Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blogging Pays!

I posted something about Michael's 6th grade trip to Claim Jumper. A Claim Jumper employee posted a comment and offered to send me a little something if I emailed her my name and address. Lo and behold, a card arrived from Claim Jumper today. It included a $10 gift card and a nice note. Thanks Claim Jumper!

A.J.'s At It Again!

A.J. loves to build with his brothers. He and Michael built a Tinker Toy Wipe Out Zone (to imitate the game show "Wipeout"). Here it is in all it's glory!

A.J. wants me to tell you something. Here it is. "Michael had the idea of the crazy sweeper, and I basically had all the rest of the ideas, except for the last elevator. And we added in new obstacles."

Michael said, "A.J. took most of the credit, and I did a lot more than he said."

Zoo, Again

We went to the Zoo on Wednesday. It was a beautiful, sunny day, not too hot. We had a great time.

Our Next Door Neighbors are Building a Swimming Pool... one of these incredibly small California yards. The pool can't be much longer than 10 feet long, but I guess they really like swimming. The crazy thing is they dug the pool themselves, and there is a huge 6+ foot by 15+ foot mound of dirt closer to the fence. It's bigger than the pool itself.
These pictures are from our master bathroom window.
Last Day of School!

A.J.'s and Michael's last day of school was on Friday, June 12. Both classes had celebrations of some sort.

Michael's 6th grade promotion ceremony was held the day prior, so his attendance was not required. His teacher had a day of fun and games planned. He had a great time!

A.J.'s class had a relatively normal day (board work, stories, etc.), but finished the day with a small ice cream/movie party. It was a fun ending to a fun school year for him.

Here are a couple photos of the boys on their last day of the school year.

Here's a picture of AJ giving his friend, Isaiah, our phone number so they can get together during the summer.

Indian Food!

Several people have asked for my Chicken Tikka Masala recipe, so here it is. It's one of my favorite foods ever! I'm also throwing in my recipe for Gobi Alu (Potato and Cauliflower). Enjoy! (Hint: You can buy most of these spices in the average grocery store, but they are a lot less expensive at an Indian grocery store. I have started buying other spices there as well, because the value is incredible. It's even better than Costco or Sam's Club, in most cases.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Adapted from a recipe from recipe by Hey Jude

1 c plain yogurt
2 T lemon juice
2 t ground cumin
½ t ground red pepper (or more if you like it spicy, up to 2 t)
2 t fresh ground black pepper
1 t cinnamon
1 t salt
1 piece gingerroot, minced (½ inch long. I grate mine. Many grocery stores have minced or grated ginger available in a jar in the produce department.)
1 ½ lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes (thawed. I use chicken breast tenders for easy cooking, as you can do this without cutting them at all.)

1 T unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced (you can use the jarred minced garlic available in the produce section)
1 jalapeno chile minced (if you don’t want it to be too hot, remove the seeds and the membranes. I double this recipe and use 1 jalapeno for the entire dish)
2 t ground coriander
1 t ground cumin
1 t paprika
1 t garam masala (you can get this at any Indian food store)
½ t salt
1 - 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup whipping cream (You can use half and half, whole milk or a fat free cream)
¼ c chopped fresh cilantro (you don’t have to use this if you don’t like it or if you don’t have it)

For marinade, combine all ingredients (except chicken) in a medium bowl or food-safe plastic bag; stir in chicken, marinate in refrigerator 1 hour. Meanwhile, soak six 6-inch bamboo skewers in water to cover 30 minutes and set aside.

For sauce, melt butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat, add garlic and jalapeno; cook 1 minute. Stir in coriander, cumin, paprika, garam masala, and salt. Stir in tomato sauce, simmer 15 minutes. Stir in cream and simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat grill to medium-high heat (or heat broiler, I use the broiler.) Remove chicken from refrigerator and thread chickn onto skewers; discard marinade. Grill or broil chicken, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Remove chicken from skewers and add to sauce. Simmer 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Serve with basmati rice, naan, or pita bread. (I serve this with our regular rice, jasmine rice, and it is very good. Trader Joe’s sells frozen naan, an Indian flat bread, that tastes pretty good. My favorite part of eating this is dipping the naan in the sauce.)

Gobi Alu

Adapted from recipe by Zeke Koch on

1 head cauliflower (flowerets cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
2 medium boiling potatoes (3/4lb, cut into ½ inch cubes)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1-2 dried hot red chili pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon garam masala

1. Heat the oil in a large 12 to 14 inch skillet.
2. When the oil is smoking, scatter in the fenugreek, fennel, cumin and red peppers.
3. Stir once and add the cauliflower and potatoes.
4. Stir lightly until coated with spices and oil.
5. Turn heat down to medium.
6. Add turmeric, ground coriander, salt and pepper.
7. Sauté for 8–10 minutes.
8. Add 1/2 cup water and cover immediately.
9. Turn heat very low and steam vegetables for 7-10 minutes (until tender).

10. Turn heat up to medium-low and vent lid (don't remove, but allow some steam to escape). Cook until the liquid is combined with vegetables. 11. Sprinkle the garam masala over the vegetables, stir once and serve.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Michael's Graduation Speech

Michael was selected to give the "6th grade gift" speech with another classmate. Here's a video showing the speech.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Michael's Sixth Grade Promotion Ceremony

We had the privilege to attend Michael's 6th grade promotion today. His elementary school has a separate ceremony for each class, making it a small, personalized event. Michael presented the "class gift" to the Principal along with a fellow student and expressed himself very well.

John, David, Michael and AJ.

Michael and David with Ms. Kurimoto (she taught David 4 years ago).

Chariot Races

Michael's 6th grade class studied Greek and Roman mythology this year which culminated in some fun activities including a chariot race. Here's the chariot Michael created. He didn't come in first place, but he had a great time.

McDonald's: Every Kid's Dream

Most children I know love McDonald's. I used to when I was a kid, but as I've aged, I have developed a more discriminating palette. However, for my boys, McDonald's a big incentive.

A.J.'s second grade class worked really hard and earned the privilege to walk to McDonald's and eat lunch. I walked with them and had a great time!

6th Grade Softball Game

Many years ago, when I was in sixth grade, my class played the teachers in a game of softball. I think we lost. On Tuesday, Michael's class played against the teachers. They lost. The tradition continues. Although one teacher told me they brought in ringers (former students, teachers' kids, etc.) so they don't lose. Why didn't we think of that?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Playing at the School Playground

Vicky took the kids to the elementary school playground to play some tennis. They commandeered the rackets, but we had a great time watching them play.

Olvera Street and Chinatown

Vicky wanted to see the sights in LA, so we took her to Olvera Street and Chinatown. I had been to Olvera Street years ago on a field trip with Jacob's third grade class, so I wasn't quite sure where it was. Come to find out, after looking at my "What to do in LA with kids" book, that Olvera Street and Chinatown are practically right next to each other, so we took a trip there on Saturday and had a great time.

I didn't take a lot of pictures in Chinatown, but here's a shot of the entrance to Chinatown in L.A.

Jacob's High School Graduation!

Jacob graduated from high school on Friday, June 5. We are so very proud of him!

Here's a copy of his diploma.

Jacob and his girlfriend, Christina.

Jacob, Christina, John, me, Michael, and AJ.

Jacob and his Aunt Vicky at the restaurant after the graduation ceremony.

Dinner at Romano's Macaroni Grill: (left to right) Michael, John, Robert (Jacob's friend), Jacob, Vicky, and AJ.