Slow + Steady Cleans the House :: Week 4

I'm going to take it easy the next two weeks because of the Thanksgiving holiday so there won't be any in-depth cleaning posts or polls, but I wanted to leave you with something that has been very helpful to me and is better for my family :: homemade cleaners. I hope you'll consider using them too.

The health risks of using commercial, chemical-based cleaners always bothered me, especially since having Ian and Maya. It took me awhile to switch over to greener cleaning products, but I've been very happy since doing so. With a little elbow grease these products clean just as well, if not better, than the store-bought stuff.

My essential "cleaning kit" includes the following :: Dr. Bronner's peppermint Castile soap, Costco-sized white vinegar + baking soda, borax, essential oils, scrubbing brushes, old toothbrushes, and microfiber cloths.

[My cleaning supply carrier full of stuff that rarely gets used.]

A book that really helped me is Green Up Your Cleanup by Jill Potvin Schoff. I use several of her cleaning "recipes" instead of store-bought cleaners ::

2 teaspoons borax
hot water
1/4 teaspoon liquid Castile soap

Put the borax in a 16-oz spray bottle, fill it with hot water, and shake until the borax dissolves. Last, add the Castile soap. Spray on surfaces like counters and walls, let is sit for a little bit, and wipe off with a clean sponge or microfiber cloth.
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (optional)
3-8 drops essential oil like lavender, lemon, peppermint, and tea tree (optional)

Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and water, and shake gently. You can add essential oils to cut the vinegar smell. According to the book, you should use the liquid dish soap in the glass cleaner to dissolve the buildup left behind by commercial glass cleaners. Once that buildup is gone you can omit the soap.
BAKING SODA SCRUB <-- love this stuff!
2 tablespoons baking soda
liquid dish soap or Castile soap

Put the baking soda in a wide-mouthed container (I used an old reusable Ziploc sandwich container) and add the soap a little at a time until you have a foamy paste. Apply the paste to what you want to clean with a rag, sponge, or brush and let it sit for a little while before rinsing with vinegar. Spray the vinegar off with water. You can keep the scrub in the container for awhile with the lid on it. But I've gotten so lazy that I just squirt some Castile soap on whatever surface I want to clean and sprinkle on baking soda before scrubbing away.
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon (about 25 drops) tea tree oil
1/4 teaspoon (about 25 drops) lavender oil

Fill a 16-oz spray bottle with water and then add the essential oils. Shake gently before each use. Spray on surfaces and leave to dry.
Schoff has a few other "recipes" I haven't tried yet, like laundry soap and dishwasher soap, both items I still buy at the store (although I try to buy the "green" option, whatever that means). And I still buy toilet cleaner at the store. Every once in awhile I try to use baking soda to scrub the inside of the toilet and then I spray it down with the disinfectant. I'm not sure which is more effective, seeing as my toilet always seems to be dirty ... I'll just have to keep experimenting.

And I'm leaving you with one last "miracle" cleaning tip (which I read about in a Japanese baking soda + vinegar cleaning book) :: you know that oily buildup that accumulates on stuff near the stove? I've always had a heck of a time scrubbing that crud off my teapot, which I leave on my stovetop. I used abrasive cleaners and hot water and nothing ever worked. Until I read that baking soda alone could clean it up! Sure enough, all you have to do is sprinkle baking soda on the item and scrub with a dry brush (I usually use an old toothbrush) or even your fingers. The oily residue just balls up and crumbles off. Once you're all done rinse it with water.


Slow + Steady Cleans the House :: Week 3

This week I tackle the dreaded laundry monster. Laundry, to me, is a mystery chore :: it's not an extremely difficult task (after all, the washing machine + dryer do most of the work) but it still doesn't get done often enough; all of us seem to wear the same clothes over and over again but the mountains of laundry seem to get larger and larger; and where do the darn single socks disappear to?!

[image from Shirt.Woot]

Everyday I am faced with some kind of you-still-haven't-finished-the-laundry reminder :: we have stacks of clean clothes in the living room that need to be folded, put away, or washed again because they've been sitting there for god knows how long; and we have way too many laundry hampers around the house full of dirty clothes and linens. And we can't forget about the washer that's full of dirty clothes and the dryer that hasn't been unloaded yet.

It's clear that we haven't found a laundry system that works for us. I'm hoping that if we have an actual plan we can conquer laundry. So, what do you do?

I'd love to read about your laundry process, so please feel free to leave comments as well.

In an absolutely perfect world, someone else would take care of my laundry for me, but that ain't ever gonna happen. So I've been thinking instead of what would be a more ideal situation. Unfortunately, that entails some major renovations to our house so I had to scrap the idea. (Honestly, I would rather have an office/craft room or a nicer bathroom but more square footage for a laundry room would make things so much easier!) So now I'm down to being realistic about our laundry solutions. Boo being realistic!

First, I think we're not using hampers well. Before we had kids we kept two hampers, one for white clothes and one for colors. I did the laundry when they got full, and the clean clothes got put away because I needed the hamper to be empty for the new dirty clothes. But then, somewhere along the way, we started accumulating more and more laundry baskets and hampers. I think that was the major mistake.

Now that we have enough baskets to leave our clean clothes in, I don't bother to fold and put the clothes away. Instead, we just pull clean clothes out of the basket to wear. And because we have the dual system of throwing dirty clothes directly into the washing machine and putting some dirty clothes into hampers, the whites and colors don't get sorted and some clothes don't get washed for a long time (i.e., the washing machine fills up more quickly than the hampers fill up so the hamper clothes get neglected).

As a solution, I'm really liking the idea of these laundry baskets by Rubbermaid :: Stack'n Sort baskets, which were mentioned on the Real Simple Home & Organizing blog. Each member of the family would get two (whether for whites + colors or for clean + dirty). Once we have the hamper situation squared away we'll stop putting clothes directly into the washing machine.

Second, I think a laundry schedule would work for me. Otherwise I go much too long between washing towels and sheets. Writing laundry into my weekly schedule might help me to be more efficient about getting it all done. My plan is to start laundry in the morning on the days I go into work late (Monday and Thursday) and do a load (or two) of linens during the weekend. If there's a lot of laundry that needs to be done, I might do a load on Wednesday (when I come home early from work) or on Friday (my day off). With this schedule I might end up doing a load everyday (!) but at least I've scheduled specific times to get it done.

Third, "doing laundry" means sorting dirty clothes, washing + drying, folding, and putting away. It's the whole package and needs to be done as a whole package. Going back to my last point about scheduling laundry, I need to make sure I have enough time during that day to complete the entire process.

And last, Rupert and I are trying to get the kids involved. We obviously can use all the help we can get! Currently, the kids put their dirty clothes in the washer and they sort the clean clothes. For the most part they do a good job, but it dawned on me that they pay very little attention to what Rupert and I wear; it's not uncommon to find Rupert's shirts in my pile and vice versa. I'm sure with some more practice they'll get it one of these days. As they get older I'll have them take on a bit more of the laundering process.

Laundry is definitely a chore for me, so I was surprised that no one chose laundry as one of their three worst chores in last week's poll. Cleaning the kitchen came in first as the worst chore, followed by dishwashing and dusting + vacuuming (a tie). As I've been thinking more and more about cleaning in order to write these blog posts, it's becoming clearer and clearer that having fewer possessions would make cleaning much easier and go by much more quickly. (I think a decluttering post will be in the works for posting in the near future.)

As for the follow-up poll about how often people spot-clean, it turns out people are kinda split on this one. One person answered "weekly" but two others answered "once every two weeks," and another two, "when it gets disgusting." I wish the two people who answered "other" specified their frequency. I am definitely not a weekly spot-cleaner -- the days just seem to fly by before I can get the cleaning supplies out -- so I'd have to say I wait until things get disgusting. When I write it out like that for all the world to read, it makes me feel pathetic. Gotta work towards spot-cleaning a bit more frequently ... or at least train the kids how to do some of it!


what I made for dinner :: mini honey-mustard meatloaves

I don't know about you, but I grew up with fabulous meatloaf. My mother makes an amazing meatloaf with some surprises inside :: she would often stick an entire sausage (like a bratwurst) or a hard-boiled egg inside the loaf. It may sound weird, but it's delicious! And her meatloaves were always moist so I never had the aversion to meatloaf that many people seem to have.

