Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cabin Fever

This week started off with a hurricane that pretty much dwindled down to a few gusts of wind by the time it hit Lancaster. Chou took off work on Monday so as to not get stuck at work when the wind started to whirl. That never really happened, but we enjoyed an extra day to our weekend. Chou stayed up all night on Friday with his middle schoolers from church, and the rest of our weekend was packed, so he took advantage of the extra day off to try and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Chou and Cali sneaking a nap. Perhaps I should have been paying more attention to what E was doing. #fail
By Monday afternoon I was about to lose my mind, sitting and waiting. I ended up baking this, which was delicious and used up some of our seemingly infinite supply of frozen pumpkin puree. I subbed sucanat for the brown sugar, whole wheat flour for the all-purpose, and our homemade creme fraiche for the sour cream. I skipped the glaze altogether. I'd show you pictures, but the streusel melted into the cake and wasn't all that pretty (I think the combination of homemade pumpkin puree and creme fraiche made my batter a lot looser than it was supposed to be).

The storm brought cold air and rain throughout the area, so we've pretty much been stuck inside. I'm going to need to start coming up with indoor activities outside of my home or I may not make it a month, let alone all winter. Normally I'd grab E and a dog and walk to the park or market, but this frigid air is making that impossible. So instead of walking today, I actually cooked dinner (usually Chou's job) while E assisted from her high chair, and then up-cycled an old sweater of mine into a dress for E. There are a few things I'd change for next time, but overall I'm pretty happy with how it came out.

I traced one of her dresses onto newspaper, added about 3/4" for seam allowance, made a quick scrap dress out of an old t-shirt just to make sure my pattern was the correct size/shape, and then cut and sewed the dress. It only took a few hours, even with the assistance of an 11-month-old.

My original sweater

Final product

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chou's party - Photo Scavenger Hunt

My favorite part of Chou's party was the photo scavenger hunt that my parents put together. They did an amazing job!

We had teams of 4-6 people and they were given a map with the boundaries and a collage of pictures. The photos were located a 2 block x 4 block section of the center of Lancaster. The teams had to recreate each picture with their team in it. They ended up having approximately an hour and a half for the hunt, and the winning team found all but five photos.

This ended up being a fun way for lots of our friends to explore our town!

Collage for the photo scavenger hunt in Lancaster

Thanks, Mom and Dad for doing such an amazing job with this!

Favorite Things Fridays - Lancaster Central Market

I love Lancaster Central Market!

There's so much freshness, so much local goodness.

Central Market is the oldest continually operating farmer's market in the U.S.  There's something so quaint and satisfying about heading there each week and planning our meals around what is fresh, in season, and available. We usually go with a rough idea of what we need in our heads, including our weekly supply of milk.  However, we generally finalize our meal plan based on what is fresh and local.

In addition to dairy and produce, we frequently purchase meats from local farmers and occasionally splurge on spices, salads, prepared side-dishes, or a variety of ethnic food available.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chou's Party - Mason Jar Apple Crisp

Chou is a pastry chef who doesn't like or crave sweets at all. He's incredibly picky about desserts and there are few that he'll eat for his own enjoyment (as opposed to because I want to split one or a friend wants an opinion). Apple pie is probably his favorite dessert and one of the few that he might even go back for a second piece. I wasn't up to the task of baking enough apple pies for 40 people for Chou's birthday party, so I thought crisp would be a decent alternative. Perhaps we'll make a pie on his actual birthday next month. 

For the crisp I pulled a few ideas off pinterest and decided I wanted to bake it in mason jars. They came out great! I love how the cranberries add so much color in the jars! I used Ida Red apples which held up great while baking. They aren't as tart as some baking apples so they complimented the cranberries well, while allowing me to cut down on the sweetener. I purchased them from a local farmer, so the skins were nice and soft and I was able to leave some of them on without negatively affecting the final product. The coconut oil added a subtle coconut flavor (I used raw oil) that I really liked, but next time I'll cut back the amount because some of it settled out after baking.

To finish them off, I topped the cooked crisps with a cupcake liner held on by a canning rim. This added a splash of color and a little fun without being too frilly.

I modified this recipe.

Apples with Maple Walnut Crisp

8 medium sized baking apples (as I said, I used Ida Red) 
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
4 teaspoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 cup maple syrup, divided
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup oats
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
vanilla ice cream for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel 4 of the apples and leave the remaining 4 unpeeled. Core and cube all the apples.

In a large bowl, combine apples, cranberries, orange juice, vanilla, half of the maple syrup (1/16th to 1/8th cup, depending on how tart you want it), and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Spoon mixture into pint-sized mason jars. Pack jars fairly tight as they will settle once cooled. Leave about an inch of headspace (measured from top of apples to the lid) for the topping. You should have enough for 6 pints.

