Thursday, June 28, 2012

Photobucket moments

Here are a few pictures from the last few months that I intended to write a whole post about, but decided I would just put them all in one, and share briefly about each:

Blake's birthday was celebrated with bees trying to make our fireplace their new home. This is our backyard after Blake lit the fire in the fireplace to get them out.

This is the professional that came and vacuumed them all out of the tree they tried to relocate to after leaving the fireplace.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
Swiss chard cakes with a basil spinach sauce, very tasty.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
One of the biggest fruits on our blood orange tree that I got for Valentine's day a few years back. We might get to eat them this year!

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
Just one of dozens of clusters of green cherry tomatoes we are waiting to ripen.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
The piano is one of the highlights of visiting my house for my friend's kids.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
A student got me this from the mission... not sure what it says about my teaching. Also, I can't help but wonder about the people who crafted it, was it a joke, or did they legitimately mess up?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Running for a cause

I have posted about my running many times on here in the past, and any faithful followers know that I am running a half marathon in September and a full marathon in February.

Well, I decided that I didn't want all of my running to just benefit me. So, rather than joining one of the popular causes, I set up an account with razoo and am raising money for Adoption Advocates International since that is the organization that is near and dear to my heart. I calculated that between training and my actual races, I will be running over 300 miles by February 3, and decided to link all of the suggested donations to that number.

If you would like to support me in all my running and/or support Adoption Advocates, please consider donating any amount to help me towards my goal of raising 1,000 dollars for Adoption Advocates by February 3rd. There is a new ticker on the top showing my progress towards 300 miles, and the link to donate is right next to it. Even if you can't donate, I would love you spreading the word to others who may. Thank you!

Monday, June 25, 2012


After a month of waiting for the doctor's papers, two different trips to the notary (because I forgot something the first time), countless copies, countless e-mails to our adoption agency, a phone call check with them and a trip to FedEx, I am happy to state that our dossier is on our way to our adoption agency.

Once there, it will be checked again by the agency, and then packaged and sent to Ghana, where it will likely wait amongst many other stacks of paperwork, and who knows what will happen with it once it is there.

 I was very anxious to get this out, very frustrated with every extra day we were waiting for our paperwork to arrive, and very determined to get it done and sent out as soon as humanly possible. Meanwhile, Blake kept stating how there was no rush, since we are not connected with a child yet, and there is no name yet for any of our paperwork, and getting this done won't help that call come. As you can guess, this did create some tension between us. I disagreed with him... until today after FedEx.

 I told the FedEx worker that I wanted it to get there as soon as possible (which goes right along with what I felt above). In my head, at that moment, I was thinking about how we were already so delayed, that I didn't want the shipping to delay it any longer. When she told me the total for shipping it, I immediately clicked over to Blake's point of view. I then thought, why I am paying this much for it to get there tomorrow morning versus tomorrow night or Wednesday? What does it matter if it takes another week to get there? It was too late to change it, I didn't even try, it was just a change of point of view.

Also, there is a sort of a let down getting all those papers sent out. For the last month, I had a purpose, I had an objective, and I had something I could work on toward the goal of creating a family. Now... I have waiting again. The same waiting that I have had since last May. With the only difference being that we won't have to get that paperwork together when we get that call, and it will presumably be faster from call to our trip to Ghana. Both good things... just not... I don't know.

I have faith that whenever our child comes, we will feel confirmation that not only is that child supposed to be ours, but that the timing is exactly as intended too. It isn't like the last three childless years have been bad, actually there has been a lot of joy and a lot of solidifying our relationship in that time, and I know that there will be moments, once we are parents, that we will look back at this time, and appreciate each day that we had together without kids.

I have thought about posting a couple of melancholy thoughts here about how long we have been waiting, how it isn't fair, or something along that line of thinking...but I can't. I know I can't because I have typed it out a few times and always delete it. :-D While it is true that some people are able to start their families exactly when they intend to, there are many others who have families earlier than they wanted, or are with us and have to start their families later, and we have so many blessings in other areas, I can't truly complain. Not even a little. Everyone has a trial area in their life, something that they could legitimately point to and claim that their life is harder than others, but since we each have that area, we shouldn't complain or compare our life to others.

So I will choose instead to be a Pollyanna.

We have been asked to send our dossier because there may be a child available "soon"!
We have gotten together all of our papers, and sent them off to our agency!
We keep moving forward!

