Sunday, March 29, 2009

Giving Back: Infant Gowns

The TAP project ended yesterday--thanks to everyone who either donated or supported TAP restaurants. I was looking online for other ways to help children in distress, and I came across the humanitarian aid site on the LDS church website. They have guidelines for school kits, infant kits for orphanages, or hygiene kits--and instructions for either mailing the kits or dropping them off to distribution centers where they will mail them for you. They have patterns for toys, clothing, booties, mittens . . . many things that don't cost a lot of money, but that can make a big difference in a child's life. One project that I would like to try is the infant layette gown pattern. It looks like something I might actually be able to handle sewing . . . we'll see!

There are also cute patterns for dolls that I would like to try if I can get brave enough sometime. The knit mitten pattern seemed a little bit confusing to me, but the crochet version seemed doable. The booties looked really cute and easy as well.

I would like to complete some of these newborn kits, as time and money allow. If you would like to do some as well, the contents of the kit are:
Place the following items in a heavy-duty, two-gallon sealable bag. Remove the air before sealing
· 4 single thickness cloth diapers, approximately 25x27 inches Birdseye Cloth or diaper flannel, 100% cotton. No pre-fold or disposable diapers
· 4 diaper safety pins
· 1 pair booties or baby socks
· 2 bars of soap 3.5-5 ounces each (Ivory or other non-allergenic brand)
· 1 receiving blanket (36x36 – 45x45 inches)
· 1 layette gown--No footed sleepers, buttons, zippers or strings Size: Newborn to 6 months, Fabric: cotton knit

Do you have any links to other worthy humanitarian organizations or projects? If so, I would love to hear from you. The next big UNICEF fundraiser is in October--so I am looking for other ways to "give back."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Recipe: Baked Oatmeal

I have been laying low the last couple of days. I succumbed to the cold that has been going around our house. Wes got it first and thankfully got the mildest case, the sweet guy wasn't even cranky, just a few more boogies than normal. Then Randy got it and I thought that maybe I actually escaped without getting sick this time . . . too bad it didn't last.

So I haven't had a lot of energy to put into fancy meals (we ate a lot of easy to assemble Mexican food this week and some delicious smoothies) but I saw this recipe on the Money Saving Mom blog, and decided to try it out. Randy loves his cold cereal and even though I always buy it on sale, it still is one of the more expensive menu items on my shopping list. So this is my provident living attempt for the week--as well as a new recipe. It turned out delicious, is really easy, and makes a ton. Since there are only two of us to plan meals for I am freezing the leftovers in smaller portions so we can just pop them in the microwave in the morning. This is way better than instant oatmeal, better for you (if you use the applesauce substitution), is very inexpensive to make, and is a great way to use your food storage oats.

Baked Oatmeal

1 cup oil (can substitute butter or applesauce)
1 ½ cups sugar (can reduce)
4 eggs (I used an egg substitute--worked fine)
6 cups oats
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups milk(I used soy)

Combine all ingredients in order listed. Pour into greased 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes until lightly browned. Can refrigerate overnight before baking. Serve topped with butter, brown sugar, and milk.

Yields: Approximately 8-10 servings

I just topped mine with a little soy milk (Randy used rice milk) without the extra butter and sugar, and it was delicious. I tried it both ways, and I couldn't tell enough of a difference to justify the extra calories :o)

A side note about egg substitute: even if you aren't of the Vegan persuasion, I recommend keeping a box of this on hand for food storage emergencies. It is very versatile, inexpensive, and works great for most recipes. It stores for a long time and I am a big fan. Even before I was vegan there were always times when I would run out of eggs or the eggs would go bad before I would use them all . . . Plus if there is some kind of emergency it is nice to know you can still bake things that need eggs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beary Cute!!

Once upon a time there was a little Wesley Bear . . .

And he was very cute and sweet.

His cute little hind paws were all the better to kick with . . .

And his cute little front paws were all the better to play with.

