Friday, March 28, 2008

Birthday Extravaganza





I love my birthday. No, no—I LOVE it. It’s my second favorite holiday of the year—second only to Christmas. Strangely, in the seven years we’ve been together, Nick and I have only been in the same city twice on my birthday. This year will be the third. When we were first together (but not officially together) we were in the same city, but Nick was in the hospital with mono. The second and third years, I was in Kansas City, he was in San Diego. The fourth year, he was in Pensacola, I was in San Diego. The fifth year, we’d just been married and though he was working, we were in the same city. This year, 2005 marked the very first Robin Olson Birthday Extravaganza. WOW! It was AMAZING. I got standard gifts—flowers, chocolate, a lunch date. But then, we took two days off in the middle of the week, packed a back pack with nothing but a change of clothes, went to the airport and said “where’s the next plane going”. It was Oakland. We hopped aboard. This was the first of many random vacations we’d take but so far, it has been the only “Birthday Extravaganza” trip. In Oakland, we took the B.A.R.T. into San Francisco. We walked around downtown for a while, had lunch in a local diner, then tried to find a hotel. We stopped first at a Hilton. The price for just walking in the door was high. The receptionist recommended finding a computer and booking something online—we’d get a better rate. We found a copy shop that sold Internet by the minute, found a Travelocity hotel and booked it. We hopped on the cable car and took it down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Our hotel was right near the water. We checked in and then checked out the city. We had dinner, watched a few street performers, bought our token cheesy picture frame and went to Alcatraz the next day. It was a quick trip, but completely full of adventure—all for my birthday.

This year, I expect no less. My husband has his work cut out for him. In addition, I really hype up my birthday to most people I know. My colleagues at work jumped right in. I got to work this morning to find my cube covered in streamers, balloons and glitter.

They took me to lunch after sending me on a treasure hunt. Based on clues, I had to find various people in the office that eventually lead to my present—a can of coffee. Knowing my preference for quality coffee, I knew this had to be a joke. Inside the can was a bag of Chocolate Raspberry Gloria Jeans whole bean decaf coffee! I can’t wait to try some tomorrow morning.

My birthday’s not until Sunday, so I have at least two more days of fun. Who said turning 30 was traumatic? I’m having a blast!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hot Dogs and Macaroni

The first time Nick and I had dinner together was in his apartment in college. We weren’t officially dating, but I’m pretty sure it happened on the day that we now celebrate as our dating anniversary. I’d just gotten off work and he’d called to ask me what I was doing.

“Nothing—I just got off work.”

“Wanna come over? I’m making diner.”

“What are you making?”

“Hot dogs and macaroni.”

That actually sounded good. I drove over there and hot dogs and macaroni has been one of our favorite meals ever since. I’ve had to alter it to fit our veg. lifestyle, but I think I’ve gotten it down. Actually, needing to be able to keep making this dish was what sparked my exploration into the world of veggie dogs. I’ve tried several varieties and I really only like the Morningstar Farms brand that comes in the freezer section. And you have to cook them just right. Above all, read the package directions. My first attempt to make them, I admit, was rather arrogant. I knew how to make hot dogs! Who reads directions on these things? Anyone can boil hot dogs. What I got was boiled mush. You have to boil the water first, then take it off the burner, then put in the dogs for 2 minutes. No boiling of anything but water. Grilling works too, but they never achieve that same blackness that a great bar-be-qued dog can have. They do get crispy thought, and it does the trick for me.

Now, I could use the same blue box macaroni that Nick made that first night, but of course, I like to go gourmet whenever I can, even with something as simple as Mac. & Cheese. I start with elbow macaroni—boil according to package directions. See, I listen to that stuff now. Then I add some cubed Velveeta cheese—it has to be the processed kind or it will get stringy. I stir that in until it melts. Add some butter and milk, and presto—mac & cheese. To add the hot dogs, I cut up thawed dogs and sauté them (sounds weird, but for the soy variety, it works great). Once they’re nice and crispy, they get stirred in. If I really want to make something impressive, I take some melted butter and stir in crushed corn flakes. Sprinkle that over the top and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. WOW it’s GOOD! This is our nostalgia meal which we actually had last night—today marks the 84th month since the first time we had it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Onion

I wasn’t there, so I can’t say for certain that this is exactly what happened, but this is the way I remember my dad telling the story. I’m not sure how old my older brother, Jeremy was, maybe 3 or 4, maybe older. I really don’t know. But Dad was chopping garlic for something and Jerm asked for a piece. Dad insisted that he wouldn’t like it, but Jerm assured Dad that he really liked garlic. I can only assume that it’s pleasing aroma is what caused my brother’s mistake. Garlic smells great. Dad eventually gave in. I can picture my brother, chomping down on that piece of garlic, insisting that he liked it while displaying a horrified grimace. Oh, how I would have loved to be there.

