Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wrappin' up summer..

So I am in a sad spot right now. We just came home from a trip to California and I realized it is the end of any and all planned trips, and pretty much the end of the summer. How did that happen? I know we have lots of warm weather still ahead of us, but all of our adventures are mostly over. I guess I have been pretty spoiled this summer, always having something to look forward to. All I have to look forward to is the ward campout (which we are in charge of so it makes it more work than fun) and in September, 10 days all alone while Jevan is out of the country. Bleh. I probably sound like such a whiner but I can't help myself. So to cheer me up, I'm posting a bunch of pictures from this month that make me happy.

My dear friend Elisa came into town a few weeks ago and we were able to spend time with her up at her ranch house in East Canyon. It was so fun to be with her, Marie and Marisa and all our little ones. We were quite the group. It was very chaotic but really fun.

Elisa & Nat

Jane sharing her many pairs of beloved sunglasses with Noah.

We made it to the pond!

The whole crew of was a miracle we got this shot.

Allison's "don't mess with me" face...

Jevan's summer work party up at Snowbird. Jane LOVED the alpine slide and riding up on the ski lift.
Have I mentioned Jane is obsessed with sunglasses?


Doesn't get better than face painting and balloons...

A hike up near Alta in Albion Basin to see the wildflowers:
Allie the drunken hiker

Allison trying to keep up with Jane.

True trouble...

Giggle fit...

The flowers were really pretty but it's hard to tell in our pictures...

And finally, California. Last weekend we went to Newport Beach to Jevan's cousin Cameron's (the groom) wedding. Jane and Allison were flower girls, along with their cousins, Hazel and Chloe. We went with Jevan's sisters and had such a blast.

The reception was held in backyard in a town outside of Newport and it was a picture out of a fairytale, seriously one of the most amazing yards I have ever seen. It had a pool made to look like a mountain pool, complete with rock waterslide...a covered dance floor, a huge willow tree with tables and benches underneath, pathways through fruit trees, ponds with fish connected by a bridge, and even had a rabbit that made it's home there and nibbled at the grass at our feet from time to time. The huge attraction for the kids was an amazing playhouse - one that looked like a house down to the tiniest detail such as a doorbell, wooden shutters, mailbox and a working light on the outside by the door. Inside there was a complete little kitchen, living room with couches and a TV and a loft that several kids could sleep in. Needless to say, they stayed in there through the whole reception.

We also hit the beach while we were there and once again, the kids were in heaven. They played so hard, jumping in waves, building huge sand pits, even making pans of sand lasagna (we could not find beach toys ANYWHERE! Weird huh? We had to resort to buying kitchen utensils and pans for them to play with...). Jane loved spending time with her cousins and I had a great time with Jevan's family. We were all in the same hotel with rooms right next to each other and so at night, after the kids were in bed, we would play games until all hours. Such a fun trip!!

A rare moment when Allison wasn't running wild or busy being tired and angry.

Jane as a flower girl

Flower girls with Cameron's new bride. Hazel and Chloe, Jane and Allie's darling cousins, are on the right.
Crazy that these kids are cousins, huh?
In Jevan's family all the kids are either the "black hairs" or the "white hairs".

Allison checking out the amazing playhouse...

Beach day!!

Jane burying herself in the pit...

Jane and her cousin Calvin.They are only 3 weeks apart and together they are darling (most of the time :)).

Monday, August 25, 2008

My child, the pack rat

Jane is starting to turn into a pack rat. She loves to make stashes of toys and books all over the house. Maybe she is preparing for a random toy shortage, or protecting her property from other scavengers (Allison?). Regardless the reason, it is starting to get annoying because I have to contort myself into all sorts of nooks and crannies all over the house just to find a certain toy or book. Here was what I found behind the big armchair in Allison's room this morning when I got out of the shower. What a nut. We should send her to live with the chipmunks.
Honestly, child.

Monday, August 18, 2008

She said it...

So I came home from work tonight and Jane & Em had been making some zucchini bread. During the course of the chaos we like to call "a nice relaxing family meal", the timer on the oven went off. Jane was quite concerned about "her" bread, and Em was engaged trying to feed Allie some soup, so I jumped up and pulled the bread out.

