Saturday, February 24, 2018

RSBC: Cupid's Crazy Asian Cafe

Help!  February is totally getting away from me.  Sometimes I feel like I'm keeping my head above water, but other times, not so much.  Today is definitely not so much.  The only thing to do is toss up a blog post because in the words of Brad Paisley, "I'm So Much Cooler Online."  Just know that if this blog ever makes it seem like I've got my act together, it's time to come visit in real life.

Speaking of real life visits, this past week my cousin Alesia came from New York.  Hooray!  A teacher who willingly sacrificed her break to spend time with our munchkins, she jumped right into our chaos.  We absolutely loved having her here and miss her already.

Okay, so Run Swim Bike Cook.  I kind of lost track, so here are my best guesstimates.

Run/Hike: 9 miles running through the neighborhood in sun and extreme snow.  1 mile pushing Annika up Millcreek canyon in a stroller, followed by 1 mile of trotting beside her while she skied down. 

This cutie learned to turn and stop on the gentle canyon road, so we took her up to Brighton a few days later where she did great on the real runs.  Way to go, Annie!

Last but not least, 5 miles of hiking in Arches to both Delicate and Landscape arches.  Even on a cold and windy day, the experience can't be beat.
Updated Total: 27 miles

Swim:  I swam for 500 yards today while the kids splashed, bringing my tally up to 2.15 miles.  Oh, and Annie perfected the back float.

Bike:  I suffered through two spin classes.  Good news is that the little bike gadget told me that I biked 20 miles during each class, bringing my total up to 44.5 miles.  No idea if that's accurate, but I'm going with it.

Cook:  Cook, cook, boy did we cook!  We postponed our Valentine tradition of Cupid's Crazy Cafe for a couple of days so that Alesia could join in the fun.  Our celebration happened to land on the Lunar New Year, so we feasted on all things Asian.  The good news is that our red decor was perfect for both festivities.

On the menu:
  • Kissin' (Wasabi peas)
  • Squeezin' (Beef and Green Bean Stir Fry)
  • Huggin' (Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle Soup)
  • Lovin' (Strawberry smoothies with boba--tapioca pearls)
  • Smoochin' (Potstickers)
  • Squishin' (Angel food cake with strawberries and lemon curd)
  • Cuddlin' (Fortune Cookies)
  • Adorin' (Lucky red envelope with a dollar inside, called Li Xi in Vietnamese)
Our menu was a bit more ambitious than usual, so the preparations kept us hopping.  I'm so grateful Alesia was there to help.

Our first stop was the Asian market.  I was totally smitten by these colorful boba.  In retrospect I learned that the tapioca pearls need to cook longer, plus we needed some wide straws to drink our bubble smoothies.

Our tastiest dish was the beef and green bean stir fry.  In fact, it was so tasty that our family cooked it again for dinner tonight.  Since it was Chinese New Year, we substituted long beans to represent long life.  A tad rubbery, but certainly fun.

Brooklyn made the angel food cake from scratch, with a bit of help from Dad, of course.

By the end of the meal, we were exhausted and had dirtied nearly every dish in the house.

But the memories?  Absolutely worth it.

P.S.  Check out Erin's great RSBC progress here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

RSBC Week 1

When Christy blogged about Run Swim Bike Cook celebrating ten years, she posed an interesting question: what has changed for you over the past decade?  Ten years ago, life was crazy, but good.  Jason and I were both in graduate school at the U of I, swapping children on campus between morning and afternoon classes.  Brooklyn was three, Talia was one, and my sanity was questionable.  We lived in a small two bedroom townhouse overlooking the Illinois cornfields.  When chipping away at ice on cold winter mornings, we definitely wished we had a garage.  I rarely ran, never swam, and only occasionally biked up to the U of I campus.  Presumably I cooked, at least some.  (I found evidence of some green Irish soda bread baked in honor of St. Patty's Day.)

