till the fat lady sings

{That would be me}

You might be tempted to assume that because I haven't posted anything since Tuesday, that I've had the baby. That is very generous of you. The miserable truth is that I'm still pregnant, and it's still snowy. (I would say snowing, but it isn't currently coming down.)

Thank you to those of you who kept me in your prayers on Tuesday. We did make it safely to and from the ward activity. The parking lot was the worst, but I got their early enough to get into a parking spot with no one on either side, so no one was hit.

As a general rule, Rico and Ella go to bed between 7 and 7:30. That is to say, we generally start clean up and bedtime routines shortly before 7, and finally turn off lights around 7:30. And though they don't go sleep right away (they like to serenade us--Gloria {Angels We Have Heard On High} is the current favorite) they are usually out around 8. Even when we are out for the evening with friends or family, we still try to stick the the schedule as much as possible. For this reason, we usually leave ward (and other social) functions early, around 7 or so, that we can still get them into bed before eight. They (and therefore we) are much happier that way.

When we were originally planning on attending the ward Christmas party, it was to be a family affair. When I found out that the choir would be singing at the end (the party was slated to end at 8:30,) we figured that Tom would leave early with the kids, and I would stay for the choir number. This is not because we didn't want to support the activity, but because it works best for our family.

But then Tom had a 2+ hour grad school interview Tuesday night, in Tacoma. So I was on my own. With both kids. Till the bitter end.

The kids were amazingly cooperative most of the evening. They played happily while I emptied the car (salad, choir music, diaper bag, etc.) Rico sat happily in his chair while I got food with Ella. They hung out with Tom and Pauline (a million thank-yous--I would not have made it through the night without you!) while the choir ran through the number in another room. They started to lose it after about 7:30. They wanted to run up and down the halls. They were super wiggly and could not (or would not) hold still during the Primary's performance of the Christmas story.

But by the time the choir sang, the boy was done. It was obviously way past his bedtime, and he wanted to make sure everyone knew. I handed him off to Tom (not my husband) and he started crying. At the top of his lungs. I don't think he stopped until we were home, and he was in bed. And even that was rough.

And I was reminded why I'm glad I'm not a single mother, and why we keep them on a fairly strict routine. So call us party poopers, but unless it's the end of the world, our kids will be in bed on time. Or close to it.


sNOw fun

For starters, I will tell you that I love snow. I get so excited watching the snow fall. I love to be curled up in my nice warm home with a blanket and hot chocolate and look out the window at a winter wonderland.

But, I have to admit, I am a total wimp when it comes to cold weather.

I'm the kind of girl that likes it to snow, then for it to warm up so that all the snow melts off the roads. The snow itself can stick around for a few days, but then I'm ready for it to rain, and get back to temperatures closer to 50. That's why I live in Washington. That's how it normally works.

Recently, such has not been the case. Friday night it snowed some nice wet Washington snow. By mid-morning Saturday, the roads were clear, though there was still a nice white blanket over most of the grass and roofs. Perfect, this is how it is supposed to be.

Then Saturday night it snowed. And FROZE. Sunday the roads were treacherous. The snow had all condensed to ice. Even by the time we went to church at one in the afternoon, the temperature was well below freezing. The parking lot was more like a skating rink. Though it didn't snow anymore, the temperature stayed down in the teens overnight (aaak! the TEENS!) and school was canceled in Tom's district the next day. And today it was two hours late. All because of the blasted ice that won't get off the roads.

For the record, I don't drive in snow. The last time I did was January 10, 2007. I took Tom to work so I could go to my doctor's appointment since I was pregnant with Rico. And I got rear-ended and had to spend the rest of the day being monitored at the hospital. So snow-driving and I don't get along. Especially when I'm pregnant.

And the forecast? Not so much seeing temps over freezing anytime this week.

Unfortunately I have to go grocery shopping today. You'd better believe that I'm waiting until after noon to give the sun as much opportunity to melt the ice on the roads as possible. But if that's not bad enough, I have to go to the ward Christmas party tonight. By myself. (With the kids.) And I will be praying the entire drive there and back. Feel free to pray for me, too. I'm sure it will help!

Double your pleasure, double your fun

Friday night we came home to a message on our answering machine. One of the bishopric* members wanted to come meet with me. Let's be honest, the first thought on everyone's mind when they hear that is "new calling." I have to admit that I was a little surprised. Even though I've had my current calling (ward choir director) for over a year, I'm always hearing how they don't really have anyone to replace me.

But surprised or not, I'm always willing.

So when I was asked to be the first counselor in the Young Women's presidency, I readily accepted. I might not know what in the world I'm doing, but I'll do it happily. Since they hadn't mentioned an accompanying release, I asked. And I was told, "Well we don't really have a replacement, so what do you think?"

To be honest, I don't know what I think. I've never been in the Young Women's program (except as a young woman) and I've never been a mother of three before, and quite frankly I've never had two callings before. But there is a first time for everything, and this time the first times are coming all at once.

I'm so excited to start my new calling, and get to know the young women and other leaders. I really do enjoy my current calling, and I'm not sorry to be continuing. And I'm really excited to get this little girl out of my belly and into my arms.

I'm sure that the Lord will help it all work somehow!

*(For more information about wards, callings, bishoprics and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, see here)


Long Day--and an even longer post

Yesterday was a long, busy day. We had set the day aside to replace our water heater. When we bought the house almost a year and a half ago, the inspector recommended replacing the water heater, since it was at the end of its expected life, and since it's in Rico's closet, not a garage or something, so if it were to rust out or spring a leak, we could have major problems.

Though we intended to do it immediately, somehow it got postponed and postponed, but finally yesterday it happened. My wonderful father came down and helped us, since he knows what he's doing, and we were willing, but ignorant.

The first holdup came when we were trying to shut off the water to the house. We had no idea where to look for the valve. We don't have a water meter because of the weird neighborhood we live in (our water is included in our HOA dues) and we could not find a shut-off valve anywhere in the house. Finally I found a newsletter the association had sent out saying that most were found underground at the back of the house, with a white cap to identify them. We circled the house, but found nothing. By peeking over the fences, we could easily find those of our neighbors, but ours was missing entirely. Finally, by checking out under the house, my dad determined where it should be, and I got a shovel. Instead of digging right next to the house where it was supposed to be located, he noticed a divet in the lawn about two feet out from the house that had some give when it was stepped on. Sure enough, within six inches or so, he uncovered a plastic bucket lid that covered the main shut-off valve. I'm sure we never would have found it without him.

Once we got the tank drained, and out of the closet, (not only was it strapped to the wall, but it was glued to floor) breaking the emergency drain pipe in the process, we set off to Home Depot to pick up a new drain pipe as well as some pieces to fix the leak under the sink (which we soon discovered was not a leak, but leaks).

The new tank fit fine in the closet, but was shorter, so the electric wires weren't quite long enough to fit inside the water heater like they're supposed to, but long enough to hook up for now. Tom got to climb under the house (which is more of an army-crawl space than a crawl space) twice and wade through the 3-4 inches of water down there, (Um, is that a problem?) to reattach the drain pipe.

Once the water heater was hooked up and heating, we turned our attention to the sink where one leak had become three different ones. Two were fairly easily fixed, but the third turned out not to be a problem with the pipes, but a hole in the drain area of the second sink. How helpful. The solution? Don't use that sink. I'm sure we'll get around to replacing the drain, but until then, we're down to one sink. I'm just glad that I have at least one.

