Thursday, August 31, 2006

A nice relaxing day

(Originally posted on Thursday, August 31, 2006 by Tim)

I?ve stacked my schedule at work so that I have no commitments at Radford on Thursday. It allows me another full day to spend with Baby Dal and Cat each week. The ?cost? of this is that my Tuesdays and Wednesdays are really long. I?ve been getting home those days between 7:30 and 8pm. I?m generally pretty exhausted so any time I get with Baby Dal is of marginal quality.

Today I had a full day of Baby Dal. He was very interactive today. There were multiple times where he held eye contact with me for 10 minutes or more. In addition, his social smile is growing in and it is truly a joy to behold.

Cat had her last appointment with our midwife (Hannah) today. The picture is of Hannah holding him. Unfortunately, Hannah and Cat were working on a lot of girl stuff today and Dalton was pretty cranky by the time they finished. What you see is the best expression I could get out of him. I can?t say enough good things about Hannah. It?s a blessing to have someone like her in our area.

I?m going to cut today?s post short. We may be heading out to Washington, DC tomorrow to meet friends. If so, I need to be up early. It?s about a four hour trip BD (before Dalton). I?m wondering how long it will be with multiple stops for changing and breastfeeding.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

One Week Down

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 27, 2006 by Tim)

I?ve successfully survived my first week back teaching classes. I feel like I?m already way behind, but I think it?s the usual amount. Memory is a slippery thing and it?s likely that every Fall term begins this way. If past terms are predictive of future performance, I?ll be caught up in General Chemistry next week and I?ll continually slip behind in Biochemistry. Fortunately, Biochemistry isn?t a requirement for a future class so the amount of material covered isn?t as critical as General Chemistry.

I don?t know if I?ve posted it, but I?ve followed up on my threat to teach General Chemistry on Rollerblades. The back story is that Radford is using a new computerized system to assign classrooms. We provide it with useful information such as our class size, what type of multimedia equipment we need, if we need a sink, what kind of board we would like (white or black), and where our office is located. I?m convinced that it ignores everything but class size and then assigns classrooms. As a result, my General Chemistry class is as far away from my office as is possible. In fact, the classroom is barely on campus. You have to cross the street that divides campus from Bar Row and it's the only campus building on that side of the street. If my class wasn?t at 9am in the morning, I?d have students staggering in and ordering drinks.

I?ve now taught three lectures of General Chemistry and only had one student comment on the Rollerblades. The class is mostly freshmen. Maybe they think this is normal for college.

Today?s picture of Baby Dal is of him in Cat?s arms yesterday. It?s funny, people ask me about him at work and I don?t have all that much to say. He?s taken over our lives so I should be able to go on and on about him. It?s just that I think a lot of the details aren?t going to be very interesting to someone else. Things I could say include:

1. He?s healthy.
2. He?s gaining weight well.
3. He?s not too bad in the middle of the night.
4. He spits up a lot and a good amount if it ends up in Cat?s hair.
5. He can fill diapers with impressive quantities of orange stuff.
6. I can generally calm him down by walking with him and singing ?American Pie? off key.
7. #6 hurts my back. (I?m going to try working those muscles at the gym)
8. He generally cries when he?s not being held (this is getting better).
9. He has an innie belly button.
10. He tends to have a fair amount of baby acne.
11. His diaper was filled with (insert state of matter here) last night.
12. He woke up X times last night.
13. Anything with the words ?nipple shield?.
14. He?s supporting his head much better now.

Usually, I stop at number three so as to not horrify or bore my audience. I?ll often state that we?re quite happy with him. This is apparently an odd statement. The response is often, ?Well, that?s good because you can?t give him back.? Really? Are you sure? I don?t remember that one being covered in any of our childbirth classes.

I love my sling

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 27, 2006 by Cathy)

It isn't every day you can get a baby to fall asleep while you're unloading the dishwasher...

Saturday, August 26, 2006


(Originally posted on Monday, August 28, 2006 by Tim)

I have proof that the classroom scheduling software at Radford is possessed. Today, I ran into one of my colleagues from the math department. He and I both teach classes that are the same size from 11-12pm. His class is in the science building on one side of campus and mine is in the math building on the other side of campus. Our offices are in the appropriate buildings as opposed to our classes. I?m thinking that we should work out a stealth switch. Now I just need to find someone running a bartending class close to my office that I can switch for my classroom on Bar Row.

