Thursday, February 23, 2012

Crazy Morning and No Work Day with Dad mishmash



I had a weird contact (as in eye contact) experience this morning.  I was getting ready to go to the temple this morning – moving along at a finely tuned pace, which means I was rushing through my morning so I could make it to the 10:00 session.  FYI – I have been wearing contacts now for about 1 1/2 months and I truly love them.  I like being able to exercise at the gym without pushing my sweaty glasses up my nose. However, sometimes putting them in is challenging for me.  I finesse, I cajole, I plead, and finally I meditate to regain my Zen so I can get the little darn things in. This morning I got the right one in magically well.  The left one went in well, at least I thought it did.  I noticed that my vision was kind of wonky and my eye felt like it had sand in it so I tried to take the contact out.  Mysteriously the contact was gone.  I felt around to locate it but could not find it.  Well, it must be lost so I opened up another contact lens and put it in.  Again, my vision was lopsided. I tried to remove the contact and it had vanished from my eye AGAIN! 

This is where I lost it.  Not only was I freaking out but I was running late!  Could it be lost IN MY EYE?!!!  I looked up online “can contacts get stuck behind eye”.  Sure enough there were lots of lots of posts.  They said something like “close your eye and roll it around from side to side.  If the contact does not attach, then proceed to the ER.”  I laid on the bed, closed my eye and rolled it around.  I said a prayer – I mean I wanted to go to the temple for heaven’s sake!  I meditated to calm my nerves and then after ten minutes of struggling with what to do next, I went into the bathroom and started massaging my eyelid – the part that felt like it had speck of sand in it and pretty soon TWO contacts slid to the corner of my eye!!!!!  I was overcome with relief! I did miss my temple time, but I am going tomorrow night so I can still thank Heavenly Father for helping me get through that minor debacle.


Tonight while driving home from a dinner out, Mike and I were talking about his job when Ben piped up that he would like to do a “Join Daddy for Work Day”.  Mike explained to Ben how that would be lots of fun but Ben couldn’t come to do hospital visits with him because he didn’t have all the appropriate shots (Mike has been vaccinated for about every illness known so that he doesn’t bring any diseases in).  Then Mike added, “But you can come downstairs and hang out with me while I work in my office in the basement and then we can go out to lunch!”

Ben’s response was priceless, “Nooo, I would rather endure a day of learning at school than do that.  That sounds boring.”  That is exactly how he said it too!

What can one say to that?  Too true, too true.

Photo A Day Mishmash

Here are my photos from the “Photo A Day” Challenge.


This is really how I write.  I slur my letters together and hopefully the word is legible.


“A Fave Photo of You”

Me and My sweetheart.


“Where You Work”

I work all over my house and with my kiddies, but this is the work I love to do for myself.  Right now I am doing a painting for the boy’s room of the Solar System.


“Your Shoes”

They are hideously ugly, completely utilitarian but they are the most comfortable shoes I own.  I only wear them in the house and I wear them year round.  How I love my crocs.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Young Women New Beginnings, Food, and Family Mishmash

