Came across an interesting verse the other day while I was doing my BSF homework:

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
1 Peter 4:15 NIV

Murderer, thief, any other kind of criminal … meddler.

I’ve always admired prettily frosted cupcakes and believed it to be beyond my capabilities. In the past when I’ve made cupcakes and frosted them, I would just apply it with a butter knife and call it good. For Dan’s birthday this year, I didn’t get around to making the 4-layer coconut cake I have always made for him as his birthday cake since we’ve been married. Instead, I wimped out and made coconut cupcakes instead, but decided to learn how to make them look fancy. Apparently, all it takes is a decorator tip and a semi-steady hand. Viola:
cupcakes

Another thing I’ve been wanting to try for a few years now and never got around to is the making of macarons. Through lots of online perusing, it always sounds like a finicky task. I should not have tried the first time running on little sleep, post-midnight, etc. But I’ve sampled and they taste like they’re supposed to, even if their appearance leaves a little to be desired.
macarons

Will have to try again, hopefully with more success :), but I would like to try my hand at making these meyer lemon and sour-cream donuts too in the near future. Oh, what should I do (other than not undertaking either and getting some much needed sleep)?

Currently on a quest to find a recipe for these soft, chewy cheese buns we had at a Brazilian steakhouse. Dan doesn’t seem to recall them, but I really liked them and would like to know how to make them for myself. I found a quick and easy recipe and followed it to the T, but after sampling them I think I should have tried it with Parmesan cheese instead as lots of alternate recipes seem to specify Parmesan cheese (instead of the queso fresco that this particular recipe suggested). I think I might have to have Dan and I go back and eat there again so I can refresh my memory regarding the taste and texture of those buns, just in case they were actually cheese puffs.
Next time, I’ll have to take a picture. And once I find a recipe I like, I’ll be sure to share that information :).

Inevitably, we will all die. I know — what a happy thought. I was thinking of people I’ve known more than just in-passing who have already died for whatever reason: all four of my grandparents, some of Dan’s grandparents, friend’s parent(s), classmates, a coworker, and most recently the husband of my piano teacher growing up. What are they remembered by? I think at the very root of it, the example they set for others in their life.
So … I want to be a good example. That’s what I was thinking the other night. I want to be a good example to my kids; so they can believe and know what it means to be wise, to be selfless, to serve others and be generous. I also want to be a good example to others; to always have a positive attitude, to be open to advice, to be willing to happily go the extra mile. I want to be a good example in deeds as well as attitude/thoughts — I want to be a good example in my heart as well as outwardly that people can see and want to emulate.

Besides the fruits that we knew of on our property of strawberry we planted in topsy-turvy containers,
strawberry plants

blueberries in pots,
blueberry plants

and blackberries we harvested from some of the branches dangling over the fence from our neighbors house,
blackberries

we discovered that we do in fact have fruit trees — pear ones:
pears

and šŸ™‚ … that we also have grapes:
grapes
Definitely need to figure out how to manage grapes since the fruits that we found were tangled in the branches of our cherry blossom tree where we couldn’t really get a close look to determine whether the grapes were ripe or not, resulting in our harvesting them before they were ripe.

Given that I’m currently at home, I’ve been trying to drum up the energy to do more things in the kitchen. There have been some successes and some failures.
Failures first (gotta save the best for last :)). Strawberry Vanilla Amish Friendship Bread — I should not have rushed and tried to do that while also attempting to make regular bread. I added too much baking soda, and because I was in a rush, I shortened the baking time by not letting it sit in the oven longer. I also think that I used more starter than the recipe called for (it says to use one cup, but I was lazy and didn’t want to actually measure and figured that the bag contained approximately one cup and that should be good enough). As a result, it came out a little more like pudding than cake/bread, which I suppose is okay considering the huge box of vanilla pudding that is one of the ingredients. Unfortunately, when you are expecting “bread” of the dessert variety that you can eat with your hands, not only is it kind of ugly (the middle part sunken in), it’s also kind of disappointing (though it tastes just fine except for the bottom pudding-like part):
strawberry vanilla bread
Second failure … this wasn’t too bad, but I was severely disappointed. I went to make dinner the other night and discovered that the chicken I had purchased to make dinner with was actually a few days past the “use by” date. After consulting with my parents and looking online, I went ahead and used it (after rinsing it thoroughly with cold water). The end product tasted okay, but I just felt really bad (but didn’t have time/energy to run to store to buy replacement chicken) about using way-old chicken. Dan (surprisingly) actually approved of eating it (I gave him the option of just tossing it out) and liked it — I will have to make the dish again sometime … with fresh chicken!
Okay — successes now :). As alluded to earlier with the first failure, I now have Amish Starter. The first thing I made with it was this Double Chocolate Amish Friendship Bread:
Double Chocolate Bread
I like it a lot — the texture was just right! A little moist, but not totally greasy like the way some dessert breads come out (recalling the results of some banana and zucchini bread recipes). Even Dan, who isn’t normally all that into chocolate liked it šŸ™‚ — I count that a success.
Then, because I didn’t want to always make sweet, dessert-style “breads”, I decided to give this regular bread recipe a try — one that uses Amish Starter. This is the first time I’ve made “real” bread and I while I was a little nervous and hesitant about it, it wasn’t actually all that bad:
sandwich bread
It’s much more dense than normal wheat sandwich bread you’d buy at the store, but still very tasty :). The recipe that I used is here.
That’s all :)!

