Mika is Two!

Mika’s personality has really started to shine through this year and her goofy, stubborn, klutzy, happy little nature is just so darn loveable.  Part of me feels like Mika was just born.  I remember with perfect clarity holding her little body against mine after she was born while she screamed her face off for a good twenty minutes.  But another part of me has a hard time remembering what life was like before she came along.  She fits so perfectly into our little family.  She really is a remarkable little human and I can’t wait to see what next year brings.

Mika is a total goof ball – she’s funny, playful and adorable.  She can tell when we’re making jokes and laughs hysterically at just the right moment.  She loves to chase Aiman and Sofia around the house, but is also super independent and will happily play alone when given the chance (which isn’t often!)  Mika’s independent streak is legendary and completely terrifying.  Unlike Aiman who always wants to know where I am, Mika will just take off, whether there is a parent with her or not.  She’s always trying to escape the park or the house or the car or any other thing that is attempting to contain her.  Mika keeps us on our toes and our blood pressure elevated!

Mika desperately wants to be able to do everything that Aiman and Sofia can do but is so adorably ill-equipped to keep up.  Even at an early age Aiman and Sofia were incredibly sporty and coordinated, Mika is …. extremely adorable and smart.  Mika has a difficult time navigating around obstacles and walls and like, her feet.  She trips over herself constantly and spatial awareness is not her strong suit.  But what she lacks in raw talent she makes up for in gusto.  She doesn’t let a skinned knee or a nasty fall stop her, she is always on the go and ready to play.  She is such a determined spunky little person, I know she is going to be able to handle whatever life throws at her.

Mika is definitely a love-bug.  The girl loves to snuggle and kiss (just ask any little toddler boy at the park!) and when she goes to bed at night she likes to have her arms wrapped around my neck and lets out little protests when I get up to leave even if she is sound asleep.   When I come home from work, she runs towards me shouting “mom, mom, mommy, MOMMY!” in such a happy little voice it just erases whatever stress I had through the day.  At night she holds only my leg and walks around the house with me while I change clothes and get dinner.  She is easily the happiest two year old I’ve ever met.

Aiman and Sofia absolutely adore Mika.  They both try to carry her around and make her laugh and were thrilled when we moved Mika’s bed into their room.  They are awesome at being her siblings and she is awesome at being the baby of the family.

Mika is bright, loving, cute and just all-around wonderful.  We all love her too much.

Happy Birthday Mika Jane!

Posted in Mika | 3 Comments

A Finished Knit!

I took a year and a half to knit, then another 6 months to buy appropriate blocking pins and then another 2 months to actually block this wrap.  But IT’S DONE!  IT. IS. DONE!  I love it though I do wish it was just slightly longer.  I think it will stretch out some as it gets worn so I’m not going to lose any sleep over it and in any event I couldn’t possibly knit another repeat, it would almost definitely kill me.

Blocking

I used the gold colored Silver Label Mulberry silk yarn from Tanis Fiber Arts which is expensive and absolutely divine, and this pattern which can be a bit boring at times but delivers a lovely effect.

Wrap

This little baby is headed to my mother-in-law. She saw it in process when we visited Australia Christmas before last (eep!) and I am so excited to actually get to send her the finished product.  This is by far the largest project I have ever completed and I’m not lying when I say I may shed a happy tear when it finds its new home!

Ravelry notes here if you are interested (they basically just say use a lifeline.  USE A LIFELINE!)

Besides blocking and ogling my finished wrap, I’ve been plugging away at Aiman’s granny square blanket.  The vast difference between the lacy wrap and the bulky granny squares is not lost on me, but variety is the spice of life!  I’m still obsessed with making a circle blanket for Sofia and have been eyeing cheap yarn that won’t make my index finger feel like the Sahara Desert, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

I’ve started a bit of an assembly line with Aiman’s blanket — doing just one color at a time and it has made the whole process go so much faster.  I’ve got 17 squares to go, and then I need to sew them all together, crochet an edge and weave in the ends.  I think I’m looking at maybe another 3 weeks or so to get this done.  I can’t wait to see the little guy’s face when I give it to him!

