May 31, 2007

"North" Pasta

When we had dinner at North last weekend during our Anniversary Get-Away, I fell in love with my meal. I tried to re-create it last night for our family, with quite a bit of success. Here is what I came up with.

14.5 oz. pasta* (I like Barrilla Plus)
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
9 oz. bag fresh spinach
2 oz. pine nuts (it could have used more)
butter (I used about 1/2 c. total)
garlic (I used 4 cloves total)
cream (about 1/3 cup)
1/2-1 c. freshly grated parmesan
cooked salmon** (roughly 3 filets)

Cook pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, in a large pan, saute mushrooms in some butter with crushed garlic; remove and set aside. Add a little more butter to pan and saute pine nuts***; remove and set aside. Add more butter and garlic, and saute spinach. Drain pasta and return to pot; stir in mushrooms, pine nuts, spinach, with some cream and parmesan cheese, and small chunks of salmon. Serve with a salad on the side.

* The restaurant used Gemelli, which I couldn't find at Wal-Mart, so I used Rotini, which wasn't nearly as good.
** It was grilled shrimp at North, but I needed to use up the leftover salmon from the night before. I preferred the shrimp, but slices of grilled chicken would be good too. Or leave it out altogether.
***They would have been much better toasted in the oven, but I didn't have time.

Alice's Travel Agency

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Go here, select the date, and enter promotional code PRTVZ1. You won't regret it.

May 29, 2007

Twilight

I stayed up (much too late) last night finishing "Twilight." Since it's technically classified as "Young Adult Fiction," I never would have picked it up if it hadn't been "assigned" reading for the book club I'm in. (Though I read.... and loved.... all of the "Harry Potter" books without thinking twice.) But, I suppose there is a little bit of teenager left in me. Besides, how could I resist reading a New York Times Bestseller written by someone who has so much in common with me... we went to the same college where we both majored in English, she grew up next door to me (well, actually the city next door... I guess there she has more in common with Jay), is a member of the same church as me, and she married a guy from Arizona and is the mother of 3 children, just like me! We both dreamed of being "published" but I'm afraid that's where the similarity ends.

But I digress.

I'm not giving anything away by telling you that one of the central characters is a vampire, because it says so on the back of the book (which I think was a mistake... it would have been much more fun to discover this fact along with the heroine). This is another reason why I would never have read this book... I simply don't read "vampire books." However, this isn't really a vampire book. But it is a fun read. I hope they make the movie.

I'm anxious to start on the sequel.

May 27, 2007

Pomp and .....

Mary "graduated" from Kindergarten on Friday. I don't know why they make such a big deal about it, but it was cute. They sang some darling songs. (Mary, center, grinning)

The program listed what each of the children wanted to be when they grew up. The funniest one was "Crocodile Hunter." I was proud of Mary for choosing "Mom." It's the best career there is.
(Mary with her teacher, Mrs. Willis)

May 26, 2007

Anniversary Get-Away

We continued celebrating our 10th Anniversary this weekend. Waiting one week saved us several hundred dollars. I guess Memorial Day weekend is when the cheap summer rates official start at the local resorts. Instead of paying the nearly $500/night rate normally required at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort, we paid just $179.

Friday was the last day of school (half day), so we dropped off our kids at my sister's house (thank you!) and headed off to North Scottsdale. When we went to check in, they said they had upgraded us to a suite! It was so nice! I wish we could have stayed longer. After getting settled, and checking out the resort a bit, we went over to nearby Kierland Commons for a stroll, and had dinner at North. It was excellent! I had a delicious pasta dish with a very light Parmesan sauce, spinach, mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, and grilled shrimp, and Jay had a very tasty pizza.

After dinner we bought tickets to see "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." But it was opening day, and when we entered the theatre we realized we would be relegated to the front row, Jay said, "Forget it," and walked out. I went running after him, and said, "What, you want to throw away $20?" He replied, "No, I'm going to get our money back." I laughed, "They won't give us our money back." He was completely confident.... "Sure they will." I stood there in awe as he marched right up to Guest Services, handed over our tickets stubs and said, "We want our money back." The agent smiled, took the stubs, and said, "Would you like cash, or do you want me to credit your card?" My mouth dropped open, while Jay calmly replied, "Just put it back on our card." While the agent printed our receipt, Jay went to get the car, and I just stood there dumbfounded. I had no idea you could do that! I was proud of him for being so bold. I'm too chicken to do something like that.

