Our first M ‘n’ M day

No not the candies….although that does sound pretty good at the moment…

Today was our first of what I hope to be many Mommy and “Lil Bit” days. The Empress here finally got the grande ok from all persons (including herself) to go from full-time “40 hours” (truly closer to 60 most weeks) down to “32 hours” (probably actual 40 hrs a week) thus allowing more time for things like the Lil Bit, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, sanity……

My main issue when deciding to do this was really the perception of how things were supposed to be in my head versus what they really could and probably should be. I’m not loosing (that) much monetary or otherwise by dropping down to 4 days/week, but as today already has shown me, I’m gaining so much more.

My Lil Bit and I had planned since last Thursday to go to the Toddler Time gymnastics at our gym early this morning. She’s under-the-weather with the tail end of a cold but depending on how she was doing afterwards I’d take her to the Tot Drop (that she views as a treat) and go workout a bit myself. Well those plans came to a halt when the wicked witch lady at the front desk informed us, somewhat callously, that Toddler Time had been changed to Tuesdays and Thursdays….great, now I’ve built my darling up all weekend long and am now going to deal with her crushed hopes and dreams hurt feelings. To my surprise she was upset for all of two seconds and then excited to go play with the swarm of other children who just happened to be there when I needed them today.

The rest of the day was grocery shopping, cooking dinner and hanging with daddy….at a much less rushed pace. It’s hard to describe this almost “weight-lifted-off shoulders” sort of elation I’m enjoying at the moment (although some of that may be do to my full belly and half-a-beer warmness I’m enjoying post-consumption this evening.)

So tonight I cooked my famous (at our house anyway) version of Ina Garten’s engagement chicken, I always do variations of it but it’s a quick easy dinner with lots of leftovers that I use the pulled chicken from the bone for other recipes.

The Everyday Empress’ Roasted Chicken

1 whole roaster chicken (I prefer Springer Mountain brand) 4-5lbs

2 lemons

2 heads of garlic

kosher salt or coarse sea salt (approx 2 tsp)

1/2 to 1 cup low-no sodium chicken broth (White Wine and Herb this time)

1/2 cup white wine (if not using above White Wine and Herb)

2 tbs butter, melted and set aside to cool slightly

(optional small roaster potatoes, onion in chunks or carrots, we used rainbow carrots and sweet onion tonight from our local organic co-op)

  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Remove giblets if present from chicken, rinse chicken off and dry with paper towels, salt liberally inside and out
  • cut 1 lemons into 8ths and 1 head of garlic across the top leaving the cloves exposed, removing most of the husk either cut in half or place with 8ths of lemons into cavity until full. (You can tie the legs together but I don’t find the need)
  • Cut remaining lemon into quarters and peel remainder of garlic throw into large basting pan with chicken and veggies
  • place about half of chicken broth/white wine in the pan and if desired the veggies mentioned above
  • Coat chicken with butter using basting brush
  • Cook for about 1 hr then check internal temp with meat thermometer (if you don’t have one, get oneseriously!!! cooking meat to temperature leaves you with juicy, safe-to-eat meat)
  • If top of chicken browning too quickly, place a piece of aluminum foil over it loosely to reflect heat
  • Once chicken to temperature pull it out to serving place to rest and cover with aluminum foil loosely
  • If remaining veggies not quite done, lower temp to 350’F and cook for a few more mins (5-10 usually does the trick)
  • Use drippings and veggies to pour on top of carved chicken and serve immediately
  • Remaining chicken is great to use in chicken salad, chicken tetrazzini or even to toss on top of a salad

How to love cooking for those that don’t–Part I (My introduction to the culinary world)

So I guess before I explain the above title let me explain a little about me and the Moose.

Before Moose and I started dating, even when we were just friends, I ate a pretty bland, borderline rabbit food diet. I had never really liked food that much even as a child. My parents used to have to cut all the “crusts” off of everything, even taking the breading off of chicken nuggets. I drank water and apple juice and that was pretty much it. As I got older a few more things made it onto the very slim list including salads, breading, and Chinese food. I’ve never liked pizza, fried chicken or sweet tea (how anti-Southern is that of me, bless my heart….)

Looking back now I know why I was thin and my mom had to literally iron my pantyhose/tights for dance class so that they didn’t wrinkle and sag. I was always doing at least one very active activity. Well along comes high school and even late I that game I was picky, my now husband, then best friend, started educating my palate with Greek/Mediterranean food at a little restaurant that no longer exists (much to our dismay). The owner, a man who could have been the basis for Costas “Gus” from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, was so warm and welcoming and told me I was picky only because I had never had Greek food before, “I cook something for you…..”

