Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Block Game and Sweeping

Yesterday Clara and I were videochatting with my mom when Clara picked up one of her wooden blocks and came up with a new game:  holding the block using just her chin.  I am loving this stage with her - she is always coming up with new hilarious things like this and cracking us up.  And her facial expressions just kill me!  She has these great little eyebrow waggles that she does when she is amused or when she knows that she is doing something clever and funny.  Her hair was in a darling ballerina bun earlier in the day but had gotten all messy from afternoon naptime, but I still love it.


Here is a little video of Clarabelle showing off her new game for Grandma Cece while we were Skyping: 

Another new thing Clara did yesterday was to help me sweep the floor after dinner.  She has a tendency to throw her plate right at the end of a meal and so far I have had no luck convincing her not to do it and haven't figured out the perfect timing for when to just remove her plate.  So we end up with rice or pasta or whatever on the floor most evenings (but never the vegetables which she gobbles up every time - she has seriously improved our eating habits just because I know that I always have to serve sufficient vegetable options since they are obviously her favorite aside from pretty much any kind of fruit).  Anyway, as I was trying to sweep up rice she kept running through the mess and laughing like a little maniac until I asked her to come help me sweep, at which point she ran right over and grabbed the broom with me while repeating "sweep! sweep!"  We both look awfully tired in these photos but it had been a long day of running around. 

And a little video of Clara being mommy's good helper by sweeping the floor:

Chicken Tikka Masala

I am posting this recipe here because I have recently had some trouble with Pinterest where I have pinned a link with intentions of making a recipe or following a tutorial only to go back a month or so later and find that the post was removed or the link no longer works. 

I have mentioned on here before that my favorite chicken tikka masala is from a restaurant in Provo called Bombay House.  And I have had chicken tikka masala all over the world in places you would think you could find better versions of it like D.C. or London.  So when I found this blog post with a recipe describing the same situation and comparing this recipe to that of Bombay House chicken tikka masala, I decided I had to try it.  It turned out well with just a couple of exceptions.  The flavor profile was very, very close.  I used two cups of cream for the medium-mild spiciness and it was just the same level of "my-nose-is-starting-to-run-but-just-barely" that I usuaully experience at the restaurant.  The biggest problem with the recipe was that my sauce turned out too runny so I think that possibly the original post skipped a step somewhere to either simmer the sauce down after adding the cream or to add a thickening agent or something.  The original post had pictures with a sauce that looked just like the one at Bombay House so obviously hers turned out just fine.  Possibly she made a spicier version with less cream?  I will have to work on that and update this post eventually with my solution, but even with a runny sauce this meal was excellent and the only things I had to buy special for it were a bottle of garam masala (easy to find in the Safeway spice section) and a jalapeno. 

Chicken Tikka Masala (Bombay House Style)

1 1/2 Lbs chicken breast, chopped into bite size pieces

1 cup plain yoghurt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp red pepper
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 cup cilantro
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
1 can (8oz) tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream (hot-medium spiciness) or 2 cups heavy cream (medium-mild spiciness)

Cut the chicken into one-inch size cubes.  Mix all marinade ingredients in a dish or ziploc bag: yoghurt, lemon juice, cumin, red pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, salt, & ground ginger.  Add chicken and stir to coat, then cover tightly and marinade for 1-2 hours.  Thread chicken pieces on skewers and grill.  Or you can cook the chicken in a high sided skillet until done, or no longer pink inside (about 8 minutes).

For the sauce, melt the butter over medium heat in a frying pan. Add garlic and jalapeño and cook for 1 minute.  Next add coriander, cumin, paprika, garam masala and salt; stir to combine.  Stir in tomato sauce and simmer for 15 minutes.  Finally, add the grilled chicken and stir in the cream: 1 cup for hot-medium, 2 cups for medium-mild.  Serve with basmati rice and garnish with chopped cilantro and naan.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yosemite 2012

