Monday, December 15, 2014

Just Because...

I love Bruce Springsteen. I love The Grapes of Wrath. I love this. It's been a while since I last heard it. Chills every time. Just like in the movie...when Tom goes back to tell Ma that he has to change things. Gets me every time.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Some Days....

Today was one of those days where I just can't seem to get it together. Not enough sleep, stressed about everything, and just enough time to either shower or eat I chose the former. I put a baby gate in my hallway so my 18 month old doesn't have free reign in my living room. He likes to climb everything. Computer desk, dresser, coffee table, you name it, he climbs it. I have to isolate him in order to get a precious 10 minute shower when no one else is home.

About half way through my cleansing ritual, Atticus (the 4 year old) asks if he can color. I tell him to wait, that he can color when I am done. A couple of minutes later, here comes Severin with green marker all over his hands and mouth, having literally sucked all of the green color out of the (thankfully) non-toxic marker. And because it was one of those kinds of mornings, I dealt with this dilemma by a little too much yelling and not enough loving. Le sigh.

Thankfully, we were all meeting my sister at the Farmer's Market so the kids could go trick or treating. We have 4 kids 4 and under between the two of us and it gets a bit effin crazy hectic at times. But these kids are just the center of our world. They are beautiful, kind, and oozing personality. 

We were able to really involve the kids in Halloween this year which makes me happy. Normally, the kids only wear their costumes on Halloween night but this year, Atticus will have worn it a total of 5 times which is pretty awesome if you ask me. We went to a Halloween party this year, took the kids to Disneyland in their costumes, Atticus had a Halloween party at school (he is in pre-k), trick or treating at the Farmer's Market, and of course Halloween itself.

Woody, Viking Baby, Dusty the Pilot, and Buzz Lightyear...these kids are pretty awesome.

It helps to put things in perspective sometimes. I am so grateful for this life that I have. I have two of the cutest kids on the planet, my husband is my (I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my...) sweetheart, I am in good health for the most part. And even though I think it's totally normal and actually good to feel down in the dumps sometimes, I like that when days start out like today, they can end with me feeling grateful and appreciating what I actually have and where I am.

I sometimes like to complain about where I live...urghhh...the desert. But you know what? It's not that bad. We have this amazing Farmer's Market I can attend and it really makes me feel a part of this dusty community. Today the weather was perfect with the warm sun slowly heated up the crisp Fall air and there wasn't anywhere I would rather have been. Being a wanderlust junkie, it was a surprising yet nice feeling to have.

“When you take the small roads you see the life that goes on there, and this makes your own life larger.” 
― Elizabeth Berg

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cheese Stuffed Bell Peppers

I have been feeling a little lost lately. Being a wife and mother is wonderful but some days I want something for myself that has nothing to do with being a wife and mother. Not necessarily a full-time career because for the most part, I like being a stay at home mom. I just want something....for me.

I have been reading this book that is part memoir, part recipe index called My Berlin Kitchen. This book inspires me. Not in an Eat, Pray, Love kind of way (which I absolutely adore!), but in a find your bliss and don't stop or settle until you find it and while you're at it be risky and chase the BIG dreams you have. You know, the ones that lurk in the back of your mind when someone asks, "What are you going to do with your life?". The kind of dreams that you only tell someone with a laugh as if you too understand how ridiculous it is.

I have not finished reading it yet (hello! I have 2 kids, 4 and under. I count myself lucky if I eek out a shower and a chapter most days) but I am in love with it. The author, Luisa Weiss, seems like a girl that I would love to be friends with. She grew up in West Berlin-remember when there was an east and west?-and then when her American father and her Italian mother divorced, she was shuttled back between her mother's Berlin home and her father's Boston home. My childhood was the complete opposite. We moved about every three years, but in the same 15 mile radius. 

