Monday, August 5, 2013

Bejeweled Be Gone

I did something kind crazy the other day, I deleted all the games from my phone.  Now I understand that it wasn't really all that crazy.  It wasn't heli-skiing crazy or Costco on a Saturday crazy or even wanting to be President crazy.  I realize as I am typing that it was 100% first world "crazy."  I think that it was about $4.96 down the drain, probably more with tax but if time is money, then the amount of time I spent trying to unblock a little red rectangle or make the world's largest fruit salad or mine for jewels I would never actually hold should have earned me millions.  But it didn't.

In all actuality it lost me a great deal.  I realized that my quest to be a level 37 gem master made me look away from my son more often that look toward him.  It made me choose a pointless point system rather than working on my business.  It made me set goals that would get me no where instead of spending time with my husband, which at the end of every day is my ultimate goal, quality time with my husband.  I also realize I am saying "it made me" as if Apple was actually making my decisions for me, I know that it was my choice but when choices become habits they have the ability to switch the controls on you before you even notice.

I had always justified my game-time as a chance to "turn my brain off."  Truthfully there are more days where my mind is just as exhausted as my body when I carry around my 27 lb. 9-month-old for the whole day answering questions that the kids I nanny for ask and thinking to myself if I hear "why?" one more time I might just quit all the things.  But then I started asking myself if I was honoring the mind and gifts I was given by wasting away with the screen in my hands.  I realized that I was so saddened by the people I love giving more of their attention to a swirling vortex of some sort of candy land/tetris/7 dwarfs' workplace conglomeration as opposed to their kids, grandkids and friends, both happy and hurting right in front of them.

I realized that if I was going to ask my husband to stop paying so much attention to trucks and guitars for sale on Craiglist because he wanted to turn his brain off, I was going to have to remove my mind's off-switch as well.

So I started reading again.  I have read three books in the last four weeks.  I know that that might sound like very few but I am not a fast reader and I have a little kid so that's a lot for me.  I started to remember how much I love walking.  This last week, Noah and I spoke at Cascades Camp and I walked everywhere and it was so wonderful.  Granted, we had a kick-butt stroller we borrowed from friends (thanks Kiersten & Ryan!) and anyone wanting to donate a BOB Revolution to the cause is more than welcome, but that wasn't the point.  Even though nothing remarkable happened on those walks, no sudden revelation of clarity, no beam from Heaven, I listened to my son sing to himself and wave at the trees and I was happy.

Also, I started (today) a challenge that Keith Ferrin issued our church in order to begin to love reading the Bible.  I am going to try my hardest to read Philippians every day for a month.  I read it out loud today to Soren and he smiled at me while I made wild hand gestures and laughed when I laughed at Paul's little inside pieces of information.  I'm loving it already and I'm excited for September 5th when it will be as much a part of me as breathing.  So much more a part of my story than any saga regarding candy or diamonds ever will be.

Do I still get distracted?  Of course.  Do I still want nights to turn my brain off?  Obviously.  Am I saying this out loud to show you how awesome I am?  No, because I'm not sure anyone even reads this.  I'm saying it to remind myself that I am imperfect and that the idea of perfect is nothing but a perfect enemy.  But that doesn't mean I give up, that means I can do more with the time and gifts I've been given.  Not to mention, Soren just took his first steps, I guess I'll have to take up running :)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Thesis Statement Generation

My husband and I often have disagreements as to which of us is the more over-detailed when it comes to telling stories.  We're both story tellers, we love the parts of our life that give light to where we've been and what makes us what we are, and above all we love to laugh.  If you've been around either of us we've probably each told you the same stories a few times, sorry about that.

As science goes, my husband is way worse at over-detailing and over-tangenting his stories than I am, and you can't argue science.  Sometimes, it drives me nuts!  I mean, why is it necessary to give a history, a backstory and a three minute anecdote to tell me why you prefer peanuts to cashews?  I mean it doesn't, right?  And after it happened a few weeks ago, I really started paying attention to the way people tell stories and give information.

