My 3 Monsters: November 2009

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Beloved toy,
Patient friend.
Remembered fondly by D always.

"There's not room in this house for the both of us." -- Cassie



I am so excited about this Gimpshop thing, I can't even find the words to say!!  I messed around yesterday for a bit and designed this blog background and header for the blog I do for the Young Women's organization at our church.  All by my own self!!  I'm still pretty amateur-hour, but it is fantastic good fun.  Check out Shabby Princess (dot) com to download a bunch of beyond-cute digi-scrap kits . . . FOR FREE!  Love it!

P.S.  To my sisters:  Remember when we did Black Friday in Vegas two years ago and stayed up all night eating Wheat Thins in Leslie's freezing cold apartment?  That was awesome.  I think about it every time I get up in the middle of the night to do Black Friday now.  I went to Kohl's this morning then met up with my friend, Tammy, who had sat in front of Target all night long to reserve her spot at the head of the line. We were in and out of each store in 15 minutes flat, got everything on my list (and most of Tammy's) and came home to bed. We were like shopping ninjas -- in and out before anyone knew we were there. Sweet!


Today I'm Giving Thanks. And Baking Pies.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Enjoy your special day and know that I'm grateful for all of you.


So Generous

Ahhhh. it's the spirit of the season or something.  I'm going to share a couple more freebies with you.  I know, I know.  I am too kind.  I'm a giver.

Free Computer Program Here.

   I have always wanted to learn to use Photoshop.  I took one brief class at BYU early on in my design education, but I only did what I absolutely had to so that I could pass the class.  (OK, to get an A.  Whatever.)  I was going to be an interior designer, right?  I didn't foresee this phase of my life, with it's digital scrapbooking and blogging.  OK, to be fair to my naive little self those things hadn't been invented yet. (Also, it might have been Illustrator that we learned . . . how old is Photoshop, anyway?)   I digress. I've always wanted to learn Photoshop, but I'm too cheap to actually buy Photoshop.  So I've suffered with a lame-o blog header all this time.  (Woe is me.) Until recently when I found Gimpshop.  It's remarkably similar to Photoshop, or so I've read. And the price is right! I played around for a while using a tutorial written for Photoshop users and I figured it out.  How do you like my new header?  Did that on Gimpshop.  I don't know.  Maybe I'm the only person in the world who doesn't already have Photoshop.  Maybe not.  I thought I'd share.  Because, remember, I'm a giver like that . . .

Free Advice here.

  (OK, don't click on that.  It's not a link.  The free advice is right HERE.)  Go see The Blind Side, the new Sandra Bullock movie.  It should be required watching for any person who complains.  Ever.  We saw it last night with our "compound" of friends and, as trite as this may sound, I am a changed person today.  It will forever alter your internal gratitude meter. And your idea of what it means to be a Christian.  I laughed, I cried (like a big ole' dork) and I'm recommending it to EVERYONE I know.  Everyone.  Go tonight -- you don't work tomorrow, right?  I'll watch your kids. 

Now go.  Get on with the pie baking and such.  No more dallying around on this old blog.  (But thanks for stopping in!)


So Grateful

Last night for Family Night Sis, inspired by her fabulous primary teacher, Sister Schick (thanks, Tammy!), had us all make wreaths displaying what we're thankful for this year.  It's always fun to get a little peek into the minds and hearts of your children.  Among the things listed were:  Cassie, zoos, iPods, books, clothes, the Phoenix Suns, video games, our home, awesome Grandparents and "creatures".  Not sure about that last one.  I was happy to see on every single wreath leaves for family, friends and our faith in our Savior Jesus Christ.  Because those are things we have been blessed with in abundance.

Because Papa and Grandma can't come for Thanksgiving like they had planned, the kids wanted to make a wreath for them, too.  They are thankful for Papa and Grandma because . . .
  • Papa makes good root beer.
  • You raised dad to be a good dad.
  • You are awesome grandparents.
  • You always make us laugh.
  • We like that you are kind to us.
  • You support us.
  • You let us come to your house.
  • You're from Canada.
  • You're good examples.
Love to all our family and friends!  We are thinking of you -- this week and all others.


