Children, cooking, marriage, random stuff, funny stuff, photography, dogs, cats, depression... Whatever you're looking for, you might find it here! The modern 5 and dime.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Kiki, age 3.5 months

So our house has descended into utter chaos of late.

We got a new puppy. I know, I know, I should have told you guys sooner. We had to keep it a secret at first, she was an Easter surprise for my daughter. We now have 2 corgis, a boy and a girl:

Fortunately for us, Kona and Kiki adore each other. They are just so cute together. Rachel says, "I hope they fall in love!" Ummm, I would explain the concept of neutering and spaying, but I haven't done so yet :-) Anyway, they keep each other busy, which is what I was hoping for. Kiki is frickin' adorable, and loves to cuddle with humans (and try to lick your face off).

I've also continued to be busy with work, school, my daughter's activities, and Girl Scouts. Somehow I decided it would be a good idea to invite a few school friends over for pizza. The last time I had people over I cooked a very intricate dinner, and they were late, and food was burned, and Momma was NOT a happy camper. Therefore, I thought pizza would be MUCH simpler, and hey, I'm entertaining kids here.

Therefore, I went crazy with cleaning the house here (by going "crazy", my husband will tell you I actually cleaned the house for a change). I knew I had descended into madness when I figured out that Duct Tape will pull up the dog hair off of the bedspread.

Do you know how long it takes to clean a room of dog hair, using only duct tape? I can tell you the duct tape has stronger sticky-ness than the "pet hair pick-up" tools they sell, which are utter crap, so while it may seem silly, it actually does work.

Still, my husband was shaking his head at my technique. Whatever, I had no idea how much dog hair was in this house that is NOT on the dogs.

And remember, I also have 2 cats. Just call us a zoo.

I promise to post photos after the party, promise!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My husband loves me

My husband has the green thumb in the family. I certainly do not- I mean, even DESERT plants die under my care, I have no idea how I do it. It's an art, I guess.

I've always loved roses, especially because they remind me of my grandparent's home in LA. They always had the most beautiful roses in their front yard. I was sad when the new owners of that house tore out the rose bushes- we have decades of family photos taken in front of those roses!

Dear Hubby has all sorts of fantastic ideas for making the backyard an idyllic spot. After all, we do live in Southern California, and our little postage stamp of a lot has more yard than house. We figure if we can live in the backyard half the year it'll be worth it. To make the backyard perfect requires cleaning up a lot of overgrowth, even though I like some of what is out there some of it will go (apparently, my artistic talent includes thinking weeds are pretty).

He has been on this amazing clean-up-the-backyard streak, which began with chopping down a dead palm tree and hauling it away. My dog has finally let us have flowers again (well, for now), so my husband planted two small rose bushes to see how they would do.

He even picked my favorite colors- pink and lavender!

He also was trying to create more room for new plants by trimming the trees in the backyard. When he got out there yesterday, he made it through a few branches before a wire from the power lines fell on him- he's lucky he didn't get electrocuted- but it turned out to be an old communications line (a "dead line" not a "live line") so they telecom folks came out today to clear the old wire. It looked like the line had been cut years ago but never taken down. I asked telecom company if they would trim the tree away from the wires (it is not our tree, but belongs on the property of condos behind us), and they just laughed at me. Yea, right, lady. Trim it yourself!

Still, the wire falling put the scare right in my hubby! Add that to the burst pipe in our backyard last Friday, and we've had one exciting homeowner's week. Let's hope that's it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

More on Carissa

OK, so I'm a little behind with normal things like reading the paper. I finally had a few moments to read yesterday's paper during my daughter's piano class today, and found a nice article on Carissa Seward from the Next Food Network Star. A gourmet food and tea shop? Carissa, I am so there. Best of luck!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Congrats, Guy!

Congratulations to Guy Fieri for winning "The Next Food Network Star" this evening!

Runner-up Reggie Southerland was also a fantastic contestant, I thoroughly enjoyed watching both of them and I would watch either of them on TV. In the end, though, America voted for Guy. Reggie, America did love you, too, and I'll speak for everyone when I say that I would love to see a cookbook from you!

