Monday, December 22, 2008


We had beautiful snow today. You know- the really big fluffy flakes that make the whole world (out our windows, at least) look like a gigantic snow globe. It was a perfect stay-at-home-and-bake-for-Christmas kind of day. Erica decided to try her own snow-measuring device. She taped two rulers together, end to end, and stuck them out on the deck. There were a couple of inches already out there from the weekend, but the chair started out with no snow on it at all. The blue tape you can see is where the 2 (12 inch) rulers are joined together.

At one point today our neighbors' basketball net was filled up with snow. Guess that makes it a wet, sticky snowfall for today. The temps were right around freezing, so this afternoon the snow started melting a bit. It was an odd sensation to watch the snow fall from the sky and melt lower down the ruler at the same time. That didn't happen long. The snow fell faster and crept back up the ruler as well. And, tonight is supposed to be in the teens, so I doubt the snow goes anywhere before morning.

Dear Next Door Neighbor even showed up with his snow blower a couple of times and cleared the driveway and front walk for us. I really do need to make that man a loaf of bread or something.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Ok. Still no luck with the pictures. Don't know what I did, but I did it well. I even tried removing the cutsie blog stuff, but no luck. I will figure this out, though (probably after Christmas) and post some pictures.

The pictures I was trying to post were of Spencer before and after braces. Yes, Tuesday was the big day. He was very excited all day Tuesday and not so much Wednesday, Thursday. His mouth has been pretty sore. The past couple of days have been better. He says they only hurt now when he bites down, so he hasn't been eating much. Maybe I should go get braces. Having never had braces, I found the whole "installation" process very interesting.That's one documentary or "how-they-did-it" special I've never seen before.

It looks like we are finally going to get our white Christmas. It's snowed about every other day, sometimes a bunch, sometimes not. Tomorrow we could get up to 10 inches. I love watching it fall. I don't even mind the shoveling. Our driveway here is about 1/2 the length of the one in NH, so haven't even had time to enjoy the alone time before it's done. (The kids generally won't come find me when I'm out shoveling.) We're running highs in the 20's, so I'm fairly confident the snow we have gotten isn't going any where before Christmas. Love it.

Our dear nextdoor neighbor is just a fanatical about our yard when it's covered with snow as when it's full of weeds. He checks to make sure the sidewalk is properly shoveled and that we have plenty of ice melt spread. I'm doing my best to be outside as soon as the snow is done so I can shovel myself. Gotta figure a way to channel all his extra energy, but it's nice to know it'll be shoveled if we're ever not around to take care of it.

Ok, again. I was just showing Greg that I can't upload any pictures and it uploaded pictures. I think that between ordering online and blogging I should just avoid my computer. We apparently do not have a very good working relationship. I'm not going back to redo this post though. I might push another button I won't know how to undo. So, here are the long-awaited before and after shots. Enjoy.

Since AZ is about the only place in the country not having snow and ice and lots of our family and friends are there, I'm sending out a bit of a White Christmas. These were taken the morning of the day Spencer got his braces and we've had a bunch since. So, Mom, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I hit the "remove formatting from selection" button (looks like an eraser) on the "create post" page and now can't post any pictures. I discovered there is no "undo" button on the "create post" page. Shame. I could use one right about now. The help feature wasn't exactly helpful- either because I didn't ask the right questions, or I'm the only person to do this and there isn't a need for an answer, or both, or something else. At any rate, my tiredness level has exceeded recommended levels, so I'm off to bed. Anyone out there know what I did and how I can fix it? What is it they say in grade school- "you can be my best friend" if you can fix my problem!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Happiness in Fries and a Calendar

Tonight was Spencer's band concert. It was also Erica's orchestra concert. Since they were basically at the same time, Greg got to go with Erica and I got to take Spencer. Since Spencer's started first and had a higher probability of shortness, the other boys all decided to accompany me. There were only 8 songs between 3 bands, but the boys were getting a bit antsy by the end- especially since I wouldn't let them play the DS during the concert. What a mean mom I am. Then, magic. The last song of the night was "Carol of the Bells". Someone, somewhere (probably a McDonald's commercial) taught our children a different version which they love. I was suddenly surrounded with a small chorus of "Ding, fries are done. Ding, fries are done." and "Would you like an apple pie with that? Would you like an apple pie with that?" This particular version and many extra "Ding, fries are done" stanzas, but the boys just sang right along (quietly, so the neighbors couldn't hear) Turned out to be the best song in the concert for our boys. And since said concert was now over, they were free to play the DS while waiting for Spencer to come find us. Double dose of Christmas cheer.

The tradition for the past several years is that Greg would order a new calendar for my birthday, but this year it never happened. I've been using the calendar sold on the Flylady website, but this year wanted something different. I looked and searched and finally decided to go back to the More Time Mom's Calendar that I used to use. It arrived yesterday. Not a big deal except that I ordered it 31 days before. Chalk it up to my amazing online ordering skills -which I'm finding are somewhat deficient. Once again, I managed to order something online and have it sent to the wrong address. This time it went to our last house in Arizona. In my defense, this calendar was ordered from Two semesters worth of books for Greg have been successfully ordered and delivered to our current address since August. I thought nothing at all about having Amazon send the calendar to their address on file. Somehow that address on file was suddenly in AZ. After waiting for two weeks I checked online to find that it had been delivered to our old house. This time I had a phone number because our landlords had moved in after we moved out. Sure enough, they had it and said they'd mail it. I waited two more weeks and then called them again. It was still at their house, but I was promised it would be mailed the next day. It was! And, it arrived here, at this very house, just yesterday. Hooray! My life now exists after New Year's Eve! I am very happy and am doing all of my shopping this Christmas at brick and mortar stores. Some things just can't be late or otherwise diverted.

Monday, December 1, 2008


My daughter drove the couple of miles home tonight. In the dark. For several blocks on 9th East (semi-major road here). She really does pretty well, I shouldn't complain. This is just one of those times my major perfectionist, dislike-of-the-unknown self comes right up front. It's the experience she needs and that requires actually driving. Too bad one can't learn this osmotically. I'd talk her (and some day his, his, his, and his) ears off. Education is expensive (still!) for both the parents and the child. Both are at least trying very hard to be understanding of the other. I'll continue to be grateful the expense we're paying is emotional and not monetary. I have a new and very deep appreciation for my parents. They have moved up several notches on the respect meter. Younger siblings, once again, HA! By the time you get to this point I will be so done. Children, if you read this, I love you all and really do want your happiness a freedom. Even if there are times I'm a little less relaxed in the car than others.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Decorations

Today is the annual "put-up-the-Christmas-decorations-and-hope-we're-still-speaking-to-each-other-when-we're-done" day. This one has been the best, by far. Maybe the kids are old enough to really help (notice most are almost as tall as the tree!), or maybe it's just a new setting with a little more room for everyone to get around, or maybe the radio station here plays better Christmas music. Whatever the reason, the tree was up in no time flat, smiles were still to be seen, and a few minutes of quality family time had actually taken place. There were lots of "Oh, I remember"'s going on- remember getting some ornament, or making some ornament, or the person who gave us an ornament, or something special in relation to an ornament. Before we knew it, the boxes were empty and the tree was full. No, our tree, or Christmas for that matter, doesn't have a particular "look". The best decoration we put up every year is the one no one can see, but grows bigger and brighter every year...we decorate with memories.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Number of the Day is...

I'm becoming obsessed with gas prices, probably because they involve numbers (and I love numbers) and those numbers directly involve my wallet. I usually top off the tank once a week and lately it's been almost fun. Instead of prices jumping 20-30 cents a week, they've been falling by nearly that much. Bear with me as I document it so some day I can look back and "remember when". Today's fabulous price.....drum roll please....... $1.62 a gallon. Yea! I put 11 gallons in our 22 gallon tank for only $18. Wow! That definitely takes me back to early 2004. I remember gas in AZ "skyrocketing" that spring because a pipeline was down. Gas went up as far as $1.99 before finally dropping back down and there were lines for blocks at gas stations because no one had any gasoline. Don't know about you, but I vote for the price to stay low for awhile. Erica thinks prices should drop to $1.50 because it's a round number and easier to work with. I'm ok with that price, but I'll be happy if it just hangs out here for a little bit, too.

