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Friday, July 31, 2009

Can-Can, Can You Do the Can-Can


I remember my parents canning only vaguely. A hot kitchen. Enough tomatoes to choke a horse. The thought "Why, oh why would you put yourself through that?"

Fast forward 15 years. I'm buying the same weird tools, only now they make sense to me and I even think "What a stroke of genuis!" I'm buying produce from farmers and more glass jars than can fit in our small pantry. I'm spending hours in my hot kitchen. And I'm canning.

I'm canning cherries.



I'm canning spiced peach jam (thanks to Laura, who turned me on to it years ago).


I'm canning raspberry and cherry jam.



And I'm even getting a head start on gift giving.



We don't actually eat all that much jam because of the high sugar, so I substituted the sugar with agave. It's wonderful and it is more like a fruit spread than traditional jam.

So, go ahead, call me a pioneer. Call me Mother Earth. J does. I don't care. There's something really fun and satisfying about learning a new skill that benefits my family. And, hello, you know you want some of this jam!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

HOT


Yes, it's me whining again about the heat. Although, to be fair, the media is 'whining' too. It's not just hot here. It's, like, super. duper. hot here. Record breaking heat, people. We have now shamelessly busted through their (I say 'their' because, right now, I want no part of this madness) 100 degree 'record high'. This is the hottest it's been in Seattle. Ever. Ever. Ever.

Today, my minivan registered ONE HUNDRED AND TEN DEGREES. DID YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY (and notice that I spelled it out for added emphasis)? I REPEAT--ONE HUNDRED AND TEN DEGREES. Those mind-melting temperatures, scorching a place with no air conditioning. I shouldn't even be blogging right now. Who knows what will come out of my melted brain???

It has been so hot that I've been sleeping on the couch downstairs for the last two nights. It's too hot upstairs. The kids are sleeping down here in the office/craft room tonight. And by sleeping, I mean joyfully dancing around in their underwear, since I didn't make them wear jammies tonight. And we only 'air hugged' them goodnight. Again, too hot.

Last night, I didn't have it in me to cook. My liquified brain couldn't stand the idea of dragging the kids out grocery shopping, and the thought of adding a degree to my sun-drenched kitchen made me want to vomit. I served up steamed zucchini from our garden, sliced nectarines, and bread with homemade jam. An unconventional meal, to be sure, but it was the best I could do.

Why don't I do something about it, you ask? Because I can't. Air conditioner installers are booked for weeks. Costco, Walmart, Target, and Home Depot are sold out of fans and air conditioners. So, I turn to Plan B. If I can't bring the cool air to me, I'll bring me to the cool air. We suffered in the house until after Buddy's morning nap. Then we headed 30 min south to IKEA where I repentantly purchased window treatments (see previous post) and treated ourselves to frozen yogurt. Then we headed 45 min north to the mall play area. J met us there, where we dined on Panda Express in the food court for dinner. You've never seen the mall this packed. People lounging all around the fountains, the empty kiosks, the massage chairs at Brookstone, and the dressing room chairs. The food lines stretching way past Urban Outfitters.

Hotels are booked, pizza delivery places are hopping, and I suspect there's probably some price gouging of a/c units happening. It is insane. And, don't tell me to consider the pioneers, because I already have. I think that back then, they didn't have the global warming issues that we have now, and so it must not have been this hot. Otherwise, there's no way they could have made it to Utah.

I WILL make it through this, so help me. And if I don't...you can pick the rest of the zucchini in my garden.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dinner Idea Two-fer

My gift to you? Let me plan dinner for a couple nights.

First night's menu:
(And, sorry I don't have a picture of this dinner. We're more focused on eating dinner than photographing it, usually. Just trust me, it's yummy.)

Grilled chicken (that was marinated with Grill Mates seasoning)
Pasta Salad (a kit makes it super easy, add fresh tomato and cucumber if you want to get really fancy)
Corn on the cob (you can also grill it to keep this blasted heat out of your kitchen)

Grill more chicken than necessary, because...


Night Two:

MANGO CHICKEN SALAD! This is our new favorite dinner and we've eaten it about 6 times in the last two weeks. Even my kids love it, which, I guess isn't saying much since my kids love most things....anyway... I got this recipe from my friend Traci and fell in love with it. Thanks, Traci!

The recipe is easy. It's just chopped ingredients, and you can vary the amounts according to your taste.



*Mango Chicken Salad*
Chopped chicken
Chopped green, red, and yellow peppers
Chopped cucumber
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Corn (I used frozen)
Avocado
Mango
Can of black beans (drained, rinsed)
Chopped cilantro if desired

Serve over tortilla chips and drizzle with ranch dressing and lime juice.

Can I just say? Yum. And, so healthy!

There ya go. Don't say I never gave you anything.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

B.Y.O.A.C.

