Tuesday, July 31, 2012

White Cake with Nutella Icing

Baking just so happens to be a great pleasure of mine. Thinking of different ways of making or presenting cakes, such as a Christmas swirl pound cake, is quite exciting but can present some obstacles.

During the Christmas season at work, I wanted to make my friends in our office a Christmas (red and green) swirl pound cake. Now, I had made just the regular pound cake before. I thought I could add red food coloring to the batter before adding the egg whites which I would add green food coloring to. I thought it would be fun and festive. So, I did just that.

I was in my kitchen mixing away, adding this and that. Then as I was mixing the most anticipated parts together I noticed whole thing turned brown! It looked really weird and soupy but I thought, "Aaaa, it will rise." and I put it in the oven.

As I was putting up the ingredients, I realized that through my flurry of excitement of the swirl, I forgot to add flour!!!! I pulled it out really fast, added and stirred in the flour. However, in doing so I deflated my egg whites. Not only did my pound cake not rise, but it was so condensed that is was like a smashed brown cake. A sheer disaster...

I'm sure you're wondering if I took it to work... You bet I did! I had made two cakes, one for work and one for home so I had the opportunity to taste it. It tasted good to me so I took it to work. I was scolded by my friend RR for bring such a mess in the office to share. However, there was one person who liked it and asked for the recipe, though I think he was the only one that enjoyed it. Four years had pasted and my friend RR still questioned my cooking abilities even when I cooked many more items over the years that he enjoyed. I will never live that one down.

Now why am I mentioning that today? Well it's because I did something much similar the other day. I was trying a new cake recipe out and when it came time to add the vanilla extract, I remembered I had a bit of vanilla bean left over. So I added it in and while engrossed by the smell, I failed to realize there were more ingredients to add. I poured my batter in the cake pan and thought, "Wow, this is really thick like brownie batter but it's a new recipe.".

Once in the oven I checked to make sure I added everything. Lo and behold, I left out the milk! I pulled the cake out, added the milk, stirred and put it back in oven. I dreaded the worst when it was done but since it didn't have stiff-peaked egg whites as a rising agent, I did have a little hope.

Forgetting to add the milk for a time had very little affect on the outcome. When it came out of the oven it was really good but to take it a step further, I had to add nutella for good measure. Below is my version of white cake iced with nutella.

White Cake

1 c sugar
1/2 c butter
2 eggs
1/2 in vanilla bean, inside scraped
2 t almond extract
1 1/2 c flour
1 3/4 t baking powder
1/2 c milk (not to be forgotten)

Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Prepare a square 8 x 8 in cake pan by coating with a non-stick spray or with butter then a dusting of flour. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add the vanilla bean scrapping and almond extract and mix. Add flour, baking powder, and milk. Mix it well until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour into prepared cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes until inserted tooth pick comes out clean. Let it cool and add a thin layer of nutella then enjoy.

Of course this is just my version. Remember you can ice it with anything, add chocolate chips, whoppers, mousse or fruit spread or keep it plain. It's your cake, add what you like.

Until next time, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rocking My Big Baby Girl

Before our son came along, our daughter had the advantage of having our attention solely on her. My favorite moment of the day was getting to rock and sing her to sleep. It never failed. A full belly, warm bath, warm jammies, lights out, prayer, and snuggle time. Just rocking and singing. I never thought there would be a time I wouldn't hold her and rock her to sleep.

Three songs I would sing her for three years EVERY NIGHT (with a few exceptions, like times I had over-night travels) until 4 months ago. When the dude came along and we moved into our house, the rocking chairs were used for him. I would rock him downstairs in our room and upstairs in his.

The girl had her new big girl bed from her awesome aunt, uncle and cousin. The bedtime routine changed to my husband and I laying beside her on her bed, read (or really make up) a princess story, prayer, and kisses goodnight. She recently started wanting me to sing to her again so we added that. Then last night she wanted me to rock and sing her to sleep. How could I pass that up!!??

I got her ready for bed and we started rocking away. She was longer and heavier than before. However, I didn't have a big pregnant belly anymore so she actually fit on my lap. I started singing her favorite song and mine as well, Amazing Grace. Of course I'm an emotional person, so I got a little teary-eyed remembering back when her little feet just barely touched the arms of the chair and now they are draped over my legs. Her once little hands are bigger now with longer fingers, very kid like. Her big light blue eyes fading out to la-la land every verse I sing. Her beautiful long strawberry-blonde hair all swaying away with each rock. I thought, my husband and I made this beautiful little creature that I'm holding in my arms!

The next song, Be Thou My Vision followed by If You Want Me To by Ginny Owens. Again, teary-eyed. I thought to myself, I really missed this! She's growing up way too fast!! Though, one thing that I love is she love my cooking (most of the time) and she loves my singing. I don't sing for just anyone but for her I'd sing until my voice went out. Once I was done, she was out. I carried her upstairs to her room, gave her lots of kisses and tucked her in her girly girl bed. She slept all night long. Guess who's moving the rocking chair upstairs to her room tonight? That's right... Me.

Bottom line, your babies are never too old to rock to sleep. Though, I might change my tune when she's 18. I better start lifting more weights.

Until next time, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hibachi-Style Fried Rice

If there is one thing I love most in the world is cooking something that my family loves to eat. A food that my husband and daughter really love is hibachi-style fried rice. Being the detail-oriented person that I am, I studied the hibachi chefs to figure out how they made it. I noted that everything is fried and has lots of butter. So with that in mind I set off to experiment. I tried a couple of attempts and he loved it! Now, it does have a lot of butter but it's makes it really good!

So below is my version of hibachi-style fried rice. Caution: I generally don't measure ingredients so measurements are a guestimation. I go by taste along the way.