Sometimes . . .

You learn things you wish you could un-know.  Things happen to your friends or family that are so unspeakable you're at a loss for what to do or how to help.  You wish you could wave a magic wand and make everything right in the world again.  But you can't.  So you take to your bed with its big, warm down comforter and close your eyes for a while because from that vantage point you can almost kind-of pretend that things aren't so rough on the outside.  That the truth is what you thought you knew before today.  That the people you love are happy and care-free.  And that we're all safe from the corruption and evil in the world.  Even though we're not.  And at some point you know you'll have no choice but to put your big-girl pants back on and face facts and realize that even though you have so seemingly little to offer by way of help, you must try to offer something.  And be grateful for what you have because you just can't take anything for granted.

Yeah.  That's today. 


Living Life Without a Safety Net

In a recent bout of fiscal responsibility, Brent and I created a plan to eliminate our debt.  We closed all but one of our credit accounts and cut up the cards, because sad experience has taught us that self-control in this arena is not something we possess.  And we're serious this time.  Four years from now we're going to be lovin' life.  Right now?  Eh . . . .

See, when you are used to having that credit "safety net" you don't have to worry about things like, oh . . . the cable company automatically deducting over $500 from your checking account for the DVR that you DID IN FACT return to them.  When things like that happen you just shrug and whip out your plastic to tide you over until things get straightened out, with the intention of paying that money back as soon as possible.  But you never do.  Well, we never did.

BUT, when you give up that safety net and require more of yourself, you have to learn a whole new way of coping.   And we're doing it.  But it's not super fun.  That stupid DVR wasn't really worth $500, but that's beside the point.  We'll make it through until it gets worked out without using the credit card this time.  And I'll learn . . . eventually . . . to look at my bank account more than once a month and stay on top of things like this.  We're just so very grateful for friends and family who support us emotionally in achieving our financial goals.


Sooooooo Sleeeeeeepy . . . .

Last night I attended my first midnight movie premier with my friends and a few of their daughters. (I guess I'm really not as fun a mom as I thought, as I didn't even consider taking Sis with me on an all-nighter on a school night.)  Of course we saw New Moon, the second installment in the Twilight series.  It was delightful -- the waiting in line, the anticipation, the girlie conversations, the whoops of teenage bliss when a certain someone in the movie removed his shirt (and every time thereafter when he appeared bare chested -- which was often).  As is usually the case, the movie didn't really do the book justice, but it was fine.  Fun, even.  I'm glad I went.  I'm even more glad that fifteen minutes from now I'll have the house to myself so I can go back to bed.   


Mini- Cuppies: How - To

My sister-in-law Kristen asked for recipes for all those cuppies I made yesterday.  Since I stayed up late with sugar-induced insomnia and I'm tired and trying to avoid walking the dog (I'll get around to it . . .), I thought I would grant her request.  It's a little embarrassing,  however, to admit that there are not really any recipes, per se.  I had to laugh out loud last night when a newer lady I don't know very well asked me if I was a caterer.  HA!  Betty Crocker is a busy baker's best friend.  We go waaaaay back, she and I.  So, while these are nothing fancy,  I will share how I customized each one to my liking.

Red Velvet Cuppies with Whipped Cream Frosting and Raspberries.

  The secret here is in my "home-made" whipped cream frosting.  It's so light and kind of marshmallowy.  I just whipped together a can of whipped white frosting (the kind that says "whipped" or "fluffy" on the can) with half a container of Cool Whip.  Pipe it on top of the cake with a large star tip and plunk a raspberry right down on top.  Yummy.  People will think you spent hours on them!

Butterfly Cuppies.

