Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Note To Martha on a Hot Summer Day

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . checking the Weather Channel's website, and discovering that it was 103 in our town this afternoon. Thank goodness for air conditioning.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel giggles.

. . . remembering that God can ultimately turn my weaknesses into strengths if I humbly, consistently seek His help (Ether 12:27).

And another thing . . .

Dear Martha Stewart,

A friend recently shared with me the Zucchini and Yellow Squash Gratin recipe from your website. I made it tonight, and though it was rather tasty (as things tend to be when one adds cream, garlic, and bread crumbs), I have one quibble with it.

As you are, no doubt, aware (since I'm sure you're one of the half dozen people who checks my blog on a regular basis), I am a chronic under-seasoner. Consequently, when a recipe just says "add salt to taste," I can virtually guarantee it will come out bland because I never seem to sprinkle in enough of that good old sodium chloride. Such was the case today. The gratin, though fairly good, would have been much better if I'd added more salt to the veggies.

I realize that your readers vary widely in the amount of salt they like in their food, but I humbly request that you at least give me an approximation of how much you use. You can even tack on "or to taste" at the end, if you want to.

Kimberly Bluestocking

P.S. I would also encourage you to post instructions on how to cook this dish in a solar oven, since firing up my conventional oven on a 103-degree summer day is not a pleasant experience, even if the gratin is only going to cook in there for ten minutes.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Inspiration and More Yogurt

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel's occasional tantrums featuring a truly piercing scream.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . visiting a new member of our ward. She seems very friendly and cheerful, and it's always fun to be around someone like that.

. . . playing games with Joy (though I can only handle so many rounds of Candyland before I need a break).

And another thing . . .

. . . I tried making crockpot yogurt again last night. This time I used a thermometer to check temperatures, and discovered that my initial heating didn't get the milk hot enough. That's probably why my first result was so thin and soupy. My second batch was definitely thicker and more yogurty, but it still wasn't as thick as store-bought versions. That will be fine for lassis (which no one will complain about), but my goal is to make yogurt my kids and I would want to eat with a spoon. I've read that adding powdered milk can thicken it some more, so I think I'll try that next time.

. . . today I read Elder Holland's talk "An Ensign to the Nations," in which he notes that General Conference speakers are rarely assigned a topic. Rather, each speaker will "fast and pray, study and seek, start and stop and start again until he or she is confident that for this conference, at this time, his or hers is the topic the Lord wishes that speaker to present regardless of personal wishes or private preferences." It occurred to me that I have the same privilege--and responsibility--to earnestly seek God's inspiration any time I teach in church, at home, or when I'm visiting someone on the Lord's errand.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Laugh and a Sigh

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . opening Daniel's door and discovering I had forgotten to put his zippered PJs on for his nap. Sigh--laundry time.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . visit teaching a new sister in our ward. She's bookish and she likes to cook, so I suspect we'll have plenty to talk about.

. . . my mom sending me a funny email.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pancakes and a Pediatrician

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . stocking up on a few grocery items that were on sale, then forgetting to use the coupons for them. I always do that unless I stick the coupon next to my debit card. Must remember to do that in future.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . meeting with a new pediatrician who two friends highly recommended. She seemed very capable, and she genuinely cared about everything Joy had to say. In fact, she was so friendly that I accidentally called her by her first name when we left. I'll be curious to see how my first impressions compare with our experiences in the coming months.

. . . swimming with the kids.

. . . eating pancakes for dinner. We've started giving Daniel his own plate and fork, and he ate two whole pancakes himself. No sausage, though.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hugs and Buffett

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . cuddling Daniel as we rocked in the glider this morning.

. . . Joy volunteering to share some fro yo with her brother (he was bummed that Daddy didn't get sour gummy worms this time).

. . . hugging my sweetheart. I'm so glad he's home.

. . . reading Warren Buffett's New York Times article asking Congress to "stop coddling the super rich" and significantly raise their taxes to increase revenue. He said many of his super-rich acquaintances donate much of their income to charity, and would be willing to give a larger percentage to their country. I'd link to the original article, but the NYT won't let me view it a second time. Here's a summary, though.

Tarts and Playtime

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . watching Daniel and Daddy run around my parents' yard together.

. . . taking my mini tart shaper on its maiden voyage.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Books, Breezes, and a Homecoming

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . savoring the cool breezes of an overcast morning.

. . . drinking strawberry lassi with the kids. We all agreed it was much better than the mango one I made last night.

