Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Look forward to leftovers

Barbecuing is becoming more then just grilling food in the summer. It has become a time of entertainment and as soon as the weather permits all the gear comes out. The Barbecues are rolled out, the propane tanks are filled and the grills are cleaned to get ready for the intense season of fun. There are potlucks in backyards, birthdays in parks and countless trips to swimming destinations.

Interaction with people marinades, the sizzle on the grill makes music, and perfection is in the hand of the beholder. Rare, medium, and well are the main menu options that seem to explain everything and satisfy everyone.

All great things come to an end and as the sun sets and smoke escapes we look forward to the next day, just not the clean up. Its a lazy time for everyone and truth be told I would rather throw leftovers away then take the hassle of cling wrap. This was the wasteful me until "Genius" made these wraps for lunch one sunny, summer day.

I was in love with leftovers and when a person is in love they shout it to the world. Let me shout out mine.

1. Thinly slice the meat and fry on the skillet until browned. Place on cutting board and chop into smaller pieces.

2. Cut bell peppers and onions into 1/2 inch slices and toss together with salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. Grill them and then chop them into a similar size as the meat.

3. Add diced tomatoes, minced garlic, and chopped available herbs. Mix everything together.

4. Place in a burrito and add a favorite sauce, we did a spicy one by Beano's called Roasted Chipotle. Check it out at www.conroyfoods.com.

5. Fry the burrito on both sides or grill it. It always needs to be your preference for enjoyment.

Shout out, Hope.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bird Watching

This weekend we met a couple on Lovejoy Drive for Saturday morning bagels. "Genius" found this place on one of his bike rides and has been raving about it ever since. The bagels were as good as he promised and we couldn't stop ourselves but go for seconds. After the food we went shopping in the Pearl District of Portland with the couple, the friendship came easy and it turned out to be a great day despite of the rain.

Inside each store the theme of birds and nature was staring at me on every turn. I was beginning to think that by writing about them I was also exposing them and my mind was picking them out from the shelves of each place. There were the Ostrich Eggs along side a branch themed bedding by Dwell, a branch lamp in Pottery Barn and almost anything a bird could be printed on. The similarities followed us up until the end where we ordered lemon bars at a dessert place called "Two Tarts". The sign on the building was of two birds kissing. I did think that it was an unusual twist to the day but almost expected as well.

Saturday is the reason I am sharing with you a centerpiece I made almost a week ago for a function. It is made out of spun sugar, candy Easter grass, and chocolate eggs. I know that many baby showers are happening this season because the streets themselves are proof, so all of you ladies that are going to be in charge of baking the delicious treats perhaps this will be something for you.

Hatching, Hope.

Friday, April 24, 2009


In a Sunset magazine I picked up in May 2008 had a front cover of luxury camping resorts. This type of camping is now called "Glamping". Its taking the concept of the classic outdoor escape and taking it to a level of relaxation without the preparation. One of the places featured that caught my interest is in Greenough, MT at Paws up Resort. At the resort's Tent City, roughing it means canvas-walled platform tents, king size feather beds, and matching decor. They have private bathrooms with steam showers, in-tent spa treatments and much needed massages. S'mores are available on demand, wine is served on arrival, and the gourmet fare is Montana-inspired. They say that the 37, 000 acres is perfect for any of your camping adventures and there are enough stars sparkling overhead to have your much needed privacy. The dirt is that they start at 595 with a four-night minimum. For more you can go to Pawsup.com

This sounded great and perhaps a year ago when I grabbed this issue we could afford it. But times have definitely changed since then and it is not a season for "glamping" no matter how amazing they make a feather bed sound.

Just because we couldn't afford it didn't mean we couldn't experience it. So this week for our date we created our own. We made a fire, placed at least three blankets on the ground, and prepared a tray with food that could be cooked on a skewer. We didn't have platform bed or feathers or even a tent but the fire kept us warm and kept the conversation alive. We didn't have 37 000 acres but we had a third with a partial view of vast landscape so it seemed alright. We also didn't have anybody serving our every need but we had each other for that so was fair. Compromise is easy when there are no other options.

