Monday, November 30, 2009

A quick update

My daughter came home from school happy today! She and Isis are friends again. They talked about it, in 5 year old fashion, and apparently Isis thought that my daughter didn't want to be her friend. I'm going to chalk it up to the embarrassment of the milk spilling incident.


My little sweetheart wrote cards to all of her friends at school (including Isis) inviting them to her 6th birthday party.

In August.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am thankful for my family.


(I love that she put that spot on her dad's shirt--it shows how often he wears fire department stuff, with the little red logo on the front. And apparently my firefighter is very tan, and I am very pale. I'm okay with it; at least I get to have cool jazz hands! Oh--and the triangle dresses--those are a direct result of the female bathroom signs. I wonder if the person who came up with those symbols realized how deeply they would become embedded in our concept of self.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009



I knew it would happen sooner or later. Kids are harsh with each other. They tell it like it is, and their allegiances change from moment to moment.

Last Friday my kindergartner and I were going over her day at school and the upcoming Thanksgiving break. While we were talking, she got really quiet.

"Mom, I want to whisper something to you."

"Sure honey, what is it?"

She slowly walked over to me, just like in the picture above, her eyes down the whole time. I knew something must have happened at school. I leaned in close so she could whisper in my ear.

" ... Isis said 'I don't like you'."

Isis is on her short list of reasons she wants to go to school in the morning. I hear all about their antics, what they ate for lunch, and how many times they played with the hula-hoops at recess. I know how much her little friendships mean to her; she prays about her friends every night. And I could tell, from the tone in her voice, that she was very hurt by this. She couldn't bring herself to hold my gaze with her large, sad eyes.

"Mom, I really don't like it when people aren't my best friend anymore."

It hurt to see her experiencing that sad, confused feeling! I didn't know what to say to her. I gave her a big long hug, told her how much I loved her, and told her all the wonderful things about her that make her a great friend. I could tell that, while it was nice to hear those things, it wasn't really helping her to feel better. She couldn't yet cope with the idea of losing one of her best friends.

Apparently at lunch, Isis spilled her chocolate milk all over my daughter's pink pants. From what I can tell, Isis felt awkward and embarrassed about it, which lead to their little discussion. I'm hoping it was a temporary setback.

In the end, I decided to talk to her about ways to be a good friend, such as taking turns, having patience, and telling her friends the things that she likes about them and what they do well. We also talked about things she could say to Isis next time she sees her, such as "I am sad you don't want to be my friend anymore. If you change your mind, I'd really like to play with you again." She cheered up at the idea of having something to say to Isis the next time she sees her. I hope it goes well!

Yesterday, while rifling through some papers, I found this letter that she made for Isis, before the defriending incident.


She wrote this one day and brought it to me with a stamp on it.


It translates into:

"Isis, my number is 4244 if you want to play with me."

This breaks my heart! I wish I were five, so I could be her best friend and always want to play with her and make sure her little feelings are never hurt. I know that this will be one of many necessary lessons for her to learn.

I just wish there were a way to learn these life lessons without a tender heart getting hurt.

Today I'm thankful that children are so resilient. She got over the hurt quickly--sooner than I did, by far. It was good to see her rebound so thoroughly. She was back to her happy self, pretending to sing opera and chasing drinking glass rainbows, in no time.





Monday, November 23, 2009

Firehouse Recipe - Eric's Chicken Ratatouille

I'm really excited to bring you this recipe from Eric the Engineer. I knew about Eric's cooking long before I ever actually met him. He will be immortalized as the man who was able to convince my firefighter to eat bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplant, in the same dish no less, and talk about it longingly for days!

Thanks for the recipe, Eric!

Chicken Ratatouille


I can’t take all the credit for this inspiration of this dish. My Mother Genae started with the vegetables as a side dish we had with dinner one evening. I took the greens and ran with an idea to make it a meal in itself, which has grown to become my signature/famous dish announced to me by folks who have eaten this meal. I added some things I learned from Food Network and with the strong passion n’ love I have for Cooking. The smells and taste of this dish will remind you of home cooking. I hope you enjoy this dish; my Mother led me to it!

Thanks Mom, Eric


4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts

4 medium sized bell peppers (baseball size & any color)

1 large white onion (Softball size)

4 Italian squash AKA zucchini

1 large eggplant

1 (16oz) can stewed tomatoes OPTIONAL: not too many folks liked the tomatoes!

1 (16oz) can drained pinto beans

2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp minced fresh garlic

8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

5 cups water

2 boxes of Rice-a-Roni Chicken Flavor rice

3 tbsp butter

1 pound pepper jack cheese, grated

Prep Time 30min or so. Cook Time roughly 30min. Serves approx. 4-5 people comfortably.



