Thursday, February 28, 2013

DIY Gift Tags

Hi, my name is Ashley, and I’m addicted to gift wrapping.

Hiiiiii Ashley!

My dream “craft room” (ha!) would be full of wrapping supplies with a giant roll of kraft paper mounted on the wall like the wrapping paper at Macy’s or other places where you can pay to have your gifts meticulously wrapped. I haven’t found that room on Pinterest yet, but when I do,  I will repin it on repeat just to be annoying.

When I saw Ana’s link-up, first I was all, yeah, right. DIY and I are not exactly BFFs. Then, I was totally going to be fancy and attempt to make cut-out cookies, which, never have I ever. Then, that so didn’t happen and boring old, perfected-recipe chocolate chip happened. They tasted good, but were not post worthy or experimental or...anything.

Then, as I was thinking about wrapping and getting ready for Valentine’s Day, I decided to attack the Pin in my head… DIY gift tags.

Prep work involved some Googling and digging through wrapping/crafting supplies.

 There was some cutting, tracing, cutting again, stickering, 3rd great felt heart cutting, gluing, writing, raffia-tying, things I’m forgetting-ing.

The finished product:

The tags

On their packages

Difficulty: not at all
Creativity: the tiniest little bit
Will I do it again? You can count on it!

I was totally procrastinating on actually posting this, because it is so not impressive. But Ana keeps tempting me to give in to my link-up joining problem, by extending the time allowance, soooooooo Happy Valentine's Day otra vez!

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bubbles and Suds

I don't think it's a stretch to say that bathtime is a favorite for both Clare and her Daddy. Once we got our new parents of a new baby selves together and got a bedtime routine going, bathtime became an integral part of it. Now that Clare is sitting up and's game on.

Charles loves suds.

Clare loves splashing.

I wipe down the kitchen in the end.

What does soap taste like?

Splish to the Splash.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013


So many attractive, cheezy and cliche titles for my post about Clare's first baseball game . . . so I ditched them all and went with el espanol.

n-e-way . . .

Saturday, we took advantage of the superbly perfect weather and met some friends for some Spring Training action. Just one of the perks of living in the ol' AZ (or Florida, I guess).

Our diva

It was Clare's first game, and, as far as parents instilling values in our children is concerned, love of baseball (preferably the National League and especially preferably the D'backs) is right up there behind love of God and country. Muy importante.

We were totally "those parents" with our sun-protection obsession.

Basking in the sun

Chillin' like villains

My new Target-knock-off-no-shoes-for-Africa shoes

It was a fantastic day . . . good great perfect weather, good friends, junk food, a game we kinda watched. Clare had a blast playing on the grass (for spectators, not players!), catching a nap on Daddy, trying to get into the soda.

A bottle of soda is the same as a bottle of milk, right?

Nap time

Oh yeah, there was a game.

After the game, we all had dinner at a nearby restaurant, which is all touristy/cowboy/"authentic," so of course was yummy and tons of fun (with a great view that was not captured digitally). We did see a bull and put her in the children's menu hat/headband for long enough to snap a picture.

Not impressed by the bull

Or by her headgear
 The day maybe ended with accidental egg-eating and the fun that follows and red Gatorade and Benadryl and general misery for the ol' Mama, but it was a win for the home team overall. Sorry...couldn't resist the bad baseball cliches for toooooo long.

Baseball's newest fan

Monday, February 25, 2013

Allergy Girl

Yeah, it's Monday, and I should be posting a meal plan, but my meal plan for this week is bo-oring. Stew, chicken, enchiladas, same ol', same ol', blah, blah, blah.

And Charles is starting his third of one million Family Medicine rotations, but I'm sure I'll have more to say when things get rolling, since this one has lots of unknowns attached. So . . . putting that topic on hold.

Clare is in the process of building her first fort. Either that or making her first big mess. I think watching her explore is cute. Now, while she can't do too much damage. She's also experimented with pulling up. 7 months going on 17 years this one.