Hibachi-Style Fried Rice

2 c white rice, cooked (not mushy)
3 eggs
1/4 c white onion, chopped
1/3 c peas, frozen
1/3 c carrots, chopped
1/3 c corn, frozen
Olive oil
Soy sauce

Heat a 10 in skillet pan on med-high heat. Drizzle olive oil and allow to heat a little. Add onions, peas, carrot, corn and toss around to evenly coat with the olive oil. Heat thoroughly, 3-4 minutes. Push vegetables to the sides of the pan. Add a tablespoon of butter to the empty part of the pan and let melt. Add eggs to the melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Scrabbled as they cook. Gradually incorporate the vegetables. Once completely mixed add rice, more butter, soy sauce (again, to your taste) and once all mixed, allow contents to fry a bit 2-3 minutes. Then turn and allow to fry yet again. Once it is to your satisfaction, take off heat. Allow fried rice to cool and enjoy!

Until next time*, kindest blogging wishes!!!

*- I was doing this daily but some times I just don't have the time as the two little ones are busy busy busy...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Science Momma Meets Ear Infections

When my daughter started daycare at 5 months old, she would be introduced to all kinds of new viruses. Some viruses I had not seen growing up thus the antibodies she received in my milk were not specific and would not be protective. Every time she had the sniffles or a fever, I was desperate to try to figure out what was wrong and where she was hurting. We ate together and I kissed her even if she had lots of drool just so I could catch whatever virus she had. Secondary to the viral infections, she was constantly plagued by ear infections.

A moment where my scientific mind and mommy hood united was when the bouts of ear infections got out of control. On the 5th round of antibiotics, I asked the pediatrician, "Could we be enriching a drug-resistant strain?". She said no. From August to December, she had been on 13 rounds of various antibiotics to treat the inflamed ears but the infections never truly went away. Sleepless nights, antibiotic side effects, and high fevers, were just a few irritations we would become familiar with.

The final straw came when the 13th round of the strongest antibiotics didn't improve the inflammation. Our daughter wasn't even one year old yet and we were referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. After assessing the infections in both ears and the history, the specialist concluded she needed ear tubes. So we scheduled the surgery. It made me so nervous as a mom to have my baby under the bright surgery light at such a young age.

The day of the surgery, we headed to the hospital, she went immediately to surgery, less than an hour later she was in recovery. We went back and I could hear her little cry. I held her, comforted her and nursed her as she was still under a year (I prefer to nurse for a full year). Now, the doctor came and talked to us about the surgery and said he took a sample of the microbe and sent it to get identified. Everything looked great and we were ready to go home to let her sleep. Later that day, she woke up from her nap and was a totally different baby! She could hear better, babble better and was in such a great mood! We were all happy!

A few days passed and the doctor called. He said the bacteria that was found in both ears was indeed a particular drug-resistant strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae. He also said if the ear tubes did not help the infection, there was only one antibiotic that could be used but they do not like to use it on children younger than 15 years old as the mildest side effect is spontaneous rupture of tendons.

I was not about to have to rely on yet another antibiotic. I knew she had conjugate pneumococcal vaccines as scheduled but I didn't know if it contained that particular strain. After some research, I found the pediatric pneumoccocal vaccine did not cover that strain, or any drug resistant strain for that matter, so she did not have immunity against it. However, there was a vaccine that did have that particular strain. It was the adult pneumonia vaccine!!

Since I was still nursing, I had the unique capability to get vaccinated with the pneumonia vaccine, let my B cells make their specific antibodies against the different Streptococcus pneumoniae strains (including the drug-resistant strains), and after about 10 days they would be secreted in the milk. Once she fed, those antibodies contained in the milk would attach to her mucous membrane in the mouth and would traffic to the nasal passages. So, in less than 24 hrs after receiving that phone call from the doctor, I had my pneumonia vaccine administered. I just cheered my cells on!! "Go go!! The girl needs your help!!". The count down was on. Yes, I am proud to say I'm a nerd.

We went back in to the doctor a month later and found the ear tubes did the work but I think it was in combination with the new and improved antibodies. She had the tubes for about a year and they fell out. After they fell out, she had another ear infection. We were obviously nervous because of what we had previously gone through.

Her regular pediatrician was not available to see us but her colleague was so we saw him. He checked her ears and indeed she had another ear infection. Since he had just gotten back from a Ear, Nose and Throat conference, he had a tip that changed the course of events from the past. It was to always use saline spray in the morning and at night in the nasal passages. This allows for the nasal passages to stay moist and less inflamed if there is irritation. We did this and haven't had trouble since!

So if you have kids or are around kids, add saline spray to the back-to-school supply list because the viruses are just waiting to leap from one kid to the other. Where there are viruses, a risk for ear infections are always a possibility.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chocolate Chip Nutella Cinnamon Rolls

Soon after I was introduced to my boyfriend (now husband), I was introduced to Nutella. Before Nutella was shipped commercially to the US, my husband always had a supply from his sister who lived in Germany. I have always loved chocolate but Nutella takes any chocolate experience to the next level.

One day, I really wanted to make cinnamon rolls from scratch. So I searched the Internet for a recipe. What I found was a crazy awesome Nutella Cinnamon Rolls!! What?? Seriously!! I was so excited! I started right away! I made them and they were out of this world. However, it needed something... Something of wholesome goodness... More chocolate!! So, the next batch I sprinkled chocolate chips all over the Nutella right before rolling it up. Below is my modified recipe for Nutella Cinnamon Rolls:

Chocolate Chip Nutella Cinnamon Rolls (modified from

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
5 cups flour, divided (1/2 cup for rolling out)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 bag chocolate chips

For the glaze (for three 8″ pans of rolls):
3 cups powdered sugar
6 Tbsp milk

In a large pot, whisk together the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar. Scald the mixture (heat until just about to boil), and then turn off the heat. Let cool 45 minutes to an hour. When the mixture is lukewarm, whisk in the yeast and let it begin to dissolve. Stir in 4 1/2 cups of the flour, and then cover and let rise at least an hour.

Next, add in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Turn out on to a floured surface and gently knead as much of the 1/2 cup as possible. Form the dough into a rough rectangle and roll thin, maintaining the rectangular shape. In a small bowl, add the nutella. Cut the butter into chunks and then add it to the bowl as well. Microwave on low heat just until the butter melts. Stir until smooth.

