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Sunday, December 27, 2009

A holiday week

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was a laid back fun type of Christmas for our family. Monday I spent the day helping out with a funeral for a neighbor. Sad but happy experience hearing all about her life. The neatest part I thought was that for the last 10 years since her husband died her and her sister have done a temple session and lunch every Tuesday. Hope I will be like that at 80 years old!

Monday night for FHE we attempted making our gingerbread house. We got it put together but then postponed the rest till Tuesday so we could all have better attitudes. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth and everyone was sent to bed as soon as possible. So Tuesday evening with smiles on we finished making our candy encrusted, frosting dripping masterpiece. We plan to eat it New Years Eve. Think I will just watch the kids chowing down - I saw how much tasting was going on during the process. Tuesday kids had parties at school all day. Robyn and I were at Lincoln for half the day. Getting everything and everyone else ready and out the door at 7:30 meant I was there directing activities in pig tails and sweats but all my pride went out the window a long time ago with my kids! Allison showed everyone our sucker tree for her tradition show and tell, blew up her volcano with her partners and had a sing-a-long and treats. Robyn and I cranked out waffles for Spencer's class who had a breakfast party and played games all day. No learning took place that day.

Since Lincoln got out early Tuesday I took kids and went to see the movie Princess and the Frog. Spencer tolerated it with a smirk, Allison thought it was cute and Robyn was just in heaven! She tells everyone the plot complete with sound effects whenever asked.

The rest of the week was full of lots of food and fun. I didn't do neighbor gifts this year and felt a little guilty as every night brought tons of doorbell dings and plates of treats. Christmas Eve we cooked and played. Kids checked Santa Norad Tracker all day long. We cooked ourselves in the hot tub, ate nachos, watched Christmas movies and had excited kids all day long.

Christmas Day our kids restrained themselves till 7 and then the fun commenced. Enjoyed David and Griselda's cinnamon rolls. Spencer strumming his guitar or rocking out to his shuffle. Allison sewing away on her machine making things or having her dad help her master her pogo stick. Robyn blasting CDs in her room and playing with barbies. A good Christmas for all. And the best part was talking to all of my family members at some point. Had a big dinner of ham and all the other good stuff. Realized that we are the only family I know who doesn't do a big dinner on Christmas Eve. Never really noticed that before. Cheeseball only saw the light of day for an hour before it was demolished. Christina taught Allison and I how to crochet. Watched Julie and Julia and were so stuffed that it didn't even make us want to eat all that good food they cooked.

Boxing Day was spent cleaning up the detritus of all our good times. Taylor throwing up everywhere so more cleaning and we all praised his fan that was put into his room. Tried out my yoga book on asana #1 - realized that I really need to work on my flexibility! Spencer was non-stop strumming his guitar - a constant background noise. Went girly shopping for clothes with Christina. Met up with Jeremy for Cafe Rio and to see Sherlock Holmes. Came home to left over pie and happily asleep kids.

Jeremy had no meetings this morning so it still seems pretty laidback. Took Rocky for a long walk in the cold by myself. Realized how wonderful our life is most days and am glad for family.

Love to you all, Heather

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009!

Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas to all. Here are a few of Jeremy's pictures of the morning. You can see the full gallery here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pumpkin Pie

A long suffering lady asked for this recipe MONTHS ago and I am finally posting it. This is my ultimate favorite pumpkin pie recipe.

3/4 c butter
2 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 c chopped nuts
5-6 Tbsp cold water
15 oz can pumpkin
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs beaten
1/4 c sour cream
1 c half and half
1 tsp vanilla

For crust melt butter in pan just till it turns golden brown and cool.
In bowl stir together flour and the first 1/4 tsp salt. Stir in butter till coarse crumbs.
For streusel topping remove 3/4 c of flour mix set aside. In a small bowl stir together the 3/4 c flour mixture, 1/3 c brown sugar and nuts. Set aside.
Sprinkle 1 Tbsp at a time of water over flour and toss till moist and form into a ball. Roll into a 12 inch circle and put into a 9 inch pie plate. Trim and flute edges high.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine pumpkin, sugar, 1/3 c brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 tsp salt. Add eggs and sour cream. Beat lightly. Stir in half and half and vanilla.
Fill shell. Cover edges with foil and bake 35 minutes.
Remove foil. Sprinkle with streusel. Bake 20 minutes.

