Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pink Buttercream

This weekend was a mix of parties, beach walks and domestic fun. Being a Cupcake Goddess, as family likes to call me, I baked a few dozens of strawberry cupcakes on Sunday morning, and we delivered them to family and friends who live up in LA. Apparently, I have changed my interests quite a lot in the last years, because when we made our first stop at Varuzh’s parents home, his brother, who is visiting from Armenia and who hasn’t seen us for at least two years or so, looked at the cupcakes and said:

“Oh, wow, these are beautiful! Who baked them? Zuma?” and he laughed.

So you know, he was being sarcastic, because, in his wildest dreams, he could never imagine me standing by the stove in an apron! Last time he saw me, I was a lawyer in a suit – that says enough, right? Well, he was very surprised to hear that actually, I was the one who baked the cupcakes. It turned out that I was not a lost soul after all, no offense to lawyers in suits. 

I think I shared my frustrations with you when I was a beginner in my The Cupcakes post. But now, baking is easy, creative and therapeutic. It fills the home with the smell of childhood and sweetness. So, if you have never baked before, you should start and be persistent until you achieve the level of easiness and enjoy making and eating sweet treats. 

Today, I want to share with you a strawberry buttercream recipe.  But beware, the recipe calls for melting sugar and egg whites over a saucepan with simmering water. This is the key to the smooth and silky texture of any buttercream. Do not skip this procedure by replacing sugar with powdered sugar. I’ve done it, and it did not give me the results I was looking for. After making buttercream a few times, you will achieve the level of easiness I was talking about earlier. (The recipe is below).

There is lots of cupcake recipes on line, and after reviewing them, you will see all the ingredients they have in common. Being a Martha fan, I always go on the Martha Stewart website for recipes and tips.

My favorite part of baking, though, is decorating. Having time restrictions as my usual state of mind, I always try to set aside a few extra minutes for decorating. I love making pretty little things that look so cute, that everyone wants to eat them!

After we delivered more cupcakes to my parents, we were off to our visit our friends. And despite the fact that the last dozen of cupcakes fell on their sides in the container, thanks to Varuzh’s rough driving, and smashed all the frosting, our friends loved the cupcakes and ate them till the last crumb was gone.

What a sweet day!

Strawberry Buttercream recipe(for 12 cupcakes):
Ingredients you need:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch salt
14 tbs unsalted butter, cut into 14 pieces, at room temperature
¼ Cup strained strawberry preserves

In a heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over simmering water in a saucepan (not touching, though) and heat the mixture. Whisk periodically until the sugar is dissolved (the mixture should be warm to the touch).

Remove the bowl from the saucepan, and beat the egg white mixture by using mixer on high speed, until the mixture is cooled to room temperature and is white, fluffy, and holds stiff peaks. Don’t over-beat, though!

Switch the mixer to a medium speed, ad the salt and butter one piece at a time. Make sure each piece is incorporated before you add the next piece. When everything is incorporated, switch the mixer to a high speed and beat for another 5-6 minutes or until the texture of cream thickens.

At the very last 30 seconds, add strained strawberry preserves to incorporate into the buttercream.

With love always,
xo Zuma A.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Garden Update

For about a month now, since the time I wrote A Gift Idea,I have been pretty obsessed with my garden in a box. At that time I planted several of my favorite herbs in a planter box. It was so easy to put together, that I created another box for my mom where I planted her favorite herbs. All I had to do was to get a 6”-8” deep by 5”-7” wide by 18”-4’ long planter box (or even better, to make one!), then I put a liner to prevent soil from running, filled it with potting mix which I mixed with organic fertilizer that is designed specially for herbs and veggies. I dug small holes few inches apart and placed the herb plants I bought from my gardening-go-to-store Roger’s Gardens. I watered them every few days to keep them moist and, from then on, Varuzh and I have been taking quick trips to visit our garden in the box to either smell the herbs or cut a few fragrant leaves to add an extra flavor and color to a dish.

Our little herb garden just keeps on giving. Can you see how tall the Dill has gotten?

