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Hooray!  The nursery is pretty much complete at this point.  Jake worked really hard to get it done before the shower, and then soon afterward we filled it up with a ton of stuff from the sunroom because he had SO much fun replacing the ceiling in the nursery that he decided he would continue the trend.  And the sunroom needs insulation now that it will function as an actual guest room. 

This room was a labor of love, that’s for sure.  Jake worked on it pretty much non-stop for several weeks, his dad came to help for a weekend, Meghan helped with the decorating (everyone should have friends who are merchandisers), and I… well, I worked on growing the child.  And I took over most of the dog walking/ dish cleaning duties while Jake was busy in the room.   That must count for something, right?

We still need to put an area rug in the room, get a cushion for the rocking chair, and hopefully get front-facing book racks for the big blank wall that doesn’t have anything on it right now.  Or just pictures.  Not sure yet.

The rocking chair is actually the one that my mom and dad used when Dan and I were babies.  And somehow it is still in really good shape!  Lucky break. And the closet is completely filled with baby essentials already (and there is actually a lot more now than there was when the picture was taken!).  Holy guac, who knew how much stuff you needed to be a parent?! 

Ok, now that a month has passed since returning from the family vacation in Nantucket, I figure it is time to share a few of my favorite pictures:

Here is the whole family in front of the rental house.  There were about 100 pictures taken just to make sure that we got a good shot, and as it turned out, the very first one was the best.  Funny how that works.

Another picture of the family from the 4th of July.  Nonnie decorated the table with little American flags and Dan displayed his plate of food for all to see.  What’s more American than flags and food?

Look at the facial expressions during an intense game of beer pong.  Is there any possibility that these two are related?

Jake and I went to the beach.  I won’t say that Jake dragged me there, but I’m fairly certain that had he not been persistent with his puppy dog eyes, the entire vacation on a small island would have been completely beach free for the family. 

Proof that I touched sand without socks on! 

Jake tempting death by playing around in the waves.  It looks like the waves won this round, but Jake didn’t seem to mind.  I, on the other hand, will never enter an ocean again unless a cruise ship is sinking.  Too flipping scary!

Call the coast guard!  I spy a beached whale!  (I kid, I kid)

Dad and Dan called the sky that morning to coordinate outfits. 

We needed to get a picture with this lighthouse before it falls into the ocean.  Which, according to the tour guide, will be happening very soon.  The $10 million houses nearby will also be falling into the ocean.  Talk about a bad investment! 

55 years!  Can you believe that these two love birds have been married for so long AND still like each other? 

Overall, the trip was fabulous and fun.  We somehow went an entire week without killing each other and without getting photographic proof of our daily ice cream trips.  Dan walked an average of 27 miles per day, Dad smoked cigars while laying in the hammock, and I managed to read an entire economics text book.  Success!

My family went to Nantucket last week and it was a blast!  I’ll add pictures once I combine my shots with the ones that Grandpa took, but for now I’ll grace you with the pictures of Jake’s clam bake.  The man was on a mission.  He wasn’t going to leave that island without killing little sea creatures, and no one was going to stand in his way.  Luckily, he got the lobsters pre-cooked so I didn’t have to watch them meet their boiling demise.  I would make Jake write-up a post about his clam baking endeavor, but based on past experience I know that he’ll never get around to it.  He’s an engineer, so the post would probably look something like:

((Onion + butter + heat) + potatoes + ((corn – husk)/2) + wine² + leftover champagne + clams) ^6 ≈ happiness 

And there would certainly be one of these ƒ and one of these ∞ in there.  Because engineers just throw random functions and symbols around to confuse the rest of us. 

I’m not really a seafood eater, and this whole pregnancy thing has made me especially sensitive to the idea of picking apart an animal carcus, so I mostly stuck to the corn and potatoes and watermelon.   The safe foods.   But everyone else loved it, and based on the lack of leftovers, it was a grand success.

Live clams and dead clams:

 

Nonnie helped by cutting the biggest watermelon slices of all time.  This is no camera trick.  It’s a whole lotta juicy goodness.

And here’s the final carnage.  See those lobsters?  Dan decided that it would be a good idea to throw the heads into the woods outside the house for the animals of Nantucket to feast on.  But he didn’t really notice the fact that I was standing right next to him when he went to throw them, so I ended up covered (and by covered I mean a few drops ended up on my clothes) with disgusting lobster juice.  I almost threw up.  Jake found the whole situation hilarious.  Which led to threats of sleeping on the floor.  Luckily for him, I have a forgiving soul (ha!). 

Overall, the trip was a lot of fun and hard to come back to work from.  Nantucket was so different from what I expected.  More details on that to come…

Spring is a very happy time in Buster’s life.  It is when he gets to return to his happy place, a.k.a Breakheart Reservation.  As soon as the ice has melted we make our inaugural walk through the woods and Buster gets to go swimming and play with the other dogs at the Barking Lot. Yes, the dog run is actually called the Barking Lot. 

