Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mommy Group

First Anna got me sewing, but before that, a long time ago, she told me to join a mom's group. She even did lots of research. I earnestly tried making friends at church, but them having to work or moving away, as well as finding someone with similar interests or kids of the same age has made things difficult. In short, today I went to the general meeting to turn in my application to join the chapter of MOMS Club International in my area. It's like a support group for stay at home moms. I think everyone should join one, especially if you don't have family near or have a husband that is gone a lot. These ladies are so friendly and all in a similar situation.

Activities through the month include things like story time at the library, going out for treats, playgroups by age, classes, crafts, date nights where parents alternate babysitting while others go on double dates, and service projects. I love that kids are always invited to everything. Even when there are classes for moms, there's child care provided in the nursrey, but if your child is clingy, they are welcome to the class. Eli enjoyed learning about couponing, he even laughed a few times with us.

Today's class was about saving big bucks at the grocery store. It involves subscribing to the weekend newspaper for coupons ($1-2/wk). Then you must go to a webiste, GrocerySmarts (for Utah add the code g84csg to access) which is constantly updated on sale items and it rates how good of a deal it is, from 1 to 5 stars. It goes a step further and tells you what page of what newspaper has a coupon for the same item to get it even cheaper. Some poor soul looks them up every week and enters them on the site, which makes its money from advertising. Next it involves buying in bulk, since big sales on particular items generally circulate every 5 months. But if you can get things like cereal, toothpaste, yogurt for 25 cents or free, organizing your pantry and clipping coupons for 15 minutes a week is totally worth it. I would go on, but this post would never stop. The lady teaches classes all over the place for free, including at the grocery store. They actually make more money when people use coupons than if they just buy something on sale. In case you were worried about them. In the picture above, she paid $3 for everything on the table. Outrageous, I know. Even more outrageous... we will be newspaper subscribers, along with the old timers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

6 Years In The Making

I love to cook and bake and have plenty of time to do it. The one thing I can't do well at all is bread. And I don't mean the fluffy white stuff in loaf pans. Sitting on my kitchen counter right now is the most perfect loaf of bread I have ever baked. It's not perfect, but compated to my past attempts, it is. I've always wanted to emulate the crusty, spongy loaves I can only find in European bakeries, but mine always come out dry and crumby. You know when you cut a piece of bread and there are so many crumbs falling the cutting board can't even contain them. I had tried and failed too many times, so I figured I'd leave it to the professionals. Target and even Walmart carry artisan bread, but I had to boycott it once they started selling it in crust-sogging plastic (instead of paper) bags. Now my closest supplier for the once-in-a-while treat is Kneaders. If we want it more often than that it could get expensive. And we all know how I react to that. I wasn't quite ready to try my hand at it again until I started looking at the long ingredient list of the fluffy bread sold at regular grocery stores. Since I'm trying to keep processed foods out of our most eaten foods, I decided to try one more time.

Setting out to make ciabatta from this book, I had already done some homework and gave it my best. Unbleached flour, distilled water (so chemicals in tap water couldn't be blamed for my bad bread), sea salt, and yeast from a fresh supply went into the dough that my Leilani's baker extraordinaire husband, Ben, advised me should be more on the wet side and rise longer than I usually allow. The recipe was a snap. The dough came together perfectly in the mixer (usually I have too much flour), rose only once and went in the oven. Maybe 10 minutes of hands on time. Because it only rises once and you have to have delicate hands to deflate it as little as possible when forming the loaf, mine turned out much more dense than ciabatta's supposed to be, but more like the spongy bread I was after in the first place. It better not be a fluke. Now I can allow myself to buy that breadbox at Ikea. Maybe some day I will be as skilled as Ben who grew and keeps his own sourdough starter in the fridge. I hope having good homemade bread around doesn't offset the money saved by needing imported cheeses to go along with it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

He Melts Me

Just look at that face. But that's what we say when Eli does cute stuff like saying his few words or copying us like we're the coolest people around. I happen to love it when he puts his hand to his chest as he gasps, lately its while watching Planet Earth. I wonder where he got that. He even starts laughing as soon as The Office comes on.

Brian loves it when he does martial arts. Master Gibbons from Colorado is in town for the film festival and last night she visited and taught Brian's classes and stayed after to teach Brian his new form. Eli joined in from the sidelines. Brian really would have melted if he'd seen Eli doing punches, complete with breathing, during his playdate with Zeke on Tuesday.

I'm hoping this immitation infatuation continues into potty training. He's doing really well, and even wore undies at home today and kept them clean the whole time. I figure he should learn to wear some clothes so surprise guests aren't surprised by his nakedness anymore. They're always in the living room before I can catch him to put a diaper on. He also likes trading, so here he made Brian trade potties.

