20 November 2009

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving: Part 2

So I just wanted to add an addendum to my post earlier today.

I am thankful for many, many things and people in my life. I won't be listing them here, but I did want to pause and acknowledge just a few things for which I am truly grateful.

In N Out Burger.

Specifically: their Double-Double Animal Style Burger. Their delicious French Fries. And last, but certainly not least, their Neapolitan Shake.

And I am thankful that In N Out Burger decided to expand the number of their restaurants to include one in Orem, Utah.

And in direct relation to those things that I mentioned above for which I am grateful, I am also grateful to have a husband who loves me and likes to buy me things that I enjoy.

In case it's not clear: In N Out opened their newest restaurant in Orem yesterday and Adam stopped there on his way home from work and got us burgers and fries and those devilishly delicious Neapolitan shakes for dinner tonight.

I am happy.

I am thankful.

I am in love.

Life can't get much better than this.

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving

I have a Facebook account. I don't do much with it. I started it mainly as a tool to keep in touch with friends that live far away and that I don't see very often. Most of the time I just check in, read status updates, and sometimes I remember someone's birthday in time to wish them well on their special day. Occasionally I will have a little time for a short IM chat.

This morning when I logged on, I saw that one of my friends had posted a link to a you tube video entitled "In the Spirit of Thanksgiving" so I clicked on it and watched the four and a half minute video. I really liked it so I thought I would share it here.

I hope you enjoy it. And I hope that it makes you think of all of the things for which you are thankful.

It is my hope that I can have the spirit of Thanksgiving not only throughout this coming week, but that every day I will find something for which to be thankful... even if it may be adversity that is molding me into something more than I am currently.

13 November 2009

My Mama

This family picture was taken in 1981. That's me in the middle - the baby on my Mom's lap. (Don't you love our outfits?!)

I wish I remembered this day. I wonder what it was like trying to arrange and keep us all relatively happy enough to get a few good shots. (Being a parent now I know just how challenging it is to even get everyone looking in the right direction!) I may not remember this specific day, but I do remember my childhood in general as being happy. I remember lots of day trips for picnics at the coast and Redwood groves near our home. And many, many long road trips to Utah (among other destinations) for holidays and summer vacations. My parents must have agreed that lots of family trips would forge strong bonds. And they did. I am so thankful for each of my relationships with my siblings and my parents. And while I could talk about each one in turn, today is all about my Mama.

The most wonderful of Wonder Women.

It's her birthday today and since I can't be with her in person, I wanted to do a post in her honor.

Anyone who knows my Mom knows of her generosity - she is known for giving baked goods (especially her delicious - and quite legendary - homemade bread and rolls) or her hand-crocheted wash cloths. I have many memories of helping her make tea rings, all kinds of cookies, rolls, and bread - and we were never sure if it was going to be for us because she was always so good about giving to others. I'm glad I had that example. I'm glad I have a mother who taught me to cook and bake - and enjoy it!

Aside from family outings and trips, and helping in the kitchen, among my most precious childhood memories are of snuggling up to the side of my mom in my parents' bed and listening to her read books to me right before bed. I remember loving that special time by her side, being lulled by the sound of her voice while looking at the pictures. It didn't matter how many times I'd heard each story, I loved the time she took to show me that I was loved and important. Ours was a busy household with eight children! It's impressive to me (especially now that I know what it is like to be a mom) that she took the time so often to have that one on one quiet time with me. I know that's where my love of reading started. And I am so thankful for those memories and, especially, the feelings that accompany them.

I'm also thankful for her example to me in spiritual matters. I don't ever remember questioning or doubting her testimony. I for sure questioned and doubted my own testimony at times - but if it hadn't been for my absolute knowledge of my parents' feelings and beliefs and faith I wouldn't have made it past those questions and doubts to find my own convictions. I would have been lost. I know this without a doubt. I have been blessed beyond measure.

And I'm so glad that my children get to have my Mama as their grandma. She's a great grandma - always thinking of fun activities and treats for all 27 of her grandchildren! I only hope that I can be as good and influential for my own children. I'm glad I had such a good example to follow.

I love you, Mama! I hope you have a great birthday today - one during which you will feel very loved and appreciated. Because you are!

12 November 2009

It's Autumn Time!

It's Autumn time! It's Autumn time! The leaves are falling down! It's Autumn time! It's Autumn time! And I forget how the rest of the song goes... but I haven't forgotten what you have to do when those leaves fall.


