Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Post of the Year...

What I don't like about the end of the year is that it's so two-sided: One, I cannot believe that the year already over; and Two, if I actually start thinking about all the stuff that has happened in the past year, I realize that a year is a really long time.

A year ago I was still pregnant with Little Lamb, Rabbit couldn't talk and Bluebird was still such a little person. Now Little Lamb is almost one year old, she's mimicking sounds, laughing at people and pulling herself up on everything. Rabbit talks all the time, is in the midst of potty training and adamantly insists that "Me do it!", no matter what the task, simple or impossible. Bluebird is taller, louder, bossier and, surprisingly, more loving now. She and I are carbon copies of each other and we butt heads so often sometimes...but something has changed in my young girl that has her just skipping up to me and giving me a loving hug around my legs, a quick kiss on my kneecap and a heartfelt "I love you." It's amazing how much babies, toddlers and preschoolers can grow up in the course of one little year.

I have done a lot of growing this year as well. It's been hard. There have been a lot of tears, a lot of frustration and a fair share of feeling very alone at times. However, I can honestly say that it's all been completely worth it; the internal strength that makes me who I am has increased and I feel a little more grounded, like I do really have my own place in the big scheme of things and that I am entitled to being ME. I've shed guilts, fears, anxieties, resentments...and it hurt, but the December 2008 version of myself has a much lighter heart.

So I stand on the edge of this new looming year: 2009, already christened as the "Year of Health." I wonder what it holds for me and my family, my friends, my neighbors, my country, the world.

I do have some goals; the biggest regarding my descent to a healthier weight. I hope to grow spiritually--a little more refined in my reception of the Spirit and a lot more disciplined about following his promptings. I'm aiming to do some more reading that I've been trying to get to for years, and I'm going to try to be nicer to myself this year as well by cutting back on all the negative self-talk that's constantly chattering away in my head.

I am a good person with a well-meaning heart, despite what anybody else may choose to believe. (And really, I've got to just stop caring about what all those "others" are talking/thinking about me anyway, because it is not accomplishing anything worthwhile.) I'd like to develop the ability to tune everyone else out and really be able to focus on what is going on between the four walls of my home--no difference in thought or behavior regardless of whether the curtains are open or not. I would like to abandon the part of me that sometimes wavers in the midst of opposition or scrutiny.

I am me. I choose to be this way because I like who I am and what I do.

2009...the (projected) year of accomplishment.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Word of Caution: Breville Panini Press

Yeah, that part on the outside front that looks like it's safety moulding? It's not, it's an extension of the hot plate. I've "learned" this lesson twice in the past twenty four hours. My poor hands.

But my tummy is happy. There's nothing like panini to make everything all better again. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Dresses





Taken last Sunday before church. Oh, the joy that is dressing up three girls in Christmas dresses...I am a thoroughly blessed woman indeed. I love it!

Hilarious

A new blog to be completely addicted to, only because it makes me laugh.

Cake Wrecks--When Professional Cakes Go Horribly, Hilariously Wrong.

Oh, Oh, Oh!

(Y'all can thank koprime for this one, she's a fan on it on Facebook.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Don't Forget...


Am I the only mother in the entire world of Santa-dom that habitually forgets to make cookies for the big guy?

What's Santa eating at your house this year? Or, in afterthought, does Santa even eat at your house? ;)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't Ruin the Surprise

Bluebird has a hard time keeping things secret, especially in regards to Christmas presents. I cannot even begin to recount the numerous occasions when she's "helped" others figure out what their Christmas presents are. (She helped me out the other day in regards to a few of mine...)

I finished wrapping a gift for our neighbor and was getting ready to go outside to deliver it and I asked Bluebird if she wanted to come along, to which she enthusiastically said, "Yes!"

Me: "Now, you can only come along if you promise not to tell [our neighbor] what her present is. Can you do that?"

Bluebird: "Uh huh."

Me: "Hmmm, well, why don't we practice? What do you say if our neighbor asks you if you know what the present is?"

Bluebird: [deer in the headlights look]

Me: "We nod our head and say yes, because we do know what the present is and we don't want to tell an un-truth, right?"

Bluebird: "Yes."

Me: "OK, what do you say if our neighbor asks you if you'll tell her what the present is?"

Bluebird: [deer in headlights look]

Me: "We say, 'No, I'm not going to tell you because it's a surprise.'"

Bluebird: [frowns] "I think I want to stay home."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Now that's a smile!

Gingerbread Popcorn


This recipe is truly compliments of the genius that is me. :) (With some foundational help from the BHG caramel corn recipe.)

