Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmases Long, Long Ago

Me and my just-barely-older sister.

This has always been my very favorite holiday. And my mom knew how to do it up right. Check out the sweet '80's clothes! I'd love a pair of legwarmers right now. I'm the blond one in front with the wicked blue tights. Not sure what was going on there.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Cookies

Our cookies were done in non-traditional colors this year on account of that's all we had left in the food coloring containers. Time to buy new colors, as we exhausted our supply of Yellow No. 5 with these beauties. They even tasted good!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is there anything better than a Big Wheel?

I don't think so. At least not when you're three. Gigi loves this thing and does elaborate peel-outs and everything. On this particular day, she insisted on wearing her butterfly wings, which kept getting caught in the wheels. It was hilarious.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Remembering My Dad

He was big and strong and loved history, good food, movies, ships, cars, air shows and model airplanes. He could fix anything, but often ended up swearing and throwing things in the process. Once he bought a camper and we had no end of fun in that thing. When I was twelve, I found out that he was shy sometimes, and it confused me. He always took you out to get a treat if you had to go to the doctor. He was born four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He would have been 67 today. We miss you, Dad.

This is all nine of us when we went to visit the Susquehana River and the site of the organization of the Aaronic Priesthood in upstate New York. I am one of the little ones. Second from the end.

Dancing Princess

Tuesday was Gigi's last dance class for this session, so Ms. Beth staged a sort of recital, which was really just the exact same stuff they do in every class, but this time with puffy skirts and crowns. The girls were in heaven, showing off for all the parents. She was such a wonderful teacher to these little girls who were sometimes so shy. I don't know a whole lot about dance, but Gigi's really happy doing these little classes and seems like a natural, so we'll continue on, at least until she grows out of those shoes! It has been especially fun for me to watch her develop interest in her own thing, instead of just following her brother around. Ox heartily disliked playing spectator, though. He told me he couldn't watch because it was too girlie for him.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Doorway Puppet Theatre/Store Front

This was totally easy. Took me an evening and I'm happy with the results, as are the kids. They've made it a store front, and the white paper taped to it is their little sign. It has been fun to watch them. I found some great ball fringe for the top detail and I find myself wondering why we don't use ball fringe on everything. It's so funky and cool.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Project of My Own

Did anyone ever watch The Gilmore Girls? Ah . . . I loved that show. Except the last season. Anyway, remember Paris, and how she had a craft table set up in her college apartment because crafting was prescribed by her therapist after her nervous breakdown? I think I'm turning into Paris. Not really the character I would like most to identify with, but I cannot argue with the evidence.

Yesterday was the first day after a long Thanksgiving break and with all the running around and disheveled house, demanding children, etc., I thought my hair was going to melt. Dirk swears that the kids can sense when I'm stressed and dial up the drama in response. In any case, I was ready to start selling children on craigslist. Then Dirk brings up Family Night, and could I please think up something fun. What?! How about me, locked in our bathroom in the tub with music and candles and the rest of you cleaning up the house? That sounded like fun. When he saw how stressed I was, he suggested we go out for ice cream, but drop me someplace on the way and pick me up after. So, I went to JoAnn and Michael's (conveniently right next door to each other) in Poway while Dirk and children went to Costco for ice cream.

I saw this project somewhere a long time ago:

We have a closet under the stairs where it would go perfectly as a puppet theatre or a store front. The kids are always pretending to sell each other toys out of that closet, so I think they will love it.

Just buying the supplies and choosing the fabrics made me feel happy and in love with my family again. I cannot explain it, since I've never really been crafty. I couldn't really justify the cost during this Christmas season of many other expenditures, but it's cheaper than therapy. Or alcoholism. I'll post pictures when I finish!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles

Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a good, extremely long, book. Holy Cow. But, it was a great look at history and enlightening as far as royalty of the Queen Elizabeth I era goes. Being a Queen was not really that great, it turns out. Especially if your more powerful cousin decides to exile you and then ultimately behead you. So: fun, but a little too thorough for continuity's sake.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some Thanksgiving Projects

My favorite kind of projects . . . messy and hosted by Dad.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

First 10K

I. Totally. Rocked.

I ran faster and longer than I ever have before! What a curious thrill, since running hasn't ever been "fun" for me before. I dragged the whole family out of bed to come and cheer me on and I totally did it!! There is a lot of moral support running with a bunch of people, even if you don't know them. I had a terrible side cramp after only a couple of minutes that worried me, but then it went away; nerves, I guess. And, against all odds, it rained on us. Hard. In fact, in the interest of modesty, I probably should have brought a backup for the white race t-shirt. I was so chilled and shivering when I got home, so Gigi and I took a long bath. What a great day. I don't have any pictures of the event, since we forgot the camera, but this is almost how I looked.

