trial by Friday: authentic chile rellenos

cr9cr17The search for AUTHENTIC MEXICAN CHILE RELLENOS is over, thanks to my friend Laura and her mom’s recipe.  I’m doing a little happy dance right now.  And by “recipe” I mean several phone conversations in Spanish about ingredients and methodology which I will attempt to recreate here. Halfway through cooking her mom called to make sure everything was OK. This was Laura’s first time to cook them herself, and I was her trepidatious student after hearing how this was her family’s favorite meal, and no one but her mom ever attempted it.

Before I gave up eating meat, chile rellenos used to be my go-to barometer at Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants. Because if they could nail a chile relleno, I might explore the rest of the menu. I arrived at Laura’s expecting something deep-fried and smothered in lots of shredded cheese, and was soon schooled that that is NOT a chile relleno. They are fried in a light batter, and then sit in a rich tomato sauce to marinate for about 20 minutes.cr2cr4  cr14cr15We might as well have been performing open-heart surgery when I picked up the tongs to transfer the fried chiles to the sauce (tomatoes, garlic, bullion, onion and oil), and Laura gave me explicit directions so that the batter wouldn’t fall off. It didn’t.

We proudly ate the results while watching “Chef” and I didn’t even want any of the food in the movie. I now probably won’t order chile rellenos at restaurants because A) they won’t be this good and b) I can make them more cheaply myself. This weekend, before summer gets really hot and you only want to eat salad, run to the grocery store, get a few ingredients, and make these authentic chile rellenos! The recipe below serves 4.  There are a lot of steps but technically it is pretty easy!

Things we would change: use a little less oil in sauce pans; use all fresh tomatoes instead of canned; use veggie bullion instead of chicken (OK that last one is just me). Also I usually don’t cook with canola oil but when something is a family recipe passed down to another generation, you don’t screw it up. You listen to your mama.

4 green chiles
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
6 roma tomatoes (we did half canned, half regular)
1 clove garlic
1 cup canola/veggie oil
3 eggs
1/2 cup white flour
1 tbs bullion
some kind of bread or tacos for dipping into broth
for veggie-stuffed chiles: firm tofu & mozzarella.  You can use another cheese as long as it’s not crumbly.
for meat-stuffed chiles: ground turkey/beef and frozen vegetable medley
4 toothpicks

1. Burn the chiles on the stovetop until they are nicely charred. After charring, place them into a plastic bag for about 20 minutes to sweat. That way the skin will peel more easily.
2. Prepare fillings. For veggie-stuffed chiles, cut tofu and mozzarella into long strips, about 1/2 inch in width. For meat-stuffed chiles, prepare ground meat as you normally would, add some frozen veggies and refrigerate until needed.
3. Heat 1/4 cup veggie oil in skillet. Add onion. Simmer until slightly translucent and lightly browned. Turn off burner.
4. With small knife, scrape chiles so that charred skin is removed. Make a slit in each chile to add filling. Carefully remove seed pod.
5. Stuff with fillings from step #2, seal with toothpick and coat with flour on all sides. Set aside.
6. Mix garlic and tomatoes in blender. Add bullion to taste. Mixture should equal 4 cups. If it’s not enough, add some veggie/chicken stock (but we added water and it tasted fine!)
7. Add blender mixture to onion skillet and let simmer.
8. In separate frying pan, heat remaining oil slowly. This is what the chiles will fry in.
9. Separate eggs yolks and whites into two different bowls. Egg whites should be in large mixing bowl. Beat egg whites very quickly with hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add half a teaspoon of salt, then yolks. Mix again until just combined.
10. Dip chiles into egg batter and immediately transfer to oil once the oil starts bubbling (use your hands). Repeat until all chiles are in pan and frying. Don’t crowd the chiles—if you have a small pan just do two at a time.
11. When chiles are lightly browned, turn them over and fry the other side.
12. When chiles are completely fried (should be golden brown, not dark brown), transfer to tomato broth pan with tongs. Let them marinate for about 20 minutes.
13. Serve each person 1 chile, with lots of the broth and a side of bread or tortillas for dipping into the broth.cr8cr1cr3cr11photo-86cr18photo-85

they made me Mama


I buried my first baby under one of these trees. He/she was a fetus that fit into the palm of my hand.

photo-84Lucy, our miracle baby, today.

