Thursday, July 30, 2009

In Mourning

Yesterday I discovered that my t-shirts no long fit. Now my tummy definitely shows when I wear them. I could probably still get away with it, but I'm used to things fitting, and it's not really comfortable either. It's most distressing, because those were the last bastion of my wardrobe--the one thing I could still depend on. So today I went through my wardrobe. It was depressing.

If you ever see a pregnant woman with her belly showing or wearing a really tight fitting shirt, consider the small chance that perhaps she just hasn't had time to update her wardrobe.

I don't know if I just have a very well fitted wardrobe, or if the bloating/showing is worse because of my first pregnancy/body type/every woman is different (pick your reason). Or maybe it's that I don't like to show off yet(I tried on a skirt and top for church last week and asked David if it was okay--his response was "well, if you WANT to show off your belly...). My sister (and fashion consultant) would say it's because my shirts aren't long enough to begin with.

Still, it was kind of fun to go through everything in my closet. The best part was discovering clothes that I'd set aside because they didn't really fit (score!). Now they do...I found a black velour jumper that will be perfect right now. Super comfortable, and I can dress it up with one of my scarves. I also found several vests--when are those going to come back into style?The casual clothes didn't fair so well. The stack on the right is clothes I can wear (2/3rds of them are maternity). The stack on the left is ones that I can't. Coming from five years in a chemistry lab, I had a lot of t-shirts. :(Of course, David wears a medium T-shirt...I wonder if I can find any that don't have looney tunes on them? Or maybe it's finally time to go shopping. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My First Craving?

I also thought about titling this post "How I Discover the Holes in My Pantry." When movers pack you up, there are certain things they won't take, like open bottles of liquid. That might be why I don't have any mint flavoring right now. You also tend to take a look at a box or something that's three-quarters empty and think, "Why should they pack this up? Baking soda is cheap--I'll just get a new box when we get there..." Of course, it helps if you remember to do that when you're shopping, rather than waiting until you're absolutely dying for some cookies. Chocolate chip was out, since I haven't replaced those yet. So I went with molasses crinkles (I seem to get new cravings every time I talk with my family), only to discover that there isn't an easy replacement for baking soda. In case you are wondering, baking soda is the common name for sodium bicarbonate. You may think, "Baking soda, baking powder...what's the difference?" Well, the difference is slight but important. Baking powder is made up of baking soda plus some other ingredients--typically an acid and something like cornstarch to keep it from clumping. You can replace baking powder with baking soda if you add acid to your recipe (like using buttermilk instead of milk). It's harder to take the acid out of recipe--in molasses crinkles, the acid comes from the molasses--so baking powder is not a good replacement for baking soda. Suffice to say, I made a quick trip to the store...but it was worth it.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Although we've lived in our house for a few months now, there are still some areas that need work. I've never been much of an art collector--a few prints here and there, but we've never had much of a house to decorate. A while back my brother gave me a beautiful Chinese wall hanging, but it's a little small to cover a whole wall. That is, until Partylite came out with some cherry blossom themed pieces. Suddenly, the music room in our house got a decorating scheme. The wall hanging is the focal point, with some of our Chinese pieces and the cherry blossom candle holders rounding out the pictures. We (meaning David) finally got them all up on the wall tonight. The bookcase top still needs a runner, but besides that, what do you think? Now I just have to figure out what to do with the other side of the room.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Change is in the Air

1. I have not blogged in several days. My sincerest apologies--I had guests for a few days, plus I've been hit with a double whammy of pregnancy fatigue. I slept all morning yesterday, and I took a two hour nap this morning and another hour nap this afternoon.

2. You may have noticed that I changed the blog layout. I'm experimenting with different templates. My sister thinks that I should find a background with a chemistry theme. I'm a fan of that, if there was an option in the blogger templates. Unfortunately, I think I'd have to make it myself.

3. I'm also planning to open the blog up. Feel free to pass along the web address to anyone you think might enjoy this. I've decided to do this for several reasons:

a. I'm not great at sending out invites...and there are complications that can ensue.
b. As you can tell from the title of my blog, I consider this a way to encourage people and share a little about what God is doing in my life. Making it a private blog kind of limits that aim.
c. How can I eventually make a million bucks on advertising if I don't increase my readership? :)

4. I like making lists. They bring order to my life, and they give me something to cross off when I have a million things to do. I confess to adding things that I've already done to my list, just so I can cross them off.

