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Sunday, December 26, 2010

My best Christmas present

Dear Family and Friends,

The best Christmas present this year for me was this:

video

Taylor's meds were changed two weeks ago and we got to enjoy the effects as his body adjusted to the new dosage.  Five days of no seizures and watching Taylor laugh, giggle and show off his new deeper voice with some good guffaws.  The best was when he would laugh at the appropriate place taking us all by surprise.  Christmas Eve he started having seizures again and the laughing has died way down.  But it is still better than it was before the meds changed. We tried catching it on video several times but never could quite get it.  But I did catch the end of one laughing spell.

Monday we enjoyed our neighbor's open house.  They throw a big party every Christmas for their neighbors and friends and put out tons of treats.  So we eat a bunch of fudge and visit while kids run wild.  I think its a wonderful idea, instead of doing neighbor gifts.  Speaking of which, I did not do neighbor gifts this year while our counters and cookie jars literally run over from friends and neighbors dropping something by.  I feel like I need to stand up in church and apologize for my lack of gift giving.  We did work, church callings, teachers etc and then I was done for the year.  Overall, we have tried to do less year and hopefully enjoy it more, which I think has worked well overall.  And having only one dessert instead of three or four for Christmas worked just fine. 

Spencer and Allison had school Monday and Tuesday as they get out a week earlier in the spring than the other schools.  Tuesday morning we woke up a little later as our electricity was out due to a huge snow storm.  So we got ready by flashlight while Jeremy scraped the driveway.  Then he followed us in the truck as I drove everyone to school.  I was a little stressed as I was helping with both Spencer and Allison's Christmas parties so I had the stuff and organizing part of that plus I was bringing Taylor and Robyn with me plus I didn't get up super early to get a jump on everything as planned.  But I don't know why I worried as all the other moms were there doing their parts and everything worked great.  Robyn enjoyed eating waffles and doing crafts with Allison and then eating waffles and sewing surgical dolls for Primary Hospital with Spencer.  None of the kids needed lunch that day.  

Tuesday was spent with kids running around in snow suits with wild abandon up and down the street.  It was a good thing they soaked it in, as by the next day it was raining and rained off and since, melting most of the snow.  Wednesday the kids and I went to the BYU art museum (one of Spencer's favorite destinations - go figure).  They had a special Carl Bloch exhibit going on.  It was really an amazing experience.  The kids' favorite part was that you checked out an Ipad with headphones that took you around the exhibit.  You could hear and see art commentary, history of the painting and discussion by religion teachers about the significance of different paintings.  Then to counter all that culture we went to the creamery to buy some BYU ranch (Mimi, you got us hooked), hamburgers and ice cream.  And as we walked in we got a big surprise:


Robyn is on the posters for BYU kid's meals.  They took her picture last year but I never knew they actually used it. We all thought it was neat.

Jeremy's nail products first print came this week so he has started selling them online.  That has led to a bunch of work and coordination on his part.  I just get to enjoy the fancy nails.  And he is getting everything put together on the photo studio co-op and took us over to see it.  Right now its just a big warehouse with closets but next week it becomes the professional shooting studio.

For Christmas Eve we met Jason and Kelly and cousins at the ice skating rink.  We have done this for a few years and I love it.  Kids are so excited and bouncing around that if we didn't go somewhere to blow off steam I think I would loose it.  Santa drives the zamboni and Christmas music is playing.  Spencer lost it a bit and it made me wish that they had special holiday/vacation bi-polar medication - it would make life so much easier.  But he figured out how his ice skate should lace/feel and was able to enjoy the process.  Allison had gone ice skating earlier this week for a birthday party so her skills were all warmed up and she was doing laps around us.

On the way to the rink we met a group of deer.  Robyn kept talking about seeing Bambi.


Then we returned to our house for nachos and to watch Its a wonderful life.  Jeremy taught our kids a few years ago that Santa gets tired of cookies and would appreciate nachos.  Santa has left notes confirming this theory so now the tradition is set.

Our kids managed to contain themselves till 7 on Christmas day.  And then they waited some more as I got Taylor ready.  Jeremy had a small accident where he dropped his camera and his lens shattered so we waited some more.  But our Christmas prayers were answered as it was only his UV filter that broke and not anything else.  Christmas was a laid back affair with everyone happy and excited over their presents.  It wasn't really a toy year as kids had asked for things instead.  Jeremy disappeared for long periods of time as he enjoyed his new ipad.  Spencer kept watching his bean bag expand with shouts of excitement everytime it expanded an inch.  Allison taught Robyn how to ride her "big" bike. Jason and family came over that evening for dinner and presents and to play.  It was just a wonderful day.  Allison fell asleep that night in her new chair, in her new PJs, with her pillow pet held tightly in her arms. 

I have decided I like having Christmas on Saturday as I can't clean anything up today and instead we are just hanging out and enjoying being together with new books, games, and left overs to keep us occupied.  Hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

love, Heather

Mickey has claimed Allison's chair already as her own.
Spencer thinks he can sleep in his bean bag now.
Robyn was so excited that her legs only bend a little bit on her new bike.  On her old bike her knees practically touched her chin.
My mom made matching outfits for Robyn and her doll.  She is in heaven.  (Allison spent the afternoon doing a make-over on Robyn, hence the hair.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Marinara Sauce


My friend Karen gave me this recipe.  It is the best marina sauce I have had.  Not overly tomato tasting its just right.  My kids think meatballs are required but I think marina sauce with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top is just perfect.   Karen got this from a Betty Crocker cookbook and I have changed it only slightly.

Marinara Sauce

1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 c chopped green bell pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil leaves (or 1 Tbsp fresh)
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves (or 1 1/2 tsp fresh)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fennel seed
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
A few shakes of red pepper flakes depending on how much spice you like.

In saucepan, heat oil for 1-2 minutes. Add onion, garlic, bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, salt, fennel seed, pepper, sugar and red pepper. Heat to boiling over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.  Serve over pasta.  Makes 4 servings.


Marinara sauce is not my family's favorite, they are too used to meat.  However if I throw in some meatballs then its the best meal ever in their opinion.  So I am happy that everyone is getting their vegies and they are happy their carnivore wants are being met.

