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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Allison's Macaroni and Cheese

Allison asked for macaroni and cheese for her birthday dinner. She prefers the fake in a box kind but this will do in a pinch for her. And as the fake cheese makes me gag, and I like the home made kind - this is what she gets. Mimi, I don't remember which recipe I made when you were here but they taste very similar, just one can be made ahead of time and one can't.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese - This makes 8 huge servings so I usually make 2 8x8 pans and freeze one.

8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter
2 c breadcrumbs (or ritz crumbs are good too)
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dry mustard, dissolved in 1 tsp water
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6 Tbsp flour
3 1/2 c whole milk (I usually do skim but you can taste the difference)
1 3/4 c chicken broth
1 lb Colby cheese, shredded, 4 c
8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 c)

Toss breadcrumbs with 2 Tbsp butter.
Cook macaroni in salted water till tender but firm. Drain.
In pot you cooked the macaroni in, melt the remaining 6 Tbsp butter. Stir in garlic, mustard and cayenne. Cook 30 sec. till fragrant.
Stir in the flour and cook 1 minute till golden. Whisk in the milk and broth. Bring to a simmer. Cook 6 minutes till slightly thickened.
Off heat, stir in the cheeses till melted. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in macaroni breaking up any clumps.
Pour into a 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Can freeze or refrigerate now and later cook thawed 10 min. longer. Or cook for 25-30 minutes till golden.

Stove-top Macaroni and Cheese - makes 4 large servings
8 oz macaroni (2 c)
2 large eggs
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk (have to use evaporated milk)
1 tsp dry mustard, dissolved in 1 tsp water
1/4 tsp Tabasco
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick( butter
12 oz cheddar (or Jack or Colby) cheese, shredded (3 c)

Cook macaroni in salt water till tender but still firm. Drain. Return to pot.
Mix the eggs, half of the Tabasco, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
In pasta cooking pot melt the butter. Stir in the egg mixture and half of the cheddar. Over low heat gradually stir in the remaining milk and cheddar until hot and creamy about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

We went Tuesday night to have our pictures taken by a photographer friend of Jeremy's. Despite the horrific wind that started when we got there and the just about to storm mist - the pictures were AWESOME. Here is just a taste - more to follow. Heather

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What makes me smile

This made my night. Not sure if it was the smell of the meatloaf cooking or just happy to be back home or thinking my voice was funny. But Taylor was happy!

Dear Friends and Family,

This week has seemed really busy. There have been more times than usual when I consciously have to think "I can't do it all" and let quite a few things be undone while I do that which has to be done. The event that put the biggest smile on my face though is that I finally painted our front door. Been planning to do it for some time as the paint on the door frames of our house sorely need attention. Been putting it off but realized last week as the cold and rain start appearing that time was running out and I needed to seize the day next time it was sunny and warm for a few days. Still makes me smile every time I see it!

For Allison's birthday she had a list of what she wanted. She wanted roller skates and to have a sleepover with one friend. She wanted to go to a roller skating rink, have pizza and cupcakes and watch a movie and then have strawberries, whipped cream and waffles for breakfast. She wanted to have her cousins over on her actual birthday and have an ice cream cake with blue frosting and candy letters on it saying Happy Birthday and a big 8 candle and to eat macaroni and cheese and watermelon for dinner. She also wanted to take brownies to school to share with her classmates that needed to be store bought and nut free. And lastly she wanted a beautiful white dress to wear after she was baptized. It all sounds very reasonable but for some reason I didn't prepare super well and spent this week scrambling a bit to pull it together.

