Sunday, September 30, 2012

Miss September

Well, these aren't the best but at least we took them.  Seriously, where did September go?  Seriously?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Our ward's adoption dynamic

The other day Paul and I were talking about how fortunate we feel to be part of such a great ward (our local church congregation).  It is a really big ward yet somehow it still feels like people really know each other and care about each other and it really does feel like a "ward family".  We have a HUGE nursery (at least for the Bay Area) with 27 kids between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, with three more kids (including Clara) who are entering nursery by the end of the year.  And something like over 1/3 of the ward works in the primary because there are just so many kids. 

But our ward is incredibly special because of the impact adoption has had on the makeup of many of the families in our ward.  Paul and I realized that there are four different families that we are aware of off the top of our heads whose children were adopted.  That is eight kids, including Clara, in our ward who were adopted.  The adoptions occurred through domestic adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption.  Some of them are open adoptions and some are closed.  Some of these families have a mix of both biological and adopted children, while others, like ours, grew solely through adoption.  We are also aware of two adults in our ward who were adopted when they were children, which further adds to adoption diversity of our ward.  Our families are diverse and vibrant and loving. 

It has been such a blessing to be a part of a ward that has such strong adoption ties and we are grateful not just to be a part of the adoption community at large, but part of this smaller ward community that has so much adoption experience.  We are so glad that our children will grow up knowing other families created through adoption and that the old-fashioned stigma sometimes associated with adoption will be diminished in a community such as ours.   

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cup o' Joe

Tonight Paul told me a story about this past week at work involving coffee that I thought deserved to be mentioned on the blog and which inspired this post.  Paul and a co-worker are good buddies and apparently prank each other on occasion.  This co-worker also happens to know that as a practicing Mormon Paul does not drink coffee because they have discussed this finer point of our religion.  So apparently a few days ago Paul was getting himself a cup of water from the breakroom when he suddenly thought, "hey, it would be nice of me to make a cup of coffee for my buddy and take it to him."  So he poured a cup of coffee (he can't remember if he used the decaf, regular, or strong option) and then added this and that (he said he dumped in some raw sugar and then some kind of creamer and whatever other stuff was sitting there) and took it to his friend.

The friend was immediately suspicious when Paul said "I brought you a cup of coffee!  I made it for you!"  The friend's first question was "what did you do to it?"  Paul explained that he didn't put anything bad in it and so the friend took a sip and exclaimed "this is awful!"  Bahaha - I am sure it is so much funnier hearing Paul tell this story in person because I was seriously cracking up. 

The second story I have involving coffee is from when I was a summer associate at my law firm during my 2L summer of law school.  As the only Mormon out of 27 summer associates, I naturally got some questions at social events about my religion, principally dealing with why I wasn't drinking alcohol.  Inevitably coffee would come up as another "banned" substance for a practicing Mormon.  One person asked whether there were any Starbucks in Utah and I deadpanned, "Oh sure.  But they aren't allowed to sell coffee.  Just hot chocolate."  Everybody, and I mean everybody, gasped and totally bought it until I couldn't help but laugh about the joke. 

My third coffee story is from when I was a senior in high school working my first job as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant in a small town in Nebraska.  I was still pretty new on the job and had not even an inkling about coffee terminology so when I asked a customer what he wanted to drink and he asked for "coffee, black" I responded, "sorry, but we only have regular or decaf".  That man laughed and laughed and told me to go ask another waitress what he meant.  I remember the other waitresses looking at me like I was from outer space when I explained the conversation to them.  It was one of the more embarassing moments of my life. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Clara Videos

I have more videos than these four, but for some reason I am having a hard time uploading some of them onto Vimeo right now so we will call it good with just these ones.  I am pretty good at uploading our pictures but for some reason I stockpile the videos.  They are all pretty short and they are all recent except for the one of her saying "no" which was taken back in June.

This first video is of her growling voice which she has been using a lot lately.  You can also see how busy she is and how she just goes around and around shutting doors, playing in the closet, etc.


Her laughin this video is hilarious.  It might remind you of a pair of trashy MTV cartoon characters from the 90's...