I fell in love with Germany when I was 15 years old. I was taking German as a freshman in high school and the German Club was participating in an exchange program with a school from Schessel, Germany. About 10 or so kids from the Eichenschule were coming to live with our families and then about 3 months later, about 10 of us would go stay with the same student's family.

Considering that my family didn't have a lot of money and that we were a little...chaotic (1200 sf. home, 5 kids ages 6-23, about a gazillion cats, oh and my grandmother came to live with us as well for a short time. Finding alone time in our home was difficult. But we always had a lot of love which for me, trumps a big house, lots of money, and really, stability.), it is amazing that I was able to participate. But I was! And in the summer of 1994 I went to Germany to live with my host family. I will save the details of that summer for another post but I will say that I fell in love with this beautiful country and one of my BIG dreams is to go back...a lot. I am even still friends with my host-sister.

Anyway, this book gets me thinking about my dreams. What I want to do with my life. Yes, even at my age (shhh! I will be 35 in T minus 3 days) the "What to do with my life" question still arises. I shared my BIG dream with you in my about me section and it's still the same. I have the ability and time...well, sometimes anyway,  to learn a language and write and play with my boys and go to Farmer's Markets and cook. I just can't do it in Lubeck quite yet and I haven't written that novel quite yet and I haven't got that master's degree quite yet. Yet....I plan to do it all. On the ubiquitous one day....

Because I can't hop on a plane to my beloved Germany (which Weiss' book beckons me to do) and my son is in the midst of a Minecraft-video-watching obsession, I couldn't get on the computer to write so I decided to cook.

Cooking is another form of creative expression to me. Maybe that's why I shy away from casseroles (or as my Iowan mother and father would call them: doggone good hot dishes) or crock pot meals in favor of particular creations that I can focus on constructing. I am no chef by any means and I always start with a recipe mastered by someone far more talented than myself. But I like to take said recipe and tweak it a little and make it my own.

Every summer my family looks forward to the squash blossoms that you can find at the local Farmer's Markets. I use Giada De Laurentiis's recipe for stuffed zucchini blossoms and fry up some goodness. The squash blossoms only appear for a short period of time and alas, I have been unable to find the time to get to my local farmer's market (last Thursday was the USA v. Germany game so I know you will excuse me for that!).

While I was at the grocery store yesterday, I remembered that Giada's (yes, I am on a first name basis with her, it is my kitchen after all) recipe said that baby bell peppers could be used in lieu of squash blossoms. So I decided to give this a try.

I picked up some bell peppers at the grocery store and since I was at a  grocery store that stocks primarily Hispanic foods, they didn't have the goat cheese that the recipe calls for. While I still think the tang of goat cheese would be better, I bought some Mexican country cheese, even though I hadn't tasted it before.

It was the exact opposite of tang and was instead crumbly and salty. Almost too salty to simply eat right out of the package but I used it to mix with the cream cheese in hopes that the saltiness would spread out a bit. It worked quite nicely and the light crispness of the batter and the motlen basil infused cheese made these bell peppers to die for.

They are also very rich, I would eat it as a main course with a light vegetable side. It is very decadent. Slice into these bell peppers and dip into a good marinara sauce. 

Cheese Stuffed Bell Peppers
(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

6 Bell Peppers, tops cut off and cleaned out
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
4-8 oz. of goat cheese (though you can substitute another cheese if goat cheese is unavailable)
2 cups of flour
2 cubs of sparkling water (I used lemon sparkling water)
1/2 of a Mexican onion, diced (any onion will do, really)
2-3 green stalks of the Mexican onion, chopped 
5 small fresh Basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste (add at will, I didn't add any as my cheese was pretty salty)
vegetable oil for frying

After you have cut, cleaned, and dried your bell peppers, set aside. In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, goat cheese, onion, and Basil leaves together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour and sparkling water. Add salt and pepper if needed. 

In a large pan, add oil and heat.

Scoop the cheese mixture into the bell peppers, leaving about a quarter to half inch gap at the top. You do not have to push the mixture down to fill every nook and cranny of the bell pepper. Then dust a little extra flour on the tops of the bell pepper.

