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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Happy Birthday to me...(12 more days)

Dear Family and Friends,

Birthday festivities have stretched over a couple of days for me which has been wonderful.  And I had the realization that in 12 days I will be on a plane to Barcelona (lots of excitement and small moments of panic over that one).  Feeling extremely spoiled and loved so thank you to everyone for their love and birthday wishes. 

Last night my friend Brenda threw a party for several couples.  We had a great time eating dinner and playing games.  And since 3 of us had birthdays that week she had cheesecake for dessert.  After 30 days of no sugar, it tasted really, really good.  And tonight kids are excited about their pieces of cheesecake waiting in the freezer.  Spencer was the only kid who really made it all month long as the girls cheated often.  But everyone did so much better than I thought they would.  Robyn despite great complaining got into the spirit of it and would ask our neighbor quite seriously as she chomped on her third s'more in his backyard if s'mores had sugar in them as she wasn't eating sugar.

We played a new game that was hilarious.  It is charades in reverse and we played men versus women.  All the men but 2 acted out the word while the other 2 tried to guess.  We will need to play it again.
Yesterday I had a race called "Hale freezes over" to benefit the Hale theater that Jeremy and I often go to.  My sister-in-law Kelly along with my friends Jen and Carol joined me.  I was worried when I signed up for it that I would be running in snow and ice.  But our snowstorm from Wednesday had pretty much cleared out and it was sunny and in the 30s.  I was excited about it as it was my fastest 10k yet - 52 minutes and I won my age division (as did Kelly and Carol - someday I will run as fast as Kelly...).  The race didn't start until 10 which made life much nicer and Allison had woken me up with breakfast in bed (today is our Fast Sunday so she did it a day early for my birthday).  So it was a great morning.
On Friday my friend Brooke took Robyn home after preschool so I had most of the day to myself.  I got my hair done and went and had lunch with Jeremy.  Feels so strange and indulgent to have a middle of the day date!  Then that night Jeremy had a gig taking photos of a harpist at the Utah Symphony so I got to go along as his date.  Honestly it was a bit long and the seats got a little uncomfortable.  But the selections from Carmen were really cool.  The strange harp music made you wonder if the composer had decided to see how many weird and varied percussion instruments he could use. 

Last highlight of the week was that I got to go out shopping with my sister-in-law Kelly as she instructed me in wearing "cool" clothes.  She gave me red sparkly pointy high heeled shoes last year and zebra glitter flats and this year she gave me a gift card to her favorite store.  If I have any outfits that look good - it is thanks to her.

Rest of the week was full of church meetings, kid activities and everything else that fills up our days.  We changed up Spencer's meds a bit as paranoia was starting to creep back into his life.  Hopefully this will get things under control before we leave.  Had our team meeting for my Rangar team and changed the name from team "what the hill?" (loved the name but was a little embarrassed to wear the shirt with my kids) to team "steel magnolias - cause we're tough enough".  One of our runners is making us all magnolia flowers to clip into our headbands.  Should be cute.

We bought tickets this week to go see my brother Daniel and his family in Phoenix over spring break.  Nice guy that Jeremy is - he drives us out, flies home and works and then flies back and drives us back.  I am glad because 12 hours of driving by myself gets a little intimidating.  The day after he booked his tickets he found out that his work is flying out with wives for a few days in San Francisco at the same time.  But as a consolation prize he is getting a new monitor for his office instead so we are all happy.

Allison is excited to have a speaking part in this year's school play so she has been busy carrying around her script and trying to speak in an Asian accent.  Taylor is down with a snotty nose cold and makes me really wish he could blow his nose.  Spencer has re-discovered magic tricks - guess I needed a lesson in patience.  Robyn is just bouncing around everywhere and with a friend whenever she can.  So life is good.