. . . Phillip coming home from his trip. It's so good to see his face and hear his voice again.

. . . reading an essay called No Good Stopping Place by a man who adores good books.

And another thing . . .

. . . you know you're a parent if you invite a four-year-old to help you bake and she dumps a few things into the mixing bowl, then accidentally upends the flour canister when she's horsing around, and you still thank her for being helpful.

. . . some friends loaned us their Candyland game this week, and it is Joy's new favorite pastime. I enjoy it well enough, but I find that as an adult I feel greater trepidation about picture cards the closer I get to the end. As a child I only thought about how close I was getting to my goal; as a grownup, I am increasingly conscious that the more I progress, the more likely it is that a picture card will send me back (possibly WAY back) instead of forward. I suppose you could debate whether that reflects a mature, big-picture perspective or jaded cynicism.

Also, whenever I look at the illustrations on the Candyland board I find myself craving peanut brittle.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Make Lassis, Not War

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . washing all of Daniel's bedding TWICE today because he keeps taking his diaper off when he's in bed. I tried wrapping it in packing tape at naptime, but when I peeked in a while later he had pulled all the tape off and was playing with it. When I checked again he was asleep, diaperless, and wet. BIG sigh. After the nap, we headed to a clothing store to buy some pajamas that zip up. Hopefully a zipper with a safety pin at the top will solve our problem.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . a friend watching the kids while I ran some kid-free errands. Sometimes it's really nice to just browse without having to worry whether your bambinos will wander off or demolish a display.

. . . my sister-in-law calling on her wedding day to say she's thinking of me and wishes I could have come. I'd been thinking about her, too--I'm so happy for her and her sweetheart. She also said that every time she thinks of me she prays Baby won't come until Phillip gets home. Thank you.

And another thing . . .

. . . the homemade yogurt I mentioned yesterday didn't thicken up much overnight. I'm not sure if I did something wrong, or if I should try using one of the thickeners I've read about (e.g. a little gelatin or 1/2 c powdered milk). I was a little disappointed, but decided to make lemonade of the lemons, so to speak. More specifically, I decided that thin yogurt would be just fine for making a lassi, a yogurt-based drink popular in India.

I made a mango lassi for dinner--it was fairly good but I think it needed more sugar. Then after the kids went to bed I threw ethnic authenticity out the window and made a pumpkin lassi by blending a cup of the yogurt with a few spoonfuls of pumpkin butter. Now THAT was tasty. I think I may try some frozen strawberries or banana tomorrow.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Disaster Cupcakes and Yogurt Hedonism

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . making disaster cupcakes. No, that isn't an emergency preparedness recipe; it's what happens when I have a deadline to meet, I'm tweaking a recipe when I've never even made the original, and I involve my kids in the baking process. If that isn't a recipe for disaster, I don't know what is. Before long I was raising both my voice and my blood pressure, and to my dismay most of the cupcakes overflowed all over the pans. What's more, the ones that were still presentable didn't taste that great. Next time I'll just make Crazy Cake, which is easy, tasty, and virtually foolproof (and is actually a great preparedness recipe, assuming your oven works).

. . . finding out that Whole Foods sells soft white wheat, but not the hard white wheat I meant to use in a bread experiment (soft wheat works better for pastries).

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . going to a swim party with lots of friends. It was a nice way to decompress after the cupcake debacle.

. . . finding out that the 99cent Store sells good water wings.

. . . an aunt reading about my ice cream quest, and sending me four recipes to try (thanks!).

. . . writing the title of this post.

And another thing . . .

. . . I seem to be conducting a ton of cooking experiments lately, most of them extraneous (i.e. not producing a meal, and therefore not strictly essential--in fact, most of them would qualify as treats). Lately I've been tinkering with everything from bread to ice cream to cupcakes, and I am currently trying out a homemade yogurt recipe in my crock pot. Perhaps all these superfluous culinary experiments are my last hurrah of mommy hedonism before Baby arrives and I barely have time to cook oatmeal for a while.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Pleasant Picnic and the Power of Ice Cream

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . putting my husband's favorite cup in the cupboard. It rarely goes in there, because after spending the night in the dish drainer it's put right to use for breakfast in the morning. When I put his cup away with the other dishes this morning, it was just one more reminder that my sweetheart is out of town. I miss him.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Joy snuggling in bed with me a while this morning. It was sweet to drift in and out of sleep with her there, taking a moment to pat her hair or rub noses before I slipped back to dreamland.