Sammy the Superstar
At church the kids line up in front of the Bishop’s office for candy handouts. It has become Sammy’s routine to run to the front of the line, cutting in front of everyone and stick his chubby hand in the candy bowl for the biggest sucker he can find.
I watched him trot down the hall with a sticky face and hands. In the meantime, his fans – which include many of the Young Men and Young Women in our ward, were reaching out to Sam, hoping for a little contact and Sam, like the superstar he is, nonchalantly trotted past them with hardly a glance.
On Valentine’s Day we had New Beginnings in our ward – to welcome the incoming girl – we only have one coming in this year, and to welcome our newest girl that recently moved in.  The theme, being on Valentine’s Day was “Let You Heart So Shine” – combining the theme for the year with the Holiday. 
Side note – as I headed out the door Mike irritably asked why we were having the activity on Valentine’s Day.  This is coming from a man who thinks that V-Day was invented by Hallmark.  Although, he did good this year and bought me a couple more beads to go on my bracelet.  He did good.
Anyway – the girls did a great job.  The decorations were cute and the program was sweet.  We played a round of “Value Charades”.  It was entertaining to watch each group act out their interpretation of the value.  People were pretty quick to guess the value because after all, there are a specific few and we repeat them every Sunday in church.  I took some pictures of the event.  See if you can guess which value is being acted out.  Also, there is a photo of me in my bright pink jacket conducting the girls in song.  I am not that good at it.  The girls sounded great though.
See those pretty Rosette Balls?  Cathleen and I spent quite a bit of time assembling those lovely tissue flowers. All those crafts on Pinterest look soo dang cute, but putting them together can eat up quite a bit of time.
I told a friend of mine that I would post the recipe to the caramel turtle brownies so here it is.  FYI – read the recipe first then do it… I tend to just jump right in and start putting ingredients together without pre-reading.  Hence, all my baking disasters.
      Quicker Turtle Brownies
      Why this recipe works:
      Instead of making a caramel sauce from scratch, we doctored up store-bought caramels. We parbaked the bottom layer and used nuts as a barrier to keep the caramel from sinking completely through the brownie.
      Makes 16 brownies
      Hershey’s Unsweetened Baking Bar is our taste-test winner. Toast the pecans in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until lightly browned and fragrant.
      • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) cake flour
      • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
      • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
      • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
      • 2 large eggs
      • 2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
      • 20 soft caramel candies
      • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
      • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) pecans, toasted and chopped
      • 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Make foil sling by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil so that they are as wide as 8-inch baking pan. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan. Spray with vegetable oil spray.
      • 2. Combine flour, baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt in bowl. Microwave butter and chocolate in large bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 1 minute. Whisk sugar, eggs, and 1½ teaspoons vanilla into chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, mixing until combined. Scrape ¾ cup batter into prepared pan and spread into even layer. Bake until center is just set, 12 to 14 minutes.
      • 3. Meanwhile, microwave caramels, cream, remaining ¾ teaspoon vanilla, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Reserve 2 tablespoons caramel mixture for topping. Sprinkle parbaked brownies with half of pecans and pour remaining caramel mixture evenly over pecans. Top with remaining brownie batter and remaining pecans. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with few dry crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes.
      • 4. Let brownies cool in pan on wire rack for 1 hour. Reheat reserved caramel mixture in microwave for 30 seconds, drizzle over brownies, and let sit for 30 minutes. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan and cut into 16 pieces. Serve. (Brownies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

      Just some photos to show you.
      Photo of the day (I don’t remember which day)
      TIME – almost time to get Sam up from his nap and go pick up Ben from his after school program.
      Photo of the day (again I don’t remember which)
      Drink – Trader Joe’s has this yummy and spicy hot chocolate – with cayenne pepper and cinnamon.  I like to mix it with a little bit of Ghirardelli rich dark chocolate mix to cut the spiciness – and make it last longer.
      Another photo of the day
      Something I hate to do
      “How did my bum get so big?”
      Sammy doesn’t really need to increase the size of his belly, but he likes to be impressive.
      “Take a picture of me MOM!”
      I’ll be back soon!

      Wednesday, February 15, 2012

      Ben has courage

      For FHE last week we discussed the value of the month - Courage.  We discussed how having courage means doing the right thing even when it is difficult - like not being afraid to be a chicken sometimes. The boys seemed to catch on pretty well. 

      On Monday we had a mild snowstorm, but it was slick enough outside that school was let out early. Ben eagerly headed over to his friend's house to bring him back to play at our house. He was gone for about 30 minutes and when he came home he was without Justin. I asked him where Justin was and Ben said that he wasn't home, couldn't come over and he just sat on the porch waiting for him. I thought it was a little weird but I just shrugged my shoulders and said OK.

