Monday, December 31, 2012

Play pretend

Natalie got a few fun new toys for Christmas,  including a little doll and some play food and dishes. What has been really cute is I haven't really seen her play pretend a lot before but she totally got into it without any real prompting or teaching from us. One of the cutest things ever was watching her try to feed her little dolly.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

oh my oh my oh dinosaurs

A few candid shots from playing dinosaurs this morning. It's just too bad you can't capture Natalie's "rawrs" on a still picture.
 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

THE pregnancy craving

I remember this distinctly last time I was pregnant: I was super excited for Thanksgiving. Like I kept thinking about turkey, gravy, stuffing, rolls, potatoes, etc for a couple of weeks before hand. Then there was a year where Natalie was a baby, and although I was excited for Thanksgiving, I didn't find myself so incredibly super duper stoked for it. Then this year rolls around. For 2-3 weeks beforehand I was craving all the Thanksgiving fixings.

This time though, the craving didn't stop after the Thanksgiving meal was finished. In fact, although we had somewhere between 2-3 Thanksgiving type meals during that weekend, I was still craving turkey. and gravy. and potatoes. and rolls. and sweet potato casserole. and stuffing. Oh the stuffing. If I had to pick a favorite Thanksgiving food, it would probably be homemade stuffing.

So the Sunday following Thanksgiving we pulled out of the freezer the turkey we had bought earlier that week and originally had been planning to save for a while. The following Saturday (this past Saturday if anyone is keeping track) we cooked up that hunk of meat. And then we really went all out. First we ate half of one turkey breast that afternoon. Then we made turkey soup. Then we made all the fixings that we love and adore: the gravy, the potatoes, the stuffing, the sweet potatoes, and we have been eating leftovers of it all since then.

Here's the problem though. We are almost out of turkey, but I am not anywhere close from being sick of this meal. Matthew suggested that we should buy another turkey and cook it up and just keep going... and you know what, I think that is a fantastic idea.

Maybe by January I will have gotten my fill of turkey??? Hopefully at the very latest by the time baby girl decides to show her face. Oh have you all heard? We are having a girl!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

doing your duty

So Matthew is off right now being a good person and doing his hometeaching, which I find absolutely hilarious. Not the hometeaching part, necessarily, but the part of who he is hometeaching.

I can't remember if I've mentioned it here or not, but Matthew and I live in a basement apartment of his sister's house, and their house backs up/shares a (big) backyard with his brother's house. So basically, all three of our families practically live together. And just in case you were wondering, it is awesome.

So, if you've put it together yet, Matthew is off hometeaching his brother's family, and then after that he is walking upstairs and hometeaching his sister's family... I just find this incredibly funny. "Oh I have to go hometeaching, I'll just go walk up the stairs..."

We all thought that for this first month he should report that he wasn't able to contact his families. Haha. "They just wouldn't return any of my calls!" Not that we see them just about every day anyway.

Whelp, I'll just be here chuckling to myself until he gets back. And then I'll see if he made sure his home teaching families know how to get a hold of him, just in case they need anything. ha.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

life as it is

Before we say anything else, I have a belly. And a picture:
Please forgive the quality of the picture. And my hair. Something weird is definitely going on up top there. Anyway I am very excited to finally start showing. It makes me feel like I am for reals pregnant. It just seems like it takes many weeks and many pounds before anything starts happening in the rotundness department so I'm pretty excited about what I've got going on. I'm 17 weeks and 5 days today, but who's counting?

Besides the belly, pregnancy is fine. I am still pretty tired (lame) and I've definitely had a voracious appetite. It is interesting comparing this pregnancy with the last one. I feel hungrier now, and more needing to fulfill random cravings immediately. I've also had more aches and pains and dizziness earlier. However, one HUGE HUGE HUGE awesome difference this time compared to last time is that I have not yet had to deal with a lot of insulin resistance. Last time I feel like it started right around 14 weeks, and here I am at almost 18 with basically no difference in insulin needs and resistance. That is amazing and makes everything feel so much easier.  I was concerned for a little while that maybe that meant something wasn't going right with the baby, but everything looked fine at the last appt and the doctor isn't worried, so I am just going to take it and enjoy it while it lasts.

As far as life goes, Natalie still only says "no" without prompting and we're still trying to get her to expand her vocabulary. Matthew still enjoys teaching high school physics, although I don't understand how anyone could enjoy teaching high school. And I'm still doing my internship. So, not a lot new. I did recently finish my entire clinical rotation, so that's pretty awesome. I'm now doing community at WIC which is fun too. And I'm just about halfway done with the entire internship. Sweet!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

a week off

I have finished two whole rotations of my internship--one at a hospital, and one at an outpatient diabetes clinic-- and now I have one whole glorious week off. I am SO excited. I'm going to sleep in, take a nap with Natalie every day, and spend lots of time playing with my baby and reminding her that her mommy in fact does exist.

