Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mmmmmm, hot cocoa

Seriously is there ever a time one can utter the words hot cocoa and not tack on mmmm, yum or groan? I know I can't. Growing up Dominican meant we had plenty of hot chocolate/buttered toast breakfasts. However visiting my grandparents in Dominican Republic proper meant you were on the euro meal schedule. Hearty breakfast, large midday meal, and a light supper. The evening supper could be anything from a fresh bowl of milk based oatmeal, a light meatless spaghetti or hot chocolate and a toasted cheese sandwich. For a picky eater, making it through the minefield that was a large midday meal was worth it to finally get a treat for supper.


Suffice it to say I make hot cocoa/buttered toast breakfasts often in my home. And if there's even a whisper of cold weather then we might break out the hot cocoa for an afternoon warm up too. I typically make it on the stovetop. Just the side of the Hershey's cocoa canister recipe, nothing fancy (except for the homemade vanilla). Made with whole milk it's very tasty and if you really want to gussy it up do what my mom says they did growing up - add a large spoonful of peanut butter while stirring up the hot chocolate and beat it frothy with a molinillo.

However somehow one of these little puppies made it to our home.


I'm not saying how or who's responsible but it's definitely been put to use. Although as much as I like coffee I can't drink that all day long nor make it a habit of drinking it everyday. I began to think it might be nice to have instant hot chocolate. Then I thought some more. Most of the recipes for homemade hot cocoa mix involved non-dairy creamer - filled with hydrogenated oils. Remember me? I'm not afraid of the fat but I don't consider hydrogenated oils real fat. I'll eat butter, olive oil and coconut oil until the cows come home but hydrogenated oils are just something we avoid as much as possible. Then I remembered that good 'ol Alton Brown (the loquito as my mom has dubbed him, translates to "the little crazy one") has a hot cocoa recipe and he too isn't fond of freaky deaky ingredients. Sure enough his recipe for hot cocoa involves real sugar, full fat powdered milk and natural cocoa plus a few other ingredients. Better yet, it could be made with hot water *eyeing Keurig in the corner*. Meaning the perfect storm of indulgence had now descended upon my kitchen. Hot cocoa in under a minute? Here's what I thought:

Give yourself bonus points if you remember the movie that featured this song. That's back in the day for you young whipper snappers.

Back to the hot cocoa. Within two days I had tracked down full fat powdered milk. Most of the stuff in the brick and mortar stores is non-fat which to me tastes like dishwater even when it's not powdered. However if you're lucky enough to live near a large Hispanic population or near some fancy food stores you'll find NIDO powdered milk or some European full fat powdered milks. I bought the NIDO (in a can that were it not for the hot cocoa mix would last me until next year). Be sure to buy regular NIDO milk and not the NIDO Kinder (which is a fortified drink/formula).



Now I'm used to adding vanilla to my hot chocolate and since I'm efficient (read: lazy) I mulled over how to add it to the mix. I thought about taking my little leftover pieces of vanilla bean and grinding them up with the powdered sugar first to have the full vanilla flavor but then worried my food processor might just gum them up. Plus that's too much work (yes I just said that). I finally remembered that my homemade vanilla is just alcohol and would not compromise the shelf-stability of my cocoa mix. So I drizzled in some vanilla to the powdered sugar step and made sure it was well blended. Also, don't skip the cayenne even if you think you won't like it. The cayenne makes the chocolate taste even more rich not spicy. However, here's a tip. If you do like a bit of heat/spiciness then add a few more shakes of cayenne into the powder in your own cup, stir then add the hot water and stir some more. You'll get tons of back of the throat heat with no burning on your tongue due to the dairy. Absolutely delicious.

Oh and if you're *ahem* running out of gift ideas this makes an awesome gift for pretty much anyone (barring dairy allergies). However, on that note this is the perfect thing for people with dairy allergies if you use safe brands. Just make the base mix without the powdered milk and add about 50% of the recommended mix amount to your cup of warmed milk alternative (nut milks, soy milks, etc.) Pow! Safe hot cocoa mix for your dairy sensitive loved ones. Also, if you're wanting to incorporate xylitol or erythritol as the sweetener instead of all or part of the sugar it's quite simple to make a powdered version. Just whiz up 1 cup sweetener with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a food processor until it's powdered. Xylitol pretty much substitutes in equal quantities (although watch the um, side effects) and erythritol is one I haven't used but is only 70% as sweet as sugar thus you'd need roughly 2 1/2 cups for this recipe. Again I haven't tested it with the alternative sweeteners, so proceed with caution.