      Shortly after our conversation Ben said, "Well I wasn't really waiting for Justin.  He was home and we were playing Lego's together.  I was backing up and I tripped on one of his Lego sets and I accidentally broke it. Justin got really mad and started yelling and telling me I broke his favorite Lego set."  We talked about how friends fight sometimes, but still remain friends.  We also discussed his frustration at being accused of doing something intentionally when it was accidental.  Those feelings are kind of painful. 

      A little while later Ben called Justin and apologized for wrecking his Lego set and invited Justin over to play.

      I was really proud of him.  I got choked up at the courage it took to call his friend and apologize. I told him how proud I was of him and gave him a hug. He said, "I just didn't want Justin to be mad at me and I wanted to play with him."  Simple and pure.  He is such a great kid!

      Yummy food, Kiddos, and Photo a day

      Tonight for dinner, straight from the Cook’s Country magazine I made the following recipe:
      Lemony Mediterranean Chicken and Rice
          Lemony Mediterranean Chicken and Rice

          Why this recipe works:
          To speed up our Easy Mediterranean Chicken and Rice, we started with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which required zero preparation. A salty marinade with garlic, oregano, lemon zest, and olive oil imparted rich Mediterranean flavors to the notoriously bland chicken breasts. Browning the chicken created a rich fond that we used to flavor the rice, which we were able to cook in a fraction of the time by parcooking it in the microwave.
          Serves 4
          • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped, plus 1/4 cup olive brine
          • 1/4 cup olive oil
          • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
          • 4 garlic cloves, minced
          • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
          • Salt and pepper
          • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
          • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
          • 1 cup long-grain white rice
          • 1 onion, chopped
          • 4 1/2 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
          • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
          • 1. Combine olive brine, 3 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon oregano, half of garlic, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in zipper-lock bag. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and place in bag. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, turning occasionally.
          • 2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Heat 1½ teaspoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken until browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side; transfer to plate. While chicken is cooking, microwave 1¼ cups broth and rice in covered large bowl until liquid is absorbed, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking.
          • 3. Add remaining 1½ teaspoons oil and onion to now-empty skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons oregano and remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining ¾ cup broth and parcooked rice and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to skillet and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until meat registers 160 degrees and rice is tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer chicken to cutting board, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
          • 4. Off heat, stir olives, tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons parsley into rice. Cover and let sit until chicken is ready. Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, remaining 1 teaspoon oregano, and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon zest in bowl. Slice chicken into ½-inch slices, arrange on top of rice, and sprinkle with herb mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

          Introducing Gremolata

          A classic Italian garnish for osso buco (braised veal shanks), gremolata is made from minced parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. We adapted the idea, sprinkling our Lemony Mediterranean Chicken and Rice with parsley, lemon zest, and oregano for fresh, bright flavor.
          • Small Package, Big Wallop
            Herbs + lemon zest = flavor.
          Family consensus: thumbs up.  These recipes are kind of complicated and time consuming though.  I kind of like the quick 30 – 45 minutes cooking time.  But, I do really like the Gremolata – I just think that it sounds cool and tastes yummy too.  I bet it would taste yummy mixed with couscous or with a little garlic, added to Greek yogurt for a yummy dip.
          Over the weekend Mike made the Black and White cookies that are on the cover of Cook’s Country.  I must warn you and add:  DANGER! DANGER!  These cookies are REALLY good.  Each cookie is about the size of a coaster and they are not low fat.  But I have been exercising each day and eating like an angel the rest of the day so I could enjoy a cookie each day, til they are allllll gone.  Mike is helping me of course.  But that is how yummy they are – it is worth the extra discipline!
          On to Photo A Day.  I found out (and had heard about it from friends) about this photo a day thing. 
          I haven’t posted for a bit but I did take the photos:
          Monday 2/13/12– Blue
          The most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen.
          Tuesday 2/14/12– Heart
          From a Young Women activity.
          Wednesday 2/15/12 – New
          Some fabulous, make me dream of spring/summer shoes I just got in the mail.
          Hopefully I can keep it up.