Some things we don't want him copying and must keep him from witnessing. Like scooping kitty litter. He's already into cleaning the toilet. Mostly he's just an angel, especially for a 2 year old. We just have to know his limits. Like sitting in the grocery cart for more than 5 minutes. He won't. We just bring his pink stroller (today a nice worker gave him a pink balloon to match) and he walks with me and even waits while I browse for a moment or two (an activity I will never take for granted again). Between his sweet little "mom!" and wanting to do everything I do, like adding random spices to whatever's cooking, he pretty much melts me all day. This has to be the best stage. Tonight at dinner Brian said I was the luckiest, I get to be around his sweetness all day. He's right. I could have told him that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wear Your Baby

I wonder how long this sewing bug is going to last. It's pretty extreme when combined with the self-sufficiency my mother taught me. Now I must hand-make everything. It is useful for baby gifts, though.

For a while I've been trying to figure out which baby carrier is best(bjorn, sling, wrap) , and I've decided that I'd rather have one of each, especially now that I can make them. They are especially helpful for baby #2+ when you have a toddler to chase and chores to get done. Here are my opinions about each.

. My dear sister lent me her New Native sling when Eli came. I loved how simple it was and how small it folded to keep in my bag. It's perfect for tiny babies, especially if you want to bring them out in public. Babies are tucked away from strangers' grimy fingers. (Can you tell, week old Eli's in this picture) Your hands are totally free and it's easier to get around without bulky car seats or strollers. It was also handy when I wanted to trade sleeping Eli off to Brian, he just stayed asleep in the pouch as we pulled it over my head and onto Brian. For being so great, the sling does have a couple of cons. First, your shoulder will hurt if you wear it for a long time and when the baby gets bigger. And they are sold by size, so not adjustable. I still want one for the first few months and even has easy plans to make one from a snug-fitting t-shirt. Here's a free pattern and instructions to make one from the fabric of your choice.

Bjorn- These adjustable, daddy-friendly carriers are comfortable at any stage, I sometimes stick Eli in his still. It is a more bulky in your bag, but lets your baby look in or out. Similar in style, without the patented buckles and such, is the Mei Tai. It is more versatile and comfortable in that you can also carry your baby on your back. Here are some simple and here are some detailed plans to make one yourself.

Wrap- My new must have. I'll admit I was scared when my sister offered me hers and never took it. It's just 5 yards of fabric 20+ inches wide that you wrap in different ways to make a carrier. I knew the sling was a new idea for Utahns when a girl at church said I should carry a jug of water on my head too. I wonder what she would have said about the wrap. The Moby Wrap has to be the most versatile, comfortable baby carrier out there. There are at least 11 different holds, including hip and even twins (instructions for which are on their site). You can buy one for $40 or make your own. I was super excited to go to Joann's today to get 5 yards of cotton knit (jersey, like stretchy T-shirts are made from) to make one myself. My sister is always years ahead of me.

Now comes my main reason for this post. I know some people having babies and would like to know who would like a wrap (since they are kind of a statement). Don't be shy, anyone with a baby sometime in their future (Ashley, Anna, Sarah, Leilani, Shannon, Annette, Esther, Kim) make a comment (sling or wrap) and I'll keep it in mind. I'm too practical and have to give gifts that people love and use daily, so no pressure if there's no interest. I'm also dreaming up things to applique on to mark the center, like a leaf, cute animal or something. Plus I'd better learn to wrap them before giving them away.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Meet Charlie

Last week we got a cat for Eli. Brian was the most hesitant, but finally gave in before the holidays because he sees how happy they make the boy. For some reason he loves them. The smallest puppy makes him cry, but cats make him grin and giggle.

I had been watching the classifieds for weeks for the perfect one. He is a year old (not a scratchy,playful kitten, but not near death either), was in our same town, and came with all the supplies necessary. I'm especially grateful for his long long fur that keeps me from worrying about him when I stick him outside for the night. I was also happy that he lived with a 2 year old, with whom he was pretty patient and didn't avoid either. I figured things would be perfect, until the ride home where the cat meowed and Eli screamed constantly.

Things are good now. Eli likes taking care of the cat. He must have inherited my worries, because he follows the cat around with his food bowl, stressed that he's not eating enough. He also likes to scold him for jumping on the fish tank.

Brian seems to like the cat more than anyone. In the evening he requires it to sit on his lap and he was the most worried when it disappeared for 12 hours on Saturday.

