The Secret Christmas Gift

I have to get a christmas present for my husband – one of the most difficult people to choose something for as he is very choosy. He often tells me not to buy him anything and that he prefers to buy his own stuff, usually only after doing weeks of ‘research’! Every year we get round this dilemma by him telling me exactly what he wants for Christmas once he’s done his extensive research and then we usually end up going out and buying it together! Now where is the fun in that? This year i decided to surprise him with a secret gift that he will definitely not be expecting and that has been well-‘researched’ as he likes to put it!

So what to get as my secret gift to him? He has been going on for a while now about getting new saws for his workshop as he is very much into woodworking. He uses some very old equipment that he inherited from his late father and he is always complaining when the now ‘ancient’ table-saw has a problem – which, believe-you-me, is quite often. He has just recently finished his ‘research’ on which table-saw to get and has decided that the Dewalt DW745 is the one I’m supposed to buy him for Christmas, I’ve already ordered it off Amazon.

However, I’ve caught him on several occasions salivating over power tool reviews on DIY tool review site, DIY-High, and I’m certain that that helped him make the final decision on his table-saw choice. So naturally I’m using this website as the main basis for information for my secret gift to him of another woodworking tool that I know he also needs – a jigsaw.  After far too much reading (ouch!), It seems like a pretty easy decision as to which jigsaw to get for him for his secret Christmas gift, as the Dewalt-branded one is clearly the best … and unsurprisingly, the most expensive! – So looks like the decision on which jigsaw to get is an easy choice. However, if you have any other opinions – especially from all my woodworking expert friends – I would very much love to hear from you to let me know what you think of my choice and whether my picky husband is going to be happy with the Dewalt jigsaw, so don’t be shy to comment!


When I think about the men and women whose character I admire the most, a common trait flowing from each one of them is generosity. Generosity does not come naturally to me. I personally find service easier than generosity. It’s possible to serve generously. Service involves giving my time, energy, and resources. I don’t disagree with that notion. But generosity implies the surrender of my time, energy, and resources. Sometimes, it’s just plain hard for me to be unselfish.

Walking home from Awana this week, Megan pulled out a card she’d received. Slightly larger than a postage stamp, the homemade card had a small sticker on the front and on the inside was signed, “Happy Thanksgiving” from her club leader. “Mom, remember my leader last year who gave me cards and gifts?” She laughed before completing her thought, “This card is kind of undersized.”

I too laughed at Megan’s use of the word undersized. It got me thinking though, is my generosity undersized? What example am I setting as a leader to my children? In what ways can we be more generous as a family?

To be clear, I’m not knocking Megan’s leader. The card was handmade and handwritten by an adult volunteer who wouldn’t be giving two hours of her time each week unless she genuinely cared about the kids. Megan is not ungrateful for the card, nor does she expect gifts.

My New Indoor Garden-to-be…

So I have been thinking about it for a while but have never really found the time to organize it. I would like to grow my own vegetables for various reasons, but mostly so that we, as a family, can eat more healthily without all the pesticides and such that are used in mass-produced agricultural set-ups. Since we don’t have much space in our garden and since the weather can be so unpredictable, I have been seriously considering starting our personal production line indoors, mostly likely in the garage. In fact, one of our best friends now lives in the UK and recently I visted her where I was introduced to the world of indoor gardening with LED Grow lights. Apparently, indoor vegetable growing with LED lighting in the UK are becoming increasingly popular since their weather is even more unpredictable than ours! I have been reading up on LED technology and I’m currently in the midst of trying to decide which LED light systems to go for  (see LED Grow Lights in the UK).

This will be the first post of what will hopefully be a long-running project with the ultimate goal of achieving self-sufficiency in vegetable production…get ready to go to Mars! 🙂

Smoothie Date

Monday through Thursday morning Adam and I part ways. He rides his bike to the SDSU trolley stop while I drive to work. We drive together on Fridays and affectionately refer to it as our weekly date. Lately we’ve been stepping it up a notch and stopping around the corner for smoothies. Blame the new addiction on the baby. Our local shop San Diego Blenders specializes in smoothies and Brazilian Acai bowls. My all-time favorite smoothie to order is the papaya blend however I’ve yet to meet a flavor I don’t like. The staff is always friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed. (There’s a small tiki style patio outside…if only I had more time to chill in the mornings.) What I really love – besides the the deliciousness of my smoothie, are the fresh ingredients lined up in the cooler and on the counters. I once pulled up at the same time as a pick-up truck loaded with oranges – now that’s freshness! The smoothies are a little pricey ($3.85 for a small) but the portions are generous. I once made the mistake of ordering a large and it was too big to finish. The again, it’s all how you look at it. How may dates do you go on that cost less than $8? San Diego Blenders 6663 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

Garden Pesto & Pasta

PestoI’ve had it in my mind all summer to make pesto. When I noticed that my basil was beginning to wilt in the August heat, I knew that I had to act fast. Pesto is typically made with pine nuts or walnuts, however, I followed the advice of a friend and used raw almonds instead. (“First, I buy my own raw almonds because they are cheaper than pine nuts, healthier, and when I dry roast them in a saute pan on the stove, they are sweeter, have no salt, and the leftovers can be eaten for snacks. The texture is also great.”)

Making pesto is not an exact science. Google pesto, and you’ll discover hundreds of variations. If you want to create your own, but you’re not sure of ratios, then follow the Cuisinart recipe below  – don’t be afraid to improvise according to your personal tastes!

