Sunday, December 19, 2010
A woman in our ward leads a quilting group every semester and this was one of the projects for this semester. I'd been planning on making quilted stockings for our family for some time, so I was excited to have the chance to do it where I'd also have someone hounding me to get it done quickly. And it was a great opportunity to ask my mom for the sewing machine she's been meaning to get for me for a while! (Thanks, Mom!) Another option this semester was to make a tree skirt. Since I won't be around for next semester's class I might just make that my next project - that or a quilt for Gareth's bed.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Of course, his discovery means that I'm now amazed at the capability of tiddlywinks to apparently vanish into thin air, never to be seen again. But at least someone's enjoying them before they vanish, right?
Monday, November 29, 2010
Sesame Quinoa with Tofu
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Place tofu on several layers of heavy-duty paper towels; let stand 20 minutes. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add tofu and seeds; sauté 3 minutes. Remove tofu mixture from pan. Add quinoa to pan; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add stock and salt; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Place in a large bowl. Add tofu mixture, green onions, soy sauce, and pepper; toss.
Here's how I do it:
I stick the tofu between two plates and weight it down with a heavy can. I'm not sure what the best way to drain it is, but that's how the first tofu recipe I ever tried said to do it, so that's what I usually do. Anyone who knows better is welcome to leave your suggestions!
I first made this when a friend was in town visiting and realized upon finishing it that it didn't make all that much, so I quickly threw together another batch. I'm not sure if a whole package of tofu is 16 oz. or not, but that's what I use. Just doubling the recipe would mean that you use two tablespoons of soy sauce, which I felt was a bit overkill - it pretty much tasted like soy sauce (sorry about that, Kristine!).
Tonight I doubled everything, except the salt (since I was not using low-sodium soy sauce) and the soy sauce. I just sprinkled a pinch of salt in and used one tablespoon plus a bit of soy sauce. Much better flavor! I also had some broccoli on hand (one smallish head), so I threw that in while cooking the tofu. I love that this recipe is easily augmented; I look forward to trying out other veggies throughout the various seasons. Oh, and if you're going to be doing much cooking with quinoa I'd recommend looking for it at your local natural foods market. Ours has a bulk area (with spices as well - so awesome to be able to get as much or as little as you want) and the quinoa there was about half the cost as what you'll find in the grocery store.
So, here's my problem. I've only got two quinoa recipes. The one above and this one (also tasty). I tried looking up quinoa recipes on my usual trusty site and didn't come up with much (I was probably looking for meatless dishes though, now that I think of it, so maybe that hindered my search some?). Anyone have a great quinoa recipe they'd like to share?
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Gareth's first Halloween we didn't dress him up at all. As I recall, both Gareth and I had colds and were pretty miserable. The only reason he had a costume for his second Halloween was because we inherited some hand-me-downs and there happened to be a red rain coat with black trim in the bag. It wasn't too much trouble, even for me, to run out and buy a cheap fireman's hat. The only reason Gareth had a costume last year was because my friend took me to Joann's with her when they had a 99 cent pattern sale. And because she let me use her coupons for the fabric and borrow her sewing machine. And because my mom spent a good portion of every day on the phone with me helping me figure out how to not totally screw the costume up.
That fireman year was when Ryan had the idea for this year. We decided to wait a couple of years until Gareth was old enough to handle face make-up, but young enough still to let us totally decide his costume for him.
This year we started planning early. We refrained from cutting Gareth's hair all summer, even when it kept sticking in his ears and when it poofed out ridiculously, making his head look twice as big. We sent my mom a picture to work from (because, honestly, a boy's shirt is probably beyond my skills at the moment). I'll admit, I got pretty lazy then and didn't do much on this year's costume until a few weeks ago when I made one trip to the local second-hand store and was lucky enough to find some light tan pants and a pair of black shoes. Then I got lazy again while my mom busied herself sewing and buying make-up. I just want it to be clear that I had very little to do with this costume. Thanks to the hard work of my mom and Ryan, Gareth went out this Halloween dressed like this:
Gareth was bouncing off the walls for some reason all morning long, so when it was time to put on his make-up we sent him into the bathroom alone with Ryan, figuring that too many people would work him up too much. Ryan had put quite a lot of time in watching various videos of Joker make-up and staring at pictures of the Joker (Heath Ledger version) and had a good idea of what he wanted to do. We weren't able to replicate the scarring, unfortunately, because the stuff that does that would have taken too long and tried everyone's patience a bit much. But I was very impressed with how quickly he put the make-up on. Gareth was more cooperative than we expected and was quite excited to see his face in the mirror.