And so he did, and I ate. Any weekend night Moose worked, our very own “Gus” would tell him to call me and have me come down and he would cook for me. Chicken Alfredo, chicken Marsala, pesto, Greek yogurt with honey, Greek salad, feta cheese, crusty bread with “good” olive oil and balsamic vinegar all became weekend staples, thank God for tennis or I would have been as wide as I was tall. He would never let me pay for a meal unless if was with a bunch of friends. I owe the man more than the sum of all those meals for educating my palate.

From there I continued to discover new food with Moose and when he left the engineering route and went the culinary route I actually developed a love of food. Sedentary lifestyle of a nursing students and the Moose’s rich and delicious food = 40 lbs that I’ve never quite shook for long. I lost weight when I became a floor nurse but gained it back when we got married and moved back home and I began nightshift. More school, a baby and now I’m 50lbs from my high school weight and 30 lbs from where I’d like to be but I really still love food.

Part of the problem is that I’ve always hated cooking or at least thought I had. Turns out I just didn’t really know how to cook and was completely uninterested in learning how. Lil Bit changed that, I wanted to give her the most nutritious food while she was growing in the womb and just as organic and nutritious while I was breast feeding. Once she was old enough to eat I began making my own baby food and then her meals. My husband started a healthy lifestyle change and began bodybuilding about two years ago and now we are much more health conscious with our cooking in general; however when I want something comforting or savory, I have to cook it. Thus began my culinary journey and a love/hate relationship with cooking.

Working Mama’s Lament

Type A-personality. This phrase has been used to describe me by both fellow students, co-workers and acquaintances but rarely family or close friends. Why is this? Probably because they know that despite meticulous planning and forethought into my professional life, I’m often a jumbled mess of emotions when it comes to my personal life.

I once said to my co-worker and friend after I came back to work from maternity leave, that I had known all along I was having a baby, in fact very, very early in my pregnancy, but I hadn’t known that baby was going to be Little Bit. Somehow in all my planning and dreaming I had only thought of my darling daughter as “a baby”, somehow the little detail of her being an ACTUAL person eluded me. My co-worker, a mother of three as well as a grandmother laughed knowingly. We both knew what I was saying; my very small child, with her very unique little self, had in a short few weeks transformed me into a mom–one incapable of separating herself from this small, beautiful, demanding being that was no longer physically a part of me. She was Little Bit and she depended on me to feed her, care for her provide for her. This included finishing my graduate degree and working nightshift on labor and delivery; although at the time, it was these two things that felt like they were keeping me from my child. In fact, it’s only now, 5 months after graduation, that I realize I was fighting/hating something needlessly. Never had I thought being a stay-home mom would be the most attractive job, but in the first two years of Little Bit’s life the offer was incredibly appealing to me.

Now that school is over and I’m working as a career woman (my sister affectionately calls it a big-girl job) I’m still finding it hard to balance work with that overwhelming need to spend all my time with the tiny person who carries my heart in her pudgy little fingers. I realize I’m not the first mom to have these thoughts/feelings, nor am I the first to wonder if my choice to show my daughter that she, like her mom can have the best of both worlds is causing my daughter psychological harm because she spends five days a week at the sitters or my parents’ home until hubby and/or I get home, scramble to feed, bathe and prepare her for bed. I do make an effort to slow down in this hustle/bustle routine to read her a story or let her tell me about her day, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m doing her some sort of disservice by not being there all day.

I guess that little voice, the one that sounds an awful lot like MY mother, keeps whispering, “How do you make sure YOU are raising Little Bit and not having a stranger or your parents do that job?” And “How do I make sure that my Little Bit grows up to be a wonderful, productive person if I have to depend on others so much?”

My question to you blogosphere moms is, despite whether or not you are mom 24/7 or are career-mom, how do you ensure that you are doing your best? What routines/mom rituals have you decided to encore orate into your daily routine to make you feel like a “good” mom?

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Stethoscopes, physics, literature, passports and gurus: my left vs right brain battle

I am constantly thinking about things lately…(i.e. nature of the universe, what do I really want in life, spirituality, etc) and I have brief fleeting thoughts that are conflicting. It doesn’t help (and I sense an eye-roll in the making) that I have found a book to read that is kind of exactly what I needed. And as I stood there at the library staring at it on the return shelving-cart I thought “Do I really have time to read this book? I’ve been thinking about traveling so much lately, will this fuel the fire?” and Eat Pray Love is now in my hands here at work. We just got to India, yes “we”. I’m one of “those” people that can get so consumed in a good book that the rest of the world kind of melts away and it’s not only hard to put the book down but it’s hard to rejoin the real world. What’s even funnier to me is that although my heart longs for other places than those that “Liz” is traveling, the spiritual journey she is on rings a clear bell–an unexpected bell. I, like many others in the world of academia (which I don’t even know if that is an appropriate description of myself), tend to be in a constant internal struggle regarding spirituality/religion. While I was raised with Christianity in the most fire-and-brimstone sense (Thanks South), my logical left brain insists that there is absolutely more to the fact and I would be an ignorant wanker to just wander along with the rest of the “flock” in a church-based religion. But my heart knows something more is out there than meets the eye and it needs to cling to a higher, more omniscient being/power. It in turns insists I’d be remiss to ignore the presence of something I can’t visualize especially when I’ve seen things as a nurse, and even before then, that science can’t explain and sweeps underneath the rug like dust bunnies. After all, I can’t see neutrons, protons and electrons but they’re supposedly there, holding us together, holding the universe together. I wont’ even get into quarks…that’s a subject you can broach with the Moose…a.k.a. my right brained husband.

