Friday, September 30, 2011

HW craftiness

Every year I try to add something to our Holiday decor for each season. This year since I have time on my hands to do such things I finally made a couple things I've had planned for probably three Halloween's so far. I can't wait to decorate tomorrow. Seriously. It will be a blast to make our home feel a little festive. (I'm still working on the focal length thing for pictures. Forgive the hind legs being the ones that are in focus. His hotness is still working on getting me to have my eyes checked.)

Beaded spiders like the ones from Tatertots & Jello
The spiders were trickier than you would think, but just because only half the beads in the package had holes large enough to fit the wire I bought. Sorting out 25-35 beads per leg x 8 legs x 6 spiders really got tiring. Then half of the larger beads didn't fit a double thickness of wire so I re-drilled the holes. Oh, cordless drill, I heart you!!!!!!!

Drippy blood candlesticks from Martha Stewart
The candles? They were a piece of cake. I used candles found for $0.50 each at the thrift store. I just couldn't buy new ones to do this with when I wasn't sure how it would turn out. At night they look rather ominous.

Squirt got into the spirit and made some beaded spiders of her own.

We've got this great big Ziploc bag of miscellaneous beads. I'm so glad whenever we have a chance to use them. I used to be one of those neurotic mothers who kept all the pieces to each game/craft/whatever grouped in baggies. Then I got some sense knocked into me and merged all the partial jewelry kits together. I'm so glad I did!!! I'm not stressed about cross-contamination and let's face it, they actually get used now.

Happy Almost-October!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ice Cream in a Baggie

This post breaks my heart. Ok, that may be a bit extreme, but I've had it written and waiting in the works for days until Squirt and I had our science day. We've started doing something science-y every week and I've had this one brewing in my noggin for a while now. Let's just say she didn't really love it the way I expected and it made my heart hurt just a little bit. Oh well, C'est la vie. I learned this week that science is not a part of her school curriculum much to my dismay. I know we are in liberal-arts-land but really, that just seems sad. So regardless of her level of enthusiasm for the final product, it's still worth it to me.
I like ice cream. I do. If there was only to be one junk food left on the entire planet, I'd round up all my gumption and try to bribe convince the world to vote that ice cream would be it. Of course there would be a void within my soul where cheesecake used to be, but it could easily be filled by making cheesecake ice cream. Therein lies the brilliance of selecting ice cream to be the one dessert left on Earth! Any other dessert you once liked can be made into an ice cream flavor thereby creating no dessert vacancy in one's dining repertoire.

This week we made ice cream in a baggie. Have you seen this silly thing before?

Even though the idea of passing it around a campfire while someone tells crazy jokes in the middle of the night does sound rather appealing, this product makes nowhere near enough to share with compadre's if said idyllic situation ever occurred, but I digress... ice cream in a baggie is a better, easier, cheaper, more logical alternative to buying one of these silly things.

If you have ziploc bags, ice, salt, and a few tasty ingredients, you have all you need to make your own delicious soft serve ice cream in 5 minutes! (I sound like an infomercial) This was our science project of the week. In fact, the idea that salt raises the boiling point and lowers the freezing point of water was my 6th grade science fair project... so yeah. It's THAT awesome.

1/2 cup milk (Whole is best but any milk will do. Higher fat content makes the ice cream creamier.)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. sugar
4 cups crushed ice
4 tbsp. salt
2 sandwich size ziploc bags (Cheapie little bags are fine.)
1 gallon size ziploc bag (Freezer bags work best)
gloves or a towel to grip the baggies with, they get reaalllllllly cold!

Mix the milk, cream, vanilla, and sugar in one of the sandwich size bags. Mix it up pretty good to make sure all the sugar dissolves and it's well combined. Squish out as much air as you can and zip the bag shut. To make sure that it doesn't leak or get salt into the bag, place the bag with the cream mixture into a second sandwich size bag.

We mixed ours first and then poured it into the baggie.

You can't tell here, but at this point she's crazy excited and annoyed that I have to take pictures every 2 seconds.

