Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Service with a Smile!

How many of you have found yourselves with a surprise kid? A bonus baby? An extra caboose? I've totally been there. I admit that when I found out, I wasn't completely okay with it. The baby part? Great! Love babies. The pregnancy part? AUUUUGGGHH. Did not enjoy that part.

I repented long ago, but Libby continues to show me that she was one of the best surprises I ever got. This is her doing the dishes last night. Completely on her own. Completely her idea. And doing it with a smile, just because she knows I love it.

I told her (numberous times) what I've told her before: "You are the BEST kid!!" She just smiles in return and says, "Thanks! You're the best mom."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Don't believe everything you hear!

Remember me posting about Dan Liljenquist? He is running for Utah Senator against the long-time, refusing-to-retire Senator Orrin Hatch. We're talking 36 YEARS. That's just a little too long in my book.

Just last week, Senator Hatch broke out the attack ads, something that Dan is intent on not doing. Don't believe everything Hatch's ads are saying. They are distortions. If you would like to hear Dan's take on pension reforms, go here for a short video. And as always, click the Dan Liljenquist for U.S. Senator link on my right sidebar if you'd like to donate to the cause. It's definitely a good one.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rustic Crusty Bread

If you love bread like we do, you should definitely make this:

This recipe comes from Mel's Kitchen Cafe and is not hard to make.

Rustic Crusty Bread
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/2 T. yeast
1 T. salt
3 c. water
6 1/2 c. flour

Whisk together the yeast, salt and flour. Stir in warm water with a wooden spoon until the flour is completely moistened. It will be lumpy, and that's fine. Cover the bowl with a towel and leave in a warm place for at least 2 and up to 5 hours. Take the dough ball and cut in half. Form each half into a round by pulling the top tight and stretching into the bottom. This makes the top smooth and the bottom lumpy. Lay on a rimless cookie sheet or baking stone if you have it. (I don't have a stone and the cookie sheet worked great. Don't grease it). Cover and let the rounds rise for 45 minutes. Set the broiler pan or a rimmed baking pan on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 450. (I have convection so I used that and set the temperature to 420). After the bread has risen, dust each loaf lightly with flour and slash the tops with a very sharp knife. When the oven is hot, set the bread in the oven on the middle rack, and pour a cup of hot water into the hot broiler pan. Quickly shut the oven so the steam doesn't escape. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned all over. Cool completely before slicing.

I served this bread with spaghetti and dipped my slice into olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Some of my family put garlic spread on theirs, and some put peach jam on it. Everyone loved it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

He's a guy.

It hits me at odd moments sometimes. Yesterday, as I was riding in his car with him it hit me again. The fact that this formerly 6 pound, 7 ounce baby boy who was born with wet lungs and had to stay in the hospital for a week, is now, of all things, A GUY. Look at the way he drives while practically reclining as if he has no cares in the world. It's the same way he goes through life. Relaxed. Waiting until 10:59 to leave if he has to be somewhere at 11:00. It drives me crazy, but I am proud of him. He makes good decisions and does well in school. He earns all his own money and works hard for it. And last week, he took a girl to a dance. That was a big accomplishment! He wouldn't let me post about it so this is all you'll get. :)

Sometimes I just can't believe that he's actually a guy. Where does the time go?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Me? A runner?

There are lots of people out there who have decided to do things they thought they couldn't, and I've decided to turn myself into one of them and become a runner. But it wasn't an easy decision.

A little history: when I was little and just learning how to walk, my right knee started swelling up inexplicably, preventing me from walking on it. This would happen periodically, and my mom and dad of course had no idea why. They were worried. So was my pediatrician. My parents heard lots of "could be this, could be that," such as leukemia, and that was scary. Ultimately, the decision was made to perform surgery on my knee. It was opened up so that the doctors could see what was going on. Since then, I've lived with this lovely scar that grew as I grew:

{I've been asked about this scar my whole life, and it doesn't bother me a bit. Except when I apply tanning lotion to my legs and the scar doesn't change. :P}

So back to surgery #1. When the doctors opened up the knee, they found a hemangioma, an abnormal collection of blood vessels that are sort of open-ended, growing inside the joint. It would bleed into the knee joint, causing the swelling. Doctors removed it and scraped out the inside of the joint. Problem over, right?

I wish. Periodically through my growing up years, my knee would swell. If it swelled really bad, yellow fluid would be aspirated from it. This happened maybe once every two years or so, with more minor episodes of swelling in between. When I got to be a senior in high school, it swelled badly one day, requiring a visit to an orthopedic surgeon. He aspirated blood from it. He also took x-rays and determined that there were bone fragments floating around inside the joint, which were probably causing irritation. I had surgery again to clean it up (arthroscopic this time, thankfully). After the second surgery and several months of physical therapy (ouch!) the knee was better than before, with still some very occasional swelling, but not nearly as often. Most of this would happen with pregnancy and the extra hormones.