We have four trees in our front yard. Two Aspens, one Maple (not sure which genus), and a huge Mulberry (at least I think it's a Mulberry - I could be totally wrong. I got a C in Biology - and I was pretty proud that it wasn't a D). Anyway, the Aspens and Maple are smaller and their leaves seem to drop off pretty early in the season, making the fall leaf clean up a pretty painless process. The Mulberry (if that's what it is) is another story. It's a big tree (I would estimate it to be about 40 feet tall) and it holds an incredible amount of leaves, and it also holds on to those leaves until fairly late in the season - or so it seems to me. (Remember, I got a C in Biology so it might be a normal amount of time and I just like to complain.)

Regardless of when they fall, I still need to rake and pile and put all of those leaves into bags. There's really no use in complaining. It's just a fact of life.

So that's what I did this morning. I raked leaves. Many leaves. Many, many leaves. It's a good thing I had help.

Audrey was a good sport about leaf clean up. I was actually worried that I wouldn't be able to do much before she got bored or bugged - but she did well. I raked as fast as I could; and I piled as fast as I could; and I bagged the leaves as fast as I could. And Audrey... well, she didn't really help much. In fact, there were times she was taking handfuls of my carefully raked piles of leaves and - gasp! - throwing them everywhere! It was ok though because it kept her entertained long enough for me to continue raking and piling elsewhere (plus the wind was already doing it's work of blowing the leaves everywhere anyway).

Audrey kept busy with:
1. throwing leaves all over the place,
2. running through the big piles of leaves,
3. throwing Maple seeds (you know, the things that look like helicopter blades) up in the air,
4. taking her sweatshirt off,
5. taking her shoes off,
6. taking her socks off.

(I was really excited about the last three activities on her list, in case you were wondering. Thankfully it wasn't too cold.)

After all that running and undressing, she took a quiet moment to reflect and meditate on life:

That's a small ceramic turtle she's sitting on. I think she does her best thinking on that turtle. (Actually, I'm not sure what it's made of - I don't think it is ceramic, but it's not made of wood or metal or ice, and I don't think it's plastic... so what does that leave? Oh well.)


Meanwhile, I kept raking and bagging leaves.

The good news? We bagged seven big bags worth of leaves.

That works out to be approximately 76,928 leaves. At least that's about where I lost count.

And Luke was too busy swinging and sucking on his hand to help me keep track. So we'll never know, for sure, what the actual number was.

And the bad news?

Do you think you can handle it?

(I'm not even sure I can handle it....)

There are still many, many, many, many, many, many leaves that still need to fall off the tree! Anyone want to make a wager on how many bags - total - it will take this year? (Anything to make the clean up more interesting!)

11 November 2009



This is Audrey's newest word. She just learned it. And she loves it so much that she won't stop saying it. To everyone. Well, mostly to me and Adam. She gets shy around strangers so she can't say it to them because she's too busy sucking her thumb. But, I'm sure that once she felt comfortable enough to take her thumb out, she'd say it to strangers too. Any time we are doing something she doesn't want to do she gets a stern look in her eye and says "Don't." And she's always sure to say it with her little index finger pointed at you. It increases the overall authoritative tone.

This morning (after she piled every pillow she could find on the bed and climbed her down-y mountain) she managed to tell me "Don't" around her thumb. But as you can see she didn't forget to include that authoritative index finger. Not that it stopped me from taking the picture.

Don't... just the latest word she's learned. She is learning words at an astonishing rate. She says a lot of words these days and a few phrases too. And while she does get some sounds mixed up and there are a number of different words that sound identical, making her communication confusing at times, it's getting clearer. Adam and I decided we wanted to see if we could name all of the words she says the most - just for fun.

These words are all pretty clear:
No - that's her second favorite word - just lost the top spot to Don't!
Dad or Daddy

These words are really close to the word she's trying to say (I've put what it sounds like after the word she's trying to say):
milk = me-oke
hello = weh-wo
more = mo
please = pease
sit = "it", while patting the spot next to her.
jump = sounds more like "chump"
drink = dink
dirty = duh-ty
diaper = puh-puh
car = tar
cat = tat
star = scar
again = nen
bink = mink
pants = mants
green = neen
light = white
fluoride = wide
trash = tash
orange = ose
gum = mum
m & m's = yummy-yum
cookie = key-key
necklace = ness
hug = huck
turtle = curcle
outside = outs
stroller = stoll
wallet = wa-wet
piano = yano
slide = ice
eyes = she either means eyes or glasses
Jesus = Jejush
Lucas or Luke = Use or Uke
Talea = Thai
Meg = Mick or Meck
Grandpa = Bumpa
Grandma Marie = Mumma
Dawnette = Dot or Net
Rachel = Juju
Mary Poppins = Mamas
Beyonce = uh-oh-oh, or Onsay
Little Mermaid = Mermy but lately she's gotten the hang of the "maid" part, but it sounds more like Mermate.
Ariel = Ay-we-o
Cinderella = Rella
TinkerBell = Bell
Snow White = White
Mulan = Nahn
Pinnochio = yo-ee-yo

