Monday, September 28, 2009

It's NOT the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

I love fall... leaves changing colors, apples, scarecrows, cooler nights (and days - thank God), and pumpkins.

There are certain recipes that herald the start of fall around our house - goodies filled with yummy spices and aromas that conjure up thoughts of cozy nights, crisp cool air, and full warm tummies.

Now that October is almost here - I decided to break out the fall and Halloween decorations - and spent a few hours this weekend strategically placing garlands and bowls of fruit and pumpkins around our house.

I started burning my pumpkin spice candles, and changed our Wallflower plugs out for the appropriately named "Pumpkin" scent.

I pulled out my tried and true collection of recipes (some from books, some from magazines, some from random Internet searches) and carefully planned out our weekly meals based on dinners with a fall theme.

Anna and I discussed the options of baking our first pie of the season together - and collectively decided it should be pumpkin (but with no whipped cream on top - according to Anna.)

So with my organized shopping list in hand, I headed out to the grocery store, where I searched and searched and searched for canned pumpkin.

Canned fruit aisle? Nope.

Canned vegetable aisle? Nope.

Baking necessities aisle? Nope.

Certain not to need to ask for help I then perused the ends of every. single. aisle. in my neighborhood Publix - sure that there must be a seasonal display full of fall baking items - including my beloved canned pumpkin.


Finally, after about 2o minutes of taking laps around the store (seriously, I kid you not) I admitted defeat and flagged down the store manager.

As it turns out - something happened to the pumpkin crop last year - too much rain or not enough cold nights or who knows what (I'm not a farmer) - resulting in a shortage of canned pumpkin. No pumpkin is available in Columbia. I tried to sweet talk the manager - surely there must be a box of dusty canned pumpkin left over from last year's holiday rush somewhere in the underworld of the Publix kept private from regular consumers by the mythical swinging doors.




He said he hopes to get some in right before Thanksgiving - but the look on his face told me I'd better come up with some alternate plan for fall recipes.

I walked away with my head hung low.

No pumpkin pie. No pumpkin bread. No pumpkin muffins. No pumpkin pancakes.

I suppose if I were a more resourceful woman I'd have pumpkins growing in my yard that I could harvest, bake, puree' and have available for my suite of fall recipes.

But I'm not - and I have a black thumb - so the thought of me actually growing something that I could eat someday is ridiculous. I honestly don't even know what kind of pumpkin I'd look for to eat - because come on - the pumpkins I buy are for decorating and carving - and I've heard jack-o-lantern pumpkins don't make good eats.

So I'll keep on the lookout for 'pie' pumpkins, or 'sugar' pumpkins, or whatever those gourds are called that I can *maybe* turn into some holiday meals.

Until then, I'll just think about my pumpkin recipes, and leave you with one of our family favorites. If you can find canned pumpkin in your neck of the woods, try this one out - our family loves it - and think of me as I'm sadly tucking my pumpkin recipes back into the recipe box.

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage
Rachael Ray
4 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock, canned or paper container
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (3 turns around the pan) heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate, cooked to al dente
Romano or Parmigiano, for grating


Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.

Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I'm over here now...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Preparations/Egg Hunts

Hunting eggs at the Blalock egg hunt.

Decorating eggs - first we dyed them, then we added stickers and colors.... and look what we created!

Easter 2009

Twas the night before Easter - and we got to put out yummy carrots for the Easter bunny!

Carrots - or perhaps drumsticks - or better yet, something to hit my sister on the head with...

Wow - the Easter Bunny brought a haul...

...but sure made a mess with his carrots!

He came! The Easter Bunny came!

Digging into our baskets with utter joy!

I love my new "Max" bunny!

Hmmmm... Peeps... what exactly are these little blue bunnies for??

Random Pictures

Why play with the blocks when I can sit in the bucket with my best bud Elmo?

Bedtime at the Long house - Daddy, A, and J - a few stuffed monkeys and lots of books!

Happy St. Patricks Day! (Really, they were happy kids - and had just enjoyed their St. Patty's day dinner of corned beef and cabbage - but you sure wouldn't know it from the mug shots they gave for this picture!)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Catching Up

I haven't had much time to write - but now have oodles of time on my hands... long story short - I started having contractions Tuesday night - and am supposed to rest and keep my feet up. Who other than me thinks this is a great idea - but totally insane? Our house is already in shambles - can you imagine what will happen if I'm completely out of commission???

I have some meds to stop the contractions - they seem to be lessening the effects (not stopping all together) - but not as painful. I'm still 6 1/2 weeks from my due date - so it's a little early for this guy to make his appearance. I'm hoping and holding out for 37-38 weeks...