Meatballs

1 lb ground hamburger
1 lb regular sausage, I prefer Jimmy Dean (you can use Italian if you like some spice)
1 1/2 c bread crumbs
1 onion, finely chopped
1 egg
salt and pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
4 oz tomato sauce (half of a small can)
2 c water with 2 tsp beef bouillon

1. Mix all but the beef bouillon mixture into tablespoon sized balls.
2. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add half the balls at a time and brown well on each side (around 5-7 minutes a side).  Place browned meatball on a plate and brown the other half of the meatballs.  When the second half is browned, add the first batch back to the pan.
3. Pour the beef bouillon mixture over all the meatballs.  Reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid for one hour.
4. Remove the lid and return the heat medium high and cook until only a little liquid is left, around 15 minutes.


My friend and running buddy Diane introduced these to me last year when at the end of Ragnar she gave some to each of us.  They are easy to make, completely addictive and even when made by my inexpert hands with lots of little hands assisting they turn out looking scrumptious.  Diane pipes melted chocolate into little decorations on top by squeezing it out of a small ziplock with a hole cut in it.  She will even add food coloring to white chocolate for different colors on top.  I took the easy way out and just drizzled some leftover chocolate on top.  I have even seen them done with crushed heath bar, chopped nuts, crushed candy cane or sprinkles put on top while the chocolate is still warm.

Oreo Truffles

1 package of Oreo cookies (mint or regular)
1 8 oz box of low fat cream cheese
Dipping Chocolate

1. In a food processor (or blender) mix the Oreo cookies till they are crumbs.  Mix in the cream cheese until it is smooth.
2. Line a pan with parchment paper.
3. Scoop out a tablespoon at a time and roll into balls.  Place each ball on the lined pan.  When done, place the pan in the freezer for at least an hour.
4. Melt milk, dark, or white chocolate in a bowl.  I melt mine in the microwave till it is almost soft and then stir it with a spoon to melt it the rest of the way.  You want the chocolate to not be too hot or runny.
5. Take the balls out of the freezer.  Stick a ball with a toothpick, stick it into the chocolate till covered using a spoon to help spread the chocolate on the ball.  Hold the ball over the bowl for a minute to let any drips come off and then place it back on the parchment paper. Twist the toothpick out carefully using the tip to help smooth the chocolate over any holes that are left.  Repeat with all the oreo balls.  Drizzle with chocolate if you want for decoration.  (If doing sprinkles you have to do the sprinkles almost right after you dip each ball while the chocolate is still sticky.)  Place the pan in the fridge till the chocolate has set, at least an hour.  Store in the fridge (or freezer) till ready to eat.  Makes 36 balls.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A week of parties


Dear Friends and Family,

This week I think we might have overdone the parties but it was fun!  Monday night Jeremy enjoyed an early birthday/Christmas present with his brother Jason by going up to a Jazz game and sitting second row behind the basket and enjoying all the other VIP benefits.  He came home happy and with a hoarse voice from screaming to cheer on the game.  The kids and I spent the evening running around plates of fudge to their church teachers and scout/activity leaders.  The kids all wrote their thank you notes and were so thrilled to do something for their teachers.  Thinking I would help foster a sense of gratitude in them for all their teachers do I asked them why their teachers did so much for them.  I was told it was because their teachers loved them and wanted to be with them.  Robyn said this with a big grin because she thinks she is just so cute that her teachers want to always be with her.  Spencer is convinced his scout leader would rather hang out with his boys than anyone else.  I am just glad that they have such amazing people in their lives who cheer them on.

Tuesday Allison had Activity days where she made a gingerbread house masterpiece - that fell apart in front of our house as she came home leading to lots of tears.  The next morning though she realized that a broken gingerbread house is one that is easier to eat and all tears were forgotten.  Spencer with a very brave scout leader cut up firewood with an ax and started his own fire.  He came home with a band-aid, a s'more covered mouth and a huge sense of pride.  His to be 12 year old scout leader came by with his form to sign up for what merit badges he wants to do at camp this June.  He is going to be gone for a whole week!  I am not sure I am ready for that - although he sure thinks he is.  He has very high expectations of what will happen in rifle shooting class.

I debated before the movie came out whether I would take Spencer to see Harry Potter 7.  Then I heard from everyone and seeing the trailers that it was not a kid movie.  Spencer was a little bummed as we have done dates to see all the others.  So Wednesday I snuck out with my friend to see it.  I felt like I was playing hookey on a school night.  It was a great movie (definitely not for kids) and then since they stopped halfway through book 7, I had to spend the rest of the week reading the book to remember all the details as to how it ended.

Thursday Jeremy enjoyed his last non-middle age birthday.  Kids and I made him an omelet for breakfast.  Robyn was quite perturbed that he wasn't getting a birthday cake but when I found out it was because she wanted a piece of birthday cake, I just substituted a cookie from our neighbors and peace reigned once again.  His birthday was also his company party so we spent the evening at that.  His work party did the same thing of giving us each money and telling us to go buy something for ourselves.  So we pooled our money together and went back to buy a Sunday afternoon nap chair for our room.  (the massage chair didn't happen).  We are anxious to give it a trial run this afternoon.

Robyn and Taylor had their last day of school Friday.  Taylor spent half the week home sick again but I think now he is finally over his never ending cold.  He has been sick since Thanksgiving!  He enjoyed all the Christmas festivities they have at his school, choirs, Santa visits, crafts etc.  Robyn had her big preschool party and told me it was the best day ever.  They had a gift exchange, got to wear PJs to school and eat red jello and do all sorts of fun Christmas things.  Then the topping to her day was coming home to a real letter from Santa Clause answering her letter that she wrote.  I am not sure what she said in her letter that she and Spencer mailed but I am sure grateful to the postal worker who helped answer it!  Spencer has been showing her how to track Santa on NORAD.

Friday I gave Jeremy his birthday present which was an overnight trip to the Armstrong mansion, a bed and breakfast up in SLC.  There was a little confusion as to whose present it was as we were staying at an old Victorian bed and breakfast and eating dinner at Zuppas.  But it was wonderful to get away, especially at this time of year.  We took a long walk around temple square and all the nearby buildings with the lights.  We haven't done that without kids since we were dating and both wished in the fountain at Temple Square that we would be married someday.

We came back Saturday afternoon to go to Allison's Christmas dance recital.  She did wonderfully and looked way too grown up.  She is becoming a true performer and kept her face and smile towards the stage the whole time.  This week she was called back at school to try out for one of the main parts for The King and I.  She was very excited and nervous about the prospect.  Having to dye her hair black for the play just added to the attraction of being a lead.  She finds out Monday how she did.