We looked into space and made shapes with the stars because our astronomy knowledge was limited. At one point he pointed out the little dipper and I let him do the talking this time because just the rambling on of words comforted me. We seemed so alone compared to the greatness of the atmosphere and my mind couldn't even form a mental picture of how big it really is. His words stopped, only music was heard playing in the background coming from our house. We went inside, showered from all that smoke and fell unto our own crisp, white sheets. And even though we didn't have a feathered bed our down comforter was good enough after our back yard adventure.

What are some of your "glamping" secrets, what things do you do?

Glamping, hope

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hopspitality redefined

Easter stuff at the stores is always so beautiful that it has a way of grabbing my attention. I recognize the fact that they have people in charge of displays to attract fellow customers like me, but I don't care. I am one of those unfortunate souls that they want to lure in and I admit it. This year I had my eye on Target's display shelf and I spent my time thinking about how to put their Easter stuff to better use then a one day holiday. Come around the day after sale I went to the store and spent fifty dollars. I purchased two gifts for birthdays coming up, a cupcake set, towels, an Easter wreath (It was too cute) and six wonderful chargers that I am excited to share with you today.

I am excited about them because it has been 3 years since we moved into our dream house and my dining room has been a problem ever since. What people put on them challenged my mind and how they used the tables without covering up the wood or scratching the finish confused me. I tried tablecloths and place mats but washing and ironing was a big pain in my "laundry hating" state so that never stuck. We also use our dining table a lot since we entertain weekly so the centerpieces needed to be easy to remove or low enough that people were still visible from the opposite side. At best it was a blank canvas in waiting.

When I bought my chargers I felt that I had finally found something that completed my table and looked appealing enough for myself and my future guests. I enjoy having things look nice, I think it helps with my vision of recreating restaurant moments with home made food. With our dinners, I go all out because I feel that I can let them know the importance they have in my life by a gesture that has been forgotten. I urge you to get out those cloth napkins, shiny silverware, and in my case chargers and sit at a table because the people in both our lives deserve it.

Off the subject of decorating and onto being a good host I read this yesterday and began to rethink the duties, what it meant here it being over-the-top. I hope you find it of interest.

"The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.....Publius, the chief official of the island welcomed us to his home and for 3 days entertained us hospitably."
-Acts 28:2

To welcome is to show kindness, to go above the necessary and meet their needs, to invite people into your home and give them your time. This redefines a word that I think tends to get lost in the midst of convenience and puts a challenge in my own life.

Hospitality, hope.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Birthday Bang!

This weekend we celebrated our sons seventh birthday. He wanted to have a "Nerf" party so Nerf it was! I created a separate list of to-do things for this occasion but I think pictures would do a better job explaining the extent of this theme.

#1. The cake creates a moment in the party, there is childish belief that only when the candles are blown out do they turn their age. The kids gather, the song is sung, wishes are made and presents await. It is a fun-filled time and a highlight for everyone. I did a Nerf Gun Cake using home-made fondant and put real screws as decoration which the kids enjoyed taking out. You never know what will be a "hit" with the children, but it was fun watching them wait their turn to "unscrew" the gun before eating it.

#2. Entertainment needs to be there for the children. They want to have fun and you want them to, but only the kind that is directed and games are great for that. One of the games that we did was place targets throughout the yard and had the kids practice their aim before the next game which was "Dodge Darts". This idea came from "Dodge Ball" and the rules were to avoid the darts for as long as you can because the last one left wins. The kids liked this a lot, especially because each of them got to have a turn being a captain of their team.

#3. Goody Bags are always a nice gesture to your guests. They present a "Thank you" in the best way we know how, by giving back. Since it was a Nerf party I knew that I wanted to have guns provided for the kids so I looked around in several stores and found the gun we wanted for 50% off in Fred Meyers. Ten guns cost me fifty dollars and the safety goggles were ten dollars from the dollar store. These were given out to the kids in the beginning and were theirs to keep instead of the traditional bags.

