Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Culinary Challenge Debut: Caribbean!

I love to cook. And I have exotic interests. I love not only cooking international cuisines for the challenge they hold, but eating the uniquely flavored cultural results. I have been toying with the idea of an international dinner group for some time after seeing something similar on a friend's blog (thank Brooke). I finally decided to put it all together and was blessed enough to find 3 other couples who not only like to cook and enjoy a challenge, but have supportive spouses who also enjoy eating foreign foods. We've decided to have a monthly culinary challenge dinner. Our debut was Caribbean cuisine.Justin and Brianna brought their Dominican Republic expertise to the table with a light cabbage salad and some fried plantains.

Jamie and Trent brought the most delicious coriander flavored rice stuffed avocados for a lovely side dish.Eric and I prepared some grilled halibut with a spicy orange sauce.

We enjoyed the choice of non-alcoholic pina colada (which was definitely more pina than colada) or fresh limeade with key limes.
And what could be more refreshing than the fresh bananas, pineapple, and mangos with frozen yogurt that Linzi and Mike prepared?

Wouldn't you know, I failed to take a picture of the guests? I got great shots of their food though. Everything was exceptional! I'm thinking about starting another blog just for this group that contains all the recipes. What do you think?

Pickles and Pests

Eric and I had 10 cucumbers ripe at one time. Perfect. We put together a batch of bread and butter pickles, which are not only my favorite kind of pickle anyway, but are tons easier than the ones you have to soak in a brine for 2 or 3 days. So here they are!
On a more tragic note: we lost 3 of our 6 zucchini squash plants almost over night because of squash vine borers. A fourth is in critical condition after undergoing intensive surgery. Inexperienced physician-- me. Eric keeps teasing about a malpractice lawsuit if the plant doesn't recover. Well, I was willing to try anything. Those nasty lil vine borers took our other 3 plants so quickly, I felt helpless so see them go from lush and fruitful to yellow and flopped on the soil within 24 hours. And with this 4th plant, as soon as I saw the entry hole with sick worm excrement leaking out of it I knew we would lose it too if I didn't do something. Rodale's suggests injecting with nematodes, which I figured would be the least amount of stress to the plants, but I went to 3 garden centers and none of them carried any. It must be a newer technology for fighting these nasty grubs. My only option, then, was to slice part of the stem, peel back the layers, find the grubs and kill them by hand, and bury the surgical site as best as possible to allow it to heal. Well, I did my best. Found 3 gross fat white grubs chomping on the inside stem of my precious yellow crookneck squash. They are dead now. Compost.

I've been babying the plant since. It is flopped and dead looking. All those beautiful 7-9 squash still only 2 inches at the longest. I really understand the scripture "it greiveth me that I should lose this tree" and I haven't even been laboring in the garden for more than a summer cultivating these seeds. Oh, the absolute agony our Lord must feel when he sees mankind falling from healthy faith into decay of apostasy. His hope lies in the faithful. My hope lies in the 5 small and young leaves that haven't yet succumbed to the stress and loss of 3/4 of their stem lifeline. I am praying the plant pulls through. If not, I will be very sad. Those nasty lil buggers. Anybody else lose their squash to these disgusting vine borers?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Out of the Color Scheme Comfort Zone

Chances are that the gal for whom I made this book will not get online today since she is probably unpacking. So I can post these pictures and still surprise her tonight!

I really enjoyed this color scheme. Not a typical one for me, but the paper just screamed her name. What color schemes/patterns speak to you? Normally I like sort of Asian-esc minimalist stuff with slender curvilinear lines and variegated widths of angular stems and flowers. Geometric is also fun, like Islamic art or large, stylistic flowers. I'm definitely not normally a-- I'm not quite sure how to express it-- "loop-d-doopy-flowery-scallops" kind of gal. Have you ever been surprised to find yourself drawn to something that you thought you would never like? That's how this one was for me. I really LOVE the finished book. The way the gray makes the oranges and reds pop is fabulous! I'd keep it if I wasn't already making it with someone in mind. :) Or I guess I could be selfish... she hasn't seen this post yet... :P

I also experimented with slicing slits for the ribbon tie in the covers and like the way it turned out. Coptic binding, for those who might be interested. I'd love feedback: what kind of book would YOU want?