When I'm not doing that, I'm going to pick up with doing everything that has gotten pushed to the wayside in the hectic-ness of everything now. All I'm saying is, working 8 hours a day (plus the 2+ hours driving time per day for my diabetes rotation), working on homework and projects at night, and then add in always feeling tired and exhausted from being pregnant... well... let's just say that things like picking up after myself, or cleaning, or making dinner, or doing just about anything else that doesn't involve a nap or sitting like a blob on the couch has been pushed to the wayside.

Despite all that, I have loved doing this internship. It really has been very enjoyable. It's nice to know that after years of school you really do like what you have chosen to do. And after this last rotation at the diabetes clinic, I am thinking seriously that being a diabetes educator is what I would like to do. We'll see though.

A few more details about pregnancy. I'm just about 14 weeks along, and so I'm starting the second trimester. I'm hoping to start feeling more "normal" soon. So far this pregnancy has been a little different from the last one. I haven't been as nausous, in fact, I haven't really had any nausea to speak of, which is a huge blessing. I have been a lot more emotional, though. And I have had a lot more cravings. I'm due April 22nd. My last day of the internship is April 4th. Considering that with Natalie they induced me at 37 weeks, and knowing that there is no way they will let me go beyond 39 weeks, it is very likely I will have the baby within a week of finishing. Yipes!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When Expiration Dates Sneak Up On You


 So don't you just hate it when things expire before you use them.  Sometimes I wish things would just wait in stasis until you were ready for them. For instance, probably our biggest food waste is vegetables, fruit, and leftovers going bad before we use them. That, or the amount of food Natalie throws on the floor. :) We actually try really hard to not let produce spoil, but it seems like some of it always hides in the corner of the crisper, or you just can't use those last couple green onions, or eat the last few grapes before they get squishy. Gross.
I think the stuff on the left used to be parsley?

Then there is the problem of coupons. I have a love/hate relationship with coupons. I love it when they get me free things or good prices on things I want (like 60 cents off the gallons of ice cream at Smith's). But then I feel that there are just as many times that they are for things that I probably wouldn't buy but then I feel that I need to because they're cheaper. Matthew is more susceptible to those than me; in fact, he's the only one who is susceptible. I just toss those ones and I have to try and convince Matthew to, too. Still, when there are good ones it's sad when they go bad because you forgot about them. For instance, recently we had a coupon for an oil change discount and Matthew noticed that it expired on 9/25, you guessed it, that day. So, we didn't have time to go do it. It's so much better when coupons don't expire. Matthew recently turned in a coupon for Apple-Cinnamon Cheerios from the 90's. More coupons should be like that!

  If things are going to expire, it's nice if they tell you in advance. That way you have some time to get used to the idea and make plans. Natalie was kind enough to help us out with this, which is good because this is something else that seems like it is expiring faster than I would have expected:

She has the "coy" look down pat.



P.S. We're in the market for boy names (just in case). Feel free to make suggestions, just know it will likely be rejected. :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

the best birthday present of all

Several of weeks ago it was my birthday. I got one of the best birthday presents ever--Matthew was able to suddenly start working full time. The school where he had gotten a job teaching physics one hour a day (so a very part-time job with a very part-time salary) suddenly offered him a job teaching physics full time between two schools. So instead of hourly wages he is a salaried teacher, with benefits... really great benefits, actually.

This really felt like such an amazing blessing. Instead of barely making things meet with his hourly wage plus like 4 other part time jobs between the two of us, now we actually are spending less than we are making. So we can save money. What a novel idea.

A teacher's salary is actually really amazingly low, but right now, to us, it feels like we are on top of the world. The only downside is that now instead of Matthew taking care of Natalie during the day, we had to find child care for her. But we feel like we have a good situation going for her--Matthew's cousin is watching her, and Natalie seems to have a great time at their house.

Last but not least, I want to talk about my birthday cake. I just think it is fun to make over the top decadent cakes. This one, entitled "Seven Sins Chocolate Cake" did not disappoint:
 
You can find the recipe for it here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cute baby girl

Natalie is almost 18 months, but she still hasn't really said any words. Just in the last month, however, she has started to get really into books. She loves them! And it is pretty funny, because in most of them she has a favorite page that she flips through the book to get to quickly. For instance, in the Very Hungry Caterpillar book, it is the page where the caterpillar eats "one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of swiss cheese.." etc.

Thanks to her different books about animals, she has started to make animals noises. She can ruff like a dog, and go "huh huh huh" like a gorilla. So I think we are going to count animals noises as her first words. haha.

She is also quite the diva, and loves to get her picture taken. She will grab our phones and open them up, and then turn them around so it is facing the correct way for us to take pictures of her. Or, she will grab the regular camera and do the same thing. She thinks it is so fun, and it really is pretty funny.

A few pictures from my phone (I don't have a fancy smartphone, so they aren't that great)


Sunday, August 12, 2012

we're real adults now?

Matthew is officially done with school, which I guess means that we are real adults now, if you don't count that he doesn't have a full time job (he does have a part time job though) and that I am technically a student now in the internship. But whatever. We're totally grown ups.
And, just in case you were wondering, the first week at the hospital went really well.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

lunchtime!