. . . attending a back-to-school picnic for Joy's new preschool. I really enjoyed meeting Joy's teacher and talking with so many engaged, enthusiastic parents.

And another thing . . .

. . . I like making smoothies, but I have no fixed recipe. My smoothie-making is a haphazard process, constrained by what we have on hand and/or what I feel like tossing in the blender on a given day. Sometimes I produce delectable concoctions, and other times I produce "smoothie mud"--a fruit committee that can't agree what it wants to taste like. Today was a muddy day, and no matter what I added, I couldn't get the smoothie to taste good. Finally, in desperation, I tossed in a couple spoonfuls of Breyer's vanilla ice cream. That improved things considerably. Good ice cream usually does.

On a tangential note, when my kids hear the blender turn off they often come running to sample the smoothie, even if it's still a work in progress. When I made gazpacho the other day, I tried to explain to them that the red concoction in the blender was tomato soup, not a smoothie, but they still insisted on tasting it. Daniel looked particularly aggrieved when I put the spoon in his mouth.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel spilling cottage cheese down his front right before I put his bib on.

. . . my husband leaving on a trip for a few days. I miss him already.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . seeing ultrasound images of Baby Girl.

. . . clambering around my parents' backyard with my little son.

. . . chatting with my mom for a while.

. . . Joy offering to read her brother a book he likes.

. . . my dad using a jack-in-the-box to teach the kids about the word “suspense.” He always jumped dramatically when the bear popped out, which made Daniel crack up.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ice Cream Quest and the Nasally Bat

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . all the little aches and unpleasantries of the last weeks of pregnancy.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . a trip to Menchie's with the kids. I usually go with their fro yo, but today I couldn't resist the watermelon sorbet.

. . . playing ring toss with Joy's pool ring for our family home evening activity.

. . . reading a library board book called Say Boo to Daniel, and hearing him crack up every time I used a nasally voice for the bat's lines.

And another thing . . .

. . . every now and then, I get a bee in my bonnet about some recipe (e.g. meatloaf, chocolate cookies, mac n cheese), and try multiple variations until I finally find one I really like (or, in the case of the mac n cheese, I discover that Trader Joe's makes a frozen version that heats in the microwave and beats anything I've made, hands down).

Lately I've fixated on ice cream. My ice cream maker has been gathering dust in the cupboard, and I want to find a delicious recipe that is easy, eggless, is less than half cream, doesn't freeze into a brick, and requires little or no time at the stove. I'm not sure such a recipe exists, but I've found a few potential candidates on the web and we'll see how they turn out.

If all else fails, I may just set the machine going when we sit down to dinner, and settle for a dessert of soft serve ice cream or sorbet straight out of the machine. There are certainly worse things to eat on a warm summer day.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Good Deal, Bad Gazpacho

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . making gazpacho that neither Phillip nor I could bear to finish (Phillip felt bad about that until he noticed that there was more soup left in my bowl than in his). That's strike three for that cookbook--back to the library it goes.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Phillip's sister Emily and her fiancé John coming over to visit. It was fun to catch up with them, and Joy loved playing with her future uncle.

. . . buying a good-as-new infant car seat for less than half what I'd pay in a store. Huzzah for Craig's List!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

At Least Dessert Was Good

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . making a very bland stir-fry for dinner.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . hearing a glowing recommendation of a local pediatrician who's actually accepting new patients. Hopefully this one will work out for us.

. . . baking some cookies Joy requested (the recipe is in her coloring book), and discovering that sugar cookies with nutmeg actually taste good. Who knew?

And another thing . . .

. . . it feels like there are a million things to get done before Baby Girl arrives in the coming weeks. I'm not even talking about Baby-related tasks--most of those are taken care of already. I mean preschool stuff, church stuff, house stuff, and a bunch of miscellaneous things I want to get done before my life gets turned upside down. This morning I finally made a list of everything, and though it's daunting on paper at least I can now prioritize it, hammer away at it, and cross things off when I'm done. Somehow things are always more stressful when they're just swirling frantically around in my head.

Dairy and a Drowsy Daniel

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . having to wake Daniel up early for an appointment. He fell asleep late, and was not happy about being woken up. I wouldn't be, either.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . trying to make cheese again, and actually having it set up this time. The flavor and texture still need a little work, but at least we produced something that would be recognizable as cheese. I think I'll try yogurt next, which is probably easier and which we would eat more of.