In other news - A is being a horrid-green-eyed-sassy-back talker little girl these days. Sometime in the last two weeks she figured out she can argue and talk back - and insists on getting the last word in. Which drives D and I crazy. I'm not sure why she continues the behavior - it never gets her anywhere - unless you count standing in the corner in time out or receiving spankings something fun.

J is acting out as well - just got a call from daycare that for the second time this week he bit a "friend" while they were playing. His teacher says he's been more whiney than usual - which we've witnessed at home - and playing rough. I think it's two things - 1) he's outgrown the toddler room and needs to move up to the 2's room as soon as space is available in the room with the teacher we want, and 2) he's seeing A act out and is following suite.

I think A's behavior stems from her realization that another baby is coming soon - J is just seeing her struggle and struggling himself.

In my professional opinion as a child psychiatrist, of course.... but as their mom - I can't see what other changes may be taking place in their little worlds that would precipate such a behavior change.

Keep your fingers crossed that D makes some significant progress on his nursery remodel - I need to get in the room so I can start washing/putting away baby stuff and getting ready. I think coming home armed with prescriptions to stop labor might have done the trick.

Oh, and in final news, I'm kicking you-know-what in my basketball.bracket this first round. I'm #1 out of 70 (male) participants. All those boys who harassed me about picking teams based on the color of their uniforms can stuff it where the sun don't shine! :) Of course, that will surely all change by the end of the weekend - I can pretty much depend on that.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jury Duty

Where I've been all...week...long...

Don't get me wrong, I'm fascinated to see our judicial system at work. I'm one of the wierdos who actually wanted to be selected for a trial.

I just didn't anticipate how tedious video depositions would be... or how long this would drag out... or how much of an inconvenience I would be since I have to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes...

I'm hoping and praying we get through closing arguments tomorrow so we can deliberate and reach a verdict...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Weekend Recap

It was a nasty weekend weather-wise in Columbia - so we braved the children's museum, along with every other parent who had the smart idea to get their kids out of the house. This was J's first visit and A's first visit in a long time (so long she didn't remember it) - and they had a tee-total blast. The Curious George exhibit is currently visiting - and J was delighted.

Here is J - letting the bunnies out - just like George in the book we often read.

Saying hello to George and giving him a pat on the back.

Some of the original manuscripts - the kids could have cared less about this part of the exhibit, but I loved it!

A hugging George - and smirking her smirk-ey smile.
J and D - NOT wanting to sit still and hug George. There was too much else to do to sit still daddy!

A doing the weekly shopping at the kid-sized Piggly Wiggly.
We stayed about two hours, then my inability to deal with mass quantities of children with parents who have no control over them and let them run wild kicked in - and we had to leave. I understand that you're tired as a parents (believe me, I get that) but letting your big kids run amok, including pushing mine around, bossing them, grabbing things away from them, and generally being rude is not acceptable in my book.
So, we headed out, took the kids to lunch, and then home for naps.
So then the "snow" discussion began, including the weather-people forecasting several inches of snow. This unfortunately always happens when we have no food in the house - meaning I have to brave the grocery stores, and fight elbow to elbow for use of a shopping cart, then navigate past the people stocking up for the inevitable power losses we will experience with such a blizzard - you know, by buying carts full of canned goods, bottles of water, batteries - oh, and every last gallon of milk and loaf of bread out there.
I finally made it home after TWO hours in the grocery store, with our food for the week. And thank goodness I did - because of that horrible snowfall. You know, the one that made all school districts cancel school at 6 pm on Sunday evening. You know, the one that the weather stalled, and not ONE freaking flake fell in Columbia? Yeah, that one...
Thankfully, the Children's Center actually stayed open - following the University's weather policy who operated on a two hour delay. For once, our kids' school was one of the only ones open, so D and I could both get to work and not have to take an unplanned vacation day - you know, for all of that snow...
Sunday evening we had an impromptu dinner gathering - my good friend N and her two girls EG and AM came over for a play date in the afternoon - that turned into dinner. I'd made a huge pot of in-the-oven-beef-stew - which makes way more than we care to eat (I only do leftovers once). The kids had a great time (EG is A's bff) and they played princess, dressed up, cooked in A's kitchen, and colored. AM drifted in and out of playing with the big girls, while J just got in the middle of it all and was the typical little brother.
It was a fun afternoon and a nice evening to share with another set of grown-ups - who could tune out the screaming and playing and carrying on that four kids age four and under do when allowed to dine together.