The stars have aligned this week to make available all the fixings for one of my favorite super healthy summer lunches. The cherry tomatoes have just started turning red in the garden and the zucchinis are mass producing, and this week asparagus was on sale. Add in some whole wheat pasta and a little shredded parmesan cheese, and a small piece of heaven is just around the corner. 

About two loose handfuls of dried pasta shapes, whole wheat if possible is best
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Zucchini, about 1/3-1/2 cup, chopped into bite sized pieces (whatever that means to you)
Cherry tomatoes, about 10, sliced in half
Asparagus, about 7 stalks, the woody bases cut off and then cut in half (or in thirds)
Parmesan cheese (I prefer shredded to grated in this case)
Fresh basil, if desired

Cook pasta until done. Brush zucchini and asparagus with a little olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast in oven for 5-10 minutes. I usually pull the zucchini off before the asparagus when it is still firm-ish, because there is nothing worse in life than mushy zucchini. Slice the tomatoes in half. Throw the vegetables and pasta into a bowl or on a plate. I drizzle just a tiny extra bit of olive oil (about a tsp?) so that nothing is sticky. Pesto also works well here. Or just fresh basil. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. Devour. I love this lunch because it is simple, easy and quick to make, and it has a high proportion of vegetables to pasta, making it very healthy. 

I really love using the garden cherry tomatoes for this because I they are just so juicy and flavorful. And the reason that this is exclusively a lunch thing (not a dinner thing) for me is because Matthew doesn't like tomatoes or asparagus, and he will eat zucchini mixed with other things, but if it is mixed with something that he already doesn't like, there is no way. And he doesn't like parmesan cheese. So yeah, he wouldn't touch this :)

the calm(?) before the storm

Whelp, my internship starts in less than a week. Seriously, how is this possible? I don't know what other internships do, but USU gives you a bunch of review stuff to do before hand. It doesn't feel too busywork-ish-y, and I actually am apprecating the review. During all of this, I keep going back and forth between two frames of thinking. Sometimes I'm all like "oh yeah, I'm totally going to be okay. They aren't going to expect me to know everything. Duh" and then sometimes its like "Oh My Gosh. I don't know anything." Okay, who am I kidding, it really is like "OHMYGOSHIDON'TKNOWANYTHINGNOTONESINGLETHING!!!!" And even though I've sat through many lectures before and realized and appreciated the fact that one day I would need to remember and actually apply all sorts of things, now there is this panic of I must remember E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. now. immediately. Brain, stop forgetting stuff! 


I sound like I'm stressed. And panicked. I'm really not. Only like 8% of the time. That's practically negligable. 

Also, perhaps on a related note, I can't stop working. I have it in my brain that there are several things that much be done in the next week and that is really all I want to do is work on accomplishing my list. It might be a problem, but honestly, I'd rather that I am sometimes (way too?) on top of things and a little bit trying to be an overachiever instead of procrastinating. Don't ask me for many details. I'm kind of embarrassed, but just to give you a teaser, one day I found myself scrubbing on the backsplash behind the sink. At 11:30pm. Who does that? Its like nesting instinct, except not with a baby.

One last thing. I was getting so good at exercising almost every day. I would go on walks almost daily, and go for runs 3-4 times a week. I was getting to the point of almost being able to run 2.5-3 miles, which probably sounds like nothing to most of you, but to me was really, really good. And then I got back from my trip to Minnesota, and I just didn't want to run. Ever. I think I've run like 5 times in the past month. And walks? Probably about the same amount. Part of the problem is that it is so dang hot out here and walks just aren't enjoyable. And there is no way that I am waking up at the crack of dawn to exercise. I need my sleep. And I don't know what the deal is with the running. I want to love to run. I really, really, really want to love running. But I guess we have a more on again-off again kind of relationship. I bet a contributing factor is that when I got back from Minnesota I realized that "OHMYGOSHSOMUCHTODO" (see above) and taking the time to exercise when I'm not super mentally into it just became less of a priority. Lame. 

Do I sound like I'm a little whacked out? Well, I still read my scriptures just about every day, and we still eat really good meals just about every day as well, and I think for me those are good indicators of sanity, so you know what, I'm actually doing really good. Except for the 8% of the time that there is a moment of panic, and then I start scrubbing something compulsively and eat a cookie (definition of emotional eating right there). And then soon all is right with the world again.

Friday, July 27, 2012

a pleasant surprise

Natalie is a pretty lucky baby toddler. She has a ton of aunts and uncles and especially cousins (43!) that love to play with her. It has been so fun for her to practically live with 10 of those cousins. She has several teenage girl cousins who are super good with her, but what has been pleasantly surprising to me is how good the teenage boy cousins are with her. There are around four or five 13-14 year old boys (including one of my brothers) that she sees a lot and have  been so good to her, playing with her, taking her to see the kitty, taking care of her, etc etc etc. Seriously I have been impressed. I would have thought that 13-14 year old boys would be totally into...I dunno... nerf guns and computer games (okay they are into those things), but they are also totally into playing with the 16 month old little girl. It's sweet.

Although, how could you not love this cutie pie??