And another thing . . .

. . . the ice cream I made a few days ago isn't quite ideal (it has a slight buttery flavor, which strikes me as odd), but once I start eating it I have a very hard time stopping.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kisses and Cocoa

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . my ankles swelling because I sat in a chair too much this afternoon.

. . . calculating that my family spent 13% of our grocery bills on juice last month. And I only buy most kinds when they're on sale. Sigh.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . a family outing to In-N-Out with Phillip's friend Tim. We had a good time talking with him, and Joy thought he was pretty cool. Daniel was too mesmerized by the doors and nearby stoplights to care who we were eating with.

. . . Daniel giving me a kiss after he saw Joy give me one. It was the first time he has actually made a kissing sound, rather than just pressing his face against me.

. . . a family walk to the station to watch a few trains come and go in the twilight. It was nice to relax together in the cool evening air, then come home to share some cocoa.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Splitting Atoms and Splicing Stories

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . all the little aches and pains of the final month of pregnancy.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . reading about a Swedish man who was arrested for trying to split atoms in his kitchen.

. . . playing in the pool with my kids and our neighbors.

. . . playing hide and seek then making caramel corn for home evening.

. . . hugging my husband.

And another thing . . .

. . . Joy asked me to tell her a story about a whale a few days ago, so I told her the abbreviated version of Moby Dick. Today, as she related her many adventures as Tinker Bell, she told me that she was going to tell Moby Dick to sink Captain Hook's ship.

Three Dreams and Ice Cream

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . teaching a Relief Society lesson (based on this talk) that went smoothly and which I felt was uplifting to all parties. Actually, the best part was studying and preparing for it. As I read through the talks President Monson has given since he was sustained as prophet three years ago, I found counsel on parenting, and general priorities that spoke directly to my current needs. I was also touched by his testimony of Heavenly Father and of the Savior. I got the clear sense that he has personal experience feeling God's love and His guiding hand, and he wants each of us to live so we can experience that, too.

. . . chatting at the ward's quarterly potluck, and sampling countless things from the dessert table.

. . . actually producing some creamy ice cream in my ice cream maker that didn't involve eggs and was less than half heavy cream. The recipe came from this book, and unlike most other recipes I've tried, you can actually scoop it after it's been in the freezer for a few hours. I'm already anxious to try a few other recipes in her book.

And another thing . . .

. . . last night I dreamed that I taught my lesson three times. First I taught teenagers, who kept falling asleep (perhaps I was teaching early morning seminary). I also taught four-year-olds, who were constantly distracted and really just wanted to color. Lastly, I taught Relief Society sisters, but I finished super early, which is my worst nightmare as a teacher. At church, I related these dreams to the sisters and said I hoped everyone would be awake, attentive, and offer lots of comments on my "fourth" attempt to teach this lesson.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Laughs, La-Las, and the Endless To-Do List

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel laughing a lot while we played.

. . . Joy giving me (and my tummy) lots of hugs and kisses.

. . . hearing Daniel use his new favorite word ("la-la" - light), a bunch while we walked in from the car this evening.

. . . drinking homemade banana-orange juice (with a little vanilla yogurt mixed in) with dinner. We really should make two batches next time.

And another thing . . .

. . . Phillip took charge of the kids today while I ran a bunch of errands and got a lot done around the house. It was great to get so much accomplished, but also stressful as I realized that completing some tasks just opened the door to others. I bought thank you notes I now need to write, sheets I need to wash, picture frames I need to hang, and a storage container I need to return because it's too small. And my desk is still a mess, cluttered with half-finished projects and recipes I intend to try. Sigh - in life there's no such thing as "done."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

BBQ and La-La

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Pink Grandma watching the kids this morning as a late birthday present so Phillip and I could go to lunch together. I've wanted to try M Grill, a Brazilian BBQ place in Koreatown (I know--weird) for months now, and it lived up to expectations. Some of the meats and salad bar items were just OK, but most were delicious. And of course, my dining companion was delightful. It was fun to try guarana and some random tentacled creature from the buffet together (the latter was kind of bland and chewy, but hey, at least we tried it).

. . . Daniel starting to use a few more words, like "la-la" for lights.

. . . happening upon a dinner recipe that tasted good AND used up some random ingredients that have been sitting in our fridge. Score.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sweet Words and a Helping Hand

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . a friend asking if Joy would like to come to the playground with her and her kids this afternoon. Joy replied, "If you're going somewhere, and you ask if I want to come, the answer will always be yes."