A funny thing happened to me at the doctor?s office last week. I had gone in to ask about a laundry list of minor health annoyances. They are all chronic things that I ask any new doctor we switch to. I guess I?m hoping one of them will have some new or different miracle cure. They include things such as old sports injuries, minor psoriasis, and a chronic sore throat (likely allergies). While I was there I also had some baby questions and I wanted to ask if we could get a karyotype done on Cat, Dal, and me. Cat and I thought it would be fun to have a frame that had pictures of each of our chromosomes. Think of it as an alternative family picture for science nerds. I?ve looked up the procedures for doing your own karyotype on the internet. I have access to the proper equipment at work and I?m trained in the necessary skills. However, generating a karyotype is tricky and I think it would take me a week of work to get it right. As such, I was interested in how much it would cost to have it done for us.

It turns out that they don?t ever send out for karyotypes from our doctor?s office. As far as I know, it?s a procedure that is generally limited to amniocentesis. They check the chromosomes of the fetus for any major abnormalities that would indicate genetic diseases such as Down?s syndrome. Health care is limited in this area. You have to go all the way to Roanoke to get amniocentesis done. Come to think of it, you have to go all the way to Roanoke to find a midwife as well.

Since they never do amniocentesis, my doctor wasn?t sure where I could call to ask how much it would cost to have a karyotype done. Her comment in talking to me was, ?They?d surely do that with paternity testing, don?t you think?? Now I teach DNA techniques. There are a lot easier and more accurate ways to do paternity testing than amniocentesis. I mentioned this to her during our discussion but apparently it didn?t stick. At the end of our appointment, we walked over to a group of nurses where she said, ?He needs the number of the paternity testing lab.? much to my embarrassment.

Dalton had a grand old time in his bouncy chair today. He was enjoying watching the hanging ball and giraffe wobble around. He discovered that he could get all sorts of wobbling by kicking his feet (which bounced the chair). I must have taken more than 20 pictures. Many of the pictures had him smiling, but this was my favorite.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Catastrophic structural integrity failures and cantaloupes

(Originally posted on Thursday, August 24, 2006 by Cathy)

So we planted a cantaloupe plant in the garden this year. I suspect it was my idea, since I've never seen Tim purchase a cantaloupe, which makes me suspect he doesn't like them all that much. Cantaloupes aren't my favorite fruit either (I'm a pineapple and berries of any sort person), but I remembered that we had a "volunteer" in Mom's garden growing up, so I figured "how hard can they be to grow?"

I didn't plan on hail. We had hail twice within 48 hours of putting in the garden. The first cantaloupe seedling didn't make it. That's structural integrity failure #1. We replanted. This plant did ok, although nothing like the squash. In the end, it produced one cantaloupe. That seems like a lot of garden space for one piece of produce, although I guess in terms of mass it's better than the sugar snap peas. Tim picked the cantaloupe and brought it in, whereupon I declared it to be not entirely ripe. So we left it sitting on the counter, hoping it would ripen a bit before we cut into it.

And there it sat. And sat. And maybe sat some more. I'm not actually sure what day the cantaloupe came in from the garden, but Tuesday was the day when I decided it was time to cut into it, ripe or not. So I picked it up, noting a small mooshy spot on one side. Something (Dalton?) distracted me, and I set it back down. A couple hours later, I came downstairs again and noted this incredibly rank smell coming from the kitchen. Upon entering the kitchen, I discovered a large part of the counter (and most everything on it - fortunately mostly dirty dishes) adrift in rotten cantaloupe juice. Apparently in the couple hours I'd left the cantaloupe in the kitchen, it had rotted the rest of the way through the rind, releasing all the yummy rotten goodness from the inside.

Yuck. Next year, I think we should stick to squash.

[Aside: I'm writing this post in part because it occurs to me that I haven't told Tim yet what happened to his prize cantaloupe. The joys of parenthood.]