To Any of My Non-Washington Friends Who Are Thinking About Becoming Washington Friends:

Just so you know, you might arrive fresh to Washington.
You may spend an exhorbitant amount of money on a brand new house. It might be on your final walk through with Builder Guy that you find out your new house doesn't have air conditioning. You might raise your eyebrows in surprised shock, and you might explain to him that, where you're from, people literally die without air conditioning. He might assure you that you don't need it, and that it gets warm only for about a week or two here in late August. You might narrow your eyes at him and give him a sideways skeptical look.

You might feel a little smug after you talk to Midwest friends and find out that their playgroup was cancelled due to a heat index exceeding 110 degrees. And after your mom in Kansas tells you that it's almost cool enough there to open windows at night. Because, after all, you skipped your playgroup because you thought it would be too chilly for the baby.

You might, into July, think that "hey, maybe there's something to this, since highs are hitting the 70s." But, then you may, as the temperature rises shortly after, start thinking, instead, "Waaaaiiiiit a minute." And as the sun beats through your west-facing windows and you sweat all through dinner (because after surviving the grey winter here, you refused to put any sort of window treatment up that would block a single ray of sunshine from your interior), you might purse your lips and nod your head in "I-told-you-so" confirmation.

You might look at the week's forecast, reaching into the 90's, and you might wonder what Builder Guy was smoking, to not put air conditioning in your home. Because, baby, you've still got a lot of summer to go. You might start cursing him under your breath. And then, you might start thinking about how much it would really cost to just drive around in your super hip minivan with the AC on.

I'm just saying, you've been warned.

Love, Me

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Camping, Part Deux


The projected high was 74 degrees, up from the low 6o's of the rest of the week. Perfect for camping. We pulled into Cascade Park and signed in. On the way to our assigned "Snow Field" we passed a youth conference and a young single adult retreat. Our campsite was in a big field near a river, with a rocky beach and hiking trails nearby. (Did I mention that this whole region is off-the-charts beautiful??)



We spent the afternoon setting up camp--J put the tent up, sans instructions, and I got our table properly swept clean of grossness. And clearly, Little Buddy is a third child, because he crawled around in the grass and dirt and I only minded a little bit. There was a big swing that we played around on--hung from a very high branch with a rope thicker than my arm. The kids loved it.


We hiked around the trails and found an ampitheater where we had an impromptu family talent show. Girlie dazzled us with her singing ("Each of Us is a Flower" from kindergarten), Riley did cartwheels, Daddy walked on his hands, and I did pantomiming (I impressed the whole family with my "leaning on a ledge" act). We walked along the rocky beach from our campsite to an area where the youth and stake leadership were busy ambushing each other with some hard core water guns.





As it turned out, about 1/2 of our ward decided to camp there too, so we sat around the fire with a bunch of friends, roasting marshmallows and biscuit dough. We LOVED that the booming music we heard was from a bunch of testimony-bearing youth having a dance, and not some drunken party. The sun stays up until after 10:00 here, so it was a late evening.

Then came the night.

Brilliant me, I left the pack and play at home. Oh, I remembered about three minutes into our drive, but I thought "Hey, he can just sleep with me." I wiggled myself into the sleeping bag beside him and wondered how long I could sleep in one position. I also forgot pillows, and the bunched up towel under my head lumped in the wrong places. I was balanced precariously on the edge of the air mattress, my arm bent unnaturally under my head to bulk up my towel-pillow, as the slippery sleeping bag started to slide over the edge. Little Buddy, unaccustomed to being so closely confined, tried to kick the covers off in protest. My back ached from rigidly trying to balance on my side while my boompa slid off the bed. Then came the crying. Not mine, yet. Little Buddy was completely weirded out by his surroundings and decided to tell everyone about it. It was one of those half-sleeping moments where he was crying because he wasn't asleep, but didn't know what to do about it. He sat up, refused my cuddles or nursing. The cold air made him cry some more, as did the blankets I tried to put on him. At about 3:00 a.m., without having slept a wink, I finally plopped the baby on to J and hissed, "Your turn." He tried for a little while to calm the wee one, but after mumbling something about his mummy bag being too small for them both, he handed him back.

"Fine," I growled over the crying, "then help me unload the food from the van. I'm going home. I'll pick you guys up in the morning." I closed my eyes and rocked back and forth-- Make it stop, make it stop.

He sleepily tried to convince me otherwise, but it was when my baby finally sighed and fell asleep again, that I relented and decided to tough it out.

Another funny thing about the sun is that it comes up super early here, too. The kids were up at the crack of dawn. They, along with J, left us to go on another early morning hike. Little Buddy and I woke up sweating in the morning sun. What is it about tents that makes them so HOT??? I stumbled out of the tent and set Buddy on the ground and pointed across the field to J and the kids. "Go," I mumbled to him as I squinted my puffy eyes in the sunlight.

They came joyfully bounding across the field to greet us and J cooked pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast. Tired as I was, we went for another hike, and another trip to the water's edge where the kids splashed water on their faces like real mountain men.




