Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Walk

(Somebody wanted his picture taken)

The girls and I walked the neighborhood today. I have been noticing all the flowers blooming and wanted to take in all the Springiness we have right now. I have never loved Spring more than this year. I don't know why. Maybe it has something to do with the brilliance of the glimmer of hope I've been recognizing.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

One of My Hobbies

Having little money and seemingly meager amounts of food you would normally eat can make one very creative and resourceful when it comes to cooking for the family. It has become kind of a hobby for me. When we did have a little more money in years past, I would flock to estate and yard sales to stock up on vintage cook books but back then it was only because I love(d) to read them and I admired the pictures and quaint graphics. I wasn’t really going to use them for their original purpose. The more I read, the more enchanted I became and pretty soon I was trying out the recipes. To this day, when I try a recipe I write the date and any notes or opinions next to the recipe right in the book. Some of these previously owned books have pencil marks from the 1950s with faded, lady-like handwriting stating the date and the event for which the dish was made. Little details like that really make a book that much more valuable to me.
Most of the dishes are extremely dated, a food snob’s nightmare, but charming as ever in my opinion, even if they don’t sound appetizing.

Salmon Cocktail Mold
(Recipe from The New Antoinette Pope School Cookbook, Second Printing, 1962)

2 cans salmon (doesn’t say what size!)
¼ cup chopped green onion and stems
¼ cup chopped green olives
½ cup chopped celery
About ½ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing thinned with 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and stir until well blended. Place in a small bowl and chill at least 1 hour.
To serve, turn out onto center of a platter, and with spatula go over mold to make it smooth. Garnish top with hard-cooked eggs, olives, or vegetables cut to simulate flowers, or as desired. Place crackers around base of mold.
Serves 8.

I made this recipe for a dinner party I hosted. If I remember correctly, nobody ate it. It’s a shame because I ate it and thought it was delicious. And I ended up polishing it off myself over the next 2 or 3 days. It isn’t attractive to the mainstream, in my opinion. It’s a big sculpted mound of light pinkish brown with tiny bits of green and red here and there. The hard part is the canned salmon, which I had never bought before—there are hundreds of tiny bones mixed in that you must pluck out by hand, unless there is some tool of which I’m unaware. The book this came from has tons of extremely dated, sculpted, unnatural looking dishes (think cream cheese dyed green and shaped into flowers and fruits adorning a gelatin mold salad made of chicken and peas). I love it.

Green Beans w/ Oranges
Easy; combines two well-liked foods
(Recipe from Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, 1972 edition)

2 (10 oz) pkgs. frozen whole green beans
1 (11 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained
3 tblsp. butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook beans according to package directions, drain. Add orange sections and butter. Heat through; season with salt and pepper. Makes 6 servings.

That recipe above doesn’t sound very tasty to me but someone must’ve thought it was good enough to include in a DoubleDay cookbook. I found it when I was looking for ways to use the canned green beans in my pantry. Not sure if this is the way I want to use them.

Buttered or Cheese KIX
(Recipe from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, First Edition, 1950)

Each taste calls for another.

Melt in heavy skillet 5 tbsp. butter. Remove from heat. Stir 5 tbsp. Parmesan –type cheese, if desired. Add ¼ box KIX (4 cups). Sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt. Stir well.

Now THAT sounds tasty! I’ve never heard of using KIX cereal to make an appetizer. Did you know KIX was that old?
That was fun. Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back in Action

Yesterday, Target had a flyer in the paper advertising a 4GB memory card for $12.99 so we went and got it today. Hooray! I think it was a very good price.

I baked some muffins tonight, just for fun. They are Blackberry Yankee-Style Cornbread muffins. Turned out pretty good even though I should've taken 'em outta the oven a minute or two earlier. Raquel was expecting them to taste like cupcakes--I can tell she didn't care for them. But Jose and I enjoyed them. No, they're not on my diet!

