Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Frosty has a Bad Day....

The cousins came over today, and I've been wanting to do a snowman. Our neighbors have a huge snowmammoth with green toxic waste all over, and it makes me laugh every time I drive by. Awesome. Something about being in the desert for so long brought back the old nostalgia of Frosty, and I thought we'd have a go.

The problem with the nostalgia is that snow, and a big ball of it, is really heavy! After having the Blue Team (Noah and Abigail) roll the base, and the Red Team (Eli) roll the middle, it was clear to Team Mom, that there was no way that we were gonna get the middle on top of the base - even with all of us pushing.

So, a la Calvin and Hobbes, we just left it there. I didn't really want a decapitated snowman though, so we tried to make it look like he was getting a sunburn tanning in our yard. Thank you food storage taco seasoning! It added just the right touch!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Holy Crock Pot Batman!

My Crock pot died this holiday season. It has lasted for 10 years, and we have done amazing things with it. So, in my post holiday glow, I wondered what a good crock pot would cost me. I think that Rival ones are somewhere between $20 - $50.

I have been dabbling in cooking lately - using "The New Best Recipe" book as my guide to culinary wonders. I wasn't really taught how to cook, and certainly not how to distinguish between pieces of meats (chuck, tenderloin, rib eye, rib nose???) or what a fresh anything is supposed to look like. I take that back. If you husk corn and push on a kernel, it should about hit you in the eye. Other than that, cooking has been a mystery just too complicated to discover.

The Best Recipe Book, however, gets down to the science of cooking by gathering a whole bunch of recipes, trying them all, and then picking which one is the best. I have had rave reviews about my cooking, and I've really started to enjoy whipping things up. Consulting my book, it advises that a good 7 quart Dutch Oven/ Roaster should have a heavy bottom, and recommends the one made by Le Creuset. It runs about $150.

Okay, MAJOR sticker shock to my system there, but that is NOTHING, I say it again NOTHING compared to what I found linked to a "terrific" beef stew recipe. Can you guess the price of the lovely one pictured here? I will let the sticker shock you as it did for me by clicking here. WHO ON EARTH WOULD BUY IT!!!? I think Paris Hilton could afford it, but I just don't see her bubbling and broiling things in her Chanel cook's apron. I'm wondering which vacation I would have to pass up in order to buy it. Am I the only one who doesn't know about this stuff??

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Bagel!

Happy Birthday to my darling sister Reagan! She is 29 today and I just love her to pieces. I had a MUCH better slideshow in the works, but Abigail decided to start a session of Club Penguin which erased it effectively.

I love you Bagel! Enjoy some of my favorite memories from the not so distant past.

Love you lil' Sis!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And One Hour Later...

The kids finally got to see Santa. This is a big deal you see, because I do not have pictures of me with Santa. It is what my mother calls a "childhood scar" which is supposed to be related to my own children when they don't get everything that THEY want. "This will give you a hardship to tell your own kids!"

Aside from Letters to Santa and the Talking Tree that was outside the ZCMI, I didn't have any real contact with the famous Claus. I have corrected this in my own children's upbringing - and usually it's a fun experience. But this year, it happened rather late in the season. MAN! If you would like to commit suicide and not leave a trace, just try to stand in line to see Santa on the 23rd of December. You will get mowed over in a second and left for dead as a parade of strollers passes over your lifeless body.

After coaxing my kids into Sunday clothes, "But we wore these yeeeeesterdaaaaaay!" I hauled all of us to the University Mall for a quick pick with the Jolly Old Elf. Who was very Jolly dang busy today. Based on the Kiddie Kandid's bag that came with our VERY expensive pic, I figure that the store must make 75% of their profit from this little enterprise alone. Talk about your Cash Cow!

Of course, it is Utah, and in the spirit of "do with what you have, or do without" no one raised an eyebrow to the many who said, "No thanks, I'll just take my own picture," and smartly bypassed the professional photographer to snag a few photo ops with their own cameras. Lucky for us, one of the groups ahead of us had 7 children. That made the line move along at a much faster clip than the hoards of first time parents with immaculately dressed babies.