Start by peeling the skin off the eggplant.



Cut into small cubes, this will speed up the steaming process. At the same time, grab a pot and boil about 5 cups water. This will be used to steam the eggplant. If you don’t have a steamer, you can use a metal colander and cover with aluminum foil.


Place colander over pot and steam for about 20 min or so, till eggplant is tender. If the eggplant is mushy or squishy, it’s over cooked.

At this point, while the eggplant is steaming away, continue to cut up the remaining veggies.


Chop all the remaining vegetables small and coarse, except the zucchini. The zucchini you want to cut a bit thinner as shown:


Grab a small pot or skillet for the rice. (You will also need a large skillet to accommodate all of these veggies. The veggies will reduce down, but you will combine them later. I guess you could also use a large pot in a pinch.) The directions for the rice are on back of box and just follow accordingly. This is where the butter and 5 cups of water come in to the game.


In a large skillet, add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil with the chopped white onion and cook over high heat with a pinch of salt and black pepper, until onion becomes tender or translucent.



Add garlic and stir while cooking for 1 additional minute just before removing from skillet.


Place onion/garlic in a holding pot for later.

Using the same skillet, repeat the oil, pepper and salt mixture for the bell peppers. Cook on high until bell peppers become tender.


A little charring is ok. When done, remove and place together in holding pot with onion.

At this point, check and toss around the eggplant to see if even cooking is being applied.


Using the same skillet, repeat the oil, pepper and salt mixture for the zucchini. Cook the zucchini until becomes tender.


Add all the remaining cooked veggies including the eggplant when done, back into the skillet and reduce heat to simmer. Add the rinsed and drained pinto beans and optional stewed tomatoes into the skillet and stir to combine.


Using the same skillet, repeat the oil, pepper and salt mixture one last time for the chicken. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces as shown.



(At this point, check your rice. It should almost be done and you should grate your cheese or you can buy already grated cheese. ) On high, cook the chicken completely or until it turns all white.


Drain the chicken if there is any remaining water left behind in the skillet. Add the chicken to the veggies and stir altogether.


Keep this vessel on simmering heat, let it all stew and blend together until ready to serve.


Take a scoop of rice, apply to plate and flatten the rice, so you can pile or add onto it. Add a scoop of Ratatouille to the top of rice. Sprinkle a hand full of grated cheese to the Ratatouille.


You can add hot sauce if you want some kick. Toss all ingredients together and enjoy! Bon Appetit!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

The three times a fire nearly started in my own house.

How close have you come to starting your house on fire? Thankfully, I've never had to call the fire department. I have had my share of close calls, though.

The first time can't be blamed on anything other than good ol' stupidity on our part. It involved this chair and that wall furnace.


(I'm happy to report it didn't involve that cat.)

The first winter we lived in that apartment, I got a fuzzy fleece-y blanket for Christmas that occasionally ended up on the back of that chair. One night, I woke up to the smell of smoke. I have a super sensitive nose. (Bad for migraines; good for waking me up out of a dead sleep at the slightest hint of smoke.)

I ran around the corner into the front room and found the blanket smoldering on the back of the chair. I grabbed it, quickly walked to the bathtub leaving a trail of smoke (amazingly it didn't burst into flames), doused it, then woke up my husband and told him we needed to get rid of his game chair the non-flame-engulfed route.

The second time I came dangerously close to losing every item I loved was also in winter, and also involved a Christmas gift. I got one of those gel candles in a glass container, similar to this:


I learned the scary way that they're right when they say to never leave a lit candle unattended. Luckily, I was at home when the gel in the candle turned to liquid, got really hot, burst the glass container, and sent a puddle of flaming gel across the dresser. I heard the exploding glass and was able to put it out before it burnt through all the layers of varnish on the top of the dresser.

That piece of furniture was from my grandma. The thing has 1/8th of an inch of varnish on it, at least. The surface is a little cracked, but no burn marks. They just don't varnish furniture like that anymore. No one has that kind of patience.

The third time the hairs on my arm stood on end at the smell of smoke was the most traumatic--for me, anyway. I hate to think what might have happened if we had not been home. I don't think it was simply chance that I happened to be there when this went down. It involved the "man closet".


Since the apartment we lived in was so tiny, there was no space to put the computer except in this closet in the kids' room. My daughter would use the screen saver as a night light. It would flip through pictures of animals as she went to sleep. I would go in and turn the monitor off after she was out.

