Kitties' Chore!

Hah! I am such a nerd! BUT last night, it hit me what the cats' chore can be!! Killing and eating every spider in our house! All bugs for that matter! Last night, I asked Marzi what he was doing (yes, I talk to my cats, wanna make something of it?) and Eric replied on Marzell's behalf, 'just eating a bug...' and I was like, YES! that's it! That is their job! I think I will intentionally give them a treat each time I see them take care of any unwanted critters to encourage future behavior! (not that they need encouragement...since they are inside-only cats, one of them spotting a spider is like a lion with her prey...it's pretty entertaining actually)
So, it's official - all "members" of our household are part of the family chore list now! Oh how wild and crazy my daily life is... ;)

PS - Isn't it facinating to watch nature in action? Yes, even a cat's pounce on a spider is fun to me....not if it were a bird or a rabbit, though, then my emotions would be too torn...nature is so complicated.


Weekly Chores Incentives

So, Eric and I have recently been discussing how much we both love having a clean house and how relaxing it is to be able to take a load off in the evenings/weekends without feeling like there is cleaning/picking up/laundry, etc, calling our names! We excel in different areas of keeping things tidy - I will scrub pots and pans 'till the cows come home, but please don't ask me to scrub your toilet. Eric can de-clutter a room in record speed, but would rather endure the stench coming from the cats' litter box than actually replace it with fresh kitty litter. I'd say we actually do a pretty good job of meeting each other's cleaning weaknesses! That being said, we are trying a new plan beginning this week to ensure the completion of our designated/chosen chores each week. I am going to use a point system that if you DON'T do your chore that week, you get a point. It will work like golf scoring; points = bad. When you reach 10 points, you have to face the leisure activity to do together that winner gets to pick. Since we will have quite a few chores each, it would be easy to rack up points quickly if we get lazy. If we are both lazy, then we both have consequences! We have already begun brainstorming what we will pick for each other...so far we have come up with:

Betsy's consequence (chosen by Eric) = playing 1 hour of Halo (video games) with Eric (gag me!)

Eric's consequence (chosen by Betsy) = attending her favorite yoga class at the gym with her (I just know he will thank me later!...er, maybe...)

I sprang the idea to Eric last night as we lay in bed (gotta love pillow talk) and even though it was late (11:20 pm), and we both had to get up early for work (6:30 am), he got SO excited about it (loves anything that can be a game) that he wanted to get up and make the chart right then! I was like, 'how about we do it tomorrow? for the love of sleep, please?!?' His equally exhausted body conceeded and we fell asleep, each blissfully dreaming of the lovely activities/hobbies we would enjoy doing together.... I think it is safe to say that we will both stay pretty motivated! Not that we would ever enjoy "torturing" our loved one with our own interests, but it is an excuse to pick anything in the world as an activity together! I can get a baking buddy for the afternoon or an early morning breakfast date and he can get a napping companion (I hate naps, but he takes at least a couple per week) or enjoy another guitar playing in his Rock Band concerts. ;) All housework aside, it might actually be a good exercise for us to practice compromise and relationship building...

Also, I googled "chore charts" for ideas and I found a bunch of articles about how to make chores a part of a child's responsibility and how to do so without incentives. Apparently children should not need incentives to do chores, but rather, face consequences for not doing what should already be their responsibility...since I agree, I thought the same should apply to Eric and me as adults? I also think in this case for us, sometimes you just have to light a fire under your butt to get moving. The prospect of playing Halo sure does it for me and I can assure you, yoga is a worse enemy than kitty litter to Eric.

Anyway, I ended up using the ever-helpful Excel to format a chart - wish I could figure out on here how to upload it...maybe something Eric can help me with. I'm sure ya'll will be sitting on the edge of your chair waiting for it; nothing more exciting than an excel spreadsheet! So far, the list is up to 16 chores (some weekly, some daily)...does
that sound like a lot to anyone else?


Sisters...sisters...there were never such devoted sisters...