It was over in a second, and I was sorely tempted to ask Santa what kind of "product" and curling iron he uses to keep those side curls "just so", and whether his workshop ran out of working shoe elves or what kind of bargain he'd struck with Birkenstock. But I resisted, and now I have irrefutable proof that I was a good mom to my kids. I took you to see SANTA! In PROVO, during the HOLIDAYS! I don't know what kind of recompense you get for that... maybe extra holly on my grave, or a saintly entry in each of their journals. Who knows. But the pic is worth the thousand words that I am now entirely too tired to write. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

If Its Not Scottish....

it's CRRRRAP! Thank you Mike Meyers for pointing out the obvious. I claim a proud Scottish and Danish heritage which also helps explain why I am cheap and mean. But this time of year is Scottish shortbread weather, and I have just proudly stuck my first offering of the season out in the garage to cool. It is a ridiculously easy recipe, and I haven't met the person yet who didn't love it. One ingrate once said, "It's like a large Lorna Doone!" No, it's not. It's Scottish and therefore may not be compared to anything you fool!

My Great-Gramma, made it -(presumably having watched her mom make it - and she came straight from Scotland), my Grandma Grace made it, my mom made it, and now I make it. I can't say that there are too many holiday food traditions in my family, but this is definitely one of them. One day, I might let Abigail learn how to make it.

My mom says, "Isn't the dough good!" and it is. It makes it hard to resist taking a little pinch off here, and a little pinch off there, and ultimately having enough to justify baking up into nice huge shortbread rounds. In her youth, my mom once ate a whole shortbread cake round that had been chilling, pinch by pinch. Then she thought she'd remedy the calorie intake by taking some syrup of ipecac.

I believe she said that it took a few hours for the ipecac to kick in, but then she barfed until she was 'bout blue in the face and had a headache that lasted for two days. She agreed that she should have just gone on a very very very long walk instead. If you would like to try some of this divine-ness, here is the recipe. It's great to let the kids decorate the tops, and will keep everyone busy on a cold winters eve. And if there is anything missing from my garage, I'll know it was someone who visits here!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Egg Noggin'

There are times when the children align with a parent over something rather significant. This year it is egg nog.

Me, well, I don't care for it. Wouldn't cross the street for it. Have had PLENTY of gross egg nog, and don't get that nostalgic feeling when I see it in the grocery store.

Matthew, on the other hand, LOVES it. He loves to drink it, guzzle it, dream about it. This year I got him a few egg noggy things. Like egg nog salt water taffy. He's gnawed on it here and there, and now, a new variety of drink that looks like a festive alcoholic put it together. Southern Comfort. Isn't that, like, a whiskey? They have "Traditional" in a black container, and "Vanilla Spice" in the pagan red. He goes more for the spice. As does Benjamin. "Can I have some milk nog?" Blech. You should see them, the two of them, just guzzling away with the most contented look on their faces. I don't understand it, I don't try to understand it, it's just one of those things that IS.

Abigail, it seems, is more like mom. Egg nog smegg nog. She doesn't seem to think anything about it. If the two of us were the only ones in the house, it would probably go bad (though how would WE know it?). It just doesn't hold the same appeal. I did catch her digging in the pantry and eating a handful of chocolate chips straight out of the bag though. WHEW! Now there's a girl who takes after her mom! What can I say, 'cept THATS my girl!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Abigail is Eight!

Abigail is 8! She had a fantastic party a week ago with some of her friends. Here she is with Lisa, who made her a horse birthday cake. We made reindeer cookies and had an elf tossing tournament. We also incorporated a fun poem at gift time, that my mom did at our parties when we were young. It's a way for the birthday person to give a wish back to the gift giver:

Heavy, heavy hang over thy poor head (gift hangs above head) what do you (birthday person) wish (gift giver) with a BUMP on your head!?

