Somewhere in Middle America

introducing bunny and dolly

Friends, I have a confession to make. I’ve been cheating on this blog with another.

I’d like to introduce you to Bunny + Dolly, my little baby blog.

grey maternity shirt

Yes, that’s right. I’m having a baby! Actually, I’m having a baby pretty soon. My due date is July 9th!

I invite you to click here to read up on my experiences over the last couple of months–the good and the bad. I may be spending most of my time over on Bunny + Dolly for the foreseeable future, so please be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed while you’re there. I’m also playing around with the idea of keeping an abbreviated version of Somewhere in Middle America up and running on Tumblr, so feel free to check that out, too.

xx

{self-portrait taken at 36 weeks}

the most delicious pancakes ever

Blueberries

When you buy a vat of blueberries at Costco, you have to be creative with how you use them so that they don’t go to waste.

We recently had some leftover blueberries, which inspired J to make some of the yummiest blueberry buttermilk pancakes I’ve ever had. Click over to Elizabeth Anne Designs Living for the recipe.

yay or nay: valentine’s day gifts?

Snowman and SnowwomanOur neighbor’s children made this adorable Valentine’s Day- themed snowcouple on Sunday. Sadly, by Monday, they had lost their carrot stick noses and most of their heft. Mr. Snowman also lost the branch arm that was connecting him to his wife. Still, we can imagine that they are very much in love, perhaps even enjoying the unseasonably warm temperature we’ve been experiencing. Sixty degrees in February? Sorry, but I’ll take that over a snowcouple any day – no matter how in love they are.

Speaking of love, how was your Valentine’s Day? This year, J and I decided to prolong the celebration by going to one of our new favorite restaurants, Bella Vita, Saturday night and by attending a couple’s yoga workshop at Lotus House of Yoga on Sunday.

Sunday evening we exchanged gifts that we hadn’t bothered to wrap (we play it low-key), and Monday night we exchanged cards with heartfelt messages written inside. The card swap took place around 10pm after J returned home from a rehearsal. Yes, I spent Valentine’s Day proper on the couch with the dog, watching Joan Rivers on “Fashion Police.”

We probably would not have bought presents for each other if I hadn’t spied the perfect gift for J – and subsequently told him I wanted to exchange gifts – back in January. He’s been on the lookout for a glass tumbler/stainless steel shaker combo like professional bartenders use since I’ve known him, so when I stumbled upon one at Williams-Sonoma, I had to buy it. (And I had to pay for it in cash since J frequently looks at the credit card statements online.)

J surprised me with some accessories for my DSLR and a jar of Clinique moisturizer that he knew I wanted. Not the most romantic gift ever (though neither was mine), but the story behind the moisturizer says a lot about my thoughtful husband. Knowing that sometimes makeup counters give away cosmetic bags with goodies inside, J asked at the Clinique counter if they were running any promotions. Although they weren’t, he bought it for me anyway. When he got back in the car, he heard on the radio that another department store was having “Clinique Bonus Days,” so he drove to a different mall and bought a second jar of moisturizer just so I could have the gifts with purchase.

Of course, when he asked me if I’d have time during my day to return the moisturizer without the bonus gifts to the first department store, I told him that part of my gift was that I didn’t have to run that errand.

Did you and your sweetheart exchange cards, flowers or gifts on Valentine’s Day? Or did you choose not to celebrate this Hallmark holiday?

http://www.bellavitane.com/ordereze/default.aspx

a quick and easy pasta dish

Corner stove in a blue kitchen

Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood to prepare a complicated dinner.

(Let’s be honest. I’m never in the mood to prepare a complicated dinner. That’s my husband’s job.)

I’m over at Elizabeth Anne Designs Living today sharing a simple yet delicious recipe for Spaghetti with Fried Eggs. There’s no need to make an extra trip to the grocery store to pick up special ingredients for this dish. It calls for just a couple of  staples that I’ll bet you already have in your pantry and refrigerator.

If you like this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment here or over at EADL.

(image from marthastewart.com via pinterest)

superbowl XLV: food, football and babies

Superbowl potluck

Superbowl Chili

Superbowl brownie

One of the benefits of getting older is that when you ask your friends to contribute to a Superbowl potluck, you get dishes more sophisticated and thoughtful than a bag of Tostitos and a jar of salsa. We enjoyed quite a spread last night as we watched Christina Aguilera flub the National Anthem, the Black Eyed Peas deal with technical difficulties and the Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers: a Thunderbird salad, homemade crab dip and onion dip with an assortment of chips and crudités, deviled eggs, potato skins with sour cream, chili with corn bread and Fritos, and brownies decorated with footballs. And let’s not forget all of the beer!