Saturday, July 21, 2012

seven things

1. We have a garden. I am in love. Okay its not just our garden, we do it with Matthew's siblings, but oh my goodness. Have I mentioned my love affair with fresh garden green beans? Steamed or boiled with some butter and salt, they rock my socks off every single day. I am also beyond excited for the tomatoes to turn red, especially the cherry ones. And remember my goal to get Natalie to like zucchini? A few days ago I sauteed some with Parmesan cheese, and she totally ate like 5 bites. I win. Parmesan cheese makes everything better.

2. Peaches! Nectarines! ONE TRACK MIND! I LOVE SUMMERRRRRRRR!!!!!

3. Natalie has started unloading and destroying everything in sight, all day, every day. I'm trying to not let it drive me crazy.

4. I start my internship in two weeks. I think everyday I alternate several times between being excited, nervous, and dreading it. The dreading it is more for 'how will Natalie function without me???" But my first rotation is at the hospital, so that should be fun.


5. Lest you think I've completely given up my sweet tooth for summer produce, we made these yesterday and let's just say, yum.


6. I feel like I've been waiting forever for Hunger Games to come to Redbox. I just checked, it is coming August 18th. That was a fantastic movie. I can't wait to watch it again.


7. We are about to start an epic 8 person tournament of Epic Duels. It is going to be legendary. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

i want that

A quickly snapped series of pictures of Natalie and Nathan. Totally cracks me up.

 
 
 
 


water time

Okay okay I know vacation pictures are often just not the most interesting things to look at (unless of course, you vacationed somewhere insanely awesome, such as France), so I wouldn't even put pictures up except that Natalie is just the most cutest adorablest thing I have ever seen. I just can't help myself.  

  
  
  
 
 
 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

picking

One of my most favorite things to do in the summer in Minnesota is go strawberry picking.

We picked over 27 pounds! Oh baby!

Monday, June 18, 2012

good times 2012

Last week we went to Kansas for a little family reunion. Actually it was really, really cool. All 12 of Matthew's brothers and sisters came to Kansas so that they would all be there on June 12, which would have been Matthew's dad's 70th birthday, and they all went and did a session in the very newly dedicated Kansas City Temple (I was there too). It was really great, and we had a fantastic time.


In fact, it was so fun to go visit and see family that I started thinking that I really wanted to go home and visit my family in Minnesota, too. So as a father's day surprise, my mom and I bought a ticket on Friday to go home and visit... this Tuesday! aka tomorrow! At some point during our stay, my family is going to Jellystone Park (a Yogi Bear inspired water park thinger... my family has been going there for years and my dad just loves the place) and so Natalie and I am going with them! huzzah. The only down part is that Matthew isn't coming--he has to stay and work, and then go on a research trip.

While watching Natalie play in some water fountains we stumbled upon the other day, we decided she was going to have a great time at Jellystone :)

father's day realizations

Several days before Father's Day, I asked Matthew if he had any requests for Father's Day breakfast or dinner. He couldn't really think of anything, so I came up with a few ideas and asked him about them a day or two later. My ideas were along the lines of pork chops and real mashed potatoes, or teriyaki steak with pineapple salsa, etc. I thought both of these things sounded super good--some of the best things for my favorite husband! However, Matthew said "Well, if you don't mind, I think I want Shepard's pie... made with mashed potatoes from potato flakes." Say what??? I mean, Shepard's pie is okay, I guess, but for father's day when I want to do the best things for you, Shepard's pie is definitely not what I would have chosen. But, it is what made him happy, and so that's what I made, and Matthew loved it. 

Lesson #1: Sometimes loving someone means not giving them the "best" (at least according to me), but giving them what will make them happy.

So besides dinner, I tried to do a bunch of nice (little) things for him yesterday, to show him how much I love him and what a great dad I think he is. I think he really liked it all. The interesting side effect from this was that because he felt so happy and loved and everything, he was extra sweet and nice and loving to me, and I ended up feeling really, really loved by him all day. 

Lesson #2: If I am ever feel like I want to feel more loved, show more love to my husband first, and he returns it by 200%. 

Is this getting too mushy? Let's just end with a cute picture of Matthew and Natalie. Awwww...

Friday, May 25, 2012

playing around

First off, can I just say I think it is the funniest thing ever when babies fall asleep in their high chair? It just cracks me up. However, I think the testament to how tired she was is not that she fell asleep in the high chair, but that she left a bunch of strawberries uneaten.

Moving on... a few pictures from the other day:
  Natalie thinks it is so funny when we've put this mask on her. She even leaves it on for like two whole minutes before her primal baby instincts take over and she rips it off.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

what I've learned so far about feeding a baby who is becoming a toddler

I try to be a good mom, but honestly, I don't read to Natalie every day, sometimes she frolics around in just a diaper, and I put her to sleep by giving her a bottle in her crib. I haven't taught her any baby sign language or done a bunch of other things that probably would be really good for her. However, one thing I have decided I am going to try really hard to do is help her become a good eater. 