Once the oil is heated, place the stuffed bell pepper in the batter until it is covered completely. When you pick it up to place it in the oil, some will come sliding off of the sides of the bell pepper. This is okay, just make sure that the top of the bell pepper is completely covered. Once the bell pepper is placed upright in the oil, you can add some more batter to the top of the bell pepper if needed.

Fry the bell pepper for a couple of minutes and then quickly turn the bell pepper upside down so the top fries and forms a tight seal. I used two utensils to help me do this.

Allow the bell pepper to cook for a couple of minutes and then place on a towel lined plate. Continue cooking until all the bell peppers are done.

Allow them to cool for about 5 minutes. When you cut into them, the inside will be extremely hot so be careful. 

I know that one day, I will be a published author and have my master's degree so I can teach online courses and travel everywhere. But for now, I will settle for reading about other women's fantastic adventures and keep dreaming those BIG dreams. And thank you Luisa Weiss for inspiring me.

Bon Appétit!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lemony Shrimp Tostadas

Summer is right around the corner and temperatures are heating up. Over the weekend, temps rose to well over 100 degrees here in the High Desert. We chose to head to the mountains to beat the heat where it was a good 20 degrees cooler. 

If you can't escape the heat however, I have a recipe for an easy, low-fat, lunch that is quick to make. These lemony shrimp tostadas have next to nothing as far as calories are concerned but they pack quite a punch in the flavor department. The lemon makes it light and refreshing on a hot, almost-summer day. 

3 garlic cloves (I am a garlaholic, so if 3 is too pungent for you, reduce)
2 large lemons
1 cup of medium shrimp (cooked, peeled and deveined, and defrosted) 
Tostadas (like Guerrero)
1 small onion
2 large tomatoes
one green onion. chopped
cilantro, salt, and pepper to taste
olive oil

Chop up the garlic and lightly saute in olive oil just until it begins to brown.

Toss in the defrosted shrimp and squeeze a tablespoon or so of lemon juice in the pan. Cook just until everything is heated up nicely. Remove from heat and set aside.

Next, chop up the tomato, onion, green onion, and cilantro and add to a bowl. Squeeze the juice out of the remaining lemons. Add salt and pepper. Then add the cooked shrimp from the pan into the bowl. Stir to combine.  Taste and add more lemon or salt if necessary.  You want a tart, lemony flavor.

 Now it's time to compile our tostadas! On a plate, place the tostada and spoon a generous amount of the lemony shrimp mixture onto it.

Then enjoy! I usually serve two tostadas per person which requires a large plate and makes for a messy presentation. These are so good and the tostadas themselves are really the main source of calories in this dish. Don't be stingy with the lemon, the more the better as far as I'm concerned.

Bon Appétit

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who Loves Instagram?

I do!

I love Instagram. It allows little visual glimpses into other lives, cultures, experiences, and even thought. It can be simply beautiful or extremely thought provoking. Pictures usually don't need any explanation but speak for themselves.

I find myself laying in bed at night, usually after Severin wakes up which he still does from time to time, scrolling through images and dreaming. So I thought I would share five of the Instagram accounts I am loving right now that I think A Happy Narrative followers (who am I kidding...our family are our only followers lol!) will also enjoy. Most of these Instagram accounts have excellent, long established blogs attached to them so be sure to check out their blogs as well.

yogainspiration     I love yoga and this instagram account really lives up to its name. They have how-to videos for certain poses, inspiring quotes-not only to physically do yoga, but to lead a better life, and it really delves into the culture of yoga.

onlinefabricstore     Pure eye candy for the DIYer. I love looking at the various textiles that you can purchase from this site. Textiles are so important in creating certain atmospheres in your home and Online Fabric Store offers prints that I just can't find locally.