In a small bowl combine remaining maple syrup, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, walnuts, oats, and coconut oil.

Spoon mixture over the apples, dividing evenly between the pint jars.

Place jars in 9x13 baking dish and place in oven.

Carefully pour water into the bottom of the baking dish, enough that it comes about 1/2" - 3/4" up the outside of the jars.

Loosely place a piece of aluminum foil over all the jars to keep the crisp from burning.

Bake for 45 minutes or until topping is browned and apples are tender.

Best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. 

The Lancaster County in me also enjoys this with a splash of milk instead of the ice cream. It makes a great breakfast that way ;)

Packed jar ready to go in the oven

Jars before baking

Cooked jars just as they came out of the oven

Set up with the cupcake liners

Apples with delicious crisp!

this post has been entered in Real Food Wednesdays

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chou's surprise party

On Saturday my mom and I threw a surprise 30th birthday party for Chou (details to come). I'm happy to say that he was 100% surprised, thanks to all of our careful planning and a healthy dose of his trust! 

A Surprised Chou
We spent the past number of months roaming pinterest, scouring blogs for ideas, crafting, fabric shopping, menu planning, and getting assistance from many of Chou's close friends. (Thank you!!) We were reminded of how much we rely on Chou for all things food-related and truly missed his expertise in planning the menu and calculating exactly how much food would be needed. 

Last week was full of food shopping followed by lots and lots of cooking. By 5pm Friday, the food was all prepped and I was headed home to spend the evening with Chou. Chou grabbed sandwiches from our favorite shop and a movie from Redbox and we settled in for a cozy family night. While we relaxed at home, my mom, sister, and brother-in-law were finishing up details when a small twister tore through the county, leaving them without power. They scrambled to relocate the food (thanks, Kath and Joey!) and finished their tasks by candlelight. Meanwhile, our lights never even flickered!

Chou thoroughly enjoyed the day with so many of his friends. Thanks to everyone who came out to help him celebrate this milestone! It meant so much to us!

And just in case anyone is keeping track, yes, we had golf ball sized hail on our wedding day (8/2/2008), E's baby shower was postponed for snow in October (10/29/2011), and Chou had a tornado for his 30th birthday party (although the weather on Saturday ended up being picture perfect). At least we dodged the hurricane that all my friends were predicting would blow through when E was born in December ;)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fun in the Kitchen - Making Chapati

I absolutely love making the food that I grew to love while interning in India. Now, five years later, I am so thankful I took the time to learn from our cooks and was able to bring home a handful of my favorite recipes.

This week we made subjee (vegetables) and chapati. Those smells wafting from our kitchen bring me right back to Mussoorie :) It's amazing how smells in and of themselves can trigger so many memories!

Chapati is a staple in India that we usually ate twice a day. It's a simple whole wheat flat bread that is absolutely delicious! Indians often eat with their hands, and chapati can be torn into small piece and used to cleanly scoop up rice and beans and anything else on the menu (although Indians have no trouble digging right in with their fingers).  

The best part is that it doesn't require any special ingredients. In fact, the only two ingredients in chapati are whole wheat flour and water. We use 4 cups whole wheat flour and 2 cups water, and add more flour if necessary to form a stiff dough.

Stiff dough
Then we take a small piece of dough (maybe a 1/3 cup) and roll it out thinly (think tortilla) on a floured surface. Indians can get perfectly round 100% uniform chapati every time, but any shape will do. Cook it over medium heat in a dry (no oil) cast iron skillet until it starts to get some air pockets and gets slightly browned on one side, usually a minute or two. Then we flip it and brown the second side.

Chapati cooking in skillet
And then comes the best part. When both sides are lightly browned, we place the cooked chapati over the open flame on our gas range for a second or two until it puffs up like a blowfish. Then very carefully we flip it to char the second side, cut the flame, and put it on our serving dish.

Puffed chapati that has just been flamed
Repeat this process until all the chapati are rolled and cooked. Serve with some amazing Indian food or anything else you are in the mood for. 

Steaming hot cauliflower and potato subjee

Friday, October 19, 2012

Favorite Things Fridays - Bob Jogging Stroller

Shortly after E was born, Chou and I realized we would need a jogging stroller for jogging (duh!) and gliding over rough terrain, including, but not limited to, the city sidewalks we use several times a week.

I immediately started researching which stroller we should purchase. The blessing of nursing a newborn is that what feels like 95% of your day will be spent feeding your newborn for the first several months. This leaves endless amounts of time to sit and research online, but significantly less time to leave the house. After reading hundreds of reviews, I decided the Bob was probably the best choice for us.

The Bob Revolution SE has an amazing suspension system, a comfy seat for E, a rotating front wheel that can be locked (ideal for walking and running/rough terrain, respectively), a large sun canopy, and is really light. Additionally, it folds up smaller than our Chicco stroller and easily fits into the trunk of my Civic.

