Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grandpa's Visit

Brian's dad came to visit (Eli) for the weekend. We had lots of fun, especially the smallest host. We went to the circus, park, and toy store.

After a little time warming up, Eli was crazy about Grandpa.

He wouldn't even let him escape to the bathroom in peace.

It was a weekend full of merriment and food.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Birthday... Man

Today is Brian's 26th birthday and his dad, Frank, is even here from Oregon to celebrate. Since he's taking his many calls I thought I could sneak away and write about my sweet birthday boy.
26 years ago his parents were driving as quickly as possible through the canyon to get from Afton Wyoming to Logan Utah where the nearest hospital was to deliver their 1st child. His poor mom's water broke in the car and he was born soon after arriving at the hospital. I bet everyone was wondering what a half Korean, half Mexican baby would look like. Beautiful. He grew up to be much like his dad, hardworking, sentimental, gentle, and food-loving.
Today we celebrated with his favorite foods. His present from me was a make your own mozzarella kit. He was excited for every meal, starting with breakfast: crepes with nutela, strawberries, bananas, and cinnamon apples. Lunch with homemade tortillas, chili, and beans. Dinner was surprisingly French, despite his Asian obsession:to-die-for pork tenderloin with a creamy mushroom sauce. He definitely won't complain about his lunch of leftovers tomorrow. His cake, already mentioned a few days ago, was a total hit, with the boys around the table groaning with enjoyment after each dark chocolaty bite.
Lucky for both of us, his favorite leisure activity revolves around my favorite past time, cooking.
We must be meant for each other. Happy Birthday Bri, I love you.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Super-Vegetable

Our Beautiful cinderella pumpkin was the onset of my recent enthusiasm for all things squash. This morning at the farmer's market here in town I got even more excited over their beauty and variety. Some were red, green, white, grey, and even white with small veins of pink. These perfect vegetables are easily available, stay good for weeks or months on the counter, and are so healthy and versatile in dishes.
I never really cooked squash until Eli needed baby food and I was obsessed with feeding my prescious little one only the best food I could find. Although butternut is more mainstream, I learned that acorn squash (the little round dark green one with ridges) has much more fiber and is a bit sweeter. Yesterday I made a pureed soup of the two, my best yet:

1 Acorn Squash (halved and seeded)
1 Butternut Squash (halved and seeded)
Oil them a little so they don't dry out or stick to your roasting pan and bake, face-down, at 375 for 1 hour or so, until soft when poked. In the mean time saute:
3 Chopped Carrots
3 Ribs of Celery Chopped
1/2 Onion Chopped in
2 TBSP Oil
Until tender and add
2 Cups of Chicken Broth (I just add water and a bouillon cube) and simmer with any fresh herbs like parsley or thyme and a couple bay leaves.
Once the squash is done, scoop it out of the skin and into a blender with some of the broth and vegetables, leaving out the herbs. You may have to do it in batches and add milk or broth to thin out to desired consistency and salt to taste. I served with ribbons of fresh sage.

Now to other uses. This month in Better Homes and Gardens they had the idea of taking an apple corer to take polka dots out of multi-colored pumpkins and switching them around, so, for example, you have a white pumpkin with orange dots. Martha has plenty of ideas for pumpkins, here are some carving templates.
And don't throw away those seeds in those pumpkin guts, yesterday I learned they have many health benefits. With all their domestic uses, what's there not to be enthusiastic about?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

DI Rediscovered

Brian and I used to go to DI (Utah version of Salvation Army) to look for house stuff when we were first married and quite poor. Then Eli came and I wouldn't even shop at Wal-mart because it felt so dirty. We switched to shopping the pristine, empty aisles of Target while Eli was tiny since it was Winter and germy. (If I sound crazy, I've talked to other moms who did the same thing). Eli must be old hat. Now, after a 2 year hiatus, I found the Sandy DI a few weeks ago and we go all the time. Eli loves the toy section and I scope out the glassware for kitchen storage containers. (I'm already preparing for a dream kitchen with a few open shelves instead of upper cabinets like the white kitchen blow.)