5. Future posts: Visitors from a far off land and Tucano's Brazilian Grill.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


When we first looked at our house, the realtor thought that we had some kind of fruit tree in the back yard. It turned out to be a cherry tree, although we wouldn't know that by its fruit. Our neighbors also have one, and they identified it for us. Apparently there was a late frost that killed pretty much all the fruit blossoms. :( So we'll have to wait and see what kind of cherry tree we have.
We also have a little tree in our front yard that appeared to be a fruit tree. We weren't sure what it was, although we had an inkling after seeing these on the ground.After visiting a friend who has a peach tree, and hearing from the neighbors, we were sure. Our neighbors said it's usually loaded down with fruit, but we didn't see anything (frost...grrrr). One day I happened to look up and see this!Since then, David's found about six more. So we won't have bushels, but at least we can try them this year!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Childhood Friends

"Coolth," said Katharine. "Blessed, blessed coolth."
"That's no word," said Jane.
"It aught to be," said Katharine, pressing on.

This quote is from "Magic by the Lake", by Edward Eagar (I knew you'd recognize it, Susan!). It's one in a series of seven books about children who encounter magic and their adventures. I thoroughly enjoyed them growing up, although I always felt that the kids were a little slow in picking up on the nuances of the magic in each book (each one was a slightly different flavor). I'm going home in a few weeks to see my family, and while I'm very excited to see them, I'm also pretty excited about visiting our library of books. The last time I was home, our immense collection was packed up for the move, and although I got tantalizing glimpses of some old friends, I didn't really have time to get reaquainted. I was a voracious reader as a child, and although I loved playing with my siblings and friends, I received as much enjoyment from spending time with...literary friends as well.
This is one of my oldest friends, and possibly one of my favorite books as a child. As an adult, I've pondered why I connected with Nat Bowditch (who, by the way, is a real person). As I've found other books I really enjoy (The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner, is one), I've discovered a pattern in them. The characters are not often especially strong, or heroic, or lucky, but they are always smart. Surprising, coming from me, right? They are clever, studious, and once they tackle a problem with all their talent and intellect, they succeed. I was never particularly talented in sports or in the physical arena, but I always knew (thanks to my parents and my childhood 'friends') that I could succeed in life by thoughtful application of my knowledge and ability.

Do you have childhood 'friends' that you miss? Maybe you have a little section of children's books in your room so you can visit with them occasionally? What was your favorite book as a child?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Halfway to Completion

I just finished this for a friend of mine to go in her kitchen. I'm also making one that says "Coffee". I've been cross-stitching since Mom and Dad started reading out loud to us, but I got myself in gear last year when I made this for my brother. It's a small tablecloth with matching napkins. I finished it the morning I gave it to him and Xiu--at least I had something to do on the flight over there! David helped too. :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Recipe: Home-style MuShu Pork (or Chicken)

I remember this dish being my sister's favorite chinese take-out food. I also remember it being a bit on the greasy side--you know, that feeling that it's coating your mouth and lips? This recipe is pretty easy to make, and it's a lot healthier than take-out. The only downside is that take-out comes with pancakes. If you can find some at an Asian food store, you'll be set, but tortillas make a decent stand-in, especially if they are Aztec brand (we don't have those here).