Well - this post is a tribute to how amazing the relationship of a sister is! As I impatiently wait to visit Katie sometime soon, I smile and thank the Lord that Annie and Molly have each other and pray for them as they continue to grow closer throughout the years. It's been known to happen for some siblings to struggle through the teen years (b/c fighting and rebellion is what teens do best), but I hope and trust that either they will avoid that period in their relationship or come back together closer than ever. From about the time I was age 16, Katie and I re-kindled our treasured childhood friendship, and especially after my freshman year of college in Seattle - I was hooked for life! Each year our hearts are woven tighter. To me, Romans 12:15 sums up the support of a sister - "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Throughout life, Katie and I will be dancing with each other during times of rejoicing and weeping on each other's shoulders during the periods of mourning.

My sweet nieces, Molly & Annie, have been given the same gift and it is such a joy to watch.

The two princesses: with one who is way too cool for school. Cinderella wore shades, right? ;)
I absolutely can't handle Anne's face in this next one: it is a hilarious action shot.

Annie found Nana's slippers to be awfully cozy with her Christmas pajamas...and Molly is surprisingly strong!!
After many giggles, they both tumbled to the floor into a sweet hug!

Dressed to face the cold together... Molly's new crocheted scarf by yours truly! Poor Annie-pie has to wait for her matching hat, because I made it too small the first attempt...she's just growing up faster than we can all keep up with!

Such sweet girls with a relationship I hope they treasure their whole lives. Clearly, they are off to a great start. ;)


Whole-Wheat Blueberry Pancakes!

These are the perfect lazy-weekend breakfast food. In the summer, I love using fresh-picked, perfectly ripe, plump blueberries, but in our current 30 degree weather, pulling them right from the freezer works just fine too. :) They are made with whole wheat flour, but I assure you - the texture is light and fluffy, like the clouds you could float away on in a dream. It is the buttermilk that keeps them airy and delicious. Also, a lovely cooking/baking tidbit: If you do not have buttermilk on hand or don't like to buy it because you end up with more than you need for a recipe - do not fret! You can simply create your own - with some milk and some vinegar (weird, right?), but somehow the vinegar curdles the milk properly for the same chemical effect. Please do not ask me to attempt to explain that process, I certainly do not claim to be a chemist - in fact, chemistry is my least favorite subject that I have ever had to learn about. Makes me thankful for the people in the world who do love it...like Chris, Erin, Sara to name a few...because I would be living on the streets right now if my livelihood depended on my skills in balancing redox reactions. Anyway, the conversion for 1 c. buttermilk = 1 Tbsp. vinegar & (just under) 1 c. milk - enough that together it equals the 1 c. of buttermilk that you need. As long as we are discussing substitutions, you can easily use 1 c. plain yogurt or 1 c. sour cream as a substitute for buttermilk also. Just to keep in mind if ever you encounter a dairy baking dilemma. :)

Whole-Wheat Blueberry Pancakes: I adjusted this recipe from one I found on Kevin's "Closet Cooking" blog - which is fantastic. You can follow the link I have on my blog to find his - he makes some delicious foods! This is my modified recipe of what he used for his pumpkin pie pancakes; changed to use blueberries instead of pumpkin flavors.

1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 c. buttermilk (or the various substitutions I bored you with earlier)
1 egg
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (melted)
Plenty of blueberries!

Sift (or whisk) the flours, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix the milk, egg, and butter.
Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix until just barely incorporated - the more you mix, the further you will get from the light, airy pancakes that you so desire.
Then get your pan nice and hot and spray with non-stick OR use it to melt the butter for your wet ingredients and you've just fed two birds with one scone (hah! my new animal-friendly idiom... like it? a little lame, but so much nicer of an expression than one about stoning birds to death!)
Pour about 1/4 c. of the batter into the pan and heat until the surface starts to bubble (those are your lovely air pockets) and the bottom is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. This is where you add your blueberries!

When golden brown on one side, flip the pancake and cook the other side until it is also golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. You do not want to go back and forth flipping them or you smash the air out and we have already discussed how this will ruin the perfect pancake texture. This is like cooking a hamburger or steak - you only want heat to hit each side once, so make sure it's ready to be done on that side, before you flip.

Now, for the best part, pile 'em up, throw some butter, Earth balance, yogurt spread, whatever floats your boat on and douse the stack in delicious pure maple syrup. Hmm, hmm, hmm. The taste and comforting satisfaction that these lovelies provide is absolutely divine. I think I may just have my plan for this Saturday morning - can't wait.