It's Official

Since I've been accused of neglecting my daughter on this blog, I am dedicating this post to her. Last week brought her birthday, another trip around the sun. Presents and cake were the order of the day. Today was the real treat, though. She and I made the drive to the DMV and we now have a new driver in the family. The learner's permit turned out to be a little more difficult to obtain than we expected. State offices are only open M-TH and as I'm opposed to taking anyone out of school for anything short of near-death, we've had a hard time getting over there. The school district was kind enough to give the kids the day off today, so away we went.

Success! Greg and I had to take the test when we got new licenses last summer. It was open book for us, though. New drivers have to take it from memory. Glad I didn't have to. The kids get three chances to pass. Erica did it the first time. Now, it's on to the practical part of the training. It's a very strange place to be- remembering my own permit experiences and suddenly having a child in the same position. My parents seemed so much more patient, wise, and prepared than I feel. Wish us luck!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Don't Trip With Your Hands in Your Pockets

Ryan had a not-so-fun Friday. He tripped and fell on the way to school. It was a chilly morning and he had his hands in his pockets at the time. As a result, his face took the brunt of his up-close and personal meeting with the sidewalk. It really didn't look too bad at first- just a bleeding scrape on the side of his nose. He cried the most about hitting his head, but he never even got a lump there. We finished the walk to school and I got him cleaned up in the nurses office and off to class with a small bag of ice. By the time I picked him up after school, his whole left cheek was red and scraped. This picture was taken this morning, because I kept forgetting to take one before today. He's looking much better now (except when he has hot chocolate all over his face and then it looks worse!) and can't wait for the scab on his nose to be gone. It bothers him and he keeps picking at it. I'd kind of hoped to try for a Christmas picture this weekend, but I think we'll try again later! I'm just so grateful it wasn't any worse.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Can't Believe I Forgot

The other biggest miracle for today- I paid $1.86 for gas today. There may be lower prices out there, but I don't think I've seen gas that low for nearly 4 years. That was way back when $2 gas seemed completely outrageous. That also means that we've dropped below the 1/2-price mark from a high in July of $4.16 here. I know the economy pretty much stinks right now, but there's one big ol' silver lining.

A Little Sress Never Hurt Anyone...

Biggest miracle for today- I survived Young Women in Excellence. Whew! I don't know why, but I have been more nervous for this particular hour than anything else for quite a while back. I've attended a couple of them before, but never been in charge of one. I felt a little blind going in, but I work with some great ladies. Almost everyone who needed to be there showed up, the Laurel class president (who conducted) was fabulous about last minute changes, I made it through my part of the presentation, we kept it under an hour, and the refreshments tasted really good to me. Tonight, I will sleep well. I may even hold off stressing about New Beginnings until after Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I know that I told Erica I liked my blog the way it was. But, I love fall colors and when I saw this I had to try it. There's also a really cute Christmas background I like. May have to just ditch lighthouses for a while!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Growing Up

Tomorrow is the big day. Erica will be driving permit eligible. Thankfully, the state of UT allows me to put my head in the sand for a few extra days. They switched to a 4-10 work schedule in August. So, no (or very few) state offices are open Friday - Sunday. That means I can put off until Monday what I'm both excitedly anticipating and nervously dreading today. All those years of little ones running around and feeling like they'd never grow up. I was warned that I'd turn around and suddenly the little ones would be gone. I couldn't believe it. No way would that happen. Guess what? It did. I used to dream of them being in highschool. Gone would be concerns of running into the street, or needing to be entertained, or having to worry about them at all any more. They'd be grown and I'd be well on my way to freedom (emotionally at least). I was partly right. I don't worry about them (generally) running out into the street, they're pretty good (most of the time) at entertaining themselves, it's that worry part that hasn't gone away. My grandma warned me about that, too. Once again, I had a hard time believing it. She told me that you worry even when they're married and have children of their own. What?! But, I'm beginning to understand. Think it's hard sending your baby to kindergarten for the first time? Try putting your somewhat controlling/perfectionist self in a car with one completely inexperienced driver and relaxing while she hits that pedal for the first time. Or worse, try the thought of handing said driver the keys to the car for the first time and relaxing until both (but especially the child) returns home in one piece. I do, at least, get to monitor the driving for the next 12 months. Haven't decided if that's for her practice or mine. I must say here that Erica is a great young lady and I really do trust her. I just have to learn to let go. Good thing it takes 16 years and a minimum of 6 months with a permit to be able to drive. It takes the parents that long to grow enough to handle it!

Monday, November 10, 2008


I was poking around on the internet and came across this very cool piece of knowledge (for all you Trivial Pursuit fans). This particular diamond was identified in 2004, so maybe you've already heard about it. I hadn't. Wouldn't fit very well on your finger, or in your state for that matter, but it's just lying there- if only you could figure out how to get there to claim it! (FYI 4000 km is about 2500 miles.)

Saturday Night

I'll have to thank my neighbor for not wanting her apples and Greg for his help cleaning up my fabulous mess!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Of Dishes and Volleyball

I am blogging because I don't want to be doing the dishes. Guess you know where my priorities lie. If I blog long enough I can go to volleyball and procrastinate the dishes for another hour. What an amazing time-manager I am. Dishes have never been my forte, but I do them because we like to eat every day. In fact, I don't have very many dishes so that we HAVE to wash them and I can't fill my kitchen with dirty dishes. That's just too depressing, even for me. For awhile I was doing great with the Flylady system (She saved my sanity at one point. Love that woman.) I just haven't figured out the swing of things since we've moved.

I'd rather write about and play volleyball than write about and do dishes. I play on my ward's team. We aren't very good, but we have a GREAT time. There are six of us and four of the six serve in Young Women. So, as far as meeting new people, it hasn't helped so much, but I've really enjoyed getting to know the ladies I serve with. We're doing very well in our stake play because the other teams are afraid of us. They keep not showing up, so we win by forfeit. We usually play for fun and to practice with anyone else who's hanging around. Tonight our game is at 9:30. Absolutely crazy time, if you ask me, but I'll go anyway. My favorite position is the left front, but any where on the front line will do. I LOVE to spike and block. It will be interesting to see how the knees feel tonight. They haven't been overly thrilled about my volleyball enjoyment, but have complained less and less each week. It's only been 5 days since we last played and they don't hurt at all. It used to take me all week and then some to recover. The tournament is next week. The top four teams get to go to regionals. Sadly, we'll probably go- because I think there's only about 4 teams who regularly show up. I love to play, but this time of year the calendar is already full.

Ok, that's about it for the random, flow-of-consciousness thoughts on dishes and volleyball. My conscience is getting the better of me. I've got 10 minutes. I'll do the dishes and then head out the door. Then I can come home and sleep peacefully having done both this evening.

Monday, November 3, 2008


A friend emailed today with questions about cholesterol. I thought I'd post my reply if anyone else was interested.

Cholesterol is so much fun! First thing to ask, if you don't know, is what are your LDL, HDL, and Tri-glyceride numbers. LDL is the bad cholesterol and HDL is good. You can have high total cholesterol because your HDL numbers are high, which is a different situation than high LDL. Your body makes more HDL when you exercise and that tends to also lower your LDL levels. I have seen the biggest drop in my cholesterol after moving here. The only thing I can think that I've done differently is change my amount of exercise, but I haven't run a full blown experiment or anything.

After exercise, watching the fat (amount and types) you eat and the kinds of foods can make a huge difference. My doctor originally told me to try to eat no more than 30 g of fat a day, but I could have one day a week "off". It's kind of tough, to be honest. I have since learned that advice can be tweeked a bit. There are some foods high in fat that are actually good for lowering cholesterol- salmon (and other high fatty fish like tuna and halibut), almonds, avocados, and flax seed for example. The suggestion as far as fish is to eat it at least twice a week. I personally can not stand salmon, so that's automatically out for me. Consumption of saturated fats leads to higher cholesterol levels, so keep those as low as possible or cut them out completely.

Flax seed is the best non-fish source of Omega-3 fatty acids (the stuff that is in the fish). You can buy it ground or whole. There is some debate as to the effectiveness of the whole seed. Apparently the outer shell is so hard that the seeds pretty much pass right through your digestive tract undigested. You can buy it ground at most grocery stores. DO NOT buy it whole and grind it in your wheat grinder. It is so high in oil that it will totally gum up and ruin your grinder. Get a separate coffee grinder or something like that. I just buy mine ground and keep it in the fridge. I like it sprinkled on oatmeal. I used to mix it in bread, etc, but I've been told that heating it destroys the omega-3's. I don't know if that's true or not. I mean, you cook fish, don't you! The cool thing with the flax seed is that you can replace eggs and oils when you bake with the flax seed. I don't have any at the moment, but there is a reddish/brown box of flax seed that has directions on the box. It's the Red Mill brand or something like that. You can also buy supplement capsules of omega-3's. I just learned this week that studies show they can make a difference for women, but the same results haven't been proven for men. I have no idea why.