Generally I learned that you could throw a pretty good party with a little bit of effort, a little bit of luck and a great to-do list. April 19th this year happened to be a great sunny day and the kids welcomed the idea of being out doors after the long winter season. I got a great deal on the guns and my expenses were cut in half because of that. Of course there was pizza and pop but the best part was that my oven got fixed and I was able to make my wings finally, they were good enough to lick your fingers after wards so I think that says it all.

Always, Hope.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A simple pleasure

It was one of the first nice days of spring. The weather was comfortable with no rain, only rays of sunshine beamed down on my exposed skin. I welcomed the UV rays and let them penetrate through me as I sat on the porch and enjoyed this simple pleasure. I was in a good mood.

"Genius" came home early so that we could still catch a glimpse of sun on our date, and we did. The down town restaurants had their patio seating put out and the people looked happy to be outside. We had dinner, we took a stroll around the area, we read one of those tourist papers and ended up exploring some kind of historic building. All that walking burned out all our previous dinner calories and dessert sounded great so we took two slices of pie "to-go" at a local cafe, they didn't serve coffee but we didn't mind. We just kept on walking until we found a place that was still open. They had some of those word magnets, so we played around with them until our order came up.

Downtown Portland, Oregon & Mt. Hood by travelportland.

Travel Portland courtesy of Flicker

A double shot latte seemed to bring some life into me and I suggested that we take whats left of our coffee and our dessert and go to a place that overlooks the city. "Genious" says its too late and it would be better to head back. I plea with him. I know he has trouble saying "No" to me so I use that to my advantage. It works and he drives us up to a rose garden that sits on a hill and has a view of the entire city. We happened to have a blanket in the car so we take it along with the rest of our goodies.

Sitting on the steps of the park we shared the coffee and pie. We looked out on the city. It was beautiful, the stillness of it was serene and it was hard to believe we were just there a moment ago sharing space with the gigantic buildings, borrowing their grace and living in their height. Watching the spot lights from one of the places, both of us sat in silence just taking in the day.

Simple pleasures make up our lives.
Where are your favorite places to go?

Simple, hope.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grace in small things

Last night I wanted to make chicken wings. I craved the spicy barbecue sauce, the coolness of blue-cheese dressing, the crunchy celery sticks, and mostly the juicy meat itself. Little did I know that this desire would turn into a disaster.

Its interesting how when one thing goes wrong it seems to have the worst timing. This chicken experience brought me to the realization that if it had happened any other week the effects of it wouldn't have been so traumatic. But it did happen and just like in a fight all the ugly things come up and my mind began to panic.

I am hungry and upset with no dinner.
My oven broke on the week of my sons birthday.
On the week-end that I agreed on making 4 cakes for a function.
We called the toll-free number for assistance.
We read the entire manual.
Turned the power off.
We reset the oven.
Tried every button.
Nothing. Just frustration.
I am mad with myself because I think I made it overheat.
As I did with the microwave 6 months ago.
It is still not fixed, the oven was my source for reheating.
Now the microwave and oven are both broken.
The towel rack in the kitchen falls off the hinge.
The frying pan didn't fry the wings evenly.
I hate chewy chicken fat.
We leave the house hoping for a miracle.
Like in our last disaster, only months prior.
I flipped our only car.
All my kids were in it, Drakers was 9 months old.
Didn't shower that morning.
Stinky, standing on the side of the road with 3 kids.
Get a $100 dollar ticket for "wheels leaving the pavement"
Have no insurance.
Pay for tow truck.
Pay for the ticket.
Thank God that we didn't get hurt.
Sell our car for parts, $600.
Takes care of the ticket and tow truck costs.
Try selling our house in this market.
So we could buy another car.
Pay decreases.
Urgency pushes.
House not selling, borrowing car.
Loan readjustment approved.
Heart rejoices.
No more struggle to pay for the house.
Just the absence of material things.

We do have each other, that is a blessing.
Survived the crash, we have our health.
Our fridge still works, I am happy for that.
Cold food is underestimated.
Tangerine, Beet salad with sweet a citrus, honey dressing.
My love for food continues.

