Tag Archives: You Had Me At Hello

Little Condo in the Valley

19 Nov

I’ve been channeling my inner prairie mom and making more foods from scratch (or at least wanting to!). There are many reasons to make yummies from scratch, the most common being cost and nutrition. From scratch is almost always cheaper and I’m guessing it’s always healthier.  For me, its cost + availability. There are a lot of foods that we fell in love with in the US that are either unavailable to us or significantly overpriced.

One of those is yogurt, especially Greek. We have a couple yogurt options here, but they aren’t so tasty. For the price, you’d think it should taste like chocolate mousse, but it’s all quite unimpressive. I did see Chobani for sale at one grocery store…$4.50 for the individual size!

Needless to say, yogurt stayed off the grocery budget for all these years, much to my dismay.

Until now!

I’ve known about DIY yogurt for years, but the process grossed me out, (still kinda does). Words like “bacteria” and “incubate” certainly doesn’t whet one’s appetite, but when a friend of mine shared her process with me and let me sample, I was sold! It isn’t officially Greek yogurt, as we don’t strain out the whey, but the taste and texture is identical in my opinion. Jesse Katsapolous could probably tell the difference, but to mine non-Greek palette, it’s a go.

The secret is to add more powdered milk. I think the original recipe called for 2 c. powdered milk to 8 c. water. Instead, we do 4 c. powdered milk to 8 c. water. Mix it up in the crock pot and turn it on low for a couple of hours. When the temp reaches around 180F, turn it off and let the milk cool. When it reaches about 115F (or to where you can keep your finger in it comfortably for 10 seconds), add the yogurt starter. I use an individual size container of plain yogurt. Then wrap the entire crock pot in a blanket or towels and leave it for 8+ hours.

It’s like Christmas morning when the yogurt is finished! The anticipation has been building for 8 hours and when I unwrap the towels and see the results I wanted, it takes my heart back to 5th grade, when I got those high-top white Reeboks that I couldn’t live without.

Since then, we’ve all been snacking on it, trying different mix-ins. It took Josh a while to come around, as the process grossed him out too, but when I made him a bowl with granola (homemade, too!), strawberry puree, and bananas, he was on board.


One bummer about homemade is that I don’t have the nutrition label to tell me the facts, and I don’t care enough to research and calculate myself! I’m guessing that since it is full-cream milk powder, and I’m adding extra, I probably don’t even want to know the calories or fat content. It’s all nice and healthy, though. I made up my own granola with what I could find in the house, and used only honey to sweeten it. The strawberries are unsweetened and blended (just like the way Laura Ingalls prepared hers with her Ninja) and the bananas here are wonderfully and naturally sweet. I am even confident enough to type that this combo tastes like dessert, but without all the sugar and bad fats!

I think the whole crock pot worth of yogurt cost me $4.50 to make! It’s crazy. I’ve made two batches in a week (adding vanilla the second time). I love that the kids have a healthy and hearty breakfast or snack option!

In addition to yogurt and granola, I’m about to make my own breakfast sausage from scratch. If it resembles Jimmy’s in any way, we’ll be fat and happy! I’ve been making breakfast burritos and throwing them into the freezer for the kids breakfasts. But I’ve been using corned beef in them, and would much rather have sausage! Re-fried beans, cottage cheese, and a specific bread recipe are also on the docket.

I’m not making hog-head cheese or colostrum pudding or anything, but it’s fun to create food from scratch! Now where did I put my butter churn?


Happy Pacman-Regains-His-Title-Day!

13 Apr

We, along with the other 92 million people in the Philippines, are big fans of Manny Pacquiao. He is just a big stud who makes his country so proud. When he fights, the entire country focuses on that one event. There is minimal traffic, the crime numbers go way down, and everyone is huddled in cinemas, around TV’s or radios, or anywhere else they can follow the fight. It’s so exciting to be amongst all the love! Plus, in the last few years, he became a born-again Christian and is quite outspoken about his faith.

In true Filipino celebrity fashion, in addition to being a world-class athlete he is also:

– a congressman

– an actor

– a singer

– a semi-pro basketball player

– endorses EVERYTHING!

Without a doubt, he’ll run for president one of these years, and he’ll probably win! That’s a lot of action wrapped up in a 5’6″ bod!


Anyway, his fights are PPV in the US, but we always get his fights on local TV here. There are a bazillion commercials, but it’s ok. I told Josh that I could just run a mile during the commercials between rounds, and by the end of the fight, I’d have run 12 miles and still seen the entire fight!

We rushed home after church, and arrived just in time for the national anthems. We set up with our lunch in front of the TV and all watched as Manny dominated round after round.


