Saturday, February 28, 2009

Early Spring Desert



The flowers have not really started to bloom in their full glory yet this year, but we went on a little morning hike yesterday to a trail we've never been on before and definitely enjoyed the eighty degree weather. It's already warm enough in Tucson to leave the doors open all day and turn off the heater for good.

Chris took these photos of me on our hike yesterday. I seriously don't think my belly looks that big. I think he must have been doing some tricks with the camera...



Chris also took this great picture of a fairy duster.



We're really enjoying this desert springtime weather. Hiking and swimming have been feeling really great. The baby is moving a whole lot lately. He seems very aware of what's going on. Often if he's awake and we nudge him a little with our hands he'll kick back. He'll keep doing it several times, waiting for you to nudge before kicking each time, like he's playing a little game with you.
He has also gotten the hickups a couple of times recently, which is funny. We couldn't believe that some of the people in our birth class said the dads haven't felt their babies move yet. Chris has been doing a ton of bonding, playing games, and talking to the baby. Sometimes he can even play with the baby before I wake up in the morning, which I think is really sweet.
We also have finished painting our bedroom and the new carpet will be put in next week. I think the one we picked looks something like this (maybe a little bit lighter color):



We're definitely looking forward to moving back into our bedroom, by far the biggest room in our house, with new carpet and paint to make it feel much more like a nice bedroom and less like an old garage.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Great Activities for Pregnant Women: Beer Brewing...

Well, brewing beer doesn't involve drinking any beer anyway (at least not the beer you're brewing) so why not? Chris' friend from work has been planning to brew beer for about three or four weeks now, and today they finally got it together. We headed over there at a little after nine o'clock this morning to get starting on a project that eventually took about five hours. Much more than I was really bargaining for, and if not for my camera keeping me busy I think I would have wanted to lay down and take a nap in a bush, that's about how exciting it was.
Despite the slowness of the process though, the guy had a really awesome backyard and the lighting was especially good for photos today, so I took a LOT.

I really liked these old bottle caps that were part of the brewing kit that Ron gave to Chris a while ago, and that finally got used today. Thanks Ron!



Juggling clubs are a good way to pass the time waiting for things to heat up or cool down, that is if you're willing to risk being hit in the face by one, which I wasn't.



One of the first steps was to mix the grain with hot water and leave it to sit in this cooler (or warmer in this case) for an hour.



Using an intricate bucket with holes in it strainer system, more hot water was poured through the grain mixture into another bucket.



From the bottom bucket, after it was filtered through twice, the "wort" was poured into large pots for more boiling and adding hops and yeast.



Adding hops:



After adding the hops, you run cold water through a coil of copper pipe that goes down into the bucket and cools the beer, then runs out to water a tree on the other side.



Apparently, a lot of airation makes it taste better, so the three guys took turns shaking the bucket for five minutes. I was very glad to have a good excuse not to do that (other than that I'm not sure if I could even pick it up!)



Finally, the wort sits in this bucket until it ferments, and then is transfers into either a large glass bottle for more clarity, or bottles.





Overall, I don't think beer brewing will by my new hobby, although Chris seemed to enjoy it, as you saw in the photos. Too much math for me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Beautiful Gift from Amy

Yesterday evening Amy, Adam and June came over . It was great to hang out with them, since we've all bee busy and haven't seen much of each other lately. June is getting so big! Amy brought with her a wedding gift that she made for Chris and I. A handmade pillow that commemorates our wedding day. She used our wedding colors and made this beautiful heart shaped cactus pattern.



A close-up to show how pretty the colors and the stitching are:



This was her first attempt at applique, and I think she did an amazing job with it. The back is a really nice soft velvet. This is something we'll treasure for a long time. Thank you Amy!!


While I'm here I also wanted to share a few snippets of our valentine's day, which seems appropriate to post with Amy's pillow since it's all about love :)

I made banana walnut pancakes for Chris for valentine's breakfast. Just one in the shape of a heart, since I'm not the expert pancake maker that my mom is (yet).



We used one of Tasha's many great ideas (it seems like I use a lot of her ideas...) to write our own hopes on a set of prayer flags to hang outside. We wrote down all kinds of things that we hope for Sesame's life, our life, going through birth, and lots of other things.





We both got teary-eyed when we read to each other what we had written on our flags. What a couple of saps! We hung them outside to blow our hopes into world every time the breeze comes along.

Lastly, we had Louisa and Sean over for a feast of tempura veggies (yams, asparagus, mushrooms, etc.) and brown rice nori rolls. Chris and I made the tempura together, and Lou and Sean rolled the sushi, kind of like teams. Louisa commented that people pay for this kind of stuff on valentine's day, kind of a couple's cooking effort.







We topped it off with some extremely decadent homemade ice cream sundaes. I made the ice cream and Louisa made hot fudge, and then we layered them with nuts, coconut, and dulce de leche. It was delicious, but probably not something any of us will need to eat again anytime soon :)



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cloth Diaper Inspiration

I've been planning to do cloth diapers for a long time, pretty much since I used them as a nanny about ten years or so ago. Chris is totally on board with it, especially since we've found out some new (very exciting) things about them.

