to ask him twice. He's all there.

We decided to try out BurgerFi, which I'd heard about but never been to before.  The burgers are similar to my favorite spot for a burger, Five Guys.  You can create your own burger and choose from a variety of toppings.  It's made fresh.  For me, however, the success of a burger spot is the fries.  BurgerFi did not disappoint on this front.  The fries weren't cut too thick so that they were dry and stuck in your throat (you know the feeling).  They weren't cut too thin that they were crispy.  They were just right and browned just shy of being considered burnt.  Add the malt vinegar I love so dearly, and I was satisfied.  I couldn't leave without one more fry.  Okay, maybe another.  Fine, I'll stuff my mouth with as many as it can hold while carrying my tray to the trash can.  Waste not, want not.  Shameless.

Wednesdays with Logan

With our bellies full, a beautiful sun shining from above, Logan and I walked to the car hand in hand and my ponytail bouncing to our steps.  At this point, that was the last bouncing I could muster.  Once I hit home, you could have just rolled me over stuck a blanket on me.  Full bellies in the middle of the day means this Mommy needs a nap.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

At last winter has officially ended.  Unfortunately, I don't feel like Mother Nature has quite finished messing with my emotions.  One day it's in the 70's and the next it's a rainy cold day in the 50's.  I don't know whether to turn the air on or keep the heat going for a while.  We even had the fireplace going last night with temperatures reaching 80 by tomorrow.

Food Therapy's Baked Ziti
All of this wishy washy stuff has put a crimp in my menu planning for the week.  I am ready to move on to cold salads with lots and lots of veggies.  My body needs the greens, but my mood still screams for warm comfort foods at the end of the day.  In an effort to have both I came up with a ziti recipe that could incorporate the tomatoes and basil of summer with the warm pasta and cheeses I crave in the colder days of the year.  Plus, I really needed to use up that ricotta cheese that had been sitting in my fridge for a while.

The recipe is very simple and a definite kid pleaser.  Apparently, my husband is one of the few who has never liked ziti of any kind.  I'm not really sure how ziti can offend anyone's sensibilities, but apparently he is that "anyone".  Well, as I told him, I can't please every single member of the house with every meal.  I'd go batty trying. So, someone has to lose out.  The kids raved about it.  Pasta and cheese? It's always a safe bet for my crowd.  Adding a little ricotta and some fresh basil turns this plain dish into a creamy opening to spring and a farewell to a winter that doesn't quite want to say adieu.

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 28-ounce diced, canned tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
16 ounce Penne Rigate
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
1/2 cup shaved parmesan
1 1/2 cups shredded mozarella

In a wide saucepan or skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.

Add chopped onions and garlic to pan and saute until the onion is translucent, about five minutes.

Add in the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Stir in the chopped parsley.  Allow the sauce to simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare penne rigate according to package directions.  Stop just shy of the pasta being done.  Since the pasta will continue baking in the oven, you'll want it to be al dente at this stage.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain pasta and return to pot.  Pour the tomato sauce over the pasta.  Add the ricotta cheese and stir to combine.

In a 9 x 12 casserole dish, spread the pasta mixture. Sprinkle the fresh basil over the top of the pasta.  Sprinkle the shaved parmesan over the basil.  Finally, spread the mozzarella evenly over the top of the ziti.

Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and browned slightly.
Food Therapy's Baked Ziti

Friday, March 13, 2015

Wednesdays with Logan

Wednesdays with Logan from Food Therapy

After being away from my blog for a while, a funny thing has occurred.  This is a food blog.  And, being a food blog, I would assume that my readers would want to know when my next food post would be.  They'd be clamoring for more recipes and more pictures of food.  Yet, when I run into people who follow my blog, the most popular sentiment is that they miss "Wednesdays with Logan".  Go figure! While it does make me question how much my food blog is contributing to its purpose, sharing recipes, it seems that my weekly Logan stories have become more popular.  Well, the wait is over.  The Logan segment begins again.

Dining at The Republic in Takoma Park. The framed poster is a perfect caption for Logan.

As I said in my last post, Wednesdays with Logan have become more like every day with Logan.  Between snow days and school delays, Logan and I have spent a lot of time together.  A lot of time.  When school is delayed for the big kids, Logan's preschool is cancelled for the day.  In fact, this week is the first full week he has had of school since Winter Break started. It has also marked the first time he has actually grumbled about having to go to school.  He says he'd rather stay home and play.  That's what preschool is for, right? Play? I am flattered, however, that he isn't bored to tears by being at home.

One of our many snow days
Having all of this time with Logan has actually yielded some nice, quality moments with him.  I won't say there aren't days when all I crave is some peace and quiet with no one talking to me for at least an hour except my own inner voice which, like Logan, never stops talking.  I've had my not so nice Mommy moments when my Greta Garbo side blurts out that I just need to be alone.  I've whined to Gary off and on for the past two months that I need a break.  I need a break from stepping on Legos, putting caps on markers, feeling guilty for not spending enough "cuddle" time with Logan, from listening to Spongebob's laugh on an endless loop, from cleaning cup after cup when I've said use the same cup all day, from the begging for snacks all day long.  Yet, I am also filling my heart with so much gratefulness that I've had this time with Logan because next school year my life will be so different as he enters kindergarten full-time.