Fast forward to college, sophomore year. I attempted to make a meatloaf and I didn't have a recipe. That was a disaster and a memory Rupert seems to have erased from his memory (thankfully).

I think I was traumatized by that cooking experience and I've been very reluctant to make meatloaf for the last 10+ years. But I think I've found a recipe that will help me add meatloaf to my cooking repertoire :: Mini Honey-Mustard Meatloaves from Martha Stewart.

The recipe is not perfect as is, but it's a good start. Rupert was surprised at its moistness, a big plus. Adding cheese to the meatloaf mixture and the top of the meatloaves helps, no doubt! But I found that it's too fluffy, a result from perhaps too much panko breadcrumbs. I don't want the meat to be too dense, but I also want it to still taste like meat; next time I'll reduce the amount of breadcrumbs to a quarter of a cup. The recipe calls for honey-mustard but I didn't have any so I mixed some honey into regular yellow mustard. Next time I may use a Dijon or seedy mustard instead to give it deeper flavor.

One warning, because of the cheese, the meatloaves expel a lot of grease (I also used 80/20 ground beef so there was a lot of fat in the meat too). Be sure to use the cooking pan that is appropriate for you. I used a rimmed baking sheet lined with Silpat and it required a lot of cleaning. Placing the meatloaves on a rack in a deeper baking pan might be better ...

I served the meatloaves with curry roasted cauliflower, which was a hit with everyone. I just cut up a cauliflower, doused it with some olive oil and sprinkled salt, pepper, and a little bit of curry powder on it. I think I roasted it for about 12 minutes in the oven while the meatloaves were cooking. Be sure to toss them midway through the cooking time so they don't get too dry.


Slow + Steady Cleans the House :: Week 2

I'm now starting week 2 of Slow + Steady Cleans the House and I haven't done a lick of cleaning in the last seven days. Why am I not surprised?

cleared off dresser + reorganized bookshelf
[Cleared off the top of the dresser + reorganized my books.]

Actually, I partially decluttered our bedroom last weekend but what I didn't get cleaned up is still on the floor. That's my problem :: I lose steam part way through an organizing or cleaning project and I'm left with a bigger mess than when I started.

the floor, which is not cleaned up at all
[What was on the dresser is now on the floor.]

So, why did I not finish? Let's analyze this for a moment ... I've read enough organizing books to know the basic guidelines, and I clearly did not follow them ::
  1. Make a commitment to organizing + cleaning as a family --> So far I'm the only one on board. I also started cleaning the bedroom by myself to surprise Rupert but I should probably enlist his help next time.
  2. A place for everything, and everything in its place --> There was a lot of useless junk on my dresser that I got rid of (including some old poetry medals I won in middle school), but I still have too much stuff to store in an orderly way. I have to work on minimizing and finding a proper place for everything instead of just leaving stuff on any available flat surface.
  3. Touch items as few times as possible --> I need to remember that the extra 10 seconds to a minute it takes to properly put things away is worth not having junk all over the place all the time.
  4. Changing behavior takes a long time; I will have to repeat an activity for more than three weeks before it becomes a habit --> I should spend some time each week doing the same cleaning/organizing activity so that it becomes a regular part of my routine.
  5. Cleaning + organizing are more mental exercises than physical acts --> Most importantly, I will have to think about my possessions, the reasons why I keep certain items, and my motivation behind mindless shopping.
So, my goals for the following week are to finish picking up the junk on the floor in the bedroom, and to go through guidelines 1 ~ 5 everyday.

All right, down to some business :: Last week's poll results surprised me. I asked what your cleaning methodology is and I thought for sure that most people cleaned a bit everyday or weekly. Most respondents are like me :: they clean before company comes over. Or, as my mother-in-law mentioned, she hides stuff before company comes over. Valid point -- cleaning and hiding are two different things.

Of the 13 respondents, six said they clean before company comes over; four have a housecleaning service; and there was one respondent each for seasonal cleaning, monthly cleaning, and feigning housecleaning ignorance. But, surely, people must do spot-cleaning every once in awhile. Otherwise, everyone's house would look like mine and I know for a fact that they don't! So let's get a bit more specific here ... and be honest!

OK, but this week's official poll is actually about your three most dreaded chores.

I had a hard time just picking three!


48 months.

Maya + Hello Kitty
Maya @ 48 months :: November 4, 2009
[the last of my what-started-as-weekly-and-is-now-monthly posts about Maya]
  • Visited a real pumpkin patch for the first time in Ventura. This was a tradition we started when Ian was little, but we stopped going after a few years so we'd like to resurrect it.
  • Her counting to 20 is definitely getting better ... finally.
  • She was a mermaid princess for Halloween and went trick-or-treating with her friend M (for two blocks before she got tired). She definitely loves her candy ... but she separated out the chocolates for me and Rupert to eat.
  • From Rupert's Facebook :: "I'm shooting zombies out of my butt." -- not the words of a normal 3 year old.
  • And calling bad guys (Biff from Back to the Future Part II) "poop heads."
  • She's not very good at pluralfying nouns. Appropriately for October :: "ghostes" + "leafes"
  • First parent-teacher conference :: academically moving along quite well, but socially it turns out she's a lot more similar to Ian than I originally thought.
  • Rupert *still* spoonfeeds her cereal in the morning but she promised me that once she turns 4 she'll eat by herself (which she is totally capable of doing). Now, we have to make sure Rupert goes along with the plan.
  • She has this thing about not wanting to be on the freeway because "it's boring!" If we're going somewhere she doesn't recognize the first thing she asks is, "Are we going on the freeway?" Then she asks, "Are we on the freeway now?" And finally she asks repeatedly, "Are we off the freeway?"


Week 1 in my new weekly series Slow + Steady Cleans the House

It's no secret that I am not a fan of housekeeping. "Not a fan" is an understatement :: I loathe and detest it and often take naps instead of picking up a sponge or a mop or a broom. Who wants to spend their time scrubbing toilets and wiping down baseboards when they could be doing anything else?

[How true it is.]

Of course, I'm not alone. My friend L recently asked on her Facebook page if money were no object would you hire a housekeeper or a nanny, and all the responses were a resounding yes for the housekeeper. I think most parents -- whether at home or at work -- would rather spend time with their kid(s) than have to say, "Hold on, sweetie, Mommy has to wash the windows instead of take you to the park."

Heck, even if money were an object (and, believe me, it is), I'd hire a housekeeper to come every once in awhile. The only thing stopping me is my husband. In fact, my mother-in-law has offered on numerous occasions to send her housekeeper to clean my bathroom and kitchen (because they are, in fact, that dirty!) but Rupert has pooh-poohed the idea repeatedly. (It's not that he thinks housework is a woman's job; I guess it's the principle of not having to pay someone to do something we can do ourselves. Along the same lines, he didn't like when our parents sent a gardener over to spiff up our yard. Again, I would rather hire someone to do that occasionally instead of listening to Rupert mumble about the amount of yard work there is when he could be spending time with the kids or studying.)

It's not that I'm bad at housekeeping. On the rare occasions I get around to cleaning, I do a fairly thorough and good job. It's the upkeep that I cannot, well, keep up with. And since I started working almost a year ago, the house has gotten worse. As a result, our house is in perpetual disarray. We're getting pretty close to the point where we would be a good candidate for one of those organizing shows on HGTV.

[My view on housekeeping isn't this extreme ... but it's pretty close.]

