Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Thoughts at 34 Weeks Pregnant

Today I invite you into the mind of a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy. 
  1. I can't remember the last time I saw my feet or bellybutton.
  2. I have decided that chocolate cookies and coffee count as a reasonable breakfast. 
  3. It's 9:30am, so I think I'll take a nap now.
  4. Do I have to pee again? I swear I just went 10 minutes ago.
  5. Ow, for someone so tiny this unborn baby can really jab my ribs. 
  6. At what point do I get to drive one of those motorized carts at the grocery store?
  7. There goes another shirt that doesn't fit. Whatever. Nothing goes with my zombie eyes and walrus waddle anyway.  
  8. If anyone tells me, "This will be your third? Wow, you'll have your hands full!" I. WILL. CUT. THEM.
  9. The worst part of my day: every time I have to bend down to pick something up off the floor.
  10. This third birth should be easy, right? RIGHT?
  11. Okay, I definitely have to pee again.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Brownie Pudding

I know I've found a good recipe when I make it at least three times.

The first time is the trial run. The second time means I remember it being good enough to do again. The third time means it is securely a solid dish that is worth not simply enjoying, but sharing it with others.

This brownie pudding has been devoured every time I've made it, to a chorus of praise. It's essentially a big dish of brownie love that is great for a family dessert or potluck. It is baked like a steamed pudding, set in the oven in a pan of water. Don't be thrown off by how under baked it seems; that's the desired result. There should be a crisp layer that forms on top, which is fun to break through with a serving spoon.

Beware, it is insanely rich. And gooey. And chocolate perfection. It doesn't last very long, especially when nestled near a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Brownie Pudding (from Ina Garten)

print this recipe

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (or optionally, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 tablespoon framboise liqueur, optional
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 2-quart (9 x 12 x 2-inch) baking dish. Melt the 1/2 pound of butter and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside. 

When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, framboise if using, and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again until just combined. 

Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. A toothpick inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding. 

Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Main Thing for 2015

With the new year comes a rush of new vision and hope. Some people make resolutions, others try to build in different habits. However you slice it, it seems like a great practice to reassess where you are, and where you want to be. 

As I said in my previous post, my main commitment of 2015 is to be a person of love, generosity, joy, kindness, and compassion

This commitment has the potential to remain nothing more than a theoretical ideal. But I believe that real lasting change in one's character can happen. I cannot just muster up more joy, but I can build in habits that might foster and deepen joy. Habit changes can make space for character cultivation. Unto that end, here are a few practical things I intend to do as I aim for being more loving, generous, joyful, kind, and compassionate.
  • Shut off the iPhone when it detracts from present relationships. Sometimes I fill the space and silence with checking email or Facebook on my phone, and completely miss out on opportunities to engage with people who are right there with me. Can I actually take those moments to have meaningful connection with people rather than be consumed with technology and social media? Yes, I'd like to hope so. 
  • Listen to people. I think I'm a pretty good listener, but I still have room to grow at this. Am I always entering a conversation with curiosity and openness about what's going on for another person? No...sometimes I'm distracted by other thoughts, thinking of what I want to say, or assuming I already understand the other person. I interrupt or disengage, which really isn't listening well. Instead, I want to set aside my own agenda, and be open, curious, and truly seek to understand others. 
  • Value people and relationships above tasks and efficiency. Just this morning, I was hurried by the task of grocery shopping. There was no real deadline for getting it done; some voice inside me just said, "This task needs to get done NOW." Because that was my aim, I rushed around the grocery store with my two children, getting upset with them for not falling in line with my efficiency, and barely acknowledging other people in the store. Later, as I reflected back on the experience, I realized that putting tasks above people probably resulted in me being less than kind and compassionate with my kids and others. And bonus, it ended up being an anxious, joyless experience for me.
I'm sure that I'll come up with many more ways to cultivate love, generosity, joy, kindness and compassion for others, but this seems like a good place to start. Maybe in 2015 I'll become a better wife, mother, friend, and neighbor.

What habits and practices do you practice to love people well?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on 2014

End-of-the-year reflections from past years: 200720082009201020112012, 2013

Hello, 2015! I'm doing some of the same reflections as previous years, with a few new questions tossed in and some old questions tossed out.

1. What was the best thing that happened this past year?

We found out that child number 3 is on the way! She'll arrive in late February or early March, and we're eager to meet her. 

2. What was the most challenging thing that happened?

We moved from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Leaving behind friends, church, and over a decade of living in Southern California has been difficult.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?

I've been doing formal training and education to become a spiritual director, and it has been an incredibly joyful, life-giving experience. 

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

Being in a new place, with young kids. What I mean by this is that it has been a slow, hard transition to connect with other people in a new city. I feel so exhausted that going out and making new friends feels like such a draining option. 

5. Pick three words to describe 2014.

Spiritual deepening

6. What were the best books you read this year?

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

7. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

I left my family for a whole week (for a spiritual direction retreat). I visited a chiropractor who did some crazy stuff with my neck and back. I successfully made several rounds of homemade ice cream. 

8. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't make any concrete resolutions last year. But for 2015, here is my main commitment: be a person of love, generosity, joy, kindness, and compassion. 

9. What are you most grateful for?
I'm grateful for Steve and our ever-growing friendship/marriage/partnership. I'm thankful for our kids, and all the ways I've been changed by motherhood. I've loved spending time with my parents and grandparents. I'm also grateful for yoga, Netflix, phone dates with friends, and our church. 

