Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hair Matters

In very important news, I cut my hair last week. By myself, with a mirror and scissors. After years of not doing anything at all with my hair besides growing it out, I decided that bangs were in order.

A hearty thanks to my sister-in-law Seisha - she suggested I try the Taylor Swift/Heidi Klum blunt bangs. Seisha and I are hair buddies...I cut her hair, she gives me hair advice. There's lots of trust.

Okay, back to the hair. I watched several helpful YouTube tutorials on "how to cut bangs," and learned some helpful techniques. Then choppity-chop, and I did it.

My naked forehead looks huge. Bangs to the rescue!

I can still wear my hair up, which is a must in Honolulu's hot humidity.

Guess how many times it took to get this shot with my hair just so 
(and not blowing around in the wind) with the pretty sunbeams? 
Too many for me to feel okay about. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Happy Things for the Solo Parent

Steve is away this week on a work trip. He usually has these trips about once a month, so we're learning how to make it work with our family life. On my end, even though we've done this a few times, I still need to intentionally find ways to help the kids and myself thrive. Here are a few happy things I've been doing this week to enjoy the solo parenting:

1. Go on a walk with my toddler.
2. Take a trip to Starbucks and guiltlessly splurge for a gingerbread latte.
3. Try a new haircut. 
4. Bake and cook with the kids. Aaron wanted to make mochi, so that's our fun activity for this afternoon. 
5. Facetime or text with Steve when I need to connect with my faraway spouse. 
6. Do spontaneous things with the kids. Unplanned trip to Costco because the kids enjoy the samples...why not? Say yes to things they want to do (unless it's Aaron asking if I will play the card game War with him. Then it is ALWAYS no.)
7. Have lots of story time with the kids on the couch. 
8. Take naps while my toddler naps. 
9. Ask a friend to watch the kids so I can be alone for a few hours. 
10. Cook simple, quick meals.
11. Go to sleep earlier than usual. 
12. Connect with friends who get me.
13. Watch Top Chef, Parenthood, or other fun, mindless TV.
14. Be okay with less showers, messier floors, and dirty laundry.
15. Stretch and do yoga. 
16. Give kids some crayons, Scotch tape, and paper. Let them create!
17. Read.
18. Take a few deep breaths and let go of expectations for how things "should go."

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Stores are already stocked up on Christmas decor, but can we revel in pumpkin season for a little bit longer? Spicy pumpkin desserts deserve their heyday.

I'm going to risk being heretical here, but I say skip the pumpkin spice latte (gasp!), and make this pumpkin chocolate chip bread instead.

I've made this pumpkin bread many, many times, and it is delicious. It's sweet, spicy, and moist. Add in chocolate chips, and it'll take you to new levels of joy. The recipe makes 2 loaves. One for you, one for a friend if you feel like sharing. The bread also freezes well, so you can enjoy some later.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

print this recipe

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9x4 1/2 (or 8x4) loaf pans. 

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla extract, and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and cardamom. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. 

Pour into the prepared pans, and bake for 60-70 minutes (or 50-60 minutes if using smaller loaf pans) until a toothpick inserted in the loaves come out clean. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Empty Yet Full

"I feel like I have very little energy, but still so much to give."

This is what I told a friend the other day while we chatted on the phone.

Physically, I am downright tired. Halfway through this pregnancy with our third child, I am waddling around with a heavy belly. Every movement takes more effort, sleep is an uncomfortable battle, and I need to muster up all my internal resources to just make it through the day. After our two kids get into bed, and the dishes are done, and I can finally just lay down, I feel spent.

And yet...

There is something happening in the deeper parts of me that is energizing. I feel my spirit filling and stirring with love and joy and hope. I have a growing sense of vision for my own life, and a confidence that I have so much to pour into other people. When I think about our growing family, relationships with friends and neighbors, and even interactions with strangers, I get excited about the possibilities of experiencing more of this love, joy, and hope. And I feel certain that the pool of resources doesn't come from me, but that I have unlimited access to it.

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." This is the invitation that reverberates in my soul these days. Embrace your emptiness, and be filled.

And as it goes from a nice thought to an experienced reality, the invitation and Inviter seems like the best gift I could ever dream of receiving.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Layered Pan Sushi

Let's pretend for a moment that I haven't completely overdosed on my kids' Halloween candy this week, and make something that doesn't fall into the dessert category.

This layered pan sushi is a crowd-pleaser. It is quick to prepare and easy to serve, making it a great dish for parties and potlucks. No sushi-rolling necessary. Layers of sticky rice and crabmeat provide the base, topped with salty and savory furikake and unagi sauce. Mmmm...