Then Saturday night Jeremy and I went to a neighbor's house for a Christmas party.  Seriously the amount of fun activities in our life seemed a little over the top this week but we just soaked in every moment.  And now we are enjoying a day of naps and hanging out.  Allison and I sang with the choir for sacrament meeting so we had to be at church super early to practice.  So of course Robyn and Taylor got to be there super early as well.  Best part of a busy week is that everyone enjoys being able to just play together and hang out.  Allison is busy teaching Robyn in school right now.  It involves lots of ruler pointing and singing the ABCs.  We are missing our snowstorm and having a wet drizzly weekend instead.

Love to you all, Heather

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fudge

Fudge is one of Jeremy's favorite Christmas treats.  We only make it once a year as it is horribly, wonderfully addictive.  For many years now my mom's friend Pat has made a big tin of fudge for our family every year that we would munch on for the whole month.  So Christmas and fudge in my mind just go together.  We experimented for several years to find our favorite recipe until we made this one and decided we had hit perfection and shouldn't search any further.  Jeremy's favorite is just plain fudge without nuts while I like to mix it up.  You can either make lots of small pans of fudge or just stir in the extra ingredients in different sections of the 9 x 13 pan.  Technically this keeps for a month but we have never tested that.  Also the original recipe said to cook it according to temperature on a candy thermometer but I always have better success doing it by time instead.


Fudge

4 c sugar
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 8 oz jar Marshmallow Fluff
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz milk chocolate, chopped
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

extras: pecans or walnuts, mini-marshmallows, crushed toffee, peanut butter, carmel, crushed candy bars

1. Line a 9 x 13 dish with foil and then spray the foil with Pam.
2. In a large pot over medium heat, bring the sugar, evaporated milk and butter to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is a light tan color, 7-12 minutes (or 234 degrees).
3. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the marshmallow fluff and vanilla until combined.  Let it cool for 5 minutes (or till its 200 degrees).
4. Stir in the chocolates until smooth and combined.  Pour into the pan and refrigerate uncovered until firm, about 4-6 hours. See 5*.   Remove from the pan using the foil and then cut into squares.
5. ** For different types of fudge:
a. For peanut butter or carmel fudge put drops of the extra ingredient along the fudge right after you pour it into the pan.  Swirl it in with a knife.  If doing carmel make sure you swirl it in enough so there aren't any big clumps of carmel, just nice streaks, otherwise your fudge won't be stable enough to cut easily.
b. For mini-marshmallows and/or nuts - sprinkle them into the pan BEFORE you pour the fudge in.
c. For crushed toffee or candy bars - sprinkle half the pieces into the fudge after you have poured it into the pan.  Swirl the candy in with a knife.  Then sprinkle the rest of the candy on top, so it sticks to the fudge.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Choirs sing

Dear Friends and Family,

Snow has melted and we are at sunny skies and 55 degrees.  To make up for the lack of white stuff (and I am soaking up every warm moment) the week was full of Christmas activites.

Allison had choir and more choir this week.  She had a school assembly Tuesday.  Wednesday their choir sang up in SLC at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.  Since kids and I were already up there we made an evening of it.  We walked around to see the Temple Square lights, had dinner at the Nauvoo cafe, checked out the Family History library and saw the movie about Joseph Smith.  We had to leave 3/4 of the way through the movie because Allison was sobbing her little heart out.  Its one thing to read the stories but its another to see them portrayed especially on in IMAX screen.  Of course Spencer and Robyn didn't think anything was wrong at all!  It led to a bunch of good discussions though about Joseph Smith and the early church and what they went through.  Someday we will finish watching it - but probably on a smaller screen without as much emotion wrenching effects.  Then Thursday night was the choir concert at school.  Spencer after having seen the performance twice already elected to spend the evening home with Taylor watching cartoons.  Allison's voice has improved a lot with all this singing - she is on key most of the time now.  For awhile we worried she was taking after my tonally challenged dad.  She has started going to choir practice for church with me on Sundays along with a few of her friends.  It is fun to see them take it so seriously.

On Monday Meredith stayed with Taylor and the rest of us were able to go see a production of The Christmas Carol.  Robyn had this cough from a tickle in her throat that would not stop.  I felt like it echoed through the small theater despite all my candies and sips of water I was giving her.  But the message of the play really hit home to me.  Spencer and Allison have been reading the story in school so they knew all the lines.  Robyn still goes around saying "bah, humbug!".  And I just keep tearing up every time I think of Scrooge singing God Rest ye merry gentlemen at the end of the play.

Taylor went to school for a few hours Monday and then has been home sick all week.  He isn't too bad except for his snotty nose.  He is almost better, unless he sneezes - then watch out.  But he has started eating and drinking again, at least a little bit which is always a good sign.  I'm glad its the season for egg nog as its a great motivator.  On Friday we met with the neurologist.  We are raising one med, then if that works, lowering and getting rid of one, and then if that works, trying out adding in a new one.  Its always a long process of guess work when we do his medications.  What worries me is when the doctor asks for my opinion and tells me to go home and read up on the choices!  He goes in at the end of the month for an MRI to see if his loss of skills is from mini-strokes or brain damage from all the seizures.  So Taylor has been my shadow this week.  Going grocery shopping with him has reminded me of how grateful I am he goes to school.

This week Jeremy and I actually got two dates - it is the holiday season.  We had a ward council party at our Bishops house while our kids watched a movie at home.  They keep my phone so they can text Jeremy's.  When we get texts like "can we have a popsicle" we don't worry.  When we get texts like "what time are you coming home" its getting to be time to call it a night.  They love their little freedom even if we are only three houses away.  And then last night after a trip to the temple we went chair hunting.  We are trying to find a chair for our bedroom that looks good enough for me but that Jeremy can snooze in.  We tried out so many chairs and of course the ugliest one was also the most comfortable.  Jeremy did find his ultimate chair, except for the price tag.  It was a massage chair and he hasn't stopped raving about how it was the best massage he has gotten.  It was pretty amazing.  I think that furniture store will become a more regular stop for us.

Saturday the girls and I had a girls only outing.  We went to see The Nutcracker.  One of Allison's friends was dancing in it.  It was wonderful.  Robyn gasped when she saw the Nutcracker come out and wanted to know why the guy wasn't wearing any pants.  He only had tights on.  She was very concerned about it.  I explained that guys wear dance pants that look like tights.  She wasn't too convinced.  Then she wanted to know why he looked like a girl with all his make-up on.  She has definite ideas about boys and girls.  This week she was teaching her best friend Luke how to waltz.  Luke recently learned that he is supposed to open doors for all ladies and rushes to help Robyn out every time they go someplace.  I can't help but think of what Robyn and Luke will be like together when they are teenagers.  I hope they stay friends but probably they won't even talk to each other.