Last Saturday afternoon, while I was in the backyard picking herbs to sprinkle on top of my salad, I could not resist taking a peek at my other new plants - my  beautiful green bell peppers that I have quite a lot of already…

…and my cute little sweet strawberries. 

I planted strawberries in a similar planter box that I put together in exactly the same way as I did the herbs. I placed six strawberry plants in about 3” holes I made in the soil, about 6” inches apart. And within a few weeks, the strawberry flowers started turning into berries!

Certainly, to feed my strawberry loving family I need to plant a lot, and I mean A LOT, of strawberry plants, but this was my first try, and we have enough crops to have fun cutting the delicate stems of the little red berries, smell them and pop them in the mouth to feel their fresh sweet taste. Hmm, I wonder how many planter boxes I need to plant enough strawberries to feed my boys for the entire summer!

Life is earthy, fragrant and sweet today. Feels happy.

With love, always,
xo, Zuma A.
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Friday, May 25, 2012

A Valuable Lesson

A few days ago, I turned on a news channel to get a quick update of what was going on in the world, but instead, I saw on the screen the president giving a speech to award a Medal of Honor to a fallen Vietnam War soldier. Please don’t judge me - I turned the channel! Only to find out that every news channel was showing the same speech. My first impulse was to see if Rachel Ray was on, but then I felt terrible that the man paid the ultimate price in the name of our country, and that the least I could do as a fellow human was to listen to his story and think of him, even if it meant listening to a long speech.

Okay, why do I do this to myself? All I wanted was to take a 10-minute break, and a speech about a fallen soldier is not my definition of a break. So what is the definition of my break? Is it to hear quick points of events chosen to be reported, or is it to listen to divisive and polarizing arguments about ads of the presidential race, or to hear about the terrible but exciting legal and moral mess John Edwards is in? I think I have become a quick-bullet-points-excitement-news-junkie.  Is this a side-effect of being a lawyer? Am I simply afraid of feeling feelings?

Well, I wanted to do what’s right and turned CNN on and listened to the speech. It was about a 22-year-old Specialist Leslie Sabo who joined the U.S. Army and was deployed to Vietnam. In May of 1970, Sabo and his comrades were ambushed in the Cambodian jungle. He knew that the only way to save his comrades was to silence the bunker by pulling his own grenade. And that is exactly what he did. To Leslie Sabo, saving his comrades meant more than his own life.

I cried watching Sabo’s wife receiving the nation’s highest military award for valor on behalf of her husband who heroically died at the age of 22 in 1970.
Leslie Sabo
You may guess what I am going to say next: memorial weekend is coming up, and I have tons of planned fun activities for every minute of all three days. On Friday night I promised Alex to play Battleship after his Tae-kwon-do class. On bike-everywhere-Saturday Alex, Varuzh and I riding to Newport Beach to grab a quick breakfast and walk by the beach. In the afternoon we will be planting an Orchid tree from a seed Alex planted in a small cup and gave me on Mother’s Day. Its bud is already peeking through the soil. On Sunday, I plan to bake strawberry cupcakes for our friends in the morning, and then we are all off to LA to visit them. On Monday I was thinking of going to Rogers Gardens to get grass and gravel for my backyard. And then, of course, it’s a barbecue time!

But most of all, during these days I will tell Alex Lesley Sabo’s story, and we will read and think about many other hero soldiers and about brave things they’ve done, and thank them for being there for us, and celebrate them.

My ten-minute break turned out to be a valuable lesson. And I feel thankful…

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Here Comes The Sun

Last weekend was packed with lots of events and activities – Varuzh and I spent Saturday morning at the Young Authors Faire in Costa Mesa, meeting lots of wonderful people and signing VaZu Kids books for their little ones. Then, on Saturday evening we sailed around Balboa Island in a Duffy Boat celebrating our friends’ 30-year anniversary, and, on Sunday early morning I flew to Honolulu till Tuesday. I was not kidding when I said the weekend was busy.

But this post is not about beautiful events and places we have visited, rather about being prepared for the beautiful sunny weather during all of these events!