There are foods that help lower your cholesterol without omega-3's. I like this, because for the first time it's a restrictive diet that has a lot of foods I actually like. The biggest help is oats/oatmeal (listen to the Cheerios commercials!). Other foods include avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, almonds, walnuts, soy products (one of the reasons I use TVP), olives and olive oil. Cinnamon has been found to help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar, but you need something like 1 tsp. a day. In the winter I eat a lot of oatmeal with flax seed and cinnamon, but 1 tsp. of cinnamon is a lot! You can get capsules of cinnamon, but I've never tried them. Whole grains are good, as well. Since oats are so good for cholesterol, you can replace 1/2 the flour in, say, cookies with ground oat flour. It's white like regular flour and is a lighter flour than whole wheat, so my family almost never notices. The added bonus is that they get half whole grain flour instead of just all white flour. I can tell a little difference in taste, but I think it's just because I know there is something different. You can't replace all of the regular flour with oat flour because the oat flour doesn't have any gluten in it and the cookies or bread won't hold together.

The best oils to use are olive and canola oils. I always replace the oil in cakes with applesauce and have been experimenting with replacing butter/Crisco with yogurt in cookies. I've also used smashed pears instead of applesauce and I've seen prune/plum sauce in the baking aisle, but never used it. In general, you can replace up to half the butter/Crisco with 1/2 the amount of fat free yogurt or sour cream. For example- if you have a recipe that calls for 1 cup of butter, you can replace 1/2 cup of that butter with 1/4 cup of yogurt or sour cream. In general, butter is really high in saturated fats and margarines are lower. Most margarines tend to have trans fats, too. They're finding that trans fats are pretty bad for you, so check labels on any margarines you buy. I've been buying Smart Balance 50/50 Butter blend with Omega-3. It's made with 50% butter, so has some saturated fats, but is also made with soybean, flax seed, and fish oils. There are no trans fats in it. I don't know if it's any better than any other brand, but I think it tastes pretty good and works well when I bake with it. Try different brands and see what works for you.

Eggs, as I'm sure you know, are high in cholesterol. The yolk is where all the fat and cholesterol is stored, so removing the yolks helps reduce your cholesterol intake. In general, you can replace a whole egg with 2 egg whites. You can also use an egg substitute, but I'm too cheap and have never tried them. You do need some of the yolks (the fats), though, to get the right consistency and taste. Replacing the eggs with flax seed at least replaces some of the oils, but probably wouldn't work so well in something like an omelet! I have recently learned that you can replace eggs in some baked goods with knox gelatin, but I haven't had the chance to try it out, yet. Talk with your doctor about eggs, too. I have been told that your cholesterol intake isn't as bad for you as the cholesterol that comes as your body makes it from the fats you eat. So, eating whole eggs may not be as bad for you as you'd think.

As for meats, go for very lean red meats, white chicken and turkey, fish, or pork. I've heard shrimp is supposed to be good for lowering cholesterol, but I can't stand that, either, so I haven't paid much attention. I think almost all meats have at least some cholesterol and fat, so if you're looking to drastically cut your intake you can cut out your meat intake. I've been trying different recipes that use beans instead of meat and replacing some ground meats with TVP. Most of them come from Light & Tasty (recently renamed Healthy Cooking) magazine. I have a subscription, but you may be able to find it at your library. I like it a lot. You can see some of the recipes on line, but I didn't find that very helpful.

So, that's about it. I'm by no means a professional, but have learned a little over the past couple of years. Feel free to leave a comment if I've said something wrong or if you have another idea. I'd love to learn more.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Today is the day. I've avoided being "tagged" thus far in my short blogging career, but no longer. Thanks to idnaturegirl for the fabulous opportunity for me to share 7 random things about myself. Enjoy. The one good thing- hopefully you will learn something new and can then qualify for an early bedtime. Good luck!

1) I have an incredible sense of smell and no spacial sense whatsoever.

2) I occasionally have this crazy delusion that I would enjoy building my own house from the ground up. That urge is usually cured (though temporarily) by any given minor home repair project.

3) Despite my English teacher's best efforts, I have found I actually like to write and can be good at it if given enough time and a topic I enjoy.

4) I enjoy being where I am in life. The current economy ( or any economy for that matter) can not afford to pay me enough to go back to junior high school and do the last 25 years over again.

5) I have been putting pureed zucchini in my spaghetti sauce for quite a while now. The kids can't tell, nor is anyone that reads this allowed to tell them because Joseph will probably stop eating all together. Tonight we're having spaghetti (traditional for Halloween at our house) but I'm trying spinach instead. If Joseph dies then I'll know totally green vegetables really are poisonous to him.

6) My favorite part of having children was child birth because I knew pregnancy was almost over. My least favorite part so far (and my oldest is almost 15) is potty training. I will go through a dozen pregnancies before I voluntarily potty train again. (That's just for comparison, I know I can't do the first without plenty of the second.)

7) I have a fantastic memory for completely useless trivial information and anything to do with numbers, but don't ask me to remember what is on my "to-do" list for the day if it's not written down (and sometimes even if it is written down). It's a wonder I get anything done some days.

Ok, so now I get to "tag" 7 other random people. How does one decide these things? I'm letting my family off the hook for this one. Nicci, you are family, but if that baby isn't here by Sunday consider yourself tagged! (Maybe that will work better than stairs and squats to encourage his entrance!) Here are my tags: Jenny B., Kathleen S., Carrie S., Lisa W., Katy G., and Sandy L., and Anna Lee S . Can't wait to see your 7 things!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Pumpkin Seeds...Yum!

Tonight we are carving our jack-o-lantern and I got to thinking about pumpkin seeds. I remember eating them at school once and thought it was cool you could toast them and make a treat out of them. I was always told to just spread them in a pan, sprinkle on a little salt, and toast them. Thing is, they never tasted very good to me. I'm not one to do a whole lot of cooking without a recipe (in fact, I've been asked on occasion to please not experiment!), so I just gave up the idea of pumpkin seeds as a snack.

Thankfully, there ARE creative people who DO experiment with foods, and other people like the results. One of them was kind enough to submit a couple of recipes to Light & Tasty Magazine a few of years ago. It changed my pumpkin seed life. I now anxiously await them every year. So, in honor of Halloween and this wonderful fall season, I share this recipe with you. I like the original recipe so much, I've never tried the others. You're on your own there.

This may have been more helpful earlier in the week, if you've already done your carving. Sorry. Buy a pumpkin on clearance on Saturday or beg seeds off your neighbor and try it out. Enjoy!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Light & Tasty Magazine Oct/Nov 2006
Prep: 10 Min., Bake:45 min. + cooling

2 cups pumpkin seeds
5 tsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

In a bowl, toss pumpkin seeds with butter and Worcestershire sauce. Combine the sugar, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne; sprinkle over seeds and toss to coat.

Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with foil; coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Spread seeds in pan. Bake at 250 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until the seeds are dry and lightly browned, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Nutrition Facts: 1/4 cup equals 95 calories, 5 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 6 mg cholesterol, 181 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 fat, 1/2 starch.

Optional Recipes:
1) Sweet- Combine 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. each ground nutmeg and ground cloves.

2) Savory- Combine 1/2 tsp. each salt and paprika, 1/4 tsp. each onion powder, oregano, and dried thyme, and 1/8 tsp. pepper.

3) BBQ- Toss the seeds with 1 tsp. barbeque seasoning (in the spice section of the grocery store).

4) Mexican- Combine 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp each onion powder, dried oregano, ground cumin, and chili powder, and 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Authors, again

I didn't know what I had done with Ryan's story from Pack Meeting when I last posted, but I found it. Yea, me! I figure I can't post one and not the other. So, here goes. Once again, spelling and punctuation are true to the original. Also, each line was written on a different page.

If I hadn't followed that dog...

I would not have gone to the ganck yard and...
I would not have gone to the grave yard and...
I would not have gone to the flower garden and...
I would not have gone to the deep swomp and...
I would not have gone to the swooer in new york sity and...
not have gone to the forest with lions.