We finally admitted we would rather spend time at the beautiful resort then spend it packed in a room with several hundred noisy, obnoxious, "Pirate" fans. Jay had insisted that he wouldn't wear a swim suit in public (he thinks HE'S embarrassed), so I hadn't even bothered to bring mine. But when we got back to the resort, the pool looked so lovely after dark, with all the lights, that Jay said, "Let's go swimming." I inquired, "But did you bring a swim suit?" "Well, yeah, just in case." Duh. So, we ran over to the local Wal-Mart and I found a decent one. We swam in the main pool for a bit, sat in the hot tub for a bit, shared a hammock for a bit... ah, it was lovely.

This morning we slept in until 9:00 (lovelier still!) and had a nice (but expensive) breakfast at the bistro downstairs. I had whole wheat pancakes with blueberries and pecans, and Jay had eggs benedict. Then we put our suits back on and headed off to the "Sonoran Splash" pool, where we took a dip, lounged around and read for a while (here is what I'm reading), and enjoyed ourselves like kids on the water slides. After that we reluctantly headed back to our suite, showered and dressed, and (sigh) checked out. It was a glorious, relaxing get-away, and I can't wait to do it again. Until then, we're glad to be back home with our kids, and sleeping in our own bed. After all, there's no place like home.

May 24, 2007

Book Recommendation

When Jay went to Utah for a few days last month, he brought me back a present.... a novel, signed by the author..... his Aunt Phyllis. I just finished reading it yesterday. It is quite fun, and very entertaining. I believe this is her first novel, and I think she did quite a good job. She is a very intelligent, interesting lady, and she based this book on some of her experiences.

If you are interested in borrowing it let me know. Diane has first dibs.

Deep-Sea Driving

Jack brought me the Leap Pad, complaining that it wouldn't work, and requesting that I fix it. I took it from his hands and prepared to check it out.

I figured the batteries needed changing. But Jack was one step ahead of me.

He handed me a screw driver and said, "Here is the scuba diver."

Yep, that'll work.

Last Minute Dinner

Yesterday at 5:15 p.m. I hadn't started... or even thought about.... dinner. I open my refrigerator and saw a jar of my favorite Newman's Own spaghetti sauce that I had used about 1/3 of for another recipe, and knew it needed to be used up soon.

So, I put it in a sauce pan to warm up, put some water on to boil, and grabbed a box of bowtie pasta from the pantry. Since there wasn't enough sauce to satisfactorily cover all of the pasta, I looked in the fridge again for inspiration, and saw a long-lost half-full bottle of whipping cream that had just passed it's expiration date. I took a whiff and decided it was safe. I added it to the sauce on the stove, and got just the right amount of liquid. I figured the cream had diluted the sauce quite a bit, so I dumped in a little italian seasoning.

Things were looking good, but I knew that Jay would balk at a main dish with no meat. So, I scrounged in my freezer and found the remains of a once-full bag of pre-cooked shrimp hiding in the back. I threw it in with the pasta for the last few minutes to defrost and warm it. I drain the pasta and shrimp and added the sauce. It looked like vomit. So, I went back to the freezer and grabbed a bag of frozen peas and threw it in. Now it looked colorful and presentable, and actually quite nice, especially with a hearty sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan.

I happened to have a bag of pre-washed lettuce, some leftover ceasar dressing, and some croutons, so I made a quick ceasar salad. I looked at the food on the plates and was quite impressed with it. We sat down to eat at 5:45. Now for the moment of truth.

Dinner was a hit.... the kids cleaned their plates without a word. Jay liked it too... even though, as usual, he doused it with "Frank's Hot" for some kick. Oh well.

May 19, 2007

Caffe Boa on Mill

My newly-wed sister offered to have our kids over for a sleepover last night so that Jay and I could go out to celebrate our anniversary. The kids had a great time, of course, eating pizza and rootbeer, playing vintage Nintendo, and being doted on my Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Dave.

But I think Jay and I probably had a better evening. We had dinner at Caffe Boa in the Mill Avenue District, at a lovely table on the patio. I sipped Pellegrino with a wedge of lime while we shared Tiger Shrimp sauteed in garlic and butter. Then I ate every bit of my spinach raviolis stuffed with artichokes and topped with a garlic cream sauce, and a delicious marinara, and slices of grilled garlic chicken. Jay enjoyed a melt-in-your mouth filet mignon with roasted potatoes and vegetables. Then we shared a decadent Chocolate Hazelnut Royale. I was about to pop, but every bite was worth it. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was very nice. Give it a try for your next special ocassion.

After our lovely, leisurely dinner, we came home and watched the rest of the game. I almost cried.