Jeremy has been busy getting his nail shield company going and gets his first real products this week to sell.  So he has been excited and working hard to get all of that going.  He took Spencer to brave the Christmas rush at Costco yesterday, to see a fellow photographer at her book signing.  He returned with a new phone system (our old phones had stopped working weeks ago) and a big bunch of flowers and enough bread that I don't need to return to Costco till sanity returns.  How did I get so lucky? This week is his birthday, his last one before he is officially middle aged.  This week he celebrated getting his weight down to 190 after three and a half months of amazing will power and persistence.  26 pounds gone!  I told him congratulations and then ate some of our Christmas candy...  Someday I will be as good as he is.

After all this week's worth of activities, we are enjoying a Sunday afternoon and evening of nothing happening.  Making fudge and playing is the extent of our agenda.  And I have high hopes of everyone crashing early.

Hope you are enjoying this Christmas season, Heather



Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Season in Full Force

Dear Family and Friends,

Christmas season hit full force this week.  Monday night was our lighting parade for the neighborhood.  We walk up and down the street as everyone turns their lights on for the first time and then we meet in someone's garage for hot chocolate and goodies.  

Wednesday we had our girls' cookie exchange party.  We made tons of sugar cookies that the girls decorated while the moms talked.  And then we ate a bunch of cookies and talked some more.  Two things we learned this year that worked better.  First have boxes to take cookies home in.  They work so much better than towering plates spilling cookies everywhere.  Second is to have the girls fill up the boxes with cookies for everyone to take home before we start munching on extras.  That way everyone gets to take home some of everyone else's cookies.

Friday the kids and I headed up to Sandy for the Festival of Trees.  We walked around and saw all the decorated trees and gingerbread houses, ate scones and listed to some very earnest but bad kid singers perform.  

Saturday, Allison went to a cooking class with friends where the goal was to make as much sugar coated treats as possible.  Then that night we went to our ward Christmas party.

So this week has felt like the holidays.  Kids have been excited over each event which has led to kids randomly and loudly singing Christmas songs, jumping up and down or bickering and teasing - depending on how much sugar had been recently consumed.

Robyn caught a cold this week and so she and Spencer have been coughing away.  Spencer's croup has come back but as long as he sleeps with his window open and clears his throat a bunch in the morning, its pretty livable.  Robyn just sounds like a small smurfette, but her cough is almost gone.  Taylor recovered from the stomach bug only to be hit with the cold bug.  So he is busy blowing massive amounts of snot all over his blankets but is back to drinking again and is otherwise cheerful.  Just if you hear a sneeze sound you grab a box of tissues and run to him fast.  The cold has spread to me too but chloreseptic seems to keep me functioning.  Its just that time of year.

Jeremy has been busy this week.  He is putting together a photo studio co-op where they partner up to rent a warehouse to be a photo studio.  So he has had lots of meetings with that.  Then he is also partnering up with some friends to produce and sell nail wraps.  If you have ever seen patterned sticker type things covering my toe nails, that is what they are.  They are calling themselves Sassy Nails and are planning to go live with that in a week or so.  We got samples back last week and they looked really good.  So he has been designing, figuring out marketing, building the web site etc.  Add that to EQ stuff plus a few side jobs he has picked up recently and he has been pulling some late nights and waking up early with ideas.  Seems like all his projects and plans came together right now.

I have had little Christmas projects that have been keeping me busy plus just regular life.  Moments of intense activity punctuated with long moments of monatany ie helping Spencer with math homework.  The snow has finally almost melted but there are still clumps here and there.  Allison was busy most of this week breaking out sleds and heading off in her snow gear to tackle any small hills.  They just announced they are doing another school play this year, The King and I.  She is excited to try out for it this week.

Hope you are enjoying this holiday season, Heather

Robyn has been busy making "presents" for everyone





Mom, the bench cushion is done!

I sewed this bag this week that my friend taught at our Relief Society meeting.  Now I know all the mistakes NOT to make, so I will have to do another one.

Our favorite gingerbread house - candy galore

They had a playhouse at the festival that had a real gas fireplace inside.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving

Dear Family and Friends,

Snow finally hit last night, dumping a foot of snow everywhere.  Spencer and the girls are outside running around with abandon trying to get numb enough for hot chocolate.  Taylor is snug in his bed glad to not be throwing up anymore and listening to Christmas music.  We put our ornaments up on our tree and are eating the last of the Thanskgiving pies tonight - holiday season is definitely here.

Kids were only in school two days this week.  Robyn even got to attend school twice.  Once at her preschool Monday for her Thanksgiving feast.  She was convinced that you had deviled eggs at Thanksgiving so that is what she brought.  She must have been onto a good idea as they were a hit.  And second Robyn got to go be a preschooler at Lincoln for a child science class.

Tuesday we were all excited as blizzard warnings went across the state.  All the universities closed down, airplanes were grounded and we got .2!!! inches of snow.  What we did get was a huge drop in temperatures where we got down to single digit temperatures at nights and highs in the teens during the day.  If it is going to be that cold we expect some snow!  But Allison spent the evening at a birthday party living it up doing girly stuff while I hosted a bunch of women at our house to watch a movie.  We had no problem switching to vacation mode of eating too many treats and staying up late!

Wednesday Allison spent the day playing with different friends all day while the rest of us cooked, cleaned and I worked on a cushion for our hallway bench.  Thursday while I was downstairs Robyn and Allison were busy setting up the dining room table as a surprise.  Complete with place setting turkeys.  The sad part is that I realized I have a long way to go as a mom as my first thought was shoot, I wanted to get out the china and tablecloth.  But I at least kept my mouth shut! 



  Cousins came over for the day, slept over so their parents could shop and spent the day Friday.  My kids were eating up all the cousin play time!  We hiked in the bitter cold up to the waterfall, our coldest, iciest hike yet.  Ate a lot, visited and watched movies.  It was a great Thanksgiving.

Then we woke up, put on Christmas music and started setting up Christmas decorations.   Taylor added to the festivities by being sick all weekend and throwing up most of Friday and being a pale weak noodle on Saturday.  But he put away a bunch of egg nog this morning and has kept it down although that required resting for several hours.  But he looks better and better.  The whole weekend felt just lazy and laid back.  Saturday night Jeremy and I went out to dinner with a bunch of friends and then came home to watch Inception and for me to eat left over pie.  Recommend the movie Inception and am still trying to figure it all out.

Kids can no longer feel their chins and have decided its time for hot cocoa.  Hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend.