It might seem morbid, but I cherish them both on Mother’s Day. I’ve listened to a lot of moms talk about babies they’ve lost, and they WANT to talk about it no matter how many living kids they have or how many years have passed since their loss. One woman at my old church had seven miscarriages. I cannot imagine but am bowled over by the strength of women.

Not only do we have amazing physical capabilities but we have amazing abilities to connect with each other, lift each other up, affirm how hard motherhood—and the path to motherhood—can be. Hard and yet life-altering and life-giving. After we lost our first baby and before we had Lucy, I experienced love in a whole new way. I gave more freely to others and wasn’t embarrassed to accept help. I was more aware that our lives stand on the edge of a knife, and no amount of effort/goodness can change what will happen in the capricious natural order.

I felt empowered and blessed to, however briefly, be pregnant with our first. It felt like several years wasted at the time (we tried naturally, did several rounds of fertility treatments, then IVF) and I was extremely angry at God for losing our first while at the same time praying that God would help me not become bitter. Sidenote: it’s a little hard to scream at someone you are asking for help from, especially the Almighty.

But it wasn’t wasted time because that baby made me a mama. That was the most buoyant joy I’ve ever known.

And Lucy, don’t get me started. I didn’t want a second away from her today, even though this was “my day.” Singing the theme from “Jaws” and then running to get her and hearing that insane laugh beats out alone time. Maybe I can have a piece of Mother’s Day on Monday too?

They are my heart, always!

for the mother(less)

Until my parents die, I won’t be able to put my name publicly to our family story.  Let’s say, at the very least, that my relationship with my mother is complicated.   Last week I read the book “Are You My Mother?” to one of the kids I take care of and choked back tears at a completely inappropriate time, when the bird is talking to the SNORT and you’re supposed to do a funny sound effect.  Fair warning—don’t read that book this week! ;) Mother’s Day is fast approaching and here’s the truth:

Some of us have abusive mothers.
Some of us have mothers who act more like children that mothers.
Some of us have neglectful mothers.
Some of us have dead mothers.
Some of us have mothers who know nothing about us.
Some of us are mothers without having been mothered.
Some of us feel like mothers who haven’t met our children yet.
Some of us are mothers who carried children in the womb and yet by worldly standards we are not mothers.

There are no Hallmark cards that fit.  We approach Mother’s Day with a mix of emotions while people in “normal” families (albeit dysfunctional, because everyone’s somewhat dysfunctional) buy flowers and chocolates and proudly say Mom is their best friend, their confidant, their champion. We look at these normal interactions and think “How odd. That must be nice.” If you’ve thought “how odd, that must be nice,” you aren’t an alien. You aren’t out of place and there is nothing wrong with you.

I wrote this poem on Mother’s Day 2010 and sent it to one of the most beautiful people in my life, Rebecca. She titled it Bear/Bare. Rebecca has a great mother and is a great mother to her dog, her students, her community. I’ve stayed with them in Virginia a few times since Reb and I were at grad school together, and those experiences of seeing them interact, and receiving her mother’s kind hospitality formed my idea of what a mother should be. It also sped up the mourning process, because hard as it is, the more we see what SHOULD be the more we can let go of what we never had.

Nothing alleviates the pain of being in any of the categories above. But I hope if you are reading this and can identify that you know you deserve a healthy, loving, present, active, protective mother. Not because you have earned it or are a good person. Hitler deserved a healthy, loving mother. (And how different would history be if he’d had one?)

Mothers are our first reflection of self-worth and love, because they are supposed to start loving us before we are even born. Having that protective love is a human right like water and healthcare and being inherently valued. This may not be a Happy or celebratory Mother’s Day for you, but I hope you know you deserve to have one.



there is nothing more unfortunate
than wanting to protect
your own mother—
to cover her tightly and bring her
out of her shell, whole.

(this side of the world intimidates)

and now nothing can replace you, who were
supposed to keep me together, and
nestle me tightly against
your chest.