This post was inspired by "Grace in small things"
Check it out at Graceinsmallthings.ning.com

Monday, April 13, 2009

Laundry Luxury

I am not one of those people who enjoy laundry day by all means. Over the years I have tried many techniques to make this chore as simple as possible. One of those ideas consisted of having baskets assigned for stained clothes, dry clean only items and things that need ironing prior to wearing. I am positive that this technique works for everyone else but me. The thing that I found that best works is just paying attention because if my kids are dressed up nice I take note of everything that they are doing and eating. Without even trying I notice the first stain on the article of special wear and immediately place water on it if I am not in the position of actually submersing it! On the other hand if my senses aren't drawn to my kids and myself then the piece of clothes we are wearing is not even worth the hassle.

My favorite product is bleach because their is no second guessing it. Regular bleach cost less than a dollar. This also means that there is no spout to make the job easier or a cup with it and my problem with that is the dripping, most of the time on me and almost always on something I love. The other problem is that seldom do you find kids stuff that is all white, most of the time there comes a print and its life span is then divided by half because I know myself well enough. I tend to disregard the bleaches need for power and each time it takes me by surprise when it spreads too far. Luckily they invented the bleach pen. Hooray, that took a load off me.

I have been paying attention to where my money goes and at a recent stop at the store for bleach I carefully looked at my options:

#1. The dollar Bleach. Need I say more? Its almost not even an option.
#2. The Bleach Pen for $3.89. What? There was like one ounce of bleach but I was tempted.
#3. The Ultimate Care Bleach for $2.89. Its easy on fabric, cream-like and has a cup included.

Seeing my three options made it easier to choose because I always choose the one that hits middle. To me it simply states and reassures me that I am the middle-class so I should shop like one. Purchase was done but laundry was far from it.

At home I set out the whites. Table cloth, pants, shirt and socks. I filled the cup with bleach and wondered how I was going to apply it. I tried a toothbrush but I didn't feel like it was precise enough and there was too much room for error with those bristles. Searching in my kitchen I came upon a medicine syringe. I wondered why I always feel the need to keep them and made a decision that I should put some use into at least one. I was happy to find that I made my own bleach pen, I actually made like 100 of them and at the same time saved money without sacrificing a luxury. It was a good laundry day after all.

Stumbled upon, Hope.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"In god we trust"

"President Obama still has not found a church for him and his family" said the radio newscaster. That was the moment when I began to think that our faith lies in the hands of the president finding his. I began to wonder weather the truth is with the person we elected or with the one he is searching for because all of us need to put our trust somewhere......

in god we trust by ~lenny.

Lenny's "In God we Trust" photo from Flicker

The truth is that all of us wonder what is beyond what we see. We want to know what is out there and at one point in our lives we ask “Who is there?” There comes a point in our lives when we just want to know the truth and they say that the bible holds it. This has been my journey to find the answer of the life-long question.

Now you could say that I am at a confused state, but aren’t we all? We live in a country that believes in a god but makes fun of him, a society that believes in life after death but ignores hells existence and “creation” is so beyond us that any other theory will do. The only explanation I could give to this kind of confusion is the need for power.

The power over our situations, control of our lives and selfish reasoning define most of us. Weather we want to admit it or not we live for ourselves. The problem today is that because of the recent economy it feels like everything is out of our control. Unemployment rates are rising, our uncertainty is constant and opportunities don’t exist.

I was not surprised to find that this financial crisis has lead to an increase of substance use. People don’t want to live in today’s reality, they want to escape it and the people who are smart enough to avoid drugs are becoming depressed. Because of that depression rates have also risen and our solution to that is prescribing them drugs. How bizarre?

According to a blog written by Elizabeth Hartney whom used msnbc.com as a resource says that the pressure of job losses, huge financial reversals and foreclosures is taking its toll, this is being reflected in the increase of people seeking treatment services. Although it is a positive sign, the financial difficulties give people the perfect excuse to rationalize their behavior on the basis that they can’t afford to actually get help.