If the boy gives me enough time I scour through the books to find quality cookbooks for a dollar or two. Its like an ongoing yard sale that you don't have to drive all over town or wake up early for. My love of yard sales, I'm definitely my mother's daughter. Whenever I feel self-conscious for being a cheapskate rummaging through junk I think about it from a different perspective: I'm just being eco-conscious. Then I can hold my head high.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

2 Church Sunday, Chocolate and Vanilla Please

Brian was invited to one of his student's church services Sunday at the Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake where she was to be recognized in front of the congregation for her outstanding achievement in getting 2nd place in forms at Soo Bahk Do Nationals in August. Eli and I went too. Everyone was friendly and smiling, asking our names and shaking hands. We felt so welcome.
The music was joyful and made me want to dance, which I did after looking around to see what the others were doing. I told Brian to bring home a Gladys Knight CD if he runs into one at work.
Everyone was so vocal and fervent in their beliefs, even teenagers. It was a good lesson for me, for whom church usually involves 3 hours without much speech or emotion. These people were so happy just have the chance to wake up and worship on Sunday morning.
The diversity in the membership was another highlight for me. In the middle they had all visitors stand and introduce themselves. There were people visiting for a university public speaking class, some were in Salt Lake because family members were at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, others were faithful transients, and even a newly-elected Congressman was there to say Thank You to the congregation for all the work it had done after Katrina, taking in, feeding, and clothing some of those displaced by the storm.
Brian was honored to be invited and I was happy to attend. I will take many things away. I admired how they supported their youth, were unashamed to praise God, took local action to help others, and were warm to newcomers. I guess we found out where all the nice people in Salt Lake are.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Happy First Day of Fall

From our almost-too-beautiful-to-eat cinderella pumpkin

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pollo Negro

Well, for last night's dinner I was dreaming of recreating the best grilled chicken from my favorite restaurant chain in California. Don't be fooled by the humble surroundings, Pollo Norteno, grills up the best chicken you've ever had. I found a close competitor's marinade recipe online since theirs is obviously Top Secret. Preparation began early. In the morning I started boiling pinto beans and got the meat marinating. In the afternoon made spanish rice, and tortillas. We even had fresh home-made salsa. Everything was ready for my pollo dreams to come true.
I guess I was over-confident in my cooking abilities, or just impatient, and decided to work the gas grill for the first time by myself. Brian would be home soon to finish things off. I knew from FoodTV to grill the chicken on low heat for a long time since it takes a while to cook and you don't want grease-induced flames burning the outside before the inside is cooked. I tried adjusting temperatures and moving the meat to the top rack. Apparently traffic was bad and Brian didn't get home until the chicken was black-the skin that is, but I was still sad since that's my favorite part.
Despite it's color, dinner was a hit. Eli was a maniac about all of it, especially the beans (here he is stealing some from my plate). The boys left to hang out with the Young Men from church and I planned to redeem myself by making tart to use up some of the raspberries (which Brian LOVES) that were on super-sale for $1/pack. I made a ground almond crust since it is easier to press a crumble into the tart pan rather than having to roll out finicky dough and filled it with a sinful concoction of raspberry, heavy cream, melted chocolate, and butter. Too bad everyone I know is trying to eat healthier, but if you have an anniversary, birthday, or change your ways, this is a luscious, simple dessert good enough to make anyone cheat on their diet. It took overnight to set, so it was actually breakfast. Poor me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Birthday Cakes

Birthday season is approaching. In the next month we have Brian, Eli, Brian's mom, my three siblings and my nephew. I have much planning, especially since I'm trying to do homemade gifts. I made my sisters' yesterday, actually, but I can't spill the beans.
And now onto the planning of cakes. Poor Brian will be getting the same flourless, chocolate-mousse-filled, ganache-covered cake as last year. If you want something so decadent you can only eat 5 bites, this is it. Luckily Brian's dad will be here to help us take care of it.
For Eli's birthday we will be in Oregon with Brian's parents and so, as with most things, I was wanting to keep his cake simple. Probably cupcakes again, with rectangle candies and chocolate chips forming a little train on each one, like unto the cover of this book to the right, classic and minimal. I like it.
In my cupcake research I happened upon a blog just about the mini-confections with all kinds of unique ideas and recipes. And this website will give you endless ideas of theme cakes, from easy (Pac Man,for your retro gamer made of a round cake with 1/4 cut out for his mouth which is chasing yellow dots on the pan) to extravagant (Sushi platter for your foodie with fishes made of fondant). I came across so many amazing cakes made by regular people on that website I must do some matching of some folks with their ideal cake:

Kim- Brian's Sister
The Taco


Thomas The Train (the mountain is the cake)

Leilani (friend)
Mac & Cheese (from our starving student days)

Anna (friend)
Spring Shower Almond Petits Fours by Martha (for a decadent bite of the picturesque)

Everyone can tell me if I'm wrong about their cakes. And now I must request that everyone goes here to check out the amazing birthday cakes by Martha's people. I'm inspired now. One cake at a time, Helena.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sew Your Own Cloth Diapers

Sounds intense, eh? I figured I would wait for #2 and a better washing machine before making the leap. I really never thought of sewing them myself since I'm no seamstress and sewing machines intimidate me. Luckily my friend Anna organized the class with her in-laws to get the pattern and learn how to sew cloth diapers from the woman they had been buying them from. The diapers are much like FuzziBunz with her own variations. Ivy Dow is her name and it was her first class. I think its genius. Instead of competing with the endless cloth diaper companies out there and being a diaper-sewing machine, she's found a more meaningful niche. Her company, Every-Green Babies, is helping people save money, be self-sufficient, and be eco-conscious. She will have great success in Utah with all the homemakers that have time and sewing skills.
I thought she was going to hand out the patterns and show us how to make them. Hah! We had to sew them ourselves. Nothing better than hands-on experience and it gave me the confidence to think I could actually do it on my own.
Last night at the class I was the one with the least sewing ability (also known as the slowest) and poor Anna felt like she had to explain that I had sewn once 10 years ago. After a few comments I finally said, only half-jokingly, "Only in Utah is it not okay to not know how to sew!" I was stressed and caused threading problems with the machine, but finally finished and was filled with pride at my olive green creation. I couldn't wait to try it on the boy. He even wore it to church today.
I love DIY projects, I don't mind the few flaws because I'm so proud that I did it myself and we can have stylish cloth diapers for 1/4 the price of buying them. Olive green, chocolate brown, eggplant, and cranberry diapers, here we come. Sounds delicious.

Sunday, September 14- Independence Day

For the past 4 months I've been in nursery with Eli (playtime for 18 month to 3 year olds at church) because he started crying inconsolably when I left. I just decided to always stay so he would feel comfortable rather than worrying about me leaving. It's also hard because the teachers alternate Sundays and its hard for him to get to know them. At first he was clingy and wouldn't get off my lap. As the weeks went by he needed me less and less. Last week I asked the one girl that is always there to make friends with him (they usually leave him alone because I'm there). This week I got the feeling I could leave after a few minutes. I got his attention and told him I was leaving and that I would be back. He made it just fine! I was the one worried, waiting outside the door half the time to listen for his cries. I asked other parents for reports and he was perfect the whole time. Good timing Eli. While he was in class I was asked to be a primary teacher (for the kids that are 7 and 8) which means I would not have been able to be in with in there him anymore.

Friday, September 12, 2008

State Fair

I grew up in a respectable, state-fair-going family. Somehow Brian doesn't have an appreciation for all things deep-fried, so we went without the party pooper. Eli and I didn't want him limiting our fun since it was our first time to the Utah State Fair. There was something for each of us. Here are our favorites:

Honorable Mention:
A 700 Pound Butter Sculpture

5th Place:
My footlong corndog (maybe I'm glad the camera batteries died in time to miss it)

4th Place
Homegrown Prize-winning vegetables

and flowers galore with a Dahlia the size of my head.

3rd Place:
The freshly shorn sheep, which taught us that they really say "Maaaa" (as in math, not Baaaa). They were Eli's favorite until one "Maaaa"ed so loudly it made him cry.

2nd Place:

Homemade ice cream. I had to have some when I saw the sign and the old tractor engine churning the two barrels of ice cream. The lady even had an itty bitty size cone and scoops for little kids.

1st Place & Best in Show:

Little Hands on the Farm-
It was our unsurpassed favorite. Little kids went in (for free) and put on aprons and took a pail and worked on the farm doing various chores:

Milk a Fake Cow-

It came first and Eli was too scared with the loud mooing.

Pick Apples in the Orchard-

The apron was so cute I had to buy one at the end. Good momento from his first fair, right?

Brush a Sheep-

And take some wool to add to his bucket.

Gather Eggs-
This was his favorite. I had to ungather some before we moved on.

