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.


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 (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.....)

(from 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.

March 18, 2010

Spring Break - Day 4

Today we had Claire, Jane, Oliver, and Nicholas at our house all day. The kids loved having their cousins over. They especially enjoyed painting together.

Tonight Jay and I went to "The Brass Armadillo" in Phoenix (holy cow, that place is huge.... so much stuff!), and then to "Last Chance" (can't ever pass up a chance to go there). We are such exciting people.

March 17, 2010

Spring Break - Day 3 - Food & Masterpieces

For our adventure today, we took the kids to try Indian food at Guru Palace for the lunch buffet.
They acted excited to try something new.... at first. They were a little concerned at how some of it looked, and though they tried everything (I made them) I think they need to be exposed to it a few more times before they like it. They mostly filled up on fruit and naan bread.
Jay spent the afternoon installing new lights on the sides of our garage door (woohoo!) and the kids played with their cousins at grandmary's house.

I bought a few large canvases at Big Lots a while back because they were a really good deal. So, this afternoon I brought them out for the kids to create something.
Here are their finished "masterpieces." (Jack had some help with the tree, and Mary had some help with the eyes.)(That's a flower on her shirt.)

Instead of creating a "masterpiece," Collin made dinner.
He was very pleased with his "masterpiece."

March 16, 2010

Spring Break - Day 2

Today we took cousin Oliver with us and headed to the mall (I haven't been to a mall in ages!) and visited the (really expensive... what's up with that?) puppies at the pet store (the closest my poor kids will ever get to owning one), rode the carousel ($2 for one ride? Ugh!), got "Hot Dogs on a Stick" for the kids ($1 Tuesdays? Why not.), played in the kids' zone, waved to the "Easter Bunny" who had zero customers, went to see cuter-than-expected "The Princess and the Frog" ($1 Tuesdays? Sweet.), and ate at Pei Wei for dinner.

Wow, I just got all of that into one very long sentence.

I'm beat. Should we take it easy tomorrow?

March 15, 2010

Spring Break - Day 1

Jay took the week off and we are doing fun stuff as a family every day for Spring Break. Rather than leave town when the weather is so nice at home, we decided to stick around and enjoy it.Today we went to the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix. We ended up buying the annual membership since it was a better deal than just paying for one day. (We are looking forward to going back on hot summer days... a large air conditioned indoor space to play.... sweet!) My sister and her family met us there.
Jack had his first experience climbing a rock wall. He did really well, but got a little scared when he looked down just before he reached the top, so he had a little trouble getting down. I don't think he will want to do that again for a while.
(Jack lifting himself with the pulley)

There are lots of fun exhibits... 3 levels of hands-on stuff. We especially enjoyed the "Forces of Nature" immersion theatre where we all experienced a hurricane, tornado, volcano eruption, wildfire, and monsoon storm. I was surprised to actually get wet!
(The flight simulation)
We also really liked the live demonstrations of air pressure and fire. And we got a free visit to the planetarium for signing up that day. We had a grand tour of the planets with a very funny guide.

If it looks like we only took Jack, it's because Collin and Mary took off with their cousins, so we hardly ever saw them.

Fun day! Looking forward to another one tomorrow.

March 14, 2010

Yummy Food in Not-So-Great Locations

Friday night Jay and I went to dinner with my parents. We ate at Flancer's, one of our favorite places.... incredible sandwiches (hey, I just realized that's their actual slogan, but it's true!) and awesome french onion soup (Jay hates onions, but loves the soup... go figure!). If you haven't already, try the "It's About Thyme" chicken sandwich, and/or "Two Tickets to Paradise" shrimp sandwich. Yum!

Then we went to Lombardo's Gelato for dessert. It's hard to find good gelato in the United States, so this was a great find (apparently my dad is a frequent visitor since it's located next to his barber shop).

[Bummer for me... I couldn't have any because I'm doing the "No Sugar Baby" 30-Day Challenge from Dixie. (Half-way there!)]

Anyway, here's the scoop.... very reasonable prices, excellent product, and lively conversation with the sweet owner's wife of this family owned and run business. The cups look small, but they really load them up. Give it a try!

It was Jay's first time to eat gelato; he thought he had died and gone to heaven. He had the "Hazelnut Crunch" and said it tasted exactly like a Godiva chocolate. I'm drooling just thinking about it! I think I will be heading there in about 2 weeks.....

What do these two places have in common? They both have fabulous eats, and they are both located in dumpy strip malls. So, don't judge a restaurant by it's location.

March 11, 2010

Field Trip

I was a chaperone for Jack's kindergarten field trip to Superstition Farm. Strangely enough, the bus ride was one of the highlights, since the kids normally ride to school in a car.The kids learned all about cows, toured the dairy on a hayride, fed goats, sheep and a horse, and petted chickens and rabbits. Then they tasted flavored milks, played in the hay maze, and ate ice cream.
They are a lively and fun bunch of kids. Here is the little group I was in charge of. Fun day!