No pictures of the girls tonight but give me a day or two and I'll get some good ones. Maxine grows up so much each day, I bet she'll look different to you when you see her new pictures.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

*Handsomely Homemade Handout*

(I grabbed this photo from

The first five people who respond to this post will get something made by me! My choice. For you. This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

1. I make no guarantees that you will like what I make! (Though I hope you will!)
2. What I create will be just for you.
3. It'll be done this year. {might be a little while}
4. You have no clue what it's going to be. I don't even have a clue what it's going to be.
5. I reserve the right to do something extremely strange.
The catch? Oh, the catch is that you must repost this on your blog and offer the same thing to the first 5 people who do the same on your blog. The first 5 people to leave a comment will win a homemade gift! It may not be great, but it will be fun!!***Oh, and be sure to post a picture of what you win when you get it***

Thanks for the fun idea, Iris! Yes, I was one of the first five commenters on Iris' post of this subject and she will be making me something I will treasure, I'm sure!

I REALLY don't like to submit posts without pretty pictures. Here are other peoples' pictures of their handmade things that I think are really neat even if some are rather useless.

UPDATE: Apparently, a lot of people have been tagged to do this kind of post recently! How fun! I commented on a similar post in Constance Pelkey Designs and am hoping to get something delightful.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sorry, Mom!

My mom just emailed to say she misses my blog updates and pictures of her grandbabies. I do, too! Issues with my camera must wait, though. Other priorities are higher on the list. I will now tell you what I've been doing all week.
I had a wake up call this week. Realizing that living here is too expensive for us and wondering how to get us out of this situation, a light flicked on in my head: Sarah should get a good job in a town with lower rents. So I searched for jobs with the state. There are many. Soon, I noticed I am missing only one qualification: a college degree. Many of the jobs require either a degree OR a few years experience in a specific field. I need to go back to school! I thought. My next idea was that I should study something that is in demand and has the potential for growth and of course, something interesting.
So next I researched "best careers" and then narrowed that down to "best careers to get with an Associate's Degree" and I looked at a few on the list. In California, Skincare Specialists are number one on the list, which projects growth of 60% in the next 8 years. That didn't interest me, though.
A few numbers down I saw, Environmental Engineering Technician. I know "Technician" is one of those terms that sounds fancy but it really isn't, just like "Administrative Assistant". I found out what kind of work an EET does. It's kinda vague but I get it. This is something I am interested in and I know I can do it. Investing two years or less at a community college to get into this career seems pretty fair.
Then I found this school: Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, Ca. No other community college I've seen so far in California has such an attractive-looking program in Environmental Science. Check this out. I feel strongly that this is where I'm meant to go.
If I'm broke, how am I going to pay for school? My grandma said she's help me pay for it. She has made a lot of things possible for me in my life. I'm grateful for my grandparents and the great relationship I have with them.
Of course, both Jose and I are going to have to get regular old jobs up there in the meantime, which is what he does now, anyways. He does real estate, too, but that isn't producing any income for us at all.
Oh! Also, the college offers childcare for around $100 per month! I would just have to enroll in some little parenting class and volunteer 1.5 hrs a week in the childcare facility on campus. That is wonderful!
Can you tell I'm a little excited and maybe even hopeful?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Maxine's New Skills