All necessities pulled over for easy access

Instead, I want to focus on me me me me and how allergies make me miserable. The last 3 days have been a doozie. First, there was an incident with egg. Next, there was an incident with cross-contamination (best guess). Then, I woke up this morning with my head feeling like molasses, the extremely-tired in spite of decent sleep feeling I liken to being hit by a bus, itchy eyes, and cooooooooooongestion. confirmed my suspicions with this little number:

At least it's not very high?

I like to joke that I'm allergic to everything, but that's not quite true. When I had allergy testing done a couple of years ago, there were 10ish things I didn't react to, and 20ish things that I didn't have a true positive test for. Out of 70some things that were tested. And that's not even getting into the egg situation of doom. Charles has pointed out that it's more unusual for me not to be a little stuffy than otherwise.

But days like this . . . are just no fun at all. And make me grateful for the Keurig's ability to make hot, throat soothing beverages. Misery loves a steaming mug of something. Is that how the saying goes? Bleeeeeeegh. Excuse me, I need to go blow my nose. Again.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's Over...

Life as the happy-go-lucky parents of an immobile baby, that is. Last night, Clare became a crawling, mobile, and already into everything menace to the house.

First, she decided that this little basketball was her new most favorite toy ev-ah.

Then, she was playing with it while we ate dinner, and it rolled away. Charles noticed her wiggle crawl after it. So, we moved it away again, and she crawled after it again.

Then, we tortured her by making her crawl alllllllll the way to the dinner table to get it. She got going pretty well once we realized that our cheering encouragement every time she got going was distracting and caused her to sit back down. For the record, her crawling is still not super-fast or efficient, and, as of writing, she's still dragging her left leg behind her.

(Tooooooo many pictures? Never!)

Before we knew it, though, she was trying to get each and every paper Charles had sorted on the coffee table off of the coffee table.

And going after my computer cord.

Be careful what you wish for...

Friday, February 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 13

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

Volume 13, eh?!? I've never been particularly superstitious, but I know a lot of people are really antsy about the ol' 13. Anyway, linking up with Jen, 'cause it's Friday, yo. Yep. I'm bad, and I know it.

1. If you know anyone from Arizona, I’m sure your FB let you know that we got a freak winter storm here on Wednesday. If you’re from Arizona, your FB feed was nothing but comments about said winter storm. I also saw it on Sports Center thanks to a golf tourney, in case your tastes are more “basketball scores” than “baby pictures.” Our place is too “urban heat island” to have seen any of the white stuff, but I love when we get snow in the desert, in part because it is and, in part, because it looks really pretty.

Shamelessly stolen from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum FB page.

2. All of this reminds me of when I arrived in France for my study abroad program, (Gulp. How was that 10 years ago? I’m old.) and woke up to about ½ inch of snow in Marseille. This is beyond unheard of, and this city was pretty much shut down and freaking out. Even though I was well on my way to becoming a desert rat at that time, growing up in the mountains of northern Arizona taught me enough about snow to know that there really wasn’t much anything to fret about.

3. Which, in turn, reminds me that I want to do a looking back post or 10 about my study abroad adventures. I need to get scanning, since all of my adventures were captured with film. Remember that stuff?

Euro Ash with Florian, the (happily married) French teacher who half the girls (not including me) were in love with.

4. I’m being all stream-of-thought-y with my Takes today. I spent lots of hours putting together a killer Study Abroad scrapbook. I’d like to say that I’m going to scrapbook Clare’s life, but I assure you that it is never going to happen. Instead, I am going to start working on a 1st year photo book, so I have some tangible proof that I have taken the 10 thousand million pictures I have, in fact, taken. I’ve gotten all paranoid in the last week or so that our photo storing technology is going to stop working/become increasingly obsolete/cataclysmic event/something, so this tangible picture holding/seeing thing is sounding good.

2 page spread!

5. Which means I also need to do something about my wedding pictures.

'Cause I like it.