That’s it on the crafting front.  Linking up with the Yarn Along.

 

 

Posted in She's Crafty | 4 Comments

Plastic-Less!

Riaz watched some documentary a few weeks back that has rendered him terrified of plastic in our food supply.  Since the documentary was narrated by Sean Penn I am certain that it is part true, part crazy-town, but de-plasticifying our lives as much as possible is probably not such a bad thing.  When I look around our kitchen I see a lot of plastic and I like the idea of living cleaner and helping out the environment a little so I am on board with Riaz’s mission.   (Now if I could only figure out how to keep recycling bins in our 2×2 foot kitchen!

We’re starting slow because I don’t have a huge amount of disposable income to replace all of our single-use disposable plastic stuff, which is ironic, but we’re going to try to swap a few things out every month until we are down to the plastic we just can’t get rid of.  We’ve already made a few changes that we’re pretty happy about so this is the start of yet another on-going series entitled Kristina’s Reviews of Stuff Not Made of Plastic.  It’s a working title.

First, I will point you to this website which I think is a little bit expensive, but has a fairly exhaustive list of regular household goods that have been de-plasticed.  I’ve been finding stuff on that site and then do a bit of comparison shopping on Amazon.

We’ve been using a Pyrex set very similar to this for a little over a year for all our leftovers and my work lunches.  The lids are plastic, but we all make sacrifices.  We like these so much we bought a second set.  And I’m considering buying a few more of the larger ones so that I can stop using freezer bags for all my pre-made freezer food.  But then I will have to buy a bigger freezer so … we may have to hold off on that one.  I can’t say enough good stuff about these Pyrex dishes, they are extremely sturdy and relatively reasonably priced (we bought ours at Costco).  I’ve gotten all my co-workers onto these as well so our office fridge looks like a Pyrex convention.

The next switch we made was to buy glass containers for our flours and sugar.  Flour and sugar generally come in paper containers, but I was having to decant them into plastic bags because of our (shudder) cockroach problem (shudder again!)  I bought these super cheap glass jars at The Container Store.  The wide mouths are perfect and they are fairly sturdy.  My only complaint is that the sizes aren’t exactly right.  The largest size is too big for a five pound bag of sugar, but the next size down is slightly to small so I end up with just a little bit of sugar that doesn’t fit in the jar.  Similarly a five pound bag of flour is slightly more than will fit in the largest gallon size, so I end up with just a little bit of flour left over.  If I had more space I would just buy the largest size for the sugar and then find another option for the flour, but instead I just live with what I have and keep the remaining bits of flour and sugar in their paper bags stuffed inside a plastic bag (because cockroaches!)  I do really really like these jars though, they’ve got square sides so they are space savers and they do seem to keep my flour and sugars fresh.

I’m now on a mission to find spill-proof cups and take-away water bottles for the kids.  It is much harder than you would think!  The tops!  The tops are always made of plastic.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

Posted in Hippies, Plastic Free Living | 1 Comment

Spiced Soup

I am entering a new phase in my life.  It is the there-is-no-where-else-left-in-my-budget-to-cut-we-have-to-get-our-grocery-bill-under-control phase of life.  It is an awesome phase spurned on by 3 kids + kids’ activities + occasionally wanting to get out of L.A. and see the world + student loans ate my life.  I am trying to navigate this phase without compromising on stuff that is important to us, to wit lots of organic fruits and veggies and  organic, free-range meat from chickens and cows that have left-of-center political views.

Anyone who has ever tried to get their grocery bill under control will tell you, the key for budgeting is meal-planning.  For us it also means making sure the leftovers make it through lunches and snacks the next day or else Riaz will find himself at Carl’s Jr. without knowing how he got there.  Cooking during the week with screaming kids underfoot is never easy so I’ve been dabbling in the cook for a day, eat for a week program.  Over the weekend, I prepare a bunch of main courses that can be frozen and during the week Riaz de-thaws and supplements with a some vegetables and  carbs.

From the bottom up: cabbage rolls, spiced soup x 2, gingered red lentils x 2, asian style curried chicken x2, chicken stock x 1!