Sometimes he would get into mischief, but only the adorable kind.

Mostly, he just waited to be loved! Because he was a cuddly bear.

He liked to come to work and help Mom do inventory (yuck!)
(Thanks Aunt Sandy for the cute cute overalls!)

And after a long, fun day . . . sometimes a bear cub just needs a nap.

. . . or maybe two. Like how my little paw is up in the air?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Crayon Holders

I saw this project last summer sometime on my friend Melissa's blog, and knew that I wanted to do it. I planned on making this as a present for my nieces for Christmas . . . well it is March now . . . please don't judge me! The fabric was picked out and purchased while I was on bed rest, but I couldn't really sit at a sewing machine to complete them. Then my tiny baby came and my life became insane. Anyway, I hope they will forgive me.

They really aren't too difficult to make, although the rick-rack is not my favorite thing to try and sew with. But I think they turned out pretty cute in spite of my novice sewing skills!
Here they are unrolled. The picture is kind of far away to get both of them in the shot, but there are little slots for crayons. Then you roll them up, tie them with the ribbon, and take them with you wherever. I want to make one in boy fabric for Wesley when he gets old enough. I think they would be great to take to church or on road trips. If you are interested in making some, you can find the pattern here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Family Moments Monday: Reading Together

Reading has always been a part of happy memories I share with my family. I remember sitting on my parents' bed and being read to as a three year old. I remember loving a haunted house book with Mickey Mouse in it and Cinderella--I have a sinking suspicion that I asked for many repeats of the same books over and over. When I was a little bit older my dad read me Treasure Island, a perfectly scary bedtime adventure story. Christmas time was a given for story telling--my mom would always have a few good Christmas stories she found in books, magazines or from friends and would read them aloud during some family time.

A few times when we took an extended road trip, my mom selected a really good novel to read aloud. She read us the condensed (thank goodness!) version of Les Miserables, and then a particulary good read-aloud, The Count of Monte Cristo. I think we pushed her to keep going until she was literally hoarse.

Not only did I develop a love of good literature, but we had a lot of fun reading together. Listening to my mom read was as entertaining as any movie--and it brought us together. We could stop and comment on an interesting part, or something might foster a particular discussion. In any case it was a great family activity, and one that I hope to keep going in my family.

For Randy's birthday last year, I bought him a copy of Treasure Island--which coincidentally was one of his favorite movies growing up (the Charlton Heston/Christian Bale version). I can't wait for him to read it to our son.

Giving Back: Water Week is Here!

WEll, it is finally here. World Water Week. I wrote about the Tap Project a few weeks back, but if you missed it--this is a fantastic UNICEF fundraiser to help provide clean, safe drinking water to those in need. About 4,200 people die every day from preventable disease due to contaminated drinking water. By donating $1 this week, we can help change that.

These are difficult economic times--but I believe that most of us can spare $1. If you are planning to eat out any time this week, please check out this website first, and support a restaurant that has pledged with the Tap project. If you can't afford to eat out--we are in that category ourselves--then please simply text "TAP" to UNICEF (864233) to make a $5 donation (to read the fine print, visit here.)

There are many things in this world that are horrible, and we have very little control over. This is one thing that we can change--one dollar at a time. One dollar can provide a child with safe water for 40 days--a big difference in someone's life. This is a fundraiser powered by volunteers all over the country, and it is a cause I really believe in. If you do make it to a TAP restaurant this week, I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Favorite Cinnamon Buns

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I got this recipe out of a cooking magazine my sisters-in-law gave me a subscription to as a wedding shower present. It is quick, simple, and I have been able to easily convert it to a vegan recipe. I'll include both variations in case you aren't of the vegan persuasion :o)

For the dough: 3/4 cup tofu (non-veg variation: 3/4 cup cottage cheese), 1/3 cup soy or buttermilk, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 4 TB butter/margarine melted, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 cups flour, 1 TB baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 baking soda

For the filling: 1 1/2 TB butter melted, 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground allspice, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1 cup chopped pecans

For the glaze: scant 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar, 2-3 TB cold soy milk, 1 tsp. vanilla

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease the sides and bottom of a 9 to ten inch springform pan with cooking spray.