I will feel the wind blowing against me
my whole life.

tip Tuesday: living in small spaces Part 1

bedroomDo you get tired of living/style tips in magazines that talk about “small” spaces, and the people live in fairly spacious houses with pantries and linen closets?  Our apartment is about 800 square feet (if that) so we have to be very mindful of how we use the space to maximize it.  We don’t have linen closets or a pantry or anything fancy.  I’ve found that having a sacred space is key, especially when you lack separation between rooms or hardly have any rooms at all.

What do I mean by a sacred space?  Michael and I define it as a place where only nurturing things can be done. Things that feed rather than drain us.  About a week ago we stopped using our computers and phones in the bedroom, and it has made a huge difference.  No more Instagramming/Facebooking in bed until midnight.  Our bed is not an office and entertainment center, it’s a bed.  Our bedroom has become a sanctuary, even though it flows into the living/dining/play area.

It’s just as important to maximize your space physically as it is to maximize it spiritually.  Doing this exercise of removing technology from the bedroom has made me more mindful of how we use other spaces, which is even more of a challenge when you have a small space.  It might seem simple but the change can be huge!  This will be a three-part series and I’ll have a little home tour for you next week and some more tips.

How do you create a sacred space in your home?  What have you found that works?

And yes, that is an elephant butt above our bed.  That was actually painted by a teenage elephant in Thailand.  We saw him do it!

Mean Girls & Trust Falls

Dear Mom:  I can be honest, so here goes: I’m tired of all this one-up-maniship that we mothers participate in.  Working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, it’s all the same.  Maybe working dads and stay-at-home dads do this too, but as movies like “Mean Girls” show us, women lay in a particularly vicious bed of gossip.  We compare ourselves to each other, then complain to our friends/spouses about each other, then wonder why people are comparing themselves to us and complaining about us.  Rinse and repeat.

I saw this Huffington Post article go viral the other day, from a mom who was tired of other moms comparing themselves to her.  She says we all show our best sides on the Internet, but our private lives are far from glamorous.  She has moments of struggle and frustration in this whole parenting thing, just like everyone else, and wishes people would stop thinking she is perfect (that must be a nice problem to have).  Then she says a few things:

1)  It’s natural and appropriate that our online persona is somewhat disconnected from and not reflective of our real life, because we shouldn’t air our dirty laundry in  the virtual world

2) The reason we carefully curate only beautiful and positive images for our social media accounts is that WE want to be reminded of the beautiful things in our lives.  We need those visual reminders of “perfection” in an otherwise imperfect life

3) Don’t compare yourself to other people and feel like you come up short because they are just as real as you are and have struggles, they just don’t (and shouldn’t) show them

Wisner’ article is well-written, and thoughtful, and I agree up to a point.  I wouldn’t for instance make a coffee table album and include a picture of a loved one throwing up on Christmas Day.  No—you want to remember the presents and holiday cheer, not the vomit.  And by extension, I wouldn’t have an Instagram picture of that either.  We broadcast the edited highlights of our lives, because this is what we choose to focus on and what we want other people to remember.  However, since many women (myself included) DO broadcast a substantial part of their lives online, it really wouldn’t kill to have the equivalent of a few vomit pictures, would it??

Or to at least say HEY. . .I’ve been there and it is hard as hell to raise another human being.  HEY. . .I was just crying in a pool of spilled milk/pee/poop or HEY. . .I’m worried about my kid’s development and feel like they are way behind because so-and-so’s genius spawn is already walking/talking/knitting his own baby sweater. HEY. . .I yelled at my child just because she wouldn’t eat what I wanted her to.  Think of truth-telling as the equivalent of a trust fall.  Take off the mask for a minute and you’ll be surprised at the “Me too’s!” you receive.

There is no need to be apologetic, self-deprecating, or tongue-in-cheek about our struggles.  Life sucks and is hard and we might as well all get on the same page.  I’m not advocating those cutesy selfies of your horrified face in front of whatever cookies your toddler got into, almost smiling for the camera.  “Hashtag Women in Real Life.”  I’m advocating for true confessions and specificity.  Because whether we like it or not, a lot of our life IS displayed online, and it wouldn’t hurt anyone to be more honest (being more honest is different from having no privacy and telling all).