sarahhauser     Sarah Hauser is half of the duo over at Offbeat + Inspired blog. I love the pictures of food, home decor, and travel on this account. There's something about a white platter of beautifully prepared food on an old, faded linen arranged on a graying, weathered table. It makes me want to arise at dawn, feed the chickens, and make corn fritters for breakfast with a side of sizzling bacon. (note to self: must get chickens first.)

natgeo     My sister Katie actually told me about the NatGeo instagram account early on. Various photographers for the famous magazine share their images through the NatGeo account. It runs the gambit of experiences: both human and animal. Haunting images. Inspiring images. Provocative images. It really is the best of the best.

london     I have never been to London but it is on the top of my Wanderlust list. As an historian and professed Anglophile, this Instagram account caters to my lust for this amazing city. What makes it so great is that the account is not just one person taking photos of various things around London but rather anyone who #hashtags London can have their photos or short videos selected by this account to appear on the Instagram feed. It definitely helps inspire travel dreams.

I plan on discovering and sharing more Instagram accounts in the future. You can always follow me @loodvig79. Loodvig was the nickname my sister Sarah gave me when we were on our girls trip a few years ago. We saw it on a licence plate in L.A. somewhere and it stuck.

What are the Instagram accounts that you love to follow?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

About 5 days ago, I was looking up various poems to help describe a mood I was wallowing in and as I am wont to do, I found myself on a Maya Angelou tangent.

 I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings; Still I Rise; Woman Work; Alone; Phenomenal Woman.

Still I Rise was a poem that my mother found particularly moving and introduced it to me.

Upon waking this morning I caught a glimpse of the quickly moving ticker on the bottom of the TV screen as it read: Maya Angelou, 86, dies.

No, I never knew her nor her me, but Angelou was another connection to my mom. Someone I associated with her as she educated me.

Angelou was a great Woman. And the world is a little less because she is no longer in it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Finding Inspiration

Most of my days are so busy that I really don't have the time to think. Between the two kids I'm lucky if I get my hair brushed during the day.  Every week I set myself a goal I want to accomplish and if I get that one thing done over the course of seven days I consider it a win.

I think it's important for us women to pat ourselves on the back for what we do accomplish rather than beat ourselves up for what we don't. 

That being said I set a New Years goal of making my house feel like a home and gave myself a whole year to accomplish it. Ha! I know my limitations.  

It has been slow going but I have been making progress. I haven't really felt inspired.

Until recently.

I found my inspiration piece!

IKEA Premiar

It was so perfect. I have a huge blank wall that needed filling up and at 78" x 55", this would do it. I also have a special affinity for maps. My mother ALWAYS had maps in our house. She would always mark them with little notes and scribbles.

Mom even said that she always preferred books that had maps in the front because she could trace the heroes journey. In fact, she thought if the author took the time to make a map it had to be a decent book.

Ryan and I also share a love for all things nautical. There is just something about the sea....

So with all the meanings behind it I could not help but say, "That's it, I have to have it!" 

Below are some before I painted shots:

The first thing I needed to do was get the wall ready. It took me a week to accomplish but I finally got the ONE wall painted (Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter).  Awhile back I posted on painting my baseboards, which you can find here. It was such an improvement that I had to do the same on this wall. I wasnt dissapointed.

Below are shots of the painted wall sans baseboard paint:

Huge improvement with just the new color but after the baseboard are painted it really spices things up. (Yes, I am lame, but this stuff is exciting!)

I can hardly wait to get that map up on the wall! We are also building and painting shelves for either side of it. I'm so excited that everything is coming together nicely! It really inspires me to continue.

I think that is the key to figuring out what design elements work for you. Find a piece that inspires you and base your designs around it.

Though it is taking a lot longer then I had planned I'm still proud that I have even got this far! What do you think? Has there been any projects you have planned that took three times as long as you expected?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fiat Lux: Let There Be Light

Fiat Lux is the University of California system's motto.