A few minutes later Em noticed that the perfectly formed loaves that came out of the oven were looking more like the Grand Canyon than the picture on the recipe, and we soon concluded that they were severely undercooked. We put them back in the oven, knowing that they wouldn't re-inflate but at least they would be cooked. We showed Jane what happened, and when she asked who broke the bread I told her it was me. She looked at me and said in an exasperated tone "Dad, you aren't supposed to be cooking. You're not a mom yet." Who am I to argue? I hope she says the same thing about doing the dishes next time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Out of the Ordinary

So here's a little bit of a confession: I don't know if anyone else ever feels like this but sometimes when I am reading one of those blog posts about all the amazing things that person accomplished in one day (cook, craft, redecorate, and still find time to do something amazing with their kids) I either feel inspired or totally discouraged. Sometimes I think to myself, "What did I accomplish today? Let's see, I fed my kids, I switched the laundry from washer to dryer just before it started to take on that mildew smell, and...hmmm..oh yeah, scooped the dog poop in the backyard so the kids wouldn't step in it....(*sigh*)." Sad realization. I was talking about this with my sister in law one day and she said something simple but poignant. "Em, people only really blog their good days. No one blogs all their bad of course it seems like their life is wonderfully productive all the time." Huh. I think people need to blog bad days so the rest of us don't feel like we are about as productive as a doorknob. So I've decided that I am going to start to blog some of my bad days. I don't want to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. Scooping poop is often the most productive thing I do in a day.

That being said, I actually had one of those "good" days yesterday with some stuff I wanted to share. I had to add the disclaimer above so everyone would know this is NOT my usual life. It probably is yours though....'cause all my friends and family ARE amazing to me.

So yesterday I had a cooking success and a crafting success in one day. Granted they were a little bit forced on me (what am I going to do with the herd of zucchini taking over my counter...and...what am I going to do for my Young Womens class activity tomorrow night?) but successes all the same.

First the cooking: Let me just say that I love my garden. There is something so fulfilling about going outside and picking your own food and then cooking with it. I don't know what it is but it really makes me smile. If you have ever thought of starting one, I highly recommend it. Don't think you can't do it. I was intimidated for the longest time but finally got a space ready and just threw stuff out...and it grew!!! I was amazed. I have zucchinis up the wazoo, yellow squash, green and red peppers, beans, swiss chard, basil, oregano, TONS of tomatoes and sweet tomatoes...and...hold on to your hats....cantalopes! Truly a miracle given that I had no idea what I was doing. I was inspired by my sister-in-law who is always making the yummiest stuff from her garden bounty and decided it was time I tried my hand at it. It has been so fun. Jane loves going out to pick things...although she usually gets distracted by the snails, all of which she wants to keep as pets. Yesterday she put one on her swing and pushed it back and forth for a while, asking if it was having a good time.

So as is common with zucchini, I am completely inundated with them at the moment. It has given me the chance to try out all kinds of different recipes. So far I have made zucchini bread, a zucchini and tomato casserole, and am thinking about making some zucchini brownies that my friend tried and said were pretty good. But the best recipe so far was one I tried yesterday and I wanted to post it because I think it is a real keeper. Honestly, SO good. And, suprisingly quick to make. It manages to be velvety and creamy without really any cream. I found it online and then tweeked it a bit so here is my version:

1 1/2 pounds zucchini coarsely chopped
1 medium to large onion, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped (depends on your garlic tolerance)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 and 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground ginger
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/4 cup milk (optional...I added it)
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
Cook onion and half of your garlic in the olive oil in a 3 qt saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add chopped zucchini and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and water and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 15 minutes.
Puree the zucchini with the basil and the rest of the garlic in 2 batches in a blender.
Season with with salt and pepper.

There you have it. See what you think. Next I am going to try a swiss chard dip my sister-in-law gave me.

So I have never been into crafts. I think it goes back to my Girls Camp days when I would watch the boys go on backpacking trips to the Uinta mountains and I was stuck making fabric heart wreaths. I just don't have the skills or attention span for them...although that is starting to change as I do more things...and since I have had Andrea (my Martha Stewart clone of a sister-in-law...although she is a lot nicer than Martha) in my life. Here's what I made yesterday for my Mia Maids to make and take to their secret ward grandparents. We filled them mini-chocolate chip cookies and they turned out so cute. You make them with printed cardstock scrapbook paper. Here's the website I used:
I figure it was a good little thing to learn because everyone has scrapbook paper lying around and you can make an impromptu gift box really easily. I was mostly surprised at how much fun I had making them.

Anyway, so there is a rare day in my life. Next time it will be about all the other days that go oh so wrong. And to Becca and's is what I hope you are saying right now..."You're doing it, Em. You're playing with us!"

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Camping With Kids 101

Here is what I learned during my first real camping trip with two toddlers (and our friends the Christensens) in Capitol Reef National Park.