I’ve researched about different types of sunscreens years ago and learned that we should protect ourselves all 365 days a year, no matter if it is hot or cold. Sun rays damage our bodies: they cause wrinkles and, quite often, cause skin cancer. There is no doubt that we all should take sun rays seriously.

I have to say that nowadays most women use sunscreen daily simply by applying moisturizers every morning since most of them have a minimum of SPF 15 blended in. The fact is, though, that sunscreen loses most of its efficiency after about 90 minutes in the sun. But how many of us reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes? I know I don’t. And what about men and kids who usually don’t put moisturizer on during their morning routine?!

When I visit places like Hawaii or any other tropical, hot and humid destination, I don’t bother to put make up on, and reapplying sunscreen is easy. There, I always keep in my bag a bottle of Laura Mercier face sunscreen SPF 40 and Clinique "Sun" body spray SPF 25, reapply them every couple of hours in addition to the extra protection of my straw hat, big sunglasses and light linen clothing.

But what should I do when I am in town? I would hate to reapply sunscreen over my make up every few hours, especially during hot summer days! I got the answer this Sunday in a Vogue article Sunscreen in a Brush. Finally, the cosmetics companies have brought to us a solution in a chemical free powder that not only dusts protection on our faces, but also leaves a smooth mate finish. Awesome! When I came back to town, I stopped by a department store and became a proud owner of Chantecaille sunscreen powder and loving it. It will be in my bag whenever I need it.

And what should men do? Most of them don’t use any sunscreen outside the hot sunny beach, and they must! I better start my research now.

Any suggestions, thoughts or comments?  What’s your favorite sunscreen?

I am so happy Summer is here!

Morning Coffee

Picture of Paradise

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Step it up!

Yes, I am one of those people who take stairs instead of escalators or elevators. There, I said it.

Are you laughing thinking that I am crazy? Or are you one of those people too?

No one can argue that taking a few extra steps each day is good for our bodies. Actually, long and steep stairs can even get our heart rate up for few minutes. Isn’t that better than nothing? I have read that it is the best if we take about 10,000 steps each day. 7000 will do too. But the statistics show that an average American takes only about 4000 steps each day.

Well, I thought, I do all these little extra things and run around the town all day, so I must be anywhere between 7000-10000 steps, if not more. I actually should be proud of myself for taking the stairs.

To find out how many steps I make each day, I decided to get a pedometer and check.

“Why do you need a pedometer?” Varuzh asked after I asked him to come to a sporting goods store with me.

Great, I thought, now he’s going to tell me that I just need to live my life the best I can, walk as much as I can, and not force myself to reach some particular number of steps. Just enjoy your life is his motto.

Varuzh looked at me knowing exactly what I was thinking and did not say a word. Why would he, I already knew. In spite of that, he went to the store with me. We strapped Alex into his chair in the backseat and I gave him my phone to play Angry Birds so he would not complain that he did not want to go.

On the way to the store, Varuzh’s unspoken words started sinking in. Really, why do I need to do all the extra steps? Why do I even need to know how many steps I take each day? If I wasn’t healthy or active, if I didn’t go to the gym twice a week or bike on weekends, then I would desperately need every extra step. But in my case, would that significantly improve the quality of my life or would I live significantly longer or healthier because of that?

Nevertheless, I got the pedometer and felt a little guilty for wasting 30 bucks.  But then, to my big surprise, I learned that on my usual run-around-the- town-day I took about 5500 steps! Oh my, I thought, after running around so much I did not even get the minimum of 7000 steps! Not, unless I drag myself to the gym!

Well, as much as I was disappointed, at least I was no longer feeling guilty – the pedometer was not a waste of money.

“What’s your plan now?” Varuzh asked. “Will you be parking your car in the furthest parking lots?” Not sure if he was being sarcastic.

Yes, I admit – for the next couple of days I did park my car as far as I could…

How many steps do you take?..

Signing off till next Thursday.  Have a very busy schedule for the next few days, and will have to take some time off from writing. Will be missing you all.

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sweet Dreams

Today morning an officer approached me after I parked my car and ran to start my day.  “Did you have your morning coffee, ma’am?” he asked.

I thought that this was a strange question since I actually had two cups of coffee today. “Why are you asking me that?” I asked him.

“Have you seen how you parked your car?”…

I turned back to look at my car. It was certainly a little beyond the designated parking lines, maybe more than just a little. Hmm, I thought, I don’t usually have problems parking, unless I have to squeeze into a tiny spot along the curb, and this was not a tiny spot and not along the curb. Being the obedient citizen I am, I re-parked my car, and moved on with my day. Later, though, I found myself barely getting through the day until I finally got home and threw myself onto the couch and watched three Kung Fu Panda episodes with Alex. But when the shows finished and Alex went to his room to play, I finally picked up my laptop and turned it on.

While I was waiting for the laptop to turn on, I laid my eyes on a Bloomingdales bag on the floor. Recently Varuzh got me new pillows. He said that they are “really good ones” for stomach sleepers like me. Oh, I realized, I just didn’t get a good night sleep. I better get these good pillows out! We spend almost one third of our lives sleeping, I thought. And, if we don’t sleep well, that means that we don’t live one third of our lives well. But wait, there is more: if we don’t sleep well, the remaining two thirds of our lives won’t be much fun to live through either! I guess I better start sleeping on these good pillows.

As I understand, in order for humans to get a good night sleep, our bedrooms should have no reminders of our awaken life. We should not do any work in the bedroom, we certainly should not pay any bills in the bedroom and, should not have a television or smart phone in the bedroom. All these activities and gadgets stimulate our brain, remind us of stress and worries, and make it hard to drift into our dreams. Oh, there is another one: we should not eat for at least two hours before going to sleep. No mid-night snack, I guess. I’m sure you knew that.

I got off the couch and went into the bedroom with the intent of getting rid of all possible barriers between me and a good night sleep. I can proudly declare that we do not have a television in the bedroom, and we no longer have the desk with bank-books in its drawer. I cleared up the books and magazines on our nightstands and put candles with lavender scent. I can smell a bedroom-make-over-project coming up over the weekend. But for now, the good pillows and candles should do. And I better stop snacking.

Will see if I get up refreshed tomorrow… except that I have to get up at 4AM to catch the early flight to San Francisco.

Sweet dreams.

With love always,
xo Zuma A.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Honey, Do I Look Fat?

Whenever I pass magazine stands, I cannot help but to stop to check out cover girls and the headlines section. I have to say that, almost with no exception, women’s magazine covers invite us to look inside and find out about the best diet tips or the fastest way to get a swimsuit body. Who are they kidding, I always think. And yet, I check the articles and photographs of beautiful girls with flat abs in Salt swimsuits or Lulu Lemon fitness outfits. So why, after ages and ages of reading about weight loss and the greatest diets which we all know never work, do we still want to flip those pages.

I remember thinking about losing weight since I was barely a teenager. I lived in a different culture, time and society. We ate organic foods since there was no concept of non-organic foods; and fast food did not even exist!  So why was I thinking about losing weight? Was I fat? Was I unhealthy? Was I trying to live up to the image of “flawless” cover girls?

Luckily, I love food too much to diet.

Many years passed since then. Many pounds were gained and lost. And, finally, I became a proud owner of XS t-shirts and dresses. So why do I still ask Varuzh when I dress up to go out: “Honey, does this dress make me look fat?”  And why, if I eat a big dinner and too many chocolate chip cookies after that big dinner, do I feel guilty? I am pretty certain that no one would notice if I gained a pound, no one but me. But why am I so hard on myself? Am I shallow? Do I lack self-confidence?

Do you ever feel this way?

I have to thank one of my girlfriends for making me understand my own ridiculousness. She recently gave me a gift after returning from her trip to China. It was a silk pink pajama… size L.

“What?” I exclaimed. “Why would she get me a Large pajama?”

It took me about a month to finally take the pajama out of the box. And, to my horror, I discovered that pajama fit just right! But if I am a Chinese size L, what’s their XS?!? Have I been fooling myself that I am size XS. Was it just a trick the clothing companies play with women by changing the standards of sizes?

Finally, another month later, I got myself to wear this pajama and… fell in love with it. It was soft, silky and very pink. Just like I will never be able to give up food, I could not give up this pajama. I started wearing it all the time. After all, who cares if it is size L? And my parents can breathe with relief that I will not be trying to become Chinese XS. They firmly believe that a healthy woman should have a little bit of meat on her.

… And yet, if someone wants to get on my bad side, she could simply ask me if I have gained weight. Consider yourself warned!

Any thoughts? Would love to hear from you!

With love always,
xo, Zuma A

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Card

For some reason, human beings seem to have a difficult time letting their guard down and expressing their true feelings, as if it’s a sign of weakness and not strength. It seems that we are born with this skill, but lose it as we grow up. I certainly did. It has been so long, that I don’t really remember the last time I looked into my loved ones’ eyes and expressed my most genuine feelings. Do you?

Last night I opened my old Chanel shoebox where I keep my favorite family photographs and handmade cards I’ve received from my boys. The time I spend going through the memory lane of our lives is one of the most treasured times to me. I have to say that the awkward drawings on the cards and misspelled words of love are the most beautiful and meaningful to me. I thought of how uncomplicated our feelings for moms are when we are very young. All we want at that age is to be with mom, she is our world. But as we become teenagers, everything changes, and moms become uncool and we want to become nothing like mom, we argue. And as adults we are simply too busy to think or talk about our feelings all together. 

So I started thinking of my relationship with my mom as a daughter. And it looks like I was a pretty typical daughter and went through all these stages. Now, as an adult, I hang out with mom and talk to mom all the time, we kiss hellos and kiss goodbyes, but I don’t really remember telling her how much she means to me now and always. This is odd, being a mom myself, I know how difficult being a mom is. But I also know that mom doesn’t wait for me to tell her anything: her love for her children is so deep and so unconditional, that she does not even realize she should be thanked to. But she should.

So who is mom? In a nutshell, my mom is like every mom. Just like us, my mom was a little girl once. She was growing up to become someone who matter, to add her imprint into this world. She was working hard during the day and hanging out with her friends at night. Then she met my dad, and they fell in love. They got married and could not wait to have children. My mom carried her two daughters in her body for nine months, trying to care for her body to provide us with the best first home she could. And from the moment we were welcomed into this world, mom never stopped thinking of us and never stopped living her life through a prism of how-it-would-affect-her-children… ever.

Does this sound familiar to any moms out there?

To me, my mom is a hero. She gave me the gift of life. She fed me, educated me, and showed the world to me. She stayed up on nights when I was sick, she cheered me up when I was broken-hearted. She taught me to be generous and compassionate simply by setting an example. And then, she bravely left everything she built behind, and brought me to America to give me the gift of freedom…

I know that for everything she has done for me, I owe her nothing but love. And as I live my life, I care for my children, hopefully, up to her standards, and I expect from them also nothing but love.
So cheers to mom!

What’s your mother’s story?

With love always,
Zuma A.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lazy Sunday

To me, nothing can beat lazy Sunday mornings – having breakfast while still in pajama and uncombed hair, taking my time drinking coffee, talking to family, reading the Sunday paper… This is probably the only slow time I get during a week, and I always try to hold on to it for as long as I can.

On Saturday night, I thought of asking Varuzh to teach me how to makes his delicious crepes – he had always said that it is “very easy”.  So I thought if I find it truly easy, I’ll suggest the recipe to all of you so that you all can treat your mothers to crepes for breakfast on Sunday. M-m-m.

When I got up on Sunday, I thought of a sweet, soft, and soul-warming breakfast. I put my robe and uggs on and headed to the kitchen where Varuzh was already grinding coffee beans getting ready to brew a pot of vanilla bean coffee, my favorite. The smell of freshly ground coffee filled my body and made me smile. It smelled like a lazy Sunday morning.  Nice…

“Honey, I want to learn how to make crepes today. Could you teach me?” I asked.

“Sure baby,” he laughed. “You are always welcome to learn.”

… Varuzh makes delicious food, but his cooking style is not exactly like mine! I am very organized, and when I bake, I take all the ingredients out first, measure them, and place them in the right order. This way, I believe, putting them all in a bowl or mixer is fast and easy. But when I asked Varuzh how much and what he puts into the bowl, his answers sounded more like: a little bit of this, a little bit of that.

“I am sorry, honey,” I said. “But I don’t have natural talent to make crepes batter, and I need sizes of cups and spoons!”

From that point on, Varuzh tried to be more precise and patient with me. And, it turned out, that making crepes is not that difficult after all. I did a great job. The batter turned out at a perfect consistency, and I was flipping these sweet treats like a pro! So, I think, if I can do it, so could you! I am posting the recipe below. Forgive me if it not perfectly written, it’s the first one I have ever written.

I folded crepes on our plates and we all garnished them as we wanted. Varuzh sprinkled his with strawberries and sour cream. Alex dusted his crepes with powdered sugar. And I garnished my crepes with maple syrup and berries.

Love lazy Sunday mornings!  Hope you do too.
With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

And here is the recipe for 6 crepes:

The Ingredients:
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tbs butter (melted)
- 1/8 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 tsp sour cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbs honey
- 3 pinches of salt

In a large mixing bowl beat eggs for about 30 seconds. Add flour and mix until combined. Then add the rest of ingredients, one by one, in the order listed above. Beat for another minute or so, until smooth and creamy.

Heat a very lightly oiled skillet (I use vegetable oil, so there would be no additional flavor). Once skillet is hot, pour or scoop 1/6th of the batter onto the skillet. Tilt the pan with a circular motion until batter coats the surface evenly. After 30 seconds or when the bottom is light brown, loosen crepe with a spatula. Then flip the crepe and cook for another 15 seconds or until the bottom barely cooks through. The time depends on your skillet and thickness of the crepe. Transfer the crepe onto a plate. Repeat until all the batter is used.

Garnish crepes with anything you chose, such as Maple syrup or sugar powder, sour cream or whip cream, any of your favorite fruits or berries.

Bon appetite!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Gift Idea

My family loves celebrating holidays, so we always start few days earlier than the big day. Quite often I hear some people complain about our culture of “monetizing” holidays, but these people are just grumpy and wrong – giving or receiving a present shoots a good dose of positive emotions into our hearts; and, most importantly, holidays remind us to think about the person or event that we are celebrating. Honestly, we are so wrapped up speeding through our lives, that we forget to turn to our loved ones and take a moment to hug them and tell them how much we love and appreciate having them in our lives. Luckily, we have birthdays and holidays to remind us. So no complaints, please!

As we celebrate our moms this Sunday, probably one of the most meaningful holidays, we should be happy to use the opportunity to think of her and give her something beautiful. But what? I know it may sound a little cliché, but gift giving is not about how much money we spend, but the thought. So, what should we think of? Should we go for the usual: take mom out to brunch, buy flowers, and write a card?
When I sat down to surf the Internet to get ideas as to what to give my mom, I thought of favorite gifts I have received from my boys – made possible by Varuzh, of course. After all, I have been a mom for twenty years! The first thing that popped in my mind was a Disneyland pass I got when Alex was about two. I remembered sitting Alex into his stroller every few weeks or so, and taking him to "the happiest place on earth". And every time, as we approached the gates of the fantasy world, my heart would almost jump out of my body from excitement! That was certainly a great gift and great bonding time for me and Alex.

Well, I don’t think my mom would enjoy tickets to Disneyland as much as I did. So I kept searching my memory and the Internet. I then thought that I could give her a little garden! When I started planting my garden few weeks ago, I put together a wooden box with soil and planted some of our favorite herbs – cilantro, red and green basil, rosemary, dill and onion chives. And I have to say that it was pretty awesome: I would cut fresh basil from my garden for my delicious Caprice sandwich, and freshly cut cilantro would add so much fragrance to salsa or white bean soup!

Maybe I should recreate my little herb garden for mom, I thought. Every time she would make her signature cottage cheese spread with dill and garlic, she could cut dill from a little garden I would plant for her. This is easy, very therapeutic, and will bring freshness to mom’s dishes for the entire summer. To create this gift– I would need another box, soil, organic fertilizer and mom’s favorite herbs. Viola. And, if my mom did not like herbs, I could plant a little flower garden for her, or cactus garden, or strawberry garden… The options are endless.

