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Things That Make Me Happy Monday

You know those weekends where you crawl into bed Sunday night exhausted, but good exhausted, and just think to yourself, "today was a good day"?  Well, this weekend was one big good day, I tell you what.

Saturday started out with Dan taking Nat to get his bike fixed while kina slept and I worked on preparing a talk for church.  Our congregation picks out topics and speakers several months in advance, so it's so so great being able to let thoughts incubate for a little while.  It is just nice to start out a weekend with a little bit of pondering, you know?  I had been sort of struggling with it the entire week.  The topic was honoring our earthly and divine heritage, and I knew I wanted to incorporate some sort of family story as a guiding theme, but I couldn't really figure out what.  And then it just hit me one night last week and it all just came together and it was the best feeling.  I just felt...settled.


Then we headed out on an impromptu family walk and picnic and coconut cream pie tasting adventure in the gorgeous weather.  I could get used to 70 and sunny, oh yes I could.

First dandelion blowing.  And then he gave me his first flower just for me and I melted a little.
That. Face.
Cutest pie shop.
Then while the smalls napped, I baked cakes and made dip for a little low-key birthday party for D.  I tend to really prefer groups of 6-8 or so.  Bigger than that just feels a little overwhelming to me, like I can't really talk to anyone even though there are lots of people, because there are so many people.  Fellow introverts, do you hear me?  But this party.  Fun.  So fun!  Somehow we managed to hit on a date where almost all of our dear in-area friends were in town and able to come and we had some Daniel trivia and were going to do some minute to win it games, but the conversations were just so good that there wasn't even a lull for the games.  You know?  That kind of good party.  And it just so worked out that the child-ed folks came earlier and the child-free ones later so we had sort of two shifts which was perfect.  And there was cowboy caviar and hot corn dip and chocolate dulce de leche cake, do you hear me?  Good party, I say.


And then Sunday.  Oh, you peaceful thing, you.  Some Sundays are rough, I'm not gonna lie.  But this Sunday involved some yelling/frantic getting out the door but that was the worst of it.  And my talk went well and I played a violin duet (coincidence that turned into the Preethi show, but double reason for my lovely parents to come) that was just achingly lovely, I have to say, because it wasn't me - it was the arrangement and the balance and the accompaniment and the words that tied perfectly with my talk.  And then we went with my parents to their Hindu temple for some more family time and some Indian music and a blessing for kina.

So.  Good weekend.  The kind of weekend that we did things and had lots of fun, but are not exhausted.  The kind of weekend where we were uplifted and did some lifting up and fed and were fed.

And that, I tell you, is the way to start a Monday.

Seriously.  This kid.

Weeknight Vegetarian: Why I Stopped Using My Kitchenaid (for pizza dough, anyway)

This week:

Monday: Red Coconut Curry Noodles
Tuesday: Cafe Rio Salads
Wednesday: Chana masala with homemade chapati
Thursday: Brinner (lemon, goat cheese & leek frittata + potato hash + homemade frozen waffles - I tell you, the best thing to have on hand ever)
Friday: Homemade pizza with caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella, feta, roasted garlic, and other random veggies


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My Kitchenaid and I are BFFs.  But we had to part ways when it came to pizza doughs.  I've been making all our bread for years, and almost always used the Kitchenaid.  It was fine and good and quick and we all lived happily ever after.

Until I had a friend do a bread making class for a church activity and she taught us how to hand-knead dough.  Am I the only person ever who didn't actually know how to knead dough?  I totally thought you had to get your fingers all in there and squeeze and all kinds of business.  Um, no.  Like, not at all.  She very kindly came over to me and showed my supposed-bread-baking-self how to knead dough for real.

And you know what?  It was the softest, most tender, delicious bread ever.

I realized after that that the Kitchenaid dough hook has trouble actually kneading; once the dough is in a ball, a lot of times, it just sort of twirls it around.  This is generally fine for bread loaves (and I'll still use it for bread fairly often), but is tricky with pizza dough.  You see, pizza dough, especially when you add whole wheat flour (like I always do), really needs to be kneaded well in order to be stretchy and pliant.  So the night after my friend taught me, I made our pizza dough by hand.  And holy heavens, it was the stretchiest, most lovely, soft dough ever on the earth and I got it so spectacularly thin.  It was amazing.