I do not jest, nor do I exaggerate, when I say the house is not just dirty, it's a health hazard (I can picture my mother and mother-in-law nodding in agreement). Every surface is covered in dust and/or cobwebs. There are stacks of crap throughout the house. And let's not even talk about the bathroom; it's like a science experiment gone awry. Suffice it to say, it would be easier to completely remodel the bathroom than try to clean it completely (at least, that's what I keep telling Rupert in the hopes of moving along our my remodeling plans). Looking around the house it is just overwhelming; I don't know where to start or what to tackle first.

Enough is enough! I've been a homeowner for over seven years ... let's show some pride of ownership here, people! So I'm starting a new project :: Slow + Steady Cleans the House. I want to take a more organized and routinized approach to cleaning the house and keeping it that way. And I'd like for you to come along for the ride. That means I need your advice and feedback. Part of my housecleaning improvement process will be to learn and to understand how other people tackle their housekeeping. I think your answers will be really enlightening and helpful to other readers as well. So, how can you contribute? For one, you can comment on each week's blog post; but the easier way will be to participate in the weekly poll.

Polls will be posted each Sunday. Results will be announced and discussed in the following Sunday's post. This week's poll is a general view on how often you clean. Not surprisingly, I'm of the "Housecleaning? What is that?" camp. Occasionally I dabble in the "Clean before company comes over" category but usually I just don't invite people into my house. I'd like to change that. Sure, I claim that I don't care what other people think but it's hard not to compare the state of your house with those of your friends' (who also work but somehow manage to keep their homes habitable).

What is your housecleaning methodology?
Clean a bit everyday.
Clean once a week.
Clean before company comes over.
Have a housecleaning service.
Clean monthly.
Massive cleaning seasonally.
Housecleaning? What is that?

Last piece of business :: in order to embark on this weekly cleaning journey (which will, by association, include organizing) I set some ground rules for myself ::
  1. As the name of the project implies, this will be a gradual process. I will not expect miracle results overnight.
  2. No matter the temptation, I will not compare myself to others. I may steal their cleaning/organizing ideas but I will not compare the progress or result of that idea-stealing.
  3. I'm doing this for the kids as much as I'm doing it for myself. I want to set a good example and teach them organizing skills so when I say, "Clean your room" they know how to do it properly and they don't ask me, "Well, why don't you clean your room?"
  4. I will not give up. Even if I encounter some set-backs (i.e., letting dishes or laundry pile up) I'll ease myself back into the cleaning routine.
  5. I am not looking to be perfect, just adequately organized and clean so that housework no longer causes me stress.
All righty, are you ready? Let's get started!


pride of craftsmanship

On my list of "33 Things to Do While I'm 33" are things like travel (check!), get an iPhone (check!), and learn a new language (not so check). And I'm now on my way to checking "take a creative class" off the list.

My sister D and I are taking a 10-week letterpress class at Otis. Like many paper fiends we both love letterpressed items and we were curious about how it works. So we nudged each other into taking this (expensive) class.

Who knew letterpress would be so much work? OK, who am I kidding, of course it's a lot of work! No wonder letterpress stationery costs so much. (And it's very greasy (which actually was a surprise).) Most modern mass-produced letterpress stationery is made using photopolymer plates, which easily allows use of images, patterns, and text. But we're starting off old-school with metal type.

I set the phrase "i (heart) the liberry" because one of my first graders would literally run around the library yelling this. I liked it ... but no body seemed to "get" it so I reset it as regular ol' "i (heart) the library". My idea was to print it in black except use red for "love," which means you pull out the "love" letters and print a batch in black, swap out the letters, and print just "love" in red.

Unfortunately, it's not that easy when it takes two-and-a-half hours just to set and adjust the type and machine. So all I got done was this:

[This sample is on smooth, slightly shimmery paper. The ink "sticks" pretty well to this paper.]

Sure, the phrase isn't complete, but I wish you could feel the lovely impression of the letterpress. I'm pretty happy and proud of the results. It drove me and the teacher crazy trying to get everything just right (he basically told me he hated this project!). But it was well worth the hassle. Truly, it gave me the joy of creating something with my own hands.

[I printed more on watercolor paper, which my teacher didn't think took the ink very well, but it has a nice texture to it. Besides, I bought a whole pad of the stuff so I need to use it up. My idea is to cut them up into business card size and fill in the blank depending on my mood.]


the start of my day

How my work desk is beginning to look every morning ...

I'm also a bit embarrassed to admit (but just a bit) that I had a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast with my coffee.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


The Simple Woman's Daybook :: 10.19.2009

[Topics copied from Ali Edwards's blog, which was inspired by the original Simple Woman's Daybook]

Outside my window … confused weather: cloudy + sunny, warm + breezy, somewhere between a Los Angeles summer + fall.

I am thinking ... there’s so much I’d like to do to “pretty up” the library. But my priority really should be about curriculum!

I am thankful for ... my husband's flexible grad student schedule. We may not have a lot of money but we have the Man of the family around when we need/want him.

From the kitchen ... tuna noodle casserole.

I am wearing ... light gray corduroys + a hot pink tank top (which I get lots of compliments on), both from Old Navy, and black ballet flats.

I am creating ... shelf marker paint sticks + shelf marker frames (whoo-hoo decoupaging!).

I am going ... to Borders to use the 30% off coupon that expires today.

I am reading ... _The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie_ by Alan Bradley, _Leviathan_ by Scott Westerfeld, _No Impact Man_ by Colin Beavan.

I am hoping ... to cancel my gym membership (since I haven't gone in forever) and use the money instead for KPCC membership + a charitable cause.

I am hearing ... the sound of an empty campus, the peacefulness of no kids at school.

Around the house ... Ian is home early from school with a headache + Jordan spent the day working on the couch.

One of my favorite things ... alone time with some coffee (even though what’s supposed to be regular drip coffee tastes suspiciously like hazelnut today) and ideas for what to buy at the bookstore.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... come up with 3rd grade curriculum about the Dewey Decimal system, finishing the shelf decorations for work, sewing up four tagE*blankEs, printing up some stationery at the letterpress lab, and reading three books.

Picture for today ...


what i made for dinner :: broccoli calzones

Meatless dinner, for a change. I needed to use up the ricotta cheese from the other day so I did a search on Everyday Food and found this recipe for calzones.

It's simple but a tad time-consuming to make + cool the broccoli filling and to roll out + fill eight pizza doughs.

The results are, however, pretty good. And even without any meat I found it to be quite filling. You could, of course, add some kind of meat like sausage if you can't bear the thought of eating vegetarian.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


47 months.

Maya @ 47 months :: October 4, 2009
  • Is a total Daddy's Girl right now ... which is fine by me since it means she bothers Rupert in the morning instead of me!
  • Started "Hot Shots," a tumbling class, at school. It's a great way to get her to wear something other than dresses.
  • She can be very lovable + sweet when she wants to be. I get lots of "Mama, I love you all day," which makes my day.
  • On the other hand, she often hits or kicks Ian, usually in the face. Then I send her to her room for time-out and she always asks for the timer so she knows when to come out.
  • Despite beating up on her brother, she enjoys spending time with him and his friend R when they are hanging out in the morning before school.
  • Her drawing infatuation continues. Lately she's been drawing more animals and making bookmarks for me.
  • She's taller than I think she is :: I put the scissors up high since she was having issues with cutting paper up, but it turns out she can reach it on her tip-toes (I didn't notice because she was good enough to put the scissors back after using it). She can also turn on the lights in the house; now, if only she'd turn them off.
  • Has a fascination with butts and boobs.


what i made for dinner :: chipotle chicken + rice

going back to work dampens my mood for making dinner. well, not really. it dampens my mood for thinking about what to make for dinner. if you tell me what to make, for the most part, i'm okay about the actual cooking part.

to help me find something to make, i signed up to get daily emails from everyday food. i file them away in my email "recipes" folder and scan through them when i'm at a loss as to what to make. i'm all about the simple, quick, as-few-ingredients-as-possible recipes so tonight i made chipotle chicken + rice. (it helped that, when i cleaned out the pantry, i came across a can of chipotle chiles in adobo that needed to be used.)

the cook time is a tad on the long side, but actual prep time is quick. unfortunately, we are light-weights when it comes to spiciness so even just two chipotle chiles made us sweat and our noses run. luckily, ian wasn't around for dinner and maya ate leftover chinese food so we didn't have the kids complaining about "it's too spi~cy! i don't li~ke it!"

i did neglect to use lime and cilantro as garnish, so that might make a difference. the other thing i'm going to try, at rupert's suggestion (and a good one, at that), is to alter the recipe and make a mexican paella. don't you think it would be good with chorizo, seafood, lime, cilantro, etc.?