Grandparents in Ohio

My Parents came to visit for almost a week. It was wonderful! Eric and I really enjoyed having them here to hang out, chat with, watch Gwen while we went to the temple, etc. I think a big bonus was the delicious food we ate (since we had guests, I went all out): sushi, Caribbean baked halibut, brats with special sauerkraut, and spicy fish tacos. Mmmmmm... we ate well!
You can see I where I get my 5'4'' genes... :)

At first, Gwen wasn't quite sure what to think of Grandma and Grandpa.
But she quickly realized that they were here just to bring her love, happiness... and

In addition to great trips to Cosi:

playing with water and balls which both happen to be great loves

and the zoo:
Gearing up for a "safari" trip

experimenting with raspberries (and don't ask what I'm doing, because I don't know)

a really cute smile

followed by the most persistent pouty face she could pull off. She didn't smile for about an 1/2 hour.

Gwen had a ton of fun just playing on the living room floor with Grandma and Grandpa.

waving hi

getting tangled in the new blanket Grandma made for Gwen

Don't shoot! I surrender!

In the end, Gwen absolutely adored her Grandparents. She already misses the showers of love and attention.
Thanks for coming, Grandma and Grandpa! See you at Christmas time!

Friday, July 17, 2009

First Teeth!

You guys, how do you get a picture of baby's first teeth? Gwen's finally popped out last Saturday (hooray! and the peasants rejoice!), but she still won't even let us look at them. We only know they are there because you can feel them with your finger (which she isn't too keen on either). I want to take a picture to document this momentous occasion. Any suggestions?

oh, and does this mean she can have cheerios now? How do I keep her from choking on them?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


This project began as simply an ideal: I got a sewing machine (thanks Mama Allan) and a serger (thanks Mommy) for Christmas, so now I should make curtains because that would put both to good use (and using new technology/toys is always fun!)

Ideals deviate significantly from reality. Babies, especially, aren't necessarily conducive to sewing curtains. But the biggest obstacles were know-how, cost, and... um... other projects (I've always got loads of them. That's the part where I bite off more than I can chew pretty much all the time). If you want the long, interesting (though not necessarily, if you don't enjoy this sort of thing) saga of curtain production, read on. If not, skip through and look at pictures then comment and tell me how proud you are! j/k. well, sort of. I'd love your comments, but you are not obliged to compliment me if you think these stink. Don't tell me if that is the case, because I don't want to hear anything to deflate my sense of accomplishment! :)

I checked out books on sergers and read until I could TELL you all about what I needed to do to run my machine (though I didn't actually DO any of that until May. I was just plain scared of the thing.) I looked at curtains on line, price checked and double price checked, looked at window treatment design books from the library... until... I finally settled upon grommet curtains. It seemed like a design I could pull off in a modern style that I really like. Simple and sleek. No frills.

One of the books I had (still have, actually. I've renewed it every month since January! Good thing no one else wants to sew curtains in Upper Arlington's library district!) teaches how to make them using step by step photos. I cannot stress enough how invaluable this book was. So, from reading, I took measurements and figured out how much fabric I needed, grommet tape, rings, etc, etc.
This is when cost really became a contributing factor. Despite what you might think, it is NOT cheaper to make curtains than to buy them. But, you can get cooler fabrics and customize. (It is cheaper to customize your own curtains than to pay someone else to do a custom order for you.) But if you just want normal, solid color curtains, you can get them for about 1/4 the cost of making them yourself. Just so you know. Eric and I chalked the cost up to "education" in addition to "home decor" since I would be learning some serious sewing skills. (Which I definitely did.) But still, I felt bad spending too much on really cute home decor fabric. So I kinda browsed and browsed, but waited til it went 50% off at Joann's Memorial Day sale. Even with the sale, in order to fit it in a semblance of budget, I couldn't get any of the really pretty stripey patterns that I had been drooling over for months. Instead I made a compromise which ended up adding a stylish design element. I got a small amount of trendy stripes for an accent, but the bulk of the curtains would be a solid blue. Ordering the fabric was an adventure in itself thanks to the less-than-computer-savvy-sweet-grandma who was putting it in for me. There's a story there about an extremely tired baby who whined and fussed pitifully for the hour it took to place the order. I'll spare you any further, excruciating details.
Other Projects:
Other projects interrupted my progress at this point. Garden. Gifts for friends. High chair. Book shelf. Canning. Reading... So many delightful interruptions! I think, deep down, I was grateful for the excuses and postponement. Despite the reading, I was still thoroughly scared to start cutting. What if I messed up? I knew how much that material cost...