Ten years later, and life is still crazy; life is still good.  Eli and Annika have joined our family.  Three year-old Brooklyn is now a teenager.  I'm far less sleep-deprived, but my sanity still wavers.  Jason once again hangs out in studio class on campus, but this time as the instructor.  We've swapped prairie plains for mountain peaks.  Instead of renting a townhouse, we own a home, although that garage is still missing.  Over the past decade, I've come to identify as a runner.  Thanks to RSBC, I think I'm a stronger swimmer as well.  I still rarely bike, but maybe if I keep going, that love will come next.  And cook?  Well, I still do it, mostly because my children insist on being fed.  Funny how that works.

This year I am approaching Run Swim Bike Cook from a different angle.  In the past, I've viewed the challenges as a measuring stick and occasionally felt disappointed when I fell short.  This year, I'm celebrating every little success, let the tallies land where they may.  My victory is squeezing exercise and good nutrition of any form into our extremely crowded lives.

So here's what I have to celebrate:

Run/Walk: 11 miles.  Even though I'm capable of running, this year I'm counting any time I squeeze in extra steps, whether walking to church or strolling up snowy Millcreek canyon with Annika while the big kids are at choir practice. 
I'm realizing that if daily exercise is going to be a permanent part of my life, I need to abandon the notion that if I don't get sweaty, it doesn't count.

Swim:  1.85 miles.  I've finally figured out how to swim freestyle without drowning.  Hallelujah!  During my first RSBC, I had to switch strokes every lap because I would get so winded.  While I'm not fast, I'm grateful that I now can swim longer distances.

Bike: 3 laps around Liberty Park, or 4.5 miles.  Not far, but hey, I dusted off the bike and bike trailer, got the tires pumped up, and actually got outside.  Annika and I had fun, and we're looking forward to getting out again.

Cook:  Okay, here's where I'm stretching it.  We made marzipan...sort of.  Technically, we just shaped and decorated it.  I went to a Relief Society activity where a woman shared her mother-in-law's marzipan recipe, made from almond paste, corn syrup, marshmallow fluff, and copious amounts of confectioner's sugar.  There was lots left over, so I took some home to enjoy with the kids.  Honestly, I don't feel the slightest bit guilty for not making my own batch from scratch.  After all, there's only so much sugar that needs to be consumed in the world.

These are the treats I made.  As you can see, I went for a Very Hungry Caterpillar Theme.

Talia echoed the same idea.

As for Brooklyn, she went to town with the cloves and made a hedgehog.

Eli made a food face...

...and an owl.

Last but not least, our Annika made an island with a purple snake (of course.)

Since I didn't have to do any of the hard work mixing, kneading or coloring the dough, the marzipan-making experience was delightful.  After all, who doesn't love edible play-dough?  I confess that marzipan holds a special place in my heart.  Not only is it delicious, but it was a pretty integral part of my culinary experience as an exchange student in Austria.  I will never forget receiving an ornate Gl├╝cksschwein (good luck pig) for New Year's, and feeling it was too precious to eat.

I did a tiny bit of background research on almonds and discovered that sunny California is by far the largest producer, with Spain and Italy following behind.  The Middle East grows a fair number of almonds, and Germany is the largest importer.  Must be because of all those marzipan pigs to be made.

Next week, I'd like to get a bit more adventuresome and try making some Korean food in honor of the Olympics.  I found this post from a decade ago, reminding me how Talia and I once ate duk guk with my Korean students for the lunar New Year.  As the Chinese New Year happens to be this Friday, I think it's time to try duk guk once more. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Run Swim Bike Cook 2018

Attention, attention!  Run Swim Bike Cook 2018 is now live on Christy's blog.  Go check it out!  The cooking challenge is awesome.  I am so excited to explore some new culinary traditions and learn more about the history of these people and their spices.  If you have any interest, please join us for the tenth annual Ironman meets Ironchef.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Eli's Television Debut: Christmas Under the Star with Five for Fighting

Our family is currently hanging out with Rubes and her folks at their place on C Street. We're purportedly watching the Superbowl, but really, it's just a great excuse to hang out with Clifford and eat nachos. (For those who don't know, Clifford is the giant red couch.) Having family in the neighborhood is so fun! Being here reminds me of the last time we hung out on Clifford. In December we all came over to watch Eli's TV debut with Five for Fighting on BYUtv.

