Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Toddler Storytime and Shrimp Tacos

Recently, I've decided to put Lucas and I on a loose weekly routine. I'm finding it difficult, and a little boring, to try and come up with new activities on the fly every weekday morning. We don't have any regular plans with other moms due to everyone's varying schedule restrictions, although I try to get together with my mom's group as much as I can. So we were starting to get into a rut of simply visiting the park down the street or playing in the backyard. Not very mentally stimulating for either Lucas or me, plus we end up watching more television than I'd prefer just to pass the time.

Mondays are generally reserved for the large grocery trip of the week, laundry, and various errands both inside and outside the house. I've decided to set aside Tuesday mornings for the zoo, and this week we tried out toddler storytime on Wednesday morning at our local library for the first time. It's at a perfect time for us, 10am, and I figured if Lucas had a total meltdown we could just leave. There was a pretty great turnout for our small little library, about ten toddlers or so. The librarian alternated between sitting and reading a book, then standing to do a short song and dance. She did three books and four songs, then we ended with some coloring.

As I suspected, Lucas was the worst toddler there in terms of his ability to sit quietly and listen to the stories being read. It's just not something he is able to keep an interest in. He loves to read books at home, but we only do so right before nap time and bedtime, because this is the only time of day he is mellow enough to want to sit still and look at books. So when Miss Librarian busted out her books, Lucas was up and moving. I was mostly able to keep him contained to the lifesaving puzzle table during the story area, but the extremely tempting rolling library cart located directly behind the librarian was a real problem. Anytime he started to squeal or whine because I was keeping him from the cart, I reminded him that if he couldn't stay quiet, we would have go home. Shockingly, that actually worked for the most part!

The main reason I stuck it out is because when the songs and dancing started, he was enraptured. We stomped like dinosaurs, and he actually stomped! He was pretty shy about joining in, but sat still in my lap or stood still next to me and smiled through all the songs and giggled when I helped move his hands for the dancing. I love that tiny shy toddler smile when they are experiencing something new that they enjoy. Being the parent with the out of control energetic toddler was worth it for his happiness during the music time. He even liked the coloring at the end pretty well too, particularly when Miss Librarian gave him a car stamp on his hand. He held his little hand out to show me and said "A car???" I'm definitely going to try a few more times and see if familiarity might improve his behavior.

As for activities for Thursday and Friday, I'm still working on it. This summer, we'll have a membership for the local YMCA, so at least two mornings or afternoons will be set aside for swimming. But until then, I'll probably pick a special park that he really enjoys and do that one day, then brainstorm another idea for the remaining day.

Lastly, I made some delicious shrimp tacos last night and wanted to share the recipe since I made it up as I went along. It was very gratifying to have it turn out so deliciously. This recipe grew from the fact that I had a can of crushed pineapple in juice I wanted to use up.

Marinated Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple Salsa


1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 can crushed pineapple in 100% juice (chunks would work too)
1/2 cup oil (I used olive, but any kind would be fine), divided
2-3 tablespoons tequila
1 lime, divided in half
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced and divided in half
1 tomato, chopped and de-seeded
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced (if you like spice, use the whole pepper)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
10 corn tortillas
1 can beans, heated (your choice, we used refried but black would be good here also)
1 avocado, diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional - we just really like cheese around here)
salt and cayenne pepper, to taste


1. Strain the pineapple to divide the juice from the fruit. Separate into two bowls.
2. Add 1/4 cup oil to the bowl containing the pineapple juice. Add the zest and juice of half the lime, tequila, two cloves of minced garlic, and some salt and cayenne pepper. Whisk together the ingredients and add to a ziploc bag along with the shrimp. Place in refrigerator for 1-4 hours.
3. To the bowl with the pineapple, add tomato,  red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, the remaining garlic, and the juice of the remaining half lime. Mix together with salt to taste and set aside. I made this the day before and it tasted great after sitting together for a day or so.
4. Heat a medium nonstick skillet to medium heat. Add the remaining 1/4 cup oil. Once the oil is hot, add one tortilla at a time to the oil. Let cook about 15-20 seconds per side, then remove. Continue until all tortillas have been lightly fried. Set aside with a cloth over them to keep them warm.
5. Heat a large nonstick skillet to medium. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook about 3 minutes per side. Once they are pink, remove from the pan.