These words sound really similar, so we have to pay attention to context in order to know which one she wants:
Mom = Mom, Mama, Mommy
Grandma Vernae = Mammy, Mimi, and sometimes it sounds like Mommy.
juice and shoes
grapes and chips

Then there are words that she says that don't sound like the word she's trying to say, like instead of phone she says nose.

Sometimes she takes the last sound of the word and puts it at the beginning (which is what I think may be happening with phone):
dance = nance
Dan = Nan
Jenn = Nenn, but she also sometimes says the word backwards, so Jenn is sometimes Nej... not sure what that means.

And then just for fun, she says the word correctly but confuses the concept, like up sometimes means up but sometimes it means she wants down - and vice versa.

And her favorite phrase?

Buy it! (And she usually has the same stern look in her eye as when she says "Don't!")

05 November 2009


In my life there have been very few times when I have felt like a groupie. In fact, I really can't think of one... besides last night.

It all started about 2 years ago. It was Adam's birthday and I decided that I wanted to make him a chocolate sheet cake - one like my mom used to make - so I got online and did a search on Google. A few possibilities popped up and as I compared the recipes I found, I decided on one from a blog. On this blog, the author had the recipe completely broken down, step-by-step with a picture (or two or three or four) for each step. I thought it was really cool and unique to post a recipe this way. Then I got to work on Adam's chocolate sheet cake. And it was the best. Ever. It was so good! Everything about it was just perfect - it was moist, it was melt-in-your-mouth soft, it was so chocolate-y but not overly rich, it was deeeeeeelicious!

So I went back to that blog and I looked at all of the other recipes that were posted. Each one was in the same format as the sheet cake - step-by-step with lots of pictures. And I felt very compelled to try all of them. And I did. Over the following few weeks I tried a bunch of different recipes - and each one was a hit. And I made about five more sheet cakes. No exaggeration. And in the two years since that first fateful visit I have returned again and again - it's been my go to place for recipes or ideas for what to make for dinner.

The blog is by a woman who calls herself the Pioneer Woman because she lives on a working cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma. I found myself drawn to her site so frequently for recipes, that I started reading the other areas of her site - confessions, home and garden, photography, and the story of how she met her husband - and loving it all. She is a great self-taught photographer and posts a ton of her pictures to enhance the experiences and stories that she shares. And besides that I just really liked her humorous and engaging writing style.

Well, she's put together a cookbook. It was just released at the end of October. I pre-ordered one for myself and it is beautiful. Inside and out. This is the front cover:

This is the back:

I love all of the pictures and colors!

And best of all, the book's format is similar to her website's format: step-by-step with lots of pictures!

Cool, huh?! I can't wait to try her chicken pot pie!

And this? This is what the Pioneer Woman calls "Flat Apple Pie". And I love it. I love this pie. It's changed my pie-baking life! It basically tastes just like your typical (yet delicious) apple pie but it takes a fraction of the time to prepare. And that's always a good thing. The thing about this pie is you just throw the dough on a baking sheet, put the apple filling in the middle of the circle of dough and fold the edges of the dough over and you're done. It's a beautiful thing! I hate fiddling with pie crust! I don't mind the making of the dough or getting the filling together - I just don't like forming the crust so it's all pretty. I'm not a perfectionist so inevitably my "fluted" edges end up looking like a three year old was put in charge of the crust - and it's a little bit embarrassing. This pie has changed all that - it looks rustic and charming and I don't have to try to flute any edges. It's awesome. And liberating!

So, I know I already sound like a groupie, but it's about to get worse.

I got my cookbook and I read every page. I relished every picture. My mouth watered over the recipes that I hadn't yet seen. I looked forward to many fun nights recreating the dishes.

And I was happy.

Then I found out that the Pioneer Woman (her name is Ree) was starting her book tour and would be coming to do a signing in Salt Lake. We decided to go. It was crazy chaotic. There were so many people and it was held at a very small (but very quaint and charming) book shop. By the time we got there they had already given out all of the tickets. We didn't even know you had to have tickets! We had the option of waiting until all of the ticket holders had gone through and then waiting until the waiters had gone through. But they were only on B, and the tickets went through R, and it was already 8pm. Having Audrey and Lucas with us made trying to wait the multiple hours impossible. My hopes of getting my book signed and meeting Ree in person were dashed.