Love Heather
 Allison found an old loom my parents gave me as a kid and has been busy getting it all set up.  Let me rephrase that - she was busy instructing me how to set it up for her!

 Robyn doesn't like her coat.  She thinks lime green is a boy color and it causes tears everytime we break it out.  To ease the pain she wore a pink tutu for our hike.

Allison and Garion finished up the puzzle.


I thought this recipe was common knowledge but I guess it isn't!  This is just the regular original recipe on the side of the chex box and is family favorite, addictive munchie - great for football game watching.

Chex Mix

3 c corn chex cereal
3 c rice chex cereal
3 c wheat chex cereal
1 c mixed nuts
1 c bite sized pretzels
1 c regular size bagel chips broken into pieces
6 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder


  1. In a large bowl mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips.
  2. In a second bowl mix the rest of the ingredients.  Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture stirring to coat evenly.
  3. Pour into a 9 x 1 pan and cook at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Cool and eat.
  4. Optional you can make it in a microwave by cooking it on high 5-6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Peter

Peter - We are living vicariously.  Wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday and congratulations on your new job:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Pie


This is Allison's favorite pie.  Really it is just a candy bar in a pie crust which is why she likes it so much.  It is super rich and tastes wonderful with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

1 9 inch pie crust, uncooked
6 Tbsp butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 c light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c pecans
6 oz semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cover the crust with foil and fill with beans or pie weights.  Cook 25-30 minutes till light in color.  Remove the pie from the oven and take off the foil and weights.  You want to add the filling while the crust is still warm.
  2. In a medium sized pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and salt until the butter is all absorbed.  Whisk in the eggs, corn syrup and vanilla until smooth.  Return the pan to the stove.  Cook over medium heat till it looks shiny and hot to the touch (130 degrees).
  3. Stir in pecans.  Pour into pie crust.  Sprinkle chocolate over the top.  Press chocolate slightly into the filling.
  4. Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees.  Cook the pie 50 - 60 minutes till the filling looks set.  Let the pie cool for at least 2 hours before serving.


I have never been a big fan of the sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows.  But this recipe strikes just the right note for me between sweet and tart.  I make these the day before or in the morning and then just put them into the oven 30 minutes before dinner.  And when I saw sweet potatoes, I really am talking about yams.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

3 large sweet potatoes
1/2 c cranberry relish
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 craisens
1/2 c pecans
salt and pepper


  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Scrub and pierce sweet potatoes.  Cook in a dish for 1 1/2 hours or till tender.  Cool slightly.
  2. Cut tops off of potatoes.  Scrape out the inside pulp into a separate bowl, leaving behind a thin shell of potato.
  3. Mash the pulp in a mixer along with the relish, sugar, butter and 1/2 tsp salt.  Stir in craisens.
  4. Sprinkle sweet potato shells with salt and pepper.  Fill with mashed potato mixture.  Top with nuts.  bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.


Holiday meals always feel a bit like a one man circus in our kitchen.  I like this recipe because it cuts down on the craziness.  I can make them in the morning and leave them covered on the counter.  Then when the turkey comes out I pop in the mashed potatoes to get hot and it tastes like they were just made.  When I serve them with ham I will throw in a cup of shredded muenster cheese and a little extra milk.  You can adjust the amounts up or down.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

12 russet potatoes
1/2 c butter
1 c milk or half and half
8 oz cream cheese
Salt and white pepper to taste (I use around 1 tsp of each)


  1. Peel and boil the potatoes till soft.
  2. Mash the potatoes with butter, milk, salt and pepper.
  3. Mash in the cream cheese till smooth.
  4. Put the potato mixture into a 9 x 13 dish.  Cover.
  5. When dinner is almost ready, bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven until hot, about 1/2 an hour.


No holiday meal would be complete for my family without this cheeseball.  It has obtained almost legendary status since my family served it to us growing up and we each still boast about the cheeseball our individual families have made.  I have been overruled in my family so we make our without nuts but rolling it in nuts gives a nicer presentation I think.

Cheeseball

2 pkg. creamed cheese (16 oz)
8 ox can crushed pineapple, well drained
1 Tbsp Season Salt (no this is not a typo)
1/4 c green pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp green onion, chopped
1/2 c craisens, optional
2 c chopped nuts, optional

Mix all ingredients except nuts in a mixer or food processor.  If you want to roll it into a ball on nuts you can or simply mound it into a bowl.  Chill well, preferably overnight.  Serve with crackers - ritz and wheat thins are our favorite.


This is Taylor's pie and coincidentally it is from a recipe by Robert Taylor that my mom had.  We have tried all sorts of other lemon pies but this one is the best and next to huge helpings of mashed potatoes and gravy is one of Taylor's favorite things at the holidays.  Make sure you beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them separately.  If you just dump the eggs in to the hot mixture you will end up with chunks of cooked egg white in your pie.


Lemon Pie

1 1/2 c sugar
1/3 c cornstarch
1 1/2 c hot water
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 c lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp grated lemon rind
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
9 inch baked pastry shell, cooled

Mix sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.  Gradually stir in water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils.  Boil 1 minute.  Slowly stir in eggs a little at a time.  Boil 1 minute longer.  Remove from heat.  Blend in butter, lemon juice and rind.  Pour into baked shell and chill before serving.  Serve with whipped cream.


For some reason if Lasagna is in the recipe's name Allison automatically likes it.  I will assemble this before kids get home from school and then pop it in the oven a half hour before dinner.

Mexi-Corn Lasagna

1 lb ground beef
1 can 17 oz whole kernel corn, drained
1 can 15 oz tomato sauce
1 c favorite salsa or picante sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 carton 16 oz cottage cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic salt
12 corn tortillas
1 c (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Brown meat, drain.  Add corn, tomato sauce, salsa, chili powder and cumin.  Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. In a seperate bowl combine cottage cheese, eggs, parmesan cheese, oregano and garlic salt.  Mix well.
  3. Spray a 9 x 13 pan.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Arrange 6 tortillas on bottom and up sides of 9 x 13 pan, overlapping as necessary.
  5. Top with half the meat mixture.  Spoon all of cheese mixture over meat.  Arrange the other 6 tortillas over cheese.  Top with remaining meat mixture.  Sprinkle on cheese.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Serves 10.


My mom used to make these out of bisquick dough sprinkled with cooked hamburger.  I loved them as a kid but didn't have much luck as an adult having them turn out.  So I switched to making them like a cinnamon roll and had much better results.  You can serve them with gravy but I still revert to childhood with these and break out the ketchup bottle every time.