To make your own pumpkin pie spice mix 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/8 tsp allspice.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Visiting Grandma Drechsel

Dear Family and Friends,

I picked up my sister from the airport today. After a delicious lunch in packed and icy downtown Salt Lake, we headed up to Ogden to visit my grandma. She looks wonderful and had her hair freshly washed and styled. I didn't realize she was on oxygen all the time now. Her talking and mind seemed pretty fuzzy at times but she smiled watching the kids play with an extremely fat dog (Buddy). Our visit was pretty short and sweet as a one sided conversation gets a little tough but we were all very glad we went. So mom, here is your picture!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Robyn's First Dance Recital

This has been a big month for performances, particularly for the girls. But, for Robyn, this is especially big - her first dance recital. As you can imagine we have been treated to her dance moves for months now in preparation for this performance. Robyn has been very excited, and took getting the performance right very seriously.

Before heading out I convinced her to do an impromptu little photo shoot in our family room. Of course with Robyn that means lots of photos in the hopes of getting a few good ones between all the goofing around. Here are a few from that session:

Shortly after we left for the actual recital. I wondered if Robyn would be nervous, and I think in her way she might have been a bit. But, this is Robyn. She was excited and happy, and very concerned with doing a good job.

You can view more of the photos in this gallery, but here is a video as well of the dance to enjoy:

Dear Family and Friends,

This was a week of parties and events - tis the season! A lot of fun but made us all glad to spend Saturday night relaxing at home and sleeping in this morning.

Monday we went to our neighbor's Christmas open house. We all ate a bunch of treats, kids ran around and adults talked. A lot of fun to see everyone. Tuesday we had our annual mom and daughter cookie exchange. It only lasts about an hour but we manage to decorate a lot of cookies in that time! 18 girls were in our kitchen decorating sugar cookies while mom's talked and swapped plates of cookies they brought. Kids think it is great because they go home with a plate of assorted goodies plus the cookies they decorated. There is a definite sugar high going on by the end of the night!

Wednesday was Jeremy's birthday. It also happened to be the best day to hold an Elder's Quorum Christmas potluck dinner. It was fun to visit and we celebrated with chocolate cake/cheesecake afterwards. So I think he had a fun birthday. Thursday Jeremy went to do a photowalk of the temple square lights while Allison had Christmas craft making at Activity Days and Spencer made ornaments at Pack Meeting.

Think this all caught up with me as Friday we had a date but I had caught a cold and came home early to crawl into bed. Slept for 12 hours and a big nap on Saturday and feel much better now. It is amazing to me how much I can sleep when I don't feel so great.

Saturday was Robyn's big dance recital. She was so excited and did a great job. She was concentrating so hard that she forgot to smile but she was so cute. Afterwards they had Santa Clause come and Allison and Robyn ran to meet him. Spencer slowly walked over as well but is that age where he hangs back. Believes in Santa but doesn't believe that guy over there is really him.

Our house was full of plaster this week as a sheetrock guy came to fix our holes in our wall. Asked if we had any cracks as long as he was there. Wow - our house was full of them. So now we have big swatches of white plaster to paint over but all the cracks are taped and some even reinforced so we shouldn't have to do this again. And in a small world coincidence our sheetrock guy happened to be the husband of Taylor's bus driver.

Robyn had her big preschool polar express party this week. She got to go to school in her PJs, watch the polar express movie, drink hot chocolate and cookies and came home with a sack of Christmas projects. Taylor had a whole week of festivities. He had Santa Clause come and he gave him the funniest toy. They told Santa Taylor liked motion, lights, music and didn't want anything babyish. So they gave him a big fleece blanket and a pick up truck with 2 bobble head hunters on it and a dead deer strapped to the hood. The truck works on a sensor so when he moves by it the deer starts singing, lights flashing, truck jacking itself up and down. Robyn thinks its wonderful. Taylor spent Friday afternoon at the school Who-ville dance rocking out with an aide and came home very happy but bushed.

Allison's gym teacher came out to talk to me this week. Allison I guess was not quite telling the truth when she says she can do 100 pull-ups. She can't do even one. She does a hundred with her coach holding her and lifting her up and down. So Jeremy installed a pull-up bar in her doorway and she has been working on it since. Everything else she is doing great in but until she can pull-up her own weight she won't do very well on bars. I was giving her a hard time till I tried to do a pull-up. Now I keep my mouth shut and try to remember to do more pull-downs when I work out. Allison continues to inherit my eyes as she saw the optometrist Saturday and her eyes were worse by .5 so now she is a -3. She is halfway to my old prescription and it looks like she will go all the way.