I think this kind of reasoning leads a person away from making the right decision because they let excuses get ahead of themselves. People don’t want acknowledge that their actions influence their decisions that determine their lives. Only at their weakest do they begin to see. It is when they stand alone without anything but themselves and their choices and this is where the majority of us stand in our crisis today.

This economical crisis can either bring us down to be the weakest link or rise up a generation of a strong nation of people who don’t use excuses to hide against but the will to be more than that. To take this time of desperation and see that we can’t change the circumstances of today, we can’t rely on the president to be our hope and we can’t believe that addictions will take us away from reality long enough for everything to turn around. All these things will only take us to a place of more regret and blame. Let us start again from the beginning and go back to a time when it was “In God we Trust”.

I understand that to hear that just draws a blank in your mind. Trust me; it did that to me as well. I mean how can you start at a place you have never been before? Where will you be going and how will the problems go away? These were the questions that I asked and to start with trusting in a God was to search in the Bible. That is what led me to find Saul in Acts 21 and his story, where he was asking the same questions that I was.

Saul was heading down a wrong path. He was a passionate man but was fighting for the wrong cause. To grab his attention required blindness and that alone was enough for him to fall to the ground and ask “who is there?” He was desperate enough to call out for direction even though he didn’t believe in a god. He asked the question we all ask when situations are beyond us. At some point we all cry out and ask “what should I do?”

I believe that this story is crucial for our lives right now, it holds an answer and gives us a direction we have never thought of taking before. Take a chance. Believe the voice that no one else can hear but you. Go to a certain place, for a purpose you don’t understand and trust that there is a reason. Trust that he will guide you and show you himself. Trust that he will rescue you from your own doings. Trust that he will redirect your life to a life with purpose. Trust me when I tell you that my life was changed because I chose to question and to seek something that was beyond me.

In God I Trust, Hope.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My first attempt

On a recent budget planning evaluation we estimated that each year we spend about 700 dollars on hair services. The number shocked us but at the same time we were not willing to step down and settle with "Great Clips". I brought up the fact that my hair was too fine and flat, I needed a miracle worker to do my hair and that miracle was "Miranda". "Genius" said that his hair was too thick and full, that for his type you need a person with plenty of experience. Sarcastically I exaggerated the fact that we all wish we had his problem of having too much hair. "Oh, if only I could complain about my hair being too thick and luscious." I sighed a jealous breath of air. We laughed about it and thought about a reasonable solution.

My solution was to go to a school and take some classes, learn some simple techniques and in about 2 years we would be saving money for the rest of our lives. "Genius" thought my idea was ridiculous and mentions that I could probably find some hints on-line. This was actually a good idea and so I searched the internet but unfortunately found nothing that was helpful. A two minute clip of seeing someone cutting hair from a distance was not enough for me to trust myself with a pair of scissors. But it did help me realize that I have been watching Miranda cut my hair for years, so I was willing to give it a try.

My first attempt was with Jenny. Previously I had been taking her to my hair dresser about every 6 months and paying 40 dollars for each visit. It was time for her next visit and you could see that in her hair. The ends were so dry and thin that they just frayed out in any direction. She cried each time I brushed her hair probably because it could only be pulled out. I used hair detanglers and conditioners. I blow dried, straightened, and put pomade in her hair. It worked but only for a day until she slept on it. Plainly it looked so awful that she just got used to wearing a hat. "Poor child" you'd think, but it was me who was in denial about how bad it really looked. Luckily she was cute, don't let that get you!

After she had a bath, I brushed her hair to the best of my ability. I knew that I didn't want to take the length off, just some layers to frame her face and add some flow to her hair. I took the scissors in my hand and started in the back. Always start in the back because it gives you enough room for practice until you reach the front, its also the part you see and what you can't see won't hurt you! Also Miranda starts at the back and she knows what she'd doing so I trusted her technique. My theory worked out well and by the time I got to the front I felt pretty comfortable. I finished. Checked it one more time and thought it was decent enough. It didn't look professional but it did look nice. It looked presentable and I beamed with delight. Partially because this made me realize my potencial and partially because this meant I could spend 40 dollars on myself. Yay.