All the way back in October, Eli headed down to the recording studio in Provo, along with some other singers from the International Children's Choir. I wasn't there, but definitely enjoyed seeing these photos of the day. Brooklyn and Talia were understandably bummed that it didn't work out for them to come along.

After getting costumed at wardrobe, the singers head backstage.

Yup, these guys are cuties.  I love the girl on the left who is totally giggling at Eli (front center.)

In case, like me, you had no idea who Five for Fighting is, well, he's the dude in a suit.  He's best known for  his hit "Superman, It's Not Easy."

This choir has some fantastic kids that have become great friends to our own.  To the left is Eli's pal, Landon.

Talia's classmate Esther, who will make you bawl when she sings "Free at Last."


And of course, our little Newsie Eli.

Everybody all together now.  Don't laugh, Eli!

Our soprano soloist, Joy.

And a picture with our conductor, Dr. Kathy Sorensen.

Santa hats for all.

Next up, play time before the recording.

Eli, Amelia, and Tori.

Vera with Megan...
...and the entire group.

Back inside, it's a close-up of our Eli...

...and a picture of Esther and Dr. Sorensen with the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.

Lights, camera, action, and showtime.

Great show, everyone!
All in all, the kids sang three songs: "Edelweiss, Christmas Time is Here, and Winter Wonderland."  This Christmas Under the Stars special aired three times, and for a while you could stream it live on BYUtv.  If you are heartbroken to have missed it, not to worry, if you stop by my parents' place the next time you are in Nebraska, I'm sure they'd be glad to share their recording.

Happy Superbowl everyone, and congrats to the Eagles.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

The Best Goals

Only an hour left in the month!  I don't know about anybody else, but this feels feels like a more appropriate New Year to me.  On December 31st I'm far too shell-shocked from Christmas to think about goals and resolutions. By the end of January I've recovered enough to start looking forward.

If you are ready for a February challenge, there's always Christy's brilliant Run Swim Bike Cook.  Initially I was thinking I would pass because I rarely find time to exercise now that I'm a working mum.  Then I decided I ought to try for precisely the same reason: I desperately need to make time for fitness.  While I doubt I'll accomplish the whole distance, perhaps I can manage half in solidarity with Ben who is preparing for St. George's Ironman 70.3 this May.  As far as the Cook portion goes, well, my kids and I have become slightly obsessed with the Great British Baking Show.  I'm thinking that our family will tackle one of the Technical Challenges each week and see how we fare, just for kicks. (Certainly not up to Paul Hollywood's standards, I'm sure.)

As always, you are more than welcome to join the fun.  Stretch yourself for the full challenge or invent whatever variation works for you and your lifestyle. 
  • Challenge 1: Run 26.2 miles 
  • Challenge 2: Swim 2.4 miles
  • Challenge 3: Bike 112 miles
  • Challenge 4: Cook 3 of the 4 "iron-chef" challenges
And now, for the fun part--silly photos.  While I haven't written down goals for the year, had I done so, this blog would have made the list.  At times it seems tedious, but the memories are too precious to give up.  

Annika Mae.  Despite the fact that she had a birthday two days ago, this little tike is not allowed to grow up any more.  Where else will all our laughs come from?  Like the fact that she fell in love with this giant snake at D.I. and begged for Santa's elves to give it to her for Christmas.  (Santa obliged, although it was not much of a surprise since she knew which gift bag contained the snake and would peek in on it every day.)

Cutest swimsuit sheriff around.  Note how she's sitting directly over the heat vent because she's cold.  I don't suppose that wearing clothes would help...

I told her that she couldn't put her Littlest Pet Shops in the bathtub because they would get wet so she found them all boats.

