Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter!

We had lots of Easter themed fun at our house this week.

We dyed eggs, of course, and managed to dye the table too.  
(Note to self, next year, NEWSPAPER!!)

 Our dye jobs are pretty unremarkable, no fancy designs, 
but fun for the boys just the same.

 Our friends hosted an Easter Egg Hunt and lunch at their house on Saturday.  There were 200+ hidden, candy filled, plastic eggs and only 6 kids doing the hunting.  Caleb and Isaac came home with entirely too much candy, some of which will disappear each night as they sleep.

  The Easter Bunny visited as well.  He scaled way back on his gifts this year and the boys were still pleased as punch, especially with their new soccer ball.

The obligatory Easter morning, all dressed up and ready to go to church, photo.  
Easter Sunday dawned sunny and bright, 
a perfect day for celebrating the resurrection of the Savior.

The end of our weekend culminated in a traditional Easter feast of ham and all the trimmings.  I don't have any pictures of the meal, but that is just as well since it was an embarrassing amount of food for just 4 people.

Happy Easter from all of us to all of you! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How-to Tuesday: Homemade Hummus

Last week, when I posted my second How-to contribution, I was excited, a weekly blog feature, LOVE IT.  And then the week wore on and I started to panic.  What was I going to post for week three?  The trouble is, I have exactly 6 things I know how to do, most of which do not lend themselves to blog posts.  I am not crafty (despite last week's post) and I don't have many hobbies, at least not of the sort that produce anything blogworthy.  And right now my schedule is packed to the gills with hours of reading and writing and classes...not to mention my adorable kiddos.

So, I thought and thought and thought and thought and then I decided to make some hummus because we were out and my kids love it and eat enough that making it at home is so much more cost-effective than buying it.  And then I remembered there was a time in my life when I didn't know how to make hummus.  

Eureka, a post for Tuesday!

So, without further ado, here is my How-to Tuesday Recipe for Homemade Hummus. (Note: This is not my recipe, but I've been making it so long I don't even remember the source.)

1) Gather your ingredients.  You'll need (Note: this is the recipe for a double batch, we eat our hummus by the spoonful around here so a single batch is never enough):

 2 cans garbanzo beans/chickpeas
1/2 cup reserved liquid from the garbanzo beans
5 or so tablespoons lime juice (I never measure this, I just squeeze until it seems like enough -- I like my hummus tangy and usually use 3 to 5 limes, depending upon their juiciness)
2-3 cloves crushed garlic (again, just guesstimate, if you like it garlicky, throw in more)
3 tablespoons tahini*
salt and pepper (again, through trial and error you'll find the amount that is perfect for you, but start with 1/2 teaspoon or so of both)
4ish tablespoons olive oil

2) Put everything but the olive oil in the blender (for extra smooth hummus) or food processor (for slightly less smooth hummus) -- important, don't forget the salt and pepper, adding them afterward does not work and will ruin your hummus -- and blend until smooth.  (Note: I usually put the garbanzo bean liquid and the lime juice in first because it makes the blending process go, well, more smoothly, but you can do it however you prefer.)

3) When all your ingredients are blended, check the consistency.  Now, turn on the blender again and add your olive oil a tablespoonful or so at a time.  I just eye-ball this and keep adding until I like what I've got.

4) That's it.  Pour your homemade hummus in a lovely dish, garnish with paprika and olive oil and serve with crudites or pita chips/bread.  Your guests/family will be so impressed when you reveal you made it yourself.  It tastes like you bought it at a Middle Eastern restaurant, truly!  Or, do what we do, skip the garnish and fight over it until every last bit is devoured.