When I was younger my mom would ask me about something and I would give her a really long drawn out answer, mainly because I loved to talk and she would get this look in her eye that essentially said "mmhmmm, mmhmmm, are you seriously still answering?"  This is not an insulting observation about my mother, she was at the time and remains one of the hardest working women I have ever known.  She raised four kids, none of whom currently have felony records (hoorazies), she has a masters degree and about a million letters behind her name, she and my dad fostered kids for ten years because they are simply good people and she can cook like nobody's business.  All that's to say, my mom is awesome at about all thing, except idle chatter.  (I also cannot comment on her origami skills)

There are way worse things to not get a gold medal in, I actually think they probably award medals for being excellent at not engaging in idle chatter.  Both my parents are information gatherers, not pursuers of trivial things.  They are part of a generation that asked questions and expected answers that were facts, numbers or yes or no.  If it was your job to know something and you gave an answer, people trusted that you were telling the truth and your area of expertise denoted, well, your expertise.  But not us, not Generation "Why."  We are skeptical and second guessing everyone from doctors to pastors to mothers and I would like to blame fifth grade.

Yup, that's right, fifth grade is the reason we annoy our parents' generation and each other so dang much.  In fifth grade, our country's rather homogenous educational system, we all started learning about how to write a paper.  We were instructed that in order to tell a story, whether it was fiction or not, we had to have specific information to make it worth reading.  And first and foremost we needed a dreaded thesis statement.

We had to tell our reader in the first three sentences what it was we were going to tell them.  We had to sum up what the paper was about in the first 30 words, and you wonder why Twitter is so popular.  And it's not like those thesis statements ended in fifth grade after we learned them the way cursive handwriting or long division did.  No, we continued down the thesis thoroughfare long into college.  We were assured that this would impress future bosses with our ability to tell them what we were going to tell them in a few short sentences but then we could ramble for three pages about that statement being equally impressive the whole time.  We need to make sure you know that we know what we're talking about.  We preempt the inevitable "why?" with all the facts and answers we can think of so you don't have to bother asking.  In the end, we've created a people who don't bother asking because of the amount of time the answers take, leaving them sorry they asked.

Now, I'm not advocating for ignorance.  I listen to the news every day on my way to and from work not because it's happy but I think knowledge connects you to the big world we live in.  I'm also not saying that the brevity of previous generations couldn't be thrown in once in a while for a good old tangent.  I guess, what I'm saying after all these paragraphs, is it is hard to live between information overload and a quick answer.  "News" isn't a once a day occurrence any more, it is a constant stream of information that uses the term quite loosely.  And we feed on it so when someone asks us why we have all the answers.

I hope that my son learns to trust professionals to give him an honest answer, one he doesn't feel he has to double check with wikipedia and WebMD.  I hope that I have the courage to use an actual answer more than "because I said so" when he asks me "why" but I also hope he trusts me enough that "because I said so" is also a justifiable answer.  And I hope when he has to write his first thesis statement it goes something like "The reason my parents are the best ever is because they tell great stories."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Opart Thai, Yellow Curry & Planning a Menu

Noah posted a picture on Facebook the other day of some yellow Thai curry I made.  Frankly it was delicious and quite a few people asked me for the recipe.  I decided to make again a few nights later with just a few tweaks and it was better, in fact it reminded me so much of the yellow curry we loved so much at Opart Thai in Chicago, that we had ourselves a little Opart night with our two favorite dishes, yellow curry and Tiger's Cry.

If you are ever in Chicago and want to make a trip up to Lincoln Square, get off the Brown Line at the Western stop and go almost directly beneath the stop and you'll find Opart Thai.  Go there, trust me, just do it.  We first went to Opart when we moved to Chicago, we found it on Yelp and decided to try it out.  It was a life changing decision.  We explored more tastes there than almost anywhere else and we are better for it.  So moving to the suburbs of Seattle has left us longing for the tastes of North Chicago, one of the most diverse zip codes in the nation.

Then, quite serendipitously, one of the women in my Moms & Kids group taught us how to make traditional Thai curry and explained the secret was the ingredients, not secret ingredients just correct ones and for those you need an actual international market.  So, I'm including pictures with these recipes so you have an idea what to look for and if you don't have an international market, does. Please forgive the poor quality iPhone photos, I was sans big camera at the moment.