Grab one gallon size bag and place the double bagged cream mixture inside. Fill the gallon bag with ice, sprinkle with salt, and let the freezing begin! Hold the bag with a towel or wearing gloves and shake or wiggle it for 5-7 minutes (little kids may need help depending on their attention spans) until the cream mixture is frozen. Open the baggie, grab a spoon, and voila! Homemade ice cream in a baggie.

The big baggie swallowed up the small baggie!

Our bag is not brand new. This is great for re-using plastic baggies, but it was stubborn about sealing all the way.

Shake Shake Shake!!!

Pulling out the finished product.

Skeptical, but trying.

As a mom this is how I explain it: YUM!!! You just made ice cream! Isn't that cool? When we put salt on the ice it makes the ice colder and freezes the stuff you put in the smaller baggie. (Then I cry over the fact that as a total foodie family we have made some seriously divine frozen custard recipes in the last couple months. She tasted this and said "Eh.")

As a teacher this is how I explain it: When the salt gets onto the ice is forces it to melt. Solutions, when one substance (like the salt) dissolves into another (the water, in this case ice), boil at a higher temperature and freeze at a lower temperature. The salt combines with the melting ice at the edge of the baggie (water) and makes a solution. This water solution then tries to suck all the heat out of the milk solution in the baggie. This is a good thing because the ice cream mix needs to reach approximately 27 degrees Fahrenheit to freeze where normal water needs to be at 32 degrees. If we add about 4 tbsp salt to the ice it will lower the temperature to 8-12 degrees which is more than low enough to freeze our ice cream. The more quickly we freeze the ice cream the creamier it will be.

This idea is found in numerous places on the web. Check out the following links. I am partial to the first one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Moments before, the bee was buried within the pink petals seemingly taking shelter.
Fall is here, and it has surely arrived in all it's splendid, drippy glory. No longer are the days long and sunny, uncharacteristically dry as a bone in the Pacific Northwest. Rain has come. Sitting on the couch I hear the splashing of passing cars and remember gazing out the window of my childhood bedroom, in awe of the rain. Droplets that would stick to the glass and then cling to each other, eventually gaining enough gumption to slide precariously down the pane. It was beautiful to me then and it is beautiful to me now.

Undergrads flank the streets under colorful umbrellas or saturated hoodies while locals remain indoors or walk along with heads bare. There is a relaxed nature to the town now, more so than there was yesterday, and the day before, which is likely born of the reality that the rain is in charge and we are simply inhabitants of it's kingdom. Fall apparel, my absolute favorite, emerges from where it recently hibernated deep within the darkness of an overlooked dresser drawer. Cozy fabrics and charming scarves come out to play, enveloping us in their warmth and drawing us quickly into a sense of security that only they can offer.

What will the rain bring? How long until we are anxious for her departure? What will fill our time while the frisbees and playgrounds and berry picking of yester-week suddenly halt? So much uncertainty, yet so much peace. Drip on, cool rain. We welcome thee.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Doctor (to be) is in the house!

Even though we've been in Oregon for almost two months and His Hotness has been actively working on campus most of that time, today is the official first day of classes. Today should be laid back for him and then tomorrow he starts teaching and learning. And thus the 3-5 year journey on the road to PhD-land officially begins. 

So I had to take a picture despite his expression of "this is ridiculous" because he knew I was going to blog about it. From what I hear from the other PhD student wives, this first (and maybe the second) year is brutal. I may have to check back here once in a while just to remember what he looks like.

Truth be told, I'm a little nervous about it and I figure he is too. These programs are intense and so hopefully we can both remember that one foot in front of the other eventually gets us to the finish.

I'm so proud of him for choosing this road, despite some challenging obstacles, and I can't wait until I can officially call him "Doctor."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday we went to a friend's house concert. This was not like the concerts of my youth or early thirties, riddled with musicians who will deprive themselves of all the basic needs of life just for time to play, who sacrifice all for the sake of the music never knowing for sure where money for next months rent will come from. This was a group of married graduate students who play for fun and, I imagine, a bit of stress relief. The kid on the keys? Yeah, he just passed the Bar. Wahoo!!