Make the dough: In a food processor or blender, combine the tofu/cottage cheese, milk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Process until smooth, about ten seconds. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Make a well and pour tofu mixture in the center. Mix to form a soft dough (don't overprocess). The dough will be soft and moist. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it with floured hands 4-5 times until smooth. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12 x 15 inch rectangle.

Make the filling: Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border unbuttered around the edges. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Sprinkle the mixture over the buttered area of the dough and pat gently into the surface. Sprinkle the nuts over the sugar mixture. Starting at a long edge, roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Pinch the seam to seal, and leave the ends open. With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces. Set the pieces, cut side up, in the prepared pan; they should fill the pan and touch slightly, but don't worry if there are small gaps. Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, 20-28 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Run a spatula around the inside edge of the pan and remove the springform ring. Transfer the rolls to a serving plate.

Make the glaze: In a small bowl, mix the confectioners' sugar, 2 TB milk, and vanilla to make a smooth glaze. It should have a thick but pourable consistency, so add up to 1 TB more milk if necessary. Drizzle the glaze over the rolls. Let stand for 15 minutes and serve.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tess: A Modern Heroine

I am currently reading Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (really, I should have the review done next week) and I came across this quote by the author as narrator, describing his heroine, "She was expressing in her own native phrases--assisted a little by her Sixth Standard training--feelings which might almost have been called those of the age--the ache of modernism." This is in reference to a passage where Tess tells Angel, "And you seem to see numbers of tomorrows just all in a line, the first of them the biggest and clearest, the others getting smaller and smaller as they stand farther away; but they all seem very fierce and cruel and as if they said, 'I'm coming! Beware of me!' . . . "

I never thought of Tess as a "Modern" character before now. Hardy published Tess toward the end of the Victorian age--but still well within it. Yet she does pre-date some of the modern feelings of discontent, disillusionment and conflict seen across the western world in the decades to follow.

Marx wrote about the modern world, "In our days everything seems pregnant with its contrary.” The same could be said of Tess, who inspired such fierce criticism as well as praise by the Victorian world. I think it is the contrairies in Tess that continue to make her an intriguing character for contermporary audiences. She was neither an angel nor a whore--she was a good woman who lived through incredibly difficult experiences and in the end succumbed to them.

Marx further states, "All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and men at last are forced to face . . . the real conditions of their lives and their relations with their fellow men.” Tess certainly challenged the assumptions of the world in which Hardy introduced her--indeed I believe she continues to challenge the close reader of the text today with the complexity of her character. When she takes it upon herself to baptize her own infant, she at once contradicts the church and reaffirms her faith in it--a complex moral conundrum that theologians have puzzled over to which she finds a straightforward, "modern" approach.

Marshall Berman described the Marxist approach to contemporary life as, “ironic and contradictory, polyphonic and dialectical, denouncing modern life in the name of values that modernity itself has created, hoping–often against hope–that the modernities of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow will heal the wounds that wreck the modern men and women today.” Tess, a modern heroine juxtaposed against the ancients of her family--those fallen d'Urbervilles who haunt her throughout the novel and contribute to her downfall--can be seen throughout the novel adapting, hoping for the "modernities of tomorrow" to help her solve the problems of yesterday that linger into her present.

For those who have read the novel, how does Tess speak to you as a "modern" character? Do you think she fulfills the definition of modernity, or is she still a product of Victorian society?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

So Much Fun For One Little Guy . . .

Um, You'd better make this quick, because I have very important fun to attend to.

I have a new chair so I can help Mom in the kitchen. I really like to sit and kick.

Seriously, I have urgent things I need to get done . . .

. . . like spend some quality nap time with Mr. Monkey!

