December 02, 2010

Thanksgiving

I got to babysit my super cute nephew Will for 5 days while my sister went to NYC for Thanksgiving with her in-laws.  It was a little bit of an adjustment to remember what it's like to have a toddler around, but it was so much fun!  My kids were in heaven pretending to have a little brother, especially Jack, who hates always being the youngest.  :)


Thanksgiving with nice.... I don't know why I don't have any photos.  Oh yeah.  I do know why.  Because I was too busy chasing a toddler and trying to keep him from breaking the china and crystal, and destroying the center pieces, and mangling the decorations, and smearing mashed potatoes on everyone's best clothes, and.... well, you get the idea.

But seriously, it was really fun to have Will around.  He totally adapted so easily.  He just immediately accepted that we were his new family.  It was quite funny.  I guess it helps that I look a bit like and talk like his mom.... were are sisters, you know.

Oh.  I almost forgot.  I ran the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day!  My first 10K!  It was super hard, but I managed to run the whole time (if you can call what I do running..... very slow running).... I didn't walk at all.  Yay!  It was way better than my first 5K, where I couldn't even run the whole time, and my knee hurt so bad for the next couple of days that I could hardly walk.  Ugh. 

So, that's progress.

December 01, 2010

Soccer

Mary and Jack just finished a season of soccer.  They both enjoyed it, but Mary had a particularly good experience.... a great coach (who worked really hard but was very kind and even-tempered), nice team mates, and she worked really hard and was successful.  They won more games than they lost, and even those they lost were close. 
Mary is #8
 Mary is very quick and aggressive.... she goes after that ball!  She likes to play defense... she was the best defender on the team.  Her coach would say things like, "Nothing gets past Mary!"  It's a little discouraging when you don't get to be the one who makes the goals, but she has learned to appreciate the fact that she made lots of great saves and assists.  She gained a lot of confidence and learned that she has a lot to offer as part of team.
Jack worked hard and enjoyed it, but he didn't have a great experience... his coaches were not committed (usually came to practice late, didn't teach anything) and spent most of the time at the games yelling (screaming!) unhelpful things at the kids ("Get the ball!  What are you doing?  Don't do that!  Run faster!") instead of coaching and encouraging.  No, they were not a winning team.  It was a especially frustrating for Jay, who refereed most of the games (as a volunteer... yes, that's him in the photo) so he had to stay out of it.  It was really disappointing (these kids are only 5 and 6 years old) especially since Mary had such a good experience.  What a contrast.

November 20, 2010

Photography Workshop

For my birthday, my mom gave me the perfect gift!  She paid for the two of us to attend this photography workshop.  It was super fun, I learned a ton, I got to have lunch at House of Tricks (yum!) and I got to spend the whole day with my mom!  See?  Perfect.

I got this great camera for Christmas (my mom has the same one), but I didn't really know how to use it (neither did my mom).... until now!  I said so-long to the "green box" and now I'm shooting in full manual mode!  It's a total blast.  I'm still not very good, but I'm learning more all the time. 

Here are some photos that I took on the "photo safari" with the teacher....




Thank you mom!!!!!




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November 18, 2010

I swear I'm not getting paid for this....

I am in love with Lodge cast iron cookware.   But I haven't always been.  I used to think it was junk.  Growing up I watched my mom cook with these old "junky looking" pans and swore I never would. As an immature teenager I guess I equated looks with function.  Go figure.  (How did I not realize that everything my mom cooked tasted good?) 

When I got married, I got a nice set of Hard Anodized Calphalon.  It looks great and has served me well, but I have never "loved" it.  A few years ago I noticed that "Le Creuset" was all the rage.  I started to believe that maybe cast iron was functional after all, but that it was necessary to cover up that ugly exterior with colorful enamel.  I thought I was sold on it, but alas, it's expensive.  Holy cow, it's outrageous!  Definitely out of my price range. 

Last year, on a whim, I bought a 12" Lodge cast iron skillet.... at Wal-Mart.... because it was 18 bucks!  At that price, I figured I could afford to dump it if it was junk.  Oh my.  I cooked with it once and I was hooked!  It never leaves my stove top (except to get washed).... I don't bother putting it away because it's the pan I use the most.  It cooks everything beautifully, on the stove or in the oven, and cleans up in a snap!  (And it literally last forever!)  Plus, it seems like everything tastes better when it's cooked in cast iron.  Who needs enamel?

Now my skillet has a friend, who also lives on my stove top.  For my birthday, Jay my kids got me this dutch oven with a lid that doubles as a smaller skillet.  My other pots and pans are feeling rather neglected, but I don't care.


And you know what?  I LOVE how it looks.... bare-naked cast iron.  Beauty.




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November 09, 2010

Resemblances

The internet is very interesting..... and extremely handy.  You can find out just about anything you want to know.

For example.....

You can find a recipe for any dish ever created, or instructions on how to roast garlic, which you can (and will) use in a ton of recipes.

Your husband can find instructions for how to install a better horn in the car he bought recently, which came with a really goofy, wimpy-sounding horn.

You can purchase a replacement utensil basket for your dishwasher when the original one that came with your 13-year-old dishwasher begins to sport holes in the bottom through which your daring silverware escape during the wash cycle.

Your husband can learn to play a tricky guitar solo by watching an instructional video on YouTube, so he can serenade you on your birthday.

You can pause a DVD so you can go find out what other movies one of the actors has been in, because it's driving you crazy that he/she looks familiar and you know you have seen he/she in something before, and your husband doesn't believe you but thinks it's someone else, like Marcia Brady (and it's not) because he is terrible with names....and faces.

Yeah, it's really handy.

Recently we were watching this movie with our kids.  (It's not nearly as good as the first one, but it was entertaining.  Besides, I'll watch anything with Tim and Don.)  The kids kept saying that one of the characters looked like "the guy from The Princess Diaries 2," (whose name I could not think of) which was crazy because he probably wasn't even born when the movie we were watching was made.  However, I did think that the actor looked familiar, but I figured he was just one of those "Disney-contracted actors" from the 70's who appeared in lots of their smaller films (actually, I think he appeared at least once in every television series aired between 1965 and 1995).  

