Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Photo Extra: My Girl

I've decided that in general, if I post twice in a day, the second post will be a Photo Extra. Not too much text, just a fun picture I want to share.

Today's Photo Extra is My Girl.  Chickie and I were washing our hands in the bathroom a little while ago, and I had one of those "wow moments" when I saw us both in the mirror.  I know it doesn't come as a surprise to those of you who have seen lots of pictures of us, but my little girl looks a lot like me.  So I grabbed the camera, and we had a little photo session.


I love how we look so similar here, but with the lighting our different eye colors (mine--blue, hers--hazel) are obvious, making such a nice contrast.  Those beautiful hazel eyes are from Daddy.

It's fun to see myself in My Girl.

Word of the Year

I'm a big fan of Lisa Leonard's handmade jewelry.  This month's featured design is a word of the year necklace. It's customized with whatever word you want to focus on this year.

What is your word of the year for 2009? I've still got to think about this, and when I come up with mine, I'll post it in the comments section.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

39-word love letter

The Engineer is turning 39 years old today!  I thought about writing a list of the top 39 things I love about him, but, well, 39 is a lot and might bore you to tears.  Plus, he's not generally a blog reader.  Thirty-nine things might bore him to tears.  So instead, here is a 39-word love letter (not including the "to" and "from" parts) to the love of my life.

Dear Engineer,

I love you for...
...your steadfastness.  I can absolutely trust you.
...your intelligence.  Smart is sexy!
...your fathering heart.  Our kids are blessed.
...your growth.  You keep getting better.
...your strength.  I feel safe with you.

Happy birthday!


Thirty-nine years ago a baby boy was born.  


As he grew, he turned into quite the catch.  I'm glad he got snagged on my hook!


Freecycle resolution update:
7. Mini chopper--a small kitchen appliance I don't need since I already have a multiple chopping and blending devices.


P.S.  Psst....  Stay tuned....  There is a giveaway coming up right here on C. Beth Blog that I am really excited about!  I'll be working in conjunction with another blogger that I'm a fan of.  That's all I'm gonna say for now.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cuddle time

Last night, sleepy, I lay back on the couch.  Chickie joined me, and both of us cuddled under a blanket.  It was such a warm moment, and not just because of the blanket.  I cherish those times when I can be so close to my energetic little girl.

Chickie and The Engineer had been having a rough afternoon and evening.  She was being particularly disobedient, and he was disciplining her, and they were caught in a cycle that was resulting in frustration for both.  I saw Chickie's cuddly mood as being a great opportunity for her and Daddy to mend fences.

"Chickie," I asked, "Do you want to cuddle with Daddy?"


The Engineer, who was washing dishes, very willingly traded places with me.  I smiled.  Sometimes even half a day of frustration can be resolved with just a little bit of snuggling.

Then Chickie got up, repeatedly stepped on the computer, and was sent to bed early.

Oh, well.  The cuddle time was worth a try, anyway.


Freecycle Resolution update:
5. Big, huge painting The Engineer grew up with that we didn't want up in our house.
6. Boppy infant pillow.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Forget tear-free shampoo...

...I need a tear-free salon!

Zoodle's ever-growing, shapeless hairstyle finally merited professional attention today.  He got his first haircut (not counting the mulletectomy I performed last month.)

If it hadn't been for the electric clippers, he would have been fine.  Because of his age, salon policy required the stylist to use clippers for part of the cut.  Seems she didn't want to snip off part of his ear.  (Despite what Baby Einstein might have you believe, "Baby Van Gogh" really isn't a good thing.)  Zoodle has recently become afraid of the vacuum cleaner, and I suppose clippers sound like a miniature vacuum very close to his ears.  Despite a very nice stylist, it was not the best experience.

Of course, I faithfully recorded his trauma for the sake of posterity.

At first, it seemed pretty exciting--a car to sit in and a Sesame Street DVD to watch?  Score!


The scissors made him wary, but he was brave.


But then....  Lady, what are you doing to me?!  Since when did they start making torture chairs disguised as cars?  What kind of place is this, anyway?


When the deed was done, we were left with a very handsome little boy who refused to smile.  I don't blame him.


But don't worry; he got over it quickly and gave us plenty of sunny grins later.


We'll be exposing Zoodle to the sound and feel of Daddy's electric razor, before his next visit to the salon.  He's a resilient kid, so he might be able to handle that kind of trauma again...but Mommy sure doesn't want to.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New book, new hobby

The other day, I mentioned buying a cookbook on the same day I gave away a stack of cookbooks. Here's the story.

In one of Jonah Lisa's recent posts, she linked to a book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Seeing the title, my interest was piqued. My parents had e-mailed me an Amazon gift certificate for Christmas, so I ordered the book, and it arrived on Christmas Eve. On Christmas I cracked it open, and for the last two days we have enjoyed crusty, fresh-baked bread--quite a feat considering I have not been a bread-baker in the past. (I don't even own loaf pans!)


I know some of you would love the recipe, but I'll have to refer you directly to the copyrighted book for that. I will, however, whet your appetite further by telling you about the unique concepts in the book. Two ideas are key--ease of mixing, and storing bulk dough.

These recipes really are easy. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes to mix up one of their bulk bread dough recipes--no proofing of the yeast or kneading required. I reduced the recipe the first time and mixed it in my food processor, but last night I used a wooden spoon, and it was even quicker, since I didn't have to wash the food processor bowl and blade.

The recipes are large, and after letting the dough rise, you store it in the fridge. When you want to bake a loaf, it takes about five minutes of actual work to form the loaf, flour and slash the top, and get it in the oven. The instructions for the basic loaf include using a preheated baking stone and pouring hot water into a preheated broiler pan just before baking. (Steam helps with the crust texture.)