Hot Cocoa Mix
adapted from Alton Brown

2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons of vanilla (no water/glycerin based stuff, only alcohol based as I haven't tested the stability of anything else and mold is not yummy in hot cocoa)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa (dutch process is listed in the recipe but I've used the natural as well with no ill effects)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon table salt (any fine salt will work)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper (about 1/8 of a teaspoon, maybe less)

I read somewhere that when you make homemade mixes like this, the most important step is to mix it well either by sifting or some other thorough method so as to incorporate the powdered milk very well and avoid the telltale look of not quiet mixed in cocoa powder. I immediately thought of the food processor but if you have a big blender (this is a pretty big batch) then use that.

First add the powdered sugar to the food processor.


Then drizzle in the vanilla. I eyeballed it to about 2-3 teaspoons.


Then mix well. I found I had to scrape the side and bottom a bit to make sure the wet vanilla blended well back into the powdered sugar. It looked a bit like biscuit dough right before adding the wet ingredients.


After blending in the vanilla well, add all the other ingredients to the food processor.


Blend well again scraping down the bottom and sides to be sure that everything is thoroughly mixed. You may want to take a whiff right about now.


That's it. No really. All that's left is to package it up. Around here that usually means a mason jar but I'm eying that humongo powdered milk can for the next double or triple batch of cocoa mix.


Label it for family members who will inevitably want to make cup after cup of cocoa. For our tastes I've found 3-4 heaping tablespoons (or soup spoons) for 6 oz of cocoa ideal but tweak it for your tastes and then label the jar accordingly. See, I just gave you permission to make a test run all for yourself. You know, for tasting purposes of course.


So how easy is this? Well let's take a look. Just plop the powder in the mug or cup.


Add hot water and stir.


If you've got some whipped cream hanging around then by all means please guild the lily.


But then don't tell the kids because this is all that will be left.


We're ready

For some winter play that is. Well, make that North Carolina winter play.


In the past we've braved it out to play in the cold and sometimes slushy NC winters. These boys need to get all that squirrely energy out and winter presents a challenge. Slushy winters meant shoes needed to dry and sometimes weren't ready for the next day's play. Mr. Maricucu suggested a pair of fishing waders for each boy. Yeah, that's not going to happen. This Florida girl finally admitted defeat and went boot shopping. Saw these rubber boots online and they even had toddler sizes (because little girl neeeeeds to do everything her older brothers do). So with a pair of thick socks their feet should stay toasty warm most of the winter. Might have to get a pair of waders for Mr. Maricucu though . . .

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mr. Maricucu and I . . .

. . . have become connoisseurs of expensive toys. No, not cars or jewels or the typical things. We're soooooo over that don't you know? *insert appropriately exaggerated eye roll* No, we've begun to pay crazy prices for actual toys and way before the Christmas hoopla started. Why look, see this lego here?


Pow! We paid $200 for that several weeks ago. Yes, $200 for one very exclusive lego (well duplo to be exact). No we haven't lost our marbles. Why do you ask? This is a rare objet d'art! This type of lego exists only in the rare homes where little boys dare flush such objects down the toilet thus clogging it up so righteously that not even a toilet snake removes said lego.

That's right, Mr. Maricucu and I have not suddenly changed our names to Thurston and Lovey. No, merely paying out the nose for roto rooter to remove the toilet and present me with the perfect opportunity for a homeschool lesson on value. Oh yes, I went there, wagging finger and all. Yeah it went right over their heads too.

Apparently when the plumber comes over all fear of what you might have done coming to light goes out the window. Exhibit A: Couldn't pry him away from the scene.



The bright spot is that we now have a new wax seal and the recaulking of the toilet that had been on the household to do list forever is done. Yippee!


On a more serious note here's a quick shot from the other day. Mr. Maricucu's latest toy, an IR heli from BJs that he'd been itching to get for ages and finally did. Mr. Maricucu used to have a large RC helicopter before we got married but he gave it up for love (well, apartment space) so this feels sort of full circle. While the kids were whooping it up the other day as daddy learned to fly it, I snapped this. All I need is the Magnum P. I. theme song in the background.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm a cynic.

Yes, yes I am. I've accepted that part of me and I'm okay with it. So the sinister chuckle I get every.single.time. I watch this commercial should come as no surprise.

Seriously, I laugh at the poor guy's face drop. Obviously it's a commercial people. But still I laugh. I'm awful, yes, yes I am.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My normal kids.


Don't worry. If you come over for dinner I promise to wipe the kids and their mess off the table first. Want to guess what my biggest gripe is when poor Mr. Maricucu slogs his tired self through the door in the evenings? Why can't these children play like normal children? Yeah he can tell it's going to be a doozie from that alone.