Oh how we love going to Yosemite in the fall.  Paul's grandparents on his dad's side started the tradition when Paul's dad was a little boy and it is my very favorite Nash family tradition and a trip that Paul and I have been looking forward to for months.  We left Wednesday morning (my birthday) around 10:00-ish and got to the park with no carsickness incidents around 2:30.  We listened to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone while we drove (so good!).  Since we couldn't check into our room at the Yosemite Lodge until 5:00 (lame, but thankfully Clara had already taken her nap in the car) we decided to ride our bikes around the park for the afternoon.  We spent time at the Ahwahnee, threw rocks into the river, and saw a bobcat.  Paul is a rock-skipping champion and for some reason I find that really attractive about him.  I can't skip a rock to save my life.  We left the camera in the car though, so I don't have any pictures from that day, which is too bad since it was my birthday after all. 
That evening we had dinner at the Mountain Room (my favorite restaurant in Yosemite) and Bob & Donna surprised me with a Nothing Bundt Cakes Chocolate Chocolate Chip bundt cake for my birthday.  It was super fun.  Dave, Deborah and Colton (Paul's brother, sister-in-law, and nephew) got in that night in time for cake and we shared a room with them.  The lodge has four big "family rooms" that sleep six people and have a small living space with a couch, a full-size table, large vanity area, etc.  Bob and Donna shared another family room with Paul's other brother John and his family when they got there the next day. 
On Thursday we woke up and I made waffles for breakfast before we all went on a walk out to the river.  It is super low this time of year and especially low this year.  Clara was OBSESSED with throwing rocks into the river just like dad and granpda.  She was so cute lobbing the little pebbles into the water, sometimes adding a little grunt of effort as she released her grip. 

Her poor little fingers were ice cold from handling the wet stones and touching the water a couple of times but she would not let us warm them up for her because that meant she would have to stop throwing rocks.  She whined when I picked her up to walk elsewhere. 

After that we went on a bike ride through the southern part of the valley to see the climbers on El Capitan.  It is one of my very favorite rides in the park and I love trying to spot the teensy specks of color from climbers jackets and gear way up on the sheer granite as they make their ascent.  There is a really cool meadow where we always stop to look for the climbers and Clara chased me out into the dry grasses.

We rode the valley bus over to Degnan's (a deli) for lunch.  Clara HATED the bus.  She cried and was not happy about it.  Her cousin Colton was okay with it though.

Speaking of Colton, Clara had so much fun playing with him.  Colton just turned two and he was so cute.  One morning he woke up early but was just laying in his pack-n-play singing softly to himself after Deborah told him to go back to sleep.  Clara woke up a little while later, stood up in her crib, and started saying "Colton!" loudly and pointing at him.  He jabbered back at her and they had a little conversation while the adults were trying to sleep until I picked Clara up and took her into the front room to read books.  It was adorable.  On one walk when they were both in strollers Clara kept trying to hold Colton's hand.

One of the best parts of this trip was that we saw a bear!  I LOVE seeing bears (as long as I feel safe).  This one was pretty small and shaggy looking compared to bears we have seen in the past - really it looked like a big, mangy dog.  It was down on the river bank where we had been throwing rocks the day before and we all got a great view of it.  It was fun pointing him out to Clara and trying to get her to say "Bear!"  She can't say it very well but she pretty much mastered "Deer!" while we were there because there were so many deer around. 

We biked to an area of the park known as "Indian Caves" and climbed around the massive boulders and through rock crevices.  You can see sort of dents in the rocks where the native Miwoks would grind acorns over and over until small cavities formed.  We kept Clara's helmet on a lot of the time because she has gotten so fast and she wasn't happy being held and there were a lot of obstacles to trip over.  Plus, she kept trying to climb the rocks so we felt like it would just be for the best if she had a little extra protection.  That girl has no fear.

I love Clara's smile in this photo with her grandpa and two of her boy cousins.  Only cousins Elizabeth and Robert were missing (they couldn't make it this year). 

Clara's latest obsession is putting buckles together on carseats or helmets.  She played and played and played with her helmet.  I don't think she has actually successfully put a buckle together and made it stick but she doesn't give up trying. 

Bob was trying to get the boys to growl with him, which explains the funny face.

Between the three sets of parents and one set of grandparents, there was a lot of this going on - posing for cameras.

In case anyone is considering going to Yosemite, you really need to take this piece of advice:  bring bicycles.  It makes the trip so much more fun when you can bike from place to place rather than hiking forever or taking the shuttle bus around the valley floor. 

We had to stop and slide down this rock over and over and over with the kids.  They were in heaven. 

On Friday morning we did my favorite hike in the entire park (possibly the entire world although it is tough beat some of the views we had hiking around Cinque Terra, Italy and Grindelwald, Switzerland, particularly below the Jungfrau) - the Panorama trail from the top of Glacier Point.  You get the most incredible views of Half Dome (behind us to the left - fairly self-explanatory name) and the perspective changes every few feet it seems like.  We didn't make it very far - just a mile or so in and then back out - since the kids are all pretty little and weren't loving being carried around in their carriers much.  But we got to where we could see and hear Illilouette Falls before turning around. 

Clara fell asleep on the way back out.  Hiking can be exhausting for one so little.

Saturday morning I made pumpkin roll pancakes for breakfast.  They were AMAZING and you should totally make them.  And healthy too with pumpkin and whole wheat flour (until you add the cream cheese and whipped cream topping - but you MUST have that or these won't be nearly as out of this world as they are). 