I tried doing pizza dough in the machine again recently and sure enough, it's just not the same.  Kneading by hand only takes a few more minutes, and I pinky promise it is worth the effort.

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Handmade Pizza Dough

Makes 2 thin-crust 12" pizzas

(adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe) 

1 1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Combine water and yeast in large bowl. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.  Whisk well with a fork until frothy.

2. Add sugar, oil, and salt and whisk briefly to combine.  Add in the whole wheat flour (be sure to add this first!) and whisk well with the other ingredients.  Keep whisking for several minutes to build up gluten.

3. Add in AP flour and stir until mostly incorporated and shaggy.  Turn out onto a floured counter or board and begin kneading by folding the top (the side furthest from you) over by a third and gently but firmly pressing it into the dough beneath with the heel of your hand.  Rotate dough a quarter turn and repeat.  The same side of dough should continue touching the counter in order to form a nice "skin" - this should be smooth and soft.  Sprinkle more flour on your surface if the dough starts to stick (this is why we add in less AP four than the Kitchenaid version, because you end up adding more through the kneading process).  Continue doing this for 7-8 minutes, until the dough ball is smooth and slightly stretchy.

Dumped out of mixing bowl and still sort of shaggy
Pulling the top third up and over...it is shockingly difficult to take pictures of yourself kneading
Pushing it down with the heel of your hand
See that nice, smooth skin?

4. Oil or spray mixing bowl and place dough inside.  Turn to coat.  Cover tightly (plastic wrap, a lid, secured kitchen towel) and allow to rise for 2-3 hours, until doubled (in a pinch, you can place it in a 100F oven and it will be ready in 45 minutes-1 hour).

5. Preheat oven to 500F (or as hot as your oven will go) with pizza stone about 30-45 minutes before you're ready to bake your pizzas.

6. Divide dough in half.  Press out one half, gently pulling it outwards with one hand while holding the center in place with the other, and rotating a quarter turn after each stretch.  You can also pick it up and stretch it out.  Place on a pizza paddle or cookie sheets sprinkled with cornmeal and add on your sauce and toppings.  Slide onto preheated pizza stone (or if you don't have a stone, you can skip the cornmeal and just leave the dough on a cookie sheet), bake for 8 minutes, and delight in your amazingly chewy and delicious pizza.

See?  Streeeeetchy



Fake Peplum



Sweater: Banana Republic; Blouse: thrifted; Jeans: Target; Shoes: Payless

I have to admit that I've been a little nervous about the peplum trend.  I mean, depending on where exactly the peplum hits, it could make a post-baby belly look...not its best.  But I liked how the fit of this sweater paired with a floaty blouse created sort of a fake peplum look that started nice and low (as opposed to mid-belly and with a weird sort of V, like this ostensibly adorable and cheap Target shirt with an exposed zipper...sigh).  So there you have it - fake it 'til you peplum it.

Seven Months

Dear kina girl,
Pretty sure we've all just become even more smitten with you this month.  I mean, that little smile!  That personality!  We just cannot get enough.

Your babbling has really taken off this month.  It is so fun hearing your little voice, and you even pulled out a "dada" the day before Daddy's birthday.  You have no idea how those simple sounds made his day, despite your lack of knowledge of their meaning.
 
 

This month also entailed being cooped up for several days in a row with sickness and potty training, but you handled it like a champ.  You just love being held and cuddled and hugged, so you were quite content to just snuggle together at home.

Once we were finally past that, though, we finally (finally!!) had a streak of a few warm days - hallelujah!  This meant that I could finally repent of the abomination of covering up adorable baby legs for months on end.  Let me tell you, a little sweet baby skin does wonders for the soul.  You are still a teeny little thing (at your 6-month appointment, you were 5th percentile weight and 95th percentile height), and I love holding that little body close and marveling at its spunk and light.




You had several firsts this month - including going on the swings (where Nat loved pushing you and watching you giggle like crazy for joy) and having your toenails painted.  Totally frivolous, I know, but I have to say, it was ridiculously adorable.