Love, Heather

Dear Friends and Family,

The biggest news of the week is that our baby is 5 years old.  I can hardly believe that Robyn  is so grown up.  And there was no doubt in our home that this was her birthday week as we had too many plans to squeeze it into just one day.  Despite her telling everyone about this huge imaginary party she was having with all her friends, complete with huge gift bags, a pinata with lots of candy, wands, and lots of cake - she managed to enjoy our family party.

Monday the kids were out of school.  Robyn got her hair cut into a cute bob so she would look just like Allison and be beautiful for her birthday.  We met Jason and Kelly's family at Pirate Island that evening for our family party.  I am glad we were able to do it on a non-school day as it was a fun, loud, chaotic time.  Pirate Island is like a pirate's version of Chuck-e-cheese.  Unknown to us, Monday is FHE karoke night.  So I sang my first karoke every with my girls doing Dancing Queen.  Allison held onto the mike for all she was worth but belted it out.  Ate a bunch of bad pizza, watched kids become ecstatic or tearful over the different games and how many tickets they won.

Tuesday, Robyn had a few friends over for a birthday picnic.  To help her get over the fact that she was not having a big friend party.  We made little pizzas, jello and cupcakes.
  Wednesday we all woke up Robyn with breakfast in bed and singing Happy Birthday.  In the mornings when we wake up Robyn she goes into her turtle impression for family prayer.  And she was out of instinct rolling up into her blanket, butt up in the air but then she realized it was her birthday and shot straight up with a big smile.
Robyn got to take cupcakes into school, go out to lunch with Jeremy, take in treats for her gymnastics class and then come home for her favorite dinner - chicken noodle soup with cheese bread (literally slices of home-made bread with cheese melted on top) - and a few more presents.  She sort of lost it around 7:30 after a very happy, happy day and collapsed in bed saying that she loved everything about her birthday.

Next day reality hit Robyn as she had her 5 year old shots.  Don't know if I am more laid back about it or she is just braver than our other kids but it really wasn't a big deal with her.  So now she is all set for kindergarten.  I still cannot believe that she will be in regular school next year.  I keep having moments of panic when I realize I am out of the little kids running around the house stage very soon.

Regular life, school, activities, church etc kept us busy the rest of the time.  Spencer and Allison had their science fair this week so they were busy getting their projects together.
Spencer's jelly bean experiment - can you tell he is a boy just from his layout?

Allison's project with her friend - can you tell they are girls?
Friday night I had a few friends over to watch Time Traveller's Wife.  I had read the movie awhile ago but had never seen the movie.  Thought they did a great job on it.  I have decided I need to do that more often for all these chick flicks I want to see.  Kids don't think its fair that I kick them to the basement while I watch a grown-up movie occasionally - but they will live through it.  We had a cousin night on Saturday to make up for it so we were all good.

Sunny skies returned to us this week along with a bitter cold wind but you can feel spring is in the air.   Love to you all, Heather

I made a bunch of mini pies this week for a Relief Society event.  You make them in half pint canning jars.  They look really cute.  Hopefully they will cook OK.  Right now they are in my freezer.

We have pizza and movie night every Friday night.  We have been doing that tradition for 6 years now and needless to say the basic pepperoni pizza looses its appeal after awhile.  Although my kids swear they could have Little Casers every week and be just fine with it.  So over the year we have experimented to find our favorite pizzas.  We have had breakfast pizza, BBQ pizza, pizza rolls, Mexican pizza and any other combination we could think of.  I grew up with whole wheat pizza dough but my family remains unconverted.  This is the basic pizza that we all like, white flour and all.  This dough uses bread flour which is DIFFERENT than regular flour.  It gives the dough a chewier texture.  You can make the dough with a mixer or by hand but it is easiest with a food processor (something I never would have thought but it is true).  You can make the dough the night before, refrigerate it covered in plastic wrap and then let rise at room temperature 30 minutes before you need it.

