Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lessons Learned (Hopefully)

Jacob has had quite an eventful week - and it's only Wednesday morning.

Lesson One
Sunday at church, he got the bright idea to stick his name tag on his bare leg. Maybe if he had peeled it off immediately, it wouldn't have been such a big deal. But he didn't try until Billy picked him up after church, and by then it was stuck and stuck good. He had to soak in the tub for a while, with a good covering of soap over the name tag, to get it to peel away. And even then, the sticky part still stuck. We tried rubbing alcohol to get it off, but it didn't. He's going to have to go around a few days with sticker residue stuck on his leg until it finally wears off.

He always likes to be "funny" with his name tag. I think he won't bother with it anymore. I asked him where he always puts his name tag to begin with, and he said, "My shirt." I told him I expected it to stay there every Sunday from now on.

Lesson Two
Last night he was too "lazy" to take his dirty clothes to the hamper in my bathroom, so he left them in a heap on his bedroom floor. He assured me he'd take care of it in the morning. When he woke up this morning, the first thing he said was, "There are ants all over my clothes from last night." I asked how he could see them since the boys' room is always pretty dim in the mornings. "They're obvious," he responded.

Not sure what I'd find, I eased in and tiptoed to the light pull on their fan. Before I turned the light on, I could see his white shirt was covered in ants. Big ants. Oh, no!

I sprayed an empty clothes basket with Raid, then did a quick spray on his clothes before dropping them in. I lightly sprayed the menagerie of books, MP3 players and headphones, and miscellaneous LEGOs, then took his clothes to dump in the washing machine for a quick, super hot wash. When I went back in the room, I checked around the window, the most likely place they'd be coming in. Nothing. I looked all around the baseboards and the ceiling/wall corners, but I didn't see any there either.

Now my stomach is in knots because now I have to look under the bunk beds. That entails taking Jacob's bottom mattress off, removing the support boards, and pulling out all the tubs of toys stored under there. I really hope I don't find any more ant-infested clothing! I have a fear there may be some ant-infested Webkinz, though, since they shove them between the bed and the wall at night. Other stuffed animals get bedded down there, too, but they usually don't come out again until I do my big cleaning.

Speaking of big cleaning, I'm afraid that's what I get to do today. Here goes...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Culinary School?

I've always enjoyed cooking, and I've toyed with the idea of going to culinary school for a few years. I never really looked into it until recently...

What got me started on the idea again is the book I'm currently reading: The Sharper the Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn. I'm just halfway through the book, but the things she's had to do as a student at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris have led me to rethink my dream.

Curious, I checked out the website for Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas and read through the course descriptions for Culinary Arts. The first two "Foundations" courses seem okay: terminology and organization, stocks and sauces, safe food handling, slicing and dicing, following recipes, soups, and cooking with vegetables, grains, and eggs. All that I can handle.

It's the third "Foundations" class that gets me squeamish: butchery and pork products (as in making sausage, etc.). That, I don't think I could handle. I'm not one for filleting fish or beheading chickens and rabbits, and I prefer to buy my meats already prepared, already ready for my seasoning and cooking.

There's a second option: Baking and Pastry Arts. That would be fun, but it's not what I'd like to focus on. Sweets are fine, but I prefer savory foods.

Tuition is another hang-up. While I don't expect it to be cheap, I don't want to spend $17,000+ on certification in something that I'm not sure I want to do professionally. This is more along the lines of something I'd like to learn for my own personal enjoyment. You know, like taking fun cooking classes.

As I was perusing the website, I found just the thing that interests me: MasterChef Non-Professional Cooking Classes. They offer a range of classes from basic culinary skills (including some of the lesser-desired classes like butchery), basic baking skills, seasonal/holiday cooking, and - my favorite - international cuisine! You can opt to take only a class or two that you like, for $99 each, or you can sign up for a whole series of 6 classes for just $479. (You can also take a year of 24 classes - all six classes in each of the four categories - for $1,499, but I'm not interested in that.)