Overall, we are in debt to my father for his skill, expertise, willingness and time. Also to Ella and Rico for being mostly good sports all day while they didn't get to play with Grandpa, and were expected to amuse themselves most of the time, without getting into all the tools etc. that was lying around.

The project is not completely done, but I am glad that yesterday is over. THANK YOU DADDY!


Oh, Christmas Tree!

Many of my Christmas memories from childhood revolve around our Christmas Tree. Each year, the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving, we would bundle up, rain or shine, and go cut the perfect tree. We did not limit ourselves to a single tree farm, but would venture far and wide until we found the right one. By the end of the day we were usually wet and muddy, but as long as we had a tree, we were happy. Getting a tree pre-cut from a lot was out of the question, and even the thought of an artificial tree was nigh unto sacrilege. We would take it home and put {steady burning--no blinking!} white lights all over, with a star at the top. To this day I cringe at the idea of colored lights and anything but a star as a topper.

After I was married, things were a little different. The first year we lived in a teeny tiny apartment and we weren't even going to be home for Christmas, so we made do with a little two foot fake tree that we had gotten from my in-laws. Tom was with me on the white-light bandwagon, though his parents had colored twinkly lights on their tree, and we even had a miniature star at the top.

The next two years we cut one down at a lot near Tom's grandparents, but later than I would have preferred. Part of that was Tom's preference to put off the tree-getting (and therefore the tree-guarding from over-eager helpers,) and part of it was time constraints Thanksgiving weekend.

Last year, for the first time in my life, we bought a tree at Fred Meyer. I almost died. Okay, probably not, but I'm sure I considered it. Rico was not quite one and would have had to be carried the entire excursion and I don't remember all the other reasons, but that's how it ended up. And it was fine. But I missed the thrill of finding the perfect tree and cutting it down.

Last Saturday, we once again ventured out to the tree farms. There was one right near our house with tons of trees, decent prices, and free cookies and hot chocolate. Ella and Rico were great sports and loved looking for the tree, though they weren't picky at all. My camera died after the first couple shots, so I don't have any of the tree-harvesting, but you get the idea. We were home before lunchtime. I put on the star and lights. When the kids woke up from their naps, we had to remind them to look with their eyes not their hands, and as you can see, Rico still likes to be close. We were planning on decorating the following day, but Ella was waaaay too excited to decorate the tree, so in one day, we went from nothing to a fully decorated tree. Rico-boy didn't quite get the spacing the ornaments idea, I'm pretty sure that there are at least five stacked up here. Luckily he didn't mind when I spread them out later. I love having a Christmas tree!


Thanksgiving mumble jumble

I think I'm a little bit camera-disabled. We had a great Thanksgiving weekend. We spent time with all sorts of family, and I didn't take a single picture, though I had my camera the whole time. Oh well.

I have so much to be grateful for! In addition to my wonderful husband, adorable children, snug little house, and relative health and comfort (it's all relative when you're pregnant), I have the gospel of Jesus Christ to guide my life and my daily actions.

For some reason, Thanksgiving didn't seem very important to me this year, probably because I have my sights set on Christmas. While Christmas is a good thing, Thanksgiving is also a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the family, friends, and other blessing in my life. But now that it's past, I can really focus on Christmas and the celebration of Christ and His life that is so important.

I'm sorry that my thoughts are so jumbled, but like everything else, I'll blame it on the pregnancy--only 3 weeks and 5 days left (till my due date).

Also, I just have to share this recipe. I made it last night when the missionaries came over for dinner, and as Tom said "I think this may be one of the best meals you've made." And it was dang easy, too!

New Year's Eve Chicken

10-12 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, thighs, etc.
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix
2 cans any "cream of" soup
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Garlic Salt (I used garlic powder and some Johnny's Pork and Chicken seasoning)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2-2 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 can whole olives, drained (Tom recommended that next time I slice the olives into smaller pieces, but I didn't mind them whole)

Arrange chicken in a 9x13. Okay. Stop right there. Who in the world can fit 10-12 pieces of chicken in a 9x13? No one I know. I used 4, count them FOUR frozen chicken breasts from Costco, and they filled the pan. So just use your judgment (and the number of people you are feeding) to guide you. Lightly coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with onion soup mix. Combine remaining ingredients and cover the chicken. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is done. Since my chicken was frozen, I allowed plenty of time. I think it took about 60-75 minutes, but I wasn't timing it so I can't be exact.

We had this with brown rice (the soup etc. made a great "gravy") and salad and it was scrumptious!


To Santa, or not to Santa? That is the question.

When I was little, Santa was definitely part of our Christmas celebration. While we did center our holiday on Christ, Santa filled our stockings and left presents for each (and sometimes all) of us. He even used different wrapping paper than my mom, although their handwriting was similar. In later years he got lazy and used decorative Christmas boxes to do his wrapping, but somehow he always got them back after Christmas.

I don't remember when I found out the "truth" about Santa, but I don't remember being traumatized. And he even still gave me presents.

As far as I know, Tom was also raised with Santa in his Christmas, but he's not so sure about introducing him to our kids. In his mind there is little point in lying to our children about some being who has nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas, when they would get just as many presents, and be just as happy without him.

And I can see his point. How do you introduce the Santa concept without blatantly lying to your children? It's one thing to continue/encourage an erroneous belief, but another to instill it in the first place.

But on the other hand, come on, it's SANTA for crying out loud. I don't think that believing in Santa ever hurt anybody, and it's only for fun, and I don't want my kindergartener to be the one ruining everyone else's delusions.

This is the first year that we've had a child old enough to really get the whole Santa concept. Before this, all presents have just been from us, and we haven't really talked about the issue. But if we're going to do Santa, then we have to start now, and if we're not...

What were your Santa beliefs growing up? How did you introduce it to your children? Or did you? What are the pros and cons in your mind? Please share!


Twilight, the movie

Yes, it is true, I did go see Twilight opening night. Not the 12:00 am showing, just the 7:50 pm. There were plenty of swooning teens (and non-teens) who cheered and/or screamed when Edward first appeared on screen, as well as at other key moments, but overall, I think I only missed one line due to excessive cheering. Not too bad, I must say.

And as you may expect, I have opinions. (Who, me? Shocking, I know.) Overall, I liked the movie, if only for the fact that I loved the book. Is it as good as the book? No. But how could it be? To condense a--what was it, 600-some odd?--page book into 2 hours is quite the feat I'm sure. To cast actors who portray the characters as seen in the heads of millions of different fans is virtually impossible. But they did their best.

I thought it was a little cheesy (as expected,) very funny, (unexpectedly) and well cast. I loved Bella, and Edward grew on me. I think I would have like him better if they had spent more time on the first half of the story. It felt too abrupt and skipped too many scenes (like the blood-typing!) to fully develop Edward's character and the tension between him and Bella (or is it he and Bella?). I think it would have been much better as a three hour movie. But maybe that's just me.

I would love to hear from someone who had NOT read the book, but did see the movie. I'm of the opinion that it would have been hard to follow and ridiculously cheesy for someone without more Twilight background, but I could be wrong.