1. Leaving late is a bad idea. You get to the campground at 11pm, try to set up a new tent the size of Texas, next try to blow up the HUGE air mattress (so big, folks, that it can be turned into couch so you can accept visitors to your tent with style......thanks Jimarie :)), and keep kids from screaming while dodging hurricanes of gnats swarming around your headlamp...trying to do all this QUIETLY so the neighboring campers don't come by and curse you out.
Yeah... that smile belies the lack of sleep...

2. Take friends that are not only kind and helpful but patient beyond belief. Ones that aren't afraid of tantrums, boogers, muddy hands, predatory animals, and putting your kids in time out FOR you. We took some like that, although I just threw in the predatory animals for good measure. I'm sure Tom could take down a bear if he needed to...or at least a large badger. (There WERE a lot of hungry-looking deer...)
Hanging out in the hammock w/ Sarah

3. When kids are camping, dirt suddenly becomes far more appealing to eat than food. Allie went to town on a nice red pile of dirt with her spoon.
Breakfast... and Em actually cooked bacon! We forced Allie to eat something other than dirt.

4. When camping with 18 mo. olds, always bring some sort of rope to tie them down to their beds at night. Otherwise, you watch helplessly as they wander around the tent like a drunkard for at least 30 minutes, bumping, falling, and colliding with everyone and everything until they collapse in an exhausted heap at your feet. And since they were yelling basically the whole time, you are again waiting for the neighbors to come curse you out.
Beware the midget camp monster.

5. Camp Hosts are not nice. For the longest time I have thought how fun it would be to be one of these when Jevan and I get old someday, spending a summer out in the great outdoors (can't you just see Jevan in his RV with a huge cable dish and a golf cart parked outside? Yeah, I know I'm dreaming..but a girl can dream, right?). Now I'm not so sure. I think in order to be considered for the job, you have to grow fangs and contort your face permanently into a gnarly scowl...and smell like smoke and vaseline. We got yelled at for not putting our money in their little box at midnight the first night, thinking we would do it in the morning. Like we make a living out of sneaking in and out of campgrounds without paying, totally unnoticed, with the aforementioned Texas-sized tent and two screaming kids. Honestly, people.
"Lovely day for a match, don't you think dear?"

6. When all else fails, bring out the Cheez-its.
"I will stand on this cooler and scream until SOMEONE gets me some food. Seriously."

7. It's nice to visit desert redrock places when there is a waterfall involved. Although we were already wet from the rain, it was nice to cool off in the big pool and let Jane and Allie build castles in the mud.
Making mud castles.

8. Waterfalls and speedos do not mix. Someone needs to tell this to our European visitors....bless their hearts. They also need to know that going up one size in the speedo so it doesn't climb up your behind is also a good idea.
This might seem like a silly picture of me, but may I please draw your attention to the Euro-cheeks in the background. Yes, my husband took a picture of another man's behind. Feel free to mock him.

Jumping Jane.

9. Never make tinfoil dinners any other way than how Tom & Sarah do it. Ohmigosh..they are so good. Your dinner may very well come out to weigh about 40 pounds and you will eat every bit of it. The secret is drowning your potatoes, carrots and meat in cream of mushroom soup and then putting a layer of wet newspaper in between the layers of tinfoil. So yummy.
LOOK AT THAT FARMER TAN!!! Jevan is hiding his.

10. For those of us who don't have DVD players in the car, make sure you have some good kid tunes. There's a guy named Steve Roslonek (he does Stevesongs on PBS now) that has some really cool songs, and I highly recommend you getting them. However, after 5 hours of them, even the most entertaining of children's music can start to sound like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Allie likes to bounce. A lot. Almost as much as eating dirt.

11. Take a breather once and a while and enjoy all those wonderful moments of curiosity and discovery as your kids experience the wonders of the natural world. I loved watching Jane and Allie chase bugs, pick juniper berries and wander after the deer in the campground. I have looked forward to this time my whole life - being able to take my kids to all the wonderful forests, deserts and mountains I visited as a kid. I hope to instill a love of the outdoors in my kids like my parents did for me. That means I have to be able to stop every 5 steps to check out the latest bug or funny shaped rock (which if they were anything out of the ordinary were always "seashells" to Jane) and stop worrying if I'm going to actually finish all 2 miles of the trail.
We were the coolest campers there. So cool, in fact, that a strange (and potentially European) couple came and stared at us for the entire time we were there. I think either they were really bored or we were just that interesting. Or they were alien vampires.

In the end, we all came home dusty, exhausted, happy and alive. For those reasons and simply because Jane asked the next morning when we were going camping again, I count the trip as a success.