Natalie is only 14 months old, so I only really have several months experience with this, and I'm sure she'll change/get way more picky, and maybe my other kids will be totally different, but this is what I have learned so far: Natalie wants to eat whatever we're eating, so if we eat healthy food, she will too. The most effective way we have found to give her new, and potentially "distasteful" foods is to put her in her high chair with nothing on her tray, and then we start eating something in front of her. She will almost always reach out for what we're eating, and then we feed her little bits of it, and then when she's tried it and decided it is okay, we put some on her tray for her. This doesn't always work--for instance, she hasn't loved little chunks of grape tomatoes, but it has worked very, very well for a lot of things. 

Of course, there are plenty of foods she hasn't really loved. Tomatoes, as I mentioned, carrots and sweet potatoes are iffy, zucchini, oranges--which is super random because everyone loves oranges, spinach or other leafy thing, avocados... anyway, although I know she's not going to devour these things, I still keep offering them to her in the hope that eventually she will get used to them.

My goal for her/me this summer is to help her like zucchini and tomatoes more. I think there is a high probability of success, since there are both tomatoes and zucchini growing in the garden, which means we will have both access to a lot, and they will be very good quality. Juicy tomatoes from the garden in the summer are way more delicious than grocery store tomatoes in the winter, if ya know what I mean.

Anyway, I think that is the biggest thing I have learned so far, with respect to feeding: If we are eating it and enjoying it, there is a really good chance Natalie will too. She can eat "adult food" just fine, and we don't have to dumb down what we feed her (very much). I just hope we can keep this good trend going...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

loving summer

Matthew and I were eating some homemade popsicles the other day (pureed strawberries and plain yogurt--very good), and once we gave Natalie a few bites, she commandeered the rest of the popsicle for herself:
I think it is safe to say that she loved it :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

another food post! hurray!

I had so much fun last year writing about food, I thought I would do a post on some of our favorite things we've made this year. I highly recommend any of the following items to everybody and anybody.

Homemade Tortillas: My world brightened a little bit when these came into my life. Sure, they take more time than buying a bag at the store, but they are totally worth the extra effort.
Roasted Butternut Baked Penne: After making butternut soup last year and not loving it, I was hesitant to make this, but I’m so glad I did. The butternut flavor was not overpowering, but the combination of flavors absolutely rocked my world.
Roasted Red Pepper and Fontina Pizza: Pizza dough + olive oil + roasted red peppers + carmelized shallots + bacon + fontina cheese+balsamic reduction=perhaps the best pizza we’ve made so far, imho.
Pretzel Rolls: Basically pretzels in a form that you can eat for dinner. Win.
Sesame Chicken: Easy, sesamey, not too sweet and still feels like Chinese take out.
Glazed Carrots with Orange and Cranberries: I would even decrease or omit the sugar in this, as the OJ gave plenty of sweetness. It was a delicious, easy, healthy, and rather fancy dish.
Chocolate Macarons: I was so excited to make these, and they turned out amazingly. I have to admit, this is something I was pretty dang proud of, and if you have a kitchen scale, they really aren’t too difficult.
Cheesy Penne with Tomatoes and Spinach: Here’s the thing. I never liked the Kraft macaroni and cheese growing up. I still don’t. So, seeing homemade macaroni and cheese recipes never looked appealing to me, until I realized you didn’t have to use macaroni, and you are making a cheese sauce. Hello. I have to say, this meal was off the charts. Seriously, truly fantastic.
Fudgy Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars: I jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon in February, and this is the first thing that I made from the site. Imagine: Graham cracker toffee crust, fudgey chocolate middle, chocolate cookie dough top, sprinkled with toffee bits. Delish. Oh, the thing is that it is a pillsbury recipe, so they tell you to use a roll of refrigerated Pillsbury dough--I just used my favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies.
Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake: I made this for my half-birthday. Imagine a brownie-ish cake layer on bottom, a chocolate mousse layer in the middle and a white chocolate mousse layer on top. So good.
Quinoa Chicken Salad: This one was one of Matthew's favorites. It was healthy, and had a lot of flavor. And came from Pinterest. ha.
Meditteranean Grilled Vegetable Tartine: A tartine is an open-faced sandwich, and I think the marinade on this, combined with the hummus flavor was what made it unforgettable. 
Sourdough Bread: Very good. Nothing more to say.
Homemade Yogurt: This is so easy, and so fun. I will say, I have deviated from the directions in the link quite a bit in order to get it to work better and more consistently, but now that we have a good method down, it works like a charm. 
Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing: I got this recipe from my sister-in-law, and I think we ate it 3 times that month. 
Strawberry Butter: This is simply pureed, simmered strawberries beaten with butter and honey. And all I'm saying is that it is definitely not disgusting.
Chiang Mai Noodles: I like expanding my Asian cooking repertoire. This one is definitely in the long term rotation
Veggie Fried Rice: Again, expanding Asian repertoire. This turned out very similar to our favorite take-out place.
Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce Chicken: Probably in my top two favorite meals this year. Our old bishop's wife made this for a get together thing. The flavor is absolutely amazing.

