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.

day after the day after

I started off the day trying to make zimsterne for my grandma, since my mom flies back tomorrow. They were the biggest flop! I wanted to cry by the time we were done; the kitchen was a wreck and my cookies were an ugly, sticky mess. First world problem, I know...but I still felt legitimately frustrated. Lydia felt fine about it all, though. Obviously.

Before I brushed my teeth or showered or ate breakfast I tried to make zimsterne for my grandma, since my mom flies back tomorrow. They were the biggest flop! I wanted to cry by the time we were done; the kitchen was a wreck and my cookies were an ugly, sticky mess. First world problem, I know…but I still felt legitimately frustrated.

I spent the rest of the morning and most of the day organizing. That felt great.

Abe did Insanity again with the girls:

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After cleaning, I jumped right into cooking for our dinner party with two of our friends, Jon and Shirley. Abe is marrying them this May, and so they wanted to talk about what goes into all of that. Balu came too, and so the occasion felt festive (made even more so by the fact that 10 minutes before everyone arrived, both girls changed out of their pj’s…)

I tried the squash rings again, and it worked! I just needed smaller squashes. These are golden acorn.

I tried the squash rings again, and it worked! I just needed smaller squashes. These are golden acorn.

I had extra cheese and extra time, so why not make a souffle?

I had extra cheese and extra time, so why not make a souffle?

The most exciting news of the day just might be that our new microwave is up and working. I had no idea what a difference that would make; Abe and I agreed that the strata I made for Christmas actually tasted better microwaved than it did when we ate it the first time. Thanks, Clark and Swathi! You’ve changed our lives!

 

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.

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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…

Merry Christmas!

Last year was probably my favorite Christmas ever since it was Lydia’s first Christmas where she understood what was going on. This year is a close second, though. It didn’t feel rushed or harried or crazy, even with all of the activity.

Here’s what the activity was: homemade orange rolls, spelt/gruyere/spinach strata, quinoa pilaf, roasted brussel sprouts, baked pears and hot chocolate. Two family get-togethers. Three rounds of present openings. There was also Skyping with Uncle Clark and Aunt Swathi, a little piano and some dish washing thrown in there. From morning until night, this Christmas was filled with family and fun, and it made me happy that my original Christmas wish was not granted (that we just skip over Christmas and go straight to tomorrow–I know, super grinchy wish, right?).

Karin, Jay, Jere, David and Balu joined us for brunch and present round #2. We had lots of fun conversation, and Lydia enjoyed sneaking as many caramels as she could while everyone was distracted. Then Tom and Suzanne came over for present round #3; we had only fifteen minutes before we were supposed to leave for the Darais family dinner in Pleasant Grove, so that round of present unwrapping was craaazy. And then we headed down to Pleasant Grove, where we ate more. Lydia loved watching the other kids play, and she especially loved trailing behind Isabella, the only cousin on that side that she actually knows. At the end, she watched a bunch of girls around Isabella’s age and just started calling them all Isabella.

During the family Christmas program, Lydia wandered around having full-blown, animated conversations with herself. I need to ask the pediatrician if this is healthy, normal toddler behavior or if I need to renew my energy on the play date front.

Here are today’s many pictures (and I considered myself restrained and even negligent on the picture front today, which, in light of all the pictures I’m posting, seems ironic):

Lydia was reunited with her cat!!! It was a joyful reunion.

Lydia was reunited with her cat!!! It was a joyful reunion.

Uncle Clark and Aunt Swathi gave the girls a castle tent. Now each girl has one.

Uncle Clark and Aunt Swathi gave the girls a castle tent. Now each girl has one. (Last night Loralee gave the girls another one!)

Opening one of Nana's gifts--a mailbox.

Opening one of Nana’s gifts–a mailbox.

Mary with her new Eric Carle "smart pad."

Mary with her new Eric Carle “smart pad.”

I took a picture of the tree because I will miss it.

I took a picture of the tree because I will miss it.

Mary got a bump. Nana helped her feel better.

Mary got a bump. Nana helped her feel better.

Lydia watched the Muppet's Christmas Carol again, this time snuggled up with her cat.

Lydia watched the Muppet’s Christmas Carol again, this time snuggled up with her cat.

Some of the food. I forgot to take pictures of the rest...

Some of the food. I forgot to take pictures of the rest…

Present round #2. Showing off her new shirt from Jere and David.

Present round #2. Showing off her new shirt from Jere and David.

Present round #3. Thanks, Grandma! Lydia loves her new craft set!!

Present round #3. Thanks, Grandma! Lydia loves her new craft set!!

Mary unwrapping a present. Lydia helped her open most of hers, but she did this one by herself.

Mary unwrapping a present. Lydia helped her open most of hers, but she did this one by herself.

Thanks, Grandma! Mary loves her new toys!!

Thanks, Grandma! Mary loves her new toys!!

Before we left for Provo, I discovered Mary here. She was loving her new tent and toys.

Before we left for Provo, I discovered Mary here. She was loving her new tent and toys.

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas! Technically, it’s already Christmas. All I can say is, at least Abe and I are not in the throes of assembling Lydia’s kitchen–which is what we were doing last Christmas until 3am. He’s still downstairs wrapping the last present and tidying up, and I am typing as fast as I can so we can go to bed. Tomorrow I have to get up at 6 am to start the orange rolls.

Today has been loooong. It started with scriptures and Bikram yoga–a delightful combination, made better by Anique’s company at yoga. Then we both did some last minute grocery shopping, after which Abe and I went to Barnes and Noble to do our Christmas shopping. Before today, we had not even started to think about the process. The busy mall comforted us and helped us feel better about the fact that we are not the only procrastinators of the season.

Then I came home and played some piano, after which we headed over to the Miner’s for their Christmas Eve celebration. They do readings, songs and a talent show of sorts, so that was fun. I always miss the First Presbyterian Church of Evanston on Christmas Eve, because the pageant there never failed to bring home the story of Christ’s birth for me. But since there’s no similar event here, it is really nice to celebrate with Suzanne’s family. Plus they have a great cookie buffet at the end.

After that, we put out cookies and a letter for Santa, and we told the girls to listen for the reindeer as they fell asleep. Abe shook some bells outside their door and said, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” We could hear Lydia inside telling Mary to be good and that Santa was here to bring her cat back.

Then I made stratas for our brunch tomorrow, and Abe wrapped all of the presents. We still have to order some gifts online, and then we’ll be done and ready for bed!

Here are today’s pictures:

The girls started the day in bed with Nana reading books.

The girls started the day in bed with Nana reading books.

Lydia sometimes cries so much she gets a nosebleed. Or she picks her nose to the point where she gets a nosebleed. I think the latter happened here.

Lydia sometimes cries so much she gets a nosebleed. Or she picks her nose to the point where she gets a nosebleed. I think the latter happened here.

Leaving cookies for Santa.

Leaving cookies for Santa.

Writing a note to Santa.

Writing a note to Santa.

The note Lydia helped dictate to Abe.

The note Lydia helped dictate to Abe.

See that blue bag? I didn't see it until this evening, but Abe brought it up from where he's been storing it, and it turns out that Clark and Swathi sent us a microwave for Christmas! Those two. They are the sweetest siblings ever. But Abe has been eyeing the bag the microwave came in, and he used it as "Santa's sack." Also, note Lydia's cat peeking out of her stocking. We are so excited for her to reunite with him!

See that blue bag? I didn’t see it until this evening, but Abe brought it up from where he’s been storing it, and it turns out that Clark and Swathi sent us a microwave for Christmas! Those two. They are the sweetest siblings ever. But Abe has been eyeing the bag the microwave came in, and he used it as “Santa’s sack.” Also, note Lydia’s cat peeking out of her stocking. We are so excited for her to reunite with him!

A perfect ending

I started off the day with an 8am session of Bikram Yoga. It felt awesome, and I hit 180 minutes of exercise this week! When I saw my doctor last week, he said to shoot for 150 minutes, so it felt really great to meet that goal.

I also finished the Book of Mormon yesterday, so I started again on the title page today. I have been thinking a lot about truth, courage, and missionary work lately. Missionary work confuses me, but thinking about it in terms of absolute truths helps me understand it a little better. Finishing and restarting a reading of the Book of Mormon always gets the juices flowing around truth, so my scripture study felt meaningful.

I even got some practice in, although my piano is by a huge window and can NEVER stay in tune. Right now it’s so out of tune I almost shudder to hear some registers (especially the upper), but I pressed on (!) through the awful sounds.

We also played in the snow today. Abe is sure that by the end of winter we will have a full blown snow fort, so he and the girls worked hard on it today:

Working hard on the snow fort.

Working hard on the snow fort.

Mary was at the ready.

Mary was at the ready.

And happy about it.

And happy about it.

:Lydia busied herself decorating the ground with snow angels.

:Lydia busied herself decorating the ground with snow angels.

The snow fort.

The snow fort.

We also went to This is the Place Heritage Park for their Candlelight Christmas with Balu, Tom, Suzanne, Steve, Charlie and Henry. We walked all over, sampling gingerbread, square dancing, learning about the first Christmas cards, signing Santa’s lists, meeting Santa, eating the best doughnuts I have ever had, and feeling moved by the live Nativity. Lydia spent the whole day anticipating the Baby Jesus and kept talking about how she would be quiet and not wake him, how she’d give him a binky, and how she’d take off her gloves when she saw him (I have no idea about that last part, but she was adamant…). Anyway, I love that place. To make it even better, at the end, Abe bought me a new wedding ring!!! I can only wear a plain band in my lab classes, and we found a plain silver band for $14.50!!!!!! It fit perfectly, and since I’ll probably wear it for the next decade, I could not be more pleased.

Mary Berry in her poof outfit. She toddled all around the park in this and kind of stole the show.

Mary Berry in her poof outfit. She toddled all around the park in this and kind of stole the show.

When I came home, I baked more cookies.

I baked a forest of bittersweet chocolate Christmas trees. Now if I can just get around to packaging them and giving them away before I eat them all...

I baked a forest of bittersweet chocolate Christmas trees. Now if I can just get around to packaging them and giving them away before I eat them all…

Oh! I made another pint of lemon curd today. I think I’m going to make this for Christmas brunch. It just so happens I have a lot of mascarpone and now a ton of lemon curd in the fridge already. Now I just have to make a million crepes and it’ll be all downhill from there.

And now, my mom is here!!! So I’m going to stop blogging and go talk to her.

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?

potty rides and piano

When I wasn’t practicing piano today, I was either lying in bed or feeding my children. I’ve had a headache that I only forget to notice when I’m super focused (e.g., on the piano), so it’s been hard to get much done. Oh! But I did have a play date with Aria, Espen and Enna, which made the morning a delight. Enna waved to me! And I guess I did the treadmill this morning, so there was some activity in the day. Just not a lot.

Lydia, on the other hand had a TON of activity today. Since I was out of commission, she just ran around the house playing pretend the entire day. Even at meals she would pretend her utensils were Abe, Mary, her and me, and she’d say stuff like, “We are togever foh-ever, Ma-wee!” (Translation: “We are together forever, Mary!”).

I forgot to write down a cute exchange we had yesterday. I had been reprimanding Lydia a lot, and as I was practicing, I heard suspicious sounds coming from the kitchen. “Lydia, what are you doing?” I called out. There was a pause. “Mama, I don’t know,” came Lydia’s extremely exasperated reply. “Just pway the pwano, okay?” (Turns out she was engaging in one of her favorite forbidden activities: eating butter. Today I gave her a little lesson on how arteries clog up, and she hasn’t touched the butter since.)

Here are today’s pictures:

Before he left for work this morning, Abe gave the girls a ride.

Before he left for work this morning, Abe gave the girls a ride. Lydia’s wearing the same outfit she wore yesterday because, well, she never quite made it into pj’s last night. When she woke up, she was already dressed, so why make more work for everyone?

I made garlic mashed potatoes and wilted kale, and called it dinner.

I made garlic mashed potatoes and wilted kale and called that dinner. No one seemed to mind.

Before bed the girls got rides on the magic potty seat.

Before bed the girls got rides on the magic potty seat.

One of the girls got a faster ride than the other...

One of the girls got a faster ride than the other…

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.

Of snowmen and Christmas concerts

Lydia woke up this morning screaming for chicken nuggets, which is especially funny since she’s only had them once (when we were desperate on a road trip over a year ago), and she threw them up an hour later. Abe and I spent the rest of the morning in a tired fog, and I lay in bed procrastinating my final project until noon.

We did, however, work in a Skype visit with my mom and grandma, during which they watched Lydia run through the extra-elaborate obstacle course Abe set up this morning. While he was setting it up, I was lying in bed. He kept coming over and asking for pillow after pillow until he sheepishly asked for the last one. I lay flat on my pillowless perch until we Skyped. It was pretty funny.

After I finally typed up my final, we slowly collected ourselves for our afternoon errands. Just as we were about to get in the car, Abe tested the snow and asked if he could have ten more minutes to build a snowman with the girls. Um, of course!

Building.

Building.

Bonding.

Bonding.

 

The finished product

The finished product.

Then we swung by the library and went clothes shopping for Abe. His new job is much more casual than his current job, and most of Abe’s casual clothes date back to college, high school, or even (in some choice cases), middle school. We bought him two pairs of jeans and a shirt. It’s a start.

Then we came home, and I vacuumed the most offensively dirty carpets in the house while Abe got dinner ready and fed the girls. We then rushed to bathe the girls because guess what? A couple days ago, Misty called and offered us some tickets to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert at the Conference Center. Misty is the kind of friend you want to have.

We gleefully accepted her kind offer, and tonight we had such a wonderful time at the concert. The Church pulls out all the stops for its Christmas concert, and there are just no words to communicate the feast this event is for the eyes, ears, and heart. John Rhys-Davies (Gimli in Lord of the Rings) and Deborah Voigt were spectacular. John Rhys-Davies narrated the tale of how Charles Dickens came up with A Christmas Carol, and at one point he and another actor flew across the 20,000 audience members. He also read Luke 2…I wish I had a recording, because I would just play that on Christmas and call the rest of the holiday good. Deborah Voigt’s voice had me crying in song #1, and Richard Elliot’s arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman on the organ was as acrobatic as it was, in John Rhys-Davies’ words, “pure genius.”

The program

The program

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After our joyful experience at the concert, Abe and I went about the more pragmatic task of grocery shopping. But hey, at 10pm, it felt kind of like an extension of our date. I’ll take it!