We test drove it and many other strollers in several local stores, and ended up removing our shoes to use as uneven terrain in the middle of the uber smooth store floor. Yup, we're that cool :) We were now incredibly in love with this stroller, but not so smitten with the price tag.

For the next several weeks we stalked craigslist, eBay, and our local consignment stores. We were appalled that 5-year-old strollers were being sold for almost the cost of a new one and eventually decided it just wasn't worth the price difference.

At this point we went back to researching and tried out the strollers in local stores again. And I found this review stating that the Bob had saved a baby's life. The Bob was completely unharmed as a car ran into it, squeezing it between two cars as the baby slept in the stroller. In the end, one car had damage but the Bob and baby were just fine. You just can't argue with a life-saving stroller!

So we waited it out and eventually found a great deal and got a new stroller, 40% off with no shipping costs. It is worth every penny! We love our Bob! We have taken it to the beach, on a camping trip, and all over the city's uneven sidewalks. We've even taken it jogging ;) My biggest complaint is that it is seemingly self propelled and my husband always leaves me in the dust while pushing it. Seriously.

But honestly, the one and only thing I don't love about this stroller is the five-point harness. The shoulder straps don't adjust small enough to fit my daughter. At 10 months old and approximately 16 pounds, she's a peanut in about the fifth percentile on the CDC growth charts, and I get that she's tiny. But seriously, it's a bit ridiculous that the harness doesn't adjust small enough for a 10 month old. Just to be fair, the harness on our Chicco stroller, which we have been using for E since birth, is also still too big for her.

How we roll

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


It's the one word that describes E these days. I can remove her from playing in the dogs' water twenty times, and guaranteed she will go back the twenty-first time for one more splash.

This weekend I was so frustrated when all of my attempts to get her to stop pinching Titus were failing miserably. It didn't matter what I did, she kept coming back to pick on the poor dog. I complained to Chou who reminded me how incredibly important persistence and strong will are at this age. In The Baby Book, Dr. Sears shares that a strong will is actually a sign of health and without it a baby would not have the desire to get up and try walking again after falling every time she's tried in the past. 

As I go get E out of the dogs' water again, I need to keep reminding myself that this trying spirit is the very nature that will help her to learn so much in the coming months. However, it doesn't mean it's enjoyable for me right now. It's downright frustrating!

Which is why this post really hit home yesterday. Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom. I warn Chou that I love being a mom so much that I plan on having nine more kids :) E is just that awesome. But I have to admit that having a grumpy, teething, rarely sleeping day or night baby who keeps doing the very thing I don't want her to does not bring out the best in me. It more often brings out the worst. Maybe, just maybe, this burst of persistence is about more than enabling E to achieve developmental milestones. Maybe it's about me, too. About me learning patience. About me learning to be just as gentle the twenty-first time as I was the first time. And I should probably learn it now before the terrible twos and threes come :)

Puppy Love

Friday, October 12, 2012

Favorite Things Fridays

"Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things"

-My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music

I've decided I'll be ending every week with a post dedicated to my favorite things. This way I'll always end the week on a happy note and honestly it sounds like fun (at least to me!) This week is a no-brainer.   I mean, we have to get started off on the right foot!

Chou and E

These two are my favorite people ever! They're pretty much the most amazingly awesome people on the planet, and watching them together melts my heart. I love them!

I met Chou eight years ago in an engineering class. Chou always sat in the front, frequently gave our professor a hard time, and occasionally dozed off. We got to know each other in the small class, started doing homework together in the evenings, and we were dating by the end of the semester. One of the best decisions I ever made :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Last night, E woke me at 1am, choking and unable to breathe. I simultaneously jumped up, woke Chou, and grabbed E. I laid her belly down on my one hand, and used the other to gently pat her back. Almost immediately she began to projectile vomit all over my [clean] sheets.

And let me tell you, I have never in my life been so thankful that we cosleep. Before having E, I would never have dreamed about allowing my future children to sleep with me, and even last night as we were going to bed I was thinking that we really need to work on getting E to start the nights in her crib again (that stopped about a month ago when she started teething). Now I'm not so sure.

But I thank God she was in my bed last night, safely nestled next to me, and able to wake me when she needed help.

And tonight, I'll snuggle her extra close.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Welcome to our corner of the world

Well, we finally did it.

Here you'll find some of our likes and occasionally our dislikes. You'll find us open, honest, and generally incredibly satisfied with this little life we live.

We'll be posting recipes every once in a while of some of Chou's amazing creations. The majority of what we eat is whole, natural, and local if possible.

Of course there will be no shortage of posts on our sweet girl and what we are learning on our journey through parenthood.