Normally, Buster would see a camera and immediately run and hide, but there was no getting him down this day.  No, this was the day that he had spent months waiting for and I wasn’t about to ruin it with my scary black clicking machine.  So, of course, I took as many pictures as possible.  I never know when an opportunity like this will come around again!

“Daaad, stop it!  You’re embarrassing me!”

Buster will have fun in pretty much any area with water.  This little stream just happened to be a side effect of the massive flooding we had this spring. 

Judging from the amount of focus in his eyes, I’m guessing that Buster was looking at a squirrel when this picture was taken.  “Leave it” is a helpful phrase to know if you don’t want to be dragged halfway through the woods.

The Barking Lot.  Is there a happier place on Earth?

The dogs are allowed on the beach before the summer season starts.  Then they get sent to the little coves around the other parts of the lake.  The water was just above freezing, but that didn’t stop Buster (or any of the other dogs) from jumping in.  At this point Jake and I were wondering if we were ever going to be able to get him to leave the park. 

Eventually, we did leave.  We didn’t have any camping equipment and I don’t camp.  So that worked out perfectly.  But summer is just around the corner, so soon we’ll be back too many times to count.  And then a few more times after that.

I’m going to go ahead and let my dad explain why my family eats chips and dip every year for Easter.  It is pretty much mandatory at this point.

“While she was growing up, Easter was a big holiday in your mom’s house.  There are photos every year of the entire Lefler family each Easter all wearing their bright new Easter clothes and getting ready to go to church.  Your mom knew the year of the picture by the dress that she was wearing. Your mom described very detailed family rituals for where the eggs were hidden, what was in each basket, and most important the required Easter dinner menu.   My memory is that it was as elaborate as a Thanksgiving type meal, except with ham as the primary meat serving.
   Your mom and I spent the first Easter that we were married in Lawrence, Kansas.  We were living in student housing and didn’t have much money.  On Easter Day of 1978, we were very busy and certainly didn’t feel like cooking or boiling eggs and definitely didn’t want to bake a ham.  We were just happy to be enjoying spring and looking forward to moving to our new home in Mt. Lebanon in May.  When Nonnie and Grandpa called, they asked what we were having for Easter dinner, and I accurately told them “chips and dip.”  We actually were quite content with the “meal” – but every year after that we laughed about the Easter in Lawrence.  The story was humorous mostly because your mom felt that somehow she was “not doing her job” by failing to follow her family rituals – and so this was a perfect teasing opportunity for the rest of us.   
  So, “chips and dip” has been part of our Easter meal every year since 1978.  The full menus and location varied widely over the 31 years, but each Easter we always had “chips and dip” on Easter Day.”

              

So, this year that’s what Jake and I ate as our meal.  We had a couple of other snacky things like carrots and humus, but the meal was centered around the chips and dip.  Which is nice because I really didn’t feel like cooking a ham.


Sometimes, when people say that they are snowed in they just mean that it is snowing outside so they are choosing to stay home.  This isn’t one of those times.  Dan and I are quite literally snowed in.  And we are about ready to climb the walls down of his condo.  Or take another nap.  Look at the parking lot full of cars in the picture above!

I was supposed to fly home today.  I figured that since the snow was going to end yesterday, there really shouldn’t be a reason to not fly out the following afternoon.  Right.  JetBlue called me up and said, “Lindsay, I don’t know what you were thinking making that Sunday reservation, but you aren’t going anywhere!”  The recording didn’t say it exactly like that, but that was the general gist of it. 

This is what Dan’s backyard looked like on Friday morning:

And this is Dan yesterday afternoon.  He isn’t going to let a little bit of snow get him down:

We probably shouldn’t have bothered going out to look at the car, but it was necessary if we wanted to get to work and the airport in the morning.  I am lucky enough to have a bad back so I barked instructions and Dan did the heavy lifting.  Maybe this is what got him the nickname Heavy-D in high school.

Here is the car parked next to Dan’s.  That guy has evidently chosen to wait until spring to go back to work.  I don’t blame him.

So, of course, even though we had shoveled the car out, we couldn’t take it anywhere because there were vultures waiting to sweep up the first open spot.  And Dan didn’t seem keen on the idea of digging out a whole new parking space.  In Boston we would have just put a cone in the space and no one would dare touch it for fear of their tires being slashed and the car being keyed.  But people in MD aren’t familiar with that rule, and we didn’t have a cone anyway.  This wouldn’t be a problem except that Dan’s fridge is pretty much empty except for some muscle milk.

 

So, we climbed the nearest major roadway to the grocery store.  We were tired, wet, cold, and covered by the spray of passing cars by the time we got home.  But we did get the ingredients to make some kick-butt nachos to watch during the Super Bowl Puppy Bowl tonight!  Can’t wait!

Programming note:  My brother, Dan, agreed to be a guest blogger while I am down in Baltimore visiting for the weekend.  This casserole was made completely from his memory and ended up really good!  Enjoy!



Please allow me to introduce myself; I’m a man of wealth and taste.