Until then we are blessed with a house! Jobs! Food on the table! Great families and great friends! Plants are growing! Sweet pets! Each other! And countless other joys and blessings that we take for granted on a daily basis!

Thank you Lord for your many blessings and please let me focus on your goodness instead of dwelling on the things I want.

 Psalm 27:
6 And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD. ...
13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Cookbook Rave and Wheat flour

I think I had love at first sight when I started flipping through this cookbook. I have read her blog for a long time, heard about her cookbooks from that blog, and never thought too much about it, though I liked her posts. Last week, I was looking for another cookbook, and I saw hers on the shelf, so I figured, I might as well pick it up and flip through it. For the first time ever with a library cookbook, I wanted it, desperately, to keep. Many of them I will just keep some of the recipes, but this book is different. Why? For one thing, all of my favorite cookbooks have a picture of all or most recipes. I love being able to see my food before I pick it and cook it. Hers exceeds this with a picture for EVERY STEP! Her food all sounds appealing, even if not exactly helpful, and it is written in a fun personal way without just stating the ingredients and steps. She also includes a lot of her family in the book as well as stories about them and life on the ranch. If even those reasons weren't enough, it is just a really beautiful cookbook. The kind of book where just copying the recipes wouldn't be enough to even do it half the justice the book itself deserves. So... I bought it with the amazon gift card I had! One of the recipes that we have already tried (one of four that we are doing this week :-) ) was homemade cinnamon rolls. We were really excited about them... but unfortunately they were not as good as we hoped. After some time and thought trying to figure out what we didn't like, we determined they were ruined by the use of wheat flour. We don't mind wheat in general, and almost exclusively use wheat bread, wheat pasta, wheat dough etc., but have been finding that baking with wheat flour really affects the flavor in a negative way. Cinnamon rolls must have been the worst. Since it used the rest of the flour, next time we are switching back to baking with white. The recipe seemed good, and we will try it again... with white! I am really excited to eat the other two recipes from her book this week, and in upcoming weeks when my cookbook arrives!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Taste What You're Missing, Mental Upload part 2

The only really novel thing that I got from the 2nd half of the book was that you can actually somewhat decrease your hunger and interest in food by imagining that you have already eaten a lot of the food (I presume a good imagination is important here).

As this book needs to go back to the library I want to just quickly type up a few experiments to experience more about taste that she went into more detail in the book.

  • Taste jelly beans with your nose totally plugged, and try to detect what kind of jelly bean they are. Apparently we smell more than taste the various flavors, but you should be able to tell if it is sweet or sour. 
  • Test yourself on spices to see if you can detect which is which by scent alone. 
  • To prove that it is hard to tell food without the texture- 4 jars of baby food, that is not a mixture. Her suggestions- apples, pears, peaches, bananas, green beans, peas, etc. Take the labels off, put them on the bottom of the jars, then use food coloring to make them all approximately the same brown. See if you can tell what they are (use saltines between tastes to cleanse palates). 
  • Similar to the previous one, but with juice- apple, lemonade, white grape, cranberry, pear. Make the apple red, lemonade pink, grape juice brown, cranberry purple, pear orange. Do not let the taster know what kinds of juice are available. Have tester guess the type of juice.
  • Try to rank coca cola, orange juice, gatorade, bottled coffee, milk, brewed coffee in terms of PH or increasing sourness. 
  • Compare 2/3 c water with 1/8 tsp salt to 3/4 tsp accent with 2/3 c water. Taste salt water first, eat a cracker and regular water, then taste the umami water. The difference between the two is umami. 
  • Compare soy sauce, vegemite, worcestershire, ketchup, fish sauce, and parm cheese trying to detect that umami flavor in all of them (cleansing palate between tastes).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Taste What You're Missing, Mental Upload part 1

A couple months ago, there was a giveaway on Goodreads for Taste What You're Missing. I entered this giveaway for a book about how and why food tastes the way it does because it sounded interesting. I didn't win, but the book made it on my to-read list. This summer, as I browsed my to-read list, I found it again and checked for it at the library, but as it was a popular book as well as new, I had to put it on my hold list.

I am in the middle of reading it now and I am fascinated by it, and there are so many helpful tips and information that I decided to take a break from reading it to share and record some of this information before it is replaced in my head with other information.

The first area that her book has already shown to be helpful is in getting kids (and adults) to eat things that they might not be inclined to eat naturally. We, as humans, tend to stay away from bitter flavors and many things that are good for us (namely vegetables) have a bitter flavor. We can acquire the taste for bitter things, but it takes time for some people.