46 months.

maya @ 46 months :: september 4, 2009
  • we spent a week in palm desert with my parents (an annual tradition). boy, does she like staying at hotels! she also loves swimming and she'll jump into the pool if you let her hold one of your fingers, but she doesn't like to float around on her own.
  • the following conversation pretty much summarizes her attitude right now ::
    maya :: i'm the boss!
    ian :: no, you're not.
    maya :: why not?! i'm three and three-quarters!
  • went on an overnight trip with ian and her grandparents to legoland.
  • one of her favorite books is "go, dog. go!"
  • she started in the "official" pre-K class, i.e., the four-year-old class at her preschool. i'm happy 'cause tuition is lower thanks to the LAUP program.
  • keeps talking about going to ian's friends' houses for sleepovers when she's 16 and 24. i guess it's because we told her she has to be a little bit older to go, but i think i would be hesitant to let her spend the night at a boy's house when she's 16!


too many -versaries to remember!

i forgot, once again, that my blogiversary was on the 10th. it's not that i don't love my blog; i do. it's been a wonderful record of the last four years of our life.

around this time of year i enjoy reading old entries, like this one from august 27, 2005 :: "at this rate it will take me a good five years to get the house in order, but it's a start." can you believe i said "five years"? do you know what that means?! i only have a year to get the house in order! yikes ... i guess it's good to have these little reminders to get my butt into gear.

but another part of me hates this time of year. i seem to always have a mental and emotional breakdown in august. not a good month for me. if given the chance to reflect on my emtional state in this blog, i would most likely go on a downward spiral to the dark depths of my soul, and i'm not ready or willing to do that. so i tend to neglect the blog or only write "fluff" posts during this time of year.

but one of my goals for this year is to stop dwelling on the negative in the past and to put my energies toward living in the present. and you know what? this blog can be a tool for that purpose; to record the present.

so, here's to another year of blogging!


45 months.

maya @ 45 months (3-3/4 years old)
maya @ 45 months :: august 4, 2009
  • wants to wear dresses all the time. probably influenced by all the girls at her preschool.
  • we started going to our new farmers market down the block from our house and now she thinks the farmers market "lives" in that parking lot.
  • always yells out "my school! my school!" when we pass by, which is often.
  • enjoying splashing around in the water but isn't much about swimming (i.e., dunking her face underwater), although on a good day she'll let me pull her around while she blows bubbles and kicks her feet.
  • can write ian's name and most of the alphabet correctly. she asks about the spelling of certain words, mostly names of people she likes (i.e., ian's friends).
  • drawing cats and dogs and princesses.
  • finally got to spend the night in ian's room.
  • her favorite song is the "ABC song" but one day towards the end of the month she was upset because she "lost" the letter O in the song. it was really because she kept singing it, as most kids her age do, "ellamennow."
  • it seems at some point she decided she does, in fact, have a favorite blanket :: the light green baby gap "wan wan" (i.e., puppy) blankie that once belonged to ian.
  • she loves to stop by a bush near her preschool that attracts a lot of little yellow butterflies. she tries in vain each day to have one walk on her hand; she's only been successful once so far. (on occasion i gently catch one for her so she can see it up close.)


obon festival

@ gardena buddhist church obon

i spent my childhood summers in japan. my memories are filled with time spent with my maternal grandparents, going to japanese school (not all good memories), semi-tori (cicada catching) with my cousin, the humidity, and summer festivals. the obon festival was something i attended from year to year and it's a tradition i'd like my kids to embrace as well. it just seems like ian and maya don't have the same kind of summer traditions i did and i'd like them to have fond memories of their summers as i do.

but in order for them to embrace the tradition, i need to take them to an obon festival every year! sadly, in the last 20 years or so i haven't attended any of the many festivals here in the los angeles area. the one i used to go to is the gardena buddhist church obon, and it's the last one of the season in our area.

i couldn't convince ian to come with us (he opted to play at a friend's house) and jordan had a paper to write, so it was just me and maya. i dressed her up in ian's old jinbei-san (even though she wanted to wear a dress) and we headed to gardena for a little cultural mom & daughter time.

taiko drumming

the main attraction of an obon festival is the obon dancing, which usually happens in the evening, but we couldn't stay that late. instead, we enjoyed some food (shaved ice and sata-andagi donut holes), watched a bit of taiko drumming, and played a couple of games. the festival seemed smaller than i remembered but it was just the right size for our afternoon outing.

project365 :: 08.01.2009
walking through the church grounds and looking at all the people around me, i felt a tad bit out of place. not because i looked any different from the people around me, but because i didn't feel like part of the community.
the japanese american (ja) community has strong ties to each other through many activities for the young and old, annual traditions like obon and nisei week, and families that go back three and four generations in southern california. my step-dad's side of the family has been here for about four generations and my step-sister is pretty tied in with the goings-on in the ja world.
but i've never been a part of that. at the same time, i was never a part of the chuuzai-in (temporary transfers from japan) crowd either. it didn't help that i grew up in manhattan beach with so few asians around me (much less jas). in many ways i feel awkward being at these kinds of events because i know what they're about, but i don't know the ja way (sometimes japanese traditions change or are tweaked over the generations after they've crossed the pacific), or i think i should know about something but i don't and the jas do. basically, i feel in limbo between being a "real" japanese and being ja. and, no wonder. i'm not ja and i'm not really japanese. and my kids are really neither because they don't see themselves as ja or japanese (at least, i don't think ian does and maya needs more time before she even figures out she's not a fairy princess).
i don't think about it often, but there are times when i contemplate cultural self-awareness and what that means for the kids. i want them to be informed about their japanese and jewish heritages but they don't have very good role models in rupert and myself, unfortunately. it's hard to ask your kids to take their cultural backgrounds seriously when you're not very in tune yourself. figuring this all out is another thing to add to my long list of parenting to-dos. at the very least, taking maya to obon and exposing her to it was a start. a pretty tasty start.


the closest i'll get to meeting one of my heroes

facebook is useful. very useful. through a friend on FB i found out hayao miyazaki was going to be in town for a talk (with john lasseter, no less). i found out just in time to get tickets the day they went on sale (i hit the "buy" button right at 9:01am), which was a good thing since they sold out by mid-morning apparently.

if you don't know who hayao miyazaki is i'm not sure we can be friends ... just kidding ... sort of. miyazaki-san is the director of some of my favorite movies :: nausicaa of the valley of the wind, totoro, princess mononoke, howl's moving castle, etc. i never get tired of watching any of his films and i doubt i ever will. it pleases me bunches that ian and maya repeatedly watch some of miyazaki-san's movies (especially totoro and spirited away). along the same line as pixar films, miyazaki films can be enjoyed and appreciated by adults and children alike.

anyway, rupert + i made it a date night (along with our friend H who told us about the event) and headed to the samuel goldwyn theater in beverly hills last week. as we walked in we were given the chance to write a question that might be read by lasster and answered by miyazaki. being the smart cookie that i am, i thought this opportunity might present itself, and i came prepared with a question in mind.

