No one can say she isn't reaching out

Here are some things that turn me into more of a mega-geek stress-robot than usual: travel, costumes/themes, and competition. Clearly, this weekend's upcoming race is a perfect storm of me becoming tragically buried alive in a pile of my own lists and maps. Seeing as how I am essentially paralyzed by anxiety right now, combined with the fact that we're about to be out of town and still have a ton of leftovers from last week, there has been no cooking for the past couple of days. Here is a picture of my lunch.

It's probably best that we all pretend I'm joking about this.
Anna is going the opposite direction, spending the week tweaking her lounging form.

I think we've found our future Olympic event!
She also continues to work out her communication issues with Hopper.

Straight-up verbal enticement is consistently unsuccessful.

I'm not sure about the maraca or the alien, but I really believe the keys were an attempt to help him get inside the house.

When all else failed, she constructed a prison-style phone line. As Hopper had long since fled, its effectiveness remains to be seen.


From the side it's very flattering

On Sunday we teamed up with Garrett and Emily and took the tots to NXNW for brunch. They were totally down with it.

When you see your progeny starting to share your most passionate interests, like eating stuff mid-morning on weekends, it makes all the sleepless nights worth it.
I believe the children are our future of eating stuff mid-morning on weekends.
See, people giving us the stink-eye at the next table? They weren't there to throw fits, they were there for some serious chow. No worries.

Sunday evening we headed to Wimberley so that Anna could have some good cousin-bonding time with Levi. Luckily, she was so excited about the chance to soak herself from head to toe, she didn't seem to notice the piles of dirt everywhere.

After she dried off, we put her in her completely adorable new Mexican dress that makes her look like an old lady from behind, and Levi showed her how to work the DVD player.

She's asking him to please put on the screensaver.
After that, it was time to just chill.

From the front it makes her look like Al Bundy. And now I'm going to spend 20 minutes reading the trivia for "Married with Children" on IMDB. Just a little behind-the-scenes peek at my blog-writing process for the superfans.


Maybe the turkey costume will go over better next month

This has been quite the festive and food-filled weekend so far, so let's just get right to it, yes? Friday night we had our Halloween party in order to make best use of our various, clashing-style seasonal decorations. I tried to contain my inner theme-nerd a little, but it is a powerful urge.

Amy Sedaris' Li'l Smoky Cheeseball, pumpkinized.

"Devil" eggs. Or "kitty cats with some facial stubble" eggs, depends on your angle. Both scary!

Frito pie station, but that wasn't for the party, it's just always on the counter there.

Peanut butter and fudge oatmeal cookies. Plus Halloween colored sprinkles! Sometimes even I'm amazed by my creativity.

Chicken bites: barbecue.
Chicken bites: Buffalo style.

Indonesian meatballs with peanut sauce. HEB's lack of ground pork forced us to use our KitchenAid meat grinder attachment for the first time ever. Exciting! Also slightly gruesome and Halloween-y, in a Sweeney Todd sort of way, which is why I mention it. 

Ghost and spider lollipops. Of course, my spiders actually have eight legs, not like those slackers whose idea I stole.

LOOK I MADE CHIPS THAT LOOK LIKE GHOSTS AND BATS AND CATS. Sorry, I was just really proud of those. I also made this guacamole with broccoli in it, I guess because I didn't want the kids having too much fun.


Pebbles did take a break in her hour and a half screaming fit in order to aaaaaaaalmost pose with adorable dinosaur Cash.
Not sure if she was crying because Mommy isn't very good at making costumes yet or because other people were partaking of her cherished Frito pie bar or just because of the party's limited access to piles of dirt, but she was certainly very miserable. I will probably put her back in her Pebbles outfit every day this week until I get a decent picture. Sorry, kid! Welcome to childhood holidays!

After all that fun, I decided to shift gears and go to book club, with grown up ladies. Look how grown up the food was!

Cheese was very well-represented, which is really all I ask of any party, anywhere.

And desserts!

All very good stuff ladies, nice show. Worth reading a book even.


I was just thinking I needed more ways to waste my time

Playdate time again! Here's Anna working on her "hostess" face:

I'm off-camera hissing "More prim and proper!"
She did a pretty good job, but I think she was glad when everyone left and she could get back to normal.

Dirt, her truest friend.
Thursday night we had some Moroccan Lentil Soup via Serious Eats. It's a slow cooker recipe, since I needed to redeem myself from Sunday's, uh, mishap.

I know it looks like a pretty standard bean and veggie stew, but what you can't see is how it's NOT slowly killing us with its zesty tomatoes'n'BPA because I totally bought some boxed tomatoes.

I sort of missed the subtle tang of mysterious illness.
Lastly, it's time to say goodbye to an old companion. My years-old, free-with-contract phone finally reached an unusable state. Basically, if it were a dog, it would be blind and have two legs and one ear. And mange.