We changed up Spencer's meds this week. His paranoia is creeping back in ie. if something breaks or doesn't work or he drops something it is the fault of whoever is standing next to him or talking to him etc. After a really bad 2 hour tantrum because his mini-skateboard he bought didn't have a tightener with it I called his psychiatrist. I love that his doctor does text and cell phone messages and will always call back immediately and doesn't make us have to schedule a visit first. Hopefully it will help. Makes me wonder how I personally kept it together that summer when he was so bad. At least Allison knows now just to come to me and say Spencer is really sick again, he needs to see his doctor and she takes herself off out of the line of fire. Most of the time he has been fine but the bad moments are getting more frequent. We haven't changed his meds though for 1 year and 10 pounds so I think he just needed some adjustments. The parties and excitement of Christmas just exasperates everything.

Jeremy spent Saturday chopping PVC pipe in the garage making Christmas presents. We have made more of our presents this year which has been fun to do. A little stressful at times to try to get them done before this next Friday but it adds the the excitement.

Love to all of you and hope you are enjoying this Christmas season,


Monday, December 14, 2009

Pasta Chicken Casear Salad

A new recipe we tried and all liked. Although Spencer said that it was only the salad dressing that made it "palatable". Since everyone else liked it we declared it a keeper.

8 ox farfalle pasta (bow-tie pasta - I prefer the smaller variety)
1 c Casear salad dressing
6 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
6 cups chopped lettuce
4 c Tomatoes (I did 2 c because we no longer have fresh tomatoes)
3/4 c Casear croutons
1 cut up rotisserie chicken into bite size pieces

Cook pasta. Drain but do not rinse. Stir pasta and 1/2 c salad dressing together and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Mix everything together. Serve with extra salad dressing.

Note: Heather wrote this one some time ago, but it was stuck in the "draft" folder waiting for Jeremy to add the photo but forgotten.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2 weeks later and a cracked fingertip

Dear Friends and Family,

I was happy to come back to see my family after a weekend in Arizona but so sad to say good-bye to Daniel, Mimi, Claire and Samantha. Kids were happy to see me in a "let us all tell you at the exact same time about everything we did in really loud voices so you can hear us interspersed with demands of what is for dinner and have you done the laundry yet". I remind myself often that needed and loved are often interchangeable in our house! Came back home to a serious cold front. Driving home in the snow, scraping sidewalks and windshields, driving kids to school when it is a freaking 3 degrees outside!!, skin not meant to handle such cold splitting open - namely my poor thumb. So I really considered the viability of moving to Phoenix this week!

So 2 weeks to catch-up on. Monday after Thanksgiving was our annual neighborhood light parade. This year we hosted which meant I spent Monday cleaning our our garage. Everyone brings a plate of treats, I supplied hot chocolate and we walked up and down the street with everyone turning on their Christmas lights for the first time. A very simple tradition but our kids love it and its fun to visit with neighbors.

Mom and Dad your package came and kids loved their ornaments. They got ready for bed so quickly that night so they could hurry down to open them up. Allison and Spencer had spent the evening caroling in the cold and having a great time. Your package was just the topper of a great evening for them.

Wednesday the kids and I spent the evening at the Festival of Trees. Its an annual fundraiser for Primary Children's Hospital where they have a big expo center packed full of decorated trees, gingerbread houses, crafts etc. We love checking out all the intricate houses and seeing the themed trees with all the paraphernalia around them. Usually each tree is dedicated for someone who has been treated at Primary's or has died and its neat to see their stories and how the tree relates to them. But our kids' favorite part is that Rhodes has a booth there and they chow down on chocolate milk, hot scones and honey butter. Taylor never opens his mouth so wide!

And the rest of the week was finishing up stuff I needed to do as on Friday I was off to sunny Arizona where surprisingly I did need my coat and gloves at nights and my capris never left my suitcase. It was great to visit with Daniel and Mimi. Lots of great food and even better company. I just enjoyed being a part of their lives for a little bit. Got to hold Sam a lot, play with Claire, get and decorate their tree, go to an electric light parade, watch Daniel teach his 16/17 year old Sunday school class and just hang out.

Claire eating some awesome spinach dip.

This week has been a continuation of festivities. We are in the process of rehabbing Lauri's condo through a contractor. We agreed to do the painting to get a lower price. This happened to be the week the all the painting needed to be done. So one night we had a cousin night and Jeremy, Jason, and Kelly prepped the place. One night Jeremy did the sprayer and one night Jason and Kelly. Kelly went over during the day and did all the supply run earlier. So I was feeling a bit wimpy in my efforts to help! But it is looking so much better over there.

