Operation white sauce

I’ve realized that I become a much better cook when I experiment instead of following recipes. I actually learn cause and effect, and not just how to follow directions. Which, isn’t really a surprise because I almost always learn better by doing.

Last night I wanted to make a white sauce (I hesitate to call it alfredo) with dinner, but knew I didn’t have cream, which my favorite white sauce recipe calls for, so I decided to wing it. I don’t know what kind of sauce it was, but it was amazing. And I wish I knew what amounts I used so I could accurately replicate it at some point.

First I started by chopping some garlic. I let that saute for a few minutes in some melting butter until the butter starts to simmer, just the tiniest bit. Then add the flour, a little at a time, until it looks thick and fluffy, but not floury at all. If you love the taste of browned butter (like me) feel free to let it sit for a minute at this stage to get just those hints of it. When the kitchen starts to smell like heaven, I added chicken stock and a little bit of milk. I seasoned pretty simply with some ground salt and pepper and just a titch of rosemary. I let that sit over medium heat for a few minutes while my pasta was cooking and I defrosted some cooked shrimp.

Because I’m lazy, I literally just put the frozen shrimp in a colander, run some water over them, and then when my pasta is done, pour it through the same colander. Easy.

After the liquid reduced a bit, I added cheese. Because what sauce can be delicious if it doesn’t have cheese in it? Answer. None sauce. I used a combination of parmesan and mozzarella and stirred till it was melted evenly in.  Make sure your heat isn’t too high or the cheese will burn, which is less than ideal.

Once your cheese is in, add the pasta and shrimps and stir. Then add more salt and pepper. Because it sounds good. And let everything sit on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, while the flavors all meld together.

Voila. White sauce. Delicious, cheesy, white sauce. It even reheats well. Please enjoy my attempts to guess at the amounts:

2-3 cloves garlic
3 T butter
2 or so T flour, add a little at a time so it doesn’t taste floury
1 cup of chicken stock… ish
1/3 cup of milk… ish
1/2-3/4 cup cheese… ish to taste; add a little at a time until you think it looks good
salt & pepper and seasonings to taste

In other news, by reading this recipe, one could deduce that I have become my mother–her recipes always look like this. Used to drive me crazy.


Things that aren’t around anymore that should still be a thing

Starburst California Fruits


Not Baja.  Just California.

It was quite possibly the greatest combination of Starburst flavors ever.  Red Cherry, Strawberry-Watermelon, Wild Berry, Raspberry.  It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about the delicious juicy-ness.  Admittedly, it wouldn’t be amiss to replace red cherry with mango melon or kiwi banana (speaking of delicious but culled Starburst flavors…), but really.  How do you even try to improve on that bit of awesomeness?  It’s like a fruit-flavor all-star list.  This team could win a candy world series!  And no one remembers that it was ever a thing.  How?  How did that happen world?

I remember writing a strongly worded note about 10 years ago about how Starbursts fans around the world were falling into a state of depression without their California fruits.  Clearly mine was the only letter they received.

But I still remember you Starburst California.  I keep alive the flame of faith that one day Mars Corp will bring your flavors of deliciousness back to store shelves everywhere.

Stay juicy my friends.

Baby Girl

Our first pregnancy resulted in a pre-term delivery on Sunday, May 18, 2014, at 17 weeks. I wrote this letter to family and close friends soon after.

Hi, everyone.

First, thanks so much for all your love, prayers, and well wishes. We have seen all of it, whether or not we have responded. It means the world to us to be surrounded by so much love.

Writing feels good, so here you get it.

The events of our Sunday came as quite a shock. We were eagerly anticipating learning baby’s gender this Thursday, but we learned a few days early when Baby Girl came at about 1:00 p.m. Everything happened very quickly, and I’m not sure we fully internalized what was going on. Stephanie’s parents were with us in the delivery room. It was nice to not be alone. There was a lot of emotion, and yet it was strangely peaceful throughout the day.

We got to hold baby throughout the afternoon — Nebeker toes (which Tyler doesn’t really have anyway), long fingers, and her momma’s chin. With her feet tucked up, she was about the length of my hand. She was beautiful and so fragile.

After a long day and a number of treatments, we were able to come home at about 9:00 p.m. We slept quickly, but woke up throughout the night. At 4:30 we went on a walk and then read scriptures, fittingly, Moroni 7. God has not ceased to be a God of miracles, and sends His angels among us “in every form of godliness” to guide and correct us. We are so assured by the gospel!

We spent the day together at home. Stephanie is recovering well physically, and we are dealing with the changes. She is terrific!

We love you all, and look forward to seeing and visiting with you in the days to come.

Love, Tyler

Time out for art!