Here is my little guy in action. He's my little sneezing panda! (For those of you who haven't seen that YouTube video, you really need to. Super cute.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Victory!! Ok, So a Small One . . .

So, I have mentioned before that I am no seamstress. I enjoy sewing up to the point where I get really frustrated and have to call my mom in tears. She is an amazing seamstress--don't let her tell you otherwise--and made me these adorable dresses when I was a little girl. It is a talent I am trying to develop, but it is hard when I have fifteen minute blocks between baby/laundry/picking Randy up from school/preparing meals/baby . . . so this has taken me way longer than it should have. I won't even admit to how long. Suffice it to say, this is a very late present.

I made this apron and one to match--finished it fifteen minutes ago at 12:25 a.m.--to fulfill my goal for today. All I have left is some embroidery on the front and it will be mailed off to its long-overdue recipient.

My dishes didn't get done, but one victory is enough for today.

Does anyone have advice for a beginning seamstress? What are some easy projects you would suggest to get me over my intimidation of the whole process? The pattern I used had the word "Dummies" in the title . . . if that gives you any indication of my skill level . . .

Monday, March 16, 2009

Family Moments Monday: The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Something that saddens me a great deal is the disconnect that many modern families experience. In spite of best intentions, we really don't get to see our extended family members as often as we would like. It makes me sad that some of my nieces and nephews don't know me very well. I really admire those people who make it a priority to stay as connected as possible--I want to be more like that. I have tried taking a few steps in that direction. All my family members' birthdays are marked in my calender to help me remember. I have a goal this year to be better about getting cards sent out . . . it is a work in progress. There is still something special about getting something in the mail--as "outdated" as snail mail has seemingly become.

My grandmother was amazing at this. She wrote weekly letters to my parents until she was physically unable to do so, and always included something small for me in there as well. Stickers, a piece of gum . . . just a little treat to say "I love you" in the mail. It always made me feel closer to her. I have heard similar feelings from my cousins--we all felt special because of her little remembrances. She had so many grandchildren . . . something over 40 . . . but I think we all felt like we were her "favorite."

I would like to be more like my grandmother in this way. I want my nieces and nephews to know their Aunt Alicia loves them, is their friend, and will be there for them as they get older and need support. Hopefully I will get better at it as I get older--but I'm trying. And at the end of the day, I hope that's what counts.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Brown Basmati Rice with Cashews and Raisins

This recipe has interesting, unusual flavors that really work well together. It is a wonderful side dish, or with some added nuts (or meat for non vegs) it transforms into a lovely main dish. We have had this a few times, and it has become a new favorite.

  • 1 cup brown Basmati rice, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup toasted cashew pieces (350 oven for 12 minutes)
  • 1 teaspoon Cardamom
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • Serves: 6
    Cooking Time: 30 minutes - one hour
    In a heavy saucepan combine water, salt, and turmeric and bring to a boil. Add rice, giving it a couple of stirs, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 50 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to "steam" cook another 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and fluff with a fork. Meanwhile, Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes, or until transparent. Add raisins, roasted cashews and Cardamom. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and cook another 1-2 minutes. Combine with the rice and toss gently until mixed. Serve immediately.

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    Reusable Sandwich Wraps

    I have been reading around on the internet, trying to find a good pattern for reusable sandwich bags. So my provident living project for today was to try out one of the patterns, and see how I liked it. Now, I am not a seamstress. I would like to be, but I am intimidated by the whole process . . . so we are taking baby steps. Anyway, I used this pattern, and here is the result:
    The next time I do this, I would use lighter-weight fabric, and enlarge the pattern. I used ribbon instead of the velcro tab--which meant that I sewed the ribbons in the seam before turning and top stitching. Then I added a buttonhole on the top, like so . . .
    The thing that is cute about this pattern is that you have a little place-mat when it is open to eat your lunch on.
    The thing that I don't like about this pattern is that you can't use it really for anything other than sandwiches, maybe bagels. It can't replace ziplock baggies for snacks . . . although I have a green idea in the works for that . . . stay tuned. Some people have suggested using vinyl placemats for the material, and then it could be just wiped down. I didn't like that idea, so I made mine completely machine washable, so I can just throw it in the wash afterwards. If any of you have a more clever pattern for this, let me know! I would love to try it.

