providence in duct tape and carpenter jeans

It is my full intention to chronicle my husband’s and my “story” on this blog sometime for posterity. Whenever anyone asks how we met, I always begin with something like, “well, Ryan and I were kind-of, barely acquaintances in high school, but really the only thing I remember about him was that he had a duct-tape blazer. Then, we re-met about 9 years later….”

And so, it was to my complete surprise when a mutual friend mentioned she had a picture of us together from high school. Not just any picture, but one of us hugging. This was confounding to me, because I have never ever been a big “hugger,” and I certainly have no recollection whatsoever of bestowing one upon that tall-and-skinny guy adorned in duct tape.

But, apparently I did:

Weird, eh? This is just more evidence of the string of God’s providence woven within our lives. And further proof that we might not always see His plan in the present, but boy, oh boy He has one. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you … plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 [Yup, a future of hope. And marriage. And a baby.]

[On a sidenote of vanity- um, check out my outfit. Those jeans. That purse. The hair. Ryan is cringing for good reason.]

The husband also reacted to said picture via blog-ness.

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recipe: guacamole

Until yesterday, I didn’t have a recipe for guacamole. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve made it on countless occasions; in fact, I think it’s one of the better dishes up my sleeve. However, I never put my method to paper. I just tasted and adjusted accordingly. And really, that’s the best way.

But yesterday, because I love all of you so much, I decided to actually record the amount of seasonings and ingredients. The recipe really isn’t anything too earth-shattering, and it’s probably not authentic in the least bit. And yet, we enjoy it. You might too.

Before I jump into the actual recipe, I thought I’d offer three very trivial hints to making guacamole. They’re no biggie, but have helped me along in the process over the years.

For years, I tried mashing the avocados in a bowl with a fork. It was always messy and quite trying. Being the flake that I am, it never occurred to me until recently to do anything differently. The potato masher/casserole dish situation has changed my avocado life forever. [Yes, this is a kind of stupid hint, but there are some of us who need all the help we can get.]

I have no clue if chipotle powder is “supposed” to go in guac, but I put it in there. And it’s fabulous. Smoky, intense. [Like me.]

Alright, alright this is even a more stupidly obvious hint, but again, for all of my guacamole-making existence, I’d try to mix the onions, tomatoes, and spices all at the same time, and the spices were never distributed evenly. So, now I don’t do it that way. [I know the lighting in this picture is pretty heinous, but my husband, who is the photog of the family, was graciously at the store buying tomatoes for this very recipe. So, I couldn’t have him adjust those foreign things like “aperature” and “shutter speed.” Someday, oh someday, I will actually read the manual for our camera. Maybe.]

Aaaaaaand, here’s the finished product in all it’s glory:

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Guacamole

[Note: I was bringing this to a social gathering, so it makes quite a bit. Please feel free to adjust accordingly. Because you definitely needed my permission to do so.]

Ingredients

5 ripe hass avocados [An avocado is perfect when it is brown-ish green, and your fingers can make a slight indent when you press on it.]

1 1/2 Tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

2-3 dashes cayenne pepper

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt [I prefer Celtic gray sea salt. I’m fancy like that.]

2 to 3 Roma tomatoes, diced

1/2 to 1 onion, diced [I like my guac very onion-y, so I used a whole one. It was probably way too much for most people. My apologies to my friends who endured this round of guacamole.]

Method

Cut avocados in half, take out the pits, and scoop out the flesh. Mash the avocados. [Use a potato masher in a casserole dish, if you want to be like all the cool kids.]

Add the lime juice and all the spices. Mix well. Taste. Adjust seasonings.

Mix in the tomatoes and onion. Serve with tortilla chips.

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What’s that you say? I haven’t posted a vintage-effected picture of Philomena in a while? Well, if you insist.

me versus the marathoners

Do you think a blog post about a post-pregnancy mom trying to lose weight is a bit cliche? Okay, good, I think so too. Just so we’re on the same page as I begin to talk about just that. [If you have a strong aversion to cliche, please feel free to stop reading now. Have a great day!]

I’ve never been in amazing shape, but certainly there were times in my why-oh-why-didn’t-I-sleep-in-more-and-save-more-money single 20s in which I was diligent about exercising. I kick-boxed, lifted weights, went to yoga class. Heck, employees at the gym knew my name. And I even remember a period in which I’d do p90x in the morning and “get in some extra cardio” at the gym in the afternoon. Ha. [I even walked across Spain two summers ago.]