Robyn helped me Monday to get a bunch of errands done. We packed up stuff for Jonna at Lauri's, got Allison's scriptures engraved, and found her a beautiful dress. Robyn picked out 2 dresses she though were great. They were called the 'cindrella' and the 'robin' - seriously what were the odds! So I felt like I was on top of things. Then on Friday, Robyn and I went over early while Jeremy stayed home to get Taylor on the bus to wait for the movers at Lauri's. They were coming to pick up the furniture and boxes to take up to WA for Jonna. Got a call when we got there that their van had broken down and they would be there closer to 12. So Robyn and I ran some more errands and came back at 12. No word from them at all. Stayed till 2 and then had to drive back to make carpool by 2:30. Of course the movers call at 3 to say they were there, where was I? So Jeremy ran over to let them in while I scrambled to get cupcakes made for a 4 pm party and get Allison from choir at 3:45, wrap party favors etc. But it all worked out. Spencer got Taylor off the bus for me and carried him inside to his bed (I was amazed and a little scared by that!) and he cooked the cupcakes for me (Allison didn't even care that they weren't perfect looking). When I picked Allison up she asked if I had decorated everything with balloons and then she looked at me and just said "thats OK Mom. I am just happy to have my first sleepover!" I felt a bit like a heel. But we had a fun night. The boys all laid sod while the girls and I went to a skating rink. Robyn and I did 1!!!! lap in one hour while Allison and Alena did 103 laps. Enjoyed the disco balls and flashing lights and disney pop music turned up. Ate pizza and ridiculously blue cupcakes. Played sorry and watched movies. Girls moved locations 3 times to find a 'non-scary' place to sleep. Girls woke us up at 6 ready to play and gave us updates till 7:30 when they started singing "wake-up you sleepy heads" as they were ready for breakfast. Giant waffles and lots of skating later they were all happy and tired out. So it was a great party despite or perhaps because I left a lot undone!

Last night I was able to go up to SLC with Kelly for the Relief Society broadcast. Afterwards we ate at cheesecake factory which just always makes for a stupendous evening. It was a much needed night out and was wonderful.

Thursday Jeremy and I were able to do a sealing assignment. Last time our ward will be asked as they are doing away with assignments. It amazes me how busy our temple seems to be all the time now. Jeremy had had a tough morning with his work computer crashing but had a great afternoon after going to the temple with his work taking him to buy a new computer. With a night of home teaching, a night of priesthood training and pres. mtgs, a temple assignment and then a service project night - Jeremy has been a little busy! He even spent Monday night catching up on some honey-do's. He hung up a mirror in our bathroom so you can now check your hem and the back of your head. It also happens to be right in front of our scale. Allison told me that now I can see what I look like when I weigh myself in the morning. Since I weigh myself sans clothes to get the best result I am sure this will be highly motivating! Jeremy also has been working with Spencer to get his pinewood derby car done. He has a dremmel tool now which has made this process much easier.

I met with Taylor's teacher for parent teacher conference this week. I was very impressed. She pointed out how Taylor was having frontal lobe seizures when he ducked his head and started barking like a seal repeatedly. I had never figured that out before but it was pretty obvious once I started looking. She is working a lot on Taylor shaking or nodding his head for yes and no. Taylor really likes and responds to her.

Robyn continues to love preschool and dance class. She is always singing the songs she has been learning or telling us what her teacher says. A diva in the making most days. I swear she likes to see everyone else go to school in the mornings because then she rules the house!

Love to you all and hope you are enjoying the fall. We put up our Halloween decorations yesterday and it is beginning to feel like hot chocolate and warm blanket time. love, Heather

Taylor waiting for his dinner

Jeremy found a hobo spider in our tub. He kept it for a WEEK! waiting for its energy to die down so he could take a picture of it. Last week was our Hall family dinner and everyone had to watch the picture process. Kelly and I watched from a distance.

EDIT: (Jeremy) Inserting a link to a couple of the photos taken here and here

This was our family room this morning. Spencer and Allison are holed up inside reading their books.

Jeremy and Spencer working on the car.

Got the girls panda sleeping masks to wear.

Cupcakes were a work of art. Blue hands, faces, teeth and tongues on everyone.

Blowing out Allison's candle.

Allison on her new roller skates. She did not want roller blades as she thought she would fall more. After watching her on skates, I had to agree.

Girls all loved their breakfast. There was zero nutritional value going on.

Picked our potatoes this week. I was impressed with how many we got. Have to break out some potato recipes. Made soup this week but still a lot left.

