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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Storytelling Festival

Growing up every Labor Day weekend we would go to the beach.  Without fail, we would haul a big red cooler from our far off free parking spot, we would often have to wear a sweat shirt for the periodic sprinkles and icy water and we would have a great time.  We do not have a beach to go to.  So our tradition has become for the last 12 years that the kids and I go to Timpanogous Storytelling Festival and Jeremy spend a day catching up on projects.  Everyone finishes happy and tired.  This year we went to all of the events which we haven't done before.  Allison ducked out Thursday night and the boys ducked out Friday during school but otherwise we were there Thursday night, and Friday and Saturday from 9 am to almost 11.  Its hard to describe the festival.  Sitting around listening to amazing stories, Robyn running off to every puppet show, kids visiting the potters to make a pot or vase each day and constant snack food being passed around.  It is a fun way to spend a few days just hanging out.  And we were able to be joined by my nephew Garion which is always fun.

Kids got into the routine of school this week with earlier bedtimes and homework.  Robyn had a melt down Monday when she realized that doing her homework meant her available play time had gotten much, much smaller.  There were tears and gnashing of teeth.  Spencer learned that we are all happier when he puts ear buds in and listens to music while he just puts his head down and gets his homework done.  Allison is realizing that there is a lot of math that she has to figure out with this new curriculum and that I no longer have the right answers for her.  This week we add in center stage into our schedule.

Taylor is doing better.  He missed school Monday but by Monday evening he was eating again and has been doing well since.  This week he started the process of signing up for social security which just seems very strange and surreal to me.  But then they pointed out the cost of everything once he turns 21 and then I was just fine with it.

Spencer had a court of honor this week where he got two merit badges and some varsity awards.  I am trying to make sure his eagle project is entirely his but I find myself biting my tongue a lot as he tries to remember and doesn't always succeed to get things done with it.  But it is getting there...gradually.

Tonight my room-mate from college Jeannie and her family came over for dinner.  It doesn't feel like it was that long ago and it was wonderful to get to know each other again as adults.  And I had the motivation needed to tackle our yard a bit.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to School

My kids were convinced that the day school started I was driving up to Cheesecake Factory to celebrate.  I didn't but I thought it was a great idea!  They know me so well...

Monday Spencer had 10th grade day at the high school and Allison had 7th grade day at the junior high.  They each got to meet their teachers, eat pizza and just get comfortable with the school.  I thought it was a great idea and it helped ease many first day of school jitters.  While they were doing that Robyn was doing her school assessments at Lincoln.

Switching our bodies to school schedule is super tough!  I felt like I needed a nap all week long.  Spencer and Allison and Taylor started school Tuesday and Robyn Wednesday.  To help with the back to school blues, it was a monsoon all week with terrific rainstorms and thunder and lightening during the night and school hours and then sunny afternoons.  We drove Spencer to and from school the first day and then he has been taking the bus since.  The bus comes only a few blocks away but to get there by 7:15 he is having to get up at 6:15 - a really, really tough obstacle for him but he is doing it so for.  Allison is in a carpool with a few friends, so she doesn't leave till 7:45 with Robyn's carpool picking her up at 7:40 and Taylor's bus picking him up at 9.  It makes for a stretched out morning with everyone leaving at different hours but we are starting to get into the groove of it.  I have decided with getting Spencer off early and trying to get family prayer in that I needed to give up my early morning workouts.  So I am switching to late morning instead and just working on my to-do's in the morning instead of later.  I realized that its harder to get up and going with a functioning brain when I don't run first!
Taylor obviously got his photo taken after Jer had left for work!

Spencer and Allison have been freaking out a little bit about the class difficulty levels going up quite a bit this year.  I honestly am a little worried about Spencer.  But they are excited about getting all their supplies and new books and Spencer had to get some fancy calculator.  Spencer even found a club he really likes.  I think it was the name - Technology Student Association.