I had a multi-stake luncheon Tuesday that three stakes put on together every other month for the over 55 ladies. It was our stake's turn so I was over there cooking, setting up and cleaning up. It was a really nice event and some of the ladies were just wiping away the tears. Reminds me of all those Relief Society events I used to help my mom with.

Thursday we were double-booked. Allison had a choir concert that night and it was also our ward party. So the girls went to choir and the boys went to church. Allison was awesome. She was just beaming. After the concert we swung by the church to pick up the boys at the party. I was blown away by the work that went into our ward's party this year. It was a back to Bethlehem theme and they went all out to make it a memorable night. Spencer hasn't stopped talking about it yet. Jeremy took pictures and you can see them over at his photo site.

Friday was Jeremy's work party. They did the same, wonderful shopping spree event followed by dinner and a hilarious amateur talent show. Jeremy went right wing conservative this year getting a gun safe for his handgun and some ammo. I was thinking more of my futile efforts to keep up with Daniel on our Saturday "jog". I should have know that his jog was a run while mine was more of a turtle paced jog. I clung on for 20 minutes and then Claire and I went our separate ways. So I got a running watch to hopefully motivate me to pick up the pace a bit. We had a great time visiting with his work friends and catching up.

Friday we had an electrician that Jeremy did some trade for come work on our house. With the end result that we now have a fan in Taylor's room (why we didn't think of that when we built, I will never understand), a flood light onto the basketball court and an outlet by the deck so I can plug in lights outside. We also have some nice holes in our newly repainted kitchen that almost made me cry. But we are fixing those tomorrow. Since we were home for they day Robyn helped me cook for our Hall dinner.

Saturday Allison had another choir concert up in SLC at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. She sang up on the balcony. I am sure Jeremy's pictures from that look much better. It was really neat. Afterward we walked around temple square a bit. Saturday night kids had a neighborhood girl over and her brother Brenner came to play with Spencer while we met up with a bunch of adults for a neighbor's party. Had fun with a group of friends we don't usually do things with - playing games, doing a white elephant gift exchange and eating everyone's pot luck appetizers and desserts. This woman makes the kind of rolls that I dream about someday making. I think I ate 4 of them in one sitting. Did I mention that I really need to run more?!

Today was our Hall Christmas celebration as Jason's family is going to California for the holidays. Good food, kids so excited over opening a present early, watching The Christmas Story - it was a great time. And I am very excited to wear some bright red, sparkly, new heels to church next week. Kelly thought my only having 2 pairs of black shoes for Sunday was just too sad and graciously helped liven up my wardrobe. People won't recognize me and Robyn is already jealous.

So its been a good week. Tiring but happy. A continual background of whining from a tired Robyn who really needs a nap most days but won't take one as too much fun is to be had. Allison has her last front tooth hanging on by a thread but refuses to pull it out. Spent a bunch of the week sewing making some aprons for my nieces and helping Allison make tissue packet covers for her friends. Spencer doing his last karate class. Taylor had a bad day yesterday and today but chose to eat and drink for dinner so is hopefully coming back to himself.

Neatest moment of the week was today in sacrament meeting. Our young men have been acting as proxies for Taylor to do his Duty to God requirements. So today Cooper helped Taylor give his first talk. He wheeled Taylor up onto the stand, gave a talk on his behalf and then wheeled Taylor down. The coolest part is when before sacrament Cooper came by and gripped Taylor's hand and talked to him for a moment. Cooper is 13. Thought it was very cool.

Love to you all and wish my family was closer, Heather

This recipe was passed onto me by my friend Allison and has rapidly become one of my favorites. Serve this with wheat thins (my favorite), triscots or ritz crackers. You blend in 2 stages as if you try to do it all at once it comes out a brownish colored instead of a pretty red and green.

1 package cranberries
1 c sugar

Mix the above in a food processor (or blender) till finely chopped. Pour into a bowl. Clean your food processor out.

1 c cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
2 green onions

Mix the above in a food processor. Stir gently into the cranberry mixture.

In a pie pan or serving dish spread 1 container softened cream cheese. Spread the cranberry mixture on top. Serve.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In with a whimper and out with a bang

Dear Friends and Family,

Monday morning before the sun was up I was down at the Health Center getting us all tickets for the swine flu vaccine. It seems a little ridiculous to stand in line from 6:30 on just to get a shot! Tuesday morning we all went back down and took turns getting swine flu and regular flu shots. Kids were glad that they were able to get one of them as a mist. Robyn was very confident about her shot after seeing Jeremy take it without a wince. But there was a whole lot of whimpering and crying going on when the reality of the needle hit. We all celebrated by getting doughnuts before dropping off everyone to school. Krispy Kremes is our very unhealthy reward for doing all those healthy things like shots and cavities filled. Sort of defeats the purpose but keeps our kids happy to comply.