Run, run as fast as you can . . .

Today is the big race! The 10K I've been training for. I'm excited and so are the kids. We were grocery shopping for Thanksgiving a few days ago and I was also buying snacks for today so they wouldn't be starving. Ox asked me, "Are you going to get a trophy if you win?" I told him there were lots of really fast people racing, and I probably wouldn't win, but that I was excited to just run. As he was going to sleep that night he said, "I don't think they're gonna give you a trophy because if they did, all the other moms would get their feelings hurt because they didn't get one."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Missed it by that much!

We found out Friday that Dirk did not pass the CA bar by only a few points. Definitely disappointing, to say the least. He has a very good attitude, though. He told me that he rather enjoyed the study the first time around, and this time he'll do it without trying to also start up a business, write a review course, move across country, etc. So, come January, he will once again be eating, drinking and sleeping the Bar/Bri prep course. He'll take five weeks off of work for the February retake, and then it will be another three months plus of waiting to see how he did. Everyone at his firm has been very supportive, and assures him this is the hardest bar in the country. Go Dirk!

As an aside, I am so impressed with his stamina with the whole work thing. He has been working incredibly hard, filing patents left and right, and generally knocking everybody's socks off. In our family, we celebrate a "Comfort Day" -- it's our own homemade holiday whenever we embark on something new. It is usually at the two-month mark of the new adventure. We did celebrate it in October, but our efforts were paltry, and I think another Comfort Day is due . . . maybe Friday. I am usually the weak link in Comfort Day celebrations, because I am in charge of procuring a babysitter, which task I dislike, I guess because I have to clean up the whole house (wouldn't want a fifteen-year-old to notice dirty light fixtures!?) and then pick the girl up and then take her home and it all just seems like a lot of trouble for a dinner out. Anyway, I love you Baby (this is a joke, we never use nicknames, so it cracks us both up when I try) and think you're the greatest!

Confessions of an Early Decorator

I hear and read many complaints and irritations about the early decorating of department stores and malls for Christmas. I have been somewhat sheepish about the fact that my own Christmas decorating seems to get earlier and earlier every year. I come from a family where this is considered an assault on something sacred; that is, that great American holiday of Thanksgiving. I do enjoy Thanksgiving. I really get into cooking beautiful dishes and turning out a moist turkey. However, I think the spirit of Thanksgiving is a fantastic introduction to a season of holidays and the true spirit of Christmas. After all, one of the things I am most thankful for is Christs' birth. Even though I know the motivation for the stores is to get more sales, I do not at all mind the early decorating, as it gives me a reminder to get my shopping and shipping done, and to enjoy a more leisurely Christmas season. I don't shop of Black Friday (why is it called that, anyway?), and I don't watch TV commercials, so I don't get fed up with the commercialization of Christmas. Finally, I just don't have that many decorations for holidays or even non-holidays . . . but I have a really great Christmas tree. Honestly, I have only ever seen two or three I like as well as my own. So, why not make the most of it? My preferred time of decorating is the Sunday before Thanksgiving. And I am not ashamed.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Technical Difficulties

I changed my blog template, you may have noticed, but lost my blog list in the process. So, if you are reading this, can you please leave a comment so that I can recreate my blog list and keep up with all you lovlies?? Dirk thinks it might be in here somewhere, but he hasn't found time to look for it yet, and I am never hopeful where these things are concerned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So in love with this little girl

There is so much to love! Her personality is as big as Lady Liberty. She has a style all her own. And she is just so expressive! Here, she's telling us all about the little bunny rabbits we found jumping around a grassy area at Sea World.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Best Day EVER!

A few weeks ago I decided it was time for Ox to take off the training wheels. One of the training wheels was breaking and I needed the bike to work for riding to school in the morning. We are quite an exhibition . . . Baby in the stroller, Gigi alternately pushing her mini-stroller and riding on the back of my stroller while insisting I carry hers, Ox on his bike, and Pippin on the leash. We command the sidewalk. We are a whole parade. I love it. Anyway, he has been interested in doing this on his own before, but always wanted to quit because it was too hard. I didn't want to push him, so I never worried about it. But it was time.

