Saturday, August 30, 2008

Swiss Days or Utah Days?

My sister and her beautiful little family went to Switzerland a couple of days ago to visit my other sister and dad. Here in Utah, Swiss Days in Midway is as close as we got this year. Every time we go I tell myself, "We're not going next year, it's just a bunch of Utah handicrafts and bad food." But there's something about entering a small mountain town with Swiss flags and architecture. It is also well-organized as if the Swiss government were orchestrating it. There's free parking and frequent shuttles taking people to the event which has lots of entertainment being performed , free drink and even hand-washing stations set up. Now the downside. Food stands have names like Swiss Tacos and Swiss Hamburgers. Yikes. The saurkraut is so concentrated it makes your cheeks go hollow and eyes squint. We were sure to arrive full.
Today I found the best food available, caramel apples. Eli only appreciated the caramel, sending the naked sour apple slice back. This wasn't the only treat this year. Luckily, we stuck around long enough to hear some impressive yodeling (click here for a tame example) and I even saw a couple of guys in lederhhosen. Now we're getting authentic. There was even a stand set up by the Swiss Consulate giving out free Swiss stuff (the only real Swiss stuff there) to encourage people to go to a website and share their Swiss heritage. It was all a small, not-so-realistic taste of the experience my sister's family is having, but it was still fun to get out and experience some familiar sites and sounds.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I was just looking, or longing, over a website with fabulously designed kid's furniture and remembered my admiration of Stokke. I'm a sucker for multifunctional. That's why Stokke is the best. You have to click this link and float your mouse over the six products at the bottom to reveal their evolving usefulness. They only have one model of each product: stroller, changing table, crib, etc. showing that they've perfected each one. The highchair, crib and even changing table can be used practically from birth to adulthood. Ikea fulfills most of my wants, but not this one. I still regret the day when I saw a craigslist ad for one of their cribs for half off and didn't act quickly. Maybe someday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Our Little Clasper

One of Eli's main interests right now (other than cars and cats) is clasps, and he finds them all. He works on his onesie buttons, overall clasps, car seat buckles, buttons, and clasps on backpacks, high chairs, helmets, his bike seat and strollers (like this expensive green one in a kids boutique). He always finds the stacks of high chairs in restaurants and babyless car seats at church to work on. His eyes really lit up when he saw me using our combination bike lock.
This started many months ago, but it has turned into an obsession lately. The few finger pinches haven't even deterred him (No,I don't pinch him, the clasps do). Yesterday while I was in the shower he climbed into the laundry basket and worked on the buttons of a dirty onesie for 5 minutes. Shouldn't it be 1 minute? This could be normal and we don't have a particularly meticulous, detail-oriented, almost-2-year-old with the attention span of a 5 year old, let me know.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Preferred Reading

Since graduating college, which meant the end of required reading, I'm embarrassed to say that Brian and I don't devour books like we used to. Lately it's just board books and cookbooks. Brian's welcome home present was a new Korean cookbook. The night he got home he ignored me for a good half an hour, a zombie to the cookbook as if it were sports on TV and he were the sports-watching type. No hurt feelings here,I was just proud of my purchase.
I am quite thrilled about a couple of new cookbooks, A Baker's Tour and All About Vegetarian Cooking. I'm a little self-conscious whenever I attempt bread because it always turns out more crumby than spongy, never like the fancy artisan bread we like to buy. I've been eying the baking book for a while and I'm glad I finally gave in to temptation and bought it. The author includes all kinds of baked goods (bread, cookies, cakes, pies, and even savory pastries) from all over the world, concentrating in Europe. Surprisingly, Switzerland is second only to Italy for the number of recipes in this book and he even includes a recipe special to St. Gallen- Klostertorte. I can't wait to get started and there will definitely be baking updates as soon as I begin to master bread.
I've been thinking about vegetarian food lately since most of us eat more than enough meat and not enough vegetables. Brian wasn't too distressed at my interest, having just come from training with Master Jang (from Santa Barbara who gave us the calligraphy) who talked about being balanced in all aspects of your life and eating an equal amount of each color in meals. I'll admit I feel a tinge of guilt every day when I get out meat to prepare dinner. I don't know where it comes from (okay, I do, the same conscience that makes sure I do my visiting teaching every month and keeps me from throwing away recyclables). I do know that there are other ways of attaining protein, vegetables carry more crucial vitamins and fiber, they're much cheaper, and I hear they take less than 10% of the water that red meat requires to produce. We're not going extreme, just looking to go meatless for a couple of dinners a week. It will definitely take more planning ahead, but I obviously don't mind cooking-related homework.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Eight Days, Ten Hours