It was the kind of gig a whole family could attend. And come they did. The kids danced and played and really got into every aspect of the music. Squirt found a friend right away and made herself at home. Granted, I did drag her to a few house and small venue concerts starting when she was 3. This is old hat for her. Hopefully this one will sink in more than the others and if she dates musicians she'll pick ones that can balance passion and responsible accomplishment... (fingers crossed... fingers crossed... fingers crossed)

And His Hotness? Yeah, he thought I'd enjoy going and skipped watching the BYU football game so we could go. I know, he's the best. (We did follow it constantly on the 'ol iphone however so survival was imminent.)

After the music was done, the kids were given a chance to explore (tamper with) the equipment. Squirt went for the keyboard first (I think she misses our piano) and then couldn't help but dance to the music. She was dancing and snapping to the beat like a real pro.

And then she took her own turn with the drums. It was a blast and quite possibly one of the only house concerts taking place the weekend before classes start where no one was smoking weed. It's good to have grad school families as friends! We've been told this was the first of many shows for The Beard Whisperers. Let fall term begin!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Date Night

His Hotness and I managed a little date night.
We ate ice cream and waited to see this, but we had to leave before the diving started.
We ran into friends,
and had an hour to be free from home and school responsibilities.
It was grand.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


It's Thursday afternoon and I'm feeling a little..... Seussical. No, not the musical. More like this:

I told Squirt at the science open house that we'd do some science-y stuff after school today. Wanting to make good on that, I decided to pull the out the 'ol Oobleck trick. This stuff never ceases to amaze kids. It's a common preschool activity but I've used it effectively to illustrate points in my High School geology classes. I'm telling you, regardless of age people can't seem to let this stuff sit untouched.


Let's go...

The "recipe" is simple:
Cornstarch + water + food coloring (if you want) = Oobleck

Add the cornstarch to water carefully, mix to combine.

Get your hands on in there! That's what this stuff is for. 

Notice how you can hold it firm and it compresses into a "ball," but when you let go it flows like a liquid. Awe. Some.

Ok, so the amounts matter...
Aim for a 1:2 ratio of water to cornstarch. If this off a little, add a little more cornstarch or water until you get a nice consistency. It should be stiff, almost dry, when you apply pressure and flow easily when you release the pressure. Add food coloring with the water if you like.

You'll end up with a goo that is really fun to play with. Grab a handful and squeeze it into a ball. Feels pretty solid, doesn't it? Now hold your hand open and see what happens to the ball. Spread your fingers out a little. If you made a large bowl of Oobleck, try letting it all drip back into the bowl and punching it. Were you able to make much of a dent in the goo?

FYI: This is messy. When you are done, DO NOT POUR OOBLECK DOWN THE DRAIN. If you put your oobleck in a container and let it sit, you will notice that the cornstarch settles to the bottom into a thick immoveable block. If you pour it down the drain this will happen in your pipes causing untold damage and frustration... just toss it into the trash when you're finished. 

As a mom this is how I explain it:
All those little bits of cornstarch are swimming around in the water. When you push hard on it, they sort of lock together and can't move around anymore. It's like they all link arms and hold onto each other. That's why you can squish it into a ball and it will feel hard. If you let go, it's like they all let go of each others arms and all those little bits of cornstarch can now move wherever they want. Watch as it drips and you can see the cornstarch floating in the water.

As a teacher this is how I explain it:
Oobleck is something called a Non-Newtonian fluid which flows differently under different conditions of stress (pressure). Oobleck is a dilatant Non-Newtonian fluid which means it thickens or becomes less viscous under stress. Some other non-Newtonian fluids you may be familiar with are ketchup, paint, and human blood. Ketchup is something called thixotropic, it becomes less viscous when you apply pressure. You have probably noticed that ketchup tends to thicken as it sits. Shaking the bottle or stirring it with a knife applies a stress that makes the ketchup less viscous so it will pour more easily. This is what non-Newtonian fluids do. As a result of applied stress (pressure) they flow differently. Sometimes the difference is hard to recognize without complex measurements, but it's pretty easy to tell when ketchup doesn't come out of the bottle...