From the adventures with our outdoor hose (don't ever open a window to tell a kid to put the hose down. 'Nuff said), to the one where they redecorated the whole back lawn with 20lbs of dog food my children have this penchant for sidestepping their toys and just coming up with other things to do. Sigh. I really do appreciate their creativity, honestly I do. But when my 120" measuring tape no longer retracts and is missing the neck strap because my kids played spider web with it? Well creativity seems over rated right about then.

If you were to walk in the boys 'room right about now you'd see all the typical plastic toy bins on the shelf but you'd also see a mishmash of cardboard boxes that they love to jealously guard as if they were worth thousands of dollars. Never mind that the booty inside is mostly cash register receipts (don't ask, it's something to do with Fireman Sam), pennies, rocks and toothpicks. Fair warning, don't let the two year old playfully knock you with her tote bag. Much like my sister at age 8 (denim purse filled with 20lbs of rocks anyone?) my daughter carries the metal tubing I never used to attach the latest-gate-she-doesn't-know-how-to-open-yet. Brass knuckles indeed.

These children gleefully jump over toy cars and play food to be the first to get the empty paper towel tubes. Bonus points if it's the tube from the foodsaver bag refills. Those are harder. Heaven help the poor soul that wants to break down boxes because the pleading for a "good box" would lead you to think you were holding a firetruck instead. And this picture? Apparently the top of our dining room table is a much better fort than the bottom. Our couch pillows do not belong on the couch. If Mr. Maricucu and I had a penny for every time we pick those up he would have retired yesterday. But, at least they're playing together, at least they're playing. And despite my healthy dose of griping in this post it's good to remember the message in videos like this. Just downloaded her book on audible. I hope it's good.

The Gift Of An Ordinary Day from Katrina Kenison on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My smart phone thinks I'm an idiot.


Back in April my husband started pestering me about us getting some smart phone called a Droid. I had owned PDAs and even PC phones before, before the iPhone pretty much revolutionized things. I remembered the little stylus, the clumsy interface with setting it up like a PC and the lackluster speed compared to a traditional computer. I mehed, I hemmed, I hawed. I pretty much rained on his parade and said, "me? What do I need a smart phone for? I'm fine with mine. You can get yours, I'll stick with my regular cell phone." Poor guy. But he kept working on me, and finally I said I'd give it a try. It wouldn't hurt to put a calendar in easy access of my hands but I said it would be a waste, that I didn't text and that it would in no way replace the ease of working on my laptop. Man have I been on a diet of crow ever since. I kind of like crow and I really love this little phone.

The same person who said she wouldn't text? Now she interrupts *cough* entertains her husband at work with random pictures from her day. The person who whined that it wouldn't replace her laptop? Well the poor laptop has gotten lonely. She's writing me these annoying stalkerish emails and I'm kind of avoiding the topic with her. Wouldn't want her to get jealous or anything. I now check the weather while nursing the babe in bed, scan books at the local store with the UPC scanner app, record videos of the kids while rocking away in my living room and have even been *gasp* known to post to the blog from the phone (though Google sure doesn't make it easy, hear that Google?!!).

But there's one little thing wrong in this relationship between the droid and I. It thinks I'm an idiot. See, I communicate via email and forums quite a bit. I pride myself on a decent mastery of the English language and even more so on my wonderful knack for using spellcheck. All hail to firefox for that wonderful spellcheck. Still, an error would escape my fingers now and then. A little typo here, an incorrect tense typed up in a rush there. Nothing the reader on the other end couldn't fill in almost automatically with this wonderful human mind we have. If I typed, "I'll scroumge that up for you", the reader could understand that I meant scrounge. All well and good.

However, my smart phone thinks it knows better than me. I find it kind of creepy in HAL sort of way. It has this annoying little feature called autocorrect that when I'm thumbing away on the onscreen keyboard takes a best guess at what my intended word is. Instead of scrounge it thinks I means "scourge" and then I come across online like I'm Balki from Perfect Strangers wishing a pox upon my reader. Mr. Maricucu says I can turn it off but the feature does come in handy sometimes. Unless I'm texting in Spanish with my mom and then it has a field day. In another year or so of adding Spanish words to the autocorrect roster I'll have the thing thoroughly confused and my poor friends are going to be getting the funkiest Spanglish emails evah. Good times, good times. So if you get a message from me and it sounds like I was hitting the sauce, rest assured that I'm not. It was just my droid.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Random TV show association.

I have these random moments that trigger memories like when you find that dusty cardboard box in your attic and pull out item after item in awe at the time that's passed. Somehow the other day I was watching The Nanny. Don't ask. It involved me nursing and not being near the remote. This episode guest starred Joe Bologna and I remembered one of his very short lived shows that my sister and I absolutely adored. Rags to Riches. I immediately had to search on youtube and apparently I'm not alone in my crazy devotion. We loved the kooky plot of a widower adopting 5 grownish girls but most of all we loved the music. Yes the random acts of dancing and song love started when I was a kid. Music that had my mom's ear cocked our TV's way because she recognized almost all the songs (my mom rocked the 60s). Just like these current teeny boppers loving everything 90s again *sigh* everyone was obsessed with the 50s and 60s back then. I loved, loved, loved Tisha Campbell.

Of course that reminded me of Little Shop of Horrors the movie. I can't remember how many times we watched that one but too many too count. I will not admit to singing with a hairbrush along with Ms. Campbell and her crew. Nope, didn't do it.

Seeing Tichina Arnold triggered the memories of watching Martin religiously then going to school the next day to laugh about it with friends. Sheneneh and Pam were the highlights of almost every episode. Be warned, mild but colorful language in this one:

After guffawing over Sheneneh I couldn't help but remember In Living Color, another 90s favorite. Fire Marshall Bill and Homey the Clown were my top picks but Wanda and Venus De Milo are a close second. Definitely kind of on the rude and crude side but I can't help laughing still. Here's a more tame skit with Jim Carey as Background Guy.

I realized two things after my mini flashback:

1. I have a strange sense of humor
2. I watched way too much TV as a kid

Friday, October 8, 2010

No chia pet around here.

Just a quick little post and run. A view inside my fridge. *best Howard Cosell voice* In one corner water+chia gel. In the other corner, chia pudding with milk, xylitol, vanilla and of course chia seed. Will report back with the results.


The Chia.

No, not tai chi. Chia. As in . . . no I can't say it. If you must go there, at least go here. Yes, I've had the song running through my head the whole time and the one time it came out of my lips my kids kept asking me what I was singing. But yeah, it's that chia.

The back story: One of my kids is allergic to tree nuts and peanuts. Since his diagnosis we've not kept nuts in the house except for an isolated garage stash of boiled peanuts for Mr. Maricucu. It's a southern thing and I like his boiled peanuts about as much as he likes plantains (which is not at all). So, no nuts in the home. We keep sunflower seeds and sunbutter plus flax seed and milled flax seed to boost protein. I was trying to find another source of easy protein both for snacking, meal boosting and most importantly, something crunchy to put in salads. I love nuts in salads and was really missing the hefty fat/protein boost. So in my search I came across the mention of chia seed.

Before I go much further let me bare my food soul. My food philosophy so to speak and hang on 'cause it's a wild ride down the rabbit hole with this one. First, I'm not a vegetarian, vegan or raw foodist. Nothing wrong with any of those food preferences, I'm just not wanting people to stumble across this post with lofty expectations involving any one of those three and then be shocked out of their gourd when I mention that I'm considering soaking some chia in condensed milk. See? I told you.

So, here's the food rules according to me and my clan:

1. Sugar is bad but artificial sweeteners are worse. Better to eat real sugar, honey or maple syrup. (sugar police, please don't bother stopping here). Do I try to limit sugar? Sure but not severely. I do love to bake and my vice of choice is butter+flour+sugar so I don't have too much label reading to do. Am I convinced my all butter blueberry muffins are health food? Nah. Do I think they're better for me than the premade stuff using HFCS, plus a whole mess of unpronouncables? Shyeah. It's a continuum and this is where I am.

2. Fat is good. Fat fills in wrinkles and keeps you from going woo-woo-crazy as you age. Good fats help you regulate hormones as we *cough* all race down that slippery slope towards menopause. So olive oil, coconut oil, butter (yes real butter!) - good fats. Personally, I use them liberally. In fact, I don't weigh or measure myself but I'm a couple sizes smaller than I was when younger and afraid of fat. Just sayin'.

3. Yes your momma was right. Vegetables and fruit are good for you. Doesn't mean you have to eat them steamed with no salt and a side of blegh. Have you seen a Latin, Indian or Southern cook in action? Seasoning, caramelization, balanced salt and yes good fats can take a veggie from no way to yes please.

4. Grains aren't health food but I'm kind of attached to them so I try to temper my use of unbleached white flour with whole wheat flour. I also try to not build a meal around starches alone (see #3). I am Dominican, so there's no way I'm giving up my rice. Just not happening. Mr. Maricucu will sob if I mention giving up potatoes. Again, we're not going there. Aside from our very, very, very brief foray into Atkins as a young married couple (that ended with a big bang during a family Thanksgiving) we're not going to give up carbs. But we have lessened them and made better choices.