the talk itself was lead by lasseter asking some questions, interspersed with extended clips from miyazaki's movies. the nice thing about that was watching them on the big screen; i've only seen a few of miyazaki's movies in a theater setting. the bad thing, however, was that they showed dubbed versions, which irked me. some of the voiceovers are so awful (especially jiji from kiki's delivery service -- truly awful -- sorry phil hartman). as rupert explained to H, "we're not allowed to watch these movies in english at our house." but, despite the dubbing, you know a movie is good when, even though you've seen it a hundred times before, you think, "hey, i was watching that!" when they stop the clip.

at the end of the talk came the q&a session. i sort of gave up on my question being asked (i've never been lucky like that) so i was pleasantly surprised, and slightly uncertain, when lasseter said the last question was from "yurak matuma[mumble mumble]?". of course, once he read the question i knew it was mine so i got very excited and craned to hear what miyazaki said.

my question was something along the lines of, "rumor has you retiring after every movie since princess mononoke. what keeps bringing you back to film making?"

his answer was something like, "to be honest, the first time i said i was going to retire was after nausicaa. but i only told my wife. now no one believes me so i'm not saying anything about retiring anymore." so he really didn't answer my question!

regardless, it was a thrill to see miyazaki and lasseter in the flesh, even if they were about the size of my thumb since we were sitting at the back of the theater. i never thought i would get the chance to be in the same room as miyazaki so i was in absolute heaven. too bad they didn't allow cameras at the talk, otherwise i would've snapped a million pictures. instead, i leave you with a self-portrait taken later that night at home.

project365 :: 07.28.2009

what i made for dinner :: chicken with balsamic barbecue sauce

summer = bbq, no? it's easy, your kitchen stays cool + you get the husband involved in dinner-making.

since i still have the giada cookbook (giada's kitchen) i prepared a simple dish for rupert to grill. instead of a whole chicken, though, i used four pieces of boneless thigh and eight drumsticks. there was plenty of sauce for all of that chicken.

chicken with balsamic barbecue sauce
(4 servings)
ingredients ::
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 chicken, cut in serving pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, and 2 wings)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

directions ::

  1. combine all the barbecue sauce ingredients in a small nonreactive saucepan and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by one third, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. place a grill pan over medium heat or preheat an outdoor grill. season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
  3. transfer 1/2 cup of the sauce to a small bowl. grill the chicken for about 10 minutes per side, brushing the chicken with the 1/2 cup barbecue sauce for the last 2 or 3 minutes. transfer the chicken to a serving platter and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. serve with the remaining barbecue sauce alongside.

note :: if you prefer not to grill, the chicken can also be baked. place the chicken skin side up in a baking dish and bake for 25 minutes in a 375 degree oven. remove the baking dish from the oven and spoon the barbecue sauce all over the top of the chicken. return the baking dish to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.


what i made for dinner :: Orecchiette with Sausage, Beans, and Mascarpone

what i made for dinner :: shells + sausage

i know i said this last time too, but it's been awhile since i've tried a new recipe. our local library has a copy of _giada's kitchen: new italian favorites_ by giada de laurentiis so i thought it was high time to add a new pasta dish to my repertoire. and, although i love baked pastas (such as giada's stuffed manicotti), i don't much feel like turning the oven on in july (even if i wanted to i couldn't since it's broken). i hunted around for a recipe with a short ingredient list and just a few steps.

the recipe for "orecchiette with sausage, beans, and mascarpone" kept catching my eye. i made a few substitutions (medium shell pasta instead of orecchiette, mild italian sausage instead of turkey sausage) and finally used the sea salt i bought in paris (from brittany). i thought it was quite tasty, and the kiddos did too (including a friend's almost-4-year-old).

Orecchiette with Sausage, Beans, and Mascarpone
(4~6 servings)

ingredients ::
  • 1 pound orecchiette or other small shaped pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
directions ::
  1. bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  2. in a large, heavy skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. add the sausage and onion and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into bite-size pieces as it browns. continue cooking until the sausage is golden and the onion is tender.
  3. add the beans and oregano and cook for 2 more minutes. add the reserved pasta cooking water and stir, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. add the mascarpone cheese and stir until it dissolves into a light sauce.
  4. add the salt, pepper, and hot pasta. stir until coated, and serve.


44 months.

An Icee treat @ the zoo
maya @ 44 months :: july 4, 2009
  • talks incessantly; a complete and total chatterbox.
  • went to disneyland early in june with her grandparents and can't stop talking about going again.
  • coined the term "snarted" when she sneezed + farted at the same time while sitting on the toilet. rupert was so proud.
  • really, really, really wants to get a puppy + kitten :: she talks about it almost everyday, asking when she can get a dog and a cat. we keep telling her that when she gets her own house she can do whatever she wants.
  • calls the zoo, "the jungle."
  • no change here but she's writing + drawing up a storm.
  • learned a "princess" dance from her classmates, but it's not particularly classy or regal. it's basically putting one hand on the side of her head + the other hand on her hip, and shaking her hips vigorously.
  • spent a week away from mama + ian (while they were in paris). claimed she didn't miss ian at all (the feeling was mutual).


ooh la la, paris!

I mentioned this on my twitter/FB, but somehow I neglected to mention it here :: I'm going to Paris in 6 weeks! Oh my gosh, I'm so excited! I've never been to Europe, and wasn't expecting to go until next year (for our 10-year anniversary trip to, hopefully, Portugal).

The trip came together rather suddenly and quickly, thanks to my in-laws. They've invited me + Ian for a 6-day stay in Paris with my sister-in-law + her boyfriend. Which means Rupert + Maya are staying home. Yes, you heard read me right :: I'm vacationing sans husband + daughter ... to Paris ... during my birthday!

In preparation for the trip I'm going to put together a travel scrapbook with all the necessary information plus space for journaling, ephemera + photos (I'm making a simpler one for Ian too). I've opted to decorate the journal with pages from picture books (I have in my library) that take place in Paris :: Madeline (by Ludwig Bemelmans), Hugo & Miles in I've Painted Everything: an Adventure in Paris (by Scott Magoon), Crepes by Suzette (by Monica Wellington), and This is Paris (by Miroslav Sasek). I'll post pictures of it as soon as I assemble it.

I'm also poring over the guidebooks I have, trying to decide what I want to see, what Ian wants to see, what wouldn't be good for Ian (i.e., twenty million museums in a row), possible daytrips outside the city, what I want to eat (very important!), and potential shops to visit (particularly food/cooking shops, stationery stores, and antique stores/stands). I found a few guidebooks from the library but they're all at least ten years old, so I'm only going to rely on those for sightseeing. I own a couple of new guidebooks (with maps, which I love) and checked out Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris (by Clotilde Dusoulier). One book I've especially enjoyed is French Milk (by Lucy Knisley), which is an art/comics journal about Lucy's four-week stay in Paris with her mother.

We're staying at the Hotel Pont Royal in Saint Germain des Pres, which is a great location. I imagine walking to the d'Orsay, the Louvre + along the Left Bank (while browsing the many bouquinistes) to Notre Dame and then to Ile Saint-Louis for ice cream at Berthillon. Lots of idyllic walking and exploring of the city. But I'm sure what will happen is mostly crazy, rushed sightseeing, and a lot of crowds + waiting in lines. But it's nice to dream while I can. ;)


My Google map for the trip

Book Stores ::
Cooking Supplies ::
Museums ::
  • d'Orsay
  • Louvre
  • Picasso
Stationery Stores ::


ack! already?!

the other day, one of ian's best friends came over to play. as they're sitting at the table waiting for dinner to be served, i hear them playing "truth or dare."
A :: truth or dare?
I :: truth.
A :: who do you like?
I :: like, kiss-kiss like?
A :: yeah.
I :: um, my mom.
A :: no. it can't be someone you're blood-related to.
I :: uh ... uh. i don't know. no one.
A :: c'mon. someone.
I :: i don't like anyone.
and so the conversation continues; A is very persistent with his question. clearly he likes a girl (and he freely shares who his crush is), but ian is so not into girls yet.

but hearing that A likes a girl makes me truly realize that it won't be long before ian develops a crush. i hope it starts off as a sweet puppy-love kind of crush, because i can't even begin to imagine the craziness that goes with teenage hormone-induced crushes. yikes!