For our part, J and I made the chili and corn bread. I scoured the internet for an easy chili with meat and beans recipe that would feed a large group of people. I found one from Real Simple that serves 8, but, being a Jewish gal who is always concerned about not having enough food, I doubled the recipe because we were expecting 12 guests. Only 11 people showed, so we had about two and a half Tupperwares worth of leftovers, which was fine with me because it was so tasty! Next time you’re in the mood for a hearty, not too spicy chili, try this:

Chili for a Crowd

adapted from Real Simple, November 2008

Serves 8| Hands-On Time: 25m | Total Time: 50m

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 bell peppers, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 12-ounce bottles lager beer
  • 2 19-ounce cans kidney beans
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • corn bread
  • toppings (such as sour cream, radishes, scallions, avocados, jalapenos, cilantro, Cheddar, and toasted pumpkin seeds)

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the beer, beans, the tomatoes and their juices, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with the corn bread and toppings as desired.

Unfortunately, our corn bread didn’t turn out as moist and delicious as we had hoped, which was especially disappointing because J followed a Mark Bittman recipe. This is the second or third time that we’ve failed at making homemade corn bread, so next time, it’s “Jiffy” all the way. Thankfully, nobody seemed to mind about the corn bread… perhaps because we also provided Fritos Scoops!

Briscoe certainly loved all of the attention (and crumbs), and our friends’ kiddos were just as entertaining as the game on TV. Because we used plastic plates and silverware, clean up was a breeze. All in all, a very successful gathering, if I do say so myself.

What did you do for the Superbowl?

the best part of wakin’ up

Brewing Coffee

I totally had a Folgers moment the other day.

J’s alarm goes off about an hour and a half before I roll out of bed. Sometimes I hear it, sometimes not. If I do, I usually fall back to sleep immediately, not stirring again until the sound of the shower and humming of the bathroom fan rudely wakes me up.

But earlier this week, I slept through his alarm and had no idea he was no longer lying next to me in bed until I got a whiff of pumpkin. Yes, pumpkin. J had sneaked quietly back into the bedroom carrying his mug of coffee, a pumpkin-flavored blend, and the warm, spicy fragrance crept into my nose, gently waking me up. *I stretched my arms over my head and gave my husband a sleepy smile, wishing him a good morning.

Waking up to the smell of coffee felt just like a Folgers commercial. I quickly peered over my shoulder to make sure that I wasn’t being filmed through the window. It’s too bad I wasn’t. It would’ve made a helluva advertisement.

* Ok, maybe that last part didn’t actually happen. More likely, I scowled at J for waking me up before my own alarm beeped and then rolled over, pulling the duvet over my head in an attempt to ignore the morning.

(image by Cindy Loughridge via Mary Ruffle)

will a chore chart motivate me to clean?

lewyt vacuum cleaner 1956

Raise your hand if you hate doing chores.

I do!

Unfortunately, housework is an inevitable part of being a homeowner — and a grown-up.

I’m over at Elizabeth Anne Designs Living today discussing my resistance towards becoming the next June Cleaver and debating whether a cleaning checklist will help me master my recurring responsibilities.

PS – If you missed my post last month, click here to read why I think husbands and wives need wish lists in order to ensure happy gift-giving.

(image via Flickr)

how to unstick a window (if you want to get stitches)

In college, the handle of a glass Pyrex baking dish snapped off in my hand as I was washing it, slicing four of my fingers. My immediate reaction went something like this: “Ouch! I think I was just cut!” Then I noticed the blood dripping down my hand, mixing with the water coming out of the sink faucet. I’m not sure if it was from the pain or the sight all that blood, but I suddenly felt lightheaded and queasy.

Luckily, my boyfriend at the time was there, “Dr. Mike,” a Boston University med student. He quickly pulled up a kitchen chair and applied pressure to my wounds, lifting my arm above my head to stop the bleeding. “Do I need stitches?” I cried. I had never had stitches, and the thought of somebody sewing up my skin gave me the freaked me out almost as much as all that blood. Dr. Mike seemed to think the cuts would heal fine on their own.

A week or so later, as Dr. Mike was performing wound care, he made the following observation: I probably should have gotten stitches. The four gashes took a ridiculously long time to close up, and I now have a faint scar on each my fingers.