Air-popped popcorn (whatever the amount is when you pop a half cup of kernels)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp. molasses
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves (or 1/2 tsp if you really like it spicy)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

1. Remove all unpopped kernels from popped popcorn. Put popcorn in a roasting pan and keep warm in a 300 degree (F) oven while making sugar mixture.

2. For gingerbread flavoring sugar mixture, in a medium sauce pan combine brown sugar, butter, molasses, spices and salt. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils. Continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, without stirring, for 5 minutes more.

3. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in baking soda. Pour mixture over popcorn; stir gently to coat. Bake in a 300 degree (F) oven for 10 minutes. Stir mixture; bake 3-5 minutes more. (Remove from oven if you start to smell it burning--this can be fickle in that way sometimes.) Spread gingerbread corn on two large pieces of buttered foil to cool.

The taste starts out as caramel corn, and then you get a punch of gingerbread at the end. I love this stuff. It burns easily, so watch out...but I still think it tastes good, even when it's burnt.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Owee.

I got my allergy tests done today. On my back. Fifty seven pokes. *sniffle*

Three were control pokes, so they were supposed to flare up. (And boy, did they ever!) And then I had twelve others flare up as well. (The biggest one was almost an inch big! Now that's being allergic to something! Stupid "Common Sagebrush.") No wonder I'm always on the verge of an allergic reaction--between four trees, seven weeds and dust mites, I'm always breathing in something that turns my body into an immuno-war zone.

My options for treatment are medication (which makes me feel worse) or allergy shots (um, ow).

Anybody out there done the allergy shot thing? I'd like to hear about it. (Please!)

Standardized Testing

I'm administering the California Achievement Test to Bluebird this week to see where she stands in regards to Kindergarten work.

It's really hard...for me!

I know what Bluebird knows, and I have a mini-anneurism each time I see her pencil hover over the circle to a wrong answer. Sometimes I think she just doesn't understand the question very well, because they are worded really weird. So I try to explain the question in terms that she can understand, but then I wonder if I'm helping her too much or if that's a big no-no...so I decided that I needed to come up with a way for us to complete the test in an honest manner.

I don't look at what she's marking. At all. I turn into a proctor robot. It's the only way I can guarantee that her answers will be truly her answers. If she was sitting in a classroom, she'd be left on her own to answer the question anyway, so that's how I'm going to survive this. Besides, it's just Kindergarten, it is so not a big deal whatsoever. There's just that little test-taking demon in my head that wants her to do extremely well. Mom and Teacher is a hard road to travel. But I'm doing my best to keep it honest.

Who knew the stresses involved with administering a flimsy little Kindergarten test?!?! The whole point of the test is to see where she will be this coming year, not to earn a scholarship or grant entrance to Harvard. Stop stressing. Yeesh.

And to answer the un-asked question: I'm having her take the test in order to establish a healthy homeschool habit. I have heard the CPS horror stories regarding homeschooling families, so I'm taking my pre-cautions in case some well-meaning neighbor calls my kids in for truancy or the like. Having an arsenal of test scores is a great way to fend off the likes of CPS. The tests also give me some much-appreciated feedback on strengths and weaknesses, and standardized tests are a necessary evil when it comes to the future with the SAT and ACT and all that fun stuff. I figure, my girls might as well be comfortable taking them.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rabbit's First Knock-Knock "Joke"

Rabbit: "Knock knock."

Me: "Who's there?"

Rabbit: "Mama."

Me: "Mama who?"

Rabbit: "MAMA BWOOK! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thanksgiving Pictures, Part Four: Dinner at Dad's House




It's hard to get photos uploaded in a timely manner.

The last in the series of Thanksgiving photos--my dad and his wife, Kim, had us over for dinner on the day after Thanksgiving. It was nice, as I hadn't been to their new house yet and finally got to see what sort of work they had done on it. (My dad is a finish carpenter and enjoys buying junker houses and flipping them--the two of them are a formidable team of home renovators.) The house looks very nice, I should have taken pictures of it.

Kim's daughter, Ashley, loves little kids. She had purchased one of those Gingerbread Man decorating kits and worked on them with Bluebird and then played Pretty Pretty Princess and Barbies with her and Rabbit. It was cute.

The dog's name is Uma. I think she looks like a cocktail weinie with legs. She's a miniature chihuahua with a serious weight problem, and it's just the funniest thing to be around her.

Bluebird sulked when we left because she didn't want to leave her "new best friend," and Dad and Kim weighed down our van with Christmas presents...it saved them a pretty penny to ship via the Brookemobile. :)

I have no more Thanksgiving pictures to share with you. :( It was a great trip, and I think we'll plan on going back soon. I miss the PNW!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cranberry Orange Pinwheels


They were very good.