When the movie was over, I watched the credits to see if the name of the actor was familiar.  It wasn't, but something about his name clicked in my head, since we had recently watched this movie.  So, I looked him up and sure enough.... though it wasn't the actor my kids thought it was, it turned out to be HIS SON.  Crazy.  How did they know?



Do you see the resemblance?
father
son














IMDb is the coolest site ever.


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October 31, 2010

October Review

I turned 40 this month.  Ouch.  I had really wanted to go on a trip (just Jay and I) to celebrate, but everything was too expensive.  We ended up going to the cabin (it was Fall Break), with my parents, and my SIL/BIL's family.  Hooray for the Haslips and their 6 kids for mine to play with!

Ugh!  That's a lot of candles!
But I did blow them all out in one breath.... easy peasy!
.... and Grandpa gave the boys a lesson in forestry.
We also picnicked near Sunrise....




The fall colors were gorgeous.....
.... thanks Dad, for building such a great place for our family to be together!
Jay and I often write parodies for special events (family member birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, friends moving away, etc.).  We have always written them together.  Well, I should say that Jay has never written one without me.... until now.  He surprised me by singing and playing his guitar, a parody he wrote for me.... which I shall share with you later.  It was sweet and funny, and I won't do it justice by just posting the lyrics here.  (I was too "into" the moment so I didn't think to pull out the video camera, and neither did anyone else!  Bummer!)  It was sweet and funny.  Classic Jay.

Last night we went to our ward (local church congregation)/neighborhood party and "Trunk or Treat."  The kids' costumes turned out quite good. 

Jack as a Luchador...
.... and sans mask.
Mary was very cute as "Pippy Longstocking"


Collin was dressed up as a "Deviled Egg" (an egg with devil horns), but he removed his costume shortly after arriving at the party.... he is that age where he wants to dress up still, but it's not really cool.  So, I never got a photo.  Oh well.

I looked pretty good too, as Princess Leia, if I may say so myself, though on one bothered to take a picture of me.  Humph.  :P  I got lots of compliments though.  (But boy, I look really bad as a brunette.)  

My talented husband has some serious pumpkin carving skills.

October 05, 2010

The Master Story-teller Does Soaps

I admit that I, like anyone else who has spent more than a few days in a hospital bed in a conscious state, have watched Soap Operas. When you spend a month, as I did, lying in a hospital bed, unable to get up, trying to distract yourself from the pain and despair of your situation (is that a bit dramatic?), there isn't much to do but watch TV to pass the time....and there aren't that many options. At least there weren't for me. Either the hospital I was in didn't have many channels at that time, or they didn't exist. The channels, I mean.

Whatever the case, my options were....game shows (ugh!), talk shows (double ugh!), old episodes of "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" (actually, it was pretty funny), and soap operas. The "soaps" seemed to be the most plentiful, and certainly the most distracting. I couldn't even tell you now (11 years later) what the shows were called or what the characters' names were. But I can tell you that their complicated lives and relationships (albeit, very silly and unrealistic) kept me sane during a very dark and difficult time in my life. Those writers really know how to hook you, reel you in, and drag you along. Very long.

I haven't watched any "soaps" since then, but I laugh with fond memories when I think of the ridiculous plots and over-the-top acting. I took an acting class in college from a professor who had acted in soaps, and he talked about what a demanding job it is....constantly getting new scripts and having to learn them quickly, filming daily with little or no rehearsal. So, I guess I can cut them some slack for being so amateurish and hokey.

BUT, over the last few days I have watched all 14 episodes of the most amazing show that I can't help comparing to a soap opera in some ways; each episode ends leaving you dying to watch the next one; it's filled with a huge cast of characters with complicated lives and they are all inter-connected; numerous plot twists and turns; and themes of money, power, social status, deceit, debt, romance and mystery... it has it all.

Unlike "soaps," this show was wonderfully written (by the screenwriter Andrew Davies no less, whom you may not have heard of, but have surely seen something he has written), superbly acted by an extremely talented cast, and not the slightest bit silly (though there are plenty of lavish clothes to be seen). Oh....and it's adapted from a novel by Charles Dickens. You won't see that on "Days of Our Lives."

So, go rent "Little Dorrit" (or check it out from the library, like I did), but let me give you some advice:

1) Don't start watching it until you know you have plenty of time to devote to it, because you won't be able to stop, and you will stay up late. Very late.

2) Turn on the subtitles.... even if you don't have trouble understanding their accents, it helps to keep the characters straight. Trust me. It's complicated.

3) Invite your husband to join you... he will enjoy it just as much as you will. Mine was hooked.


Next I'm going to watch "Bleak House." I'll let you know what I think.

October 01, 2010

Turkey Trot

Aaaaaack! I just registered for my first 10K. Now I HAVE to do it.

Yikes!

Anyone want to join me?

September 20, 2010

Indian Curry

I wanted to make Indian Curry, so I scoured the internet for recipes. There are a ton out there, and they vary widely. After getting the basic idea, and knowing what ingredients I prefer, I set out to make my own version. I thought it turned out great! Even my kids who initially turned their noses up at it, ended up liking it.

I served it with Naan bread made from "Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day" dough. (Totally in love with ABin5, I am.) See how to make it here. It requires a bit of work, and I didn't use ghee (clarified butter) so my kitchen got a bit smoky. But it was worth it! Yum!
What do you know? I finally took a photo
of something I made, and it's a terrible one.


Indian Curry (Chicken or Vegetarian)
adapted from all over the internet

I kind of just used what I had on hand, and I didn't measure anything, so these amounts are all approximate:

3 T. olive oil
1 c. carrots, chopped
4 green onions, chopped (I used the whole thing)
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 T. curry powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. coarse salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks* (OPTIONAL: You could sub in potatoes.)
1 c. greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1/2 can coconut milk (the can was 13.5 oz.)
1 T. lemon juice

Saute the veggies and garlic in the oil until almost tender; stir in the seasonings and sugar, and cook a minute or 2 longer. Add remaining ingredients and simmer about 5 minutes. Serve over rice or with naan bread. (I wrapped it in a piece of bread for my kids to make it easier for them to eat, but I just tear off a piece and use it to scoop.)