Picture Perfect

It's been quite some time since I've made a pie. I like making pies, but, as far as fruit goes, crisps are much easier to put together last minute (which is how I roll).

A month or more ago Tom volunteered to help out at the Bishop's Storehouse, (part of our church's welfare system) and they sent him home with a box of apples that he had helped pick from one of their trees. They were just little things, but man! you could not eat them, they were so tart! They have been sitting there in the back of our fridge just waiting for me to make pie, and Monday, I finally got around to if for Family Home Evening treat.

Now, half the fun of cooking is to make pretty food. I know that we're just going to eat it, but if it looks beautiful, it just makes it all the better. Usually my apple pies just turn out mediocre-looking. Of course they taste great (why wouldn't they?) but I just haven't mastered pie crust. Not this time! When I finished with the top, I was so dang impressed with myself that I had to take a picture. And it was even prettier when it came out of the oven. I'll spare you them many pictures I took and just leave you with this one:Doesn't it look tasty?


You thought I was kidding

For those of you who do not (*ahem*) religiously read all comments made on my blog, I thought this one was worth sharing. Some of you may have wondered why my brother Grant would disown me for listening to Christmas music, so here you go:

oh gosh, you guys make me sick. There is a reason that Christmas only comes once year....So I don't have to put up with the music for the rest of the year! I don't see you bustin' out my favorite music 3 months in advance of my birthday! I mean, if you want to be thinking about and celebrating Christ,I am all about that, but that DOES NOT mean that it has to be with Christmas music! I have lots and lots of other, talks, music, and books that bring a better spirit of Christ than all of the other glamorized and hyped up Shopko music combined to the millionth power.
Janelle, I just looked on my iTunes and I have around 2GB's of Christmas music....and that is after i cut out half the stuff that Dad had on there. I don't know why I even waste that space to hold the rest of it, but some small little part of me wants to have it when Christmas does come.

Now, contrary to popular belief, there is actually some Christmas music that I can listen to at any point of the year, but that is because it is actually good enough to stand on it's own 2 feet and not rely on the Holiday festivities to prop up what is otherwise a ridiculous song that inspires only the desire to find the creator and have them shot! Okay, okay, so most of the Christmas music isn't that bad, but some of it definitely falls into that category. But really, why would you want to listen to songs about reindeers and Santa Claus when...not there is not even a when on that statement, it should be "why would you ever want to listen to that?"

Well, I think I have ranted and raved long enough. Know that most of this is an extreme exaggeration of what I really think solely for your entertainment and enjoyment. But at the heart and soul of it I really do wonder why...


I would just like to point out that Josh Groban's CD includes such religious, Christ-centered songs as Silent Night, Little Drummer Boy, Ave Maria, Angels We Have Heard on High, What Child is This?, the First Noel, It came upon a Midnight Clear, Panis Angelicus, and O Come all ye Faithful. That's 9 out of 13, thank you very much!


For Kristy

I spent some time in the bathroom this morning perfecting my self-portrait skills, and this is the result. They look normal to me, but probably not to the rest of you, since it's the whole mirror thing, but just flop it in your head.


What are you waiting for?

Patience is not my forte.

I don't mean to say that I am overly impatient with my husband and children (though I do occasionally lose it,) but when it comes to events, the sooner the better.

Like the example given in the previous post. It's early November, and I'm so excited for Christmas that I am getting in the spirit by listening to Christmas music.

Granted, my excitement for Christmas this year may be slightly motivated by other events. Like my Dec. 28th due date. The closer it gets, the sooner I want it to come. When I found out I was pregnant, I was bound and determined to have the baby in January. I did NOT want a December baby. Besides that, I wanted our children to be born in 2005, 2007, and 2009--not 2008. Now, I'm all but ready to have the baby now. Though I'm sure it would be best for the baby to wait. But at least 2 weeks early, please. And it's not just because I'm sick of being pregnant, (which I am,) I'm just so dang excited to have a cute little baby girl.

Another classic example: I've been wanting to cut my hair for a while, but since I'm indecisive, I don't know any hair-cutter-people, and I quake at the thought of trusting my only head of hair to someone I've never seen before, I haven't gotten around to it. Monday, I decided I was done waiting. Did I ask around to see where other people get their hair done, then call and make an appointment? No. Did I wait till my husband got home and run to the nearest Great Clips? No. I have no patience for the above options, so I cut it myself. And since I decided to do it on the spur of the moment, (again, because I have no patience) I was forced to use my normal everyday scissors, since my hair-cutting scissors were in Rico's room, where he was napping. It's not perfectly even, it's not exactly straight, but dang it, it is shorter!

(I tried to take a picture of my newly shortened hair, but I also have no taking-a-picture-of-myself-in-a-mirror-or-otherwise skills. So if you want to witness my hair-cutting skills, it will have to be in person.)

Feel free to disown me

I know that my brother Grant will.

I started listening to Christmas music on November 5. I waited until after election day, and since then I have been thoroughly enjoying my small, but excellent, collection of Christmas music.

If you must know, the first CD to be played was Josh Groban. Can you blame me?


Catching up

I know I missed a couple of key blogging opportunities recently, what with Halloween and a very controversial election, but better late than never, right?


Let me start by admitting that Tom and I are bad parents who deprive their children of every possible fun activity. Not really, but this is the first year that we have carved pumpkins and dressed the kids up for Halloween. And we didn't even take them trick-or-treating. (See? Bad parents.)

We carved pumpkins a week before Halloween with some other families from our ward (church congregation, see here) but I neglected to bring my camera so I have no documentation of the carving itself. Ella was interested and designed her own (decided what shapes she wanted) but left the actual carving up to me. Rico really didn't know or care what was going on, he was much more interested in climbing on the coffee table with Lexie, (Or is it Lexi? I don't know.) so I got to carve his too. (Although I did ask his opinion before carving, I don't think he was too concerned.) Tom was on baby watch, to make sure that the boy didn't completely reprogram the remotes of our unsuspecting hosts. I think the pumpkins turned out quite nicely: the bigger one is Rico's.The next night was our ward potluck and trunk-or-treat (where the kids go from car trunk to car trunk collecting candy). We dressed both kids up {Ella was a fairy princess, (she had wings on, but you can't see them in the picture,) and Rico was a train conductor,} and went to the potluck, but scooted out of there before the trunk-or-treating commenced. I had plans to do Ella's hair all fancy, but she is pretty opinionated, and she just wanted two pigtails on top, so that's what she got. I once again forgot the camera, but luckily a sister in the ward was going around taking pictures of all the kids, so she sent it to me.

For Halloween itself, Ella had a fever, so I was actually quite glad that she was not anticipating a night of trick-or-treating. She let me do her hair earlier that day, but when it came time to don costumes to answer the door, she refused, so I never did get a good picture of her all decked out. Maybe next year. Both the kids LOVED answering the door and would jump up from whatever they were doing and race for the door. We played a nice family game of Candyland between trick-or-treaters, and even Rico got into it. (I got roasted.)The next day Tom came down with a fever and flu-like symptoms and was out of commission. After taking a 4 hour nap, he came out and laid in the living room, where he and Ella commiserated on their miserable state. Luckily his was less than 24 hours in duration, and he was feeling much better on Sunday. Ella's fever lasted through Monday, but she was pretty happy and cheerful through it.

