Author Archive

18
Dec

Life will never be the same.

Baby Collage 1st month

Baby E is now 8 months old!  The time has flown by, but it also seems like a long time ago that we were taking the pictures above.  It has been an amazing journey so far.  I never knew how sleep deprived I could be (or how delusional my husband could be in the middle of the night), and I never knew how happy one smile could make me feel.  Each day is a new adventure as E becomes more and more her own unique person.  She has opinions now and is better at communicating her likes and dislikes with squeals, screams, and laughter.

The hardest lesson for me in this transition (other than coping with sleep loss) is the loss of my personal time.  I like to accomplish many things each day and love working on my projects, but now I have to remind myself that I shouldn’t feel bad when I don’t get things done because E is a big accomplishment and spending all of my time with her is the best project.  Even with this blog I have to tell myself that it is okay that I haven’t posted anything for long periods of time because my time is spent with this amazing new person in my life and nothing is more important than that.  I never imagined that 8 months would go by without posting, but taking more time to live life and less time to write about it has been the priority since E was born.  Honestly, I have been writing this post for about 5 months and have changed the first sentence from 3 months to 5 months and now 8 months.  At this point, I am finally regaining some personal time as E becomes more independent and has started taking naps (sleep is definitely not her strong suit).

I am so excited to be days away from baby’s first Christmas even though I know this Christmas is more for me than for her.  It has been wonderful bringing the tree into our house and lighting it up for the first time and seeing her reaction.

Hopefully I will be able to start posting more frequently soon.  For now I wish everyone a very happy holiday with friends and family.


Category : Baby | Blog
8
Apr

Our Baby has Arrived!

Birth Announcement

Category : Baby | Blog
1
Apr

Look out Martha!

My sister threw me the most amazing baby shower!  She always claims that she is not good at putting these things together, but she far surpassed anything I have ever seen.  Take a look…

The idea of hanging gifts on the clothes line was so cute.

Clothes Line

Check out the mint chocolate owls she spent hours making…

Chocolate Owls

And this amazing “Welcome Baby” sign.  She wanted to use the baby’s name, but we aren’t revealing that until the baby arrives.

Welcome Baby

We had amazing food catered by Pain Quotidien

Food

Sandwiches

…and of course a photo booth since that is my husband’s business…

Photo Booth

My sister put out a scrap book for everyone to put the photos from the booth in with messages.  She also put out paper and an owl bank for people to write down wishes for the baby and insert them into the bank.  Another great idea she had was to have people bring a book for the baby instead of a card (which is how I got so many books for my front facing bookcase).

We played one game at the shower, which was great.  My sister found an old book about pregnancy and we had to fill in the blank for excerpts from the book.  Here are a few samples:

  • During the first half of pregnancy, an ____  _____, without stays, may contribute to your comfort, especially if you have been accustomed to wearing on.  Answer: elastic girdle
  • The most important consideration in regard to the expectant mother’s wardrobe is that it should be ____.  Answer: attractive
  • What should the expectant mother pack in her hospital bag? Cologne, cosmetics, manicure set, your favorite talcom powder

As you can see, the answers were pretty interesting and everyone enjoyed the game.

Overall, the shower was amazing and lots of fun!

Category : Baby | Entertaining | Blog
31
Mar

Let’s see what we have accomplished

  • Clear out all of our junk from the baby’s room – this is no small task.  I’m not sure how, but somehow we have managed to fill our entire house with stuff in 2 years.  We have 3 bedrooms upstairs in our house.  The plan is to make one a nursery and one a play room for now.  That means cleaning out 2 rooms!  Yikes!

So far we have the baby’s room cleared out and about half of the play room.

Tan Room

  • Tear out old closet system.  The old shelving in the closet was pretty dirty from the previous owners (we’re talking melted jolly rancher candy dirty), so it has to go.
  • Patch and paint the closet.
  • Put in new closet system (to hang all the super-cute baby clothes).

My husband worked very hard tearing out the existing closet shelves, sanding down the walls and painting them before we had the new closet system installed.  Here is the closet with the shelves torn out before sanding and painting:

Baby Closet Torn Down

And here is the new and drastically improved closet:

Finished Closet

The double hanging bars, drawers, and shelving have made the closet so much more efficient than before.  Plenty or space now for all the cute baby clothes.