The five minute prep time doesn't include resting/rising time once you've formed the loaf, or baking time. (Resting plus baking time for the basic recipe is 70 minutes.) It also doesn't include the extra time you'll probably spend the first day or two as you figure out the process. For instance, if you use a heat-resistant glass dish instead of a metal pan for the steam, it will take significantly longer than five minutes to clean up the exploded glass from your oven. (Oops--apparently hot tap water is a whole lot cooler than a preheated glass dish.)

The basic recipe (which can be halved or doubled) has four ingredients, makes four one-pound loaves, and can be stored for as long as fourteen days in the fridge. The dough ages as it rests, enhancing the flavor as each day goes by--but our dough didn't last long enough to test that claim!

Over 100 recipes are included in the book. Last night I mixed the 100% whole wheat recipe, which I'm hoping is excellent since it's healthy enough to eat daily! I have a whole wheat loaf rising on the countertop right now. Resting and baking times for whole wheat are significantly longer than for white, so my anxious stomach will have to wait a bit longer. If it turns out well, I'll post a picture.

So, you may be asking, why not just buy a bread machine? Well, when you consider the bulk factor, this is nearly as easy as using a bread machine. If you like the textured crust of artisan bread, this is the way to go--bread machines produce a softer crust. And compared to a bread machine (Amazon's top-selling one is about $115), a book that costs under $20 is a bargain. Add an affordable baking stone, and you can still come in at under $50.

The subtitle of this book is "The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking." My family is already enjoying the fresh-baked bread revolution in our home. Wish you could sit and join us!

Edited at 9:51 a.m....our whole wheat loaf:


Hey--wipe that drool off your keyboard.

One more edit--Thank you, Faith, for the link you gave in your comment! I checked it out and found two links I want to add here:

Blog written by the book's authors, with recipes & tips

Video with the authors showing how to make the master recipe. Watch this and learn to make that delicious, crusty white bread. Then...still buy the book; it's got so much other good stuff in it besides that basic recipe.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas recap, and an easy recipe

"I want to see what presents are in my stocking!" Chickie told us at 6:30 yesterday morning.

She "got it" this year--she was really excited about her stocking, and opening presents, and she even understood a little about Jesus being born--though I'm pretty sure that to her, the presents were the most important part of the day!

Zoodle liked having some new items to chew on, and other than that, it was a normal day for him.

Christmas really started on Sunday when Chickie and Zoodle dressed in their fancy, festive clothes for church.


When we opened presents yesterday, Chickie was very excited about getting the jump rope she'd been asking for. Watching her try to jump with it was great entertainment. It looks like she may have inherited my (lack of) coordination--let's hope she outgrows it!


Zoodle thought this book was great.... It tasted like chicken.


For dinner we had tamales, refried beans, and Spanish rice. I was very excited, because I managed to make Spanish rice with instant brown rice--healthy, easy, and really good! Here's the recipe.

Easy Brown Spanish Rice

1 Tbsp oil
Diced onion (1 large or 2 small)
Garlic, minced (4 cloves or 2 tsp jarred)
2 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans undrained diced tomatoes (plain, Southwestern style, or Ro-Tel)
2 cups instant brown rice

Heat oil in large skillet or medium pot over medium-low heat. When it is hot, add diced onion and garlic. Cook until onion is quite soft.

Add cumin, chili powder, broth, and undrained tomatoes. Turn heat up to high. When liquid boils, add rice and stir. Reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, for five minutes. Turn off heat, and let sit, covered, for five to ten minutes. Stir, and serve.

And I suppose I should post a photo of the finished product. Please, I beg you--don't be jealous of my fancy serving bowl.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have a crummy Christmas!

No, not really; I just have this unhealthy need to be different from everyone else, and since so many blog posts are titled "Merry Christmas" today....

But there's something in me that revolts when I wish you a crummy Christmas.  Maybe, just maybe, that means it's okay to be like everyone else occasionally?

I do wish you a beautiful, merry Christmas, full of the love of Christ and of family.  I hope it's perfect!

And for a Freecycle resolution update...
2.  Hooded towels and washcloths
3.  Baby & toddler books
4.  Stuffed animals and dolls

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas letter

Well, I "sent" you all our Christmas card; it's time now to include you on our Christmas letter mailing list! Enjoy!  (By the way, this was sent out on plain white paper--knowing that will help you make sense of the first paragraph!)


Merry Christmas!

 I don’t do Christmas letters.  I’m doing this one on the spur of the moment, which means you don’t get to look at any cute Christmas stationery.  Wait, what am I saying?  This is Christmas stationery.  The theme is “White Christmas.”  It is an affordable design, sure to bring back memories of Christmas blizzards past.

Our year has been great.  In January Chickie turned two.  She does a really good job being two, making sure to reach her quota of tantrums.  She is independent, and it is a joy to be her parents.  Sampa (Beth’s dad) says she’s sure to be a leader.  Traditionally “boy toys” like construction vehicles and Hot Wheels are her favorites.  She loves to read, draw, paint, and watch PBS Kids TV shows. When we hear the crazy things that come out of her mouth, we realize we really have to watch what we say, because there’s a very good chance she’ll repeat it later.  Today Zoodle was fussing, and Chickie said, “Zoodle's starting to freak out.”  At least she wasn’t telling him to “knock it off,” which was her phrase of the day a couple of weeks ago.  She loves to hear stories about Flame, a fictional orange bear, and about Jesus—the calming of the storm story is a particular favorite.

January also marked a year since The Engineer's brain surgery, which means we’re fast approaching two years.  He is doing great and finally feels that the strength on the right side of his body is fully back.  I don’t know of a non-trite way to say this….  We are so grateful for God’s healing hand.  I am so thankful to have a healthy husband and a healthy father for our kids.  For the big two year anniversary we’ll be having homemade chocolate brains with coconut filling.  (Yes, seriously.)  Don’t tell The Engineer—it’s a surprise, and he’ll love it.

January was a big month for us—it also marked our eighth wedding anniversary!  God has blessed us so much with each other, and we thank Him for making us partners for life.