Interestingly, the first way that you can help your child enjoy vegetables is by eating them when you are pregnant. This doesn't help me much, but I thought it was interesting and worth noting. They even did an experiment where pregnant moms either ate a lot of carrots, some carrots or no carrots during their pregnancy and then they tested to see how the babies reacted to carrots once they were old enough to eat them. The babies from the women with no carrots reacted very negatively to the taste, where the ones that had been exposed to the taste in the womb were able to eat them and enjoy them.

But let's say that you have no choice, like me, or you didn't eat a lot of vegetables when you were pregnant or it is your husband that is picky instead of your child. The first thing that the author recommended was that you introduce the new food in a familiar food. For example, if your family eats a lot of curry, add the new vegetable or meat in the curry. Any sauce or meal that is typical and accepted will increase the likelihood first of the pickier person eating it, and also the chance that they will eat it in the future outside of that dish.

A somewhat obvious statement that the book made in this area is to decrease the bitterness of vegetables by adding the contrasting taste....sweet. Makes sense, just like the Mary Poppins song, right? A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. Adding a syrup based sauce to Brussel sprouts or marshmallows to sweet potatoes decreases the bitter flavor and makes them more likely to be eaten by people who have a strong aversion to bitter flavors.

I can personally attest to the success of starting to temper bitter tastes with sugar. When I started dating Blake, he was a huge fan of black, unsweetened iced tea. I would taste his, and hate it, and not get why he liked it. However, when someone ordered an Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half iced tea) at the restaurant that I worked at, I tried one of them on my own, and decided I could handle that, and started drinking them fairly regularly. Over time, I was able to have iced tea with just lemon and sugar, then just lemon, and now I enjoy the black iced tea as much as he does. This wasn't even a purposeful decline, just over time I found myself not needing the added ingredients as much.

My history with coffee is very similar as well.  My first experience with any coffee was a taste of a friend's ice blended mocha. Which, between the milk and the sugar, I enjoyed. After drinking those fairly often, I had coffee with cream and sugar in it at a friend's house after a sleepover, and decided I liked that as well. Coffee with cream and sugar (or latte type drinks at Starbucks) became my morning drink of choice for years. At some point after we moved into our house, Blake started preparing my coffee for me in the morning, and was genuinely concerned about just how much cream and sugar I used on a daily basis, and decided to wean me off it. I want to say that we decided... but it started with an experiment, where he would start lessening the cream, and see if I noticed, when I didn't, he kept going, and eventually lessened the sugar too. At some point, I decided to try it black, and was happy to find that with a good enough quality coffee, I could drink it and enjoy it black, without having to add the extra calories. Do I still enjoy the mochas, frappacinos, lattes, etc.? Yes, but those are a weekly treat instead of the every day caffeine boost. For the record, I do still need to add cream and sugar to some coffees if they are too bitter for me.

But I digress. The last point in this area that I have seen take place in friends' homes is pairing the picky person with someone more adventurous. This could be a friend, relative, spouse, it doesn't really matter who, as long as the adventurous person is someone who the picky person cares about. If the picky eater sees someone eating and enjoying something, they are more likely to try the item themselves as opposed to if they were just asked to try it without anyone else eating it. I have a cousin who had eaten very few foods up to his adult life because he didn't want to try them, then he married my friend who has a very wide range of foods that she likes, and now she has gotten him to try and even (gasp) enjoy many foods that he wouldn't even touch before her! (Em, like the shout out?) I have even seen this take place in my classroom, as I allow kids to bring treats from other countries as a way to learn about geography. A child that is reluctant to try it on their own is way more likely to try it after their best friend eats it and proclaims it to be good. It can take up to 5 or 6 tastes of something for a reluctant person to enjoy it, so don't give up after taste number 1 (interesting to me, because I thought I would let someone off the hook if they just tried it once... now I will keep offering).

The other main tip that prompted me to write about this book on my blog is about older people and their decaying sense of taste. It is a fact that as we age, our ability to taste foods declines after a certain point. As foods lose their flavor to the older generation, their first impulse is to add salt. However, this isn't the most beneficial solution because it can affect heart pressure and adds calories without necessarily making them able to taste the food better, just taste the salt. Apparently though, if you add a small amount of cayenne pepper to food, they are able to taste the flavor of the food again even if they weren't able to before the pepper. The example in the book was of grape jelly. It just tasted sweet to the older person, so they added increasing slight amounts of the cayenne pepper to the grape jelly until the person was able to proclaim happily that they tasted grapes! Not spicy, but the grape flavor came through after just the right amount of cayenne. The trick is though that it could be spicy if their taste buds are still working fine, so keep that in mind.

