Sunday, October 31, 2010

When the cats are away the mice will play.

Eric and Finn have been away on a "luxury" hunt over Halloween weekend, so we girls decided to "live it up" while they were gone... well as much as you can "live it up" with three little girls on Halloween anyway. I know my posts tend to be a little wordy, so this week it will mostly be a photo essay of all the activities we did. Here's what "partying" looks like for us:

Singing witchy songs

Walking in Halloween parades and playing "spooky" games like Halloween Bingo and Halloween musical chairs.

Going to the annual "Spooks" Party where we look like the catering/clean-up crew. And if you don't get our costumes, you have to check out this
Lunch Lady Link. You will be amazed how right we got this costume!

Enjoying the party hosted by this handsome couple More of the spooks Going to see the Witches at Gardner Village with friends Going trick or treating Eating ourselves into a candy stupor Painting our "witchy" fingersHaving a Halloween feast that includes:
a Mummy wrap
Dracula Bites Witch Wands -
incidentally my new culinary nemisis is caramel. Between
trying to make homemade caramel dip for Dracula's mouths and melting caramels for the Witch wands, caramel is getting the best of my cooking skills. I just can't seem to get it the right consistency. I think I am cooking it too long, because it is turning out way too hard. Ohh- that drives me crazy! "Bones" bread

Our "Witches Brew"

Here are some of the "witches" who enjoyed our Halloween feast and helped cap off our weekend of partying!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Night Snapshot

Before I begin today's post, a couple of people have asked for the recipe for the sweet rolls I mentioned in this post. And even though they have been officially called "marriage rolls" in my ward, (Yes, they this name was sanctioned by both our bishop and Young Men's President in BYC, no less.) I just don't feel it would be right for me to copy and rename them with a boyfriend's name on the recipe blog I belong to because they are the recipe of such a food blogging icon and pioneer. In fact they come from Pioneer Woman. So I am just providing the link to the recipe index page that has links to all three rolls recipes. She even has another recipe for Chocolate Chip sweet rolls that I think I need to make. So go make any of these rolls for someone you love. They will love you even more!
I really don't have any "stories" to tell this week, so i am unabashedly copying my friend, Kelly's idea of giving a snapshot of what everyone in my family is doing as I type this. So thanks Kelly!
Eric: Cleaning his guns. And that is no metaphor. He is literally cleaning his guns for an upcoming hunt. And with 3 girls, this is really something he will be doing on a regular basis on Friday and Saturday nights in about 5 years.
Kari: Remembering the cookies in the oven I was leaving in for just another minute. Unfortunately that was 5 minutes ago. So they are a little past golden brown. They will be perfect for dipping in milk. I wish I could say they were homemade, but they are from some frozen cookie dough I bought from the school fundraiser over a year ago. And since the next batch of fundraiser cookie dough is scheduled to arrive soon, I decided I better cook them.
Finn: Helping and learning the ways of cleaning a gun. Finn is going hunting with his dad and can barely contain himself about it. He is having trouble sleeping; he is so excited about it. I know some people might "frown upon" an 11 year old learning how to shoot and care for a gun. But the way I see it, I would rather have his own father teaching him the proper care of a gun and helping him develop a healthly respect for its power, than have some video game glorifying and glamourizing it.
Annie: Practicing the piano. Despite her occassional whining about practicing, Annie is doing very well in piano. It is fun to watch her grow up and focus all the crazy energy she had as a toddler into good endeavors like piano and school. She and whatever friend she can convince to come over have started a little school that meets afterschool and on the weekends. It is so cute because she will make nametags and folders with her students's names on them. (Her students are usually Suzie, Katie and whatever friend Katie can convince to come over.) They even have a "talking bear" they pass around during community circle time to distinguish whose turn it is to talk. They ask questions like, "What is your favorite color or food?" I would like to say her mother having been a teacher is what is inspiring this role-play, but I think her young, cute 4th grade teacher is more of the inspiration for this.
Katie: Working on her "Star of the Week" Poster. Usually I dread having to do these "Star of the Week" parent project posters. I have always tried to get my kids involved, but it always seems to be one more thing for me to do. But Katie's teacher has it figured out. She sends home a legal-size piece of paper that has all sorts of headings for the KID to fill out like "Favorite Food" or "Places I've been" or "Pets", etc. Then there are cartoon graphics the KID colors. The only thing I have to do is find a picture of Katie and our family to stick on it. It is so much better than having the pressure of making some cutsy, crafty poster. I'm also suppose to send in Katie's favorite treat to share with the class. i asked her what she wanted me to get and after some time thinking about it she said, "Oreos." Hmm... Did not know that. Especially since I can probably count on one hand how many times I have bought them.
Suzie: Watching "Rugrats" on Netflix. We have basic, basic cable, so we don't get a lot of channels. But we can stream movies and TV shows from Netflix to our TV. My kids have discovered the old episodes of "Rugrats" and they love them. I must admit they make me laugh too. "Those dumb babies!" And now Suzie just found the cooling cookies on the kitchen counter. I think I better go help her enjoy them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Faces

