Meta and another dinner party

My friend, Maria, is in town, so this morning we went to Bikram together. We had a great time, despite the profuse fountain of sweat spurting off of the man behind us. Afterward Maria humorously referred to the situation as “his hydroponics.” That made me laugh.

Then we went to Liberty Heights for cheese, and then to Harmon’s for groceries and lunch. We ate in their little cafe area and talked a lot about blogs.

Maria had a lot of great insights into blogging, one of which was that our children deserve privacy. I agree, and so I came away conflicted about my own blog (which deprives my children of that right). So I’ve been thinking, and here are the reasons I blog:

a) personal therapy/fun

b) to preserve memories and chronicle our family life

c) for my sweet grandma’s daily reading material

d) to help any interested people to get a glimpse of how some Mormons live (light on a hill and all that stuff, except when I’m writing all the bad stuff down–then the light gets pretty dim!). I know there are a lot of monetized Mormon mommy blogs out there, and from what I’ve read and heard of them, I don’t think they represent my “Mormon mommy” life at all. So even though I would never try to monetize this blog or even try to reach a large audience, at least I’m representing my reality as best as I can.

e) because I must be a narcissist. I mean, who else blogs their thoughts every single day? Even though this troubles me greatly, the thoughts keep happening and the blogs keep getting written…

For reasons c and d, not to mention what a hassle it was for me to read my own blog when I had the password system in place, my blog is public. But maybe sometime in the future, that will change again.

We also talked about reading blogs. Personally, I’ve cut out reading any blog that does not teach me to do something (like cook or craft). By my standards, I would not read my own blog if it weren’t my own.

So enough meta. Tonight we had a great dinner party with Maria, her husband, Kyle, and a mutual friend, Cynthia Barlow. I had heard a lot about Cynthia but never met her before tonight. What a lovely person! I am excited because I think she might buddy up with me on a yoga pass, which would be awesome.

Also, to record the bad stuff: I burnt the squash for the dinner party. It was pretty mortifying. I did the squash rings again, and I was SO excited because I amped up the egg and cheese in the filling…but then I baked them on the bottom rack so that there’d be room for the souffle (tonight’s menu was an exact repeat from our dinner party on Friday), and the bottoms of the squashes burned. So sad!

Today’s pictures are few, but here they are:

Abe and Lydia playing with Lydia's play food.

Abe and Lydia playing with Lydia’s play food.

Then Abe left, so Lydia and I played with her new doctor set. After curing me, she helped out her sick doll, Tessa. At one point, Lydia took all of my measurements and exclaimed, "You look great!" I love this little girl.

Then Abe left, so Lydia and I played with her new doctor set. After curing me, she helped out her sick doll, Tessa. At one point, Lydia took all of my measurements and exclaimed, “You look great!” I love this little girl.

Lazy, sleepy Sunday…

First of all, I fixed yesterday’s links, so that the scherzo is now public. Oopsy! Thanks, Mom and Grandma, for catching that. Also, apologies for how out of tune the piano is. It’s right by a huge single pane window, and the temperature changes may have just permanently damaged it. The upper register is especially unpleasant.

Today at church we made it through Sacrament without having to take the kids to the hall! Wonder should abound at this abnormality. Our strategy was basically to feed them junk food the entire time, and wow–it worked! The families surrounding us were probably aghast at the things our children were eating so early in the morning, but hey. I’m trusting in the good influence of church to ease judgment all around.

And that was basically the apex of our day. We spent the rest of the day sleeping, eating, and watching The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe. We used it as an intro to understanding the atonement, although Lydia’s grasp of that concept still seems precarious–at best. Since C.S. Lewis was SO explicit in his analogy, our job of translating the story to Lydia was easy, but the hard part came when we tried to explain the concept of laying down innocent life to save the transgressor. No problem with the resurrection, though; the minute Aslan appeared again it was all cheers, smiles, and hooray.

After the girls went to bed, Abe and I finished off Prince Caspian (started yesterday) for good measure. We are movied/analogied out.