Spread the nutella and butter mixture over the rolled out dough and follow with a sprinkling of chocolate chips and cinnamon.

Starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough toward you, keeping it as tight as possible. Pinch the seam to seal it at the end. It’s okay if some of the filling oozes out.

Spray three 8" round foil cake pans with cooking spray. Cut the rolls approximately 3/4" to 1" thick, and lay them in the pans. Let rise 20-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake the rolls 15-18 minutes or until light golden brown. To make the glaze, mix together the powdered sugar and milk and stir until smooth; it should be thick. Split the glaze between the three pans and generously drizzle it over the warm rolls.

If you want to make this for work and want a splitting point, reach the point when the milk mixture, yeast, and flour has risen. Place in the refrigerator until the next morning. Roll out, spread Nutella/butter mixture, roll up, and cut. Let rise, bake and add glaze. Head to work and take pride in your awesome breakfast! If you're late, they'll know why and should thank you. If not, shame on them.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Green Pepper Experiment

The best thing about science is you learn from testing. Going though the thought process and reasoning, "if this happens then this should happen...". Well, I think this way often. One particular instance involved green peppers.

Now I loved green peppers so much growing up that I got grounded for eating all the green peppers in my grandmother's neighbor's garden. How did they know it was me? Well, I would leave a little pile of seeds and stems around the back row where I slithered in and that always occurred when I was at her house.

About 15 years ago, I just couldn't imagine a person not liking green peppers. They were crispy, tangy, watery, and wholesome! Then I met my husband (then boyfriend). He didn't like them but I was for sure it's because he hadn't tasted them. So I pursued my experiment using the scientific method.

Green Pepper Experiment

Formulated question: Does he really not like green peppers?

Hypothesis: Surely he likes them but just didn't know it yet.

Prediction: If he tasted it, he would like them.

*Test: During a time where my boyfriend (now husband) had a cell graph of cells from one eye to the other (a surgery needed as a result of an unfortunate firework eye injury) which left him blind for about a week, I had taken him to a sandwich shop for lunch. He got a meatball sub and I got a turkey with, of course, green peppers were among the veggies.

As we were sitting there eating, I thought it would be a great time to test my hypothesis. So when he was in between bites, I placed a green pepper sliver on the area he would take his next bite. I waited patiently and when the next bite came, I just knew he would really like it!!! Now please note, I had no premeditated intentions of testing my hypothesis in this manner. The opportunity just presented itself.

Analysis: Well, he gagged with the bite containing the green pepper so my hypothesis null. He truly didn't like them and he knew it. I felt really bad but I did chuckle a little only because he's really funny by nature and his reaction was priceless. I know, I'm surprised he stayed with me after that too.

*Caution, don't try this on anyone. Guilt and shame will follow.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday's Recipe: The Great Golubsky

I have always clung to my Russian heritage for several reasons. Brilliant scientists were Russian, great gymnasts were Russian (Who can forget Nadia Comaneci in the 1976 Summer Olympics. I saw a movie about her as I wasn't even born yet), and my grandfather's family was from Russia.

Now, I've been told that my grandfather's parents were exiled from Russia to the Ukraine. At some point they made it to the US and took up residence in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania they were coal miners and were not the wealthiest but they got by. One of the meals they ate often were Golubsky. It is cabbage leaves stuffed with beef, onion, rice, garlic and topped with tomatoes. So today's recipe is in honor of my grandfather, uncle and my dad.

I have never made this before and I haven't even eaten this since I was a kid. Since there were many recipes out there on the internet, I had to call on my aunt and my mom to help me with it. Since there wasn't exactly a recipe to use for all the measurements I just kinda guessed. Below is my version of Golubsky.


1 head of cabbage
1 cup uncooked rice
2 lb beef, raw
1/2 medium onion, diced,
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 t salt
1 t pepper
2 can rotel (diced tomatoes and chile peppers)

Parboil the cabbage whole and as the leaves get tender pull them off and set aside. Do this until all leaves are removed. In a large mixing bowl add rice, beef, onion, garlic, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix until well incorporated. Add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup beef mixture to the white veiny part then roll up like a burrito. Place them in a large pot stacking them as you go. Then when all the leaves are stuffed and rolled up, top stuffed cabbage rolls with rotel (or traditionally stewed tomatoes). Add some of the liquid from the water used to parboil the cabbage, maybe a cup or so. Place a lid tightly on top and boil for 45 minutes.

Now I naturally had to make sure they were done so I pulled one out and cut it open. It was done. Then I had to make sure it tasted good... It did! My dad used to eat them with ketchup so I had to taste it again using ketchup! It was even better! Boy did it bring back memories!

My dad didn't like these growing up and I didn't know that until yesterday. My uncle on the other hand loves them so much he had my aunt make him 150 of them. He really cracks me up!! I can now happily say my daughter and husband love them too so I have yet another dish to add to my dinner repertoire (or in my uncle's case, breakfast and lunch too). Thanks to my aunt and mom for helping me make these.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Anti-Spider Cocktail

Bugs are a major annoyance to me as well as a health hazard. A health hazard because sometimes my hand hurts when I smash a bug dead on any kind of hard surface, my anxiety is risen when I see one (where there is one, there's more), and they are carriers of nasty parasites, bacteria, and/or viruses. Bottom line, I truly, deeply, and utterly despise bugs. Now you're probably asking what kind of bug. Well, let me see... Spiders, ants, flies, wasps, roaches, fleas, spiders, mosquitos and spiders all the creepy crawly and flying ones (no, there isn't a typo. I did say spiders three times). However, ladybugs, caterpillars, and butterflies are cute so I like them.

So why this sudden burst of negative tone? Well since I stay at home all day everyday, I get to see the little nasty creatures creeping thru my house. Also, when my daughter is playing outside, she gets bitten and giant itchy welps develop later. Watching her suffer later itching like crazy, makes me sad so I decided to take action.