Turn in Your Goods-
For which he was paid $1 and could buy something from the store. He LOVES paying at stores.

It was way too fun, maybe Brian will go with us next year now that we have proof.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Mischief Has Begun

And it has all started with the steppie-stool. Until now, Eli has been a relatively calm, clingy, and exceptionally careful boy. Unlike the majority of parents, we've never had to do much baby-proofing (except electrical outlets of course). Most people have to worry when their little ones wander into another room, I pray for such events.
Yesterday we were playing with bubbles and the boy was quite excited because it had been a while. Then he asked me, with grunts and the sign for help, to open up our collapsible steppie-stool and ran off with it. I was relieved that the boy found something to entertain himself and went back to work on dinner- roasted tomato and red pepper soup, a Greek spinach pie, and buerli (way too much work, don't know what I was thinking). Then I got the feeling I should go see what he was up to.
I'd like to continue by saying "Now we only have a few rules in our house...", but if I think of them there might be too many to make that statement true . Either way, "No putting your hands in the fish tank" is well-known. His little brain put 2 and 2 together, with the stool he could reach the top of the tank. I wonder if he also thought, mom is busy, so she won't catch me... No, much too sinister, he's not even 2 yet.
A few minutes later his conniving brain was considering cause and effect again.

drawer pulls

= I'm on the counter

(He quickly reproduced his feat for the camera) The thing is, I let him up on the counter when I can watch him, but that time was up. He's so full of glee on the counter one might think I don't give him enough cooking-with-mom time, or

maybe I'm giving myself too much credit and its just that he too gets excited about kitchen gadgets, which happen to be out for bread baking.

With all this tomfoolery I wasn't sure how people have a #2 before the first one goes to preschool. I figured it out the other day. This 2-years-apart phenomenon is actually wise. You are either pregnant or have a tiny baby by the time the mischief has begun and there's no turning back. I must also admit that all the other good moms out there consider their children's happiness first when thinking about child-spacing. I, on the other hand, consider all the throwing up, tantrums, labor (both forms), and sleeplessness that must be endured. Call me selfish, I just say a happy mom is a happy family, right?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Bob

I love the Bob. I do not speak of a certain builder, sponge, or fancy jogging stroller, but the haircut. I've been leaning towards shorter hair since high school. I'm pretty lazy when it comes to doing hair and make-up, so long hair just goes up in a pony tail.
For me, short hair= easy style. And the bob seems pretty timeless-popular since the 20's.
Where did I choose to get the beloved haircut? A hair school. For some reason I followed Brian's recommendation. Luckily I'm not attached to my hair, teachers must always check their work, and it was $12.
I should have waited to talk about this on one of those rare days that I use the hair dryer. Well, I tried, but Eli got traumatized. I just let it air dry to see how things would turn out, since that's what I'll be doing every other day of the year.

If You Grill It, They Will Come

Or maybe it was the Halo tournament that accompanied Brian's gourmet grilling that brought 10 or so boys to the new Young Men presidency's first Tuesday night activity. (This is a good turnout considering 1 of the 17 boys on the list sometimes comes to church.) Brian loves the new church calling. Sunday was his first official day and he taught the Young Men's priesthood class and sunday school. Last night, with our rickety grill, he worked barbeque magic, turning out the juiciest, tastiest chicken, tri-tip, and steaks Bobby Flay would be jealous of.
Eli liked being around all the neighborhood kids and friendly dogs. He wanted to sit and eat on the porch with the rest of the boys. I was a bit more nervous, keeping a constant eye on him. I learned that if Sandy has a rough side, this is it.
The boys were appreciative and helpful. They wouldn't even let me take out the trash and one felt bad about me pouring his drink.
Brian has said that he likes teacher callings best, you just prepare your lesson and teach. No meeting after church or stuff during the week. This new calling has all of that, but he looks forward to it. He likes the challenge and hopes to connect with the boys, especially through Soo Bahk (if they're interested). He already has plans of going out early on Sundays to get the boys out of bed and to church.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back To School For Us Too