[Aside #2, to our single friends: If you think a post about rotting cantaloupe is bad, the other option for today was one about mastitis. Trust me, it could be much worse than rotting cantaloupe.]

Monday, August 21, 2006

What the Devil?

(Original post Monday, August 21, 2006 by Tim)

Sorry that it has been so long since my last post. I’ve started back at work and I just don’t have the time that I used to. I’ve also not been really good about getting pictures of Dalton. Part of this is due to the greater difficulty getting a picture of him these days. When his eyes are closed, I don’t want to take a chance and wake him up. When his eyes are open, he’s often in motion. I haven’t figured out how to make the shutter on my camera fast enough to give me a clear picture. Today’s picture was actually taken on the 16th of August. I took about 10 of these and I actually have ones where he has a beauty of a smile on him. Unfortunately, I was moving the camera or someone was moving the house or something like that and the other ones are pretty blurry.

Speaking of work, I walked by a car today in the parking lot that had a bumper sticker I’ve wanted to post about.

It read, “Fairlawn Church, We’re the church the Devil told you about.”

Ok, someone needs to help me out here. What the heck is this supposed to mean? Let’s assume for the moment that I converse with the Devil on a regular basis.* What exactly is the Devil going to say to me about this church?

Assuming that I know he’s the Devil and we’re buddies, here are some possibilities…

“Is it just me or does it itch in there?”
“You do know that those guys all vote Republican, no?”
“You’ll catch me in that place when you know what freezes over.”
“I could almost hang out with those folks if it wasn’t for the hats with the little propellers on top.”
“Sob, I’m so misunderstood. I need a hug.”

On the Dalton front, tonight’s game was keeping him asleep while trying to get a little work done around the house. The challenge was that if he started to rouse and found himself alone in bed, he would startle and start to cry. Our solution was to fold laundry in the room with him while watching him closely. At the first sign of stirring, one of us would run over and lay down next to him to give the impression that we never left. We need to buy him a blow up Cathy doll to put next to him to help him sleep. Come to think of it, based on how little he has been sleeping, I could use one too.

*Many students, several co-workers, and one ex-wife will attest that this is true.

What the Devil?

(Originally posted on Monday, August 21, 2006 by Tim)

Sorry that it has been so long since my last post. I?ve started back at work and I just don?t have the time that I used to. I?ve also not been really good about getting pictures of Dalton. Part of this is due to the greater difficulty getting a picture of him these days. When his eyes are closed, I don?t want to take a chance and wake him up. When his eyes are open, he?s often in motion. I haven?t figured out how to make the shutter on my camera fast enough to give me a clear picture. Today?s picture was actually taken on the 16th of August. I took about 10 of these and I actually have ones where he has a beauty of a smile on him. Unfortunately, I was moving the camera or someone was moving the house or something like that and the other ones are pretty blurry.

Speaking of work, I walked by a car today in the parking lot that had a bumper sticker I?ve wanted to post about.

It read, ?Fairlawn Church, We?re the church the Devil told you about.?

Ok, someone needs to help me out here. What the heck is this supposed to mean? Let?s assume for the moment that I converse with the Devil on a regular basis.* What exactly is the Devil going to say to me about this church?

Assuming that I know he?s the Devil and we?re buddies, here are some possibilities?

?Is it just me or does it itch in there??
?You do know that those guys all vote Republican, no??
?You?ll catch me in that place when you know what freezes over.?
?I could almost hang out with those folks if it wasn?t for the hats with the little propellers on top.?
?Sob, I?m so misunderstood. I need a hug.?

On the Dalton front, tonight?s game was keeping him asleep while trying to get a little work done around the house. The challenge was that if he started to rouse and found himself alone in bed, he would startle and start to cry. Our solution was to fold laundry in the room with him while watching him closely. At the first sign of stirring, one of us would run over and lay down next to him to give the impression that we never left. We need to buy him a blow up Cathy doll to put next to him to help him sleep. Come to think of it, based on how little he has been sleeping, I could use one too.

*Many students, several co-workers, and one ex-wife will attest that this is true.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Got milk?

(Originally posted on Wednesday, August 16, 2006 by Cathy)

And if you think his face is bad, you should have seen my blouse.

