As we prepare to welcome a new member to our family in (hopefully) three weeks or less, I figured now was a good time to write down some of the things that make Stephen such an awesome little guy before my brain turns into even more of a bowl full of mush.  He’s such an amazing little person, with hilarious quirks and definite preferences.  I didn’t do a tribute to him on here when he turned two back in March, although I meant to.  He deserves fanfare and pageantry to celebrate who he is, but unfortunately for him he has a mother who is unlikely to remember to organize such things in advance.

Stephen is in love with kitchen appliances.  All of them.  He can identify all three of the different beater attachments for the mixer by name, as well as the grain mill and food grinder attachments.  He can name the various parts of the mixer, the food processor, and the blender, and makes us read him the user manuals for the aforementioned items whenever he can.  His happiest days are the ones in which we use at least one of the blessed trinity of appliances, particularly if we use more than one attachment for the mixer.  He also loves our pots and pans, which unfortunately leads to tears when he tries to steal them, especially if they happen to be on the stove at the time.  He has his own complete set of pots and pans, but they only really suffice as long as he’s convinced he can’t find some way to get to ours.

He’s starting to be spontaneously affectionate, which is really amazing when it happens.  We make him give us hugs and kisses all the time, but every once in a while he offers up a hug or kiss without prompting.  He’s never been overly snuggly, but he loves to sit in our laps to read books and would do that for hours every day if we sat still long enough.  He’s shy around strangers and doesn’t really like crowds, but warmed up quickly to his grandparents when they came to visit (after an absence of over six months).

He’s gentle (for a two year-old) and has amazing volume control (again, for a two year-old).  If we whisper to him, he’ll whisper back, and he can sit still for an hour at a time if need be without making much noise, especially if we draw letters or numbers for him to identify.  He’s very tender-hearted, and gets his feelings hurt easily if we snap at him or chastise him, but he bounces back quickly.  Most of the time he can calm himself down if given a few minutes and some space.

He’s potty trained, and has been since he turned 2.  He still has accidents sometimes (last week for some reason he had a lot for the first time in over a month), but the vast majority of the time he’s dry all day long.  (He still wears a diaper for naps and nights.)  We’re so proud of him for how quickly he picked it up considering how young he is, but the best thing for me is seeing how proud he is of himself.

A few of Stephen’s favorite things:

Favorite meal: Breakfast

Favorite books: Pancakes, Pancakes!; Icky Bug Numbers; Schnitzel von Krumm, Dogs Never Climb Trees (and most other books by Lynley Dodd); Hickory Mouse; 1,2 3 (by Sandra Boynton); Dr. Seuss’ ABC; The Bird with the Word Visits Stephen Elijah (written and illustrated by his Granny)

Favorite shoes: “flu-pops” (flip-flops), Crocs

Favorite movies: Toy Story, 101 Dalmations, Bolt

Favorite foods: cherries, apricots, pasta, peas, popcorn, shrimp, olives, eggs, raisins, roasted chickpeas (leblebe), berries, ham, butter, polenta

Favorite toys: pots and pans, kitchen appliances, his play kitchen, blocks, coins, trains, Melissa & Doug food cutting set

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Stephen is a child for whom it is nearly impossible to find pants.  I realize this is not a unique problem since most everyone I know complains about how difficult it is to find children’s clothing that fits well, but since most of his clothes are hand-me-downs or ordered online, we rarely get to try things on to make sure they’ll fit.  At 23 months old, his 12-18 month pants are just about the right length, but are almost falling off him in the waist.  His 9-12 month pants fit great in the waist and rise, but are about two inches too short in the leg.

All this, combined with the fact that I derive a perverse satisfaction out of repurposing scraps and old clothing, led me to decide I would attempt to make Stephen some corduroy pants out of a pair of old cords that my friend K gave me to use as scrap fabric.  I saw this tutorial on MADE for making pants with cute pockets on them, and decided that the plaid seersucker fabric I had in my scrap bag would make the perfect pockets to liven up the slightly boring navy corduroy.

Of course, no project of mine can be without at least one major miscalculation — in this case, I forgot to add an extra 1.5 inches to the top of the pants to allow for folding over the waistline and making a casing for the elastic.  Since there wasn’t enough corduroy left to recut the pattern pieces (and of course I only realized my mistake AFTER cutting all the pieces out) I decided that a contrasting waistband, in plaid to match the pockets, was the best way to fix the problem.  I actually think it looks pretty cute, and the seersucker fabric was much easier to gather than the corduroy would have been, so in the end it worked out well.