Meat Rolls

1 egg
1/3 c sugar
2 c warm water
1/3 c shortening
3 3/4 tsp yeast
4 1/2 - 5 c flour
2 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c dry powdered milk
1 lb ground hamburger
1 onion, chopped
8 oz of mushrooms, fresh or canned
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp worcerstershire sauce
3 oz blue cheese, crumbled (opt)
Ketchup or gravy for serving


  1. Mix together egg, water, yeast, salt, sugar and shortening.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Add 4 1/2 c flour and powdered milk.  Knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.  Let rise until double.
  2. Brown hamburger in a pan.  Add onion and mushrooms.  Cook until onions are soft.  Add salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce. 
  3. Roll out dough, into a rectangle 12 inches tall and 24 inches wide.  Sprinkle on meat mixture.  If desired top with cheese.  Roll up dough just like a cinnamon roll.  Cut roll into 1 inch slices and lay on a cookie sheet.  Cover and let rise until double, about an hour.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 min till lightly browned.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Under pressure...

Dear Friends and Family,

Snow has finally come with a vengeance.  We woke up to a world of white and it is still coming down mixed with pockets of rain/slush when a warm wind comes through.   Kids were excited about their primary program today but when they saw the snow dreams of snowball fights and making snow men took over.  We hosted choir practice at our house today after church and while Allison and I sang, Spencer and Robyn suitably decked out were having a "snow warrior" school in the backyard.  Not sure what that entailed besides trying to hit targets on the playhouse in a true "snow warrior" fashion.

Jeremy yesterday morning quickly got our Christmas lights up before the snow came down.  It seemed like our whole neighborhood had the same idea.  Putting up lights in snow and ice is miserable and a great incentive to get your lights up early.  Jeremy had a full day yesterday spending the day in a photo class with a photographer he admires and then the night at a boys night of UFC watching.  So he really enjoyed his weekend.

This week was the school spelling bee.  Allison was very excited to be the girl representative for her class.  I showed up Friday and she was the first one up.  Those spelling bees are high pressure and pretty rigid in their format.  And I was crossing my fingers as she spelled gnash "n-a-s-h" and was out.  But then all the third graders got out on their first words.  So they had to stay at the end after the school champion won for a third grade tie breaker.  And then Allison won which she was thrilled for.  And then she had her 5th grade math test where she is getting As.  (She is doing well in 5th grade math all by herself.  Spencer is in 7th grade math and requires 30-60 minutes a night of me helping to correct his homework to keep his grades up).  And then choir practice and then home and off to her piano recital.   We really started wondering about the pressures we put on her.  Throw in running to help Taylor every time he has a seizure and living with Spencer which isn't always easy and you have the possibilities of ulcers on the horizon.  But she seems to love it all so far.

Piano recital with both kids was really enjoyable to listen to now.  They used to be an exercise in endurance and your cheeks started to ache from trying to keep a smile on your face.  Now its just nice to listen to all the Christmas music.  And afterward to celebrate we all went out to 5 guys for hamburgers.  Allison got a hot dog with bacon and American cheese on it.  She thought it was the best thing ever.  I almost gagged looking at it.  Robyn told me that after that dinner we better skip dessert and just have fruit to make up for all the junk food!  Stuffed with french fries no one even complained when we stopped to clean the office.

The papers sticking out of Spencer's pocket are his sheets of music just in case he had a case of amnesia when facing the grand piano.

Yesterday afternoon I was able to go attend the sealing of Jeremy's cousin up at the Bountiful Temple.  Dirk reminds me of Santa Clause, complete with the big belly and long curly hair and beard.  This is their second marriage and after 12 years they were sealed.  It was neat to be there.  Coming up to the middle of a snowstorm and literally sliding down a mountain guided by policemen and a snow plow was not so fun.  I was praying hard and used up any blessings from attending the temple.

The rest of the week was full of all the day to day errands and trivia - church meetings, school, classes, getting fabric to make our bench cushion etc.  Robyn "helped" me wrap up some Christmas presents.  Watching Allison get Taylor all fitted out in bibs and feed him a candy bar.  Cutting down dead plants in a rare afternoon of warmth and kids racing bikes up and down the street before the sun disappeared.  Running with a large group of women from our ward along Linden's running trail.  Spencer reading the Hunger Games trilogy any chance he can get.  Being shocked to find out how much Allison's jazz dance shoes are.  Just our basic life which I am always grateful for.

Hope you are enjoying the Thanksgiving season,

Heather

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mrs. Reese's Noodles


My brother Peter had friend named David Reese growing up whose mom made the best noodle dish ever.  I could always tell when she was making it because Peter would be eating at his friend's house that night.  It makes a lot!  I have consolidated some of the steps for how I make it.  And I make it without bok choy or cilantro as I don't care for either in this dish.  But it is one of my favorite meals.

Mrs. Reese's Noodles

1. Cook 3 chicken breasts till just barely done.  I usually cook mine in water.  Fill a pot with your chicken and water to cover.  Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for 30 minutes until chicken tender.  Let chicken cool.

2. In a large mixing bowl put:
4 carrots, peeled and sliced diaganolly
6 stalks of celery sliced
2 heads broccoli cut up
3 garlic cloves minced
1 bunch green onion, sliced
2 cups of bean sprouts
(optional: 1 bunch bok choy cut up and 1 bunch of cilantro cut up)

3. Cut up your chicken into small pieces and put on top of your vegetables.  Sprinkle whole bowl with 2 tsp salt, 1/4 c sugar and drizzle with sesame oil.  Let it sit.

4. Cook one box spaghetti noodles till just all dente.  Drain.  Stir with a Tbsp of sesame oil.
5. Make your special sauce in a bowl.  Stir together:
1 c oyster sauce
1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 c catsup
3 Tbsp sugar (you can also do 3/4 c sweet chili sauce instead of the sugar and oyster sauce)

6. In a large frying pan heat a little oil over medium high heat.  Dump in half of your vegetable mixture.  Add 1/4 c water and cover for 5 minutes.  Then remove lid and stir fry mixture until all is tender.  Dump into a large serving bowl and repeat with the other half of your vegetable mixture.  Then pour 2 Tbsp of oil into your pan and stir fry your noodles till light brown.  Stir often otherwise the noodles will stick.  Dump noodles into serving bowl.

7. Pour 1/2 of the special sauce into your serving bowl and mix everything together.  If you want a stronger taste you can add more of the sauce.  I only do half of the sauce as my kids like a mild flavor.