Then the kid drops the present on their head. A heavy bump doesn't ever get a good wish, but a light one usually does. It's funny to hear the wishes, "I wish that you would get everything you want for Christmas!" or "I wish that you could have a REAL horse!"

But, now this weekend, she's getting baptized. Does anyone have some stellar advice for making this a truly memorable day? She my first and only girl, and I'd like her to have a wonderful experience.

She turned 8 a week ago, and we are getting ready for the big day. I am charging the camera, getting ready for family, breaking out the soda dispenser (modeled here by Reagan this past Thanksgiving), packing up a little bag of stuff to bring, and trying to organize what we'll do after. Let me know if you have anything to add!

Worth 5 min of my time...

There are some prizes that go with this, so I thought I'd take a shot. Try it yourself! Chicks who Click.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Southwest casserole

For Mish who wanted it too....

Lisa's Southwest casserole
Preheat oven 350

1 lb ground beef browned and seasoned

Mix ground beef
2 8oz cans of tomato sauce
can of drained corn
1 pkg taco seasoning

Spray 9X13 pan with cooking spray
line with flour tortillas

put on beef mixture
cover with 2nd layer if tortillas

blend cream if celery soup with 1/4 C milk, pour over tortillas

Sprinkle with grated mexi cheese

Bake 25 min or until edges are brown. Serve it up!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

People with OCD should not read....

I should stay the heck away from books. It is totally ruining my life. I thought that I would just get a novel to peck at before bedtime. Since then, I've gone through sleepless nights and hours of non-productive reading. I'm like a stinkin' drunk in a bar. I just get going and then can't stop. People who have loaned me books ask incredulously, "Didn't I just give that book to you... like day before yesterday?" Yes.

Reagan gave Matthew "The Pillars of the Earth" for his birthday, and I started reading it for him. Gads. 1,000 pages later and I feel like I can finally go to bed. I was up 'til 4 am trying to plow through it. It's not an easy read, due to length, and it doesn't have tons of depth, but plenty of rape,murder, and brutality. At many points it's just plain depressing. And it doesn't help you get your laundry done, or the house clean, and can tend to make you late for appointments. Grrrrr.

So, I'm back in the land of the living and hoping to win at free blog giveaways. Yeeees, so much better use of my time...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Living in Utah

This one is for Mary Henninger who asked how it was living in Utah. This is just my own experience, so feel free to add your own observations. I'll just give a few pros and cons:

1. No one schedules birthdays on FHE or Sunday.
2. The seasons change
3. The Scout program is really strong with more bling per outfit than South Harlem
4. Costco and Sam's Club are ubiquitous, buying in bulk is standard here.
5. Being nice isn't such a rarity. You get great customer service.
6. You have access to all things Mormon.
7. Everyone knows your name in your neighborhood and kids go outside and play regularly (at least in my neighborhood.)
8. People sincerely offer their help, and will watch your kids, loan you a ladder and hold your baby while you go discipline the toddler.

1. Every Sale table has been cleared out long before you got there. A new grocery store opened near here and I saw well-dressed mothers with 6 well mannered children who were maneuvering huge grocery carts of sale items that were gone when I went to the shelves. There are lots of early birds here.
2. No one sings in church. Well, not enough people, I should say.
3. Church has more fashion extremes than I've ever seen anywhere else. From boots to flip-flops, and mom's wearing dresses that would be more appropriate on a daughter. Or a midget.
4. Your Home Teacher will cut you off in traffic.
5. Ostentatious houses that rival Beverly Hills
6. Being pregnant isn't so special, and about 30% of the population is. You are more likely to be asked, "What number is this?" than, "Oh! Are you having a boy or a girl!"
7. Suburbans that can't park and will take up TWO parking spaces. And they all like to park next to each other.

