Monday, April 20, 2015

No-Churn Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

With regards to kitchen tools, I have a love/hate relationship. Sometimes I get a thrill from using a kitchen torch or ice cream maker. Other days, I relish a recipe that requires simple techniques and no fancy appliances.

No-churn ice cream is exactly that. There are a few common ingredients, and you don't need any ice cream maker. I've made several iterations of this ice cream, all with great results. This vanilla bean ice cream is creamy, with a rich vanilla flavor. I use both vanilla extract and beans for a full flavor. If you don't have vanilla bean on hand, just use extract. The ice cream also makes a great base for other flavors.

No-Churn Vanilla Ice Cream (adapted from Nigella Lawson)

print this recipe

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Whisk all ingredients together until soft peaks form, and the mixture is airy. Pour into an airtight container, and freeze for at least 6 hours. Serve straight from the freezer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lessons from One Week of Memoirs

As I shared a few weeks ago, I'm writing memoirs for 100 days.

Today is day 9 of the challenge, and so far I feel really glad that I'm doing it. I've never before written so consistently, and have learned a lot about myself, writing, and creativity. Here are some of my take-aways from this first week of the project:
  • It is a fun challenge to recall meaningful people and events, and another challenge to translate the memories into words and stories. 
  • I love storytelling. It's a powerful way to process and reflect on life. 
  • A thesaurus is invaluable. 
  • Some memories make good stories, others memories are more like snapshots. Both can be interesting and meaningful. 
  • I was a weird kid, and an even weirder adolescent. 
  • There are some memories that I have never shared with anyone until now. It has been, at times, cathartic. 
  • Writing my memoirs has drawn me to reading other people's memoirs. 
  • I want to write with authenticity and openness, but also believe that not everything should be shared. 
  • Drawing with a black pen and crayons is fun. That said, I am definitely no great illustrator. 
You can read the memoirs at 100 Days of Memoirs or follow daily on Instagram

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Let's talk guacamole. It's a hit at parties, great on a turkey sandwich, and makes chips healthy(ish).

We have an avocado tree that, for several months of the year, provides huge beautiful avocados. In Hawaii's grocery stores avocados cost your left arm, so you can bet we made use of our avocado tree.

I've made this guacamole several times, and it is so dang good. It has your basics - limes, garlic, cilantro, as well as cumin and cayenne for some seasoning. Mix, taste, and season to your liking.


print this recipe

3 avocados, peeled, pitted and mashed
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pinch cayenne pepper 

In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados, lime juice, and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir in cumin and cayenne pepper. Refrigerate 1 hour for best flavor, or serve immediately.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

100 Days of Memoirs

What could I do with 100 days of documenting my memoir?

I'm participating in the 100-Day Project, a celebration of process that encourages people to create and make. 

My action will be to write/illustrate my memories. I've always been intrigued by the notion of creating a memoir. People are shaped by their memories, their stories. In essence, we are each a living, breathing story unfolding. I wonder about this journey through my own memories. What will I discover? How might I change? 

To even commit to doing this for 100 consecutive days feels daunting. But I imagine the process will be a good one. 

If you'd like to follow along, head over to 100 Days of Memoirs or follow on Instagram

Thanks for joining me in this. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

10 Things I Learned in March

At the end of each month, I write about things I learned. This practice has helped me pay attention to life, myself, and God's presence. In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned in March:

1. I love the newborn baby stage. 

Despite the fact that I'm living on about 4 hours of sleep each night, it's a joy to snuggle, nurse, and hold our little Aria. She does that infant thing where she curls herself like an armadillo, and dozes on whoever is holding her...the best.

2. With all the sleep deprivation, I am a hot mess in the mornings. 

One day I woke from a dream where Steve refused to help me with an important task. For several moments I was extra grouchy with him, until realizing that he had wronged me in a dream, and not real life. Haha. Glad my husband is extra gracious with me these days.

My husband took this photo right before I punched him in the face. And before I had coffee.

3. Having a voice as a woman means learning the words, "Stop interrupting me," "I just said that," and "No explanation needed." 

This article 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn sums up a lot of my experience as a female, and is a call to action to anyone who wants to empower girls and women.

4. Having kid #3 pushed us over into the Minivan Club. 

I assumed our Honda CRV would work for our growing family, but after squishing 3 car seats into the back seat, we made the decision to get a van. Steve worked his negotiation magic, and got a great deal on a Honda Odyssey. It is amazing, and not unlike driving a NASA space shuttle. I also learned that crowdsourcing friends' car opinions on Facebook is both entertaining and helpful. 

5. I am the gatekeeper standing guard against our home becoming an episode of Hoarders. 

We seem to accumulate all sorts of unnecessary junk - birthday party favors, sticks that the kids collect from outside, paper airplanes made by Aaron, the old vacuum that doesn't work - and I am constantly throwing or giving stuff away. No one else around here seems to be bothered by the clutter as much as I do. 

6. Infants look weird because they don't have eyebrows. 

At least this is true of all our kids. No eyebrows = alien babies. 