March was the other big month this year; on the 29th Zoodle was born.  It was an unmedicated birth in warm water, assisted by a midwife at a local birthing center.  Thankfully we made it to the birthing center; he was born 35 minutes after we arrived there.  It was intense, painful, and amazingly beautiful.  Beth fulfilled her wish of feeling like Superwoman!  Zoodle is a joy.  He’s a go-getter, now that he’s crawling around.  He keeps us on our toes!  He loves to laugh at his big sister, and she just loves helping with him.  He adores both Mommy and Daddy, and we feel the same about him.

The best way to keep up with what’s going on in our lives and to see plenty of cute kid pictures is to read Beth’s blog (Internet journal) at

Over the next year—and years to come—may your family be at least as richly blessed as we have been! 

-The Engineer, Beth, Chickie, & Zoodle

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Old Year's Resolution

Who says you have to wait until January 1 to implement a resolution?

I'm sick of having too much stuff everywhere.  So yesterday I started work on a new resolution. I want to Freecycle thirty items/groups of items in thirty weekdays (six weeks.)  If an item has no takers, I'll give it away somewhere else (like Goodwill) or toss it.  I need to declutter, but it feels overwhelming.  I'm hoping by doing just a bit each day I'll slowly but surely chip away at all the stuff!  There's a good chance I'll extend this past thirty days; we'll see.

I'll keep you up to date here.  Most days I'll just put an addendum at the end of my posts listing the item(s) I'm getting rid of.

1. COOKBOOKS--I Freecycled a bunch of cookbooks that I don't use. I use the Internet for most of my recipes. I kept my Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook and a few others, but had plenty of responses for the rest. They're on my porch awaiting pickup.  Don't tell anyone, but I did buy another cookbook online yesterday.  I do, however, think it's one I'll use almost daily--more on that later!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mom's Recipe Book: Indian Fry Bread & Navajo Tacos

To see the history of "Mom's Recipe Book" as well as other entries in this series, click here.

Have you ever had Indian Fry Bread? It's similar to a sopapilla and and oh-so-good. A Native American woman taught my mom to make it years ago. I haven't made it in years--I think I'll have to remedy that soon!

Please note that while my mom is an excellent cook of healthy dishes, this is not one of her low-fat items!  Also, I halved this recipe because it was so huge, so the flour and water measurements are kinda weird.  There's no easy way to measure out HALF of 6 3/4 cups!

Indian Fry Bread

3 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp flour
2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp warm water

Knead into a very soft, somewhat sticky dough. Let it rest 10-15 minutes, covered.

Knead edges of dough under, and let it rest another few minutes.  Pinch off into 6 balls, and roll into circles.

Cut into triangles (or keep in circles if using for Navajo Tacos), and deep fry.

Eat as a side dish, as part of Navajo Tacos (see below), or as a dessert (drizzled with honey.)

Navajo Tacos

Indian Fry Bread, circular
Refried beans
Taco meat
Green onion
Sour cream
Taco sauce

Spread refried beans on fry bread, and top with any combination of the ingredients listed, or anything else that sounds good to you.

I just ate, and I somehow feel a little hungry again....

Edited--I made fry bread later on in the day, after posting, and I used 2 cups white flour, the rest whole wheat flour.  It turned out great.  I woudn't call it healthy, but at least the whole wheat flour adds a little nutritional value.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Photos for your present enjoyment and their future humilation

My kiddos have been particularly funny the last few days, and I've been documenting it faithfully.  Here we go!

As I alluded to in yesterday's post, Chickie currently has a soap obsession. While I was working in the kitchen yesterday afternoon, Chickie went to the bathroom. Zoodle followed her and sat at the door, watching. They'd been in there awhile, and after repeatedly telling her to come out, I went to check on them. Chickie's hands were soapy, and Zoodle...well, a picture will say it best.


Apparently he didn't mind having his hair washed by his sister.


(I did mind.)

Earlier in the day, Chickie had gone to her high chair, which we also use as a time out chair.  She can climb in it herself, but if the tray is on and she tries to get out, I invariably hear the words, "I'm stuck!" and am greeted by this sight:


Apparently she trusts that I'll come when asked, since it happens frequently.


I wanted to take some "When did he become such a big boy?" photos yesterday, and Zoodle saw the camera and "took the stage."



This morning, he concerned me a bit. Look at his pants.  Do you think he's turning into a gangsta baby?


If he's going to be sagging his pants that low, I really should find some snazzier diapers to peek out of the top.

Small children....  Exasperating?  Sometimes.  Hard work?  All the time.  Funny?  Often enough to make me love the job.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How to make dinner

Note:  These directions are specifically for mothers of small children.  Revise as necessary for your situation.

1.  Start chopping vegetables.

2.  Hear the baby waking up from his nap; decide he seems to be happy in bed and can stay there a few more minues.

3.  Keep chopping; see toddler on the stairs, up from her nap.

4.  Tell toddler to let you know when she needs you to open the gate at the bottom of the stairs.

5.  Hear a loud BANG!

6.  Pick up the gate that the toddler has kicked off the stairs.

7.  Keep chopping.

8.  Realize the baby's cooing is turning into crying; go get him.

9.  Get a basket of baby toys; put it on the kitchen tile along with the baby; try to get him excited about the toys while you pointedly ignore the dirty floor.

10.  Finish chopping.

11.  Assure toddler she can potty on her own.

12.  Assemble ingredients in skillet.

13.  Check on toddler; take away half-empty soap dispenser (that was full a few minutes ago); hope she didn't ingest too much soap while making a Santa Claus beard on herself; put her in time out in her room for playing with the soap (again.)

14.  Ponder whether or not a plastic Slinky is an appropriate chew toy for an infant.  Decide it's probably okay.

15.  Stir skillet.  Decide that the food sticking to the bottom will just give the dish a charbroiled flavor.

16.  Go up to toddler's room and remind her that you won't open the door until she stops kicking it.  When the kicking stops, let her out after she explains what she's done wrong and apologizes.