Can I just say that I love reading stories the kids make up when they're young. The handwriting, spelling, and pictures (when they have them) are so precious.

Authors in the Making

We had Pack Meeting tonight. The theme was books and as it's Halloween, the boys were to dress up as a character from a book they've read. Steven went as Taran from the Chronicles of Prydain series. As a "keep-'em-busy-until-we-start" activity the kids were given little booklets with a writing prompt on them and then encouraged to finish the story. Steven and another scout (we'll just call him Thomas) decided to write a story together. I thought it was cute, so I thought I'd post it. All spelling and punctuation are true to the original.

Our two authors hard at work

Steven and Thomas' Property

If I'd known what was going to happen, I never would have opened the door.

One day it happened. It was Halloween night. I was walking home and an earthquake! When I got my scences back, I kept walking home. I came upon a creepy old house. I just had to go in. I found a whole bunch of cool stuff. After I sripded the house down I noticed a closet. I noticed it was unlocked. I opened it, and....

To see what happens see book 2.

Shan here- Wow, only 15 minutes of writing and he already has a series! (I promise they have both been taught "Thou shalt not steal". Maybe we should add "or sripded down a house"!) Steven and Thomas stood up and read it outloud to everyone. We were all anxious to hear what happened and then burst out laughing when we were told to wait for book 2. Maybe it was one of those times you just had to be there, but it's a cute memory for me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


So, it's Saturday, not too far from Sunday. My grape jelly experiment is finally over. I was never very good at guesstimating anything, so my projects tend to run long and require multiple trips to the store the first time I try something new. Grape jelly was no different. At least this project didn't require something from Home Depot. Allen's Grocery store is a lot closer.

I figured our box of grapes held enough for a couple batches of jelly- that would require about 9 pounds of grapes and give us about a dozen cups of jelly. I bought the appropriate containers and pectin. Thursday after school we started de-stemming grapes. I should have gotten out the scale. Turns out we had nearly 30 pounds (told you I don't guesstimate very well) of grapes. Two days later I have 32 cups of jelly and 7 cups of syrup. (Yea, I know, who eats grape syrup? We will because I was trying a different recipe that didn't use pectin. You just boil the juice and sugar until it's thick enough. After 45 minutes of boiling and stirring, I decided we had enough grape jelly to be getting on with and we'd just go for a little grape syrup instead. I'll let you know how or if it goes. My advice, buy pectin!)

The whole jelly thing was kind of fun. The boys loved helping me squish the grapes. It was strangely therapeutic- like popping the bubbles on a sheet of bubble wrap. Then you boil the grapes and run them through a strainer (Victorio Strainer. For my siblings- it's the same kind we used to use for making applesauce with Mom.) to get rid of the skins and any stems that may have snuck in. That was Steven's favorite part. We ended up with one of those giant silver bowls full of grape juice. You have to let it sit overnight in the fridge because, something new I learned, grape juice will develop tartrate crystals. They look like lots of pulp that just appears in the juice. You can strain them out after the juice has sat overnight. So, grape jelly is at least a 2-day project. We made room in the indoor fridge for the huge bowl because my white counters already had purple blotches all over them and I wasn't about to risk the same with the white carpet as we walked the giant bowl out to the fridge in the garage. I felt very homemake-y for providing such copius amounts of homemade grape products for my family.

Day Two was fun. The recipe said to remove the tartrate crystals by straining the juice through several layers of cheese cloth. This is just a marketing ploy by the cheesecloth people. If you make grape jelly do not use cheese cloth. Many more purple blotches were added to the white counters. (Good thing they come right out with bleach!) There is probably a great product out there for this part of the process, but I don't own it. I ended up just using the little strainer I had in my utensil drawer. I used to use it to sprinkle powdered sugar evenly on brownies. I have a shaker for that now. Now it's pretty much used only once or twice a year to strain pulp out of someone's orange juice. It worked much better and made less of a mess than the cheese cloth. I made a double batch of jelly and felt very pleased with myself.

By Day Three (today) the excitement had pretty much evaporated for that big bowl of grape juice that was staring me in the face every time I opened the fridge. This afternoon I decided to try the no-pectin version mentioned above as I had used all the pectin I had bought and didn't want to go to the store. An hour later I found myself headed to the store to buy more pectin. The last batch went into jars about 7:00 tonight. I am very grateful to have the grape jelly in jars and the big silver bowl clean and back in the cupboard where it belongs. Greg was a total dear and helped do the dishes. It still feels good to have learned something new and have something tangible to show for it. Right now, though, any thought of eating anything grape flavored is pretty repulsive.

So, feel free to stop by for a visit sometime. We'll have peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches for lunch and pancakes with grape syrup for dinner. (I don't know what your mornings are like, but there is no way pancakes will happen most mornings here.) We could even try a little vanilla ice cream with grape syrup for dessert. If you come before Thanksgiving, we'd love to see you, but I'll probably just watch you eat. I know, you can't wait to get here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Camera Whisperer

Greg fiddled with the camera when he got home and discovered that if the planets aligned while you held your breath, stood on one foot, closed your eyes half way, held the camera at exactly a 29.7 degree angle, muttered threats to the camera under your breath and gently pushed the button, the camera would take a picture. Just kidding! He did discover that if he put pressure on just the right spot below the lens he could get a picture or two. So, below are a few of the latest at our house.

This is what has been happening when I take a picture.

The sunset this evening when facing west.

The sunset this evening facing east.

Our Fruit Cocktail Tree/Stick. Currently, our stick-in-the-mud. (Ok, bad joke.)

One English diorama. It's a scene from the book Cryptid Hunters where a storage canister, two children, a toy poodle, and a chimpanzee fall out of a cargo plane over the Congo. The children, poodle, and chimp survive by holding onto the netting of the canister. That's about all I know of the book. My favorite part is the airplane flying into the side of the box. Saved making an entire plane!

So, that's it for the pictures for awhile, unless Greg is home to work his magic on the camera or I get it fixed. We'll see which happens first. Now, I'm off to bake the bread and do a few dishes. Happy sleeping!

Happy Day!

I wasn't so sure how today was going to go. But, it has turned out to be one fine day, so I thought I would share.

1) This morning I was wiped out. Not enough sleep for too many days makes Shannon not much fun to be around, or something like that. Being Wednesday, Greg took the three youngest to school on his way to work for chess club. Spencer left for the bus at the same time. Erica had left 1/2 hour before. (Did I mention that I'm really starting to love Wednesdays?!) I waved my fabulous family out the door and went back to bed at 7:43. I've never done that before, but boy did it feel G-R-E-A-T (insert Tony the Tiger here!). I woke up at 9:00 and thought about getting up and then woke up again at 10:00. I didn't do much today and I would not like sleeping all day all the time, but once every 5 blue moons is a wonderful thing.

2) Last April, when we still lived in Mesa and had different health insurance, I took Spencer and Steven to the eye doctor. Mayo is great for a lot of things, but there are gaps in their insurance communication. The optometrist, Jon Wold for those that know him, submitted the claim which was denied. Mayo said to resubmit to a different address, which they did. It, too was denied. By now we'd lived in UT for several months and I had no computer access to Mayo as Greg was no longer an employee. I called Mayo and they resubmitted it, but it was again denied because they said we chose a doctor that was out of network. How could that be when I got the info from their website? No one seemed to know and I couldn't find Dr. Wold listed anywhere on the amount of website I now had access to. The doctors office wouldn't submit the claim again. We finally just gave up and paid the bill.

Fast forward to two days ago. I was deleting old emails (we had almost 2000 of them) when I came across two emails sent to me from the vision insurance people. Lo and behold, it listed Dr. Wold as an in-network provider. I still couldn't link them to Mayo, so I called today. Turns out that the vision insurance in AZ is contracted out by Mayo. When the eye doctor had submitted the claim to Mayo, Mayo hadn't forwarded it to their vision plan. Since the optometrist wasn't listed under the the medical plan they refused to pay. I'm not quite sure why they thought they'd find an optometrist under the medical plan when the medical plan doesn't cover vision. Probably just the communication gap I mentioned before. I spoke to Daryl at the real vision insurers this afternoon. He was fabulous- took my info and said they'd have a check in the mail to me next week. So, I did a little happy dance, because I was now fully rested, and ran out the door to presidency meeting (Daryl's only flaw was that the phone call took longer than I really had time for!) before heading off to school to get the boys. Can't wait for the mail next week!