A few months ago we purchased Ortho Home Defense Max. We sprayed inside and out. It did good for a while. Then we started to see spiders again. We were hesitating on spraying again because we just didn't like the chemicals being around the kids so we sought for a more natural option. We found EcoSmart Organic Home Pest Control. Among the ingredients are oil of peppermint, cloves, rosemary and thyme. Since we were having a losing battle with bugs in the back yard we decided we would drop the bug spray on them.

After we got home from the home improvement store, I sent my husband out there armed with the bug spray. When he came back in, he was carrying an empty bug spray container and I noticed a strong smell... It was my husband! He smelled like a chai tea latte but so did the back yard. Now I love that smell but my daughter, husband and dog do not. After a few days, the smell dwindled but still no bugs.

Back inside was a different story. We believe the bugs hated the smell too and many including spiders were trekking their way into our house! I saw three spiders and that was enough. Again, trying to stay away from chemicals, I made my own anti-spider powder. Doing my own research, I found they do not like black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. So since I had all those herbs, I combined them all, mixed and sprinkled the powder around all the door entryways, under sinks and windows. Since doing this, I have yet to see any. That's what I call a job well done!

Now, I must warn you, if you try this anti-spider powder and have ceiling fans, expect to sneeze a few times. On the up side, your house will smell like Christmas.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Our Big Blue Summer Toy

This morning I woke up to do my usual routine. I fed my baby boy, walked downstairs, turned off the outside lights, turned on the coffee pot, open the blinds in the living room and noticed I giant huge blue thing in our backyard!!! Then I remembered, "Ahhh my husband put up a pool yesterday..."

Just to give you an idea of the layout of our backyard, its about 30ft x 40ft but it has a retaining wall that takes out about 10ft x 40ft of it and stands about 4 ft tall with four medium trees and stairs to access it. So we have a pretty small backyard. In that small area, we have a swing set that the awesome homeowners left which is on the right side of the yard and on the left side is this gianormous 4 ft deep, 15 ft round above ground pool, again, compliments of the previous awesome homeowners. This pool is a really nice well kept pool that can be broken down at the end of the summer and stored until next year.

Even though we have a small backyard, I really would eventually like a mini-inground pool just to wade around in the summer. I've done my research and found they just don't fit our budget at this time and not to mention our little babies are too small to have freedom around a potential danger. I would rather be the one who controls access with a ladder instead of them being able to just walk in.

This pool is a great summer activity for our little girl. When we were at my in-law's oasis, our daughter swam her little heart out from sun up to sun down. She had lots of fun! So my husband and I were open to putting the pool together that had been stored in the attic. After he got it down, 2 hrs later we had a hose in it filling it up and our little angel had her life vest on splashing around.

Since this pool is 4 ft tall and takes up the majority of the left side of our yard and our table and chairs cannot overlook the pool on the patio, I have found the perfect spot for me and my little man to watch our little fish swim. Remember that retaining wall I mentioned that splits up our yard? Well it just so happens to be the perfect height to the pool. So, I decided to hoist a chair up there under a tree and VOILA!! I have my lifeguard perch up there with a perfect view and perfect shade.

Hot summer days in the south warrant a pool. Though I will have to say I am praying that it doesn't burst over the sides because if it does, we won't need the pool... we will be swimming in our living room!

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why I Run

In previous blogs I've mentioned how I used to be a musician. In high school, I played flute in band. Generally, flutists are placed in the front and all other instruments are behind them so once the music begins it surrounds them, reverberates them and they become engulfed in the whole experience of being a small part of something much bigger. Our old band director chose the best musical pieces that had intensity and disharmony that resolves eventually in a beautiful expression of music. I loved being surrounded and lost in the music and at times really understood what the writer was trying to get across. Since I don't play anymore, the best way to get that feeling is to listen to music with headphones.

When I run, I like to listen to Pandora radio on my iPhone. If you don't know what Pandora radio is, it is an iPhone app that has radio stations of various artists, (for example, Dave Matthews or Miles Davis). The radio station will play music of that artist but also songs from other artists based on the type of genre. When I run, I prefer to listen to Skillet radio. Skillet is a Christian alternative rock band.

Today started out like another day at the gym trying to regain my endurance to run a half marathon in November. As I was struggling on the treadmill to figure out a rhythm, a song came on that was not a Skillet song but rather a song from the Dark Knight soundtrack. It started out quiet and then started to build. I could feel my steps going in rhythm of the song. Then, I focused on a crack in the wall as the song's intensity built. I was in the zone, breathing was consistent and I had a sustainable rhythm.

Throughout the song I felt like I could go really far and fast! I felt like I had a purpose, to chase down a bad guy or jump to the neighboring building... In reality, if I jumped it would be the person in front of me doing her workout on the elliptical machine. The song was ending and my focused running self was too. I was out of breath and after I glanced at my heart rate and it was well over aerobic level! So I backed off the speed and cooled down. I thought to myself how awesome it would have been to be in that symphony playing that incredible masterpiece.

Some people love to run without music or any device that distracts from the nature of running. Some people love to have running partners to talk to during their run. I like those too but I feel I run my best when I'm lost in the music... So the reason I run is to get lost in my music, to get healthier, and to eat really good food. If you run, what do you run for?

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Steak and Potatoes

My favorite dish to make is called Beouf Bourguignon. It has such an elegant taste beef, bacon, onions, mushrooms, and let us not forget the most important ingredient, wine! It seems complex to a newbie aspiring to trail after the late Julia Child but over time and much practice the techniques become second nature. Last night, using those same techniques I created an incredible dish that can stand next to Beouf Bourguignon as a fierce contender.

When I was working, making dinners from scratch for a starving toddler and a burly husband was not fun because I was just so exhausted at the end of the day especially when I was pregnant. Some nights we would end up ordering out or making frozen dinners. Given that I love to cook and bake, resorting to ordering out or making frozen dinners was irritating and really made me cringe. Staying at home has allowed me to cook a LOT and get creative in the process!

This amazing dish I made last night is so simple and was so amazing that I wish I had created it sooner. My husband is in the process of coming up with a name but he was distracted by the dish's awesomeness. It will be updated in the future.