17.  Go back downstairs; take computer cord out of baby's mouth.

18.  Realize the food in the skillet is done (burned in some places); move it off the burner.

19.  Give toddler crayons to draw with.

20.  Start singing to fussy infant in a silly voice and repeatedly assuring him, "Mommy is almost done; then I'll feed you."

21.  Start to assemble a simple salad.

22.  Take crayons away from the toddler; assure her that since she can't stop feeding the dog crayons, she won't be playing with them the rest of the day.

23.  Finish salad.

24.  Put main dish and salad on plates, still singing to infant.

25.  Put plates on table as husband walks in the door.

26.  Nurse infant while eating a lukewarm meal.

27.  Wonder where the day went, and ponder how in the world a 15-minute recipe took an hour and a half to prepare.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why can't that mother control her child?!

So, let's say you were at McDonald's yesterday for lunch.  You sat there calmly eating your sandwich and people-watching.

And then you heard it.

"Firstname Middlename Lastname," a mother cried, "we do NOT lick the floor!"

Were you there?

Because if you were, you just had the honor of meeting C. Beth and all our chaotic glory.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Soggy MP3 player--an update

Well, I thought that the MP3 player I washed in my jeans pocket was gone for good. I soaked it for days in rice, and I couldn't get it to work.

When I saw a fantastic deal on Amazon for a different player last week (limited time, limited quantity, sold out in minutes), I congratulated myself for acting quickly enough to get it.

I received the player, and Tuesday I took it out of its box and charged it. Yesterday I loaded a bunch of podcasts on it, and began listening.

Later in the day I started packing up the original player, figuring I'd try it out a few months from now to see if it magically worked. And then it hit me--what if the battery was dead?

I know, I know, I really should have thought of this earlier. But I didn't.

I plugged it into the computer, and...


I now have two functional MP3 players.

And I'm thinking I'm not as tech-savvy as I believed....


P.S.  Check out Jenners' blog for a giveaway--a $20 gift card to Target! I love Target! I want to win! I get extra entries for posting this, but please don't enter because then you might win instead of me. JUST KIDDING...get over there, enter, and cross your fingers that one of us wins!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What are you wearing today?

Jeans? A sweatshirt? A suit and tie? A warm coat?

A baby?

Oh, maybe that's just me.

I love babywearing. I used various carriers with Chickie from the time she was two weeks old until I was 35 weeks pregnant with Zoodle. I've worn Zoodle since day one.

It's funny to me when people in public see me babywearing and comment, "Oh, it's too bad they didn't have those things in my day!" In reality, women have been wearing their babies for thousands of years. It's just been relatively recently that the "civilized Western world" has borrowed the concept from the Third World, to the benefit of busy moms and cuddly babies.

The nice thing about the trendiness of babywearing is that there are so many truly great options right now. When Zoodle was small I liked using a homemade, adjustable ring sling. I even made a matching doll sling for Chickie. Here we are, on the day Zoodle was born.


From seven to 19 months old, Chickie spent a lot of time in a homemade wrap--a simple, long piece of fabric. Here she is, snoozing comfortably at the age of 10 months.


After I got pregnant with Zoodle, I got the best carrier yet. It's what I used through much of my pregnancy. It can be used on the front (facing out or in) or on the back. I used it to carry Chickie on my back, then to carry baby Zoodle on my front facing in, then on my front facing out. Now I usually carry him on my back. I love the flexibility of this carrier, and the awesome comfort. The wide waistband distributes weight into my hips and legs, and the wide, barely padded straps further spread the weight. And it's pretty. This carrier rocks.

It's called the Mei Favorite Baby Deluxe, and it, along with other Mei Favorite versions, is sold at Babies Beyond Borders, which is a website run by a wonderfully sweet work-at-home mom.

Zoodle must weigh close to 20 pounds now. I just can't get much done with him on my hip, and I get tired! The last few days he has been extra-fussy for some reason, and the Mei Favorite is once again living up to its name. Here we are, yesterday (in front of LOTS of freshly-roasted nuts!)


This winter, forget polar fleece and puffy coats. Take it from me--the best way to beat the freezing temperatures is to strap a baby to your back.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"I don't mean to..."

My sister Becki is a middle school teacher, and she is very good at what she does, partially because she doesn't put up with any games. Her students respect her; they learn from her; and many of them even really like her. If all of our teachers were like her the U.S. would have the best education system in the world.

When one of her students starts a sentence by saying, "I don't mean to offend you, but..." or "I'm not trying to be mean, but...", Becki's response is, "Then don't." She knows those phrases are nearly always followed by something offensive, and a "pre-apology" doesn't make it okay. I had one of those "I don't mean to..." type of conversations yesterday.

We bought a "new" used vehicle a few weeks ago and needed to sell my beloved Honda. I listed it on Craigslist yesterday morning, and we sold it for full price last night. (Nice!)

After listing it, I e-mailed a local chat group to ask advice, since it's the first time we've sold a car to a private party in this state. I got great tips about taking cash only, forms we'd need, etc.

And one person e-mailed me privately, apart from the group-wide discussion, with some advice on who I should sell the car to. After advising me not to sell to a dealer, she added, "Hate to be prejudice, but no foreigners."

If that had been a student talking to Becki, and the student had said, "Hate to be prejudiced, but--" the sentence would have stopped there, interrupted with a very good piece of teacherly advice.

"Then don't."

Monday, December 15, 2008

The winner (really!)

And has once again had the honor of choosing our winner....

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2008-12-15 19:22:37 UTC

#17...Congratulations to Isabella!! Quite appropriate that is smiling on her, considering her new blog is titled A Look On The Random Side. (Check it out; it's funny!)