Guy's recipes are certainly different, though, and as someone who loves hot and spicy (come on, one of his restaurants is called Tex Wasabi's, could that be any more of the perfect fusion for this Texas gal who loves sushi?) I look forward to trying out his recipes. Hopefully he will add a little bit of spark and some real spice to the Food Network. I see they have a lot of new shows coming out this summer, I can't wait! My recipe repertoire needs to be kicked up a notch, as someone we know would say.

Carissa, if you're reading, I am also interested to see what you do in the culinary world in San Diego- we need you here, so let us know what you're up to! Your food was yummy, too, and you'll definitely grab an audience down here.

Guy will be on the CBS Early Show in the morning, although I can't say I'll be awake that early to watch it :-)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Pretty in Pink

Last night my husband totally humored me by not throwing the remote at my head when I insisted on watching the last 20 minutes of "Pretty in Pink". You see, I consider myself a child of the 80's. While I was born in the early 70's, I take no credit (or fault) for any outfit I wore in the 70's, as those outfits were purely my parents fault.

But my pink hair, pink eye glasses, pink tie, and Madonna style lace headband were all totally my fault. And yes, even my bedroom was pink (and I say thank goodness pink is finally back in style :-)

I was 12 going on 13 when "Pretty in Pink" came out. I had my first "real" boyfriend (ha ha ha! How I can laugh now at my naivete), and Pretty in Pink was my first DATE movie ever. Yes, Jon Cryer had a movie career 20 years before his next big hit with "Two and a Half Men", a show I do watch and love. Andrew McCarthy and Molly Ringwald, not quite so lucky in the hit department.

Anyway, the movie will forever hold a special place in my heart. I will also admit to you, oh dear internet, that I still have all of the lines memorized. I used to listen to the sountrack incessantly too. It can instantly take me back to a simpler time, and 1986 still seems like the end all, be all of teen years for me. I even cried as the credits rolled, not because the ending was sad (yes, in the book she does end up with Duckie and not Blane). I cried because 20 years has passed in a flash, and I thought, "What the hell happened?" How on earth could 20 years go by so fast?

I know, I know, I am sounding old. But yes, Pretty in Pink is 20 years old this year, I'm wondering if they will or have already released a special commemorative DVD. I might, um, have to buy it. It will be next to "Say Anything" and "She's Having a Baby" on my shelf. Because really, don't we all want reminders around of ourselves when we were that young?

Sure, my daughter will tell me I'm a dork and "Mom, you are EMBARASSING me", but you know, perhaps she will like them too and can get a sense of what the world was like back then. I just made her watch "Ghostbusters" and I was pleased to find she actually did like it.

On the other hand, I did finally see "The Constant Gardener" which was excellent but totally depressing. Which I guess is why I digress this evening back to Pretty in Pink...

Poster courtesy of

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sea World Adventure

We went to Sea World recently, and braved quite a large crowd. Yes, it is indeed tourist season in San Diego, evident from the lost drivers on the freeways.

We went to the Shamu show (for only the 2nd time in all my years living here). It was a hot day, but I had this to contend with:

Yes, oh clueless parent, your child stood up on the bench the entire show, blocking my view and my daughter's view. Despite repeated pleas for your child to please, please sit down, the child would sit down until you weren't looking and then stand up again.

Thanks for that.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter bunnies (*SPOILER ALERT* Not Safe for Children)

We had a very nice Easter weekend, just the three of us. I was up early on Sunday (well, early for me) and began cooking by 9am, and we ate at 12:15! It was an Easter miracle! I don't ever recall eating a holiday meal that early, but then again it was only dinner for 3 and I didn't over-indulge the meal. We had ham, gravy and mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, white wine, and sugar cookies for dessert. After resting up and getting some dishes done, the easter bunny left some eggs in the backyard and the sun came out so Rachel could go egg hunting.

On saturday at the mall we passed the Easter Bunny in the portrait studio. Rachel said very loudly, "It's just a guy in a Bunny costume!" to which I scolded her to be quiet so she wouldn't ruin it for the other children. Yet there was this part of her which really, really wanted to believe. She said, "He's not the real Easter Bunny. The real Easter Bunny is a real rabbit."

So we talked about it, as we got through Christmas without any of these comments. I told her the Easter Bunny was whatever she wanted to believe he was, and you could see how desperately she wanted him to come to her house that night.

I don't think she was disappointed the next morning!