It’s an important thing.  Using a different set of skills than the ones you use everyday not only expands your horizons, the variety sharpens your senses and makes you better at the things you normally do.  The brain is an amazing thing. So we decided to encourage the brain and be awesome and have craft night together.

These are the mugs Tyler and I designed and baked!  Hooray for craft night!

Meeting the Whitings

I first wrote this post for a memory photo book Steph made for her parents’ 35th wedding anniversary in May, 2014.

I met the Whitings—all of them finally—in March 2013. Steph tried to alert me beforehand, and I thought having four sisters of my own that I was uniquely prepared for the group. Even so, I learned over that weekend that I still had a long way to go. I had learned to lose somewhat graciously in games against Stephanie, but I had never seen anything like the flying fury of Wackee Six at the Whitings. I had seen hoards of boisterous grandkids descend on my own parents’ house, but was impressed still at how six kids could have as much energy and produce as much noise as 17. I had seen girls giggle about movie lines I couldn’t recognize and break into song and dance, but I had never heard the likes of Scripture Scouts. I had stayed up all hours of the night rehashing family memories with my older siblings, if you consider 10:20 all hours of the night.

And I braced myself that weekend for the gauntlet. (Another youngest-child advantage: I had seen the treatment my siblings-in-law endured when they came to meet the Nebekers for the first time, so I was certain I was prepared for any trickery.) I wondered if something was wrong, however, because everybody was so nice! As in, “I could have gone out in Phase 10 four turns ago, but I knew how disappointed others would be if I advanced without them…” (words you will not likely hear me say, even on the slim chance I could have gone out four turns before anyone).

I’m certain the most memorable instance of that weekend was asking Rob to allow me to join the family. Growing up as a boy, you sometimes wonder how that future conversation will go. I found out when we arrived at the temple. While Stephanie and DeAnn were there early, I asked Rob if he could spare some time coming up for me to converse. In my mind I thought perhaps sometime during the weekend, or I could make an appointment in the days ahead to come back. I was caught by surprise when he responded, “I can meet you in the temple chapel in about 15 minutes!”

So there it happened. I changed quickly, aiming to get into the room before he so I could strategize my location for “the talk.” On a pew in the back-right corner, we huddled and I whispered my interest while the organ played and people filed past. I was doubly relieved when he approved, primarily because it was my first desire, but also because it would have been a long, uncomfortable temple session had he said no.

I returned to Seattle from my weekend visit to Marysville not only feeling so warmly welcomed and excited at the prospects of joining the Whiting family, but also grateful they had raised such a wonderful bunch, and had created a home that felt comforting, welcoming, and familiar to a new member. My thanks to both of you for letting me in!

Magical Narnia wardrobe? Nope. Just regular type.

Our new apartment has next to no closet space. And we both have enough clothes to fill the one closet we do have single-handedly. So we’ve been looking for options. Mine mostly consisted of going to IKEA and buying a new wardrobe, but Ty thinks spending so many monies on something we might get rid of in the next year or two is absurd. Logic. Weird. So yesterday we decided to go check out some consignment stores to see what we could find to fill in the storage gaps.

First of all, we found some awesome consignment stores. Armadillo was closed, but I could see all kinds of mid-century awesomeness from the window. I’m very excited to go back. And when we went to Mosaic, FIRST they had a labrador that likes to follow you around the store. 10 points to Gryffindor. And as we were pulling up I could see the most gorgeous cabinet just sitting on the concrete being offloaded from a van.

me-I want that one.
Ty-But it’s in pieces.
me-but I bet it is beautiful when it’s not in pieces anymore.

Ty is learning that sometimes the best defense against my irrationality is to not respond. Responding encourages me. It makes me fight for the crazy, and only serves to convince me further that I really want whatever it is until I become so entrenched in my delusion that every rational argument in the universe can’t convince me I’m wrong. Probably luckily for both of us, he stopped at this point. Because when I can debate things out in my head,  usually rationality is allowed to happen. But I did let myself wallow in the idea of the 1920s English dowel-construction solid wood wardrobe with mother-of-pearl inlay and some lovely Jacobean influence.  Straps and jewels people! We walked around the store for a while and made friends with the owners (you can never be too good of friends with the owners of a vintage/consignment furniture store) and looked at all the other offerings. And came back to the cabinet. It was too big. And didn’t have the right sort of compartments. And was missing some beadwork. And was probably too much money. And. And. And. It was beautiful. And we could have made room for it somewhere. Right?

Wrong. Reality prevailed. We walked away. But at this point, the dream of getting all our piles of clothes off the floor was so close we could practically taste it. So we drove over to Goodwill. We’ve found good things here before. In an episode a few months ago that I still feel bad about, I wanted to think about a cabinet Ty wanted to buy and when we went back for it the next day it was gone…  But we learned that good things disappear quickly. So that was a good lesson.