It's been 10 years since I graduated from college. Crazy! How did a full decade pass by? Does that mean I am also a whole decade older? It's probably a good thing that I'm not really lamenting this whole ageing thing.

I visited my Alma Mater to commemorate this time. It was so strange walking the halls and viewing these old brick buildings through my 10 year-older-eyes. It was also strange to take my 4 year old 'potty' in the old Anthropology building in Watkins Hall. Yeah, I have 2 kids now. Big change from 10 years ago. It is no longer just me. 

Atticus taking a break outside of Sproul Hall

10 years ago today I took my last final in college. If I remember correctly, the class was a lower division course entitled "Religious Myth and Ritual" taught by Professor Brian K. Smith (who retired from teaching in 2004 to live as a Buddhist Monk and is now known as Lama Marut.). 

Outside of Rivera Library

I lived (well, I still do actually) about 50 miles north of my old school: the University of California, Riverside.  On that particular morning, the main artery through the San Bernardino mountains, the 15 freeway, was closed due to a traffic collision. Luckily, I had time to turn around before I started descending. Even more lucky for me, I had decided to leave a couple of hours early so I could do some studying before class.

My only option was to drive the 135 mile detour that took me through Lucerne Valley, Yucca Valley, on the edge of Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs, past Banning and Beaumont to the Eastern side of Riverside. It takes a little over 2 hours to drive this route (longer if there's any traffic) compared to the normal 50-60 minute commute.

By the time I got to school to take my test, I had no time to study and my butt was in my seat just as Professor Smith locked the door. I felt shaky, on the verge of hysteria, and sure that I was going to fail this final without question. All I could think about as I sat down, ready to start, was that my entire college career hinged on this one test for this one class. That if I failed this final, I would most likely not pass the class and I would therefore not graduate having not completed all of my requirements. I would have to spend another semester in college and I really couldn't afford to do that.

The Bell Tower
But I didn't fail my test. When I finished it I knew that I passed (it was a lower division class, after all. Easy-peasy. Why DO I get myself all worked up??) and I breathed in the cool Spring air feeling such a sense of accomplishment. I had graduated from college. I had completed my B.A. with two majors in History and Religous Studies. I felt so much pride in my work. I wasn't one of those kids whose parents paid for their school or didn't have to work while in college. I had student loans and debt and when I started at UCR in 2002 I had a 1985 Toyota Cressida that had a failing transmission. If I stopped too long at a light, when I would accelerate, plumes of white smoke would drown out the cars all around me. But I still went. I didn't give up.

It's hard to believe that 10 years have gone by. I have to say that along with producing 2 beautiful baby boys, graduating with my Bachelor's is one of my greatest accomplishments. I never lived in a dorm, I never attended rush week or went to a frat party. I worked at the UCR Bookstore and listened to students talk about how they really hated it there but they had to go because their parents were making them, or how tired they were from this party or that party. I was just a student. I was interested in learning and getting that degree. I loved school, even though at times, it was really hard. 

In front of Rivera Library. History was on floor 2 and religious studies was in the was scary down there.
My plan after graduation was to go to graduate school to study Medieval religious history. Life has a way of diverting plans, however, and I didn't go back. While I berated myself about this for many years, I've since considered it a blessing in disguise because I no longer want to study religion. With age has come a more focused interest.

I now want to go to San Jose State University and do their Master's in Library and Information Science and work as an academic librarian at a college. I am a professed Bibliophile so it does seem silly that this idea never came to me before. But then again, my mother was a history teacher at Victor Valley College (where she wrote the curriculum for the Women in U.S. History class, thank you very much) and I, at an early age, became enthralled with teaching, colleges, and knowledge. 

The Humanities and Social Science Building, where I spent most of my time.
As I walked these halls, I remembered why I wanted to be a professor, why I loved it here so much. There is a sense of excitement, of learning and discovery that hums in the air. The orange trees were in bloom and the heavy smell of citrus blossoms impregnated the air. Every step held a new scent, a new plant, a new pathway to inspiration.