I heart science

So this post is going to have really bad pictures, despite the fact that we had a super duper fun evening. The lighting was terrible and there were 84,523,780 bajillion people so you just have to trust me that it was awesome. UO hosted a science open house night for elementary school kids. In all my nerdy glory, I had to be sure we went. I literally begged Squirt for two days to be crazy good and do all her chores so we could go because I did not want to miss it.

One year at the USTA conference, a "statistic" or poll response was presented that stated a fairly high number of people who become science teachers do so because they want to blow stuff up. There's probably some truth to that. We are a weird bunch and we just love to play!

The open house looked strangely like a craft fair, boy scout expo, or weird summer camp. Tables surrounded the main hall with a different discipline represented at each table. Kids could build marshmallow shooters with PVC pipe (all gone before we got there - sadly), build molecules out of gumdrops and toothpicks, play with Oobleck, and other such stuff. Seriously, science is a blast!

Our first stop was physics - or dropping an egg off a balcony. There were tables of random supplies and kids could build a structure to try and keep an egg from breaking when dropped from the third story balcony. Squirt did it! A foam cup, some cotton balls, pink duct tape (of course), and a weird cardboard parachute type deflector seem to have been effective.

Jim was helping Aeryn to unwrap her egg. You can see the pink duct tape and cotton behind the Buglet's hands. We felt optimistic despite her unusual design because most of the time you could hear the eggs shattering and we didn't have any of that!

She was sooooo happy to have not broken the egg! I'm not sure you can tell that from the picture :)

She got to explore Archaeology by trying to put together pieces of broken pots and then constructing her own pot out of clay. Then it was playing with lasers and mirrors to explore angles of reflection. Finally, it was genetic coding where she picked two parent monsters and used their traits to complete Punnett squares and determine what kind of monster child they would have. I think making the monster was her favorite.

She gave her monster feathers for legs. This guy should have no trouble flying with those and it's bat wings!

Living in a University town is a blast. I can hardly wait until they do this again next year!

Friday, September 16, 2011


Earlier this summer our girls planted flowers. It was such a fun day. We had a girls night sleepover and then just hung out and played while boys were working. Yes, it was totally awesome.

We had intended to send Little Squirt's flower pot to Cali with her, but somehow amidst the chaos of this summer it was missed. It's OK, we've nurtured it ever since. Only, no one waters them while we're out of town (honeymoon...) and a change in climate has been interesting. Needless to say, they haven't grown as quickly as I'd hoped when we planted them and there were moments I wondered if we would be able to keep them alive. Success!We now have blossoms.

They add such a cheerful feel to our little home. I love to see each of their personalities reflected on their little pots. I think we should do this every year so that when I am old there is a collection of child painted flower pots laying around. I will look at them and smile, remembering all the laughs we have had.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fruits of Labor

Just up the road about a quarter mile is a park. This park is where I typically run in the mornings, when I haven't left my shoes at my brother-in-laws house that is. There is a nice bark trail surrounding a grove of trees and following a creek on one side. Frequently in the mornings I find people stopped at the creek harvesting natures bounty: Blackberries. Wild blackberries that grow with reckless abandon along this path and many others are frequented by those who desire to partake of the delight without the $4.50/pint often asked for at the farmers market.

This afternoon Squirt and I walked over to collect some of our own. I questioned if any would be left considering the size of containers I often witness being filled to overflowing.  At first my fears appeared to be correct. We found the bushes, but they were devoid of fruit. And then we walked a few more feet...

That was all it took to discover the dark, juicy ripe berries we sought. Now, I love blackberries something fierce. I don't devour them quite as quickly as our little squirt (oh, how she would love this!) but I do love them. Big squirt has the idea in her head that she likes them, but the faces she makes upon consumption would beg to differ. Despite that, she loved picking them and would eat them when I wasn't looking (I'd tell her we needed to wash them you see...). I loved to see her so happy about this. I think it's important for kids to be exposed to nature and to glimpse where our food comes from. Perhaps she is recognizing that things taste better fresh...

