Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yelling out the counts! Tae Bo: it's a family thing.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were free open classes for everyone at Omega. I easily talked Tia and Ari into going with me. In fact, Saturday I was going to sleep in and Ari woke me up wanting to go again. My girls are tough! I was so proud of them. Lots of people brought their husbands and their kids. It made for a fun atmosphere.

Here's Tia doing some ab's stuff with me near the end. Don't look close, we were all sweaty.

My sister-in-law even came. She did the whole class (it was an extra long hour and a half class even) -amazing for a first timer!

Analisa brought her whole family. I'm sorry, I'm not sure if that's the right spelling of her name. At the end we did some walking around the room, and those kids were running, jumping, and zooming past everyone. Where does that energy go when you grow up? I miss it.

We did some balance stuff near the end, and it was really good for me. That's not my specialty.

Here's my cute Ari. She loved the "exercising". Hopefully I can get them back there soon for the next school holiday.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


If anyone else has had trouble with meringues (I notice I didn't get any advice...), I found a great link for meringues. It's Baking 911 , and it looks like they have solutions to lots of baking problems. In my case, the problem probably was that I baked it too long (thinking that under-baking was my problem last time), and then I PUT IT IN THE FRIDGE! --which I guess you're never supposed to do. Sigh. I was hoping refrigerating would help, it did the exact opposite.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wish you were here....

Well, we did the big Thanksgiving hoopla yesterday, and (almost) everything turned out fine. My strawberry and lemon mousse pie was kind of a mess (don't ever use puff pastry as a base for a pie no matter what their website says), but the rest turned out fine. So much thanks should be given to Tia and Ari who worked hard all morning, and Annie, who pitched in just when things were getting frantic (I forgot I was DOING potatoes -completely forgot- until an hour before T-time). My mom's turkey and stuffing were perfect, like always, and they brought the peas and pearl onions side dish like we've had for years at my Gramma Donna's.

You can see the rolls turned out a really pretty color, and they tasted good, although the bottom rack of rolls got a little too brown on the bottom. We still ate 'em up. The cranberry sauce WAS really good. Here's the recipe. Also the mulled cranberry apple cider was pretty. I love those star anise as a garnish. Jeff hated it, but pretty much everyone else liked it. Here's the recipe. I did "mull" the amount they called for and then added a lot more juice, so the spices weren't as strong.

Here's my beautiful little nieces. They lasted a good ten minutes in the high chairs, I think that's worth celebrating.

Also, the cayenne was good in the sweet potatoes. I added a good 2 teaspoons worth, and it still just added a pleasant heat, without any of the kids complaining that "the potatoes are too hot". Here's that recipe minus the pepper. Boy, I do use Cooking Light a lot huh?

Aren't the flowers pretty? Annie brought those, and they were perfect for the center of my serving table. Thanks again Annie. I'm trying to think if there was anything else. I think the mushroom sauce was a winner. Pretty sure I'm going to use it for the catering job on the third. I'm sorry i can't link to the BHG recipes, you need to register on their site to get the recent ones, and I don't want to bother. Most of them are in the November 2008 issue if you've got it lying around. Oh, one other thing, the brown sugar meringue on the ginger pumpkin pie, kind of deflated as it cooled. I've never been able to get that right. Any tips from experienced meringue makers? I'm thinking because I applied it with the oven open, the oven cooled off too much at the start of cooking time? Is that it? Do you need a hot, quick bake? Or did I just not cook it long enough? Still tasted OK, but I'd sure like to get that right.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll tell you all about it tomorrow! Love, Amara

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We caught a mouse today......

Jeff TOLD Kai not to play hide ans seek in the storage room!

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Thanksgoodness" the menu's done

All right, I think I got the menu planned for Thanksgiving. I'm going to do a couple of new recipes from Better Homes and Gardens, a couple of family favorites, and a couple more from Cooking Light magazine. I am wondering though if I need to cook a second vegetable. My mom is going to do the turkey and stuffing, and will bring another vegetable. Let me know what you think.