*I used chicken breasts that were already cooked and just cut them up. If you use raw, just saute the chunks after the veggies and then simmer a little longer until the chicken is cooked through.

September 14, 2010

Salmon For Supper

My brother-in-law went salmon fishing in Alaska and brought us some of his catch. I cooked it for dinner tonight and it was fabulous! Everyone raved and wanted seconds. It was moist and flavorful and delicious! I wish I had some photos to share, but I will tell you what I did.

I rinsed the filets (left them wet) and spread on some mustard (I just had plain old French's yellow mustard). Then I rolled them in a mixture of bread crumbs and a "garlic rosemary" seasoning blend (obviously garlic & rosemary, plus salt & pepper, dried onion, red bell pepper and lemon peel) that I had in my pantry. I drizzled each with some olive oil and baked at 450 degrees for about 8-10 minutes (I think).

I served it with homemade Rice-A-Roni (we love this....see recipe below) and steamed broccoli (a staple at our house) with butter and seasoned salt (good ol' Lawry's!). If I may say so myself, it was a perfect meal, and my family thought so too.

Rice-a-Roni
(adapted from my mother-in-law)
2 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1-2 T. dehydrated chopped onion
1 c. rice
1/2 c. tiny pasta (I use either orzo, alphabets or stars)
2 T. chicken soup base granules*
1-2 tsp. ground ginger (depending on how much kick you want)
1 T. dry parsley
2 1/2 c. water

Heat oil over medium high heat; add garlic and onion and saute briefly; add rice and pasta and saute 1-2 minutes. Add seasonings and stir well. Add water and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover and cook about 25 minutes until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir before serving.

* I have this awesome one from my MIL which I think totally makes the recipe. I'm sorry if you don't have a good one. :(

September 01, 2010

Building a Bike

 Jay knows a lot about bikes, because he built his own as a kid, by scavenging parts from old bikes his mom would bring home from garage sales.  He decided to teach Collin to build his own.  They started by buying an old junky bike off Craigslist that had a decent frame. 
 They stripped, sanded, sanded, sanded, sanded, primed, painted, painted and painted.....
 .... assembled, fixed, replaced, etc.
 It turned out quite nice.  All the neighbor boys are quite impressed, and Collin is very pleased with the result.
Jay is an awesome dad.  He can fix anything, and he loves to teach our boys how to "do stuff."

August 01, 2010

Determined.... Sort of

I have a lot of "stuff" stored in my garage that I used for teaching preschool music classes. Today, Jack started begging me to get out some of the toy instruments and play with them. I really didn't want him to get them out (he makes a mess and tends to break stuff), but the constant pestering finally wore me down.

I reluctantly said (with the trademark "Mom Sigh"), "All right." He quietly cheered his victory ("yay!") and headed for the garage. I said, "But watch out for scorpions, because Daddy killed a really big one in there yesterday." (That is the absolute truth.)

Barefoot Jack didn't say anything, but stopped in his tracks, detoured from his route to the garage, and walked toward the bedroom. I smiled to myself, thinking that was the end of it.

A minute later he clomped back toward the garage wearing Collin's huge hiking boots, and said, "I'm going to wear these, just in case." As he walked through the garage door, I couldn't help laughing out loud, and thought, "Well, I guess he deserves to play with them, if he is that determined."

Not a minute passed before Jack walked back through the door and announced, "I changed my mind. I don't want to play with those anyway."

That's my boy. I'm terrified of scorpions.

July 27, 2010

Wedding Weekend

I am way behind on my blogging, but I have to tell you that I had the most incredible time in San Diego this weekend for my brother's wedding!

My family (most of us) stayed in a gorgeous house in LaJolla with this incredible view.
A photo doesn't do it justice, of course.

I took a ton of photos, but I'm not going to bother posting them, because my brother (another one) took incredible ones with his $8000 camera (well, not actually HIS, but borrowed from his summer internship employer, Adobe Photoshop!), so they put mine to shame. Check them out here.

Everything was lovely, and I am so pleased to have a wonderful new sister-in-law. She is awesome, and so is her family. All of my family was there, except for one of my sisters who is about to deliver baby number 5 any day, so she couldn't come.

So, since I'm too lazy (and embarrassed) to post the photos I took, here are some from Sarah.
(my fabulous sisters and SILs)

Maybe I will post some of my photos later.

July 16, 2010

My International Kid

What's up with Collin? Lately he has taken to speaking with a fussy British accent, or a silly French accent and saying "Oui, oui" all the time. He even throws in a bit of German.... I just heard him say "Achtung" just now.

Where did he learn this? Is this normal behavior for an 11-year-old boy who is bored with summer and ready to go back to school?

June 29, 2010

Crazy Eyes

I just had a really good laugh at this. I suppose maybe you have to be in the right mood, but I was actually in tears!


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June 22, 2010

Book Recommendations

Mary has hit a slump in her reading. Lately she can't seem to find any books she is interested in.

I welcome ANY suggestions you might have for 9-10 year old girls! Help!

P.S. She hates fantasy. She prefers books about "real" people in every day life.

UPDATED: Thank you so much for all of the great suggestions! You all are wonderful! She has read (and liked) many that were suggested, but that's actually a good thing because then I know you are suggesting the kind of books she will like. There were some I haven't heard of, but quite a few I had just forgotten about. Many thanks!

June 19, 2010

Friday Story

On Friday, the kids and I met up with Jay at his office, then we headed to downtown Phoenix for lunch at one of our favorite places, District.... then over to the Arizona Science Center to check out the new exhibit (meh, not that great).... then to the AMC Theatre at Arizona Center for a movie (love that theatre.... never busy, even on opening day of a big release kids' movie in the summer!).

We saw "Toy Story 3" in 3-D. Instead of being annoying, the 3-D effect was nice and really enhanced the already incredible animation. I was so caught up in the story (all of Pixar's stories are amazing anyway) that I completely forgot I was watching a movie or wearing 3-D glasses.

Anyway, I loved the movie (have loved all of Pixar's films), but I did NOT love the animated short which preceded the film. I was very disappointed, because I always look forward to them. All of their previous shorts have been funny, clever and gorgeous to look at. This one was flat and the story line was practically non-existent.

