Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I loves me a $4 shopping spree!

The BEST local thrift shop has all their merchandise 50% off on Tuesdays (except furniture, which is fine by me when it comes to used stuff), and the local farmers market is also on Tuesdays, so that makes it doubly fantastic and easy for me, which counts for a lot! It means I actually sometimes get there!

So yesterday? What booty did I score? Howabout two incredibly cool toddler sized Hawaiian-style shirts (because Bubbles sports those so incredibly well and we love them) and a set of Hawaiian overalls that are made of that rayon that is sort of swishy and dries in minutes! Ohyeah!

That shirt on the left? Butter soft rayon and check it! Dinosaurs with a volcanic palm tree
island - ohmygod the cuteness! And the one on the right? Super lightweight cotton with faux wood buttons and a retro canoe, hut and palm tree design.

Oh, I feel a trip to Hawaii coming on!

But that's not all! I also got a cookie press! I don't like pressed cookies so very much! But that's okay, because I really got it for the frosting capabilities it I detest working with pastry bags so much. Or maybe it is the cleaning of the pastry bags I hate so much. At any rate, check this out:
It came with a whole mess of cookie press tips AND frosting decorator tips AND it is as seen on TV - not that I have, personally.

Total cost for this thrift shopping indulgence? $4 plus tax. The clothes were normally $1 each, but hey - it was 1/2 off day. And the cookie/frosting press set me back $2.5o.
I still can't believe I got a dinosaur-lava shirt for 50c!
I am sure you will soon tire of seeing it in photo shoots.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This Is The Place

I always think I will have time to record my trips; I bring the laptop along, and then I barely have time to do anything except check email. (and occasionally reply)

This time I must have been completely nuts to think that somehow, with a 13 hour drive each way, five days of 8 hour classes for the workshop I was attending (the one that made me so much smarter now than I was 2 weeks ago), homework each night, and doling out attention to the two children who are not at all used to me being gone for 8 hours each day, that I would have time to actually write anything at all!
(joke's on me. ha!ha! i need a hug)

Which is why it took me two weeks to photoblog my trip.

So, we headed east, leaving the beloved left coast behind, with each child set up in their cushy Eurovan-Airlines personal video world. The adult passenger has to take on job of 'flight attendant', so sometimes driving is easier!

We headed out on a hot day, but the drive through Nevada was like traveling directly through the eye of hell's own inferno. Literally.

Turns out, a large percentage of the state was on fire.

The town we had originally pointed to on the map and assumed would be a good place as any to stay was waaay too smoky, and too much on fire to even consider that, so we piled back into the car and continued east on Hwy 80. I made many snarky comments about the whole damn state being full of smoke, and if you have ever tried to find a hotel room in Reno with young, non-smoking children, then you know exactly what I mean.

We drove through yet more fires, fires on either side of the road, and we noticed little more west-bound traffic than the fire and ranger trucks. Finally, (and I do say that with a tired sigh, because Nevada is a long-ass state - way longer than it appears on the map, I might say - and bit of wasteland in my humble opinion) when we reached the next town that actually had hotels in it, we started looking for a room. I may as well have been pregnant and traveling atop a donkey for all the luck that we had at the first five hotels.
"'Ummm, is there some convention going on here in booming Elko, or what?" I asked the fifth innkeeper at 12:30am.
"Nope," he replied,"There is a fire west of here. Route 80 is closed, so everyone is stuck here."
Turns out we were one the last eastbound cars allowed through, which is a damn good thing, since we couldn't stay in the town on fire, and it was a long way back to Reno.
We did finally find a motel room, and even though we (all four of us) had to share the one bed left in the town of Elko, it wasn't that smoky, and we were really tired...and everything was fine until the next morning when I watched some grown woman at the breakfast buffet ignore the spoon and stick her bare hand in the bowl of shredded cheese and scoop out a handful for her omelet and I felt a bit sick and needed to get in the car and drive away from that state as soon as possible.
On our way to the edge of the state, I swear I saw a casino billboard that offered 2-for-1 showers to truckers, but dh wouldn't turn around so I couldn't record it. harumph.
I did, however, see this sign in the ladies' room of a Burger King (in the town that was on fire) and it cracked me up. I know for a fact that this sign was not posted in the mens' room as well.

I look like that because I was completely uprepared and had no make up on me at all.

I am not accustomed to eating much fast food, and with the only other options out there being casino buffets, it quickly began to feel like I was in my own personal version of Fast Food Nation! And more on fast food in Nevada? For some reason, the fact that I can get fuel, roast beef sandwiches AND play poker and blackjack all in the same building, isn't as appealing to me as it should be. I do find it amusing, however.