From the bottom up: cabbage rolls, spiced soup x 2, gingered red lentils x 2, asian style curried chicken x2, chicken stock x 1!

Because I don’t want to be in the kitchen 100% of the time that I’m not at work, I do a few easy to assemble dishes and a few more labor intensive ones.  You should be coming to the realization by now that I am going to attempt a recurring series entitled Kristina’s Favorite Frozen Foods (given my blogging history you will probably get one recipe every 3.5 years – yippee!)

First up, a beloved soup that is good in the summer or the winter and we’re happy to eat it breakfast, lunch or dinner!  I started with this super amazing vegan recipe over at Oh She Glows.  That site is bomb for lots of healthy, beautifully photographed options, go there, check it out, see you in an hour.  The recipe, as written, is great, but I’ve changed it up a bit to suit our omnivorous family and to bulk it up some more since we usually eat this as a meal in itself.  The recipe takes some time due to the large amount of chopping, but it is so very worth it.


Soup!

You Will Need:

For the Soup

3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked
6 cups chicken broth*, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet or yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped (carrots, pepper and celery should all be similarly sized)
2 cups peeled and chopped potatoes, 1/2 – 1 inch dice (Oh She Glows suggests sweet potato or butternut squash, I haven’t tried it, but I bet either would be delicious)
1 (28-ounce/796-mL) can diced tomatoes, with their juices**
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas well rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons Homemade Spice Blend (see below)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 to 2 cups spinach
2 cups cooked chopped chicken, I like to use left over roasted chicken or cheap(er) chicken thighs which I salt and pepper then cook in a bit of oil

Spice Blend***

2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

You Will Do:

1. Place cashews in a bowl with enough water to completely cover. Soak for at least two hours.
2. Drain cashews and place them in a blender with 1 cup chicken stock. Blend until smooth. If there are any grainy bits keep blending! This is the cashew “cream” and it should really be creamy. If you don’t want to be a dirty hippie, you could make your soup creamy the old-fashioned way with a touch of heavy cream and that would probably be delicious, but this is the healthier option. If you use heavy cream, just add it in at the end a tablespoon at a time until desired creaminess is achieved!
3. In a large pot heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or two.
4. Add carrots, pepper, celery and potatoes and sauté until starting to soften, 5 minutes or so.
5. Add diced tomatoes with their juices, cashew cream, remaining 5 cups of broth, chickpeas, 1 1/2 tablespoons spice blend and bay leaves.
5. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, 15-20 minutes.
6. Add spinach and chicken and let cook for another five minutes or so until spinach is wilted and chicken is warmed through.

Eat this soup as is or do what Riaz did the other night and totally trick it out. He put some leftover brown rice at the bottom of the bowl, then a little layer of grated cheddar cheese, then soup, then some whole wheat croutons made from this homemade bread I made last weekend. It was seriously off the charts and the kids went bonkers for it.

Aman + Soup

So that’s it.  Everyone loves this soup so much I’m going to start doubling the recipe.  It is a perfect thing to have in the fridge/freezer for a quick meal.

* Here is where I make my pitch for homemade chicken broth. Guys — it is just SO. MUCH. BETTER! We eat a lot of whole chickens in my house. When I’m breaking the chicken down I throw the back, wing tips and gizzard stuff into a freezer bag and save for when I have a gallon-sized freezer bag full of bits and pieces accumulated and an afternoon where I’m going to be in the house. On stock day I just throw the bag full of chicken bits into a pot and then use Barefoot Contessa’s perfect recipe for stock (though I halve it and I never have parsnips so I leave those out). It’s about 5 minutes of active time and so completely worth it.

** I find that canned diced tomatoes are diced too large for my taste. I don’t like big hunks of tomato in my soups. Usually I throw the tomatoes in a blender and pulse a few times to break them up. This is an unnecessary step, but something I always do because I’m a weirdo.