The countdown ended Friday night when we went to the airport to pick up Brian. Eli's facial expression was priceless as it went from a thoughtful searching of the crowd to an elated smile once he picked out his dad coming down the escalator. We're not used to this separation business, so it was pretty hard for us. He was out of range for much of the time, so we couldn't even talk on the phone. Now we are appreciating each other extra much. At the airport Eli was clinging around Brian's neck like a little monkey and wanted him to sit in the back seat with him on the way home.
Brian feels quite confident about his test and even won 1st place in forms and 3rd in sparring in his division (3rd Dan, ages 18-30) at nationals. So far we've found that 3 of his students took home trophies too. Thanks to almost constant workouts and little sleep, he came home a bit sore and without his panza! We're all glad its over and even more, we're proud of him. I'm sure he now has plenty of posting material to put on his blog about the experience and everything he learned.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Clafouti- Perfect Summertime Dessert

Don't ask me how to pronounce it, but it's easy and quick to make, healthy, and delicioso. With some apricots getting wrinkly in the fruit bowl, I had to do something. I whipped out the Williams Sonoma baking cookbook and found this recipe, Apricot Clafoutis. It's basically a tart without the pastry; fruit and custard are baked in single serving ramekins or a 10 inch tart pan. I threw in some aging cherries to use them up and add some color. Apricots can often be dry, but when baked they are perfectly juicy and a little bit tart. I added a couple tablespoons of sugar and a couple of dashes of cinnamon to the fruit before placing in baking cups. The recipe makes a bit too much custard for only 4 servings, so I double the fruit and use all 8 of my ramekins. (I'll double the fruit below)

2 Pounds fruit seeded and cut into chunky bites(apricot, cherries, plums, or pears)

3/4 C. Milk
6 T. Sugar
1 t. Lemon Zest

1 t. Vanilla

1 Pinch Salt

1/3 C. Flour

Powdered Sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350, butter ramekins, and place them on cookie sheet. Drop in prepared fruit. In blender combine eggs, milk, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, and flour. Pour over fruit, dividing evenly among dishes. Bake 25-35 minutes until bubbling and tops are browned. Cool on wire rack and you can sprinkle with powdered sugar once cool.

Simple, huh? It's a painless do-ahead dessert and anything served a ramekin is classy, not to mention it's French. I'm just glad I have a figure-friendly dessert to give to friends that I know are trying to eat healthily. Maybe I should, but I sure don't feel guilty after a buttery tart and some ice cream.

Martha has some great seasonal fruit recipes (including Cherry Clafouti), although they are more complicated and extravagant, as usual.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cutest Copycat

I read somewhere that children between the ages of 1 and 2 learn by copying things they see. In elementary school copycats were annoying, but when Eli does it he melts my heart. When he's trying to open a bottle he tugs on his onesie since he sees us using our shirts to try and get a grip on jars. When I put him to bed I hold him by his crib and sing a couple songs. Lately he insists on standing next to me in the dark while he sways and sings with me. He has even picked up a couple of stroller skills from his wise mother. He was ahead of me as we were leaving the tile store the other day and he employed my push-the-door-with-your-back-trick.
Brian and I always say, "This is the best stage." He loves to play, doesn't mind when we change the channel, feeds himself, is getting more independent, and yet he makes us feel important with his imitations. This is definitely the best stage.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I adore them. I think I always have. There's just something about the geometric designs of those juicy leaves. I'm somewhat sentimental about plants that remind me of California, and especially my grandma's garden. I think its good to decorate your home with things that say something about what makes you you, and so, there are some potted succulents to greet us at our door. Succulents are pretty much the only plant that will survive in Utah without a greenhouse. When snow comes I'll just perch them on our window sill. I love their simplicity, aesthetically and in their care. Just give them a spot in the sun in sandy soil and water them when you remember (hopefully that's not too often). You can propagate them easily with a fallen branch or the cutting of a leaf. They make elegant gifts or even a fast-growing ground-cover in your garden. Today, in my new blog-perusing-habit I found another reason to admire this large genus of plants, they're eco-friendly. For types you probably can't find anywhere else in Utah, go to this amazing garden store, Cactus and Tropicals. (I'm afraid to say the picturesque gathering to the right is not mine.)