7. Now that I'm not pregnant anymore, I think I'm finally ready to try out Stitch Fix

Online shopping, personal stylist, and easy returns? Yes, please. Has anyone else used Stitch Fix? Let me know how it was! Or try it out with me this month.

8. I discovered music by Borns

His Candy EP is fun and addicting, and the first music I've purchased in years. Go listen!

9. Though we live on an island, we're not isolated from our global community. 

This week I had several experiences that connected me with friends who are far away. One friend sent us a really touching letter, another friend mailed us a beautiful baby gift, and other friends asked if they could visit during their upcoming Oahu vacation. I'm so glad to live in an age of interconnectedness through technology like email and airplanes!

10. I currently have an odd list of daily necessities.

These necessities include: a nap, coffee, an ebook to read while nursing (currently, reading Outlander). Bonuses: showering, changing into clean clothes, leaving the house. Like I said, hot mess. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Saltine Toffee Bark

Do I need to convince you to make this saltine toffee bark? Okay, since we're friends and I care about you, I'll give you a few reasons:

1. You've had a long, exhausting week, and the kale chips and Greek yogurt are simply not calling out to you.

2. It's chocolaty, salty, sweet, and nutty. Basically all the taste profiles necessary to quell your snack time cravings.

3. You're in the middle of making some big, grownup decisions. Saltine toffee bark is the perfect, albeit momentary, escape.

4. Who actually likes saltine crackers? No one, because they are pretty much cardboard. That is, until you slather them in chocolate and sugar butter.

5. It's ridiculously easy to make, but when you eat it, you'll proclaim your life calling is to be a chocolatier.

Now that we're in agreement that saltine bark is now on your to-do list, let's get going.

The toffee bark comes together in a snap. Butter and sugar are boiled, and poured over saltine crackers. Bake those babies for a few minutes, then spread on the chocolate and nuts.

Then the most difficult step: WAITING. You have to wait for everything to completely cool. I won't lie, it's an excruciating discipline to refrain from immediately shoving some into your mouth. But I believe in your capacity for delayed gratification.

You'll be rewarded with delicious pieces of crunch, chocolate, toffee, and nuts that are addictive and happy-inducing. If you truly love someone, you might consider sharing some with them. Or if you decide to hoard this for yourself, I won't judge you.

Saltine Toffee Bark

print this recipe

4 ounces saltine crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups chocolate chips 
3/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
Coarse sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Lay crackers in a single layer.

In a small saucepan, combine butter and sugar. Bring to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes (without stirring). Immediately pour over crackers, and spread to cover crackers completely. 

Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Return to the oven for 1 minute. Remove from oven, and spread melted chocolate evenly with a spatula. Top with chopped almonds. Sprinkle sea salt, if using. 

Let sit for 20 minutes to cool, then break apart into pieces. Chill for a few hours in the freezer, then store in the fridge.

Tip: small bits and pieces should be sprinkled over ice cream.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Aria's Birth

Aria's due date, March 5th, passed without event.

Days went by without any changes, and our doctor scheduled us for an appointment to induce labor on the morning of March 10th. My delivery with Alexandra was induced with pitocin, and I wasn't excited to repeat that experience, so I hoped that I'd go into labor naturally.

Around 1am that morning, I started feeling regular contractions. By the time Steve and I showed up at the hospital at 8am, contractions were pretty painful, and I knew that I was close to delivering our baby. The nurse checked, and told us that I was 6 centimeters dilated (over halfway there). To help labor along, the nurse recommended a low dose of pitocin via an IV. She asked if I wanted an epidural for the pain. After a moment of consideration, I said no. No epidural. The pain was bad, but I figured if I could do it with my two previous births, I could do it again.

Soon after receiving the pitocin, contractions came faster and stronger. Around 11am, I was asking (probably yelling, actually) if I could start pushing. When you say this to the nurse, a flurry of activity is set in motion. The doctor and aides jumped into action, setting up all their medical gear, breaking my water, and finally saying, "Okay, go for it...start pushing!"

Side note: our actual doctor was running late, and so a different doctor did the delivery. That happened with ALL three of our births.

I pushed with each of the next 3-4 contractions, and Aria came out. Healthy, calm, and alert. Steve cut her umbilical cord. She was wiped down, and wrapped up in a blanket, and handed to me.

Oh, the joy and relief and burst of love at meeting our daughter!

Her name, Aria, means "lioness," in Hebrew, and "air" in Italian (also used as a musical term for an operatic solo). A blend of strength, beauty, and nurturing. All our children have Chinese middle names, and Aria's is Li Mei, meaning "strength and beauty."

This third delivery was just as painful as my others. I fantasized about the baby just slipping out without much effort, but alas, that was not my experience. Contractions, pushing, and an episiotomy were all really rough. But in the end, I had another un-complicated, non-pain-medicated, healthy delivery, so count me grateful.

In this first week since Aria's arrival, we've had an influx of friends and family (namely, Steve's mother, who is the BEST), around to help with meals and other practical needs.

We are enamored with Aria. Aaron and Alex are adjusting to having a newborn sister - with some grace and some turmoil. Steve and I are living on less sleep and figuring out how to parent "zone defense" style.