It's where we live though, and we're having a great time. Feel free to come on out for a visit!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

Okay, so I totally suck at uploading video. I think the last one was corrupted, but I hope to redeem my ineptness with this cute video of Cousin Paisley giving Baby Sam a drink of water. She says to him, "Goood boy!" Yah, right before she spills it all over him - she just turned 1. ;D

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pet Peeve

Can I just say here how annoyed I am that Christmas has come earlier and earlier? It's in the stores - and has been - for quite some time! When I was girl, (yes, I know I sound old already), the Christmas rush did NOT start until after Thanksgiving!

Kids could THINK about it all year, but the trees and tinsel weren't in the stores until AFTER you were done taking your Thanksgiving nap.

Now that I'm older, I resent the huge build up to that one day. It is a stress to moms. Well at least this mom. I was on the phone to a friend who is already putting up her tree. And when I gave a snide comment about a house that was already bedecked in faux icicles, another friend replied, "Ohhhh, yes, I know the house, it always looks so beautiful." It's NOVEMBER! Aren't there people in Scandinavian countries who cut the tree the evening of December 24th, then huck it back out on December 26th?

Yes, I would love a magical Christmas for my kids, and I am totally in line with the joy of the season, but the season is now starting to bridge over two-to-three seasons! So, feel for my children. Mom is a Scrooge and will only allow 29 days of madness.

I know that there isn't much I can do about it, but gripe, but there you have it, that's why it's a pet peeve. And the worst thing about it?! Those cute holiday plates at the Smiths...

Friday, November 14, 2008

White House Memories

Here is Baby Sam's Christmas Ornament from the White House - this year it's a Christmas Tree and it says:

The 2008 White House Christmas ornament honoring the presidency of Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893), the twenty-third president of the United States, was inspired by the Harrison family’s Victorian Christmas tree, the first documented tree to decorate the President’s House. The ornament, presents the White House as a family home.

Christmas stands out in White House memory as a special time for the Harrisons. Accommodations were tight with six adults and three grandchildren sharing the second floor family quarters. The president doted on his grandchildren and went to great lengths to amuse them. He said, “We shall have an old-fashioned Christmas tree for the grandchildren upstairs, and I shall be their Santa Claus.” To the delight of the children, the tree was laden with decorations and innumerable toys and treats. Mrs. Harrison had made sure each member of her husband’s staff was remembered with a personal token and all of the domestic employees were called in to receive gifts from under the tree.

Ohhh, and I love the flags on the top! So cute. I have wanted my children to feel connected to their country; to feel a part of this wonderful nation and understand their part in it. So, as a tradition, I have done two things:

1. Official White House Greetings for each child's birth (Free) https://app1.whitehouse.gov/greetings/home and
2. The White House Ornament from the year they were born. (NOT Free)
(They look small here, but they actually fill the palm of my hand...)

The White House has put out some truly FANTASTIC ornaments, and they are SO beautiful. I am envious of the Bush year's, in particular.

Since the program didn't start until 1981 (and man, those first couple are laaaaaame), I have missed out on my own White House ornament, but it has been a such a delight to get them for my children. On the right is Benjamin's 2004 ornament.

Here is Abigail's 2000 ornament (the middle spins). We got our first two at the Eisenhower Presidential museum, and it has been so fun to put them on the tree. This year, I just ordered online: http://www.whitehousehistory.org I think I will save my pennies and get the 2005 commemorative one, but until then, I'll be waiting for Sam's lil' piece of history.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Accessing the Heavens

Today was one of those days where I really wanted to have a one-on-one information download with God. Due to the recent move, I will need to get a Christmas letter out before the end of the month to announce that ONCE AGAIN, we have MOVED.

This spawned a whole litany of questions about how life has turned out, how did I get from here [random childhood point A]to here [present insanity]. How am I going to "spin" this one, and really, should I have to? Am I on a path of enlightenment or is it all just one huge cosmic joke?

I tried to get all of the elements in place for true communication - well as much as is possible for a mom with two kids at home. I set up Sam in the excersaucer, and put on "Dexter's Labratory" for Benjamin - then went to take a shower.