    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Greatest Novels of the 20th Century

    I have seen recently a few lists roaming around facebook and different people's blogs of books people "should" read. For example, one was a BBC list that claimed most had never read 6 or more titles off the list. I wasn't very impressed with the compilation--I love Harry Potter as well as the next person, but I wouldn't put it up in a league with Faulkner or Morrisson. Anyway--here is a list that I like to go by compiled by The Modern Library--as far as it goes (the whole idea of a single "canon" is itself a little repugnant to me: but as far as trying new things, here is a good reference). Just for fun, I've added a star next to the ones I've read. Now, if the anthology was of women's lit or of African American lit, I'd fare a little better!

    1. ULYSSES by James Joyce * This is a novel you really should have a reading guide for
    2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald *
    4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov * see my review here
    5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
    6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner * Point of trivia-- Toni Morrisson is a Faulkner expert, and wrote her dissertation on him.
    7. CATCH-22
    8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
    9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
    10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck * read exerpts, need to finish it
    11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
    12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
    13. 1984 by George Orwell
    14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
    15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf * Honestly not my favorite Woolf--I'm a Mrs. Dalloway fan, but still a gorgeous novel.
    16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
    17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers * (one of my favorites-- tragic and moving)
    18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
    19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison *
    20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright *
    21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
    23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
    24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
    25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster * (great for post-colonial theory)
    26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
    27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
    28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
    30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
    31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
    32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
    33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
    34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
    35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
    36. ALL THE KING'S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
    37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
    38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
    39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin *
    40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
    41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
    42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
    43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
    44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
    45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
    46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
    47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
    48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
    49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
    50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
    51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer (I really dislike Mailer, so I choose not to read this one)
    52. PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth (just bought this used--I'll let you know how I like it)
    53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
    54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
    55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
    56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett *
    57. PARADE'S END by Ford Madox Ford
    58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton *
    59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
    60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
    61. DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather * (I love Cather, and this one is a great read. Her landscapes are characters in and of themselves.)
    62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
    63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
    64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
    65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
    66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
    67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad * (I ended up reading this I think a total of 3 times during my time as an English major . . . the horror!)
    68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
    69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
    70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
    71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
    72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
    73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
    74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway * (if you can get over his complete misogynist take on all his female characters, his terse language is breathtaking. I like Hemingway in spite of myself)
    75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
    76. THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark
    77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce (ok--I take exception with this one. Completely unreadable--even for experts!)
    78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
    79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
    80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
    81. THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH by Saul Bellow (love Saul Bellow, still need to read this particular novel of his)
    82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
    83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
    84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
    85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad * (a staple for all you post-colonial theorists)
    86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
    87. THE OLD WIVES' TALE by Arnold Bennett
    88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London *
    89. LOVING by Henry Green
    90. MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie (This is near the top of books I want to read--still need to buy a copy)
    91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
    92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
    93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
    94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
    95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
    96. SOPHIE'S CHOICE by William Styron
    97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
    99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
    100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington
    This was the list that their board picked. On their site there is also a list of readers favorites--and I agree with many of them, but not with all of them. As a disclaimer: lists like this are completely subjective, and to that end I think them completely ridiculous. But, I really love suggestions on good books to read. Leave a comment and let me know your picks that were left off the list! Mine were:

    Beloved, by Toni Morrisson
    Mama Day, by Gloria Naylor
    All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy
    The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    Too Much Fun

    Hi Guys!

    I've been having all kinds of fun lately.

    Just kickin' it in my jammies . . .

    With cool monkeys on my feet . . .