You also got to enjoy your first Easter by gnawing on some empty eggs.  Pretty sure that was the most exciting part of the holiday for you.  That or getting to match the entire family with green gingham bows/bowties.  I will so totally do cheesy matchy accessories for as long as my children will cooperate.  Along with putting you in adorable holiday dresses (or Indian dresses, as the occasion may necessitate...your first time and your amma [grandma] and I both almost died of the cuteness).
 

You've also gotten to experiment with a few tastes of solid foods this month.  I haven't really pushed it yet because a) it's sort of a pain, and b) while you will sit up on your own for short spurts, you don't yet do it for extended periods, so I'd rather you cross that hurdle before giving you much.  Still, we've given you a few little tastes of sweet potato, banana (not much love lost there), apple, bread, and, your favorite, avocado.  (You are so my child.)


Kina kina, we love you.  So so much.  Thanks for being our little love.

love,
mama

Someone Had a Birthday

On Monday, Daniel turned 28, thus commencing the 2 months in which we are the same age.  We had a delightful day of homemade breakfast, meeting him downtown by his work to go out to lunch, and the most ridiculously delicious enchiladas I've ever made for dinner, with a few cards and presents along the way.  A day revolving around food; that's how we roll.



In the name of birthday embarrassment/cheesefest, here are 28 things I like about that husband of mine:
  1. He's my party crutch.  My introverted self tends to get overwhelmed with large groups/new people, but Dan could have a lengthy and cheery conversation with a brick wall.
  2. He willingly watches season upon season of Full House with me.
  3. He changes 98% of diapers (now cut in half with Nat not needing them, praise all that is good and holy) when he's home.  And he loves cloth diapers as much as I do.
  4. Speaking of poop and diapers and potty training (the trifecta), he's always the one to take Nat to public restrooms if we're all together.
  5. He's interested in everything.  He doesn't get bored.  He just chooses to find everything in life interesting and exciting.
  6. He could never dream of NOT helping if there is something with which he could help.  Anyone.  Friends, hosts, visitors, whatever.
  7. He is constantly telling Nat that he is his best friend.
  8. He gets excited about his work and doing things to contribute to an important mission, and being able to use his skills for good. He is constantly trying to improve things, and his mind just seems to figure out ways how.
  9. He likes going to bed early, but likes more going to bed together (if I'm up later).  He'll sometimes try going to bed on his own, but most often comes back out and says, "I missed you."
  10. He loves to travel, in the US or internationally.  He also loves finding and visiting random little towns or even low-grade tourist sites in our own city.  He is always up for any adventure, no matter how small.
  11. He compliments my cooking on the daily.  And will eat even the most random experiments.  I love the example he sets for our kids of not being afraid to try new foods, including every random CSA veggie we've ever had.
  12. He is totally and completely smitten with his daughter.  He'll soon be purchasing her a pony, no doubt. 
  13. He isn't perfect, but is always willing to change.
  14. He loves reading Fox in Sox with Nat and I adore listening to them both cracking up over it.
  15. He always does the dishes.
  16. He's a big giant nerd and listens to various speeches on his commute to work and will go on about them for hours and hours (he also has a crazy specific recall memory).
  17. On the subject of nerdiness, he loves marketing and is constantly reading up on new things and sharing them.  MFEO, what can I say?  (Also, he is a total math whiz.  Weird that I find that utterly attractive?)
  18. He loves goats as much as I do (quite a lot, as it turns out).
  19. We read at almost exactly the same speed, so I love reading books together.  I especially like that he enjoys reading biographies of prophets of our church together.
  20. He appreciates excellent ice cream.
  21. Oh, he makes me laugh.  Like none other.
  22. He will listen to me oogle over baby c's cute outfits and not even get bored.  Mostly.
  23. He'll listen to me oogle over baby c's cute naked legs and not even get bored.  Ever.
  24. He rides his bike to/from work.  Totally hot.  (Quite literally now.)
  25. He literally knows the scriptures better than anyone I know.
  26. He appreciates being well dressed, and takes pictures for me.  And mostly doesn't even make fun of me for it.
  27. He dreams big.  And then makes his dreams happen.
  28. He loves beauty, and seeks it out - in music, art, science, religion, life.
  29. (One to grow on) He has the best heart, is the best father, best sibling, best husband, best friend anyone could ever know.