Wednesday Allison told me was one of the perfect vacation days. Sleeping in, stocking up on books at the library, eating hot dogs at Costco and then making pies all afternoon. Love when our house smells all good. Spencer made the cheeseball this year and Allison made her favorite pie - chocolate pecan. That night I went to a 2 hour zumba class fundraiser and wasn't around to realize I forgot to reduce the oven temperature for Allison's pie. So at 9 p.m. I was at the store buying more pecans so I could make a replacement pie in secret. [Side note is that between the library and Costco we went to get Spencer's glasses fixed. They used a different part to fix it. You would have thought he had been mortally wounded and was extremely out of control for quite a while about it. Just when I start to get complacent that his bi-polar is under control, something happens to remind me that I have to be pro-active about preventing such break downs. On the plus side is that after 15 minutes of screaming/tears he started working on controlling his breathing and by 30 minutes he was almost back in control.]

Thanksgiving Day we cooked and went for our annual hike while Jeremy and Taylor kept abreast of the football games. The hike was the easiest and best ever as Robyn (and I) for the first time ever made it to the top waterfall. It makes me realize how physically things are getting so much easier with my kids. Don't have to carry a kid everywhere or worry about diaper bags etc. There are huge perks to our kids growing up. As you might notice Robyn did the 2 mile hike in glitter shoes and a skirt - have to dress to impress!

Jason's family came over and we all feasted and played. Ate pie, Jason grabbed a nap - it was a really nice Thanksgiving.

Cousins stayed with us overnight and Jeremy, Jason and Kelly went up for a photowalk later that evening up in Salt Lake City. Kids had a great time playing with cousins all Friday and then we met up with their parents to go ice skating. Robyn had a little walker to push around the ice and Allison just took off after all her roller skating practice. Spencer had more the kamikaze approach and has the bruises to prove it. After they all enjoyed Red Robin hamburgers and Taylor chirped all the way home over the fries and dip.

Saturday I hosted a baby shower with my friend Allison for my friend Kate. Our girls loved to help make all the food and wanted to be in the thick of opening the door and helping with presents. It was a lot of fun to visit with a lot of my old friends and hear about our old ward and neighbors.

Saturday night Jeremy went over for one last visit to his mom's condo. Tomorrow the contractor comes and anything that is left is being gotten rid of. So our garage is a bit full of things to go through at the moment! Can't believe that this is it. And Jeremy nicely did all that by himself as I went off with a friend to see New Moon with her. We laughed a lot at it and just thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Today we broke out the Christmas boxes before church. Our kids no longer are content to wait for me to do all the work - they are in the midst of everything. To add to the pleasure - Spencer trying to sing The First Noel like Bing Cosby ("cause that's how real men sound, Mom!") which was cute the first time but after an hour was like fingernails on a chalkboard, Allison wanting to do everything right now because she just can't wait, literally trying to insert her body into your and Robyn certain that everyone else's job was better than hers and turning her angelic charm on periodically to keep me from kicking her our. So our tree is a little lop sided but it is up and kids were thrilled.

Robyn is showing off her lollipop found on the lollipop tree from LAST year. She still thought it was delicious!

I now know why family traditions are kept up. This week really made me realize how much our kids count on doing things the same way every year. They are the ones informing me about our hike and how there needs to be a cheeseball for Thanksgiving. Or that we need to watch a Christmas movie after pie Thanksgiving day. Or that we need to put the Christmas stories by the fireplace so we can read them every night. Or asking when they get to put their new ornament up for the year. You get the picture. I am amazed at how much they remember and what they put importance on. Its rather heart warming.

Love to you all,


P.S. Read a GREAT book this week. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Am recommending it to everyone I know.

My friend Kate gave our family these cool placemats for a Christmas present. My kids love them. Robyn explains how it works.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Piano Recital

Heather already posted her weekly update, so I figured I'd make a separate post to add these photos & videos from the piano recital. Both kids did great! I am always happy to see them doing so well learning to play the piano, especially considering I am so devoid of musical talent.

Heather is likely not going to be too happy with the flycatcher moment on this photo, but since I was trying to hurry & switch modes to capture video I only have this one photo of them at the piano.

In case anyone notices and wonders, the little bit of hum/noise in the background is the image stabilizer on my lens I forgot to turn off for the video. Oh well :)