The series that most interests me is "International Cuisine 101". The six classes feature foods from France, the Mediterranean, Italy, Asia, Spain (tapas), and Latin America. This is exactly what I'm looking for! The only catch is the class on French cooking is this Saturday - which is too soon for me. The other classes don't pick back up until January, then run one each month (except for May) until June. The classes are on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., so they wouldn't interfere with Billy's work or classes. Most Saturdays, we're home not doing much of anything. That might also be an incentive for my sister Lindsay, who also loves cooking and taking cooking classes, to come for those weekends and join me.

I'd love to know if the next French cooking class will be scheduled for July 2012. If so, that might be perfect timing for what I want to do. I'd be able to save up some money from birthday and Christmas to pay for it. I might even ask my family for money instead of gifts to help pay for it. That would be an excellent gift!

I'll do a little more research and see if I can find out about that French cooking class. I think it'd be my least favorite of the six, but I'd rather pay $479 and include it than pay $500 and take the classes individually.

Update: I take it back. I would like to try the French cuisine class. I just remembered the savory crepes from La Madeleine, as well as their potato gallete, seasoned, I think, with herbs de Provence. They're wonderful, and I would love to learn to make something similar! Bring on the French!

Friday, July 15, 2011

July 2011 Book List

15. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Lily Owens' mom died tragically when Lily was just 4 years old. Now 14 and at the breaking point in her relationship with her father, she leaves town with her caretaker, Rosaleen, who she has sprung from under police guard at the hospital. Guided by a picture of a black Virgin Mary glued to a piece of board with "Tiburon, SC" written on the back, Lily and Rosaleen head out to find out about Lily's mother's past.

This is a wonderful story about love and forgiveness, friendship and family. Though I wasn't sure about it when I decided to read it, I found it hard to put down. I've added the movie to my Netflix queue, and will hopefully get to watch it in a few weeks.

16. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Henry DeTamble has a genetic anomaly that causes him to time travel. That's how he meets Clare, his future wife, when she's just a child of six. When they meet in "real time", Henry hasn't met Clare yet; only his future self has. But Clare knows him and loves him and is thrilled to be "reunited" with him. In spite of the uncertainty of his life, of what may happen to him at any time, they marry and build a life together.

The story is told through alternating "his and hers" viewpoints, but each is clearly indicated, along with the time of each incident and the ages of both Henry and Clare.

This book was really confusing at first. I felt like I needed to take detailed notes in order to follow what was happening, but after I got used to the whole time travel idea, it wasn't so complicated anymore. Even through the initial difficulties, the story was so intriguing that I couldn't put the book down.

It is graphic in some places (a strong R rating, if not X at times), so be warned. But overall, the story is a good one. I've got this movie on my Netflix queue as well. I've heard it's good. My mom even said so, so I'm thinking maybe the movie didn't get quite as "steamy" as the book.

17. The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers

Sierra Madrid's world is turned upside down when her husband Alex takes a high-paying job in Los Angeles and moves the family there without any input from her. Holding on to her anger, she refuses to enjoy anything Alex tries to do to help her adjust to their new life. As they grow apart, they begin to hurt each other with their words and their actions. Shortly after a tragedy in Sierra's family, Alex announces that he's moving out and wants a divorce. As she fights him and deals with her hurt and anger, as well as the reactions of her children, she begins to find her way to Christ. Reading a journal written by one of her ancestors, she sees parallels between their distant lives.

At first I was a little disappointed with the book. It seemed to follow a standard Christian romance formula, and the characters seemed too predictable and boring. I stuck with it, though, and after a while, the characters became more real to me - so much so that I cried a few times during the story. It's not one of Rivers' best works, but it's still a good read.

18. The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn

Kathleen Flinn had long dreamed of attending Le Cordon Bleu, but it wasn't until she lost her job in London that she even considered it. Urged on by her boyfriend, she used her life savings to spend a year in Paris and attend the famed culinary school. She shares her life as a student in the Basic, Intermediate, and Superior levels of the school's culinary arts program, as well as her life as an American in Paris. It's masterfully written and hard to put down.

