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.
video
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."

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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?