UPDATE: The recipe can be found in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I feel like it's copyright infringement to post the recipe, what does everyone do in situations like this?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Apparently, it's very easy to find your favorite BHG recipes at their website, and here's their recipe for Cranberry-Orange Pinwheels.

It's an orange shortbread rolled around a cranberry and pecan filling. The pecans are the first thing I taste, and then I get the tang of the cranberries and there's a hint of orange that follows. Not bad at all.

Monday, December 8, 2008

We Interrupt the Cooking of Dinner...

I've five minutes before the rolls come out of the oven, so I thought I'd write a quick note to y'all and say "Hello!"

And may I say, the Cooking Light cookbook--it is absolutely wonderful! I'm cooking up their Tomato-Basil soup right now and it smells so good, I can hardly stand it. We're having Garlicky Herb & Onion rolls to go with it and...yeah, there are times where you get to stand in your kitchen with your hands on your hips, surveying the scene and say, "This is going to be good." Tonight is such a night. I can hardly wait.

I've also got some Cranberry Orange pinwheel cookies chilling in the fridge, waiting for their turn in the oven for our FHE treat tonight...I have waited almost six years to make these, for want of a food processor and sufficient energy to actually bake them.

This is going to be good. Num.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thanksgiving Pictures, Part Three: The Big Day

WARNING: This post is huge with pictures. Be thankful it isn't more--I had to scale back. (I know.)

Little Lamb and my dad (Grandpapa):
They have the same haircut.

Bluebird and my aunt:
Yeah, I don't know what that face is about either.

Rabbit and Amber (My aunt's youngest):


Gettin' down to business! Go Bluebird, go! She was a huge fan of the pre-dinner snack buffet:


Setting up the extra table:


Peeling potatoes with Dad:



Watching some football with Grandpapa:


Granny refreshing Ashley (My aunt's oldest) on knitting (Woot! Knitting!):


Grandpapa getting Rabbit's piggies:


Bluebird loved to tell Grandpa Harry (Granny's husband) stories:


Dad taught Rabbit how to put olives on her fingers:


Mr. Brooke and Granny:


Me and my hubby:


Young ones, avert your eyes!


My aunt and her girls:


Granny and Little Lamb:


Bluebird and Ashley (isn't she beautiful?!?!):


Mr. Brooke dishing up Rabbit a plate, with proper supervision:


Dad and Amber giving Little Lamb her bottle:


Happy Dad and Happy Baby!


Kisses from Grandpapa:

*blissful sigh* Where do I even begin? The day was perfection, absolute perfection. I hadn't been "home" for three years and I had missed my family so much during that time...this was exactly what I needed, I am so glad we went! We got to Seattle on Wednesday night, went straight to James and Denise's and went to sleep (but only after James wowed us with his culinary skills with omelettes).

On Thanksgiving morning I had to make a quick grocery run for baby food, and on my way back to the car I decided that I could not stand the suspense any longer, so I drove to my aunt's house and banged on the door until they woke up and let me in. Hee hee. I stayed for about fifteen minutes before heading back to my family and feeding Little Lamb.

We had our dinner at my Granny's house, and we all arrived early to help out in order to lessen the burden for Granny, who is recovering from some recent heavy-duty surgery. My Aunt Sandra was mostly in charge of fixing the meal, and Dad and I pitched in wherever we could amidst telling stories from years past, laughing at jokes, watching Bluebird's "performances" and (my Dad) teaching my girls new and interesting things like how to put olives on their fingers and shove them into people's mouths. Dad sat at the kids' table (ha ha) and after dinner we went outside to play basketball and soccer (in the rain!). Rabbit turned pink as can be, running after the ball and trying with all her might to kick the thing as far as she could. We came back into the warmth of the house and had some pie, told more stories and left only when the girls started showing signs of their impending bedtime.

It's hard to look at these pictures and not get a little bit of a lump in my throat...it really was a great day. I look forward to more such Thanksgivings in the future.

Thanksgiving Pictures, Part Two: Crown Burger

Annukka's given the go-ahead, so here's more pics from our lunch together:
The girls got to sit at their own table, which is just perfect for excited little princesses!

Mr. C

Miss B & Bluebird

Little Lamb and Uncle Chris (notice that she's NOT crying!)

Baby A, who turns one in a week or so.

Uncle Chris playing peek-a-boo with Rabbit, which she loved.

Little Lamb likes noses.

And Bluebird and Miss B decided to play Ring Around the Rosie in the aisle (the other customers just loved us!)


