Monday, February 25, 2008

i scream, you scream

bryan and i have officially started a crusade against store bought ice cream. as an alternative, we decided to make homemade ice cream once a week. our debut flavor: butter pecan.

now, many of you might be familiar with an old adage of mine: “learning curves are for sissies.” and i made no exceptions in the ice cream making business. but here’s the truth, people, making good butter pecan ice cream is hard (there, i said it), and truly, it was no place for novices like ourselves to begin.

in our first attempt, we added melted butter to cold cream. can any of our chemical engineering gurus out there guess what happened? right you are: the cold cream immediately solidified the liquid butter, and we ended up with rather large chunks of butter throughout our concoction. salty butter ice cream. yuck.



nevertheless, my hopes were not dashed yet (because truthfully, the butter fiasco was bryan’s mistake). i found a new recipe, new resolve, and set to work again. this time, i chose a very complicated recipe, as complicated recipes produce the best results, right? wrong. this was one of those (many) times when i think i know what to do while reading the recipe, and then i get started and realize i am way out of my league:

  • “cook the butter until it has a nutty flavor” (what the? that butter could even have such a flavor ‘twas news to me)
  • “melt the brown sugar on low heat” (this takes FOR-flipping-EVER; several times i even questioned whether it could be done)
  • “slowly add the cream, or else the sugar will crystallize” (slowly is an understatement, more like imperceptibly)
  • “stir over low heat, 5-10 minutes, until the mixture can coat the back of a spoon” (uh, it’s 30 minutes later and it STILL doesn’t coat my spoon)
there were so many things that could have gone wrong here, i’m not sure which is was, but the ice cream tasted nasty and somehow like coffee. dregs. for this second mess, i have to take the blame: bryan was at work and summer was sleeping.


third time’s the charm: exit butter pecan, enter chocolate chip cookie dough (and a special thanks to ben & jerry for its invention). success! ah, it feels good to be queen.


note to butter pecan: you may have won the battle, but i shall win the war.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

more than she can chew

this week's summer-gram comes to you straight from the school of hard knocks. with her aforementioned forray into the world of clutching, summer has been wanting to put everything she touches into her mouth.
the life lesson learned here: not everything fits.

this frustrates her (as it would anyone) to no end. here is a sample:

at least that is one take on the situation. the other explanation is that summer is involved in some sort of sordid love affair with her "whoozit," who continually refuses her romantic advances, thus plumetting her into heartache and the black hole that is unrequited love. your pick.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

She's done it again

Emily has a long standing tradition of doing really spectacular things for me on Valentine's Day. Her expressions of affection typically involve 3 things:

1. An accomplice
2. An embarassing amount of decor
3. Something difficult for me to clean

The accomplice
This year it was none other than my office mate, Jeff Maurone. Emily discreetly paid a visit to MSNBC and handed off a surprise package without me knowing.

The decor
My office appeared as if a bomb crammed with construction paper hearts had exploded. It must have taken Jeff some time to arrange the office; I just hope none of our co-workers got the wrong idea about the nature of his and my relationship. Fortunately, Emily was wise enough to send a picture of Valentine's Day Summer for my desk.

The cleanup
It'll be an ongoing process over several months. Emily claims it's a daily reminder of how much she loves me. At Hopkins, the decorations lasted until graduation forced me to clean out my office.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

gimme gimme more

summer has recently reached yet another milestone in her growth and development: grasping objects. and while each new capability she gains brings with it much excitement (for both her and us), these skills also seem to carry a degree of peril (for both her and us). i.e., she now loves to grasp chunks of her skin when she's in the tub (ouch!). and one would think that given my closely cropped frock, i would be free from the mommy-pulled-hair syndrome, but alas, i too am a victim.
good thing she's so adorable.

the only milestone that appears to have no dangerous undertones is sleeping through the night; i can find not a single disadvantage to that. unfortunately, it's a ways off for us: my summer baby even has difficulty sleeping through her naps.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chúc mừng năm mới!

First and foremost, happy new year to all my Vietnamese friends out there. May the year of the rat bring you much happiness, health, and children (where applicable and desired).

As Emily indicated in her last post, I convinced the dynamic duo to come with me to Tết in Seattle. From the video, you can see that Emily and Summer enjoyed the festivities immensely.
When we weren't rocking out to various performances (traditional and otherwise), the primary activity of the day was eating.  Unfortunately, Emily has yet to develop a penchant for Vietnamese food. Thwarting my desires to blend in (admittedly, her spikey blond hair prevented this from the get go), I made a trip to a nearby food court to get her some pizza and an orange julius.  Eager to prove that we hadn't stumbled into the pavillion on accident, I quickly ordered enough phỏ, bánh xèo, chả giò, chè ba màu, and bánh tết for two and proceeded to devour it on my own.
Around this time, the sound of thousands of explosions engulfed the building. Not wanting to induce hearing loss in Summer at such a tender age, I left the girls inside and ran out to see the lion dance. I've never been sure if I'm supposed to do anything during these dances, so I did as the Viets did: took pictures.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

rock on

bryan took summer and me to tet (vietnamese new year) in seattle this past weekend. among the festivities was a way cool viet cover band. here is some footage of summer enjoying the tunes (listen closely for her happy baby squawk):

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Praise to the man

"The president and prophet of the Mormon church, Gordon B. Hinckley, died last Sunday at age 97." Link

It's a difficult task to succinctly honor a person who has had a deep and abiding influence in your life. Thus, I'll do what only I am uniquely qualified to do: share my 60 seconds with President Hinckley. In doing so, I implore the reader to tread lightly; to date, I've shared the experience with precious few people.

Hinckley's devotional addresses at BYU campus have long been a perennial favorite of the student body. On November 10th, 1998, I was among a couple dozen students who met President Hinckley before he gave his annual address.

I chatted with my friends as we were led into the underground labyrinth of the Marriott Center. When we rounded the corner to the appointed conference room, my mind did a bit of a somersault as my eye caught his. In an instant, the gravity of the experience washed over me and I felt strangely under prepared.

As the students gathered, Hinckley gave the group a once over, cracked one of his trademark smiles and remarked, "Here are our future professors."

Shortly thereafter, we formed a line for some personal time and associated photo op. I remember that Jonathan Chan was ahead of me in the queue; he produced a photo picturing Hinckley and Jonathan's grandparents posing together many years back. Lacking any kind of personal connection with the prophet, I suddenly felt rather obscure.

Knowing I'd be unable to engage him with ancestral photos, I opted to appeal to President Hinckley's well known wit. I confidently shook his hand and said "I'm Bryan Wheeler and you don't know my grandparents." An eternity passed in milliseconds as I realized I just lobbed the biggest dud of my lifetime. My remarks clearly confused the man and our nascent conversation faltered for a couple of seconds.

Fortunately, Hinckley's 89 years of experience didn't fail him. Our conversation recovered quickly as he turned the conversation toward me. We chatted about Houston,the faithfulness of the church members there, and various other things I no longer remember.

Dazed and confused, I headed for the exit. I almost didn't recognize Henry B. Eyring as he shook my hand on the way out the door.


Over the past week, there has been talk of sadness at the passing of Gordon Hinckley. I don't feel it. His life is a model of a life well spent, ever in the service of his fellow man. Indeed, he's one of the few men I aspire to emulate.