My daughter had some major sleep issues. She was near impossible to get to sleep, and would not stay asleep. She would wake up 2 or 3 times a night, frustrated and screaming, until she was around three years old. There was no logical (we thought) reason why she was such a horrible sleeper, so there was no way to solve it. We tried letting her cry it out, followed the method exactly, but it only made her more frustrated and louder. What worked in the end was transitioning her crib to a toddler bed! It was like flipping a switch--she'd still wake up once a night, but would go back to sleep easily and there was no more screaming. She just needed her freedom, I guess. The funny thing is that she would never leave her bed, even in the morning. She may as well have been in a crib. She would call for me and wait for me to tell her she could get out.

Anyway, this particular night was bad. She was in the toddler bed by this point, so I had gotten used to her sleeping better. She just couldn't stay asleep that night. My frustration grew each time I had to pull back the warm covers when I heard her crying for me over the monitor. I was on my own that night, so there was no one to help shoulder the burden of getting up with her.

About the 4th time she woke up, I spent a good half hour with her, calming her down. I was resting next to her on the bed, to help her go back to sleep. I carefully stood up in my sleepy stupor, trying to keep my movement perfectly smooth, so as not to wake her up. I breathed a sigh of relief when she--and her baby brother in the nearby crib--didn't stir. I was creeping toward the door when I heard a sizzling, crackling sound. My peripheral vision caught a flicker of orange. There were flames inside the computer monitor, and it was getting worse.

I quickly turned the monitor off, turned the lights on, yanked all the cords out of the power strip below, and ran to get the extinguisher. I was shaking and all my senses were on high alert. There was no need to use the fire extinguisher, thank goodness. The fire was out by the time I grabbed it. There wasn't much smoke at all, but it was enough to stink up the room. I hefted the monitor onto the coffee table in the other room and aired out the bedroom, while trying to explain to my very confused daughter what I was doing. I think she enjoyed the spectacle.

It took a good two hours for my nerves to calm down and to get the kids back in bed. My firefighter was at work, sleeping, while the real action was happening at home. I missed him terribly. Some nights I could really use a big hug--and that was definitely one of them. However, my frustration over having to get up in the middle of the night vanished. I was nothing but grateful that she woke me up so that I was in the room the very moment when the monitor caught on fire. My firefighter wasn't there to hug me, but there was certainly no lack of hugs going around that night.

So far, we haven't had any near disasters in our new house, thank goodness. I wonder how many near misses people typically have.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Story Time - Chimney Fire (and listen to your wife)

Ripped from the headlines!! Or, at least, ripped from my firefighter's blog (with permission). You can find this and his other stories at:

Structure Fire

At just after 0300 the lights turned on and the tones sounded. It was a full first alarm response for a structure fire. We quickly donned our turnouts and jumped into the engine. First, I grabbed the TIC (thermal imaging camera) and handed it up to my captain. I then slid into my seat mounted BA (breathing apparatus), pulled my shoulder straps tight and put on my headset. After letting my engineer know that I was ready to go I finished putting on my BA by fastening my waist strap. After that was done there was time to sit back, listen to the siren, watch the red and white lights reflect off the houses and think this is the greatest job.

We were the second unit to arrive on scene. It was a fire that had originated in the fire place but had somehow started a fire in the chimney. While the first in crew started their initial attack on the chimney from the back yard we were instructed to check for extension (to see if the fire had spread to other parts of the house, on the inside of walls, up to the attic, etc.). I grabbed an attic ladder (10 foot folding ladder that's used to make access scuttle holes). We found that the interior of the house was smokey but not that bad. Once upstairs in the bedroom that was against the chimney my captain used the TIC and determined that the there was a slight chance that it had spread up near the roof line. After checking out the attic space we determined that there was a large beam that was being heated and that was what was showing up on the TIC. We were able to determine that there was no extension into the house without tearing it apart. The chimney was not so lucky. the initial attack crew had to take most of the facade off to fully extinguish the fire.

After the fire was out my captain and I saw the owner of the house. He was approximately 50 years old and was coughing a lot and having an obviously difficult time breathing. I asked the owner if it would be OK to medically check him out. He told me that when he had first noticed the fire there was a six inch hole in the facade of the chimney through which he could see the fire. He decided to grab the garden hose and put it out himself, while wearing PJ bottoms and no shirt. When he introduced water to the fire it quickly turned to steam. When water is converted to steam it expands at more than 1700%. This forced super heated gases and smoke right out that hole and into the would be firefighter's face, causing him some respiratory problems. I placed my patient on some oxygen and did a thorough assessment. We even have a machine that will check how much carbon monoxide is in the blood stream. After about 10 minutes of oxygen my patient felt much better and was no longer hacking up a lung. I told him that he better leave the firefighting to the pros. He told me that's exactly what his wife had said. Once he signed out AMA we were cleared to go back to our station.