Predictably, he wanted to give up about at day #2. I was determined, though, and I told him I knew he could do it and that he just needed to get used to balance. Nevertheless, I told him that if we practiced every day for 14 days (give or take, I'm not a drill sergeant) and he still wanted to stop, he could and I would take him out for ice cream for his efforts. By day #3, I was ready to throw in the towel. It was just so frustrating! I tried not to let this show, and told him to just take his bike on his own and see what he could do while I played with Gigi out front. It was magical. After he played around for a bit, it was like he decided that this was his thing and not mine. I asked him to tell me when he was ready for some help and he did and I gave him a push and he did it! Before this day, I had been so frustrated with his lack of confidence in the principle of balancing while pedaling. In my desperation, I'm afraid I got sort of weird on him and told him to think really hard about just going straight, or just imagine himself riding and balancing. That third day, as he was riding up and down our street, he said, "I do it better when I'm NOT thinking about it! Like right now, I'm just thinkin' 'bout spiders, now I'm thinkin' 'bout cars and when I can drive a car someday; now I'm thinkin' 'bout pumpkins and why some people put pumpkins on their roofs."

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Plea for Help

I need to buy a pair of jeans for Dirk. A couple, actually. Trouble is, it has literally been years since we have bought him jeans (starving students and all that). And Costco never carries his size in any of the brands they sell (38 X 34), so there goes my one-stop shopping! I want to order them online, and I want him to look current and with-it, but in a subtle way so he won't notice. Any suggestions?

In exchange for your help, I am giving you all a little gem of an idea for everyone on your Christmas list. Who knew that something like this even existed??

Jane Austen Action Figure

Soap Box

Are they kidding me, or what?! I am having some frustration about our country's fiscal issues. I know that nobody wants a repeat of the Great Depression. I get it. But I just heard on NPR (yes. I listen to NPR. Every chance I get. It doesn't mean I am a liberal. It means I got fed up with network news a long, long time ago.) that the AIG bailout is being revamped and going to cost us even more and we have no say in the matter. Meanwhile, the car manufacturers want a bailout, too. Honestly, their request seems more legitimate to me than AIG. Do we all know how AIG got into the mess they did in the first place? By gambling, basically, on the mortgage industry. Go HERE for the fascinating breakdown. Anyway, my cynical theory is that the insurance lobby is so strong and rich that they can buy off Washington to give them what they want, like bailouts and tort reform laws and the like. I personally think it would not be the end of the world if a humongous insurance company went down in flames. Seriously, these guys took risks with mortgages, and they should know better, but we expect Joe Homebuyer to take more responsibility for his action than the corporation? I totally get the argument that these companies failing would be economic disaster for the rest of us. In fact, I have a good friend doing her PhD on financial markets stuff whom I would describe as a fiscal conservative who says the bailout is necessary. I am probably being simplistic, maybe plain ignorant here. But still. Doesn't it just seem wrong on principle?

Which brings me to the fundamental issue I have with this whole thing: our lack of pain tolerance. I have had three babies without using pain meds. I don't say this to put myself out as a superstar or anything, truly. In fact, the reason I prepared to labor with no meds is because I saw my sister get an epidural when I was at an impressionable age and I thought it looked so horrible I promised myself I would try to never do it. What I discovered having babies this way and observing others do it countless other ways was priceless. Recovering from an epidural or c-section (which epidurals sometimes cause because they can slow labor down too much) can be worse than going through the labor naturally and having done with it. Obviously each situation is unique, but there is evidence that your body can work much more efficiently without deadening pain meds. It's hard work and seriously uncomfortable, but no one is expecting a spa vacation when they go to have a baby, right?

Back to the economy. Maybe if we just let ourselves work through it without expecting a painfree recovery from this whole mess, it would be more efficient? Can't get credit to buy a car? Buy used, ride a bike, make your old one last a bit longer. And we would certainly never forget the experience, and we would probably work hard to see that it didn't happen again by not building up excessive debt and keeping a savings cushion for times such as these. Ditto with the big companies. Maybe they wouldn't get stupid with their money so much either. I hear all kinds of tragic projections about the dreary Christmas shopping season. Hellllooooo! Our overspending is part of what got us here! A dreary shopping season sounds like really good news to me! And when big, old, comfy companies like AIG find themselves broke, smarter, more conservative companies can rise to take over. A shake-up might not be the end of the world.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The trouble with Halloween candy . . .

. . . is that it is too small. There is no way I would sit down and eat a whole candy bar. But, with those fun sizers, I just lose track and I'm positive I habitually eat more than a candy bar's worth. Grrr . . .

Pumpkin Carving

Always so much fun!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another BAD Thing

Far worse than even a Lifetime Original movie is tape worm. Stop reading here if you are squeamish (which I am, but I cannot keep this in). I noticed the strangest thing in Pippin's nuisance a couple of days ago. Nuisance in a fancy word for poop. I didn't know this before moving here, but that is what all the neighborhood signs call it. I've converted it to an expletive, "Dog Nuisance!" Anyway, it looked like miniature rice. However, it wasn't moving or anything, so I was hoping he'd accidentally eaten some mini-rice somewhere. Later, he pooped again, and I saw the nastiest thing I have ever seen. The way these little bits of gooey white worm move is the stuff or horror films. I was so grossed out I called the vet right away. They said it wasn't an emergency, but it was to me, so I got him in that day. We got rid of the little nasties and I am hoping he is good as new now.