This is Italian wedding soup only made with sausages rather than small meatballs to make it easier.  My kids don't seem to notice the veggies in it as they all agreed it was a keeper.  This soup keeps for several days but does not freeze. You can half the recipe though.  You can also make it up to adding the pasta and spinach earlier and then bring the soup back up to boiling a half hour before dinner.

Italian Sausage & Potato Soup
makes 10-12 servings

2 lbs mild Italian sausages, cut into 1/4 inch slices
3 carrots peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 quarts chicken broth (or 12 c of water with 12 tsp chicken bouillon)
2 cans (14 1/2 oz each) diced tomatoes
2 cans (15 oz each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp dried basil
2 c dried shell-shaped pasta (I like big shells, kids like small)
1 box frozen chopped spinach, 10 oz or one bunch of fresh spinach chopped
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese


  1. Cook sausage pieces, breaking them up with a spoon in a pan over high heat, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add carrots, onion and garlic, stirring often till onion is limp, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add broth, tomatoes (including juice), beans and basil and bring to a boil.
  4. Add pasta, reduce heat and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, until pasta is just tender to bite, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with cheese.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Scared Straight

Dear Friends and Family,

This week Robyn's preschool had a field trip guaranteed to keep Robyn on the straight and narrow.  Her preschool teacher's dad is that Utah county sheriff.  So we toured the county jail.  Imagine a group of 4 and 5 year olds with their moms walking through booking, seeing the "time-out" room for combative prisoners (the grate in the floor for their bathroom had them all grossed out), door slamming behind us and prisoners in booking cells trying to figure out where all these little kids came from.  Robyn loved learning that prisoners who got in trouble had to wear red and pink stripped jumpsuits and climbing all over the metal bunk-beds in an empty "unit".  But the highlight of the trip was meeting the k-9 unit and seeing the wildfire forest guys and climbing all over their humongous trucks.  I think all the guards and workers were so excited to be dealing with non-prisoners that they made the outing really special for these kids but I think all of them have decided they will never go there as adults.

Robyn's partners in crime - the tires on the fire trucks were bigger than them

We thought earlier this week that something had died in Spencer's room.  The smell was so strong one morning when we opened his door that we knew we weren't just dealing with bad hygiene issues.  So I spent the day wiping everything down and was pleasantly surprised to find his room pretty clean.  Till I moved his punching bag and found that Macho had decided it looked like a fire hydrant.  It must have been going on for awhile because the smell had really built up.  I tried our green machine, odor crystals etc but couldn't get rid of it.  So our nice carpet cleaning guy came back and put de-skunker all over.  It smells like bubble-gum in a really not good way.  Spencer has been sleeping in the basement ever since.  But today we opened his door and it wasn't too bad so I think we are back to normal.  And our cat is not on our good list right now.

Spencer (and a reluctant me) spent the week getting ready for his pow-wow on Saturday.  He had to build a rocket, a mouse house (he pushed for a bat house but the instructions lost me on the shopping list alone), write a report on a ferret and figure out 2 life cycles.  I think pow-wow instructors should hand out chocolate bars to all these little scouts and instruct them that they need to give the chocolate to their moms and give them a foot massage while they eat it to make up for all the scout homework they need to do.  But we did it and he had a great time at his pow-wow and his rocket worked (I was praying hard for that one!).

Spencer's mouse house - Grieslda this is the box the cinnamon rolls came in last year - the gift that just keeps on giving as I didn't want to drive to Home Depot for plywood
 Jeremy has been excited this week as his photo studio co-op has been coming together.  He did a tour with his perspective partners and it looks like it will work.  He also modeled again for a photo shoot for a gun manufacturer, along with Jason and Kelly.  (Kids thought it was great.  James Bond for a dad and another cousin and pizza night here)

Saturday was my annual girls' shopping day.  I love this tradition!  We all were neighbors in Orem and really only get to stay in touch with all of us a few times a year.  It amazes me to hear everyone's stories about their kids as we have all known each other for 10 years now.  We spent the day walking through toy stores, craft stores and eating and visiting.  Twelve hours just flies by.  The best part is that by the end of the day most of us have almost all our Christmas shopping done. 

We found plastic pants for Taylor this week.  Who knew they made them for adults?  The problem is that his waist is so narrow we need to take them in to do any good.  But between Taylor and Robyn (who still has accidents most nights) I am washing one to two loads of bedding every day.  That is not cool.  So I am hoping this does the trick. 

As the days get cold outside, I am taking more exercise classes at the Rec center and cleaning house.  Running or working outside don't have much appeal right now.  But there is a group of us who still run together on Saturday mornings and then take a yoga class at the rec center.  It is really fun to visit with everyone.  And thankfully there are a few really good runners in our group who do all the talking for the second half as I just gasp along.

Allison has decided to join church choir with me.  Watching her sit with another little girl who comes and carefully follow along with the music makes her seem so old.  Tonight we go to Priesthood preview with Spencer as he turns 12 in 4 months.  How on earth am I going to keep a straight face and not giggle or cry when he passes the sacrament?  Good thing Robyn is still little.  When I asked kids what they wanted for Christmas, Spencer didn't want a single toy and Allison only wanted a few.  So I am glad for Robyn whose eyes still get big when she finds a cool leaf on the ground and we all have to stop and ooh and aah for her.

I have been enjoying the prospect of hunkering down a bit.  Breaking out the fruitcake, cleaning out my craft supplies, reading the new shopaholic book.  Life seems to slow down a bit when it is dark and cold at night and I am enjoying the process.

Love, Heather

Macho not liking the neighbors dog playing with Rocky in our backyard
Robyn really likes reading about all her cousins on their blogs

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Crustless Quiche

I made this recipe once for a Stake Merry Miss dinner with my mom.  It felt like we made hundreds of these things.  But its an easy recipe, relatively healthy and quick. Goes great with french bread and salad for a dinner or with muffins and fruit for breakfast.  I cook up a package of bacon and then drain it and store half cup amounts in small bags in my freezer.  I have also used instead of bacon, turkey bacon pieces, canadian bacon that I have fried, and small pieces of ham.

Crustless Quiche

Sprinkle into greased pie pan:
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c swiss cheese shredded
1/2 c chopped green onion (1/2 of a bunch)

In a bowl combine:
2 c milk
3/4 c bisquick (at lower altitudes you can do 1/2 c)
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs

Pour mixture over ingredients in pan.  Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mexicali Pie


A great regular casserole.  Can't be made ahead of time as the filling has to be hot when you pour on the cornbread topping.  And it doesn't freeze.  But you can make the filling and then heat it up again when you are ready to assemble the casserole to cut down on the prep time.  It is a great winter dish, warm, spicy and hearty.