Been getting out some of Spencer's old toys. They have all forgotten how much they liked them.

At the kids' school's festival. Sitting next to Allison is her teacher this year.

Robyn won a pink bear on her first game. She still sleeps with him.

Robyn finally learned how to pump her legs. A huge moment for me and my back! After working to clean Lauri's place for an hour Robyn announced that she had to go to the park across the street RIGHT NOW! I agreed and we both went for some needed swing time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Poppyseed Chicken

Recipe for the week - this time Jeremy took the picture as I am sure you can tell! This recipe came from my friend Allison and is Jeremy's favorite chicken recipe

Poppyseed Chicken

4 chicken breasts, boiled
2 c sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
6 Tbsp margarine, melted
8 oz Ritz crackers crushed
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Mix chicken soup and sour cream. Cut chicken into small strips and stir into soup mixture. Spread in 9 x 13 pan. Mix crushed crackers with margarine and poppy seeds. Spread on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 min. Serve with noodles or mashed potatoes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

An extended date

Dear Family and Friends,

In the middle of the summer when kids were pressing in, I made plans for Jeremy and I to get away over night. Those plans kept me smiling through some of the more not so nice moments this summer. So Friday afternoon Jeremy and I packed up and went up to Johnson's Mill, a bed & breakfast up at the top of Provo Canyon in Midway. It was this 1800s mill with a big pond and gardens around it. The immediate gardens were beautiful, the surrounding 19 acres were a bit run down but you could see what they must have been like in their heyday. An evening thunderstorm forced us to eat our picnic on our coffee table but we didn't care. Lazed around a bunch. Spent Saturday sleeping in, eating stuffed french toast in the gardens, biking through Provo canyon, eating lunch at Sundance, driving the alpine loop through the canyons and seeing all the red maples, hiking around cascade springs, laying on a blanket and reading the latest Kinsella book, shopping for matching shirts for an upcoming family photo. Came back late Saturday night after cleaning the office for our kids so we didn't have to drag them out tired and cranky to do it. Wonderful and relaxing weekend. Meredith kept kids safe and happy. Jeremy took tons of pictures that I will let him post.

This week I got a few things fixed. Our A/C went out a few weeks ago. Turns out the condenser and starter were both broken. Best part is that I found our old warranty that covered everything being replaced. I have decided that I am a much nicer mom when the temperatures in our house is below 80 degrees. Don't know if our kids would agree but at least I am feeling calm inside while I yell at them to shape up. Also our sprinklers got fixed. Found out when plants started dying that our sprinklers in our flower beds haven't been going off. All our plants are slowly rebounding now. Jeremy put in new thick tough wires in our raspberry trellis so now all the long stalks are off the ground. We didn't get any raspberries this year and I can't help thinking its because they were laying down instead of supported upright.

Rest of the week was full of odds and ends. Went to the temple and due to a huge rush on the temple for our stake temple week I ended up waiting in the lobby till they had room for me. First time ever that has happened. And I didn't wait until they were ready for me, but rather until there was room for me to wait back with everyone else! Planted along our waterfall and spread a bunch of mulch along it. Girls were being extremely helpful in this task so I sent them to pick tomatoes for salsa. They decided peppers were more interesting and came back with a huge overflowing bowl of peppers. So I dehydrated peppers this week! Fruit trees all have some disease so I sprayed them all and hope they recover soon.

Vacuumed the girls rooms really well as Robyn decided to play quietly upstairs for a while. This quiet play involved scissors and most of her barbies, polly pockets and my little ponies. It was a rainbow of hair and altered outfits. I cut Robyn's hair so it would be almost even this week. It looks like a short, lopsided bob now. Perhaps I inspired her. Meredith writes down quotes from our kids. Her one from this weekend. Meredith: "Robyn, you look like you have girl hair!" Robyn: "Be proud of me!" with twirls and bows.

Jeremy went to a neat photo presentation this week done by this famous photographer. He really enjoyed it.