I lined the pockets with some soft khaki knit fabric from an old T-shirt, and used the hem of the original pants for the hems to save myself an extra step.  For the pants themselves, I used this tutorial and a pair of Gymboree pants that fit Stephen pretty well.

This week includes recipes from two of our Phaidon cookbooks (both courtesy of my parents): Silver Spoon Pasta and the Silver Spoon.  Everything we’ve made from both of those cookbooks has been great, and we’re so excited that it’s artichoke season so we can test out some of the delicious-looking artichoke recipes!

Saturday: Homemade pasta with creamy artichoke sauce, baked small red mullet, salad

Sunday: Crock pot barbecue ribs, Super Slaw (recipe below), french bread

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: Pizza (pepperoni and spinach; mushrooms and olives)

Wednesday: Garlic sausage and collard green soup

Thursday: Fish with arugula pesto, kohlrabi, bread

Friday: Crock pot Moroccan-inspired chickpea stew, brown rice

Super Slaw is a recipe I got from my mother — I know she got it from someone else, but I can’t remember who or when exactly.  I don’t much care for the traditional mayonnaise-based coleslaw, but this one is completely different.  It has a lot of Thai flavors in it, with the peanut butter and ginger and cilantro, and it’s the perfect balance of acidic, sweet, and crunchy.  I usually cut the recipe in half when I’m making it just for our family, and use only red cabbage to simplify matters (half the recipe uses about half a small head of red cabbage).

Super Slaw

Dressing:

6 tablespoons rice vinegar

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

5 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar

2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

Slaw:

5 cups thinly sliced green cabbage

2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage

2 large red or yellow bell peppers, cut into matchstick-sized strips

2 medium carrots, cut into matchstick-sized strips

8 large green onions, cut into matchstick-sized strips

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Whisk first 7 ingredients in small bowl to blend.  (Dressing can be made one day ahead.  Cover and chill.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before continuing.)

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Add dressing and toss to cut.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

I modified my week’s menu plan yet again to change one of the snacks I made for Knit Night tonight.  Danny came home yesterday and requested pecan pie for an office farewell and I decided to take the plunge and try out an idea that’s been in my head for a while — mini pecan pie tarts.  I used this Bakerella post for inspiration, but since I love my mom’s pecan pie filling recipe and didn’t have any pastry shells in the freezer I improvised.

My improvised version used one pie filling recipe and enough pie crust for two 9″ (single crust) pies.  I used this recipe for pate brisse, which is my all-time favorite, go-to pie crust recipe.  I don’t have tart pans, mini or otherwise, so I used my mini muffin tins and regular muffin tins.  In retrospect I probably should have only filled the regular muffin tin cups about halfway or so, as it is they ended up as sort of “deep dish” tarts and the filling stayed gooey-er than I would have liked.  All of the tarts ended up looking sort of like the eggs in the movie Alien after they’ve hatched, but I blame that on my infernal fan oven — things bake too quickly on top and too slowly in the middle, and there’s really nothing I can do about it.  Sigh.  I thought the mini tarts held up better, but they definitely had a higher pastry-to-filling ratio.  This is probably because for the mini ones I divided the dough for one pie recipe into 24 pieces and smushed it into the cups instead of rolling it out.  Next time I might try rolling the dough partway out (which is what I did for the regular muffin cups) to make it just a little bit thinner.

Below is the recipe I got from my mom for pecan pie filling — it makes enough filling for one 9″ pie or 24 mini-muffin tarts plus 8 “deep dish” muffin-tin tarts.  I would note that if you’re making the mini pies, as Bakerella notes in her tutorial, you’ll want to chop the pecans instead of leaving them in big pieces.

Pecan Pie Filling

3 eggs

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup corn syrup

dash vanilla

1 cup pecan halves or broken pieces

Beat eggs, sugar, salt, margarine and syrup with hand beater.  Stir in pecans.

I also made these Black Bottom Cupcakes.  These came out beautifully, and taste absolutely divine.  I think I could have easily gotten 13 or maybe even 14 cupcakes out of the recipe, but my muffin tins seem to be a bit smaller than the norm.  One note of caution — if your muffin tin isn’t nonstick, spray the top of the pan with cooking spray of some sort.  The tops of my cupcakes stuck and had to be pried up with a butter knife, resulting in one or two casualties.

We had a lovely long weekend, lots of walks and lazing around, and the market is starting to show exciting signs of non-hothouse vegetables (e.g. the collards below, young and tender and lovely right now), which means spring can’t be too far off!