I mentioned these fears to Eric about a week ago. He said, "Of course you're going to mess up. This is your first time. Don't worry about it. Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Nobody will care if they aren't perfect, except maybe you. In fact, probably no one will ever know." Well. Huh. I guess I am a worrier. Have I mentioned before how perfectly Eric balances out my imperfections? I love him so much. Eric's encouragement gave me the motivation to dive in, mistakes and all.

Jumping in:
I started cutting on Monday. Since my sewing station/craft desk is upstairs in Gwen's room, I couldn't get much done. Eric was on call on Tuesday night. Gone til 11:00. Before I put Gwen down, I lugged my cutting mat, rotary blade, serger, sewing machine, etc down to the kitchen table and...


Honestly, the hardest part was dealing with the massive amounts of fabric. I'm just not used to that. I've only ever sewn quilt squares and small things like a crib skirt or a valance. The bulk made EVERYTHING more challenging: measuring (who has a ruler long enough for projects like this!), cutting (my mat didn't even come close to being long enough), ironing (how do you iron one half without wrinkling the other half?), and- of course- sewing (the bulk was so heavy and thick it kept falling off the table if I didn't use one hand to hold it up. How does one normally sew these things? Seriously... ) I'm curious. Anyone have any tips for any of the above issues? Not that I plan to make more curtains any time soon, but just for knowing's sake.
Last night I finished hemming the edges, cut out the grommet tape, inserted the grommets, ironed everything, installed the curtain rod hardware, and put up the curtain. Project complete! Yippee! A project 7 months in the making. Finished.

(To complete the new "look" for our living room, I was inspired to make matching pillow accents to tie in the blue (to an otherwise mostly cream and brown room)... and commissioned our quilting/sewing club to help me! I haven't made the pillows and table runner yet, but they will be some time this year (after I finish other projects in the wings).)

Biggest Project... FINISHED!!!!

Okay, I know I should wait for photos (I'll take them tomorrow in good light), but I just had to make a public announcement:


I'm just so proud about the way they turned out, I just had to share my success! This is definitely the biggest sewing project I've ever endeavored. Can't wait to show ya'll the results. Stay tuned for tomorrow!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Antics: Gwen, Water, and Bunny Fountains

A couple of weeks ago Gwen got to experience her first swim. I only got one photo, actually AFTER the water, but despite how tired she looks she really had a great time finding the one and only leaf in the entire pool. I decided we'd better document Gwen's growing love of water activities!

Ballantrae Park, otherwise known as the "bunny park" or "bunny fountains" because of this huge sculpture (made out of recycled car parts, interestingly enough), was a blast! We loved hanging out with Erika and J, Holly and H, Alicia and D, Amber and S, and Maria. Well, Gwen didn't really care about the moms, let's be honest, but she LOVED the babies!
The water, now, that was interesting. She couldn't decide how she felt about it sometimes. She LOVED splashing the streams that squirted up (showing off her recently honed slapping and waving abilities). But she HATED it if the water splashed her. Can you see her flinch in the top right shot of the collage? The water surprised her that time. As long as she got to control when and how she got wet, she was happy and coming back for more! The bottom left photo captures her anticipation as she waits for another squirt of water to come up so she can slap it back down.
I'd say she is getting accustomed to summer water fun!

Gwen and Daddy



Thursday, July 9, 2009

Life's Lessons #4: Wait Your Turn

We all have pet peeves, right? I'm about to expound upon one of my big ones: when people don't wait their turn. When I originally composed this, I was quite scathing. I have since repented of my "venom" and decided I need to be more charitable. Either way, I must acknowledge that respectfully waiting in line is a dying "art" or "lesser virtue" in life that I think the world could use more of (that is poor grammar, but you know what I mean).

You've seen it happen. You're driving along and someone speeds ahead to slide right in front of you at the light. Woohoo. Good for you. You now have a 2 second head start on me. Good thing you managed to get in front.
Or here's another one: you wait patiently at the zoo to see "X" animal. Just before you get there, someone has to zip in front of you to plant themselves right in front of your view (small children I can tolerate doing this. But adults with strollers? Come on).
Or here's another one: you're waiting to pick up a prescription at Kroger's. The line is pretty non-descript. More of a huddle, actually, but everyone there knows who is next. You. Everyone knows, that is, except one guy. Right when it should be your turn, the pharmacist calls out "can I help who's next?", you lean forward on the balls of your feet to take a step to the counter, and some wise guy pops out from behind an aisle and speeds up to the counter with a desperate pharmacological need that somehow trumps yours.

