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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer days

Dear Family and Friends,

This week summer hit with high temperatures and sunny skies. Father's Day was a wonderful time even with a Mom who was asleep by 9. We made stuffed french toast, kids sang to Jeremy in sacrament meeting, grilled steaks and spent the evening playing badminton with Jeremy's new set. Playing badminton with kids requires deep draws on a parent's reservoir of patience. But they are thrilled every time Jeremy picks up a racket.

This week Taylor had school and was convinced he no longer had to work. He only goes three days a week for three weeks but it is sorely needed. He gets in the habit of lazying around with us and forgets all that he can do.

Spencer had a science camp every morning this week with one of my old neighbors Alene. He built motors, a lightbulb, a telegraph, speakers and was in boy heaven. He even was able to get everything done for his electrical merit badge. It was great. Friday Spencer went on another scout camp-out. This was the 11 year old commitment hike where the stake young men leaders have the boys commit to several things like honoring the priesthood, serving a mission, getting their duty to God and Eagle Scout etc. It sounded like a very cool event. This was his first time he has gone camping without Jeremy there as a buffer and we prayed hard he would remember his pills. He did and came home tired and happy. He spent the afternoon taking a nap. We all went up to Cabella's to get a sleeping pad for him this week. I have never actually tried shopping at Cabella's with kids, we usually just go to look at animals. I am sure they were all glad to see us go as I was on the phone with Jeremy, Taylor was kicking the display, Spencer was showing me every option out there and Allison, and Kambry were chasing Robyn through the tent displays where Robyn kept tripping over the ropes causing loud howls to ensue. Stores love our family...

Allison had two cooking classes this week, one with Robyn. She loves creating her little meals and cakes at the rec center. We went swimming twice and she has been busy teaching Robyn how to swim. Robyn is all set for water polo as she is literally dragged all around and under the pool gasping for breath whenever she can. But she has a smile on her face the whole time and has quickly learned how to doggie paddle and do flips under water. Allison has been busy with a neighbor girl creating a dance performance set to the Mama Mia soundtrack. They are taking it very seriously. With Spencer down in Orem each morning, we have been playing with Kambry one of Allison's old friends down there. Despite living apart for 6 years now they remain good friends.

Robyn has been busy running kids everywhere and not liking it much. She had t-ball again this week and has finally realized she needs to run to first base or try to field the ball. It is still a very entertaining sight and not much actual baseball happens. But we are all happy at the end of each game. She has been busy practicing her whining lately. Jeremy caught her trying out her whining performance in front of the mirror yesterday. To be that good at it requires serious practice time. Whenever she is home she is grabbing a swim suit and trolling the neighborhood for friends to run through the sprinklers with. She inherited my sweat glands and comes home with a tomato face and sweat plastered hair.

Jeremy had two photo shoots yesterday and is enjoying keeping his hand in. Seems like his life is spent working, coming home to church, yard or family duties and then trying to find a spare moment to sit or catch up on side projects. So I am glad he still gets a little photo time. We went to see a play last night at Hale Center called 110 in the Shade. It wasn't a play I had ever heard of before although I recognized quotes from it. We really enjoyed it especially two of our favorite slapstick humor guys were in it.

I have been trying to reclaim our yard this week. I will go take some photos as with all the rain and cool temperatures everything is growing like mad. My biggest news is that I finally bought my birthday present from Mom and Dad - a bench for our hallway. I have been looking for quite awhile, I'm just very slow to make up my mind!

My favorite quotes of the week:

"There isn't any rule that says you have to scoop the dog poop first" by Allison as she seriously was reading the badminton rule book to find that rule.

"So a police man keeps his nightstick next to his cattle prod on his belt just in case the taser doesn't work" by Spencer

"Knock, Knock. Who's there. Queen. Queen who? Queen up this mess!!" followed by maniacal non-stop laughter by Robyn who discovered knock-knock jokes this week. We have heard them all many, many, many times.

Love to you all, Heather

Allison is getting cautiously optimistic that we will FINALLY have raspberries this year.

What do you do with a badminton box? Build a house of course.

Peanut Blossom Cookies

48 Hershey Kisses or jumbo chocolate chips
1/2 c shortening
3/4 c peanut butter
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat shortening and peanut butter. Add sugar and beat till fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla. Beat till smooth. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Shape dough into small 1 inch wide balls. Roll in sugar. Bake 8-10 minutes and immediately press a kiss or chip in center of cookie. Cool on pan for 5 minutes and then cool completely on wire racks.

This is my adult version of s'mores.

S'More Cookie Bars Makes 16 bars

1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 c flour
3/4 c graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 Milk chocolate bars (1.55 oz each) (I prefer using Symphony Bars with toffee and almond chips but any chocolate bar will do)
1 c marshmallow creme

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8" square baking pan. In a large mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beat well. Mix in flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Mix till well blended.
Press half of dough into prepared pan. Arrange chocolate bars over dough, breaking as needed to fit. Spread with marshmallow creme. Scatter bits of remaining dough over marshmallow. Carefully press to form a layer.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chicken Divine

This is a combination of several recipes of chicken dijon that we have liked. The name comes from my sister-in-law Mimi as this is what they call their mom's recipe.

Chicken Divine

Arrange in pam sprayed 9 x 13 pan:
first layer: 3 cups cooked rice (white or brown)
second layer: 1 package of steamed broccoli about 3 cups
third layer: 3 cups cooked chicken cut into bite size pieces (around 4 chicken breasts)

Combine in a separate bowl:
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups sour cream
(can add 1/2 tsp curry powder)

Spread soup mixture over the top of the 9 x 13 pan.
Sprinkle 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese on top and 1 tsp paprika.
Top with 1 cup of bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for 30-35 minutes. (can be frozen and cooked covered for 50 minutes and then uncovered for 10)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Buddha Bars

These are called Buddha Bars as the first time I made them at my Mom's house there was an abundance of teenage males showing off how they could make their flat stomachs extend to unnatural proportions. Hence these cookies added to "the Buddha". They still do. Time for some sit-ups now... (Mimi - sorry that I couldn't find this recipe last year and had to guess. But it was pretty close I think)

Buddha Bars

8 medium-sized chocoalte chip cookies.
1/4 c butter, melted

Chocolate Layers:
2 1/2 c milk chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Filling:
1 1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 c butter, softened
3 c powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a blender, process cookies until finely ground. Mix with butter. Press crumb mixture into bottom of a greased 8" x 8" pan and bake for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
Melt HALF the chocolate chips for 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth. Pour the melted chocolate over the cookie layer and refrigerate.
Blend peanut butter, butter, sugar and vanilla till smooth. Spread over chilled and set chocolate layer.
Melt the other half of the chocolate chips for 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth. Pour over the peanut butter layer.
Chill in the refrigerate at least one hour and then cut.

When we were dating and first married at BYU, Jeremy and I would splurge periodically to split a Navajo Taco at the Wilkinson Center. Still one of Jeremy's favorite meals. Leftover scones are served for dessert with honey and butter or powdered sugar. These taste best the day made but can be kept for one day for leftovers.

Navajo Tacos

1 egg
2 c warm water
1/3 c sugar
3 3/4 tsp yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c shortening
4 1/2 - 5 c flour
1/2 c dry powdered milk

Mix together the egg, water, sugar and yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and knead in a mixer until smooth, about 10 minutes (add the last cup of flour until the dough doesn't stick to the sides). Let rise for 1 hour till doubled.
Heat 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a skillet or a wok. You will know you are getting close to the right temperature when you can flick a drop of water on the oil and it bubbles. Don't let the oil get much hotter though or you will get burnt scones on the outside and soggy in the middle.
With floured hands grab a 1/2 chunk of dough, roll it into a ball and then flatten it with your hands into a disk. Put into the oil, flipping over after a few minutes. It should be golden on both sides and then remove the scone to drain on paper towels. Cook all the scones.

Serve scones with chili, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, cut up tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, ranch dressing, avocado and whatever else sounds good!

This is one of Jeremy's and my kids favorite summer meals. Of course, it has bacon in it and as everyone knows, bacon makes everything better. This is great to take places or to make in the morning ahead of time.

Bacon Pasta Salad - 8 main dish servings

6 slices bacon cut up and cooked
2 Tbsp sugar
1 package (16 oz) pasta shells, cooked and drained
1 small package frozen peas (3 c) or fresh
4 hard boiled eggs, cut up
1 1/4 c miracle whip
1/2 tsp garlic salt
3 carrots shredded
3 green onions, chopped
3 c chopped tomatoes (I like to remove the pulp/seeds of the tomato before I add them so the salad doesn't get mushy)

Stir all the ingredients together with 2 Tbsp reserved bacon drippings. Refrigerate for a few hours. Stir in additional miracle whip before serving if it appears too dry.

At Easter my sister-in-law Mimi taught us how to make chocolate covered strawberries. These are horribly addictive and we have used them for all types of chocolate covered goodies. It can be made in small amounts for a quick chocolate fix or large amounts for a crowd. If you store them in the fridge UNCOVERED they can keep for several days. If you cover them they go mushy in a day.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

1/2 c nutella
1/2 c milk or semi-chocolate chips
strawberries (or cinnamon bears, pineapple etc)

Put nutella and chocolate chips into a bowl. Microwave for a minute and a half, stopping every 30 seconds to stir. The chocolate should be smooth and completely blended together. Dip your strawberries into the chocolate and lay on top of a wax paper covered plate. If the chocolate gets too hard just microwave it for a few seconds again. Its fun to take a fork and just drizzle the chocolate mixture across strawberries too. Put the strawberries on the plate into the fridge to harden for 30 minutes to an hour. You can keep them uncovered for a few days in the fridge although ours have never made it past 48 hours!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"What the Hill?"

Dear Friends and Family,

Spencer has informed me that our team name is bad because it sounds like swearing. But it was exactly what each of my team-mates were thinking this weekend! My other favorite team at the relay was team "#@*! I thought this was a 5k!". The Ragnar Relay was this weekend that I have been training for, for several months. It is a 188 mile relay from Logan to Park City made up of 12 people in 2 vans that each run 3 legs. I ran with 2 of my neighbors in our van plus 3 guys, one of their wives and one of their cousins and we all got to know each other very well. It was a tough race where the combination of heat, sleep exhaustion, driving in cars for hours and having to run without your body being able to recover all takes its toll. It was also a ton of fun, more extreme than anything I have ever done and already I want to do it next year but be in better shape for it. Our team started running at 10 a.m. Friday but our van didn't get together to pack up and go until 12 up in Layton. One of the tough parts was getting all psyched up to go, driving up and feeling like you are at a rock concert with people running in costume, cars decorated up everywhere, going through safety training and then sitting around in a field for 3 hours till your turn is up. 1000 teams ran this relay with staggered start times from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. I ran 3.4 miles at 5 p.m. and it was really hot and dusty but I beat my goal time by 1 minute per mile so I was quite happy. Ran again at 1 a.m. for 7 miles and it was really cool to be running through the canyons, slightly downhill, music blaring, headlamp on, stars overhead, a chilly 40 degrees. Beat my goal time by 45 seconds per mile and walked away feeling good. My last leg was 6 miles at 12 p.m. uphill and I tanked. I was 50 seconds slower than my goal per mile and ended up walking for short periods. I was just super tired and dizzy. So next year I want to do better on that last leg. We had 2 breaks of 4 hours but only half of that was spent catching naps as the rest was spent driving to the next site and getting all ready. It was a lot of fun and I was happy at how far I have come in my running abilities and amazed at the athletic abilities out there. And I was so glad for the runners on our team who took all the tough legs. Running steep switchbacks up the mountains of Park City on a gravel road at 90 degree temps is just amazing.

While I was gone Friday and Saturday Jeremy and Meredith and a babysitter kept kids busy and happy. Jeremy took them to the Strawberry Days parade for our city and they collected tons of coupons and candy from the floats. Meredith took them to the pool for the afternoon and then to top it off Jeremy and kids got the office cleaned so I wouldn't have to do it. I came home, ate, hugged everyone, showered and crashed.

Thursday the kids and I spent the day at 7 peaks, a local waterpark. We met up with a friend and her children there and brought Allison's friend Kambry with us. So Spencer and Allison each had a friend to play with and I just got to hang with Robyn. Allison and Kambry tried every scary slide there was multiple times. I couldn't believe it. Usually Allison is my timid one. Robyn even did slides with Charise and me sitting in the middle of the double tube. We had such a great time and it was pretty deserted as until 3 it was on the cool side. We had such a great time that we got back later and Jeremy missed a photo event. Seems like he gets it in the chin a lot lately. I had a nice sunburn at my hairline all around my face from where I stopped rubbing sunblock on. Lesson learned for next time.

With being gone essentially Thursday through Saturday for the second week in a row the rest of my week was spent getting everything in order - laundry done, grass mowed etc. Robyn had a birthday party for a friend at Chuck-e-cheese and now thinks that is the best place ever. Spencer has started guitar lessons and practices whenever possible. Allison had a cooking class at the rec center and made strawberry scones, floats, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Its no wonder they schedule these classes around lunch time! Taylor started back for summer school for 3 days this week and was very reluctant to get back to work. We did a mammoth shopping trip to Costco and my kids re-discovered samples much to their joy. Kids and I went to the free Strawberry Days concert in the park while Jeremy had to go to a condo owner meeting for Lauri's place. At the concert they give out cups of sliced strawberries and cream for free. Spencer proudly stood in the long line for us and brought back a box of cups for his girls. The box was soaked with cream and little droplets in the cup were all that was left but the strawberries tasted so good that no one mentioned the lack of cream. Kids favorite part of the concert is just running wild around the park with friends they find.

Love to you all and can hardly believe that I get to see my family in just 2 months. Let the count-down begin!

One of my friends made us all truffles in little treat bags. Ate ours at the end and they were so good.

At the beginning before we head out.
Found I did take a picture of Robyn at her first t-ball game. Games were canceled this week for Strawberry Days but start up again this week.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunny Arizona and rented condo

Dear Family and Friends,

Came back this evening from sunny and mild Arizona (temperatures for the wedding were a miracle) to rainy and cool Utah. Swarmed with kids who once they saw us remembered that they had missed us and needed to tell us about their week...all at loud voices. Its good to be loved.

We left Wednesday evening for Phoenix so that Jeremy could be Nicole's photographer for her wedding. We stayed with my brother Daniel and his family. Mostly we hung out a lot, talked, played with Claire and held Sam. It was wonderful. Jeremy and I enjoyed a long date out by ourselves, shopping at H & M, eating at the Cheesecake Factory, watching Iron Man 2 and just having a great time. I even took 2(!!!) naps in the middle of the afternoon - talk about spoiled. And I ate way more treats than I ever should. The wedding and reception was fairytale like and I will let Jeremy who worked while I lazed around post his amazing pictures. Meredith stayed the evenings and weekend and my sister-in-law Kelly held down the fort Thursday and Friday.

Family life continued this week with summer activities and me trying to get household chores done before I left. We got Taylor's wheelchair all fixed up so it is working again. My kids met another incredible person in the wheelchair shop. This time a guy with no legs. It amazes me to see the difficulties people live with. But biggest news of the week is that Lauri's condo is rented. We met up with Jason's family Monday night for last minute projects and the new tenets moved in Wednesday. We still are doing some legal paperwork on it. But just the fact that it is now inhabitable is huge!

Allison had her big Activity Days day camp this week. Shooting bb-guns, making crafts, relay races involving great amounts of water and plenty of snacks - she had a great time. Library classes started this week as well. Spencer is so proud that he goes at a separate time now for the "tween" class. This week was lots of games and relay races. As Jeremy pointed out, nothing to do with reading. But they got their reading logs and are ramped up to read for prizes.

I am off to bed and to gear up for tomorrow and the mountain of laundry and house catching up to do. Love to you all, Heather

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A week of relearning

Dear Friends and Family,

This week has been a week of relearning. Of relearning the rules, of me remembering to pace myself better and of learning what warmth means again as summer has finally hit.

Memorial Day we had an early morning ward flag ceremony followed by a day of playing and yard work. Jeremy spent the majority of the day with some friends taking a long over due quad ride out by the lake. He had a great time and met up with us at some friends for a BBQ, enjoying the late summer evenings and visiting. My favorite part of summer.

Allison has been busy this week doing soccer camp this morning. First morning she was quite nervous but quickly learned to be aggressive, kick the ball and enjoy making goals. Due to her sudden camera shyness I didn't get one of her all suited up in oversize soccer gear and pig tails but it made me smile every morning. I knew how much she liked it as I would come back from my run in the morning and find her awake and suited up while everyone else was still snoring. She went to a very cool birthday party this week up at the Lion House in SLC. She has so many little friends her age and birthday parties seem to be a frequent occurrence in her life. She came home from this one full of stories about Brigham Young and the early settlers.

Robyn started T-ball this week. I went with her on Tuesday and she despite my suggestions showed up in her pink and zebra striped tutu to play in. It made me laugh the whole night as she ran around the bases, skirt flying around her. She loves the whole experience. Friday was her big dance recital so she had her last dance class this week, her dress rehearsal, class pictures and her recital. Sort of an event filled week for her. Add in friends, a trip to the swimming pool and going along with the kids to their various activities and she crashed every night.

Spencer has been enjoying to the fullest the lazy days of summer. He stocked up on some goosebump books and is dipping back into Harry Potter. Breaking out all the tv shows and computer programs he has been wanting to try out. Things are going to change this week as he needs to up his activity level! He went to a merit badge workshop Saturday for fitness so has a fitness log to keep filled out. Last night we went to a s'more night at our neighbors. Kids ran around like crazy and no one got their eyes poked out from s'more sticks. Spencer found out he has grown another 3/4 of an inch so he is feeling quite proud.

Taylor got his wheelchair fixed again so it is better. his wheel is broken so another trip to SLC tomorrow. Yipee!

I am remembering that me time becomes non-existent in the summer so I am learning to seize the moment. Running has been more painful this week for some reason, perhaps the high 80 degree temperature so it is hard for me to consider that me time.

Jason and company just showed for dinner so we are off to visit!

love, Heather

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Summer Has Begun

Despite Utah's weather still flirting periodically with Spring, Summer is officially on us as kids are out of school and have a week of being lazy behind them. Of course with Summer comes the various activities Heather requires they get involved in, to keep them active and her sanity intact. Me, it's just another week of work for the most part, but I was able to attend a couple of events this week.

I leave the full update to Heather, but I had a few photos I put online that I figured I would share in a post of my own. These first photos of Robyn posing were of course to show off her dolled up outfit for her dance recital. What I found most humorous were how every pose was of her own direction - each set up was her idea. Guess she really is the daughter of a guy trying to be a photographer, eh?

On Thursday it was my turn to head over to the fields with Robyn and enjoy some lively humor watching her and her teammates learn how to play T-ball. Note the emphasis on learn. Always good for some laughs when the helmets don't fit, the kids can't hit a ball holding still, and for some reason almost the entire team thinks you should run the ball to the first base instead of actually throwing it!

These are from a few weeks ago when camping with Spencer and the 11-year old Scouts. I wasn't sure if I'd shared any of these, so I thought I'd put a few in just in case. We enjoyed our first time visiting "Little Sahara" in the West Desert area of Utah. Pretty cool place.