It was a good chance to talk to the vet. This is my first pet, unless you count the fish I kept as a youngster (which I once bleached and on which I once attempted surgery), and I'm sort of ignorant. For example, I have never brushed poor Pippin's teeth, but we are going to do that from now on. Also, the doctor told me that it doesn't mean he's sick if he falls behind on our runs together; small dogs should not be made to run more than a mile or two. Oops. Our last run together was 4.5 miles. He's such a good dog and friend, and I'm so glad we have him, but he's sort of the burnt pancake of family pets. Sorry, buddy. I'm learning.

Playing in the snow last year.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My list of Bad Things

I would like to add election polls to my Bad Things list. They join brussels sprouts, traffic, belly fat, scrubbing baseboards, pumpkin pie, alien movies, natural disaster movies, talking animal movies, and Lifetime original movies (I suppose Bad Movies should be a sublist). It's a short list, but it slowly grows. I hate how the decision of who's president or which propositions will pass begins in the weeks and months before the elections with these amorphous polls. I understand that it constitutes a whole career to be the person who interprets these polls, and they are probably really concerned with accuracy, but I think it is super lame that what started as a way to get an idea of what people were planning to do has become a thing that affects people's decisions in a big way. I just finished all my Prop 8 phone calls and it makes me think that polls are very inaccurate. One lady told me that she had already voted by absentee ballot and that she refused to tell me what she wrote and I could just find out on election day like everybody else. Even though it was my job to write down what her vote was, I had to respect her stand. I circled the number for "Refused" on my little sheet and thought the world might just be better if we all refused to be polled. Although, I guess all those statisticians would then be joining the growing ranks of the unemployed, which certainly wouldn't be good either.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

They're so ugly, but they taste so good.

We are sweet potato crazies at our house and this is one of my favorite recipes. I got it from Bobby Flay, except I double the amount of scallions (they are so tasty off the grill), halve the mustard (I'm not the world's biggest pretentious mustard fan, but it really works here), and skip the parsley (because I usually have forgotten to buy it). I am personally taking on the crusade to educate the world about non-marshmallowed sweet potato options.

Hot Grilled Sweet Potato and Scallion Salad

4 large sweet potatoes, (microwave them for a few seconds first and they don't take so long on the grill) cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 scallions
3/4 cup good olive oil
2 T. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 t. honey
salt and pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat grill to high. Brush potatoes and scallions with oil and arrange on grill. Grill potatoes for 3 to 4 minutes each side, or until just tender. Grill scallions until softened and marked. Remove scallions from the grill and cut into slices (this requires a REALLY sharp knife or else they fall apart).

In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, mustard, vinegars, and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add potatoes, scallions, and parsley and toss until potatoes are well coated. Transfer to a platter and serve.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Gigi and I went to a birthday party for a friend of hers this afternoon. It was a cute party idea: gym bus. Basically, an old school bus is painted and gutted and filled with gymnastics stuff and the kids get to do gymnastics with an instructor for an hour. I thought it looked like fun. Gigi wanted no part of it. She would only get on the bus if I was with her and there just wasn't room for all of us. So, she and I ran around at the park nearby instead. She said, "Let's play 'duck,duck goose.'" I said, "Well, you can't really play that with just two people." She said, "Yeah you can, I'll show you . . . GOOSE!" And then she smacked me really hard on the head and took off running. When it was my turn, I at least walked around her in a circle and said a few "Duck, ducks" But she kept interrupting me, shouting, "Do me goose! Do me GOOOOOOOSSSSE!"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Moon Sand -- Yuck

You know, it's possible that Moon Sand was created by someone who just really missed the beach and wanted children everywhere to experience building a sand castle, regardless of their geography. However, I think it is more likely that the inventor was a spiteful ex-husband or scorned ex-wife, who failed to get the house and kids in the divorce and really wanted to invent something that would sabotage all order and cleanliness for the duration of the wonder years. Don't know what I'm talking about? Count yourself lucky.