Well, I am now a flabby shell of my former self. Thanks to the glory-and-trial that is nursing a baby, my actual “weight” is back to its pre-preggo-ness, but alas things don’t quite fit as they should. [If “fitting” strictly requires being able to zip up jeans all the way, that is.]

Because of a – how shall we say -“less than ideal” labor and childbirth, I wasn’t able to exercise for the first few months after Philomena made her appearance. [I also had to eat many, many cookies and drink lots of wine. Because of the labor trauma, of course.] So, over the past few weeks I’ve been attempting a Jillian Michaels DVD that my punk 20-something self used to deem as “too easy” and some walks with intermittent jogging.

Like every other middle-class white person in America, I thought the couch-to-5k program would be just perfect for me to get back into the swing of things. Oh, I’ve attempted this system several times previously. I’ve printed off the chart from that cool runnings site, written down my goals, wore my polar heartrate monitor watch to time myself. You know, an intense start. And, that’s all that ever happened. A start. Umpteen starts.

But, this time would be different, naturally. I was now a stay-at-home mom with loads of time [enter laughter] and a determination like never before.

And thus, last week, I drove to the park, baby and stroller in tow, to begin this step towards being “a runner.” I’d been to this park many times before, but usually it was in the afternoon, when most people are working and baby is napping. My no-forsight-at-all self didn’t see any problem with going at 5 pm.

My first clue should have been the parking lot full of cars. My second clue should have been that at least half of the cars bore “26.2” bumper stickers. [It took me quite a few minutes to realize this meant the owners of said cars had run a marathon. Yup.] I quickly learned that apparently this particular park is a haven for perfectly-sculpted, svelte runners with tans and silky hair. And they all decide to run at 5:00.

Not deterred yet, I set off. I walked for 90 seconds, “jogged”-ish for a minute, then repeated. Keep in mind I’m in terrible shape, naturally a bit clumsy, and was trying to push a non-jogging stroller. Not a good recipe for success. My face was bright red; I kept steering the stroller off the path; and I was continually stopping to catch my breath.

Beautiful, in-shape people kept gliding effortlessly by me. Most would smile, some would offer sympathetic looks. A few even said, “good job!” This platitude, though most likely well-intended, my cynical self saw as deprecative. At one point I almost shook my fist in the air and proclaimed, “I was in labor for EIGHT DAYS! I am strong too!” But, I didn’t. Mostly because I was out of breath.

And then it happened. The inevitable melt-down. Far from my car, my precious usually laid-back baby started to s-c-r-e-a-m.  So, I attempted to console her while continuing the walk-jog-walk. “Twinkle…(pant)…twinkle…(pant)…little…(pant)…star…” The sympathetic glances from the marathoners increased exponentially to my child’s shrieking. “Oh, it looks like he’s having a tough day” [Um, yes, HE – who is wearing hot pink – is having such a difficult day of being fed, held, and entertained, save 15 minutes of Mommy’s exercise in a pretty park.]

Finally I made it back to the car and comforted the little needy one. I consoled myself with a trip to Super Target and some new nailpolish.

When I try to put on those jeans that now create a muffin-top, or that dress that is not conducive to nursing, or I see my hairline receding from all the post-partum hair loss, I’ll admit my first reaction is self-consciousness. I’m a vain gal, no doubt about it. Nevertheless, through the grace of God, my second (and lasting) reaction is to go pick up my little girl, give her a squeeze and kiss her unfathomably cute cheeks and sigh, “you are worth it. All of it.”

[See, here’s a good example of a blog entry that starts off with snarky-cliche, then ends with sappy-cliche. I like to mix it up like that.]

meal plan: week of May 21

Monday– bierocks. I’ll use this recipe for the filling, but I’ll use my favorite roll recipe for the outside (I switch the amount of white and whole wheat flour and add a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten).

Tuesday– using the cabbage leftover from the bierocks, we’ll do this bean/cabbage/potato skillet. It looks boring, but we loooove it.

Wednesday– family dinner (aka, my mother generously cooks for all of us)

Thursday pizza night. This is my all-time favorite crust recipe (I’ll double it). I think I’ll do one with red sauce and Italian sausage (because i have some in the freezer) and one veggie pizza with spinach pesto.

Friday hummus, falafel, and tabouli with pita. [Does anyone have a good recipe for homemade pita, preferably whole wheat? Every time I’ve tried, it’s turned out very lackluster.]

Saturday– We have a get-together that is Mexican-themed. I’m bringing homemade guacamole with salsa and chips.

DIY: hand soap/body wash

I guess I lied about not doing any do-it-yourself posts. However, this one almost doesn’t count, because it’s soooo incredibly easy.