Start with cabbage (a great powerhouse veggie!). The recipe calls for six cups, but I just used a quarter of a head, then added two cups shredded carrots for color and variety. Cut the cabbage head through the stem, then again. You'll end up with something like this:Cut the core of the cabbage out, then just thinly slice until you're out of cabbage. Cabbage can get pretty watery, so we're going to salt it to try and help draw some of the water out. Put the sliced cabbage in a colander over the sink and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp kosher salt. Let it sit for a minimum of 10 minutes (or however long it takes to get everything else ready).
In a small bowl, mix 2 Tbs. hoisin sauce, 1 Tbs. soy sauce, 2 tsp. Asian sesame oil, and 1 tsp. rice vinegar. The hoisin sauce is what gives this dish its characteristic taste.Unless you're used to doing things on the fly, it's a good idea to have everything ready for stirfry before you start. Things can cook very fast, so let's prep the rest of your veggies. The recipe calls for green onions. If you have those, clean and trim them, thinly slice the white part, and cut the green parts into 2-inch pieces. If you're like me, and you decided to make this on the spur of the moment, you may have onions instead. Just take a medium one (cleaned and peeled), cut it in half from root to top, and slice it thinly. The recipe also calls for shiitake mushrooms, which I didn't have...if you do, clean and stem them, then thinly slice. Put 2 tsps minced ginger (fresh, please), 2 tsp. minced garlic, and 1 tsp vegetable oil in a small bowl. You'll also want to break two eggs into a bowl and lightly beat them.
Once your cabbage has salted enough, spread it out on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and blot it dry with a few more. If you use carrots, you can julienne them (I use my handy julienning tool from pampered chef). If you shred them with a grater, you may want to blot them dry with the cabbage.Okay, I think we're set. Take a large non-stick pan and heat 1 Tbs vegetable oil over medium high heat. It should be shimmering slightly. Add the pork or chicken and cook it till it's lightly browned, about three minutes. Transfer to a plate. If your pieces of meat look big (like mine did), you can shred them or chop them more after you cook them.Add 1 Tbs oil to the pan and once it's shimmering again, add the scallion whites and mushrooms (or just add the onions). Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt (or don't--I don't think I did, but the recipe calls for it), and cook until they are brown and soften, 2-3 minutes. You'll want to stir occasionally so they don't burn. Push the veggies to the sides and add the eggs. Let them sit for a few seconds until set, then break them up. Stir until cooked through, then dump everything on the plate with the pork.Add 1 Tbs oil to the pan (shimmering) and add the scallion greens (if you're using them), cabbage, and carrots (if you're using them). Cook, stirring occasionally, till softened, about two minutes. Push the cabbage to the side and dump the bowl of ginger and garlic into the center. Let it sit for 15-30 seconds (until it smells tasty), then mix it into the cabbage. Adding the ginger and garlic at the end prevents it from getting burned--I make all my stirfry this way, regardless of what the recipe says.Add the hoisin mixture and the pork plate back into the pan, then stir and cook for about 1 minute. This lets the flavors 'meld' together.Put it all together: take a heated tortilla (or pancake if you're lucky) and spread about 1 Tbs. hoisin sauce down the center. Add some of the pork mixture to the tortilla, fold as you like it, and chow down!

6 cups thinly sliced cabbage
2 Tbs. hoisin sauce (essential for getting the right flavor--look in the asian section)
1 Tbs. soy sauce
2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
1 tsp. rice vinegar
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 lb pork or chicken, cut into thin strips (you can also used cooked, shredded pork or chicken, about 2 cups)
1 bunch scallions
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly slice (about 4 cups)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
2 tsp minced garlic
6-8 pancakes or flour tortillas

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's Unnatural...but I'm LOVING It

Monday was a bad day. The high was 97 degrees, and when I got home from shopping at 5:30 (I go then so I can pick David up from work when I'm done), my dinner plans quickly changed. I had some cut up pork thawing in the fridge, but it was 93 degrees in the kitchen, and I was not spending one moment longer than I absolutely had to in that kind of heat. So we had tuna melts in the guest bedroom, which was a delightful 75 degrees from the window unit.
Tuesday was also hot, but that's because I had to stay in the main area of the house instead of the nice cool back bedroom. Why? There were people here all day...mostly in the garage, but every once in a while they'd poke their heads in the house and ask me something. They left a few things this:And this:

It may be unnatural, but whoever says you should go 'all natural' should have to spend a day in my house pre-AC. I have high hopes for the improvements this will bring to my life--less morning sickness, added energy, renewed focus... My blog posting had fallen off because if I didn't post something in the morning, nothing (not even you, dear reader) could keep me out at the computer and away from the AC in the back bedroom. And now, I can move about the house in total freedom!

Blessed, blessed coolth!

(And a shout-out to the first person who recognizes the source of that quote.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I CAN Move My Arms...

I think I can, I think I can...but just typing this post is a stretch. I'm trying two new things this week: going to the gym every day, and trying a class every time I go. The gym thing I need to do anyway, and if I do a class, I'm there for a whole hour doing something. Yesterday I tried Intro to Pilates. It was okay, but I wasn't sure if I was doing things right, and I didn't really feel it today. I think if I kept going, I'd figure out what I need to do to make it 'work' for me. I will definitely be in pain tomorrow, though. I tried a class called Body Pump, which is basically lifting weights for an hour. My legs were shaking after the warmup. Bad sign. Now that I'm done, I feel like my arms might fall off, or my legs might give under me. But I can definitely see why people like it--the music is really upbeat, and I didn't have to wonder whether I was covering everything or not. It's nice to have a coach too, and to see everyone else doing it. I'll probably go again on Thursday. If I can move.