Deacon was inspired to go put on his boxing gloves that he uses for muay thai. Look out, Mayweather, Deacon’s comin’ to getcha!


And a couple more tidbits….

We ate at RaiRaiKan the other day after seeing Rio 2. At one point during the meal, Caleb fell out of his seat. Deacon could NOT stop laughing. He was laughing, nay, guffawing, long enough for me to get my phone out of my bag, get the camera set up, and still take a picture. It was cute to see him laughing from his very core!


So, while we were there at the ramen restaurant, I had no idea what I wanted to order. Finally, the waitress just recommended to me the best seller. I said, “Let’s go for it!” When it arrived, it was a hot pot filled with ramen noodles, broth, various fish balls, squid, clams in the shell, shrimp, crab, and tofu! I wasn’t really excited about sending all that down the hatch, but for the price, I knew I had to eat more than just the noodles, which are mere cents at the store! It was actually very good, and what’s even more exciting is that the kids tried (and liked!) most everything, including the clams in the shell, which were the weirdest-looking.

The other pic I have is of Caleb getting his haircut. I know I’ve said it before, but it doesn’t get any cuter than kids in barber shops! Their little shoulders under the cape just brings out the “aw’s” in me!



Lastly, this post, along with the ( more frequent ) others I plan to post, is for Aunt Kris. She is Josh’s special aunt who is laid up in the hospital right now. We feel helpless on the other side of the world, but by golly, if I can give her something to read and pictures to “aw” over (see: barbershop pics), then I’m gonna do it! We love you, Aunt Kris, and are praying for you without ceasing!!

Wicked Awesome Show!

20 Feb

(Only New Englanders will understand that title!)

For months, we’ve been counting down the days until Wicked arrived in Manila. The timing of the production made it a perfect Christmas present for Michele and I. Our hubbies were willing to join us, and knew they would enjoy it, but in the end, decided to save the money and let us enjoy a girls night out. Michele’s husband even treated us to a hotel within walking distance of the show.

So Michele and I took off with our overnight bags and tickets in hand at noon. Check-in wasn’t until 3pm, but they had our room ready so they let us in at 1pm. We couldn’t decided what to eat for dinner, so we just decided to hit the hotel buffet for lunch and cram so much food into our stomach’s that we wouldn’t be hungry for dinner. I love being a problem solver.

The rest of the leisurely afternoon was spent napping, resting, watching TV, working out and getting ready for the show at 7:30. Outside of our balcony, we could see a small wedding ceremony happening right by the ocean at sunset. It was beautiful…you know, if you’re into that sort of tropical sunset wedding kind of thing.


We walked to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and both sported blisters from our fancy shoes. We got there with about 5 minutes to spare.


Here was our view.


The show was A.Mazing! It was my first time going to a (on or off) Broadway show where I didn’t know the songs, so I was interested to see if it would affect my interest in the show. It didn’t. I was riveted the entire time and the sights and sounds kept my mouth gaping in awe. The performers were all fantastic, but Elphaba and Galinda were especially phenomenal! I wish I could again…and again…and again.


Michele and I walked back to the hotel and burrowed under our comforters for the rest of the night. It’s such a treat to sleep in air conditioning!!! Luxurious. The next morning, we hit the buffet again for breakfast. It’s way more fun to do breakfast with someone who loves it as much as I do. Josh really would rather sleep than eat breakfast, so whenever we’re at a hotel, I have to drag him with me. Michele is a brekkie-lover too, so we had a blast together.

This hotel has a climate-controlled cheese room, so we piled up a plate of various cheeses and then headed to the omelet-station with instructions for the chef to just dump all that cheese into our omelet. It was insane and fantastic. It was like an 8-cheese omelet. We had all kinds of other treats, including a still steaming croissant, but the omelet was the highlight.

Then we went back to the room and burrowed once again. I took a nap, which is impressive given that it wasn’t noon yet. When it was time to check out, we left kicking and screaming, figuratively of course.

As any mom would do while she’s in Makati, we stopped at SNR for some imported groceries on our way home. It’s our Sam’s or Costco, and we love it. The prices aren’t great, but they have things that we can’t get anywhere else.

Then it was back to our homes to hug our kiddos. Josh is in Okinawa for the week, so it was the perfect little break for me! Josh’s team is playing in the DoDD’s Far East Championship tonight! He won the tournament with the girls basketball team two years ago, so it would be pretty fun for him to bring home the boys trophy too. He’ll be impossible to live with….

La la la la…boughs of holly!