* Let's talk tahini.  Tahini is just sesame seeds ground to a paste, more or less the consistency of stiff peanut butter.  You can make hummus without Tahini, but I don't, unless I'm living in a country (like Venezuela) where it is nearly impossible to come by.  Tahini adds a lovely nuttiness to the hummus and the end result just isn't the same without it.  Tahini can sometimes be a little hard to find, but most grocery stores (except Trader Joe's, go figure!) carry it, you just have to find the person in the store who knows what and where it is.  It is a bit pricey too, but a little goes a long way, so splurge, it's worth it.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

We Love Washington, DC, #15

One of my favorite things about Washington that I haven't already shared, yes, that's possible, is its size.  Washington, DC, is a small city and only has 620,000 residents.  Over a million people commute into the city everyday, but true Washingtonians are a very small demographic and we are proud to be among them.  Because its such a small city, but still a major world capital, you're only ever a short drive, metro ride, or walk from everywhere you want to be.

Last Saturday was cold and dreary so we headed out of the house for indoor activities in the heart of the city.  Over the course of the day we hit 3 (4 if you count the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center where we stopped for lunch) uniquely DC sights that were also very kid-friendly.

First stop was the "other" aquarium.  The National Aquarium is in the basement of the Commerce Department Building and with its black walls, floors and ceiling and the constant sound of burbling water, it definitely gives the impression of being in the depths of the ocean.

 We saw over 200 species of fish, alligator, turtle, shark, eel, shellfish, lizard and octopus.  Including this attractive fellow Caleb is posing with called a hellbender.

 The aquarium is divided in ocean and freshwater habitats from all over the world showcasing typical flora and fauna.  This was the tank representing Hawaii.  I looked for the state fish of Hawaii, the humuhumunukunukuapua'a
but, alas, they did not have one.

 Isaac was most interested in this tank housing 
professional Nemo and Dory lookalikes.

 Exactly 1 hour later, we had seen all there was to see and headed 
back up for air and to our next stop.

Just around the corner from the Commerce Building is the
This is a great museum.  There is so much to see and do and read and learn, one could spend days there and never see it all.  The woman at the information desk told us the "hands-on" science area was doing lots of fun activities that day, so we skipped the other exhibits and headed straight downstairs.

First, the boys learned about motion and waves and buoyancy.

 Then, they made "pictures" of their voices by speaking into the mouthpiece Caleb is holding.  I don't even want to think about the thousands and thousands of hands and mouths that have touched that thing.  Yuck!

Next, Isaac (with a little help from Daddy) built a circuit.

Then, they constructed a marble maze.

Next up, they played Simon...

with a robot.  It was pretty cool, actually.  The robot is designed to move his hands and/or eyes in whatever direction the orange ball is moved.   

 Its reflexes are pretty fast, too, as Caleb discovered by moving the 
ball very rapidly in a circle. 

Lastly, we learned about Carbon nanostructures, which are flat, but when linked together form 3D buckyballs -- or something like that.  So, they each made a paper buckyball, and then... 

 climbed inside the life size buckyball for a photo op.

 Did you know the National Museum of American History was this much fun?  After the Museum we stopped for lunch at the aforementioned 
food court.  Finally we went home for naps to rest up for our evening activity.

Friends of ours generously invited us to watch a Washington Capitals game with them that night at the Verizon Center.  The boys have never been to a hockey game before and after seeing their first from a luxury box stocked to the gills with delicious food, yummy sweets and endless drinks, we're not planning on taking them to another one any time soon.  It would be such a let down!

The last time I went to a Caps game, years ago, they were in a several season slump.  But, not this year.  Down 3 - 4 with less than a minute to go, they scored and sent the game into overtime.  Caleb, was ecstatic and convinced that his endless chanting of "Let's Go Caps" had been the difference between defeat and another shot at victory.  In overtime they scored the winning 
goal and the crowd literally went wild.

So, not an average DC day perhaps, but a great day to be sure.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Sometimes I Cry For No Reason At All

Before I had kids, I didn't cry much.  And certainly not unless I was sick, really, really sleep-deprived or incensed.  Even at the most emotionally charged, heart-string yanking movies, or weddings, even my own, nary a tear.  But, after having kids, I cry.  A lot.  And, often for no reason at all.  