Saturday: Homemade fusilli with eggplant, capers, anchovies and tomatoes; grilled shad

Sunday: Roasted chicken, collard greens, and celeriac au gratin

Monday: Beef brisket, broccoli, and roasted beets

Tuesday: Quinoa Stew

Wednesday: Grilled lamb and rosemary sausages, eggplant, zucchini, and rice

Thursday: Great northern beans and potatoes, sweet-and-sour red cabbage

Friday: Crock pot lamb, olive, and onion tagine, carrots

*Edited to add:

I forgot until yesterday that I’m hosting Knit night on Wednesday!  In order to help me remember what I’m planning to make, I’ll include the menu plan for that as well:

– chips and salsa

– raw veggies and homemade red pepper humus

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Soft Raspberry Crumble Bars

– various assorted teas

Does everyone else out there agree that maternity clothes are generally pretty wretched?  I mean, as good as an elastic waistband may sound after Thanksgiving dinner, it just seems to me like it’s impossible to find maternity clothes that I’m not having to constant adjust because they’re falling down or riding up.  And don’t get me started on the demi-panel trend.  Whoever thought it was a good idea to put the elastic straight across the widest part of my belly rather than above it or below it has clearly never been pregnant.  Or they were, and hated it, and now want to punish all those who come after them.

*Deep breath*

I think once it gets not freezing outside it’ll be a little bit easier, because I actually have several skirts that are comfortable (the awesome maternity skirt my friend K from Diaper Their Faces made being my current favorite!), but right now it’s so cold that I have to wear tights or leggings under them.  Maternity tights, with the built-in space for a pregnant belly, are still falling down all the time, but regular ones squeeze me very uncomfortably and make me feel nauseous by the end of the day.  Once it warms up enough to ditch the tights things will be a little easier.

But this wasn’t intended to be a rant.  I was actually really excited to find this tutorial on See Mommy Sew, which looks like an awesome way to make maternity skirts that would be cute, comfortable, and customized to your particular shape.  If I had an extra $50 laying around (and/or if I hadn’t already had my birthday this year), I would totally get this one from her etsy shop.  The tulle…I just love the black tulle at the bottom.  So fun.  I think I have enough fabric in my scrap bag to try my hand at making one of these, and if I’m reasonably successful I might have to get some really fun fabric to make myself a couple more!

I just realized that I haven’t posted a menu plan in…well, I can’t remember the last time I did.  But I always enjoy reading other people’s menu plans, so I figured I would go ahead and post ours from this past week and this coming week just for the heck of it.  We usually do our menu planning on Saturday mornings, before we go to the open air market to get our produce, so our plans go Saturday to Saturday.

Sausage will likely be a prominent feature in our menu planning for the next few months, since we had a sausage-making party this past Sunday and froze about 10 kilos of homemade French Garlic, Sicilian, Rosemary Lamb, Chicken Sage, and breakfast sausage.  We finally took the plunge and ordered collagen casings online, since natural casings are impossible to find here.  Believe me, we’ve exhausted every possible source in the city of Ankara.  Even the Sausage King of Bodrum, whose wares we have sampled and thoroughly enjoyed, says he can’t get natural casings here.  And if there were a way to get natural casings, Greg (aka the King) would have found it.

Last week:

Saturday: I was ill, and honestly can’t remember what, if anything, we had for dinner.  I’m sure we fed Stephen something nutritious at least.

Sunday: Grilled sausage sampler, steamed carrots, Buttermilk Rye rolls

Monday: Shrimp with red peppers and onions, polenta, savoy cabbage

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: Red lentil and tofu curry*, brown rice, steamed snow peas

Thursday: Grilled steak, broccoli, smoked paprika sweet potato oven fries

Friday: 15 bean soup, cornbread

This week:

Saturday: homemade spaghetti and tomato sauce, Italian sausage, steamed zucchini

Sunday: roast chicken, sweet potato oven fries, roasted beets

Monday: clay pot baked pork loin, fresh pasta, asparagus

Tuesday: grilled shrimp, garlic sausage, peppers, and brussels sprouts, polenta

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: black beans, brown rice, cooked salsa, steamed carrots

Friday: slow cooker beef stew, Buttermilk Rye rolls

*We make several modifications to this recipe.  We also double all the spices except the cayenne, which we omit for Stephen’s sake.  We cut the amount of water used to cook the lentils in half, and fry the tofu cubes in the spice oil before adding them to the lentils.  We serve it with chopped cilantro, shredded coconut, roasted peanuts, raisins and hot sauce on the side so every one can dress their own dish (although we do monitor Stephen so that he doesn’t just eat the bowl of raisins and/or dump hot sauce all over his bowl).  We also double the recipe to make sure we have enough left over for lunches the next day.