Here are today’s pictures:

This really should be in yesterday's blog, since I organized it yesterday. After the influx of Christmas books, I overhauled the bookshelf in the girls' room and moved a bunch of books to other parts of the house. This is the final product--I am SO proud.

This really should be in yesterday’s blog, since I organized it yesterday. After the influx of Christmas books, I overhauled the bookshelf in the girls’ room and moved a bunch of books to other parts of the house. This is the final product–I am SO proud.

Abe took pictures during our bedtime routine.

Abe took pictures during our bedtime routine. Mary had just finished brushing Lydia’s hair.

I got lots of snuggles tonight.

I got lots of snuggles tonight.

She also played with my lips...

She also played with my lips…

competition upload complete!

Thanks to the combined baby-sitting efforts of Tom, Suzanne, and my mom, Abe and I were able to sneak off to the temple this morning. Some of the women who worked in initiatories radiated so much light and intelligence that they reminded me of my mom, and then I got to thinking: How do I get from point A (who I am now) to point B (where my mom and these women are)? Maybe it’s a matter of time, experience, and perhaps more suffering. But maybe it’s also a matter of constant mental discipling; I need to consistently notice and replace any thoughts that don’t serve a compassionate or loving cause. That’s hard! But I really, really, really, really want to be a wiser, kinder person by the time I’m a grandma, so I figure no time like the present to get started.

On that note, I will refrain from stating all of the negative, self-critiquing commentary that bubbled up when I watched the videos I recorded tonight. My competition deadline is December 31st, so Abe helped me record some pieces tonight. I won’t even post the Brahams, because after watching it I realized I need to overhaul the whole piece…but here are the Chopin Scherzo no. 2 and the first movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto.

Also, today’s pictures:

I tried making zimsterne again for my grandma. My mom went back to Springfield this afternoon, so this was another early morning project...

I tried making zimsterne again for my grandma. My mom went back to Springfield this afternoon, so this was another early morning project…

My mom loves her new scarf from Karin and wanted me to take a picture in case Karin reads this entry.

My mom loves her new scarf from Karin and wanted me to take a picture.

Lydia loves being with her cat again.

Lydia loves being with her cat again.

She gets wistful when she thinks about his adventures and says, "I hope my cat stays with me!"

She gets wistful when she thinks about his adventures and says, “I hope my cat stays with me!”

She also dressed herself today.

She also dressed herself today.

More fun with Puss.

More fun with Puss.

Mary hugged me when I got back from the temple. Instead of hugging her back, I took advantage of the camera in my hands and got this instead.

Mary hugged me when I got back from the temple. Instead of hugging her back, I took advantage of the camera in my hands and got this instead.

While I was practicing before my recordings, Abe let Lydia wear this headlamp and be Dora the Exploreer. They explored the whole house and then did crafts in the dark.

While I was practicing before my recordings, Abe let Lydia wear this headlamp and be Dora the Exploreer. They explored the whole house and then did crafts in the dark.

day after Christmas

It’s past midnight and my desk chair is currently at the dining room table because we had another family dinner tonight (with Tom, Suzanne, Jere and David). My mom and I spent the morning swimming (we each did a mile!) and grocery shopping, and the rest of the afternoon I spent cooking. The whole house smells like fried shallots, and the after-smell isn’t that great. The smell is also stuck in my hair, which is unfortunate, since I can’t escape.

In other news, Abe and I are on a movie kick! We have more than doubled the movies we’ve seen together in the last two months. Tonight we saw The Hobbit. We were a little late and sat in the front row, but I liked that because it meant that all of the scary fighting scenes were so blurry that the scariness was significantly mitigated.

Anyway, my elbows and knees are going numb, so here are today’s pictures:

Abe and Lydia did an Insanity work-out together.

IMG_6050 IMG_6052 IMG_6043 IMG_6038

I baked pears again. They are so easy! I just peeled them, put them in a buttered pan, sprinkled some cinnamon and allspice cloves on top, and put them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Then I poured some cream over them and baked for 20 more minutes. We paired these with Argentine Caramel ice cream, and voila! Yesterday's brunch food became today's dessert!