It wasn't "bad," just really mediocre... far from living up to Pixar's standards. One of Pixar's production managers said it is "unlike anything Pixar has produced before." Well, he is absolutely right about that, but not in a good way.

June 17, 2010

Roaring Anniversary

So, we had our 13th wedding anniversary a month ago, and I'm just getting around to blogging about it. (Gotta do it.) We celebrated with our weekend date, since our actual anniversary was on a Monday.

[It's always fun to get dressed up to go out. I'm not young and/or hip anymore (was I ever?) but I was feeling pretty good about the outfit I had put together for that night. We ended up stopping by my brother's house later, and my very stylish 16-year-old niece complemented me on my outfit! Now THAT'S success!] :)

We had dinner at Roaring Fork. We were taken to a quiet table displaying this.....
... which was a pleasant surprise. We had an amazing soft shell crab appetizer, followed by delicious fish tacos and a mixed grill platter. We couldn't resist ordering a side of their amazing green chili mac-n-cheese too. Oh yum!

And THEN they offered us a free dessert to celebrate our anniversary. We were too stuffed, so we declined. They offered to wrap it up to go, but we still declined because we were headed straight to a movie. So, they offered to keep it for us in the fridge/freezer (a delicious bread pudding with custard and ice cream) so we could pick it up after the show! (And they kept our leftovers for us too!) What service! They were so gracious.

So, then we went to see Ironman 2. I know, that doesn't seem very romantic or appropriate for celebrating our marriage, but I loved it! (I loved the first one too.) I'm a sucker for a good action flick, and besides, it was very funny as well, and had a sweet little love story to boot. :) Perfect date movie after all!

Thank you, Jay, for making the last 13 years amazing.... and thanks for making me laugh every day!

June 16, 2010

Oh, Garden Tomatoes, How I Love Thee!

I didn't get around to planting a garden this year. Bummer. But my gracious neighbor invited me over to help myself to her seriously amazing crop of tomatoes!

Oh my. I'm in heaven! I could eat these day and night (and I probably will). What could be better than a freshly picked tomato in a salad, on a sandwich, in a pico de gallo, bruchetta, or whatever. I just cut up a tomato, drizzled on a little EV olive oil, sprinkled it with coarse garlic salt and some basil, and ate it with a spoon.... I felt like I was eating something sinful, it was that good!

June 15, 2010

Musical Theatre

Collin and Mary both did 2 week musical theatre workshops, and had their performances last weekend. They were both great shows. They have both been doing the workshops since 1st grade. They love it... they have a blast and learn a lot.

Collin's favorite number from the show... "Officer Krupke" from "West Side Story."


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Bean & Beef Enchiladas

I like Mexican food, but I usually only order shrimp or fish tacos when I go to a Mexican restaurant. (Tia Rosa's shrimp tacos are TO DIE FOR!) I really like enchiladas, but I would never order that because it's something I can make well (and easily) at home.... and I do.

I like both green and red versions. For years I only made red, but lately I have only been making green.... this version, though I have adapted it again and now I use one can of chicken, 1 can black beans, and 1 can corn, rather than just chicken. I always take it to potlucks and everyone asks for the recipe.

Anyway, I guess it's been a few years since I made red enchiladas, and it sounded good so that's what I made for dinner tonight. They were yummy! Collin had 3 helpings.

It isn't really a recipe, so this is just how I made it tonight. You can adapt it to your taste (less/no meat, more/less beans, less/more cheese, etc.).
Beef & Bean Enchiladas
l lb. ground beef, browned (with or without taco seasoning... I like the extra "kick")
4 c. refried beans
3-4 c. grated cheese (colby, jack, cheddar, co-jack, etc.)
8 flour tortillas (medium burrito size)
28 oz. red enchilada sauce (I prefer Macayo's, a local brand, but use whatever brand you like, or make your own)

Brown beef and add seasoning (follow directions on packet). Assemble by spreading about 1/2 c. beans across the center of a tortilla, add a scoop (1/4 c.?) of beef and a sprinkle of cheese (small handful?); roll up tightly and place in casserole dish (I used a disposable pan because I was feeling lazy about washing dishes!). Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cover with the sauce (I used the whole can, but it would have been fine with less, or just about right if you were making about a dozen). [Since I pack mine into the pan really close together, I like to scoot them around a little to make sure the sauce goes down in the cracks between.] Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. (Or assemble in the morning and put in the fridge until just before dinner on a day when you have a busy afternoon! This also freezes well; just defrost in the fridge the night before you plan to cook them.)

Serve topped with sour cream, lettuce, chopped tomato, olives, whatever. Or plain, the way my kids like it. Oh, what they are missing!

*I don't share a lot of recipes here, so it probably seems like I make enchiladas a lot, since I have 3 recipes for them here, here and here. I assure you I don't make them more than about once a month, but it just seems to be something that wants to be shared, maybe because they are easy to make, and make ahead..... the closest I get to "casserole."

June 13, 2010

Pomp & Circumstance

Jack "graduated" from kindergarten. Kind of silly, but we parents seem to eat it up anyway. Those little kids thought they were really something! :) I am so glad all of my kids were able to have Mrs. Willis for kindergarten. She is wonderful!

Mary received the Presidential Fitness Award and the "Citizenship Award" (aka "student of the year") for her third grade class. She really is a model student. She loved her teacher (below) and will miss her.
The kids are sad and glad that school is out. They all had a great year and loved their excellent teachers.

June 12, 2010

Biking

Did I tell you about my bike? I don't think I did.

When I started working out with Dixie, it had been many years since I had ridden a bike, and never really for exercise.... just for fun. Because of my lack of ability to run (I "jog") she starting bringing her bike and indoor trainer so that I could get my heart rate up more, and strengthen my knee without making it worse.

That's when I realized I needed my own road bike.... especially since I'm training for a triathlon! (I have to keep saying that so it becomes real.) At first I borrowed my father-in-law's old mountain bike. Not quite the same, but it was better than nothing.