Needless to say, the lacerations outlasted my relationship with Dr. Mike.

I was able to avoid needing any stitches for the next ten years or so. But on Tuesday, I lost my suture virginity. Here’s what happened.

After having my bedroom and dining room painted in the morning, I wanted to open the dining room window to get some air circulating. Our window are original to the house (about 40-years-old) and the woodwork has been painted, so sometimes they stick and won’t open. As I’ve done numerous times in my life, I gently banged against the top window with the base of my palm. Only this time, my right hand went through the glass. Bang. Bang. Smash. I don’t know if this happened because the glass was thin or because I hit a weak spot or because I’m much, much stronger than I think. But I heard the glass shatter and quickly clutched my hand. Again I yelled, “Ouch! I think was just cut!”

broken window

Sure enough, there was a deep laceration at the bottom of my thumb, and the blood was gushing. I swore I could see muscle. I panicked. I now had blood covering both hands. I called J and started screaming, “I’m hurt! I’m hurt!” when he — thankfully — answered his cell phone. (For those military wives out there, you know how hard it can be to get in touch with your husbands when they’re on base.) To my benefit he stayed calm and started giving me instructions. I grabbed a dishtowel to absorb the blood.

On his way home, he called one of our closest friends in Omaha, whose father-in-law was in town to help out with her newborn. She sent him over to my house to keep me company as I waited for J, as she researched which emergency room we should visit. (There are a disproportionate amount of hospitals to citizens here.) When her FIL arrived, he filled a clean dishtowel with ice. I started blabbing on and on; my nerves caused major verbal diarrhea. I found myself retelling the story of Dr. Mike, which reminded me that I should put my hand over my head to stop the bleeding.

See, ex-boyfriends can be good for something.

I already told you that my wound required stitches. Five or six, the doctor told us. I knew I had a valid reason to fear getting sutured; the lidocaine injections burned worse than when the glass sliced my thumb open. I cried. J held my (good) hand the entire time. Then he bought me pepperoni pizza for dinner.

bandaged hand

Of course the whole experience felt more traumatic than it probably was. We need to replace the window pane (J joked that it looks like somebody was trying to break out of our house), and I have to return to the ER to have my stitches removed in 8-10 days. But then I will be as good as new and probably won’t even have a scar.

But there is a lesson to be learned that I hope you all take to heart: Don’t attempt to unstick a window by banging on the glass. Unless you want to risk getting stitches.

what fall looks like in my front yard

fall leaves yellow orange

briscoe outdoors

pumpking on stoop

Maybe this year we’ll actually carve a pumpkin (although we cheated and bought ours at Baker’s rather than at a pumpkin patch).

bunting and dessert tables and photo booths, oh my!

I recently celebrated a friend’s wedding back in New Jersey. The garden ceremony and tented reception took place at the Crossed Keys Inn, a gorgeous backdrop for the happy couple’s simple yet stylish special occasion. Everything was perfect…but not untouchable. It felt sophisticated…but laid back. All in all, a fabulous wedding.

Amy Atlas Dessert Table

This weekend got me thinking about weddings and parties. First Martha Stewart and the wedding blogs that idolize her instilled in us a belief that our big day needs to look expensive and magazine-worthy yet be creatively themed and entirely D.I.Y. Now party planning blogs are encouraging the same for baby showers, birthday parties and other at-home gatherings. Isn’t anybody else tired of bunting, dessert tables and photo booths with fake mustaches on sticks?

Sailing-Themed Birthday Party

Take the above party on the beach, for example. It looks like a pretty big deal with tents and bunting and decorative sails and professional photographs. Um, it’s for a three-year-old’s birthday. Seriously. Maybe I’m out of the loop because I don’t have any children, but this can’t be the norm for kids’ birthday parties nowadays. If it is, what happens when they become a Bar Mitzvah or celebrate their Sweet Sixteen? What happens when they get married? Do they just expect that each party will be bigger and better than the last? How are parents expected to top themselves year after year?

Ferrari race car party

And how about this Ferrari race car party? The birthday boy was one. Will he even remember that his dad drove him around in a remote controlled Ferrari? These types of parties are clearly not for the kids. They are for the parents of the children in attendance. They say something about the parents who are hosting them. “Look at how much we love our birthday babe,” for example.

Please tell me that you feel the same way or that when it becomes my turn to have a baby shower or throw my child a birthday party, my point of view will change.

(top image, middle image, bottom image)

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