Whelp, that is it! I'm super hungry now thinking about all this stuff. A couple of these thingers don't have links--I know I should either write in the recipe or not include them here, but I don't really feel like typing it in right now, plus it will make this post even that much longer, so maybe I'll just say if you are interested in any of the three or four things that don't have links, let me know and I'll either send it to you or just do a separate post later. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

wanderlust

Its no secret that I am dying to travel. Sometimes I feel like I'm going a little bit crazy not traveling. However, since I'm not going anywhere for a while, its good there are a few things to tide me over.

Like today, at Sunflower market, while perusing the international cheese selection, I noticed that they had a cheese sampler bin. Oh baby. I almost never can justify spending upwards of $7 on one little wedge of fancy cheese, but I can absolutely pay $2.06 for a smaller chunk of Brie. Absolutely. Another stop at that one French bakery on State street, and I have been eating baguette and brie all day long. Heaven.

Also, on Monday we went to a party thinger with Matthew's research group. The professor is French (win), her husband is Tunisian (double win) and they made Mediterranean fare (win win win). It just made me so happy. We started out with cheese, crackers and drinks (fantastic cheese, I wish that kind had been in the sampler bin) and I think there was literally drool coming out the sides of my mouth when she explained what the meal was: lamb, homemade pita bread, homemade tzatziki and homemade hummus, cumin-infused rice, this terrific salad with tomatoes and avocados, and, my personal favorite, tabbouleh.

Tabbouleh is made with burghul or couscous, it is very Meditteranean, but it 14389% reminds me of France because they sell it in little containers in the grocery stores, and we ate it a lot. Because it rocks. And this tabbouleh was amazing. I could've eaten the whole bowl. What makes it great is that all of the ingredients are chopped very small, so you aren't eating a chunk of tomato or a chunk of cucumber, you just get a big burst of flavor in every bite. YUM. Even Matthew, who doesn't like cucumber or tomato, enjoyed it. We got the recipe from his professor, and all I'm saying is we are definitely making this soon. Amen and amen.

Here's the recipe for tabbouleh, if anyone is interested. It is easy peasy.

2 cups of couscous
3 ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 onion
1 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh mint

Dressing: 
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil


Prepare couscous according to instructions on package.



Cut tomato in half, remove excess seeds, and cut into very small 
cubes. Cut the cucumber in half, remove excess seeds, and cut into very 
small cubes. Cut onions into small chunks. Chop parsley. Chop mint. 
Place couscous, vegetables and herbs into a bowl.


For the dressing, in a bowl whisk lemon juice and 1-1/2 tsp salt until combined. Season with pepper and slowly whisk in olive oil. Pour over salad and toss until evenly coated.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

natalie's latest living arrangements

I've actually gotten several requests for pictures of Natalie's room. First though, I want to point out that she likes her room. I feel the need to make that clarification because yes, her room is technically a closet/laundry room:

 And that is my hand.
The choices for her bedroom were either this room, or the front room which is right by the door to the outside. Personally, I didn't want my baby sleeping by the front door, both because I would stay up worrying about her safety, and because then when she's sleeping it is a lot harder to go in and out without waking her. Plus, her little room is all cozy. And she totally is okay with it. Look at that last picture, she's about to unload a cupboard full of diapers. What's not to love??

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

my amazing little brother


You know that one scripture in Ether 12? It goes something like this:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Well, my little brother, Aaron (what a stud!):
recently became a missionary for the LDS church, and will be spending the next two years in Kennewick, Washington, teaching people about Christ. I am so incredibly proud of him, I can hardly stand it. To me, Aaron is the embodiment of this verse. Through the Lord’s grace, he has had his weaknesses turned into incredible strengths. He is so inspiring to me, and here's why.

When Aaron was 2 ½  years old, he went through a severe regression when my next brother Ryan was born.  Aaron stopped talking and interacting with others.  He got stuck in this regression and just didn’t come out of it.  By the time he was 3 ½ my mom noticed that he was significantly behind other children his age, kept to himself in his own little world, had trouble understanding language, and seemed significantly behind in his comprehension and cognition.  He was in a little preschool with other children, but he didn’t interact with them or understand much of what was going on.  He was always happy and cooperative, but had trouble with understanding and social interactions.

Aaron eventually was diagnosed with autism. For most children, this is condition that stays with them for their whole lives. They can learn, adapt, cope and make progress, but they usually still have trouble and are still autistic. Not so with Aaron. He used to have autism, today he definitely does not. He used to have significant difficulties in all of the main facets of autism—social, sensory and language/cognitive—and today, these areas are his biggest strengths. For example…

As a younger child, Aaron had a lot of difficulty interacting socially. He couldn’t answer people, maintain a conversation, greet people, hold eye contact, or relate information. He had a really hard time processing information and being able to interact. He was very much in his own little world.

For example, he hyperfocused on hats and videos. He used to be fixated on hats, and always had to have the hat that he wanted, or he would shut down. He had several Woody toys, and he had to have Woody’s hat, and when he lost the hat, nothing could happen. I remember many times combing the yard looking for that hat. He also used to communicate solely by quoting movies and singing songs, and he would sit in his spot and quote the same movies over and over again.