We headed back to the campsite where I, with blinding speed and efficiency, packed our outdoor home back into the van. Teeth aching from all the sugar, head hurting from lack of sleep, and a happy family, riding the high from our first family camping trip. We headed home.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Refer to #7 in my previous post

Well, we went anyway. The thrill of buying a new, big tent (despite the lack of tiny tent models) and the thought of real-fire (not gas range) smores sucked me in. Camping is BIG here in the Northwest. Like, make-your-reservations-weeks-in-advance big. Which, apparently, I was unaware of.

J and I threw it onto the calendar, to up the chances of it actually happening, and before we knew it, our "Family Camping Trip" weekend was upon us. So, I hauled all three kids to Walmart with me to pick out an 8 man tent (no foreshadowing of things to come, just needed room for 2 airbeds and a pack and play). Then I dragged them to the grocery store to pick out camping food. Beef stew and rolls for dinner, and then more unhealthy treats that you can possibly imagine me buying.

We are normally a very healthy family. But when it comes to camping (and since we camp about once every other year), J likes his treats, and it's kind of fun to spoil the kids (as well as their appetites, their teeth, their pancreas...). I am still me, though, so all the Oreos, Pringles, cookies, licorice, beef jerky, and chips were 'reduced fat'. I was so embarassed by the indulgences that I felt compelled to explain myself to the cashier.

"So, we don't normally eat this unhealthy..," I mumbled to the cashier. "We're...camping..." I kind of shook my head to explain away the gluttony of high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil. (J pointed out later that, since the cashier was a 16 year old boy, he probably thought I was a health nut, buying everything 'reduced fat.')

Then came the matter of securing a campsite. At first glance it didn't look remotely possible. Fortunately, the camping gods smiled upon us, and we found a spot at one of the several church-owned campgrounds around here.

"Hello. Thanks for calling Cascade Park."
"Hi! Um, I...want to go camping there. How do I do that?" (very eloquent)
"Okay, when did you want to camp?"
"In, say, two hours?"
(Laughter on the other end).
"Okay, how many people?"
"Two adults, three kids." (Do I really have three kids???)
"Sure, we'll find a spot for you."

---And now, I'm looking at the length of this post, and I'll continue with the actual camping another day....Stay tuned.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

1. I was raised to be frugal and I'm married to a finance {budget} manager, but there's a little part deep down inside me that believes you can't really ever have too many purses.

2. My style is eclectic, and I love "flavors" from around the world: Chinese silk, Polish pottery, French linens, organic cotton, bamboo floors...so many to love!

3. One of the reasons I love Ann Taylor Loft is because their generous sizing makes me feel good about myself. I just can't fit a 6 at Old Navy. I just can't.

4. When I don't have to think about anything, I think about my kids, my husband, creative projects, and the goodness of life.

5. If I had to get one cosmetic surgery done, I'd choose a nose job.

6. I love to wear dresses on a regular basis, but my favorite outfit is a cute white tee and jeans.

7. I think I like the idea of camping more than I actually like camping. And I love the tiny tent models at Target.

8. Sometime even music without words can make me cry.

9. I'm a sucker for chocolate. And cheesecake. And combinations of both.

10. I like life without a whole lot of additives.

11. Beautiful things make me happy. (Thus my degree...)

12. I find life really, really funny.

13. I still like to build forts out of sheets.

14. My guilty pleasures are Grey's Anatomy and celebrity gossip.

15. I have no patience for rude people.

16. I hate paying full price for anything.

17. I s-u-c-k at sports, but I've made my peace with that.

18. I love with all my heart.

19. I've worked in a cafe, a law office, as a preschool art teacher, in a design lab, doing model homes, owned my own design business, and I had a paper route. For a month. To earn money for EFY.

20. I wilt in the heat.

21. I want to write a book someday.

22. I am exceptionally bad at parking.

23. I love fresh produce, the smell of lavender, fancy restaurants, dressing up, and being with my girlfriends.

24. I love throwing parties.

25. I love my family, God, and Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Porn for Women


This is not a book recommendation of any sort, nor is it an endorsement of any kind for actual pornographic material, though it may look like one. I just wanted to share a funny (and only slightly irreverent) book that I stumbled across in a cute scrapbook/paper store, NOT some dimly lit alleyway magazine rack. (And, believe me, it was a very delicate internet search for the picture above)

The name caught my attention--seeming a little out of place in between some die cuts and cute stationery, which is the only reason it seemed moderately safe to pick it up. Upon further examination, it was hilarious. I don't know if you can see the front cover, but it's a (fully clothed) man who is vacuuming. The whole book is filled with hunky guys cooking and cleaning. I can't remember them verbatim, but it went a little somethin' like this:

*A guy shaving. "Just because I'm married, doesn't mean I can't take care of myself."

*A guy leaning on his arm looking deeply into your eyes. "Let's talk about our relationship."

*A guy in the kitchen, cooking. "I made [something really fancy] for dinner. I hope that's ok."

*A guy sitting on a couch. "Why don't you pick the movie?"

Every page got funnier and funnier. My girlfriend and I were rolling in laughter. It was hilarious. Just thought I'd pass along something to make you smile.