Comment time! I love comments, and today I want to hear about what you do to exercise. Are you a runner? do you go for gym classes? or just the treadmill/eliptical/whatever? Or maybe you're a swimmer? I'm curious to hear what works for you. I'm hoping this keeps working for me, since my mom says the better I'm in shape, the easier the labor. I'm game for that!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Garden, In Pieces

Here is my garden. Most of it was a gift from Nathan and Melinda Perkins (in the form of a Lowes gift card, since I couldn't take them with me from KY). The jasmine plant on the right did take a plane trip from Tucson, courtesy of Erin Johnson and Southwest Airlines. :) You might be wondering why they are in pots, instead of in the ground where they belong. Here's why.This was the former resting place of this:David siphoned off all the water (and everything growing in it) and removed the pond from the ground. But, we haven't filled it with dirt yet. Someday, I'll get up early enough that it won't be super hot with the sun beating down, and I'll take care of everything. Someday, when I have more energy...

The Evidence

Over the last month, I've been dealing with things...bloating, nausea, picky eating habits, a lack of enthusiasm for leftovers, and a total aversion for Fiber One bars (don't ask). I'm hoping these things will only last another month, rather than another seven. For those of you who don't know (and haven't guessed yet), I'm eight weeks pregnant. Per the request of several people, here is the evidence (or lack thereof). By the time evening rolls around, I certainly feel big. And I definitely have clothes that I can't fit in any more. But it doesn't seem bad in the picture. :)I had my first pre-natal appointment on Friday. The bulk of it was spent talking with my certified nurse-midwife about how things are going and things I should and shouldn't do. I'm a pretty low-risk pregnancy (once I laid of the drugs and alcohol), but she did give me a prescription for chewable pre-natals. Yay! When I try to swallow pills, it's 50:50 whether it comes back up or not (I inherited a strong gag reflex), and I certainly didn't want to chance it with morning sickness in the picture. I've been taking Flintstones, which has the right amount of folic acid, but these will be a little more well rounded. No heartbeat this time, but that's fine because David will come to the next one and we can hear it together. Expect another picture in about a month's time!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Recipe: Fried Gnocchi and Creamy Mushroom Sauce

This recipe would make a great vegetarian company meal, especially if you just replaced the fried gnocchi with farfalle (bow-tie pasta). The mushrooms give the sauce a nice meaty flavor and texture, and it's definitely rich enough to be filling. I'll go over the sauce first. This is an amalgamation of several recipes found on I have a few sites I visit when I'm looking for a new recipe, and this one is good for interesting ingredients (like the ones we'd get in our farm share) and for comparing different versions of the same thing.

Start by cleaning 12 oz of shitake mushrooms (you can replace half with cremini, also known as baby portobellos). You'll want to remove the stem (which is very tough) and clean off the tops. I tend to wash my mushrooms, even though they can soak up water. If I'm cooking them, it's okay if they soak up water, and I'd rather be sure to get all the dirt off. You can swish them in a bowl of water, then brush them off with a soft cloth. Slice the caps about 1/4 inch thick. I didn't have any shallots, so I just added about 1/2 a cup of finely chopped onion. Shallots are more mild--if you have them, slice up 1/2 a cup. I also minced 2 cloves of garlic.Heat 2 T butter and 2 T olive oil in a pan over medium high heat--I didn't quite have 12 oz of mushrooms, so I used about 1.5 T of each. Using a mixture of butter and oil gives you the flavor of butter without the danger of burning it as easily. Once butter is melted and starting to brown, add the mushrooms and onions/shallots.Cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. At this point, I added about 1/2 a cup of sherry. Sherry and mushrooms go really well together, and if you cook off most of the liquid, you get the flavor without much alcohol. White wine would also work, but you can just use chicken broth if you prefer.Once the sherry is cooked down, add 1/2-3/4 cup chicken broth (more if you like your sauce on the soupy side). If you're using homemade broth, you can add some salt here. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Add 1-2 T chopped fresh sage, or 1-2 teaspoons dried sage. Now, the tasty and delicious part...heavy cream. I just poured some in, but I'd go with 1/2-1 cup, depending on how rich you like things and how much sauce you want. Leave the pan on the heat until the sauce is warmed through, salt and pepper to taste, and pour over the gnocchi or pasta. Garnish with extra sage and you're set.

