Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And everything that you do
Yeah they were all yellow


Yellow just caught my eye today.  Must be spring!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Homemade: Flannel Board

By MamaQ

Flannel boards always remind me of Sunday School as a child. I have distinct memories of one of my Primary teachers telling us the story of Noah's Ark while letting us put little animal figures up on the board. When I was leading a storytime playgroup a few months back I remembered that flannel board and thought it would be fun to incorporate it. I looked them up online and found they could be a bit pricey (I like things to cost nothing, generally). So I did what any self-reliant girl would do. I made my own.

I tried to find some guidelines online, but most sites recommended using something like cardboard and I wanted something a bit more durable. I found some stretched canvas on sale at Michael's - two for $5. I picked up a couple of yards of cream-colored flannel. My first try came out just fine - I cut the fabric large enough for the board and stapled it on. Easy enough. But for my second one (intended as a gift), I wanted to create a little storage pocket on the back to keep those little felt figures organized. Here's how I did it.
Place board on felt and fold half the felt over the board and cut out around it, allowing for 1 inch seam allowance.

Cut a piece of cotton to whatever size you want your pocket to be (mine is about 1/4 of the flannel).

Press both the flannel and cotton to remove any wrinkles. Fold over 1 inch of cotton around each edge and press.

Top stitch one long side of the pocket (the top of the pocket), then pin in place to flannel.

Top stitch the other three sides of the cotton to the flannel to create a pocket.
Attach the flannel piece to the board using a staple gun (I didn't get a photo of this because I couldn't hold the staple gun and camera at the same time!).


Monday, March 29, 2010

Meditation: i carry your heart

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
~ee cummings
I am trying to carry only good things in my heart and purge the negative and weighty things that have no place there.  Thankfully, it is spring and this is so much easier to do when the sun is shining, birds are singing, daffodils are nodding, and children are laughing as they play outside. Breathe in all that beauty as deeply as possible, then exhale all the pain, worries and frustrations out.  They just kind of dissipate into the spring air.  And tucked away into my little heart is my sweet little girl, and her like-a-rock father.  And there's even more room in there for M and D, and all of you.  What a happy burden that is!

Thank you ee cummings, for your beautiful words that make today so much more wonderful.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate

That is not the question--not for me anyways. I believe that vaccinating kids protects them and others from potentially harmful diseases and has also been the root cause of the eradication of some diseases in recent history. That said, I'm concerned about the Centers for Disease Control's immunization schedule because it loads kids up with these vaccines as early as birth and with as many as six viruses at a time.

To learn more, I read Dr. Robert Sears' The Vaccine Book, which I believe takes an unbiased, comprehensive and in-depth look at vaccines. Some things I learned:
  • Mercury (aka thimerosal) has been taken out of virtually all vaccines, as mandated by the government in the late '90s. Some argue that mercury is one cause of autism, though no studies have proven this.
  • Several of the diseases are most dangerous in the first year of life, so it's important to get certain vaccines during infancy.
  • Some shots contain aluminum and with combination shots, babies are exposed to as much as 1200 micrograms at one time, which far exceeds the FDA's safety limit.
  • Vaccines do not undergo extensive testing before being released, so problems are often not found until after the fact. In the past 20 years, three vaccines have been taken off the market due to a high rate of severe side effects.
  • Some vaccines are currently made with controversial ingredients, including toxins and carcinogens, though they are present in such tiny amounts that it is believed our bodies can process and eliminate them without harm.
  • Based on some rough statistics, there is about a 1 in 2,600 chance during the 12-year vaccination schedule that a child will suffer a serious vaccine reation; however, the risk of a child having a severe case of a vaccine-preventable disease each year is 1 in 600. This indicates it is safer to vaccinate than to not vaccinate.
Dr. Sears provides an alternative vaccination schedule that covers all the shots, but spreads them out over more visits so that a child receives a maximum of only two shots (one of which might contain aluminum) per visit. Theoretically, this minimizes the potential risks of vaccines.