Thankfully I am married to an amazing man who KNOWS bikes. After lots of research, and checking Craigslist everyday, we found a Cannondale and got it for $350. (It's about a $1200 bike.) Hooray for Craigslist! It's about 6 years old, but like new since the owner rode it very little and then it sat in his garage for years until he finally decided to sell it.

So, for the last couple of months I have enjoying my bike rides on the canal path.

Until now.
It's really hot outside.

So I have been on the hunt for an indoor bike trainer. They run about $300 retail. Ugh. I have been scouring ebay and Craigslist for one, and even lost a few auctions after getting into bidding wars on ebay. (I hate that.) Then the other day I found one that received great reviews, and no one else was bidding on it! I got it for the opening bid price.... $50. Sweet!

It arrived this morning, and it looks like new and works perfectly! I'm so pleased.

Wanna know some of the benefits of riding indoors?

- I don't have to wear a helmet.
- No dogs run into my path.
- I'm not worried about crashing and falling into the canal when I sprint.
- I don't get sunburned.
- I can attach an electric fan to blow in my face. (I did, and I need it!)
- I don't run over rocks, mud, potholes, or dog/horse excrement.
- I'm not riding against the wind.
- No bugs fly in my face.
- I don't have to smell the stinky canal.

I suppose there are other "benefits" like, I could watch a movie, but I need to focus on my ride. I could also boss my kids around, but that would keep me from my focus too.

But you can bet that as soon as the weather cools off I will be back riding on the canal.

Let My People Go

In Sunday School this year we are studying the Old Testament. I thought it would be fun for my kids to watch "The Ten Commandments" (1956).... and I wanted to see it again too (it's been a looooong time). Jay had never seen it!

I checked it out from the library (love the library!). We did NOT watch the whole thing in one sitting.... we watched it over 3 days. But I was amazed at how interested the kids were. I thought they might have gotten bored, or thought it was silly/dated, but they were quite intrigued and impressed.

Actually, I was quite impressed too! When you consider how long ago it was made, and the limited technology they had, it is seriously amazing! The costumes and sets are truly spectacular, even by today's standards.

And by the way, Charlton Heston in his prime? What a hunk!
Have you seen it?


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June 11, 2010

Stung

It's hot. That means it's scorpion season. Ugh.

Jay has been stung a couple of times, but he is pretty stoic about stuff like and seems to handle pain really well. He goes out in our yard every night and hunts them with his black light.

I am terrified of scorpions, but I have never been stung. (I have come close a few times though.) But I have always been more worried that one of my kids would get stung. During the years I had babies crawling around on the floor were really scary for me! I'm afraid I have made my kids paranoid about scorpions.

Well, the other night Collin walked into the bathroom to brush his teeth and stepped on one. He killed it in the process, but not before it stung him. He was pretty freaked out, but finally settled down and went to sleep... with an Advil and an ice pack. He foot was numb for the next day or so.

The next day I asked him if it was as bad as he thought it would be to get stung by a scorpion. He shrugged and admitted, "Nah. It actually wasn't a big deal." I'm just glad it happened to his practically-teenaged-body (holy cow, he is getting big!) instead of as a toddler.

The NEXT day he went to the doctor for his Boy Scout physical and had to get two booster shots for 6th grade. He said those were worse than the scorpion sting!

June 10, 2010

Remembering Collin's Birth

I stumbled upon this the other day..... Jay's version of Collin's birth. It has been years since I read this, so I enjoyed a good laugh like I did the first time. It's quite skewed (in more ways than one), and very different than my own version of the events, but I thought you might enjoy it too.

[If you know Jay, you can imagine him saying this. If you don't know Jay, you might be confused, so let me explain that people often say that Jay could have had a successful career as a stand-up comedian (thank goodness he didn't choose that). ]


Collin's Birth
by Jay
May 11, 1999

We've had an eventful week. The week before didn't end too well as I was at work Friday and the Arrowhead water guy comes around the corner and hands me a free bottle of water as an anniversary gift... I guess it had been exactly one year since we changed from Hinkley & Schmitt, and I forgot. After that I was hoping that the baby would come the next weekend because that water guy was pretty upset that I had forgotten our special day and I didn't think that I wanted to face him that next Monday.

Well, as luck would have it, Alice went into the hospital (1) Monday morning as I was trying to think up another excuse to stay home. Alice was in labor all that day and through the night. My parents dropped by around dinner time with some Chinese food that smelled especially good to Alice since she wasn't allowed to eat. Unfortunately, they forgot to bring utensils, so it looked like I couldn't eat either. With any other kind of food this wouldn't be too much of a problem, but the rice and chicken bits were impossible to handle. I though they must have some utensils in one of the 10,000 drawers in our little delivery room, so I started looking. After snooping through all of those drawers, I found these shiny salad forks that were better for scooping up rice than any fork or spoon (all of the food falls off of those things by the time you get them to your mouth anyway). These things were like sterile shovels for food.

Alice had read several books to learn more about baby deliveries, but nothing seemed to happening like the books said it would. The labor pains affected by the pitocin were getting to be (2) so intense that the nurse recommended an epidural. I wasn't sure about Alice, but I knew I couldn't take these contractions much longer. Before the non-English speaking anesthesiologist could do her work I had to sign a waiver that said that epidurals may cause drowsiness, metallic taste in the mouth, tingling in the feet, or death. The "death" part concerned me so I asked the doctor if that had ever happened. She assured me that it hadn't, but they had to put it in the waiver to make it worth their lawyer's time. Well, she knew just enough English to make you think she had no idea what she was doing. She just kept saying, "Blah, blah, blah, uh-oh, dat is bera bad.... can you still fill you ligs?" After it was all over though, the pain was less and the labor went faster (3).

Finally, at 2:46 a.m. Collin was born all at once (4). I had never seen this kind of thing happen before.... he was so long that the doctor seemed to keep pulling him out for some time... kinda like the beginning of "Star Wars" when that Imperial Cruiser is going overhead and it keeps going and going and going. He had hair all over him and when they put that little ski cap on his head, he looked ready to knock over a Circle-K, except he had no clothes on, and he was purple (5).