Beware! This yard shall not be crossed.
Back in November, Logan and I became the first inhabitants of our new house.  I'd pick him up from school and we'd come to the house to meet with any and all workers who were finishing up and getting us ready to move into our new home.  The guilt ensued with every visit.  You have to understand that Logan is the type of kid who could spend 23 of his 24 hours outside.  Our old neighbors became so accustomed to his outside antics.  He refused to play in the backyard because he didn't want to miss anyone passing by outside.  In full costume, he'd ride like a speed demon on his bike with training wheels.  Weapons in hand, he'd fight trees, bushes, constantly defending our home from all predators.  And, if anyone happened to pass by, he'd give a little wave and small talk just to keep them from leaving.  So, you can imagine how our new house with hardly any street traffic and no grass in the yard was a big change for him.  No toys here.  No drive-by waves.  No neighbors to play with.  And, worst of all, no television or wifi. Aack! The horror! I was the one running scared at what to do with him.  We didn't even have furniture to sit on.  I was in fear of this tiny package of energy whose highlights centered around his social activities.  I was certain I'd have to hear whining as soon as he got in the car once he realized this was our new norm.

So, it was with surprise that Logan did not whine once about coming here after school.  In fact, quite the contrary.  He looked forward to it.  We brought his Legos, a big blanket, his coloring books and markers, and snacks.  And, honestly, it was all he needed.  This was my child who thought coloring had to be the most boring activity on the planet and would rather be with his friends than stuck indoors at home.  Now, here we were spread out on the floor with pretzels and water, coloring page after page of his coloring books and building Lego figures.  What I realized after a while is that his biggest enjoyment came from the fact that we were alone.  I had no distractions, rarely a phone call, no cooking.  I couldn't run errands because I was usually waiting on someone to meet us at the house.  He wasn't distracted by tv or needing to get outside.  It was just us for long periods of time, not just on Wednesdays.  His favorite thing to play in was a big box that had previously housed new towels for the new house.  He decorated that box with his markers and shiny stickers, spelling out L-O-G-A-N all over the darn thing.  It was a spectacular box.  He and his friend "Beary" (a stuffed bear) would get in there and talk to each other and plan their adventures.  It might sound kind of sad to some, but I thought it was fantastic.  Take away all of the exciting toys and gadgets and the imagination of a child will begin to soar.  Without really understanding why this time is fun, he placed value in our time together and his time away from his little social life.

Now, you might say to yourself how can a four-year-old possibly place value in time alone with his mom.  That's just me putting my own desires in his head. Maybe.  What I do know is that once we were all here in the house and moved in, he asked me if I knew why he liked his bedtime and his noise machine so much (we have a white noise machine in his room that he refuses to get rid of).  When I asked why he said it was because when the machine was on and I got into bed with him the noise blocked out everyone else and it was just me, him, and our books.  How can you possibly wish this child to go back to his school routine? Warms, warms, warms my heart.

Even Trader Joe's counts as a fun outing.
And, yet...and, yet.  I don't think there is a mom or dad out there that loves those moments and truly appreciates them, but also values his or her own freedom, too.  It's okay.  I'm okay with that.  I can already look back on our time and get sad that it will be over soon.  We won't have this alone time together next school year.  Logan will actually be the last of the three kids to get home in the afternoon.  When I'm in the middle of listening to him yelling at me because I'm making him go to the potty or, God forbid, brush his teeth while I'm trying to get us out of the house and he's refusing to put on his shoes and time is wasting and there are other kids to be picked up who will have a fit if they're left outside at school waiting on me with that one "weird" kid who always wants to talk to them because they are the only ones whose parents never get there on time....that's when I lose it.  All of those heart-pulling moments with Logan disappear, really vaporize, into a dark vacuum where the light cannot escape.  Breathe.  It's okay though.  By the time we are back in the car, he will manage to say or do something so sweet that all is forgotten.

One of our many selfies as we wait, wait, wait in the car for the other two to get out of school.
We have had chances to get out together and have some fun.  We've shopped at the mall, dined at a few restaurants, caught a couple of movies.  We recently saw Paddington.  Us and one other mother with her daughter.  Now, that was a real treat.  Logan loved it, and I just loved seeing London again and all of the places Gary and I got to visit a couple of years ago.  Logan has begun to look forward to Wednesdays as well.  He knows exactly what that day signifies now.  Last Tuesday he even asked if I knew that the next day was Wednesday.  When I said yes, he replied, "You know that means it's Wednesdays with Logan. Where will we go?".

Where will we go? Stay tuned to find out!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Simple Cheese Sauce

Simple Cheese Sauce from Food Therapy

I'm back! Were you wondering what had happened to me? Did I give up on blogging? So soon? Was I wallowing under the covers, depressed, wondering what it was all for? Washed up? Uninspired? Aimless? The kitchen had become my dark despair?