The Best 10 Years

We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on Thursday, May 17th. Wow! The years have flown by! They have been wonderful years!

Jay gave me a simple, beautiful anniversary band to go with my wedding ring. When he asked me to marry him, and gave me his mother's very simple original engagement setting (with his own diamond), he told me he would get me something bigger and better on our 10th Anniversary (which is what his dad did, and why his mother's original setting had been abandoned). But I told him honestly a few years ago that I had no desire to replace the lovely ring I wore the day he proposed to me, the day we were married, the day we moved into our new home, the day each of our children were born.... the ring I will wear when when each of our children is baptized, when they graduate from high school, when they go off to college, when they go on missions, when they get married.... and when we are old and gray and wrinkled and serve missions together, and work in the Temple together..... again.After dinner on Thursday, we sat with our children and told them our different versions of the story of our courtship. (Jay's version was much funnier and more interesting.) As I told them my version, I didn't think they were that interested, or even listening. But when I paused for a moment, Mary exclaimed (with her enormous grin), "This is a good story!" Well, it is a good story. So, for those of you who haven't heard and are interested, here is "The Story of Alice and Jay" as I recorded it in my journal in 1997. (I told the condensed version to the kids. This version is slightly edited for the sake of space.... I tend to be long-winded.)

THE STORY OF ALICE & JAY

In February 1996, I was called to be an ordinance worker in the Mesa Arizona Temple. Because I had a full-time job during the week, the only day I could work in the Temple was Saturday. When President Shumway, the Temple President, called me into his office and we discussed when I would work, he explained that there were three shifts on Saturdays: the early morning shift, the mid-day shift, and the night shift.

He asked which shift I would like to work. I asked him which shift had the greatest need for workers. He said, “Well, that’s the evening shift, but that would interfere with your social life.” I knew that was true, but something made me say, “I want to work
when I’m needed most, not when it’s most convenient.” He smiled, and said, “O.K. Then that’s where you should be.” It was a sacrifice, giving up some of my social life, but it was one of the greatest blessings in my life!

When President Shumway set me apart, he told me that the relationships I would form with my fellow workers would have a great impact on my life and would be very important to me. I thought he meant I would have many sets of surrogate grandparents, as 99% of the workers are over 65. I did form some wonderful friendships
with the “older” workers, but I didn’t realize what that statement really meant until later.

I started working in the Temple the first of March. The first night I was there I met Wendy, Jay’s mother. Both his parents were regular ordinance workers, the youngest couple there. Since she looks VERY young, I was quite surprised when she told me her oldest son was a returned missionary "sitting right over there" (he also worked in the Temple). I had noticed another young person working there, but I thought nothing of it. I would see him occasionally, but I didn't meet him for a while.


The months went by. Then one night at the beginning of November, Jay was given "flashlight duty" (walking sisters to their cars after dark), and as "luck" would have it, he was assigned to me. We barely had time to introduce oursel
ves before we arrived at my car. I thought to myself, “Hmm. He's not my type. I hope he doesn’t ask me out.” (At the time I was seriously interested in someone else I had gone out with a couple of times recently.)

The next week after our shift at the Temple, he was waiting for me and asked if he could walk me to my car. Sure enough, he asked me if I would like to go see "The Magic Flute" (the Mozart opera) in a couple of weeks. I thought, well, I will go out with him once, because I would like to see it. So, I accepted.... even though I continued to tell myself I "wasn't interested."


The next day he called and asked me to go to a fireside with him that night. I felt obligated to go because I had already accepted a future date with him. So that was our first date. I was impressed that he was a really nice, good guy, with a nice family, but I thought he was way too serious and I thought he had no sense of humor. (I found out later that
was VERY wrong. He is one of the funniest people I know! But he wasn't himself on our first few dates because he was really nervous.)

Well, that night when he brought me home he asked if I would like to go out after our shift at the Temple the next week. I was kind of annoyed that he was being so persistent, but he asked me to my face (and I'm not good at coming up with excuses on the spot), and we still had this upcoming date to the opera, so I said yes. We went to a restaurant and had cheesecake and talked. He made me laugh that night. Friday night was the opera. We talked for a while afterward and had some really good conversations. But I was still thinking, “There’s nothing there. I’m just not interested.” I figured that was it. I had gone on three dates with him and hadn't fallen in love... I had given him a chance... that was enough. (I'm ashamed to admit what an idiot I was... no wonder I wasn't married!) I decided that the next time he asked I would make excuses until he got the hint. Meanwhile, I was still really
interested in this other guy.