3) The English diarama is DONE! Woohoo! That would be two days early. Even the paragraph to go with it is finished and taped on the back. It is off my kitchen counter as of tomorrow morning. I'd put in a picture, but the camera is still on the fritz. (That's a project for tomorrow or Friday.) Erica has even finished her Frankenstein portfolio. All we have left are all the goodies for the end of quarter parties and one for Greg at work, any excuse to celebrate and eat junk- and the weekend ahead is looking pretty fine!

4) The Laurels (16-18 year-old girls) decided to have their YW activity last night. We attended the orchestra concert of one of the girls. It also happened to include my daughter so I got a YW activity and a concert attendance all in one shot. That means that tonight I don't have a YW activity. Joseph went grape picking with his friend, Korey, yesterday. I'd never heard of that before, but they came back with the back of the car crammed to the gills with boxes of the sweetest grapes I've ever tasted. So, tonight I'm going to try my hand at homemade grape jelly and make bread for Greg's office party tomorrow. Should be fun.

5) Then I'm going to bed! It'll be less than 12 hours since I got up. Can't remember the last time that happened. My brain will probably be confused, but I'm sure I'll straighten myself out.

Wish all days could go this well. Since they don't, you've got to be grateful when they do. Hope your tomorrow goes as well as my today.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Favorite Day of the Week

In general, Monday's are right up there as far as favorite days go. There are a couple of reasons. First, I'm a huge fan of routines. This particular Monday comes after a 4-day weekend for us, so I was MORE than ready to get back into normal life. But, the more favorite part of Monday is clean sheets. I know, simple pleasures! No matter how crazy life gets, I always (ok, 99.99999% of the time!) wash sheets on Mondays- at least the ones from my bed. If the kids don't get theirs up to the laundry room, they miss out. It's amazing how consistent they usually are. Ryan would be our huge exception but, being a 7-year-old male, he's not able to appreciate clean anything yet.

There is just something about clean sheets. I'm kind of a nut about smells, anyway, but clean laundry smells are some of my favorites. Today I was ahead of the game as far as laundry goes, and even had time to throw in a load of bath mats. They're hanging in the bathrooms to dry, so those rooms smell awesome tonight, too. The best part of the favorite part of my Monday is actually climbing into those clean, crisp sheets at the end of the day. Mmmmmm! Makes my eyes close just thinking about it! So, I'm off to brush my teeth in a "clean-laundry" smelling bathroom and then climb into my "clean-laundry" smelling sheets. Perfect end to the day. Sweet dreams!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I Planted A Stick Today

Yes, it's true. I planted a stick. It's as close to gardening as I got this year, so it's kind of exciting for me. I'd post a picture, but the camera has a short and won't take any at the moment (unless you want one that's black as a starless sky).

I was on Craig's List this morning to see if anyone had a rototiller for sale. (I always want very exciting things for Christmas.) However, either nobody has one or else nobody is giving one up. Don't know which. Didn't find a single mention of a rototiller, but I did find someone that had a free fruit cocktail tree. He's about 2 feet tall and has two branches poking out one side. It's apparently supposed to grow 5 different types of fruit on at least 5 different branches, but it only grew two this year (don't even know which fruit it was trying to grow). They complained to the company, who sent them a new one. They felt bad digging up ol' Two Branch and just leaving him to die, so they posted it on Craig's List. Poor thing's been out of the ground all week and the leaves on the two branches were all shrively. We're not sure that he's going to make it. (Don't ask me how I know it's a boy. It just is.) I dug him a nice deep hole, took out about a ton of rocks, placed him in it and gave him a nice slow drink of water. Now, we just wait until next spring. Erica hopes it grows fast so she can climb in the branches. I told her that maybe her kids can some day climb in the branches. For now, we're just going to be happy if it stays upright all winter and grows a few leaves next spring. If not, he was free and I got to dig in the dirt for an hour. Fair trade if ever I saw one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One Down, One To Go

I'm not including any of the German translation. Doreen (my German sister-in-law) wouldn't be able to stop laughing and breathe for the next three days. That can be the German teacher's problem. Point is, he looked up all the words and found things that corresponded fairly well for a first quarter Intro to German student and we all survived the trauma. Now off to bed. Finishing the English diarama is next.

I Love Fall!

I love fall. The days are crisp and the trees are pretty and you still get some beautiful, not hot, days and chilly, need-an-extra-blanket nights.
This was out our front door on Sunday:

And this was inside our front door on Sunday:

The snow didn't last. It didn't even stick, but the chilly weather did for just a bit. Yesterday it was in the 40's, today is supposed to be in the 50's , tomorrow in the 60's, and we'll hit low 70's by the weekend. Perfect! I get to wear jeans/sweaters and capris/t-shirts all in the same week!

These are outside our front door today:

Sorry, no inside photos today. (Life happened and I'm not sure when the last time the vacuum was out.) Use your imagination. No fire today, but we have lots of homework and baking happening. Ryan wanted cookies again and Spencer's German project is due tomorrow.
Happy October!

(This should be a separate blog, but Spencer opted for the recipe option-hallelujah! We're making lemon bars instead of Hamburg! He told me yesterday it is due tomorrow but not late until the 21st. It's going to be turned in tomorrow. We have Thursday and Friday off and I'm not going to have it hanging over our heads for 6 extra days.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Our blog has had a baby. In order to keep the peace, Erica has started her own blog. Apparently Greg and I are too old and boring and the layout of our blog doesn't meet her standards. We like the white and she doesn't. So, if you want color, check out her blog. It's (Notice the subtle reminder of how we are terrible parents by not letting our only daughter have the biggest bedroom. Hope she survives.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Ryan and I made cookies this afternoon and I noticed we have reached a milestone in our family. (Drum roll, please.) Every one of our children is now tall enough to help in the kitchen without needing a stool, step-ladder, box, chair, bench, plastic tote, bucket, etc. to stand on in order to see and/or help add ingredients. Neither does anyone need to be sitting on the counter in order to see when a taller someone is already using the stool, step-ladder, box, chair, bench, plastic tote, bucket, etc. The only issue we still have is when Ryan needs to get something out of a top cupboard. But, he is tall enough to just jump up. No more dragging stools, step-ladders, chairs, benches, plastic totes, buckets, etc. into the kitchen to block mom into a 2 square foot space and then leaving them there for her to trip over until she puts them away (because, apparently, it's my fault I mix on the counter instead of the lower table, thus making it my job to put the selected height enhancing apparatus away). What a liberating day!

I suppose I should have noticed this sooner, like when Ryan asked if he could make his own cookies this week and never once asked for help with anything. I'm not sure all the flour made it into the dough, though, because it was pretty runny. He's also not quite past the stage when any sized container counts as a cup. So, I'm thinking the right number of containers was added, but not necessarily the right amount of flour. But, I digress. I was in on the computer and helping other kiddos with homework, so I never got into the kitchen until after the "dough" was made (and mostly eaten!). I just assumed he sat up on the counter and made the dough. I guess he wasn't. He somehow grew taller without my noticing. How does that continue to happen?

Of course, this also means that everyone is now tall enough to reach into the mixer and eat the dough faster than I can actually put cookies on the pan. Oh, the trials we face!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Family Ties

I read on today that Sarah Palin and Princess Diana were very distantly related- something like 10th cousins once removed- through a John Strong born in England around 1605 and his wife Abigail Ford. Just for kicks, I opened up my trusty PAF program. Lo and behold, I have both of those names in my ancestry. Don't know which side or even if it's a direct line. So, my question is, am I any cooler because of that? I've never lived in a palace or had papparazzi follow me around or goverened a state (except maybe insanity or exhaustion, but they have no political clout) or run for Vice President of the United States. I do happen to be female, but so is 50% of the world. Really, I don't have any desire or need for any of that (except the female part. To me, that's pretty crucial). Does the fact that I'm not doing any of those things lesson my worth as an individual? I think not. The cool part about being here on this earth is that we all have our own roles to play. Right now, mine happens to be doing my best to run a household and be a wife of one and a mother of 5. To be honest, that's more than I feel I can handle some days, but I love my job and won't voluntarily trade it for any other.