It was amusing that just about everyone we saw knew who Gareth was but Gareth had no idea. If asked he'd just say, "I'm Gareth" or "I'm pretty scary". The one exception to recognizing him was a lady who thought he was Beetlejuice.
There's a definite high that comes from having people appreciate the work that went into your kid's costume. Gareth definitely caught most people by surprise as they seemed to be expecting another cute little bear or lion or princess or whatever most store-bought little kid costumes are these days. One guy gave Gareth three handfuls of candy he loved the costume so much. At an older couple's house the husband asked to take a picture - Gareth was the first he'd liked well enough to take a picture of that night. (Granted, we were out pretty early - it was about 6:30 - so there was plenty of time for him to come across a few more impressive costumes.) And just about anyone is impressed when they discover that the costume is homemade (I got several compliments last year because of that).
Oh, yeah, and we actually did jack-o-lanterns this year as well. Which Gareth thought were totally awesome. But somehow the pictures of those didn't make it off the camera. Anyway, I'm glad Gareth had fun with it all, because I'm pretty sure the rest of us adults had fun. Too bad he might want to have some input next year or else we could start planning now!
Monday, November 1, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Patterns are kinda hard to explain to a three-year-old. Much harder than simple addition. Maybe there are some other kids Gareth’s age whose parents have taught them about patterns and who totally understand these already, but I’m not that on top of things. I splurged a bit and purchased this game/toy from a Discovery Toys party (it was on sale for a great price). I debated a bit about buying it since, theoretically, I could make something similar myself using objects from around our house and making my own cards. But, again, I’m not that on top of things or motivated. It’d stay on my list of “things to do” until one day I’d realize Gareth’s in college already. So I decided it was worth it to help encourage myself to start teaching him simple math.
Anyway, they’ve got all these cards that go with the bugs. The cards get progressively more difficult, starting with simple sorting and matching and moving on to patterns and eventually basic addition. Trying to get Gareth to notice the pattern was extremely difficult. I’ve realized that I’m just not sure how to explain the concept to him. But, I’m used to having to find different ways to explain ideas, so hopefully I’ll come up with something helpful for him eventually!
Of course, part of our difficulty figuring out patterns may be because Gareth was showing some similar traits to his Auntie Michaela. He didn’t want to have anything to do with the earlier, easier cards. Nope, no building up from the basics for this kid, start out at the hardest ones for him! (Our childhood pediatrician once commented that my sister wanted to start in graduate school and go from there. I don’t know how accurate she’d say this is now, but I remember there being some instances where it was very accurate growing up.) I’m not sure that that trait combined with the perfectionism he seems to have inherited from me is a great combination.
Oh, and if an insect’s name has the word “dragon” in it, Gareth will never, ever fail to correctly identify said insect (at least when it’s in plastic toy form).
Monday, July 26, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
Gareth once again enjoyed playing with rocks and water. He thought the bridge over the water was fun.
And Gareth enjoyed playing with the water wherever he found it.
Definitely a successful outing. I'm excited to head out there again and see the rest of the gardens.
Monday, July 5, 2010
On Saturday we checked out a wooden boat festival in the area. Unfortunately, we got there a little too late to do much. The model boat races were over for the day and all the seats on the boat rides were taken already. Gareth still enjoyed it, though he was pretty upset that we didn't go on a boat ride.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
Totally worth the money spent, in my opinion. I'm very excited about the steps we've been taking in revamping Ryan's wardrobe. Next up: pants. Or maybe a coat. Or shoes. Unfortunately we can't just do it all at once!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
There are a few things that I always know I'll miss though. My knives, which I usually tend to think of as "not as sharp as they could be", until I use someone else's knives and then I thank my lucky stars that my mom was always so insistent that we would all have high quality knives. My food processor. My griddle. But the biggest of all these is my pots and pans.
I was hopeful in coming here that we'd have better pots and pans than in corporate housing (those are terrible). And we do, thankfully. They're Calphalon. I'd heard good things and many ravings about Calphalon in the days since our marriage, so I'm actually grateful for the opportunity to try them out. But I must say, I don't like them. For all their supposed non-stickiness, food sticks to them something awful. Rice, oatmeal, pasta. You name it, it sticks. Foods that don't stick (or at least come off easily if they do stick initially) in my All-Clad pans, stick to the Calphalon - and don't come off easily, even after soaking. Now, I will admit, eggs stick terribly in my All-Clad frying pan. But they also stick terribly in these Calphalon pans. (I do need a solution for eggs, but I've found it in something else entirely: cast iron skillets. They're insanely inexpensive and clean-up is also insanely easy. I've got several recipes just waiting for me to invest in a few cast irons.)