Organization Station

I've got organizing on the brain since I'm going to tackle Brian's martial arts inventory mess as a treat before he gets home. I have set up various organization stations, as I call them, around the house to help him out, if I can only get him to use them! Nowadays I figure they just make it easier for me to manage his everyday clutter. Anyway, this brings me to my favorite one ever: The Cupboard Wall Organizer by a company called Three by Three. My sister bought me a magnetic board from this company and then I was excited when I saw their stuff at the Organization Store in Orem. We bought this organizer a couple of years ago and it is one of our most excellent purchases. Besides being attractive, the creators thought of everything. No more cluttered counters or missing keys. There's a magnet board for cards or pictures, a slot for holding mail you don't feel like sorting yet, a cup to hold change and pens, a shelf for your wallet and hooks to hold keys and such. What's even more wonderful is that it's on sale here. I feel like saying organize one more time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Over The River And Through The Woods

To combat our loneliness (well, I don't know if Eli's lonely, but) yesterday we went to visit Brian's sweet little Mexican grandma a couple of hours away. It was our first road trip, just the two of us. We made it just fine (probably thanks to our worrying grandma's constant prayers) despite the deer-infested, curving two-lane highway under construction. Eli did well except for some crying over dropped toys and food that I couldn't hand him. It was well worth it. Once there, we were greeted by the sweetest little grandma with a table full of food, most important being the homemade tortillas and chili. We did not come empty-handed like we usually do. We brought grandma a bundt-shaped zucchini bread. The link for the recipe will follow, cuz it's a good one.
After lunch, Eli was up to the same monkey-business: chasing after cats with his stroller. It was nice to hear stories and look at pictures. I've never met someone more warm and sincere. I remember the first time I met her, I wasn't sure what to do after she said "I love you." If her kids/grandkids bring someone home, it's like they're a member of the family. By this morning Eli still wouldn't let her hold him, until he needed someone to put his shoes on so we could leave. Whenever it's time to go, she sends us home with home-made tortillas, whatever food she can spare, and some money "for hamburgers." I'm sure grandma won't mind me sharing the recipe for the tortillas she's been making for like 75 years, only using her hands to measure the ingredients:

2 1/2 C. Flour
1 T. Baking Powder
1 t. Salt
2 T. Grease (oil, shortening, bacon drippings, grandma would insist on lard)
1 C. Hot Water

To dry ingredients add grease, which doesn't have to incorporate fully, the hot water will do that. Add hot water. If it's dry or sticky, add a bit of water or flour. Get frying or cast iron pan hot on medium heat. Keep dough covered so it doesn't dry out and pull off pieces to make a ball 2 inches in diameter. Roll out (don't worry, it won't be a circle, not until you're a grandma) on floured surface or silpat, as thin as you can get it, about 1/8 inch and brown on either side in hot pan. Can be cooled and frozen in foil for later.
Now that I type directions out, it sounds pretty laborious, but it isn't. It's a nice treat and doable since tacos aren't much work anyway.

She was astonished when it came up that I make tortillas sometimes too. Uh oh. She might not make them for us anymore.

(About the Zucchini Bread, you can half the oil and put around 3/4 C. of pineapple juice, which I did because I had extra in the 20 oz. can of tidbits, which I broke up and used half of. I usually add chocolate chips to everything, but this time threw in craisins for color and a bit of tartness.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

For Your Weekend Viewing Pleasure

Here are some before and after pictures of our dining and living areas and kitchen. I'm afraid this is the last record of the Corrales couches^ that stayed in the family for a couple of decades. They served us well, as they were the only place I could sleep once my pregnancy-worn hips were too sore for a bed. Our favorite thing in the living room would have to be the calligraphy given us by Master Jang in Santa Barbara last summer. Also, Instead of only keeping toys in the family room in the back I finally figured out that I should put them in the living room (I try to make it the more attractive wooden ones) so Eli can play for a while as I wash dishes. Suddenly he got less clingy and let me work in the kitchen. Amazing. Clingy=Bored. Somehow we don't have a before shot of the kitchen, just imagine white.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Aunt Kim