Election Day

Tom and I both voted this year (of course), though we did our best to cancel each other out on the big races. Neither of us vote a straight ticket, so he voted for Obama and Rossi (Republican running for governor, for you poor non-Washingtonians,) while I voted for McCain and Gregoire (Democrat and incumbent governor). With so many Washingtonians voting absentee this election (all but two counties voted 100% by mail, and next year the entire state will vote by mail) the governor's race didn't get called right away, but in the end, Gregoire won. The last time these two faced off, Gregoire won by 129 votes on the third recount. I'm glad it wasn't that big of a fiasco this year.

Like many of you, I am interested to see how this administration change trickles down to our everyday lives. I'm not saying that I think we were right or wrong in electing who we did, I just hope that we haven't reached the point talked of in the Book of Mormon that "if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity. . . they would be ripe for destruction. . . . Yea, and I say unto you that if it were not for the prayers of the righteous, who are now in the land, that ye would even now be visited with utter destruction." (Alma 10:19, 22)


The early bird

I think Rico must really be after some worms, because, man! he no longer believes in sleeping in. There was a time, like two weeks ago, when both of my adorable angels would sleep until eight. And it was heaven.

Then Rico started waking up at 7:30, which was okay, because he would make noise for 15 minutes, wake Ella up, she would amuse him for another 15 minutes, and I would still get up at 8. After three or four days of that, he thought it would be fun to wake up at 7:15 one morning, the next, it was 6:30.

Hello folks! I don't operate at 6:30 in the morning. Especially when I'm pregnant! That was Saturday morning. I realized with the time change, unless I did something drastic, he would likely be up at 5:30 the next morning, so we kept the kids up late, and he gloriously slept until 7 (which translates to 8 if you factor in the time change).

I made the mistake of thinking we were good to go. Um, no. Yesterday he was up at 6:15, and this morning? Oh yeah, that would be 5:52. I don't even think that 5:52 am should exist. I almost don't want to know what he has in store for me tomorrow.


Ode to Costco

Now some of you may think I'm strange, but I am a die-hard Costco shopper. I love Costco. I go pretty much every week. My sister and I were just calculating last night, that even if I only bought one box of diapers there a month, (and nothing else) I would save almost $200 per year above the cost of the membership. And I buy more than that.

When we moved to our current locale, there was talk of a Costco opening in Covington, but no one really knew for sure when or exactly where, or even for sure if it was really happening. For those not familiar with the area, this is about 5 minutes from my house. So needless to say, I was hoping that these were more than just rumors.
And sure enough, before too long, there was a Costco going in right next to Fred Meyer, which is currently where I do my other (non-bulk) grocery shopping. I had to drive past it each week as I drove all the way to Federal Way (a 20 minute drive) to go to Costco, and each week I would eagerly monitor the progress.

I had heard earlier this year that they were hoping to be open for Christmas, but nothing official. A month or so ago, Tom came home, having driven past it, and mentioned they had a grand opening sign up--October 25th! HOORAY! It was probably a little pathetic to be so excited about a Costco, but I was.

And I am. Just yesterday we did our weekly shopping at our very own, brand-spankin'-new, Costco. And I was in heaven. Costco heaven. And it even had self checkout. I love self checkout.

So if you live in the area and haven't been, I fully recommend you go immediately. And if you're not a member, call me, and we'll go together. Next week. Or tomorrow, if you want.


Question my sanity

I don't know how many of you remember me when I looked like this:Take a good look. (Check out that nice oversized shirt, and way cool scrunchy on my wrist. I was way cool!) This is me circa 1995, when I used to play the flute (read: elementary school band). I played in 5th and 6th grade, and though I kept my flute, that was the last time I really played.

Until yesterday, that is. I got some crazy idea in my head like six months ago that I should work on a musical number for sacrament meeting. (For you non-Mormons, this is our main Sunday worship meeting--for a more detailed explanation, see here.) I thought I was crazy, but found some music online, and started practicing.

I talked with my friend Laura (who is an accomplished pianist--though she might not approve of my use of the word accomplished) in July and asked if she would accompany me. We then proceeded to practice for months. We practiced at her house (since I don't have a piano) and played through 5-7 kids {her five (with two of them in school since Sept.), my two, plus occasional neighbors} running around, playing the piano, raiding the snack cupboard, pulling on legs, whining, asking questions, and generally causing trouble.

And yesterday, we actually performed it, and I was quite pleased with how it turned out. It was not perfect, my breath support was less that amazing, (but what can you expect when you're seven months pregnant and freaking nervous?) and I missed at least two notes, but I did it!

My dad recored it on his MP3 player, but seeing as he was sitting with my kids, you can hear them better than anything else. I tried attaching the .WAV file as a video, but it didn't work, so if you want to hear how we sounded, either tell me how to post it on here, or I can email directly to you.

Interesting/over-informing side note: After I got my ears pierced at the end of sixth grade, I realized that I am allergic, or at least sensitive, to nickel. I have to buy nickel-free earrings, and if I wear my nickel-containing watch too long, or too often, I get a rash. Guess what? Yeah, my flute is nickel plated. So more than once in the past several months, I've gotten a nice little rash under my lip. Special, huh? I guess I should look into getting a new head joint or something for my flute if I'm going to keep playing.


That is one cute kid!

While I was at my parents' the other day, I was looking at some photos and found this cute one. Who is this kid?
If it weren't for the clip, I would swear it was Rico.
See what I'm saying? But I guess we know where he gets his looks, cuz that little cutie in the stump is none other than yours truly.


Welcome to Motherhood!

Oddly, I did not truly feel like a mother until yesterday.

It wasn't the moment they laid my beautiful daughter in my arms almost three and a half years ago.It wasn't when she took her first step, or said her first word. It wasn't when we welcomed our adorable baby boy into our home.
Or when I watched these two beautiful children interact.
It wasn't being up all night, or tending sick kids. It wasn't calming fears, or drying tears.
It wasn't even when I found out I was expecting number three. The moment came last night, as I drove home our new-to-us minivan.

Now I am really and truly a mother. And there's no turning back now.


Do the Puyallup!

That's Pyoo-allup (rhymes with gallop) for those of you not from the Evergreen State. And it's a fair. And a city, but I'm getting beyond the point here.

Aaaanyway, last Saturday, my in-laws called up to see if we wanted to join them at the Puyallup Fair--their treat. Now, we're not stupid, so we said sure!
Ella and Rico l o v e d the animals (I didn't get any good pics of Ella because she kept running away with grandma, and leaving me to push the empty double stroller through the crowds.)
Ella even got to go on a couple rides! She was thrilled. Except for with one spinny ride that she cried through. I was going to go on the carousel with her to help her get over the trauma from the spinny ride, but they wouldn't let me, because I'm pregnant. I can understand all the adult rides, but c'mon! The carousel? She loved it anyway.

Thanks Richard and JoAnne for such a good time!


Whatever happened to the good ol' half gallon?

It used to be that you went to the store and picked up a nice half-gallon carton of your favorite flavor of ice cream. (Or, if you went shopping with my dad, you picked up five or six.) Then you went home and enjoyed all 16 half-cup servings at once (okay, I don't think I've ever done that on my own, but it would be fun!)