    Hangin' out with Mom . . .

    Playing with new toys . . .

    Munching on my delicious hand . . .

    Taking a big stretch and making a funny face . . .

    . . . all makes me so tired. Goodnight!


    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    My Four Month Old Boy

    Too Cool For School


    Weight: 11.49 lbs (2.77 %tile)
    Height: 25 in. (20.19 %tile)
    Head: 16.5 in. (42.62 %tile)

    He's growing up so fast! He is still eating a ton, but at least letting me sleep longer at night. All his calories must be going to his height, because he jumped from the 2nd to the 20th percentiles in a month!

    Favorite things: his monkeys, his hands (tasty snack and endless entertainment), a toy that lights up and plays music when I hit it (thanks Joy!), Daddy

    I Like Hats

    Something I discovered recently: small change in yarn = big change in final product. For example--I was trying to make a gift for a neighbor who recently had a baby boy, and I tried this pattern (which I usually make with Caron so soft yarn) with some cute speckled Red Heart yarn . . . and instead of being an infant hat, it fit my one year old nephew. Ooops. Anyway, I had plenty of leftover Caron, and I finished this a couple days ago.

    The pattern is super easy, and I think looks pretty darn cute. (Or is it that I just think my baby is so cute the hat is cute by extension?) Anyway, here are the instructions if you want to give it a try:

    2 shades Caron so soft yarn (if you want it to fit a three month old. Finger weight for tiny ones, regular worsted weight for a toddler, you get the idea . . . )
    Size 4 US needles
    Size 6 US needles
    yarn needle to sew up seam

    Beg at lower edge with first color and no. 4 needles, cast on 70 sts. Work in ribbing of k 1, p 1 for 6 rows. Change to No. 6 needles. Work in stockinette st, 2 rows one color, 2 rows the next until 24 rows above ribbing. Dec Row 1: Continuing in stripe pat, *k 2 tog, k 8, repeat from * across. P 1 row. Row 2: * K 2 tog, k 7, repeat from * across. P 1 row. Continue in this manner, dec every other row, having 1 less st between dec, until 7 sts remain. Cut yarn, leaving a 12" end. Thread end through rmaining sts and fasten securely. Sew sweam, matching stripes.

    Monday, March 9, 2009

    Family Moments Monday: Family Pizza Night

    When I was little, I looked forward to Friday nights with my family, because they meant one thing: pizza, root beer, and movies. My mom made amazing pizza, and we would curl up and watch classic movies like Roman Holiday and Notorious. I think we pretty much made it through all the Alfred Hitchcock films, and a few truly awful ones (anyone ever seen Something Evil This Way Comes? Abysmal!) But even when my Dad, I mean someone, would choose a movie that was a real stinker, we ended up having so much fun anyway--because we were spending time together. It is a family tradition that look back on with so many good memories, and one that I definitely want to continue in my own family. As we have been able to afford it, Randy and I have tried to invest in some decent family films. Some of our favorites are Ratatouille (so much like our chinchilla--minus the whole chef thing), Second Hand Lions, and of course classics like The Little Mermaid.

    If you have never tried homemade pizza before, you really should. It is surprisingly easy, and so, so delicious. This dough recipe is pretty foolproof, and you can top it with whatever you love. My parents are a big fan of the turkey pepperoni you can buy--way less greasy. My favorites are vegan taco pizza, veggie pizza with dill sauce (see below) and good old fashioned pineapple.

    Pizza Dough

    1 c warm water
    1 TB yeast
    1 tsp sugar
    1 tsp salt
    2 Tb oil
    2 1/2 c flour

    Dill Sauce:

    8 oz pkg cream cheese (tofutti makes fabulous vegan stuff)
    1-2 tsp dill weed
    1/2 tsp garlic powder
    1/3-1/2 c mayo (veganaise is the only good substitute). Optional ingredient if you add more milk to even out the consistency.
    2 TB milk

    Cook the dough that has been pricked with a fork for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Add the dill sauce, and top with desired veggies. I like cucumbers, tomato, red bell pepper, red onion, avocado, and olives. Top with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper.