It went down hard.
Don't have much to say about its replacement except that I'm afraid to carry it over hard floors and it's full of angry birds. Improvement? Hard to tell.


Maybe I shouldn't drive for the next week and a half

It was bound to happen: my subconscious has finally started to buck against the restraints of Sober October. I'm basing this on the fact that last night I dreamt that I drank an entire bottle of Irish Cream. (I probably shouldn't have to clarify this, but it was not a good dream, in case you were wondering.) And today I had my very first parking lot fender-bender. Damn you, imaginary nocturnal liqueur.

Not much else happening around here. I did turn this absurdly large farmer's market zucchini:

That's my 8-inch chef's knife.
Into a pile of absurdly large grilled farmer's market zucchini. Ta da! I also threw a couple of Cajun salmon cakes on top.

I also captured this rare moment of all-encompassing joy on Anna's part as she munched a cracker and watched her favorite show.

It's the DVD player screensaver.


The worst part is, it made about 10 servings

Normally, as you know, the slow cooker and I are total besties, but once in a while things go a little awry. My plan on Sunday was to make my version of chicken and pasta, which is a healthy, tasty, outrageously easy meal that is perfect for weekends. Here is how it should go:

1) Put one sliced onion, one package of frozen spinach, one package of chicken breast or thighs, and one  jar of pasta sauce in the slow cooker.

2) Let it cook for several hours.

3) Serve it with pasta and a little parmesan cheese on top.

4) Be extremely happy that it took 10 minutes of effort to make something so awesome.

This is what happens when the system breaks down:

1) Put one sliced onion, one package of frozen spinach, one package of chicken thighs....wait....realize that the jar of pasta sauce you thought you had in the pantry was imaginary. Start casting about for a replacement.

2) Decide on a very old can of enchilada verde sauce. The ingredients don't seem very perishable. Maybe a little extra dose of BPA.

3) Let it cook for several hours.

4) Notice that it's still very, very watery. Throw the pasta straight into the mix in the hopes that it will absorb some of the liquid.

5) Become concerned that now there is more pasta than excess moisture. Add some chicken broth.

6) Notice that it doesn't really smell or taste like much of anything. Add salt and pepper.

7) Add cumin and...hmm...what the hell, smoked paprika.

8) Add a can of southwestern roasted vegetable soup.

9) Grab tube of tomato paste out of the fridge. Drop it. Lose it to toddler for several minutes. Wrestle it away from her. Empty it into the increasingly disturbing-looking mix.

10) Despair a little bit.

11) Pull the ceramic pot out of the cooker. Cover everything in breadcrumbs  and cheese. Stick it in the oven.

12) Et voilĂ :

It's like a swamp, in casserole form.
Surprisingly enough, it was edible. I will be stocking up on pasta sauce in the future.

Yesterday when I got home from the grocery store I set Anna down in the yard while I unloaded the groceries. Forty-five seconds later, this was her state:

The mud wasn't even pre-existing. She found something that had filled with water from the sprinkler, dumped it in the dirt, and covered herself. Under a minute.
Last night's dinner was a significant improvement over Sunday night's, mostly in that I managed to follow a real recipe and it tasted very good.

Spicy Quinoa Salad via Serious Eats. Sounds and looks super virtuous, but the lime juice and red wine vinegar give it a nice bright snap. Also, the leftovers look much more cheerful sitting in the fridge than those of its predecessor, Molten Slow-cooker Mistake-goo.


Soup and books

Hey, the high this week is only 87! Let's all have some soup.

This one, from my Healthy Cooking for Two cookbook, is somewhat awkwardly called Orange Scented Acorn Squash Bisque, but the taste was nice. I would call it a very pleasant soup.

Pleasant soups don't always photograph well.
Anna had a little of this, little of that.

On Saturday we took Anna to the Texas Book Festival. She played it cool, as usual.

She did get pretty excited about her purple balloon.

Dan soon put it out of its misery with his pocketknife. I was going to say "quietly put it out of its misery," but that would have been inaccurate. Sorry, dozens of startled people!
She also enjoyed having new and challenging scenarios in which to practice her escape attempts.

Anyway, we made it out of there with one book purchase this year, which is about 1/15th my usual haul. It's almost as though I was too distracted and exhausted by something to browse properly.

We sought refreshment afterward at Lift Cafe, where I once again ordered something wrapped in a tortilla because it is the only way I know to eat food at restaurants.

I barely recognize it as food if it isn't encased in bread of some type.
Anna played a fun game that involved dashing toward the stairs every eight seconds.

Also, scaling some things.

You know, typical laid-back smoothie and wraps cafe type stuff.