I am annoyed with my voice prompting her to say "hi" in the next video, but she generally does this all the time without my coaching only when I pulled out the camera and started taking a video she got a little shy so I was helping her out.

This one is maybe a little boring but I just love her little grin when she sticks out her tongue at the beginning and the big kiss and giggle at the end.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

San Francisco Exploratorium

Paul's law firm was invited to participate in the San Francisco Exploratorium's Corporate Family Fun Night since I guess the firm did some work for the Exploratorium this year or something.  I love going into the city and feel like we don't do it nearly enough, so I jumped at the chance when Paul mentioned it.  Traffic was no bueno on our way in around 6:00 p.m. but we made it to the Palace of Fine Arts in the marina area of San Francisco where the Exploratorium is currently located (it is moving to a pier soon) and found free parking with no problem (yay!) by about 7:00 so really it wasn't too bad.    
I LOVED seeing the Palace itself.  I am a HUGE fan of the Corinthian columns on this structure and have only seen it from a distance previously while heading across the Golden Gate Bridge.  The architecture of the Palace was better than the Exploratorium itself, in my opinion.  Plus, this was the scene for one of the dates a few seasons ago on "The Bachelor" so it was kind of exciting to be there for that reason too.  'Cuz, you know, we geek out over awful reality TV shows. 

Poor Clara was pretty tired.  She only took one nap yesterday (I am worried that she is trying to give up one of her naps because three times this week she only took one nap a day) and was awfully sleepy (but not fussy) while we were on our little adventure.  Seeing this beautiful architecture and the friezes made me want to travel so badly.  I miss Greece and Italy so much.

One of our sure-fire ways of coaxing a smile out of a sleepy Clara is to spin with her.  She loves to twirl.  Even though this shot is blurry, I love it because it is SO true to life how she holds onto me and our hair flies out and neither of us can stop smiling while we go around and around.

There are some cool science exhibits to play with there but honestly our favorite thing was the free photo booth with props.  I love the progression of Clara in these pictures where she starts out looking at Paul like, "Dad, what is that on your head?" and then ends with a resigned tired look like "my parents are the weirdest and I totally don't understand them."

We left just as it was getting dark and walked over near Crissy Field to take a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge near dusk.  It was a fun Friday evening.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Today I...

...loved listening to the thunder rumbling and feeling raindrops on my face for the first time in months.
...made cornbread and chili for dinner while watching Clara play in the backyard.
...rode the bike to the library to return books and check out new ones.
...finished off the chocolate cake leftover from our Labor Day party.
...started reading "Life and Death in Shanghai" which promises to be a fascinating and eye-opening read so far.
...unloaded the dishwasher first thing in the morning so I could put dirty dishes in as they were used rather than letting them pile up in the sink all day long.
...gave myself a mani/pedi while Clara was napping.
...swept the kitchen floor FOUR times.
...checked my email too many times.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day Weekend

We had a jam-packed Labor Day weekend.  We kicked it off with an evening bike ride after Clara's bath on Friday night.  I love her in her little footie pajamas.

Saturday Paul worked hard on getting the hallway closet installed and cleaning out the garage.  It is SO nice to have the new closet in because it meant I could finally clean out the office that has been a cluttered mess for months now.  We still don't have doors on the closet (because Lowes and Home Depot don't carry the specific doors we want in stock and we have to order them) so I can't fill the lower shelves of the hall closet unless I want to deal with picking everything up and reshelving it every time Clara pulls it out.  Sooo, there is a little bit that still needs to be done there, but not much. 

I spent Saturday cursing myself for my choice of Halloween costume because the particular piece of the costume I was working on was making me a little crazy.  I finally gave up and told Paul that I am never, ever sewing Halloween costumes ever again. 

Sunday I taught the Gospel Doctrine class for the first time during Sunday School and got all choked up talking about the parents of the 2,000 stripling warriors sending their sons off to war with the best teaching they could to follow their prophet and leader and how that is what parents have to do today - teach their kids as best they can before sending them out into the world knowing what those kids are going to be up against.  I was embarassed for getting a little emotional, but I actually enjoyed giving the lesson and learned a lot from those war chapters that I hadn't gleaned from them before.

