Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Pink & Purple Day

I know today is traditionally a day for celebrating all things green, but, thanks to Google Photo Assistant, I was reminded that 4 years today, the Best Husband Ever and I were doing a little celebrating of our own, in slightly different colors.

We were celebrating being young and in love...

...and being together—something we didn't get much of during 18 months of courtship and engagement. (We wouldn't see each other again after these pictures until just days before our wedding 6 weeks later.)

 We were celebrating dreams, and hopes, and plans.

And while the rest of the world was all in green, I'm afraid the only colors we had around were these:

You can pinch me retroactively if you like; I won't mind. I need it, because sometimes I think I'm still dreaming. :)

So this is love *hm-hm-hm-hm*,

Sunday, March 13, 2016

It's A...

I feel like I should start with a disclaimer. I know it's been more than half a year since my last blog post (oops!), but you should know that future posts may not be very soon forthcoming. And this is why. :)

Yup. There's gonna be a new Little Bobber in town this year! :D We're super excited and happy! And since it's been a small eternity since my last update on this blog, I'll go ahead and get all the usual question out of the way now:

OMG I had no idea you were pregnant!?
I know, I know. It's not a secret, it's just taken me a small forever to actually take these pictures and write this post. Sorry!

How far along are you?
I'm at almost 30 weeks as of this writing! Basically I found out I was pregnant days after my last post in September, and promptly had absolutely zero energy for anything beyond moving my body from the bed to the couch during daylight hours. Hence the long hiatus on the blog.

So when are you due?
...which means that Baby #2 is due at the end of May.

How are you feeling?
Pregnancy this time around has been okay, thanks for asking! ;) I doubt any pregnancy could be as ideal as my first, and I was prepared for worse. No real nausea, just intense fatigue for the first 8-10 weeks with some queasiness any time I got hungry. Which was all the time, because I was simply too tired to make food beyond cheese and crackers, or whatever my toddler was having for lunch.

Where's the bump?!!
No, I don't have any bump photos to post (yet), mainly because of the above-mentioned astonishing amount of fatigue with this pregnancy and because we've been busier with travel, family, and church life involvements than any other time that I can remember since being married. Oh, and don't forget we have a toddler. ;) I'm hoping we'll get to take a family portrait as a family of 3 before we become a family of 4, but I'm already resigned that it simply may not happen. And I'm okay with that. :)

Do you have a name picked out?
Yes, we have already chosen a name. No, we're not telling people except immediate family until the baby is born. (Because once it's on the birth certificate, changing our mind will be a prohibitive hassle. Until then, you know, just in case...)

And finally, the big one...the one you clicked on this post for...the one you skipped to the bottom just to find out...


Okay, okay! ;)

IT'S A...

BOY!!! :D

And we couldn't be happier. ;)

We didn't find out the gender until I was more than 20 weeks, due to holiday travel and how my appointments fell, so we had a lot of friends and family weigh in on whether they thought it would be a boy or a girl this time around. The overwhelming majority was pulling for Team Pink, since we already have Ax the Great. But don't worry fans! We've always wanted to have at least 3 kids, so there's still lots of hope for a Baby Girl Morgan in the future (Lord willing). :)

But for now at least, we are beyond thrilled at the prospect of Ax the Great having a little brother to play with, and having another rambunctious, mischievous, precious Little Bobber to love. Thank You, Lord!

Shoutout to the delightful shop that makes these adorable confetti pops in my very own hometown!

I hope it won't be another 7 months until I post again, but we've already committed to 2 major trips this year in addition to welcoming the newest Morgan to the family. In other words, I can't make any promises! Except...I promise to inundate social media with photos as soon as our new little guy is here. Follow or unfollow accordingly. ;) You have been warned.