Friday, January 9, 2009


That is how old I am today. I hope nobody ever asks my age again. Almost 30?! That's not possible. I'm having a hard time because, as I recently realized, being young has always been part of my identity. I was the youngest child, well...until I was 12. I was Suzie's youngest daughter, or Simone and Cirila's little sister. Now that little sister is finding white hairs. Very disturbing. I'm just grateful for those 4 months that make Brian older than me and that he too has 3 white hairs.

It's not all so bad, though. The sweet thing found some of his martial arts students to watch Eli while he took me to a fancy Swiss restaurant in Park City. The drive was picturesque through the canyon with trees delicately frosted and the snow a shade of pink from the sun setting behind us. At Adolf's we splurged on veal and a rack of lamb. Over dessert we realized that memories like that were the best present, since neither of us could remember what we had gotten the year before.

He even made me an almost flourless chocolate cake (actually I insist on that, a from scratch cake shows way more love than something from a box or store [unless its a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake, of course]).

I've also decided to copy the tradition of taking a birthday portrait. No frills or cheezy smiles. It will be fun to see how we all change from year to year.

Thank you for the birthday wishes everyone.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Potty Training: Supervision Recommended

I've realized that the boy will usually do his business on his kid potty if he has no diaper on. The last few mornings I leave him diaperless until he poops, as much as I love scrubbing them out of his diapers. This morning he was being surprisingly unclingy, so I decided to get some sewing done. A little while later he ran in and tapped me on the arm with the fish net, a very smelly one, and pointed to the direction of his potty. He had been doing a little fishing.

Upon previewing, I decided to remove the picture.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Only I Would Dream Of Diapers

Last week I had a dream. We were adopting a blonde one year old boy and I suddenly had to make more cloth diapers. While asleep I must have remembered that I still have a little over two yards of the more expensive inner lining fabric.
Yesterday, in real life, I ordered almost 4 yards of the outer, water-proof fabric online so I could get going ASAP. Right now I just finished tracing patterns onto the liner, thinking I would get around 14 diapers out of it. As my frugal self celebrates, my lazy self cringes at the fact that I actually got 20!
Brian won't like this either. When I have a project on my mind, I work like a maniac until its done and he gets no attention. I'm hoping he's just glad I'm not one of those people that has a bunch of unfinished projects laying around. I can't just let pricey fabric lay around when it could be in diaper form, keeping me from doing laundry as often. I'm doing it on my own this time. Somehow, sewing two blankets has given me confidence, which I'm sure will be smashed.

Monday, January 5, 2009

5 Years Ago Today

Brian and I met in an astronomy class. It was my first semester back after taking a break to work a couple of jobs to save money and his first semester back after the mish. I was a bit late after coming straight from my first day working at the BYU Bookstore and getting lost in the ESC. I quickly chose my seat between two boys, feeling slightly flirtatious. Brian would have you note that I was more interested in the other guy, but that doesn't matter in the scheme of things. It could have been fate or coincidence that I decided to take Geology and Astronomy rather than the dreaded Physical Science to fulfill requirements and that Brian had just barely decided to add the class. Either way, there we sat.

His first words to me were, "This guy's great already" speaking of our goofy professor that was introducing us to his daily jokes he called Feghoots. All semester Brian was the one laughing loudest at the cheezy end-of-class-puns, followed by self-consciously asking why I wasn't laughing. We walked out of class together on the first day and he said good-bye with a firm, missionary handshake. After that we took turns sitting next to each other.

It took him almost two weeks to finally ask me out, during which he was busy taking out lots of other girls, as I later found out. As we walked out of class that second Friday he kept talking to me as I tried to hurry to my next class. The brave boy asked me out and we arranged a date for Saturday, the next day. I was so excited I stopped at a computer kiosk to email my roommate Anna before my class.

He got to my apartment early, cute. At his apartment his roommate helped him decide to take me rock climbing and after Brian found a Japanese place for dinner. Apparently chop-sticks were a test, which I passed. Thanks for teaching me mom.
And I finally got to know why an Asian boy had the last name Corrales, which I noticed him put down on the roll every day.

Wow, what a memory I have. I should email Prof. Clark, I think he said he gets a bonus for every married couple that meets in his class.

Here we are a couple months later.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Grandma's House

40 years ago it was quite a jump in price for my grandparents to move from Bakersfield to Grandpa's home town of Santa Barbara, but they made the sacrifice and many generations have benefited. It makes it pretty easy to make the long journey when you're going to where the temperature never goes below 40 or above 75 and the beach is a couple of minutes away. People care about their community and it must have the highest concentration of Prius' anywhere. I could go on, but, to convince you quickly,I figure if its Oprah's favorite place, it has to be good.