We have had the usual ups and downs of emotions with a new school.  Robyn was so excited her first day that she got up at 6:30, got all her jobs done and was sitting on the steps 30 minutes early, ready to go.  The next day she spent the morning sobbing that she didn't get up early enough to finish her jobs so she wouldn't have all afternoon to play.  So tough.  She was very concerned that she started school on a different day so her first day of school wouldn't have the special breakfast, mom packed lunches, cookies after school etc.  So we did two first days of school.  Kids did inform me that my second batch of cookies were the worst I had made and that I should just stick to chocolate chip which they love.

Spencer has been working on getting his eagle project all ready to go and meeting with the city official.  Some days like when he goes over on his own to ask to help our new neighbors move in and comes back two hours later, sweaty and happy I am so proud.  Other times like when he is driving our family around the neighborhood I am biting my nails.  And then comes the time he is taking 20 minutes to make a smoothie muttering mean sayings under his breath about Allison because she took the last of the almond milk and he is determined to make her wait as long as possible for the use of the blender.  Enough to make you scream sometime.  Such is life with a teenager.  Saturday night he went to a dance with our neighbor McKay again who is disabled.  He has learned that all the cute girls dance with McKay.

Allison is working to stay true to herself amid the different attitudes kids are putting on with starting junior high.  But she knows some amazing young ladies which helps a lot.  Robyn was invited Wednesday to a birthday party...for Wednesday afternoon at 4.  I picked her up from school with the invitation in hand at 2:45.  When I told her I couldn't make that work she was super sad.  Allison promised her a sprinkler party.  So the next day Allison and her friend decorated cups, made treats, invited some little kids over, turned the sprinklers on and gave Robyn her little party.  Allison said and I agree that she deserved super sister brownie points.

Last night Jeremy and I got to go see a play, She Loves Me.  It was really good.  I have seen You've got Mail which is a modern adaption of the story but never the play.  There is a scene where the girl walks around singing how wonderful this guy was because he brought her vanilla ice cream.  Jeremy said just substitute cheesecake and you've got our relationship!

Taylor started not doing so great Friday and threw up that evening.  He looses weight so fast and is super thin at the moment.  But although not eating or drinking much he is smiling and perking up.

My friend Christie gave me this recipe for pizza.  It really is the best recipe we have ever used.  It is not healthy in any way but my kids all love it.  It uses high gluten flour which I can only find at the Bosche Store or King Arthur flour online.  But for only a small difference in taste you can use regular flour and add in gluten and dough enhancer.  You have to make the dough at least one day in advance but two days is better.  That sounds like a pain but it is worth it and it makes pizza night easy.  You will need a pizza stone and a metal mesh pizza pan.  I found my pizza pan at a restaurant supply place.  It looks like a big mesh circle.

The Best Pizza

1/2 c warm water
1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp sugar
3/4 c cool water
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp olive oil
3 to 3 1/2 c high gluten flour OR 3 c flour, 3 Tbsp gluten and 3 Tbsp dough enhancer

1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water.  Wait 5 minutes.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients.  I usually do it all in my food processor but you can do it by hand.  The dough will be pretty firm but not unyielding like a rock.
2. Oil or spray dough ball and it in a ziplock bag and refrigerate for 2 or more days.  You can let it just rise for 2 hours but it will not taste as good.

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp red pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp dried basil or 5 tsp fresh
1 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp fennel.
Mix everything together in a pot and bring to a simmer.  Let it simmer for at least 5 minutes.  This makes enough for 6 pizzas in my house.  I will usually freeze it in 3 different containers so I can just pull out sauce as needed.

Cooking the Pizza
Put the pizza stone on the bottom shelf of the oven and put the other shelf at the very top of the oven to get it out of the way or just take it out.  Heat the oven to 550 degrees or the hottest it will go.  Let it heat up for 20 minutes before assembling the pizzas.

Let the dough warm up to room temperature.  I usually turn the oven on and take the dough out at the same time.  After 20 minutes, start rolling and stretching out the dough.
Lay the stretched dough on your screen.  Stretch to make it fit if necessary.  Don't push it into the screen or it will stick in the holes while cooking. 