Isabella, I already have your address because of the art pen pal giveaway (which I'm going to get organized very shortly.) So keep your eyes open, and you'll get your nuts in the mail soon! (Yeah, I know--that is indeed a weird sentence if taken out of context.)

Thanks to everyone who entered, and a special thanks to those of you who posted entertaining comments. I mean, I'm a mom of two kids under three; I depend on you guys to bring some fun and distraction to my day. And now for some of my favorites...

From our winner, Isabella:
To be, or not to be: that is the peanut;
Whether ’tis almond in the mind to suffer
The slings and walnuts of outrageous cashews
Or to take arms against a sea of brazil nuts,
And by opposing end them?

From ElleBee:
These look so yummy! They're NUTTIN' like I've ever seen. Of course, I've made the sweet & spicy ones before, but they did NUT turn out like yours! I'll bet you're NUT so happy that you asked us to be creative in our comments, because I'm pretty sure that I could go on like this forever. Or NUT.

From Chris Bowers:
There once was a nut.
C.Beth was her name.
Her recipes are great.
Put others to shame.

4 cups of raw nuts.
She's quick with a knife
For the best of the rest.
See the Engineer's wife.

From Scriptor Senex:
Mouth is watering, juices flowing.
Sugar and Cinnamon and roasted Nuts
– hot.
Want to be cooking, creating, making.
But a crock pot – I have not!

From Our Scoop & her unknowing hubby:
Nuts are fun
Nuts are great
Let's eat some nuts
and Celebrate!

From EliandMe:
Thanks for the warning

"May contain traces of nuts"

On packets of nuts.

From Rachel Cotterill:
I love nuts in all forms - thank you for these recipes, something fun to try over Christmas. I enjoy making this sort of thing anyway, and international postage is expensive - so if I win, can I pick a U.S. blog I've enjoyed and point you in their direction instead??

(I posted that one because it's so incredibly sweet!)

From Tony E.:
Almond Joy Haiku
Sometimes you feel like a nut
Sometimes you don't - Mounds

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The winner of the nuts...

...will be announced in the afternoon or evening Monday. (Made ya look!) I want to make sure those who don't check blogs on weekends can still enter. (See this post to enter!)

Also, a note to those who have signed up for the art pen pal project--I had a busier Sunday than expected, and I haven't gotten this organized yet. I hope to get it done Monday. Thanks for your patience! If you want to be involved and haven't sent me your info yet, check out this post.

Scary Santa and Shirtless Gingerbread Man

Santa was at our local library today. Chickie is in that "Santa is scary" phase that so many kids go through, so she didn't sit on his lap (though she did get to the point she could walk by him and even whispered "Goodbye" on the way out, so we had some small victories.)

Zoodle had no problems with Santa. He did wonder at first who the bearded guy was. (Forgive the picture quality--I took these with my phone.)


Then he realized Mama was still right there, and he decided he was happy in the Big Man's lap.


Chickie had fun with lots of other activities--eating cookies and popcorn, getting her face painted, and making a Christmas tree ornament, a foam gingerbread man.

Outside, the wind blew away her handmade ornament, so we made another at home. She did a nice job.


As she was drawing on it, I noticed two little circles. They aren't very obvious in the finished product, with more drawing and M & M's surrounding, but here's a zoomed-in shot with circles surrounding the ones she drew.


"What are those?" I asked Chickie when I saw the placement of her circles.

"Those are nipples," she replied.

Hmm. Nipples. I guess I should be glad that was the extent of her gingerbread man's anatomical correctness, shouldn't I?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nutty recipes and a nutty giveaway!

Last Sunday Steph the CrockPot Lady posted a recipe for Roasted and Spiced Nuts. I made them that day, and I was immediately obsessed...uh, I mean, inspired. I've spent the last six days working on various CrockPot roasted nut recipes. I've eaten a lot of nuts. My DNA is now officially half pecan.

I now have the four recipes I'll be using to make a lot of my Christmas gifts this year, and I'm sharing. First I'll share the recipes...then I'll share some of the goodies. (Details on the giveaway are at the end of the post.)

A few notes: I'm using a combo of pecans and almonds, since that's what Costco had available. Use whatever nuts you like! I've written all these recipes for 4 cups of nuts, but you can easily make more or less. I am using kosher salt with a nice, coarse texture; you can substitute table salt if you really need to.

1. Curry Roasted Nuts
(This recipe is very similar to the Roasted & Spiced Nuts recipe from The CrockPot Lady's blog, though I made some minor changes.)


4 cups raw nuts
1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
cooking spray

Spray CrockPot with cooking spray. Put nuts, maple syrup, curry powder, rosemary, and cayenne pepper in CrockPot, and stir to coat nuts well. Turn CrockPot on high, and cover. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every 10 minutes. (Set a timer!) Nuts are done when they are almost crunchy enough--but they will cook further after removing them from the CrockPot, so don't overcook. Before removing from CrockPot, spray nuts with cooking spray, add kosher salt, and toss so that all the spices stick to the nuts. Immediately put nuts on wax paper to cool.

2. Sweet & Spicy Roasted Nuts
(The original recipe can be found here; I've simply adapted it for the Crock Pot, and I used raw nuts instead of pre-roasted.)

(Yes, that's paper under the nuts, since I didn't have enough to fill the bowl. They were really tasty; I didn't make that many; and, uh...I enjoyed them.)

4 cups raw nuts
1/4 cup honey
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
cooking spray

Spray CrockPot with cooking spray. Put nuts, honey, and cayenne pepper in CrockPot, and stir to coat nuts well. Turn CrockPot on high, and cover. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every 10 minutes. (Set a timer!) Nuts are done when they are almost crunchy enough--but they will cook further after removing them from the CrockPot, so don't overcook. Before removing from CrockPot, add sugar and kosher salt, and toss so that all the spices stick to the nuts. Immediately put nuts on wax paper to cool.