More Infant Martial Arts

(Originally posted on Wednesday, August 16, 2006 by Tim)

Wow! How time flies. I managed to get a picture of Dalzilla practicing his ninja skills four days ago. This move is known as the Sleeping Lizard Nipple Block.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Daltonzilla does Roanoke

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 13, 2006 by Cathy)

Well, we had a successful trip to Roanoke yesterday. We started out around 1pm, by going to Radford (which is in the opposite direction) to move an instrument. (Too heavy for Tim to move alone.) Dalton fell asleep in the car and slept through an hour of unplugging, moving, recabling, etc. (The silly thing has like 15 parts and 100 cables. I'm not exaggerating - much.) So around 2pm, it was time to head out to Roanoke. 2pm is about two hours before Daltonzilla usually makes an appearance, and we were an hour away from Roanoke, so I wasn't all that optimistic that this was a good idea, especially since we wanted to get Thai food, look for a dresser for our bedroom, and buy some pants that I could conceivably wear to opening week at Roanoke College without too much embarrassment.

We actually managed to do everything in Roanoke without a major meltdown, although Dalton did insist on eating in JCPenney's (twice) while I shopped, and in the Thai restaurant. I love my baby sling.

We did have some crankiness in the car on the way home (at which point it was 7pm, which is well into normal Daltonzilla primetime). We stopped and I fed him again. I thought I'd failed to settle him down when he went back to crying once we started back on the road again, but he conked out and slept the rest of the way home within a couple minutes.

So call that trip a success. We didn't find a dresser, but we did find a coatrack/bench/cabinet thingy for the entryway.

Of course, we paid for the delayed appearance of Daltonzilla. We had about an hour of totally inconsolable last night once we got home. We were going to try to watch The Butterfly Effect, but Tim declared it to be too intense to watch while trying to deal with a screaming baby. So we ended up watching The Fifth Element instead. The Fifth Element, despite the lousy reviews, is quite possibly Tim's favorite movie of all times, which means we've both seen it enough times that it hardly matters if there's a screaming baby drowning out some of the dialogue.

And that was our day. Daltonzilla gave up for the night and fell asleep about 20 minutes into the (second) movie, but we stayed up until midnight watching the rest of the movie. (Not like we didn't know how it ended!) We'll see just how much we regret that today. Dalton and I got up at 7 this morning when he got squirmy. I caught a half hour catnap while Tim walked him around, and now Dalton's asleep on my lap again as I type this, so we'll have to decide whether we're going to use his nap for napping, or cleaning, or showering, or... well, the list is endless.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


(Originally posted on Saturday, August 12, 2006 by Tim)

Cat has been selectively eliminating common allergens from her diet to see if it makes Baby Dal less gassy. She finished her 3-4 days without milk yesterday. Before yesterday, my money was on soy as the elimination of milk hadn?t seemed to be working. Around dinner yesterday, I wasn?t so sure. Baby Dal had been an angel since I had gotten home. He had been alert and active and I had gotten a fair amount of smiling and eye contact. Once we had dinner made, however, he transformed into Dalzilla. Lots of cranky behavior ensued. We tried out the stroller for the first time to see if it would calm him down. Boy, was that a mistake. He went ballistic. We had all three dogs along for the walk as well. That didn?t lower the stress level either.

He is still ?sleeping? through the night so we are counting ourselves lucky. By sleeping, I mean he does wake up to feed, but then he goes right back to sleep. We?re on our way to Roanoke for shopping and Thai food today. He?s doing well in the car. I think he may be getting used to the car seat.

Cat has pointed out that we gave Baby Dal three last names. For those of you that don?t know, Dalton is the last name of a famous chemist. He was so famous that he had a unit of measure named after him. A dalton is approximately the mass of a proton or neutron.

The three last names has caused some confusion already. The nurse at the doctor?s office asked us how our baby girl Johanna was doing. She asked this despite him being in blue and our putting the correct names in the correct places on his chart. Dalton got even by peeing all over the scale when she weighed him.