43 months.

project365 :: 06.07.2009
maya @ 43 months :: june 4, 2009
  • participated in her first "talent show," two dances for parents' night at her preschool. she danced to "99 red balloons" by blondie + "rollercoaster of love" by the ohio players. when rupert found a youtube video of "99 red balloons" afterwards, maya stopped what she was doing and immediately started dancing to the music.
  • slept through her first semi-major earthquake. she experiences the second one (a couple of days later) at school; she got a nice lesson on dropping and crawling under a table. the earthquake doesn't seem to phase her much.
  • no longer pretends to be a cat. instead, she crawls around on all fours barking. i wonder what animal she'll be next?
  • caught her saying "jesus!" when she made an exciting discovery. (i can't remember her exact wording, but it was something akin to, "jesus! i like those stickers!") i had to somehow explain to her that it wasn't a bad word to use, but it wasn't the right word to use either. i blame rupert because i would never take the lord's name in vain, even though i'm not christian.
  • opens the fridge in hopes of reaching the bottle of "pori pori" (probiotic pills).
  • her drawings of people now have eyeballs and torsos are becoming an option.
  • caught her first real cold (i.e., lasting longer than 24 hours).

chinatown randomness

project365 :: 05.16.2009

this past weekend we met up with my best friend from kindergarten, J, and her family in chinatown to have dim sum. afterwards we decided to wander the kitschy part of chinatown, half a block from the restaurant. as we were leaving we hear jazz music coming down the street.

sure enough it's a new orleans-style jazz band playing in a funeral procession. kinda strange + random but we stop to watch and listen. the band is playing boisterously and we wonder who the deceased is (the funeral car procession looks long). finally, the convertible classic car with a photo of the deceased slowly rolls by. i have to giggle because it's a photo of a chinese dude in a cowboy hat! okaaay.

the funeral procession continues to slowly go down the street, including a whole line of classic cars driven by heavily tattooed guys in wife beaters. i'm confused as to whether they are part of the funeral procession or they're a classic car club that just happened to get stuck in the middle of the procession.

all the while, a homeless lady not 10 steps away from us is spewing profanities about killing someone's family.

it was completely surreal; you can't make this stuff up.


what i made for dinner :: edamame corn chowder

project365 :: 05.18.2009

this is really a story for another day, but rupert + i were kinda annoyed at each other this past weekend because we're having a difference of opinion on our roles at home. (or maybe i'm just annoyed and he's not? who knows with him ... i'll have to ask.) anyway, because of that, i wanted to spite him and show him that i'm capable of being super-mom. and what better way than to try out a new recipe, which i haven't done in quite some time.

luckily, a new recipe from everyday food appeared in my inbox and it seemed just the dish to make for a cool evening after freezing our butts off at ian's baseball game :: edamame corn chowder. [and, as an aside, please stop pronouncing it "eda-mommy" -- it's "eda-mamé".]

the ingredient list is simple and it's easy to assemble. but, like most soups, you need to give it some time on the stove to really simmer so the veggies can soften. i also found that, for a corn chowder, it's not super corn-y. my personal preference would be to add another can of creamed corn or fresh corn kernels, but rupert said he could taste the corn as is. the key to this dish, though, is the bacon. don't omit the bacon! in fact, i cooked up twice the amount of bacon it called for, and i recommend that you do the same. the soup greatly benefits (as most dishes do) from the saltiness and crispness of the bacon.

i served the soup with a salad and multigrain rustic bread. it was the perfect almost-meatless meal.


42 months.

maya @ 42 months :: may 4, 2009
  • when we used the compost for planting our garden, maya discovered the wonders of the earthworm. she digs them up from the compost and carries one around the backyard. she continues to try to bring them into the house, but the threat of the earthworm's demise convinces her to return the worm to the earth.
  • her people drawings now have more hair, appendages sticking out of the head, and more details like eyelashes. i suspect she'll start drawing torsos very soon.
  • there's been improvement on writing her name. if she gives herself enough room she spells her name correctly in capital letters, but if she runs out of space she puts the last "a" in front of the "m" so she becomes "amay."
  • she's a pasta-freak.
  • she had a good time at her "boyfriend" domenic's birthday party. apparently, domenic threw a fit when he found out maya's invitation went to the wrong girl. good thing rupert was willing to take her to the party at the last minute instead of going to the festival of books with me and ian.
  • she says she wants to cut her hair like mine but i wonder what would happen if we actually took her to a haircut place?
  • she's finally completely potty-trained! no more accidents! and wakes up on her own in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom! yay!


41 months.

pink sweetness
maya @ 41 months :: april 4, 2009
  • is really getting into the powerpuff girls dvd. she would totally shake her booty during the song between episodes. she doesn't seem to like mojo jojo very much.
  • to delay bedtime even more, not only does she come out of her room at least twice to go potty, but she insists that she's scared of "bears, ghosts, witches, and mojo jojo." i have to tell her that the mommy bear, mommy ghost, and mommy witch have sent their kids to bed already and maya is the only one still awake and she better get her butt into bed.
  • she's cutting with scissors quite well now. but i have to remember to tie her hair back when she uses scissors so she doesn't accidentally snip off some of the hair that's dangling in front of her face like she did the other day.
  • loves to sing songs. now that i've lifted my own ban of singing to her in english she's really gotten into "old mcdonald had a farm." she also makes up songs, although the lyrics usually consist of her repeating one word (maybe two) over and over again [see below].
  • identifying letters everywhere we go; a good sign that eventually she will, in fact, learn to read despite our earlier worries.
  • got a new pony stuffed animal while we were staying in ojai. she named it "beauty" all on her own -- it's black.
  • loves her friend domenic at school. so much that she sings a song about him incessantly if reminded about him at home. the song is just her repeating "domenic" over and over again in a semi-melodious way.
  • so happy that her uncle aaron and auntie anne visited for grumpa's 60th birthday.
  • she still whines but i think she's getting better. i truly believe it's helping that i'm interacting and parenting in a much calmer way. i rarely raise my voice at her and i try my best to explain everything to her in a clear and simple way. she responds positively to this and seems to be making an effort to follow my directions. now, her relationship with rupert, on the other hand ...
  • but there are days when she is very liberal with her out-of-the-blue "mama, i love you!"s, which does make my day.
  • drawing people with bodies (a line) and, on occasion, arms, but still no legs.
  • loves animals (cats, especially) and is enjoying looking at her animal encyclopedia and identifying the ones she knows.
  • when rupert pulled out the chinese take-out menu she immediately said she wanted, "chicken and bwok-li, and two rices." um, maybe we get take-out too often?
  • her teacher said she has perfectionist tendencies, which really surprised me. i totally thought she would be more laid back and relaxed than ian (we're having some issues with him), but it appears she cares very much about her work being just right. the poor kids take after me ... on the bright side, her teacher did say she's doing quite well in most other areas of her school work. this particular teacher calls her maita, which is so cute and true!
  • potty training is definitely not complete :: she'll go quite a few days withouth an accident and then she'll have several days of accidents in a row, especially while she's sleeping. we just have to keep working at it.
  • she has a thing for wednesday; maybe she just likes to say it?


kids (and artists) say the darndest things about elephants ...

so, for my third graders this week, i'm reading ballet of the elephants by leda schubert. it's about john ringling north asking george balanchine to choreograph a ballet for 50 elephants in 1942. balanchine asks igor stravinsky to compose the music and, voila, circus polka is written. no, seriously, it's a true story.

as i read the book i tell the kids that my favorite conversation of the day occurred between balanchine and stravinsky:

balanchine: "i wonder if you'd like to do a little ballet with me."
stravinsky: "for whom?"
balanchine: "for some elephants."
stravinsky: "how old?"
balanchine: "very young."
stravinsky: "all right. if they are very young elephants, i will do it."

seems sort of odd and random, doesn't it?

but i was mistaken about that conversation being the best of the day. turns out the best one happens after i finish reading. i'm showing the kids a photo in the back of the book of the 50 elephants performing the ballet; they're in tutus (yes, even the bulls) and have their front legs on the elephant in front of them all in a large circle around the circus ring. one of the boys raises his hand and asks, "are they humping?" i unsuccessfully suppress my laughter and tell him, "no -- weren't you listening? they're dancing!" and then, not a second later, another boy raises his hand and asks, "are they getting ready for war?" wtf?? "no! they're dancing!"

ah, boys ... only sex and fighting on their minds.


what i made for dinner :: asparagus, mushroom, and tomato tart with ricotta and petite jurassic cheese

what i made for dinner :: asparagus, mushroom, and tomato tart with ricotta and petite jurassic cheese

yumminess of the week 3 was asparagus, mushroom, and tomato tart with ricotta and petite jurassic cheese. well, it was yummy to me + rupert. no surprise the kids picked off the mushrooms and tomatoes (it's a good thing they eat asparagus, even if it does make their pee smell funny). i just can't seem to find many recipes that appeal to all of us; there's always something wrong with an ingredient or two that makes someone say, "ick!"

anyway, we tried to sell it as "fancy pizza" to the kids but they didn't fall for it. the dish is a tart with a puff pastry bottom and a ricotta, egg, and asparagus puree as a sauce. there's sliced cured meat and veggies on top. i also added extra shredded gruyere cheese to the crust, which gave a nice crispy, cheesy, nutiness to the flaky crust.

i think i might make this for my father-in-law's 60th birthday party in a couple of weeks.

what i made for dinner :: white chicken chili

[i forgot to take a picture of my chili but you can see what it should look like at seriouseats.com where i got the recipe from.]
new dinner numero dos this week was white chicken chili. the weather was a bit on the cooler side this week so it was nice to have another hearty meal. because of the kids i omitted the jalapeno and green chilies, and i'm sure those ingredients would've given the dish the wee bit of oomph i felt it needed.

i think the other issue was that i doubled the recipe and it turns out i used too much chicken broth, which made the chili too soupy (despite mashing up the beans as the recipes suggests), so i added another can of beans ... without adding more spices (although i did salt + pepper accordingly). for the most part, however, this is a super-simple (especially if you use pre-cooked chicken), tummy-warming, and filling dish, which i will probably make again.

i served it with corn chips and the leftover cheddar from the shepherd's pie. next time, i'll prep some onions, cilantro, and avocado as a topping.

what i made for dinner :: cheddadr-topped shepherd's pie

what i made for dinner :: cheddar-topped shepherd's pie

i made dinner three times last week and for all three meals i tried out new recipes. first up, cheddar-topped shepherd's pie from the october 2008 issue of everyday food magazine. i knew it was something rupert wouldn't be particularly fond of, but ian actually showed some enthusiasm about eating it so that was enough reason for me to make it.

for the most part this recipe was quick + tasty, but there are a couple of issues :: i must be a very slow mirepoix-prepper because it always takes me much longer than i anticipate to do the veggie chopping; the beef filling is bland so it needs to be seasoned liberally with salt + pepper (it's very strange to me that the recipe doesn't call for salt + pepper in the filling); don't dump in all of the milk at once to mash the potato, unless you want a soggy potato topping. oh yes, last but not least, don't be skimpy with the cheese!


planning ahead

i can't wait to see this. i don't care that it's coming out on my 10th marriage anniversary; i will be sitting in a movie theater on 09.09.09. (see the original animation short that the movie is based on here.)


40 months.

project365 :: 52/365
maya @ 40 months :: march 4, 2009
  • after she watched the monsters vs aliens trailer (on the kung fu panda dvd) she started saying, "suuuuusan ... oh, i scare myself!"
  • when singing the ABC song, she repeats "k -- lmnop" a lot
  • drawing faces and continues to color a lot. learning to trace her name at school; sometimes it comes out "moyo" or "moya."
  • likes to pretend she's a cat. she also mentioned she wanted to bring the stray cat in the backyard into our house and keep it ... and hug it.
  • randomly told me, "i don't like you" while we were shopping at the supermarket. when i asked her why, she told me, "you're awful." gee, thanks.
  • while brushing her teeth with rupert she told him, "i hate this!" which is weird because she usually likes to brush her teeth.
  • the two points above, we think, are preschool classmate influences.
  • likes to do "where is thumbkin?" but misses about half the song.
  • another thing she learned from a friend (we think) :: crossing her arms and stomping her feet. great.
  • hopping on one foot.
  • her friends call her "my-my" at school.
  • loves to blow dandelions. this love is making our already dandelion-infested front yard into an even more dandelion-infested lawn.
  • she actually said she didn't like the little mermaid dvd. hallelujah! but we'll have to see how long that lasts.


me + the husband memes

project365 :: 45/365

more memes! will it never end?! i found this one through heather armstrong over at dooce.

What are your middle names? rupert's is "harry" after his great-grandfather. how appropriate since he's a pretty hairy guy. i was born without a middle name (japanese people don't do that) but took my step-dad's last name as my middle name in high school (kind of a long story).
How long have you been together? 15 years (geez, that sounds like a long time); in september it'll be our official 10 year marriage anniversary.
How long did you know each other before you started dating? i'm thinking it was about a year and a half. we were in the same english class junior year and he also joined the newspaper staff that year as a sports writer (i was in journalism since freshman year). we didn't start dating until february of our senior year.
Who asked whom out? there was never an "official" asking out. our friendship just turned into a relationship. we arbitrarily chose february 12 as our dating anniversary because it was the night we hung out together on the beach and it seemed like a special night.
How old are each of you? we're currently both 32. that will change next wednesday when rupert turns 33 and i can make fun of him for four months that he's old.
Whose siblings do you see the most? probably my sisters since we have dinner with my parents once a week and they both come; rupert's brother lives in new york and his sister usually is away at college (although not very far away in pasadena).
Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple? having kids. we are really struggling with that right now, but more as parents rather than as a couple. for the most part we are good together as a couple, although there were a couple of years in college when i made life hell for rupert. [wasn't that fun, honey?]
Did you go to the same school? schools. as i mentioned above, we went to the same high school, and we weren't friends but we went to the same middle school too. as for college, we started off at different schools but i transferred to cornell during my sophomore year to be with him.
Are you from the same home town? sort of. rupert lived in missoula, montana until mid-way through sixth grade when he moved to manhattan beach. i grew up in manhattan beach (since kindergarten).
Who is smarter? book smart :: rupert. regular smart :: me. i know lots of useless trivia. rupert knows lots of useless data-related mumbo-jumbo. i know stuff that helps me get through our everyday lives; rupert would be really lost if something were to ever happen to me.
Who is the most sensitive? hands down, me. i take everything very, very, very personally. and i will cry at the drop of a hat ... or tear rupert's head off.
Where do you eat out most as a couple? i wish i could say we had a place we frequent as a couple, but we rarely go out on dates. and when we do we try to go some place different each time.
Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple? japan
Who has the craziest exes? i don't have any exes, so by default i would have to say rupert.
Who has the worst temper? good question. in the past i would've said rupert without batting an eyelash, but i'm beginning to think my temper is as bad as his ... but only when it comes to maya. rupert loses his temper at a lot of other stuff so i guess he's worse than i am.
Who does the cooking? i'm sure rupert would beg to differ on this, but i'd have to say i do most of the cooking. don't get me wrong, rupert does his share of the cooking, but his repertoire is pretty limited. i'm more likely to try making new stuff.
Who is the neat-freak? neither of us is a neat-freak, but my tolerance for mess is much higher than rupert's. it's not uncommon to hear him grumbling about the shithole we live in.
Who is more stubborn? hmm ... me? yes, me.
Who hogs the bed? rupert. he also hogs the blankets.
Who wakes up earlier? usually i do but not because i want to. i think i got into the habit of waking up early automatically last year when i was working out in the morning. which has been helpful now that i work. and on the weekends i try to let rupert sleep in a bit. 'cause i'm a nice wife.
Where was your first date? we never had a first date. perhaps that is why we don't really go out on dates now.
Who is more jealous? ooh, that would also be me. besides his temper rupert is not an overly emotional person (he is a guy, after all), and i haven't really given him a reason to get jealous. isn't that right, rupert?
How long did it take to get serious? it was serious from the get-go. we just knew what we had was going to be serious and long-term. and we weren't wrong.
Who eats more? in one sitting :: me. during the course of the day :: probably rupert because his metabolism forces him to eat more frequently. but now that i'm kind of off my diet i just may be the eating champ of the family.
Who does the laundry? 85% of the time rupert does it. but i'm better at it.
Who's better with the computer? rupert, no question. and to think i used to be a computer lab teacher.
Who drives when you are together? rupert ... because that's what a man is supposed to do. no, actually, it's because when we're together we usually take the prius, which is his car.

and on a somewhat related note, my friend B posted a husband survey meme, which i tried to answer to the best of my knowledge ::

He’s sitting in front of the TV: watching sports or the sports news if he missed the game. and we do watch an insane number of simpson reruns.
You’re out to eat: we often end up wanting to order the same dish, so we'll get the two we both want and share (although i am an awful food sharer). if we're out for mexican he orders some kind of carnitas dish 99% of the time. if a fresh beet salad is on the menu he will often order that (eww!).
What is one food he doesn’t like? no question about it :: tomatoes.
You go out to the bar: i don't go to bars. the few times a year rupert goes out i'm guessing he orders a beer.
Where did he go to high school? mira costa high school in manhattan beach
What size shoe does he wear? 10 or 10-1/2
If he was to collect anything, what would it be? rupert's not really into stuff so he doesn't collect anything, per se. the one thing he does have a lot of is music. and if we lived in japan, he would collect the free tissue packs they hand out as advertising at the train stations.
What is his favorite type of sandwich? probably turkey. but there was a time in college we would eat this reuben-esque sandwich (with curly fries) for lunch at the ivy room and, on occasion, we still ask each other, "why would we eat that sandwich?!" because it was darn good, that's why.
What would the Husband eat every day if he could? cereal. and he does eat it everyday.
What is his favorite cereal? i actually don't know what his favorite cereal is right now. i'm pretty sure he grew up with sugary cereal but he's grown accustomed to low sugar cereals like rice crispies and trader joe's Os and honey Os mixed together. when he's feeling decadent we get life cereal or frosted mini wheat.
What would he never wear? something fashionable! i jest, i jest. never wear? a dress?
What is his favorite sports team? the miami dolpshins. don't ask me, ask him!
Who is his best friend? he's not very good at keeping in touch with his friends (although facebook might be helping a bit with that) but i'd say his closest friends are matt and jon. (but his real best friend is me.)
What is something you do that he wishes you wouldn’t do? ask so many goddamn questions! especially those hypothetical ones.
How many states has he lived in? three + one district :: montana, california, new york, washington, dc
What is his heritage? ashkenazi jew
You bake him a cake for his birthday: probably a fruit tart
Did he play sports in high school? basketball and football
Where did you meet him: high school, junior year, through mutual friends and being in the same english and journalism class.
Does your husband have any hidden talents? he's actually quite clever with puns. basically, he's very good at being cheesy.


25 random facts about me

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits or goals about you.
  1. i am scared of going down stairs. well, maybe not scared per se, but i'm very cautious. i think the initial fear came from the very steep stairs in my grandparents' house in japan. i never fell down them but i was always afraid i would.
  2. i go through shopping phases when i'm only interested in buying one kind of thing. right now i'm in a book-buying phase. other times it's clothes, snacks, fabric or scrapbooking supplies.
  3. i sleep best in my bed when rupert's not there; i sleep diagonally, on my stomach, my toes rubbing my "blankie (a well-worn sheet)," and drooling all over rupert's pillow.
  4. i am obsessive compulsive about some things and a complete mess in other areas of my life. usually, i'm ocd about things that don't matter, and a mess in things that do matter.
  5. i want to travel the world ... and be able to speak the language of the country i visit. not particularly realistic since i'm not very good at languages, but attempting to learn a language is the least you can do before traveling.
  6. one day i'd like to have a masters degree ... in something.
  7. when i was pregnant with ian i had a huge craving for hot dogs, but i never ate one. i did, however, eat way too much tito's tacos beans + chips (but no tacos). with maya i ate a lot of fruit. go figure.
  8. i'm an awful singer (when i was young my mom told me not to sing out loud because my singing would kill the plants outside my window) but i love to sing rock band songs.
  9. the only time in my life i drank alcohol semi-regularly was when i lived in japan. i think it had to do with needing to loosen up to participate in karaoke.
  10. i'm a stickler for the rules ... to a fault. rupert hates it.
  11. rupert and i had to take one of my little sister's friends to the emergency room for alcohol poisoning once. mind you, she showed up at my parents' house already drunk ... she was like 15.
  12. for someone who prides herself on her memory, i am very bad at remembering the endings of movies and books.
  13. i wrote my college application essay on why i was glad my parents got divorced.
  14. if at all possible i prefer not to talk to people (even people i know well). hence, my disdain for the telephone and my over-reliance on email. which also means i usually prefer to deal with machines rather than people :: the supermarket self check-out, the atm, the automated postal center machine.
  15. somewhat related, i have a hard time keeping eye contact with people during a conversation. i can only briefly hold eye contact before i get uncomfortable and have to avert my gaze. it's rude, i know, but i can't help it. please don't take it personally.
  16. i like cute things with an edgy/spooky twist to them.
  17. i am an avid japanese comic (manga) reader; have been since i was about eight or so. my first series was "dr. slump" by akira toriyama; i still have all of them. another series i cannot part with is "to-y" by atsushi kamijo. and i'm not ashamed to admit that even though i'm in my 30s i read a lot of manga geared towards teenagers.
  18. i used to dislike japanese school so much that i would feign headaches and stomachaches every week so i could hang out in the nurse's office.
  19. my favorite food is noodles. i could eat some kind of noodle dish for every meal. i think my love of noodles really blossomed the summer after sixth grade :: as usual, i was spending the summer in japan and i would have a bowl of wonton ramen at the local chinese restaurant, meme hanten, everyday after school. seriously, everyday.
  20. my freshman year in high school i was the secretary for the quixotism club (a gaming club -- yes, i know, totally nerdy. but, in my defense, i wasn't a gamer; i was just the secretary). unfortunately, i didn't know how to spell "quixotism" (i didn't even know what it meant) so i guessed and wrote "quick sadism" for the bulletin. (as you can imagine, i didn't know what that meant either!) yeah, i got called into the office for that one.
  21. when i'm nervous or bored i have a horrible habit of pulling out strands of hair. but i'm very particular about the kind of hair i yank out. they have to be very coarse or crinkly hair (my normal hair is pretty fine and straight).
  22. since college i haven't been able to continue anything for longer than 10 months (except being married and being a mom). i only lasted 10 months at my first job out of college in japan; i dropped out of grad school after two quarters; i was a teacher's aid for one school year; i was a computer lab teacher for one school year; i only lasted two months as a teacher in watts for the university intern program at ucla; i subbed for six months; and now it looks like i've finally found my dream job that i want to do forever and they're going to lay me off because of budget cuts.
  23. i hate to say this out loud, but i don't think i was meant to be a mother ... at least, it seems like i don't enjoy motherhood as much as most other moms i know. what's wrong with me?
  24. as of right now, my favorite ... book :: neil gaiman's the graveyard book; animal :: the manatee; color :: grey; magazine :: school library journal; food :: matzo ball soup with fideo noodles; shirts :: striped; day of the week :: friday; nintendo ds game :: lego batman
  25. rupert is the only man i've loved and will ever love.