With Love and Sparkly Blue Confetti,


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Wednesday Wander: A Quiet Morning With Those

One Saturday a month, the Best Husband Ever has an all-day meeting with brothers from all over the Bay area for fellowship and training in the Word. Since Saturday is normally a family relaxing day for us (brunch at our favorite diner, listening to Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me, maybe a trip to the park, naps for everyone), the Bobber and I really miss spending the day with our favorite guy. Usually on weekday mornings we're all up before 7 and the BHE doesn't leave for work until after 8, so we almost always have a good 15 minutes or so to curl up on the couch together and watch Ax play, or play with him, before getting ready for the day. But on brother's meeting weekends, the BHE leaves before 6:30 a.m. By the time Ax and I wake up, he's already gone. :( 

So, to cure those "we-miss-Dada" blues, we've started a little tradition of going out first thing as soon as we wake up. I throw on something like clothes and maybe some tinted moisturizer if I'm feeling fancy, and change the Bobber into actual clothes, because we don't go out in pajamas (ahem). I'm a Southern girl, and we're civilized like that. ;)

Now for the adventure: whenever I'm down, lonely, or a little blue, there's one magical, fantastical, wonderful place I like to go.
Yep. I go to Chick-fil-A.

Southern biscuits. Chicken perfectly fried in the best secret blend of spices. Coin-sized hash browns all hot and crispy and ready to go swimming in a little boat of ketchup. Coffee or orange juice. YUM. They have high chairs on wheels with disposable child place mats that stick to the table, and they bring your order to you on a tray. The playscape even has a little toddler area, with sanitary hand wipes provided. I mean, be still my heart!
What could be better than one's favorite comfort fast food and watching the toddler happily run in circles on a playground while one quietly sips a heavily hazelnut creamer-ed coffee? Why, doing it with friends, of course.
As it turns out, the best way to compensate for missing one's spouse while he's away is not comfort food but the Comforter Himself, lived out in His members. I do enjoy a good chicken biscuit drizzled with honey. But by far the sweetest part of this quiet morning was the spontaneous prayer in the play area, while watching the toddlers earn their morning nap.

Wherever your journey takes you this week, I hope it brings you many opportunities to be "with those" (1 Tim. 2:22).

Wandering with you,

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Wednesday Wander: Goodwill Hunting

This is my attempt to motivate myself to blog at least once a week (and also to get out of the house for more than just grocery shopping). I hereby institute “The Wednesday Wander,” in which I post (on a Wednesday, naturally) about the adventures of Mama + Ax (which may or may not take place on a Wednesday).

Side note: can I abbreviate Mama + Ax to M+Ax? Referring to myself as “Mama,” as if it’s my name, gives me a bit of an identity crisis. But it feels equally weird to say “Gloria + Ax,” because I am, after all, his mother. I know, I have issues. #mynameisgloriaok

Moving on. 

Come, join us on a grand adventure! In this first episode, we will be taking you on a tour of a place of wonder and enchantment; a place of secret lives and untold stories; a place of hopes, heartaches, and dreams.
 Oh yes I did.

I’ve long since shrugged off the stigma of frequenting thrift and consignment stores for clothes, quirky household items, and the odd paperback. These days, I revel in finding brand name items gently worn or sometimes with the tags still on for mere pennies to the dollar of their original price. My special weakness now, though, is glassware.

The only rub is that I currently live in a rented space with a kitchen only slightly larger than my closet, so my gorgeous, carefully curated collections of tableware, serving dishes, elegant glasses, and useful kitchen appliances exist only in my dream kitchen on Pinterest and Houzz. Also here. (So dreamy...)

In a place like the Bay area, however, thrift stores are the stuff dreams are made of! People don’t just donate junk. They donate genuinely lovely, vintage, and sometimes expensive things.

Pretty things.
Fancy things.
Shiny and sparkly things.
Right alongside ugly things.
And funny things. (Lush and mellow? I almost bought it just for that.)
Classic things.
Cult classic things. (Is there a VCR around here anywhere?!)
Useful things. (Have the baby one and loved it; snagged this gem for $4 thankyouverymuch.)
Playful things.
I somehow neglected to take a picture of the gorgeous and incredibly delicate champagne coupes that I scooped up for a dollar each. Good thing there were five of them, because only days later I found that the entire upper rim of one coupe had broken off in a perfect “O” — similar to the face I made when I found it neatly halved thus. I'm sorry to say I didn't get a picture of that either.