Fresh clementine and cranberry salad with spinach (an adaptation of 2 new BHG recipes)

Bacon laced creamy Brussels sprouts (BHG)

Velvet mashed potatoes with cremini, portabella, and shallot sauce (BHG)(It's cool I found this sauce, because I think we're going to use it on Sirloin steaks for an upcoming catering event. It even has some sun-dried tomatoes in it for color, and it's more of a saute than a sauce --really chunky)

Streuseled sweet potato casserole with cayenne pepper (family favorite, but I'm kicking it up a notch with the pepper this year)

Spiced cranberry-apple relish with orange zest (OK, new recipe I found in my catering scrapbook that was a Cooking Light recipe originally. I would be nervous about it, because my family really likes fresh, and this is a cooked sauce, but it got almost 20 rave reviews when I looked it up online, so I'm hopeful)

Buttered sweet potato knot rolls (Cooking Light)(these look so pretty with the bright orange color, I had to try them this year. There's only about 3/4 cup of mashed sweet potato though, so I doubt the flavor will be very pronounced. Hopefully though you can taste it a little)

Mulled cranberry-orange cider (My scrapbook again. This is a hot drink, but I think I'm going to make it ahead of time and chill it. I'll serve it with the star anise and orange slice garnish though - I'm excited about the garnish)

Then of course a turkey, and my mom's cornbread stuffing and natural gravy, plus whatever vegetable she's bringing. I hope she wasn't planning on Brussels sprouts.

Can I tell you about my plans for the centerpiece? I've got all these butternut squashes, and I plan on piling them up in the middle on a bed of loose colored leaves from my flowering pear trees that will run down the center of the table. Remember those trees? The torch trees? I'm also hoping I've got enough copper chargers for everyone. I think I do. Won't those be cool with the autumn stuff?

Now I've got to figure out a movie everyone likes to watch afterwards. Oh my gosh! I forgot the pies! Here's what we're doing for pie:

Ginger pumpkin meringue pie (nice gingersnap crust, and the meringue is a brown sugar meringue -really pretty --BHG)

Pumpkin Chocolate cheesecake pie (BHG too, a two layer pie, with a thin layer of chocolate in between the layers, and chopped chocolate on top)

Peanut butter chocolate pie (I made this one up. It's two layers of mousse with real whipped cream spread over the top)

Fresh strawberry pie with a lemon mousse base, and possibly a puff pastry bottom. We'll see.

(photo courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kitchen remodel in two steps (spreading over years!).

OK. First I need to specify that I loved Wendy's kitchen even before the second remodel. She and her husband bought their house a few years ago and it really needed some work. The picture below is the "before before" picture.

This is the original "after". I loved the green cabinets, and the counters were a rustic tile. What I liked most about this kitchen was that it didn't look like everyone elses kitchen (like mine kind of does). There was some originality there. She used to hang all these antique cooking utensils on the walls, including her abelskeevers pans (which she cooked for me one weekend --YUM!). It was a really happy peaceful place to be. Wendy really wanted more space though by this time, and they had LOTS of space in the backyard to expand into, so they decided to remodel again. Before I show you those after pics, thought you'd like to see the before and after of the front of the house. Well, actually it's the "during" and after.

OK. First , below is the overall after of the kitchen (with one of her sons and his friend).

Isn't it light and pretty?

This is the addition. Basically this whole room wasn't here before. I wasn't present during any stage of the remodel, and when I walked in here my mouth dropped open. it was hard to believe it was the same house.

This unit is on the side. I love this white with a dark glaze look --I should maybe show you guys Audrey's kitchen while I'm at it. She's got a really similar look.

For accent, Wendy did a natural alder to surround her oven/microwave wall

and her fridge wall.

The best part though was the island. All of the granite in this kitchen was lovely, but there was a beautiful thick slab for the island with a natural broken stone edge.
Overall the effect was very classy, with still a little of that originality that made me fall in love with the first version of the remodel. Now if I can only wrangle another invitation for abelskeevers.......

by Nancy Proper (I don't think Wendy used this much shortening)

2 c. Buttermilk
2 c. Flour
2 Eggs
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
2 tbsp. Sugar
4 tbsp. Melter Butter
Crisco or other solid shortening for frying

This requires a special pan, called an Aebleskiver (pronounced Able Skeever) pan or a Monk's Pan. Can be found in cooking store.