Fast forward to the last several months, and I'm growing tired of watching my hubby and daughter go out and run without me. I've been exercising consistently for over 18 months, and my knee feels better than ever. After reading that recent studies show that cartilage in the body, especially joints, seems to be HELPED by exercise instead of harmed (sort of like a supply & demand thing--more demand equals more supply) I have turned my "I can't run because of my knee" into "I'm going to try it and see what happens." I am using this schedule (I'm on week 3) and so far, it feels great! I am loving to run. I can feel myself becoming addicted to it, and I love breaking a good sweat and feeling the stress drain away. In between days on the treadmill I am keeping up with my strength training and yoga because building leg strength has really helped strengthen the knee.

I'm realistic, and I know that I won't run any marathons with my hubby (he's running one this June). That would probably push it too far, but I am excited to work up to being able to run a 5k or maybe even a 10k with him. I'll keep you posted! If I can do it, trust me, anyone can. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

So I'm predictable.

Except when I'm not. Like when I had my hair genius dye my hair dark reddish blonde and my hubby couldn't find me in church. No joke.

Hubs and I had this conversation last night. It seems that every night, he gets into bed first (true), then I come along, turn down the covers on my side, and then go into the bathroom (another truth). I don't know why I do it in this particular order, but I do. So last night, he got into bed and I came in and turned down the covers on my side and then turned to walk away and Jeff started laughing and said, "I knew you were going to do that."

This started a conversation about how I'm predictable. I tried to tell him that he's predictable too, but he refused. He said, "You didn't know I was going to bring you an orchid."

"No," I said.

"You didn't know I was going to bring you TWO kinds of chocolate."

"No," I said.

"You didn't know I was going to give you three different cards."

"No, I didn't know that either."

"See? I'm not predictable."

Except when he is. Like when he gets into bed first EVERY night. :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cookie pops

Libby and Mia have best friends who are also sisters. This has been a great thing for them, especially Libby and her friend who are like two little peas in a pod. They are continually sharing toys and things with each other, even giving each other their own toys because they love each other so much! Their cute little friends today delivered a Funfetti cookie pop kit for them for Valentine's Day. Lib and Mia had LOTS of fun making and decorating the cookie pops, and did the decorating entirely themselves. (We're going to have to worry about homework later. Who can do homework when you have cookie pops to make?) White icing is included in the kit, but we also had some good butter cream icing in pink and red, and they used that also. They did an awesome job!

Monday, February 13, 2012

A post for my valentine

{me and my almost 24-year valentine}

Dear Valentine,

I love you so much! You are the best thing that ever happened to me. Really. Even better than eating chocolate. Even better than finding/buying/fixing up our dream house. Even better than having six awesome kids. Even better than gaining a second mother. Because all of it wouldn't have happened without you. Except for eating chocolate, since we both know I do that every day. I admit it. But hey, you do earn the money for my fix. So thanks! :)

A few of the best things you have ever done for me include: holding my hand through hours and hours and hours of labor and refusing to leave my side; always accepting and loving me no matter what I looked like (and there have been some bad days!); telling me that you love to hear the sound of my voice (I posted about that here); when we were tearing out our old kitchen and you handed me a hammer and told me to go for it, knowing how I hated that old yellow counter top, and then took a pic of me hammering the heck out of it; you coming in when I'm sick, using your sweet voice (Yes! You do have one!) to ask me what you can do for me; patiently covering your head with your pillow at night instead of getting mad at me when I turn on my reading light; and finally, all the things you bring me from work so that I can have fun being creative. All of these things melt my heart.

Thank you for being the BEST valentine a girl ever hoped for! I will try to be the best valentine for you. I won't turn on the reading light tonight. Promise. :)

Love, me

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentines for dogs? Of course!

{Molly's valentine, taped to the wall above her bed.}

{Duke's sits on his kennel.}

Libby had extra valentines left over when she prepared valentines for her class, so she decided that the dogs needed one too. I overheard her tell Mia that she was making valentines for the dogs.

Libby: "I'm giving a valentine to Duke and Molly."

Mia: "You're giving valentines to the dogs?!"

Libby: "Of course!! Dogs need love!!" (Said in a tone that suggested she couldn't believe Mia would even ask such a thing).

I love that girl. She's awesome!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dad can do it better!

Picture Libby and Mia at the kitchen table. Libby is watching Mia put together a box for her class Valentine's Day party. (Whatever happened to the days where we made Valentine boxes at school?) I am at the kitchen sink washing dishes, and I hear this:

Libby: Why aren't you waiting until Dad gets home?