In all, I scored 3 books (including a Pulitzer prize-winner and a novel in French!), the 5 champagne coupes, 2 adorable sundae glasses, the wire bead toy Ax is clutching above, and a bag of wood blocks, all for the princely sum of $20. I call that a win!

I can't promise not to post about thrift stores every week. I also can't promise that I'll actually post every week. (Here's hoping!) But I can promise that my trusty sidekick and I are looking forward to sharing a wander or two with you in the near future.

Happy wandering,

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sunday Roast Chicken: How to Have Dinner Like You're In Paris for $10 or Less

Really this post should be titled, “The Chicken That Started It All.” This is the first roast chicken recipe I ever tried, and it has remained my go-to, tried-and-true, “impress the guest” dish through every stage of my life, including grad school, living abroad, and wowing my husband as a newlywed (it worked!). It meets almost all my criteria for a perfect recipe in that it’s cheap, requires minimal effort, and looks and tastes way fancier than it is. If I could pull off cooking a green vegetable in the same pan as the chicken, it would tick the all-important “one pot meal” box, and it would truly be the perfect recipe. (If you, gentle reader, figure out some way to do that, by all means share!)

Life with a toddler: it begins.

If you remember, last year I started cooking my way through all the recipes in Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris. My sister and I discovered this cookbook at the public library more than ten years ago, and we loved it so much that we checked it out at least once a year, sometimes just to enjoy the beautiful pictures. Full of gorgeous, full-page color photos not only of luscious foodscapes but also seductive scenes from the City of Lights itself, we were captivated from the very first bite of Herb-Baked Eggs (p. 64); captivated by the flavor, and the fact that this elegant dish only called for ingredients we already had on hand at a cost of about $10—just like this roast chicken recipe. Who knew Paris could be so cheap? I wanted to buy the book, but my life was far too transient at the time to justify building up a personal library.

It could not be more fitting, then, that I got my very own copy while I was living in, you guessed it: Paris. I thought I had moved there to stay, but I couldn’t ignore the handsome, earnest California boy who insisted on calling me every day, and who wouldn’t stop asking me what I wanted for my birthday. He sent me my favorite cookbook, and a card so swoony and romantic that I knew I wouldn’t be living in Paris for long. ;)  

Three years and a baby later, Lemon Chicken with Croutons still graces our Sunday night table regularly. I love, just love the fact that one of the first grown-up recipes I ever made, one that’s seen me from starving student to wife and mother, will be a dish my children grow up on. Comfort food, with a taste of Paris.

Lemon Chicken with Croutons
Just barely adapted from Barefoot in Paris

4-5 lb chicken
large yellow onion, cut into 6-8 wedges
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
fresh baguette, cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the onion wedges in the bottom of a roasting pan and toss with a little olive oil. Discard any giblets from the chicken and dry inside and out with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity generously with salt and pepper and place the lemons inside. Place the chicken on top of the onions in the roasting pan and brush the outside of the chicken with melted butter. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Here Ina knowledgably instructs you to “tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.” You could do that. Or, you could skip it because you can’t be bothered, and (gasp!) the bird will turn out delectably edible all the same. Your call.

Roast for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and thigh. When done, tent loosely with foil and let rest at least 15 minutes (but only if you want the meat to be melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy).

While the chicken roasts, put the baguette cubes in a large bowl and drizzle generously with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss until croutons are well coated with oil. Spread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Once the chicken is done and resting, place the croutons in the 400 degree oven and let toast until golden brown, turning once, about 10-12 minutes. (I like to use the toasting time to throw together a salad.)