I ruined my camera's memory card and have no new pictures to show off. But Maxine is making a lot of progress and I thought I'd share her new "skills".
Maxine has started to realize that just because something disappears from her view doesn't mean it isn't there. If you stand in her way of the thing she's trying to see she'll crane her neck to look around you. It is pretty cute.
She is such a good eater! She still loves the homemade baby food, sweet potatoes being at the top of her list. When Raquel was this age (almost 8 months) I don't think she had a big appetite but then I was feeding her Gerber, not tasty, homemade, unwatered-down food.
Maxine is still not really crawling but she does get around the living room quite well by a mixture of dragging/pulling and crawling. She can also balance her body on one side with one arm in the air and one on the ground to steady herself--this is the precursor to sitting up on her own with the next move in the sequence being using that arm on the ground to push herself up to sit.
She is ultra sensitive in two ways. 1) Music makes her want to bob and bounce, whether she hears it on tv or one of us singing to her. When I sing to her she stares at me like I'm an angel or something. Her favorite song, the first song I ever sang to her inside OR outside the womb, is My Bunny Lies Over the Ocean. 2) She LOVES a good back massage. Her eyes will roll back in her head when you massage her back. I'm guessing her little muscles get sore from learning to crawl. She also responds similarly to light touches on her legs, arms and face. At the mall yesterday, she fell asleep sitting on my lap while I ran my fingers up and down her left leg. I couldn't see her face but her head slowly fell forward and Jose looked and saw she was falling asleep. So cute!
Her favorite tv show is Blue's Clues. It really gets her attention.
She can say "dadadadada", "tss", "babababa" and "ah-ba" but I don't think she's actually trying to speak english yet.
When I'm trying to comb her hair, she tilts her head all the way back to see what I'm doing. So I usually give her something to play with while I do this.
Sometimes she puts her hand in the way when I'm changing her diaper. So I also give her something to occupy her hands when I do this.
She likes to scratch everything, even her own tummy. I am teaching her the meaning of "soft" by placing her hand on my face and saying "soft" while running her hand down my cheek softly.
When I'm feeding her she thinks its fun to spray food out of her mouth by making a "tss" sound after I put food in there. So, she is now learning the meaning of the word, "NO", hahaha. When I say "NO" I have to make sure my face has a certain serious expression, otherwise she thinks I'm being funny and she'll just laugh. :)
That's all for now. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I know Raquel is smart but she still manages to impress me with new skills. Her teacher was the first one to introduce her to the concept of lowercase letters. Raquel had only known capitals and only knew how to write her name in all caps. Teacher wanted us to practice with her at home so we have been doing that. She has improved so much in just a few days. The picture above and to the left is her first attempt. And a couple of days later she did this. I wrote her name up at the top so she could go by my example. I put a silver star next to the one she did the best.

I have been getting a lot of compliments from teachers at the school on how I make Raquel's lunch. Last night I tried something new: a thin egg omelette wrapped around a small rice ball that I had dipped in light soy sauce. I tied it with nori. It was not easy to tie and didn't look as pretty as the picture in the recipe on but everyone asked me about it today--it surprised them that it really wasn't as fancy as it looks--it was basic foods, nothing Martha-Stewart-y. Raquel ate one but not the other so I'm not sure she liked it.

And here are some portraits I took of the girls over the weekend that I think will make you smile.

That last one reminds me of chimps! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Maxine's Eating A Lot

When I got the idea to go to a farmers market today it was already too late. They were closed. So I went to Vons instead. I bought bananas, a big yam, an avocado, a butternut squash, a fennel bulb, carrots and Jonagold Apples to try and make more baby food. Everything is done except the yam, meaning, everything got pureed but the yam. It's cooked and waiting for me but I'm too tired now! I needed to make a lot today because of how fast my supply is dwindling.
It turns out bananas and avocados are soft enough raw that you do not need to cook them at all to mash them. I made a banana-cado mash with a fork. It looked like a lot even though I only used about 1/5 of the avocado and 1/4 of a large banana. Maxine loved it! I tasted it, too, just to make sure why she liked it. She ate so much of it that I could only fill two wells in the ice cube tray with this mixture. Yes, it will probably brown a little but the flavor will still be there so I'm okay with that.

I found a site I like and that I referred to today specifically for the banana-cado recipe. The site is called weelicious. The layout is simple and the recipes look great.

The squash was a big one, I guess. I got SO much food out of it! I did one puree of plain butternut squash, one with carrots, fennel and squash and one with banana and squash. The colors are so pretty. Maxine didn't care for the plain batch, which is why I started mixing it with other stuff. She liked the mixed batches. She was my little taste tester but I tasted it all, too.

I also made apple sauce good enough to serve for dinner... to adults! All I did was add a bit of cinnamon. It came out so good.
I'm positive Maxine enjoys eating my baby food. She eats so much more now than before. It's quite surprising how pushy she gets when I feed her! She wants me to hurry up with the next spoonful and there is still food in her mouth. I'm pretty flattered.