Memorial Day weekend started off with me as a brief audience member to this, which made me smile:

We stayed around home instead of taking a trip anywhere this weekend: it was good to just relax a bit. Saturday involved a leisurely drive, taking back-roads instead of the freeway to get doughnuts at Frost :). And in the evening after Chops had taken her nap, we went and got Vietnamese sandwiches from a place we used to frequent more a year or so back and followed that up by a trip to Target to acquire a few items necessary for a newborn (e.g. newborn diapers) — it’s so weird, exciting, and scary to think that in about a month’s time, we’ll be a family of four!
Sunday was church and more lounging around at home. That was orignally also the plan for Monday, but friends of ours from church invited us over for a BBQ and that’s what we ended up doing. Chops enjoyed our friends’ buttercups:

We concluded our awesomely laid-back, extended weekend by having french toast for dinner :). And I got in a little more sewing. See?
sandboxProgress
I think I cut out the pieces for a size 3T and now that I see it closer to finished, I’m thinking I probably should have made it a size or two smaller. Either Chops will have to wait a few years (maybe), or else I’ll have to wait even longer and hope we’re having a boy who will consent to wearing these in about as long of time, if not longer. Probably doesn’t help that I added a contrasting hem to lengthen the pants.
Hoorah, long weekend!

Somewhat disjoint but here goes :).
Recently, despite the fact that there is still plenty of putting away and unpacking to do, we’ve been ignoring it to the best of our ability to spend time together as a family. A couple weekends ago, we went to Northwest Trek (flickr set here). Dan really enjoyed seeing hawks (and other birds of prey) up close, particularly one they were training:

Chops, on the other hand, really was enthusiastic about “owlers” and otters.

river otter

This weekend, we went to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. While there are large migatory raptors that can be frequently spotted there, we mostly saw little birds as we did not take along telescopes or binoculars. Chops enjoyed …
jumping over the backs of the benches with Daddy:
bench jumping

following the flock of geese:
geese

flying with Daddy:
flying

and spotting cute little birds like this one:
little bird

We’ve also started a smallish garden this year. There are three types of strawberries, two types of lettuce, two types of tomatoes, and a pea plant. New blueberry bushes were also acquired.
garden2011

Last year, Chops really wanted to help out with the yard/garden and this year is no different for her. We got her some Dora garden things:
gloves etc
and she proudly helped me fill up some of the pots. We also jointly planted some flower seeds in a pot outside. Hopefully, birds or other animals didn’t consume them and Chops will get to see the fruits of her labor.
This is also the last week of us owning our “old” house — somewhat bittersweet.

We have moved into our new house. Now remains the somewhat daunting task of completely unpacking and putting it all away properly. One of the things that we’ve been enjoying at the new house, despite the rain, are the cherry blossom trees we have:
Cherry Blossom Trees
We have set a goal of at least one box a night. And now that our old house is listed (see here if interested), it might actually be easier to meet that goal plus some. Our somewhat arbitrary goal, is to be “completely” settled in (no random boxes of semi-unpacked things, things put away properly, etc.) by Easter. I’m somewhat hopeful, but also honestly somewhat stressed since … it’s still unfinished.
The new yard is larger, though much of it is already landscaped and/or occupied by things like a sports court. But I think I’d like to eventually put in a garden. One that contains the following things (not necessarily in one dedicated spot):

At this point, I’m thinking of maybe eventually doing some of that using something similar to (if not actually getting) earthboxes. The benefit of this is that we’d be able to put them on the sunny patio-like location behind the garage most of the time, but have the ability to move them for when we want to utilize the sports court (especially when basketballs and other similarly weighted balls are utilized).
Also as part of the move, we promoted Babychops. Dan proposed that since we have another baby on the way and that she technically is no longer a baby, that we would drop the “baby” part — so Chops it is: that’s the first part. The second part of the promotion for Chops is that she is now in her toddler bed. So far it’s working great — she knows when it’s bedtime and stays in bed; she hasn’t (yet) fallen out of bed; she hasn’t gotten up in the middle of the night. The only thing is that when she wakes up before us, she will now (given the freedom of no bars) come in search of us (typically trying to catch a few extra ‘zzz’s) but that’s not too bad as she is not a super early bird.