*sigh* If only we lived closer to each other, I'm sure they would gladly be best buds. :)

Miss B's one of the friendliest girls you're ever going to meet! I love this shot of her.

And then Rabbit fell off her chair (I may or may not have had part in helping that to happen...) and we decided it was time to pack it up and get out of there so everyone could continue on their journeys. It was a fun and auspicious start to our trip.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving Pictures

(Part One in a series of who knows how many...)
We spent our Thanksgiving in the wonderful Pacific Northwest this year, and I've lots of pictures to share!

We met Chris, Annukka and their family in Salt Lake on our way up in order to celebrate their daughter's birthday at Build-A-Bear:



We all had lunch together at Crown Burger, which was so fun. The girls got to sit at their own table, apart from the mommies, which was very cool. (The daddies sat with them instead.)

Bluebird was ecstatic to hang out with her cousin, and I've many pictures of them giggling together, but will wait to post face pics until I get the OK from Annukka.

We then continued on up to Boise, where we spent the night. We drove the rest of the way to Seattle the next day and stayed with our (even more so now) dear friends, James and Denise at their new "I work for Amazon" pad in Bellevue.

We had Thanksgiving dinner with my family, for which the pictures will follow in a subsequent post, as my internet is working at the speed of cold molasses and giving me some serious frustration. :)

Safe and Sound

We have returned in triumph from the Pacific Northwest! Pictures will follow, once my internet decides that it's OK with uploading pictures again. :)

Oh, Seattle, I miss you already...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Edition of Getting to Know Your Friends

Courtesy of The Fake Doctor. (Ha ha.)

1. Wrapping paper or bags? Both. I like how it looks under the tree to have both.

2. Real tree or Artificial? We converted to fake a few years back...I sure do not miss watering a real one or cleaning up pine needles.

3. When do you put up the tree? Sometime between the day after Thanksgiving and a couple of weeks into December.

4. When do you take the tree down? Hehehe. Ideally, the first week of January or so. When I was pregnant with Rabbit, we took it down shortly before St. Patrick's Day.

5. Do you like eggnog? I like adore Pumpkin Spice Egg Nog. But I can't have any this year because I'm focusing on my health.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Last year I said I couldn't remember any of them...but a bunch have come back to memory just now. None of them stick out particularly. I still have fond memories of my clear telephone...but only until my brother broke it the next day.

7. Hardest person to buy for? Mr. Brooke--everything he wants is expensive. (Sorry babe, I don't have $10,000.)

8. Easiest person to buy for? Bluebird--take her to any store, anywhere, and she'll want half of it. It's fun to shop for a preschool girl.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? I have a plaque with Joseph, Mary and Jesus on it. I really want the Little People Nativity this year, with all the accessories. What a novel concept: a nativity scene that children can't break. Genius.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail. But I'm not sending any this year, I think.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A wrapped box that contained the evidence of something I had already received.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I sure do like "ELF." Smiling's my favorite.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? November or so.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Probably.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Gingerbread men with that wonderfully thick white icing that's all twisty on their cuffs.

16. Lights on the tree? Yes, but only clear.

17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night or Gesu Bambino (with the violin part...so beautiful!)

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay home. Thanksgiving is the travelling holiday for me.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Yeah. I have to, I'm a mom.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star. I have seen way too many ugly, gaudy angels atop trees to ever consider putting one on mine voluntarily.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning--there's nothing like waking up to squeals of joy coming from the living room.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? I can't bake everything I want to bake.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? I like them all. I'm quite tickled over the whole "confectionary" theme that I've seen here and there lately.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Ham, rolls, caesar salad, mashed potatoes, some other stuff, mince pie. No one makes mince pies anymore, which is a real shame.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A panini press and an awesome built-in bookshelf. To not go into debt over Christmas. More peace in my heart on a regular basis.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Present Philosophy

This year, we are doing things simple. I set up an automatic savings transfer each month for this past year, and we now have a concrete, tangible budget for our holiday festivities.

Since we have five people in our family, I divided the budget by six--one part allocated to each family member and the sixth part for everything else. It is my hope that this will pare down all the craziness that traditionally accompanies the holidays, because most of the craziness comes from reaching beyond our little immediate family. If it doesn't fit in the budget, it's not happening.

I'm hoping to experience more peace and quiet joy this year. We're planning on attending a live nativity, and going to see the lights at Temple Square. Everything else will most likely take place within the walls of our own home: baking and decorating gingerbread houses, making cookies to give to some of the girls' friends, (hopefully) building some snowmen, cutting out snowflakes to hang from the ceiling and in the windows, drinking hot cocoa after playing outside on a cold afternoon, learning about Christ's birth and memorizing the words to Christmas carols.

