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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Assembly Required - On Christmas Toys

Christmas toys. They come in boxes. They look small and tidy. And easy. They lie.

Take the teeny, tiny trampoline I got for my girls for Christmas this year, for example. It came in a small, flat box, it's only about 3.5 feet wide, max, and it didn't even have springs! Piece of cake, right? Hell, I could set that up myself. Or not.

First of all, the instructions were merely a series of unclear pictures that would put IKEA to shame. But I pressed forward. I was going to set the trampoline up before I made dinner! It would take me 30 minutes! HAHA.

I managed to get the curvy bars into the netting slats in a way that looked kind of sort of correct. But I wasn't strong enough to snap the curves together, stretching the netting out to make a circle.

I had my husband do it. He took one look and came outside with me. He knew I would need reinforcements. Of course, he also had trouble making it a circle.

When we finally did do it, we realized that we had 18 slats one side, and 12 slats on the other. Also we'd put the thing in backward. So, we did it again. I, of course, assumed we'd taken care of the inequality thing. We had not. This is important later. So, wonderful, finally we have our circle.

I mean, almost.

Anyway, we got that sucker flattened right out, and started screwing in the sides. We did all of them. Wrong.

The two holes are supposed to line up. Oops. We unscrewed them. You can see, since we are using the stonework of the patio to stretch this thing out each time (which isn't easy), the hinges are already battered. We continue and do all the screws correctly.

Remember that unequal slats thing?

Yup, we have to undo the whole thing again. By now we've "set this up" like four times.

Finally we are almost done! We just have to rescrew the very last screw. Only...the holes in the hinge no longer line up. No, seriously. So what does any sane person who's been setting up a teeny, tiny trampoline for more than an hour do?

That's right. You take a hammer to that sucker. Of course.  What could possibly go wrong?

But somehow it worked, even though I protested the whole time. (I'm not big on hitting things with hammers).

Toward the end, he's like, how did that happen?

I'm like, I don't know. Maybe from pounding the thing into the ground with a hammer? Just throwing out ideas, though.

Still, after about 2 hours of work, we made this.

And it was worth it.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Recipe Monday - Fried Spaghetti

Yesterday, as I was frying some spaghetti, it came to my attention that this is a thing most people do not do. And my only question to you is...why? You should fry your spaghetti after you've had it the first night. On reheat the sauce is all cakey and loses its flavor anyway. Why not have a crunchy, fresh-tasting leftover over a mushy, meh one?

Instructions are easy:

Heat olive oil in a pan at medium. Dump in spaghetti. Stir occasionally until the noodles start to show a bi of crispiness, then stir nonstop until they're crunchy all the way through. You can add meatballs, sausage, pepperoni (shown) or anything you want!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Kindergarten Kids - The Great Cleanup


Santa came and left a humongous mess in your house. Wrapping, toys, boxes all around. It's overwhelming, and PS your kids do not want to help you tidy it up. Welp, too bad, amirite?


First, come to grips with the fact that this is going to take all day. Second, split it up into two parts - clean the living area (by putting stuff "away" but not really cleaning or organizing) then on another day clean and organize the areas where things were "put away".

Getting the kids to help can be easier than you might think. You have to set up most of this crap anyway, right? So each time you tidy up an item, set it up and let them play with it for a while. Play with them. Help them learn it so that they won't have to ask you about such-and-such new toy every day for the next month. They'll have had at least an introduction to all things Christmas-cool. And it breaks up the monotony of cleaning for you, too.

So, take a toy out, set it up, teach them how to play with it, play with them for a bit, then clean the surrounding mess while they're busy. And when it's time to do the next toy, make them help you finish tidying the first, and have them put it away before you move on. Get them in the habit of associating playing with new toys and cleaning up the toys when they're done early on. Maybe it will stick. Haha, just kidding. It won't. But we can hope.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas!

The holidays are over, which means I have no excuse not to get back to blogging, and trust, I have some doozies, like making the Christmas meal (the hilarious ways in which I can fail) and setting up the Christmas toys (again, the hilarious ways in which I can fail). Hah. But for now, here are some pictures of our family Christmas.