3 Dec

The Friday after Thanksgiving is just a regular old farty Friday, just like Thanksgiving is a regular old farty Thursday. So I didn’t get the chance to take down the pumpkins and scarecrows, and put up the holly and garland, until yesterday. I love doing it while the kids are at school because their faces light up when they come home to a happy holiday home.

I got the “All I want for Christmas…” decor in New York City and I’ve been so excited to put it up!


Our fun stockings made with love by Nana! Try to ignore the zip ties that I haven’t trimmed yet. I know what you’re thinking, ” I didn’t even notice them until you pointed them out.” And now you’re smiling.


The kids say that this magnetic Christmas Countdown is their favorite decoration. I got it during our last trip (ever!) to the double D Hallmark store with Josh’s Grammy.


This is the other advent calendar that I have. It had me at hello. I got it at Starbucks in NYC, and I was torn about spending the money on it. But Susan and Michele basically tied me up and twisted my arm until I bought it. I couldn’t let them down.

It is a square magnetic chalkboard, so I may end up using it all year! Each tin has a caramel candy in it, so it is the kids other favorite Christmas decoration. I like that I can put different treats in each tin for years to come, assuming I can make it through this season with all 25 tins!


Deacon carried a chalkboard when he was a sign-bearer in a wedding this time last year. They gave me the chalkboard to keep, so I’ve been into chalkboard art since we got back here. At first, I was just writing one of the girl’s memory verses on the chalkboard. Then for Halloween and Thanksgiving, I wrote all the fun words from the season in fun little fonts. Now it features Gabriel’s fantastic announcement of our reason for celebrating.


Our beloved Grammy (Josh’s grandmother) has been gifting me with Gone With the Wind ornaments each year since I’ve known her. I hung them on our first few trees, but since we’ve had small children, they have stayed safely in their boxes. My mother in law gave me a 3 ft. tree this year, so now I can put all the Gone With the Wind ornaments on it and put it up high so it will be out of reach of sweet, chubby, and probably sticky little hands.

I wasn’t expecting the bittersweet rush of emotion that I felt as I unpacked and hung up all  the ornaments (there are almost 20 of them!)  Grammy passed away last year, and seeing all these reminders of the common bond that we shared really tugged at my heart (and tear ducts!) She would’ve loved this tree, and I love that I have this special little part of Christmas dedicated to her that I can set up each and every year.

Here are some of the ornaments.

IMG_1248 IMG_1249 IMG_1250

We haven’t set up the big tree yet, because we need Josh to get it down for us and he is busy with a ministry team. The kids are really excited about it, so hopefully we’ll make a fun evening of it one of these days! We leave for Australia on the 18th, so if we want to enjoy the tree, we’d better get it up soon!

‘Cause I Eats Me Spinach…

7 Dec

Josh got my Christmas present during the Black Friday madness, so I’ve been enjoying it a little early. It’s a power juicer! I really love the Naked Smoothie juices, but they are pretty pricey and well…diapers take priority over juice in the budget.

Long story short, we bought a juicer and now I can have juice and Caleb’s booty is comfortably diapered at all times!

I love it! I feel super healthy as I shove handfuls of spinach, bok choy, chards, celery, cucumbers, carrots, ginger root, and apples down the chute! I don’t even like most of those things mentioned, but in juice form with a splash of lemon, it’s really yummy. It’s shocking really.


The best part? The boys love it too! The girls haven’t tried it yet because I make it while they’re at school.  I have to make a lot at one time because Caleb will grab the straw and suck it all down before I can pry the cup out of his tight little claws.

I’m taking Josh’s Grammy to the hairdresser today, so while she’s getting beautified, I’ll hit up the grocery store for their weirdest looking, sounding, and tasting veggies for my next concoction!

What is your favorite veggie???

Kansas City Cupcakes….

6 Dec

with New York flare…

and New York prices!

Josh is always on the lookout for fun, new places for us to try. Since he is spending his days driving around the Kansas City area, he comes home with ideas, stories, and in this wonderful case, cupcakes!


Smallcakes Cupcakery is a little slice of heaven here in Kansas. (From the top: Cookies n Cream, Mint Chocolate, Red Velvet, Peanut Butter Cup, Caramel Crunch, and Chocoholic)

Josh came home with six cupcakes on Monday. At around $3.50 a pop, this little box would break the bank, but thankfully they have a Buy One Get One Free promo on Mondays, so that softened the blow a little bit.

We sliced each cupcake into fifths so that we could each try some of every cupcake. Not surprisingly, chocolate cake-chocolate frosting was my favorite, with peanut butter cup coming in at a close second.

How many days until next Monday???

What is your favorite cupcake flavor?