Fried Gnocchi:
Start with a pot of boiling salted water. Add the frozen gnocchi and, once all the gnocchi have floated to the top, cook for one minute. I like to fish them out with a strainer, rather than dumping them in a colander. They are a little delicate.When you add the gnocchi to the water, add 2 T butter to a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Try to choose one large enough to fit the gnocchi in a single layer. Once the butter has melted, add the gnocchi. The recipe I have says "cook, shaking the pan occasionally to turn the gnocchi, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes". Mine didn't work out quite that well...they stuck to the pan. I think the key is to watch them and flip them over with a spatula if they start to stick. I was in the middle of the sauce recipe and didn't pay attention as well as I should have. So mine ended up more on the brown side than golden. Still, the interplay between the creamy, rich mushroom sauce and the slightly crunchy, buttery gnocchi was pretty tasty. :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Falling in Love

Although we're out of the woods in terms of the roach problem, we've discovered another issue with the house (I'm beginning to think there will be no end to these). We have two types of cooling mechanisms in the house. The refrigerated air has all the ductwork in place, but the unit outside has been broken for a while. This, we knew when we bought the house. There is an alternative to air conditioning in dryer climates such as ours...the infamous swamp cooler. This functions by wetting down a pad inside a drum. The drum spins around and as the water evaporates, the air is cooled. The cooler air is pumped into the house, thus providing some relief. While this works in principle when the humidity is 0%, it doesn't work so well during the rainy season (known as 'the monsoons'). Well, our swamp cooler doesn't even work when it's dry. There's a paltry amount of air coming from the vents, but the installation wasn't done very well and we can't really use it. So, I end up with situations like this:
I think the thermometer is reading 89.7 degrees right now...I'll spare you the picture. We're currently working on getting the refrigerated air fixed, but in the meantime, I'm in love:
I'm in love because of this little number:David came home and I informed him that this little baby was posted on Craig's list, and he went to all the trouble of figuring out how to remove the bars on the windows in the guest bedroom and drove to downtown ABQ to buy it. Then he installed it for me. Isn't he sweet?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Another Church

Today we went to The Foothills, which might be the last one on our list of 'close' churches. We forgot that it's a holiday weekend, and thought maybe we had the time wrong when we arrived and the parking lot was barely half full. We talked to someone afterward, and he said over the half the church was missing. Here's the run-down:

--Music was pretty low-key (guitar and piano), although it's hard to tell if most of the regular worship team was gone. I find it hard to believe anyone could preach on Jesus being our refuge and not sing A Mighty Fortress or The Solid Rock, but they did. I was tempted to ask if they ever sing hymns. :)
--The preaching was decent. The pastor preached about our freedom and citizenship in Christ (which would should have expected with the holiday weekend). It was interesting in that he preached about the cities of refuge from Joshua 20 and drew parallels to Jesus being our refuge. He seemed pretty personable and dynamic. I guess I'd rate second or third best of what we've heard? It'd be nice to hear a 'regular' sermon, but the next two weeks will be a guest speaker on the end times.
--Downsides? We talked to a guy after the service, and he said they went down from two services for the summer. I was wondering if they split the services into traditional and contemporary, then, so it's something we'd have to find out. It's a pretty big church, so we're wondering how we would be called to serve there. Not that you can't serve in a big's awfully nice to have rotating worship teams. :)

At this point, we're not SURE about any one church, but I do feel like we have some possibilities. I think we might do some return visits to get a better feel for a few of them, then we'll see. Still, I miss our old church!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Going Green

We spent most of yesterday looking for these: rain barrels. We are having gutters installed next week, and unfortunately the grading around our house isn't the best. We were trying to figure out whether to run the drain spouts out away from the house, but a rain barrel provides a convenient and easy way to solve our problem. I also have a number of rose bushes in the little courtyard, and I'll be able to use the rain water to water them. Of course, we're not sure that our barrels are big turns out that 1 inch of rain on a 1000 square foot roof will generate over 600 gallons of water! Our roof is about 2000 square feet, and we'll have one barrel in the back and one in the front. These are 60 gallon barrels, so I guess we'll just have to see if we ever get more than 1/10 of an inch at a time. Luckily, this design can be linked to a second barrel. Hmmm...I just checked the weather yesterday, and it rained half an inch. I wonder how often that happens? The average rainfall for the whole month of July is 1-2 inches, so maybe that was very unseasonal. :) We'll find out!