Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grandpa and Grandma Visit

Grandpa Ron and Grandma Judi (my parents) came to visit March 16-26.  Most of our time together was spent at a time share in Bass Lake (near Yosemite). 

It's a four hour drive.  We broke it up by stopping at a tiny zoo in Modesto.
Judith stretching her legs at the zoo

Bass Lake had gotten about two feet of snow a couple days before we got there.  All that was left around the condo was a pile in the parking lot from the bulldozer.  Judith climbed on the pile every day, and threw snowballs at Grandpa.

We visited the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite, where there was still a LOT of snow left on the ground.  Daddy and Judith got into their snowsuits.
a really big tree fell over
posing in the snow
I got you Grandma!

On a different day we went down into Yosemite Valley.
A BIIIIIIG waterfall (Yosemite Falls)
Obligatory family photo at the Half Dome Overlook

We spent a final few days at home before Grandpa and Grandma left.
Judith and Grandpa went fishing
Grandma helped Judith do a really big puzzle

And now we've said goodbye :-(.  And we're settling back into routine.

The Joy
Well, of course there's joy visiting with my family.  I love watching Judith interact with my parents, and I like being with them too.  And Yosemite was (is) absolutely beautiful. There were a few trials involved in being away overnight with a three-and-a-half-year-old that still isn't fully potty trained and likes to get up with the sun (the sun was up at 5:30 a.m. in Bass Lake!), but we persevered and enjoyed our time anyway :-).

Joy to you!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tumbling Blocks - Ta Da!

It's finally finished!  The afghan that I first started early January has been completed!  It's on our bed now, and it makes me want to decorate the whole room to match :-).  Here are the pictures:


The border - pointed on the sides and straight across the top/bottom.

different angle

I'm so, so happy with it! 

Again, for those interested, the pattern for the individual diamonds (and joining method) comes from Red Heart's Prairie Star pattern, but I graphed out the tumbling blocks design on my own.

The Joy
I have to admit that somewhere around the beginning of February I got a little sick of working on this.  It was taking soooo looong.  And I took a break to make other things occasionally (as evidenced by all the other crochet projects I've blogged about). But I persevered.  And discovered the joy of making it through to the end.  So this blanket is a very vivid reminder of the joy James writes about - the joy that comes from perseverance.

Joy to you!

Brownies and Blankets

Olive Oil Brownies
Last week I got to make a meal for a family that can't have milk.  I thought, "what can I possibly bake that doesn't use butter?"  And voila, I found this recipe on Pinterest.  Except, as I was beginning the process, I realized that the semi-sweet chocolate I'd bought listed "milk solids" as an ingredient!  Ack!  So I quickly searched for a cocoa substitution for semi-sweet chocolate and found an answer here.  (What did we ever do without Google?).  I added pecans to the recipe as well, because the called-for milk chocolate chips obviously wouldn't work. 

I made enough modifications to the recipe, that I'm going to post it here.  It can easily be made Vegan by using egg substitute.

Olive Oil Brownies:

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (or egg-substitute equivalent)
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 and line an 8×8 pan with foil.
In a large bowl, combine cocoa and olive oil.
Whisk in sugars, eggs and vanilla until combined.
Add in flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Fold in pecans.
Spread in prepared pan and bake 25 minutes.  DON'T OVERBAKE!!
Let cool completely.  Remove brownies from the pan by lifting out the foil.  Flip over onto a cutting board and peel foil off.  Cut into squares and enjoy.

Coconut Cream Brownie Bites
I also found this recipe on Pinterest.  Naturally, since it's a Duncan Hines recipe, it calls for a Duncan Hines brownie mix.  But I used my favorite fudge brownie recipe (from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich) instead.  No pan size is specified in the recipe, so the first time I made it, I followed the comment suggestions and used a smaller (8x11") pan and one batch of fudge brownies.  The result was very yummy, but was an extremely thick coconut cream layer with two very thin layers of brownie on either side.  Yesterday I tried it again, doubling the brownie recipe but leaving the coconut cream layer the same, and using a 9x13" pan.  Now I've got something that's basically a fudge brownie with a ribbon of coconut cream.  Also very good, and probably a better bet for a party, since some people are not coconut fans. I'd probably prefer something between the two.  (Oh well...that just means I can experiment more :-)

Twin Boy Blankets
A family at church just welcomed twin boys.  I wanted to make blankets that would be similar, but different, and I wanted to try out a rectangle granny blanket.  And this is what I did:

That's dark brown with the light blue, by the way, even though it looks black!