School, kids and normal housework took up the rest of my time. Everyone is doing good. Currently our kids, including Taylor who is offering moral support, are in the family room making some complicated fort that involves a box of clothes pins and every blanket in our house.

Love to you all, Heather

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vacation Photos...Finally

Yes, I know it has been awhile since the big vacation and no photos yet. I'm a slacker, what can I say? All the standard excuses apply: busy, other projects, blah, blah. Anyway, I've repented of my evil ways, processed the whole lot of 'em and posted a huge gallery here:

Our family completely enjoyed the trip, and thanks to Mimi for so much planning (and conspiring)! Hope you enjoy the set, especially those that were not able to join us. Wish we could have seen all of you, but next year will be here before we know it!

Note: You can download the full resolution photos on this gallery from the menu that pops up when you hover over the preview-sized photo on the right. I will be happy to send out discs though to anyone that ones them.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sweet freedom!

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was momentous. Robyn started preschool! She was very excited. A little nervous when we walked in and I said good-bye but then Miss Suzanne brought out a bag of princess ponies and she was hooked. She came home just jumping up and down to show me her homework and all her school work. I celebrated by going on a hike by myself in the nearby canyon. There is a trail head I always wanted to check out but it was too steep for our family to do. It felt very strange to be out in the middle of the day with no kids and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Robyn's preschool is twice a week for 2 hours. Which after driving carpool etc and picking up Allison for piano during one of those times, really isn't that much. But, its the difference between a happy Robyn and a sane Mom and us not being so happy and sane.

Between preschool, dance and our weekly temple play group I am getting quite spoiled. Robyn just soaks it up though and is much happier the rest of the time to just hang out with Mom all the time. She decided to stop wearing pull-ups at night this week. Did good for a few days and then lost it last night. So I had an early morning of giving her a bath and cleaning her bed up after being up with Allison because her eyes kept "playing tricks on her and showing her monsters".

It was sort of a churchy week. Went to the temple one morning, had a relief society pres. meeting the next day and then taught at enrichment the day after that. And Jeremy went with his presidency to tour the bishop's storehouse and do a service project. Some week church just keeps us hopping. Jeremy had one family photo shoot this week as well. He is experiencing some extreme frustration lately with his computer monitor not processing the colors in photos correctly.

Friday was the kids' school carnival. Everyone ate a bunch of Navajo tacos and snow cones and kids played all the carnival games. Spencer and Allison after a huge investment of tickets won a stuffed animal each, Robyn won one as well on her first try (there were some mutterings going on in the ranks on that one). After the carnival we had some friends come home with us to relax in the hot tub and everyone went to bed tired and clean.

Spencer's math grades went from Cs to Bs and As the day after he got his glasses so he seems to be doing well now. Allison joined choir this week and was very excited about it. Allison finally grew out of her size 5 pants that she got in kindergarten so yesterday we went on a jean shopping trip. Since she turns 8 this month I am glad she finally made it to the size 6 pants and not the slim ones either.

Last night Jeremy and I had as he put it a very "utilitarian" date. We went to the city BBQ cook-off and ate a big plate of really good BBQ. Hit the library for all my books on hold and then spent 2 hours at Home Depot getting all the stuff for our to-do lists. Things like the screws to fix the foosball table, the wire for the raspberry trellis etc. Have enough projects now to work on for a long time.

Robyn is sitting in my lap crying/whining because I yelled when for the 3rd time she decided to jump on my lap while I was typing and try to pull of my wedding band. Such a tough life but I guess my time is up! Love to you all, Heather

Robyn's first day picts:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mexican Pork Salad

Dear Family and Friends,

In case anyone else wanted this recipe I thought I would post it. Its the make at home version of the Cafe Rio pork salad and I can't taste the difference.

Shredded Pork

3 lb pork roast
1 can red enchilada sauce
1 can 4 oz diced green chilies
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 can coke (NOT DIET but it can be caffeine-free)
1 c brown sugar
Slow cook pork for 4-5 hours with 1 c water, salt and pepper. Drain and shred pork. Add other ingredients and cook 2-3 more hours.