I baked pears again. They are so easy! I just peeled them, put them in a buttered pan, sprinkled some cinnamon and allspice cloves on top, and put them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Then I poured some cream over them and baked for 20 more minutes. We paired these with Argentine Caramel ice cream, and voila! Yesterday’s brunch food became today’s dessert!

After dinner, this is what we looked like. It's officially the day after Christmas.

After dinner, this is what we looked like. It’s officially the day after Christmas.

I stole Abe's chair.

I made space for myself next to my hubby.

Also, ever since the doctor told me to aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week, I have been keeping meticulous track. Today’s swim put me at 170 minutes. It is a testament to the horrific amount of sugar I intake that all this exercise manages to be consistently offset by my poor (but oh, so yummy) diet.

Another also: If anyone knows how to get fried-food smell out of your house, I need your knowledge! The last time I fried food in this house was last Thanksgiving when my friend, Jennifer, heroically stepped up to the plate and fried shallots for this green bean casserole. I’m scared of splatter, so I needed her help. I made it again today because I’d a) gathered my courage and b) totally forgotten the smelly side-effect of frying…

the best Christmas cookies and neighbor love

Watching the Tchaikovsky piano concerto no. 1 this morning on Youtube was so thrilling that I accidentally gave myself shin splints running to the music. But tomorrow is Christmas Eve, so lying around nursing sore legs was not an option. Instead, Lydia and I turned out several batches of Christmas cookies before we packaged them up and delivered them to our awesome neighbors.

I had never made zimsterne before, but they are my new favorite Christmas cookie.

Cinnamon stars. Oh my gosh, I can not believe I had never tried making these before. The cookie is a nut meringue with a meringue icing baked on. I could live on these, I think.

Zimsterne (cinnamon stars). Oh my gosh, I can not believe I had never tried making these before. The cookie is a nut meringue with a meringue icing baked on. I could live on these, I think.

They are perfect for making with kids. Every step is kid friendly, and Lydia was so proud of herself.

They are perfect for making with kids. Every step is kid friendly, and Lydia was so proud of herself.

After I took this photo, I taught her how to spread the icing all over the cookie.

After I took this photo, I taught her how to spread the icing all over the cookie.

This is out of order. Between the meringue-making and the cookie icing, Lydia pooped in her pants for the first time ever since we took away her diapers. She made it to the potty for most of it, but I wonder if the meringue set her off....

This is out of order. Between the meringue-making and the cookie icing, Lydia pooped in her pants for the first time ever since we took away her diapers. She made it to the potty for most of it, but I wonder if the meringue set her off….

I forgot to post this picture a couple days ago. I am so proud of this hair...even though it all fell out within a matter of hours. I need to find kid-sized bobby pins!

I forgot to post this picture a couple days ago. I am so proud of this hair…even though it all fell out within a matter of hours. I need to find kid-sized bobby pins!

Anyway, my favorite part of today was dropping off gifts to our neighbors. It felt like Halloween again; we got short visits in with so many wonderful people, and I just love my neighbors! For some crazy reason, we decided to drive the gifts around and our car got stuck in a snowbank across the street from our house. I felt SO dumb, but luckily, the three boys who live across the street pushed the car out. The whole incident made me feel even more grateful for good neighbors who have compassion and help their apparently idiotic neighbors across the street.

Abe worked late tonight, so this day that started at 6:45am did not slow down until 9pm when I finally got the girls in bed. After that, I lay in bed watching Rachmaninoff, Horowitz, Olga Kern, and Yuji Wang (respectively) play the Rachmaninoff 3rd piano concerto. At that point, Abe kicked me out of bed so he could go to bed and I could blog.

Ah, sleep.

Loving: today.

This morning we got off to a rocky, tantrum-y start; I even had the thought, “Oh, no! It’s only 8:30am and I’ve already had it up to HERE with being a mom!” …but things got better as soon as I took the girls to the Gateway Children’s Museum. They had so much fun playing in the water, “shopping,” climbing up stuff, and decorating paper stockings. We were the only ones who signed up for the stocking class, so they had the whole quiet craft room to themselves. It was such a nice note to end on, and the girls were both perfectly behaved–Mary didn’t even poop until we got back home. So considerate of her.