Mia: Because why wait, when I can do it myself?

Libby: Dad can do it better!

Monday, February 6, 2012

These may be sinful...

But I don't care! Anything chocolate is not on my list of sinful. :)

These brownies were adapted from a recipe I saw done on America's Test Kitchen. ATK is one of the shows Jeff and I like to watch on Saturday mornings. (We also like This Old House, and no ideas I get from there are going to negatively impact my waistline like some ideas I get from ATK).

On this particular episode, ATK actually went out on the streets of some big city (I don't remember which one) and taste-tested particular, homemade vs. brownies from a boxed mix. I wasn't surprised that most people picked the boxed mix over the homemade. Those who picked homemade said it was because of the better chocolate flavor, while those who picked the mix said it was because of the chewiness. So America's Test Kitchen set out to make homemade brownies with great chocolate flavor and the chewiness of a boxed mix. Turns out the secret is in using both butter and oil. Who knew? Not me! But now I do, and these will be the brownies I make from now on. Jeff said that they were so good he had to have seconds and that he would have to run extra for it this week. :)

Chewy Brownies
from America's Test Kitchen

1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa
1 1/2 t. instant espresso (optional, and I left it out)
1/2 c. plus 2 T. boiling water
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 T. unsalted butter, melted (I only buy salted butter so that is what I used)
1/2 c. plus 2 T. vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 t. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 t. salt
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut in 1/2 in. pieces (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Adjust oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 350. Line a 13x9 pan with foil (leaving length on the foil at the ends)and spray with cooking spray. Whisk cocoa & boiling water together until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until it melts. Whisk in butter and oil. Add eggs, yolks and vanilla. Continue to whisk until smooth and well mixed. Add sugar and whisk until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and stir with a rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces. Bake until a toothpick inserted halfway between the center and the edge comes out with moist crumbs, 30-35 minutes. Cool on wire rack 1 1/2 hours. Lift brownies out of the pan by holding the foil. Continue to cool on wire rack another hour (if you can wait that long!) Cut into 2-inch squares. Makes 24 brownies.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Jared's latest invention

Jared, my 14 year old son, is the king of invention. He loves working with his hands. Whether it's building things (with any medium), fixing things, or designing things and then building them, he's got it covered. Recently he started taking a foods class at school. This translated to, "Mom, I'm going to make a cake today. From scratch."

"Okay," I said, while simultaneously thinking, "Do you know HOW to bake a cake? From scratch?"

I let him have at it (although he needed a little instruction in the proper way to cream butter and sugar. He found out that you can't do it right with a whisk). He found a recipe for a Brown Sugar Pound Cake online and baked it up.

When it came time to take the cake out of the oven, I was not home. He cooled the cake "for a LONG time!" and then attempted to turn it out of the pan, only the top stuck in the bottom of the pan.

Now, if you're me, you try to carefully loosen the top from the pan and lay it on the cake like it's supposed to be. But if you're Jared, you don't do that. That's too boring.

If you're Jared, you crumble the top into bits (while probably taking a few taste tests) and then cram it all into the hole in the center of the cake. Then you cover it all up with a thick layer of frosting. You're left with a flat, hole-less bundt cake, but who cares? It tastes great.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Playing favorites

This is our treadmill. It's older, but we only paid $50 for it. So hey. And depending on who you ask, it works great.

I like the treadmill, and it likes me. I've been using it 3 times per week for walk/runs to build up my running time. I would really like to be able to go on short runs with Jeff, and the treadmill is going to help me get there. At least that's the plan. So far, so good.

But ask Jeff about the treadmill, and you'll get a different story. It would actually be quite comical if it wasn't so strange, and so maddening for Jeff. Every time Jeff tries to use the treadmill, it quits on him. Lately, he might get a whole 7 minutes of running time before it just dies. EVERY TIME. I know when it dies, because I will hear it stop, followed by the sound of Jeff making a very frustrated "AAAUUGGHHH!"

I could have used it without a problem earlier that very day, or I could get on the next morning and have no trouble. I can get through a whole program--20 or 30 minutes. When I use it, it works. When he uses it, it doesn't. And it's crazy because it makes no sense.

Can treadmills play favorites? Because this one does.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Little me & a life-long love

This is little me. Two years old, and loving to vacuum.

Big me STILL loves to vacuum. So much so that when I had high risk pregnancies and was told that I shouldn't vacuum, I kinda-sorta still did...on more than one occasion. (I promise I was careful!) I just love to vacuum so much that I couldn't not do it. Something about watching all the little bits of whatever get sucked up, leaving cleanliness and order behind. I know, it's bordering on obsessive, but it's a glimpse into the real me.

The real me hates folding laundry, by the way. Just putting that out there.

What household chore do you love? Which do you hate?