  • Patch and Paint the ceiling and walls

Going Blue

Done.

  • Remove old ceiling fan and put up new ceiling fan.  Not all of the lights work on the old fan, plus it is pretty ugly – so out with the old and in with the new!  We decided to go with another ceiling fan because air circulation is supposed to help with SIDS when the baby is sleeping.

Out with the old…

Old Ceiling Fan

In with the new…

New Ceiling Fan

  • Get a dresser/changing table and crib.

Done.  We got a dresser/changing table used on craigslist and put a fresh coat of paint on them and bought the crib on overstock.com.

  • Build the crib.

Done.

  • Get an area rug.

Done.  Got a cotton rug on overstock.com.  I wanted to stick with natural materials for rugs to try to avoid off-gassing of chemicals.

  • Decorate walls with decals and artwork.

I wanted to add a personal touch to the room with some homemade art for the wall.  I went to Michael’s and picked out paper with different patterns and textures that would go with my color scheme, and I picked out a shadow box frame (super cheap thanks to those reliable weekly 40% off coupons).  Then I went to work with my scissors…

Owl Art Parts

Next I put the pieces together.

Daddy Owl

Sticking with the owl theme.  I wanted a family of owls to represent our new family so I added 2 more owls and branch.

Owl Family

And here it is in the baby’s room framed in the shadow box…

Owl Family in Shadow Box

Little did I know at the time that my brother-in-law was crafting a similar idea.  He used torn paper to create an amazing owl for the baby’s room.

Eric's Owl

I also knew I wanted to do some sort of wall decal for the room.  I found the perfect decal here: Trendy Peas

The decal came in several pieces and was super easy to put up:

First I cut the paper up into smaller pieces to make it more manageable to peal each piece off.

Wall Decal Step 1

Next I put up the tree:

Wall Decal Step 2Wall Decal Step 3

Then came the owls:

Wall Decal Step 4

And finally the leaves:

Wall Decal Step 5

  • Put up curtains.

The curtains are how the whole owl theme got started.  I fell in love with this super cute fabric and the owl theme was born.  I sewed the owl fabric with a panel of green at the bottom and green pompoms going between the two panels to make the curtains.

Curtain pompoms

And with that the room is complete.  So here it is again…Before

Tan Room

After

finished room

You may be wondering about the rose colored chair in the corner that does not fit in with the theme at all.  This was my grandmother’s chair that I got when she passed away, so for sentimental reasons I wanted to put it in the baby’s room.  I have thought about making a new cover for it, but the task intimidates me and there are other things that are higher on the priority list.  So it is staying the way it is for now.

Some details for your viewing pleasure…

Changing Table

Owl Knobs

Owls and Birds

Bookcase

I really wanted to get a bookcase for the room where the books face forward because it not only looks nice, but it allows children to really see the books and pick out what they want to read (or pull them all off the shelf one by one as has been done by several one-year-olds who have visited).  I got this one on kids.woot.com.

Category : Baby | Design | House Fixing | Blog
14
Mar

Making Progress

With only 1 month to go until our little baby arrives, we are feeling the pressure to get everything ready.

We have finished painting the room, and it so bright and cheerful now compared to what it was (dark tan).

Tan Room

Going Blue

We also had the new ceiling fan installed – nice improvement.

Old Ceiling Fan

Old

New Ceiling Fan

New

You can also see the green color we painted on the ceiling in this picture.

While my husband has been busy painting, I have been refinishing the dresser knobs that came with the used dresser and bed stand that we bought.  Going with the owl theme, I found this stamp at Paper Source that I just couldn’t resist.  By the way, the problem with going with a popular theme is that there are a lot of things you can’t resist and your theme gets out of control very quickly.  Anyways, here is the stamp:

owl stamp

First I painted the knobs white (it took several coats to cover the original design). Then I stamped them with a permanent black ink and colored them in with stamp markers.  Finally, my husband sprayed them with a shiny clear lacquer.

Owl vs Original

Owl Stamp Knob

Finished Owl Knobs

Category : Baby | Design | House Fixing | Blog
2
Feb

Big Changes Coming!