Chronic over-thinker, worry-wart, realist….that’s me; more so than ever at this time in my life. I jokingly said to one of my FNP preceptors that I had been desperately wanting to paint or make some pottery or something….most likely as a result of my own dusty,cobwebbed encumbered right brain giving a final plea for attention before preparation for my comprehensive final and boards kill it off completely. Is all of this reawakening of spirituality due to this creative part of me that I’ve been suppressing or is it something I am very much needing for my soul. This fast-paced world that we live in now leaves little time for true contemplation on these things. I am caught in the tide of over-achieving and am treading water despite the fact that everyone keeps telling me how soon it will be over (and it is soon). Am I going to come out of my experience a completely changed person? Because I’m not so sure I like this woman I keep catching myself becoming. She looks older than me and she’s kind of an unhappy bitch sometimes. To achieve everything I’ve hoped for am I killing my happy, giggly almost child-like optimistic self? Is this part of aging or just exhaustion and world-weariness. I hope that I’m eventually able to pursue things that I take true pleasure in, that make me feel closer to the universe soon. I am so weary of “doing it all”. Maybe then I can end this quarter-life crisis I feel like I’m having and be more connected to the things I love. Maybe I can give my right brain some deserved attention.

A Real Oww

It always seems to be that whenever I begin a workout regimen, I always end up sick or injured? Well as fate would have it (she’s a bit bitchy sometimes isn’t she?) I met the Moose and Lil Bit at my sister-in-laws birthday party after work. I was tired and Lil Bit was too, but we stayed and played a few games, snacked a little and Lil Bit rearranged her PopPop’s movie collection once or twice before heading home. Well little did I know that while walking out the door towards my car, the two traitors know as my feet would decide to have a clumsy moment….down went the Empress and the Lil Bit.

Now Momma took the brunt of the fall as Mother Nature would have it, mommas are instilled with the instinct to protect our young. Somehow I had managed to wrangle my body around so that I fell on my right knee and arm instead of face first which would have been bad for Lil Bit as well. In the probably tenth of a second (felt like 10 minutes) it took to fall, I managed to semi-outstretch my right arm and now my shoulder, elbow and wrist are killing me. I get to go have an MRI of my shoulder….goodie (if you are someone who hasn’t had one before you get to be very still for 45 mins while a machine that could rip medal off of you clunk-clunks).

So wish me luck interwebz and tell me….what is the clumsiest or as I like to call it body-betrayal moment you have had?

When All Else Fails Just Lob It

So the Moose and I have been on a health kick. I’m always a little bit of a a food Nazi when it comes to Lil Bit but we aren’t always that way for ourselves…til now. The Moose, who is no small guy to begin with, but very active and outdoorsy, is on a military diet/workout routine for a month. He is dropping lbs like crazy and looking wicked hot in the meantime. The short baby-pudge-carrying everyday Empress over here is using the MyFitness pal, starving, working out with the Moose (p90x) and tennis and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels getting nowhere.

I guess that’s not all true, I FEEL emotionally and physically great. I just don’t see any difference on the scale yet.

While I’m thinking about working out and all that jazz, let me just back up a bit and say that pre-nursing school, baby, and now graduate school I felt like I was in pretty decent shape. I played tennis in high school, ran occasionally, and at one point played some softball. The Moose and I met on the tennis courts. In fact that’s where his nickname came from because he was so tall and gangly he looked like a moose running to the net. Tennis was my first real love (haha pun sort of intended) and where I met my true love. However, tennis has been heavily neglected since I was about eleven weeks pregnant with little bit and fell backwards over my clumsy feet.

So now I find myself back on the courts, trying not to curse when I double fault four times and loose the game. Also trying to convince myself that one day graduate school will be over, Lil Bit will be older and I’ll have time to maybe play in a league again or something. Today we played and ran into our old high school coach. It was so good to see him; it also gave the Moose and I the fever to want to play more.

I really do feel as though I’m in a constant balancing act. I also feel somewhat out of control and I guess I’ll have to do what coach always told us to do when we needed to give ourselves time and get back to where we needed to be….just lob it. I’ll have to deal with what I can and put the rest in God’s hands. I never thought tennis rules would turn into metaphors for my life. C’est la vie.

Anyway, I have two small papers to write and an episode of a Korean drama I like…unfortunately I have to watch the subtitles. Hahaha