Maybe this set of Calphalon is just old enough that the non-stick surface is getting worn out. That's a part of non-stick pans that really bugs me, though, the whole wearing off thing. I cooked something in one of the frying pans tonight that used canola oil. And the pan seems to have the same problem as my non-stick George Foreman grill - after you cook with certain substances the surface becomes super-gummy and almost impossible to clean. I've spent hours working at the grill surface, and it's just not worth it! I gave up on the frying pan tonight. I'll have to purchase some vinegar or something and see if that can work it off.
I don't want to sound ungrateful for what we have here, because I'm incredibly grateful for it. As I said, things are far and away better than what we'd have in corporate housing. But I'm looking forward to a joyful reunion with my trusty All-Clad.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
A large part of Gareth's whining was him wanting to spend the whole time watching the penguins. It's what we saw first and he seemed not all that interested in them initially, but once we tried to move on to something else that's all he wanted to go back to. The jaguars were cool, but Gareth was more interested in watching the schoolkids and other people around him. Due to his unwilling mood, I was only able to get one, slightly blurry, picture of him enjoying himself:
Then we saw some pretty amazing birds:
Then on to the zebras, oryx, and giraffes. The giraffes were especially cool because they were moving around and eating (I hadn't remembered how long their tongues are; it was amazing to watch them twist their tongues around branches and pull the leaves off!) I think I've only seen giraffes in indoor space before, so it was fun to see them outside.
We went to see the lions last, but they were sleeping. Gareth's behavior was indicating that he needed some lunch and a nap, so we headed for home. I'm betting we'll make at least one more trip to this zoo while we're here. Hopefully the next time around Gareth will be more amenable to seeing all the animals and less interested in whining!
Monday, May 24, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
We decided we'd look for our own housing. We asked where exactly Ryan would be working so that we could look at sublets in places that would mean a shorter rather than longer commute. We never heard back, so went ahead and assumed it would be at location A. We got lucky and found something in our price range and within a 30 minute bus commute (since we won't have our car) of location A. The day after we send a wire transfer with our deposit and first month's rent and mail the signed contract, we find out that he'll likely be working at location B, a new location which we had been given the impression would not be ready to move into by this summer. Location B turns Ryan's 30 minute commute into a 1 hour commute. The silver lining here is that we soon thereafter learn that if we'd stuck with corporate housing he would've been closer (probably), but we might have been forced to pay for a 2 bedroom apartment and would have had to pay significantly more for that than we will for the 2 bedroom place we found.
The big hurdle at the moment is that we discovered on Tuesday that the relocation people had failed to purchase plane tickets for Gareth and me. We alerted them to this problem, they said they'd get right on it. Here we are today, and still no tickets. I called the airline, just to verify that they have no reservations in our names. They don't. And, being a Saturday, it's impossible to reach any of the people who could fix the problem (and they were unresponsive to our contact yesterday). So, it looks like Ryan will be going to Seattle without us. I called the hotel and they were able to switch our reservation into Ryan's name, so at least he'll have somewhere to sleep that first week.
The most aggravating thing is that I have no idea how much longer Gareth and I will be here. And the thought of traveling alone with Gareth is daunting. We're definitely having an adventure. Just not the kind I was hoping for.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Mother's Day is a tricky business. The trickiness of it is well layed-out here. Obviously, I'm a mother, so the non-mother trickiness isn't so much of an issue for me. But the pedestal building ideal mother talks we typically have to suffer through is. And, with a smattering of Mother's Day posts running through the Bloggernacle over the past month or so, I've been thinking about what I really want or don't want out of Mother's Day.
I can't say I've nailed anything down definitively, but I've come to a few conclusions. One of my concerns with Mother's Day is that is seems to make it easy for people to cram all their "appreciation" into one day and then forget about it for the rest of the year. And then there's the idea that, really, Mother's Day can easily become women running around appreciating women rather than letting the kids or men take care of it. It's also a day that can easily build up expectations about how others will possibly show their appreciation, only to leave you disappointed and discouraged that, really, this day was no different than any other, with no one helping out or even acknowledging all the work you've done.