 6. Crawling? I think we’re going to have a victory post very pretty somewhat soon. Teething? Hah.

Me? Crawl? I'm too busy picking up this microscopic piece of dirt.

7. This week, I’m increasingly seeing that Clare is becoming a total Daddy’s girl. It’s pretty darn adorable. When we found out we were having a girl, Charles was nervous about it, and now she’s wrapped around his little finger. 

Randomly falling asleep in his arms. I'm not going to say I wasn't totally jealous. I was.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sourdough Bread, Part II

The Prelude

For Part I, rambling waaaaaaaay too long about making my sourdough starter, click here.

So, I have my starter. I decided to start out with the Better Homes and Gardens recipe, since I've had reasonably good luck with their bread in the past. This is the recipe. It also has the starter instructions, in case you were smart enough to skip the ramble.

The Process

I did a terrible job of taking pictures, and won't bore you with the minute step-by-step, since the recipe is linked.

First, of course, I got my stuff together. I'm often lazy about mis en place when I cook, because I have a good sense of how much time I need for particular steps and can often work for efficiently if I'm multi-tasking. For baking, though, I've learned that I need to be much more organized! Probably since it is just so much more precise of an activity. Which, in turn, is probably why it scares me so much. 

Next, I did the water warming, butter almost-melting thing, but didn't take pictures. I'm unsure of how I feel about this step, generally. I see it a lot in BH&G, but not in other places. It is effective at activating the yeast, though, so that's a good thing.

Next came mixing it all together. I cannot express enough how much I love my KitchenAid mixer.

Then, I switched over to the dough hook.

And got the whole thing a-risin'. Having it rise under a pretty towel always makes me a little extra happy. It's the little things. It rose beautifully, but, alas, I didn't get a picture, or think to take one until it was all punched down. :(

After punching came dividing and resting. I like dividing dough with my bench scraper, just because it's fun to use it for it's intended purpose (v. for moving veggies from the cutting board into the pot).

Then, I got them shaped up and ready for rise #2. Looking back (and at the online picture), I should have been more aggressive with my stop "criss cross" slashing, but the book didn't have a picture, and I was so surprised with the effect of my initial X that I let it be.

After rising and baking, this is what I got.

The Product

Both loaves were good, but not particularly sour or chewy. We've already polished off one loaf and I expect the second to be done today. Charles described it as "good homemade bread, just not very sourdough-ish."

There are several things I would do differently if I were to make this recipe again. First, I would change up the criss-crossing as I noted above. Second, I would put both loaves on the same baking sheet, so that they can bake on the same rack and, thus, be a bit more even. I'd probably also be a bit more patient with the second rise, and perhaps also with the bake time.

Next time, though, I'm going to try a different recipe. I'm already looking forward it.

Grade: B

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sourdough Bread, Part I

I've watched too many episodes of Top Chef. When I saw the salmon and sourdough challenge a couple of weeks ago, it renewed my desire to really get good at bread making. And, sorry bread machine fans, but that just doesn't cut it for me.

That's one thing I definitely got from my mom -- a love of good bread.

My time in France devouring (and I'm not exaggerating with my word choice) fresh baguettes did not help. Not one little bit.

Neither does my egg allergy, help that is, which makes me wary of the lovely, shiny-topped loaves that "may contain" egg. Sometimes that, sadly, is code for, we illicitly used an egg wash, but you'll never notice. Right?!? Wrong. My stomach will let me know. In spades.

I digress.

A couple of years ago, I learned a couple of recipes. I could make passable dinner rolls. I make a mean whole wheat loaf. But I totally stalled out. I found some stuff in the bakery section that was both tasty and kept the ol' tummy from turning over on itself. Bread making was stuffed away as something I wanted to do someday. In the future. When I got around to it.

The future is now, my friends.

Two weekends ago, I embarked on the first step of my new journey toward bread making world domination. Or something like that. Regardless, it is a fun, inexpensive, and productive hobby. And my husband is a lover of all things hobby. Especially when they involve dinner.