  Use any flavor of cake your litlle heart desires.  You're going to need Wilton candy melts for these in two colors.  I used the dark cocoa and then orange and blue for the insides.  I found a cute little butterfly image online printed it out for my pattern.  Cover your pattern sheet with wax paper.  Melt about half a bag of cocoa candy melts and half a bag of the colored ones in separate bowls.  The trick is to get the right consistency -- not too runny, not too stiff. It takes some experimenting.  I went through about a dozen wonky looking wings (which my kids cheerfully disposed of) before I got the hang of it. Carefully spoon melted chocolate into zip-loc freezer bags and cut a small opening in one corner.  Pipe the dark chocolate around the edges of your design first.  Keep the two wings separate -- don't pipe around the whole pattern continuously.  You want to have two individual wings for each cupcake.  Fill in your outline with the colored candy.  Only do 6 or 8 at a time so you can go back with a toothpick and swirl the colors together before the chocolate hardens.  Also, sprinkle a few white non-pariels on the wet chocolate.  Allow chocolate to set.  Frost your cupcakes however you like and then place two chocolate chips on top of each.   These are going to support your wings.  (If I were to do this again and use white frosting on the cupcake, I would also use white chocolate chips so as to make them less noticeable.)  Rest each wing on a chocolate chip, digging the center into the frosting a little bit to hold it.  Then pipe a line of frosting down the center to create a body.  These were a huge hit with the girls last night!!

Sunflower Cuppies.

  The trick to this one is to stiffen up your store-bought frosting a bit.  As-is, it'll be too soft to pipe a design so you need to add about a cup of powdered sugar to one can of frosting.  I know.  It makes my teeth hurt just to think about it.  Also add yellow food coloring.  Pipe a small dab of frosting in the center of each cupcake a place half of a mini-oreo (preferably the half that the filling doesn't stick to when you split it apart) on top.  Using a leaf tip, pipe a layer of petals around the oreo then go back and do a second layer on top of that, filling in any gaps between petals. 

Pistachio Cuppies with Pistachio Cream Frosting.

  Oh, how I wish I could tell you about some gourmet recipe I followed to make these.  There IS a delicious sounding, fancy recipe here.  But I was in a real hurry and I needed something green so I just made something up on the fly.  I bought  a box of Pistachio instant pudding and mixed half of it in with the golden cake batter.  Just add that, nothing else extra, and bake as directed.  For the frosting, mix the other half of the pudding with half a container of cool whip.  (I also added a little green food coloring to brighten it up.)  That's it. So easy and so delicious.  The pudding in the cake makes it really moist.

Peanut Butter and Honey Cuppies.

  Since the church added Virtue as a value and made the associated color gold, I struggled with this one.  How do you make a GOLD cupcake?!  Edible gold glitter costs a fortune and kind of freaks me out -- eating real gold?  Weird.  So I made peanut butter frosting (my kids' favorite) and drizzled honey over the top of it.  Who doesn't love a peanut butter and honey sandwich?!  And the honey was pretty, and shiny and gold-ish, though it doesn't show in the picture..  I used to make peanut butter frosting from scratch and I'll share that recipe later if you are really gluttons for punishment.  Now I just add about a cup of peanut butter to a can of cream cheese frosting.  Tastes every bit as decadent as the home-made version. 

The others were less inventive.  I frosted spice cake cuppies in cream cheese frosting and rolled them in shaved coconut -- pretty, but plain by comparison -- and piped simple purple flowers and greeen leaves onto red velvet cuppies with chocolate frosting -- a cool color combo which the teen girls really appreciated.  These were so fun to make and they only require very basic cake decorating equipment (and skill).  I didn't even use real bags for piping my frosting.  Just cut off the corner of a gallon size freezer bag and stick the coupler down in there.  So easy.  I'd love to know what you think if you try any of these!


Plum Cuppied Out!