Jay called me the next morning at 9 a.m. (after our 7 or 8 hour date)! I was getting worried. I had never had a guy pursue me like this. He invited me to have lunch that day but I told him I was too busy. He said, “Just for an hour.” I refused. THEN he said, “I just want you to know that I am very glad we met. I think you are really neat.” He didn’t give up!

He called the next night (this was the week of Thanksgiving) and asked if I had to work the day after Thanksgiving and invited me to do something that day. I said, “No, I’m going to spend time with my family.” THEN, he said, “I want you to know that I really like you. You have all the qualities I want in a wife, and I want to keep dating you.” Yikes! I was terrified! (That really scared me, but now I appreciate that he was so open and honest and didn't play games.) I said, “Look. I think you are really nice, but I’m interested in someone else.” I w
as pretty sure he had taken the hint. (He later confirmed that he had given up and wasn't going to call again.)

I couldn't stop thinking about him all week. For a long time I had been praying everyday for Heavenly Father to send me a righteous man...that’s all I wanted. I realized that Jay had ALL of the qualities I was looking for, and MORE. Duh! "What have I done?" By Friday, I was worried that I had burned all my bridges. I knew that he would never call me again. So, I got up my nerve and called him, which is a REALLY big deal for me! I invited him to go the movies with my family that afternoon, and he another date! Ouch! I needed that. My disappointment finally made me realize that I was interested in him. He had the integrity to keep his other date, but he immediately invited me to do something the next night after our shift at the temple, which we did.


The next week was a whirl wind. I was really freaked out because it was happening so fast. We talked every day, and I finally let him kis
s me.

Sunday we went to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. During the fireside I realized that I had fallen head-over-heels in love with him that week, and I knew I was going to marry him! AND, I wasn't freaked out anymore. I was totally peaceful about it. A week and a half later (just before Christmas) we went to the Temple together and agreed that we were going to get married. It happened very fast, but it was so right.

At the beginning of January, we flew to Salt Lake for a short trip. We arrived Friday evening, and had dinner at the Roof Top restaurant at the Joseph Smith Memorial. ......... (the mushy parts have been edited out.... all you need to know is that he proposed marriage)....... We stayed at his aunt's house that night (in separate bedrooms, of course), attended the Salt Lake Temple the next day, and then flew home.

We were sealed in the Mesa Arizona Temple on May 17, 1997, by Vernon Watkins, who was a member of the Temple presidency at the time, and a long time friend of Jay’s family. (I was 26 and Jay was 25.) It was the best day of my life. Each day since then has only been better. I’m happier than I ever imagined possible. I have the best husband in the world. Jay is so good to me, and so good for me! I am so blessed. Jay was definitely worth waiting for! (OK, I probably should have taken out that mushy part too.)

It's amazing to me when I think of the whole time line of this. We met the first week of November, and by the middle of December we had decided to get married. I had always scoffed at people who had such short courtships, but hey.... when it's right, it's righ
t. We were engaged for 4 months, which seemed way too long. :)

Jay got me one other anniversary gift.
He finally realized he isn't the only Suns fan in this family.
I'm sad the Suns are out of the play-offs, but I will still wear the shirt with pride, and look forward to next season. I'm no "fair-weather-fan" when it comes to the Suns.

May 16, 2007

Spitting Mad

I refuse to comment about the unfair treatment heaped on the Suns. I'm furious! I can't talk about it.

I'll be biting my nails tonight.

May 15, 2007

T-Ball

Mary just finished her first season playing T-Ball. She was the only girl on her co-ed team, but she didn't seem to mind. All the boys liked her. She always managed a good hit when she was at bat, and usually got a run.... even though she skipped more than ran, and would dance on the bases. When she was in the field, she would stand around day dreaming. Actually, she did more posing than standing.Anyway, she had a good time.

Deep Thoughts

What do 5-year-olds think about while driving in the car?

Mary usually has lots of questions for me as we drive around town. Generally, they are connected to something we have driven past, or a place we went. But sometimes, they are just random.

Like yesterday. After being rather quiet for some time, she suddenly asked, "What do they do at the circus when it's raining?"

It was a bright sunny day, and there wasn't a circus or clown in sight.

How do you answer this kind of question?

"I'm sorry Mary. I really don't know. I guess they stay inside those big tents."

"Oh."

The Big "8"

Collin turned 8 years old last week. He was very excited about starting Cub Scouts, especially to wear the uniform. He could hardly contain himself when I told him I had gone to the scout store and purchased it while he was at school. He was trying so hard to act grown up about it, but I could tell he was about to burst. Thursday night he will attend his first Pack Meeting, and he is very excited to receive his Bobcat Award.