To serve, pile the croutons on a plate, place your preferred part of the chicken on top, and scoop large spoonfuls of caramelized onions and golden broth over everything. This is possibly the only roast chicken recipe for which gravy would actually detract from the meal. The cooking juices are incredibly flavorful, and best enjoyed lightly spooned over the croutons. For all you staunch gravy fans out there, let me assure you: one bite of chewy-crisp toasted baguette bursting with rich, lemony broth will convert you on the spot. For this one recipe, at least.

Bon appétit,

Shout out to my friend Jo for being the lovely food model!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sunday Roast Chicken: A New Story of an Old Tradition and The Best Roast Chicken You'll Ever Have


No, no, don't worry it's just me again. Sorry, didn't mean to startle you by disappearing for 4 months and then reappearing out of nowhere like that. :)

For those of you keeping score, I am sadly failing at the "blog at least twice a month" goal on my #33list. Thankfully, the beauty of such lists is that one changes them as one wishes, and crossing the finish line is all about how much one enjoys a year of life and not at all about ticking boxes. So I'm going to skip over the unchecked boxes, and go straight into the things that are adding a little joy to my life right now.

Like this:

Last year I took the time to create a spreadsheet of my entire repertoire of dinner meals and organized them into categories that corresponded to a day of the week: pork-based meals on Monday, ground beef dishes on Tuesday, soups and stews on Wednesday, pizza/pasta on Saturday, etc. One of the things I decided to do was roast a chicken every Sunday night.

Besides being the cheapest meat one can buy, roasting a weekly chicken also provides enough for lunch sandwiches or salads later in the week, or even a second dinner. And then of course there's the bones for making broth, which I slow simmer in the crock pot almost every week. With a little planning, I can stretch one chicken for up to 4 meals. Just this week, for instance, we ate the leg quarters from this very recipe with brown rice and salad Sunday night, I fed our ravenous 10-month-old small pieces of breast meat almost every day for lunch or dinner, I made Wednesday's beef stew with my own slow-cooked chicken broth, and I'm using the rest of the leftover meat for the famous Morgan homemade chicken taquitos probably right now as you're reading this.

But economy and convenience are not the only reasons I make Sunday roast chicken. Yes, it is wonderfully affordable and virtually effortless, but it's also comfort food at its most elegant. There are few things that make me feel more like the perfectly coiffed 1950's society housewives of yore than pulling a gorgeous roast hen from the oven all sizzling and covered in golden brown crispy skin, and carving it neatly into juicy, warm pieces served dripping with homemade gravy.

Are you salivating yet?

I know oven-roasted chicken has a reputation for being finicky and turning out dry and flavorless, but take it from the girl who's been doggedly perfecting the technique every week for more than six months: it's easy. Maybe you've seen recipes like this one, which lists no less than 8 ingredients in addition to the actual bird, including 4 herbs in 2 different preparations. While this might be the most amazingly flavorful roast chicken you'll ever have (it's still on my list of roast chicken recipes to soon as I can make a special trip to Whole Foods for culinary lavender), I contend that the best roast chicken you'll ever have only needs one foolproof ingredient. Just one: salt. A well-salted chicken is a flavorful, moist, and succulent chicken, and all the culinary lavender in La Frahnce cannot save an under-salted bird. The only other key ingredient is temperature + cooking time, which admittedly can vary depending on your oven. After weeks of testing in our new apartment, and with a little feedback from a friend (thanks B!), I suggest starting with 75 minutes at 400 degrees and adjusting from there.

So, without further ado, I give you simply the best roast chicken you'll ever have:

Salty Chicken

N.B. Instructions are given in the order that involves the least amount of raw chicken handling and obligatory hand-washing possible.

4-5 lb chicken
that's it
yes, really

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour about 2 tablespoons of salt into a small bowl and set aside. Place a couple of paper towels in your roasting dish or pan, and set aside 2 more paper towels. Place the chicken breast side down on the paper towels in the roasting pan and remove giblets. Discard giblets or save for making gravy (I never use them). Use extra paper towels to pat the chicken dry inside and out. (Excess moisture turns to steam in the oven, which will prevent the skin from getting crispy--and we don't want that.) Generously sprinkle with salt, using about 1 tablespoon on the inside and 1 tablespoon on the outside. Remove the paper towels from the pan and turn breast side up. You could at this point use kitchen twine to do a complicated trussing technique, or even just tie the legs together. But let me tell you a secret: the bird will roast just fine without it.