I love family history work. There are some really interesting things to learn about others and youself. It always amazes me that if you go back far enough we are all related in multiple ways. I love finding those links. They tie us all together in a more real way to me than just saying we're all children of Heavenly Father. Thing is, He really does have a plan and we really all do have some part to play. Princess Diana played her part and did some very good things. Sarah Palin has done so as well and she has the possibilty(because she's alive not because she's on a ballot) to do more. I hope that when all is said and done I will have done more good than harm. We all have the potential to do great things, whether or not they are noticed by the world at large. I'm glad there are the Dianas and Sarah Palins of the world. Differences in people tend to spice things up. Knowing about your family opens some insight to yourself and maybe some inspiration to what you could be. The question is, though, not so much who you are related to. The real question is, what are you going to do with what you have?

Monday, October 6, 2008

School Projects

I am not feeling very charitable towards Junior High teachers right now. I have a fairly short list of things I absolutely detest. Right near the top is school projects (sorry if I offend any teachers out there) and at the top of the detestable school projects list lies diaramas (closely followed by the slugs we've been finding outside lately). I thought we'd had our fill in elementary school, but I was wrong. Spencer has had two projects assigned. He's had a choice, to some extent, on both. What does he choose? Diaramas, of course. Did I mention I detest them? I realize that, since he had some choice, it's not all the teachers' fault and I should not direct all my unkind thoughts in their direction. I am mentally sending some of my frustration in Spencer's direction, but who assigned the projects in the first place? Hence, the uncharitable feelings towards the teachers. And, to be fair, the German teacher is getting the majority of those thoughts.

The first is a project in English on a book he read. He's choosing to do a diarama of a canister falling out of an airplane with two people and a dog holding onto it. I'm stomaching it. He wants to carve the plane out of foam, etc, etc, etc. Fine. He's outside with a plastic knife and some planter foam as I type.

The second project is for German. It is worth 100 points. The helpful guidelines state that a simple project will take 1-2 hours and be worth 25 points. A complex project should take 6-10 hours and is worth 100-150 points. Spencer wants the extra credit, so we're going complex. Do the headaches and griping count as project time? The teacher sent home a list of 29 suggestions. They include obvious things like Choose an animate object and describe it in German. That, at least, fits into a German class theme. Or, "Convert a recipe to German or find a recipe in German and translate it to English. Then use it." Ideas 11-29 have the instructions, "In the ideas below, take the concept and apply it to German." Good Luck. Number 13 says "When does a fisherman use math? What does it affect?" Number 14 says, "How about advertising?" How about number 21- "Use Patty Paper to show the Pythagorean theorem or a tessellation." And my personal favorite: "Is math/algebra used in shoe design? What things change the geometry and design as the shoes get larger for bigger feet? Is there a perfect shoe size from a designer's stand point?" All of those things are obviously German related. Can you tell that the German teacher also teaches math? I'm thinking someone didn't want to come up with seperate projects for seperate classes. I realize everyone's time is precious, but come on!

Spencer, of course, has decided for his German project that he wants to build a 3-D model of a German town. A complex diarama, ahhhhh! I asked which German town, because I think he thinks there are cookie-cutter towns all over Germany and they all look the same. He thought he might like to do HAMBURG except it MIGHT be a little too big. Ya think! I'm liking the recipe idea or maybe number 26- "Make and fly a kite". Maybe we could shape it like Germany or something.

I have griped. I have vented. I feel somewhat better. I am still a little torqued, but I think I will live. Dumb (ok, I'm not all the way better) German project is due in 10 days. English project is due on the 24th. Spencer has 7 classes at school. What are the chances we'll be done with projects on the 24th? Not so good. You know it's a frustrating afternoon when you wish it was summer vacation.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


This one's for trublubyu. She asked me to tell about TVP. I must say here that I am far from being an expert. TVP stands for Texturized Vegetable Protein and is made from soy beans after they extract the oil. It is a product that I grew up on, that's how I know about it. I haven't really done any research beyond that. My mom used it as a way to save money and that's why I started using it as well. I have since learned to appreciate it for the dietary pluses. You can use it alone or mix it with other meats. I prefer to mix it about half and half. (There is a joke in our family that my mom would get the TVP ready and start cooking dinner. She'd get the froxen hamburger out of the freezer, wave it over the top of the pan, and put it back in the freezer. We'd have TVP and essence of beef. Just a joke, but we chuckle about it.) Since I mix it half and half with my hamburger or ground turkey, I get the same amount of "fill" in a dish, but half of the fat. Also, I've been told that soy helps lower cholesterol. Even if it doesn't, the lower fat intake is great for lowering cholesterol.

You can get TVP in several flavors and forms. I prefer to use unflavored flakes, but will also use the more granular form also. It's very good about taking on the flavors it is cooked with. I use about 1/2 cup to equal 1/2 pound of hamburger or ground turkey. If I have a recipe that calls for only 1/2 pound of ground something, I just use the meat and don't bother trying to use half TVP. If I need 1-1/2 pounds of meat, I use 1 pound meat and 1/2 cup TVP. I put it in a bowl and add just enough warm water to get it wet all over and then let it sit for a couple of minutes. You can supposedly add it dry to whatever meat you are cooking, but I HATE biting into something and finding a little crunchy something I wasn't expecting. Soaking it a bit beforehand prevents those unexpected surprises. Then I just add it to whatever meat I'm browning. It absorbs the rest of the juices so I don't have to drain the meat and then it tastes like the meat. (I use meat that is at least 90% lean. 93% if I can find it.) I only use it in casseroles, soups, or sauces- things it can blend in with other textures, or soften fairly well. I do not use TVP on its own (no TVP burgers, for instance, Blech!), nor do I like it mixed in with tuna. I have a memory of eating a tuna sandwich with little crunchies (other than relish) in it as a child and I just can't bring myself to try it again. Maybe someday.

Where to find it? That's usually my problem. I used to get it at the LDS canneries, but they stoped carrying it several years ago. Some grocery stores carry small packages (about 10 oz.), but it's kind of expensive. I think most health food store would carry it. I've heard there is a frozen product that is similar, but I've never tried it. I've also seen soy protein powder, but I don't know how you'd use that. Maybe in a drink? Some Sprouts in AZ carry it and some do not. You'd have to ask. As I mentioned, Sunflower Farmers Market near me just started carrying the more granular form. It cost $1.99/pound. I just bought 1-1/2 pounds and it comes to probably 3-4 cups in a pound. If I only use 1/2 cup for every 1/2 pound of hamburger, it comes out to about $0.25- $0.33 (where's that cents sign!) per 1/2 pound equivalent. That's a bit cheaper than hamburger and is better for you!

Not everyone likes it, and that's fine. I was worried about my kiddos liking it, but no one has ever said a word. I've been out of it for the past month or so and could only slightly tell a difference. Mostly, my food felt heavier in my stomach from the added meat, but that's it as far as I could tell. The amount of meat I used when I didn't have any TVP got to me more than anything else. I like being able to buy the big pack of ground beef at Sam's or Costco and have it last a couple of months. We went through it twice as fast without the TVP. I kept hearing little cash register dings in my head everytime I got out 2 packages of meat instead of 1. (Yes, I am basically cheap!)

Ok, that's about it. I hope I covered everything. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dear Blog, I hit a great sale today.

One of the stores I miss the most from Arizona is Sprouts. It's a produce/natural/whole foods store that generally has really nice produce for really nice prices. Three weeks ago we got an ad in the mail for a new store that opened here called Sunflower Farmers Market. The ad looked a lot like Sprouts' ads and even had the same Wednesday special- they honor last weeks' ad as well as the coming weeks' ad on Wednesdays. I decided to drop in. Lo and behold, it was my Sprouts store almost exactly reincarnated in UT! (Happy Dance!) The workers at the store have never heard of Sprouts, but they must be "related" somehow.

Ok, now for the point of this blog. I went shopping today and hit some most amazing deals. I usually call my mom when that happens because, well she's my mom and moms are happy for you on days like that. I can't call her right now (I know because I tried) because she is driving to visit us (yea!) and is out of cell range. I have to be excited and tell someone, so I'll tell my blog.

Dear Blog,

I hit a great sale today. Sunflower Market had Gala apples for $.39 a pound today, yes $.39. I wish key boards still had the old cents sign because I would use it! They also had cantaloupe 3 for $1. That would be 3 cantaloupe for $1, not 3 pounds for $1. Green leaf lettuce was only $.77 a head. Grapes were $.77 a pound. Beefsteak tomatoes were $.69 a pound. Pumpkins were 3 (pumpkins) for $10, but I didn't buy one of those yet- don't want it on the counter for a month. The best part is that the sale will still be on when I go again next Wednesday!