1.5 ounces reggiano parmigiano
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (I used almonds; dry roasted on my stovetop)
2 garlic cloves (I used more)
3/4 tsp kosher salt (I also added a pinch of cayenne)
1.5 cup packed fresh basil leaves (I sneaked in Thai Basil too because it is plentiful in my garden)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

After dry roasting the almonds, I chopped them and the garlic together in my food processor. I then added the remainder of the ingredients which I processed until they reached the desired consistency (again, a matter of personal taste). For dinner I mixed pesto with cooked pasta and added yellow tomatoes (also from my garden) as well as chicken. I then refrigerated the mixture and served the dish as a cold pasta salad. I’m already dreaming of ways to use up the cup of pesto that is left over. Some ideas are – pesto pizza, bruschetta, as a topping for baked fish or as a dressing for grilled veggies. The possibilities are endless.

Pregnancy Cravings

One of the first questions people ask when they find out I’m pregnant is, “Do you have any strange cravings?” The thing I’ve discovered is that sometimes it takes the careful eye of a close observer (i.e. my husband) to recognize cravings. When I was pregnant with Megan, I craved bacon 24-7. A typical day began with stopping at McDonalds on my way to work for a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. For lunch I’d walk to the greasy diner near my office and order a BLT sandwich. In the evening I’d dream of bacon. I couldn’t stomach walking through the meat department at the grocery store so unless I could convince Adam to go to the store, we did not eat bacon for dinner. It took a week or so of repeating this pattern for the lightbulb to come on and for me to acknowledge my want need for bacon.

EggsUnlike the great bacon incident, I can’t recall food cravings during my pregnancy with Paul. (I just liked to eat.) Recently I’ve been craving eggs. I’ve always liked eggs but this pregnancy takes it to a new level. I’m sure that it’s not normal to wake up with such egg-anticipation. Scrambled eggs, fried eggs, hard boiled eggs. Yum. Last Saturday Adam went to the Little Italy Mercato farmer’s market and brought back a dozen fresh eggs for me to eat to my heart’s contentment. Thanks Adam for the sweet gift!

Where I Left Off

In August 2009 I dropped away from my blog. Summer was in full swing and although I originally intended to make a quick return to my keyboard, I found that my absence did not cause any heartbreak. 2010 has been a “blog-worthy” year. But maybe, just maybe I’ve enjoyed it more fully because I’ve had fewer distractions of the bloggy kind. My hope is that I can keep my life in balance while continuing to occupy this space.

Recapping an entire year would be difficult. Here are my “what I did this summer” highlights:

  • I ran my second half-marathon in May. Not quite a summer highlight but a kick-off event for many more great adventures. I couldn’t have done it without my friend and faithful running partner Erin who was running her 1st half-marathon. Making it more special was that my dad, an avid marathon runner, flew out from Michigan to participate too…not that I ever caught up to him!
  • Adam and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary in June with a house-full of friends and family. Why celebrate 13 years? Why not!
  • In February Adam traveled to Haiti. He returned a week later but his heart was still there. Plans were made and we returned together in July. I’m not sure that I have the words to describe Haiti. My friend Erin who also went to Haiti has responded beautifully on her blog, Life, Ablaze. (My highlight in Haiti was visiting the Son of God Orphanage. Adam expressed it well here.)
  • I had thought that life would settle down following our return from Haiti. However, two weeks before leaving for Haiti my world was turned upside down after learning that I was pregnant! That’s right, baby #3 is due to arrive in February 2011. More to come on this new development.

Padres Game

On Sunday afternoon I experienced my first Padres game.  Megan and Paul received two tickets each as part of their summer reading program reward from the College-Rolando library branch.  (I never got rewards like that when I was a kid!)

The game itself wasn’t crazy exciting (the Padres lost) but we enjoyed some quality family togetherness.  What’s not to love about hanging at Petco Park on a lazy Sunday afternoon?

Dude, My Kids Are Like Totally Gnarly

(My apologies to any real surfers who read my blog. Yes, I know you don’t really talk that way!)

Camp Rodeo concluded on Saturday with a fun beach day celebration at LaJolla Shores Beach. Megan and Paul’s highlight was that they were able to experience riding a surfboard for the first time ever, thanks to the patient efforts of several InterVarsity members.

I regret that I only had my iPhone along to take pictures. There are just a few pictures of Megan because she never told me she was trying. By the time I arrived on the scene, her lesson was almost up. She went back a second time and I’m told that she was awesome. What I do know firsthand is that my kids are now convinced of their need for a surfboard. Nevermind that they barely know how to swim!

Washington DC, Part One

A few months ago Adam suggested that the entire family accompany him on a business trip to Washington DC.  As a former east coast girl I readily agreed.  The trip soon expanded to include New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.  Thus was born the McLane Summer Vacation of 2009 during which our sanity was hotly debated.

Getting There

Adam’s flight arrangements were made through his company so the kids and I flew on our own.  I opted for the red-eye flight.  My theory was that if I was going to fly alone with two kids, I might as well travel while we they more likely to pass the time sleeping.   Between a ridiculously cold cabin, uncomfortable seats that would not recline, a snoring man in front of me, and an inconsolable baby a few rows up…well, let’s just say that it was a long night.  Kudos to Megan and Paul for being excellent travelers – they slept through most of the flight.

Great Expectations

Megan and Paul had high hopes of meeting President Obama – or at the least a play date with Sasha and Malia.  Not so much (though we did see Bo).  They settled for this instead:

Playing in the Sprinklers, National Mall