Now you can wash your hands. Sigh of relief.

Place the chicken in a 400 degree oven and roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes. About halfway through roasting, you should hear the chicken begin to sizzle. That's good: it means the skin is getting nice and crispy. :)

After about 75 minutes, remove from oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes. This is a 4th-quarter tip: carving immediately lets the juices evaporate, causing the meat to dry out. Give it at least 15 minutes for the temperature of the whole bird to start cooling, and the juices will redistribute into the meat, keeping it moist, buttery, and tender.

Now are you salivating?

Carve at the leg and thigh joints, and down the middle of the breast bone. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes, next to a green salad, or with the best mac and cheese you'll ever have. If you feel so inclined, you could also whip up a quick gravy by cooking 1-2 tablespoons flour in a tablespoon of melted butter, slowly drizzling in all the cooking juices from the roasting pan, and simmering until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Feeds up to 4 hungry adults, or 6 light eaters if served with a lot of side dishes.

Salivate good times, come on.

And finally, gratuitous baby picture:

Did you ever??

Happy roasting,

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The #33list Is On!

I couldn’t wait until next week.

After going over last year’s birthday bucket list, I was too excited to stop writing and lo, the #33list is complete!

I wish someone would invent a term for lists like this. It’s not a bucket list, because I’m not trying to do these things before I die. It’s a joie de vivre list, if you like: a list for being alive—quite the opposite of a bucket list. That French phrase is particularly apt. It means, literally, “joy of living.” In English, we use it to refer to a “keen or buoyant enjoyment of life” (Merriam-Webster), “a cheerful enjoyment of life; an exultation of spirit” (Wikipedia), and “a delight in being alive…[a] love of life” ( I myself like Google’s definition best: “an exuberant enjoyment of life.” A list not just for living life, but enjoying it; and not just for enjoying life, but doing so exuberantly!

I’m sure things like “French” and “exuberant enjoyment” coming from me are no surprise for those of you who know me well. :) What might surprise you, however, is that I don’t always enjoy life so exuberantly.

Now, I’m not saying that trying new restaurants or reading good books or seeing a play in a park will restore all joy and meaning in life. No, no, I’m not that shallow. But I’ve realized over the last few years (especially since entering into the microcosm of marriage and motherhood) that I have a serious problem with negativity. I focus on the worst, blow it out of proportion until it’s all I can see, and then it crushes me. And when one is sleep deprived, relatively isolated, and facing the eternal monotony of dishes and “what should I make for dinner,” it’s easy to slowly shut down and wish for everything to go away.

Ultimately, I know that real joy is divine. And ultimately, real joy is my goal (see #’s 27 and 1 on my list, in that order). So why make a point of enjoying so many quotidian, non-eternal things? Because in the midst of pursuing a deeper, more meaningful spiritual life, I still have a very unspiritual, totally mundane component to my life—as do we all. There is nothing spiritual, universal or (thank God!) eternal about laundering cloth diapers or keeping an overpriced apartment clean. There is nothing, NOTHING wonderful or meaningful about simultaneously fighting a cold and waking up 4-5 times a night with a ravenous baby on a growth spurt. (Motherhood is deeply meaningful, but let’s be honest: sometimes it’s just plain rough.) All these things are, I think, what most people refer to as “the daily grind,” and frankly all the grinding is wearing me thin.

I want to be a thankful, joyful person (spiritually as well as emotionally—and the latter has a big effect on the former). So this joie de vivre list is my way of forcing myself not only to enjoy my daily grind, but to remind myself of just how much I have to be joyful about and thankful for; it’s to help me find my way to the things that matter, along with the things that don’t matter so much (whether fun or no).

