Friday, May 25, 2012

Homemade Refried Beans

Before May of 2003, I was never a bean eater.  I don't remember eating beans very much in our house growing up and I just didn't like them.  Even when I went to the MTC in Sao Paulo where traditional Brazilian fare was served in the cafeteria, I avoided them.  I knew that in a cafeteria setting, my refusal to eat them wouldn't offend anyone and it would take two months off of my total time when I was required to eat beans in order to be a grateful guest in people's homes.

In Rio, where I served, black beans are the menu standard, and I quickly grew to like them.  It's a good thing, because I'm pretty sure they were offered at every single home I was invited to for the entire duration of my mission.

I love to make black beans at home, but recently have discovered that I also enjoy refried beans that come with the cheese enchiladas at one of our favorite little restaurants.  Spencer had started bringing home cans of refried beans, but something about that texture in a can just is not appealing to me.  So I started to look for good recipes, and found a good one.  This is turning into quite the introduction - here's the recipe:

1 onion peeled and halved
3 cups dry pinto beans
2 cups chicken broth
7 cups water
1 small can diced chilies
2-3 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/8 tsp ground cumin

You put everything in the crock pot and set it to high for 8 hours.  After 8 hours, strain the beans, reserving the liquid and then mash with a potato masher, adding in reserved liquid until desired consistency is achieved.  It made our house smell so good all day!  And I love that all of the ingredients are pretty healthy and it doesn't include lard or anything gross.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share in case anyone is looking for a bean recipe of their own!

recipe adapted from here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

17 Months

Clara is 17 months old!  Her sweet and funny little personality continues to emerge and she is just such a doll.  We love her so much!
At 17 months, Clara....

- still won't use a spoon!  She just prefers to eat with her hands.

- says "wow" "ow" "keys" "cheese" "fan" "window" "wind" "jacket" "blanket" and has changed how she says "meow"

- loves to climb up and down stairs.  It's probably her favorite thing to do and she can do it all by herself now.  She goes down stairs backwards, or sits and kind of slides down.

- has summer legs with lots of scrapes and little bruises from playing hard outside.

- got her first big owie after an unfortunate run-in with the dryer :(

- loves to play with keys, cell phones and cameras more than ever

- carries her little cart of blocks around the house and will plop down in the same room as me and play with them while I do dishes, make dinner, fold laundry, etc.

- identifies lots of animals (she sees a picture and says the sound they make) and cars and trucks are "vroom vroom"

- lights up whenever she sees a picture of Jesus and says "Jejee!!"

- is such a great little helper!  She loves to help me unload the dishwasher and will hand me each piece of silverware one at a time to put away.  She also gets her own little broom out of the closet regularly to help me sweep.

- loves to play outside and spends most of her day exploring the yard.

- gives a very enthusiastic "yeah!" in response to any question she wants to answer in the affirmative

- says "hiiii!"  If she were Brazilian, she'd be from Bahia because her speech is so sing-song-y.  It's adorable.

- makes the cutest little expressions - we love her "oh" face and she does it often.

- puts her hands together at her chest, face up, when she wants me to hold her.

- says "ga ga" when she wants to get down.  

- has added "I am a Child of God" to her singing repertoire

- loves to walk around the house with her Primary Children's Songbook in hand, singing at the top of her voice.

- does a little dance whenever the dishwasher starts.  She'll bend her knees and do a kind of up down bob/twist to the rhythm of the dishwasher.

- usually knows when she's being especially cute and gives the cheesiest grin when she realizes it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


After we took our photos outside on Mother's Day, Spencer put out a portable sprinkler to help our desperate-looking front lawn.  Clara climbed up and down the front steps several times and then headed for the driveway - walking directly into the sprinkler.  She just stood there giggling and smiling forever!  I loved all of her cute expressions.  She got good and soaked, but seemed to love the whole ordeal.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

In many ways, Mother's Day this year was just like last year: sick husband, sick (recovering) baby, church by myself, a lovely dinner at our home with family.  We missed having Carol and CD at dinner - they were visiting DC for the weekend.  But one difference this year was that we took some photos.
I feel so privileged to be a mother.  And especially to be a mother to this sweet, darling little girl.  I can easily brag about all of her goodness because I know that it did not come from me - this little sweetheart is straight from heaven.