Also, citrus is another powerful wake up call for the taste buds if they are starting to decline. Adding lemon or orange on top of meat and vegetables can bring out flavors that might not be detected after all.  I don't know exactly who reads my random ramblings that I post on here, but I do know that most of us are connected with someone, like a grandparent, who this might affect, and I would hate to not share information that could help anyone enjoy their food again.

I purposely only said this was part 1 because as I am only halfway through the book, I am positive there will be more to share in at least one more post.

Friday, June 15, 2012


There are two things that I have spent time watching/thinking/reading about lately:

Battlestar Galactica Pictures, Images and Photos

The first is that we are watching through the show Battlestar Galactica. It has been out forever, and many friends have said we should watch it, but we never got around to it. Now we are hooked, and generally try to get one episode a night watched... at least.

The second started with this show, that I didn't want to watch, planned to not watch, but Blake asked nicely, so I gave in... and low and behold I am now a fan of the genre... don't judge.

Walking Dead, The Pictures, Images and Photos

I have at this point read a couple more zombie themed books, and am in the middle of a few as well.

Maybe it is because I am reading about zombies while watching Battlestar, but I can't help but see parallels between the two, and wonder if the things they have in common is exactly why I, and so many others, are drawn to these kinds of stories.

Both start with the basic premise that there are not many humans left. In Battlestar it is because they were destroyed by cylons (robots), in Walking Dead and zombie lore it is by zombies, but either way, the sum total of the human population is greatly reduced. Each person left is by default more valuable, and a bigger loss if something happens to them.

The second thing that they have in common is that the remaining human population (for the most part) is united against a common enemy. The old national boundaries and everything else that would set countries against each other is gone because everyone falls either into us or them.Of course, there are a few people who don't unite with the main human population but try to hurt and destroy others so they can benefit, and those people are always going to be around.

The last main parallel that I see is that governments and leaders have to start over and face the most basic problems. These worlds that these characters live in have very few of the typical political problems that we think of today. The leader's job is simple- keep the people safe, keep the people fed, find necessary supplies. Things like housing prices and social security and almost everything else are completely irrelevant in a world where every day is a fight for survival.

I think that most people need an escape, need something to focus our attention on to unwind from the general worries of life. While there is a lot of danger, and problems in those shows mentioned above, they also let us think about how life would be if we had a reset button for the human race. If we could somehow start over, and ditch the bogged down government, ditch all of the issues with countries and borders, and instead bind ourselves together against a common enemy. I think that we like the idea of thinking about how the government would run if they went back to having just a few responsibilities.

I also noticed that leaders in these shows tend to fall into two main categories. There are the leaders who think offensively, and their main thoughts, plans and goals are always about how to destroy the enemy. Of course, this can help long term because if the enemy can be destroyed, then in theory, life will go back to normal. However, since all of the above shows and books start with the premise that humans are few and the enemy is many, these kinds of leaders generally take too big of risks of human life.

The better leaders are those whose primary goal is survival and rebuilding what human population is remaining. These leaders don't run into a fight, they avoid it whenever possible. The book I am currently reading has the main character actively looking for other survivors in the effort of uniting all of the survivors together, and trade is being established between the various strongholds in the country. 

I guess my main point in this blog is that the day to day concerns of life with the demands of work,  bills and other necessary chores make many of us long for a life that is simpler. Not easier, by a long shot, but a more back to basics life. I think there are many who are fascinated with the zombie genre (and Battlestar), not because they like gore and scary movies (at least, I don't enjoy either of those things), but because the idea of having to band together, and just worry about the most basic survival needs can seem appealing on days with a seemingly endless amount of tedious, necessary adult responsibilities.

Just something to think about.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Super Runner

I feel like a superhero these days when I get ready to run. Not the Superman or Spiderman variety who have all of their powers within them because they are from another planet (or got bit, or radiation or whatever else comic book writers come up with) but the Batman variety. Batman (and the Huntress) and another complete category of superheros don't have any special powers, they have gadgets and nifty tools that they take with them everywhere (and lots and lots of strength and training). I was looking at myself in the mirror before my latest run, and I felt like I had so many different accessories, that I felt like one of these kind of superheros.
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
On my arm I have my ipod holder with ipod in it and my headphones coming out from that, and on my wrist I have my handy pedometer that I got for Christmas (and love, though it is losing battery quickly these days) and around my waist is a runner's belt with slots for 4 water bottles, and a pocket for my keys and a pocket for my phone.