Lydia and I spent Mary’s nap reading a bunch of Christmas stories and playing the Primary book’s Christmas songs together, and at dinner I almost lost my voice cheering for every single bite Lydia took of her squash. (She took approximately 30…I lost count around 23 because around then I started cheering and playing high-five and tickle/hug games with Lydia in between each bite.) I cuddled Mary a lot, and basically enjoyed my children for the rest of the day. I ended up LOVING being a mom today.

After the kids went down, I learned a really simple, sweet piece called “Shepherd Boy,” by Grieg. The meditative, soft progression of the notes helped me reflect on the Good Shepherd and on the shepherds that visited Jesus. Considering one of my recording deadlines is fast approaching (the end of December–YIKES!), this was ultimately a foolish way to spend the limited time I have at the piano. But it also made my evening feel perfect, so I guess I don’t regret it that much.

I then discovered that Talenti ice cream containers are the perfect way to store the lemon curd I made today. I polished off the rest of the ice cream just in case I need another container tomorrow…

lemon curd.

My friend, Cierra, gave me this recipe. It didn’t turn out like hers because I had to attend to several emergencies while I was supposed to be stirring, but it was still delicious. Here’s where she got her recipe.

The only thing that would make the evening even better is if Abe had not JUST started his trip home from Rock Springs. I hate him traveling those middle-of-nowhere roads in the middle of the night, but guess what? This is his last trip with Guardsmark! Hip, hip, hooray!

And so for today’s pictures:

Why did I cuddle Mary so much today? Well, she missed her morning nap because of our outing, and she was a little sad for the rest of the day. Also, she kept getting stuck on this chair.

Why did I cuddle Mary so much today? Well, she missed her morning nap because of our outing, and she was a little sad for the rest of the day. Also, she kept getting stuck on this chair.

I forgot to post this picture from yesterday. Isn't it cute?

I forgot to post this picture from yesterday. Isn’t it cute?

desultory paragraphs posing as a post

What, oh what to write about today. Well, whenever I run on the treadmill, I watch Youtube videos of various pianists. I love these videos so much that I am currently watching one (a master class Van Cliburn gave in Moscow) as I blog, so excuse the desultory nature of the blog I am about to write.

I got in three hours of practice today, which felt great. But by far the best part of today occurred after dinner when Abe, Lydia and I cuddled up on the couch to watch The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. Lydia spent the whole movie with her hands daintily clasped in happy anticipation of the Ghost of Christmas Future, but as soon as he made an appearance, she made an urgent plea for us to change the movie. Abe and I hugged her and reassured her, and she got to see that the Ghost of Christmas Future wasn’t quite as scary as she’d anticipated. Honestly, my eyes are so tired of screens that I spent most of the movie watching Lydia and listening to her commentary. That made my whole night.

Here are the pictures from today:

I tried this for the first time today. I found Lydia playing on the potty playing with her poop(!!!), so she had an impromptu shower. Since her hair was wet, I decided to try this braid out. It's not very even, but it's also much easier than I supposed.

I tried this for the first time today. I found Lydia playing on the potty playing with her poop(!!!), so she had an impromptu shower. Since her hair was wet, I decided to try this braid out. It’s not very even, but it’s also much easier than I supposed.

Lydia got to do my hair after i did hers.

Lydia got to do my hair after i did hers.

I vacuumed today. The whole time Mary was (happily) stuck in the basket she'd climbed into.

I vacuumed today. The whole time Mary was (happily) stuck in the basket she’d climbed into.

Lydia attired herself thus (this is chronologically out of order...pre-poop) and colored while I cleaned.

Lydia attired herself thus (this is chronologically out of order…pre-poop) and colored while I cleaned.

The girls matched today. That's Lydia dancing in the background.

The girls matched today. That’s Lydia dancing in the background.

After the girls decided not to take an afternoon nap, I took them to Tony Caputo’s for cheese and happy hippos.