Then a couple of years ago, the ice cream industry got smart. "Instead of raising prices," they thought, "let's just make the carton smaller--no one will notice, and once they do, it'll be too late! Bwah-ha-ha!" So they did. They packaged them in round cartons, or rounded cartons, thinking that the different shape would fool us. And they wrote in tiny print
(1.75 Quarts). And they kept the price the same. And we were fooled.Today, I stopped by Fred Meyer to pick up some ice cream to go with our apple-blackberry crisp for family home evening treat. And the cartons looked a little squatty. It wasn't till I got to the checkout that I noticed the tiny print had changed again (1.5 Quarts). And the price was the same (but they were on sale). We're down to a measly 12 servings--and that's half-cup servings. Who actually eats a half-cup serving? We, as the American people are being taken for fools! It is time we stood up and defended our rights to the full half gallon!


Common Courtesy

I was just doing the dishes (from dinner last night, if you must know) while Ella and Rico were playing in her room listening to music (on a tape player--I'll bet your kids don't even know what a tape is, do they?). The tape ended and she came up and asked me in the sweetest voice, "Mom, when you are done washing the dishes, could you come start the music again, please?" It was so adorable to hear not only a polite request, but an awareness of my current occupation and understanding that her needs were not the only ones to be considered. How adorable can she be?


Bad Mommy--also known as Raving Total Lunatic

So yesterday was one of those days when I wanted to hang my child upside-down by her toes in the back yard and leave her there. I didn't, don't worry, no need to call CPS--but I wanted to. I think she spent more time in her bedroom yesterday in time-out than she did all last week combined. And I'm sure she wasn't that much worse than usual--it was just my tolerance level. So why is it that some days I can be so patient and loving and understanding, and the next I'm ready to scream at every little thing?

My mood improved once Tom got home, but after dinner I let him play with the kids while I listened to soothing music on my mp3 player and did the dishes and folded laundry. Not the most relaxing thing, but it definitely helped. By the time it was time to put the kids to bed I was almost back to normal and today I have been quite civil with them both.

It's a good thing I have a husband who comes home every night and loves to help with the kids. Otherwise, I would go crazy very quickly--as demonstrated yesterday.


Whip It Up finale

So this will be my last recipe post for a while. I must admit, though, it's been nice to have something that I have to post about, since I haven't been so great at other posts. Hopefully with Tom back at work and life getting back to normal (what is that, anyway?) I'll make more time to blog. But I make no promises. :)

This week's theme was desserts, which is usually my favorite thing, but it seems like we've had dessert coming out our ears recently. Our ward is having a linger longer on Sunday and the RS is in charge of providing refreshments. They recommended cookies, which I figure is because they are easy to eat without plates, forks, etc. But, shocker, I'm not in a cookie mood.

Also, my banana man has been slacking, and we had some seriously ripe bananas. I had already frozen like 5 or 6 this week and had five more that needed to be used. So I decided to try some mini banana muffins, since that kills two birds with one stone: I get rid of my bananas, and they qualify as easy to eat for the linger longer.

I googled banana muffins and found this recipe that looked good (and easy--always a requirement in my book) and I even had all the ingredients (otherwise I would have been tempted to ignore the bananas and make this instead.)

I used the full cup of sugar from the original recipe, since I'm all about sweet. And as I mentioned, I made mini muffins instead of standard size, so they only baked for 12ish minutes, but otherwise I followed the "fool proof" directions and was pleased with the outcome. I do have issues not "over-stirring" so I usually end up with either flour clumps or peaked tops... this time they were a little flat with flour clumps. Any ideas, chef people?

They tasted great, but I also made chocolate zucchini cake muffins at the same time, and let's be honest, I ate more of those, because, well, it's chocolate. And we all know that I. Love. Chocolate.

I only had one, but Tom enjoyed several. I will likely make them again, unless Rico picks back up on his banana eating, because he has me trained to buy lots of bananas. I think next time I'll add chocolate chips, because, let's review: I. Love. Chocolate. End of story.


Making up for lost time

I really must say, I'm not quite doing as well at this Whip It Up thing as I might have hoped. I've done the hard part and tried new recipes every week, but somehow, I never get around to blogging about it.

So here's week six and seven.

Week 6: The theme was appetizers, I think, but I didn't so much follow that. I don't have much cause for making appetizers around here. I was in the mood for something chicken and creamy, so I looked through a ward cookbook for some ward in Utah that I was never in, that I got from my mom, and found a recipe called Creamy Baked Chicken Breasts submitted by someone named Lisa Johnson. Now, not to criticize, but the recipe needed some help. It called for 6 chicken breasts, cut in half and arranged in a 7x10. I don't know about you, but I can barely fit 6 chicken breasts in a 9x13, let alone a 7x10 (which I don't have anyway.) Then it called for 8 pieces of swiss cheese, one for each breast. . . . Um, anyone else see a problem here? Yeah. So here's what I ended up doing:

2 chicken breasts
2 slices cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup water
2 cups dry seasoned stuffing mix
1/3 cup margarine, melted.

Arrange chicken in a 8x8 baking dish. Top each with a slice of cheddar cheese. (I don't like swiss cheese, and I didn't have any mozzarella, or I'd have used that). Mix cream of chicken soup with water and spoon evenly over chicken. Coarsely crush stuffing mix and sprinkle over chicken. Drizzle evenly with melted margarine. Bake uncovered at 350 for 40 minutes or so. Serve with potatoes or rice.

This made a lot of gravy (or sauce, or whatever you call it) and could easily have been done with more chicken breasts. I served it with mashed potatoes (yum) and used the soup as gravy, and since I like gravy, I was glad there was plenty.

While overall it was good (and super easy), it was a little bland (nothing a little salt and pepper couldn't fix) and not super special. While I might make it again, I don't think it will become a staple, as there are other similar recipes I like just as well, if not better.

Week 7: (this week! Aren't you proud of me?) The theme was salads, but I'm not a huge salad lover, so I ignored that. I had some zucchini in my fridge that needed using, but I couldn't think of anything to make with it (other than chocolate zucchini cake, but somehow that doesn't say dinner.) I put some rice in the rice cooker, and leafed through the casserole section of the above mentioned random cookbook. Nothing jumped out at me, so I improvised.

I cut up a chicken breast, and fried it in some olive oil with some minced garlic. After it was mostly done I added some minced onion and probably 2-3 cups chopped (peeled--but not necessary) zucchini and a tablespoon or two of margarine. I let that cook for a while then added a can of cream of chicken soup, a little water (quarter cup, maybe) to thin it out a little, and some pepper and Johnny's pork and chicken seasoning (a glorified seasoning salt--quite necessary.) Once it was hot, we had it over rice.

For zucchini, it was good. It was easy, and repeatable, but as zucchini is not something I always have on hand (or when I do I want to make chocolate zucchini cake or conchiglie con zucchini) I I don't foresee making it regularly, but I would not be surprised if it showed up on our table again.


Heaven is a red kitchen

Or pretty much anything other than what it was to start with. You may remember my hideously ugly walls? If not, let me remind you.
Remember that? Yeah. It's not so pretty.

So last week I spent two full days washing, taping, priming and painting (in the sweltering heat, I might add,) and now my kitchen looks like this.
Much better. I love my kitchen.



I am so excited for Ella to have little sister, and let me tell you, she is too. (Granted, I would have been plenty excited for Rico to get a brother, too.) For the first month she wanted a sister, then she was convinced it was a boy, but she has definitely been back on the girl side for a while now. And she has her vote for the name all picked out. She won't consider anything else.