Brian started his fall term of Soo Bahk today. His teaching schedule is getting busier and he's especially glad that he has enough oldsters interested to start an adult class. He likes being able to get into the philosophy a bit more.
I'm always trying to find an excuse to bring treats, so we came today with cupcakes for the first day of class. Eli's getting better at watching class. Last year he always had fits because he wanted to go out on the floor with the students. Today he watched studiously for 5 minutes until he needed to wander with his stroller.
I've enjoyed Brian's 2 week break from martial arts. Every day he would ask when he could do Soo Bahk again. Now I'm realizing I should have appreciated the break more, seeing how busy he will be. On the one or two nights he isn't doing Soo Bahk he will be with the young men from church. At least he's doing stuff he really loves (and needs, he gets cranky if he goes too long without Soo Bahk).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Summertime: Life Is Good

Especially in these late days of summer with cooler weather and many events around town. In the dreary days of winter we will look back longingly at these days filled with swimming, fairs, bike rides, farmer's markets, and walks to the park. Until then we're over-loading on fun. Yesterday we went on a bike ride, today was the Greek festival, and tomorrow we'll go to the farmer's market. I'll elaborate on a couple of them.
This afternoon Eli and I took the train to pick Brian up from work and we all went to the Greek Festival for some good eats. Worried the food was going to be like Swiss Days, Brian acted very not excited. Near the entrance we were greeted by two whole lambs (dripping with an olive oil marinade) roasting on spits. His attitude changed quickly. Over our delicioso dinners we watched traditional Greek dancing, Eli's eyes were glued. He almost preferred it to the chicken. He got excited outside at the kid's carnival where he was only big enough to do one game: pick a rubber ducky from a tub of water. It was his first carnival game, so I was sure to document the uninteresting, over-priced event.
Yesterday Eli and I did our favorite warm-weather activity. Here are some hints: 1) It's free 2) It's fun for us both 3) It's exercise, only for me 4) Leaves no carbon footprint 5) And takes us places... Yes, bike riding. He has a seat on my bike and we both love it. My friend has one of those tow-behind trailers that holds two kids and getting Eli in there was like trying to put a cat in water.
We live a couple of blocks from an entrance to a bike trail, so we took it a mile or so to a $2 petting zoo. Eli was brave enough to pet a baby goat this time and made us stay quite a while with the pigs, horse, donkey, llamas, bunny, and rooster.
I don't know what we'll do with the end of summer and its merriment and free activities. I guess this winter our goal will be to learn to enjoy "the greatest snow on earth."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Helena Jr.

Brian sometimes complains, but is getting used to the fact that Eli is just like me. Seems strange for a boy to share more traits with his mom than his dad, but things could be worse- he did like me enough to marry me. We're still having a hard time finding a similarity between the boys besides Eli's slightly Asian eyes. The little boy and I, on the other hand, share many characteristics, in appearance and personality:
  1. Cautious- Eli and I are both very careful to avoid bodily injury. We have many examples, but I refuse sledding and Eli won't go down a slide alone.
  2. Organized- We are both pretty tidy and Eli doesn't mind doing "clean up" and will even throw away trash when he finds it.
  3. Attached- When I was 13 I cried and cried when my sister left after a month-long visit. I even teared up when Brian left in August for 8 days. When Eli finds someone (only women) he likes-say the mom of a playmate- he cries when they leave and runs to the window to watch them go.
  4. Prepared- When I had to write a paper (on the eve of it's due date) I would have already organized notes, sources, and my thoughts before slowly writing the one-and-only draft, which I often wouldn't even proofread before turning in. Eli walked later than some (14 months), waiting until he had the skills to take on this new ability safely.
  5. Pets- We both prefer cats.
  6. Looks- Apparently he has my ears, nose, and lips.
  7. My Favorite- His shoulder dimples.
Maybe when Eli gets older he'll be more like his dad. Until then, I'll gloat.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Bed Time

Our favorite time with Eli everyday is bed time and not even for the serenity we enjoy afterwards. Eli's pretty much always sweet, but he's extra sugar-coated at night. It has always been this way, I remember some nights we cheesy parents didn't even want to put him to sleep. Brian's a sucker for the hugs, especially the head-on-shoulder ones.
Eli loves his nightnight routine. Quiet play in his room, stories with milk and singing. He sings with us and lays down peacefully in his crib. Last week he wouldn't fall asleep until I figured out that he now wanted cars in his bed. Tonight I went to get his toothbrush and came back to find him reading. Chocolate dipped, sugar coated sweetness. I always manage to put him to bed though.