We arrived at that awkward time where you don't want to be up but there's not really time to go back to sleep either. I chose to lay on my bed and relax. What a great job.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Smell of Smoke

I had to run to the store the other night. We were out of moose tracks ice cream. It was a dire emergency; how are we supposed to catch up on the last season of LOST if we don't have ice cream? It can't be done.

So, I jumped in the car, rolled up all the windows, (this after I told my firefighter that I don't like it when he leaves the windows down because the black widows in the garage might get in the car), gave him twenty verbal lashings under my breath, turned the radio on and drove off.

I got about six blocks away when I noticed the faint smell of something burning. I scanned the lights on the panel; nothing was showing, so I figured it must be a nearby car. I sang along to the radio and enjoyed the night and the aloneness for about four more blocks. That's when I noticed the smell was getting worse.

I looked at my rear view mirror--I wasn't trailing smoke. Still no warning lights on the panel. I couldn't quite place the smell. It had the scent of an electrical fire, like a blown fuse, but there was a strange pungent undertone. It kind of smelt like the breaks. Ah, that must be it, I thought.

I turned around and headed back toward home, just in case, and called my firefighter. He had used the car last and I wanted to know if he had slammed on the breaks.

"Honey, did you happen to hit the breaks hard on your way home from work today?"

"Nope. ...Why?"

"The car smells like smoke and I'm starting to get worried."

(Silence on the other end of the line.)

"Katie," spoken with a detectable smile on his voice, "look in the rear view mirror. What do you see?"

"...Oh...heh...yeah. Your turnouts--you're a FIREFIGHTER. That would explain the smoke smell!"

I'm such a rookie fire wife. (Please tell me I am not the only one who has done this!!)


He had recently picked up his turnouts from having them washed after a fire, and they were in the back of the car. What smelled so strongly was just his helmet, which hadn't been washed yet. As I continued driving to the store, I felt bad for mentally giving him a hard time for leaving the windows rolled down to let the smell out.

It's amazing how powerful that burnt house smell is. You know how aromatic bacon becomes when you cook it, and the scent lingers in your house all day? Imagine that sort of magnification of smell, but not with nice-smelling bacon. This smell is closer to the scent of opening up a box of new athletic shoes--that synthetic, man-made smell--mixed with an undercurrent of smoke. Imagine that scent magnified x100, the chemicals soaking through every piece of clothing, forced out of your gloves and into your pores by the heat of the fire. My firefighter's hands will smell like that for a day or so, no matter how many times he washes them after a fire.

I am thankful for that gear, that allows him to safely fight fires in houses upwards of 1000 degrees.

But MAN does it stink!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

California Winter

This is the time of year when I start missing winter in a place with seasons. I miss the really silent, to the point of being claustrophobic, effect of a snow storm at night.


That is one of my favorite times to be outside. I feel like I can be close to nature, enjoy being totally alone (yay introverts!), watch the surreal glow of the snow at night, and be gloriously bug-free.


I also assume there will be no troublemakers out in that kind of cold so I feel very safe being by myself.

Plus, every seat is nice and comfy from the piles of snow.

I also miss the smell of fireplace smoke cutting through the hard air, the sensation of walking into a heated house after being outside in the cold, and the way leafless trees expose the sky and make it seem larger.

California winters do have one redeeming quality--the thin orange light in the late afternoon. Well, ok, two redeeming qualities: the always slanting light, and the fact that it's still 60 degrees in the late afternoon.

Here's some pictures of that light, taken two years ago:



Here it is again, while we were miniature golfing:




She actually got a hole in one, hacking at the ball like that!


(This one isn't so much about the light, as it is about those fireman shoulders. Love those shoulders, especially when they're carrying my little guy.)


So, while all of you with a real winter are enjoying your snow and your seasons and the smells that come with, at least I can admire the light over here in California from the golf course.




Ok, so those weren't Halloween pictures, but they were taken around the same time and I like them. :)


My 3 year old's pumpkin (his sister drew the face for him.)


My firefighter carved the baby's pumpkin.


My daughter's pumpkin. Sorry honey, but I think her designs trump your design.


She looks too sweet to have concocted such a pumpkin. One nice thing about Halloween in California is the ability to get away with princess costumes without freezing. (And look, it's all cleaned up as promised!)


Yet, it's cool enough to also get away with a furry monkey costume. Don't be embarrassed, little guy. I wanted to run my fingers through all the candy, too.


One of the only pictures of my little firefighter. Poor baby was drowning; he's wearing his brother's 18 month sized hand-me-down. Actually, not "poor" baby. He was quite comfy in there. He fell asleep about 4 minutes after this picture was taken.


Candy, we had some good moments together. But, it's time to say goodbye until Christmas. It's not you; it's me. Well, ok, it's both of us.
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