Yellow Thai Curry -

  • 2 cans coconut milk (I use one regular, one light)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped roughly
  • 1 sweet potato or yam, peeled & chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Yellow Curry Paste
  • 3 Tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • Lime (optional)
Start by sweating the onion in about 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil (I use canola because it has the least flavor).  When the onions become translucent add the coconut milk bring to a low boil.  While it is heating add curry paste, fish sauce and sugar.  Now, the paste is where the flavor and the heat come from, so if you want it hotter, add more but don't over do it or you'll find yourself sweating out your dinner.  The fish sauce is almost purely salt, so if you want more saltiness add it sparingly, but don't think it's going to add a fish-flavor or Omega-3s because it won't.

Here is an example of what you should be looking for, and my friend from Moms and Kids gave me a great piece of advice, if you are cooking Thai food, look for ingredients made in Thailand.  I know that sounds a little simplistic but since I don't speak or read Thai, it was totally helpful.  

The curry paste comes in a container that has a bag inside, it will last for a while in the freezer after you open it and doesn't really freeze solid so you can squeeze it out pretty easily.  But don't kid yourself on how much you'll need, this is a TON of curry paste, don't buy four or five jars of the same thing.  If you want one yellow, one green, a massamun, a panang and a red, that's fine, but this yellow curry paste will last us for quite some time.

As the mixture starts to boil, carefully add the sweet potatoes.  Don't add them too early because you don't want them to be mushy when you're ready to eat, a mistake I have made twice now, and if you're counting that is both times I've made this.  Also, now is a good time to make some Jasmine rice to go along with it.  I know, I know, brown rice is healthier but the Thai use Jasmine and frankly, it cooks faster and just plain tastes better.

Now slice up the bell peppers and set them aside, you'll put them in during the last three or four minutes so they stay crisp.

Now, slice up the chicken, I do this in this order so I only have to use one cutting board and it can all be safe, you're welcome, Mom.  I didn't take a picture of the chicken because I think showing people pictures of sliced chicken is equivalent to asking them not to like you anymore but I just thinly sliced two chicken breasts.  Think about how much hot chicken you want to actually fit in your mouth at one time and slice accordingly.  Now, add the chicken.  The chicken should be cooked through in about five minutes if the curry is boiling, if not it'll take a little longer.  When the chicken is no longer pink inside, add in the peppers.

Cook for a few minutes, just to soften the peppers a little, but again, not mushy.  And you're done!  Scoop some rice into a bowl, follow with the curry and using a microplane or grater, grate a little lime zest on top, maybe add some sliced green onion, sweet basil, kafir lime leaves or cilantro, whatever your fancy.

Now for the Tiger's Cry.  This was 100% our favorite appetizer.  In fact, more than once it was just a meal.  Our favorite quote was my cousin's husband, Chris, who after taking his first bite said, 

 "This is the meat I dream about"

All it is, is a good steak, seasoned well with salt and pepper and then charbroiled and rested to have a good crust and stay juicy.  The magic is the sauce, well friends, here it is... feel free to face-palm yourself when you see how easy it is

  • 1/4 c Lime Juice
  • 2 Tbsp. Fish Sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Green onion (however much you want floating around, I used half of one)
And you're done and it's amazing and you'll never regret it.

This blog post came about, not because I just wanted to share this with everyone, which I did, but because Noah and I have become menu planners and it's one of the best decisions we've made.

We sit down each week, plan our menu, go shopping with a budget in mind and eat really well.  It's cut down on going out and eating cheap junk. We even got a funky chalkboard for our fridge. We feel better, we spend more time together, it's awesome, we love it and I could go on longer but I think my friend Sarah does a better job of waxing poetic here. Plus you should check out her Etsy site here, she's awesome.

Grace and Peace and good curry


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

6 months!

