Thanksgiving Eve

I don’t want to miss my daily blog post, but the kids came home from a half day at school and absolutely would not nap (preferred screaming) so it’s been all hands on deck.

I was planning to make my apple and pumpkin pies and the cranberry sauce tonight but I felt like I got run over by a truck (and by “a truck” I mean “endless toddler screaming x2”) and I told CW I might have to just make one pie and wait until Friday to make the other one. He was like, “OK, that’s fine! Whatever you need! Let me know how I can help!”

But then after the kids went to bed he immediately put on his apron and got me a drink and we made a game plan together to get all our prep done. He had already been planning to do the green bean casserole and then he jumped in and made the pumpkin pie filling and decorated it and did the cranberry sauce. All I had to do was the apple pie filling and the dough rolling (and I latticed and decorated the apple pie, which I’d been ready to forego, but I had the energy to do it with some of the other tasks taken off my list).

We always share the workload, but today was a real gold star for the team. Everything got done and we had a good time doing it. Phew.

Thanksgiving Prep

Let’s chat about Thanksgiving! I love getting prepared for the holiday and planning and making all of the food. So cozy! So festive! So much opportunity to drink coffee or wine or whatever and hang out in the kitchen.  It’s just the four of us on the day, but we’ll have friends over Saturday for pie and drinks. So far, we have planned our menu and done the shopping and made a plan for executing everything. Here’s what we’re doing:

Breakfast: cinnamon rolls, bacon, mimosas and/or Bloody Marys.

Turkey: CW is fully in charge of this. Will do Thursday, obviously.

Mashed Potatoes: also CW’s domain. He will probably make these on Thursday, but may do them ahead of time.

Roasted Root Vegetables: This one is mine. I’m doing sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and onions with some simple olive oil, salt, and herbs, roasted until they start to caramelize. So good. Will do these on Thursday.

Green Bean Casserole: CW does this one. Will assemble Wednesday night and bake on Thursday.

Cranberry Sauce: Mine. Do you have a favorite recipe for this? I seem to remember not loving the one I did last year (too runny). Will do this Wednesday and chill overnight.

Apple Pie: Mine. I do a double crust with lattice and/or braiding of some kind. Crust recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Pumpkin Pie: I do a single (traditional pastry) crust with some ornamentation on top. Filling recipe from the Libby’s can but I add more spices.

I’ve made the dough for the pie crusts already (did this tonight after the kids went to bed and enjoyed a glass of wine while working on it — perfect example of the spirit of Thanksgiving) and will make fillings and bake them both tomorrow evening.

In the past, I have also done a Tofurky or Celebration Roast for a vegetarian option, but this year, I think I will just stick to sides as vegetarian options. (I am the only person who cares and I just have limited resources and don’t want to make an additional protein if I’m the only one eating it.)

We don’t generally do stuffing, so I should probably pick up some bread or rolls or something, right? I forgot about that. I also need to buy some sugar, which I just realized we are almost out of.  Hmmm. Am I forgetting anything else?

 

Gifts for Two-Year-Old Boy/Girl Twins

Shopping for birthday gifts for the twins is kind of tough, since Christmas is just three weeks after their birthday. I now have a new respect for my parents (who dealt with the same situation, with my birthday being just two weeks before Christmas). Discussing possible gifts with my husband and our parents (who are all also trying to shop) makes me feel a little itchy and overwhelmed. I don’t consider myself a good gift giver. I struggle to pick the right thing and I wait until the last minute and I always have SO many possible ideas when a holiday is nowhere in sight, but when the giving season rolls around I come up blank every time.

The current task: trying to come up with suggestions for my in-laws (who asked for some ideas) while also trying to figure out what WE want to buy. (My dad & stepmother have already picked and sent stuff.)

I am going to post a list of ideas and then I would love to hear additional suggestions here (or get me on twitter, @ravelingout):

Birthday

(this is coming up in a couple of weeks, so we need to get our shit together)

Backpacks for “school”: (sounds boring, but they’ve never had their own before and they are recently very interested in playing with bags and have learned to say “ba-pa,” so it’d be cute as well as useful). Any favorite brands that make toddler sized backpacks to recommend?

Baby dolls: My husband thinks dolls are “weird” but I loved them as a child and the kids are really interested in both babies and baby dolls (they have some at school) and it’s developmentally appropriate, so. I’m thinking the Baby Stella brand is good, yes?

Books: I already bought them a few Christmas-themed books and coloring books, so I’ll probably wrap these up for them to open.

Grandparent gifts include: some cute stuffed elephants from my dad & stepmother and…we still need to suggest something for my in-laws.

Christmas

(we have more time to decide but now I’m starting to feel stressed)

A play tent for indoors (I’m thinking we could put some pillows and blankets inside for reading books? or whatever?) or a plastic play house thing for outdoors, probably on our porch (I’m not as jazzed about this idea because I don’t like the look, but I’m trying to look outside myself and think about whether this would be more fun for the kids?). Thoughts or ideas?

A wooden train set. I grew up with Brio, but I see there are several varieties now. (E&L have not been exposed to Thomas, yet, so likely will not care about that particular brand). Any good/bad experiences with specific brands? Is the beginner pack enough for a start? We could also suggest expansion packs from the in-laws.

Stockings: Probably some new bath toys (ideas?), toothbrushes, socks, candy, and an orange in the toe, as per KO-family tradition.

Grandparent gifts will include: two plastic trikes, Mega Bloks, a Mozart Magic Music Cube, and something we will suggest for my in-laws.

I also just ordered some Kohl’s magic blankets (on super sale!) for the whole family, so they’ll get theirs at some point this season, probably as a gift.

Any help or advice you have would be appreciated! Especially if you have brand recommendations, good or bad experiences to share, or thoughts about what kinds of gifts your two-year-olds were most excited about, use most, or have continued to love after many years.