Weekend Trip: Bryce Canyon

Every year we like to go on a little trip in the spring.  Nothing extravagant - just a little nod to the end of busy season (thank goodness!) and a small celebration of our anniversary.  This year busy season was harder, longer and more intense than ever before.  Spencer left the house every day around 7 am (later than his previous job) and it was not uncommon for him to get home between 9 and 10 in the evening.  Some nights it was nearly midnight by the time the sliding glass door would signal his arrival.  With a little girl who wakes around 7:30 and goes to bed around 7:00, they only really got to see each other on the weekends.  Many people think that because busy season starts at the first of the year and is usually over sometime in April that it has something to do with taxes.  Spencer does not do taxes.  And busy season stretching well into mid-May was certainly evidence of that.  But on May 16th (our anniversary) Spencer came home triumphant - the report for the client he'd been working on ever since starting his new job had been issued that day and we were going to celebrate.

Spencer had Thursday, Friday and Monday off as well, so when we went out for an anniversary dinner, we started discussing plans for a getaway.  Spencer called his dad to see if the condo in St. George was available, but his cousin was using it until Saturday morning.... so we decided to head to Bryce Canyon instead.  I was surprised that my husband - a Utah native - had never visited the park before.  But I had read about it in my book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (yes - another to cross off the list!) and was intrigued.  We made a reservation at Ruby's Inn, packed the car and headed out.

Heavy rain followed us for most of our journey south - though we did find some respite from the storm (and a delicious donut shop/diner) - in Manti.
 By the time we pulled into Ruby's Inn it was actually snowing a little!  I was a little worried that we would be able to stay warm enough - I had only packed one warmer outfit for Clara and myself, and within five minutes of arriving we were already talking about staying for another night (our original plan had been to head to St. George after one night in Bryce).  It was in the forties and very windy when we arrived.
We layered Clara up in some warm clothes and double jackets and hopped on the park shuttle.  We arrived unknowingly in the middle of a huge astronomy festival, but the park never felt crowded.  Most of the time we were on the shuttles with only a handful of other people and plenty of empty seats.

We got off at various view points and basked in the glory of the unique canyon.  I had a general idea of what to expect, but was blown away at just how beautiful the canyon was.  We went to the Grand Canyon a few years ago, but I think that Bryce Canyon easily rivals it.  The limestone hoodoos - typically white - glow in various shades of reds and oranges; the oxidized and rusted iron deposits showing a whole range of warm colors.
Clara was not content to be held for very long, wanting very much to hike and explore on her own.  Whenever we were not near a ledge we would hold her hand and let her walk a bit.  It wore her out and she went right to sleep that night.

After staying the night at Ruby's Inn (and unable to secure our room for a second night) we packed up and headed out to enjoy a beautiful warm day.  The sky was blue, it was in the mid-60s, there was a slight breeze, and it was nice and sunny; conditions couldn't have been better.  We went on a three mile hike into the depths of the canyon on the Queen's Garden/Navajo loop.  It was our first time using the hiking backpack with Clara and she seemed to really love it.
She learned to say "wow" on the hike and every time we pointed out something new or interesting, she'd amuse us with a "wow!"  She gave Spencer encouraging pats along the way and loved to feel the texture of the rocks and trees.

We quickly explored Bryce Canyon Lodge, a few more view points and then drove to the far end of the park.  Clara fell asleep in the car, so we drove around for as long as we could to give her a decent nap.  We got a room at another (less charming) hotel across the street from Ruby's Inn and headed there to set up camp for another night.  Every free moment I had (except while in the car) was spent devouring NieNie's new book "Heaven Is Here."  I have read Stephanie's blog for sometime and was well aware of her story and miraculous recovery, but until I read her book I was not aware of the depth of depression, discouragement, and despair and persistent pain that she had to walk through first.  She really takes you with her through her entire journey and it is such a beautiful story of hope; I'd recommend it to anyone.  I have lots of thoughts on her book - maybe that will have to be a separate blog post.

After two nights in Bryce Canyon we had decided to forgo St. George and just head home.  But once we got on the road, we changed our minds again.  We headed for St. George and spent the evening on a grassy hillside reading, playing and watching the annular eclipse.  We were in one of the best spots to see it and witnessed the ring of fire in full force.

On Monday morning we packed up once again (theme of our trip?) and headed home.  It was so nice to have some time together as a family and to enjoy our beautiful state.
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