Sunday, December 30, 2007


After my last post, we suffered an HVAC breakdown. Specifically, the fan went out on our system, so that although the heater was running (and running and running), we weren't getting any of the heat. Our immediate area can probably thank us for a temperature increase of a couple of degrees Thursday and Friday.

We called the landlord and then used up the last of our clean-burning fire logs. No response from the landlord Thursday afternoon, so I called Friday morning and played the baby-with-the-flu card. She was a lot better by then, but it was still a useful card and I don't think it would have been good for her to live in a 59-degrees-fahrenheit house. That was our low temperature. Yes, I am grateful to live in California. It could have been a lot worse.

I skedaddled down to the temple Friday morning and the landlord sent a repair person while I was gone. By the time I came home we had made it back up to 67 degrees.

I still really wanted to warm up that night. So here is what I made for my mom and dad, who arrived in the afternoon. The original idea came from the Everyday Food "Great Food Fast" cookbook. Great cookbook ... you should get it. But of course I can't just leave a good recipe alone. I sort of doubled it ... sort of not. It turned out really well. Here is how I did it.

Pumpkin Enchiladas

1 rotisserie chicken (get the "smokehouse" or "BBQ" flavor if you can), deboned and chopped or shredded
6 scallions, sliced
salt and pepper

1 can (15 oz.) solid pack pumpkin (this is the smaller can size)
2 c. chicken broth
6 cloves garlic
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (it's pronounced chi-pot-LAY; I have to remember this or my mom says my brothers will mock me)

About 12 corn tortillas, warmed to soften
About 1 1/2 c shredded colby-jack cheese (or just jack would be fine)

Mix the shredded chicken, scallions, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a blender, puree the broth, garlic and peppers. Add the pumpkin to make a sauce.

(I have to say, this sauce was easy and fast, but lacked some flavor that I would wish for in a dish like this. Maybe this is my fault because I substituted the chi-pot-lays for what the cookbook asked for - chili powder. I just wanted the smokiness of them. Next time I am thinking of cooking the garlic with an onion and letting it caramelize - which would also add a bit more volume and body to the sauce - and maybe throwing in some cumin and coriander. I'm always a fan of those two. Maybe even a pinch of cloves. I just would like to see this dish a little darker and more complex. It was still good - don't get me wrong - I wouldn't post the recipe for you if it had been nasty. I just think it could improve.)

Heat oven to 425. Pour about 1 c. sauce in a 9x13" pan.

Wrap chicken mixture in tortillas and place in pan. Pour sauce on and top with cheese. Bake about 20 minutes.

It was spicy! We topped ours with dollops of Mountain High full-fat plain yogurt to cool them down a bit. Yummy, and all very good for you.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Our vacation so far

  • 1 broken camera
  • 1 Christmas Eve midnight trip to work to borrow a camera
  • 1 Nintendo Wii
  • 1 iPod Shuffle (for me) going back in favor of a more generic but versatile MP3 player
  • 1 set of headphones (for G) - too big to use at the gym, oops!
  • 2 cute little tricycles
  • 1 soccer goal that occasionally draws the kids out away from the Wii - a really cool gift from A's birthmom
  • 1 near-disaster involving the fireplace and 6 stockings
  • 3 people with stomach bugs
  • 2 people with respiratory flu
  • 4 hours in Urgent Care
  • 1 night of panic about the state of the house
  • 1 fun family viewing of Ratatouille
  • 1 social worker with bronchitis
  • 2 cancelled foster/adoption related events today - a bio family visit and a home visit - WHEW!
  • 9 million ants in the bathrooms, finally defeated by an application of the outdoor granules all around the house
  • 1 request per day (at least) from K about when Grandma and Grandpa will arrive (the answer is tomorrow)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Santa is a woman

And her husband plays video games while she works her butt off putting together bikes and blowing up balloons.

That's all I have to say about that.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Melt in your mouth

In my hyperactive Christmas update post a couple of days ago, I mentioned my grandma's soft ginger cookies. I mixed up the dough tonight and it is being refrigerated until tomorrow. It really wouldn't be fair if I didn't share the recipe with you. This is an heirloom, folks, so treat it nicely.

Ana's Grandma's Soft Ginger Cookies
3/4 c butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
1/4 c. molasses
2 eggs
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamom
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
additional sugar

Cream butter and sugar. Add molasses and eggs. Beat well. Add flour, soda, spices and salt. Mix until dough is of uniform consistency. It will be quite soft. Chill for 2 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Scoop dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Leave room for them to flatten. Bake 10 minutes. Finished cookies are flat with a crackly surface. They really do stay soft and melt in your mouth!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wordies united for rice

Play this. It's educational fun for a good cause. I can't get much above level 41/42, though. How about you?