Seperate the eggs, beat the whites till stiff and set aside. Mix all of the other ingredients, incl. the egg yolks, and beat until smooth. Allow batter to set for 30 min. Fold in the egg whites. Put about 1/2 tbsp. of shortening in each cup of the pan and heat. Pour in about 2 tbsp. of the batter in each cup and as soon as they get bubbly around the edges begin turning them - a cake tester works great for this, or a fork. Turn them a bit at a time, letting them re-set with each turn so they form a nice ball. Contin. cooking until the cake tester comes out clean when poked through the center. Serve hot with maple syrup, Rasp. jam or powdered sugar. (Wendy did strawberry syrup, and then did some others with ham and cheese -really good)

Ma and Pa 'crow

Aren't these the classiest scarecrows? I brought this picture to you at great personal risk. I've been waving to these scarecrows all spring and summer as I've jogged by, and finally on Friday decided the world (or at least the tiny piece of the world that reads this blog) should see them too; but I couldn't post someone's front yard without asking permission right (or maybe it's no big deal, but their teenage daughter was IN the front yard at the time)? So I went up to the porch and rang the doorbell. They could have been muderers! But then, murderers and cute scarecrows don't really go together do they. The lady thought I was nuts, but then I'm getting used to that. Stay tuned, tomorrow I finally can post pictures of my friends kitchen remodel! It's beautiful, and I even have "before" pics.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dragging and the Trees

Man I'm dragging today. Jeff and I stayed up kind of late trying to figure out what to do with some investing stuff, and then I woke up three or four times during the night panicked about said investing stuff (we bought some property just before the big housing market crash --I wish I'd spent that money at the mall now), and going to one of Wendy's workouts with that type of a night sleep behind you is not a good idea. Here wait I'm going to look for my Wendy picture:
see-- that type of energy on someone's face is scary when you think of the things they're going to make you do for an hour! So I got the kids off to school, and went to sleep. I can't seem to make myself do anything. When I did drive Kai to preschool I was cheered up a little to see my flowering pear trees are finally changing color.
We've got them all down our street actually, and they look like a row of torches all lit up. Sorry, I know that's a cliche, but they really look like someone lit the trees on fire. I remember when I first came up to Utah to go to school, and the leaves all started changing color, I was so excited, I sent leaf samples in letters home to my San Diego boyfriend. I'm sure he was thrilled. I can just picture his face now opening up envelope after envelope of dried out crushed leaves. I just hadn't seen things like that before in So. California. If I remember right, I was also excited when it started snowing, but that excitement wore off pretty quick, and hasn't come back.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Try Try Pie (It IS a good title June!)

In my church everyone works. There are no paid jobs, just lots of volunteers. The good news is, they can't fire you if you do a crappy job (the bad news is the no pay thing j.k.). Anyway, my job is to do educational or spiritual activities with a group of ten year old girls. It's called "activity days" --brilliant name I know. Tia's one of them, so that's nice. When we were planning the year, I thought, November: we could teach them how to make pies! What a great idea. We have 8 girls in our group. WHAT WAS I THINKING! I wish I had had that floor drain and fire hose installed when it came to clean-up time, but it could have been worse. One girl dumped an entire raw pumpkin pie down her cute outfit, and I won't get into all the raspberries... (I know. Who's bright idea was raspberry pie?). I had butter dough (ONLY BUTTER in my pies) and flour worked into every crack and crevice of our kitchen. But you know what? They each turned out a semi-respectable pie. Especially for the first time. I avoided pies for years, because I was so intimidated by them. Hopefully none of these girls will do that now. They've already done it once now right? I was so proud of them. There are also a couple of the girls that can get a little hyper and careless on occasion, but they seemed to really be the naturals. Go figure. Anyway, other than the clean-up it was a pretty good activity. At least I can't be fired right?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Joke of the day

OK, I got a couple of funnies for you. Kira and Gavin --sorry, but I want my friends to see this too! One is a trip down memory lane: here , and one is a tribute to genius: here. Enjoy!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Omega-mania! We win!