What would I like in a Mother's Day? Well, church-wise, I'd love the talks to simply center on Christ. Or substantive talks about women in the scriptures - maybe about some of the women prophets. And, personally, I'd like to see the money the ward spends on the women going to a local charity or organization that helps women in some way. A shelter or a group that provides a scholarship for women for schooling. Something along those lines. Basically, show me that you care about improving conditions for women rather than just talking about how important we are.
In my own home, I've realized that maybe I'm a bit high-maintenance. :) Rather than having one day where I'm treated lavishly and don't have to do anything, I much prefer appreciation shown randomly throughout the year. It means a lot more to me to come home from book group and find the dishes done and the kitchen cleaned. Or to come home and find all the laundry folded or the bathroom cleaned another night. Or to occasionally be given a few hours or a day free of Gareth, to spend however I want. Because that means that someone was thinking about what I might need or enjoy - what might make my day a little brighter - not because they have to due to a holiday, but because I truly am important to them.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I wish any other kids we have could get the same opportunity. I can't help thinking it would be ideal if we could both work part-time, each of us working on the days the other one isn't. How awesome would it be for our kids to have both parents as stay-at-home-parents? So, while I sometimes think longingly of having a decent paycheck again, being in graduate school definitely has its advantages.
If you want to see some more of Gareth check out our neighbor's blog here for some pictures of Gareth with his "little sister". These two, if they get their way, see each other every day, beat up on each other, love each other, and totally want to switch moms (though I'm sure if they did they'd change their minds once they realize the other mom would tell them "no" just as much). Gareth will be devastated when we return from Seattle this summer and he realizes that she's gone.
Monday, March 8, 2010
But I also see statements along these lines as part of a constant effort to place women on a pedestal. And so many women seem to accept this unquestioningly. It always makes me think of "Philadelphia Story". I don't want to be the cold, distant, un-attainable "goddess", placed upon a pedestal where no human frailty is allowed. Not only that, but required to fit my life into the tiny space of that pedestal. And, as the "goddess" on the pedestal, pressured to please those who placed me there by fitting into whatever roles they might prescribe to me. I suppose this might appeal to some women, and that's fine. That's their choice (which I will always support their right to have). But the thought makes my stomach churn. So, no pedestals for me, please.
Monday, February 22, 2010
There is a new album (link is also on the side) consisting of videos of Gareth I've taken mostly from my Nexus One phone. Since I always have that on me, it's much more likely nowadays that I'll catch something on video. There is some compression involved when uploading videos to Picasa, so hopefully that doesn't ruin them too much.
For those people who are tired of looking at, reading about, and watching everybody else's kids on all their sappy family blogs, I advise you to skip out on this one.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
We enjoyed the movie. It's obviously biased in some ways, but since the other side typically refuses to be interviewed that can't be helped entirely (though I'm betting refusing to be interviewed can definitely be the smart move since it's likely you'll be portrayed in a negative light no matter what). I thought it was very thought-provoking. It left me thinking primarily about two main things - what are we eating/what can we do to eat healthier food and what can be done to help people with less money afford and know how to eat better?
So, here are some of the things Ryan and I have been doing and would like to work towards in the future:
-After Ryan and I read The Omnivore's Dilemma we decided to try to avoid CAFO/corn-fed beef. We now buy our beef and pork at the Purdue Butcher. Eventually we'd like to save for a large freezer so that we can purchase a quarter cow from a local farmer and have our beef for the year.
-We've tried to cut back on our meat consumption overall. Obviously, during the winter we eat more than in the summer since the produce availability is lessened. Previously we were eating about 50/50 meat/non-meat meals. We've cut that back to around 30/60 or less during the summer and try to stay slightly under the 50% mark for our meat meals in winter. (Not only is this healthier, but it's more in line with the Word of Wisdom!)
-We buy as much local produce as we can. This past summer I went to the Farmer's Market weekly and bought everything I could of what we needed there.
-When we one day own a house I hope to have a large yard so that we can plant a garden. Raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, and strawberries. Also enough tomatoes to eat and to can. Lettuce, chard, peas, green beans, squashes, carrots. We may even try out onions, potatoes, and garlic eventually.
-We're trying to eat more seasonally. Tomatoes grown thousands of miles away in the middle of winter, picked when not ripe, then artificially ripened just don't taste as good. So why buy them? We're certainly not perfect at this yet, but we're working on it. Not only does it make our meals taste better, but it lessens our footprint on the environment.