I'm happy about Sunflowers for a couple of other reasons, as well. The first time I went to the store I asked about TVP (texturized vegetable protein) because I like to use it when I make casseroles and I had just run out. (It has no fat and is made out of soy which helps lower cholesterol, but that's another blog for another day.) They didn't have any in bulk at that time, but today I was hurrying to the checkout and passed a bin of TVP. I don't know if it was that great of a price, but I really appreciated them listening to my request and getting it. On top of that, the first time I went they gave out free reusable grocery bags. Today I actually remembered to bring them with me and they gave me $.20 off my total. I know, it's not much, but it's nice to get a little tangible reward for making an effort to cut down on our waste. They also told me that whenever I bring my own bags, what ever type they are, they'll give the discount. Maybe someone out there has better deals or better prices, but today, I'm feeling very happy about Sunflowers. I think it gets to be my favorite store today.

Ok, I think I have my excitement out of my system. Thanks, dear Blog, for being available and not out of range. You also provide the added bonus of being able to revisit this shopping trip again on a later date, maybe on a week when grocery prices aren't quite so low. Now, to go finish putting the groceries away and cook some of them for dinner! Have a great day.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crazy Insane School Year

Hi Everyone!!!
This is Erica, and Mom says I should write about ME because i'm never in her posts. (Something about her not knowing about what I do at school or something.) Since I am not as creative in writing as Mom, I'll steal a few Ideas from her. (Mainly her lists.)


1) My backpack weighs 16 pounds. Litterally. I weighed it on the bathroom scale. (and it doesn't even have my binder in it!!) The sad thing is that I want a bigger one so I can fit my 5 pound binder into it.

2) I have so much homework that I think that my teachers are trying to make my brain explode. (Yeah, that's it. The only reason that people want to be teachers are to make their students brains explode. Yeah, that sounds plausible.) I mean come on! Yeasterday, I worked on my homework from 3:15 to 6:30!! That is WAY to long to do homework!!!

3) I'm in advanced Honors English 10 and my teacher has us writing a typed paper every day. It's a wonder that I don't lose my mind.

4) The school has the Air Conditioning still going strong, so I'm wearing long sleeves when its 70 or 80 degrees out. (It's absolutely SWELTERING on the bus ride home.)

5) Oh! So I have this absolutely awesomely lovely red and gray yarn hat with a pom pom on it, but I don't have anything to match it and Mom keeps telling me I'm insane for wanting to wear it to school. (I have no idea why she does. I LOVE my hat!!! Well ,maybe I do...She thinks I'm insane anyway for wearing sweatshirts in the summer. But, oh well. I ADORE wearing sweatshirts!! : > } )

So, I'm having a lovely school year. Really. I love my school (Timpview), and I love my classes, but it is WAY more fun to complain and say the bad things than to gush about everything.
So, sue me.

Family Home Evening

Family Home Evening at our house is always a learning experience of some kind or other. Sometimes they are learning experiences we hope we've learned from and never have again. Sometimes they are very sweet and we have a great time as a family. Last night was an interesting combination of events. We learned lots of things.

1) It is possible, on occasion, to have a very pleasant afternoon and dinner with no sarcasm or name calling that leads right into the opening of Family Home Evening.

Since it is the Monday before conference we had our usual "hang-the-pictures-of-the-First-Presidency-and-Quorum-of-the-Twelve-Apostles" lesson. The idea being that we get a semi-annual review of who all those great men are.

2)We learned that with all the changes this year, no one could remember who was in what order anymore. Thank heavens for the pictures in the middle of the last conference edition of the Ensign. What great examples of knowledge the parents of this family are!

3) We also learned that Mom had forgotten (in her defence, she was a little busy packing and moving right after the last conference) that there had been an addition to the Twelve, so we are currently short 1 picture. She will shop tomorrow.

During the conversation while hanging pictures, the pre-teen males in our family informed us of some very important bits of teenage wisdom.

4) It is very cool to have "pit hair" and the more the better. (It is also cool to count each one when you are a pre-teen, even if you need a magnifying glass to do so.)

5) "Pit hair" is the glory of a teenager.

6) Chest hair is the glory of a man.

Aren't you just filled to the brim with the spiritual undertones of our FHE so far? After the lesson portion we played 20 minutes of Trivial Pursuit: The Star Wars Edition. Again, we learned important things.

7) It's been a long time since we have seen Star Wars movies. Oh, the disgrace at the lack of recall!

8) Some of us are very good at identifying Darth Maul when his face is so pixelated that it's basically a light stripe between two dark stripes.

9) Spencer knows the names of more types of Star Wars spaceships than I ever realized they had.

10) Our boys created a "Star Wars Victory Dance" when we lived in New Hampshire and they still remember it.

If the purpose of FHE is to have a most solemn gospel discussion, we failed miserably. If the purpose is to spend time together, have real (sort of) discussions, learn about the gospel, and have fun, then last night was a total success. If nothing else, we created a memory that I know will make me chuckle for a very long time.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I have always loved the mountains and the New England Coast. I think, though, that mountains win out (even though ours come with the added bonus of earthquakes!). Today I was thinking how beautiful it is outside right before the sun comes up and thought I'd share. I love to watch the sun stream through the canyons before it actually peeks over the mountain. These pictures are from a month ago, but they still look pretty much the same except the leaves are beginning to turn red.

I don't have a panoramic camera, so a series will have to do. (Also, I'm getting a bit frustrated because the darn computer won't let me post anything above the previous picture and I'm tired of deleting everything and starting over. We'll just have to deal with it!) So the picture above and then the following three are what we see across the street every morning on the way to school. The photos run from north to south. I personally think the next mountain north, which we can't see, is just a bit prettier. I especially love rocks and cliffs and that mountain has more than ours. Oh well.

The next shot is just one of my favorites. Spencer climbed out to the edge of an out cropping of rock on our way down from hiking to the "Y" last June. We took his picture and then chewed him out for getting up there in the first place. I'm a little paranoid of heights when my children are involved. It does make a cool picture, though, and he did live to see another day.

Isn't this world such a beautiful place!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Happy Friday!

Only an hour left til the cherubs start getting out of school for the weekend. (Have to write now so I can still use the word "cherubs"!) The weekends seem to be crazy, and this one will be no exception, but the rush is off and it can be a nice change of scenery even if the pace doesn't change. Tonight Greg is working on a paper for Monday (he's gotten 100% on his previous two- Go Greg!), Erica wants to go to the high school football game (it's Homecoming), and the rest of us have NOTHING! How exciting is that. Tomorrow is volleyball, and viola, a birthday party, shopping for said birthday party (can you say pro-cras-tin-ation?), and the Relief Society broadcast. Sunday is church, Greg is teaching Priesthood, presidency meeting, visiting teaching (once again, "pro-cras-tin-ation"), missionary correlation, Sunday Evening Discussion, etc, etc, etc. So, today I'm going to enjoy the next hour, finish my "to-do" list, and hang out with my boys, maybe make cookies, edit Greg's paper, probably watching something on TV tonight, maybe do a little family search indexing in front of the TV, and otherwise enjoy the large vacancy that is Friday Evening on my calendar. Hope yours is as anticipated as mine!

Monday, September 22, 2008


Kathleen asked what my motivations are for healthy eating and the new found, mysterious, jogging desire. I do have a few disclaimers. 1) You are not here to witness my whole day and are not privy to my regular eating habits since I typically don't share them. Aren't blogs supposed to make one look good? Yes, I do try to eat healthy, but I also ate 8 chocolate chip cookies on Thursday afternoon -not counting the dough because that wasn't really a cookie yet and doesn't count towards my intake. 2) I am working to exercise more, but our last move has currently placed me in the midst of a "perfect storm" of circumstances. Some were already there, I just wasn't taking advantage of them for various reasons. Most of them fall under the "motivations" category, so I'll list them. They are not in any particular order.

1) I want my children to arrive safely at school and home. Every time I think about just waving them out the door every morning I hear a story about some nutcase who tries to pick up a child or two while they are walking home from school alone. We also had that lovely experience with the door-to-door sales man a couple of weeks ago. Yes, even here in "Happy Valley" we have our share of kooks.

2) 1 mile each way to school, up hill both ways!- Ok, not really, but we do live way up on the mountain. It is very much downhill all the way to school and very much up hill all the way home. I can guarantee that it is better than a stair stepper or tread mill anyday, having used both at various times in my previous life. And since Motivation #1 is a huge one to me, I am there walking almost every day. Some days we drive, but it is the rare exception. Curch happens to be half way between between our house and school, so we try to walk there as much as we can as well. Given their choice, the kids would drive all the time. Not going to happen as long as afterschool activities consist of books and computer time. Soccer a couple of times a week is a start, but not enough if there's anything I can do about it.