I cry profusely at sports themed movies, where the underdog triumphs against all odds like Remember the Titans, Hoosiers, We are Marshall, even Coach Carter -- has anyone else actually seen that movie?  I cry at commercials, yes, I am that person.  I cry reading articles about sick children and natural disasters and people who pull themselves up from nothing and succeed.  It's kind of embarrassing being a big blubber face, but I've done far more embarrassing things in my life than crying in public, so it doesn't really bother me anymore.  Not much anyway.

Today I cried in public again, for the umpteenth time, but not for nothing.  For a very good reason, in fact.


His was the 5th name drawn.  He lucked in so early that it happened before I actually arrived at the lottery.  I didn't even see his name on the list until the secretary at the school came over and told me he was in.  

And then I burst into tears.  Great big, streaming down my face tears of joy and relief and gratitude.

It's the miracle we were praying for.  And, it is a miracle indeed.  I know so many of you were hoping for this outcome for us as well, and I appreciate your support more than you'll ever know.

Sometimes I cry for no reason at all, but this morning was not one of those times.  This morning I was the happiest big blubber face you ever saw.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

How-to Tuesday: How to Make an Easter Rag Wreath

Welcome to another installment of How-to Tuesday.  

My post this week is all about getting your craft on, which is hilarious for me since I am just about the least crafty person on the planet.  But, the following proves that even non-crafters can create something, every once in awhile.

How to Make an Easter/Spring Rag Wreath

Step 1.  Decide that with Easter upon you, some sort of themed decor is required.  Scour the internet for inspiration and zero in on projects that require minimal skill, you know, since that's what you possess.

Step 2. Gather your materials.  For this project you need fabric and a wreath form.  I raided my fabric stash (yes, I have one) and then supplemented with remnants and fat quarters in Eastery colors.  I didn't have a wreath form, per se, so I took a wire hanger, formed it into a circle and covered the whole thing in plastic wrap to give it some bulk.

Step 3.  Be grateful that a million years ago you thought you might grow up to be crafty (you didn't) and invested in some tools. You can, of course, cut the fabric free-hand, but using the items below makes this project much, much easier.

Step 4.  Iron your fabric BEFORE you cut it.  I learned this step the hard way.  Learn from my mistakes people, put aside your detest for ironing and just do it.

Step 5.  Cut your fabric in 1 inch by 10 inch strips or whatever.  All the wreaths I saw online used different lengths, so I don't think the length of the strips really matters as long as they can be wrapped and tied with some length left over.

Step 6.  Tie the fabric on the wreath frame, making sure you double knot each piece.  I stuffed in as many pieces as possible for a fuller looking final product.  This view of the back should help better illustrate this step.  It took me about an hour once I started tying to finish the entire wreath.  My kind of project! 

Step 7.  Instead of bothering with a bow, because you know that your lack of craftiness will be overwhelmingly obvious when you try to tie it, wrap the hook in some fabric and tie several strips around the base to secure it in place.  I was determined not to get out the glue gun (yep, I have one of those too!).

Step 8.  Stand back and admire your handiwork and try to avoid pulling a muscle as you pat yourself on the back.

Happy Easter!

We Love Washington, DC, #14

The weather for the last two weeks has been erratic and mostly cold, rainy and snowy.  But, today was glorious.  We took advantage of the perfect conditions and played hooky from school and work and homework to finally see the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin in person.
 We even found a perfect parking space (if you know DC and cherry blossom season, you know what a noteworthy event this is!).
 This view x 2000 trees = heavenly.
 See that blue sky?  The temperatures climbed into the 80s today.
 I took a thousand versions of this shot.
 Taking a break from the crowds and the sun to rest with George Mason who was a founding father and drafter of the Bill of Rights.
 I think the Washington Monument never looks better than when 
framed by cherry blossoms.
  Up close the blossoms looked like millions of puffy, white, 
popped popcorn kernels.
 But, from a distance, they were blushing.
Happy Cherry Blossom Festival 2011

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