5. We drink green smoothies in the morning. Nothing fancy, an apple, a whole mess of spinach and a huge amount of frozen fruit with a dollop of honey. Great way to start the day for this ADDer that used to self medicate with caffeine. Alas it required eating something proteiny (yes that's a word) a couple of hours later. We just started doing this in the Spring then the baby arrived and it all went to pot. It's just now that I'm back to making the morning smoothie.

Ultimately though, flavor rules. I balance our choices so that we are getting nutritious meals but really if it doesn't taste good there's just no convincing my own palate (the pickiest one in our family). Balance. It's all about balance. I'm not an extremist when it comes to food and will severely break imaginary "food rules" all the time if there's something yummy involved. I've been known to eat a twinkie still (can't keep them in the house though or I'll inhale them). I eat deep fried things. Yes I do. I try to keep grass fed red meat for cooking but if I run out I'll use the regular stuff. I'll drink the occasional Coca Cola but lately have been preferring lemonade. I'll go into that another day. Food is a joy, it's a pleasure. I grew up in a family that appreciated and celebrated food. So while Mr. Maricucu and I have made changes over the course of many years we don't fall into any one food philosophy and that's my disclaimer.

Phew. So glad to have gotten that off my chest. Not a confession but a solid proclamation that I'm weird and proud of it. Chia seed. Right. No more tangents. I found out about chia seed from another mom who mentioned that her kids liked it. I learned they were filled with Omega 3 essential fatty acids, tons of minerals and chock full of protein as well as fiber. Sign me up. I kept perusing google but the search came to a halt when someone mentioned that you had to eat them soaked and that the seeds developed a gelatinous coating like a caviar. Screeching halt. Heck no I was not going to snarf down snotty chia seeds even if they made me another foot taller and grow long flowing blonde hair. I closed my browser and continued to search for an alternative. A couple of days later I decided to search more about the gelatinous seeds and found that you can indeed sprinkle them into salads and other food dry as long as you weren't dumping them in by the bucketful and drank water. Good enough for me. I ordered some with my next vitacost order.


Now facing a whole pound of chia seed I decided there would be no convincing the other people in this house to try something I didn't taste myself. That, and if I was going to incorporate it in some recipes, I needed to know how it played with other ingredients. I took a few of the tiny dinosaur egg shaped seeds and sprinkled them in my mouth. Bland. Not in a bad way but really they taste like nothing. Same texture as a poppy seed but a much more bland taste. That was great since it would only help to include it in various recipes.


Since the chia seed were so bland dry I got a bit adventurous and soaked some according to the jar instructions. I thought it might be a wonderful protein boost for our morning green smoothie and the texture wouldn't be offensive if blended to a pulp.



Several minutes later there we were. Just a small mason jar of suspended gelatinous seeds and me. I took a bit on a spoon and tasted.


Eureka! Bland again. Not only bland but unlike snot (sorry!), the gel like coating was not goopy. More like a loose melty jello consistency. Oh yeah, this was better than I had anticipated. Suddenly my brain was whirring with applications and another google search produced recipes galore. Chia pudding caught my attention immediately. Any kind of milk (I used whole fat cow's milk), sweetened and with a touch of vanilla. Then the seeds were soaked in this mixture.


Someone mentioned it was similar to drinking bubble tea. I've never tasted the stuff but am itching to try one now. The chia pudding was light, fun and pretty tasty. I sweetened my milk with xylitol (my lone exception to the no other sweeteners rule but it's great for your teeth). Next time I'll thicken the milk mixture by using either coconut milk or sweetening with condensed milk


All along the tasting process I gave a taste to each kid and they loved it. The pudding was a hit as well and while fun to eat with a spoon, given a straw instead, the kids declared it a hit.


I'm planning on doing some kind of take on this holiday chia pudding recipe soon possibly using canned pumpkin puree and condensed milk instead of the blended nut milk she makes. Meanwhile I've been adding about 1/2 cup of chia gel to a batch of smoothie in the morning (our batch makes about 7 cups) and you wouldn't believe the difference. I was able to knock out the banana that I was using to make the smoothie creamy and thick. The banana was okay but it was a pretty assertive flavor and some of the fruit combos were overpowered by the banana. With the chia gel I got that thick and creamy texture with no added flavor. But the best part was when Mr. Maricucu mentioned he was full until lunch. So was I and my mental clarity was amazing. Well, in comparison to my normal. Recently I added a scoop to our morning Dominican style oatmeal and the seed cooked down very well and aside from the specks, no noticeable difference in texture.


Ch, ch, ch, chia! Sorry but I had to scratch that itch.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Swinging from the rafters . . .