Young Women in Excellence is tonight and it's mini-cupcakes as far as the eye can see around here.  Two and a half or three dozen each of eight different flavors -- each representing one of the Young Women value colors.  In my humble opinion, they are too pretty to eat.  Try telling that to my chillens who have been eating the cast-offs all day. (Hence only two and a half dozen of some flavors . . . and, to be honest, I can't wait to sink my teeth into one of those pistachio cuppies with pistachio cream frosting myself!)  I'm so in love with the way the programs turned out and I just wish you could see the self portraits the girls made that are decorating the room tonight.  It's going to be a lovely evening honoring a bunch of lovely young ladies.  I am so blessed to be working with them.



Christmas is 39 short days away!  39!  I'm ecstatic about that.  Just, please, don't be surprised if I start blogging about CRAZY things that no normal human being would or should be spending her time doing.  Christmas kind of brings that out in me.  Like the year I wrapped all our presents in white paper with icy blue ribbon.  They were truly lovely.  But not lovely enough in my Christmas-crazed opinion.  NO.  I took each and every one of the packages I had wrapped, sprayed them with adhesive and rolled them in crystal glitter.  So they looked like snow, right?  It was a beautiful sight, all those sparkly, white packages under our tree.  A vision that was utterly lost on the fam, who really only cared about what was inside anyway. Since then, I've been making a concerted effort to slow down and simplify.  To minimize the work and maximize the spirit of the season, without giving up the part of those crazy things that really makes me happy.  It's a delicate balance, but I'm finding it.  No, there won't be any glittered packages under my tree this year (unless you want to give it a try and send me something as a thank-you).  I'm opting for brown paper packages tied up with string and vintage Christmas-themed crate labels.  I bought the crate labels way back in March and I've been chomping at the bit to finally use them . . . because some things will never change.     


Oh, How I Love a Good Meal!

I attended a Relief Society mini-class at church this week taught by one of the best cooks I know, Kris Ortega.  (Her daughter, Alina, does my hair.  The talent in that gene pool is ridiculous.)  She makes fabulously delicious Mexican food and it is all I have been able to think about since Thursday night.  There were no written recipes -- OK, one for Sopapillas which I'll share when and if I get up the energy to try them myself -- just a demonstration and sampling.  She has been cooking these dishes for years and shared with us ways to cut time without sacrificing the flavor.  Those are the best "recipes" anyway, the ones you just know and perfect over time.  The secret seems to be in the deep frying.  Go figure.  I didn't know until pretty recently that you can't just use corn tortillas straight out of the package.  They need to be flash-fried or else they crack and break into a giant mess.  Who knew?!  It doesn't say anything about that on the package and I've been making crumbly, yucky enchiladas for years as a result!  Help a gringo out, why don'tcha.

Anyway . . . I made tostadas after church today and we, as a family, inhaled them.  It was to-die-for-delicious.  I'm going to have to make Kris's flautas soon because, even after this calorie fest today, I just can't stop thinking about them.  IF they are really as easy as she made them look, AND I am capable of reproducing their deliciosity here in my home, I'll share the recipe.  Look forward to it!


Another Thing Eleven Year Olds Can't Do Around Here

Go to the movies with friends and no adult supervision.  Am I being too over-protective?  And where did this fiercely independent little girl come from, anyway?  I offered to accompany these bright young ladies.  Even to buy their drinks and sit by myself across the theater from them, with a solid promise to be discrete and cool.  I would be nothing more than a humble lady-in-waiting.  Or another mom could do it if I am the problem in this equation. Is that unreasonable?!  I'm a fun mom, right . . .  I'm getting a little bit of a complex about this lately. 

Turns out I'm not the only one having these motherly, protective instincts.  Friend's mom came along, too.  She sat one row behind, D and I sat a few seats down since the theater was packed.  And it was fine!  The girls had fun in spite of their stodgy, old-fashioned moms and peace once again reigns at home.  Ahhhhhhh . . .


Temple Rag Quilts

Remember the temple quilt I made earlier this year for one of our Young Women at church who was receiving her Recognition Award for completing Personal Progress? 