Now, he is completely the opposite. He is compassionate, interactive, social, he loves talking to people, he will chat on the phone with me (seriously, how many teenage boys chat on the phone?), he is absolutely hilarious. People love him. Girls fall all over themselves to be with him. People love to come and talk to him, hang out, because not only can he be interactive, but he is compassionate, and a good listener, and he can show that he cares about people by the way that he interacts and communicates with him. He knows the scriptures on a deep level and bears a powerful testimony. He is awesome, by anyone’s standards.

As for sensory issues, Aaron used to have a lot of tactile defensiveness. He couldn’t get out of his bubble, if you got too close to him, he would tense up, get all taut, he couldn’t handle hugs, or kisses, or any sort of closeness. Now, any sensory issues are gone. He will give you a warm, embracing hug (which a lot of girls appreciate, let me tell you!), and he is okay being close to people. It is just not an issue at all anymore.

Another amazing thing is related to coordination. Many kids with autism have a hard time with coordination of both sides of the brain, Aaron never had huge issues with this, but there were some deficits. He was rather awkward, not able to make his body work together very well, and he had some trouble with force modulation. His kinetic awareness was just a little off. Now—have you seen him play basketball? He is incredibly coordinated, he is quick, he is smooth, he can manipulate the basketball and do some crazy, fun tricks and moves. He is very skilled, and is just really fun to watch.

One last example—writing. Aaron used to never be able to think of things to write about, more than the usual writer’s block or difficulties thinking of topics or whatnot. It was like his difficulty with conversation, he literally couldn’t think of anything to say. These days, he is more like a normal, typical teenager, where it isn’t like he is an amazing writer, but he can write. He can do it, and he can do it at a normal level. Actually, I take that back. He is good. He let me glance at his journal before he went into the Missionary Training Center, and it was insightful, funny, gave good details. His letters since he left have been fantastic. They are the perfect mix of telling stories, showing excitement and enthusiasm, have little funny anecdotes in them, talking about spiritual experiences and how that makes him feel…honestly I think he is more than capable in writing.

There are so many more things that I could say about how Aaron has changed (and if you have 6 hours to spare, give my mom a call and she’ll tell you all about it). But here is the remarkable thing: Aaron was promised repeatedly, over and over, in many priesthood blessings, that if he would open his mouth and testify of the Lord, he would be healed, and if he would testify of the Lord’s power, it would be made manifest in him.

And I can tell you, absolutely, that this has happened. Aaron isn’t just better, it is not just that he can cope, or adapt, or just barely function in the world, his weaknesses are now amazing strengths, both relative to how he was before, and relative to the general population as well. You can’t tell at all that he has any sort of struggles—because he doesn't. He is healed. And he is absolutely amazing.

Now, it’s not like there was a priesthood blessing and Aaron bore his testimony and bam, he was all better. He has gone through so so SO much intensive therapy, IEPs, goals, my parents fought for him again and again and again, he was on a couple of different therapeutic diets, he had biomedical therapy, my mom was incredibly proactive about educating herself, researching, finding information, spending hours every day on all this stuff. There was an incredible amount of effort there, and Heavenly Father opened a lot of doors for Aaron to get the help that he needed.

But a lot of kids who have autism also spend years in therapy, and they can adapt, improve, maybe function alright, but they don’t have all of their difficulties go away, and then have them all turn into incredible strengths. He does so many things that kids with autism just shouldn't be able to do. He has opened his mouth, he testifies very powerfully of the Savior, and because of that, the Lord has fulfilled his promises, and Aaron really is an incredible example of the power of the priesthood. It is just amazing to see.

I love my brother so much, because he is sweet, kind, caring, funny, and an amazing example to me. He inspires me. I am so proud of the time and work that he has put in, his faith in the Lord, and his dedication to keep the commandments. I can’t wait to see what he will do with the rest of his life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

its the little things

Do you notice anything different about me?

I'm blogging from a new apartment! Huzzah! We are living in the downstairs apartment at Matthew's sister's house (hey guys!) and it is great, and I'm not just saying that because I'm pretty sure she reads this now and again. Besides the obvious reasons why we are really enjoying living here--you know, much more spacious living arrangements, nice kitchen, beautiful backyard, close to family--there are several other things that are enormous improvements over our last place.

1. When I stand on my tiptoes, my head doesn't hit the ceiling. Yes, I could do this at my last apartment.

2. There is a thermostat that we can control for the lower level. At our last place, the upstairs people controlled the temperature, and I WAS ALWAYS FREEZING. It was so cold, so often. Part of that was due to it being winter, and we are in the basement, so it is naturally going to be colder, but when it finally was in the 70s for a day, what did they do? THEY TURNED ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. FOR 5 HOURS! Ask me how I feel about that. ha.

3. There is a normal countertop here. At our old apartment, the countertop was tiled. So there was grout and grooves. And food got stuck in it, and it was hard to get it out, and you had to scrub to get the thing clean. Who wants to scrub counters on a near daily basis, or, have them full of crumbs and grossness? Not me. So glad to be done with that.