As all of my experiences and crisis of the past washed over me, and a whole lot of thoughts of "WOW, that's not fair... " or "What did I do to deserve THAT?" or "What in the HECK was the purpose of going through THAT?" And I'd pause every now and again to allow God to answer for Himself. (I try to be courteous to the Almighty).

I've heard of people having true revelations of thought and inspiration. I felt that I was due, and I could certainly use some divine explanation. So I thought I'd just wait and listen - patiently, and be in that spot to hear, or FEEL what in the heck is going on in my life. I pulled out all of my pondering, searching, and inspirational reflexes. Trying to reach beyond this mortal world of cares and shortsightedness and stretch my soul enough to tap into the eternal purpose of my life. Straining to hear, trying to not run through my laundry list of "to do"s and focusing on that still small voice, that seems to be ever on "mute," I sat and thought. And thought. And waited. Then decided that maybe God was on another line, and I should just have a sit. *waiting, waiting*

After laying down and staring at the ceiling for a long while, and feeling the water turn from warm to tepid as I waited for said inspiration, I just said, in a very deliberate, exasperated, and loud, "WHAT!?"

Well. God didn't answer me. But my toddler did, "What are you doing Mommy?!" Scared the life out of me! If I had been a cat, my claws would have been on the shower ceiling. I jumped so bad. "UH! HI! I didn't see you there! Uh, Mommy is taking a bath, and ... I washed my hair, but I'm all done now. Is your show over? OH KAY, time for you to get out now! Let's get ready to go to the store..."

So I left my sanctuary, none the wiser, but definitely scared out of my wits! What wisdom can I pass on to you, fair reader? How 'bout, "Be careful who you ask for direction, because you never know who will answer!!"

Saturday, November 1, 2008

For the Grandparents...

Yes, I know, I have already posted my idyllic pictures of my kids for Halloween, but my dad called yesterday from New Jersey. After watching the munchkins out there in their neighborhood go from door-to-door, he requested some "out on the street" pics of his grandkids. OH SURE!

It was not my favorite Halloween, to tell you the truth. I think Abigail's and Sam's costumes got left at the photo shoot, so Abigail wore her reversible cape to school. She later told Matthew, "I had the worst costume in my whole class! Just regular clothes and the [stupid] cape mom made me, plus another girl had one just like me..." OH SNAP!

So, she went reluctantly as Bat Girl. With no mask, because a plain black mask is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to find. Then it started to rain, and she had to wear the ONLY slicker that this desert-residing family owns, which is a Winnie the Pooh rain poncho. That makes three costumes for her in just one Halloween. I put Benjamin's Superman pajama top on Baby Sam and just called it good. Not my year for a fantastic mom. Oh well.

I redeemed myself by getting up SUPER early to take the kids to the Home Depot for their free kids project. My stock went up in Abigail's eyes, and Benjamin is oh-so-proud of his accomplishment. YEAH. Now I know why they call it "All Saint's Day," it's for all the parents who survived dealing with their kids the night before!!! Oh, I need a drink....

P.S. My two favorite costumes this year:
1) Guy wearing a sweatshirt with those tiny boxed cereals (Froot Loops/Apple Jacks/Frosted Flakes etc.) stuck to it, each with a fake plastic bloody knife stabbed through it. "I'm a cereal killer...."
2) Kid robot who's mom used dryer vent hose for arms and legs, and those glow-in-the dark necklaces side-by-side to resemble a light circuit board on the tummy and back. [lllll] *can you imagine it from my typing characters?* It looked really awesome after sundown.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Horror Shows

I've been watching a horror show these last few days. I don't usually go for horror, but trust me when I say that this show seriously gives me the Heebie Jeebies. Cleaning queens Kim Woodburn and Aggie MacKenzie go into people's homes with boa laced plastic gloves, clean it, while simultaneously educating the family (or bachelor) on basic cleaning techniques.