Ox once played with Moon Sand at some friends' home and has wanted it ever since. It isn't cheap, so I told him we would have to save up for it. When the grandmas sent money for his birthday, he used it for Moon Sand and I have regretted it ever since! This stuff is not of Earth. I think it might actually be from the moon. Although I try to contain it, the mess that it makes defies all my cleaning abilities. The kids played with it on Saturday and I cleaned the downstairs in a circle and when I came back around, sure enough, there were more bright purple footprints in the carpets of the clean rooms. New rule at my house: Moon Sand is an outside toy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Great Day in the Morning

That's a phrase my mom used to say as an exclamation of surprise or bewilderment that never made much sense to me. Yesterday, when I opened the letter (technically addressed to Dirk, but we are one, right?) from the Caifornia bar office, all I could think was "Great day in the morning!" We were walking to church because we are very green and healthy now that we are Californians and also because it is impossible to find parking at the church, and Gigi forgot her sweater, so I ran back for it (more on my very fast running later). I thought I would grab the mail as I went into the house and I saw the letter and I just couldn't help opening, knowing that it might be bad news and ruin our day. They have decided to accept Dirk's answers from the third day of testing, even though he posted them late!! So, there is a good chance that he will not have to retake the bar. I was so excited. I ran all the way back to catch up with the family and showed him the letter. Do you know what he said? "Oh, that's great." with a kind of pleasantly surprised voice. No jumping or jubilation. He mystifies me. After that, he made the interesting comment that, when he assumed his answers wouldn't be accepted, it was easier to feel confident about his performance on the test in general. But, now that there is a chance he'll pass, he's much less confident. We shall see. We should know around Thanksgiving time or a bit before.

On the running, I have been getting ready for my first 10K, to be run on Thanksgiving morning in downtown San Diego. Anybody want to join me? The training so far has been going well, and is kind of fun, especially when I get to run on the beach at sunset. That is my favorite. I am afraid I am wearing our little doggie right out, however. He starts strong, but after a mile or so, he hangs back a bit. He'll be getting in shape along with me, I suppose. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yes on Prop 8

I haven't received a calling yet at our new ward in San Diego. I have, however, received an assignment to call or walk for the Proposition 8 campaign. Here's the deal with voting YES on Proposition 8: It doesn't take any rights or benefits from gay or lesbian domestic partners. These people have all the "same rights, protections and benefits" as married spouses, according to California law. The difference is, their unions would not be called marriages. Why is this important? Because, if Prop 8 does not pass, then teachers in public schools could be required to teach that same sex marriage is the same as traditional marriage; that there is no difference in families that are raised by two fathers or two mothers and families that are raised by a mother and a father. I have called voter registration lists (though not nearly as much as I should; I am way behind) about this issue because I believe that marriage is sacred, and that it should not be redefined for me into something that it doesn't mean to me. And, because I believe, as our Proclamation on the Family states, that "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ." Because of all this, I have been talking about this campaign, even though it terrifies me, and requires me to overcome a whole lot of nerves to do it. And it isn't fun.

A couple of weeks ago, a man stood up during a Sunday School lesson about this issue. He was a former member of the stake presidency, but asked that his comments be taken as his own, and not as a leader in the church. He emotionally shared an experience his son had had while at college in Utah, where he had witnessed some "Christians" speaking very disparagingly about a gay couple that walked by. His point was that if we want to spread Christianity, that we should be Christians ourselves. He talked about how important it is to love and follow our prophet, who has asked us to do all we can on this issue, while loving ALL our brothers and sisters.

I was moved by his short speech; even more so when I learned later that his son identifies himself as a homosexual and is working through all the issues that come with that. I don't know any of the details, but I do know that their emotional family journey has been marked by loyalty and love for each other.

I don't understand why so many people struggle with this issue. I feel love for them, and hope that they can make a life for themselves that makes sense to them and their God. At the same time, I truly believe that our social structure depends on traditional families, and children being raised by a mother and father, wherever possible. I know that there are all kinds of situations where that is impossible. But, I believe it is ideal nevertheless.

Communing with Nature

Dirk took #1 and #2 into the wild for their first camping trip ever! We knew it was time, as Isaac had been praying all summer that we could go camping. He finally got his wish when we were visiting the Burnham family in Tremonton at the end of August. I didn't understand why Dirk couldn't just sleep with them in the perfectly good tent that was already set up in the backyard as the teenage boys videogame getaway. He said he needed fire. And nature. It was great fun. I stayed back at big sister's house with Brody. We had fun, too, and slept better I would guess.

This weekend, they all went again with the Bedells, family friends of ours. Everyone came home very dirty and tired and happy. Here's to the great outdoors.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Beach Bum

Is this kid ready for California, or what?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Red and green aren't just for Christmas

This is the recipe for you if your garden took over the backyard with tomatoes and basil. Not that I have a garden, but we are growing basil and I found tomatoes on sale. Anyway, I made it for dinner last night and it was the best tomato soup I've ever had. The kids didn't like it because it is a bit spicy. So, omit the red pepper flakes if you don't want spiciness. Also, I don't have a food mill (and my new, tiny kitchen will not accommodate any new gadgets . . . I'm working through being really depressed about that), so I put it all in a blender, and then I strained it through a sieve. This recipe makes a very large batch, so I am freezing some for another meal. Thanks, Barefoot Contessa!