She enjoyed every moment of it, until she got caught in the thorns of a stealthy branch. I can say for certain now, $4.50/pint is worth it when the thorns are considered. We were not the only ones enjoying the bushes. The wasps were buzzing around thankfully. I love it, I for one want pollinators to keep doing their job so I can reap the bounty of their labors!

Toward the end of filling our little basket, Squirt squished a berry to oblivion and ended up with purple fingers. "Friedrich told you, Father, we were berry picking." Those VonTrapp kids didn't think that lie through very clearly as their fingers would have spoken clearly to the point.

I think these will end up in some blackberry streusel muffins tomorrow morning. What a great way to greet the day. Oregon is on my good list again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


This weekend my bicycle was stolen off our patio. For weeks, we'd bring it into the house at night as we'd heard such things have a tendency to disappear. Then as we became more comfortable I became complacent about it and started leaving it outside. After all, everyone is so nice here and Eugene just seems uber-non-materialistic. Squirt demonstrated over Labor Day that she can ride a two wheeler (despite her mothers skepticism), we bought her a new helmet Saturday, and now Monday morning I went to take a ride in lieu of a morning run. I was so anxious to ride bikes together with my buglet after school, but as I stepped out back I was faced with a stark empty space where my bike used to be. Silly trusting me. In four weeks we've been relieved of that and a child's scooter. My "Eugene-is-awesome" bubble has deflated a little. I'm sure I'll recover from the petty trauma in time for cherry tomatoes from the farmers market on Saturday, which will make me fall in love with this place all over again.

For today, I feel grumpy like this guy:

His Hotness and I have started a little "tradition" of trying new bottled root beers. It started on a trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in June. Walking though the local grocery, we spotted a cream root beer from a brewery in Durango. I snatched it up, took it back to camp and made sure to keep the bottlecaps. Our fridge is now a display gallery of bottlecap magnets highlighting all the root beers we've tried. Squirt grabbed the extra caps off the counter and asked me to make her some pins just like the above picture, and so I did.

Sort of. I took the easy way out and just attached the caps to safety pins using split rings, after drilling a small hole in the side. She promptly headed out to the playground to distribute them to friends. 

A silly little thing, but they are helping me feel up.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Somewhere on the streets of Salt Lake City is a bakery; A quaint, easily overlooked bakery sandwiched between where the bums live and the druggies work** in an older part of town. With it's iron bistro seating outdoors and small dine-in area, it is known for one treat and one treat most of all. Kouing-Aman. This French pastry caught the eyes of the Food Network even. I was beyond hooked once I tried it myself.

Not long after my inaugural visit to this dainty pastry shop, His Hotness and I left for the Pacific Northwest, leaving me seeking ways to fill such a craving. After many hours searching (ok, not that many) I settled on this recipe to try for a reasonable substitute. The verdict? Ah-mazing. Although I feel the second half of the recipe is horribly written so I will reconstruct the instructions below. It also takes longer than the initial recipe would have you think... but believe me when I say you need to try these. Do not be dismayed by the repeated rolling and chilling reminiscent of fresh croissants. All this yummy, buttery, flaky goodness must come from somewhere!


1 5/8 cups mineral water (to avoid chlorine and other things added to the municipal water supply)
1 1/5 tsp. fine sea salt
1 lb plus 2 tbsp butter for recipe, additional butter or nonstick spray for tart rings
5 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp yeast
3 cups of sugar, plus more for rolling out dough (about 1-1 1/2 cups)

Dissolve sea salt in the water and allow to sit at room temperature. Melt 2 tbsp of the butter over low heat. 

Add the melted butter and flour to your Kitchen-Aid fitted with the dough hook. Add the mineral water and salt solution mixing until well combined, about two minutes. Add the yeast and mix thoroughly, at least 1 minute more.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (give it a light spray with Pam first and it won't stick to the dough) and let it rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down and wrap in plastic wrap (if you sprayed your earlier piece, just use that one) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I chilled mine overnight with fantastic success.