Anyway, we are pretty stoked to be moved and here. And that is my story.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

when bad is good

I have never in my whole life been happier than I was today to hear that there was something wrong with me. I've been tired for months; I sleep plenty, usually between 8-9 hours a night and sometimes close to 10, but I wake up tired and am tired during the day. I drink water, I exercise, I eat healthy and no, I'M NOT SLEEPING TOO MUCH! Someone always suggests that, and it drives me bonkers. When I sleep less than 8 hours, I'm barely functioning.

So today I went to see the diabetes doctor (A1C was 6.5--woot!) and I was super happy that she took my complaints of fatigue seriously and ordered a bunch of tests, and SO HAPPY when the nurse called me later this afternoon and told me that my ferritin was crazy sauce low, and that my B12 was also a little on the low side. Fantastic! There is an actual cause, but its nothing serious and easily fixable. All I have to do is take iron and get some B12 shots and I will be feeling perky again in the not too distant future. I am so happy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

life update

So, here's the news.

1. I got an internship. Yay me! I feel like this is no small miracle that I was accepted somewhere. Anyway, it is with Utah State, I'll still be in utah valley, and I start in August.

2. As soon as we can sell our contract, we are moving to the apartment at Matthew's sister's house, which is going to be a fantastic upgrade. We're excited.

3.  Matthew graduates in a few weeks, and he is looking for a real job.

4. Natalie has almost completely transitioned to walking, instead of crawling. This is big news, people!

Friday, April 6, 2012

the one where germaphobes freak out

A few Sundays ago, during Sunday School we were feeding Natalie some Cheerios. 
I would put one in the palm of my hand, she would grab it and put it in her mouth. 
After doing this for a while, she held it out like she was offering it to Matthew. 
He opened his mouth, and she put the Cheerio in. 
He closed his mouth, Natalie turned and looked at me and smiled, and then put her hand back to Matthew's mouth, like she wanted the Cheerio back. 
He opened his mouth, she looked inside, put her little fingers in, and found the Cheerio. 
She took it out, put it in her mouth, gave us a big grin and ate it all. 

It is a good thing we were sitting in the back because I was laughing so hard. 
Hilarious.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

what the??

Today was Jonathan's birthday. He came over with a date and we made pizza:
What the heck?
Here's the top view. The huge air poof aka Mount Vesuvius actually was only 1/2 of the pizza. 

Oh, and it is a really good pizza. Here is the link. It is a Roasted Red Pepper, Fontina and Balsamic Pizza. Just don't skip the balsamic reduction. It sounds weird, but it just wasn't quite as good this time when we forgot it as it was last time with it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

have i done any good

Isn't it nice when people go out of their way to help you out? Two people recently did this for me:

1. Natalie and I were running errands, and we stopped in at Walmart for the sole purpose of picking up two gallons of milk. Because we were only grabbing a couple things, I didn't bother to get a cart. So naive. Carrying Natalie and two gallons of milk from the far reaches of the store to the front was pretty awkward. An woman employee saw me, stopped, asked if she could help, and then carried my two gallons to an empty register, rang me right up, and then even ran and grabbed me a cart so I could easily get back to my car.

2. Natalie and I had walked up to campus to hang out with Matthew for a little bit. Because my sandal was rubbing part of my foot raw, we decided just to take the car home back home instead of walking (its a bit of a walk). To get to the car, we had to go down a medium length flight of stairs, with the stroller. I was just planning on doing that super awkward trick where the front wheels of the stroller are hanging off and the back wheels thump down the stairs. After three stairs, the guy in front of stopped and asked if I would like some help, and then helped me carry the stroller down the rest of the stairs.

small things, but they helped me out and made me happy. fantastic. :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Vegetable Stock

I am a little embarrassed that I've done this--like I'm trying too hard or something--but it was simple, easy and made me feel so resourceful. What's not to love?

If you couldn't tell by the title, I am referring to making homemade vegetable stock. There is nothing special required. All I did was whenever I had peelings, or ends, or stalks of vegetables--so for example, peelings from carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, ends of onions, the base of cauliflower and broccoli, and part of a leek I didn't end up using--instead of throwing it in the garbage, I threw it in a bag in my freezer. Once the bag was full, I emptied it into a pot (two pots actually, I just have smaller ones), covered it all with water and a lid, and let it simmer for 1-2 hours.

Then, strain out the vegetables, and voila, you have vegetable stock. Done. I used it in place of chicken stock in a few things, with great results. You could use it in soups, anything that calls for chicken or vegetable broth, or instead of water when cooking quinoa, rice, couscous, etc. I definitely felt environmentally friendly--no cans or boxes to throw away--, and I would imagine that the stock was fairly vitamin-rich. I would also imagine that you would probably want to use it within a week or two, or freeze it. Anyway, if you have a little room in your freezer and no more than a desire to believe, you should give it a shot!

Friday, March 23, 2012

a year in photos

Okay, this is the last post about Natalie being one, I promise. I can't help it, its just so exciting. Anyway, the other day Matthew and I were looking at all of her pictures from this year, and this is what came of it. I know it is probably really cliche, but honestly, I can't believe how she has changed. It just seems unreal.