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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Count my many blessings...

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Best part of this Thanksgiving for me arrived Tuesday night with my parents and sister coming to visit.  Weeks like this make me long to be back around family in California, then I look at cost of living out there and reality hits once again.  But it truly was wonderful to have family around and Jason and his family were able to join us for Thanskgiving day and for a trip to the movies.  So life felt very complete.  It also is strange how when my parents visit I always have a bit of a wake up call when I have that moment of looking at our family and realizing we have some serious work to do ie do our kids really act this way?  am I always nagging like this?

Robyn continued to be sick this week.  It was the cough that would not end.  So we had lots and lots of mom/daughter bonding time.  I am just a little bit excited and feeling a little bit guilty about it, that she goes to school tomorrow!  She came down early Tuesday morning dressed for school, hacking away with bloodshot eyes and bags, sobbing that she would miss the kindergarten Thanksgiving feast.  She had her pilgrim costume all ready.  Instead she stayed on the couch with a barbie movie and made a smoothie/cookie run.  She said the day was almost as good as going to school.

Wednesday was spent in a flurry of baking and taking Macho to the vet.  The theme for this week as far as animals are concerned is "he is NOT worth it!".  Last week we thought Macho broke his leg in a fight but then he recovered.  Turned out that he had gotten a bite that had turned into an abscess.  So meanies that we are we skipped the vet doing surgery and putting in a drain.  Instead we got antibiotics and morphine for him and manly Jeremy (buco good husband points going on here) spent every morning and night squeezing out all the pus and blood to drain the abscess out.  And now Macho besides his bald leg thinks he is back to normal.
To top the evening off we went to a roller skating rink where my sister Christina showed off her roller derby skills.  The rink was pretty empty so our kids could zoom all around.  Taylor likes the speed and the disco ball lights as we do laps around.  And then we sat around that evening swapping kids and fluids stories - so much room for humor there.

My brother Peter sent Spencer an old GPS unit.  Spencer thought Christmas and birthday had arrived early in our house.  He dragged grandparents on several geo-cache hikes throughout the week and was wrapped up in his own little world for the rest of the week.  He gives his first talk today - hence a crabby Saturday as he dragged his feet on what to write.  My favorite quote of the week was from him, "Mom, I don't have any thoughts.  I never have!".  That kept me from strangling him in frustration.
Thursday our house was full of cousins and turkey.  We left Jeremy, Jason and Taylor watching football and went on our annual hike up to Battlecreek Falls.
Robyn after laying in bed for a week, acted quite wimpy and wanted assistance most of the way.  Of course on the way down, she threw off the pretense and took off on a run to catch up with Grandma.  I love being outside on Thanksgiving with sunshine, yellow leaves and kids exploring.  Makes me so grateful for this life we lead.  Then we returned home to cheeseball, a really fun puzzle and pie.

Friday Spencer went off to a robotics merit badge class for the day while the girls headed off to paint pottery.  Seems like a strange thing to do but we had a lot of fun visiting and trying to think creative thoughts.  Robyn was done long before the rest of us but was a good sport about sticking around.
Then we headed off to Temple Square to see the Christmas lights, freeze our tushies, and enjoy some really good Mexican food.  Taylor made me smile as he was looking around at all the lights and then was just smiling with glee as he downed horchata and quesadillas.
Guess who brought his camera?  :)

Allison is in a non-picture mode lately.  This set-up reminded me of the Dr. Suess book where they all do each other's hair.
Saturday we broke out the Christmas decorations and my family running a few errands.   Allison and Robyn managed to put our tree together by themselves which considering its much abused state is quite an accomplishment.  And we met up with Jason and cousins for a trip down memory lane watching the Muppet movie.  Kids by then were so wired they were literally dancing around singing Christmas songs and bouncing off walls.  My family fled to the airport relieved to leave the madness I think as we held back the sniffles.  It was so wonderful to just sit and visit.  How can sitting around and talking about little things feel like such a big thing to me? 

After the festivities of the week our kids crashed last night and Taylor and I enjoyed a morning of Christmas music and a quiet household.  It felt wonderful for all of us.  And today we finish off the last of the turkey and pie!

Hope you each had a great Thanksgiving,   This article made me smile today and count my blessings.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holidays are here

Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the year - my annual shopping day with friends.  Kids were glad to see me go, hopeful that I will get everything on their Christmas list and anxious to spend a Dad day.  Dad days involve doing their jobs and then having a day of TV and goofing around, ordering pizza and sneaking soda into the house.  My day involves catching up with some old friends and running all those Christmas errands.  Due to some sick kids it was really only my friend Michelle and I for most of the day but it was still a great time.

Robyn is home sick today.  She came down with a cough on Friday and has that low temperature, croupy cough thing going.  Not enough to make her truly miserable but enough to keep her down on the couch.  So she is busy watching Animated Scriptures while she pretends to nap.  She is trying hard to get better before her Thanksgiving feast on Tuesday.  She has been spreading the Christmas season a little early in our house, breaking into Christmas songs whenever possible.  On Thursday I taught art and had the kids sculpt ornaments.  After Thanksgiving we are going to paint them.  Kids made things from hearts to snowmen to alien space ships.

Allison had her Thanksgiving feast on Friday at school.  They spent the week learning manners and had to come in their best dress and enjoy a 7 course meal, using all the right forks etc.  She thought it was great.  Friday also Allison was in her school spelling bee representing her class.  She lasted three rounds but then got out.  But she felt pretty good about how she did as she was competing against the junior high.  I have been sewing away this week on a Christmas project and listening to the TV show The sing-off while doing so.  Allison has become a little addict and hurries to join me after she is ready for bed.  I have vivid memories of doing the same thing while my Mom watched Moonlighting at the same age.  Allison had a daddy/daughter dinner for Activity Days this week with Jeremy and just beamed the whole evening through.

Spencer is busy and matter of factly figuring out how to balance his different assignments and working to bring his grades back up.  He finally had the brain wave that the planner from the school would actually be a really good thing to use.  So he has been staying after school to re-do tests and assignments most days.  A week or two ago he had his first after school dance.  I came to pick him up and watched all these kids doing line dances amazed that Spencer would be participating.  And then I saw Spencer in the back with a group of boys playing some version of the Tron disk game.  That made much more sense to me.  Jeremy went into Spencer's photography class this week to teach about lighting.  Spencer thought his dad was so cool.  Spencer really is doing good over-all, but now and then we have that moment when we remember he truly is bi-polar.  He always is really paranoid about his shoes.  I should have know better but Monday when its time to go he breaks down thinking his new shoes from Saturday have changed and are not longer fitting right.  Once he calms down he seems to understand that its just his mind playing tricks on him.  And then for the next few mornings, we just have to remind him that his shoes really are the same, he just has to convince his mind of it.

Taylor was home sick with a cold the first part of this week but is back to his normal, chirpy self.  We are quite mean and make him stand for long periods to build up his leg strength.  He still does not walk well but is quite happy for us to carry him.

Macho got into another fight.  At first we thought he had broken his leg.  But after talking to the vet and seeing him start to improve we are thinking that instead he has an infection in his leg.  See how he does in the next few days to see if he needs antibiotics.  He is quite pathetic looking.  And on a side note we bought new mouse-traps but no dead mouse yet.

Jeremy sucked it up Thursday night and went with me and a friend and her husband to see a preview of Breaking Dawn.  I can do an 8pm movie but the midnight showings just don't work for me.  Jeremy tried hard to stifle his laughter but had his face buried in his hands, shoulders shaking quite often.  It is such a silly, girly thing to enjoy, but I do.

Wishing everyone a great Thanksgiving holiday full of family and great food and grateful hearts,


Friday, November 18, 2011

White Chicken Chili

I have been looking for a good white chili recipe for awhile and am so glad to have found one.  This is easy, healthy and is perfect for warming you up on a cold evening.  I will keep bags of cooked, chopped up chicken in our freezer to make this meal even easier.

White Chicken Chili

2 c choped onions
2 Tbsp oil
1 4.5 oz can diced green chiles
3 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 15 oz can white kidney beans or great northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 c chicken broth
5 c cooked, cubed turkey or chicken
4 oz Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers, shredded
tortilla chips

1. In a large pot cook onions in oil over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes till tender.  Stir in spices and cook for 1 minute till fragrent.  Stir in beans and broth.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Stir in chicken and simmer till heated through.  Stir in cheese.
3. Put a handful of tortilla chips in a bowl.  Top with soup.  Can top with sour cream, extra cheese or hot sauce as you like.

If I need our kids to donate a kidney or clean their rooms, this is the dinner that will motivate them.  They now know to set the table with two napkins, one for your lap and one for you chin.  This recipe is from Russ Signorino who won a cook-off with them.  They are amazing.  They are quite spicy, just as a warning, but that is how we like them.

2 Napkin Ribs

1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c ketchup
1/3 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c water
4 tsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper
2 racks baby back ribs (about 5 pounds)

1. For sauce in a tupperware bowl mix brown sugar, ketcup, vinegar, water, dry mustard, 1 Tbsp garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, aparika, 2 tsp black pepper and 1/4 tsp salt.  Seal shut and refrigerate for several hours.
2. For rub, in a bowl combine, sugar, chili podwer, red pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, onion powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper.
3. Put each rack of ribs on a large sheet of aluminum foil.  Cover ribs with rub, making sure they are spread all over.
4. Seal ribs shut into an aluminum foil packet by covering top with another sheet of aluminum foil and then rolling up the sides.
5. Put ribs into the fridge for several hours, up to 24.
6. Put ribs in the aluminum foil onto a baking sheet and put in oven at 350 degrees for an hour and a half to two hours.
7. Open up foil packets and spread half of the BBQ sauce over each rack.  You can either then move the ribs to the BBQ or cool for 15 more minutes in the oven.
8. Serve with extra BBQ sauce.

These taste like a really good spice cake.  My kids were quite leery of eating them since they have sweet potato in them.  But then they gobbled them up, saying they tasted so good they forgot all about the sweet potato.  This is from a Better Homes & Garden magazine with a few changes.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes - Makes 24

2 c flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c unsalted butter softened
1 1/4 c sugar
3 large eggs
1 lb sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled and mashed to give you 2 cups
1/4 c milk
1 tsp milk
24 chocolate kisses, unwrapped

8 oz milk chocolate
1 c whipping cream or whole milk
2 c powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 c butter
*add more sugar till its the right consistency if needed

1. Can make ahead the sweet potatoes as they have to be mashed and then cooled.  To roast, put potatoes in a pan, prick all over with a fork and roast for one hour at 425 degrees.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line or spray 24 muffin cups.
3. Beat all the dry ingredients together: flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. Beat butter for 30 seconds.  Add the sugar and beat for 2 minutes till light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs, sweet potato, milk and vanilla.  Beat well.  Add flour mixture.
5. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.  Bake 5 minutes.
6. Take out and put a chocolate kiss in each muffin cup and top with a spoonful of batter.
7. Cook for 14 more minutes or until tops spring back when touched.  Cool in pan 10 minutes and then cool completely on wire rack.
8. For frosting in a small pan, heat the milk, chocolate and butter till all is melted.  Remove from heat and beat in the rest of ingredients.  Frost cupcakes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pure laziness

Dear family and friends,

There is nothing like a week of events getting cancelled and being able to get up in the morning to sunshine to make you feel like you are living a life of ease.  Really it isn't but it sure feels nice to have things slow down and to be given the gift of unexpected pockets of time where nothing has to be done.  It was good timing as I caught a cold this week.  Me and my squeaky voice appreciated some down time.

I have been busy destroying our living room with Christmas projects.  I have resisted turning on Christmas music although Robyn has shown no such restraint.  But it has been fun to break out some gift giving projects.  They won't look as nice but they will be full of love and even a little blood - who knew needles could be so sharp?  Robyn seems to have cut the Christmas bug a little early.  She has been busy decorating our house along with her friends for Santa.  We have a pile of letters from all her friends piled next to our fireplace.  And her room has been decorated with snow flakes.  Add in the fact that at school they have been working on their Christmas program which means afternoons consist of her and friends singing Holly Jolly Christmas at the top of their lungs, complete with dance moves.

Robyn, Allison and I enjoyed a girls' day out on Saturday.  We went to see Disney on Ice up in Salt Lake.  I was quite impressed.  Trust Disney to put on a good show.  Then afterwards we went to lunch and walked through the first snow fall of the season to get some hot chocolate and look at what books they would like for Christmas.

We had a great girly time.  Robyn yelled out to Snow White not to eat the apple and couldn't understand why she didn't listen.  Robyn is learning the benefits of being the youngest child.  This week we went out to lunch with Jeremy after running our last legal errand for Lauri's estate (YEAH!!!).  It felt like we were playing hookey from real life.

Allison won her class spelling bee and has been busy studying her list of words to represent her class at the school spelling bee.  This morning she surprised Robyn and Spencer with breakfast in bed - hot chocolate and bagels.  What a nice sister.  She still loves our Friday night tradition of pizza and movie night.  This is what our living room has looked like the past two weeks:
This Friday the girls with a reluctant Spencer in the back ground watched Annie.  Robyn ran to get her tap shoes on for the closing scene so she could dance with Annie.  Then we are mean parents who kick everyone upstairs so we can watch the grown-up movie. 

Taylor continues to improve a little bit at a time.  Jeremy has figured out a way to make him walk.  It doesn't look pretty but it sure works.  He has a snotty nose right now, which means everytime he sneezes we make a mad dash for the tissue box.
Taylor has a girlfriend at school.  She is a super high energy autistic girl and rides the bus with Taylor.  She is also a gifted thief.  Taylor has been loosing all his sweatshirts that he brings to school lately.  Then we discovered that she has been stashing them in her room.  She walks off the bus, whips his sweatshirt off the back of his wheelchair, stuffs it under her shirt and then puts in her secret spot.  I thought it was hilarious when I found out.  With the girls being gone Saturday the boys enjoyed a day in front of the fireplace with football games playing.  They all loved it.
I took all the kids in to get their flu shots this week.  They had run out of the mist option which meant Robyn spent the afternoon crying about the shot that was coming.  Spencer volunteered to man up and take his first and didn't flinch so Robyn could do no less.  Thank goodness for big brothers.  While there Spencer got all the warts on his arm burnt off.  I hate warts.  To make-up for all the pain, of course we had to go out for ice cream afterwards.  Spencer was excited to learn at the doctor that he is now 5 foot 6 1/4 inches (can't forget that 1/4!)  and 133 pounds.  I just have to laugh because he is such a little kid still - just in a big body.  Then we also went shoe shopping this weekend and had to buy him size 12 shoes!!  They are like little boats.  I hope his height will match his shoe length.  Saturday morning since he didn't have to be anywhere we let him just sleep in.  We figured since he was out by 9 the night before, how long could he go?  10:45!  He must be growing.
Growing pains are kicking in - and I don't mean the physical kind.  This week he managed to break our camera that I have used for a few years.  It only took him a few months.  So having to re-learn how to take care of things.  Then you throw in all the homework not being turned in on the right day and there have definitely been some learning moments going on.  Last Sunday he broke the nose piece of his glasses.  We had the Hall clan over for dinner, one of my favorite traditions.  We all thought it would be funny if we just put some tape around the nose piece to make his glasses work.  He didn't think that was very funny.  He had a court of honor this week and got 4 merit badges.  He is going to be the troop historian to get his leadership requirement done.  Of course he is excited to photograph all the scouting events.
Krispey Kremes from last week's doughnuts for A's run

You might be wondering about our mouse.  Yep, its still running rampant.  Our kitchen has never been cleaner as I keep finding mouse droppings  and break out the disinfectant.  We have come close to catching it but have learned that it is VERY, VERY fast.  And that it can squeeze through those little air intake vents without any problems or climb up into our oven and disappear.  Very irritating but almost comical.

Jeremy tries to balance everything out and fit in some relaxing time when possible.  It truly is a constant juggling act for him.  But we did get to watch two movies together this week which felt wickedly self-indulgent.  Nothing like rain and cold to make you want to lay on the couch with a blanket and a good movie.

Hope you are enjoying this beautiful fall and the sunshine in the morning,  Heather

This is your basic traditional chili.  You can turn down the heat by doing less jalapenos or not leaving the seeds in.  This is the kind of chili Jeremy likes.  Perfect to serve with corn chips, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese or on top of fry bread.

Jeremy's Chili
1-2 lb ground beef
2 large onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-4 jalapenos, de-seed half of them and chopped
1 anaheim pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 c water
1 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed & drained
1 15 oz can white kidney or great northern beans, rinsed & drained
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
1/3 c milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp salt

1. Brown ground beef in large pot.  Add onions and peppers and cook till almost tender, around 5 minutes.
2.  Add chili powder and cumin, cook 1 minutes until fragrant.  Add tomato sauce and water, bring to boiling.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer covered for 10 minutes.
4. Add all of the beans and return to simmer.  Cook about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and salt.
5. Top each bowl with corn chips, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.

This is from the blog  It is one of my favorite meals and everyone licks their plates clean.  I have made a few changes for how we like to eat it.  As a warning this smells really bad while making it but then tastes and smells wonderful by the end.

Masaman Curry
8 servings
1 can Masaman curry paste or red curry paste - usually around 8 ounces
3 Tbsp oil
2 cans 14 oz coconut milk - I use light and can't taste the difference
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 onion sliced into small pieces
2-3 chicken breasts cut into small pieces
4-5 medium potatoes, any variety, cut into small pieces
2 carrots peeled and sliced thinly
2 Tbsp heaping peanut butter
1/2 c peanuts optional
Sriracha sauce to taste - we do 1/2 Tbsp

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in curry paste; cook and stir for about 2-3 minutes till warmed and dissolving.
2. Pour in 1 can coconut milk and stir until well blended.
3. Add sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and Worcestershire sauce, bring to a boil.
4. Add oinon and chicken.  Reduce to a simmer and cook till chicken is white and cooked through.
5. Add rest of ingredients and bring back to a boil.   Then cover and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through.  Serve hot over rice.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My favorite holiday...

Jeremy was trying to get Spencer to do a gangster look - this is Spencer trying not to crack up

Dear Friends and Family,

Daylight Savings time - one of my favorite days, at least in the fall.  You always say you need just one more hour in the day and today you get one.  You sleep in till seven and the sun is coming up and you feel wonderful.  Getting up in the pitch black is just not fun and driving kids to school with head lights on seems to go against some law of nature.  So I am enjoying my extra hour this morning with everyone happy for an extra hour of sleep while I got to actually be awake and functioning and walk with Jeremy over to the church this morning.  I think our bodies were just meant to get up with the sun not the stars.

The sugar over load has calmed down in our house pretty much.  We are still the mean parents who let their kids eat a few pieces on Halloween night, pick out their favorite dozen to keep and then the rest goes to Jeremy's office.  Since the kids eat the candies anyway every Saturday when they clean, they aren't technically loosing them, although we still get quite a few groans.

Halloween was a beautiful day.  We had a warm front being pushed ahead of a big storm so kids were running around all day in short sleeves and taking over the streets at night.  Robyn had a kindergarten parade where they marched through all the classrooms to show off their costumes and then had a classroom party.  Allison had a parade and party later that afternoon.  Unfortunately Robyn and I didn't realize the parade was starting early in the afternoon so we only caught the tail end of it.  But since we saw Allison's class, everyone was still happy.

Why is Jeremy taking these pictures inside instead out out by our pumpkins?  Its because at 7:30 when kids are leaving for school, the sun hasn't come up yet!
We made our traditional bones (bread sticks), blood (marinara sauce), and guts (stuffed pumpkin).  I think kids like the idea of the food more than actually eating it.  I got to go trick or treating this year with our kids while Jeremy manned the door, handing out toys and blaring the spooky music.  We have a fun neighborhood to trick or treat in.  One cauldesac did root beer and a block party.  Another cauldesac did a spook alley with hot chocolate, doughnuts and witches around a fire pit.  And since it wasn't freezing or raining the kids lasted for almost two hours.  Good time by all and the morning after was very tough to get going again.

I was able to host a brunch this week for my friend Brenda's birthday.  I always think I should be more creative for these things but instead all I do is cook something and set the table.  But it was wonderful on a rainy, stormy day to spend it inside catching up with friends.  I am so lucky to know so many amazing people who show me what kind of person I want to be.

The turkey tri was this Saturday.  I had done a mock one on Monday to make sure I was ready for it and that I really could run/bike in my swim suit.  It was freezing cold - 20 degrees with some snow flakes.  But because of the storm and the icy spots on the roads they made the bike ride only be a half mile.  So it was a bit of a let down.  But I really liked it.  Even the part where they said to strip down to your swim suit - OUTSIDE - and then run over to the building with the pool in it.  And then when you are all done come back OUTSIDE, all wet to put your clothes back on.  Good thing we were hot from exercising but it was still really cold.  I had been most worried about the swimming but I was surprised that it just felt good.  The hardest part for me was swimming with other people and trying not to get kicked in the face and to find ways to pass people in the tiny lanes.  So next spring/summer I will definitely be trying it again.

Friday I went to see The Help with a group of friends who had all read the book.  I highly recommend the movie and would put it on par with the book which I really liked.  And then it was a double scooper weeekend as Jeremy and I got to go out to dinner on Saturday night.  Then we came home, sent kids off to bed and broke out the ice cream and a movie.  Life does not get much better.

The kids got their report cards this week.  Spencer had a rude awakening with his English class.  Although he had done all the assignments, he hadn't gotten all of them recorded.  So it was a good lesson that just showing your teacher that you were done by waving papers in front of her face does not help your grade.  You have to actually turn things in, make sure they are graded and recorded etc.  I have to admit this is only half Spencer's fault but you work with the teacher you are given.  Hardest part for him was that he had to give up his ipod touch till his grades recovered.  Major tears.

Then on Saturday I took the kids to Krispey Kremes.  They give you one doughnut free for every A on your report card.  Grease and sugar are big motivators.  Robyn doesn't get a report card every term so she only got one sprinkle doughnut and was quite envious of Allison's big box and Spencer's medium sized box.

Then there is all the flotsam and jetsam of our week which really I don't think anyone else wants to hear about.  Jeremy continues to work hard, trying to improve his skills and get all the church things done.  He always has more on his to-do list than he can ever accomplish.

Love to you all and hope you are enjoying this wonderful, extra hour day.