The alternative schedule makes sense to me, yet I'm hesitant to use it. Not because it doubles the visits to the pediatrician, but because I wonder if I'm being too alarmist. I already know my pediatrician (and the vast majority of pediatricians out there) firmly supports the CDC schedule, which has never been proven to be unsafe. She'll work with me if I feel strongly about using an alternative schedule, but will do so reluctantly. I would hate to be a nuisance...

I've already skipped out on the Hep B shot when Olive was born (really? a shot to prevent a sexually transmitted disease at birth?) to buy some more time to learn more about vaccinations. Now I've done some research and I'm still on the fence. The problem is, Olive's two-month appointment (when her first round of shots is scheduled to take place) is tomorrow.

I know there are strong feelings about this issue and I don't mean to spark any type of debate. I just wish I had more answers.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Oishii! Sesame Tofu Stir-fry

PapaD and I are not vegetarians, but we often like to cook vegetarian (or rather, experiment with vegetarian). To be honest, I'm a meat-loving girl, but in moderation. It's nice to take a break from meat every once in a while and it also tends to be nicer on my wallet as meat can be so expensive these days (especially when we try to buy local, organic, humanely raised meats and poultry). However, as much as my husband tries to encourage my efforts, it can be hard to find satisfying meals that are meatless and delicious. He's made a request that I use more tofu so that he can get enough protein, so here is one of my efforts that I thought turned out pretty good. This recipe was adapted from The New Stir-Fry Cookbook by Bay Books.
Sesame Tofu Stir Fry

Preparation Time:
20 minutes + 30 minutes marinating
Total Cooking Time:
10 minutes
Serves 4

10 oz firm tofu
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons oil
3 zucchini, sliced (I only used 2 'cause that's all I had)
5 oz button mushrooms, halved or quartered (I omitted 'cause my husband hates button mushrooms and substituted a carrot instead, cut into matchsticks)
1 large red pepper, cut into squares
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups of cold, cooked brown rice (All I had was white)
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce, extra

Here is my prep work:
MamaM and I have the same rice cooker and I don't know what I would do without it (even though I don't know what all those buttons mean - I just push them until it turns red). We eat rice with our meals at least once a week. For this particular recipe, I made the rice in the morning and put it in the fridge to cool off but I wish I had made the rice several days in advance so it could dry out - I think that my stir-fry was too mushy because the rice was too moist. So if you are planning on trying this dish, make your rice ahead of time if you can.

Prep work is what takes the longest time for me. But I'm pretty meticulous in my chopping, slicing, and cutting because a good stir-fry needs the vegetables (and meat if using) to be a uniform size so that they can cook evenly. In this case, because the carrots take the longest to cook, I made them matchstick size (with this cool little slicer thing my mom brought me from Japan) so they would cook as fast as the peppers and zucchini. I hadn't even originally planned to use carrots but because I omitted the mushrooms, I felt like I needed something else and carrots add some nice sweetness to the dish. A good knife makes prep work easier; I use Wusthof Classic knives.

1. Drain the tofu and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into cubes, place in a glass or ceramic bowl and add the sesame oil and soy sauce. Stir to combine and thoroughly coat the tofu. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Heat the wok until very hot, add the sesame seeds and dry-fry until lightly golden brown. Transfer to a plate to cool.
This is my very well used wok. It is a really cheap one (Joyce Chen, I think) that we got at Bed, Bath and Beyond for about $15. I hated it at first and was about to throw it away so I could buy a really expensive stainless steel wok (this one is carbon steel) but then it started to season really well and didn't smoke as much (it used to smoke like crazy). I have heard that the cheaper the wok, the better it is. We do a lot of stir-fry so I am really glad that we have it.

My wok was extremely hot and I think that I browned my sesame seeds a little too much (some may have even been on the verge of burning). So next time, I would add them as I am heating the wok.

3. Reheat the wok, add the oil (I use Canola because it is good for high heat and doesn't have much of a taste) and swirl it around to coat the side. Remove the tofu from the dish with a slotted spoon and reserve the marinade. Stir-fry the tofu over high heat, turning occasionally, for about 3 minutes, or until browned. Remove from the wok and set aside.
Although I really like silken tofu because it has such a nice texture and consistency, I think that I might try an extra firm tofu for stir-fry next time because mine was falling apart just a little...