3. Cinnamon & Sugar Roasted Nuts


4 cups raw nuts
1/4 cup honey
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 tsp plus 3/4 tsp cinnamon (divided)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
cooking spray

Spray CrockPot with cooking spray. Put nuts, honey, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and 3/4 tsp cinnamon in CrockPot, and stir to coat nuts well. Turn CrockPot on high, and cover. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every 10 minutes. (Set a timer!) Nuts are done when they are almost crunchy enough--but they will cook further after removing them from the CrockPot, so don't overcook. Before removing from CrockPot, add sugar, 3/4 tsp cinnamon, and kosher salt, and toss so that all the spices stick to the nuts. Immediately put nuts on wax paper to cool.

4. Roasted & Salted Nuts


4 cups raw nuts
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (You may experiment with less if concerned about fat content. I used canola oil.)
1 tsp kosher salt

Put nuts and oil in CrockPot, and stir to coat nuts well. Turn CrockPot on high, and cover. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring every 10 minutes. (Set a timer!) Nuts are done when they are almost crunchy enough--but they will cook further after removing them from the CrockPot, so don't overcook. Before removing from CrockPot, add kosher salt, and toss so that the salt sticks to the nuts. Immediately put nuts on wax paper to cool.

Now, for the giveaway!

I'll send one lucky winner samples of all four types of roasted nuts. The rules...

1. Leave a comment, any comment. Last time the haiku comments were fun. Perhaps this time you'd like to leave a comment about why you're a nut. Maybe you'd even like to leave it in some sort of rhyming poetry form. And maybe you'll just leave a boring, prose comment. That's okay too.
2. Tell your friends, family, in-laws, outlaws, blog readers, etc. about the contest. Make sure when they enter, that they let me know they heard about it from you. If they win, you win too.
3. I'll accept U.S. and non-U.S. entries. as long as you live in a place with reasonably affordable international postage.
4. I will chose the winner randomly Monday afternoon or evening.

Good luck!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day Off

I decided yesterday to take most of the day off from the Internet and TV. I cheated quite a bit, but just being less "plugged in" was a very good thing.

Chickie and I had fun decorating the Christmas tree.

Zoodle and I "talked" to each other. (He can say "ba ba ba" now, and occasionally other syllables!)

I read two books to Chickie and enjoyed doing character voices.

I did lots of Christmas decorating, and cooked, and cleaned up the kitchen, and felt generally productive.

I want this to be a regular thing. Maybe every Thursday will now be Less Plugged In Day. This isn't about sticking to a strict set of rules; it's about having enough silence in my life to enjoy the things that are truly important.

And for me, it's hard. Think I can do it? Think you can do it?

P.S. I'll be matching people up for the next Art Pen Pal Project by this weekend (hopefully.) If you're interested in being involved, please check out this post. It'll be fun!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yesterday was the proudest day of my life

I have dreamed of being honored in such a manner, but wasn't sure it would ever happen. My eyes fill with tears; my heart fills with pride.

I am a Wreckporter.

Have you started reading Cake Wrecks yet? It's a hilarious blog, and lately I've been scouring Wal-Mart's clearance baked goods for Wrecks. I found one recently; it was a small cake and marked down to $3.50 (though why no one would buy this gorgeous cake at full price is beyond me.) After using a stale loaf of clearance French bread to beat off several other wannabe Wreckporters, I snatched up the perfect little cake, bought it, photographed it, and sent it over to Jen, the brilliant Cake Wrecks blogger.

And yesterday...well, I'll let you read for yourself! My wreck is the first photo in the post.

I like what Jen said about it, but I'll also share with you what I wrote. I sent her the picture that she posted (which I've now given Jen all rights to, along with a partial ownership in my firstborn child) and also sent her this one:


And here's what I wrote in my e-mail to her:

It's two, two, two cakes in one!

First we have a lovely white candle (magically dripping red wax.)
Flip it over, and it's an exclamation point. Or is it a marshmallow being burned at the stake?

A cake that inspires such creative interpretations is truly a work of art.

I actually bought this cake (on clearance for $3.50) just so I could photograph it with something other than my crummy camera phone. What a sacrifice, for the sake of Cake Wrecks.

Then I ate it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mom's Recipe Book: Garlic Lime Chicken

One more entry into Mom's Recipe Book, and tomorrow we'll be back to our regularly unscheduled programming. (But you can look forward to frequent further forays into the goodness of Mom's cooking!)

From the "Chicken & Fish" section...

Garlic Lime Chicken
1/3 c soy sauce
1/4 c lime juice
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
Pepper, to taste
4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets

Mix first five ingredients, and marinate chicken at least 30 minutes. Remove from marinade, and sprinkle with pepper.

Cook on grill or in a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Turn halfway through, and cook to an internal temperature of 170 degrees.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mom's Recipe Book: Teriyaki Marinade

I have a wonderful recipe book. It's hand-written by my mom, who gave it to me when I got married. It contains dozens of the recipes I grew up with. In this new series, I'll share some of those recipes with you. My mom's a great cook, so when you occasionally see "Mom's Recipe Book" posts, be sure to check them out! (Mom collects recipes from a lot of places. I don't know the original sources for most of these recipes.)

The first section in the book is "Beef and Pork," and it includes a recipe for teriyaki marinade. It's an easy, tasty alternative to the bottled stuff.

Teriyaki Marinade for Meat
2/3 c soy sauce
1/4 c wine vinegar
2 T sugar
1 t ginger
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine. Marinate meat minimum 30 minutes, up to overnight. Broil or grill

Store extra marinade in a bottle in the refrigerator.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hot Tamales!

I grew up in Arizona, several miles from the Mexican border. I passionately love Mexican food, and I cook it often. But I have a rule.

I will make tortillas. I will make enchiladas. I will make tacos and burritos and quesadillas.

But let's be honest--I am just too white to make tamales.