. . . was not what I was doing on Saturday night. After a hectic week Mr. Maricucu told me to take off around dinner time and blow off some steam. With the nursling in tow I did what most moms dream about - ate a meal at a snail's pace all while enjoying a magazine and letting the nursling nurse. Heaven. Then I decided to check out some photography books and magazines at Barnes and Noble. With my selections in hand, I found what I thought would be a quiet corner and sat on the floor to nurse the baby again while I read. Can I say it again? Yes, heavenly. My vantage point as I relaxed:


My brief bliss was suddenly broken by a conversation. Picture it - young 19ish year old college guy. The type that feels he's just so much smarter than his peers. He's out with his crush dujour, a little ingenue looking at him as my Abuela would say, "like he's Rock Hudson." Except when she says it, it sounds like "rog hoodson" and I love that. So back to our little 90201 couple. As they round the corner to the next aisle he says in all his self-important glory, "Do you know what the greatest threat to a security system is?" Dramatic pause. "People."

Gah! Gag me now. I felt awkward for them.

I bet you five bucks he heard that not even the week before, 10 bucks judging by her giggle that she took it hook line and sinker and a grand prize of $20 ladies and gentlemen, that it's not the first time he used that line. Then I wondered if I sounded as snotty, yet as blissfully young and ignorant as they did when I was their age.


By the way, sorry for torturing you guys with cruddy phone camera shots. My camera is in some black hole and I'm not sure when it will return. Hopefully soon. But here's another freaky shot. Playing with the brightness on said phone to get a good shot of the baby's eyes.


Friday, September 24, 2010


Wow it's been a while since I posted a video. Not because I haven't laughed at anything lately but because my brain is fried and when I am in front of the computer and not the droid the kids seem to have their kid-dar out for "oh no momma is concentrating!" So it's quite appropriate that I post something related to mayhem - the Allstate mayhem commercials. The deadpan tone of voice from Dean Winters is like Ben Stein channeling Bobcat Goldthwait. Since Mr. Maricucu must be pretty tired of me guffawing at these spots I figured I'd post one on the blog for posterity.

I'm just this shy of not too old to get the references but it's pretty scary to realize that in another couple of years I'll be completely out of the loop regarding modern slang. Heck, I didn't even know who this Dean Winters guy was until I googled him. It may sound pretty bleak but TV for me is limited to food network and HGTV so I don't have to put up with overly tanned "reality tv" stars, canceled favorites or bad news.

Oh and a little note to my friends and visitors. I'm not ignoring comments, I promise. I'm just barely functioning on a daily basis (in a good way) and like to dedicate a little time and thought to my replies. So just consider me delayed at responding in an ADD/procrastinator kind of way.

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's so exciting

Receiving new school supplies that is. I know enough people like me to know I'm not the lone freak. Whether smooth sharp pencils, brand new pens, unblemished notebooks or as in my public school days being the first student to christen a textbook. It all makes me giddy still. So non-homeschoolers might be feeling pity for me right now, assuming that I would not ever experience the thrill of new supplies. Well then you might be wrong.


Check it out people! The science portion* of our resources for this year. Not only do we get to break in the books but Houston we've even got sealed science kits. Oh yes, yes, yes sealed kits which will go against ever fiber in my being to disrupt them and actually use them. Yes I'm weird like that. I thought you knew. Let's just say that consumables make me weep and shiver all at the same time. If it were up to me I'd have a set of brand new books, notebooks and pencils just for petting, then another set for actually using.

So yes, we're now "official" homeschoolers as recognized by our state and really that means nothing has changed. Well, nothing except now I have a whole new excuse to shop. Someone alert the presses!

* Forgive the poor cell phone pic. I was opening up the new stuff alone in my bedroom and if I had stepped out for the camera my little people would have been alerted to "something cool 'cause momma broke out the camera". Then it would have all gone south from there.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Back when my oldest was a baby I would hear other parents make comments about how their kid had fallen asleep on the floor playing or even on the couch. Others shared pictures of their child asleep in odd places like a drawer or laundry basket. You get the picture. I would share this with Mr. Maricucu and we were confounded since our oldest just.did.not.fall.asleep anywhere but in bed. Don't get me wrong, he slept well but he was not the type to drop from exhaustion. So you can imagine how surprised I was one day when I hadn't heard my then toddler second born in a while. I walked into their bedroom and he had fallen asleep on the floor as he played with his trains. I do remember grabbing the camera and immediately emailing Mr. Maricucu the picture so he could share in the awe. Apparently he's one of "those kids", the kind that falls asleep midchew at the dinner table. And yes even when he was out of the high chair he would fall asleep in the middle of dinner nearly keeling over sideways from the dining chair before one of us realized it and caught him.