-We're hoping to gradually wean ourselves off of those big, fat boneless skinless chicken breasts from the store and buy locally raised chickens. Which means learning how to use the entire chicken. It'll take some time, but the results will hopefully taste chickenier (and be kinder to the chickens.)
-We'd switch to local eggs now if we could get our hands on Polyface farm eggs. (Our Manassas readers will have to go buy them instead - last I checked Polyface farm comes to a farmer's market in Manassas, you lucky people!) Reading the chefs in Omnivore's Dilemma rave about them was startling. I'd always thought an egg was an egg. But apparently not. So, when we have a little more income we'll switch over.
One difficult thing to realize is that you can buy lots more calories for a lot cheaper when you buy foods that are unhealthy. Which is part of why we have an obesity problem. I think we could help poor people out by making the food stamp program run more like the WIC program. No more buying conveyor belts full of candy, soda, or chips with your food stamps. Really making people use the money to achieve a more well-balanced diet. When you're on WIC you're required to go online and complete a lesson about nutrition and how to feed your family well every time you go in to pick up your checks. Expanding that to the food stamp program would help as well. That's the main idea I've thought of. I don't know how many schools still have home ec. classes where they teach cooking or not, but that's another thing that could help. If kids feel like they can cook when they get out on their own they will be more likely to do so. Of course, if we stopped subsidizing all the surplus corn that becomes high fructose corn syrup, that'd help as well.
After the movie Ryan and I mentioned to each other that there are thousands of causes or issues such as this one that we all have a choice to care about or not. This happens to be one that we've decided is important for our family. There are others we don't worry about as much. It's simply not possible to take on all the issues. So, what are your thoughts? What do you choose to care about and why? If this is one of the issues you care about, what ideas are you implementing in your home?
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Thankfully Ryan's semester was not as stressful as last year's, so we were able to purchase our tree at the traditional time for my family - the weekend of my sister's birthday. Gareth had a great time. Every tree was "too big tree" unless it was 2.5 feet tall and the owner of the tree farm even let Gareth "help" cut down the tree. Too bad we didn't have the camera with us! Here's the final result:
My mom sends us little gifts for an advent each year, which Gareth gets really excited about opening, even when the gift is a washcloth or a pair of socks for someone else. (We have an awesome video of Gareth and Ryan playing with socks, but I have to figure out how to upload it still. ) My advent gifts that I look forward to are the ornaments that she and my dad make for us.
These is one of the ornaments they sent this year. Gareth had a great time playing with the "car Christmas" (he tends to call Santa Christmas).
My brother and sister-in-law were able to come up and join us for Christmas weekend. Lucky them, they got to be here for the most snow we've ever seen in our two winters here! (It was only 3 or 4 inches, but that's way more than we ever had last year.) They arrived Christmas Eve in time to catch the end of the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol, which is a tradition from Ryan's family. We finally broke down and decided we couldn't go another year without it and purchased it - our splurge of the season. Gareth, of course, enjoyed the extra attention of two more adults and even climbed into bed with them one night, which meant that no one slept well.
Christmas morning we took our time getting up and ready. My family's traditional cinnamon roll breakfast is too sweet anymore for us old fogeys, so we always make Ryan's traditional breakfast - blueberry breakfast bake. That and some Christmas grapefruit are a delicious combination. Then we commenced the gift-opening. For this part we follow my family's tradition and open gifts one at a time so that we can all see what everyone else gets and to stretch out the fun. Gareth could have been content (not truly understanding what happens on Christmas) with his first gift, a Lightning McQueen car. He carried it around all day and had to have it at naps and bedtime. He received lots of puzzles as well, which he enjoyed dumping out and leaving for others to clean up, which is what he also did with his new Hungry Caterpillar game.
He's since started to figure them out and is playing with them more and more. He also had fun playing bowling and trains:
Auntie Cinira and Uncle Matthew gave us Polar Express and it is Gareth's new favorite movie. I should have known, since he loves trains so much. Yes, the rest of us received gifts as well, but that's just not as interesting as a cute kid, now is it? Matthew and Cinira introduced us to a cool card game called Bang. Christmas was full of late nights and good food and fun.
Ryan and I love to do puzzles at the holidays, so of course we had to purchase three new puzzles (since we don't have tons yet).
This is our challenging one for the year. 2000 pieces. We almost finished it in time for the New Year, but ran out of steam on the sky, so we finished it the next evening instead. We've had a wonderful holiday and hope all of you have as well. And, since it'll probably be another month or so before I get around to posting again, here are some pictures of Gareth enjoying having his Daddy home: