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.

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.

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…

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.