I insisted on all of the traditions we had in my house growing up. We did dye easter eggs, even though most years I now make a Happy Passover egg too (dye it blue with a white star of david). Rachel even wanted to watch some of the "Ten Commandments", which I didn't have time to watch.

Age appropriate? I think not.

This weekend I took my daughter to the movies to see Ice Age 2. The movie has been doing well recently, and it being a holiday weekend, the theater was PACKED.

We were wondering why the movie started late, and then the R rated previews came on. The Poseidon (which concerned my daughter, "Did this really happen?" etc), The Fast and The Furious, X-Men 3.... all previews totally inappropriate before a G rated movie- my daughter was easily, at age 7, among the oldest children in the theater.

And then the movie came on.

And it wasn't Ice Age 2.

It was "V for Vendetta", which immediately begins as a gory mess before the title credits run.

We're all looking at each other as it slowly dawns on us this is NOT a preview, but rather a horrible, terrible mistake.

I grab my daughter, after covering her eyes, and pull her out of the movie theater. There's an angry mob forming around some poor young guy with a walkie talkie, calmly asking them to turn off the movie.

At this point, little children are screaming and crying, and parents are screaming that they want to talk to a manager.

Fortunately for me, my daughter was rather calm and didn't understand why I got so upset. We returned to the theater once "V" was turned off, but only about half of the crowd returned to see the movie.

I'm going to guess that half received a refund, but what about those of us that stayed? It would have been nice for the theater to come in and apologize to us. I didn't want my money back, I just wanted an apology. TO THE KIDS! not to me.

This is the first time this has ever happened to me, but in my opinion, this was a major Oops!

And before I forget, the actual Ice Age 2 movie was very cute, I loved listening to the children laughing, I never get tired of my daughter's smile and laugh! I was glad, in the end, we were able to see the movie we came to see.

Images copyright and

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Family genes- can they be absorbed?

People have commented that my sushi-making post made them crave sushi (ok, one person. Thanks, Dad!) and then I started craving sushi, too.

Kiddo is on spring break, so today she asked if we could have sushi for lunch. I, of course, could not say no. How cute is it to see a 7-year-old eat sushi? She's gotten much better, will even eat the raw fish, but still won't let the nori (seaweed) cross her lips.

Hubby came along, and for the first time ever, someone commented (loudly! exclamation point!), "Oh my Goodness! She looks just like you! Just like you!" referring to how much Rachel looks like Shawn. This was so funny to us for two reasons: Shawn is not her biological father but rather her stepfather, and Rachel actually DOES look like Shawn!

We were laughing so hard, her next comment was, "Do you get that a lot?" to which Shawn just smiled and said, "Yes".

Family etiquette

My ex-husband got re-married over the weekend, which is why my daughter was out of town. My daughter and I had a fabulous reunion yesterday, it was so good to see her after a whole week away!

But, it brought up this question- do I get the happy couple a gift, and if so, what? Please understand this is what should be described as the "good divorce" and the 4 of us (ex, his new wife, my new husband, and myself) all work very hard to make sure the daughter is put first. We all get along, and I am grateful that new wife is so good to my daughter. We say she is so lucky to have 4 parents who love her very much.

I spoke with many people about the gift thing, to get their opinion. I heard, "Did they get you anything?" along with "You don't need to get them a gift. Maybe a card." but all I knew was that the etiquette police told me that since I was happy for the newly marrieds, I should get them something.

Yes, I grew up in Texas, and southern women, well, we're a breed of our own. I believe in hand writing thank you notes (although if I am late with the thank you note I feel terrible!), and I am one of the few that still hand address my christmas/hanukkah cards every December (although I am sure the post office wishes I would either improve my handwriting or use a printer!)

I finally opted for a card and some cold, hard cash, as I know it was so greatly appreciated at my wedding- HUGELY appreciated, you have no idea.

If you have a "blended family" like ours, I'd love to hear from you. We've done a good job so far at sharing holidays, splitting weekends, school days, celebrations. My daughter is one happy kid.

Rachel, age 6.

Photo copyright Kat Miner Photography

Monday, April 10, 2006

I am the next Food Network Star... I wish

Since I am hold with the insurance company yet again, I thought I would take this down time as a chance to finally post about my recent cooking school experiences.