Last week I was making Sweet & Sour Tofu (yummy!) for dinner. As is our tradition, Ivy was sitting up on the counter while I chopped vegetables. First the carrot. She took a piece off the cutting board and ate it. Next the green peppers. That was tasty to her too. Next came the onion. Most of the time, I have to open every window and turn on all of the fans to keep from making myself cry and to make sure that Nick eventually comes down for dinner. Ivy seemed unfazed. She simply reached for a big hunk of onion. Now, these are about ½ inch pieces—not a fine dice. I tried to take it from her. She wasn’t too happy about that and started making a fuss.
“Ok! Fine, but you won’t like it.” I gave her the onion. She took a bite. Then another. She ate the whole piece. She reached for another, saying “More.” What could I do? I let her have it. Before long, her little eyes were red and puffy, but she continued to chomp away at that onion

Friday, March 07, 2008

Veggies Galore!

Being nutritionally sound is tough! I spend I don’t know how long digging through recipe books to find not only something that sounds good (to both Nick and me) but isn’t bad for us as well. I have a favorite food website, but it’s not what you think. While foodnetwork.com and vegtimes.com are two sites I frequent often, my most reliable food guide is nutritiondata.com. It’s fantastic! I just plug in the ingredients to whatever I’m making and presto! It gives me the nutritional information. I’m actually really in tune to what I’m eating—that’s not to say that I don’t totally blow it calorie wise on occasion. It just means that when I eat naughty food, I always do it intentionally.

This little website also helps to answer the “where do you get your protein” question that I get all the time—especially when I’m eating vegan. I realize that I’m at least one of the oddest vegetarians alive since I don’t like vegetables, but having this handy dandy website helps me get my vitamins too. Saying that I don’t like vegetables is a bit of a misnomer—I do like them…some of them…ok, a few of them. I had a new vegetable yesterday, in fact—capers. They’re kinda like mini olives. I made ratatouille pasta (love that Rachel Ray!) and then we watched the movie—very fun. Anyway, it was loaded with vegetables—zucchini, tomatoes, onions, red and green peppers, garlic, olives, capers and eggplant (yum!). All good veggies. Ivy and Nick even liked it. We were all a bit skeptical after Wednesday night’s disatster—Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Uh, no. Nasty! It was sort of a puree of squash, potatoes, leeks, and carrots with lots of veg. broth and miso. We ate it, but I didn’t save the leftovers. It looked like baby food. We almost ordered pizza.

It’s really on the common vegetables that I don’t like. I went out to lunch with work people today at a FABULOUS little Asian Diner, Peiwei. WOW! They have great tofu! I can eat almost anything on the menu, which is also a nice change. I even ate most of the vegetables on my plate—just picked out the broccoli and snap peas. I can pretty much say that if it comes in a bag in the freezer section of the grocery store, I probably don’t like it: corn, green beans, lima beans, peas, broccoli—all of those nasty ones. But parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, squash, leeks, eggplant, carrots, celery, salad, peppers—all of those are tasty. Beets—I don’t think I like beets. I’ve never had one that wasn’t canned, but I’m not sure I’m really that interested in proving myself wrong…or right. I’ll just leave the beets for borscht.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Playmates

Ivy has a boyfriend. Eric is in her class at daycare. He’s got the cutest sleepy blue eyes and blonde hair. He’s usually already there when we arrive in the morning. I’m not sure how they got to be such good friends, but in her first few months at daycare, it wasn’t unusual for us to find Ivy and Eric together. When we arrived in the morning, Eric always greeted us with a smile and what I can only assume was an affectionate point. It was a sad day when Ivy left the infant room (and Eric) for the toddler room, but Eric soon followed and once again, they were the best of friends.

This morning was a bit different. As I was un-strapping Ivy from her car seat, a car pulled in next to us. It was Eric. From his car he was calling out to us—“It’s I. B.” We all walked in together and as soon as Ivy and Eric were free of their mothers’ arms, they went straight for each other. They hugged and kissed as though they’d been apart from each other for weeks. Eric’s mom and I shared an “aw” moment before ushering our kids into their room where the two went off to play like any other day.