Baby Boy's First Picture

Our second ultrasound appointment with the high-risk OB went very well yesterday. We had a repeat scan due to a measurement being off at our 20 week anatomy scan. At that time, one of the kidneys had a borderline measurement - which could have been due to a myriad of things - or nothing at all.

Thankfully, there was no concern this go-round, and Baby Boy Long looks happy and healthy. Whatever measurement that was off had corrected itself, and his kidneys and all other major organs appear to be functioning well. The technician did have some trouble getting him to sit still - as soon as the wand was placed on my belly she said "woah - we have a wiggler in there!" No kidding lady, this kid keeps me up all hours of the night with his antics. Pray with me that he settles down after birth... :)

She did do the 4-D ultrasound after we asked - but due to his position, his size (being totally scrunched up), and his wiggling - it was hard for her to get a better shot than the one above. The scanned picture is more grainy than the one she printed out - but you get the idea. He looks so much like his big sister and brother - with the big Long forehead and little button nose. And the 4D ultrasound is so cool - we got to see him moving his mouth like he was sucking or chewing or swallowing. So freaking cool!

All in all, a great check-up - he is measuring right on at 31 weeks 4 days, in the 64%, and at a whopping 4 lbs. already.

We are so thankful. And so blessed. And so anxious to meet this little guy and learn his personality.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Bouncing at Leapin Lizards

My Thomas the Train "choo choo" cake.

Can I eat it now Daddy?

Train sugar cookies mommy made for my party.

Playing with my new Handy Manny Toolset - and fixing mommy's fridge.

Chocolate cake - yum!!

Blowing out my candles on my birthday cake - but I really wanted to touch them not blow them ...

My Curious George birthday cake (for my dinner with the family on the 19th.)

My first "big" wheel!

Opening gifts.

Cupcakes and treats at school on my birthday.

My birthday morning!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I think I'm a hypochondriac...

The flu is running rampant around here - and I just found out that one of my colleagues (who sits across the cubicle wall from me) was confirmed with the flu yesterday.

I'm so scared that one of our family of four is going to get it - I keep sanitizing everything that stands still (and doesn't) with disinfectant gel, wipes, spray - you name it....

Last night while sitting at A's ballet class, I started feeling that bone aching tired, crampy, achy feeling - to the point that I could barely get her into the car to shuffle her home.

I don't know if it's my over-active imagination, the fact that I'm in the third trimester and am tired as all get-out and uncomfortable from the weight of this boy who I'm carrying super low, or what - but I'm terrified I'm getting ill.

D tells me there isn't anything I can do about it - I'll get it or I won't. I suppose it's a reflection of my total nervous-ninny-ness.


Monday, February 23, 2009

A letter to my boy on his second birthday...

My sweet sweet boy. It is hard to believe you are two years old already. It seems like just yesterday that you were born, screaming and "anointing" the doctor and nurses upon your arrival, and then placed in my arms - snuggled warm against my chest.

You have grown and changed so much over the last year - and went from the toddler who was barely walking to the little boy who runs every chance he gets, skips, jumps, and hops - just for the fun of it.

At two years old you are energetic and the comment I hear most often about you is "he's cute as a button and so WIDE open!" And they are right - you are indeed cute - and your smile is infectious. You can brighten my day by looking at me with your mischievous grin that melts my heart. I think because of that mommy and daddy have been more lenient with you than your older sister...

And you are a boy full of energy and vitality. Why walk when you can run, right? Your gross motor skills are amazing - and you can accomplish things that children a year older than you cannot. You can climb just about anything - and often do - earning your nickname of "monkey man" around our house.

You also like your quiet times (few and far between and typically when you are tired or sleepy) where you will sit in my lap and read books. You love Curious George books, as well as the Usborne book series "that's not my ...." You can point out almost everything that we ask you to in your picture books, and your vocabulary is coming along well.

You love your big sister, and want to emulate everything that she does. If she is coloring - you want to color with her (on her page.) If she giggles at something she sees - you start giggling too. If she's trying to play with something - you want to play with it to (whether or not she wants you go join in or not...) and you are finally getting to the age where you can play together. It is so much fun to see you interact with your big sister, and I can't wait to see how you play and care for your little brother when he makes his arrival in about eight weeks.

You absolutely adore your daddy - and prefer him to anyone else in the world. If daddy is around, mommy won't do - which is okay with me. I love to see you love your daddy, and him love you - the father/son bond is so amazing to witness.

You love to sing and dance and clap your hands. If any music is playing anywhere around you - you immediately start shimmying and shaking, swaying and bopping your head to the beat. You love your music class at school, and often times at the dinner table will break out in spontaneous "song" - although we're often not sure what song you are singing.