In the late afternoon, after Paul and Clara had taken 2+ hour naps, we drove to Santa Cruz for a walk along the coastal cliffs.  There were some beautiful waves crashing into the rocks and sending up huge plumes of ocean spray.  It was a perfect 61 degrees and we were glad we had brought sweaters and jackets.  There were tons of surfers and sailboats to watch too, which I always love.

Monday Paul worked on another house project - installing trim around the front door - that has been on his list for a while now.  I picked up my accursed sewing project again and spent the morning picking out seams and re-pinning and re-stitching fabric correctly trying to get it to lay properly and fit my body the way it was supposed to.  I was so glad to finally get that piece of my costume done and then to put away the sewing machine, needles, and thread and clean up for our little Labor Day BBQ that we decided last minute to throw for some of the new couples in our ward. 

There has been a huge influx of new people moving into our ward and we are trying to be better about being social so it was fun to have so many new friends over for dinner.  We just grilled burgers and hot dogs and everybody else brought side dishes and desserts.  I think we had something like 14 adults and about that many kids too.  There was lots of good "getting to know you" conversation about educations, mission experiences, how people met and where they are from, etc.  The newliest wed couple just got married back in May and moved here from Provo and I think that Paul and I might have been married second longest out of everybody there (since for some reason I am thinking that the Rowlands got married six months before we did). 

So many babies.  And I love these ladies.

Paul did an excellent job manning the grill.
Clara went all patriotic.  Is that appropriate for Labor Day?

This little guy is soooo sweet and cuddly.  I got to hold him for quite a while and he fell asleep against my shoulder and I confess that I just love him.

The steps and the sliding screen door were a big hit with the toddler crowd.  We might need to do something about this step because it actually is a bigger drop than it probably should be and Paul and I have to watch Clara like a hawk to make sure she doesn't attempt the vertical distance on her own.

Clara loved having a party in our backyard.  She played and played with all the kids, crawling through the fabric tunnels that we set up on the grass, riding in the car (this little guy was so sweet to push her around and around and around), and running back and forth.  Clara is also a little mooch and would grab any sippy cup she could get her hands on or eat watermelon off of plates or out of the many small offering hands who were willing to share.  The funniest though was when Clara noticed that somebody had set a plate of chocolate cake on the concrete - I had my back turned in conversation at the time and when I glanced around Clara was sitting there holding a fork and devouring - absolutely devouring - the slice of cake making "mmmmm" sounds. 

It was amazing cake though, if I do say so myself.  The cake was from the "Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey" cookbook and the chocolate buttercream frosting was from a recipe I found online.  Sorry to keep posting recipes on this blog (I don't know if they make the blog boring or not) but I often find myself wondering about past succesful foods I have made and not knowing where I found the recipe and this blog is my one consistent place for finding a record of my life so I will probably continue to post food-related things here and there.

Devil's Food Cake (slightly modified from the recipe in "Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey")

1/3 cup cocoa powder
4 ounces semisweet or bitter-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used 1 semisweet square and 3 unsweetened squares because I didn't want an overly sweet chocolate cake and there is already a lot of sugar in this cake)
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (or about 10 seconds in the microwave)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups cake flour (or just 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup of cornstarch - or just use regular flour and the cake will turn out delicious either way)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9-inch round cake pans.  I should have cut out circles of parchment paper to go in the bottom of my cake pans but didn't out of laziness and regretted it because my cakes stuck a little. 

Combine cocoa powder and chocolate in a large bowl.  Pour in the boiling water and stir until the chocolate is melted, then stir in the vanilla.  Let the mixture cool a little bit before stirring in the buttermilk. 

In another bowl, beat the butter and oil together.  Add the sugars and beat until creamy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  (Important step, in my opinion - don't skip.)

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then add half of the flour mixture to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture, beating on low spead just until combined.  Beat in half of the chocolate-buttermilk mixture until combined, then the rest of the flour mixture, then the other half of the chocolate-buttermilk mixture, scraping sides of the bowl in between alternate wet and dry mixtures. 