I'm not huge into picking out and sharing names before the birth. Neither of the others were named before they were born, and Rico wasn't even named until the next day (even though he was born at 2:00 in the afternoon). Besides that, his name wasn't even one we had been considering. So don't expect to know a name anytime before you see pictures of the baby.

That said, I do love to hear ideas for names, so if you have some you love (and aren't planning on using, or don't mind sharing) send them my way.


And it's another....

I had an ultrasound today, and we found out that we are expecting an adorable little... oh wait. I'm not that nice. I had been planning on putting up a poll or something to see what the general consensus was, but I didn't get around to it before the fact.

So, here's the deal. I want your guesses on the gender. So comment away, and I will post the correct answer tomorrow at noon, or after I get 10 guesses (no, parents and parents-in-law, you don't count since you already know!), whichever comes first.

What's your vote?


Better late than never

Otherwise known as WIU weeks four and five.

Last Friday I made a potato casserole of my own creation that turned out great! I wanted to use potatoes because I had way too many. I was browsing the internet looking for something good. I found a potato ham casserole that looked okay, but I've made similar recipes and wasn't really in the mood. Then I saw a recipe for Pizza Lovers' Potatoes, but I had none of the ingredients, plus it involved washing the potatoes, which I H A T E. However, the name kept coming back as a good idea, so I put the two concepts together and came up with, for lack of a better name, Pizza Potato Casserole:

4 cups cooked cubed potatoes (I peeled, cubed, and steamed mine)
1 3/4 cups pepperoni, chopped
minced onion (I used like 2T, maybe?)
3T butter or margarine
3T flour
Seasoning salt
Onion powder
Garlic Powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar
Parmesan cheese

Put the potatoes, pepperoni and onion in an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish. Melt butter in a saucepan. Once melted, add flour and spices. I added probably half a tsp or so of each, more or less depending on your tastes. Once mixed and bubbling, add milk. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese. Pour over potato mixture and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake at 350 for half hour or so, until bubbling.

This was quite easy, quite tasty, and I will definitely be making it again. I'm also planning on experimenting with other pizza toppings, like mushrooms, pineapple, etc.

Monday I made Pasta with Roasted Vegetables from the Gooseberry Patch Country Quick & Easy cookbook.

1 lb mixed fresh vegetables, chopped (I used zucchini, carrots, broccoli, onion, minced garlic, and (ahem) frozen green beans and corn.)
salt and pepper to taste
2 t dried rosemary
2 t dried thyme
2 T olive oil
1/2 lb rigatoni, cooked
2 t balsamic vinegar (I misread this and put in Tablespoons, not teaspoons)
2 1/2 T grated parmesan cheese

Arrange veggies in a lightly greased 13x9 baking dish. season with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Pour oil over all and toss. Roast vegetables in a 500 degree oven for 10 minutes or until browned. Drain vegetables, reserving juice; set aside. In a large serving bowl, toss pasta, vegetables, reserved juice and vinegar together. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, toss.

I also added some cubed cooked chicken, to make it more of a main dish. As promised, it was easy, tasty and I'll make it again. Tom's comment was that this would be good with pork, or salmon as well.


Best Friends

Exactly 21 years ago today, my parents moved their young family into their first house. It was a four bedroom home on a large lot. There were fruit trees, a garden space, and plenty of grass. Even better, it was at the end of a small cul-de-sac with 16 other houses. But the best part was the plethora of children.

Sarah was one day shy of her 5th birthday; I was three, Grant was only 10 months old. In Sarah's 'age group' there was Alex and Rori, (both girls), Brian, and Dallas. My age, Beth, Tyler, and Perry, and Scott just around the corner. In between were Tyler and Rachel. Plus there were older kids and younger kids galore. Basically, it was heaven.

Whether we officially met on August 2nd or not, I don't really remember, but this was the beginning of a lifelong friendship for Beth and I. We lived together in "The Neighborhood" from the age of three until Beth moved after fourth grade. Even then, she told her parents she would only move if she could still be friends with me.

We went to different schools, and had different friends, but Beth and I kept in touch through the years. Before we could drive we would have our moms drop us off in Woodinville so we could catch a movie and eat at Red Robin. After graduation she went to WWU and I moved to Utah to go to BYU.

When I moved back to Washington, I was excited be closer to her, but before long she set off for law school in Colorado. There she met the man of her dreams, and is getting married this month. I told her she wasn't allowed to get married in Colorado, but she didn't listen. I guess it's only fair, since she didn't get to come to my wedding.

I've been thinking recently how lucky I am to have such a good friend. Even when we haven't talked in months, when we get together or talk on the phone it seems like no time has passed at all (except for all the catching up there is to do). This pic is from her bridal shower last week. I wish I had some older ones, but apparently that's the only one I have of the two of us on my computer. Mom or Dad, if you could email me some other ones (the older the better) I'll add them too.
I love you Bethy, I'm so glad to count you as my friend, and I'm so excited for you and Jay as you start this new stage in your life!


Like father, like daughter

I'm definitely related to my dad.

We like to tease my dad, because when he sees a good deal on something he needs, he stocks up. I remember one time we were shopping for pants for my mom and she found some that she liked that were on sale, and he was trying to talk her in to buying like 10 pairs, because, if you like them and they're on sale, then you might as well buy a lot, because you'll need them eventually, right?

Also, if you send my dad to Costco to buy flour, beware. You just might get 500 pounds.

But, when it comes down to it, I'm the same way. Some of you may have heard about e.l.f.'s great sale on all their makeup, since they were bought by Nordstrom's. We're talking $1.00 per item. Um, hi. Makeup is dang expensive.

I don't wear it a ton, because Tom quite frankly likes me better without, but I like it, so I do wear it a couple times a week. But did I let that stop me? Oh no.

By the time I made it through all the pretty options, I had something like 60 items in my shopping cart. Which equals $60. I think I could maybe get 4 things of mascara for that normally, so really, why should I not go for it? Plus, using the coupon code CAROLINA saved me $7.50 which more than covered shipping.

So, I guess I can't tease my dad, but I can boast about how I got such a good deal on all the makeup I'll ever need for the next 15 years.


Week three

I promise I'm not turning this into a cooking blog, and I will try to get some more interesting posts up today or tomorrow. But for now, you get another recipe. This one for what my cousin Holley calls "Ice Box Dessert." I've heard it by other names, but we'll stick with that one for now. Here are her instructions:

Layer 1
1 1/2 c flour
1 cube butter, softened
1/2 c nuts, chopped

Layer 2
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz cool whip
1/2 c powdered sugar

Layer 3
2 small chocolate puddings
1 small vanilla pudding
4 1/2 c milk

Layer 4
8 oz cool whip

Mix layer 1 with a pastry blender, press into the bottom of a 9X13 and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Let cool. Mix the cream cheese and the powdered sugar, fold in the cool whip. Smooth over the top of the crust. Mix together the puddings and the milk (use 2 small chocolate puddings 1 large is not as much as the 2 small). Smooth over layer 2, top with the cool whip. You can grate 2 Hershey snack bars over the cool whip or get chocolate jimmies (sprinkles) I like the grated chocolate bars better. Keep refrigerated.