So I haven't stopped blogging but I realize one of my last blog posts was concerning giving up excuses, it turns out one of the reasons that I haven't blogged in a while is because I gave up making excuses for not crating a new website, which you can now see here -

So I'm back and with much to think out loud about again, but per usual the majority of my time is spent thinking about the two best men in my life and one of them just turned 6 months old, I will let you guess which one :)

I, in typical parent fashion, don't have a clue as to where the last six months went but I realize now I don't remember much of life without him.  I know that there were nights where Noah and I could stay up until two a.m. by choice and not by necessity and beckon of a teething infant.  This is the hardest thing I've ever done but it is good work, work that produces good in me and my marriage.  I am realizing every day that I am most myself being Soren's mom, showing me every day that I am not complete yet, but his smiles put those pieces in bit by bit.

At his six-month appointment Soren weighed in at 23.5 lbs (2 lbs less than the 2.5 year old I nanny) and 27.5 inches.  We are regularly met with shocked faces when we tell people how old, or better yet how young, he is.  He is loving sitting up all by himself but more and more each day he gets closer to crawling.  He can scoot backwards and spins around on his belly to face the direction he wants to go.  He doesn't quite yet have the one knee one hand things down but when he gets on all fours he can spring himself forward.  It's amazing to both Noah and I that not only was he instilled with the instinct to crawl but also permeated with the determination to keep trying.

He is a big smiler, as you can see.  He is always the most popular person wherever we go and his cheeks have just about anyone with soul completely smitten.  He loves to make sounds, his newest one sounds like a high-pitched Chewbacca, we're hoping it doesn't stick forever :)  Music and books keep his attention for hours.  He is starting to eat solids and loving a wide variety of things.  But now the part you've all been waiting for, the photos.  As the son of two photographers he is a very well-documented baby.  The hard thing is, I realize when I edit his photos, I find I have a hard time taking horizontal photos, see if you can tell:

I love the series of photos when he is looking up for three reasons; he looks super sweet, you can see his two teeth and I know that the reason he is looking up and smiling is because he can see his dad and he loves his dad.  The fact Soren lights up whenever he sees Noah just makes my heart melt.

The Carhartts are from Soren's cousin Trigg, he looks like such a little man.  Thank you so much auntie Kristen and cousin Trigg! (p.s. click on Kristen's name, trust me, just do it and then buy something)

His first time on a swing, he was a little unsure at first but then got to smiling and then modeling, he's a natural.

This last one is probably my favorite because you can see his teeth.  I love my sweet boy, he is great beyond words.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Four Months

My little man is four months old now, and every cliche and "parentism" about time going by too fast is completely true and that annoys me.  I don't like to think of myself as a "typical" parent and so generally I assumed that wishing myself uniquely gifted at recognizing every moment and carefully cataloging it away in my steel trap of a brain was going to be what set me apart as a mom.  Turns out that steel trap that had so often served as a fail-safe vault of easily recollectable details has turned into more of a wide mesh strainer that catches only looming deadlines and wilted spinach.  If you're a UND hockey fan think of it as when they used to sub Jordan Parise in for Phil Lamoureux, not good.  If you're not a UND hockey fan, tsk tsk...

Anyway, what was I saying?  Oh yeah, time flies and no it hasn't all been "fun" per se, but it has been better than I would ever imagine.  Turns out, I may fall in line with the idea of a "typical mom" but I have anything but a typical baby.  He is off the charts in both height and weight and is doing some pretty advanced stuff for a 4-month old, like holding his head up far past 90 degrees, rolling both ways and "tri-pod sitting" (see photos below).  He loves to laugh, stand with any help he can get, smile, flirt, sing, hum, squeal, and chew on absolutely everything.  He gets constant remarks on how big he is but the most often received comments are, obviously, on how cute he is.  And those people are correct.  He truly is the cutest baby there ever has been.  Now, you might be thinking it's just because I am his mom but I want to give you this opportunity to put all other thoguhts of babies aside, even thte feelings you may have for your own children (they don't have to know), close your eyes, clear your mind and then look at these photos:

See?  Now don't you feel better being honest about who is the cutest baby ever?  You don't need to comment unless you agree, for the rest I'll just take your silence as assent :)

In all seriousness I am beside myself with how blessed I am to be a part of this little life, and not simply a part but responsible as well.  I am grateful for every giggle and every cry, because with each breath he's still breathing and that means he's still mine.  Month five is fast approaching and includes lots of finding toes and rolling across the room and many more smiles.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent, Giving Up Excuses

I'm not very good at Lent.  When I was in High School I just thought it was something Catholics did and then all of a sudden my friends ate bad fish on Fridays and didn't drink pop until Easter.  This totally clashed with my steak-laden Coca-Cola parties I had on Friday nights.  Maybe that didn't really happen, but still, I thought they were really harshing my gig, man.