I've loved to cook for as long as I can remember, but when it came time for college, I didn't give culinary school the first thought. I wasn't passionate about it then, but I've toyed with the idea some over the last few years. Reading about Flinn's experiences at Le Cordon Bleu made me realize I don't want to go to a full-fledged culinary school. Not for a degree, anyway. Many of the things she had to do are things I don't want to experience. Also, I don't have the money to put into a full culinary arts degree program since I'm not wanting to make a career of cooking. Still, it made me think, and it gave me an idea...

19. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

My only knowledge of this book came by seeing it on the "new" shelf at the library. The title and cover caught my eye, and after reading the description inside the book jacket, I stuffed it in my book bag for later.

Kavita, a poor Indian woman, gives birth to her second daughter in secret. Her husband Jasu took their first daughter away to be disposed of because she wasn't born a son. After grieving for her, she vows he will not do the same with her second one, whom she names Usha. With the help of her sister, she secretly travels to an orphanage in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and gives her up, hoping for a better life than she would get otherwise. She finally gives birth to a son, Vijay, and Kavita and Jasu pin their hopes on him.

Somer Thakkar, a pediatrician in California, is devastated after she learns she will never be able to have a child. Her husband Krishnan, an Indian, encourages her to consider adoption from an Indian orphanage his mother has recommended. She eventually agrees and they adopt Asha (Uhsa).

The story focuses on the lives of Kavita, Jasu, Vijay, Somer, Krishnan, Asha, and Krishnan's mother Sarla over a 25-year period as they deal with loss, guilt, uncertainty, anger, and, finally, love and understanding.

This book touched home in many ways. I have friends who are serving as missionaries in India. I have an Indian friend, a missionary, who, with his wife, will be returning to serve there after serving several years in the Philippines. I have friends who are in the adoption process, both domestic and international. Adoption has also played a major role in my own family. It was interesting to see the various perspectives surrounding adoption and to learn about the cultural influences on it.

I also felt some conflicting emotions regarding the characters in this novel. I initially felt like the one American woman was stereotyped as cold, distant, selfish, and weak, while the Indian characters were warm, open, and loving. Of course, things evened out over the course of the story, but it took a while.

Overall, it's a great read, and I can see someone making it into a movie.

Friday, July 1, 2011

On Wearing Shoes

When we're in our house, we don't wear shoes. There are several reasons for that. Mostly it's because we don't want to track in all the grossness from outside and spread it around our floors. Another reason would be the wear and tear they do on the carpet. It's inconvenient to put them on when I'm just staying inside. Also, it's just more comfortable to walk around in socks or bare feet.

I don't expect other people to take their shoes off when they come in my house, but if they feel comfortable enough to do that, I definitely don't mind. When I go into someone else's home, I follow their lead. If they're shoeless, I'll most likely slip mine off. If they're wearing shoes, I'll most likely keep mine on. If I'm with family, they almost always come off. It's that comfortable feeling again.

Yesterday, however, I was reminded (again) of why I do need to put on shoes when I'm working out. They do a good job of absorbing the shock from jumping jacks, jumping rope, high knees, and butt kicks (Jillian's terms). They also help out with balance when I'm standing on one leg, doing lunges, etc. Probably most importantly, they protect my feet from injury. I must've landed wrong yesterday when I was doing my Jillian workout. In bare feet. I feel bruised underneath/on the side of my little toe on my right foot. It's not swollen or visibly bruised, but it hurts. And I know if I had been wearing shoes during my workout, like I'm supposed to do, I wouldn't be complaining about that today.

I'll continue going barefoot in my house - or with socks on when the weather is cold - but from now on, when I'm preparing to do any sort of exercise, I will stop and take the little bit of time necessary to put on socks and shoes.