Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Miles was snuggling me in my lap this morning and I put my nose into his hair to kiss him on the top of the head. He's always had a really kissable head. I was shocked to find no sweet baby smell, but instead the smell of sweat and dirt little boy. The texture is changing too. It's not nearly as soft and baby fine. It's becoming coarser and thicker.

He put on a pair of pajamas last night and his little belly was sticking out and the shirt and pant cuffs were both far to short. I had to buy him new shoes, size 10, a few weeks ago. The potty accidents are so few and far between that I can hardly remember the last one.

He picks out his clothes and dresses himself every day. He helps me make lunch and empty the dishwasher. He's been enrolled in nursery school this fall.

Miles is growing up.

All these changes have happened right under my nose. It's easy to think he's growing up too fast when the truth is he's just plain growing up at the normal rate.

It's hard to feel nostalgic about some of these things. I love that he uses the toilet almost regularly, that he can dress himself, that he can make decisions. It is nice having my body to myself.

And yet I long for the days of sweetly scented, super soft hair, of tiny crib shoes and toothless smiles.  First laughs and first words and first steps. Nursing my baby until he falls into a sated, milky doze. The weight of my babies when they fall asleep on my chest while being rocked; the super sweaty naps that follow.

I'm not sure I'm ready to be done with all of that. I yearn for more firsts, more sweetness, more sweaty naps. Even as I rejoice watching my children grow and change and become people with personalities and opinions, I mourn the babies they once were, and the ones I may never have.

Will I get over this?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Slow-cooker venison sloppy joes

There are some things that are just worth the effort of making them completely homemade, and sloppy joes are one of them. I started making my own a few years ago and I've never looked back.

Now, to be fair, there was really no back to look too. My mom never made sloppy joes growing up, and while I may have had them in the cafeteria in high school, I was never really a Manwich eater. They just didn't appeal to me. 

This recipe is different, though.  It's chock full of fresh veggies, lean meat, smokey spices and a subtle sweetness. 

I used venison because that is what I had. My father-in-law gave us several packages of venison burger and venison makes great sloppy joes. You could easily substitute ground beef or turkey. 

If you've never had it, venison has a stronger flavor than beef. Some would call it "game-ey"  but I think it's almost sweet.  One problem with venison is that it's very lean, so it can be hard to keep it tender.  For that reason, sloppy joes, stew, a bolognese or slow-cooking a roast are the best ways to prepare this meat. 

Okay, here's what you need:
1 lb. of lean ground meat (I used venison)
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 whole-wheat rolls (sandwich or hamburger-style)

To start, chop your veg.

Brown your venison (use a little oil if it's sticking.)

Toss your venison, veggies, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and spices into the slow-cooker.

Mix it all up.  Doesn't it already look delicious?

Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours, until it look like this: 

Toss it on a hamburger roll, or over top of some pasta, and eat it up.

It's hard to make sloppy joes look as delicious as they taste.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Things I say all day long, in no particular order

1. Whatever you are doing, STOP IT.
2. Stop it.
3. Leave your brother alone.
4. Don't be so rough!
5. Knock. It. Off.
6. What are you doing in there?
7. Do you have to go pee-pee?
8. Do you have to poop?
9. Who just pooped their pants?
10. Do not make me chase you.
11. I'm trying to use the bathroom!
12. Gentle, please!
13. I said stop it!
14. Do you want a time out?
15. I love you.
16. I don't want to listen to the grocery bag song again.
17. Please stop whining.
18. We don't hit!
19. Why did you dump that water/juice/snack on the floor?!
20. I just want to finish my coffee.
21. We don't jump on the furniture.
22. Stop playing on the stairs.
23. No running in the house!
24. Take turns, please.
25. You have to share.
26. Leave the dog alone.
27. Stop hanging off my legs.
28. No, really, you're hurting me.
29. Who here is handsome?
30. Blow your nose. No, blow it. In the tissue!
31. What's this all over the floor?
32. Did you pee your pants?
33. Please don't.
34. Yes.
35. Use the Force.
36. Good job!
37. How can you be hungry again?
38. Get your finger out of your nose, please.
39. Can't you just be nice to each other?
40. I love you too.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Conversations with a preschooler: Poop

Miles [in a singsong voice]: Mo-om, I pooped my paaaants!