          Thursday, February 9, 2012

          Food, Wrestling, and Suzuki Mishmash

          SUZUKI PIANO
          Since we have transplanted to MO I have been trying to find a piano teacher for the boys. A friend of mine has two boys about the same age as my boys and they take piano lessons so I hit her up for the teacher.  I called the teacher – she is a very nice woman and she told me that we would be meeting for six parent training sessions and then the boys would be watching other children play the piano for about six lessons before they even started piano.
          Whaaaaaaa?  Not only am I attending the parent training, the “lessons” with the boys (while I make sure that Sam isn’t too distracting – he likes to dance to the music), but I have HOMEWORK.  This last training session I did not have all my homework completed and I was sorely ashamed. Part of me thinks – this is piano right?  On the other hand, I like the parental involvement. I have been struggling to find activities that are one on one – especially with Ben since he is in school all day.  Suzuki piano requires that the parent sits with the child while they are working their pieces.
          It will be a good time for me to practice patience – hence the parent training – putting into action the Suzuki philosophy, which is actually very valuable!  Teaching children patiently and realizing that all children have potential if fostered in the right environment. It’s piano right?  It is also a discipline and a learning experience.  I am excited about it……
          I’ll keep you posted.
          Earlier this week I made such an awesome pizza from “Cook’s Country” magazine.  It is called “Grandma’s Pizza” and I am soo posting the recipe because it was DELICIOUS! As far as ingredients – pretty basic – make your own pizza dough (with olive oil) and canned tomatoes, garlic, basil, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese.  Well – you can see from the recipe below. I also made the antipasti salad, which was good, but kind of a little complicated.
          Grandma’s Pizza
          Serves 4
          If the dough snaps back when you press it to the corners of the baking sheet, cover it, let it rest for 10 minutes, and try again.
          • 3 tablespoons olive oil
          • 3/4 cup water
          • 1 1/2 cups (8 1/4 ounces) bread flour
          • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
          • 1 teaspoon sugar
          • 3/4 teaspoon salt
          • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
          • 1 tablespoon olive oil
          • 2 garlic cloves, minced
          • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
          • 1/4 teaspoon salt
          • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups)
          • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
          • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
          • 1. FOR THE DOUGH: Coat rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons oil. Combine water and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, yeast, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined. With mixer running, slowly add water mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-low and mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes.
          • 2. Transfer dough to greased baking sheet and turn to coat. Stretch dough to 10 by 6-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. Stretch dough to corners of pan, cover loosely with plastic, and let rise in warm place until slightly puffed, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 500 degrees.
          • 3. FOR THE TOPPING: Place tomatoes in colander and drain well. Combine drained tomatoes, oil, garlic, oregano, and salt in bowl. Combine mozzarella and Parmesan in second bowl. Sprinkle cheese mixture over dough, leaving ½-inch border around edges. Top with tomato mixture and bake until well browned and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Slide pizza onto wire rack, sprinkle with basil, and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve.