Seems our third is that type of kid too. I was running errands one day while Mr. Maricucu was at home with the kids and arrived to find her face down, bottom scooted fast asleep on the living room floor. Before I could even say a word Mr. Maricucu just looked at me and said, "hey she fell asleep and after the morning she had I was not about to move her." I totally understood. In our house as long as you're not falling asleep in the bathtub, momma and daddy will not disturb you other than to throw a blanket over your body. This third kiddo though, she seems to be turning it into an extreme sport.

As I was nursing her sister the other day on the rocking chair I noticed her doing the usual - pulling out every basket I have on the shelves and dumping them out to fill with her picked up loot from around the house. I saw her walk around the side of the couch and didn't think anything of the silence that followed (yes that was risky). Here's what I found when I got up to investigate moments later:


Yes, she is asleep, in an ikea basket of all things and she of course dragged her poor bedraggled dolly along for the ride. I guess contorting yourself and a porcelain doll into a 13x13" basket is some hard work and requires an impromptu nap. Oh and you better believe I did not wake her up. No way no how. Sleep is precious for both parent and child.
By the way that doll is a porcelain doll my mother bought for her when she was born. When my mom told me she would be bringing the doll up I told her it was under the condition that she knew it was going to be played with and not a dust collector. I'm not an amazing housekeeper but I refuse to add dust collectors, aka knick knacks to our already cozy home. So yes, dolly looks like she's been rode hard and put away wet but she is loved and most importantly used.


In other random thoughts from my head check out these plumcots. So beautiful I couldn't help but snap a pic. They were however way too sour for the kids. Nothing a drizzle of honey and a toss couldn't fix. Then the same container was emptied in moments while the children buzzed around it with their forks.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The ark is full.


At least that's the way it feels. With four kids in car seats it means we have only the passenger seat available for an adult to occupy in our minivan. Once Mr. Maricucu had installed the baby's car seat I sighed, turned to him and said, "that's it we can't have any more kids, we're out of room." Obviously that was not the only reason we're fine with four but the reality hit right about that time. Four kids in the car, four kids out. Three backpacks, one huge old lady bag and a sling occupy the space behind the driver and passenger seats:


The boys go in the back since they can blessedly do their own car seat straps. That's right moms, one day they will get in and get out on their own!


The girls are in the middle row rearfacing which makes for some interesting giggle fests as their older brothers alternate between entertaining and annoying them:


So yeah, I've got a mom-mobile. And yeah, it's full of kids. So sue me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

That was bound to happen.

Those who know me know two very important things:

1. I'm big on natural and home remedies. If it's reasonable (and in my mind that can be a bit of a stretch) then I'm willing to try it. Well, let's look at number two actually . . .

2. Willing to try it as in give it to everyone else in the household. Remember me the former picky kid? My mom was also big on herbal/home remedies. One famous concoction we chugged down involved shark oil, raw garlic and raw onion among other ingredients blended into the most goopy, vile liquid known to a child. So while I have no problem giving my kids or Mr. Maricucu safe home remedies I typically am not so quick to dose myself. However, in my defense my kids are very good remedy drinkers. You should see the stuff they chug down and don't bat an eyelash. Their cod liver oil/probiotic powder morning shot? They will loudly complain when I forget it. I kid you not.

So the other day I had these two bottles on my counter. They both look pretty similar especially on the darker inner corner of my counter.


I grabbed the yellow the one on the left and gave all three kids a drop of what I thought was vitamin D. The bottle on the right.


It wasn't until I dosed myself that I recoiled in horror when I tasted garlic and bitterness. I quickly looked at the bottle and realized I had just dosed everyone with this.


Yes, ear oil. Bitter willow and pungent garlic ear oil. Thankfully not a big deal toxicity wise but when I tasted that awful mix I immediately asked the kids why they didn't say anything and told Mr. Maricucu to stop laughing at me. The kids responded that they didn't notice. Lovely. Note to self: Read labels carefully.

And because my sister has loudly protested the absence of recent baby photos this is for her. Outfit also courtesy of my sister and handed down from another absolutely adorable little girl.


Monday, August 16, 2010

NOT back in the saddle

Remember how I gushed in my last post that I was back? Yeah, for an ADD person that's like announcing on January 1st that you won't ever touch chocolate while PMSing, you'll put away your clothes immediately after the dryer stops or that you'll unload the dishwasher instead of pulling out one piece at a time until the thing needs to be reloaded. Yeah, my "woohoo! I'm back" was followed by a deafening silence that spanned weeks. Typical. So I'm now announcing that I'm NOT back in the saddle in true opposite day form. For that matter I'm getting soooooo much done around the house (not). And I'm definitely not wearing a snuggly baby in order to get stuff done around the house. Exhibit A:


Notice the super clean mirror (not) and my very cheerful face (I could work for the mob with that expression). For those of you seeking a more chipper version click here. I also did not have rice pudding for breakfast the other day. Super delicious, creamy and sweet Dominican style rice pudding using my mom's recipe. Nope, no I didn't and I also didn't lick the spoon clean because frankly what kind of manners are those?