Dish that has no name, for now...

1- 1 in thick T-bone steak, cubed
6 slices of bacon, cut into small rectangles
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves, smashed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 T flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a roaster (which mine is from the awesomest youth group ever--ACBC yoots! What what!!), combine the steak, bacon, sweet potatoes, onion, and garlic. Drizzle olive oil then add salt and pepper. Mix well. Add flour and gently mix once more just so the flour coats most of the ingredients. Place in preheated oven for one hour mixing half way through. When finished remove, let cool and serve. I wanted to do wilted spinach but I too was distracted by the awesomeness of this dish but I will next time.

I know that I said that Sunday's would be recipe days but you know what, when a crazy awesome creation is born... It must be shared with the readers of this blog!

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

The Perfect Cup'o Joe

Have you ever drank a cup of coffee and wondered why it tasted so bitter? Or why the last sips were so sugary? Now, unless you like the element of surprise in each sip you take each morning (or whenever you drink it), I have decided there is a science to not only brewing coffee but also preparing that perfect cup of sweetened coffee.

Over the years, I've noticed that coffee brewed from grounds of a freshly opened bag doesn't taste the same as coffee brewed from the last grounds of the bag. Is it from lack of freshness of being opened for awhile or is it because all the smaller coffee grounds have all settled to the bottom creating a strong and bitter taste when brewed? I believe it is both. Again, if you like the variety in the different cups of coffee over the life span of the coffee bag, then read no more and go to the next paragraph. Now, ways to ensure a great tasting coffee every time is, of course, to have coffee beans which are ground just before the brewing process.  However, if you're like me and buy a bag or can of coffee you can always turn it upside down and shake it up to mix the small grounds on the bottom with the larger ones on top.  To address the freshness aspect, I've been told that freezing the coffee preserves the freshness if the coffee grounds are not used often enough.

I love to have milk and sugar in my coffee though not a lot, just enough to make it taste like liquid heaven. So, have you ever noticed your coffee starting out lightly sweet and then gets sickening sweeter the closer you get to the bottom? If you said yes but like the element of surprise, please proceed to the next paragraph. If you said yes and don't like the element of surprise, let me school you with the following illustration. Have you seen a tornado touch down whether in person or on TV? The bigger and well established the tornado, the bigger distribution of debris. The smaller and weaker the tornado, the less distribution. So basically, the bigger the tornado you make with your spoon in stirring your coffee, the better the sugar will be dispersed. However, it also might come with the spillage of coffee over the rim so I have developed a method of stirring that fixes the problem.  Stir your coffee with a spoon (not a wooden stick unless you like the taste of wood in your coffee) 8 times or until you feel the sugar is dissolved then after every 3 stirs draw the dissolved sugar up by picking up the spoon then stir again three times and draw up...  Do that about 3 times.  Now you have successfully stirred your coffee, it's still in your cup, and it's completely homogenized with sugar.

For those of you who have ended up here because you like the element of surprise in the taste of coffee over time and/or you like different degrees of sweetness in every sip, hats off to you my friend!  You are a wild one!  I hope this has help you in some way to have a great cup of coffee.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Great Things About Being a SAHM

Being with my children all day everyday is a total blessing! I get to really find out about them and their characteristics, learn their likes and dislikes, and comfort them when they don't feel well. While daycares are a necessity or a want for some people, in my opinion, I love being the one to tell my husband the good news of them learning something for the first time!! For instance, just today my girl caught a softball 5 times in a row (which, her reward was me doing a cartwheel. Yes, I know you would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that. It was pretty ridiculous...) and she also learned what to do if a tornado came, if someone broke in, and how to call emergency personnel from my cell phone.

My daughter had been in daycare for 2.5 yrs and I felt like I missed a lot. Even though sleeping at night is the best thing to do, I was so happy when my girl would wake up so I could hold and rock her back to sleep. I truly couldn't appreciate her personality and though I thought I knew her, there was much more for me to learn as well as a beautiful relationship to nurture.

Staying at home the last 4 months, I have seen her transform from a wild toddler who had inconsistent discipline and boundaries during the day to a child that stays within them and flourishes. I've learned my daughter can really focus on something for at least an hour if not more. I found that she is incredibly artistic and creative as are most kids this age but she just blows me away with her attention to detail. She is constantly matching and grouping things according to color, shape, or purpose and more recently by its sound. Also, her memory of stuff we did last year is incredible!! For example, she talks about when we went fishing with her uncle, carved pumpkins, went to the candle store on vacation, or wondered what happened to her old toothbrush.

With my little boy, I have learned the way he communicates as each cry has a distinct sound, watched him go from 7 lbs to 17 lbs though it's totally oblivious to me, fed him his first homemade pureed carrots, and even witnessed his rolling over for the first time! Today, he had his 4 month check up and every momma knows that this visit comes with vaccines. The impending and piercing cries erupting after the shots can really make a mom cringe but once my son had his injected, I picked him up and comforted him. What a great privilege to be the one to hold him and comfort him when he's hurt or upset and the same for my daughter, for that matter, for the rest of their lives! I love being a mom!!!

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday's Recipe - Wacky Cake

A blog about transitioning from a scientist to a stay-at-home-mom wouldn't be the same if it didn't have recipes.  So my goal is every Sunday I will share a recipe either that I have made time and time again or it is one that I've never tried before.  I love a challenge!  If you have a recipe you'd like me to try, please share!  My kitchen is my new "lab" and I love it!

Wacky Cake (slightly modified from my grandmother's recipe)

1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 c. water
1 T. apple cider vinegar (or regular vinegar)
1 t. vanilla
Whoppers, chocolate chips, Nutella, and/or confectioners sugar... Anything really or nothing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour an 8in x 8in or an 8in round cake pan. Mix the first five ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Then make a hole in the center and add the oil, water, vinegar, and vanilla. Mix until blended well. Pour into prepared cake pan. Get creative... Sprinkle chocolate chips and/or crushed whoppers on top, swirl in some nutella, or leave it plain. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool. Again, get creative... Dust with confectioners sugar, smear icing on top, use a chocolate sauce, mousse or nothing. Add whatever you feel like. It's your cake.