Now your shrimp tacos are ready to construct and eat. We put in a good spoonful of beans, followed by cheese, shrimp, avocado, with a big dollop of pineapple salsa on top. The combination of the marinated shrimp, pineapple salsa, and lightly fried corn tortillas was just delicious! Brandon and I definitely enjoyed this meal. If you wanted to save some time, you can buy already prepped fresh pico de gallo at the store and just mix that with the pineapple. I would have done this myself but my store was out of pico de gallo that day.

That's all for now! I'll update in a few weeks about how my weekly routine has shaped up once I have it all settled.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Books for February

I thought I was going to beat my number from January, but I ended up bailing on not one but two books halfway through so I've only got three more again. Still, I was pretty pleased with the ones I did finish.

4. The Diviners by Libba Bray: I've read several other books by this author. Generally, I enjoy them but don't find them to be anything particularly special or memorable. That was true of this book as well. It was sort of a supernatural plot that was pretty generic, and most of it seemed to be setting up the next two books in the trilogy. The main villain/demon was also a bit too violent for my sensitive soul. What I loved about this book was the Roaring 20s setting and that the main character was a very stereotypical flapper teenager. The slang, fashion, and settings really gave this book a fun atmosphere, and I enjoyed that part of it. I kind of wish I had just read a Roaring 20s book without any demons in it, though. I doubt I'll make any effort to read the remainder of the series.

5. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore: The final book in my beloved Graceling trilogy, I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book more than I did. That is not to say that I didn't enjoy parts of it. I very much like the character of Bitterblue and liked following her journey from child queen to ruling sovereign. But I'm afraid I disliked more parts than I liked. The main problem is frankly that Cashore created too intense of a villain for me in Leck. His creepiness was evident but tolerable in the first two books, but learning the extent of his perversion and evil in this book overwhelmed my ability to enjoy the rest of the plot. There needs to be some kind of tool I can use to let me know which books I should avoid. Does this book contain child rape? If yes, I will pass. I was also very unimpressed by the love interest and found another character to be a far better fit as a partner for Bitterblue. So of course I've rewritten the ending in my head to be more satisfying. In all, kind of a disappointing end to the series. What is good about this is that the trilogy is only loosely connected, so my lack of enjoyment in this one does not affect in the least my love for the first two books.

6. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson: This one has been on my to-read list for quite a while and I really liked it! I'm excited to read the rest of the trilogy. The quasi-Catholic religious aspects were interesting and well-done, and I liked that the lead is not the typical kick-ass female that you get in a lot of books of this genre. She really grew into herself throughout the book, and I'm looking forward to seeing that continue in the next two. There were a few very shocking moments, as well, which I always appreciate, and I liked the detailed portrayal of the different cultures in the book. I like any book that gives me good details about the food everyone is eating! I definitely recommend this one to fans of YA fantasy.

Books I started this month and abandoned:

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed and Wild by Cheryl Strayed: The first is a collection of advice columns written by the author. I had read a few of her pieces online and enjoyed them, so I thought I'd give this a try since I tend to enjoy advice columns in general. Sadly for her and for me, the very first column in the book gave a detailed description of the sexual abuse the author had suffered at the hands of a relative as a 3-4 year old. I'm afraid this completely turned me off and I was unable to read any further. I have so little leisure time in which to read, and I'm not interested in spending that time reading about the most horrible things and people that the world has to offer. The second book is a memoir by the same author about her time hiking the Pacific Coast Trail. I was a little turned off by how unlikable she seems to be, or was at the point in her life when this book takes place. I made it about halfway through but couldn't stop rolling my eyes at her so I eventually gave up. Don't get me wrong, Strayed is a good writer but apparently she's just not up my alley.

I'm reading an amazing book right now that I'm sad I didn't finish in time for this month's reviews, but I'll be back next month to rave about it!