I think it is really the belt that does it for me.

As I continued to think about this on my run, I wondered if the superheros existed in real life if they would have the same problems that I have occasionally on my morning 30 minute run. For example, this belt really has to be in the perfect spot on my waist for it to be comfortable. If I happen to place it too high, then it is loose, it moves around while I run and I really notice it way too much. If I place it too low however, then it starts to slide off the other way, and I have to pull it up before it ends up around my ankles. I usually can get the perfect spot after adjusting it a couple of times mid run (and presumably I will eventually remember the sweet spot without all that adjusting, I have only worn it a few times at this point). Do the superheros have to worry about that? Are they ever fighting crime and get bugged by their utility belt in the wrong place?

My pedometer is another area that I wonder about. In movies, tv shows and comic books they frequently have really high tech communicators or data analyzers/ gps things on their wrists. Do they have to worry about keeping those charged? Are they ever on a mission, and it dies on them, and they are disappointed in themselves?

My last moment of identification with these heros is that my water belt adds a significant amount of weight to my run. Not a ton, but enough that I feel I do have to work a little harder to maintain pace now that I am carrying my water bottles with me. Characters like Batman that seem to have a Mary Poppins amount of stuff in their utility belts must have to maneuver and fight with a lot of extra weight. Just confirming again in my mind that the Batman variety are far superior to the Superman variety in having to deal with very normal human problems as they fight crime and generally save the world. Random thoughts from a runner who feels like a superhero at times.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mischievous Tasha Strikes Again

Tasha, while ever becoming more an irreplaceable part of the family, still finds ways to get into mischief. The nice thing is that we are more and more inclined to laugh at her new kinds of trouble than get frustrated.

For example, this weekend Blake and I were downstairs on the couch watching TV and Tasha was upstairs, presumably on guard at the door to the room where the cats are, waiting for an opportunity to get those cats that she is never able to catch. Then, Tasha comes downstairs like this:


Yes, that is the lid to our trashcan upstairs that probably had some food trash in it and Tasha, after reaching her head in to get the food, found that the lid was then stuck on her head, and came to us to get it off! How can you not help but laugh at your dog when they get themselves into such a predicament!

The second big trouble that Tasha got herself into this weekend was less funny to me, only because it cost us money to fix.

Let me start by saying that Blake and I, while we endeavor to eat healthy, both have quite the sweet tooth. We don't always indulge it, but on Sunday we did, and we got ourselves a treat of a couple of delicious donuts to eat after our bike ride. Blake put the bag on my desk, told me to watch it (since we knew Tasha has a reputation for trouble), and I did... except for the moment when I went into the room to grab my biking clothes to change into... and when I came out, this is what I saw:
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

...our donut bag... with a suspicious hole in the bottom... and no donuts to be seen!

She didn't get sick (no chocolate ones, thank goodness), but we were bummed that our treat was gone, and though we could have treated it as a sign that we really didn't need that sugar, we instead took a trip back to the donut shop after the ride... and made sure we ate the donuts before Tasha could get anywhere near them! Not a huge deal, just sad that we had to pay for the same donuts twice that day because our dog decided she wanted a sugary treat too.

In other Tasha news, when we were looking up information on huskies as a breed, we read that they don't shed a ton except for twice a year when they blow their coat. As summer approaches, her body has decided it is time to get rid of that pesky, too warm undercoat... but we had no idea exactly what blowing her coat looked like. Well... it looks kind of like this:



Also, we have a feeling that she isn't even close to being done blowing her coat yet, and could probably create another pile or two of hair like this again already, in addition to the large quantity of hair that we had brushed out before that photo, and the large quantity of grey hair being found all over the house these days.

For her sake, we are glad she is getting rid of the extra fur, as she does live in California, and we hate the thought of her being too hot out there on a daily basis.

She keeps us on our toes, and actually helps keep our house more picked up, because pretty much anything within reach is fair game for Tasha to get, eat and destroy!

In other news, I am officially on summer, and look forward to having time to blog, read, go to the gym, and overall relax. We are still working on getting our paperwork together for the dossier, and while I hate that it is taking so long to do, I keep trusting that God has a plan and a reason for the delay, and me stressing about it doesn't do anything to make it faster.