Little Owl

Now that the holidays are over and things are settling down, it is time to turn my focus to what this year will bring…a new baby!  My husband and I are having a baby in April – our first baby.  Having made it through the fatigue and nausea of the first trimester, I have reached the “feeling good” part of pregnancy and feel the urgency of getting lots done before the “feeling really big and uncomfortable” phase of pregnancy kicks in.  Of course designing a nursery is every domestic diva’s dream.  It gives you permission to get a little bit crazier, try different colors, wall decals, etc.  And everything is so cute!  So that brings me to my inspiration and jumping off point…

Owl Inspiration

I found this fabric at fabric.com and immediately bought a ton of it since it was not going to be in stock again.  The owls are so cute, especially the one with argyle, and I like the colors too.  So this became the jumping off point for the nursery. The colors will be light turquoise, light green, and white – nice and gender neutral.  I decided that it would be fun to paint the ceiling a color instead of just plain white, so the ceiling will be light green, and the walls will be light turquoise.  The furnishings are all going to be white. So as a person who is obsessed with making lists, here is the to do list for the baby’s room:

  • Clear out all of our junk from the baby’s room – this is no small task.  I’m not sure how, but somehow we have managed to fill our entire house with stuff in 2 years.  We have 3 bedrooms upstairs in our house.  The plan is to make one a nursery and one a play room for now.  That means cleaning out 2 rooms!  Yikes!
  • Tear out old closet system.  The old shelving in the closet was pretty dirty from the previous owners (we’re talking melted jolly rancher candy dirty), so it has to go.
  • patch and paint the closet.
  • Put in new closet system (to hang all the super-cute baby clothes).
  • Patch and Paint the ceiling and walls
  • Remove old ceiling fan and put up new ceiling fan.  Not all of the lights work on the old fan, plus it is pretty ugly – so out with the old and in with the new!  We decided to go with another ceiling fan because air circulation is supposed to help with SIDS when the baby is sleeping.
  • Get a dresser/changing table and crib.
  • Build the crib.
  • Get an area rug.
  • Decorate walls with decals and artwork.
  • Put up curtains.

Stay tuned to see the progress on each of the items.  Oh the anticipation!

Category : Baby | Design | Miscellaneous | Blog
18
Jan

Going with the Obvious…

I am not a good exerciser.  I prefer activities that involve sitting still – reading, quilting, painting…but I also know that staying active is important after 2 rounds of physical therapy for problems that have developed from sitting all day at work.  When the weather was nice, I walked about 1.5 miles a day, but that ended in November.  I definitely know that a gym membership is wasted money because I will never go.  Besides the fact that the sole purpose of going is to exercise, it just isn’t my scene to do that around lots of other people.  The best is when you get the guy lifting weights and letting out a huge grunt every time – entertaining, but also annoying. So we finally made the decision to take some extra space in our house and make a home gym.  It seems extravagant, but actually didn’t cost much more than a gym membership and will save money over time.

So here is the progress of the room…

When we first started, there were several electrical outlets in the room, but none of them worked (scary), and there was no light, so we had to bring light in with extension cords and a halogen work light.

This is what we started with.

Exercise Room 1

There was a closet on one side of the room that we decided to get rid of because it just took up too much space in the room.

Exercise Room 2

Progress on the closet…

Exercise Room 3

No more closet…

Exercise Room 4

The next steps were patching and priming the walls and the ceiling (I hate painting ceilings – nothing is worse for your back and your neck!).

Exercise Room 5

We chose a medium gray color to paint the walls (gray just felt right for a gym, although a cheerful bright color like yellow would have been fun too).

Exercise Room 6

Next we had to deal with the horrible concrete floors that you can see in some of the pictures above.  We decided to go with “Gorilla Mats” which are thick rubber mats used in animal stalls.  Each 4×6 foot mat weighed 100 pounds!  They were delivered on a pallet to our house, and carrying them in was lots of fun – although I can’t complain because my husband and brother-in-law did that part.  So the next step before the mats was putting down a vapor barrier.

Exercise Room 7

Then came the fun part of cutting the mats to fit.  Let’s just say that there were pieces of rubber everywhere and the smell was terrible!  Never Again!

Exercise Room 8

The whole process was a workout in and of itself, but we are so happy with the finished room!  It was a great way to utilize a dark and dingy space.  Speaking of dark, we had an electrician come in and fix the wiring so the outlets work (and now there aren’t loose wires in our walls), and we have recessed lighting in the ceiling.