Collin is also very excited (and so are we) that he will be baptized soon. But not soon enough. He could have been baptized last Saturday at the Stake Baptism with a bunch of other kids, but since that would mean that neither set of grandparents would be able to attend, Collin agreed to postpone it a bit. Instead, Collin will be baptized on July 15th, in Kirtland, Ohio, where my parents are serving a mission. Collin's cousin, Brett, will also be baptized that day. It should be a very special, memorable experience.

And my kids are SO stinkin' excited about flying on an airplane that they can hardly stand it.

May 14, 2007

Student of the Month

Mary was selected as the April "Student of the Month" for her kindergarten class. She was absolutely delighted, and her parents were very pleased, of course. I think Mary was most excited about having the special "Student of the Month" slipcover on her chair for the month of May. But she was also pleased to receive her certificate and frozen yogurt coupon from the principal at the SOM ceremony, after he stated that Mary was chosen because "she is a good listener and always completes her work. She gets along well with all the other students and shows respect to her teacher." We are very proud of her.Mary with her teacher, Mrs. Willis.

May 11, 2007

A Clean House

My parents are in Kirtland, Ohio for the summer, serving as missionaries for our church. I miss them. My mom didn't want to lose the woman who cleans her house, so she sent Rosario to clean my house. She arrived the other day, on a morning when I was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, and discouraged with the state of my house. She spent 5 hours detail-cleaning my house (all those places I never have time to get too), while I did laundry, and took deep breaths. Ahhhh. Joy of joys! Thank you Mom!

I wish I could afford to have someone clean my house regularly. Maybe someday when we are rich.....

May 10, 2007

H2O Crisis

I never buy bottled water... we drink from our trusty Reverse Osmosis tap. However, yesterday while dragging Mary and Jack on numerous errands in the heat, they were complaining of thirst, and I had failed to bring a water bottle filled from the R.O. at home. Therefore, when we were at Sam's Club, and they saw the huge packages of bottles filled with luscious water, I decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep some of these on hand for certain occasions. So, I loaded a 32-count case of 16 oz. bottles into my cart.

I gave each of the kids a bottle, which they had drained by the time I loaded the loot in the car. When we got home, I put the remaining 30 bottles by the garage door until I could find a place for them. That was a mistake. I thought I would put them away before I went to bed last night, but I forgot.

This morning, while I was getting ready in my bedroom, Jack (who is normally very well-behaved, and does NOT have the destructive tendencies of some 3-year-old boys) was playing quietly in the other room. I thought I heard the back door open and close a time of two, and figured he was jumping on the trampoline.

When I came back in the living room I saw the back door open, and was a little irritated since the air conditioning was running. So, I went to close the door and gasped when I saw the backyard lawn. It was covered with empty 16 oz. water bottles. I found Jack in the kitchen looking sheepish. And there was the nearly empty case of water bottles... with exactly 4 remaining. After regaining my composure (and spanking Jack's bottom) I gave him a grocery bag and told him to clean it up. He filled 2 grocery bags with 26 water bottles and lids.

I'm never buying bottles of water again. Arrrggghhh!

May 07, 2007

The Craze... again

When we were first married (in 1997), I remember hearing about a new fad, Pokemon. Some of my neighbors had children who were really into it. When Collin was born, 2 years later, it was still big, and showed up on Collin's Birthday Keepsake as the latest kids craze. I continued to see and hear about Pokemon during the next year or so, but then it seemed to fizzle out as the next big fad hit the market. By the time Collin was speaking in complete sentences, it rarely heard mention of it.
Fast forward to 2007....

A couple of months ago, Collin started talking about Pokemon. I had never heard him mention it before in his life. One of his cousins gave him a couple of Pokemon cards. Then a friend at school gave him a couple more. Then another cousin gave him a few, and within a week he had a small handful of cards. Every conversation regarding getting together with a friend now ends with, "And bring your Pokemon cards."

What happened here? Did this thing spontaneously revive itself? I suppose it has been going strong all this time among the fanatics, but now it seems to be back into mainstream. Suddenly, Collin seems to eat, sleep and breathe Pokemon. How long will this last?

He turned 8 last week. His friends gave him Pokemon cards, and more Pokemon cards... plus a binder to hold and sort them. He was beside himself with glee.

Mom and Dad, on the other hand, gave him this delightful book. And yes, he was excited about it. Collin loves this kind of thing. I think he always will. Certainly longer than he will love Pokemon.