In Hawaii, every grocery store stocks the necessary items. If your store doesn't have basic Asian ingredients, you may need to search around for tobiko. You can find unagi sauce with the hundreds of bottled Asian sauces, or make your own at home (recipe here). I recommend not skipping the unagi sauce, because it really does complete the dish.

Eat this on its own as a main dish, or as a side to some teriyaki chicken.

Layered Pan Sushi

print this recipe

3 cups rice, cooked
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/2 tub of tobiko (orange sushi roe)
About 12 sticks of imitation crabmeat, shredded
1/2 cucumber, diced or thinly sliced into matchsticks
Furikake for garnish
Green onions for garnish (optional)
Unagi sauce (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix mayonnaise, yogurt or cream cheese, tobiko, crab meat, and cucumber. Press rice in an even layer in a 9x13-inch pan. Spread crab mixture into an even layer on top of rice. Sprinkle green onions and furikake on top. Drizzle with unagi sauce. Broil for a few minutes until top is bubbly. Serve with seasoned nori.

Friday, October 31, 2014

10 Things I Learned In October

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 October:

1. Baseball is probably my favorite sport to watch on TV. Granted, I only began watching when the Giants made it to the World Series, and it's extra exciting when you're rooting for a great team. But still...the drama of baseball is more compelling to me than other sports. And that is clearly an effect of being married to my husband. 

2. My 2-year-old daughter pronounces "sparkly," "fuck-y." As in, "Me wearing my fucky shoes." It makes me laugh every time.

3. Nigella Lawson has this incredibly easy no-churn ice cream. You need 4 ingredients, no ice cream maker, and you end up with absolutely divine ice cream. I have made the original coffee flavor, as well as vanilla bean.

4. My faith journey has been significantly shaped by Dr. Larry Crabb. His books and teachings have been foundational in my life, and this month I had the joy of being personally mentored by him for a week with 30 other people. It was water to my soul.

5. Our kids love story time. Their current favorite book is B.J. Novak's brilliant The Book With No Pictures. No kidding, I think we read this 9 times in a row on the day we got it. I bought the book after seeing this video of B.J. reading it out loud to a group of thrilled children:

6. Sometimes my husband and I act like we're still in college, and order a pizza delivery at 10:30pm at night. Shhh...don't tell our kids.

7. I have a love/hate relationship with my Inner Perfectionist. She's disciplined and principled, but boy, she really stands in the way of creativity and joy. I've decided that sometimes (oftentimes), I need to give myself permission to completely ignore Perfectionist Larissa.

8. There are a gazillion ways to use coconut oil. Cooking, natural bug repellant, homemade lotion. We have 2 huge tubs of coconut oil from Costco, so if you have any favorite ways to use it, let me know!

9. The baby in my stomach has a new habit of using my bladder as a punching bag. 

10. Second row is my seat of choice. Whether it's in an audience, classroom, or at church, I will always prefer the second row.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Caramel Apple Pie Bars

Since it's autumn and we have a jar full of this homemade caramel sauce, we're going to make caramel apple pie bars today. You didn't make some caramel sauce like I suggested? Okay, I'll wait 10 minutes for you to do it. Go ahead.

Okay, back to caramel apple pie bars. These beauties just scream fall. Picture apple pie on a buttery shortbread crust, topped with a crisp oat streusel, drizzled with rich caramel.

Also, no messing with pie crust! I personally have an 85% fail rate with every pie crust I attempt, so I welcome this way easier version.

Have them with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for a delicious dessert. Ours disappeared way too quickly, so I may bake a double batch next time.

Caramel Apple Pie Bars

print this recipe

Shortbread Crust:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour

Apple Filling:
2 apples, peeled and sliced (1/4 inch thick)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter, chilled and cubed
homemade caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on the sides. Set aside.

Make the crust by stirring melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add flour, and stir until combined. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling and streusel. 

Make the apple filling by combining all filling ingredients in a large bowl until apples are evenly coated. Set aside. 

Make the streusel by whisking the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a two knives (or your hands) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. 

Remove the crust from the oven, and turn the oven temperature up to 350 degrees. Layer the apples evenly and tightly on top of the warm crust. Sprinkle the streusel on top of the apples, and bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown. 

Remove from oven, and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Lift the foil out of the pan, and cut into squares. Drizzle caramel sauce over the bars, and serve either warm or chilled. 

Makes 16 bars.