Sometimes circumstances push us to do things we might have never done, it has a way of changing our mindset. Realizing our potential will bring us to a place of opportunity. It will help us regain our confidence in ourselves to perhaps have enough in our next adventure. For me it was cutting my daughters hair, it was about taking a chance with myself and my abilities. Doing that made me realize that the only person that couldn't let you down would be yourself so the risk seemed promising and it turned out to be true. I didn't let myself down and neither will you, so go ahead and try because you could be surprised.

Monday, April 6, 2009

One good will

It started three years ago with my daughter Jenny who was two years old at that time. She, as many children was at a stage where she took her shoes off during even the shortest drive. This was expected and as a mother I simply assumed that our love for shoes begins early on in our development so I allowed her to discover the snip-snaps and sparkles of her precious foot wear. The problem started when as with socks there is an annoyance of only having one out of the pair. So we started to keep an eye out on Jenny. I remember that it was about the fifth pair in when we saw her throwing out her pretty little "clip-clop" in the small opening of the car window. It was that day when I decided to step foot in a Good-will and start buying discount.

Last week, I was on my routine walk at a Good-will when a lady made a compliment on my one year old son. Being uncertain on the way to respond to comments like that I smiled and said a polite "thank you". The women must have wanted to have a conversation because she started to show me some sort of valuable tea cup that was part of a antique collection which I had no knowledge of. I tried to be interested in her rare find but that particular day I wasn't in the mood to make friendly small-talk so I hurried on past her. Later, I saw her at the checkout. Then when I was leaving the parking lot she was standing at the entrance waving me down. After I Pulled down my window she mentions that today there was a 50% off everything sale at The Salvation Army.

That day I encountered a whole new world of discount, a world where cheap is even cheaper one day out of the month and that day was when I found these canvas art pictures for 10 dollars a piece. I came home and thought of the lady who thought of me. This made me realize how just being friendly could open doors to doors perhaps that would never have been opened. For me that door was Salvation Army.

Thank you mysterious bargain lady.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Exchange Program

Having kids and being last minute planners we wanted the person who watched our kids to understand how kids worked and be willing to watch without very much time in advance. We had limited options but were blessed to find a family member that agreed on the basis that I would need to pay her with "home-made cakes". I accepted the exchange knowing that I had found someone who was very similar to myself, this worked well with our kids but on my part I needed to be flexible enough to bake last minute for her entertaining life style.

This week I experienced inconvenience because that was what I expected from others. I had the choice of unrealistically changing myself to become a more scheduled person or to simply continue being spontaneous on the basis of knowing that it will inconvenience me. I had to learn in my window of spare time what I was asking from my babysitter and what it really meant.

Payment option #1.
Eskimo Cake


4 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
10 tbsp water
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup Pecan ground nuts

1. Seperate yolks from whites. Beat the yolks with the sugar and 1 tbsp at a time add the water.
Sift the flour and baking powder. Add sifted flour and ground nuts to the mixture.
2. Beat the eggwhites until stiff. Add in intervals to the mixture.
3. Butter the cake pan and place In a preheated oven to 375 F, bake for 30-40 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
3 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
16 tbsp butter, softened

Bring 1 cup of the milk and sugar just to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk remaining 1/2 cup milk, egg yolks, and cornstarch together in a large bowl. Slowly pour half the hot milk into yolk mixture, whisking constantly, then return mixture gradually to pan, stirring until it thickens with a returning boil. Stir in vanilla and transfer to a bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refridgerate until barely cold. In a large bowl beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Add the cold mixture and beat until smooth, 3-4 minutes.

4 tsp cocoa powder
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp sourcream
50 g. unsalted butter

Heat the cocoa powder, sugar and sourcream until the sugar dissolves. Off the heat add butter 1 tbsp at a time, stirring until incorporated. Let sit 5 minutes before use.

Cut cake in 3 equal sections. Spread with the cream and pour the glaze on top. Decorate with fruit, whipcream, or nuts. Enjoy.