10. How did you change this year?

I enjoyed and embraced the chaos of parenting more than ever. I simplified our stuff by giving more away and buying less things. I befriended my limitations (at least a little bit). 

11. What moments were most memorable? 
A great, fancy cocktail birthday party. Hosting Monday Night Dinner with friends at our home every week. When we found out we were pregnant. Shipping all our belongings across the Pacific. When my grandfather passed away. 

12. What are you looking forward to this coming year?
The arrival of our baby. Not being pregnant, wearing regular clothes, and drinking wine again. Continuing to grow as a spiritual director. Making some lasting friendships on Oahu. 

13. What was the biggest thing you learned this year?

God is with us in unique and surprising ways in the messy and hard moments. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Christmas Wishlist

Dear Santa, 

I know I stopped believing in your existence around Christmas 1987 (and then subsequently told all my younger cousins that you were a parental lie). But if you can make any of these things happen this year, that would be fantastic.

Here are a few things I would love for Christmas:
  1. For Christmas cookies to have the nutritional value of kale.
  2. A good night of sleep. "Good" meaning 8 hours that aren't interrupted by my bladder or sore hips. 
  3. For my kids to forget the existence of the song Gangnam Style.
  4. Trader Joe's to expand to Hawaii. I mean, c'mon, your employees wear Aloha shirts! What's the hold up, TJ's?
  5. A personal home barista to make gingerbread lattes for me. 
  6. For my toddler to become instantaneously potty trained.
  7. A satisfying end to How to Get Away With Murder. 
Thanks, Santa. Have a good one.

- Larissa

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Snickerdoodles

Among all the holiday desserts and Christmas cookies surrounding us, these pumpkin cream cheese snickerdoodles are a distinct standout.

They are a pumpkin-y spin on the classic snickerdoodle, with a dollop of cream cheese at the center. I mean c'mon, pumpkin and cream cheese, who's not into that? As the cookies bake, they fill the home with pumpkin and spice scents that call forth the joys of wintertime.

For real, these may be in my top 5 cookies of all time. In fact, if you end up making these, may I request that you send a few my way? Thanks.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Snickerdoodles

print this recipe

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
a pinch of cardamom
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Filling Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cinnamon-sugar coating:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash of allspice

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom together. Set aside.

In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugars on medium high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Blend in pumpkin puree, beat in egg and then add vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients on low speed just until combined. Cover and chill dough for an hour.

To make the cream cheese filling, blend cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together. Chill for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and spices for the coating and set aside.

To make the cookies, take a tablespoon of the cookie batter. Flatten it like a pancake and place a teaspoon of the cream cheese in center. Form another tablespoon of the cookie batter into a flat pancake shape and place on top of the cream cheese. Pinch the edges together sealing in the cream cheese and roll into a ball. Roll in the cinnamon sugar coating and place on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. Repeat until the dough is gone.

Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes or until the tops start to crack. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack. Makes about 24 cookies.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Speaking Out Because It Matters

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, 
but the silence of our friends.” 

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Today I am adding my voice to the ones crying out for justice. In the aftermath of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and too many others, I am joining with those who are saying "Enough is enough!"

I've stayed silent for a while. Why? There are lots of reasons, if I'm honest with myself. 

I've been silent because I'm an Asian American who has the privilege of choosing to ignore problems because they "aren't mine." I haven't experienced painful interactions because of the color of my skin. I am neither white nor Black, and don't know where my place is in the race conversation. 

I've been silent because there are lots of vocal people around me who have insights and opinions, and I haven't known how to add to the dialogue. Media, Facebook, and Twitter are rich with people taking a stance, so what more could I say? 

I've been silent because in my anger, sadness, and confusion, I've felt stuck in how to even put words to everything. I've started typing several posts, but end up deleting them because they don't accurately convey what I want to say.

I've been silent because I am afraid. I am afraid of getting off the sidelines. I am afraid of stirring the waters and getting uncomfortable. I am afraid because taking a stand for something puts you in the line of fire. I am afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I've been silent because the problem is so huge, and I feel so small. I don't know what to do, so inaction has felt like the best option.

But no more. 

Today I refuse to sit silently while so many people around me suffer, weep, and struggle. Silence and neutrality isn't simply inaction - it communicates that things are okay. And thing are not okay

So here is what I need to say:

I am joining with my Black brothers and sisters as a friend, advocate, and ally. I am horrified by what is happening to the Black community in our country. It is evil and deplorable. Black lives are being devalued, and that is not okay. Black boys and men live in fear of the justice system, and their basic human rights are not being protected. We are NOT in a post-racial society. I stand in agreement with Jim Wallis who writes America, We've Got a Problem, and believe that the problem is one that we all share.

I hear the outrage and pain, and I care. I may not know how exactly to respond, but I'm committed to trying. In whatever ways I have influence, power, and a voice, I am choosing to use those to respond and take action. I am willing to listen and learn.

There are some things I do know that I need to do. 

I need to help my family engage in dialogue about race. I will help my kids be aware of justice and power. I will help them develop compassion for the marginalized. I will help empower them to rightly see themselves as influential in the world around them. 

I need to repent of being silent, and cease abdicating my own voice and responsibility. I will speak out on behalf of those that are hurting, and assume some responsibility in advocating for what is right. 

I hope there are others outside of the Black community who will join in. Injustice for some means that there is a problem that needs to get addressed. 

Even if all we have is our individual voices, may we each add our own as we work toward change. It's time to speak out.