In honor or Aunt Kim's (Brian's little sister) birthday I'd like to share a story about her. Eli is crazy about her. Most people he has to warm up to before he'll let them hold him, even if he sees them often. If its been a month or so since he's seen her, it doesn't matter; he jumps in her arms as soon as she comes in the door. She lived next door until he was almost one and the we moved to Salt Lake. Then she would drive the half an hour every month or so to babysit(be with) him. Last month we went to Provo to see Kim and Aaron the night before they left for their new home in Oregon. On our walk we neared the street where our cars were parked, Kim asked if she could carry Eli. When we got to where we needed to say goodbye, Brian went to take Eli and he clenched his little arms around Kim's neck and he wouldn't let go. So I tried, he's a mamma's boy, it should have worked, but it didn't. He held on tighter. Then the tears started flowing, first from her, then from me. It's pretty tender when you see how much someone else loves your child. "He knows I'm leaving," she said. I think she was right. Her husband, Aaron, tried to remind her that she still had him, but he's not as cute and sweet as Eli. Thanks for being such a thoughtful and loving sister and aunt. We miss you and happy birthday.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

THE Test

Brian will be landing in San Diego soon. His stress has been growing and this morning said that he couldn't believe today was finally here. Between today and next Friday he will be testing for his 4th degree black belt; the test is called Ko Dan Ja. This will make him a master, or should I say Master. He's delighted that 8 of his students are also able to go to the Soo Bahk Do Nationals to compete with forms and sparring and learn from international and highly-ranked instructors. He was surprised a week or two ago when a Master here in the Rocky Mountain Region (region 8) called and asked him to be on their sparring team competing at nationals. He said he has to be aggressive because his students will be watching. I wish we could be there to see him, but he will be busy the whole time, Eli doesn't travel too well, and it would get pretty pricey with flights, hotel, and food. We'll be missing him. He even surprised me with flowers last night so I won't be so sad. I surprised myself and got a little teary after we left him at the security check. Luckily this is his 5th and last trip for the summer. The others have all lasted at least 3 days each and I'm running out of home projects to do to pass the time when Eli's asleep. While Brian is gone I will make him star of "Picture of the Day."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Comfort Food for me, I have realized, is what I have eaten in my favorite places, Santa Barbara and Switzerland. I never succeed in making perfect pork roast and pinto beans like my grandma, and last night I tried yet again to make ratatouille served over polenta like Heidi in Switzerland. It was my best attempt yet, the recipe coming from a great website that gives step by step direction (but has a limited number of recipes in its file). I will try and put some zucchini recipes up since the little green squash is in season and you either have a garden, a friend with a garden, or see them on super-sale at the grocery store. I don't know if normal people cook ratatouille, but I think we should all try it. It is inexpensive, healthy, and so hearty even Brian didn't miss the meat.
Luckily the polenta (or grits) turned out quite well; it can substitute noodles in any pasta dish. (I would use chicken bouillon instead of the salt used in the link and stir in a handful of Parmesan cheese and couple tablespoons of butter at the end.) The firm polenta and soft vegetables were supposed to be perfect for Eli, but he was done after 4 slightly coerced bites.
The tomato, eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper don't have to be layered elegantly like in the movie, we just serve it like stew.
I'll admit, when we were eating dinner last night I felt a bit like Ego when he was transported to being a 6-year old boy in his mother's Provence kitchen just by taking a bite of Remy's ratatouille.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our Vegetable Loot

Our friends Anna and Joe are on a family vacation for 10 days in Michigan and so they told us to go harvest some vegetables from their garden. I couldn't believe my eyes when we got there, it was like the garden of Eden. Last I saw it there were small chili and tomato plants with some small sprouting squash plants. Now the squash vines were spreading far with spiny leaves bigger than the basketball-sized pumpkins. It was really amazing. I can see how people get into gardening, although, I must remember all of their hard work with planting, fertilizing, watering, and composting (did I mention weeding?).
Brian's raspberry dreams were dashed as they were already gone, but we collected lots of peppers, a few zucchini, and green beans.
Back home, our little window box of herbs is as big of a garden as we will be having for a couple of years. I try and use some whenever I can. We put the perennial types (sage, chives, and thyme) in one box and the annuals (basil and dill) in another. The basil has been our favorite for adding to spaghetti sauce, home-made pizza, caprese, and making cheap pesto.
Brian definitely has gardening in his blood. It all goes back to the garden his family had in Star Valley, Wyoming when he was a toddler. Apparently he wouldn't eat a meal if he had a couple of bites of a snack, so when the no-snacking rule was enforced, he would be okay with it and just run out to the garden and eat fresh peas. Our first summer married we were in a basement apartment and tried feebly to have a little container garden on our below-ground deck. I think we got 5 pea pods. This is part of why we were so amazed with Anna and Joe's garden.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bear Lake