Spread the sauce on the pizza.  Sprinkle cheese on.  I like using Costco's pizza cheese blend or you can combine your own using mozarella, monterey jack, parmesan etc.  Put toppings on.  Sprinkle with red pepper and/or oregano if you like.

Place pizza pan on the stone and bake for 3-4 minutes.  Poke any air bubbles and rotate the pizza.  Bake for another 3-4 minutes.  Check for doneness.  Total cooking time should be 7-10 minutes.

This recipe is originally from which is an awesome good site.  I have changed it a little bit to how my family will eat it.  They like everything diced up small.  This is great served with Naan or flatbread.  Costco by us now carried uncooked flatbread next to the uncooked tortillas that my kids really like.  And the original recipe had the mango mixed with the jalapenos but I have kids who won't eat jalapenos but love mango so I just leave them separate so kids can sprinkle on what they like.

Summer Veggies Curry

1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 c brown or jasmine rice
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh ginger or 1 tsp ground
1 tsp salt
Juice of one lime
2 Tbsp fresh basil chopped


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, diced
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 ears corn, kernels removed from the cob (or about 1 1/2-2 cups frozen corn)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or 1 tsp dried
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoon thai red curry paste
1 tablespoon spicy curry powder
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 mango, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded + diced
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled 
1. For the rice bring the milk to a boil.  Add in the rice, salt, ginger and salt.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or longer till liquid is absorbed.  Stir in the juice and basil.
2. For the curry heat 2 Tbsp oil in a skillet.  Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink.  Stir in the peppers, zucchini, corn kernels, ginger and garlic.  Saute till chicken is lightly brown and vegetables are cooked.
3. Add in the curry paste, curry powder, coconut milk, and fish sauce.  Bring to boil and cook for one minute.  Remove from heat and stir in the basil and cilantro.
4. Serve with rice, curry, mango, jalapeno and goat cheese.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

20 years

This week Jeremy and I celebrated 20 years of being married.  I have now been with Jeremy as long as I was single.  Crazy to think about and yet hard to imagine my life before him.  I cannot think of anyone who has blessed my life more.  Sometimes we look at each other and just say For.Ev.Er.  And the other person replies, I know, sometimes happily, sometimes with an eye roll.  But I am forever grateful we took that leap of faith and built our life together.

For our anniversary all we wanted to do, or should I say I wanted to do and Jeremy is just that nice, is sit on the couch and hang out all evening and eat some cheesecake.  Spencer and Allison were off at youth conference, Robyn and Taylor were sick with a cold and Jeremy showed up with roses and cheesecake.  It was great to just spend some down time together alone.

Spencer and Allison were gone Tuesday through Thursday to a youth conference.  They had a great time hiking and playing.  I had come down with a head cold at the end of our vacation and shared it with Robyn and Taylor.  But despite the sniffles we were determined to do something fun and little kiddish while Spencer and Allison were gone.  So Tuesday we took Robyn's friend Raquel and checked out the new kids' museum at Thanksgiving Point.  It was the $2 Tuesday deal they offer in August so we were there with a few other hundred people.  It was an amazingly well done museum and after 5 hours I had to drag them away.

This week was filled with all the getting ready for school and normal life routines.  Back to school haircuts, getting new shoes, getting locker and school supplies, filling up the fridge again,touring the junior highs and high schools, meeting Robyn's teacher, tons of yard work etc.  Last Sunday we realized that while we had been gone our plums had all ripened.  My kids enterprising minds got to work and they bagged up all the plums I wasn't making jam with, made signs and tables and set up shop on a nearby street.  They spent all Monday afternoon sitting outside trying to sell bags of plums and sold a few.  Then Jeremy came to pick them up and taught them the value of location.  They went to a very busy street and sold out in an hour.  Who could resist two little girls jumping around with signs with Spencer running out plums to cars?  I had a very peaceful Monday afternoon tackling vacation laundry and cleaning, we all thought it was a great summer activity.