I have taken up cooking again in recent months because I love to cook and our bottom line in our checkbook was screaming at us to never, ever eat out again unless someone else was paying for it. Or we have a coupon.

The problem is, my cooking expertise is fairly limited. My daughter loves to cook, and while she is only 7, her favorite channel is The Food Network and I figure someday she will discover all of my delicious cooking techinques are right up Sandra Lee (of Semi Homemade). While I am totally OK with being Semi Homemade (yes, I am also a fan of Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals- I don't believe in spending a lot of time preparing a meal, who has that kind of time?), I feel like my repertoire of meals needed expanding.

First off, aren't you always impressed watching professional chefs with a knife? For me, the most time in the kitchen is spent on prep work. If I could shorten my prep time, I'd be a happy camper. So, the first class I took was a basic knife skills class. Now that I am back in my own kitchen, I am trying to practice the technique, which includes not chopping off any of your fingers. For some reason, my non-cutting hand does not want to follow instructions of hiding all of its appendages, and that has been the hardest part for me. Otherwise? I have cut in half (pun intended) the amount of time it takes for me to dice an onion, and therefore the class was worth every penny!

Secondly, my favorite food is sushi. I love to go out for sushi, I'm always so impressed by a good sushi chef. I took a sushi class this weekend, and I learned a lot. Did you know the word "sushi" does not refer to the fish but rather it refers to the rice? It refers to vinegared rice, and yes, my japanese teacher added Sake to her rice recipe. I learned just how important good sushi rice is in the whole process. I'd love to invest in a terrific foreign rice cooker, but they are terribly expensive (a good one will run you about $200). I learned about washing and soaking rice, which is something I have never done before.

I also learned a trick the japanese use in preparing their rice- they add seaweed to the pot to add flavor to the rice, called "Konbu". Also, never use long grain rice! I thought the short grain rice had more flavor than the medium grain, but either would work. My teacher has a vegetarian sushi class and she uses brown rice in one of her recipes, but in Japan the white rice is a symbol of wealth, and therefore they ALWAYS use white rice. Definitely not Jasmine and probably not Basmati unless you were doing fusion cuisine. Cooking technique is important here, or else you could end up with Risotto instead of sushi rice, we obviously spent a long time on the rice- again, I had no idea how important it was, but she was right, the sushi won't taste like sushi unless you have the rice down pat! Ha ha ha.

Once we had the rice part down, we moved on to the preparation of sushi. First, we prepapred Inari sushi, which is made using deep fried tofu and the specially prepared sushi rice. These are made by boiling the aburaage (deep fried tofu) and adding sugar and soy sauce and vinegar. Then you lightly squeeze dry and stuff with sushi rice. These are delicious and sweet, and look like this:

The best part of this class was eating what we made! Inari sushi was yummy, but then it was time to move on to the fish. The teacher first taught us how to use our sushi rolling mat, which was very cool and handy. The technique for making maki sushi (sushi rolls) involves laying out a piece of seaweed called "Nori" (use a nice, dark color), filling it with the vinegared rice and whatever else you desire, and using your sushi mat to roll into the appropriate shape.

First we made Kappa Maki, which was just filling the roll with cucumber. Very good, and I lived on these when I was pregnant since I avoided fish during the pregnancy. Then we moved on to my absolute favorite, Tekka Maki (which is Tuna).

The trick here was slicing the tuna into the appropriate shapes for the roll. Slice off against the grain a rectangular piece of the fish. Slice that piece in half. An 8 inch roll requires about 3 of these pieces, laid end to end.

Our final roll was the California Roll, which is usually used to introduce newcomers to the world of sushi. This has no raw fish, just cooked fish. We also made this one our inside-out roll, which means the rice is on the outside of the roll (see photos below). You place the rice on your Nori as usual (except snap the Nori down to 2/3 size), then you flip it upside down before adding the filling: for a california roll, you add avocado and crab (or imitation crab), then roll it up as usual. It is quite common to add toasted sesame seeds to the rice before flipping it over.

Here is a photo of Tekka Maki (on the left) and California Roll (on the right):

The tricks I learned during the day- it is easiest to put the sushi rice where you want it if you wet your hand in a bowl of vinegared water first (so the rice doesn't stick to you), and it is easy to manipulate the rice if you use just one hand. Also, the knife they gave me wasn't very sharp, and it made slicing my rolls into individiual pieces very difficult. I also recommend wetting the knife before every slice, to keep it from sticking to the Nori.