Jenni: Oh, Miles, why? Did you really?

Miles [singsong voice, grinning]: Not yet...

[For the record, he did make it to the toilet, the little stinker.]

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sausages and peppers with polenta

Feeding my family healthy, fresh food is one of my top priorities. It can be tough when you have little ones with limited pallets, so when I find something that works, I go with it.

We eat sausages and peppers with polenta probably twice a month. Miles loves polenta and Oscar gobbles up the sausage, and a meal where everyone is eating at least one component is considered a win in this house.  This meal takes about 35 minutes from stove to table, another reason it's a huge winner.

What you'll need:
3 medium or 2 large bell peppers (I used a yellow, orange, and a red one for this version; make for a colorful meal)
1 small to medium onion
1 package of sweet Italian sausage (sometimes called fennel sausage - usually comes about 5 to a pack. 1.25 lbs if you have a local butcher.)
3/4 cups cornmeal, medium or coarse
3 cups cold water
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk (I use skim)
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 425. Mix 3/4 cups of cornmeal with 3 cups of cold water in a lidded, 2-quart baking dish (that round Pyrex with the lid that you got as part of the set as a wedding gift.) Place the dish, covered, into the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

While the polenta is cooking, slice your bell peppers and onion into strips.

So pretty!

After 15 minutes, take out your polenta, whisk it, and put it in for another 15 minutes.

Now, heat a large frying pan with a smidge of olive oil. Once the pan is hot, add your sausages. You want to brown them on all side. That should take 5 or 6 minutes. Then, remove the sausages from the pan and toss in your veggies and 1/4 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning. Let those cook until the peppers are bright and crisp, about 5-7 minutes.

Look at those bright veggies! Now cook that sausage through.
While the veggies are cooking, slice your sausage into 1/2 inch rounds. It'll still be pink inside.  No worries; once your veggies look right, you're going to toss those bad boys back into the pan and cook them with the peppers for about 7 minutes more, until all the pink is gone.

That's gonna be creamy polenta.
Your polenta should be ready right about the time your sausage and pepper mix is near done. Pull out the dish and add 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 cup of milk, 1/4 teaspoon of marjoram and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk it up until the butter is melted and the polenta looks creamy.

Put about 3/4 cups of polenta on your plate and top with the sausage and pepper mixture.

That's dinner.
Nom, nom, nom.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 is happening

I love when a new year starts. It's all shiny and fresh from the package.  Possibilities are endless! Adventures are ahead! New experiences will be had!

This year will be a big one for the Oscarelli family. Oscar starts kindergarten in the fall, and Miles will enter nursery school. It's going to be major. It's going to be great. 

I suffered a not minor knee injury around Thanksgiving that is finally healing. Hopefully I can start running on it again this week and these 10 holiday pounds will just fall right off. 

We had such a wonderful Christmas. Our best. Oscar got Legos and Star Wars and a new race track. Miles got trains, trains and more trains. I don't think there's a train that kid does not have. 

Nelson got me two fingerprint charms from the boys, and he also framed some of our favorite family photos and got me some notebooks embossed with my name (for my writing gigs, he's so sweet.) 

The best gift Nelson received (other than a shiny, new iPhone) was probably hearing that he'd passed is Professional Engineer exam. He's also been asked to take on more of a leadership role internationally in his field, which is quite an honor. I'm very proud of that guy. 

I see a lot of fun for us in 2012. Skating lessons and craft time this winter. More camping trips, visiting friends; lacrosse and t-ball in the spring. Swimming lessons and lots of trips to the pool and our annual beach vacation this summer. Kindergarten and preschool in the fall, and another camping trip or two for good measure. 

We've got quite a year ahead of us. I hope to see you all somewhere in there too!