Again, I digress.

Working on my starter. You can see my beloved cookbook, too.

 Two weekends ago, I made the sourdough starter from my trusty, red Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It might be old school, but it is a great gift for anyone who is learning how to cook, and is a great wedding present. The recipes (which get updated, so they are things you would actually cook!) are generally super user-friendly and are always produce good food, at least in my experience.


Anyway, this is the recipe in internet form. Scroll past the bread recipe (and, um ... Part II spoiler, I guess.)

Blurry picture...but all stirred up!

Not too much to look at picture-wise, but it was a snap to pull together. It did require a good amount of stirring at the beginning, but it began to smell like yeast right away. Over the days of fermentation, my husband commented several times about how much it smelled like brewing beer. It did.

Living in the corner

Fermenting away

The real test came when I made it into bread . . . but that post will have to wait 'til tomorrow.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Meal Plan Monday, Vol. 12

Totally boring week in Meal Plan land, but...I can't help myself, so I'm posting a week of total repeats. Lame, but whatevs.

Luke warm veggies are so good, I lick my bowl.

Saturday: Mexican with Dad and BG

Sunday: Pork roast with potatoes and carrots

Monday: Chicken pesto pasta, salad

Tuesday: Honey/soy/garlic pork chops, couscous, veg (I had originally planned on spinach, but the whole spinach recall is probably going to make it scarce/scary, so I'll see what looks yummy in the ol' store when I go later today.)

Wednesday: Butternut squash soup, bread

Thursday: Tacos, Spanish rice (For the tacos, I'll be using this recipe, but use pre-made hard shells.)

Friday: Lenten fish fry at church (Good Grief...can you get more Catholic in 1964?!?)

There is also going to be experimental homemade bread this week, but I'm not 100% sure what day. There will be a whole post, whatever the verdict. Get excited.

Friday, February 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 12

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

1. You know you married a keeper when he doesn’t just come home with Valentine’s Day flowers for you:

But he brought some for his Little Girl as well:

2.  This is what the rest of Valentine’s Day looked like in our house:

It was a lovely day full of my littlest and biggest loves. I am a blessed, blessed girl.

3. If you look really closely, you might see our cards to each other. Charles and I loooove buying one another the most ridiculous cards we can find. We them read them aloud, slowly, with faux-serious voices. By the end, one or both of us is always in tears from laughing so hard.  That. Is why you should always marry your best friend.

4. The crawling chronicles. Mobility reached a new milestone yesterday when Little Miss Trouble managed to sit up from fully on her tummy, perfectly positioned to start figuring out how to open the doors of the TV stand.  I was sitting 3 feet away on the couch with my morning coffee and looked up as she started eyeing the little handle/knob thing on the door, grabbed my camera (priorities!), and then moved her away. She has successfully sat herself up several times since then. 1 part proud. 1 part scared. 

I can soooo get to those cases!
 5. The teething chronicles. Still nothing. At this point, I think she may be gumming mac & cheese in first grade.

6.  On Ash Wednesday, ASU’s Newman Center (where all of our meeting, marrying and baby baptizing took place) opened a new main chapel. We wouldn’t have missed the first Mass for anything, and it was totally worth keeping Clare up past her bedtime! I pray that they will continue to be a beacon of light in the darkness that college life so often is for years to come. I didn’t get any pics, but shamelessly stole this one from their FB page.

Said FB Page

7.  Confession. While I have no idea who will be the next Pope, (How could any of us possibly have a real clue who the Holy Spirit has in mind and who the Conclave will choose. Anything you see/hear otherwise is full of it, because they’re grasping for a story at this point.) what I really want to know is what name he’ll take once elected. Will it be something that’s been used recently? Something that goes waaaay back? I seriously was looking at a list of popes contemplating what name I would choose. Yes. I’m crazy.

Linking up, per usual, with Jen et al, who weekly provide better/funnier/more thoughtful Takes.