I've had the past week off from work and have been able to spend some time with my good wife and the boy. He cries a lot, but it's like everyone said, "It's different when it's your own child." I just keep thinking of the day when he'll be mowing the lawn on Saturday morning while I stroll leisurely around the house, and it all seems worth it. The neighbors have been bringing by the most mysterious things for dinner ever since Alice got home from the hospital. There should be a law against mixing rice, cottage cheese, meat, and zucchini for human consumption, but until then, it will continue to show up on our doorstep with a note that says, "Cook @ 300 degrees for 30 minutes, and then, throw it away.... far away."

____________

FOR THE RECORD:

1) I did NOT go into labor on my own.... my water broke and 24 hours later I was forced to go to the hospital and put on a pitocin drip. Ugh.

2) "Getting to be intense?" Whatever.

3) The labor did NOT go faster after the epidural.... 9 hours more is NOT fast! (18 hours total)

4) Collin did NOT come out all at once.... it was very slowly during 2 hours of pushing!

5) Dark purple.

June 09, 2010

Read-Aloud

We like to read aloud to our kids, even long after they can read by themselves, just because it's a great bonding time. Plus, it's a different experience to hear a book read aloud than just reading it silently.

Some books are great for reading aloud, and others just aren't as good. Last year I read "The Penderwicks" to my kids. It's a great story, lots of fun and adventure, and absolutely nothing bad. All of my kids enjoyed it, and I quite enjoyed it myself. I am reading the sequel to them now, "The Penderwicks on Gardam Street." It's great fun. I highly recommend both books.

What books have you found to be great for reading aloud to your kids?

June 08, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love peanut butter cookies, but only when they are soft and chewy, and not hard and crunchy or crispy, which seems to be the result of most recipes I have tried.

Even more than PB cookies, I LOVE anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter. Oh yum! It's a perfect combination.

Well, I found the perfect Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Holy cow, it's delicious! AND, it's super easy. You can make the dough in about 2 minutes, and you only need a bowl and a spoon... no mixer. It's actually a "Kids Recipe" from Martha Stewart Everyday Food.

When you look at this recipe, you are going to think it's wrong because several basic cookie ingredients are missing. Because of the fat in the PB*, there is no butter in the recipe, hence no creaming-of-butter-and-sugar involved. And very little sugar because the PB also has that, along with salt. But the surprising thing is, there is no flour! Trust me, it's perfect. Just make the recipe as is, and let me know what you think!

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1 egg
1 c. creamy peanut butter*
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crack egg into a large bowl and beat with a fork. Add remaining ingredients (seriously, just dump them in) and stir with a wooden spoon (or whatever) until combined and smooth. Make 24 balls, place on cookie sheets, and press with a fork in two directions to make a crosshatch pattern. Bake 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden. (Don't overbake!) Let cool on pan. (They will continue to "cook" a little bit while they cool.)

Pour a cold glass of milk and ENJOY! These will stay soft, even after a few days! (If you can go that long without eating all of them.)



* I only use "real" peanut butter (just peanuts and salt, or sometimes just peanuts... I like Trader Joe's) for sandwiches . Unfortunately, for this recipe you need what I refer to as "junk peanut butter" with all the additives (i.e. JIF, Skippy), since you need the fat and sugar already included. I can't stand to actually "eat" the stuff, but I bought it (the cheap Wal-Mart brand) just to make these cookies.

June 07, 2010

Moonwalk

I overheard my kids talking about doing "the moonwalk." One by one they each tried to do it, while the others loudly protested that they were doing it wrong. And, of course, they were doing it wrong. I just smiled and watched their feeble attempts.

However, when the debate got a bit heated, I finally stepped in and said, "You are ALL doing it wrong." They opened their mouths, ready to argue, but I continued by adding, "I will show you how it's done."

By now they were scoffing at me, and I could see the skepticism on their faces. I can imagine what was going through their minds.... "Ha! Our old Mom doing the Moonwalk? No way! What a joke!"

Those little fools. They failed to realize that I was a teenager in the mid-1980's. I should have made a bet. I could have had them waiting on me hand and foot for the next month.

But I simply said, "Stand back!" Then, I proceeded to Moonwalk across the kitchen floor. Perfectly. No, I had not forgotten how. All those many hours of practicing when I was 13 paid off. MJ would have been proud.

I turned back to my kids with a smile. They stood gaping at me in shock.

Then came their awed whispers of, "Wow!" Then loud exclamations of "We didn't know you could do THAT!"

I just shrugged and said, "Well, there are a lot of things you don't know about me."

A couple of days later, I was at the school for flag ceremony with my kids. As I watched the kids on the playground for a few minutes before it started, Collin came running up with his friends. He turned to them and said, "My mom can Moonwalk!" I saw on their faces those same skeptical looks, which turned to amazement as I performed for them. "Cool!"

Yes, I think I'm the cool mom now.

June 06, 2010

Departures

Whew! Now that school is out, I'm finally going to catch up on this blog. I'm trying to keep a record of our life here. I'm going to go WAY back, so bear with me.

In the meantime, I have to tell you about an interesting movie we watched recently. I always have to add the disclaimer that WE DON'T WATCH R-RATED MOVIES, and even most PG-13 movies, unless we watch them on our ClearPlay DVD player. It's the best!

Anyway, it's a foreign film (in Japanese, with English sub-titles), called "Okuribito" ("Departures," PG-13, mostly due to thematic material). An unemployed cellist finds himself accidentally accepting a very unusual job, and learns some profound lessons through his journey. It's at times very funny, sometimes awkward, and occasionally sad, but quite good. It's very different from most American films, cinematically (I think that's a word) as well as culturally. Jay and I really enjoyed it.

I am interested to know what other people thought of it. Did you see it?

May 20, 2010

May 11, 2010

An Official Announcement

On Saturday, my older sister completed her first triathlon. I am so stinkin' proud of her! She is not an "athlete," plus she has 6 children, and is.... well.... not a spring chicken (2 of those children are adults). She started working out with Dixie last summer and was my inspiration for starting as well.

Well, she has inspired me again. I'm terrified about this, but here is my official announcement: I'm going to do it too!

Yikes! Thank goodness I have a year to get ready.... I'm going to need it!