As you may have noticed, we have lots of nicknames that we use for Dalton. Some of these we?re going to need to drop once gender identity starts becoming important. I?m not intending to teach him gender roles, but we do live in rural Virginia. He doesn?t need to be getting beat up on the playground on a regular basis because his nickname has ?doll? (Dal) in it. Of course, we could have him trained in karate so he can kick the butt of any kid that makes fun of his name. For some reason, this suggestion elicits the same look from Cat that I get when she catches me feeding the dogs beer. I think it would be great. We could then get the ?My honor student beat up your honor student? bumper sticker for our car.

By the way, today's picture was taken yesterday. He's asleep right now and there is no way I'm going to take a chance of waking him up.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006


(Originally posted on Wednesday, August 9, 2006 by Cathy)

Dalton weighed 11 pounds 3 oz today, although he had on a onesie and diaper at the time. He's now somewhere between the 75th and 90th percentile for weight, having gained about a pound in the last two weeks. Nothing definitive from his doctor today on why Dalton seems to have only two modes (fussy/gassy and sleeping). I'm cutting dairy out of my diet this week to see if that has any impact. Fuuun. First I get to cut out dairy for 3 days, then soy for three days, then (insert large list of possible allergens that can appear in breast milk), in hopes of finding something that magically converts DaltonZilla into a happier and less gassy baby when he's awake. We'll see if it works. Whatever's going on currently isn't -awful- (weight gain is occuring, he sleeps fine, and he's consolable if you're willing to do something different every 5 minutes for hours at a stretch), it just seems like it could be better.

This isn't the best picture of either of the boys, but it DOES show off Dalton's leg pudge (and favorite carrying position for this 5 minutes) rather well.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Wow! He?s asleep!

(Originally posted on Tuesday, August 8, 2006 by Tim)

We had a slight change in Dalton?s sleeping schedule today. As you know from previous posts, he likes to wake up in early evening and demand the full attention of at least one parent until bedtime. Tonight, he conked out around 6 pm when we finished working out at the gym. He fell asleep in his car seat of all places. We brought him home and put is car seat on the kitchen table. Cat and I were actually able to cook and eat a meal together for the first time in weeks.

He stayed asleep until 9:30 pm. He ate and Cat was able to get him back to sleep by 10 pm without too much trouble. I?m really hoping this doesn?t mean he?s going to wake up in the middle of the night and require lots of attention. We?ll see. Cat said he was pretty active and demanded most of her attention during the day so there?s hope for a good night?s rest.

Today?s picture is of him at 3 days old. This is his gangsta outfit. He?s all ready to hang out with his homies in the hood. This was taken when he was probably at his minimum weight and he sure looks skinny to me. Since then, he?s managed to put pudge on his pudge. Sorry to not get a current picture of him, but there was NO way I was going to take a chance of waking the baby with the flash.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Baby Dal has his first date

(Originally posted on Monday, August 7, 2006 by Tim)

We were very busy socially this week. On Thursday, we went out to dinner with friends. On Saturday, we were at Larry and Jessica?s place for Larry?s birthday. Yesterday we went out to dinner with our neighbors who loaned us an air conditioner (more on this later). To put this in perspective, we would go out with friends or family perhaps once a month BD (before Dalton). Apparently, having a child has resulted in a tremendous boost to our social life.

On Saturday, Dalton was one of 3 babies at Larry?s birthday party. It was nice to sit down with other parents and compare notes. Both of the other babies were girls. The one next to Dalton in the picture is four days older than him. Once again we have proof that Baby Dal is huge.

Dalton has kept up his pattern of general cranky and inconsolable beginning in early evening and ending at bed time. Last night, Cat and I decided to combat this with tag team parenting. One of us takes him for 10 minutes while the other gets some rest and then we switch. I?ve been making up for my inability to produce milk by dancing with him. It has been so effective that I made up a dance music playlist for my iPod. I?ve lulled him to sleep three times in the last 24 hours. I?d say it?s an excellent backup when Cat setting her nipples to stun doesn?t work.

I based on our evening battles, I?d been thinking that Dal was a difficult baby. I realized today that grumpy generally tends to occur at the same time each day so we can plan for it. Even better, Dalton hasn?t been cranky during our sleeping hours for at least two weeks. He is already sleeping 3 to 7 hours a night. When he does wake up, he nurses reasonably quietly and then goes to sleep. I have decided to revise my assessment of him to predicably grumpy.