So, here we go! Joy List round two is officially begun!

I promise my next post will have lots more pictures and a lot less verbiage.

1. Establish a morning routine – Must include #27.
2. Read the New Testament once a month for 6 months – Starting in January, a very good place to start.
3. Read 1 new Life-Study – Suggestions? One of the short ones, please.
4. Visit as many parks as possible in the San Jose area
5. Go to an art exhibit (preferably free)
6. Go to a concert – And by concert I mean orchestral, symphonic, or operatic. Ballet also counts. Yes, I’m a nerd.
7. Celebrate Doughvember by perfecting recipes for sourdough, whole wheat sandwich bread, traditional French baguette, English muffins, whole wheat hamburger buns, pizza dough, brioche, croissants, biscuits, and doughnuts – Whew! If you visit/live near me (or if I visit you), expect to be the recipient (willing or no) of homemade, yeast-related goods. They will probably be the mistakes, but it’s not a comment on our relationship so don’t take it personally.
8. Try at least 3 new eateries in our area – 3 is just the minimum!
9. Buy new running shoes (finally)
10. No Facebook or Instagram for a month (Pinterest is ok) – Let’s go ahead and make that month January. Does anything exciting happen in January?
11. No TV until 8pm for a month (includes YouTube and random internet videos) – Making it official and public: I’m doing this for the month of November! Mostly because we’ll be really busy and I probably won’t have time for TV anyway. #stillcounts
12. Finish my embroidery project – I’ll post a really cute picture when I do. :)
13. Organize Ax’s room
14. Pick fruit in an orchard (or wherever it is fruit comes from)
15. Travel outside the US – Still dreaming of the UK, but I’ll settle for Italy if I must. ;)
16. Visit Athens & Atlanta, GA – Always on my mind. Always.
17.  Figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and start doing it – I’m allowed to change my mind, but for heaven’s sake I need to start doing something.
18. Memorize the book of Philippians
19. Lose the baby weight – Using the Bikini Body Workout by Kayla Itsines. No, I will NOT be posting bikini selfies to document the process. I might decide to take a tasteful “before/after” pic in the same (modest, fully clothed) outfit. It’s a 12 week regimen, so start date: November 3; end date: January 24.
20. Try StitchFix! (when I lose the baby weight) – Target date: February 2015.
21. Blog at least twice a month
22. Finish making every recipe in Barefoot in Paris
23. Finish baby shower thank you notes before Thanksgiving – If you gave us something, we are SO grateful and you WILL get a card that proves it!
24. Write every day M-F for a month (1 hour? 500 words? 1000 words?) – Another good Janaury project,  I think, since I’ll need something else to do in place of checking Facebook and Instagram.
25. Finish my current translation project before New Year’s Eve
26. Make my chore schedule a habit – They say it takes a month. January’s getting a little crowded, but what better time to begin something new?
27. Make my soul happy in God first thing every morning - “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.” – George Müller. Your prayers for this one item are coveted. Frankly, I feel that this is a fight for my life. (I know, drama queen; but seriously. Something’s gotta give, and I don’t want it to be my faith.)
28. Stop moping over my Pinterest fashion board and give myself a complete, brand new, head-to-toe fall/winter look – New purchases encouraged! Include accessories! Try on things I don’t think I can pull off! (Look, I am a responsible SAHM. All purchases will be pre-approved by the BHE and justified by achieved goals like finishing translation projects by deadline, keeping up with chores, and cleaning all the piles off my desk.)
29. Read 6 new books
30. Make my blog pretty
31. See Shakespeare in the Park! – The 2015 show will be Romeo and Juliet!! Who’s coming with me?!? I’ll bring the adorable picnic basket full of goodies!
32. Start a running club – If I’ve recently talked to you about signing up for a race together, you’re already a member of my new club. Yes, I’m talking to YOU! ;)
33. Buy fun things from Etsy, including a piece of jewelry, a handmade mug, and something decorative for the house