This is what Mary looked like after her happy hippo.

This is what Mary looked like after her happy hippo.

The girls took a 20 minute nap at 6am, which gave me a head start on dinner. I made mac 'n cheese with Teleggio. Frankly, that was irresponsible in light of Abe's new, decreased salary. Also, I discovered that Teleggio is way better in fondue than in mac 'n cheese.

The girls took a 20 minute nap at 6am, which gave me a head start on dinner. I made mac ‘n cheese with Teleggio. Frankly, that was irresponsible in light of Abe’s new, decreased salary. Also, I discovered that Teleggio is way better in fondue than in mac ‘n cheese. The whole point of mac’n cheese is to comfort and feel familiar. Teleggio messes that all up.

This was the mess I decided not to clean this morning. Right now the room looks AMAZING, thanks to Abe's efforts while I blogged away. I would take a picture, but the camera card is in my computer, so you'll just have to trust me: He did a great job.

This was the mess I decided not to clean this morning. Right now the room looks AMAZING, thanks to Abe’s efforts while I blogged away. I would take a picture, but the camera card is in my computer, so you’ll just have to trust me: He did a great job.

 

Dinner with Jessica

Lydia had two nightmares last night, so her 7am request for tape (to fix one of the books she accidentally broke in her sleep) came a little early today. I felt like such a zombie this morning, and that feeling gave me a lot more compassion for my excessively low productivity/activity level this past three years. If I felt that sleep deprived (and let’s be honest, having a newborn and/or pregnancy is light years away from a mere two-nightmare night), then I should be celebrating the fact that I even managed to function at all.  Piano practice and cooking school would not even be remote possibilities under that level of fatigue.

During Mary’s nap, I made a beeline for bed. After that, I felt much better. So much better that I took the kids to the grocery store and the library. Then I cooked for the rest of the day because my responsible friend from cooking school, Jessica, came over for dinner.

She is a passionate foodie, so I wanted to try something I hadn’t done before. After scrolling through food blogs, I settled upon this post. Don’t those squash rings look dear? Well, let me tell you: They’re insanely, ridiculously complicated, especially if you, like me, have no knife skills to speak of. I practically lost my hand trying to cut those stupid squash rings, and finally, after hacking an entire acorn squash to bits and getting one ONE measly little ring out of it, I said to heck with it. Stuffed squash for dinner it was.

I should have glazed the squash with butter and maple syrup, but I was so demoralized by my cutting fiasco that I neglected the rest of the instructions.

Looks dry, doesn’t it? I should have glazed the squash with butter and maple syrup, but I was so demoralized by my cutting fiasco that I neglected to follow the rest of the directions.

By the time I took this picture, I had put the rest of the food (whipped sweet potatoes and roasted broccoli) away. Dessert was still on the table though.

Chocolate amaretto cake. Basically, you grind up amaretto cookies, zest some orange, melt some chocolate, add eggs and sugar, bake and voila! For the real recipe, click here.

Chocolate amaretto cake. Basically, you grind up amaretto cookies, zest some orange, melt some chocolate, add eggs and sugar, bake and voila! For the real recipe, click here. I can actually really vouch for this one–I’ve done it many times, and it’s pretty foolproof.

We so enjoyed our time with Jessica. We learned a lot about the military (she spent ten years in it, and even was in the head trauma unit in both Iraq and Afghanistan), and I had my heartstrings pulled by her personal stories. What a wonderful person.

In kid-related news, Mary has now learned to climb the stove. I kid you not. Tomorrow I will try to rearrange the kitchen, but in the meantime I have random pieces of furniture strewn everywhere from my various attempts to block her progress.

This is where she perched while I cooked. She'd alternate between eating her amaretto cookie and standing up to see if she could reach anything interesting on the counter.

This is where she perched while I cooked. She’d alternate between eating her amaretto cookie and standing up to see if she could reach anything interesting on the counter.

posting a little late (or super early, depending…)

Didn’t post last night because I was feeling icky. We have a terrible inversion in Salt Lake, and I think the air is actually making me sick.