Oh, Wendover Will...This tall guy will greet you if you make it through the entire state of Nevada:

And finally. leaving that sinful state behind, we crossed over to our destination state:

Can you see it? It's the one on the map to the right of Nevada. Our destination? The great Land of Zion.

Utah is very concerned for it's drivers:

Did you know that in Utah, there is an entire desert (no, a different one, not the same on that we just drove through, aka Nevada) made out of salt? Really. White as snow.
Of course you did.
Smells like the ocean. But stranger. And no trees as far as the eye can see. Except this one:

Wow, that's a good question. It just so happened that there was a course I needed to take, and the closest offering to CA was UT. It was a bit of music boot camp, as I crammed more than 2 years of curriculum into a week's worth of training. I feel smarter, but my brain still hurts.
Basically, it was a training and certification to teach introductory group keyboard to 5 to 9 year olds.
Go, me.
It is a great program, as it combines the children's need to move with a wholistic music experience that then naturally transfers over to ear training, keyboard playing, and eventually, music literacy. But did I mention that my brain hurts?

I wondered if I would stand out in this city of Saints...but I needn't have wondered much - as it was my own constant mutterings of, "Jesuschrist it's HOT HERE!!!" that gave me away. That, or our measly two children.
It was hot. It was about 105 degrees that entire week. And do you know what 'dry heat' means? It means that along with it being so hot you can barely breathe, you get the added benefit of all your skin flaking off in a daily mass exodus from your body.

Dh shredded the itinerary of awesome parks I had prepared for him and the children in favor of suffering a few hours at the hotel pool every day, then heading for Park City and the likes in desperate attempts to cool down. I spent most of my hours in a cooled and windowless basement room, singing, dancing, playing piano, and learning stuff.
I would go on and on about how clean and lovely the great city of Salt Lake was, and what I saw really was very clean, but truthfully, I only saw small pieces of the city, and those I don't remember much - because, in between the air conditioned class room, the air conditioned hotel room, the air conditioned family-friendly restaurants, and the air conditioned car rides, my brain was being fried very slowly but very steadily. And I was always am usually a heat lover.

So, on the way home from Utah, I felt a bit sad that we were so close to mountains and I had never set foot in any of them. We didn't have to be anywhere for a few days, so we took a left in Reno and headed down our favorite highway to our favorite mountains.

We camped in the van at my favorite hot springs (no, no way am I linking that), and then we decided that one night of camping with our extremely loud night gargoyle child was quite enough.
We took a lovely day hike at Rock Creek with the kids at high elevation.
Well, it was lovely until Bubbles had a fit because the wrong person (the one without breasts) was carrying him in the backpack and made himself throw-up. But because we were at elevation, I wasn't convinced it was just a temper tantrum puke, so we headed back down at my insistence. He was fine. Just pissed. And we all smelled slightly like milk-vomit. So we were slightly pissed as well.
Happy to get to a hotel after that, we headed back to Mammoth Lakes, cleaned up, swam in the pool and ate pizza and drank delicious IPA (no, the kids had margaritas), and prepared an itinerary for the drive home the next day First, more swimming at the well-heated pool. Then, lunch at our favorite mobil station (the eastern Sierra's worst-kept secret), and a final Yosemite romp in Tuolumne Meadows and Olmsted Point before we would draw straws to see who had to drive the rest of the way home.
We did make it home, but just barely. Ohgod the trip cost us a new transmission. But that's another post.

For now, I would much rather dwell on these memories:

Supergirl, trying to pose while keeping Bubbles from going over the edge of the dome.

Ferocious Yosemite bear sighting. You've been warned.

Supergirl and Half Dome in the alpenglow. How the hell did she get so cute?

Friday, July 20, 2007


Dear Beanie, aka Supergirl;

You are SIX years old today!
Happy! Birthday!

You, my dear, breathe life into me. You have from the moment you arrived. I have not written to you enough, written about you enough, given you equal time on this blog, or been fair and accurate in recording my overstuffed love for you.

I am sorry.

First of all, you have lived through so much in your six years, that you sometimes seem older than you should, blending yourself in with our daily patchwork of life's changes and demands, taking delight in your brother(s) as we do...and you become at times, the audience with me. And I don't record that as much, because at times, I really suck as a mommy.
Secondly, you have moments where words spill forth from your adorable little mouth like vinegar-soaked weasels, and since your brother does not yet talk, he has that advantage over you. Sorry. But fret not, that won't last much longer forever.
When you were a baby, you rarely smiled. For anyone else. It worried me a little bit, but in my heart I knew you were really fine, just being selective. And truly serious about absorbing it all. Now, of course, is a different story. You are way more silly. Which is a huge relief to me.

But you are, truly, the most amazing girl I could have ever imagined myself lucky enough to call her mama.

When you were born, my life turned right-side-up.
You made me a Mama, and this has turned out to be The Best part of my life, indeed.