 

Little Updates

I finished season 1 of The Good Place, and if you were placing bets on when my husband would drop out, I think he made it through episode 11 of 13. I really loved it!

We are now watching The New Girl as our together show — I’m pleasantly surprised that CW is enjoying it!

The kiddos slept until 6:00 today and everyone was SO much happier. Thank goodness. I don’t in any way assume that our early mornings are over, so instead I’m treating this as a special little gift and appreciating it all the more.

This may warrant a full post, but the big question arose in our household yet again this year of whether mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes would be too many potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. There is a correct answer.

Tomorrow, I am off work but the kids have daycare. I call that a perfect storm of awesomeness. What should I do with myself?!

Early Birds

It’s Saturday morning and I have been up since 5:00 because L woke up at 5:00 and woke everyone else up along with him. Sometimes he doesn’t wake E up, so one of us can sneak into their dark bedroom and airlift him out of his crib and let her sleep later, but not today. Today they were both up and both hopping mad. We let them come into our bedroom and watch an episode of Daniel Tiger so we could lie down (CW went back to sleep but I couldn’t because once I’m up, I’m up).

Why is this happening?! It’s been happening since the time change — in the days immediately after that, he was waking at 4:30 instead of his usual 6:30 — and I don’t understand why. He’s getting an hour less sleep now and it doesn’t make sense. It would’ve made sense to wake ONE hour early for the first few days, but he started waking TWO hours early and then shifted to one hour early. Both kiddos have been shortening their naps recently, too. They used to nap for at least 2 hours, sometimes as much as 3, but now it’s 1-1.5 max. I’m not pleased.

I don’t think they’re old enough to understand an “OK to Wake” type alarm clock yet, are they? (They’ll be two in two weeks.) we can’t really let L cry in the bedroom for long in the morning, either, because if we do he’ll eventually wake E, who usually needs/wants more sleep. I’d be fine with letting him hang out quietly until at least 6, but he gets mad and starts yelling and won’t settle back down. Shifting their bedtime later doesn’t cause them to sleep in, either. It’s just makes for an angry and exhausted shitshow. I have no idea what, if anything, to do. I guess this is just when I get up, now.

Break

As of the end of classes today, I am officially on Thanksgiving break for the next week. Hooray!

I am looking forward to the following things:

  • Making pies
  • Drinking wine
  • Two days of daycare when I don’t have to work
  • Seeing the kids enjoy all the holiday food, pumpkin pie and whipped cream especially
  • Switching over to full-on Christmas decor, including the tree
  • Cold weather — it’s going to get down to lows in the 30s, maybe?
  • Holiday movie season (Love Actually, The Holiday, Elf, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, and for some reason we also like to watch the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies this time of year)

When we go back to school after the break, we usually have a week of classes and a week of finals, but this year we have two weeks of classes and then finals. Not looking forward to that bit, but otherwise, things are looking up.

Recipe: BBQ Tofu Salad

If you don’t like tofu, this tofu may convert you. If you don’t like salad, well, then just skip this one.

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The best thing about this recipe is the tofu procedure, to be honest. It makes tofu that is flavorful and has a great crispy-chewy texture. It’s my favorite way to make tofu lately.

Tofu Prep:

Freeze the block of tofu overnight and thaw in the morning by placing it in a bowl of hot water in the sink. If you don’t have time for this step, you can skip it, but don’t blame the sub-par tofu texture & flavor on me. Freezing it causes all the water in the tofu to expand, making little holes throughout the block, essentially turning it into a sponge after you drain it — all the better to soak up your marinade. It also creates a chewier texture in the end, making the tofu better in all ways that matter.

Squeeze the block of tofu between two cutting boards or just between your two flat palms. Be gentle enough not to break or crumble it, but firm enough that you see A LOT of water draining out. The more water you get out, the better. You’re going to replace this water with delicious flavor.

Cut into small cubes (or triangles, if you feel fancy)

Tofu marinade:

  • 1-2 T oil (olive or vegetable)
  • splash liquid smoke (this shit is key)
  • splash hot sauce (your fave – I used Cholula today)

Bake the Tofu:

Toss tofu in marinade. It should immediately soak up all the liquid because you’ve made it into a sponge.

Spread out pieces on a baking sheet (lightly prayed with non-stick spray if you like)

Bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes or until the edges are getting browned and slightly crisp.

While the tofu is baking, skip down and make the salad & dressing but don’t forget to come back up here and glaze!

Glaze the Tofu:

Put pieces of baked tofu into a non-stick pan over medium-low heat with about 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce. I use some from a bottle and I have no shame about this. Our favorite is from a local restaurant, but if we don’t have the time to go there, we’ll grab a bottle of Stubb’s Sweet Heat at the grocery store.

Stir occasionally. When the glaze is reduced and sticky, you’re ready to go. It should take about 5 minutes.

Salad:

  • shredded kale from a bag (pick out and discard the stems, I beg you)
  • shredded red cabbage
  • corn (use grilled corn if it’s summer and you have some; canned or frozen otherwise)
  • 1/2 avocado

Salad Dressing:

  • 1 part sugar
  • 1 part apple-cider vinegar
  • 1 part oil (olive or vegetable)
  • celery seed to taste
  • grainy mustard to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Make the Dressing:

Heat apple cider vinegar and sugar over low heat, stirring just until sugar is dissolved. Add oil and seasonings. Let cool.

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Assemble:

Toss kale in dressing, “massaging” (I’m sorry) the kale until it’s wilted a bit. Then add cabbage and toss again. You don’t need to “massage” the cabbage.

Top with corn, sliced avocado, and sticky glazed tofu.

Take this to the next level with some pickled red onions. (I’ll share that recipe another day!)