4. Add the vegetables and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until they are just tender. Add the rice and tofu and stir-fry until heated through.

5. Add the toasted sesame seeds, the reserved marinade and the extra soy sauce, to taste. Toss thoroughly until the tofu and vegetables are well coated, then serve immediately.

So this is how mine turned out...

...compared to the picture in the recipe book.
PapaD gives it a thumbs up...
..and eats heartily.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Wabisabi Brother!

Q: Another March birthday and we would be remiss if we didn't acknowledge our favorite brother in the universe, Wabisabi Brother.

M: Of course, he's our only brother...

D: But we wouldn't trade him for any other brother in the world!

Q: We had intense sibling rivalry from the beginning. When Wabisabi Brother was born I was two and I was so jealous of the time my mother spent with him that when she would nurse him, I would jump on the bed or pull clothes out of the bureau to get her attention.

M: Always the drama queen. I, on the other hand, was rather fond of Wabisabi Brother. And despite his rough-housing with me, I think he kinda liked me, too. When I was a freshman in high school, he was a senior and was always looking out for me. We also got to be at the same college at the same time and Wabisabi Brother was so nice to always let his little sis use the car, even after she got into an accident that maybe was mostly her fault but she might have maybe made it sound like it was mostly the other guy's fault (I've since repented).

D: From childhood, I remember Wabisabi Brother relentlessly teasing me. I see a pattern emerging here -- embarrassing memories first from M and now from bro. Was it because I was the baby of the family or just a big wuss? Anyway, he's quite gentlemanly now and for whatever teasing he rained upon us sisters in the past, he has made up for it in his showering of love and affection on his little nieces.

Q: Wabisabi Brother always had a natural gift for athletics. Baseball, basketball and football were his sports of choice and he excelled at all of them. He was always off playing with his friends in the neighborhood or at some league game. Though I was usually excluded from the fun, occasionally I was allowed to play, too, and it always made my day. Imagine a big sister tagging along after her little brother.

M: Wabisabi Brother recently sacrificed an established lifestyle on one side of the country to move to the other side of the country where he is taking care of the home of my parents (who live out of the country). And since doing so, he's spruced the place up, building a mudroom, fixing windows, painting walls, doing yardwork--the list goes on and on.

Q: He's wicked sweet like that.

D: One of the parts that I love most when visiting home (besides all the swanky home improvements) are all the family pictures that he has framed and displayed. It would be obvious to anyone who visits him that family (and his sisters) are very important to him. What girl can resist that? He's thoughtful, intelligent, handy, gainfully employed...come on, do we have any takers out there, girls? He's still single!

Happy Birthday Brother!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The balance

Next week, I'm through with my 10-week maternity leave and return to work part-time. I thought by now I'd be going completely crazy, being stuck mostly inside with a newborn and feeling like a milking cow. Anyone who knows me knows I like to be busy--to be able to check things off my to-do list every day, to be productive--and that is certainly not how this whole mommy thing has been going. I'm lucky to take a shower and empty the dishwasher (and maybe type a blog post or two). I've become my child's slave, feeding, changing diapers, singing songs and bouncing seemingly all day.

And I actually don't mind. In fact, I kinda like it.

I thought being a stay-at-home mom would be really hard for me, but I'm surprised at how well I've adjusted. I think my husband is surprised too--he was initially a little concerned that I would suffer from post-partum depression or hate the seemingly monotonous life of a mother of an infant. But on the days when he asks me what I did and I don't really have anything to say, I don't feel down or guilty (and he, by the way, doesn't make me feel down or guilty). The slower pace is actually a nice change from the hecticness that was my pre-baby life.