Tomatillo Ranch Dressing

1 c mayonnaise
1 pkg buttermilk dressing mix
1/2 c buttermilk
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 c cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic
3 tomatillos

Blend all ingredients in blender till smooth.


4 c water
2 c rice
4 cubes chicken bouillon
1 tsp cumin
2 cloves garlic
6 green onions
Cook 20-25 minutes

Serve with warm tortillas, lettuce, black beans, cheese, guacamole and sour cream etc.

When we had morning church I would put this in the crock pot in the morning, come back, shred and do all the other stuff and everything would be just right for dinner time.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Storytelling festival

Dear Friends and Family,

Since we don't live by a beach our Labor Day weekends have turned into trips to the Timpangogous storytelling festival up in Provo canyon. Jeremy stayed with Taylor and Robyn for the day while I took Spencer and Allison. We left at 8:30 am with two extremely amped up kids and came home at 10:30 with two kids barely able to keep their eyes open. This video shows one of their favorite storytellers do a short bit:

We spent the day and evening listening to stories and songs. Kids made pots with the potters. Ate till I was sure their stomachs would explode from snack overload. Spencer got lost and had me paged. Allison dumped her lemonade into my shoe so I had squishy feet. All the normal whiney, lots of work crap that comes along with kids but mostly it was watching them laugh so hard tears were streaming down their cheeks. Allison went to the bathroom frequently just to make sure she wouldn't loose it during the funny stories. Laying on the grass watching the clouds while Spencer and Allison happily walk over together to stand in line for a dippin dots. It was a great, long day. Jeremy valiantly tried to work on photo stuff for the wedding he had done and Robyn told me this morning that she had a great time with Dad and got to watch LOTS of movies. So it was a good weekend for all.

Kids started back up with piano lessons this week. Had a few grumbles over practicing starting again but mostly they seem to enjoy it. Spencer has been trying to play the songs in the primary song book. Rest of the week was mostly just back to school routine - karate, gymnastics, dance class etc. Robyn went to her preschool's open house and was very excited about starting this week. Friday after she decided to jump on behind me on the treadmill while I frantically was pushing the stop button and she lost the skin on her chest and elbows - we took a little down time to shop for a princess back-pack. Found one exactly like she always wanted.

Spent one afternoon at the dentist working on Spencer's retainer. He has another 2 months and then he can stop wearing it during the day again. Picked up his new glasses Tuesday. Spencer was so excited to be able to see so well that he had zero anxiety about wearing them and has had a smile on his face ever since. Felt bad that he hasn't seen well for so long.

Jeremy had a busy week again. A last minute golf opening came up with his work for a tournament on Tuesday. It was a really big one, with dinner afterwards and a cool goody bag. So he had fun. Then Wednesday he spent the day taking photos for his cousin's daughter's wedding up in Ogden. And then he has been working hard to make up for lost time since. So a fun week but a busy one for him.

I have been trying to tackle the yard more this week. I thought everything looked puny because I wasn't doing anything in our yard. Then I realized that our flower bed sprinklers haven't been coming on since they were broken by the electricians - 3!!! weeks ago. I am impressed they have done as well as they have. Robyn helped me lay new carpet down in the playhouse. And then mostly I just have been slowly working my way around the yard.

Taylor's class has a group from a junior lockdown detention facility come in once a week to work with them. I guess Taylor really liked it and they really liked working with him. Thought it was pretty neat.

Life is good and I love you all, Heather

Our new lazy Sunday morning now that church starts at 1 p.m. for us. Spencer working on his talk and girls painting away.

Allison relaxing before the evening story telling show started. Her dinner consisting of chips, queso and sour cream next to her for the occasional bite. There was no nutritional value going on that night.

At the end of the day Saturday.

With the potters.

Spencer's first morning with glasses.

They had a kid share time during the lunch break where kids could get up in front of a couple hundred people and say a story. Spencer was brave, said he only looked at the microphone so he wouldn't freak out.