Friday, August 4, 2006


(Originally posted on Friday, August 4, 2006 by Tim)

Well, I'm beat. Today was my birthday and we had caprese and yellow squash fritters for dinner. I also got alot of cool birthday loot.

As you can see, Baby Dal got me a big hug for my birthday. He also bought me a card and a nice ice cream scoop. I'm not sure how he managed to afford either. The market for baby poo must be better than I thought.

Baby Dal also continued his pattern of waking up in late afternoon or early evening and becoming pretty much inconsolable. This tends to fry our nerves quite a bit. It's actually significantly worse for Cat than for me. I don't have hormones that make me jump when he cries and I don't have to fight with him to see if he wants to be fed. All the same, I was pretty stressed out by the time he and Cat got to sleep.

I now fully understand the phrase, "For goodness sake, don't wake the baby!" Cat and I were using sign language when he finally drifted off.

To wind down, I had a big glass of wine and watched Shawn of the Dead. I would recommend it if you're not looking for anything deep. It's a romantic comedy...with zombies.

Kung Fu Baby

(Originally posted on Thursday, August 3, 2006 by Tim)

I was looking back at the picture that I posted on August 1st. I thought I should share that Dalton has his ?I?m filling a diaper? face on in that picture.

We went out to dinner with friends tonight in Radford. Baby Dal was well behaved in the restaurant as usual. He was also surprisingly quiet in the car on the way over. Dalton is apparently broken in the fact that he doesn?t like riding in the car.* I think this was the first time we have made a 15 minute plus drive without him melting down. He was pretty fussy with Cat today so I think he might have just been worn out.

After dinner, he woke up and started crying in the car. We pulled into the parking lot at Radford so Cat could nurse him. It actually ended up being a nice stop. We walked around campus and ended up singing Old McDonald to him together before starting back home.

One thing always surprises me. I get an aerobic workout and lift weights about 5 times a week. I can bench near 200 pounds and I overhead press something over 120 pounds. Why is it then that carrying an 11 pound baby for 20 minutes makes my back sore. I swear that his density increases when I pick him up.

I keep telling Baby Dal that he has super powers. I swear he can create matter as he fills multiple diapers in a single hour. Using his chameleon like skin, he can change from pale to deep red while simultaneously emitting high pitched sound waves to terrify his foes. He has also demonstrated the ability to manipulate mammals over 10 times his size. Baby Dal doesn?t rest on his laurels. He hones his fearsome powers with hours of intense training. Tonight I was able to sneak up on him and snap a picture of him practicing his Kung Fu. For those of you wondering what to buy the baby who has everything, he needs a ninja suit?or a pirate suit?or both.

*I may have already posted about this. If I did, I apologize. There?s a Y chromosome linked gene in the Johann family that causes us to repeat stories over and over. As the gene is Y linked, Baby Dal has it too. Since he is only three weeks old, he doesn?t have many stories to tell and we hear the same ones over and over.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Another day down

(Originally posted on Wednesday, August 2, 2006 by Cathy)

After two days of afternoon-evening fussing, today was relatively good. Not that there wasn't afternoon and evening fussing, but most of it was resolved by the time-honored technique that Tim describes as "hitting the baby in the face with a nipple." (I prefer to call it breast-feeding, and note that Dalton usually hits HIMSELF in the face with the nipple when he decides to flail around.) We even watched Pirates of the Caribean, so that we're ready to see the second one if we even decide to brave the theater.

Not much other news here. I'm posting a picture from a week or so ago, since it's a cute one that didn't make the blog, and we didn't take any today.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Day 2 of just us 3

(Originally posted on Tuesday, August 1, 2006 by Tim)

Today was day 2 of just the three of us. It was a more productive day than yesterday. We got out of the house and to the gym a whole hour before we did yesterday. We also managed to get two loads of laundry done, two pages of Baby Dal?s scrapbook done, the back porch cleaned out, and we cooked a full dinner.