Waiting to talk to the lady at the airport? Waiting for the hose at the community garden? No matter where you are, there's bound to be someone who doesn't think they need to wait their turn. Is it just me, or does the squeaky wheel REALLY need all that grease right now? Come on, why can't the patient person be rewarded for their patience every once and awhile? (this coming from someone-- me-- who is definitely NOT patient and therefore thinks that any excruciating efforts in that direction ought to be applauded, not walked on.)

You know what the pet peeve is really all about? People thinking they are the exception to the rule, that they don't need to wait in line like everybody else but can cut. People that think they are somehow special, above fences and sidewalks that think they can make their own path through a gap in the fence and go tromping around on the lawn as a short cut to beat the crowd to the park entrance rather than be put out to have to shuffle in line down the side walk like civilized human beings. Who do they think they are?

What do I think is the solution? Take a number, just like at the DMV and Joann's. and build better fences, I guess.

Or actually, what we could use is a little respect and consideration.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


My older sister, Tamara, is getting her first novel published, you guys! Check out the review for her novel here. I'm so excited for her! She just needs to sign the contract now, but she has been accepted for publishing! As soon as there are working copies of her novel(s) out there, I'll let ya'll know!

and I'm hoping soon to have my own "official" good news about my Korean art history paper submitted for publication in an Asian scholarly journal. (I heard that good news was coming. off the record.) So now I can just hold my breath to see if it actually happens...

Saturday, July 4, 2009


A big word. With big attitude. Big "I-can-do-it-myself" gangly almost-adults, right? Wrong.

Independence wears diapers.And, pulling you all away from that adorable girl back to my thoughts, Independence leans on family and friends, rather than going it all alone.

Independence gains freedom by relying on the Lord.

Independence is not something to be squandered, but to be upheld and cherished.

Happy Independence Day. May our great nation continue to enjoy freedom through the sacrifice of so many upholding that freedom... and most especially through relying upon God's infinite power and mercy.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Food is a Love Builder

Eric and I had an Asian film marathon last night. My idea. (Are you surprised? :) I'm so blessed that Eric loves me enough to put up with my passion for Asia... even to the extent that he'll watch 6 hours of depressing/strange Chinese and Taiwanese films with me. Ah... what a lucky girl I am. :)

One of the films we watched was filled with food. It played an integral part to the characterization, expression of emotion, and symbolized suffering or fulfilled love. Very intriguing, especially since you get to watch authentic traditional Chinese food being prepared in minutes. (they make it look so easy!) But something that really struck me is how valuable food is to relationships. Really. I mean think about it. When you want to celebrate, what do you do? Make a big meal (Thanksgiving and Christmas), eat out at fancy restaurants (anniversaries and birthdays), bar-b-que (Fourth of July, Memorial Day), etc. When you want to spend time with friends, you invite them over for dinner and a movie. When you want to show someone you are thinking of them, you bring them cookies or brownies. When a neighbor moves in, you offer to bring over dinner or --ha ha-- jello! New baby? Food. Funeral? Food. Wedding? Food. Dating? Food. As a wife and mother, one of the ways I demonstrate love and sacrifice is by making delicious meals for my family. And when Eric wants to show his appreciation for me on Valentine's Day, he makes me fancy Italian.

You know how girls often remember events by visual elements ('I was wearing the light blue button up shirt', 'you had on that red and purple tie', 'the leaves were just bleeding to rusts and bronzes', etc)? Well, Eric (and perhaps guys in general?) always remember the food. If I want to jog his memory about a person or place, mentioning clothing or accessories gets me nowhere. I have to talk food ('we had the awesome dessert pizza', 'they had the best steak!', 'you remember, she brought the ham wrapped pickles to the party'--that example, btw, is something Eric actually said to me last week!). Memories are tied to food.

Spending intimate time with loved ones often begins with cooking a favorite meal together, picnicing at the park, sharing a bottle of martinelli, etc. Isn't our relationship with food interesting? How it actually is a catalyst for bringing people together too? Why do you think that is?