. . . Joy reading books to her little brother.

. . . Daniel saying "wah-wah" for water when I waited for him to request the drink by name. That in itself was a big step for him, but it then got better. He grinned, pointed to to his sister, and said, "Die-die" (his word for Joy). He has said her name a few times when we prompted him to, but that's the first time I can recall him saying a name out of the blue and of his own accord.

. . . Phillip keeping me company while I washed dishes, and agreeing to clean the last dozen when I just got too worn out.

Swimming, A Shower, and the Super Committee

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . Joy replaying the same three minutes of Toy Story 2 over and over and over while I prepared dinner. If I hear Slinky say "My back end's going to Beirut!" one more time . . .

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . swimming with the kids at my parents' home. We had a great time playing in the water together.

. . . attending the baby shower my friend Pearl threw for me. It was fun to just relax and talk with the other women for a while.

And another thing . . .

. . . for the past few weeks, the debt ceiling debate has dominated the news and been a nearly constant subject of discussion on the local public radio station. Everyone was deeply concerned about our "dysfunctional" Congress and the Greece-like economic calamity that would surely ensue if they didn't reach some compromise by August 2. That was yesterday, and my day was so hectic that it didn't even occur to me to check the news to see whether our country had careened over the economic precipice.

This morning when I got in the car, I eagerly turned on the news to hear what had happened (I assumed Congress had reached some last minute compromise). I didn't hear a word about debt ceiling, tax hikes, spending cuts, or anything related thereto. I heard about Hosni Mubarak's trial, a local police beating, and a recall on ground turkey, but nothing about how the debt crisis that gripped our nation for week was actually resolved. I had to go to Google News and scroll down the US News page a bit before I finally learned about the super committee and such. Sheesh.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Half Enchilada

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . waking up with a leg cramp. It was a mild one, but it kept threatening to turn into a Very Very Bad Cramp if I didn't position my leg just right.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . looking at some intricate, newly-spun little spiderwebs shimmering in the sun out front this morning.

. . . having a friend and her kids over to visit. We tried making homemade cheese, but the milk never curdled (I think we stirred it too much). Oh well--at least we had fun talking while the kids played.

. . . reviewing some of the Prophet's recent talks, and finding that the second one I looked at was precisely what I needed today.

. . . Joy asking to try a chicken enchilada for the first time, and liking it so much that she asked for us to put a whole one on her plate. She only ate part of what we gave her, but I'm still happy to see her branch out and try "grown-up" food, especially when she discovers that she enjoys it.

Burgers and Breakers

Today's not-so-favorite moments included . . .

. . . tripping our circuit breaker a half dozen times while I was making dinner. The electric grill and toaster had never overloaded the breaker before, and I couldn't fathom why tonight was any different until Phillip realized we had the air conditioner on in the kids' room.

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Daniel sitting through family home evening with us (he usually wanders around doing his own thing instead). He even came over by the piano with us when we sang.

And another thing . . .

. . . I made hamburgers tonight, and Phillip always likes to have chips with them. I'm not a huge fan of chips, and I don't think they're very good for you (though that argument has certainly never stopped me from eating fudge or cheesecake), but I love my husband so I make sure we have chips on hand whenever I make burgers. To his credit, he's good about not getting them out of the pantry until the kids have eaten their fill of burgers and sides, because once the chips appear the kids won't touch anything else.

Today I decided to use that fact to my advantage. In addition to the burgers, I served up strawberries and corn on the cob--healthy things everyone likes. I figured we'd all fill up on good food and no one would be interested in the chips. I obviously underestimated my family, because after everyone ran out of steam eating the healthy food, Phillip still retrieved the Doritos from the pantry and the kids' faces lit up like neon signs. I sighed and began clearing the dishes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gentle Alarm

Today's favorite moments included . . .

. . . Joy waking me up to ask a question a few minutes before my alarm went off this morning. I'd rather wake up to my daughter's whisper and her imperfect rendition of "Praise to the Man" on our piano than to the annoying beep of an alarm.

. . . Joy kissing my tummy to show Baby Sister that she loves her.

. . . Daniel getting excited when I offered him a piece of homemade bread. It's always heartwarming when someone enjoys something you made.

. . . sitting next to Phillip in a Sunday School lesson about the temple, and thinking about how important it is to both of us. I'm grateful to be married to a man who values sacred things.