Anyway, after not sleeping much last night, I decided to get up early and blog. Grandma, I love you, and I want you to have something new to see today…although it’s probably not that exciting!

Here are the pics from yesterday:

After all of the obstacle course training, Mary is unstoppable. You are probably wondering why I am not running to get her down, but listen. She does stuff like this all day long, and I'm just glad she's not on the table. (I would forgo the picture and get her down if she had succeeded in getting on that table.)

After all of the obstacle course training, Mary is unstoppable. You are probably wondering why I am not running to get her down, but listen. She does stuff like this all day long, and I’m just glad she’s not on the table. (I would forgo the picture and get her down if she had succeeded in getting on that table.)

The girls played with my embroidery hoop all day. Here's Lydia telling us that she's wearing a crown. Mary preferred to wear it like a necklace while performing her climbing tricks.

The girls played with my embroidery hoop all day. Here’s Lydia telling us that she’s wearing a crown. Mary preferred to wear it like a necklace while performing her climbing tricks.

Also, I made sloppy lentils. I love sloppy joe's, but I don't love the meat. This has everything good about a sloppy joe with the added benefit of the lentils.

Also, I made sloppy lentils. I love sloppy joe’s, but I don’t love the meat. This has everything good about a sloppy joe with the added benefit of lentils. I found the recipe here.

 

Let’s see. We went to the Schulz’s house for a play date in the morning with Sarah, Nathan, and Hannah, and then we came home for the rest of the day. I fed and bathed the girls early, and we spent hours playing in their room. Well, the girls were playing. I just lay there while they sat on my face and climbed all over me. For some reason, they thought my sputtering and saying “OW!!” was hilarious, so that game lasted about an hour.

Couldn’t cull the pics properly today…

In Sunday school today we had a lesson on one of my favorite topics, Zion. In Relief Society we discussed the mission of Jesus Christ (a lesson which Abe taught in Elder’s Quorum, and which intimidated him to no end). In Sacrament we had a fantastic Christmas program…but even after all of that, I didn’t feel like my day was super spiritually charged. I did feel uplifted, though, so church was not totally in vain.

Also, at the Linger Longer after church, we collected the pics of the girls with Santa from the ward Christmas party. Abe took the girls by himself to the party, so this is the first time I've seen these pictures. Note Lydia's finger up her nose. They retook the picture a TON of times before they got the bottom two with her finger out of her nose.

Also, at the Linger Longer after church, we collected the pics of the girls with Santa from the ward Christmas party. Abe took the girls by himself to the party, so this is the first time I’ve seen these pictures. Note Lydia’s finger up her nose. They retook the picture a TON of times before they got the bottom two with her finger out of her nose.

I spent most of the rest of the day in bed, although our home teachers came over to drop off some gorgeous cookies. I also played with my family and threw some cauliflower in the oven before we went over to a family party at the Miners’.

Abe pretended to be Santa and interviewed the girls. The pig puppet play was Mary's reward for being such a good girl.

Abe pretended to be Santa and interviewed the girls. The pig puppet play was Mary’s reward for being such a good girl. (Grandma, do you recognize that hat?)

Here's Lydia telling Santa about how good she's been.

Here’s Lydia telling Santa about how good she’s been.

Here's Lydia demonstrating to Santa her ability to share with Mary.

Here’s Lydia demonstrating to Santa her ability to share with Mary.

Santa was so proud.

Santa was so proud.

...And so Lydia got a puppy!

…And so Lydia got a puppy!

She was pleased.

She was pleased.

After that we played "fetch" with the puppy and Mary. Here's Mary throwing.

After that we played “fetch” with the puppy and Mary. Here’s Mary throwing.

Also proud of herself.

Also proud of herself.

And then I told Santa I wanted a snack, so the girls helped out and baked me a feast.

And then I told Santa I wanted a snack, so the girls helped out and baked me a feast.

Then I stopped taking pictures because my hands became full of “food.”

After a delicious evening at the Miners’, we came home and discovered that our friend, Aria, had dropped off some treats for us. I love Christmas.