Guess what? We won --kind of --I think. Utah Valley Magazine has a "best of Utah county" competition every year, and in the category "best place to work out" we came in at least within the top three. We'll find out in January. But that's pretty amazing considering we're up against the Gold's gym chain which has -I don't know how many-- gyms in Utah county. You can see from the picture though, ours is an amazing gym. We've got a full cardio floor (think cartilage and joint care) that's huge --there's probably 45 people in here at this class, and they all have room to spread out; great sound system, fans and coolers, mirrors (OK, most of us hate the mirrors), and the energy! In our early morning classes we get people that are really into working out (you have to to get up at around 5:00am every day) and everyone is counting down sets, singing, and groaning together. We ARE the best place to work out. I really believe it. We'd better have won.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mindnumbingly boring post !

I wasn't kidding. Your fault because you kept reading after the title. Jeff and I went to see the latest James Bond movie today (because it's opening night, and just TRY to get into a movie in Provo on opening night. Then while you're at it, walk on water), which was great, even if it was at 3:30. So guess what we did for our date time? Yeah. Organized our closet.

It took us an hour, and took ME 2 hours because my stuff was a mess. But see our cute baskets? See how straight my clothes are hanging? I like to just go in there now and stare. It gives me as much pleasure as watching an action movie. I swear. OK, maybe because Casino Royale was better. But still I liked looking at the handsome Daniel Craig jumping all over buildings, and coolly killing people, and rescuing ladies that didn't deserve it, and then looking over at the seat next to me at the end of the movie and thinking, Wow. He blows away Bond --and could probably kick his butt in real life too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Treasure hunt

Just got back from our neighborhood "treasure hunt". I was pretty excited about it, mainly because it meant I wouldn't have to make another trip to D.I. --just give it to the neighbors (who would probably wind up giving it to D.I.). ANYWAY, I came home with an electric griddle, rolling pin, a bag full of girl baby clothes (you're welcome Kira), a little jacket for Ari, and best of all:4 shirts and a pair of shorts for ME.

I must be a bad shopper normally. It takes me forever to find a shirt that I think looks good on me. I think it's because I really wish and hope I'm smaller than I am so I buy too small. Pretty pathetic. This one girl brought a bunch of shirts, and she is a SMART shopper apparently because they all looked great. Too be honest, when I looked at them there, I thought they looked a little big for me. Sigh. If I could just get over my delusions (when I lose that 10 pounds this will look GREAT!), I think I would dress a lot better, and be a lot more comfortable in the bargain.

OR, maybe these are just nicer clothes than I'm willing to pay for. Very possible.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fablehaven and Kicking a Big Bag

Finished Fablehaven today. (Can you guys tell I'm taking it kind of easy after the catering things recently? It's a mental thing. I still bathed today, maybe not until 3:30, but I'm clean.) OK, that's a fun book; lot's of fairies and stuff, but not stupid. Some good character development, and the whole choices/consequences thing was a well-developed theme. It's funny, there was an endorsement on the front cover from the author of the Leven Thumps books which almost turned me off. That was a poor poor writer, but this one was pretty good! Lest Deja read this, I mean a good story-teller. I'm not sure I can recognize good writing yet, but I can usually spot the awful.
In non-related news, 7 people in my Tae Bo class today, 8 last Thursday (I've GOT to get some pictures of kicking legs or something for Tae Bo posts). If you remember, we just started the class in September, so I'm up from 1 person. Really. I was teaching 1 girl for a few classes. Pretty pathetic. But yeah, 7-8 people is pretty dang good for still being a shlub on the flier distribution thing. I'm looking into a banner for the building that just says "Best Cardio classes in Utah" or "Utah's best cardio classes" something like that. Noone needs to know it's just the best in OUR opinion. I really pushed them today. We did the bags ( big punching bags) for side leg stuff today. Roundhouse kicks, roundhouse/touch the floor, sidekicks with a squat.... woohoo! Sometimes it's fun just BECAUSE it's so hard. You feel so good that you've made your body obey your will --know what I mean? Also I had a new CD. That always helps.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Capitalist in the making

OK, here's a cool post that's about the kids. Tia's got an etsy shop. She kept bugging me to set her up a blog, and frankly, I didn't want to share the computer that much. I also worry a little about the whole public forum thing for a little girl (I guess we could do a private blog, it's really all about the selfishness). Anyway, I told her if she made ten things, I'd set her up an etsy shop.