Essentially, this is a way to take one bar of soap and stretch it by liquifying it into hand soap or body wash. It’s especially good for those of us who are trying [and failing often] to be a little more natural in our beauty routines. Many organic or all-natural products are just plain expensive. I’ve found a way to make decently-priced natural foaming hand soap, but when I saw this tutorial for body wash, I just had to try it.

Instead of typing out the whole process, I’ll link to the original tutorial on Foodie with Family [one of my fav food blogs].

A few personal notes about the method:

– After the concoction sat overnight, it still looked clear and not really “congealed,” so I put it in the fridge for a few hours, then it was perfect. I think next time I am going to just refrigerate it overnight.

– I don’t have an egg beater, so I used an electric hand mixer on the lowest setting. Worked like a charm.

– I’d recommend having someone else hold the funnel for you as you pour it into the jug. I had an unsteady hand, and half of it ended down the sink. Oops. So much for frugality.

Here are some pictures documenting a few steps of the process. Again, please click on the link for the full method.

All you need is a bar of castile soap (I used Dr. Bronner’s in lavender), box grater, vegetable glycerin (I bought a way-too-big bottle of it), and a gallon of distilled water (not pictured, because I’m a flake).

After grating the soap:

After it sat in refrigerator:

My helper:

[So, I probably should have taken a picture of the finished product…but, I didn’t. Sorry, folks. I’m still new at this blogging thing.]

the day for mothers … including me

Technically, since the offspring was in-utero last year, this was not my first Mother’s Day. However, I milked it like it was, complete with lots of food from family and a husband who gave me a beautiful necklace [via Ali], cleaned, and changed countless diapers.  [Last year, to my husband’s credit, even though we hadn’t told anyone I was preggo yet, he did make the day special by gifting me with a copy of Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants aaaand by accidentally pulling a chair out from under me, causing me to dramatically fall to the floor of a busy restaurant in front of all of my family. I cried lots of tears, the result of both pain and hormones. If I never let that one go, I may just be treated this well every Mother’s Day from hereon.]

For posterity, I will gift you with a picture montage of Mother’s Day at my parents’ house. [My in-laws also had us over, but we forgot to bring the camera. Nevertheless, they love mothers just as much as my blood-parents.]

FYI, Ryan took all of these pics. Hope he didn’t want to use them on his blog. I forgot to ask. Oops. Oh well, it is my day after all. He can use all the pictures I will surely take on Father’s Day.

Camera Hams with Camera Ham-in-Training:

Mommies

The baby doesn’t get any attention. Nope, none at all.

We tried to get a picture of Grandma with all the grandkids. It was obviously very successful.

Three generations … and a quiet moment with she-who-made-me-a-mom

recipe: key lime pie

Alright, enough of that “blogging about blogging” nonsense. Let’s jump right in with a recipe.

For an inaugural recipe, I will admit this one is kind of lame. Not because the dessert isn’t good [it’s yummy!], rather because not only did I not actually write this recipe, but I didn’t even find it myself. I give that credit to my sister, who pointed me in its direction years ago. [I can see you shaking your head in disapproval. That’s okay; I can take it.]

Around our house, we try to keep our food as real and unprocessed as possible, which includes limiting things like white sugar. Undoubtedly, this dessert is laden with such no-no ingredients. However, we like our treats once in a while. And this one was well-deserved.

You see, my hardworking husband, in addition to working full-time, decided to go back to school this year to get another degree. It’s going to be a long road, but sometimes the hardest part of a journey is just starting it. [Yeah, that was really deep, I know. Please feel free to use that quote on my wiki page, when I become famous for such wisdom.] His last final of the year was on Wednesday, so I told him I’d make him any dessert he wanted in celebration.

He chose key lime pie.

This recipe is great, because it’s simple, but really delicious. I usually keep all the ingredients on hand during the summer months, because it makes an excellent throw-together dessert for potlucks and the like.

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Key Lime Pie 

Source: The Food Network, original recipe link found here

Ingredients

Crust
  • 1/3 of a 1-pound box graham crackers
  • 5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
Filling
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice, or store bought [My sister, aka Martha Stewart incarnate, squeezes fresh lime juice, which is awesome. But, I use Nellie and Joe’s bottled juice (found at any grocery store), and I think it’s equally as awesome. Well, more so, because you don’t have to spend all that time squeezing limes.]
Method
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Break up the graham crackers; place in a food processor and process to crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and side of a pie pan, forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on.

Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

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 In honor of Daddy’s special day, Batgirl made an appearance:
 
p.s. My husband is having a “caption non-contest” over on his blog. It features a picture taken the evening of the aforementioned pie.