Weeknight Vegetarian: Roasted Lemon Quinoa with Chickpeas & Feta

I used to be super awesome at meal planning.  I would do 2 weeks at a time and I pretty much never wasted a single CSA veggie.  Risking utter modesty, I rocked.

For the last few months, I...haven't rocked.  Without the push of CSA veggies or farmers' markets shoving heaps of kale in my fridge, I've become a little lackadaisical in planning and executing meals.  And although I do love eating orange winter vegetables for 23 nights in a row...right, I don't.

Not to mention that with caring for 2 kids, one of whom actually requires his own food allotment (children being counted for food planning?? I was shocked, too), my time/desire for preparing meals (especially ones that don't feed all of us for dinner and preferably the next day's lunch) has dropped.  (This meals that since baby c was born, I have made homemade pasta...zero times.  Too much effort for a rather insubstantial outcome.)

This is all to say, I need to get back on the meal-planning bandwagon.  I need meals.
Meals that are:
Quick
Vegetarian
In-Season
Whole
Hearty

In the event anyone else has similar requirements and needs some fresh meals in the planning arsenal, I'll share our week's meals here on Friday, so that you (and I) have time to shop for items over the weekend.  And, of course, I'd love to hear what you're making this week, too!

This week:

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Roasted Lemon Quinoa with Chickpeas & Feta

This was one of those "it's 4:55 and we can't pizza AGAIN and I haven't gone grocery shopping in 2 weeks because we've all been sick" meals.  I had several lemons and quickly googled whether they could be roasted but didn't come up with a definitive answer.  I'd purchased them for dirt cheap so figured it was a fairly low-risk experiment.

Lo, they were delicious.  Amazing.  So good that I called Dan the next day after eating the leftovers for lunch and asked if he'd mind the the same meal two nights in a row.


3 cups quinoa, cooked (I've also done a mix of quinoa & brown rice)
3 lemons
1 bulb fennel
1 medium onion
1.5 cups chickpeas (cooked if starting with dry, or drained and rinsed if using canned)
Several handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
4 ounces feta or goat cheese
Olive oil
Sea salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425F.  Slice lemons into rounds and place in a roasting pan. Slice fennel & onions and add to pan.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper and place in hot oven until tender, about 15-20 minutes.

2. While veggies are roasting, cook quinoa if not already cooked.  When veggies are done, combine quinoa and veggies in large bowl.  Mix in cheese & spinach.  Serve and be amazed that roasted lemons are so tasty.

(I think this would be really good with some diced cucumber and/or bell pepper, but, like I said, no shopping in 2 weeks.)


DIY Triangle Print Skirt


I found this skirt in while thrifting in South Carolina several years ago.  It's almost gotten purged on numerous occasions, but I always figured, hey, can't hurt to have an extra basic (boring) white skirt.  And then it finally occurred to me that OH YES, it doesn't have to be just a boring white skirt.

I started using fabric paints very recently with doing little turkey hand print shirts at Thanksgiving time and suddenly I want t use them all the time.  I mean, who knew?  Paint that goes on fabric!  Miraculous.

This little project was my favorite kind - a world of difference in 10 minutes or less.  Now that is gratifying.


1. Take a potato and cut your desired shape into it (I chose a triangle).  Pat it dry with a napkin.  I've also used a sweet potato which I think I may prefer because it's not quite as mushy.
 


2. Squirt out some fabric paint onto a magazine or in container (fennel container optional) and dip your shape in it.


3. Print away on your $3 thrifted skirt.  I suppose you could measure and/or use more paint to ensure all the triangles are totally filled in, but I liked the slightly uneven look to it.

4. Be excited that for once, your tendency to throw everything away didn't prevail because now you have an awesome new skirt.



Shirt: Thrifted (Loft); Skirt: Thrifted & painted by me; Shoes: Payless; Necklace: H&M; Watch: c/o Daniel Wellington



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