This weekend my in-laws had their second annual pumpkin carving contest. It is mostly a chance for the cousins to carve their pumkins all together, but a few of the adults take it a bit more seriously. Eric's brother, Gary, is an incredible self-taught artist and his talent is easily translated into professional-looking carved pumpkins. And despite my lobbying for Gary to be a category unto himself for our pumpkin carving contest, he won 1st place again. His is the first picture on this post, and I have to admit wholeheartedly he deserves it. Here are the pictures of my lil' pumpkins and their award winning pumpkin faces.
Finn won the "Most Original" award for his Sherlock Holmes pumpkin. Please note the top hat and pipe which make it most decidedly a Halloween nod to the famous detective. These days Finn and Eric are so into watching Sherlock Holmes on PBS, that Finn has even started reading the book.
Another thing Finn is into these days is the tuba. He started the before school band last week. Since he is the only kid who is playing the tuba, the band teacher has a tuba he can play at the school and another one he can bring home and practice. That way he doesn't have to lug the instrument back and forth. The morning after he brought his tuba home, Eric and I were still in bed when we heard the melodious honk of this "delicate" horn at 7:30am. I went downstairs and told Finn though I appreciated his enthusiasm for a musical instrument, he couldn't play it that early in the morning. He recounted the circumstance that led to his playing the tuba. He was trying to wake Annie up and she just wouldn't get up. So he resorted to getting his tuba out of its case and going to Annie's room to play it in her face. Who knew the tuba had a dual purpose. Not only does it provide the bass line in a band, it also can be a quite effective wake-up call. Just ask Annie. And speaking of Annie, here is her award-winning pumpkin:

She won 4th place for her Monster-Ghost, which was quite gracious of her to give herself the last place since she was the judge. (You might of noticed that there are varying awards in this contest-not only things like "Most Original" , but also 1st, 2nd, etc. It happens when there are 9 year old judges and so many pumpkins to judge.) I would love to give an update here on Annie, but I have been forbidden from sharing any stories about her on my blog. So for the time being, I'm respecting those wishes. Although I can't guarantee this Annie-story moratorium will last long.

Katie won "Cutest" for her witch pumpkin. This past Sunday Katie was doing a church related word search during sacrament meeting. I was truly amazed when she found words like 'clean' and 'white' written backward in the search. Then I noticed she was finding words like 'covenant' and 'worthy' without checking the spelling of them on the words to find list. "Wow. She is really smart" is what I thought. And then I saw she wasn't crossing any of the words off as she was finding them. I pointed this out to her and she acted surprised that there was even a list of words to find. At this point I got suspicious. Katie is a smart girl, but she is only 6 and words like 'accountable' and 'commandments' aren't in her sight word repetoire yet. I then looked more closely at the words to find list and saw an answer key on the bottom of the page. Katie was looking at the answer key and then finding the words to circle by location rather then by the actual words. I leaned over and told this to Eric. He whispered back, "So you went from 'She's brilliant' to 'She's a cheater.' in a matter of seconds." Yeah, pretty much. But like Eric said, at least the optimism of a mother saw the positive first rather than the realism of the hard truth.Here is Suzie with her rendition of the "Cat in the Hat" pumpkin. (Sorry I can't get the picture to turn the right way.) "Cat in the Hat" is her new favorite PBS cartoon. She wouldn't show her face because she was BEING the cat in the hat. Suzie, as Julie pointed out this week, is such a little mother. We went to the cabin this weekend and when we first got there it was cold. So Eric decided to build a fire instead of turning in the heat. As Eric was getting the fire started, Suzie went upstairs to claim her bed and get into her pjs. She came back downstairs about 10 minutes later and stood in front of the barely burning fire with her hands on her hips and asked, "So is this going well?"