Aside from the town itself, I love my grandma's house. It scared Brian on our house-hunt last year to learn that I prefer old houses that tend to come with character and maintenance. Grandma's still has the original windows with little door knobs that swing the window out. Her hardwood floors even have the little wooden pegs for nails in each slat. My favorite indoor feature is for sure the stove. I can only dream of having a Western Holly like hers. Classic. It has a griddle in the middle, perfect for toast and quesadillas. And Brian says my only reason for wanting a gas range is to warm up tortillas right on the burner. Good enough reason, I say.

Outside, my grandma's garden is obviously the best. With mild temperatures, lots of trees don't even lose their leaves in the winter. Flowers keep blooming. The summer I lived with her I soaked up all I could about plants and went with to her gardening club, touring impressive gardens in the area. No matter the season when my mom would take us on the 6 hour journey down to grandma's there was some fruit ready to eat from her trees. Grapefruit, pomegranate, guava, orange, apple, avocado, which I was sad to learn has been replaced by persimmon. Here are some highlights, in the middle of winter, mind you:

Succulents are my favorite and she has many of those. Someday, I will have a garden filled with the ones that can survive around here. If I can find a time when the weather is just right, maybe she'll come out and visit. That perfect climate makes Santa Barbara residents quite wimpy, I've learned.

I had to connive to get this picture of grandma smiling, she had to think I was just taking a picture of the boys who are now photoshopped out. Hope she doesn't kill me.
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When In Santa Barbara

There are some things a person must do. After seeing family, my next priority is Pollo Norteno. It must be authentic if I'm the only (half) Gringo there. Grilled chicken, beans, fresh salsa, corn tortillas, what else can a person want? For Brian, when by the coast, he only wants fish, which he had his fair share of in the form of fish-n-chips, Thai squid, and sushi. But, in case your world doesn't revolve around food, there are always the classics: the beach and the mission.

The Mission
I actually did a report on it in my American Art History Class my last year of college, don't be surprised that no information is coming to mind except that the local Native Americans, the Chumash, built it after being converted. For the first time I did more than admire the facade and Christmas nativity outside. We ventured inside the courtyard and chapel.

Despite all the other camera-toting tourists posing for pictures, I felt strange taking any in the chapel with people worshiping behind us in the pews.

The Beach
We went to Shoreline beach and Eli surprised us by jumping out of my arms to run around, different from Oregon, where he demanded to be held. It helped that the sand was firm and the sea was calm and quiet. Plus it was low tide and there were lots rocks to climb and critters to find.

On another day we went to the warf to see about tours and ended up walking along the jetty to see the pelicans.
Other than that I was content staying at grandma's. Brian's more for having a schedule full of fun events planned. Poor guy married a home body. I'm so boring I was pleased to sleep through New Year's, grateful no loud celebrations woke me up.

Livin' It Up In Las Vegas...With A 2 Year Old

In anticipation, Brian cheerfully started packing us the night before we were to leave my grandma's. Excited for a vacation from our vacation, I guess. Our goal was Eli-friendly, inexpensive fun while we were there. Although no Las Vegas hotel advertised kid-friendliness on their website, I did find a site that named a few. We stayed at Excalibur, which has a huge arcade on the bottom floor, was half the price the day after New Year's, and is next to (and connected by a monorail to) Mandalay Bay and it's aquarium. Brian was happy he paid the extra $5 for some coupons at check in. They ended up providing half the fun.

Mandalay Bay Aquarium
Eli finally decided to take a nap in line and missed most of the fish that we went to see for him. Our favorite were the sea turtles and the tank with a tunnel you can walk through.

Tournament of Kings
With our 2 for 1 coupon we went to go see the nights of the round table compete and battle the enemy while we ate Cornish hens and broccoli with our hands. The horsemanship and acrobatics were amazing, although I am still worried I lost some hearing while covering Eli's ears.

Not At The Bar
Wanting to take advantage of a drink coupon, Brian got a virgin dacari. The bar tender thought we were crazy, first for our drink choice, then when he had to tell us that Eli couldn't sit up at the bar. Then the boy squawked because he wanted some of dad's drink. We didn't know if we take the cup to our room since it was glass and thought people would call the police if they saw us giving him a drink in plain view. They didn't.

The View

Eli and I got to know our room and its view since we were up too early for any kid attractions to be open and Brian had left us for some pampering. He found it appropriate since his muscles were sore from an intense training with Master Jang in Santa Barbara. It was good to have some down time, even if I wasn't with Brian for his Swedish massage, sauna, and hot tub excursion. I wasn't surprised when he said he wanted to make this a yearly trip.
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