Roasted Tomato Soup

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

This is an actual conversation I just had with Dirk:

D: "I think it's safe to say that I won't be getting any demanding callings at church."

N: "Oh? Why's that?"

D: "Because I spent most of priesthood in a small room with Brody sleeping."

N: "You mean you got Brody to sleep and found a dark room to let him sleep and fell asleep yourself?"

D: "No, I mean priesthood was held in a small room and I slept in there with Brody."

N:"You mean you got Brody to sleep during priesthood and then fell asleep yourself?"

D: "No, Brody was playing on the floor the entire time. I woke up occasionally to check on him."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ox turns 5

The much anticipated "five birthday" was upon us just two weeks after a hectic move to San Diego. Since he doesn't really know anyone here yet, we had just a couple of family friends over, with all their children, and it felt like a big party. He is so funny with the cakes! Ever since last year's feat of processed sugar architecture, the kids think they can just describe any shape or theme to me and I will turn it into cake stuff. They are too young to remember that last year's pirate ship was the only traditional sort of birthday cake I have ever had turn out like it was supposed to. I usually stick to cheesecakes and others that actually taste good, but kids start to get to be an age that they want a neon-colored marginally edible birthday cake and what can you do? So here is my best attempt at a Jeep cake for Ox. It looked alright, but it tasted awful.

Ox is very into Legos and Star Wars this year so I got him a pretty advanced ship because it was so dang cool. I think the box said it was for seven- or eight-year-olds. Turns out, the Lego people aren't just whistling Dixie when they suggest those age limits. He loves his ship, and I thoroughly enjoyed the two afternoons it took me to first put it together, then take it apart to fix something that was getting in the way of the wing motion, then put it back together again. Good stuff.

Last year's masterpiece. If you are one of the three people who haven't heard how I started my son on fire while lighting his canon candles, let me know and I'll tell you. It will make you feel like a really good parent.

My top 5 favorite things about my oldest child:

1. He is the most loving and forgiving person.
2. He almost never throws tantrums, but when something means a lot to him and it happens to get disregarded, forgotten, or overlooked his heart breaks so sincerely and I find myself pausing in my business (unfortunately, I am usually the one disregarding, overlooking or forgetting), then scrambling to help make happen what he is trying to do. He is the kind of kid that you just want to help make happy, because he is so sincere and non-bratty about it.
3. He loves his brother and sister fiercely.
4. His round brown eyes are completely guileless.
5. Whenever we go to the beach, he has the same routine: as we get close, he drops everything he is holding, dives into the sand with abandon, and starts making "sand angels". Then, he runs around on all fours at top speed like an ape until he is exhausted and lies flat on his back to make sand angels again. It is one of the most happy, childish, energetic displays I have ever seen.
6. He loves his treasures. And he treasures the most unexpected things. We make boxes to house these things and he sleeps with the boxes.
7. He loves sand dollars as much as I do and I can trust him not to crush them when we find one.
8. He wakes up happy. Always has.
9. He says the best prayers, including things like, "Bless us to die when we're supposed to, bless us to not eat too much candy, bless us to not have runny noses, bless us to find my super fast fancy car."

Fine. That was more than five things.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Having waited so long to post, I keep feeling like I need to post something really momentous and "worth it." Too much pressure! So, here are the random thoughts on my mind at the moment and I am going to post them no matter what so that I can get into my rhythm again.

We moved. We left Ann Arbor (sniff, sigh) on August 1st for some serious road tripping (if you think you were on our route, but we missed you, please don't hate us! We had several family commitments and movers to coordinate and we did our best. We'll catch you the next time around). One highlight was Nauvoo and the pageant there put on by the LDS church. It was fantastic! My goodness, was I impressed. My expectations were a little low, since I have seen the Hill Cumorah pageant many times and found it a little cheesy. This was my favorite of the pageants I've seen. And the spirit in Nauvoo is just so wonderful. I bought a couple of books there which I am planning to read someday soon to learn what I ought to know about our church's history. While we were there, we ran into a couple of people we know from Ann Arbor who were working the pageant as volunteers. That was fun.