I was so sure of myself in college. I knew exactly who I was and what I was going to do. The rest of my 20's did not follow suit, though. I spent the rest of that decade questioning everything I did or didn't do. The last few years I've regained some of that confidence back. I guess I don't fear failure the same way I did when I was younger. It's still there, but it tends to not rear it's head as often.

The pathway in front of the Humanities Building.
There were professors that influenced me greatly. One was Professor Betsy Bauman-Martin who was a lecturer for religious studies. I took her for Women in Early Christianity and Women and Religion. She was so intelligent but so un-pretentious about it. Professors tend to think very highly of themselves and sometimes they would be very competitive with each other, openly, in front of students. But Professor Bauman-Martin, who wanted us to call her Betsy, was down to earth. I wish she had been a full time professor because I would have jumped at the chance to work with her.

The other professor was Ann Goldberg. My history degree is a concentration in medieval history. I didn't care much for this class, the professor was kind of boring (sacrilege to say such a thing, I know!) and I couldn't motivate myself in this series of classes. I missed a lot of class and only put minimal effort into it. I wish I had someone around at the time to tell me to just stop, take a break. Or at least to stop taking these Medieval history classes. I had taken one class with Professor Ann Goldberg. The class was called Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. I loved this class. It was so interesting and Professor Goldberg was an excellent lecturer. She reminded me of my mother, the way she spoke, the way she would stand and write on the board. I really wish that I had changed my concentration to work under her and focus on the Early Modern period. It may have re-ignited a flame in me that was quickly smoldering out-and eventually did for a short time.

Orange Blossom: one of the most beautiful scents in the world.

UCR was started as a way to extend the citrus growing season here in California in 1907. There are still orange groves found around campus. The first undergraduate college opened in 1954 thus marking it's 50th anniversary the year I graduated.

Just to make my life more complicated, I would also like to attend UCR or Cal State Fullerton to get a M.A. in history with a concentration in the Early Modern period (women, witch hunts in Germany, and religion as concentrations). I don't know how in the heck I will do all that with two little kids but I know many women accomplish amazing things every day. Oh and did I mention I want to write a novel or two in the meantime?

Scotty the Highlander, UCR's mascot. Atticus was a little shy.

I would love for my kids to go to UCR or any college for that matter. I think an education is so important. Going to college is hard. It's even harder when you have a long commute, little money, and other difficulties that distract you from your goal. But if you can make it happen, it is worth every penny as far as I'm concerned. Getting an education at this level really impacted me: it opened me up to ideas and peoples and experiences that I would never have been exposed to had I not attended. It is a nice feeling to know that no matter what I do in life, I still hold a B.A. from the University of California at Riverside with two majors in history and religious studies. That can never be taken away from me. College may not make you rich...especially if you study the humanities-let's be honest. But the wealth you gain in other areas is priceless.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Painting Baseboards

I had been thinking about replacing my baseboards since we moved in almost four years ago but the cost was always too high. The previous owners had installed wood flooring and put shoe molding around the edges to finish it off. Instead of painting the shoe molding white to match the baseboard they matched it to the floor. It creates a weird look. Definitely shortens the walls.

Then one day Stacy said...."Have you ever thought about just painting them?" Nope. Didn't occur to me.

So we busted out some white paint I had and lined the floor with frog tape then did a test run to see how it would look. (Sorry no pics with the frog tape. I was too excited to see the end result!)

The difference is ridiculous! This is one quick coat. Imagine after another coat? 

The difference is really pronounced where the painted and the non painted baseboards meet. (Don't mind the scratches...cats and babies are rough on wood. One day I may sand it and refinish it but the kids will have to be much older.)

Its definitely a rough coat and I cant wait to see how it looks after they are all done properly. I don't look forward to all that crouching down but I think it will be worth it.

Have you ever painted all your baseboards? Any tips you would like to share? We love input!