In a last-ditch effort, I decided to see if there was any way to just slip in really quick - thinking maybe if they knew I had babies with me they might make an exception. I wasn't at all hopeful. I just knew they would say, "sorry, but no." And they did.

But then Lucas' cheeks worked their magic.

A kind samaritan handed me her just-used "B" ticket and they let me get in at the end of the "B" line.

Thank you, kind samaritan!

Thank you, kind organizers!

About 20 minutes later I was having my book signed.

Ree was lovely and warm and engaging.

Just like I thought she would be. Thank you, Ree!

I think she was charmed by Lucas' cheeks too.

But who wouldn't be?

If you haven't been to her site, you must go. Go now. NOW. Start with her recipes! Start with her Chocolate Sheet Cake! You can't go wrong - all of the recipes are beautiful and straight-forward and absolutely delicious!


Happy cooking!

02 November 2009

Our Halloween

Halloween this year was so much fun! It was the first year that Audrey was more aware and interested in the whole thing. In fact, she picked out her costume. We were at the store and Adam and I had narrowed it down to a blue princess dress or a bumblebee. We asked Audrey which one she wanted but she pointed to both of them. Finally, we decided on the bumblebee - so we gave her the bee costume and put the blue dress on the rack and started to walk away. But then Audrey started to panic saying "Bat! Bat! Bat!" I was confused and told her they didn't have a bat costume. Then I figured out that she wasn't saying "Bat!" She was saying "Back!" (Some words in toddler speak are still confusing.) She was upset that I'd put the dress back on the rack. So we gave her the dress and put the bee costume back to see if she'd have the same reaction... not a peep. She was happily stroking the pretty blue fabric of the princess dress, so we just went with it. When we got home she started chanting "Dress. Dress. Dress. Dress!" and trying to take her clothes off. So I put it on her and she posed in the mirror and pranced around the room for an hour or so. It was adorable...

until I told her it was time to take the dress off... then it was Tantrum City for about a half hour after I put the dress away. On the bright side - at least I knew she liked it, right?!

As for Lucas - we weren't sure what we were going to do for him, we were trying to decide if it was worth it to get a costume when he's so little and not really an active participant. Then I found a cute lion costume on sale and I couldn't pass it up.

I think it was money (only $6!!) well-spent.

Totally worth it.

Are you kidding me?! So cute.

And if you think he's cute - just wait for Audrey in her "Rella" costume (that's what she called her costume because Cinderella wears a blue dress just like her's).

Here she is in her dress and her fine jewels - all ready for the ball (...or trick or treating, whatever!):

Unfortunately, she's playing her favorite game of not looking at the camera - but you get the idea. In her defense, it maybe wasn't so much that she was playing the avoid-the-camera game as much as it was getting distracted by some trick-or-treaters across the street...

Here's a better look at all of her royal jewels. She loved these so much - you could tell she felt very special with them on - there was a certain tilt to her head and gleam in her eye.

The kids across the street must have had some pretty amazing costumes - she couldn't keep her eyes off of them! Or maybe it wasn't their costumes, it was the pull of wanting to be a part of all of the excitement. We had explained what Halloween was and the whole trick or treating process. We could tell she was excited about the treat part but she was still a little hesitant as we walked to the first house.

I think some of Audrey's nervousness was rubbing off on Luke. He looked a little anxious.

As we knocked on the door of the first house, she was mostly curious with a little excitement. Then the door opened and she got nervous... wanting Adam to pick her up and hold her... then the man at the door held out a big bowl filled with candy and there was a glint of wonder in her eye... followed by excitement as she was told to pick one... then glee as she literally clapped her hands and said "Yay!" after Adam helped her put the candy into her pumpkin pail and she realized she could keep it! It was very cute!

We took her to a total of six houses - people in our neighborhood that she is familiar with and who we thought would like to see her dressed in her costume. After the first house she definitely loosened up and was more excited with each door we approached.

There were a few times she would look back to the sidewalk where Luke, Me, and Grammy were waiting - but for the most part she had a lot of fun trick or treating with her dad.

There were a few times when Luke had to encouragingly wave her on: "Go ahead! Go get the candy!"

It was a good night. It was so fun to see how excited Audrey was to show off her pretty dress and tiara and necklace and earrings. She made a lovely "Rella". And Luke was a very cute lion.

It wasn't long, though, before all of the Halloween excitement turned into Halloween exhaustion.

It was definitely a great night.