The garden has started producing tomatoes and the appetizer for dinner was a tasty caprese. For those of you not familiar with caprese, the main ingredients are tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella cheese. Two of those three ingredients were home grown for tonight?s appetizer. I?ll have to add cows to the back yard next year so I can make my own mozzarella cheese as well. I'll have to check my lawn and garden catalog and see which kind of cows make mozzarella.

The main course tonight was mushroom casserole. This dish is my own recipe that I developed while trying to duplicate a meal I had at Shakers. I?ve refined it to the point where I like it better than the Shakers' version. The only thing I feel it lacks is appetizing color. As you can see from the recipe below, it is a mixture of spinach, roasted red bell peppers, pasta, and portabella mushrooms. This gives it the colors green, red, brown, and off white. When you have this meal at Shakers, it is baked in its own dish. This allows them to layer the various ingredients. For my recipe, the entire meal is baked in one dish and then spooned onto plates. Unfortunately, it is not solid enough to keep its shape. I?ve tried layering it, but it looses the layers upon serving. I mix the ingredients to make sure that each person gets a relatively even distribution of each ingredient on their plate. The downside of this is that the colors green, red, brown, and off white get mixed together to make a rather unappetizing brown color. I expect it will provide me amply opportunity to use Parent? sayings in the future. ?It all mixes together in your stomach anyway.?

Mushroom Casserole
2 big portabella mushrooms, stems removed and cut into 1 cm cubes
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1 tbs honey
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs hot sauce
Lots of fresh ground black pepper
1 package (10 ounces?) frozen creamed spinach
1/3 pound orzo (or other small sized pasta)
1 can (15 oz) vegetable broth
1/3 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
1 ½ roasted red bell pepper chopped into 1 cm squares
Red pepper flakes (to taste)

Mix Marsala, honey, soy sauce, olive oil, fresh ground pepper, and hot sauce in a Tupperware container that will just hold the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the marinade and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Add the entire mix to a pan and sauté over high heat until all the liquid is gone. Set mushrooms aside.

Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a pot and add orzo. Cook until al dente. Drain.

Microwave the creamed spinach according to the directions.

Mix mushrooms, creamed spinach, orzo, roasted red bell peppers, red pepper flakes, and spaghetti sauce in a greased 9 inch casserole dish. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top. Cover and bake until bubbly at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or so if you would like the cheese to be a bit browned. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, and serve.

My best example of a great tasting entrée that looks utterly unappetizing is dolmas. Remember when you were in cub scouts and they taught you how to determine what an animal had been eating by examining its stool in the forest. These things look like owl poo to me. Cat and I made a big plate of these for a party once. They were absolutely delicious and they were also hardly touched. There were lots of leftovers for us. In my opinion, someone needs to come up with a way to dye the grape leaves bright red and this dish would be a tremendous hit. This could be accomplished by crushing lots of red bugs. It would even be organic!

We had an interesting day with Baby Dal. Cat and I have both been reading baby books by the Sears (not the department store). In one of them, Cat found that babies of Dalton?s age sleep 14-18 hours a day. Now he has been sleeping a lot. In fact, he slept so much yesterday that I wasn?t sure if he was a wake for 6 hours. As it is my sacred duty to worry in the family, I was a bit concerned that he might be sleeping too much. Baby Dal can be very considerate at times. He didn?t want his Dad to worry. After sleeping peacefully for much of the day, he woke up at 5 pm and then proceeded to cry almost exclusively until 9 pm when he went back to sleep. We really weren?t able to come up with anything to console him for more than 15 minutes despite the use of all tools in our current arsenal.* I even sang parts of ?American Pie? to him.

It has been very hot here and I?m thinking that might be the issue. We don?t have air conditioning and what I have read says that babies should be naked at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It was 85 today and humid. If he?s cranky again tomorrow, I?m pushing for us to take him to Barnes and Noble. It?s comfortably air conditioned there. Cat thinks that it would be rude to take a screaming baby into a quiet bookstore. Heck, if he?s that bad, I?ll buy a book or something.

*Note the outrageous hair on Baby Dal in the picture above. I tried to cool him down by rubbing a wet wash cloth over his head. It stopped his crying for a minute or two until he realized how silly he was going to look.