    Sunday, March 8, 2009

    Giving Back: Small Things Can Be Really Big

    Sometimes when I think about wanting to make a difference in the world, I get overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. There is so much suffering in so many places--genocide, thousands of displaced families, children dying of starvation and lack of proper sanitation or clean water . . . the list goes on. It is hard not to feel inadequate when I have too few resources to effect dramatic change everywhere I see pain. But I have seen through example and come to believe that as long as we are giving, even in very simple ways to people around us, great cumulative changes will be effected in the long run.

    Randy's grandmother is the perfect example of this. She has given unselfishly her whole life, and now she is a little slowed by age and health--but still giving. She has made thousands of little newborn hats which have been donated to hospitals, like these ones:
    The ones on either side were given to Wesley, and the pink one I'm saving in case I have a little girl someday. They are washable and warm, and were such a blessing when I had a tiny baby in the winter. It is a simple thing--warm hats donated to new moms who don't have a lot of money--but it makes a difference.

    There are a group of women who get together once a month in my church congregation who tie quilts to donate to a local hospital and women's shelter. I have been able to join them on occasions where my schedule permitted, and it was a lot of fun. Acts like this are within the capability of all of us, and do by increments change the world.

    Saturday, March 7, 2009

    Thai Peanut Broccoli Wraps

    This is one of my favorite dinners. The only thing that keeps me from making it more often is the availability of broccoli slaw--there is only one store in my area where I have seen it, and it isn't one I shop at regularly. If you have a food processor you could shred your own: The mix consists of shredded red cabbage, broccoli stalks, and carrot. Making your own mix would be much more cost effective, but sadly I wait for the day when I own a food processor :o(.
    The sauce itself is fantastic over steamed brown basmati rice, with or without vegetables.
    Oh--and for all you non Vegs, the original recipe did call for some chicken sauted in oil before you add the slaw mix to the skillet.

    Thai Peanut Broccoli Wraps

    6 8- to 10-inch plain, red and/or green flour tortillas

    ½ teaspoon garlic salt

    ¼ - ½ teaspoon pepper

    2-3 teaspoons cooking oil (I like to replace with either sesame or peanut)

    4 cups packaged shredded broccoli (broccoli slaw mix)

    1 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges

    1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

    1 recipe Peanut Sauce (recipe follows)

    1- Wrap tortillas in paper towels. Microwave on high power for 30 seconds to soften. (or, wrap tortillas in foil. Heat in a 350 degree F. oven for 10 minutes.)

    2- In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, onion, and ginger to skillet--season with garlic salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

    3- To assemble, spread each tortilla with about 1 Tablespoon Peanut Sauce. Top with vegetable mixture. Roll up each tortilla, securing with a toothpick. Serve immediately with remaining sauce. Makes 6 servings.

    Peanut Sauce: In a small saucepan combine:

    ¼ cup sugar

    ¼ cup creamy peanut butter

    3 Tablespoons soy sauce

    3 Tablespoons water

    2 Tablespoons cooking oil

    1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic.

    Heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently. Makes about 2/3 cup.

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    Provident Living: "Fast" Food

    I have noticed that one of the big money-wasters in our house is food. Not that we shouldn't eat--but when the meals haven't been planned ahead of time or the baby needed fed about sixteen times when I should have been preparing dinner, or I worked an eleven hour day with a baby at work with me and didn't have the ability to cook . . . the list goes on. In times like this, the options come down to: eating out (very, very expensive--and generally not an option for us. Plus McDonalds isn't big on vegan) or generally what we do: wander around Smiths and pick up a bunch of things that look good because we are STARVING! . . . but don't go very far towards meals during the week. One solution I have come up with to avoid such moments: creating my own "prepackaged" meals when I cook for the two of us during the week--things that are easily frozen, easily reheat-able, and filling. Our favorite is probably homemade frozen burritos.