Basic Pizza Dough
4 c bread flour plus extra for the counter
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 3/4 c water, warm
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil

1. Pulse flour, yeast and salt in a food processor till combined.  Add the oil, oregano and basil.  Pulse till combined.  With the processor running pour the water in until a rough ball forms, 30-40 seconds.  Let the dough rest for 2 minutes and then process for 30 seconds longer.
2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until it forms a smooth round ball, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the ball to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
3. Spray pizza pan with oil.  Sprinkle pan with 1 Tbsp cornmeal.  Roll out dough into 2 18 inch pizzas.  Prick all over with a fork.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Cover with sauce and toppings.  Bake for 10-15 more minutes at 400 degrees until crust is golden.

Basic Pizza Sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp oil
1 8 oz can tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 1/2 c beef broth (or 1 1/2 tsp beef bouillon and 1 1/2 c water)
1. Cook onion in oil over medium heat, till soft, about 5 minutes. (If in a hurry you can skip this step and use dried onion pieces)
2. Add the rest of ingredients and stir till warm and thoroughly combined.

This is a favorite of all but Allison who we have decided doesn't get to vote anymore on what recipes make it into our collection.  It is perfect for a cold day.  I make it with skim milk instead of whole unless I have company over than I go for the gusto.  You can taste the difference but it is still super yummy even with skim milk.  You can make it with fresh corn but I am way too lazy to go that route.  Serve it with lots of pepper sprinkled on the top.  (I have several recipes that only use a few pieces of bacon.  So I cook up a whole package of bacon and then freeze it into smaller portions.)

Corn Chowder
Serves 6-8

2 lbs frozen corn
4 slices bacon (4 oz) chopped fine
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp flour
3 c chicken broth or 3 c water and 3 tsp chicken bouillon
2 c skim milk (or whole)
4 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 c whipping cream
salt and pepper

1. Saute the bacon in a large pot over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minutes, scraping up any browned bits.  Stir in the broth, milk, potatoes, bay leaves, thyme and frozen corn.  Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
2. Stir in the cream and simmer till soup is hot but NOT boiling.  Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Corn Chowder

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A routine week - hallelujah!

Dear Family and Friends,

Although it was a full week, it was also a pretty normal routine week around here.  As you can see, Spencer finally got his hair cut.  I have learned I just have to tell him he has a week to commit.  He usually puts it off till the end of the week but he feels better about having some control over when its done.  It was way too long as the buzzers kept bogging down.  To get Spencer in the right mood as Jeremy was taking pictures, he played "I'm too sexy" with Robyn singing right along.  She is going to grow up a little warped with being the youngest kid.

Taylor was sick for Monday but after that has been pretty good.  And knock on wood everyone else has stayed healthy.  They have a new walker at school for him which allows him more freedom to walk around and he has been loving it.  We are rebuilding his weight so he is enjoying his chocolate whole milk as we the sugar deprived watch in envy.

Spencer has been working on his science project this week.  He told us in the name of science that we had to participate even though it involved eating jelly beans to see if we could name the flavor with our nose plugged and eyes blindfolded and then with our nose unplugged.  Being able to smell as you chew makes a huge difference.
Allison and I went to her first mother/daughter book group at the library.  We read "Everything on a waffle" this last month and they discussed the author, the book, made a collage and then had waffles.  I found out Robyn could come with us but Allison doesn't want to share her mom time so we didn't tell Robyn.  They do a new book every month so Allison is already starting "Princess Academy" for this month.  She started play practice this week and has been singing The king and I soundtrack.  She and her friend did their science project yesterday which involved soda pop bottles, mentos and gum to see if gum would slow down the reaction.
Robyn turns 5 this week.  Hard to believe my baby is this old.  I put her on the list for kindergarten this week!  She tells everyone about this huge birthday party with friends that she is having despite us telling her for months that we are doing a family party.  Every time the subject comes up it ends in her crying.  I feel like a mean mom but I am sure it will all work out.
Jeremy has had a couple of photo events this week as he gets his studio co-op up and going.  His life is busy but he is enjoying the challenge of it.   Last night we got to enjoy a double date with friends and to celebrate Jeremy being back at his lowest weight and my really wanting sugar, we went out for Chinese food.  I forgot how good Chinese food can be!  After an evening of visiting and catching up we went and saw True Grit.  Really enjoyed it.  It was as good as the original I thought, which is saying something.