But first, I'm going to do a couple of other races:

- Turkey Trot (10K) in November
- Ragnar Relay (202 mi.) in February 2011 (this is pretty terrifying too)
- SheROX Triathlon (May 2011)

I must be crazy!

Help me Dixie!!!!!


-

May 09, 2010

The Perfect Ending to a Nice Mother's Day

Mother's Day was very nice. Jay made me a delicious breakfast, the kids sang a beautiful Mother's Day song at church, Jay cleaned my messy kitchen and gave me tulips and Godiva chocolates (heaven!), and my parents came to our house for dinner and we had a lovely time visiting.

[And then the Suns eliminated the Spurs in a 4 game sweep! Sweet! What more could I ask for? :) ]

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

I love being a mother. Best job EVER! I also happen to have the best kids, and the best husband ever, so... yeah... I'm pretty lucky. :)

May 05, 2010

Collin's Birthday

Collin turned 11 years old yesterday. He is such a great kid, and we are so proud of him.
Happy Birthday Collin!

April 29, 2010

I Don't Make Crafts

It's not that I don't have the ability, but I lack the creativity, and more importantly, the will.

However, I admire what other people create. There are a TON of talented and creative people out there, especially in the blogsphere. I can copy other people's ideas, and most bloggers generously share tutorials. I see lots of stuff I would love to make, but again, most of the time I lack the will.

But occasionally I come across an idea so impressive, so easy, so cool, and so cheap (!!), that I actually make something! There is a great satisfaction that comes from creating something.

This week I stumbled across this. I was impressed enough that it stuck in my mind. And when I happened to be at a dollar store yesterday, and saw what I needed, I bought it, and made it in the same day! (I admit I have purchased supplies to make stuff plenty of times, and then never got around to doing it.)

Of course, I am much less ambitious than the person who came up with the idea, hence my lack of modge-podge. But that's not the look I wanted anyway. I am really pleased with how it turned out. Just $6 for 3 trays, 2 candlesticks, and 1 little glass bowl from Dollar Tree, and some Gorilla Glue from my husband's junk. It was a piece of cake!

Too bad I didn't have a piece of cake to display on it.

April 28, 2010

New Hair

Mary got her hair cut yesterday. She gets it cut about once a year. I know, pretty sad. Jackie cut off about 4 inches and gave her some layers. Mary was very pleased.

And that darling headband she is wearing? Jackie made it! I bought several in different colors.

I even got brave enough to wear one myself, and got tons of compliments. I love that they are super comfortable and adjustable.

April 26, 2010

Multiple Choice Quiz

Scenario:
You found a new recipe online that sounded good. You made it for dinner tonight and it's, well, practically inedible and your family thinks it's disgusting.

Question:
What do you do?

A. Make your kids eat it anyway. (You can try to make your husband eat it, but I wouldn't recommend it.)
B. Gag is down yourself, pretending to like it, and let your kids go to bed hungry.
C. Admit that it's gross, toss it, and bring out the cold cereal.

I picked B. I really wish I had picked C.

What would you do?

April 17, 2010

Mustard??!!??

Jay loves mustard... he puts in on sandwiches really thick, so that it practically gushes out the sides. I mean, he really loves mustard.

I like mustard.... a good amount on a hamburger or hot dog, just a little on a ham sandwich.
Our kids are OK with mustard, most of the time. They like it on hamburgers, hate it on hot dogs.

I have always loved "Alice in Wonderland" (the original Disney version). I don't think I need to tell you why. (I haven't seen the new one... kind of don't want to).

And we all love this (watch it from 1:30 on). And every time anyone in our family says the word "mustard," we can't help responding with "MUSTARD?!!? Don't let's be silly"... and then we all bust up laughing.

Classic.Oh, and we like butter, jam, and sugar too.

April 15, 2010

Crazy Day

Yeah, yeah. I know. I've been terrible at keeping up with what is going on lately. But this is definitely a "journal" kind of day.

I worked out with Dixie (personal trainer) this morning at 5:45. (Killer workout, had a break down.... again!.... and bawled like a baby.) I got home at 7:15, rushed to make breakfast, pack lunches, gobble down some breakfast, fix Mary's hair, nag the boys to brush their teeth, and get everyone out the door and in the car to go to school.

So at 8:00 on the dot I was pulling out of my driveway to make it to school in plenty of time. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a SWAT team in full get-up running toward the house directly across the street from mine. I was obviously a little concerned, but then immediately an SUV pulled up in front of my driveway, blocking my way out. Then 2 large armored trucks pulled up, along with a number of other vehicles (I counted at least 20) from several law enforcement agencies (DPS, state police, ICE, DEA, local police and fire, etc.)

I immediately pulled back into my garage and opened the car door and looked out. Two guys in armor with sniper rifles jumped out of the SUV in front of my house and waved me back, saying, "Get inside!" My kids were panicked, of course, but we all went back in and shut the garage door. We could hear over the loudspeaker they were calling things like, "This is the state police. You are surrounded. Come out with your hands up or we will shoot," etc.

Mary was on the verge of tears, and Collin was kneeling in the corner praying. :) We spent the next hour holed up in our house, since the street and the neighborhood was blocked off and we couldn't leave. (Nor would we have wanted to, as that would have put us in the line of fire.) We couldn't see much out our window (mostly just the snipers in front of our house) because of the (very large) armored trucks blocking the house, but we eventually saw several men brought out in handcuffs. The snipers in our driveway finally stood up with their guns pointing upward, so we breathed a sigh of relief.

After awhile, I got brave and went outside. A DPS officer came over and spoke to me. He said everyone was out of the house and they were going to investigate further, but that the trucks would be leaving shortly, allowing us to get out. I asked if it was a drop house for illegals, and he said, "Well, it's a lot more complicated than that." I didn't ask anymore questions, because I'm assuming he wouldn't have been able to tell me anyway.

The investigation has been going on all day, with mostly ICE and DEA officers still hanging around. There are still plenty of official people and vehicles coming and going though. Two women were being questioned in the front yard, and 2 very small children are with them. Sad.

I saw on the news that there are several other "busts" like this going on around the valley. Thankfully there were no shots fired, and everyone is safe. And the kids made it to school in time for recess. :)

I was bombarded with phone calls from my neighbors all morning.... of course they wanted to know what was going on.