So sometime soon I won't be posting some random stream of consciousness catch up posts. I'm so not back in the saddle. Really.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The birth and an update.

Wow, long break but so needed. My friends may already know this but I tend to become a bit of a recluse as I get near the end of a pregnancy. Then right after the birth Mr. Maricucu and I line up his time off and my mom's visit to make sure our family gets an extended babymoon. Nothing fancy, just a good amount of bedrest for me with the baby and time for the siblings to adjust to all the new hubbub in the household. Mr. Maricucu is now back to work and my mom is back in Florida. The first two weeks Mr. Maricucu carried the whole load on his shoulders. Caring for the kids, the house and then on top of that me (in bed remember?). By the time my mom showed up he was exhausted. Thankfully my mom stepped in to help and gave Mr. Maricucu and I the best gift a parent could ever get. Sleep. She would let the kids join her on the sofabed at whatever early hour they rose, then Mr. Maricucu and I would get to do something we haven't done in years - sleep in together. Even if she hadn't done dishes, cooked us some meals and did laundry (including putting it away - my nemesis) all of which she did, the sleeping in part alone was worth its weight in gold.

Abuela in action.


Now about the birth. I'm kind of a strange one. I'm not interested in recreating romantic detailed birth stories piece by piece. What's more, being the sarcastic cynic, what usually imprints in my memory is what goes wrong in a humorous sort of way. I remember most of the birth until transition and then after that it's all a blur/whirlwind which sometimes comes back a few months later. But I'm also not the type to journal, have babybooks or any other introspective tool besides my camera. I don't have my kids' measurements or developmental milestones written in chronological order somewhere to pull out later. It's either going to make me one amazing mother in law, "Oh I can't remember when his daddy walked but the baby is doing just fine", or a horrible one, "Hmmm, I remember his daddy walking at 6 months old. What do you mean kids don't walk at that age?" Before the horror sets in let me just say that I do mentally catalog sentimental and sweet memories of the kids - I'm not an entirely heartless momma after all.

So do you guys remember John Moschitta Jr. the World's Fastest Talker and better known as the micromachines commercials guy from the 80s? I'll do the birth story a la Moschitta which will give the birth junkies a detailed account and spare the I-don't-want-tmi crowd. Deep breath . . .

Friday before 4th of July weekend having some contractions, Saturday had some amniotic leaking, Sunday more contractions but then they petered out, Monday contractions on and off but nothing consistent, woke up 3am on Tuesday with more contractions but they stopped, off to bed, 7am my older daughter nursed then the contractions picked up and were more intense, called my doula she came to assist and use some tools to keep the contractions consistent, soon called my midwife during the first half of the day to come over and check on me, she did and predicted I'd be calling her over for the birth around 4-5pm, took a walk with my doula/friend, came back and ate an early dinner, bam right around 4pm and at the end of dinner had to stand up during contractions, called the midwife . . .

. . . deep breath

That leaves us here. Me in the birth tub thanking the Lord eternally for blessing us with hot water to soothe during contractions. From this moment to the next picture I can't even recall how much time passed. All I remember was hitting transition and puking (as is usual for me) then feeling very pushy. Once I hit transition I pretty much close my eyes and keep them closed until I've pushed the baby out.


Here we are. Having gone from intense contractions one moment to relief, euphoria and awe in another. Like her other siblings and despite the early leak baby's bag of waters was pretty strong. I'll have to confirm this with an attendant but I think she crowned still in the sac. A few moments after this picture and while we were still in the pool my other three kids each came over and gently touched her on the head all while cooing over her.


Being weighed by the midwife's assistant.


Mr. Maricucu doing what he does best. The thankless behind the scenes support work. Yeah he's a good egg.


Of course after baby and I were looked over each sibling had to take a turn holding "their baby".

Number 1, he's a veteran at this birth thing. This is the third sibling birth he's witnessed. He's blossomed into the designated baby soother, patting and shushing as she fusses while I change her diaper.


Number 2, snuggling and smiling at the baby sister that looks just like him as a newborn.


And number 3, who alternates between wanting to dress the baby up like a doll and looking at this suspicious creature who now forces her to take turn for nursies.


So here's the newest member of our family. I hope she doesn't mind growing up the youngest or at the very least that the chaos of three older siblings makes it interesting.




Oh and lest he feel forgotten a certain someone in our home turned the big 4-0. He's lucky I was incapacitated by a little syndrome called pregnancy-in-the-southern-summer otherwise there could have been a lot more devious planning on my part. One day . . .