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 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…

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!

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.

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.

 

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.

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!

Almost. Done.

Tomorrow I turn in my last final. I just submitted my second final project (due yesterday) online. At class tonight I submitted the project I did yesterday night. I am tired. And so, without further ado, here are today’s pictures:

We had a play date and dinner, with our friend, Jill, and her four kids.

We had a play date and dinner, with our lovely friend, Jill, and her four sweet kids. Her husband is deployed right now, and I have no idea how she does it. But she is amazing, and she does it.

I came upstairs to discover Lydia trying to convince Megan, Lillian, and Nolan to watch her go potty. Maybe we have praised her too much; she now thinks that going to the potty is akin to a performing art--something everyone would enjoy seeing!

I came upstairs to discover Lydia trying to convince Megan, Lillian, and Nolan to watch her go potty. Maybe we have praised her too much; she now thinks that going to the potty is akin to a performing art–something everyone would enjoy seeing.