They are a mystery to me. I know they are made with masa, and I think that's some sort of corn meal but I'm not sure. I don't know what seasonings make them taste just right, and I don't even need to know. I just know they are oh-so-good.

There is something very Latin and romantic about knowing that generations of women stood in a kitchen for hours, using a recipe probably decades older than the oldest person there, hand-forming each delicious, corn husk-wrapped tamale. Sometimes I buy them from the store, but it's not the same. The work and culture and history that go into tamales made the way they're supposed to be made--by a matriarch and the younger women in her family who are learning from her--all somehow blend in with the meat and masa and spices to make something very special.

The girl I mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters (blog nickname: Little Sis) told me on Saturday night that they were making tamales at her grandma's house, and I could buy some if I wanted to. I've had her grandma's tamales before and knew there was only one way to answer that offer. When I saw Little Sis yesterday, I bought two dozen--one for the fridge, one for the freezer. We started on the first dozen yesterday...and I'm already excited to eat the leftovers tonight.

Eight dollars a dozen...a bargain price for the opportunity to experience a beautiful culture in such a delicious way.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

A card from our family to yours

I designed our Christmas cards and did a "blogified" version with our nicknames so I could share it here. Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!


Inspired by Lyndsay's post showing her adorable cards of years past, here is ours from two years ago (complete with big, snazzy censorship bars over names.) I didn't do a card last year. I was pregnant, and as all women who have been pregnant know, that's pretty much a valid excuse for anything.


I'm still accepting participants for the next Art Pen Pal project! Make sure you e-mail me at cbethblog(at)gmail(dot)com with your address if you'd like to participate. Do it now, before you forget!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blog headers and favicons

I really enjoy making my blog headers and favicons (the itty-bitty icons to the left of the address bar in your browser.) (You can check out the ones on my other blog here.) I also made my dad's header and favicon.

So...any other bloggers want a header and/or favicon? If so, e-mail me at cbethblog(at)gmail(dot)com. No charge--but it's first come, first served and based on how much time and interest I have!

Prefer to do your own graphics but aren't sure where to start? I use Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2, which is software on my computer. If you don't want to buy software, a website you can check out is Scrapblog.

Did you mean...?

I love Google. One thing I appreciate is that if I misspell something in a search, it corrects me. Let's say I make a very common spelling error and type "NYC restaraunts" into Google search. Google responds,

Did you mean: NYC restaurants


Well, yesterday I was using the computer on the floor, and Zoodle kept trying to climb on it and play with it. At one point he executed a Google search for "bybtfyyyyyyfbttyyyyfbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbtttttt0000".

Google responded,

Did you mean: bybtfyyyyyyfbttfbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbtttttt 0000

Yes, Google, I'm sure that's what he meant. Thanks for the clarification.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Let's do another Art Pen Pal project!

Be sure to read the post from earlier today with photos from our recent art pen pal project.

I think we should do it again! E-mail me at cbethblog(at)gmail(dot)com if you're interested in participating. You can make any sort of art project at all, and any talent/skill level is acceptable! When you e-mail me be sure to give me your address so I can pass it along to the person who will be sending you their project. And so I can post it all over the web, of course. I'm all about sharing your personal information with strangers.

Art pen pals--the artwork!

Some time ago I organized an Art Pen Pal project. (Thanks to Michelle Brunner for the great idea!) Participants were randomly assigned a fellow artist to send a handmade project to. It was fun, with all participants following through, making and sending artwork using materials as varied as Popsicle sticks and Photoshop. Ready for pictures?

1. Made by Angie, sent to IsDihara:
An adorable family portrait using pen, Popsicle sticks, pom pom balls (or whatever they're called!), construction paper, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes, all on white paper.

2. Made by IsDihara, sent to Anna:
A beautiful card using various papers and rubber stamps.

3. Anna to C. Beth:
A fun Photoshopped picture (with Anna's adorable son as the model.)

4. C. Beth to Momza:
A construction paper collage. (Momza is a doula--she provides labor and childbirth support to mamas.)

5. Momza to Bri:

A beautiful holiday drawing with lovely calligraphy.

6. Bri to Tia:

An artistic, creative Photoshop project.

7. Tia to Isabella:
An adorable fall-themed marker picture made with the help of Tia's daughter Ellie's hands.

8. Isabella to Angie:
A soft fabric bird--and a cute card that I've heard came with a little story? Perhaps Angie or Isabella would like to share!

Thank you to everyone who participated! Hopefully we'll do this again soon. Keep your eyes open!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A good cry

I cried multiple times last night, and it felt so great! (If you're a man, does this sentence make any sense to you?) I watched Fox's new show, Secret Millionaire, and those tears just kept welling up.

Here's the premise: Fox sends multimillionaires to live in poverty for a week. They are "undercover," not revealing their wealth, and they have the opportunity to get to know people in need. At the end of the week, they give at least $100,000 of their own money, to one or multiple recipients.

Two episodes were shown last night. In the first, a very successful lawyer and his son gave away $25,000 to one person and $50,000 to two others, for a total of $125,000. In the second, a wealthy couple gave $100,000 to each of three different organizations, for a total of $300,000.

Maybe I should be upset that they're playing on my emotions, that things are never what they seem on reality TV, etc. But instead I was really touched. The father/son duo seemed so genuinely affected by the poverty, realizing just how blessed they were. I loved seeing that in both episodes, more than the "minimum" $100,000 was given freely. It seemed that the givers and the recipients were all deeply, positively affected.

Every time a check was handed over, I cried. It was a great evening of television.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It really should have come with washing instructions

You know that feeling you get when you realize you've done something really dumb, and you can't undo it? Like when you dent your car or flood the bathroom again? I got that feeling yesterday morning when, after searching for my new MP3 player, I found it underneath some jeans and towels.

In the washing machine.

I was pretty upset. As I walked with the kids, sans soggy MP3 player, I was praying about my disappointment. And it hit me that there was something very positive about the situation--The Engineer's reaction to it.