Mealtimes have become a challenge with you - the boy who used to eat anything and everything is just too busy to eat now. Oh, you'll sit down for a few minutes to eat - but quickly want to get up and run around and play. I think in your perfect world you would prefer to have an ongoing buffet set out where you could stop by, take a bite or two, run off and play, then come back for a few more bites. (We're trying to break you of that habit...) If you are finished and ready to "get down" you will throw whatever you can get your little hands on - plate, cup, fork, food - across the table or on the floor (we're also trying to break you of that habit...)

And nap/bed-time is still a challenge with you as well. You seem to like your big boy bed, but somehow can't seem to go to sleep on your own. You require your daddy to fall asleep - sometimes mommy will do - but if daddy's around you really want him to lay with you until you are asleep. Daddy and I are not sure how to break this habit - and with the impending arrival of your little brother we're afraid to push you too hard... but, have every confidence that (like your sister) you will eventually grow out of this phase and be able to sleep independently (we hope...)

You are a curious little boy - and want to know everything about the world around you - from the tiny bugs in the backyard to taking things apart to see how they work - you want to know it all. It is so much fun to teach you and introduce you to this wonderful world around us.

Oh sweet J - my life would be so empty without you. I love you more each day - which surprises me that my heart can grow so much with each passing day. Oh, there are challenges, you are trying at times, but you wouldn't be my son if you weren't. :)

I love you. Happy Birthday sweet boy!

- Mommy

Happy Birthday Sweet J

I didn't get a chance to post a Happy Birthday message to my sweet boy on his birthday - February 19 - I was reeling from a night of the stomach flu and taking care of A (who ended up with a raging bilateral ear infection.)

We started the day as a family - all piled on mommy and daddy's bed while J opened his first gift of the day - a new shirt to wear on his big day to school. He looked so grown up with his cute shirt and jeans - it's hard to see any traces of the baby boy I know in him. D took him off to school while I recovered and A watched her 18th Disney movie of the week. Seriously.

I managed to recover/rally in time so that A and I could run out to the bakery and pick up the first series of J's birthday cakes. I had the owner make cupcakes for his party at school (which I thought at the time I ordered them I was just being lazy - but blamed it on being 7 months pregnant - in retrospect I'm sooooo glad I ordered them so I didn't have to make them when I was so ill!) as well as a Curious George cake for his dinner party that night.

J seemed a little bit suprised to see not only mommy and daddy show up at snack time in his classroom, but also A, and D's uncle H and aunt M. They had a good time seeing the children, meeting the teachers, and watching J smear cupcake frosting all over everything!

Following his school party, we headed home - where I made my Nonna's recipe for homemade lasagne, steamed zucchini, and caeser salad - which we shared with D's family - including his mom and dad. J had a wonderful time - entertaining his grandparents, showing off his new 'big boy' furniture, showing off how he can turn his CD player on and off himself on his new bookshelf, how he can adjust the volume to BLARING loud toddler music, how he loves to jump and dance... then following dinner he had presents galore - from mommy, daddy, A, uncle H and aunt M, grandma and grandpa, nonna and papa, the R family from NC, and his uncle D and aunt C (who couldn't make the dinner.) Oh the toys - it looks like an explosion of big boy toys across our house - and he loves every single one.

We gave him a basketball hoop set for outside, a dump truck for him to push around outside, a few books, and his first "little" big wheel. I think D's dad and uncle had more fun putting the toys together than J did opening them and playing with them! Some dear friends gave him the Handy Manny tool set - something I hadn't seen before - but J knew just what to do with it - he immediately took his tool set over to the "big boys" and tried to help hammer and screw things away as they put together his big wheel and bubble mower (that D's brother gave him.) It was too funny!

The evening ended with J blowing out the candles on his Curious George cake - and finally collapsing into bath, bed, and sleep....

Pictures to come.

Chicken Nugget Skin

A conversation with A yesterday:

A - mommy? I don't like chicken.

Me - then why did you ask for chicken nuggets?

A - well, I only like chicken when it's inside chicken nugget skin.

Me - chicken nugget skin

A - yeah, the crunchy stuff that goes around the chicken. When it's on there, then I like the chicken - but ONLY with chicken nugget skin

My little fried fast food junkie....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sick A - Day 2

So the fever came on yesterday afternoon - and came on strong. 101.3 under the arm - enough to make her red-faced, limp, and pitiful.

D is taking her to the ped. this morning to see if there is something we need to be concerned about or if it's just some random virus.

I hope and pray she gets over whatever this thing is - and fast - and that her brother doesn't get it - his big birthday is tomorrow - he has cupcakes ordered for his school party and a dinner planned with family at home - followed by his "big" party at the local play-place. A will be devastated if she has to miss any of those activities....