Number Of Servings:24 (unless one of them is me...)

Preparation Time:45 minutes

Now, because I don't follow recipes exactly, here's what I did different:

After baking and cooling the crust, I crumbled it up and put some in the bottom of 9 goblets. Then I piped in some of the cream cheese layer, ladled in some pudding and topped it with cool whip and added a chocolate leaf. While this looked very pretty, I had lots of leftover crust (I even sprinkled some between each layer), so if you go this route, halve the crust recipe.

My method did make it trickier, so if you're going for ease, stick with the 9x13, but either way it's not too tricky (as long as you make sure to get the cool whip out of the freezer in advance.) Overall, it was very tasty. My mom has a similar recipe, and I think I like her layer 2 better. Hers calls for 1 cup powered sugar, 8 oz cream cheese and 1 cup of cool whip, which is less than 8 oz. I'll try that next time. Also, if you're not a chocolate lover, or you're in the mood for a little change, you can use different puddings to change it up. My mom has made it with lemon and it was quite delicious! I will definitely be making this again!


On a superfluity of couscous

So several (read: three) of you have asked about my extreme supply of couscous.

At some point in the recent past, my mom found couscous in bulk. (At Cost Plus World Market, if I recall correctly.) Seeing as you can usually only buy it in annoying little boxes, she decided to get me some as well. And when I say bulk, I mean a 25 lb. bag.

Now, I do like couscous, and was quite excited, but I don't have many recipes for couscous, and in all the cookbooks I have, I think couscous is mentioned like once, so I never know what to do with it. (Not to mention my husbands afore-mentioned dislike for the mess kids create with it.)

If any of you have tried and true (or even good-looking, whether or not you've tried it) recipes for couscous, I am always looking for more!


The messiest food in the world

So, I apparently have a thing for chicken. Actually, I knew that, but now you all get to know it, too! So this week for Whip It Up, I experimented with Savory Chicken Couscous and Easy Chicken Piccata. We have a ton of couscous and I never use it, so I looked for a couscous recipe that I had all the ingredients for, (which was easier said than done, since it's definitely time for me to do some grocery shopping.) The couscous recipe recommended the other to go along, and I thought it looked tasty.

Although Tom enjoys couscous, he affectionately refers to it as "the messiest food in the world" because, let's face it, when you're three, couscous is not the easiest thing to eat without getting it everywhere. And it's sticky. Like rice, but smaller.

One of these weeks I'm going to remember to take a picture of the recipes I make, but this was not that week. Luckily for you, there is a picture along with the recipes.

Now for the important part: These recipes were easy-peasy. Couscous is always quick, and the chicken was as well. I didn't have cutlets, so I used breasts and they took a little longer. But better than being quick and easy, both recipes were delicious! I will definitely be repeating this one, but I think I'll need to make more couscous next time--Ella loved it!


St. Joe

Since her husband and son were off at scout camp, my mother-in-law came down to spend Wednesday night at our house. Her car had been making noises, so she dropped it off at Joe's shop. (Tom's brother, the mechanic, for those not informed. I call it Joe's shop because he works there, not because he owns it.) He was planning on bringing it to her at our house Thursday after work.

A couple of days ago our battery light had come on. I didn't think too much about it since A) we just got a new battery like 2 months ago, 2) nothing was going wrong, and D) Joe would be over in the near future to look at it and reassure us. We drove it for a couple of days with the light on (all the time). Thursday, Tom went to work, went to the district office for a meeting, stopped at Fred Meyer and came home. I went right back out a few minutes later to go pick up a pizza at Papa Murphy's (Yum--thanks JoAnne).

On the way, the radio and clock were going in and out. I immediately turned off the lights and the radio, but didn't think of the AC and prayed that I would make it home safely. When I came out of PM's the car turned on the first try, though I could tell something was not right. Again, I prayed all the way home, especially since I had forgotten my cell phone.

Minutes (like 2) after I pulled in, safely, Joe pulled in behind me. After looking at our car, and checking the battery (which was completely dead) he confirmed that it was the alternator. He said that we should not drive it pretty much anywhere before getting it fixed. Not only did Tom have to be at work today, but both kids had dentist appointments, and we were planning on heading up to my parent's for the weekend.

After dinner, Joe took out the alternator, drove to Schuck's (in JoAnne's car) with Tom to get a new one, and put it in, all before dessert. Though he wasn't 100% pleased with the new one, it has a lifetime warranty, it is getting the job done a whole lot better than the last one!

It is so obvious to me that the Lord is looking out for us. We are so blessed! Not only did he keep the car going long enough for us all to be safe, but he provided us with the perfect opportunity to have our car fixed, and a wonderful and helpful mechanic in the family! Thank you Joe!!!!


Some funny conversations recently that need to be documented for posterity's sake. Hopefully you find them as funny as I did.

As I was brushing Ella's hair:
E: Mom, do it softer, you're brushing it too loud!

This one needs a little preface: I have taught Ella all sorts of body parts, from the useful "head, shoulder, knee, eye, mouth, etc." to the less useful sternocleidomastoid (don't check my spelling, it's a muscle in your neck) and subcutaneous pre-patellar bursa (on your knee). However, everything between her legs is her "bum," and she hasn't been interested in knowing more. Now to the conversation:

Ella was sitting on the potty. As she tends to take a while I had stepped out. I came when she called me, and she was checking out her business.
E: Mom! What is that?
M: That's your {insert a female body part here.}
E: Does Rico have one?
M: No, Rico's a boy. He has a {insert male body part.}
E: But you have one?
M: Yes, because I'm a girl, too.
E: But what does Dad have?
M: Well, he's a boy like Rico, so what do you think?
E: (thinking...) A sternocleidomastoid!

Well, yes, but...

While we were at Tom's brother's in Vancouver, Ella's five-year-old cousin, Isaac, decided to water the plants in their backyard, instead of using the toilet. Ella came in and told Tom:
E: Isaac went potty with his belly. Me, I don't go potty with my belly button, I go potty with my bum.

I was carrying Ella and told her:
M: Ella, you're not so light anymore.
E: I'm not so light?
M: Nope. You used to be light, but now you're getting...
E: I'm getting darker!

...or heavier was what I meant...


Back to real life

The unfortunate thing about vacations is that they all must end. Tom started summer school yesterday, and with homework and classes, and some extra work he's doing for next year's curriculum, all those half-days are looking a lot more like full days. And that means I'm back to full time mom. Not that I'm not a full time mom when he's home, but he takes on quite a bit of what is usually my responsibility so that I can rest and relax.

I hope that you all had a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July. I know we did. Tom's brother lives in Vancouver, WA, so we drove down there to spend the weekend. We went to a park on Salmon Creek with a man-made beach area that the kids adored--that is, Rico-man adored it, and Ella loved it until she tried to swim, by herself, with no flotation device. Tom saved her, but I think it will be a while before she's ready for water again.

Friday we drove down to Oregon to a campsite along the Columbia River. We stopped about halfway there to check out Multnomah Falls which was gorgeous. We camped at Viento State Park, which was nice, though I wouldn't recommend it, as it is located between the freeway and the train track, which does not make for easy sleeping. The kids loved hanging out with their cousins and grandparents. We didn't see any fireworks, which was fine by me, since both the kids were asleep before it was dark enough anyway.