Mexicali Pie
8-10 servings

In a large pan brown: 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
Add 1 medium onion, chopped and 1 green bell pepper, chopped

Add: 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cans (14 1/2 oz) Mexican diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn
1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed
1 packet taco spice mix OR 2 tsp chili powder, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 Tbsp flour

Pour mixture into a 9x13 pan.
Top with a mixture of:
1 c cornmeal
1/2 c flour
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 c milk
1/4 c oil
1 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Cook at 400 degrees for 22 minutes.  Serve with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.


I have old granny tastebuds, I admit it.  But every year the week after Halloween finds me making fruitcake for the holiday season.  In our family only I, Robyn and Spencer like fruitcake.  But nothing says holiday time for me like a piece of fruitcake with a cup of hot chocolate while reading a new book or looking at Christmas cards.  I used to make my Grandma Drechsel's recips but was never quite pleased with the results.  So last year we experimented to find our favorite recipe.  You are supposed to let fruitcake age in a cupboard wrapped up in saran wrap and aluminum foil.  But after an unfortunate event early in our marriage where I helped myself to a piece of fruitcake in a dark kitchen only to learn that it was not a green cheery piece I was eating but rather a moldy piece of fruitcake I take the cautious route.  I stick them in my freezer and then let them age for a week out in my cupboard before I eat them.  I have the feeling that no one else will ever make this recipe but me.  Since I love it though, it is going into the master cookbook.  This recipe is adapted from the Lionhouse cookbook

Fruitcake

2 c chopped dates
3 c raisins
1 c candied pineapple
1 c candied red cherries
1 lb fruitcake mix (4 c)
2 c chopped pecans
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp mace
1/4 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c melted butter
1 1/4 c brown sugar
4 eggs
1/4 c honey
1/4 c citrus based fruit juice

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, salt, cloves, mace, soda, and cinnamon.  Stir in the dried and candied fruit and nuts, making sure everything is well coated with the flour mixture.
In a large mixer bowl beat together the butter, brown sugar, eggs, honey and fruit juice.  Pour into the large mixing bowl holding the fruit and flour mixture.  Stir by hand till everything is well mixed together.
Spray two 8 x 4 inch pans with cooking spray.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  Spray again.  Fill the pans 3/4 full.
Heat oven to 275 degrees.  On the lower rack of the oven place a pan of water.  Cook the fruit cakes on the second level.
Bake 2 1/2 hours at 275 degrees.  (You can do smaller loaves for 2 hours)  Cool
When cool dribble on additional fruit juice and wrap in saran wrap and foil.  Let age one week in a cool, dry place before eating.  I store mine in the freezer till ready to use and then age for one week.

Dear Friends and Family,

Jeremy has told me that is doesn't really count as a holiday but I think daylight savings time ranks right up there.  Sleep in for an extra hour and no longer have to wake up before the sun.  Cause for celebration in my book!

This week was a rather emotional one in our neighborhood.  The week started off great.  Robyn and I went to a friends' house who was hosting a brunch for her birthday.  I thought it was a brilliant way to celebrate a birthday rather than waiting around for someone else to celebrate for you.  Tuesday Robyn had a birthday party to go to, Allison and Spencer loved scouts and activity days.  Allison and I went out for a late night girls shopping trip for new clothes.  I was not sure whether to laugh or cry as Allison would preen in front of the dressing room mirror and asking me if I thought she needed a bra yet.  When did she get this old?

Then Tuesday night Jeremy woke me up at 1:30 to tell me that after I had fallen asleep he had been called to go the hospital.  A neighbor's 17 year old son was found an hour after getting home from YM, dead in the hallway of his home.  Jeremy was there as despite their efforts at the hospital to revive him, they could not bring him back.  Jeremy was up for most of the night after that.  The next night was our ward temple night.  Many of the youth and their parents were at the candle-light vigil at the high school so our numbers were small.  But it was a good reminder to me about the purpose of our family and our life here on earth.  Only a few weeks earlier our friend's 13 year old daughter in Orem was killed while waiting at the school bus stop by another 13 year old girl thinking she could drive.  Jeremy was quite involved in the fund-raising efforts for that family (the dad had died 5 years earlier in a car crash and a ponzi scheme con man had taken all the insurance money).  So it is no wonder when we told our kids what had happened that Robyn asked if all teenagers died.

So funeral plans dominated our week and our thoughts a bit.  Jeremy went over to stay at the house during the funeral and the viewing.  Our neighbor kids joined us for movie night while they went to the viewing.  Kids and I spent Saturday at the funeral.  So we have had lots of deep talks this week about what is important in life.  And to top if off with a Fast Sunday full of people testifying just really brought it home.

But we did have one night of fun.  Jeremy and I were able to go out Saturday night.  Jeremy patiently trolled through Ikea and Walmart with me looking for girls' Christmas presents, we had a great meal at Walmart and then watched Knight and Day which we really enjoyed.

Combined with all the other events of the week, Jeremy has been busy visiting all the elders in our ward.  Home-teaching numbers have been struggling for a while so they are busy committing people to make a big push in November.

Spencer spent a day at junior achievement city up in SLC on a field-trip.  It is where the 6th graders act out a town's economy.  Spencer was a bank manager which he thought was very cool.

Last week was full of sunshine and warmth, one last hurrah before the snow hits.  I hacked away at bushes, trees and pulled out our garden.  Robyn ran around on her bike whenever possible usually in some glamorous outfit.  I opened up windows whenever possible to get rid of some of the funk that pervades our house.  And I found a new series I am enjoying called The Dresden Files.  So lots of good this week along with the sad.

Love to you all, Heather


This recipe is from my neighbor Diane.  She cooks it in a jelly roll pan for 25-30 minutes.  While I like the super thick style that has to be eaten with a fork.  Either way its delicious and a completely fall like dessert.

Pumpkin Bars

2 c flour
2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 c oil
4 eggs
2 c pumpkin
1 pkg mini-chocolate chips (12 oz)
1 c chopped walnuts opt.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl - flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and soda.  In a mixer blend together the oil, eggs, and pumpkin.  Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.  Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts if wanted.  Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan (or a jelly roll pan).  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes (if doing a jelly roll pan cook for 25-30 minutes).  Cool then frost with cream cheese frosting.

Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese
6 Tbsp butter
1 3/4 c - 2 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Mix on low speed for 30 seconds and then beat till smooth on medium high speed, around 3 minutes.  Cut into bars.