I have spent my free moments this week working on painting our bench/shelf unit.  It is all put together now and done.  We just need to run some wires, put in a speaker screen and make the cushions.  Hopefully next week I can post a finished picture.  I was spoiled this week as I got to go out to dinner with some friends.  None of us cared what or where we were eating, it was just two hours of grown-up talk.  In the winter time especially it is so nice to have some grown-up time.  We have had an inversion all week so cloudy, smoggy air keeps everyone huddled up inside especially.  We need a big storm to blow through.

Love to you all and hope you enjoying blue skies somewhere, as we don't have them here.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Let the sunshine in...

Dear Friends and Family,

We had a small amount of snow last night that blew away our yucky inversion and left blue skies and sunshine out so to melt our ice slick of a driveway.  But our family sunshine returned to us today as well.  It has been a week of whine without stop from our little sunshine Robyn.  Her eyes have either been red from crying over such important things as only having one pen while Allison has two or her voice is reaching decibels and octaves no human ear should endure.  But this afternoon her smile has reappeared so we are enjoying all the sunshine in our lives today.

Robyn woke up ready to go to school Monday with her fever, cough, and yucky stomach gone.  But Allison decided to replace her in the sick bed by spending Sunday night throwing up more than I thought her body could contain.  Hardened mom that I am and gracious dad that Jeremy is, I dropped Allison off at his work while I went to breakfast with two friends for an hour.  So she was quite content to sit with her pillow-pet, a throw up bucket just in case and his ipad with a bunch of movies.  Since she spent the day following me around wanting more food and talking away, I didn't feel too bad about abandoning her.
I spent the week painting our benches and shelves for our family room.  I always forget how long it takes but I enjoy the process.  I am all done painting, now I just need to distress, stain, and varnish.  Kids haven't complained too much about being TVless as everything is unhooked right now.  And our sugar free month continues although with great protest on Robyn's part.  Kids are all onboard and I honestly think I have the hardest time of all with it.  But it has been sort of an eye opener for everyone to see how much sugar they actually eat.  We are doing cereal that has single digit sugar grams and sugar free hot chocolate.  Cereal consumption has gone up a lot this week.  Spencer and Allison have been stashing away their candy treats from school and are planning a wild sugar orgy on my birthday, the end of our challenge. 

This week was back to school and all its activities.  Spencer was in tears one afternoon saying we should have worked into it a bit more as it was hard to go back to practicing and homework and classes.  I had to agree that all of that without the occasional chocolate treat to soothe the way was incredibly hard but we could do it.

We have been adjusting Taylor's meds some more this week and passed our lucky balance.  So seizures are back again in full force.  So we are adding back in what we took out and hope that his body reaches equilibrium again.

Jeremy has been busy with his new product Sassy nails that he is doing with some friends.  So he has been having some meetings about that.  His photo studio is getting going so he has been having set up and meetings with that.  And then he was able to go to a class this week about running a business.  Add in the regular EQ stuff plus his taking on the goal of posting a new picture a day and he is keeping quite busy.

Really my week can be summed up with I painted, I took care of kids and tried to exercise and do church stuff.  But it sure makes me appreciate how much I like these weeks where nothing super big happens and its just life as normal.  And I had a mini-celebration that for the first time ever I made rolls that were edible.  Now I just have to figure out how to make them really good.  My family is always happy to assist in that process.

Love to you all, Heather

P.S. I have been reading the new Orson Scott Card book that just came out.  If you liked Ender's Game you should check it out.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Christmas Photos


These area  bit late, but I thought I'd share a few photos from the Christmas morning.








Gallery of full resolution photos here.