*** This makes more than you need but you will make this soup again, I promise!

Posted in Frozen Foods, She Cooks | 2 Comments

How Crochet Took Over My Life

I have been crocheting up a storm whenever I have a free non-comatosed moment.  Yesterday I had the chance to spend a random evening in the Marina.  It was beautiful after a week of stinking heat in L.A.  The sea lions were barking loudly and Mika was pulling my hair when I took this shot.  Ah the peace afforded by yarn crafts ….

At the Marina

I’ve been plugging away at Aiman’s basic granny square blanket and am now a little over half way done!  It hasn’t got a lot of bells and whistles, but I think its going to suit Aiman just fine.  I used cheap acrylic yarn from JoAnn’s since I didn’t want to spend a fortune on what is essentially a practice blanket, but now I wish I had spent a little more money because the acrylic seriously dries out my hands and also splits like crazy.  Ah well, the blanket will be super sturdy and warm which is perfect for a whirl-wind 6 year old who is constantly cold.  Side note – Aiman wears fleece pajamas to bed in the middle of our Southern California summers.  I just … I don’t understand it.  I could sleep in an ice pack and still be dying for air conditioning.

Granny Squares!

I was mixing in some work on my on-going shawl on days I didn’t feel like crocheting, but now I just want to get the thing done so that I can … wait for it … make a blanket for Sofia too.  And I want to get them both done before Christmas!  And I’m not going to make anything that isn’t this adorable circle blanket that probably would take a normal person 6.5 years to complete (though my blanket is going to be about half the size of the one pictured below so maybe only 3.25 years then?)  I’m a glutton for punishment.  The woman who made this blanket used cotton yarn.   Any thoughts on whether that will cause my hands to bleed?  Will I be hating life come November?

Photo Credit: That link in the text above! This woman is a star.

Photo Credit: That link in the text above! This woman is a star.

On a medical note, all of the crocheting hurts my forearms in a way knitting never does.  I think it is the twisting motion required of crochet.  I can’t decide if I’m developing carpel tunnel syndrome or if my arms are just sore from all the extra work I am putting in.  Check back in a month and I’ll let you know if I’m wearing arm braces yet.  Taking a break is clearly not an option.

Joining up with the Yarn Along.

Posted in She's Crafty | 2 Comments

On Being Tongue Tied

Not that kind of tongue tied.  If only Aiman’s problems extended to difficulty getting out “Sally sells seashells by the seashore.”  No, Aiman is/was clinically tongue tied, which basically means that the little bit of tissue that connected his tongue to the bottom of his mouth extended all the way to the tip of his tongue making it difficult for him to stick it out and pronounce certain sounds.

Funny Faces

We noticed Aiman might be tongue tied when he was about four months old.  At his next regularly scheduled visit to the pediatrician, we asked about it.  We were told that we should just wait and see if it would resolve itself – no need to worry if it is not affecting the way he eats.   In hind-sight I think that it did affect his eating.  Aiman would only nurse for 10 minutes at a time and self-weaned in favor of the bottle when he was only 5 months old.  But I was a first time parent!  Since I had no basis for comparison, it seemed like it could potentially be normal or just a quirk of Aiman or, more likely ALL MY FAULT, because I went back to work after just 8 weeks.  I’m really kicking me of 6 years ago.

When Sofia was born she would nurse for hours at a time if I let her.  I remember noting the difference between the two, but all kids are different you know.  I went back to work so early with Aiman, he was a boy, he was just different. Around this time we asked Aiman’s pediatricians again whether we should be worried about the tongue thing – nope, he’s A-OK they said.

All Action

When Mika was born the in-hospital pediatrician noticed that she was also tongue tied.  She suggested clipping the little flap of tissue (frenulectomy for the doctors in the house) the next day before she went home.  “Uh – OK” was my very reasoned response.  The doc came in the next day with a pair of scissors and some gauze, she grabbed Mika’s little tongue, snipped the tissue with the scissors and handed her to me.  She cried for maybe 15 seconds, I nursed her and that was it.  THAT. WAS. IT.  Again, we asked Aiman’s pediatricians about his tongue, again they shrugged it off.

I’m sure you can all see where this is going.

We recently opened a second front on the war against Aiman’s staph infection and he has been seeing a Chinese Medicine guy for a few months.  The CMG (Chinese Medicine Guy) noticed that Aiman couldn’t stick his tongue out and that it was shaped like a heart.  He inquired if we had ever asked the pediatrician about it – oh, only 6 or 7 times, but we were told it was no big deal.  With furrowed brow the CMG just said, “hm.”  That was all Riaz needed.   Aiman was scheduled to go to the pediatrician to get some stitches out on a Monday (story for another day!) and Riaz inquired about the tongue tie.  Nope, said the doc, all good in there.  This time Riaz insisted on a referral to see a specialist.  We were in to see the ENT doctor on the Wednesday, he spent approximately 3.5 seconds examining Aiman’s tongue before declaring him severely tongue tied and suggesting he have surgery on Friday.  Just … guys … heavy sigh.  Why!?!?

Boogie Boardin
So Friday morning Aiman and I were at the surgery center at 6:00 a.m. I was trying to reassure a completely terrified six year old that it would all be ok and I’d be with him the whole time.  Except I wasn’t.  Because when a six year old needs to get a frenulectomy they have to be put under general anesthesia, because the bit of tissue is now larger and wider, clipping it means a few stitches, a lot of blood and quite a bit of pain.  Aiman cried while I held the gas mask over his little nose to put him to sleep, saying over and over that it would be ok.  I held his hand when he woke up crying from the anesthesia.  And I held him for the next two days while he cried over the pain in his mouth and the weird feeling of his tongue being untethered and the even weirder feeling of the stitches holding the underside of his tongue together.   He ate two dozen popsicles and bemoaned the fact that all the bad things happen to him! And I couldn’t disagree.

He’s totally fine now, and may not even remember this whole incident, but guys, I’m really angry.  As far as I can tell there are no negative side effects to having this procedure done when a baby is still a baby and it is far far less invasive the younger a child is.  Also … gah … what if he didn’t nurse for very long because it was hard for him?  What if it wasn’t the fact that I went back to work that caused him to give up on breast feeding, what if it was his little tongue?  I could have saved him the pain, and me the guilt, and my pocketbook oodles of money spent on formula.

I wish we would have gotten a second opinion when he was little.  I wish the doctor had just done the “surgery” in the hospital like they did with Mika.  I wish Aiman didn’t have to have all the bad things happen to him!

Handsome Boy!

Posted in Aiman | 2 Comments

Life + Knitting

Oh poor little blog.  I am the worst.  Insert usual life-type excuses here:  three kids, full time job, cooking, soccer, dance class, playing with the kids, sleeping (occasionally).  I’m going to try to be better.

To get back into the swing of things, I’m going to do a little knit/crochet update.  Easy peasy.

I’ve been knitting the Hanami Stole.  According to the designer its meant to represent cherry blossom trees.  I showed the pattern to a friend and he declared it to be mountains under a starry sky and appreciated the whole Alaska connection thing.  I have to say that I agree and also like the connection so I decided to embark on another lacy shawl – the last one only took me two years so what the heck.  I never met a chart that didn’t make me want to rip out all my hair so I wrote out each row on little note cards and am following the pattern that way.  Much easier for my simple brain.

I love the way this shawl is coming out.  I was knitting without a lifeline like a fool and made a small mistake, but have decided its character building and am just going to leave it.  Mountains and starry skies aren’t perfect either.

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I have been wanting to learn how to crochet for awhile (said the 70 year old woman – I don’t even know who I am anymore!)  I occasionally see patterns with crocheted edges and it seemed like something I ought to know how to do.  I watched some YouTube videos and decided I would make a granny square blanket for Aiman as practice.  I was originally going to make a twin-sized blanket for his bed, but decided he would probably actually prefer an afghan size that he can carry into the living room (that kid is always cold).  It has absolutely nothing to do with the 70 squares the twin blanket was going to take.  Nothing at all.

IMG_5014

So that’s it on the crafting front.  Here are a few pictures of the kiddos to appease the grandparents, aunts and uncles in the room!

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IMG_5017Joining up with the Yarn Along.

 

Posted in She's Crafty | 2 Comments