    How I do it? Well, when I make burritos for dinner one night I'll cook up some black or "refried" beans, some chipotle rice, and chop up some fresh veggies to add in. Then when we are done eating, I'll pull out the George Foreman grill--still useful even for a Veg--and start rolling up bean and rice burritos. A few minutes on the grill seals them shut, plus adds a nice crispy flavor to the tortilla, and then I let them cool for about ten minutes. All I have to do is wrap them in a sandwich bag, toss them in the freezer, and we have little meals ready to go. They work great for lunches too . . . One will fill up Randy pretty well. If you aren't vegan you could easily enough add chicken or cheese. If you are vegan, a nice variation is to smish (yes, the technical term) a couple of veggie burgers, add some taco seasoning, let it simmer . . . and voila. Some meatless taco meat.

    The great part about this is that since I already cooked the ingredients for dinner, this really doesn't take that much more time. Plus I don't have to worry about wasting the leftovers. :o)

    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Literature moment: Thomas Hardy

    Currently I am reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles--book review to come next week. But when I was reading the intro to the novel, there was a piece of biographical information that brought back to mind my studies of Thomas Hardy in my British Literature survey course I was required to take at University. Oddly enough it wasn't Hardy's novels that we studied--but his poetry. Before he made a name for himself as a novelist with books such as The Return of the Native and Jude the Obscure, he started out with poetry. His poems weren't originally well received, and so he turned to fiction, with great success--until the "scandalous" nature of his last two novels, Tess and Jude, created such an uproar of Victorian sensibilities that he turned from fiction back to poetry. He was a famous Victorian era novelist--and became a famous twentieth century poet, who inspired the likes of T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden (also favorites of mine). Because poetry isn't generally read as widely as fiction nowadays, I wanted to share a couple of my favorite Hardy poems. I think it is such a shame that his poetry isn't as well known as his novels, because that "bifurcation" of his career, from Victorian novelist to twentieth century poet is for me both brilliant and intriguing. The first poem, "Neutral Tones," was an early poem, published in 1898. I love the stark images, the ominous tone, the line, "alive enough to have strength to die," sends chills down my spine every time I read it. Pure brilliance. The second poem was written in 1914, is about WWI, and references in the title a line from Jeremiah 51:20, "Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms."

    Neutral Tones

    We stood by a pond that winter day,
    And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
    And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
    --They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

    Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
    Over tedious riddles of years ago;
    And some words played between us to and fro
    On which lost the more by our love.

    The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
    Alive enough to have strength to die;
    And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
    Like an ominous bird a-wing. . . .

    Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
    and wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
    Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
    And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

    In Time of "The Breaking of Nations"

    Only a man harrowing clods
    In a slow silent walk
    With an old horse that stumbles and nods
    Half asleep as they stalk.

    Only thin smoke without flame
    From the heaps of couch-grass;
    Yet this will go onward the same
    Though Dynasties pass.

    Yonder a maid and her wight
    Come whispering by:
    War's annals will cloud into night
    Ere their story die.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    Winner of This Week's Gold Star . . .

    Guess who is sleeping through the night? And guess how happy that makes a certain mom?

    Yeah, we are pretty excited.

    All snug as a bug . . .

    Wes, advertising Ashley's favorite movie . . . thanks Aunt Casey!

    Oh, what a world!

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    Happy Birthday Grandpa!

    Happy Birthday Dad! We love you a lot. Thank you for everything you do for us. Have a wonderful day!

    Before he was the Most Feared Auditor in the State of Oregon . . .

    He was just a little munchkin

    And then he grew up.

    And served in the military (in Texas--cutting people open)
    Then in Arizona on a church mission.

    And then he fell in love with a beautiful girl, and became a wonderful husband.

    And the best dad ever!

    And a proud Grandpa!

    Happy Birthday Dad!

    I love you!