She also told her friend, Quinci, that "She (Quinci) shouldn't talk when she (Suzie) is talking." But she also peed outside by a tree at the cabin because she didn't want to take the time to come back inside. So either she is a resourceful little mother or just a resourceful little 3 year old.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Call me ugly, call me stupid, but don't call me late for dinner

So I love food. I am entertained watching others prepare food. I am entertained trying new food. I enjoy reading about food. I, at times, enjoy planning out and preparing my food. I will get giddy with excitement anticipating a good meal. My brother use to make fun of me because I would watch cooking shows and infomercials about things like the Ronco Food Dehydrator before the Food Network was born. I believe there is power in food.

A few weeks ago I was teaching the Young Women in my ward how to make sweet rolls. I was showing how you could make 3 kinds of rolls from one dough- Cinnamon Rolls, Caramel Apple Sweet rolls and Orange Marmalade rolls. Each girl got to take home a pan of rolls and the recipes. But I forgot one of the recipes. So when I was passing out the missing recipe on Sunday, I jokingly mentioned that they weren't allowed to make these rolls for boys until they were 21. Because if they did, the boy would immediately propose marriage. One of the girl's eyes got big and she said outloud, "It's true!" She later told me she had given her pan to a boy and that night he talked to her for hours. I smiled knowingly and said, "Now you know the power of these rolls. So don't use that power unless you want the attention it will produce!"
I also think food can communicate love. I can easily turn down a store bought treat in a second. But I if someone takes the time and effort to make a homemade goodie, I consider it a slap in the face to not try one because "I am on a diet" or "I am trying to cut back." People often talk about things being made with love or the secret ingredient in their dishes being love and I believe this is a real thing. Not just something you say to be cute. Often when I make something specific for someone I will try to create something that I know they like or have mentioned it being a favorite. For my brother-in-law, JJ's birthday I made bean burritos that he ate at my house and raved about. They can be frozen and eaten over several meals. I told Eric this and he said, "Did JJ one time offhand say that he liked them and now you are making him a whole batch?" I replied, "No, he didn't 'offhand' mention it. He has told me several times how much he likes them and wishes he had some more."
Which brings me to another point about food. Just like frequently a prophet is not revered in his own land, a cook isn't always appreciated in her own kitchen. I am part of a cooking club and not to toot my own horn, but I have been told by some of my fellow cooking clubbers that they would like me to prepare their last meal. I, mistakenly, mentioned this to Eric and he said, "Well, you're a pretty good cook." WHAT?!? Pretty good?!? I politely told him that in some circles I am revered for my cooking. He just sort of raised his eyebrows at that. And I'm constantly being told by my kids that I make weird things. But honestly there is nothing that breaks my heart more than telling me you don't like my cooking. Although I suppose every Rocky needs his Mickey to tell him where he needs to improve and Eric and my kids are Mickey to my cooking Rocky. I guess my everyday kitchen can be my training boxing ring where I can experiment, make mistakes and have failures. Just as long as I come out fighting to have some winning dishes I can showcase in the championship ring.
So in honor of all this cooking talk I am going to post one of my winning, most requested recipes on the cooking blog I am a part of- Tried and True. It is the spaghetti sauce I can every fall because Eric won't eat store-bought spaghetti sauce. I am naming it "The Spaghetti Sauce that isn't quite as famous as James Dashner but almost" because James Dashner is the most famous person I have ever dated. He was my first date and he wasn't famous then but he is getting to be famous now. He is the author of the book "The Maze Runner" and the sequel to that book- "The Scorch Trials" comes out this week, so it seems especially fitting that a recipe be named after him now. So if you want the recipe just click on the name above. And remember- "Call me ugly, call me stupid, but don't call me a bad cook."