Exercise Room 9

This is where the closet used to be.  We even had the electrician add an outlet high up on the wall for the tv.  It feels so over the top, but totally worth it.

Exercise Room 10

Now we just have to start using it.

Category : House Fixing | Blog
1
Jan

Gate

With the New Year upon us, my mind turns to Japan where I spent one the best New Year’s Eves of my life.  The New Year is one of the biggest holidays in Japan, and I was lucky enough to be there with a family.  My husband is half Japanese and spent time living in Japan during college with a host family.  He became very close with his host family and has stayed in touch over the years.  In 2006, the stars aligned and we were able to go to Japan for almost four weeks.  It was one of the best experiences of my life, and celebrating New Year’s with his host family topped everything.  Like many of the best holidays, food plays a central part in the New Year’s celebrations…

New Year's Dinner

…and one of the foods most strongly connected with New Year’s is mochi.

So, what is mochi?

mochi

It is a Japanese food made from very glutinous sticky rice.  It is stretchy and gooey and wonderful.

Sweet Rice Bag

Here you can see the difference between regular Japanese rice (on the left) and the sweet rice (on the right) used for mochi.

sweet rice vs regular rice

Many people are familiar with Mochi Ice Cream which can be purchased at Trader Joe’s:

mochi_group

Some of the best mochi I have had was in Hilo, Hawaii at Two Ladies Kitchen. They have a mochi covered strawberry that is wonderful, but my favorite was the lilikoi flavor which is a Hawaiian citrus flavor.

Two Ladies Kitchen

Strawberry Mochi

Strawberry Mochi

Lilikoi Mochi

Lilikoi Mochi

So, how is mochi made?

Mochi can be made a few different ways.  There is the traditional way, the modern technology way, and the rice flour way.

The Traditional Way

The rice is soaked for about 8 hours in water and then drained.  Unlike other rice that is cooked directly in water, sweet rice is steamed in a container like this:

Sweet Rice Steamer

Once the rice is cooked, in the traditional method it is then pounded and flipped by two people until is gets to be the right doughy, gooey consistency.  The best way to understand this is to see it with these two great videos.

The Modern Technology Way

Soak the rice for about 8 hours and place in mochi maker.

Soak Mochi Rice

Mochi Rice Soaking

Make sure the rice is thoroughly drained before putting it in the mochi maker.

Drained Mochi Rice

Rice in Mochi Maker

The mochi maker steams and pounds the rice for you.

Fresh Mochi

Mochi Rolled Out

The trick seems to be adding water as it is pounded to get it to the right consistency.

About half of the mochi we made in Japan was shaped into round discs that were stacked on top of each other and topped with a clementine for the ancestors.  This was placed in the area of the home that was dedicated to the ancestors.

Mochi for Ancestors

The Rice Flour Way (The easiest and least expensive way to make your own mochi)

This recipe will make a sweeter mochi.

Ingredients

◦                                  1 cup mochiko sweet rice flour ( glutinous rice flour)

◦                                  1 cup water

◦                                  1/4 cup sugar

◦                                  katakuriko, for dusting ( potato starch) or kinako (roasted soy bean powder found at asian grocers or on amazon)

Directions

  1. Mix mochiko and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Add water and mix thoroughly. (will be watery).
  3. Put in a microwaveable dish. Cover with plastic wrap.
  4. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Take off plastic wrap. Cool for a few minutes, if you want. Cut. Serve.
  5. Opt. Dust with katakuriko or kinako to prevent mochi from sticking everywhere. If you don’t have these, you can just put the mochi on cellophane.
  6. Variations for Filling: You can add red bean paste, ice cream, chocolate, etc. in the middle if you want BEFORE you dust. add a teaspoon of filling and pinch edges closed.

Variations for Dough: Add a few drops of food coloring into batter for color variation. A few drops of flavoring (strawberry, grape, orange, blueberry, etc.) may also be added. >> For chocolate flavor, stir about 1/4 cup melted chocolate chips into mochi batter before cooking.

So what is my favorite mochi?

That is hard to answer, but I think I can narrow it down to 4 different styles.