3) There are no buses for anyone at the elementary school. Our school happens to have all the students live within walking distance, so the only options to get my children to school are to walk or drive. We live about as far as you can and still be in the school boundaries. There is another school at the other end of our street, but it would be at least as far, if not a bit farther and doesn't have as much shade on the way home. See Motivation #4 for the reason we don't drive.

4) $4.00 gasoline- I know it's dropped down here now to about $3.70, but I'm trying to stay in the exercising habit. In fact, in the first 3 months we lived here, I only put 1500 miles on the car including several trips to Salt Lake and a couple of drives up the canyon. That is a major improvement over mileage in, say, New Hampshire!

5) High Cholesterol- Runs in my family and I am very prone. Exercise seems to work better for me at keeping it down than just watching my diet. I happen to like living and have no desire to cut my turn on earth short due to heart/vascular problems. I also would prefer to not have to take medication, so that leaves me exercise.

6) Knees- I've had bad knees since elementary school. As a result, I can pretty much count on getting shiny new metal ones at some point in my life. I saw videos of that particular surgery in college and am in no rush to experience it! Exercise does a couple of things- keeps the joints healthy and lubricated and the muscles strong to prevent more damage. If and when the blessed event occurs, the stronger my legs are at the time, the faster the recovery will be. I'm also hoping that the longer I can put off the surgery the longer science has to come up with some plan that won't require it. Keep those fingers crossed!

7) It's not hot here! I really hate being hot. I'm getting over it in relation to working out, but doing anything but swim outside in AZ is just not even remotely appealing. It was on the warm side when school started here- usually upper 90's when school got out. There were some days when it was near 100 and I just drove. I don't like being that hot, so I won't make the kids walk home that hot, either. Now it's in the upper 70's/low 80's in the afternoon and it's been in the 40's and 50's in the morning. I still get warmer than I'd like walking in the afternoon, but it's bearable. The mornings are perfect. I love them. Yes, I plan to walk as often as we can in the winter, but we'll see how it goes. I planned to give birth to my first child without an epidural. I wasn't in labor very long when I discovered how foolish that thought was and changed my mind. Winter here may be the same kind of experience, though I walked every day in college and survived. We'll see.

8) I can feel new muscle. There's something very encouraging about success. It also helps that the numbers on the scale have dropped by a few and since I know that I have new found muscle I know that I'm most likely losing inches as well. It's very motivating to feel any progress and it makes me want to do more.

9) I have changed my diet enough that food really high in fat make me sick to my stomach now. For example, I really can't stand the thought of ribs. Even those yummy chocolate chip cookies last week made me feel somewhat sick. It's been a pretty good motivator to at least attempt to eat better.

10) Exercise and healthy eating helps keep the headaches away. If I have a headache coming on and can get in a walk, or some other form of exercise, and some thing to eat with a healthy source of protein, most of the time I can get rid of it. Sleep plays a big role, too. I could definitely be better in that department.

That's going to be it for now. Now, I'm off to get in my car and drive to the store to buy the ingredients for Family Home Evening dessert (Cream Soda and sweetened condensed milk. Throw it in the ice cream maker and it makes a yummy slush). So, when it comes to exercise and healthy eating, do what I say and not what I do!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Weekend

It's been a normal, busy weekend and I thought I'd leave a couple of verbal snapshots. I'd leave real snapshots, but I keep forgetting to take them.

1) The shirts are in town and have been since Thursday morning at 5:04 (according to the website). The UPS guy and I can't seem to coordinate our schedules. I waited until 12:30 on Thursday, when I had to leave and run a couple of errands before school got out. He stopped by about 1:15. Friday I went to the temple at about 10:15 and passed him about halfway there. I had left a note telling him I'd be gone and that coming around 2:00 would be great. He moved the note from off of my doorbell and left another UPS sticky note indicating a missed delivery. Monday I only have to take the boys to school and go to the dentist at 9:40. Hopefully we can both be at our house at the same time.

2) We actually worked in the yard. Yesterday I weeded the front yard. Well, ok, the edge along one side of the driveway and part of the flower bed. My neighbor was very excited, seeing as our yard abuts his house. It must really bother him that we don't do a lot with the yard. The previous owners paid him to maintain the yard for them since they lived in CA and had renters here. He's put in a lot of work here and I think it kills him to see us only mow it every other week. Hey, we do what we can! He saw me weeding and mentioned that he just sprays for the weeds. I didn't mention that I had just sprayed Round-up over half the back yard- the really weedy half- so we could turn it into a garden next spring. He's mentioned before that two owners ago used to have such beautiful grass in the backyard. I did say (very kindly I must add) that if it really bothered him, he could just spray a little on our yard when he did his yard. It wouldn't bother me and I wouldn't sue him. He said "Ok!" and got out the weed killer. It looked like it might rain, so he said he'd get to it sometime this weekend. He also very kindly offered let us use his edger as well. He got it out and it was out of gas. He asked us if we had any, but our lawn mower is electric. I don't think that impressed him, either. He filled the tank and then edged for me. He did leave the sweeping for me to do, though. I'll have to make cookies or bread or something and take it over. This morning he came outside and was, again, very excited to see Greg mowing the lawn. It always looks so nice, I'll admit, but between soccer and school it just doesn't always happen. Hope Wally survives us as neighbors.

Greg also trimmed a tree in the neighbors yard on the other side. It's very overgrown and the branches lay on the roof of our house. We'd mentioned before that we needed them off the roof, but nothing happened; then they moved out and renters moved in. Now, there are no branches on our roof and I don't think the renters care. Hope the owners are alright with it the next time they stop by. If not, well the part of the tree in their yard is still there, just not the part that was on our house. That sounds kind of rude, but I don't want to have major roof repairs or bugs in the future.

3) Today was Ryan's day to go to the football game with Greg. They had a great time (BYU played Wyoming and won, 44-0) but left during the 3rd quarter. Greg's dad left the kids $20 each when he was here last month and we've been letting the kids spend it at the games. Ryan used his to buy a cougar tail (3 foot long maple bar), a root beer, and 2 frozen lemonades- 1 regular and 1 strawberry. He didn't eat everything, but by the third quarter he was getting tired and his tummy was starting to hurt. Imagine that! He and Greg got home at the beginning of the 4th quarter and watched it with us from the couch.

4) We had a ward block party tonight in the cul-de-sac behind our house. We had hamburgers, hotdogs, lots of salads, chips, and desserts. The Young Men and Young Women were responsible for activities. The YM did basketball shooting contests and sidewalk chalk drawing contests and the YW did a cup cake walk. The kids drew great pictures. Steven won the "Most Consecutive Free Throws" contest with 5 and won 2 boxes of Nerds. Joseph won the "Farthest Free Throw" contest and a hershey's chocolate bar. The man who took second told Joseph that if he could make his last shot, he'd give him $10. Joseph made it and the guy gave him $20 instead. Nice man! Joseph is in heaven. The cup cake walk went very well until they brought out the candy cannon. Like it's name suggests, it shoots out gobs of candy. That was more fun than cup cakes, so now we have about 25 cup cakes from Sam's club, with orange halloween frosting, sitting on the counter. I was going to take them to the YW at church tomorrow, but I dropped the box (twice) in the van. Luckily, the lid stayed on but the cup cakes took a beating and I got orange hands from trying to get them all resituated in the box.

5) Tonight my brother-in-law was baptized. We weren't able to go, but we're so happy for him, my sister, and their family.

6) I ran. Not the country, the action. I can tell all the hiking up and down the mountain twice a day for school has been beneficial in the muscle department. The last couple of weeks I've had these weird urges to jog. Can't remember the last time I felt like that! One day last week I jogged on the flat stretches on the way down to school and didn't die. That's a good sign. Last night I jogged up to Korey's house, almost a complete block from us but very uphill, and actually felt pretty good. Tonight I ran to the corner just beyond Korey's and back down to our house. My body liked it, but my lungs aren't so thrilled. They are getting over it, though. It's not anything major, but it's progress and I'll take it.

So, there are a few of our weekend happenings. Nothing really stupendous, just the "living life" kinds of things. Here's to Sunday and a day of rest!