Biscotti & Hot Chocolate

Here is the scrumptious biscotti and hot chocolate I whipped up for Eric, while he was outside in the cold putting up our beautiful Christmas lights. That's right, I am JUST now getting you the goods on how to have your very own homemade biscotti. They are easy to make and were delicious dipped in coffee, hot chocolate, um...pretty much anything I tried them in! :)

I made almond biscotti for me (pictured above), because I love almond flavoring. period. and for Eric, I made cranberry-orange (pictured below). They were both lovely. I used the same recipe for both, just divided my dough in half and mixed in whatever I fancied. :)

Almond/Cranberry-Orange Biscotti


1 c. toasted and chopped almonds
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 c. flour

3/4 c. sugar

3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
dried cranberries
freshly grated orange zest


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper (or in my case, tin foil).
In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs and extracts together. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the egg mixture and beat until a dough forms, adding almonds (if using) about halfway through. With floured hands divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface roll each half of dough into a log (doesn't have to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination!) Transfer logs to your baking sheet, spacing the logs about 3 inches apart, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch (logs will spread during baking). Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
Transfer logs to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut log into slices 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal. Arrange evenly on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake another 10 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool. Store any leftovers (if you're lucky!) in an airtight container.

Now for the perfect hot chocolate to keep you warm on any cold, winter evening.

I started to use a recipe from a someone I can always count on for a tasty turn out! (Ina Garten) HOWEVER, let it be known - some adjustments were needed. I simply couldn't sit down to drink a cup of 1/2 & 1/2 and feel good about it. My decadent splurge to make it extra creamy was using whole milk (or was it 2%?) I can't even remember, because the chocolate adds a richness that you won't even notice what percent milk you are drinking.

Homemade Hot Chocolate


2 1/2 cups whole milk (let's be honest...2%, 1%, soymilk, etc would work fine...but if you are really desiring that creamy, milk moustache effect, go for whole milk)

4 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract


Heat the milk in a saucepan on medium heat to just below the simmering point. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. When the chocolate is melted, add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk vigorously. Reheat gently to desired temp. and serve immediately. If you're like me, stuff the top with so many marshmallows, you can't see your hot chocolate anymore. :)



Well, last night I returned to the yoga class at my gym and could NOT BELIEVE how crowded it was compared to when I went before Christmas!! It was unreal and so obvious how many people have began their yearly resolutions of getting in shape. The gym as a whole, was packed.

Anyway, I've been thinking for the last week or so about resolutions and pondering why I've never really been drawn to the idea of them. Should I list my desires and hopes for 2009 since everyone else seems to be doing it? Am I lazy if I do not have 'clear expectations' of what I anticipate happening?

Here is the conclusion (for me) I have come to so far: yearly resolutions are a means for me to try to take control of my world and create expectations that foreshadow disappointment if not achieved on "my" timetable.

That being said, I think they can be a positive motivator towards a purposeful goal for others and I'm not saying they are wrong. By no means! I might even plan to make a few in the areas of baking, cooking, photography, reading, etc...but in terms of more heart-heavy goals, all I want to focus on is being patient on the Lord. It is only January 7th and already, my faith and trust are being stretched by unforeseen events! The Lord's timing is perfect and sovereign; by me manipulating His plans, I am only creating havoc. I experience indescribable peace when I rest in full Trust, not stressing over how "far behind" or different things are from what I imagined. Only God knows the future and how it will come together and for what purpose! How can I know what open door is awaiting me if I only focus on the closed door I want to go through - pounding my fist & demanding to be let in? My joy dePENDS on my flexibility and openness to God's leading in my life! Resolutions put my year in a box that shuts out unknown possibilities. At the end of 2009, my year will be a "good year" based on my actions, thoughts, words, and attitude, not by the mile markers I devise myself. Perhaps I've just written my resolution, not just for 2009, but for life: Obey God and hold on with everything I've got.


Happy New Year!!

2009 is here! We embark on another year of life and history - what a privilege! Only the Lord knows what it in store for each of us this year - I rest at peace knowing our future is in His hands!