Something interesting about fennel: it can relieve your baby's gassiness, it aides in digestion and can calm down a teething baby.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My First Homemade Baby Food

It was scary. That's why it took me so long to get started. I meant to start doing this a couple months ago. For one thing, I had never used a food processor before--Have you seen those blades? Secondly, I'm a little afraid of produce I buy at the store and wish I had my own garden. Third, foods considered safe for babies are different depending on who you talk to or what you read--this is actually the most frustrating part. The girls' pediatrician warned me not to give strawberries to Maxine, that babies shouldn't have strawberries until they're 12 months old, yet, look at the baby food at the store and you see "banana strawberry" or similar. Huh?!? And then I was looking at and it said that carrots and spinach (two things I was going to puree today) have too many nitrates in them and babies shouldn't eat them until after a certain age. Maxine LOVES carrots from the jar! Why would Gerber put unsafe food in a jar for babies to eat? I have decided I don't fully trust this neurotic site but will look around for more conclusive information about their claims before I mash up my carrots and spinach.

Today I made two batches of baby food: peaches and sweet potatoes. I used only one peach and one pretty big sweet tater. I steamed the peach and baked the tater. After pureeing the sweet potato, it looked and tasted so good (that little tiny bit I got on my finger) that I wished I had bought more so I could have my own all mashed up like velvet! It was very starchy so I added to the processor a little of the cooled boiled peach water. I'm very happy with how it came out. The peach didn't come out like velvet but it doesn't have the starch that the potato has and I figure that has a lot to do with the resulting texture. I spooned both foods into one ice cube tray which I filled completely. After the cubes freeze they will be popped into freezer bags and stored.

Maxine has been in a bad mood since last night. I have a feeling more teeth are coming in. It is so tiring trying to cheer her up and more difficult when Raquel is testing my patience at the same time. I have mommy burnout today for sure.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In Between Drizzles

The sun almost came out this afternoon so I bundled the girls up (California style) and we played in the yard for a short while. It started sprinkling again but I'm not complaining. Our grass needed it and I really don't want to pay for this expensive water just to keep it green for the neighbors' sake. If we owned this house, I'd get rid of just about every inch of grass. If we don't get rain, I don't think we can afford to keep it pretty.

Raquel did well at lunch today, almost ate the entire thing except for a few broccoli florets and edamame. Her and I sat in the cafeteria after the class had all gone home and we watched the upper classmen arrive to eat lunch. About 50% of the children had brought lunches from home! I was very happy to see this, not only for their sake but mostly (selfishly) because I was worried I might be the only mom who thought her kid was too good for school lunch. This is only true for the preschool group.

Since making the sushi took some time to assemble, I did some research on "speed bento" and found tips on how to make lunch fast but nutritious. I cooked rice, pasta and vegetables (seperately), divided them into servings and popped them in the freezer. I believe I'm set up for the next month of making Raquel's lunch!

Here are my favorite shots from our time outside...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Maki & Stuff for Lunch

Okay, I made tomorrow's lunch: Spamburger Maki with sides of brocolli, pickled baby corn, edamame, kiwi and butterscotch pudding for dessert. I am sure about everything except the kiwi but since it was only 25 cents I figure I can afford to waste it if it isn't a hit.
In case you're wondering what the ingredients are: one nori leaf (roasted seaweed), spread half of it with neufchatel cheese, then Calrose rice on top of that (the bowl of water is for keeping your hands moist enough to handle the rice), then raw spinach, light Spam, carrots and ketchup. I know it sounds like it wouldn't taste good but it does. And Raquel likes it so that's what really matters. The reason I only spread the filling on half of the nori leaf is because of who this is for. I must make the maki slices small enough for a four-year-old to eat with ease. The plain half of the nori leaf acts as reinforcement when the maki is rolled--everything is kept inside neatly.Every sushi instruction video I've seen says you need a bamboo sheet/placemat and plastic wrap to roll the maki tightly but I've never used these things. I just roll delicately but firmly and then squeeze the roll if it feels at all loose.Cutting is the hard part for me. I don't have any good sharp knives. So I do the best I can with the heaviest knife I have and rely on the weight of the knife to pierce the nori and gently "saw" back and forth all the way through.And here is the result:I did this with brown rice last time because it is healthier but since this meal has to travel I figured I'd use sticky white rice. I topped these off with a bonito flake seasoning mixture that tastes so good with sticky rice.
Thanks for reading!