I also finished the afghan for our bed!!!!!  I haven't taken pictures yet, though, so it'll get its own blog post :-).

Joy to you!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


A few recent, fun lessons for/with Judith :-)

Judith loves books, but it's only recently that she's willing to sit and look at them on her own, without being read to.  One day last week, after she'd been in her room (playing quietly!) for quite some time, I peeked in to make sure she was still alive.  This is what I saw:

The hat is one that I'd made for her a year or so ago.  The book is the Curious George collection.  She'd managed to get the hat on herself (over her ponytails, no less!) and was sitting quietly telling the stories to herself.  Of course, as soon as she saw me she invited me to come read to her, but it was a sweet moment nonetheless.

Water Play
Bath time is Daddy time. (And it's Mama's time to clean up the kitchen and do a few other things without interruption!)  And he and Judith have fun playing in the water and sometimes doing little experiments (like discovering that if you put a wet washcloth over a cup of water and turn it upside down, the water stays in the cup).  This time, they called me in to see what was happening.  As the picture below sort-of shows, Judith was pouring water over her own face/head, and actually enjoying it!  (This from the child that used to scream bloody murder when her hair was rinsed!)  This gives me great hope for the success of swimming lessons this year.

Bass Guitar Lessons
Lance recently started giving bass lessons to a teenage friend of ours (in exchange for babysitting - Yay!).  So he's been playing his bass a little more too, and Judith is very interested.  She certainly isn't going to escape music in this house - not that she wants to :-)

The Joy
My little one continues to grow up!  And every new discovery fills her with joy.  Most of the time that's pretty contagious.

Joy to you!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Recent Adventures

Finally, a blog with pictures!  And since it’s been so long, this is an all-round update, with Judith stories and crochet and baking and more.  Our everyday adventures :-). 

Peanut Butter Cookies
squiggly peanut butter cookie
A friend of mine asked me to do peanut butter cookies for her sister’s wedding.  And she wanted them to be heart shaped.  With initials.  So I checked online for recipes for peanut butter cutout cookies.  But the reviews for each recipe I found said either that the recipe was tasteless, or that it was way too soft to roll out.  So I used the recipe that my sister makes, because I know people like it.  (This was only like my second time ever making peanut butter cookies.  They’re really not my favorite!)  The dough was soft, but not too soft to roll out between sheets of wax paper (my pastry teacher would say “pastry chefs are laughing!”).  Honestly, I wasn’t fully satisfied by my handwriting on the initials, although both Lance and my friend said they were beautiful.  But I was thrilled with how these squiggly ones turned out! 