One can never have too many stuffed animals.

Constructing a maze for Spark, the [real] guinea pig.

Ever versatile, the Magnatiles came in handy when Jason wanted to corner a mouse that was hiding under the oven.  (Yeahhh, that didn't work so well.)

A picture of poor Eli after he collided with Talia's braces.  Guess that's what happens when you play tag in the dark.

And a photo of the four greatest kids ever...
...not that I'm biased or anything.

New Year's Resolution #1: Spend more time enjoying the twinkle of these shining stars.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Brooklyn's ThirTEEN

Birthdays...they're kind of an annual thing.  So in some ways the candles and cake on December 16th were pretty standard procedure.  In other ways, Brooklyn's 13th birthday was a BIG deal.  After all, for the very first time, our family officially had a teenager in the house.  If my calculations are correct, this redoubtable condition will continue all the way until the year 2033.  WOW.

To be completely honest, our introduction to the world of teenage-dom has been delightful.  Like the rest of us, Brooklyn occasionally has rough moments, but overall she is hard-working, helpful, and happy.  A talented foodie, she planned and baked her own birthday breakfast--a crockpot egg bake with yogurt berry parfaits.

Can I tell you how lucky I feel that our thirteen year-old chose to spend her birthday hanging out with her family?  After breakfast, we all ventured to Red Butte Gardens for their winter solstice celebration.

Due to poor air quality, the yule log wasn't burning, but we still got to make bird feeders.

Hot cocoa warmed us as we listened to the storyteller.

Inside, the kids made the cutest beeswax candles.

Oh, and let's not forget the crowns.  Plenty of fun for all ages.

After Red Butte Gardens, we tried to catch lunch at our favorite Thai restaurant, but headed to the Pie Hole instead when Sawadee was unexpectedly closed.  NomiAnn, you would love these floppy New York slices.

My favorite part was when Annika tried to slip out the back of her chair and got her head stuck.

Oh, and let's not forget how we all took Spark to PetSmart to get his photo taken with Santa.

Rest assured, we take our pet ownership seriously.

Next stop, the Marmalade Library for Beethoven's birthday bash.  Pretty great person to share a birthday with, particularly if you are as musical as our Brooklyn.  Eli won an engraved Steinway piano hammer for winning the Beethoven trivia contest, but was most excited about the decadent cake after.

We had to be careful not to spoil our appetites because Sawadee opened just in time for a celebratory birthday dinner.  Soooo tasty!

Presents and cake at home made the perfect finale.  Ruby, Justin, and Brianna joined us for the party.

For her birthday, Brooklyn requested boots.  Wowza, my baby's all grown up.

Annika and Ruby just happened to be dressed all matchy matchy.

Dogpile on Jason!

Last but not least, Brooklyn's Peruvian Crema Volteada cake.  She initially requested twelve candles instead of thirteen because 12 was such a great year.  Not to worry, thirteen is on track to be just as delightful.

Our birthday celebrations didn't end until the next day when Brooklyn made us all french onion soup in the "new" crocks she received as a gift. (Hopefully my kids aren't permanently scarred by how often I shop at D.I. and Goodwill.)

Life sure is tasty with such a great chef in the house!

Seventh grade was tough for me growing up, so I worried as I sent Brooklyn off this year.  Fortunately, the Extended Learning Program at West High has been a great match for her.  She's excelled in her classes and made some great friends.  She worked extremely hard organizing a tutoring program at Jackson Elementary for her Bettering Utah project, and showed a great deal of dedication in volunteering there regularly.  She loves Young Women, and I know her Young Women leaders appreciate her great attitude.  Musically, she studies piano, plays cello in the Youth Chamber Orchestra, and adores singing in the International Children's Choir.  Best of all, despite her busy schedule, Brooklyn still loves to play, imagine, and create with her siblings.  While they certainly argue at moments, they are truly each other's best friends.

Sure love you, Brooklyn!  You're the best teenager we've ever had.