Next Sunday, my next throw-back recipe will be my grandfather's (who was Russian) Golubtsy which are stuffed cabbage rolls. I haven't had these since I was a kid!

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Going from PhD to Stay-at-Home-Mom

It's always been a goal for my husband and I to get in a position suitable for me to stay at home. Last year with the news of our little bun-in-the-oven, really set the timeline for me to make the commitment. I truly loved my work, my projects, and of course my co-workers but my family came first.

I've always worked. I babysat kids in my early teenage years but my first real job was at the local YMCA. Again, I love the smell of chlorine so I was in the right place for me. I, then, eventually became a lifeguard and a swim instructor that I worked as until I graduated college with my BS. So, working for me has been a way of life for more than half of my existence, changing would not be an easy thing.

A year ago, we were developing the next generation of a therapeutic HIV vaccine and which was heavily involved. I couldn't imagine myself not there but I also couldn't imagine myself not at home either. The struggle was the same one when I was determined to go into cardiology (blog: Flashback part 1). I thought of different scenarios to try to make both work and my family happy. One would be staying in the city working and hiring a Nannie. However, I know what my kids need and there's only three people I trust to take care of my children outside of my husband and I. So that option was out. Another option was to be part-time or even a contractor just a few days a week but too many people were doing that already so I wasn't too confident I could do that too.

Time was getting closer for me to return as my maternity leave was coming to an end. I had to make up my mind. My husband and I decided it would be best to just part ways. You must know that I loved that job! I grew so much there. I was encouraged to explore and to understand what I was doing. The smallest detail would constantly ring through my mind like, "is the pH causing the cells to not produce this or that?", "could I have incubated longer?", "at what point will the genes up regulate production of X?", or "what would happen if I threw everything in the culture plate together? Would it make biological sense?". All my energy was in my work but not as much as at home. I thought to myself, "Where would my family be if I put all my energy there?"

We really thought that this decision would really be hard for me to make and we were right. However, it was temporary during my two weeks notice that I worked out. I would cry to and from work, an hour to an hour and a half each way, remembering all the good times and all the bad times too. So my crying was fueled by sadness, by anger, you name it! I was a mess! I really thought this job defined me. It really didn't. Remembering back when I wanted to be a cardiologist and I immersed myself in all aspect of heart disease I really could do it but I wanted a family, to be with them, and watch them grow. I completely stopped with no hesitation. Same in this situation. I landed a job, learned the science of it, became good at what I did then had a family... It was time to focus on them.

The best thing I learned about myself is it's not one particular subject that defines me but rather the questions I asked. If I found something broken then I would try to fix it. Having all the tools around me and people who are considered experts in their field really helped me along the way. Then I must ask you, "Are you defined by your job or your thought process?". I know my little brother has the same thought process as I do. That man can take a part a car and put it back together without a manual because he understands cars and what they need to function as a car.

So I must end here and go get car tags for my husbands car.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!

Friday, July 6, 2012

La Cobb Hacienda - The Move

Previously, I had described how we found our house. Now the move was a bit interesting. Since we lived an hour away from our newly purchased home, timing was everything. We had to purchase our beautiful refrigerator, had to have stuff packed for the movers, have the new house professionally cleaned before the move, all the while our son was only around 3 weeks old nursing every 1.5 to 2 hours and our 3 yr old was stir-crazy!

A few days prior to the move, we purchased our beautiful refrigerator. We didn't want to pay for shipping (I'm painfully frugal) so we were going to have some friends transport it the new house but Best Buy had the best deal for our refrigerator which included FREE delivery. FREE!!! I about fill out my seat!!! I was so excited!!

I know I go on about this refrigerator but this was big!! With the exception of our cheap-o washer and dryer, we have never bought a major appliance before. One that will be with us forever! Case in point, my parent's refrigerator they have now, they purchased when I was pretending I was a high-falootin' city girl (6 or 7 yrs old) so I know the importance of buying something that you'll want to have around for 25+ years to come.

We were expecting to move in on a Sunday and the previous owners wanted to work with us to get the carpet cleaner (responsibility on their part) and house cleaners (our want) scheduled on Saturday so it would be ready Sunday. This left Saturday night and Sunday morning to get the rest of our stuff packed. It would prove to be tricky! What I haven't told you is my husband's family was in town as well as my little brother and his girlfriend. They all helped in getting the packing done and we truly thank them for that!

Sunday morning, moving day, we woke up a few hours early to get stuff packed, beds broken down, cars packed with delicate stuff including the drum set. Yes yes!! My husband's prized drum set! When he was sixteen, he worked at a pizza shop to gather enough money to buy a custom made, Premier Genista drum set. It is very handsome kinda like him. The poor drum set has set in storage for years - 14 to be exact!

The movers arrived and all chaos arose!! It was totally awesome chaos!! Now let me name drop here but the movers from Jesse's Moving Company did an amazing job!! They did not stop moving until the job was done. They came in, assessed what would be moved and busted their tails. I was breaking down my daughter's bed when they had already wrapped up the couch's and moved them to the truck. The place started to look bear every trip they made. We have used these movers before so we knew it was going to be epoch.

Everything was packed into the truck with absolutely no space for anything else. Those last items left at the apartment we would eventually get later. We all made a B-line to the new house. Like I said timing was everything. Once we got there while Rusty was directing the movers, friends and family, I needed to get new beds for us and our daughter. So after I fed my son, I handed him off to my mother-in-law and the countdown began. I had an hour or so before the next feeding. My awesome sister- and brother-in-law and I all went to the closest Sam's Club. We purchased what we needed and headed back home. Needless to say, their pickup truck was filled with pillows, mattresses, box springs, comforter sets, and more pillows! We got home, fed my son and again out the door to buy groceries while others put the beds together...