Lots of fun stops along the way, and one stop that was the least fun I've had in recent memory. We were in Claremont Oklahoma, a couple of days into our trip, when Dirk woke up and realized that he had forgotten to post the third day of his bar exam. The CA bar is three days long. Participants write out the test on their laptops and are supposed to post the their work after leaving the testing center. Dirk took his test that third day and flew back to Ann Arbor that evening and forgot to post his work by the deadline. I don't think I can really describe the sickening feeling of having sacrificed for a summer to study and study and then have your work not be accepted. Or, even worse, to be the person's wife who must anticipate another four or five months of bar study, not to mention thinking that aforementioned husband could have hung around to help with the move if it wasn't going to count anyway :) We thought all was lost, and it probably is, but Dirk wrote up a very impressive petition to have his work accepted anyway and we'll see what happens. I have no expectation of success, since they are real sticklers. But at least he gave it his best effort. Honestly, it didn't seem like as big a deal as I thought it should. Everything has worked out so perfectly up until now, we were due for a bump in the road.

I also have to publicly apologize to Dirk, because I think I said something at my last book club in Ann Arbor about how he was useless for driving on road trips. In fact, he drove most of the way and didn't fall asleep once! It's the GPS in the new van; he says it makes him feel a sense of accomplishment as the nice lady tells him where to go and shows the milestones and how much longer is left, etc.

So, we arrived here on August 21st, rushing to meet the movers, who then didn't show up for another week and a half. Really. We camped out and went to the beach and Sea World and I painted most of the house. It was actually kind of fun. Then, on Dirk's first day of work, they came! Now all I have to do is unpack!

That's all for now. As soon as I find the camera and the USB cable at the same time, I will upload some pictures of the chickadees.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Meramac Caves

These are pictures taken at the fabulous Meramec cavern in Missouri during our cross country trip. It was one of those unplanned stops that I saw advertised on about sixteen billboards and they finally convinced me. It was HUGE and once a hideout of Jesse James! When we explained this to Isaac, he was so excited. He has been wanting to be a "bad guy" ever since. He informed me the other day that he definitely wants to be "Dark Nader" for Halloween.

We took the tour, which turned out to be quite thorough, and I'm pretty sure that every being in the cave and the underworld at large was silently begging that Brody go back where he came from. He started wanting to walk on his own about one quarter of the way through and this was obviously not an option. Who knows how deep those underground pools are? So, he made sure we didn't forget by screaming at top volume pretty consistently for the next 40 minutes. The guide took the opportunity to tell us how popular the cave was for concerts because of its excellent acoustics.

Nauvoo Temple

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Moment We've Been Waiting For

Dirk flies out to San Diego today to take the bar exam. I think it is safe to say that we both feel like throwing up! There is just so much happening this week. He'll leave today, study for a few days there, and take the exam Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. While he is doing that, I will be supervising our move and keeping track of the kids. Then, he'll fly back on Friday morning and we'll drive down to Houston. I know he'll do great, and I'll somehow manage the move and getting our home ready for the tenants moving in. Still, everyone in this house is on edge. Except the children. It's a constant party for them with brownies for breakfast and playdates and pool dates and birthday parties every day. Thanks to all my friends here who have been an incredible support with taking my children so I can work here at home!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hittin' the Sauce

In preparation for our cross country move, I recently gave most of my canning jars away to friends from church here in Ann Arbor. Since then, several people have asked me how I do my applesauce. I find this slightly hysterical, since I am not Super Canner or anything, I just wanted to find a way to use all those yummy Michigan apples. My method came about when someone told me how to make applesauce as follows: "Well, you just cook 'em down!"

I've got my way of doing it, which is not how a "real" canning expert does it. Most people use a Victorio (sp?) strainer. They cut the apples roughly, cook them for a few minutes, and run them through the strainer, which removes all peels and seeds. Then, they add enough sugar to make it taste right and spices if desired. It's very easy and quick. My way requires no special equipment (just a stew pot or crock pot or both) but it takes all weekend! I sometimes do it during conference. But, I've done it both ways and mine makes tastier applesauce in my opinion. I buy a box of "mixed seconds" which means that they pick up the apples that fall on the ground and they mix all different kinds. I like this because the flavors are tart, sweet, tangy, etc. The apples are really good, too, even though they aren't always perfect. I like Wiard's orchard and Plymouth orchard for apples, but I don't think I've ever had a Michigan apple I didn't like. Then I quarter, peel and seed the apples with a pairing knife, though I keep meaning to spring for a corer-peeler-slicer that will do this job for me. That's the labor intensive part. Then, I put them all in a pot or crock pot and heat them on medium low uncovered for maybe four or five hours with just a couple of inches of water. This is why I think the flavor is so intense with this method. The apples cook down the flavor concentrates. I have sometimes added cinnamon, but I have never added sugar when I cook them this way, because they become so sweet as they cook. Then I put them in jars and "process" them, which you probably know means boiling them in a water bath for 20 minutes to seal them.

That's it! Like I said, I've done it both ways and the results are amazing, whichever way you choose. You'll never buy applesauce again!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wouldn't you know it?