This weekend we went to Bear Lake for the first time since our honeymoon. On the way we stopped and spent the night with Brian's grandparents in Logan. It really felt like it was 3 years ago because we got married in Logan and then went up to Bear Lake on the Idaho border during raspberry days, which was going on this weekend too. We hung out with my parents up there and were sure to have a couple of raspberry shakes.
The first day we went to the beach Eli wouldn't take his shoes off for fear of getting his feet dirty and made us hold him the whole time. The second day he knew what was going on and ended up walking and crawling around in the water and getting messy in the sand. Brian loved lounging around the water in an inner tube. Because it is a small Utah/Idaho town, hotel rates are pretty good, although, we were there at the most expensive time of year. We found a perfect little cabin for only $75/night and they probably had space for us with only a few days notice because their website was down.
Sitting on the sandy beach of the lake I realized that this was the perfect vacation spot for us and that many of Eli's memories would come from here. The water is pretty warm, not salty, and the waves are small, so Eli won't get knocked over. You know how most of the time when you get home from a trip (even with tons of laundry staring you in the face) it's a relief? Everything went so well we didn't even feel that way. Eli slept well the two nights and was really patient in the car (chocolate-covered raisins and lots of toys helped). Brian's already wanting to plan another trip before the end of the summer.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Eli's Best Friend

Curt is his name. Last night I went to his house alone and he was looking around for Eli. They have played a lot this summer since us moms are both at home. They've done things like going to the playground, swimming pool, Wheeler Farm to see the animals, finger (more like body) painting, bike rides, and an abundance of play dates. At first there was plenty of toy-grabbing and hitting (mostly Eli), but they've gotten used to each other and play pretty peacefully. A common interest besides toys is animals. Curt has fish, turtles, little water frogs, and a dog. Eli isn't even scared of Jackie anymore, a Jack Russel Terrier; nowadays he hugs her and tugs on her toys. We moms just love watching them interact, especially their clumsy hugs. Eli is more timid (unless a toy is taken away) and careful while Curt is more boisterous and wild. He shows Eli where to go to get into trouble. Take finger-painting yesterday. By the end Curt was covered and Eli just had some on his belly, an attempt to get it off his finger. Shannon has ample artwork to display and I had to make a couple of Eli footprints so I wouldn't go home empty-handed. We've tried to take advantage of this first summer that the boys can walk and have a little friend. Thanks for being our friends Shannon and Curt.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Anna and Joe: Angels, The Best Friends Ever, Or Both

8:30 a.m., Saturday, July5th when everyone else was sleeping in after festivities and fireworks, Anna and Joe came to our house with a friend's tile saw and tons of tools to help me tile our bathroom floor. After getting a layer of cement board down over the wooden sub-floor, Joe took his position in our bathtub as tile saw operator. By 10 p.m. we still weren't done and the two came back after work Monday and Tuesday until all the tile was set.
Brian and Eli got tons of one-on-one time; they went to the playground, farmer's market, swimming, and Eli saw his first movie: Kung Fu Panda. We weren't having quite so much fun. The thing is, they offered, well, Anna offered. Maybe she didn't know how much work it was going to be, Joe sure did because he had done this before. Either way, they're the best friends a person could ask for.
This past Sunday they came over and I made them a dinner to try and say Thank You. Homemade pasta with prosciutto sage cream sauce and some spicy grilled shrimp. Our new floor cost $200, a fraction of what it would have cost to pay someone. After much work, major aches and pains, and plenty of time spent, we have an attractive floor. I'm now glad Anna convinced me to choose the more labor-intensive diagonal pattern. Thank you Anna, Joe, and Brian, without whom, our bathroom floor would still be carpet.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Happy Anniversary Us