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy New Year to everyone!  We took down our Christmas decorations yesterday and our house is feeling quite clean and empty.  A problem I am sure our kids will work to rectify soon.  It is hard to believe that Christmas break with kid time and activities, yummy food and parties, and not turning on an alarm clock is over.  It went way too fast.

On Monday I remembered why I will never diet when kids are out of school.  Chocolate is required (preferably cheesecake while enjoying solitude late at night - thanks daniel and mimi!)  The kids and I got up early and headed off to the dentist.  Only one cavity and that was on Spencer's loose baby tooth so we all breathed easier.  It still strikes me as so funny to see Robyn laying back with big sunglasses on getting her teeth cleaned.  Taylor had his last baby tooth pulled out about which he wasn't too excited.  But we stopped at Krispy Kremes for all the kids to get their doughnut and that cheered him up.  I don't know how I started the bribing process of being good for a dentist appointment means you get to stop for a doughnut but our kids sure remember it every time.  Then we ran a few errands which our kids think is just a big adventure.  I probably would enjoy the process more if our kids weren't trying to talk and show me things all at once.  My mind shuts off and I forget what I am trying to do.

Tuesday was a cousin day which our kids love.  Allison went and chopped her hair off into a cute bob which she loves.  Allison had her fill of friends, party invites etc this week.  I am becoming that mean mom who has to limit her social agenda otherwise she just gets worn out.  She and her friend watched The King and I this week so Allison is all set to dye her hair black and be a little princess.

Jeremy and I went out a school night to see a play, The Foreigner.  Never heard of it before but it was really interesting.  We got season tickets again for our community theater which we enjoyed last year.  Makes for a fun and different date night.  Right before we left we found that the window well by our food storage room was full of water and had covered the room.  So we spent a while pumping out water, soping up the floor and shelves and dragging out wet food.  It is all dried out now but now I need to go through and toss and re-organize now that I know which shelves can get wet if it happens again.  This week we were hit by winter.  So we had really cold weather and then 24 hours of rain which turned into ice and snow.  Driving became quite slippery for awhile.

Thursday morning I woke up bright and early to take Taylor up to Primary's for an MRI.  My usual 40 minute commute took an hour and a half as it was just snow, wind and ice.  I am glad that everyone decided the speed limit was 30 on the freeway.  On the plus side I had used up all my stress on driving so there was none left for the procedure.  Taylor had the usual hiccups of having 3 blown IVs (he had to be without food or water so his veins were tiny and he is already a hard stick), having to raise his heart rate up twice with atavan and packing him with hot packs to get his temperature up.  But all went well and it was over quickly.  We find the results out in a week or two.  Since he did well with raising his one medication we are now lowering another medication trying to balance having him be alert and awake with having better control over his seizures.

For the past month our friend Jake has been building this bench/shelf unit in our family room.  On Friday he finished up, so now its my turn to paint it.  I thought I wouldn't start that project till kids weren't home.  Friday afternoon, Taylor helped Jeremy set up his photo studio while the kids and I, with a friend in tow went ice skating.  Robyn was coughing periodically and required a candy cane for medicinal purposes but everyone had a good time.  Allison and her friend would have gone forever but the rink closed for New Year's Eve.  So it was home for fondue, eating the last of any Christmas treats, and a night of movies.  I proposed doing some games but was voted down by all the kids.  Robyn's cough got worse and she went to bed early.  She was coughing so badly that she ended up throwing up all over her bed and has been pretty sick ever since.  Today though she is a little chipper and not quite so pathetic.  You know she doesn't feel good when she says she wants to take a nap and then goes and takes one!  I didn't make it till midnight but the kids persevered with Jeremy and rang in the New Year banging their pots and pans outside and shrieking Happy New Year to the neighborhood.

We have started our sugar free month and I have yet to snap.  Robyn is doing it under protest but everyone else seems to be OK with it.  See how long the good attitude lasts as we are all, except for Jeremy, major chocolate addicts.  Dad, hope you have a great birthday.

Love, Heather