At the same time, I'm glad to be going back to work. I feel like a strong contributor in the workplace and that sense of accomplishment and belonging are important to me. And hey, the extra income isn't bad, either. Luckily, my work is being flexible with my new dual roles, allowing me to work three half-days in the office and two half-days at home each week. I feel this will be just the right balance to keep everyone happy, especially me. I think the time away from Olive will also help me stay sane and my daughter to adjust to being away from me.

This time off from work has helped me realize that if the time ever comes for me to be a 100% stay-at-home mom, I could be happy doing that. But for now, I feel I have the best of both worlds.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Homemade: Moisturizing Tonic

When we were kids there was this infomercial on TV for Pearl Cream (tell me you remember it - it was one of our favorites and would make us laugh very time it came on!). We loved to act it out with a so-called Chinese accent: "Want to know za seekwet of Owientow women? Poh Kweem, made fwom wee-oh pohs!"

The truth is, "Oriental" women may indeed have a secret for their youthful-looking skin. My mom has been making this concoction for years and she swears by it. I finally got Mom to share her secret recipe - it is astonishingly simple and SO inexpensive to make. Best of all, it makes your skin so soft and smooth... in fact, I think we sisters should probably make an infomercial for it. That's how good it is.

Kumi's Amazing Oriental Tonic
1/4 cup urea powder
1 cup purified water
1 tsp. glycerin
few drops of essential oil for fragrance

Mix all the ingredients together and add your preferred essential oil if you'd like. Keep this concentrate refrigerated. When you're ready to use it, dilute with purified water - 1 part tonic to 20 parts water for your face and body. If you want something a bit more potent for super moisturizing power (like on your dry, cracked heels), simply use less water.  Now, some of these ingredients may seem a bit foreign, but your local pharmacy may actually carry them.  I ordered the urea and glycerin through Amazon and got a pretty good deal.  Let me know if you have any questions about it.

Anyone who's ever met my mom would know that she has amazingly soft, supple skin. This is her secret!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Meditation: Success

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kind of puts things into perspective, no?  Dear old Ralph - this is one of my all-time favorite quotes.  It reminds me focus on the truly important things in life and leave behind some of my misguided ideas of perfection and success (clean house?  really?).  Right now I especially like the bit about "leaving the world a bit better" with a child or a garden patch.  Those are my successes right now.

What about you?  What are your successes?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Resolve to be ready

As a public relations practitioner, one of my job duties is to prepare for crises. At the bank I work for, I keep our communications plan updated in the event that we have a robbery, natural disaster, employee violence, data failure, breach of privacy--you name it.

Yet when it comes to personal emergency preparedness, I am seriously lacking.

In a time when it seems like natural disasters are increasing (in the past two months alone, we've seen earthquakes in Chile and Haiti, along with massive flooding in Portugal), am I prepared to make it through one?

I live in Utah, which seismologists say is long overdue for a big earthquake.

What have I done to prepare? Embarassingly, not much. I've got a pretty good supply of food storage tucked away, but don't have much water to get us through more than a week or two. Some cash is stashed away in case electronic payments (currently how I pay for everything) can't be made. But that's about it.

Last year, hubby and I went crazy and bought a six-month supply of food storage, stashed away in our guest room closet.

Problem is, most of it is raw ingredients, like sugar and flour...meaning I have to know how to use such ingredients...

We've also got a huge (50-gallon?) water container in our garage--which has been sitting empty for the past several months.

A few years ago, I read that one should photocopy the contents of their wallet in case it gets lost or stolen. Still haven't done that. I bought waterproof  bags for document storage (I guess a ziplock bag would also do the trick) that have been sitting, empty, in my filing cabinet for years. Why is it so hard to fill those bags up? Not sure, especially since I really am not a procrasinator, I promise...

Perhaps most importantly, I don't have a plan. What if my family and I get separated and communications are down? Where would we meet? How would we get a hold of each other? Could we survive if we had no access to stores or banks for an extended period of time? Do I know enough first aid to help my family and others?

Maybe this all sounds doomsdayer to you. But maybe it sounded that way to all those people before they actually experienced a disaster in their lives.

Better safe than sorry, right?

I'm vowing to get prepared and think you should, too. Here are two sites that might be helpful: