Saturday, August 25, 2012

Triple Breakfast, Triple Mmm


Today morning, the routine that we developed in getting Alex ready for school, was not working at all. For some reason, Alex decided to completely ignore what we were asking him to do, so it took forever to get him into the shower, then it took forever to get him out of the shower, get dressed... And it took almost fifteen frustrating minutes to get Alex to put his socks and shoes on, as if he is Centipede from James and The Giant Peach and needed to put forty two pairs of shoes on not just one! Does he understand that we’ve got to get out of the house by 8AM to get to school on time?! 

So while I was stressing out and running after my misbehaving seven-year-old, Varuzh was cooking breakfast and whistling a song. Huh? 

Finally, I decided to stop the madness and told Alex the things he needed to do to be able to watch TV when he comes home from school. Then I went to the kitchen to see what Varuzh is cooking… Oh my, I should have done this a long time ago – some days I just don’t think straight!
Meanwhile in the kitchen, Varuzh was cooking three different breakfast dishes at once: waffles for himself, scramble egg for Alex, and oatmeal with banana-raisin topping for me. At first, to make it look like I am helping, I put the coffee beans into the grinding machine to make coffee for both of us. Then, I decided to just watch Varuzh cooking and take some pictures. 


First, he heated the waffle-maker and poured the batter he apparently just made. The ingredients for 2  portions of the batter included: 1 egg, 1/2 cup +1 tbs milk, 1 tbs butter, 2/3 cup all purpose flour, 1 tsp sugar, 1 and 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1 pinch salt, and 1/8 tsp vanilla, well mixed together. In about 3 minutes waffles were ready to be taken out and looked beautiful once Varuzh dusted them with sugar powder. Total preparation time: 7 minutes.
Then he quickly mixed 1 egg, 1 tbs milk, and 1 tsp cream cheese. Poured the mix onto the heated skillet. And, once ready, topped it with Alex's favorite spices. Preparation time: 5 minutes.
Making the oatmeal with the banana-raisin topping was the most time consuming, so Varuzh started it first and finished last. He, first, boiled 1 cup of water. Then poured 6 tbs oatmeal into the boiling water for about 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, he fried 1/2 banana and 1 tbs raisins in just a drop of grape seed oil and topped it with brown sugar. Voila. Total preparation time: 15 minutes.
Well, I really enjoyed watching Varuzh preparing these three delicious breakfast meals in about 20 minutes (yes, he had all three of them cooking at the same time!). He didn't even break a sweat. Actually, he whistled a happy song throughout the entire time and made it look very easy. 

"It is easy," he said as if he read my mind. "Wanna try it next time?" 

Was it a trick question? 

Luckily, at that very moment, Alex walked into the kitchen looking cute and holding the completed work.

"So can I watch TV when I come home from school?" He asked.

"Yes, you can." I said. 

"Can I watch TV now?" he asked... 

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

All you need is love! La-la-la-la-la


Labor Day weekend is only two weeks away, and the Summer is going to be “unofficially” over… or maybe I better say that the Fall is going to “unofficially” begin. 

Either way, lots of adjustment is needed – it is like a Monday after a long and, hopefully, fun Sunday. Are you ready? Ready for days to get shorter, traffic to get heavier, work piles to get taller? Are you ready for hectic mornings getting kids ready for school?

While I enjoy summer’s lighter work schedule, bright blue sky, bikini-ready weather, weekday morning bike-rides, I also love diving into the fall days. I think that the fall season is somewhat enchanting– the cooler air and sun from its new place in the sky shine deeper and richer blues and yellows, bringing up more thoughtfulness in us. Summer’s fun and fast paced outdoor activities turn into slower walks in the park and heart-to-heart chats with people we love. Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls get substituted with Sting’s Whenever You Hear My Name. And, I almost forgot, who doesn’t love fall Fashion?! And, if nothing I just listed sounded appealing to you, that’s okay because we are less then two months away from decorating our homes for spooky Halloween fun.

…As I was writing that last paragraph, I realized that I have made a big progress from the time I started the Zuma’s Blog. I scrolled down to my firsts posts, and found how difficult it used to be for me to keep my life in a healthy balance.

I remember that back in March I got a call from my sister after she read As I Was Speeding Through The Trail… where I wrote about my realization that people’s daily issues seem so small when we look at them from the top of the hill. She pointed out that while standing on the top of a beautiful hill, I was thinking about the life at the bottom of the hill where people drive 70MPH trying to get to many places. Varuzh echoed.  "Enjoying simple pleasures is not another thing you have to do, " he said. "You've got to feel it. Don't think about anything else right now. Just feel it." 
 
Now, almost half a year later, I think I finally started grasping the concept. While I certainly had my share of bad days, I walked through this summer with my mind and heart open to seeing the beauty. And this summer was a success - cooking with family and friends, going out to the beach and riding bikes with my boys, reading, working, looking at stars in the dark August sky.

Hmmm, what changed? One thing I know for sure - the world hasn’t change. So that means that my perception of life has changed.

I think I finally understood that life can be very simple if I don’t complicate it! All I need is to live, feel, and love-love-love... You know what I mean?

I am so looking forward to the deep colors of the fall season - working on new projects, learning new things, going places, eating hearty foods... all with people I love, love, love.

xo, Zuma A.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ten Simple Steps: Blueberry Scones

Olympic games are almost over. What? Has it been two weeks already?

Yup, but before we settle down on our couches and watch the Olympics closing ceremony (I so hope to see Mr. Bean again), I want to get to experience another one of British delicious traditions - afternoon tea and scones.

Until now, my knowledge about these triangle-shaped treats was very limited. I only knew that sometimes, on my way to work, I would stop by a coffee shop a.k.a. Starbucks, grab a freshly brewed cup of coffee and a scone, and go on with my day. But last weekend, as I was flipping through the pages of Martha Living, I came across a recipe of very deliciously looking scones, and it did not take me long to decide to treat Varuzh and Alex for a yummy breakfast. So I googled various sites looking for more easy-to-make scone recipes and serving tips. Apparently, scones were not originally created for a quick morning coffee time in a car, but created for a relaxing afternoon tea time.

Afternoon time it is, I thought.  I found an easy to bake recipe on Martha's website, watched Sarah Carey's 60-second "how-to" video, and I was ready to start.

Alex was up by 7AM and enthusiastically offered to help: "Can I do it? Can I do it?" He asked to be in charge of measuring the ingredients, pouring them into the bowls, and mixing them. Deal!

I opened the recipe page on the iPad, organized the process into ten simple steps, and our beautiful scones were in the oven.

Oh, baking is so therapeutic - the soft smell of the ingredients, the anticipation of biting into a sweet crumbling texture warms my soul. And if you follow these 10 simple steps, you too will have scones ready for afternoon tea time! I'm sure you'll love it.

Step 1-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2 - Get all the necessary tools out: measuring cups, measuring spoons, two bowls, a sifter, whisker, fork, knife, brush, parchment-lined baking sheet, and a working surface.

Step 3 - Get all the ingredients out of the fridge and pantries: heavy cream, 1 large egg, all purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cold unsalted butter, organic blueberries, and vanilla (While the recipe calls for currants, I substituted them with chopped almonds and fresh blueberries, and added vanilla).

Step 4 - Measure the ingredients according to the recipe: 3/4 cup + 1tbs cold heavy cream; 1tsp vanilla, 1 large egg; 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour; 1/4 cup granulated sugar; 2tsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp find salt; 6tbs cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces; 1/4 chopped almonds; 1/3 cup fresh blueberries.

Step 5 - Whisk together the egg, 1tsp vanilla, and 3/4 cup cream. Yes, I mean heavy cream!
Step 6 - In another bowl whisk together flower, sugar, baking powder, and salt. 
Step 7 - Throw the cold butter cubes into the flour mixture. Mix the butter and flour mixture until the mixture resembled coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Then stir in the blueberries and almonds.
Step 8 - with a fork... not a whisk!.. stir in cream mixture until just combined.
*tip: to get a soft and crumbly dough, don't overmix!
Step 9 - Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and pat into a circle. Cut into 6 wedges and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Step 10: Brush tops of the scones with cream and sprinkled with sanding sugar.
Voila. After these ten simple steps, scones were ready for the oven. I baked them for about 20 minutes, and rotated sheet halfway through.
My blueberry scones turned out beautiful, fluffy and crumbly. And I have to say that pairing scones with jam and tea makes a deliciously balanced combination.

And I want to bake them again tomorrow... well, maybe not tomorrow...  have you seen how much heavy cream goes into these?! I better wait for a week... Cant wait! Mmmm...

With love always,
xo, Zuma A.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sweet dreams

Hello everyone, it's Karine again! For the past few days I've been swamped with moving into a new apartment, starting summer classes, and getting back into the swing of things. I'm sleeping on a brand new bed, in a room that still isn't quite home to me, with piles of things still needing to be organized on the floor. I know some people can adjust overnight, but for some of us it takes a while of tossing and turning at night to grow accustomed to a new place.

Knowing this about myself, I brought a dream catcher my boyfriend gave me, both for sentimental value and the fact that the concept of dream catchers and how they were used in Native American culture is fascinating to me. After noticing no difference with or without the dream catcher, I was very disappointed.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Green Shopping

It does not take much to motivate me to do something different from my daily routine. It's actually almost as if I am looking for ways to get away from it.

Last Friday, the only obligation that would constrain me to a specific time frame was a telephone conference with NYC court, and that meant that I got a call at 7AM as it is 10AM in the Big Apple. The rest of my work could be done at any other time of a day, so Varuzh and I decided to ride our bikes to Huntington Beach. I’ve got to say that this is a really nice way to spend a weekday morning… even if that means I will be staying up working late at night.

By 11AM we got to Main Street. It was hot and crowded, so we decided to park our bikes, get peach smoothies at Jamba Juice and walk up the street to check out the stores. I told my Mr. that I wanted to get a bike basket so I could give Lucy rides along the beech.

Luckily, fancy and expensive woven baskets did not look good on my bike, so 5 minutes and only 20 bucks later I was a proud owner of a standard white bike basket. And Varuzh was awesome enough to put it together for me right there at the beach.





To get ready for biking with Lucy in the basket, I had to practice biking with 10 pounds of stuff in it. I thought that it would be great if I practice by biking to the nearest Trader Joe's grocery store – only a 5 mile round trip. And today I did just that. Varuzh and Alex came along to show me a short cut path through the park.
These ducks were huge, much bigger than they look in the picture!
So at the store we got a few things, put our purchases in my basket, and headed back. As we were finding our way out of the parking lot, I got cheers from a few environment-loving men and women in hybrid cars – I guess, I am even “greener” than they are!
The route to the store maybe was short and fun, but it was a little challenging for me to ride back because of sharp turns and narrow paths up and down hills.  By the time I got back, I was seriously sweating. I think I need a few of these trips before I would dare to ride with Lucy – she is too much of a precious carriage that will not sit still - she is a dog after all!

oops, I've been riding with the tag on all this time ;)))
Hopefully, though, pretty soon I will be joining a parade of bike riders on the beach with their little dogs in their baskets. And I bet that, once Lucy will make her debut, she will be the cutest one of all. You will see the pictures when it happens... hope she loves it!!!

As for the grocery shopping by bike - I think it is an awesome idea... I just need to accessorize Varuzh's bike with a basket like mine too... in case if we need to get more stuff...

Who knew the bike baskets could be so fun and practical at the same time!
With love always
xo, Zuma A.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cinnapancakes


Hey everyone! It’s Karine, and today I’m going to be a posting a breakfast recipe that I’ve been cooking up (see what I did there?) for quite a while now.

As a little kid, I served as a shopping minion to my mom when she’d have mall days. Aside from playing hide and seek in the sale racks, there was nothing for me to look forward to during long days of “Karine do you think this dress fits well?” I’d whine and complain until one day my brilliant mother realized that the way to a 7 year old’s heart is through bribery and sweets. That’s how I discovered Cinnabon. Oozing with glazed goodness, those cinnamon rolls still call my name every time I pass by a stand, and have contributed to my cinnamon craze through the years.

I mean come on, just look at them.