What a crazy day.

Here is an illustration Jack made of the "incident."

March 29, 2010

Recent Discoveries

1) Listening to Owl City motivates me when I'm working out, especially this song, and this one.

2) Listening to Owl City motivates my 6-year-old to get his homework done fast, without complaining!

So much for the Mozart Affect.

March 22, 2010

Send a Message

I usually avoid getting involved in controversial issues (I admit I stick my head in the sand a lot), but this one seems worth taking a moment to stand for what is right.

If you don't want to read further, I won't be offended (I won't even know). I don't know if anyone even reads my blog anymore, besides family and a few friends.

Here goes:

A friend of mine, who is closely involved with family issues at the UN, recently discovered that copies of a vulgar, sexually explicit and highly controversial International Planned Parenthood booklet entitled, “Healthy, Happy and Hot” was available to girls at a meeting sponsored by the Girl Scouts USA. (You can see the booklet here, but be warned that it is quite explicit.)

Adults were not allowed in the meeting (meaning parents could not hear what was being preached to their own daughters) so my friend was forced to leave, but she managed to get a copy of the booklet from the table by the door.

I find this very disturbing in itself, but I am equally disturbed by the fact that the Girl Scouts of the USA continues to deny that they are associated with IPP and it's programs (read more about it here).

If you would like to stand up and send a message to the Girl Scouts CEO and officers, click here. You simply put your name and email in the boxes and click "send." It literally takes just a minute.

Thanks.

March 21, 2010

Celebrating Jay's Birthday

Yesterday was Jay's birthday. I made his favorite breakfast, Eggs Benedict. Personally, I don't like it, because I don't like Hollandaise sauce, but I make it for Jay on special occasions.

[By the way, here is the easy way I make "fake" Hollandaise sauce: Combine 1/4 c. sour cream, 1/4 c. mayo, 1 tsp. lemon juice, and 1 tsp. mustard in a small sauce pan and heat. This is enough to cover 2 eggs. Jay says it's great.]

Jay spent most of the day helping Collin make his car for the upcoming Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. That was how he wanted to spend the day, so he was happy.... especially since he likes how it's turning out.

I spent most of the day (after my 10 mile bike ride....aaahhhh) making a birthday cake for Jay. He usually wants "Hula Hula Dream Cake," but this year he wanted something like it, but strawberry. So I had to get creative.

I found a fantastic recipe* for strawberry cake on allrecipes.com (How do I know it is fantastic since I'm not eating sugar? Well, I accidentally licked my fingers when I was making it.... ooooooops. And besides, Jay said it was. I put a piece in the freezer for me.). I modified the recipe a little bit.

To make it like "Hula Hula Dream Cake," I mixed a large box of instant banana pudding with 2 cups milk and 8 oz. cream cheese and spread that on top of each layer, then covered the whole thing with 8 oz. Cool Whip.

Then Jay and I went to District for dinner. It has become one of our favorite restaurants; we have been at least a half a dozen times and have never been disappointed in the least. The food is delicious, the service is excellent, the atmosphere is nice, and the prices are very reasonable (dinner entrees are $15-$23). (Plus it's in a great location if you are headed to an event downtown afterward.) The menu is changed a bit every season, but there are a few items that always seem to be there, and they are definitely worth trying; the Baked Tomato Soup, the salmon with shrimp risotto, and the short ribs. (The breakfast buffet is delicious too.)

Last night we tried the Shrimp Po' Boy Sliders as a starter. We were kind of sad to not have the tomato soup (we have had it every other time we've been because we love it, but we decided to try something different) but the sliders were excellent! Then Jay had the filet mignon, which absolutely melted in your mouth; it came with potatoes and mushrooms which were also very good. I had the halibut, which was slightly spicy and very delicious, and came with jalapeno cheddar hush-puppies and a crab fondue that was HEAVENLY! I couldn't stop gushing about it every time I took a bite.

Then we walked a block to symphony hall and enjoyed the Phoenix Symphony concert featuring Mozart's "Requiem." It was excellent, as usual. It was a very nice evening, and a great way to celebrate the birth of the man of my dreams. :) (He is going to hate that I put that in.....)



* STRAWBERRY CAKE
(from allrecipes.com with a few modifications)

1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
1 (3 oz.) pkg. strawberry jello
4 room temp. eggs, separated (the recipe didn't separate them, I did)
2 3/4 c. pre-sifted cake flour (I used all-purpose, but I did pre-sift before measuring)
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. strawberry puree (I just threw some frozen strawberries in the food processor and chopped them up fine, then measured out 1/2 cup. I put the left overs on top of the filling.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 9" round cake pans. Cream together butter, sugar and gelatin until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks one at a time; mix well after each. Combine flour and baking powder and stir into batter, alternating with the milk. Blend in vanilla and strawberry puree. Beat eggs whites until soft peaks form; fold into batter. Divide the batter between pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool on rack at least 10 minutes before carefully removing from pans.

NOTE: The batter was really thick, making a very dense and moist cake, but that's not necessarily bad. If you want it lighter/fluffier, I would probably add a little more milk and a little less flour.

March 19, 2010

Spring Break - Day 5 - Around Town

Today we took advantage of the fabulous spring weather and spent it all outdoors. First we went to the Mesa Community Farmer's Market in downtown Mesa. We sampled lots of yummy things, and bought pasta, a piece of carrot cake (for Jay), cheese curds, and kettle corn. Then we walked down Main Street window-shopping and saw this fun traveling art exhibit.
After lunch we decided to go miniature golfing. I hadn't been in about 15 years, and the kids had never been.
It was really fun. The kids had no idea what they were doing, and didn't seem to care if they got bad scores.
Mr. Competitive (Jay) won, of course. Here he is doing his best professional golfer* impression for the camera after a hole-in-one shot.
It was a gorgeous day, and we had a great time.
Then it was off to Lombardo's for some more fabulous gelato. (I still couldn't have any.) Have you tried it yet?




*Not so long ago I would have said "Tiger Woods" but it turns out he is an idiot, and Jay is not.