1. Plain mochi toasted and dipped in a soy sauce and sugar mixture.  You get a little bit of goo with a little bit of crunch, and a little bit of sweet with a little bit of salty, all combined with a slightly toasted flavor.  Plus it is fun to watch the mochi come alive and expand in the toaster oven. Oishii (Delicious)!

Toasted Mochi

2.  Warabi Mochi

This is a very soft and sweet version of mochi.  So delicious!

warabimochi

3. Fried mochi sesame balls

I have actually only had these at a Chinese restaurant, so I am not sure if they are found in Japan as well, but they are amazing.  Of course deep frying anything makes it amazing.  The crunch of the mochi and sesame seeds and the soft sweet filling (I don’t know what it is, but it is the perfect amount of sweetness) combine and dance inside your mouth for an incredible eating experience.

Sesame mochi balls

4.  Yatsuhashi!!!

I love yatsuhashi!  I had it the first time in Kyoto.  It is mochi that has been rolled very thin and folded into a triangle shape of a filling of red beans or chestnut paste.  Everywhere we went in Kyoto they were selling yatsuhashi and offering free samples.  Of course Japan takes everything to the next level, so we would walk into the store and they would bring us yatsuhashi and a cup of green tea to go with it as our free sample. I must have eaten about 50 pounds of these in Kyoto.  I couldn’t get enough!

I had to share this picture I found from http://delectablehodgepodge.com/recipes/yatsuhashi.html because it is such a beautiful picture of yatsuhashi.

yatsuhashi

Here is my first attempt at making yatsuhashi (i need to work on the neatness and presentation, especially when I include the photo above).  The recipe for the yatsuhashi I made can be found here.

Yatsuhashi First Attempt

I think my favorite yatsuhashi is the plain mochi skin with the chestnut filling inside.

Now You Can Make Your Own Mochi!

Resources

A great place to get the sweet rice steamer and sweet rice is Import Food.

I got my rice flour at Wegmans (my all time favorite grocery store).

The mochi maker, mochiko, sweet rice, sweet rice steamer, and kinako can also all be found in my amazon store.

Category : Holidays | Blog
27
Dec

That was some steep competition!

3 Little Pigs Gingerbread

The results are in for the gingerbread house competition this year.  There were some amazing gingerbread constructions involving moving parts and engineering genius.  42 groups entered houses (I use this word loosely because many of the creations did not involve any sort of house)  in the competition, and over 2400 votes were cast.  This year was the first year they put the houses up on facebook, and they added a category for the group who got the most “likes” on facebook.  Had we known this we would have pushed harder for these votes…next year.  OK, so you want the results.  Looking at Facebook, we came in fourth place.  Overall I have no idea where we stood.

In First Place…”Santa’s Radiation Workshop” created by Radiation Oncology.  In this scene, Rudolph is lying on a table getting a scan done and his nose is lit up.

Rudolph Gingerbread

I was happy they won because their idea was so creative.

Second Place: “Angry Birds” by Rehabilitative Medicine.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of this one.

Third Place: “Building 1″ which is the main administrative building on the campus.

Building 1 Gingerbread

The Facebook Winner was “Bridge to the Future” by the Office of Science Education

Overall, it was a fun competition.  We learned from our first time around and next year we will be in it to win it!  Here are some more pictures for you to enjoy…

Happy Feet

Santa climbing washington monument

Peace on Earth

Once Upon a Time

Merry go Round

Category : Food and Drink | Holidays | Blog
25
Dec

Family, Friends and Food!

The holidays filled our house with family, friends and food.  It was such a nice way to open up our house to the people we care about, and made us feel very lucky to have such a wonderful home. There was a lot of hustle and bustle getting ready – cooking, cleaning, decorating…  Here is an overview of what was happening at our house.  We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and wish everyone a happy new year!

The Tree Comes Home

The Tree Comes Home

The Tree Gets Decorated

The Tree Gets Decorated

Cookies Get Baked

Cookies Get Baked

Candles Are Placed...Everywhere

Candles Are Placed...Everywhere

Decorations Cover Every Surface

Decorations Cover Every Surface

Food Gets Set Out

Food Gets Set Out

Drinks Get Chilled

Drinks Get Chilled

Yum...Cookies!

Yum...Cookies!

...cupcakes, and more!

...cupcakes, and more!

Category : Entertaining | Food and Drink | Holidays | Blog