This time we found a kind-of awesome probably TV cabinet. And it was only $35. Thirty-five. That’s like practically free. But it was a gorgeous red-stained solid wood cabinet with some subtle Japanese influence in the details. The idea was we would get a rod and bolt it inside the main compartment to hold hangers, and put all my sweaters in the drawers. There was even a moment of excitement when I realized that I might could put hooks inside the doors to hold all my necklaces and belts.

This is very exciting people. No more necklaces hanging on the knobs of my dresser. And all the doors of the house. And laying horizontally on every empty surface. And some of the not-so-empty ones. And living inside the individual compartments of a pill case (on second thought, those will probably stay there. It is so convenient to take on trips!) We were getting excited. When we realized why it was $35.

Clearly this was a “custom” cabinet. They had drilled sections out of the shelf to put vents. Actual louvered vents you would normally see in your carpet. And they had jerry-rigged fans to run behind the vents. And then they lined every seam in the cabinet with foam weather-stripping. Everything was secured by hot glue, duct tape, finishing nails, AND adhesive. Because one method just isn’t enough.

I have no clue what they were insulating against. The vents and fans would imply some sort of server system that overheated easily. The insulation implies the opposite. And I have no clue what the giant hole through the top means. In retrospect it’s not unlikely that this wardrobe was involved in something illegal. We are in Seattle.

But we just wanted to buy something and move forward. So we did.


Because when we left our house at 5 that afternoon, neither one of us was actually prepared to purchase anything. Certainly nothing that would require manual labor and tie downs.

However both of those things were needed. Because after realizing that the cabinet was way too huge to fit inside my mariner, Ty and I took a trip to Fred Meyer to buy some winches and a rope.

Now, you have to understand. My father gave me unrealistic expectations about my ability to use a winch. I have seen my Dad tie down anythings so many times that I assumed it was one of those things we could do with out training or instruction. No You-tube videos required. Like some sort of instinct or urban-survival-of-the-fittest technique. This was Darwin. We would open the package and thread the straps through and winch that wardrobe up that a champ! And all the people dropping off and picking up at Goodwill would be awed by our prowess at tying things down. They could only hope to be as awesome and handy at tying things down as we were.

Turns out. Although I have figured out how my Dad ties knots in ropes… winches are only simple if you know how to thread the strap through the mechanism.

Ty and I do not know how to thread the strap.

So after it took three grown men to lift the upper portion of the cabinet to the top of my car, we started trying to tie it down. The rope worked great! I tie a mean knot. The winches… were more decorative than anything else. I plan to have my father give us remedial winch training at his earliest convenience. Ty drove the whole way home with his arm out the window holding on to the cabinet.

By the time we got it home, we realized that there was Ty… and me. And together we count strength at maybe 1 1/2 grown men. And that’s only because Ty counts for 1 1/4.

Through no small amount of effort and the creative use of our all-purpose LPT, we managed to get both halves of the unit up to the second story of our building with minimal damage to it or ourselves.

Ty did demo, and I removed insulation adhesive like a bandit. Then we just bolted a good solid rod to the interior, and some hooks on the door.

Et, voila. Precisely what we needed. A tv/weirdo storage cabinet that had been designed to look like a wardrobe… that we re-purposed as a wardrobe. So back to its roots really.

Also. If you didn’t immediately associate the blog post title with Victoria Elizabeth Barnes, do yourself a favor and read this postI consider her my blog soulmate.

This post brought to you by the letter…

Ty doesn’t seem to like things that start with the letter ‘D’.

Most desserts.

And David Bowie.

I mean weird right?

And even though Harry Potter arguably starts with an ‘H’, he didn’t think he would be a fan of that either. Because mostly he just doesn’t love the fantastical. But he does love me, and I love the fantastical, so I suppose by some sort of transitive property he loves it too. Subconsciously.


Apparently I use too many HP references in my life, and Ty decided that he needed to figure out what all this nonsense is about. So we have been slowly but surely making our way through the movies (movies first… so if he gives up before he gets to the books he’ll at least have the gist of it). Slowly. But as we were talking about it, Ty asked what house he would be in.

And that’s when I heard it. That innocent question might not have signaled anything to you. But to me, it meant curiosity. It meant… interest.

So of course I told him that, rather serendipitously, JK Rowling has a whole website about her books. And that if we went on it would sort him into his house.

Tyler. Got on. Pottermore. Clearly one of the greatest achievements of my married life.

Only once. And I suppose it doesn’t really count because he hasn’t been back. But it did happen. And everyone knows that Harry Potter is like a gateway fandom to all the other worlds of fantasy. So maybe one day he’ll be making me watch LOTR or Star Wars.

It’s not impossible after all. Just improbable. And that’s what I’m all about.