First present of the day. Cheerleaders!

Slinkies are madness!

These are some weird grow-in-water things that take three days to become giant. We've been checking their bathtub progress every few hours.

Playing cards, What?!

The bongos are in this year's top five presents. My ears are sorry.

Mom, did you get me clothes again? (Santa always gets all the credit).

Batteries not included.

This face.

Top present. Easy Bake Oven. I have a whole video. Hilarious.

This will never be used as a basketball hoop. Ever.

They still make furbies?

Binoculars were a huge hit.

This cheapo flyer disc thing has already been lost. And they've been looking for it. Because it's also one of their faves.

Okay, I lied. This is the ONLY time the hoop was used for its original purpose.

Happy holidays, everyone.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Recipe Monday - Holiday Bread

Jill from PianissAmma has graciously bestowed upon us a recipe for bread that will impress even the pickiest in-laws this year.


About two years ago, my sister in law brought her sourdough starter with her to Los Angeles.  She was kind enough to offer me some of her dough, which I cultivated and made dozens of loaves of bread from.   Baking bread is a specialty of mine, but baking sourdough was new to me.  I was excited, because I wanted a chance to make vegan breads all on my own.  Sourdough starter utilizes three ingredients: water, flour, and wild yeast.
On my baking journey, I bought lots of bread books, browsed many a website, and found that many sourdoughs incorporate butter, eggs, milk, and not so wild yeast.  I eventually found dairy and egg free recipes, but I have yet to get my wild yeast to work completely on its own.  It’s okay though, because I have cultivated some fabulous bread anyway.
Today, I give two recipes for your enjoyment.  Two loaves in one oven.  One savory, the other just slightly sweet.  The savory goes well with olive oil and vinegar, or butter, if you like.  The sweet?  Have it with almond butter.  It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and great for breakfast too!


Cinnamon sourdough.  Picture by Tejaswi Kasturi
Cinnamon sourdough. Picture by Tejaswi Kasturi

This recipe makes two loaves of bread.  I generally make one loaf sweet, the other savory.


1 cupFed sourdough starter
2 cups
2 tsp
1 tbsp
1 ½ tsp
5 cups

Savory Var:

Sweet Var:

Lukewarm water

2-3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
Kosher sea salt (as desired)

2 ½ tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
Cinnamon for dusting


1) Combine yeast, sugar, and 1 cup of water.  Stir, then let sit for five minutes.  This allows the yeast to activate.
2) In a large mixing bowl, add starter, two cups of flour, salt, and mix.  Add the yeast mixture, and then add the remaining water and three cups of flour slowly.  If using an electric mixer, be sure to use your dough hook.  Mix until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky to the touch.  If kneading by hand, knead until the dough is smooth.
3) Cover dough, and allow the dough to rise.  It should double in size within 60 to 90 minutes.  For faster rising, set the bowl in a clean basin and fill the basin with hot water.
4) After your dough has doubled, divide your dough in half.  Set aside one half of your dough.  Place the other onto a lightly floured cutting board.   If you do not wish to season your bread, skip ahead to step 6.
5a) For savory bread, flatten the dough until it appears to look like a very thick pizza crust.  Sprinkle on 2-3 tablespoons of fresh minced rosemary.
5b) For sweet cinnamon bread, flatten the dough until it appears to look like a very thick pizza crust.   Coat the top with a thin layer of cinnamon.  Glaze your surface with the 2/3 of the sugar solution.  (To create the solution, combine the ingredients, and heat gently until sugar is dissolved and water slightly thickened).
6) Roll the bread up into a loaf, and place in a greased bread pan.  If you do not desire a greased pan, simply nest on parchment paper, then set in the bread pan.  Cover, and let sit for about 1 hour, until puffy.   Drizzle with water.   Take a serrated knife, and make slashes along the middle of the loaf.
(Savory variation):  For your savory loaf, sprinkle kosher sea salt on top.  You may also garnish with more rosemary.    (Sweet variation): Drizzle the remaining cinnamon/sugar solution over the slashed area.
7) Bake at 425° F for 25-27 minutes.  Remove, and place on a cooling rack.



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