She decided finally on jewelry, and made some really cute little bracelets, and some necklaces and earrings (not my favorite, I like the bracelets). Tia took most of the pictures, and after I posted the first item, did all the other's herself. She even sold something already (OK, to me, but I really needed it for a gift. It wasn't a pity buy.) If you want to check it out you can here. Ayn Rand would be proud. Dagne would be proud. Hank Reardon would be proud. OK, go read Atlas Shrugged already.

Mystery words

OK, I hardly ever do a "mommy" post, but I thought if this is my journal too, I ought to record some stuff the kids say when they were small, or I'll forget them. Right now, Kai always says "really". "Mom, it's really raining". "Mom, Tia's really home" "I really got a long sleeve shirt on", "I really ate my breakfast". He's also accustomed to saying "paper toilet" instead of toilet paper. Tia, when she was little always had her own words for things. "You're all fixed up" instead of "mixed up", and "I want to go to the zoo" was "I wanna go doops" (that one took us a while to figure out!). I won't even start with Ari. For 3 years it was just screaming and yelling to get our attention, and a real guessing game after that. Actually that's not the happiest memory. I'm so grateful to the people who taught us sign language. She'd be seriously scarred if we hadn't gotten that training. OK, maybe I'll do a cool post later. Just wanted to record that stuff.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fluffy, Puffy, Cupcakes

Nothing super exciting today, I did get to go hike up Maple canyon with my friends this morning. I wish I had brought my camera there. Beautiful. Most of the leaves were on the ground, but were still orange and yellow. Personally, I like seeing just the shapes of the bare branches of the trees. I like all the browns and tans with the dry grasses and bushes. Suppose I've been in the lone and dreary world too long. Maybe it's because I like to dress in these colors, I like my house decorated with these colors, I like these colors. Anyway, a lady (really nice lady) asked me to make 5 dozen cupcakes for her son's missionary farewell on Sunday, so that's what I did the rest of the day. I got pictures of one of these, I forgot to get out my camera when they were all on the counter, so not too impressive pictures this time. Go back and look at those Kuidaore cookie pictures if you want impressive!

They did look kind of flowery all put together. Like white peonies. Sigh. Peonies. Spring is coming back right? In spite of my love affair with browns, spring is SPRING!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cooking cookies

I really thought I did a pretty good job on my cookies last year, and was looking around for some new ideas for this year's cookies. I'm afraid I found the goddesses of cookie decorating. Too bad for me. I thought Martha with her entourage was worthy of emulating, but these people have got some real talent. Jocelyn of Kuidaore is located in Singapore and teaches classes at Shermay's Cooking School . The Mad baker is also located in Singapore and really does some impressive stuff. The pictures I chose from her blog are only the tip of the iceberg.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Options for ivy

A little while ago, The Nesting Place did a post condemning the use of ivy on the cupboards. Now I knew I needed to take some action there, but didn't have the cash to buy all new stuff. The pictures above and below were my mantle and cupboards when I read the post. Pretty Ivy-y.
Then I realized I had a yard full of ornamental grasses, a dozen dried artichokes from a catering job that I couldn't bear to throw out, and some clearance Christmas garland from last year that was all red and brown. Now I'm not saying I'm some decorating genius, but hey, all of this stuff was FREE and in my house already (or at least in my "yarden" as Kai would say). Here's some after shots.

Here I still have any ivy planter in the middle, but it's painted brownish -red so it's not SOOO early 90's. Better than before at least right?

I know this mantel still needs work, any suggestions? Ones that preferably won't cost me much (or any) money? Maybe I should paint the grasses brown to match the curly willow better? What do you think?