Lindsay has kept a low profile for her dear old brother on Life and Kitchen, but was recently kind enough to allow me (Dan) to takeover and give this culinary blogging game a try. 

While I generally prefer lighter, contemporary American and ethnic dishes (especially Middle Eastern, Thai, and Indian), only one recipe came to mind when considering what to cook for Life and Kitchen: Mom’s Ham Casserole for Dan.  I don’t think it has an official name and the I mostly remember eating it when I was in college, but it left a lasting impression none the less.  I think it might have origins in Mom trying to figure out what to do with all the left over Easter ham.  Mom herself was a lover of green bean casserole, but she was always willing to make the below dish for a starving (existentially) college kid. 

   

As I write this, the snow storm of the century is bearing down on Maryland and wreaking havoc and panic on the tender, warm-blooded souls of the not-quite South.  A perfect time to reach back to our hearty Mid-Western roots, when saturated fat was an object of celebration and a snow day at home with the family was a good thing. 

The Goods
1 Bag of egg noodles
2 Sticks butter
3 Cloves minced garlic
½ Medium minced onion
4 Cups heavy cream
1 ½ Cups mixed Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheese
1 Ham steak (left over Honey Baked Ham is best)
1 Cup frozen peas
¼ Cup chopped kalamata olives
3 Cups Corn Flakes (not Frosted Flakes)

Noodles

Boil a large pot of water and cook the egg noodles al dente.  The noodles will finish cooking with the alfredo sauce in the oven.  Drain and set aside.

At the same time you are boiling the noodles, begin the alfredo sauce.

Alfredo Sauce

In a large pan on medium heat, slowly melt 1 ½ sticks butter.  Add the garlic and onions and cook for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the butter.  Slowly stir in four cups heavy cream and 1 ½ cups mixed parmesan, romano and asiago cheeses.  Continue to occasionally stir the sauce over medium heat until the cheese is mostly melted (this will take longer than you’d expect). 

Corn Flake Crust

While keeping an eye on your alfredo sauce above, melt ½ stick butter in a large mixing bowl in the microwave (about 30 seconds).  Pour in about 3 cups corn flakes and mix and mash them up really well. 

Bringing it All Back Home

Begin assembling your remaining ingredients in a large casserole dish.  Add the cooked noodles.  Cube the ham steak and chop the kalamata olives and add those too.  Pour in your peas and mix it all around.  Then pour the cream mixture over top and mix to make sure that all of the noodles are coated.  Top it off with the buttery crushed corn flakes and place in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees.  Bake it covered (with foil or a spare baking sheet) for about 25 minutes.  Take off the cover and continue to bake for about 10 minutes to crisp up the corn flakes on top. 

I’d recommend letting the casserole cool for 10 minutes or so to allow everything to settle and avoid scorching your mouth.  This will take some amount of will power, as the casserole will have filled your house with irresistible aromas. 

     

Mom’s casserole reheats very well and can provide a few meals out of the refrigerator (though it’s never lasted long in my presence). 

So kick back and banish those thoughts of swimsuit shopping and your doctor’s stern warnings for just a meal or two and reconnect with the soul nourishing food of our childhood. 


You know those kid magazines with all the activities in which you have to find the hidden walking stick bug in its natural environment?  It blends in, and if you just took a quick glance, you could easily miss it?  Well, I don’t want to shock anyone, but this is more than just a too-dark picture of a kitchen table with a hutch behind it.  There’s a dog hidden somewhere in this image, and he is definitely in his natural environment (hiding behind the table).

Can you find Buster?  If you look closely, you can even see his eyes with a “what is that scary little silver box that you are pointing at me?!” expression.  This dog never stops entertaining us, much to his own chagrin.

Nonnie is such a hard worker.

As are Dad and Jake and Grandpa.

Stop smiling!  Ornament decorating is serious business!

What are they doing, you ask? They’re decorating Christmas ornaments, of course! While taking a break from Sequence for 45 minutes, we filled the time with decorating little pieces of wood that will someday hang on a pine tree. Not this year because Jake and I don’t have a tree this year, but someday. I would highly recommend ornament-making as a family tradition.  We didn’t curse at each other even once while decorating.  Well, once, but that was because Nonnie stole my glitter pen. 

The big winner of the day went to Dad for making the most original ornament:

Merry Christmas!


Has anyone ever gone to Florida without playing Sequence?  Of course you have.  But, I don’t think that anyone in my family has (for the last 5-10 years anyway).   And we play every day.  Every. Day.  But the game is pretty awesome, so I don’t mind.  Essentially, it involves drawing cards and putting them on the playing board in a way that makes a row of five.  Much like connect 4, but with 5, and you generally are working with a partner whom you can’t talk to.  Super fun.

So, Jake and I went to Florida over Thanksgiving to get our fill of Sequence and to see Nonnie, Grandpa, and my dad (and our friend Erwin, who is sitting between Jake and me) while we were there.  We actually went out shopping on black friday at Target and bought Sequence for ourselves AND to give to Jake’s parents as a Christmas present.  Ooooh goodness, there will be lots of sequence in our future.

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