Saturday, December 31, 2005

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

Appropriate for New Year's Eve:

Got a Christmas newsletter with a blog address in it today. It's from an amazing family whose kids I grew up with. Ever since I started wanting to be a mom I have hoped my kids will grow up and be like the Hull kids ... more than they're like me. (And especially more than they're like my brothers, heaven help us all!)

New on the blogroll: Hull Central. Go, read, enjoy, be a little envious. It's OK. They're awesome!

OK to chaos

Christmas was great. Two happy kids, as you can see. This picture was actually from Christmas Eve -- new PJs is an important tradition!

It has been a long, long week of Imaginext castles, Uno, Go Fish, painting birdhouses, Star Wars movies, Star Wars Legos, playing with friends, long walks, gathering acorns, rainy days, wrestling, snuggles, and very persistent mess. That's ok. We've had a fantastic vacation. I scrubbed the bathrooms and made bread. And there's no laundry to catch up on, there's no car cleaning to do ... I may never take a trip again!

It is going to be so, so hard to go back to work Monday.

In other news, we had a Book of Mormon party to celebrate our completion of the book as a family. It's actually our second time through with the kids which I think is not too shabby considering how little and wild they are. We had BOM gingerbread (I still had one package of dough left over) -- shaped like the golden plates and decorated with royal icing and sprinkles. They were cute.

We are planning to head out and see if the creek has flooded. We're getting some rain so far but nothing near as disastrous as what we're hearing about on the radio.

Abe just came in and told me, "Mom, don't get your hopes up for going to a walk. We're going with Dad." Ouch!!!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Yuletide funnies

"Silent night, holy night, have a bi-i-i-ig fight"

"Thanks for the tie-dye fighter Legos!"

"Feliz la-di-da! Feliz la-di-da! Feliz la-di-da!"

Hope everyone's enjoying the day!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Baking my butt off

Somehow I think that's not what happens when you eat these (butt coming off) much as I might wish for it. Hmm.

So it was my big night for baking Christmas treats tonight. I started around 4 and baked on and off until about 11:30. Whew! Here are some quick notes on the stuff I made:

  • Saltine toffee is super easy and good and rich and looks pretty impressive on the plate. I made a 1.5x batch, which goes a long way. The kids and husband ate a ton of it. There is still a ton.
  • The empty spot on the treat plate means that the pumpkin fudge has not set up yet. I hope that is not a bad sign. I don't know what I would do with a 9x13" pan full of pumpkin sludge. We'll see in the morning. I am holding out hope because the surface of the fudge still feels warm to the touch, so I am thinking as it cools it will harden more. I hope. I have never actually made fudge before tonight, though I love it a lot.
  • The turtle thumbprints are quite work intensive but so yummy. It is hard to do the caramel neatly. I didn't really succeed at that. You will see that I did not drizzle the chocolate. I do not like drizzling, so I was trying to do it with a pastry bag. That doesn't work too well, because the chocolate in the tip of the pastry bag cools pretty quickly. That's because metal is a good conductor. See, I'm a science writer, and I know this stuff. (Never mind that any seventh grader knows that.) So I just took off the tip and piped big kisses on top instead. I like it better. I mean, it's Christmas. Who wants a drizzle of chocolate when you can have a big fat kiss!? These are Kissy Turtle Thumbprints!

Something I have noticed about myself is that almost nothing is too rich for me. Other people eat like two bites of stuff like this and go, "Oh, it's so rich! I can't finish it!" And I'm like, "Pass it over here, girl!"

I think I am done baking. It is late and I am pooped.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Slow tag

Sal tagged me with this last week while I was sick. OK, I forgot until now. Sorry ...

The rules for this particular meme are as follows:Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot.
1. Running2Ks
2. Queen of Spain
3. Kdubs
4. SalGal
5. Watch Out for Mama

Then you get to select five people to pass the love on to. Sorry kids, ignore me if you want, I understand!!

[I am shy, this is hard, I'll get back to you.]

Now, onto the questions!

What were you doing 10 years ago?

December 1995:

Finishing the first semester of my junior year at BYU, taking the bus or biking or walking everywhere I needed to go, living in an apartment where you had to sit down to take a shower, being a Webelos leader, working at the Morris Center serving food to freshmen, really really wishing for a baby

What were you doing one year ago?

About the same as now. Working, living in Merced with a Ph.D. student for a husband and two crazy kids, working in YW, passing time until Christmas, really really wishing for a baby. (some things never change)

Five snacks you enjoy:
- Chocolate
- Salt & vinegar chips
- Any fresh fruit
- The eggplant and goat cheese rolls at the office party last night]
- Bear Claw ice cream -- is that a snack?

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics of:
- Almost any hymn in the 1985 book
- Almost anything on an oldies station, especially Beatles tunes
- Anything by Indigo Girls
- Many parts of Handel's Messiah
- "Modern Love" by David Bowie, just because it's what's playing right now. I learn lyrics really easily and quickly, so it's embarrassing how many songs I know.

Five things you would do if you became a millionaire:
- Buy the lot for sale on NE Bear Creek here in town and build a straw bale house with solar light and heating
- Help my little sis get a house in Las Vegas
- Save for the future
- Get my armpits lasered (hair removal, you know, I hate shaving my pits)
- Quit my job since our housing would be paid for, and stay home with my kiddoes, but keep freelancing for my office because it is fun and after all a million doesn't go that far these days

Five bad habits:
- Overeating
- Blowing my nose too much
- Yelling at my kids
- Blogging at work ... hahaha
- Thinking I will mop the floor after the kids go to bed, and then not doing it. Seriously, you should not look at the floors if you come to my house.

Five things you like doing:
- Making and eating yummy foods
- Reading novels (no nonfiction for me, ugh, I'm not afraid to say I'm bored)
- Crocheting scarves and stuff
- Singing
- S%x. (What?)

Five things you would never wear, buy, or get new again:
- A non-fitted jumper, too frumpy for words, saw a pic of me in one and ew!
- Movie tickets on Fandango, what a waste of $4, I still had to wait in line!
- Crackers anywhere but the 99 cent store
- Peanut butter anywhere but the co-op
- Meat at Food4Less. YUCK!

Five favorite toys:
- Computer
- Kitchenaid mixer
- Legos
- candles

And I just have to say, whoever wrote these questions, I can give you grammar lessons. But you will have to pay me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my co-workers at UC Merced, and anyone following the progress of this amazing crazy venture! Our first semester is complete. So pooh on the naysayers, and hold on to your butts, because the ride ain't over yet.

Not that I'm anything but eager to get through this week (it's a bit boring and slow since the semester is at an end) and have a whole ten days to hang out with my kids. I need to start planning some activities so that we have fun instead of killing each other.

As for Christmas preparations, all I have left to do is wrap. And bake. Not bad.

Monday, December 19, 2005

It's time to be obsessed with baking

I am not getting squat done at work today. I keep thinking about Christmas cookies.

Yesterday I made a double batch of gingerbread dough. That takes 14 cups of flour, in case you were wondering! I divided it in eight parts, rolled them up in waxed paper, and tied a gingerbread-man cookie cutter onto each package with red ribbon. That's what my Young Women are getting for Christmas. Very Martha Stewart, ja? I saved some for my family. We'll make our little men for Family Home Evening tonight and talk about the miracle of Christ coming to earth as a human being. (Nice object lesson, too! So far today I am brilliant, although not at anything I am really supposed to be doing!)

I also want to make pumpkin fudge, turtle thumbprints and saltine toffee. And maybe sugar cookies, although two kinds of cutout cookies is a lot of work.

The question is ... when? And what in heaven's name will I do with them all? I am still Body-for-Lifing. This weekend I fit in some cute lowrider boot-cut red ticking-striped flannel pajama pants that my skinny sister in law gave me for Christmas two years ago. I have never been able to wear them until now.

So why are the cookies calling, calling, calling my name???

Gingerbread is low in fat. I could eat it with some cottage cheese, I guess, for a balanced meal. Yum ... not.

Free day is Sunday ... free day is Sunday ... free day is Sunday ...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Healthy food for sick people

I don't know about you, but when I have a cold I am constantly famished and it's hard to find anything that really tastes good. Here was my solution this week. Nourishing, flavorful, earthy and warm. The garlic and spinach have great health benefits: Garlic is a natural antibiotic and spinach -- well, didn't you watch Popeye as a kid? The salt of the broth helps you retain the fluids you need to fight sickness. The mustard (if you get a good pungent one) clears your sinuses and provides a wonderful bright counterpoint to the dark flavor of the lentils.

Lentil Pottage with Spinach
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 c lean ham or turkey ham, diced
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced (I buy garlic with cloves as big as the first joint of my thumb. That's BIG!)
3-4 cups broth or water
1 c brown lentils, washed and picked over
1/2 tsp dried leaves of thyme
1 c frozen spinach
Salt and black pepper to taste
Your favorite mustard to garnish

Saute onions, celery and carrots until they begin to soften. Add ham and cook all together until beginning to caramelize. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Add broth and/or water and bring to boil. Add lentils. Simmer 20-40 minutes (it's really quite forgiving). Stir in spinach and heat through. Season to taste. Consistency should be that of a thick stew. You could add a can of diced tomatoes or some cooked rice if you like.

Swirl a little mustard on top of each serving. Bread and butter on the side is good.

Get well soon! I did!

Friday, December 16, 2005

We just want our brother(s) back

Took the kids to see Narnia this evening. It was a long-awaited event for me. I first heard the books read aloud in my mother's voice as a young, very young child. I don't even remember how old I was. We all got complete boxed sets for Christmas when I was eight or nine, and I read them over and over. I read them to my kids starting in 2003, when Sam was four.

The movie was good enough -- not perfect, but with some beautiful moments done quite perfectly.

But that's not what I really want to talk about. For some reason I looked at the story differently this time. The parts that moved me most were not the moments of Edmund's redemption. They were the desperate cries of his siblings, "We just want our brother back," and "We have to find Edmund."

There was no way that Peter, Susan and Lucy could save Edmund without waging full-scale war on his captor in complete alliance with Aslan and the forces of goodness. Halfhearted attempts, selfish strategies, easy ways out -- there were none of these. Personal weakness, reliance on logic, self-doubt -- no room for them.

Only Aslan could save Edmund. Peter, Susan and Lucy couldn't do it. Yet neither could they sit back and wait for him to take the situation in -- um, paw. They had to join his side and go to work where he sent them. None of them were sent to free Edmund. He had someone else for that. But their commitment to him was required before he saved their brother.

Something to think about. Do I see my brothers shackled in an icy dungeon, eating moldy bread? Bound to a tree and gagged? Dragged through the snow behind a ruthless monarch's sleigh?

I think they are. All three of them.

I also think I have been so focused on them that I have sometimes neglected the battlefront where I belong. I've been watching, agonizing, wondering what I should be doing differently in regards to them. Not trusting. Standing in the witch's castle waiting for the rescue, when there's nothing I can do, and the war rages outside where I could make a difference.

Maybe what I should be doing differently is being more fully committed myself.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I can hear the clamor now

You all want to know, what are these fish fajitas?

Be still, and I shall tell thee!

Fish Fajitas

2-3 fillets of red snapper (aka rockfish), cut in strips
1 can pineapple chunks with juice
salt and pepper

1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
1 small onion
1 tsp olive oil

4-6 small flour tortillas
shredded mild cheese

fresh cilantro, chopped
lime wedges
light sour cream or yogurt

Marinate fish with pineapple, juice, salt and pepper. Arrange tortillas on large baking sheet and sprinkle with cheese. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, slice vegetables and cook on med-high heat in a large skillet in olive oil until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from pan.

Place tortillas in oven.

Drain fish and pineapple and cook in same pan without stirring too much (you don't want to break up the fish and turn it into mush). The fish is done when it's all white.

Serve fish mixture and veggie mixture on tortillas, with cilantro, lime and sour cream to garnish. Also, optionally, your favorite fresh salsa, red or green.

You can pretend it's summer, even when there's a thick tule fog outside!

I originally got this recipe from

Monday, December 12, 2005

Gratitude journal

Today I am thankful for ...
  • Joaquin Phoenix in I Walk the Line (the rest of the movie, okay, but only Joaquin inspires gratitude)
  • My in-laws, who are never as scary in person as I think they are going to be when I'm anticipating a visit
  • Our new mattress getting delivered at 6 p.m., thanks to my in-laws' generosity
  • Waking up gently at 5:45 a.m. this morning, before the 5:50 alarm jarred me off the edge of the bed
  • Having my workout behind me for the day
  • A peaceful, loving marriage
  • Knowing that in a week I will be done singing all the outrageously high material the ward choir director chose for Christmas this year
  • No dead car batteries or lost keys (I've busted the Monday losing streak I was on!)
  • Weighing in under a significant milestone this morning (a losing streak I want to stay on)
  • Being done with my Christmas shopping -- DONE!
  • Having all the ingredients for fish fajitas in the fridge

Friday, December 09, 2005

Shoring up my confidence

My inlaws are coming. My house is a disaster. In the time since DH cleaned it on Wednesday, we managed to trash it.

They are not here to judge my housekeeping skills, right? Right?

My mother in law is an immaculate housekeeper. When she stays with me, she spends the entire time washing my dishes. It's not that she disapproves of my home, she says, and I think I believe her. It's just that she can't stand to sit still. Keeping busy with housework is what she has done all her life.

Maybe we just need to get her addicted to blogging, or something.

So anyway, yes, I suck at housework. But there are a lot of things I don't suck at. I'm going to make the list I encouraged Sally to make earlier today. I do love a good list. Maybe you've figured that out by now.

Stuff I don't suck at

  • Writing press releases
  • Writing stories
  • Reading books
  • Cooking dinner, sometimes almost out of thin air
  • Reading to my kids
  • Choosing good stuff from the clearance rack, secondhand store, or discount store
  • Loving my kids and being very demonstrative about it
  • Taking care of some very cute 14 and 15 year old girls at church
  • Creating a happy Christmas for my family
  • Bringing home the bacon
  • Frying it up in the pan
  • Never never never letting someone forget he's a MAN
  • Dyeing my own hair
  • Giving advice (others might disagree)
  • Voting (always)
  • Giving blood (sometimes)
  • Singing
  • Keeping up with current music
  • Making choral arrangements of songs (so far no one has seen these but me but I think they're all right)
  • Keeping in touch with friends
  • Exercising (lately)
  • Eating healthy (lately, mostly)
  • Proofreading Web site text

Heh, guess I better get back to work; it's not the weekend yet! Wish me luck in all my insecurity!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Miscellaneous stuff on my mind

Well folks, I have some stuff in my brain so you are just going to listen to me process this morning. I'll add some links so you won't get way too bored.

My husband is going up to San Francisco today to spend the night with his parents, who are there for a conference. I guess he told Sam about this last night while I was at Relief Society and Sam had a total meltdown about his dad leaving. Weird huh? When I got home Sam was still awake and he told me he couldn't sleep because he was so worried (then he wouldn't tell me what he was worried about, Glenny told me later). And he was all freaked out that he would get no sleep and "mess up my whole schedule and be tired at school." Sad! That seems like way too grown up of a worry for a 6 year old! Poor guy!

Tomorrow when Glenny comes back he is bringing his folks with him. So I am bracing myself. I don't know why it stresses me out so badly to have them with us; I like them and everything, I just get majorly stressed when they're around for some reason. And because of that I worry that they think I am not a very gracious hostess, etc. Anyway at least Glenny cleaned the house yesterday so I do not have to worry too much about that.

They want us to go to Tucson the week between Christmas and New Year's, since they bought a house there this year. I like Tucson. I was all set to move there in 2003 until we found out that Glenny's advisor was coming to Merced. But right now, I really really do not want to travel; I want to stay home and relax. Husband feels the same. But I have this feeling that I should let my kids spend more time with Glenny's parents whenever they can -- they barely know them, really, since they live in Alaska and it is all but impossible to visit them up there.

In unrelated news, Abe went to the ear doctor yesterday. We have officially given up on non-surgical options. On Jan. 18 he is going to have his adenoids and tonsils out and get tubes. Poor guy, but I am looking forward to not having monthly ear infections anymore.

Today is our first day of real Central Valley winter fog this season. Downright terrifying to drive in. Coming out to campus this morning, I kept having the awful feeling that I was about to pitch over a cliff.

Oh, and I am all freaked out about the story I heard on All Things Considered last night about honor killings in Iraq. Sometimes I think I just should not listen to the radio.

Okay now that I have spewed all that I am ready to get to work for the day.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Graham shanties

Tonight I learned:

- A pastry bag may double as a fire hose if you are imagining you are Billy Blazes

- I do not have to freak out when this happens

- Necco wafers are an excellent disguise for shoddy roof construction

- My dear husband thinks dried apricots belong on grahambread houses. I married this guy???

- Royal icing: actually kind of yummy if you eat it before it's dry, and don't try to tell me any of this crap about salmonella, you and I both know it's on the shell of the egg

- I do not know when to stop sticking candy on. Guess which shanty is mine?

- My hyperactive 6yo shows amazing patience decorating a graham shanty. Sugar is involved, after all.

- We all still love sugar, including me (shhhhhhhhhhhhh)

Feliz Navidad! Jose Feliciano is blasting over here!

P.S.: You can do this project for less than $5 if you have a good 99 cent store like we do!

Guest post from Ana's keys

Hey guys! It's Ana's keys here! Get your keys over here to read this! Don't read it yourselves, OK?

OK, I have a rockin' awesome spot for the next time you want to hide from your owner. Try in the cell phone pocket of their purse or bag, UNDER the cell phone. It's wicked! You don't even jingle when they shake the bag to see if they can hear you in there! They will run around the house for like an hour after they are supposed to be at work or wherever they like to go, and freak out when their kids talk to them because they are trying to concentrate on finding you, and pray fervently, and call their spouses and beg to be bailed out and get mad when their spouses are in the middle of teaching a lab and can't bail them out, and then finally find you after they have given up and decided to work at home and go looking for their flash drive. Freaking hilarious, no?

I am the total hide and seek MASTER!

OK, all you keys out there, tell your people they can come back to the blog now. Don't tell!!!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Since you asked, Sal

Sally tagged me. Here are 10 random facts about me:

1. I used to have a #1 rated radio show. 5-10 a.m. Sundays on K101 in Fairbanks, Alaska. It was when I was in high school. I don't think it was a really competitive time slot or anything. Oh, and the show was pre-recorded during my Saturday 5-11 p.m. shift.

2. I have my DH's hometeaching records for the elders' quorum on my flash drive right now. He just wants me to print them. But I could snoop! Oooooooooooooo!

3. I have been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace (summer 1992).

4. I have no desire ever to live in a place where it snows, ever again. Not even for Christmas. And I never thought I would say that before I lived in California.

5. There is BACON in my fridge at home. My weight loss plan includes a free day, which will be Sunday. Also on the docket: sweet rolls, pizza, creamy potato soup, lemon meringue pie. Yeah!

6. I got a copy of the new illustrated version of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. Yes, the college classic. You should check out the new version, it's fun. And you have guessed correctly, I am a nerd.

7. I spent three days looking for my wreath hanger and then realized there was already a nail in the door. DUH. Well, now the door is all festive. Lights and tree go up this weekend.

8. Tomorrow I am going to a diaper shower. When you think about it, that doesn't really sound all that pleasant.

9. Secret joy: Bottled water from the fridge at work, left over from somebody's meeting. Hope they didn't mean to save it for everything.

10. It's Spirit Day at UC Merced today. I'm all decked out in my Bobcat t-shirt and my navy suede jacket. I never did anything like this in high school. I was very much against this kind of crap, much too cool for it. Now that I am 31 I think it was a little silly to be that way.

I don't know who I'm going to tag yet. I've never tagged anyone before. I'll think about it.

Body update

We are now almost halfway through our 12-week Body for Life program. As of this morning I am down 6.5 pounds. And feeling great! The really great news is that 2.5 of those have come off this week. I gained 1 pound over Thanksgiving before that. Yay! I think (I hope) I have been building a lot of muscle over the last almost-6 weeks so that I am now beginning to metabolize a lot more efficiently. It is definitely motivational to see that much movement on the scale!

My new goal is to have to buy new pants after Christmas!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cumin chicken stew

Brrrrrrrrrr, it's winter. Okay, it's a California winter, which means rainy and 60. But it's outstanding one-pot weather. Here's what we ate last night as the storm blew in.

Cumin chicken stew

1 large yellow onion
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
1 bell pepper
2-3 cloves garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano

2 chicken breasts

2 cans seasoned chicken broth, roasted garlic flavor (you can use regular broth if you want instead)
2 15-oz cans of beans, drained -- try black beans or garbanzos, depending on whether you want to think more about Mexico or Morocco
1 large can diced tomatoes with juice

1 c leftover rice (my favorite: Lundberg Farms short grain brown. I use it for everything.)

2 small zucchini
1/2 bag frozen green beans
1/2 bag frozen corn kernels
Any other veggies you have around that sound good

light sour cream or yogurt
lemon or lime wedges

Dice all vegetables in first group. Saute in olive oil, adding garlic at the last stage of sauteing.

Add spices and stir 1 minute to develop flavors. (Hint: if you are making this a more Moroccan-flavored dish, try adding some cinnamon. Sounds strange but it is divine!)

Dice chicken; add and cook until no longer pink. Add canned goods and stir. Heat through. Add last group of vegetables. Cook until they are tender -- perhaps 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve in bowls with sour cream or yogurt and lemon or lime.

Even better the next day, I say with my mouth full!