The Engineer is very good at his job, partially because he is very practical. The practical side of his nature nicely balances the artistic, at times flighty, side of mine. But his personality also makes it really tough for him when people around him make totally avoidable, silly mistakes. Many times I've told him, "You don't need to make me feel any worse about {insert avoidable error}; I already feel bad enough!"

Yesterday was different. I called The Engineer as soon as I found the player, telling him what I'd done. "Well," he rationalized, "it's an easy thing to do; it's so small." He showed that he related to me by saying, "You'll just need to get into the habit of checking your pockets; I go in and out of that habit myself." And he reassured me, "It might dry out; remember that phone I dropped into water at a treatment plant? It was fine after it dried out!" He even agreed to buy another if this one doesn't recover.

As I replayed our conversation in my mind, I gained a new appreciation for my husband. He reacted in a way that comforted me, making my feelings more important than a silly electronic device. I called him at work to tell him, in detail, what a great job he'd done.

Yesterday The Engineer was also The Encourager. What a great combination!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Countdown, part 4: Cookies & Cake

Well, I realized as I was walking this morning that we have reached T-minus one month until the big two-year anniversary of The Engineer's brain surgery. I was going to skip my Countdown post since I did one a couple of weeks ago. Then I saw today's Cake Wrecks post about a disturbing cookie cutter and decided I had to get in here and write, not about gratitude or anything else serious, but about cookies. Weird, yummy, kinda creepy cookies.

You see, once The Engineer was released from the hospital, I threw a big Brain & Birthday Bash. We celebrated The Engineer's brain health and Chickie's first birthday. (Her actual birthday had been pretty low-key since it had been 12 days after Daddy's surgery.) The Engineer kept a good sense of humor about his health issues, so I decided brain-shaped cookies were in order. Yes, you can buy brain-shaped cookie cutters online. Heck, you can buy anything online.

They turned out very cute and even tasted good. I'm sure some guests shied away from them because of the pure weirdness factor, but I love sugar, and biting into sweet gray matter doesn't take away my appetite.


Chickie had an adorable cake, made by our friend Leslie. She even made matching cookies, some attached to the cake and some on the side, which our more squeamish guests undoubtedly appreciated. This is one of my all-time favorite Chickie pictures.


That day was wonderful, a day to celebrate all that God has given us. Looking at the pictures makes me smile. I think God probably liked my celebratory brain cookies a lot.

Red Shoes

When I was pregnant with Zoodle, an online children's shoe store was liquidating its inventory. I got lots and lots of shoes for $1 and $2 a pair. Yesterday I checked the box on a pair of red dress shoes I'd bought for Chickie and realized they were her size.

She saw them...and fell in love.

The beauty of dress shoes that cost a buck or two is that when Chickie asked to wear them today, I didn't mind that she was wearing jeans, not a fancy red dress. I'm guessing today was the first day of many that her feet will be dressed in red faux patent leather, no matter what color her outfit is.

They are fun to wear when sitting...


...but especially delightful when running on tile. What a great clip-clop noise they make!


And I betcha didn't shoes are all the rage with PJs these days.


Monday, December 1, 2008


I'm so sick of hearing about the Dow (emphasis on "OW.")

A few months back I signed up to receive News Alert e-mails from the New York Times. Sometimes it's great; I like feeling like I'm "in the know" when a big news item shows up in my e-mail box.

Lately, though, a disproportionate number of these news alerts are related to the nauseating roller coaster that is our current stock market. Today at 3:30 p.m. I checked my e-mail and was greeted with the disheartening subject line, "News Alert: Dow Plunges 680 Points as Recession Is Declared."

Now, I agree. This is big news. Maybe I should be thinking more about the recession than I am. But it's easier not to dwell on it. I'm very thankful that while our wallets feel the stretch, The Engineer still has a job. What a disaster it would be if he lost his job--I'd have to come up with a new "blog name" for him!

And even that little joke is a great example of my desire not to think too hard about this awful recession we are in and how difficult it would be if my husband was numbered among the unemployed.

I'm blessed; our personal finances have plenty of time to recover, since The Engineer and I are in our 30s. I made the mistake the other day of opening his 401(k) statement. UGH. We have the strategy of just sitting and riding out the craziness for now, since (if God continues to bless us with job stability) most of the money we have in the market won't be needed for decades. Sometimes I'd prefer not to even open the statements, so that I don't see those dreadful minus signs showing our losses.

I don't know if ignoring it is the right thing to do, but for now I'm going to keep deleting those icky, DOWner e-mails, and hoping we're doing the right thing by staying the course. And then I'll get on with my day and try not to think too much about it.

How are you handling the economic mess?

Heartfelt apology

I am truly sorry. I looked back at my most recent posts, and there are no new pictures of Chickie and Zoodle. Sometimes I forget that having the two cutest kids in the world is a privilege but also comes with responsibility--I must share their beauty with the world, regularly. Forgive my oversight--it must have been my motherly humility (cough, cough.) I am ready to make up for my error by providing several ridiculously cute photos in today's post. Ready?

The kiddos really enjoyed having Mamma and Papa here. Mamma brought Chickie her very own apron and chef cap.


We tried to get a good photo of Zoodle with Papa, but Zoodle was very grumpy. (On a positive note, he's completely adorable when he's grumpy.)


The next morning he was in high spirits, ready to smile for Papa and Mamma.



Chickie enjoyed cuddle time with Papa, too.


Zoodle's most recent mischievous achievement is learning to climb onto small things like the lid of our storage ottoman.


And...after the poop stress yesterday morning, Chickie (drumroll please) ended up with a fourth sticker on her potty chart before she went to bed. I'm sure it would go without saying--Mama was very happy. Next time--WALL-E DVD!


I just caught up on the comments from yesterday's post. I'll post a response as a comment there. Thanks!