Later in life I learned more about the idea of giving up something that detracts from your relationship with Christ and beyond that the absence of that thing being filled by the preparation for Easter.  There is a lot more to Lent than that, but that is another blog post.  One I may write, one I may just have in my head, or one my husband will compose beautifully in a conversation in the Bible study he is leading about Lent based on N.T. Wright's book, Lent for Everyone.

Still, most years I simply told people I was giving up dieting for Lent.  That was pretty much a joke because I haven't been on a serious diet since I was seriously crazy about dieting (read: not eating) and have decided that Oreos are better than not-Oreos any day.  I didn't see the point in giving up pop or candy, which in itself would probably be a good diet for me to be on, it seemed frivolous.  When I got older I honestly knew people who would go to midnight mass on Easter morning and then go out for a beer because they gave up alcohol for Lent.  Their giving up of something was not born out of a desire to grow closer to God or purify themselves in anyway but out of a guilt-ridden sense of obligation and tradition.  So again, there wasn't much attractiveness to me in that.

Last year I tried to give up cussing (sorry mom) particularly while driving.  I didn't succeed, nor did I tell anyone I was trying to give that up for Lent so when I did slip, or maybe intentionally profane the life of every person in the greater Seattle area who can't figure out what turn signals are for, then I wasn't kept accountable to anyone except myself.  And goodness knows, I can talk my way out of just about any guilt at all, except of course the speeding ticket I got yesterday for going 53 in a 35 because I was rushing and could not in good conscience cry my way out of that one with four kids in the car.

So this year, I'm going to do my best to give up my ability to talk my way out of guilt.  I, Alissa Kaye Hormann, am giving up excuses for Lent and I am telling you all about it so I am accountable to someone.  (I say you all in some sense that there are many of you reading this, I will keep up that thought because if it isn't true I still am just talking to myself)

I was thinking about this today as I was watching an amazing online seminar on restarting your photography business by photographer extraordinaire Jasmine Star.  She is the kind of business saavy, photographic powerhouse that every wedding photographer dreams of being.  Something she kept on reminding everyone who was watching was that you can always make excuses for why you don't get things done but then you just have excuses and nothing to show for them.

That was a really hard thing for me to come to grips with because I was watching it while trying to nurse and spend time with a sick little boy who I love more than anything and he is generally my "best excuse" as to why I don't get things done.  Then I realized something, he is not an excuse, he is a reason.

There is a difference between making an excuse and having a reason, truth be told I've been making enough excuses lately that I started to blur the lines between my reasons and my excuses.  Holding my son when he is sick is not some made up "dog ate my homework" backpedaling, it is a reason and a darn good one at that for why I am not typing this blog post until now.  Spending the night sharing wine and dreams with my husband is not an excuse it is an excellent reason.  So often I lump spending time with valuable people in my life in the same category as cruising Craigslist for someone who will cut my hair for free because I haven't book enough photography clients to pay my girl $45 for a hair cut.  My endless searching for something I don't need is not the same as him:

Or him:

Or them:

Or this:

Or these:

These people, places and things are good reasons to take time away from "productivity."  I will choose my son's smile and my husband's laughter over finishing a blog post or email any day.  But at the same time I realize that giving up making excuses is a resolution to tell myself the truth more often.  It's freeing myself up to be honest about why I am avoiding a specific project or email or text message.  I am choosing to be truthful and actually say, "I am not doing this because I don't want to."  It doesn't mean I'm going to immediately change my attitude but it will probably shine a new light on my choice to stay stagnant or move forward.

So this was maybe a little deep, and not quite as lighthearted as previous posts, so because I like to break tension with jokes, here are some Lent memes to laugh at.