I love you sooooo much.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

You Wish I Had Come to Your Party: Chocolate Sushi!

I am so freaking clever, can I just say that?
Yes, I can.
When I heard about this place, I knew that I had found god. The thing is, I don't think god is always a good place for me to visit -I tend to the obsessive side, and becoming chummy could only lead to one thing: becoming too chummy.

Once I knew where the house of god was, I could be at serious risk of becoming a god-stalker. Better not to go there.
So, even though I was near this crazy chocolate-works-of-art shop the other day, I did not drag my children along to visit god's temple of chocolate. Because truthfully, I would be a bitch-mama to take my sugar-obsessed girl and my chocolate-worshipping toddler into a store where individual pieces of chocolate are $10 to $15. ("NO! NO!" "NOnono!" "NO! NO! NO!")
So, I didn't.
But that didn't stop my obsession with chocolate sushi. And the possibilities. Oh no, not in the least. I wanted to see what other amateurs like myself were pulling off.

And then I decided to devote an entire afternoon to it attempt it in my very own humble kitchen. (Did I mention it was about 95 degrees today?)

Chocolate was the goal, so the 'nori' wrapper had to be chocolate - not electric green 'fruit' leather. I decided to go with a chocolate modeling 'clay' (reminiscent of my preschool teaching days), which is really just whatever quality chocolate you choose, melted and mixed with corn syrup.

one 12oz bag semisweet choc chips

1/3 cup+2T corn syrup

melt chocolate over double boiler, let cool a bit and stir in corn syrup. wrap tightly and refrigerate to desired consistency. knead and roll into desired shapes.

I didn't like the marshmallow fluff mixed with coconut idea as much as I liked the rice crispy treat filling. I also thought that the chocolate would be easier to roll around something more firm. I made a basic recipe and omitted one cup of cereal so that it might be more willing to give in to my rolling pin with more marshmallow goodness binding it all together.
I then took handfuls globs of that and rolled it out (between waxed paper) to about 1/4 inch thickness. Or maybe it was more like 1/2 inch. I am not good with estimates.
I had just gone strawberry picking (I made jam; yes I did - suck on that martha) and decided that strawberries would be a good filling in place of hamachi. And it would probably taste better too - with the chocolate and all. Dried apricots or mango would look super too, but I only had fresh strawberries, so I was going with the full-on raw tuna look.

So, I divided my big wad of chocolate dough in half, rolled one piece out between wax paper (the kitchen was out of parchment), continually peeling it off one side and dropping it onto the other side, until it was very thin, but thick enough to handle. I found that if it gets too thin, it will spread (instead of roll) over the crispy treats and perhaps (ack!) break.

I measured an actual pack of square nori sheets over the chocolate and cut a nice square line doing the same with the rolled out crispy treats, making sure that the chocolate 'nori' was longer than the 'rice' on the sealing end of the roll. Then I laid the thin slices of strawberries, some snipped up blueberry filled marshmallows, and some slivers of garden mint down the center closer to the rolling end, and, using a fresh piece of the wax paper to help, rolled it up very tight.

After refrigerating to firm them up, I cut them into approximately 1/2 inch slices. I resisted many poop jokes in front of my daughter. The rolls cut easily with our sharpest knife - but would they really end up looking anything like sushi?

After arranging them on the platter to bring to the neighbors potluck (where they would impress the fuck out of everyone until the posse of young unwatched children happened to descend upon them like a swarm of teenaged hyenas and annihilate them in 30 seconds) (I am not judging. But if my kid was like, 7 or 8 years old and went all berzerk at the dessert table and loaded up on 5 brownies and 6 cookies and 7 chocolate sushis, well I would get a little whoop-ass on her. She should know about that shit whether I am there to police her or not. Oh wait, she does. And she's not even 6 yet. I'm just sayin.), I decided at the last minute to add two details for authenticity's sake. Because I was still just a
little bit worried that perhaps nobody would understand that I was going for a mock sushi. I colored some sugar orange and sprinkled it on some of the rolls, to (hopefully) resemble tobiko, or, fish eggs. Mmm, eggs-n-chocolate!
And, I decided that a 'dipping sauce' would be nice, so I thinned out some dark chocolate sauce (who knew that dove choc sauce lasts at least 7 months longer than your ice cream?!) and poured it into a little sauce bowl. Later (after I was done taking pictures, of course), I tossed some sesame seeds on top of the chocolate sauce. This appeared to really throw people for a loop. They wanted to dip it in the chocolate sauce - they knew it was really chocolate sauce, but it looked like soy sauce. And, just having gotten over the 'is it rawfreakingfish or is it strawberry' thing, it was a huge leap of faith to dip your chocolate sushi roll in that sauce. It was fun to watch, though.

Does it look authentic? It tasted awesome.