Monday, October 4, 2010

36 and counting

I had a hard time deciding what I should blog about this weekend. At first I thought I should write about how I feel like a squirrel preparing for winter because of all the case lot sales and canning that has been going around here.

Then I considered writing about the Dirty Dash I ran last weekend with some crazy ladies! Or should I write about the beautiful, yet still hot change of seasons that is going on right now.
But ultimately I am going to write about my birthday- and ironically I don't have any pictures of that... yet! Saturday was my 36th birthday. Birthdays are a funny thing. They are a unique balance of owning your expectations, expressing your expectations and having fulfilled other's birthday expectations. Some years I have planned my own party and other years we have gone on vacation (The picture at the top of my blog was taken last year on my 35th birthday at Arches National Park.) But this year was a little quieter and I was just fine with that.
Last week I was talking to a girl at the gym I go to about her turning 30 recently. She was having a hard time turning 30 and I was explaining to her that I have loved my 30s so much better than my 20s. She wanted to know why because other people have said that to her and she just didn't get it. I told her, "Well, I think I am more confident in my 30s and I don't feel the need to compare myself to or please others as much. I figure if you like me- great, if you don't -I'm not going to worry about it." She replied, "I have always been that way, so I guess I just feel old." And I can understand what she means because I remember when I turned 30 it freaked my out because I can remember my own mother being in her 30s. But I left the conversation feeling like there was more to it, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that made my 30s better. But then something happened on my birthday that helped me put it into words.
We haven't had a family picture taken for two years, so for my birthday I decided I would schedule to have one taken. Then the day of my birthday I told my kids that their birthday present to me was to not complain about having to take pictures, wearing what I want them to wear and letting me do their hair the way I want them to. Incidentally, after I told my kids this, Annie proceeded to tell me that on HER birthday I had to wear what she wanted me to wear and I had to do my hair the way she wanted me to do it. I told her if this made her happy, then I would gladly do it. So if you happen to see me on June 8th next year and I look sort of "special", you'll know why.
Now you would think that this would be a fairly easy request for my kids. But it did require some initial tongue-biting, especially from Finn. He absolutely hates getting pictures taken, especially professional ones. He insists that our camera does just as good a job. I knew his opinions and I didn't want to hear them on my birthday and at first he did a good job of keeping them to himself. But then the hour of the photo shoot drew near and a friend called to ask if he could hang out. Eric was with me when Finn approached to ask if he could go. I reminded Finn that we had pictures to get ready for. Finn started grumbling. Eric immediately stopped him and said, "Hey, that's not part of the deal." But Finn continued, "I'm not complaining, I just think..." To which Eric interrupted, "You were complaining and it doesn't matter what you think because we are getting pictures taken." I didn't have to say a thing. This honestly meant so much to me because truth be told, Eric hates getting professional pictures taken too. But he respected me and my birthday request enough to support me and take on the criticism himself. He really could have turned to me and said, "Happy Birthday" without giving me anything and I would have been happy. So I've concluded that another reason why I like my 30s so much better is because it doesn't take near as much to make me content. Things aren't nearly as important to me as people. Now don't get me wrong I'm not ready to give up all my material possessions and live a monk-like life. A gift is always well-received. But relationships and doing the little things that make them work are more meaningful to me than big gestures of monetary value. And that brings a lot of satisfaction to my closer to 40 than 30 year old soul.
Another funny event from my birthday was the presentation of gifts from my children. Eric had taken them to the Dollar Store so they could use their allowances to buy me presents. They came home and Finn walks into my room and hands me his unwrapped present and a card with no envelope and nothing written inside. I thanked him for the present, handed the card back to him and said with a sly smile that he forgot to sign his name and tell me how he feels about me in the card. He took it back with a grin and put his John Hancock and an "I love you." in it. At this point Annie walks in with her present all wrapped and her enveloped card with a signature and a "You are the best mom ever!" written inside. What a difference that extra X chromosome makes!