Endearing or Incorrect??

A can't seem to be able to pronounce the word "music." It comes out something more along the lines of "mus-ca". It's so endearing to hear mispronounce things - I remember my parents telling me that for the longest time I called "music" "mucous" - so it'll be funny someday for her to hear it.

I suppose we should correct her and help her pronounce words correctly (actually this is the only word I can think of that she doesn't say exactly right) - but then one more piece of her early childhood will slip away, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet.

So for now, "mus-ca" it is - and hopefully her brother won't pick up on it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sick Day

Poor A is down with whatever the next bug is to enter our house - it started this morning with sporadic vomiting (and worsened whenever she tried to eat or drink anything.) She's managed to keep a few crackers and juice down - took a good nap - but now is showing signs of a fever coming on...

Poor baby - I'd take the sassy, feisty, talk-backer any day over this pitiful and droopy girl...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's at the Long House

It's funny to see the differences in the two kids personalities. It comes out at various times - how one will be passive about things not going their way, while the other completely falls apart. How one will be so into one activity, while the other could care less. Or in the latest example, how one will completely delve into their Valentine cupcake...

...while the other will daintily pick at it.

The results being typical - J covered with frosting and A with a few sticky fingers...

Valentine's day was a good day in our house - we started the morning with cupcake and decoration making, then met some good friends at the local children's puppet theatre for a showing of Beauty and the Beast, lunch out, naps, and then finally a yummy dinner of grilled fillet's, twice-baked potatoes, steamed artichokes, grilled asparagus, and finally (as evidenced above) pink valentine cupcakes.

The kids were thrilled to open their little goodies - a few treats from friends, cards from relatives, and their gifts from mommy and daddy.

D didn't disappoint either - he had the kids each make me a valentine while I was at the grocery store to surprise me with (although A can't keep a secret if her life depended on it - so I sort of knew it was coming...), and then a few mommy treats (including a decadent book on how to cook with chocolate, a box of gourmet pralines, and a new cookie press - that may not sound valentine-ey to you - but something I've been drooling over at Williams Sonoma.)

Other than the kids both starting up with runny noses and coughs (AGAIN) it was a good day, and a wonderful evening.

Cupcake Sweets and Paper Hearts

As promised - A's Valentine cupcakes. She is so careful and so artistic when sprinkling cookies or cupcakes - it is so very sweet!

And here is the paper heart chain decorations she and I put together Valentine morning. I cut out the chain of hearts - and she decorated them with stickers and crayons. So into the holiday!!!

J's Valentine Party

I'm not sure how it is that his blue plastic catch-basin bib escaped with NO crumbs or drips of RED cupcake icing ...

or how his shirt ended up looking like he'd been stabbed ...

but apparently he had a great time enjoying his Valentine treats!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sibling Love

Sometimes the kids do the sweetest things that just melt my heart. There are times when they drive me absolutely batty as well, but thank goodness for the sweet times to temper the crazy ones.

A few weeks ago A was treated to a "movie" Friday night after her bath - meaning she got to stay up past the 8:00 bedtime and watch one of her beloved princess movies. It was a real treat for her - she'd lost movie priviledges (for what I can't remember) so she was more than thrilled to get to come back downstairs following her bath, snuggle in on the couch, and watch movies. (I think she gets that from her mom - I love nothing more than a good flick with my fav. goosedown throw.)

At any rate, J came downstairs following the bath as well (for a few minutes - he can't go much past an 8:00 bedtime or meltdowns ensue.) I didn't know he was there - and when I turned around from starting the movie - I found the two together - fresh and clean from their bath - snuggled together - A with her arm around her little brother.

Such sweet sibling love.

Rite of Passage

J is officially a "big boy" now. Yes, he has his own "big boy" bed and furniture set - delivered just over a week ago. We had to get him out of the crib for several reasons - he HATED it and would pitch an ever loving fit every time we put him to bed - when we tried to let him "work it out" to go to sleep on his own he'd act like a tasmanian devil and tear apart his bedding and chew on the crib rails - and, with the impending arrival of his baby brother, we needed to get the crib/nursery items out of his room.
So, we bit the bullet and bought him a bunk bed set with matching dresser and bookshelf. He loves it. (Except he still doesn't think he needs to go to sleep in his bed yet.... rather it's a great place to play and read books...)

Here he is checking out his new bed for the first time - can you tell by the look in his face how excited he was to see his new digs???

Of course big-sister A couldn't be left out - and had to get in on the action - purple sunglasses and all....