Many of you know that we are preparing to move from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to San Diego, California. As part of these preparations, we have to rent out our house here, since the housing market here is such a disaster. We listed the house and got a great response. We have had showings every day and I am so grateful. However, I find it a bit challenging keeping the house perfectly clean all the time just in case someone stops by to see it. Well, it happened this evening: someone was wanting to come by and I had only 15 minutes to prepare to amaze and impress them with my immaculate house. No problem. There were some dishes in the sink, the dishwasher was full of clean dishes because I had just run it (four hours before, maybe seven) so I threw them on a cookie sheet and tossed them in the oven with the granola I had made earlier but not yet put into containers. Of course it happened that tonight, several hours after "cleaning" the kitchen and promptly forgetting the stuff in the oven, I preheated the oven to finish baking a batch of cookies I had started for our little preschool group (many things are only half done around here). You guessed it: sippy cups melted and exploding, baby spoons bent and plastic storage containers oozing. To top it off, my sister Deb called while I was cleaning up the mess, so I was able to tell her that my destruction of kitchen appliances extended way beyond melting the bread bag to her toasters and starting her dish towels on fire all through college. I hope it made her feel better. Deb, you really should start a registry at Williams Sonoma for me to replace all the kitchen stuff I've ruined for you over the years.
You can't see me, but I'm inside scraping the plastic off the oven.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Soccer Fame

Isaac played his last game of his first soccer team, the Blue Sharks, this morning. It took him about three games to get into it. He liked practicing because everyone got their own ball. But when all of the children lined up with the same ball as their object, he wanted out. At first, he would only stand on the field and stare at us forlornly while all the other children gathered around the soccer ball that wasn't even moving half of the time. Someone would get a kick in and then the kid clump would move to the new spot to kick each other in the shin guards. I don't know why he didn't think this was fun.

After field-standing came total refusal to step foot on the field. Then, we had good talks about playing on a team and working together and most importantly, hustle. The next game he was back to field-standing, but without the sad look on his face, whenever he was asked to play until he got knocked over once and sat out the rest. The third game, though, he really got into it. We had been practicing at home that morning and he said soccer was fun when it was just Mom trying to get the ball, but he didn't like it when all those other kids were trying to get it. I told him to just pretend that all those other kids were one big Mom. He ran and kicked and cheered just like the pros. After the game, he told me, "I didn't even have to pretend that those other kids were one big Mom, I was just brave." He even scored a goal in each of the next two games. Very exciting.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dad and Son

Dirk has always been into reading to the kids . . . since Ox was just a baby. I am so grateful for him and what an involved dad he is!

Saturday, May 3, 2008


After three years of good times and noodle salad, Dirk graduated, with honors, from law school. Three cheers for Dirk! The event was made even more memorable by the presence of Dirk's entire immediate family and our beloved cousin Nancy. That's because he is so sweet and lovable. He worked his tail off and he deserved every bit of pomp and circumstance he got that day, and the really nice present we are still working on. I enjoyed the speakers at the ceremony and the fact that the kids behaved impeccably and the walk through the law school afterward. I enjoyed the celebratory barbeque of the best food ever grilled where we invited everyone we knew to cram themselves into our home. I enjoyed the visits with family and Scrabble that evening, except the part where Dirk tricked me into playing a word that he proceeded to challenge and destroyed my score. I guess that's what they teach them at fancy schools . . . But I digress. It was one of the best days ever, and we won't forget it. And now you won't either, right?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Baby with the One Eyelash's New Clothes

This sewing project represents my first-ever-sewing-from-a-pattern-experience. Gigi is baby crazy and I was dissatisfied with the paltry doll clothes offerings at normal stores (translation: I refuse to pay more for a doll's outfit than my own, especially since Gigi has been caught feeding her babies strained peas . . . with no bib!). So, in preparation for her birthday, Isaac and I went to JoAnn and chose some fun fabrics and patterns. Of course, I ambitiously thought I would make many more dresses than I did, and I have several more in my closet just waiting to be put together. In fact, this one was supposed to be for Rachel Bunny, who is quite a bit taller and broader than Baby With the One Eyelash (so named because Gigi pulled off the eyelashes on her right eye), but how can I possibly know what size the thing is going to be until it is finished? I know, I know, I could measure. But Gwendolyn cut up my tape measure weeks ago -- serves me right for storing the tape measure in the same box as the sewing scissors. The scissors at my house should be kept in a biometric fingerprint safe. Plus, measuring is a whole extra step, and I was just so excited to get started. Anyway, no one should fret over Rachel Bunny's nakedness: I discovered I could outfit her in Gwendolyn's 2T dresses and it takes a lot less time than sewing fancy things. It was fun to sew this, though, and the great sense of accomplishment that followed seemed disproportionate.