Teaching Preschool
February 27 was my first day teaching the preschool co-op.  I got to teach about Summer, and yellow, and squares.  I searched the internet for fun ideas, and found some great resources.  We traced the squares in an “Itsy Bitsy” book, had homemade yogurt popsicles on an indoor “picnic” for our snack, and made paper bowl suns for our craft.  All-in-all, a good experience, and I’m already looking forward to teaching “Taste” April 2.
"can I have it now?"
The Moose-Bear Boat
As I was working in the kitchen one day, Judith came scooting around the corner on these friends, using her legs like oars to propel herself along.  She said it was her boat.
Must be rough water
Lance asked me to make tamales!  (Actually, what he said was “With all of your recent discoveries/experiments with different recipes and things, I was wondering if you would find a good recipe and make me some tamales?”)  So I went searching.  And found a recipe.  And bit the bullet and bought some pork and cooked it in the crock pot until it fell apart (gross!) and added salsa.  Then I made the masa according to the package directions, and assembled them.  I made only as many as one batch of masa made, because I wasn’t sure if Lance would like them.  But he did...especially with some mole sauce and fresh cilantro.  He at about one third of what I’d made and I froze the rest.  He’s requested that I try to make sauce-from-scratch ones next.  We’ll see.
Assembly line ready
the finished "present"
as served, with green mole and fresh cilantro
Crochet Projects:
Crowns:  at the request of a friend I made a crown using this pattern, modifying it in some places as suggested in the pattern’s comments.  And then I experimented with another smaller, simpler crown that I could possible put beads or jewels on.  I’m pretty happy with the result, especially because I was mostly feeling my way through what I was doing.  Which paved the way for:
Cupcake Nametags:  at MOPS this week we had “cupcake wars”, a competition between tables to see who could decorate the best.  And in the interest of table spirit, I decided to try making some crochet cupcake nametags.  I think they turned out rather well – and I didn’t have a pattern at all, just a picture that gave me somewhere to start.  (I suppose, if someone requested, I could try writing the pattern down :-)
crowns...bottom is from a pattern, top is improvised
crochet cupcake nametag
And progress continues on the big blanket for our bed.  I'm ready to crochet the border!  Look for a big reveal soon!

Bubblebath Fail
In an effort to save money but still be green, I tried two different recipes for bubblebath using castille soap.  Neither worked at all.  The bubbles lasted for approximately thirty seconds, and then the water was just cloudy.  I’ve seen some other recipes for DIY bubblebath that just add a little water to body wash, but since I’m trying to avoid sodium lauryl sulfate, that’s not what I’m looking for.  Guess I’ll have to write that one off.

The Joy
Lots of learning, lots of chocolate, lots of gifting...of course there’s joy!

Joy to you!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Goal Check-Up

Since we’re two months into the year, I’ve decided I should do a spot-check on my goals, to see how I’m doing.   Just one more way to hold myself accountable!

I will reach and maintain my weight loss goal – not doing so well on this one!  I have lost some weight since January, but I think was more due to the stomach flu than anything else.  I’m having an extremely hard time finding motivation to track what I’m eating and to make healthy eating (snack) choices.
I will plan more healthy meals for myself and my family (not just meals that aren't high in calories) including salads with most dinners – doing pretty well here.  I’ve been experimenting with new recipes from Pinterest, and getting in the habit of making salads.
I will study my Bible more regularly and more passionately – my in-depth study on James continues.  Most days, as soon as Lance comes home from work I have “quiet time”.  Judith knows that this is my time, and that she needs to get help from Daddy (not me) if she needs it.  She also knows that this is time that I’m reading about Jesus, and I love being able to model Bible study time to her.  Weekends mess with my schedule, though, and I’m not as diligent about studying.
I will make time (and arrange child care) for more dates with Lance – nope, not yet!
I will research and create a plan for homeschooling Judith – I’ve been in conversation with a couple friends about their home school plans.  I certainly don’t have a “plan” yet, but my research is progressing. 
I will invite guests for dinner at least once every two months – one couple came in February!  Now to find someone for April.
I will more closely follow our grocery budget, curbing splurge impulses – ummm...not too sure on this one.  I think I’m doing pretty well curbing impulses – but with all the new recipes I’ve been trying, and more visits to the farmers’ market, we’ve been over-budget food-wise.
I will not go to bed without cleaning up the kitchen – doing very well one this one!  I’ve only not-cleaned two or three times since January!
I will care for my houseplants so that they thrive instead of being just barely kept alive – so far so good.  I’m getting into the routine of watering days, and I’ve started to re-pot (or at least re-soil) so that they’ve got more nutrients to draw from.
I will blog at least once per week – yay!  I’ve been keeping up with this one.  Although I do have to admit that don’t blog as often as I’d like to – mostly because I don’t make it a priority.

So it looks like I’m doing pretty well on these (if I can just get motivated to stick to weight loss!).  At the same time, I know I’m struggling with finding joy – Judith’s been sleeping less, so I’ve been sleeping less, and that saps a lot of my energy.  In the coming months, I hope to be a little more responsible about getting enough sleep, and about managing my frustration with a tired-yet-hyper child.

Joy to you!