I will say it was an extremely stressful time for my husband and I but we had a great support system to help out! We have decided we will stay in this house forever because the stress of moving is something we don't want to experience again. This beautiful house would soon become the house I happily get to spend most of my days after my retirement from my full-time job. That will be for another time.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The In-law's Oasis

Summertime just isn't the same without a visit to my in-laws. They live in the country away from big city living. Their backyard can be described as an oasis with a view of miniature horses roaming about a gated pasture. They have a nice-sized pool with several covered sitting areas for shelter from the hot summer days. Being that they live in the country, they are also surrounded by a lot tall trees.

One tree in particular, has caught my eye over the years. It's a cottonwood that stands taller than any other tree beside it. Every May, I await that summer morning that I wake up, head out to sit by the pool with my coffee in hand, and admire that tree. Now, you're probably thinking, "A tree?". Yes, a tree. Working long hours, stressed out that an experiment didn't yield expected or desired results, or just the overall feeling of being worn out, I couldn't help but to admired that tree. It is free to frolic around in the wind without a care in the world. Who wouldn't like to do that? As the leaves submit their movement to the wind, the flickering of the sun's rays makes it seem as though they are giving each other hi-fives. It is at that moment that I decide to leave all my cares back home and enjoy the spa-like environment. After all, I'm at our Nannie and Papa's house (that has been my mother- and father-in-laws names every since I've known them).

Over the years, this backyard has seen many party's. The party's that are for no reason other than it's hot outside and everyone wants to chill by the cool sparkly pool, birthday party's, Fourth of July's, Mother's and Father's days, and wedding receptions. This backyard has seen a lot and has made many, MANY happy memories for a lot of people. So, today my hat's off to this restful, enjoyable, and serene oasis at the in-laws.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Illuminations and the Fourth of July

The dream of being a pyrotechnic stunt person is lived in the minds and hearts of kids this day in the USA. In 1776, it was documented that we, the USA, declared our independence from Britain (also known as our Fourth of July). John Adams, one of the founding fathers of our country, wrote his wife and said this day would be an epoch day in US history and would be celebrated with "pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other..." ("Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, ‘Had a Declaration…’". Adams Family Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society. Retrieved June 28, 2009.). What more encouragement did a kid need to celebrate by going to a firework stand and buying various forms of "illuminating devices" (aka fireworks)?

My earliest memory of the Fourth of July was playing with sparklers at my aunt's house. For those of you who do not know what a sparkler is, it is a skinny foot or foot in a half long metal rod that when lit sparks like a welders tool. All the safety measures were instilled in me like "don't put your fingers in the sparkly part.", "don't touch the metal afterwards because it will be too hot", and "don't leave them on the ground because someone could step on it.". It was always a tradition for my family and I to all go to the firework stands and buy all kinds of fireworks, go back home set them off, then go to a nearby city and see a spectacular display of pyrotechnics.

Now, this day would not be the same if I didn't highlight some of the most irresponsible moments of my childhood because everyone knows that kids + fire = disaster... Several years in a row my brothers and I would light jumping jacks (small balls of fire that jumped around on the ground) in a hollow tree in our backyard. The tree never caught on fire but when we arrived home from watching the firework show, a firetruck would be at the house dousing the smoking tree with water. The neighborhood was laden with heavy smoke not only from all the fireworks that the neighborhood kids and us were letting off but also by this decrypted old tree that was smoking! After the firetruck left, we would start firing bottle rockets across the street in a friendly battle with other neighborhood kids. Then, I can't forget the time my little brother and I caught a nearby creek on fire, but we won't go there...

Another irresponsible, yet memorable moment is when we were at my childhood best friend's house, my silly older brother (who can be very much like Clark Griswold) lit a bottle rocket which landed in his bag of fireworks. That bag would pop, sizzle, explode, and eventually catch on fire! We all laughed as we ran for cover but he was so upset! All his fireworks were all wasted! He didn't get to enjoy setting them off himself. I think we eventually went back to get him some more.

The most enjoyable moment of the Fourth of July is being at my little brothers house in the downtown area of the city that has one of the most incredible displays around the country! We woke up in the morning, drank coffee, and went to get groceries for the day's event. There were some fireworks bought but not a lot. We were about to witness a crazy awesome display! We didn't need any. So my brother and dad would BBQ burgers, links, chicken and my mom and sister would make potato salad, pasta salad, cake, corn on the cob among other items. Right before the fireworks started, my brother would cut up a watermelon with his samurai sword. Then we would all sit and watch the fireworks for 30 minutes! It was beautiful!

Those moments I truly cherish in my heart! All of them! The silly irresponsible ones to the most beautiful, chilled and laid back ones! I love my little brother very much! We've done a lot of mischievous and irresponsible things on the Fourth as kids but have had a great time as we've grown up. As much as I would love to have him with us, unfortunately he will not be able to make it due to travel issues. It just won't be the same...

Happy Fourth of July!! Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

La Cobb Hacienda

Buying a house was never high on our priority list because we never really knew what city we would end up in. We had to find a city worthy of raising our children. We thought maybe Kansas City, MO or Oklahoma City, OK to be closer to family members. However, because we couldn't decide, we kept on renting. As we were nearing the end of both of our schooling, my husband and I had to get serious about where we would buy a house. After all, we were about to have an addition to our family (25% increase :) )!!! When our daughter came, she took over half of our apartment which had 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. So our son, needed (well, we wanted him to have) his own room. The need for a house was inevitable!

During my husband's rotations at various hospitals in surrounding cities, he chose a children's hospital that was an hour to and from our apartment. He loved the atmosphere, the team work, and the longevity of the staff. Everyone knows how important it is to have a job but to have a job with people surrounding you that are so passionate about what they do -- Now, that's just priceless! So we decided to look at areas near his work.

My husband's job was a big factor but another huge factor was our very best friends. We have been close for about 7-8 years. Their three daughters are basically sisters to my little girl and son. We have also chosen this family to raise our children if something were to happen to both my husband and I. So yeah, this family is a big deal and mean so much to us!! We needed to be close to them. So they factored into the equation.