3 Years?! That number feels way too low. I barely remember life before "us". When I was buying Brian's present yesterday at Macy's, the little old lady helping said, "Oh, you have your whole life ahead of you." I guess she would know. We're no longer those two 22 year old love birds to the right, sizes 6 and 30" waist respectively, but we're just as happy. A lot has happened. We've both graduated, had a little munchkin, and bought our own place. Does life get any better than this?
I don't have a picture from our 2nd Anniversary; we had just moved here and I think we just had fondue after Eli went to bed. But we did record our 1st Anniversary when we were awfully poor and I was 7 months pregnant. I'm thinking we should have dressed up a little more. It was totally worth it to hold on to that cake for a year. Mmm... chocolate with raspberry layers.
Last night we were too eager to wait for the gift giving, so Brian opened his new 600 thread count Hotel Collection bed sheet and I saw my new necklace. The boy knows I like hand-made, so he braved all the gals at the bead store yesterday to make my pearl necklace. Isn't it beauteous? Today Eli goes to play with Shannon and Curt for many hours while we head to the spa and then out to dinner for some authentic pizza. I've never had a massage or even a pedicure, so I'm exceedingly excited for the pampering and the pizza. Love you Bri.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Going Green: Small Steps You Can Try Too

So far today I've did some cleaning, went grocery shopping, and did some laundry, all of which have me thinking about the small things we're trying to do every day. Here is our list so far, leading up to my favorite:
10) Energy Saving Light Bulbs- we bought the cheap 3 for $4 ones at Ikea and put them everywhere they would fit.
9) Natural Cleaning Products- I try to use things like Simple Green, Clorox Green Works, and even a water-vinegar solution for cleaning windows and mirrors. I realized I was putting harsh chemicals on things that Eli always touches and often ends up licking. Yikes. Besides not putting caustic substances around my family and down the drain for others to deal with, we're supporting good products.
8) Line Drying Laundry- We don't even have a yard, but we do have a walk-in closet in a spare bedroom where I can fit this great drying rack from Ikea which can hold a whole load of laundry. Apparently, while running, the clothes dryer uses the most energy of any appliance, not to mention that evaporation is free. If something needs to be wrinkle-free, just let it tumble for a few minutes to get steamy and then hang it.
7) Food Storage Containers- I try not to use plastic bags for snacks and lunch bags, but rather a reusable plastic container. I've even thought of bringing them to restaurants for leftovers rather than using their Styrofoam containers that go to waste after one use. Avoid plastic with the recycle #7 as this type can leach chemicals into food.
6) Organic Milk- Organic everything isn't necessary or economical, but I figure if I can choose one thing to switch out for, it's Eli's whole milk. He drinks so much of it and it's healthier with it's Omega 3's that I feel like it does make a difference.
5) Not Idling- Some moms here in Utah, worried about the health of their children considering how bad the air pollution is have started a group called Utah Moms For Clean Air. They are all very educated and high in society so they are able to make lots of changes around here, like outfitting school buses with devices to make them run cleaner. They also have a "no idling" campaign going on in some local schools. This means, when possible, turn your car off. This isn't always possible at stop lights, but we've all been the first person to a red light, sat at the bank drive-through, or waited for someone in the car. In modern cars, restarting your car causes the same pollution as idling for 10 seconds. If your stop will be longer than that, turn it off, besides, we all watch the traffic lights to see when we can go anyway.
4) Make It Yourself- When you need something, like dinner, a new toy, or a present to give away, put your own creative energy to work, rather than getting in the car, spending extra money, and throwing away excess packaging. Look around your house and see what you can do. Besides, more than likely, home-made food is healthier, and home-made toys and gifts have more love in them. I love giving food as a gift. Everyone likes food and you're not cluttering up their house. I think I'll now include a picture of my proudest work: Eli's play kitchen, made of scavenged cardboard boxes, contact paper, hot glue, coasters, and fabric remnants. Here's a link to buy the blue print from the genius woman who came up with it.
3) Reusable Grocery Bags- I bought five canvas grocery bags and after doing the math I think it will take 1 year for them to pay for themselves after getting the 5 or sometimes 10 cent credit per bag at the grocery store. In the mean time, we're keeping hundreds of plastic bags from the landfill or from needing to go through the recycling process and I have sturdy bags that hold much more and have long enough straps to haul all the week's groceries on my shoulders as I carry Eli up to the 3rd floor. All grocery stores these days sell reusable bags, I know you've seen them. Most importantly, you must remember to bring them, so keep them visible and bring them back to the car whenever you go out. We're finally getting good at that.
2) Water Bottle- Everywhere I go I must carry a mom bag with diapers, snacks, drink, and toys, so adding my Sigg water bottle isn't even a burden. Even Brian keeps one on his desk at work. I never end up having to stop and buy a drink, ever. I don't use Styrofoam water cups at restaurants and it reminds me to drink. I don't have to buy bottled water and haul it up to the 3rd floor in my canvas bags either. Most importantly, we don't pay for water and then throw away a plastic bottle after one use. You just empty it when you get home and let it air dry and it's good for days without a cleaning, to do which you will need a bottle cleaner.
1) Ride Your Bike- Here's my favorite. I love the feeling when I get somewhere on my own energy, especially if I would have used the car otherwise. Eli loves riding, I'm burning calories, not fossil fuel, it's free and FUN.
There we go. Those are the things I can think of doing without going crazy buying solar panels, new appliances, hybrid cars, etc. Sorry this one's so wordy, I'm obviously zealous.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Quick and Easy Desserts