Progress report

My kids are out of school for the holidays, and I really want to be home making cookies while they play idyllically beside the cozy but not dangerous fireplace. That vision would not be possible, even if I didn't have to work. So here's reality. It's not so bad.

We went to a work-related Christmas party last night and my big boys got to play, briefly, Wii boxing. A sneak preview, if you will. It went well. I think we chose the right gift, even at the exclusion of all others. Also at this party I karaoke'd "Someone to Love" by Queen. Someone told me it was not fair because I can actually sing and was not drunk. So is that how the rules go for karaoke? I didn't know. I had a hard time keeping up with the words for the first couple of verses but then I remembered how it went better. The party was a good one overall, even though the only drinks available were iced tea and wine. If you were Mormon, pregnant, or a child, you were relegated to taking your plastic cup out to the drinking fountain in the hallway. The food was catered by a local soul-food establishment, and ... yum. I think I literally had some of everything, from clams to coleslaw to pulled pork. Deeeeeee-licious, and today my pants are tight. I skipped my actual office party in favor of this one, since it was more kid-friendly.

All the shopping is done. All the cards are sent. All the packages are sent. I even stayed up late last night and finished almost all the wrapping. It cost me $1.25 in Diet Pepsi today, but that's not so bad. We (oh, who am I kidding, I) have to assemble a tricycle for K and a ride-on toy for Z, and then the gifts will be all taken care of. That's a good feeling.

The decor is all up - has been for a while. I mostly used the Thanksgiving break to take care of that this year, and it worked out well. There was a period where I still had the sunflowers on the front door instead of the red berry wreath, but I eventually got it taken care of. I need a good idea for displaying the kids' Christmas art work. I have saved quite a bit the last few years. Odd sizes and lots of glitter. I am thinking of some kind of gallery in our entry hall, but I want it to look cute and may I say, I have no budget. None. Who's creative enough to help me with this?

I need to bake. It's some kind of compulsion. I had big plans to stick with making whole wheat bread in small gifty sizes with pretty bows. It would be cheap, it would help me rotate my food storage, and it would be a nice contrast to all the junk food at this time of year. But then I found this cute thing and some recipes I really want to make. Brownie biscotti! For real, how could I not try that? And then I got thinking about my grandma's amazing recipe for soft ginger cookies and how I haven't made those in a while ... and how easy would it be just to add some cranberry-oatmeal bar cookies with vanilla buttercream, and make a cute little treat plate for my friends? I still have almost a week to do it!

Sally and family are coming down Saturday and we are going to go see National Treasure 2 and have pizza. Now that's a good Christmas party!

For Christmas Eve I am going to make won-tons. It's kind of a tribute to the Chinese Christmas dinner in A Christmas Story.

Christmas dinner, which we do mid-afternoon on Christmas Day, is gonna be pretty simple. I am thinking ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans and rolls (scroll down for the recipe), and then of course a steamed pudding. Since it will just be our little family I don't even have to triple the roll recipe like I did for Thanksgiving.

My parents are coming to celebrate the New Year with us. We are going to be hoping for not too much rain for those few days, and possibly driving around NorCal a bit to visit some museums and stuff. I am really looking forward to this!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Died and gone to heaven

Someone I know said today that her daughter was in heaven. It was a little alarming until we realized she was talking about how excited this girl is about Christmas.

Well, we had a little heaven here at our house last night. It was basically about slow-cooked beef in red wine.

Pot roast with red wine, Yorkshire pudding and rich gravy

3 lb. chuck roast
1-2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 c. red wine

1 c. flour
1 c. milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. water
1 tbsp. corn starch

Season roast with salt and pepper. Brown in olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Pour in 2 c. wine. Boil until you are satisfied you have boiled off enough alcohol. Somebody somewhere online had a formula for this, but I am disremembering it on purpose.

Cover pan and transfer to 325-degree oven . Roast about 3 hours, turning once halfway through cooking, if you remember, if you're not in Sunday School at that point. (3 hours = ideal cooking time for a Mormon Sunday dinner. Church takes that long, and we are lucky enough to live only moments away from the chapel.)

Take out the meat and remove it from the pan let it rest. Turn up the oven to 450 degrees.

Spoon 2 tbsp. drippings from the roasting pan into a 9x9-inch baking pan and place into oven. Beat milk, flour, eggs and salt together with a wire whisk. Pour into baking pan. Bake in 450-degree oven 18-23 minutes. It will puff up, then deflate after you take it from the oven.

While the Yorkshire pudding is cooking, carve your roast. Then heat remaining drippings to boiling. In a tightly covered container, shake together the water and cornstarch. (A sippy cup works great if you hold your finger over the spout. Just a tip from my world.) Pour slowly into drippings while stirring. Cook over medium heat until thickened.

Tender meat, hot Yorkshire pudding, tasty gravy ... It's the Platonic ideal of Sunday dinner. Also, it's relatively cheap, and though it takes some time, it's anything but difficult. Peas on the side make it complete.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How can you have any pudding?

I may have mentioned before that my family, with pretty English roots on both sides (ok, a little Scottish, a little Danish, a little mutt-ish mixed in here and there) has pudding at Christmas. Thanksgiving, too. If there were more good winter holidays we would probably have it more.

Specifically, we have carrot pudding. I somehow managed to squirrel away my mom's actual recipe card, which I tried to scan for you tonight. To me it is so evocative, with my mom's handwriting in three different ballpoint pen colors, and some grease stains, and some vanilla spilled on one edge. I ran into technical difficulties. But I was going to type the recipe anyway.

If you don't have a pudding mold, you can do this in a large coffee can (dry-pack food storage can, for my fellow Mormons) or in a large Pyrex bowl covered with foil and secured with string. I highly recommend a mold, though. It's half the fun. I got mine from Williams-Sonoma, which means it cost an unholy fortune. But, you know, it's my heritage and stuff.

Anyway I don't see them at W-S now. Try here instead, or use your own Google skills, or haunt your local Deseret Industries or other thrift store.

The perfect pot to steam this in is a large water-bath pot made for canning, with the rack to hold the jars. It does a great job holding the pudding mold (or coffee can) steady, so it doesn't rattle around so much. That, I obtained from my mom's very mad D.I. treasure-hunting skills. I don't use it for canning, but I do use it for pudding.

If you see a pudding mold at the D.I. (or Salvation Army or wherever you go treasure hunting) I am interested. I could imagine myself with a collection. Wouldn't G have a fit!?

Carrot Pudding

1 c. grated carrots
3 eggs
1 c. vegetable oil
3 c. flour (I like to use half white and half wheat)
1 c. molasses
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. raisins
1 c. chopped walnuts

Beat eggs. Add oil, molasses, sugar, applesauce and carrots. Add dry ingredients. Pour in greased and sugared mold and steam 3 hours.

Hard sauce
1/2 c. butter
3 tbsp. flour
2 c. water
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. rum extract

In medium saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour with a wire whisk. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil and cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Serve hot over steamed pudding.

My mom's recipe card says: "TRY THIS: Cut oil 1/2 c. and sub. butter. Add extra 1/2 c. applesauce!" I never do it.
We don't slice our pudding. We scoop it with a big serving spoon. We also like some whipped cream on top of the hard sauce. It's holiday food.
Carrot pudding makes an outstanding breakfast.

After typing this, I am almost ready to take on another big holiday dinner ...

However, after a little googling, I am sorely tempted to have this pudding instead. Caramelized apples ... holy yummy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gnomes or a black hole?

One of those things is in my house swallowing the following:

- two brown extension cords
- several tiny screwdrivers
- one brown Born pump
- one pink butterfly baby slipper
- several ballpoint pens
- a laptop power cord
- two fleece jackets
- all my common sense

I suspect gnomes because they apparently have also been eating the insides of our 2 DVD players for dinner. Black holes don't do that.

If I were more motivated I would make this into a 12 Days of Christmas knockoff for you. Sorry. I'm feeling a little too crazy to be motivated.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Martha moment

I know we're way past this. It's Christmas. Move on already.

My Chinese guests from Thanksgiving just sent me this snapshot of my centerpiece, of which I was very proud. So let's just take a thankful moment for the happy coincidence of supplies that allowed me to do this on the cheap. Because that's how I like to do these things.

  • some previously used floral foam from a university event
  • the brass tray that I usually don't know what to do with because it's engraved for the 5oth wedding anniversary of G's late grandparents and it just seems like a creepy way to serve hors d'oeuvres or something
  • a bounteous yard of zinnias, berries and greenery
  • a pretty white pumpkin
  • $10 of Green Tea roses from Raley's
I was just so proud of myself!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Like and alike

I have been thinking lately about the peculiar joy of recognition. By that, I mean the moment or even the slow-growing time when you realize that you have found someone with whom you have something, or even a lot of things, in common. It is so delightful. When I find someone who has a little rainbow family like mine, who reads as voraciously as I do, who is as obsessed as I am with food, who went to BYU at the same time I did, who uses the same kick-butt roll recipe I do for the holidays ... it's an incomparable delight. I savor and rejoice in tying those connections.

Even when it's a bond with someone I never thought was much like me at all, like Z's biological mom, the discovery of a personal similarity can be a beautiful reminder that what I sometimes think of as my accomplishments are really more blessings from heaven, and that we really are all God's children way down deep, wanting and needing the same things, just given different challenges and abilities.

Of course, this joy has its opposite. I find one of the most difficult things for me is when someone I thought was so like me turns out not to be so like me, after all. Sometimes it's a shallow and harmless shock, like when I discovered my office mate hated Napoleon Dynamite. Sometimes it's a reaction that reminds me I am neither so kind nor so mature as I would like to think, like when someone who was supposed to be infertile (like me) has a surprise pregnancy. Sometimes it rocks me to the core, like when someone I admire or love turns away from the faith we previously had in common.

It's no secret among those who know me that there are several people in my family who no longer participate in the LDS Church. Over the past few years this has caused me to search, to mourn, to envy, to question where I stand. Sometimes it has led me to judgment and anger. Of course, I'm not very proud of that, when I stand back and look at it. But at the bottom of it all is this visceral hurt that goes something like this: "I thought we were alike, but now I see that we're not."

This is probably no big revelation to anybody but me, but that's not a particularly healthy or productive place to hang out. We stay there, and the rifts grow wider. We start to wonder if the breaking of one tie amounts to a total personal rejection. We pick at the scabs where maybe one or two of our ties to those people have pulled away, and we never start to feel better.

A few days ago one of my brothers became a daddy for the first time. Joy. Recognition. Connection - even across many miles. It has made me realize how much sweeter and even easier it is (once I start) to keep building bonds instead of nursing the empty spots where I found out we were not the same.

So there are people I love whose personal foundations I can't take for granted anymore. I should let myself have the happiness of seeing the treasures they really are, instead of sulking about my broken Lusterware family.

So that's my new resolution. It's really just a long, drawn-out way of saying I'm going to try to be more positive. That's the way I like to say things.

If peace and joy got in a fight, which one would win?

You're getting a sneak preview of our Christmas card picture, you lucky blog readers.

I finally realized that the likelihood of getting all four children bathed, dressed and sitting still for a picture was slim to none. Went for the separate headshots. I'm liking the effect.

How about you?

And as for the clever caption, well, you know, they do pay me for my skill at that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I never thought this day would come

But last night, instead of catching up on House online, I watched Ugly Betty on DVD.

I am exceedingly disappointed with House this season. The only good thing was Cole, aka Big Love, and now he's gone. Are there new writers who really think it's clever, controversial or sexy if House says anatomical terms for major reproductive organs of both sexes in one show? Are they just out of ideas, so they're pulling out the gimmicks, like the whole reality-show thing, and the CIA and the documentary? I don't have time to research this, so I just stop watching.

Ugly Betty, on the other hand, I am loving. Of course I am only halfway through season 1 at this point.

Late to another party, big fat deal.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Post 600: I am the luckiest

It's my 600th post on Watch Out for Mama!

Today I am grateful for the scary but safe birth of a new baby in my extended family. So it's time for some totals. I have:

1 amazing-in-every-way husband
2 practically perfect parents
2 kind and loving parents in law
2 super-cute grand-nieces (does that make me sound old?)
3 sweet nieces and nephews on my side - the new total!
3 living grandparents - how lucky is that when you're 33?
4 precious children in my home
4 (so far) ideal partners for my siblings who fit right into the whole crazy fam
5 smart, good-looking, talented and funny siblings
8 siblings and spouses on G's side
13 fun nieces and nephews on G's side - ages 3 to 20-something - counting spouses for the 2 who are married
13 aunts and uncles who remember all my ages and stages, from cute to awkward to whatever I am now
26 cousins with whom I can share memories and future reunions ... and I'm not even counting their spouses and kids!

How is that for counting your blessings?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bad mommy!

It isn't right to read your child's diary, even if he is only six. But Abe has been practicing his writing. Oh, I love first graders!

Oct. 22
I can hlpe my prinses her Name is Z she is 11 muns
tue bays ago she bit me and she wus smiyling at me.

(She has been known to do this. I like how he calls her his princess.)

oct 23
this is wut my dad ses
my name is k and I hav a story and hers how it gos, "UH!"

(Obviously before K's current verbal explosion - he says a lot more than "UH!" these days but that used to be pretty much it!)