After Christmas, we started our search. I was searching constantly and looking in our price range which was kind of stressful because there were SO many! Once we found an area where the houses were appealing, we visited the neighborhood just to see that the houses were packed together like sardines or had a large populations of registered sex offenders, totally not for us. However, when I voiced my distress to my friend, she said to turn it over to the Lord. He has the perfect house picked out and just be patient. So I took a break and prayed quite often.

Time was getting closer for our son to arrive so we resumed the search. I looked on and found a house with a pool and it was so beautiful but when I called on the house, there was already a contract. We loved the area though so we continued our search there. It was half way between our friends and my husband's work. So over the next few days we found a few houses in that same neighborhood to do a walk-thru.

Before I called our realtor, I looked one more time at the houses in that area and found a 2-story house with dark features such as hardwood floors, accented walls and had an amazing kitchen!! It was only on the market for 6 days. We, then, decided to throw that one into the mix but since we were leery of 2-story houses and the potential of falls down the stairs, we were pretty much certain this would not be what we were looking for.

So the day came to drive an hour away to look at the houses. We would start with the 2-story one first. I was really excited to look at the second house, though! I had all the rooms designated and decorated in my mind. I never had anticipated what would happen next. We pulled up to the house and it had a beautiful yard but it was a nice neighborhood so that's to be expected. Then we walked inside, the smell of angel food cake and vanilla pleasantly smacked you in the face and woke you up!! Then the feel of the house, the openness, the colors, the flow, the refrigerator (yeah, I know but it was so awesome!!!), EVERYTHING was amazing!!! We found it!!! Our home, not just a house, our home! We could tell the owners loved the house from the way they took care of it. From several items we saw made us realize we were also very similar! Not only did we want the house but we wanted to meet the owners too. They are actually the original owners so they have 11 years of memories in the house.

So we spent a while there and it was time to go to the next house. As we were driving to the second one I was originally really excited about but had dwindled a lot, my husband wanted to make an offer on the first. The first house we looked at??? Could it be??? Is that normal?? Well I wanted to make sure the next house wasn't going to give us the same WOW-factor as the first. So we pulled up to the next house and walked inside. It really felt like an over-sized city apartment. Totally opposite of what we were looking for. So we decided to make an offer on the first house!!! My energy was now fixed on this house and what the rooms would become. A beautiful 2-story, 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath, 2 car garage!!! It was beautiful!! After a few times going back and forth, we came to a deal!

Next would be the inspection and we had to be there. Since we really wanted to meet the owners, we asked if they could be there too. What we didn't know is they wanted to meet us too!! Once we met them, we were instantly friends. Since then they've come over for dinner and shared more about the house with us. It's funny because our daughter's whoppers we had in the pantry were in the same location of the whoppers they had when they lived here!! So funny! They are really a great family with amazingly smart boys!!! We hope to have many more dinners and fun times with them!

Now, you're probably wondering if we got to keep the refrigerator... Hate to break it to you but the answer is, no. Turns out they got a really good deal on it so they took it with them. Everyone knows that great feeling when you get a good deal and are proud of that find. So unfortunately we had to buy one. We were going to go with a side-by-side and be conservative but later decided to go with the one we wanted, the French door Fridgedaire galley series! It is beautiful and fits with the house!

Anyways, I would love to share the move but I think this post is pretty full so I will end here and share the breaking out of the drums set for another time.

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!

Monday, July 2, 2012

You Can Never Kiss Your Children Too Much

Yesterday, I was reminded while having children can be so incredibly awesome and exciting, it can also be incredibly difficult. Now, a few days back I posted on my Facebook timeline that you can never kiss your kids too much. I still hold to that! With that in mind, we found out yesterday that a young kid who was only 16 left this world to be with his Lord and Savior. It saddened us tremendously as we knew him as a youth member from our previous church. He was so young and from a very large family where the siblings cared for each other. I'm sure many parents believe that it should be them that go first not the children. I, for one, would rather that happen but we don't get to choose our timing.

The journey of parenting first starts by the joy of bring them into the world. Our son and daughter were both unplanned on our end but we whole heartedly welcomed our mini-me's into our family. Each one had both similarities and differences in the pregnancies. Both made me crave the caliente salsa described in an earlier blog, gave me morning sickness from weeks 5-13, gained the same general weight and had hardly any sleep the last trimester. Differences with my daughter is we focused every bit of our attention on her while in the womb since she was our first, I gained weight everywhere not just the belly, she was on schedule and was exactly 2 hours and 19 minutes past the calculated due date. Our son, on the other hand, had our attention but it was also split between our daughter, I only gained weight in the belly, and he was all over the charts in terms of his due date. These two pregnancies were fun and exciting but I will say the first trimester was horrible. In fact, because we listened to Ray Charles and the Count Basie Band, if I hear any song, I remember that awful feeling of morning sickness when I was pregnant with my daughter. Same goes for the Dave Matthews Band when I was pregnant with my son.

The birthing also had similarities and differences. Similarities were that I had the same doctor, my awesome sister-in-law was in the room keeping me calm, did NOT have an epidural or any pain killers, both born in the wee hours of the morning, and we had Whataburger following the births (only place open at 3am including the hospital cafe). Differences were when I was delivering my little girl both my family and my husbands were there (not in the delivery room though), it took a long time, I walked a lot, everyone was fanning me at the last part, and they had to give Cadie O2 when she came out. With my son, my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and good friend were there in the delivery room, had to have pitocin (still did not have pain pills, just imagined I was weight training my uterine muscle-sorry so graphic), had to stay hooked up to monitors, but got to hold him right after he came out!

The similarities and differences made each pregnancy and birth so unique and incredible to experience! These two individual life's, from conception to birth to now has been such a blessing beyond words to describe. As parents, we have an instilled nature to protect, nurture, and teach our children as much as we can so they can grow and flourish while interpreting the world and identify potential dangers around them.

Our heart and prayers go out to this family and others who have experienced the lose of a child. Remember you can NEVER kiss your children too much, ALWAYS kiss them before they head out of the door, and ALWAYS pray for them!

Until tomorrow, kindest blogging wishes!