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans, then bake 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Mine took around 28-29 minutes and I would recommend watching them closely because with homemade cake you absolutely do not want to overcook it or it will turn out dry.  Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (from

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (but NOT MELTED!  Seriously, 10-12 seconds in the microwave is enough)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt (if using salted butter, I would reduce this to 1/4 tsp salt)
2 tsp vanilla or 1 tsp almond extract
4 Tbsp milk or cream (I used whole milk because we had some on hand)

Cream butter for a few minutes using an electric mixer, then add powdered sugar and cocoa powder and turn mixer back on on the lowest speed to combine.  Then increase mixer speed to medium and add salt, vanilla or almond extract and milk or cream.  For a softer frosting, increase the milk by small increments (I ultimately probably used more like 4 1/2 Tbsp because I was worried that if the frosting wasn't soft enough my cake would crumble too much when I went to frost it).  Beat frosting for three minutes, then frost cooled cake.  Make enough to very generously frost a two-layer cake. 

Incidentally, there is another cholate frosting recipe from the same website that I would like to try:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Automobile Envy

My husband is obsessed with minivans.  He is always like, "Ooooh, did you just see that sweet Odyssey?" or "Wow, that Sienna is so nice."  He is constantly looking at them online and telling me about all the sexy details like stow-and-go seating or automatic sliding doors.  The other day he actually got home from work and dragged me and Clara over to the car dealership with him to look at the Odyssey.
I sort of don't know what to do about him.  We certainly don't need a minivan right now and I like zipping around town in our efficient little Civic.  And when I am dreaming about cars, I frankly dream more about the kind of machine that Bond drives.  You know, Daniel Craig Bond.  In a tux.  In an Aston Martin. 

Oh baby, now THAT is a car.

*Disclaimer - I know that one day I will be driving a minivan around (like every mom in America) and I am sure that I will be fine with that.  Or mostly fine with that.  But that day is not today and I am okay with that. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

This and That

I feel like I am falling behind on this blog.  There are a whole bunch of things that have been bouncing around in my head that I have been wanting to blog about but I just keep putting it all on the back-burner right now because I am totally preoccupied with my current project (sewing Halloween costumes - sheesh, I totally bit off more than I can chew with our theme for this year and have been maxing out my sewing abilities and having to learn lots of new really hard stuff.  Hard for me at least.  Like, how to sew a zipper.  I'm not a great seamstress, obviously). 
Anyway, a couple weeks ago my sister Jennie put a picture on instagram of a pizza she had made on the grill.  So last weekend I tried it myself using the techniques from the "Our Best Bites" cookbook (which Paul calls the "Half-Blood Prince Cookbook" because basically everything I have made from there has turned out magically amazing and delicious).  Here is a link to their grilled pizza tutorial online:  I used their breadstick recipe for the crust, then topped it with grilled and shredded chicken, chopped cilantro, thinly sliced red onions, chopped bacon, bbq sauce and mozzarella cheese.  It was phenomenal.  Like, this is our new favorite pizza.  I thought it was a little tricky making it on the grill, but now that I have done it once I know it will be a lot easier next time. 
Paul washed his truck and my car one evening after work.  Clara watched him while she finished eating her dinner.  And she was not wearing any clothes because (a) it was warm, (b) she had peach juice dripping all down her front so I figured might as well strip the shirt off, (c) I had been watering the garden with the spray nozzle attachment on the hose and she had been walking through the spray and laughing so she was already soaked anyway, and (d) it was just about bathtime.  Oh how I love these warm and lovely summer nights, especially when the lighting is all ethereal and exquisite.  (P.S. - our front yard is in terrible shape.  There are big patches of dead grass and it just looks awful because we haven't put any work into it.  We are thinking that possibly we will do landscaping next year and fix it.  But one project at a time, right?)

I already finished sewing Clara's Halloween costume (and it turned out SOOOOO unbelievably cute but I can't post about it on here till October because it is kind of a surprise) and when I was putting away the fabric scraps I realized that I had a huge pile of leftover scraps from past sewing projects (aprons, bags, elephants, etc.).  So I threw together a quilt top using up a bunch of my leftover scrap material.  It had to be a really patchworky looking quilt since I didn't have enough of anything to do a consistent pattern, but I still think it turned out well.  Obviously it still needs to be quilted and bound but that might not happen for a little while as I am finishing up my costume and Paul's costume.

Clara loves the new quilt.