          Marinated Antipasti Salad
              Marinated Antipasto Salad
              Why this recipe works:
              We used crisp, neutral-flavored romaine lettuce as the background. Matchsticks of provolone and salami added creamy and spicy elements, while cherry tomatoes and basil contributed freshness. Jarred marinated vegetables were greasy and raw onions were too pungent, so we simmered both in a combination of vinegar, water, garlic, and dried oregano, essentially quick-pickling them, and then added a modest amount of olive oil for balance. Using the leftover pickling liquid in the vinaigrette tied all the flavors together.
              Serves 6 to 8
              If you buy whole artichoke hearts, quarter them through the stem after thawing. The drained marinated vegetables and vinaigrette can be refrigerated separately for up to one day. Dress the salad just before serving.
              • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
              • 1/4 cup water
              • 2 garlic cloves, minced
              • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
              • Salt and pepper
              • 1 red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
              • 9 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry
              • 1/3 cup jarred sliced pepperoncini
              • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
              • 2 romaine lettuce hearts (12 ounces), chopped
              • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
              • 3 (1/4-inch-thick) slices provolone cheese (6 ounces), cut into 1-inch-long matchsticks
              • 3 (1/4-inch-thick) slices salami (6 ounces), cut into 1-inch-long matchsticks
              • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
              • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
              • 1. Bring vinegar, water, garlic, oregano, and 1 teaspoon salt to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until onion is nearly tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in artichokes and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Off heat, add pepperoncini, transfer mixture to bowl, and refrigerate until cool, about 20 minutes.
              • 2. Drain marinated vegetables through fine-mesh strainer into bowl; reserve ¼ cup vinegar mixture. Toss marinated vegetables with 1 tablespoon oil in bowl. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon oil into reserved vinegar mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Toss romaine, tomatoes, provolone, and salami with vinaigrette in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer salad mixture to platter and top with marinated vegetables, olives, and basil. Serve.
              Pretty much every day there is wrestling going on in our house. I have chronicled it before, but these days Sam is getting into the mix. It’s so cute.  Proving that he is no slouch he runs and jumps on Dad just like the older ones.
              Notice that Gabe is at the rear on Dad – Gabe has a weird obsession with bottoms. I am not sure if I should be worried.

              Thursday, February 2, 2012

              It's hot pink and I love it

              I went to the mall today - I had about 2 hours all to myself (which I managed to stretch to about 3). I am loving all the brightly colored clothes that are starting to peek out like fresh flowers. I know it is February and we are still in the throes of winter, but you would never know it - it was about 60 degrees outside today. I saw people wearing shorts! Anyway I was planning on getting some stuff for the boys and Mike, but I couldn't resist visiting some of the stores with all those brightly colored wares winking at me from the windows. I am a sucker for the marketing. Anyway - I bought this bright pink jacket!! I love it! Now I just need to find something to wear it with - I am thinking a white and blue striped shirt. Not exactly life changing, but fun!

              Ben's Maps and my cooking mishmash

              I must warn you - the following is not for the faint of heart - it might be a little scary!

              Earlier this week Ben drew a couple of maps to prepare for the "fighting" songs. I have mentioned these songs before, but I'll give a recap. The boys like to listen to soundtracks from movies with dramatic music - the recent favorites have been "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "The Last Samurai". I highly recommend them.  They have also been listening to "Master and Commander" - another excellent choice for dramatic songs. 

              Anyway, Ben drew up a couple of maps as you can see below - Zombie Island, Ghost Island, and Skeleton Island.  Ben would hold the maps and tell Gabe where they were and where they were going and who they were battling.  The part that had me quietly giggling was when Ben looked down at the Zombie Map, shuddered (for real) and said, "I am creeping myself out by looking at these maps!  I hope I don't have nightmares!"  Awesome.  Frightened by his own drawings. Zombie Island is pretty scary!

              DINNER TIME!

              On Sunday night I made Spicy Pork and Broccoli Stir Fry.  It was really good and easy to make. But it's one of those things that you have to plan for - to have a pork loin lying around is not very normal, but luckily I bought one of those double packs from Costco not long ago and it was collecting frost in the freezer.  It was time for it to be cooked up. I used frozen broccoli,which is better for you anyway - it is flash frozen and actually has more nutritional value than the non frozen.

              Last night I made this AWESOME meatloaf.  It's called Ham and Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf.  It takes a little bit more effort - you fry up the onions and garlic and also cook a glaze for the top, but it is sooooo yummy.  I liked the ham and cheese in the middle - kind of a surprise! The boys loved it and Sam - who usually pushes his dinner away gobbled it up (mixed with some mashed potatoes). 

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