The only problem I'm having with this idea is the potential for centering the holidays solely around our family, without giving thought to anyone else. I want to "do Christmas" for a needy family or something like that; but perhaps that is just something that should be done during a different season of life, like when the girls get into their teenage years and need a bonk on the noggin to get them out of "me" mode. It doesn't seem very fair to take Christmas away from young children in order to give it to somebody else; I don't think they'd understand the concept at this age. I do want to include service to those in need as a regular part of our holiday traditions, but think it's best left for when they are a touch older.

A hard thing for me to give up is the mailing out of the Christmas letter. I enjoy doing it, but postage alone overshoots the entire "everything else" budget we now have in place. (Besides, I've got the blog, it's not like anyone really needs an update!)

Hopefully the new guidelines will help the season be a little more enjoyable and far less stressful for us paying adults. I love that my options somewhat require me to focus more on my girls and celebrating with preschooler enthusiasm. I have high hopes for this Christmas season--and great expectations that there will be no time needed to "recover" from it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Email from my Dad

I received this from my Dad as he gets ready to start with Christmas shopping, it was addressed to both his sister (my aunt) and myself:

Hi Girls,
My wife has reminded me that it is that time of year for you both to demand small things from us for your children. Since we are from the cave person era and have mixed views on what small girls and young boy child’s may require, we are asking for your opinion to assist us in our archaic ways. I know this may be quite a dilemma for my sister due to her ancient ways of thought process but I’m sure lucid moments will prevail. It would behoove you both to consider the scale of economy and to weigh noise factor as Kim and myself would be mentally stricken to hear of poor little wretches having had their pretties twisted or pinched beyond repair. Oh boo hoo!! Let us know. Thanks



When I finished reading it, I thought to myself, "Now I know where I get it from..."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bulgur


YUCK!!!

We've been trying something new regarding breakfast this week because I always feel bad about making stuff that Mr. Brooke doesn't like. I'm an oatmeal, muffins and pancakes (sweet) sort of gal and he's a fried potatoes, biscuits & gravy, bacon & eggs (savory) sort of guy. We decided that this week he would make breakfast in the mornings so I could have time to read my scriptures instead of feeling stressed out and behind on everything from the get-go. He made a variety of things, even pancakes a couple of times.

But this morning, being the weekend, (and despite the fact that he needed to go to work anyway) he slept in. When "start cooking breakfast time" rolled around, I decided that I'd just do it and let him sleep some more. I originally was planning on oatmeal, but when I opened the cupboard I spotted the Bulgur and thought, "Hmmm, fitting..." and went to work.

(((shudder))) Not good at all. I had mine plain, with some raisins, in order to avoid extra calories. The girls and Mr. Brooke got all the fixin's: raisins, butter, cinnamon, brown sugar and half and half. Both versions were equally kind of gross, and I ate a bunch of it and still don't feel full. Annoying. I will have to find some other use for this stuff...there's a recipe for bulgur pilaf on the box and I know I have a recipe for Tabbouleh around here somewhere that I've never gotten around to actually making, despite having planned to do so.

Now, I can make myself eat just about anything if I think it's healthy for me, but this is definitely going on my list of "I don't like that."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Beans & Pasta & Haircuts & Money


My life revolves around beans and pasta this week. And it's been good.

The hardest part about living off of food storage isn't living off of food storage--it's disciplining myself to not spend our money at all. We are fine with eating just beans, rice and pasta...but it's so hard to stay home and not go out and spend money at this time of year. We've supplemented the week with some trips out and about to free places--the library, the reservoir and hiking areas surrounding it, taking more walks--proving that there is fun to be had even if you're not going to spend money. I cut Bluebird's and Rabbit's hair on Wednesday in order to avoid spending $11 each at the salon for them, and it went well. (Mostly because I have this book to help me out now.) Rabbit's hair is a little lopsided, but I'll leave it alone for another day in hopes that she won't balk at getting it cut some more.

We have been blessed--Mr. Brooke is receiving a bonus check from his company to reimburse him for his travels to and from the airport for the crazy amounts of travelling he did at the beginning of the month, and it's almost the amount of money that went "missing" from our account. What an incredible relief. (And no, I still can't figure out what happened regarding the missing money! Frustrating!)

So this whole "living off of food storage" thing hasn't been as dramatic as I thought it would be...the girls have adjusted to the dry milk, we're not feeling deprived at dinner and it actually seems as though most of us are feeling better than normal. Hmmm. Very interesting.