Here, I’ll go first:

  • I compared my daughter to her best friend this week because he can walk and she doesn’t.  I thought maybe I coddle her too much or maybe she’s autistic.  I said things like, “Look, he’s walking!” when all she wanted to do was suck on her fist because she has five teeth coming in
  • I let Lucy be the human vacuum when I was on the phone with a doctor and saw her eating crusty black beans under the kitchen table that were from the day before
  • I got annoyed with my husband for being gone all day on Saturday (today) at the second job I wanted him to take so we could have more savings
  • I got angry with myself for spending 45 hours this week caring for other children (I’m a nanny), and even though my daughter was brought along for 20 of those hours, I thought I’m somehow neglecting her or giving most of my energy to other people’s kids, and she’s going to be in therapy one day because of neglect, etc.
  • I was peed on, spit on, coughed on multiple times this week.  My new spring clothes have spit-up stains.
  • I yelled at my daughter for not eating whatever food I really wanted her to have at the time
  • I avoided chatting with friends because I felt like I didn’t have enough time, then I felt lonely and wish I had chatted with them (classic extrovert problem)
  • I bit off all my nails when my daughter wouldn’t go down for a nap and I was at the end of my rope
  • I got jealous of working moms and completely stay-at-home moms.  Both Michael and I work and stay-at-home (we have a nanny just for 3 hours/week), so it’s an odd situation.  I feel out of the working mom club and the stay-at-home club
  • I sped up when a car cut in front of me (they were doing the Pittsburgh left) just to freak them out and prevent them from doing that next time
  • I went to bed a couple times without brushing my teeth.  I woke up several mornings with makeup on.
  • I let my daughter play with her music box just so I could lay on the bed and have a really quick cry
  • I was jealous of several moms who have more free time than I do
  • I ignored my messy house to play with my daughter.  I ignored my daughter to clean my house
  • I berated myself for not going to the gym this week
  • I blogged when I probably should have phoned a friend
  • I stayed up past 1:00 on a couple nights just to have alone time, then Michael did morning Lucy duty because I was too tired
  • I had two fights with my husband, in front of Lucy
  • I took credit for Lucy sleeping well when really it probably has nothing to do with me.  She’s always been a good sleeper.  My next child will probably be a royal terror and I’ll realize those other parents didn’t do anything wrong
  • I got McDonald’s and Taco Bell and stuff from our local bakery.  HORRIBLE for my rosacea, diet, and all other health issues I’m dealing with.  I ate a ton more gluten than usual too.
  • I forgot to pack Lucy’s bottles, forgot to pack my water, my dinner, etc. on multiple occasions
  • I ate dinner in the car, while driving to work.  Twice.
  • I got mad at Lucy for waddling over to me and deleting this entire post before I could save it as a draft
  • I picked up clean underwear (mine) from the living room floor (don’t ask) that had baby spit on it, shrugged, and put it back in my dresser
  • I spent a lot of money at Sephora just to get the freebies and am totally returning most of the items (OK this one isn’t that bad, unless you work for Sephora)
  • I flipped off a bad driver, honked at about four others
  • I was passive-aggressive with people who didn’t understand me, which probably further impeded understanding

I don’t need to tell you that there were a lot of beautiful moments this week—check out my Instagram.  And there were darker moments. But now doesn’t that feel good to read? ;) Trust. . .and fall.  Your turn.

review: Sephora Favorites Last Stash To Go

My review for the 2014 Lash Stash is here.  This review is for the Lash Stash To Go.**

photo 1-6Sephora just released a mini version of their Lash Stash, and I bought it because it had two of my favorite mascaras from the full-sized Lash Stash that was released last fall.  It costs $25 for 5 mini mascaras, and contains a voucher (only redeemable in store) for a full-sized mascara of one of these minis.  In case you don’t know if this Lash Stash is a good value, even if you wear mascara daily, you will use one tube in about a month, so this gives you 5 months of mascara, plus a full-sized mascara (which should last another 3 months).  Mascara also lasts 1 year if UNOPENED, so you can use one mini at a time and not worry about the others spoiling.  So with daily use, this is 8 months of mascara for $25.  Since mascara goes bad three months from when it’s opened, if you buy three drugstore mascaras you are paying about $20.  Why not spend $5 more and try several different, high-end brands, while getting free Sephora samples?  And if you are like me and rarely wear mascara, they will last even longer!  (Did I throw enough numbers at you? ;)  )