On the drive home Saturday, Ella slept over half the time, so it went by much quicker than the way down. As much fun as we had, I was definitely glad to be home and back in my own bed, though the amount of laundry that can accumulate after camping is astounding.


Whipping it up

So I read on Janssen's blog that she was participating in Whip It Up, a new recipe challenge, and I thought, What a great idea! So since I'm a total follower, I thought I would, too. Here is week one's recipe that I made tonight as found in the cook book, and followed by my alteration, since I can't follow a recipe:

Smothered Chicken
From Betty Crocker's Cookbook

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves (about 1 1/4 lbs)
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 Tbs butter or stick margarine
1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup mushrooms (4 oz)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 oz)
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (2 oz)

Spray 12-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with oregano, salt, garlic powder, pepper and red pepper. Cook in skillet 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until juice is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut. Remove chicken from skillet; keep warm.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Cook bell pepper and onion in butter about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender. Stir in mushrooms. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

Place chicken in skillet; spoon vegetables over chicken. Sprinkle cheeses over chicken and vegetables; remove from heat. cover and let stand until cheese is melted.

Personal variations:
Tom and I don't need 4 chicken breasts, and I get the mondo ones from Costco, so I cut one in half, and called it good. I didn't so much measure the seasonings, just sprinkled them on, keeping the proportions in mind. As I don't have a nonstick skillet, I just used a normal one, and used a little olive oil to fry the chicken in. There was plenty of oil still in the skillet, so I omitted the butter. Also, I don't eat green pepper, so I left that out too, much to Tom's dismay. I used canned mushrooms, because that's what I had, and served it with rice.

I was quite impressed. It was pretty quick and easy (except for the splattering olive oil. That would be one benefit of using a nonstick skillet) and tasted GREAT! I will definitely be making this again! Yum!



There are definite bonuses to being married to a teacher. Tom's last day of school was last Tuesday, and he had the rest of the week off! He's back to work most of this week with some training, but then he has another week off!

We love having our dad home to play, and we even got quite a few things done around the house and yard. We got some organizational projects done, (though there are still numerous others that need to happen,) and we "hacked" down some bushes in the back yard that Tom has never liked. There is still plenty of work to do this summer, but since he's only teaching summer school (half-days in July) and taking one class at UW-T we should have plenty of time to do them.

The only problem with all this time off, of course, is the small matter of it being unpaid--oh the joys of being married to a teacher. ;)

What do you know?

About two days after my last post, I went out to check my herbs and found that one pot had been totally dug up (I'm guessing by one of my neighbor's many cats.) I smoothed the dirt back down, and noticed by the seeds that it was the cilantro (so now at least I know which one is which.) Since then it has gone crazy with sprouts, and the basil, not so much. Maybe I should go dig that up, too.


Where did they go?

A couple of weeks ago, I planted some basil and cilantro in some pots in my yard, and anxiously waited for them to sprout. I'm pretty sure I checked them at least once a day, even though they weren't supposed to sprout for a week or so. And sure enough, after one week I started seeing little green leaves.The funny thing is, they looked exactly the same, and I had forgotten which pot held which herb. By a couple of days ago, there were 7-8 sprouts in each pot, though they didn't seem to be getting any bigger.

When I went to look at them today however, there is only one in one pot and two in the other.

Where did they go? Do cats eat herb seedlings? Birds? I haven't seen any animals checking them out, but then again, I don't spend the day staring out the window. And since I don't remember which pot is which, I really don't think I can replant. What should I do?


More Firsts for Ella

Last week at playgroup was a memorable one, for sure. I was unfortunately otherwise occupied (paying attention to Henry or something) and missed the following episode, but I have heard more than one account of it, so I feel justified in sharing it.

Peyton was sitting on his push-and-ride minding his own business when Ella ran up, out of the blue, and planted a kiss full on his mouth.His mother (M) watched the whole thing, and asked him "Did Ella just kiss you?"
P: "Yes"
M: "Did you like it?"
P: "Yes."

I tried to keep a straight face when I asked Ella later:
Me: "Did you kiss Peyton?"
E: "Yes"
Me: "Why did you do that?"
E: (as if it were completely obvious) "Because I like him."

Lovely. So if you are the mother of a little boy of Ella's acquaintance, you might want to keep your eye on them. :)


Ella's first...

Pedicure! I know I'm a slacker of a mother, since she is three and this is the first time her nails have been painted, but it's not all my fault. First, I'm not much of a nail polish person myself. Not because I don't love it, but because after one day it starts chipping and I pick it all off within the next couple of days. Second, I'm married to Tom, and I'm pretty sure he would be happy if she never wore nail polish in her life. I figured if she was old enough to request it, he couldn't complain, right? Well, that was my theory anyway, and it seems to have worked. She loves having her nails painted the same color as mommy's.


Running out of time

Some of you may be wondering what ever happened with my Couch to 5k running goal. And some of you may think you know, and you're probably right.

Just as a recap, the C25K is a nine week program with 3 runs each week, each week progressively building up so that by the ninth week you are running 30 minutes straight, or about 5k.

Having NEVER been a runner in my life this was quite difficult, but that was compounded by the time that I ran: 5 am. If I am not a runner, I am less of a morning person. Nevertheless, I persevered. And I really was getting better at running.

Week nine, day one, I woke up with more difficulty than usual, and proceeded on my first ever half hour of running with absolutely no walking. And I did it. I was so dang proud of myself. When Wednesday came around, I could not get myself out of bed. I told myself that I would run Thursday and Saturday instead, but I couldn't get up Thursday or Friday either. I was just so dang tired. And so, two runs shy of completing my goal, I failed.

The next week, I found out I was pregnant, which greatly explains the extreme exhaustion, but did not make it any easier to get up. I still plan on running in the future, either once I'm not bone tired all the time or once the weather finally dries up and I can go during the day with the kids in the stroller. But until then, I'm back to my slackerific self.


The Host, by Stephenie Meyer

Let’s be honest. This book is 619 pages and I read it in like 2 days. I’m pretty sure I’m going to reread it before turning it back in to the library next week. When I first heard of the book, I was not at all tempted to read it. I enjoyed the twilight series, yes, but I couldn’t see myself reading a book about aliens. Then I made the mistake of reading the sneak preview on Stephenie’s website several months ago. And once again, I was hooked. I promptly put it on hold at the library, and got one of the first copies.

Stephenie Meyer manages to bring to life what seems to be a complete impossibility, much like she does in Twilight (etc.). This book is built on the premise that body-snatching aliens have captured earth and are walking around in our bodies. Only a very few human rebels remain, and they are being hunted.

Melanie was one of those, but she was caught, and a soul (the name the aliens give themselves) named Wanderer was inserted into her body. But Melanie refuses to give up so easily. Most hosts just fade away once a soul takes over their body, but Melanie stays active and alive inside her body, which is now a prison.

Fighting for control of what is now her body, Wanderer does all she can to banish Melanie to the oblivion where she should be, but instead, they become friends. Driven by Melanie’s memories of Jared and Jamie, Wanderer goes off in search of them. But it only gets harder once she finds them.

This book is compelling and full of unexpected twists, but it does end how I wanted it too, (at least how I wanted it to after reading enough to really know what I wanted.)

I fully recommend this to anyone who does or does not like alien books.