About a half hour before you are ready to start working with the dough, roll the 1 lb. of butter into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic or parchment paper and chill about 30 minutes. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, roll into a rectangle about twice the size of the butter rectangle. Place the giant butter slab in the center of the dough and fold the sides in to cover the butter completely, pinching edges together to seal. Roll the whole thing out to a rectangle around 24 x 8 inches. Sprinkle the surface lightly with sugar, fold into thirds, wrap in plastic and chill for 20 minutes.

Remove chilled dough from the fridge, and place it on a lightly sugared surface. Do not use flour to keep it from sticking! Roll the dough into a large rectangle about 24 x 8, sprinkle lightly with sugar, fold into thirds, wrap in plastic and chill. Repeat the rolling out, sprinkling with sugar, and chilling two more times. Do not fret if you notice some moisture starts oozing from the dough. Sugar dissolves easily with even a small amount of water and is actually considered a liquid ingredient by professional bakers. This oozing is normal.

While the dough is chilling for the last time, preheat the oven to 425. Use rimmed cookie sheets (all that butter and sugar tends to ooze while baking) and line with parchment paper or silpats. Arrange 2.75 inch pastry rings on cookies sheets about 1 inch apart. Having trouble finding pastry rings? No worries, make your own! Fold squares of tin foil into 3/4 - 1 inch strips. Using a round cookie cutter, glass, or other round object of the right diameter as a template, wrap the foil strip around the object and pinch fold the ends together to create a circle. Line up your homemade pastry rings and either brush with melted butter or spray lightly with nonstick spray.

On a lightly sugared surface, roll the dough out one last time into a 1/2 inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle into 15-16 squares about 4.25 inches. For each square, fold the corners into the center and pinch closed. Place each square into a pastry ring and allow to rise for 30-40 minutes or until puffed. Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pastry rings promptly and allow to cool.

Lift, eat, indulge, enjoy!

And if you're ever in Salt Lake, stop in to Les Madeleines and taste their original version. Just be forewarned, since they are a bit laborious to make you can only purchase 6 without a special pre-order. Just sayin' :)

**I have no idea if that is really the case, but it sort of felt like it.

Linked here:

DAES of Our Lives

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our Two-monthiversary

Yup, that's right. It's been two whole months today (almost to the hour!) since His Hotness and I dun got hitched. All at once I can't believe it's been that long and that short. It just feels like this is the way it's supposed to be (can I get an "awwwwww...."?). I realized that I never blogged our wedding as I had planned, so today, in tribute to this "milestone" I give you our wedding.

I didn't realize how often I kissed him that day until looking at our pictures.

Before we went into the temple for our marriage, a girl came up to us from the parking lot and asked if we could jump start her car. Jim went to help her - in his suit - and Jess took some pics of me while we waited.

Jim's grandparents made it down from Idaho (since there were two weddings in three days for Jim's family). He was absolutely thrilled to have them here.

We actually did our "us" pictures before we went in to be married. I'm so glad. It made the rest of the day easy. Besides, afterward there was really harsh light, even worse wind, and a million people. We got lucky.

Some of Jim's dear friends drove out from California with their four kids for ONE DAY so they could come. Aeryn clearly enjoyed playing with the boys while they were here.

New cousins!

New sister!

Our new little family, all together.

Everyone who was able to be at the temple with us. I love this picture because I'm overwhelmed by the sacrifices so many people made in order to be here and I feel completely loved.

The Davis clan

It was a long day and little people start to have a rough time. Who do you think won the pout contest?

Just keepin' it real.

With the temple. I love this one. London has been my favorite for years but I've got to say, this one has a soft spot in my heart now.

I feel like this should be a 1980's Toyota commercial, but I LOVE it.
Happy Two-monthiversary babe!!!!
Love you.

The details:
My Dress: French Quarter from Shabby Apple
Jim's Suit: Something awesome we found at Banana Republic
Girls Dresses: From Jolene
Flowers: Green Ruffled Roses and Purple Hydrangeas from Haw's Floral
Potographer: Jessica Layne Willis
Temple: Oquirrh Mountain
Day: July 9th