Packaging: I will probably give it to Lucy because she’s obsessed with boxes, as you can see from her reaching for it.  The box is pretty from the outside but not as sturdily made as the 2014 Lash Stash box.  It pulls out like a drawer.

Short Take:  In testing these mascaras, my main concerns were:

  • Does it wear for a long time with no flaking/under-eye dropout?
  • Is it buildable without being clumpy? (good for daily wear and can be layered several times for a date night)
  • Does it have a quick drying time? (can I apply it in the car/before running out the door?)
  • Can it be removed easily? (for reference I used Almay waterproof eye makeup remover)

The Josie Maran and Lancome wore for a long time and I liked their application.  The Blinc, Too Faced, and Tarte were less than satisfactory.  The Josie Maran and Lancome were both in the original Lash Stash so if you bought that you’re not missing out.  I was hoping these other three would be great, but they just weren’t.  At least I can get a full-sized Maran/Lancome with the voucher!

photo 2-10Reviews, Top-Bottom:

Josie Maran Black Oil Mascara: I love anything Josie Maran. I don’t know how to say this, but my lashes looked MOISTURIZED, and I don’t think it was psychosomatic! I was able to do several layers without it being clumpy, and it came off more easily than the other mascaras. LONG drying time though, and flaked after 6 hours. Then again, I was rough on my eyes that day. I’ll probably keep using this one. Very black!

Lancome Excessive Black: Loved this. You only need one coat. It goes on slightly clumpy unless you rub the wand along the top to get the excess off, but this was the blackest of the bunch (true to its name) and lasted on me for 8 hours, plus still looked good the next morning (yes, I unfortunately often sleep in eye makeup). It was hard to take off, even with several swipes with the Almay waterproof eye makeup remover. It also made my lashes slightly “pointy,”—think Liza Minelli—but this was fixed by quickly doing a second coat and separating the lashes a bit. It made my lashes very long as well, to the point where I couldn’t wear my glasses! Quick drying time. Overall I love it, just need to practice application and wipe the wand on sides of tube first.

Too Faced Better Than Sex:  The only thing better than sex is sleeping in a hotel the whole night (can you tell I’m a parent?) and ordering room service.  Which my husband and I are doing tonight!  Our amazing nanny gets here at 5PM and we don’t have to be home until noon tomorrow.  It’s the little things! :)  Despite its misleading name, this mascara was a big let-down.  Goes on clumpy, very wet (long drying time) but very black.  No flaking, easy to take off.  I just couldn’t get past the goopy application and how my eyelashes clumped together.

Blinc Mascara Amplified:  Had to do three coats for even a “natural” look, but I like that.  Quick drying time.  Once dried, it made eyelashes drier and stiffer than with other mascaras.  Maybe I got a dud tube, but I’ve read other reviews for this mascara and they say similar things.  Wore for 10 hours with no flaking.  Very difficult to get off though, even with Almay waterproof remover.

Tarte Lights, Camera, Flashes:  The name of this mascara just makes me think of Menopause, but I think they’re going for Runway.  I had to do about four coats for a natural look, but it had a really quick drying time, made my eyelashes soft and fluttery.  Wore for 10 hours with only a little bit of flaking, but that’s to be expected with my busy work day in which I probably rubbed my eyes a couple times.  This one was the MOST difficult to remove.  Took two Almay wipes, front and back and some pulling on my lashes.  That and how much product I needed just to coat lashes makes Tarte’s mascara a “no” for me, which is a shame because once it’s on it looks great!

So how about you?  What are your favorite mascaras?  I’m always looking for a newbie—Sound off in the comments!

**In an effort to be honest and maintain this blog as a hobby, I do NOT do sponsored posts. All my opinions/reviews are unsolicited.