They also send samples from around the house to a lab to let the family know what muck/grime/bugs/creepy crawlies and fungal spores are truly lurking in their home. It is morbidly fascinating to see the level to which some people let their homes go to pot. These two don't let the offender's off without a talking to, "At least you have to good sense to blush Luv, this is truly awful, you know..."

The most common thread that I can pull out of these episodes is that each person takes on an attitude of, "It's YOUR job, not MY job," until they are literally knee deep in old ketchup bottles,dirty clothes, opened cat food tins, and rotting grease. When quizzed about how it got this bad, they usually respond, "Well, it just got so out of hand that I didn't know where to start..., and then I just learned to not see it.."

It's been great to watch with the kids and comment, "Look at THAT! That's what happens when you don't tidy or change your sheets; do you want 20 million bug mites on your bed?" I think that the lab results are really what shock people into getting their act together. They do a microscope slide shot of the bacteria multiplying and going all over the place then WIGGLING! EEW! Oh! Well, at least it has horrified me!

And entertained me too: I love the British accents and jargon, "Yer a big boy now, Dearie, and you must stop mucking in like this in codswallop!" Aaaaah, nothing like a good ole foreign horror show for the holiday.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Meredith's Tag

Tagged by Meredith The Incredible, I lay open to you some fascinating facts about me, - hope it's worth the read!

Four jobs I have had:
1. Weighing Gravel in Trucks
2. Dental Lab Janitor
3. Camp Counselor to 10 Jewish 10 yr-olds at Lake Bryn Mawr
4. Hardees

Four movies I have watched more than once:
1. Wives and Daughters
2. Pride and Prejudice
3. Anne of Green Gables
4. 27 Dresses - thanks Em!

Four places I have lived:
1. Azores
2. Pennsylvania
3. North Carolina
4. Ohio

Four TV show I watch:
1. Dancing with the Stars
2. The Office
3. Ace of Cakes
4. America's Most Smartest Model

Four places I have been:
1. Nigara Falls, Canadian Side
2. Charleston, South Carolina
3. Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota
4. Nauvoo, Illinois

Four Celebrity's you have met:
1. Steve Young - Friday temple clothing desk. He was a 34'x34'slacks back then. Not very tall. Had no opinion about his tie. Not the guy for me...
2. Mary Ellen Edmunds - I'm taking her institute class.
3. Brian Crane - Cartoonist for the nationally syndicated cartoon "Pickles." We're like [x] THIS!
4. Howard Stern's daughter. Funny, she didn't want to talk about her dad much...

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Scones with Honeybutter from Rocky Mt. Drive in.
2. Cheesecake Factory's "Chicken Madeira." Ohhhhh SO yum!
3. "The Great Wall of Chocolate" from PF Changs
4. Hot fries from McDonalds or Wendy's

Four places I would like to visit:
1. Scotland
2. Alaska
3. South Africa
4. Italy

Four things I am looking forward to in the coming year:
1. My parents coming home from their mission
2. Paying off/down debt
3. Making a yellow and white quilt
4. Snow for Christmas?

Four friends I am tagging:
1. Bagel
2. Reesa
3. Danika
4. Juuuuuulia
5. Anyone else who wants to!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Family Pictures a la Cousin Faye!

As with laundry and family pictures, every worthwhile goal has an undesirable element to it that keeps people from doing it too frequently. Here are some of our attempts at a Family/Benjamin's 4th/Baby Sam's 6 mos/Halloween/Christmas Card photo shoot. It was an early, and very cold morning out at Gardner Village.

It went really well in my mind; get family pics and Halloween pics, all in one shot, with good early morning light, and a pre-decorated background. In reality, we had to fight runny noses, kids playing with the hay (PUT THAT DOWN!), costume changes with stuff that was ever "back at the car," and the irresistible roar of the river that kept Sam from facing forward. AAAARRGGFG! But what's done is done, and I'm glad to be on this side of it. Who knows how long it'll take for us to recover though, enough to do it again. Thanks to my Cousin Faye Wilson for being so patient! And freezing her fingers off... we are ever so grateful!!