I've found that when most people think of cloth diapers what still comes to mind is a flat diaper, pins, and nylon pull-up type pants. This is not even close to the cool things that are out there now, which make cloth diapers almost as easy as disposables, and many people say they actually contain leaks and "blowouts" much better.

We'll probably still use the old-style flat diapers at home, but no more pins needed. Now there are covers with velcro that wrap around just like a disposable diaper. They're pretty cheap (especially considering that on average people spend about $2000.00 per child on plastic diapers), and easy to wash.


For super easy options when going out, or if you just want to get fancier, there are lots of other fitted diapers, pocket diapers, wool diapers, all-in-one diapers (which work almost exactly like a disposable except that you throw it in your wash pail after use instead of into the trash can).




Something I think is really cool is these One-Size diapers. It is one diaper that is designed to fit a child from birth (or slightly after) to potty training using an intricate snapping system to change the size, and inserts to change the level of absorbancy.







While these are supposed to fit from birth, you can probably imagine that they might be a little bit too bulky for a newborn. So, there are tiny versions designed to fit a baby from around 7 lbs to 15 lbs with a similar, but smaller, snapping system.

The tiny version:



And a little bit bigger:



We went to a workshop this weekend to get to see and touch some of these new kinds of diapers, and we learned some really great things about using cloth diapers that I would like to share here.
- It takes more than 2 times the amount of water to manufacture disposable diapers as it does to launder cloth diapers

- Using cloth diapers prevents about 6000 disposable diapers per child from ending up in the landfill where it will take hundreds of years to decompose.

- Disposable diapers cost an average of $2000.00 per child from birth to potty training, while you can use cloth for only a few hundred

This information is from a local cloth diaper dealer who teaches a class on cloth diapering (it is also found on several other websites about diapers):


Some other websites that have really awesome cloth diaper selections are cottonbabies.com and greendiaperstore.com





Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Sugar Cookies (a.k.a. another purplish dessert)

I was supposed to Join Tasha for a little sugar cookie making get together yesterday, but sadly she has a cold and wasn't feeling up to it. She'd already made a double batch of her delicious sugar cookie dough though (a regular batch usually makes what feels like hundreds, especially when you go to ice them), so she gave some of the dough away. Chris and I made heart shaped cookies together.







We iced them using Tasha's great idea of coloring the icing with prickly pear juice (which we still have a freezer full of from last summer: if you missed our prickly pear adventure, click here and here).



So, the cookies turned out a very vibrant pink without any artificial food coloring. We sent most of the cookies in to school with Chris so he should share them with the other teachers (and so we wouldn't have to eat so many, as much as I would like to...).



Happy Valentine's Day! And Thank you Tasha for the cookie dough!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Homemade Ice Cream in the Winter

We got a new ice cream maker for Christmas this year. It's not one of those old hand crank ones, or even an electric version of one of those. It doesn't need any ice or rock salt, just a kitchen aid stand mixer and a freezer.





I've always wondered if so-called "frozen yogurt" was really frozen yogurt. I still don't know, but what I do know now is that you can put yogurt into an ice cream maker and it comes out something like frozen yogurt, maybe better. I used nonfat vanilla yogurt and mixed some berries into it.





The fancy presentation was partially for the photos, and partially because Chris and Colin have been working hard all week on putting up a sound barrier wall between our bedroom and Colin's apartment (he stays up late and likes loud music - we don't).



It's been a lot colder here this week, and rainy. There was a beautiful sunset yesterday, which I really think was enhanced by the power lines in the foreground. Don't you?





I'm really hoping to move back into our bedroom sometime next week, but there's still painting the whole room, and since everything is moved out of it already, we figure that we might as well have some new carpet put in (did I already mention that?).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A week of our life: Friday & Saturday

Oops, I didn't quite make it to blog every day this week. Friday was a pretty rough day, but things are worked out now I think. To de-stress from our day, Chris and I decided that what we really needed was a huge bowl of popcorn and some video game golf.

That's about all we did on Friday actually, besides work and be stressed out. Actually, I forgot that we did have lunch together in the courtyard next to Chris' school, which was really nice.

Today we spent some time cleaning the house. We listened to a really interesting story on This American Life (recommended by Tasha), about a child who was kidnapped and then given to the wrong family. No one found out until his granddaughter started doing research. Wow.

We used several of the lemons from our tree out front and Nana's old citrus juicer to make lemonade. You know what they say about when life gives you lemons :)









We made a couple of trips to Home Depot for supplies to soundproof the wall between our bedroom and the apartment, which we think is going to improve our lives quite a bit. Chris is already starting to work on it now.

Also, since it was so nice and sunny we decided to open the blinds all the way, instead of just turning them. We were appalled by how dirty the window sills were, and spent some time cleaning them, and caulking because of all the dust that blows right in.



In between we made made some delicious tacos for dinner, with corn and beef and blue corn shells, cheese, cilantro, green chiles and cabbage.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A week of our life: Thursday

This was not the best day of the week, but we did go for a nice desert walk at Pima Community college after Chris got off work.







I left early today because I just couldn't sit in my chair anymore. I did a little bit of house cleaning and some yoga (as well as some self-portrait taking).



We made some squash and zucchini wraps for dinner, with red cabbage, tomatoes, spinach and salsa. A little weird, but surprisingly tasty. I'm very excited that tomorrow is Friday.