I had a really good time, and I loved all of my food- I ate just about everything, and was totally stuffed. The class even came with a glass of beer or wine! Really fun, I had a good time chatting with everyone at my table. I highly recommend these classes, they are not that expensive, and who knows, you could learn something new! My biggest problem now is deciding which class to take next.

Photos credit of Japan Guide

Thursday, April 06, 2006

It's time to observe your religion!

Next week, with Palm Sunday, Passover, Good Friday, Easter, and everything in between all occurring within days of each other, people will dust off their fancy outfits and head to their respective houses of worship.

All of these crowds at services will lead to crammed seats and people having unpure thoughts, dreams, nay wishes, that this device existed:

Pew Ejector

Just kidding, everyone. Hope you all have a nice holiday, whatever it is you're celebrating.

In my house, we celebrate 'em all. We're equal opportunity worshippers. Even though I am not a member of the UCC, I liked their message in this commercial (which was NOT about ejecting people from a church- if that's all you got out of it, go back and watch it again).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

When did 7 mean "I don't need my mom"?

So today I dropped my daughter off, and because she is going on vacation with her Dad, I walked her in to the classroom where I usually just drop her off and let her go in by herself.

She was horrified at this change of events, and even when I told her I really wanted to go in to give a proper goodbye since I won't see her for a week, she balked.

When she saw another student, she immediately began walking 3 feet in front of me, as if she didn't even know me. I was laughing but my feelings were also hurt- I mean, I expected this of a teenager, but since when did 7 become a pre-teenager??? She gave me a curt goodbye, making it clear I was, like, TOTALLY embarassing her.

So back to my trip. It was so beautiful and relaxing. We rented a cabin with my folks, and we had about foot of snow still on the ground in some places, and we even got to see some snowfall on saturday. I was disappointed we couldn't go hiking (you needed some very good snow gear to do that), but we did get to go play in the snow for a while. We also spent a great deal of time walking around the downtown area and browsing the shops (and, er, shopping).

We had some fantastic meals. I suggest reservations everywhere they are accepted.

The best:

Restaurant Gastrognome was by far our fanciest and most expensive meal of the trip. I will eat there every single time I go up in the mountains, it is always delicious! I had the smoked salmon pasta, and the portion size was enough to take home and eat a second meal. Everyone in our party had a fantastic meal, and most of us also shared in delicious desserts.

Cafe Aroma was the most unique dining experience, and was so delightful and unexpected! If you love garlic, this place is a must. I even had garlic bisque for my appetizer, and they served garlic and olive oil with their bread. We had live music to go with our meal, pretty artwork to look at, the bathroom was my favorite I've ever visited- why on earth would I say that? It's called the "Restrumi" and the place is is covered in poetry to keep you busy in there for hours. Plus, the sign next to the toilet stating, "Please seat yourself" was a gem that had us all laughing (no, we didn't ALL go in to the bathroom together). I will definitely put this on my list for next time.

Earth N Fire Yes, I know this is not a restaurant. I'm just trying to let you know that if you are visiting, this is a MUST on your activity list. Eddie, better known as "The Pottery Dude" is so friendly and gives you great tips at creating works of art, even if you are not an artist (I'm a case in point). His staff of artists will help you put the fine touches on your art work as well. Below are some photos of our creations:

Yes, folks, I painted that! The glazing and firing really makes it beautiful. I got really tired by the time I got to the letters in "Tortillas", so next time I will remember to either take a break in the middle or to make sure I eat breakfast before I go.

All in all, a really fantastic trip. Mom even says she wants to make it an annual trip! Sign me up.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Returning back to earth

So we went out of town for a weekend vacation to the mountains.

We thought, erroneously, that APRIL would mean SPRING.

Apparently, in the mountains in the mile high city, it means SNOW.

Which, for a southern californian, is big news. It was my daughter's first time to see snow.

I will post more pictures later, but for now, enjoy my daughter's drawings of our beautiful snowy weekend.

Our cabin.

The totem pole in the center of downtown Idyllwild.

Tahquitz Rock