Saturday night we left Taylor with a sitter and went to the Utah county fair to watch the demolition derby.  Jeremy was taking pictures but the three kids and I wondered around seeing all the animals (we learned what a turken is - ugly, ugly animal), 4-H projects, and the lego city that had been built.  A carnival worker offered to let Allison jump for free on the tramp, hoping I would pay for the other kids.  She said it was better than the derby!  The girls and I had never been do a demolition derby before.  I wasn't sure whether to be horrified or awe-struck but it was definitely an experience to be there!  Spencer was in pure boy heaven.

Kids are excited and stressed about starting a new school.  Spencer almost was stalking the high school corridors as he tried to memorize the lay out.  I am always grateful for those neighbors who say hello to Spencer by name and aren't put off by only getting a grunt in return.  Saturday morning Spencer and I got up at 6:30 to go on a hike together.  It took him awhile to wake up and talk but it was good to hear about how he is feeling as he tries to deal with the new transition.  Tough classes this year, and a new school have him feeling overwhelmed but he was able to do it last year so he keeps telling himself he can do it again.  Allison toured the junior high with two friends.  I think she is more worried about the new school and new friends situation more than anything else.  We went to Robyn's back to school night to meet her new teacher.  Allison saw all her school friends who are staying at the same school and it was pretty bitter-sweet.  She will do awesome at the new school but its a big transition too.  So tonight we start the early bed times and early morning alarms.  First week is always a bit tough but then things settle down.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Goin' back to Cali

We just got back from our every other year reunion at the beach with my family.  Every single person was there which hasn't happened for awhile and we got to enjoy beautiful Newport beach - doesn't get much better than that.

The week before was spent getting ready including fixing a punctured sprinkler line (we now know how to to this very muddy, messy project) and Spencer freaking his mom out and getting his learners permit and going for a spin with Jeremy.  I have turned over the whole driving thing to Jeremy, I just don't think I can handle it!

Robyn and I got to even enjoy some pool time in there with Taylor.

We drove out to California two days early so we could meet up with my brother Daniel's family at Disneyland.  Jeremy and Taylor spent a day working by the hotel pool while we played away.

We got there at 7:30 am and left at midnight.  We skipped fantasy land and cartoon land and did everything else first which was really fun.  It seemed like we skipped all the big lines that way and then tried to squeeze in some little kid rides at the end.  It was a super fun time.  Part of the reason we were so late is that Allison left her purse on Star Tours so we went through the whole lost and found business.  Some nice person had turned her purse in with all her money still intact - I love honest people.

Disneyland wore my kids out a little bit.  Spencer couldn't even leave the car when we first arrived at the beach not even to see the U.S. Open surfing championships.  What a zoo!  My girls kept commenting that they were definitely not in Utah anymore - I think all the thongs gave it away.

We hung out watching the circus at Huntington and getting food at Ruby's till we could check into the beach house.  Then we had a week of non-stop fun.  We played on the beach every day, had thoughts and prayers every night, rented paddle boards, learned how to surf thanks to a patient David and Griselda, blew some bubbles, listened to our neighbors throwing nightly parties, Allison and Lathan got fried on the poor faces the first day, ate lots of treats including walking the beach to get shakes at Ruby's and Balboa bars, and just loved being together.  Spencer had a problem at the beginning with opening his mouth when he shouldn't and lost his Touch.  He had to go 48 hours without saying anything rude.  He set an alarm on his watch.  During our paddleboarding he was convinced I made him tipped over.  He told me that although he screamed a bunch he was biting his tongue because he wanted to make sure he didn't say anything rude.  He and the girls were a little freaked out about turning around against the current and getting back to the dock as ships were trying to go by so I let that one pass.  But...I definitely will keep that consequence in mind for the future.

And now for Jeremy's amazing photos to tell the rest of the story:

Now how do we wait another two years to be able to do this again?