I've come across a few recipes that make dessert easy and fast.
PIE: For the first one I just googled "fool-proof pie crust" and this is what I use now. I was never able to get the traditional recipe of flour, shortening, and a few tablespoons of water to come together into a perfect, crumble-free pie crust like my mom can, but this one works for me. Plus, the recipe makes enough for 4 crusts and the remaining dough can just be divided and wrapped in plastic wrap and/or foil before going in a ziploc bag in the freezer for months. It's so easy to thaw and roll out between sheets of plastic wrap sheets and there are no dishes.
CAKE: Personally, I love this Home and Garden's Cookbook recipe for visiting teachee treats. It literally takes two minutes and you don't have to remember to bring butter to room temperature. It is a small recipe so you won't have cake around the house for a week getting stale and the batter works well for cupcakes (others, I have found, fall in the middle- cupcakes with craters are not quite so beautiful). I couldn't find an equivalent online, so I will write it out:
One-Bowl Chocolate Cake (recipe for Eli's birthday cupcakes, video to the left)
1 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 C. milk
1/3 C. cooking oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 or 9 inch square or round pan or line cupcake pan (will make about 10).
2) To dry ingredients add milk, oil, and vanilla, mix for about 2 minutes until well combined, then add egg and beat.
3) Spread in prepared pan, bake 20-35 minutes, depending on pan.
-For an extra treat in cupcakes, pipe some instant pudding into their centers.
-No-Cook Fudge Frosting: add boiling water a tablespoon at a time to 2 C. powdered sugar, 1/4 C. cocoa powder, 1/4 C. butter (softened), and 1/2 tsp. vanilla until it reaches spreading consistency. If you add too much, just refrigerate and it will firm up.
CARAMEL: I learned about this from my friend Shannon. To make caramel, simply simmer an unopened (unbelievable to me too) can of Sweetened Condensed Milk in some water on the stove for two hours. That's it! She used it to sandwich two cookies together and so far I've dipped apples in it and added it to the bottom of a chocolate cream pie. You could drizzle it on ice cream or put between layers of cake.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Happy 1st August!!!

This is the perfect day to talk about my Swissness. I don't even know any history, but today is the 717th anniversary of the forming of the Swiss confederation. The fabulous Swiss Consulate sent me an invitation to a party with music and a children's parade at Sugarhouse Park. I sure hope nobody tries to speak German to me. The language barrier is the one that always makes me feel like I don't belong, but since my passport is red, it's a matter of documentation, not my self conscious notions. As soon as we can afford it, we will go again, until then we must reminisce about our August 2005 trip.
1) Here is the darling school where my sisters and I attended kindergarten. I have a few memories of walks with my class in the forest, snacks of cucumber and fleischkaese, and my first little crush (of whom I still get reports on whenever I go back).
2) Next is a view from a walk in Appenzellerland. Why people from here are considered hicks and are often embarrassed to call this home, I don't know. (You MUST click to enlarge)
3) Now comes THE Rhine River that had Brian in awe. (Wait until you see the mountains, honey)
4) It wouldn't be a trip to Switzerland without trying to keep up with Papi on a trek around the Saentis mountain range, the mountains closest to home. This is where Brian got... lets say, "uneasy". Apparently the Idaho mountains aren't this intensely jagged, steep, and soaring.
5) He was further impressed when the pilot pointed out the Alps on the way home. Poor guy later told me he was planning to show me what mountains really looked like, but was saddened that it happened the other way around.
I'm feeling better already. It's not all in the language, there has to be something to say for heritage and memories. Hopefully this newfound confidence will stick with me tonight.