Clara ate two of them plus bananas. 

Later in the morning, we rode bikes to Mirror Lake, another of my very most favorite spots in the valley.  There was zero water in the lake this time of year but it is still just a really picturesque location with huge boulders strewn about and fallen leaves and yellow trees lining the path.  On the way we stopped to take pictures at a little fork in the trail I had discovered the day before that I thought would work well for family portrait photography.  Deborah took these for us and I took some for her and Dave.  They weren't planned or anything but they still turned out cute.

This is where the lower lake should be.  As you can see, it is just a dry lakebed filled with teensy pieces of granite/sand.  It makes for beautiful photos though.

Clara went up and down and up and down at this spot between her dad and her grandpa.  She loves climbing so much. 

Her little elbow is cocked in this next picture because she was entertaining us with her rendition of "I'm A Little Teapot".  Obviously, that is her handle. 

Is this not the most spectacular scenery or what?  The grandeur and scale of Yosemite is just staggering to behold and in my opinion, it is one of the top places that everyone should visit. 

We stopped at the Ahwahnee again on our way back from Mirror Lake and Clara stayed outside with grandpa for a bit to run around while Paul, Dave, Deborah and I went into the Ahwahnee store.

Eventually we all moved into the great room at the Ahwahnee where there are lots of chairs for relaxing and a massive walk-in fireplace that had a couple of logs going since it was a cooler day.  Everybody loves hanging out in that spot and just soaking up the ambiance.  One day we would love to be able to stay at the Ahwahnee (but yeah right since it is so far outside of our price range).

We had lunch at Degnan's again on Saturday (the one big problem with Yosemite at this time of year is that food options are pretty limited).  Clara and Vaughn were playing patty-cake.

After naps (for Clara and Paul - Colton never gave it up that day), we joined everybody at a little beach below this beautiful rock bridge for rock-skipping and drill puppy action.  I think drill puppies are pretty much just a Nash thing but it is where you throw a rock high, high in the air until it lands in the water, ideally with minimal splash.  I have no idea who started drill puppies but it is a big thing to do in Yosemite for the Nash boys.  Once again, Clara loved standing right on the edge of the water and tossing stone after stone in to her hearts content.

I took this photo from the bridge.  Paul must have been skipping rocks and Dave looks to be celebrating an apparently impressive drill puppy.

Paul's parents - Bob and Donna.  I like this photo I took of them because it looks so natural.  They didn't even realize I was taking it at the time.

Angelica and Vaughn beneath the bridge.  I was remembering the whole time we were around Vaughn what Clara was like at that age when we just took her along and she would fall asleep anywhere and anytime.  It was easy-peasy.  Now we have to be more accomodating to her sleep needs since she doesn't nap unless she is in her bed.   

This is my favorite photo of Colton from the week.  Oh gosh he is cute and it was fun being around him.  I was glad for Clara to get to spend more time around her cousins on this side of the family and we are looking forward to Christmas with them this year.

Three of the four Nash brothers - John, Paul, and Dave.  Only Bobby (the oldest) is missing.

I know this post is WAY too long and overkill by now, but I am including this next series of four photos because Paul got Clara's attention while I was trying to take a photo of her holding this rock and he coaxed her into jumping for me.  I love the progression of her facial expressions followed by the culminating action shot of her little jump.

We took a quick photo using the timer function on the camera so we could get the whole group in. 

The biggest negative of this trip was that on the second night we were there I took a pretty good tumble in the dark over a curb (it didn't help that I was running full-speed and flew a good 6 to 8 feet) and tore open my knee, ruining my favorite pair of jeans, and slicing off a big chunk of skin on my left hand.  I won't post the close-up photo of the wound because it is just too gross but this is actually when it was starting to look better on the last day of the trip.  I am embarassed to admit that I cried big ol' crocodile tears (like I always do when I feel like I am in pain and the world is against me) and thought I was going to faint or throw up or both a couple of times.  Paul actually poured hydrogen peroxide over the wounds for me when I declined to pay $136 to have someone at the medical clinic properly clean and bandage it for me.  I've never had hydrogen peroxide poured over an open wound before and it was pretty much agony, especially for someone with the low pain tolerance that I have.  It was nice to have Paul and others around to lend some extra help with Clara since I was hardly able to move that hand for the first few days while a scab was forming and I was completely unable to do her hair one-handed.  It is feeling much better now though, even though it is still ugly and it hurts if I bump or even touch the scabbed area. 

Paul and I are determined not to wait another year to make it back to Yosemite.  We are talking about going this winter to see it in the snow, which we have never done before.  I can't wait!