Oh wait - my mom reads all my blog posts! But I would hate to waste this post to avoid ruining the surprise. I better give her a call and tell her not to read this one... 

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Simple Life

It is not a secret any more that every day I am falling more and more in love with being a domestic goddess. And, for some time already, I’ve been toying with the idea of raising chickens in our yard.

First things first: I had to research if the city of Irvine allowed its residents to keep chickens. To my surprise, I found an answer within minutes, and the answer was: Yes, I could keep up to six chickens! Phew.

“What?!” Varuzh exclaimed. “You want to keep what?! Why?”

I wasn’t sure why I wanted to keep chickens. Was it my idea of taking it easy by living a simple life, or was it my escape into a simple life? Well, if that was my reasoning, then getting the chickens would not serve its purpose because I still had to do everything I do now, and taking care of chickens would be an additional thing for me to do.

Is it a sign that I actually do need to simplify my life?

I dismissed this thought and moved on with my plan – and the plan was to persuade Varuzh into getting the chickens.

“But look, they will lay eggs and we will have the freshest eggs we could possibly get. Literally! I heard on Martha Stewart radio that store bought eggs do not taste anything like fresh eggs from someone’s own barn!” I said. “And we would not get maximum of six that are allowed, we could get just two… or three.”

When I told that to our friend Art, who happens to be a president of our community association, he pointed to the association agreement, which specifically states that the residents are not allowed to keep poultry as pets.

Hmm, I thought, if I don’t get a rooster, then the chickens would not be loud and I could get away with Art not finding out. And if he does, I thought, I would supply him with fresh eggs too. Hopefully my future chickens would lay enough eggs!

“And what about Lucy?” Varuzh asked. Okay, that was a good point. Our dog Lucy is a terrier and would go crazy until she would get to the birds!

“Mommy, I will take care of Lucy,” Alex, my only ally, said. He loved loved loved the idea.

“Honey,” Varuzh finally said. “My grandma used to keep chickens in our yard when I was little. They were messy and they stunk!”

I decided to let Varuzh get used to the thought of keeping chickens and raising the issue in a few days again. But late at night the thought of why I wanted to keep chickens in my yard would not leave my mind. Is it really for fun? Don’t I have enough to do? Am I trying to become Martha? Or am I trying to live an I Love Lucy fantasy? Or am I running away from something? Do you ever feel this way?

...And what if chickens really stink?..

Will post updates in couple of weeks…

Signing off till Monday. Cannot wait for my Motherhood Celebration week!

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mmm, Pizza Day.

Last Sunday our long time friends came over to hang out. So Varuzh decided to treat them to a home made pizza. I know this may sound a little childish, but I was so excited and could not wait, because Varuzh makes the best pizza ever! Jealous?..

As I sat down in the kitchen with my computer to keep him company, Varuzh started preparing sauces: tomato and pesto. Mmm, there will be two pizzas, I thought. The delicious smell of tomato, garlic, basil and black pepper spread through the air making me very hungry. But Varuzh was not even close to finished. He had to prepare the dough and let it rise for about two hours. He certainly was trying my patience! I had to close the computer and just enjoy watching him at his craft.

“Honey, could you get me something to cover my shirt, I don’t want to get it all floury.” He said, as he was about to start stretching pizza dough.

I grabbed my apron, and he put it on. And I have to admit that he looked very funny, with the waist somewhere around his chest and the polka dots that are not his style.  This gave me the idea to get him an apron of his own. And today early morning when he will be reading this post (as he usually does) he can reach under his bed and find an apron in a box. A great chef needs a great apron! I hope he likes it.

Well, back to pizza…

Our friends, Alex and I watched Varuzh throwing and twisting pizza dough into the air. And when it stretched to the right size, he placed it on the pizza board, spread the tomato sauce and put on the toppings: cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions and bell pepper. And once the pizza was slid onto the stone oven at a 510 degrees heat, we knew that it was just a matter of minutes until we could taste it.

Pizza, beer and great company… what a great day!

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.