I'm making another one this weekend to present to another girl at our Young Women in Excellence program next week.  I don't sew very often , but I do enjoy it.  I designed this and have had several people request copies of the pattern.  Now, some nine months later, I have finally drawn something up. 

It shows how to lay it out, how many squares you'll need of each color, and has some very basic directions that assume you already know how to make a rag quilt.  (I'm not a good teacher.  Sorry.)  There is a great tutorial here if you need better instructions.  Good luck!  Let me know if you try it.

Some fun news:

Since I posted this idea, it has been added to the Sugar Doodle website. Right now it's up on the front page, but you can also find it under the Youth tab -- click on Young Women in the drop down box -- scroll down to Personal Progress Ideas, click on that and then scroll down to Other. It's fun to share new ideas . . . Heaven knows I've taken my share off of that site.  :-D


Have You Ever Had One of Those Days . . .

. . . where you go to bed at 10:00 with a migraine, wake up at 2:00 and CAN"T FOR THE LIFE OF YOU GO BACK TO SLEEP?!  Yeah, me neither.  Until today.  It was horrible!  I felt like a prisoner to my bed.  Couldn't turn on the light and read for fear of waking up Brent.  Couldn't go in the living room to watch TV for fear of waking up the dog (or worse, the children).  I just laid there, trying not to toss and turn too much, thinking of a thousand different things I could be doing instead, scribbling a list in the dark of changes I wanted to make to this little bog (Do you like the recipe links in the sidebar?) and wishing I would just fall back asleep.  Willing my eyelids to droop.  Anything!!  Finally at 4:30 I knew the gym was opening so I got up, dressed and tip-toed out the door.  It was odd.  Like peering into a whole world I never knew existed.  The gym is flippin' packed at 4:45 in the morning!  They have spin classes and everything.  Who knew?!  I worked out for a little over an hour and was home before anyone really knew I was gone.  The strangest part is that I still can't fall asleep.  Not a single nod all morning.  Really, I nap, even on my best days.  I truly feel like I've stepped into an alternate reality today.  Watch, I'll crash just as the kids come home and need help with homework and want annoying things like hot meals and my undivided attention.  Darn it all!


An Odd Compliment

From my sweet baby girl, upon learning that mom and dad had denied her request to register for a Facebook account: "UGH!!! You guys never let me do ANYTHING my other friends get to do!!!"

Yep. She's basically right (though hyperbolizing a bit) and I'm dang proud of it. No eleven year old has any business networking socially online. None. Love ya, Sis. Someday you'll understand and you'll be grateful.


While the Cat's Away the Mice Will Play



How about this fun "activity" that my family began practicing while I was traveling to Colorado earlier this year?! Are we the Parents of the Year or what? Tomorrow is Veterans Day and the kids don't have school. In our house a day off of school means it's "sleepover" time. We all drag our mattresses into the living room and watch movies and stay up late. It makes for good times. I began this tradition when our kids were younger and it has stuck since there are precious few people with whom we will really allow our babies to sleep over. The mattress ride down the stairs? All Brent.

(Sorry the video is sideways. I'm irritated that I can't figure out how to fix it. )

Positive Affirmations

Who doesn't love to hear something nice about themselves once in a while? I totally ripped this idea off from our Young Women lesson two Sundays ago . . . sue me. Each member of our little brood has a notebook. When we sit down at Family Home Evening every Monday, we pull out the notebooks, systematically pass them around, and everyone writes three nice things about each family member in their corresponding notebook. When the notebooks have come full circle, everyone reads their compliments and can choose which, if any, they want to share aloud. It has been fun hearing what our kiddos write to one another. I haven't had occasion yet, but I was also thinking that when the children have squabbles I would make the offenders sit and write three nice things in each others' books. Or when one of my children comes home crying that ". . . nobody likes me . . ." I can drag out their notebook and help them remember the truth. It's been fun.


Breakfast "To Die For"

In a previous post I mentioned the delicious breakfast I made Halloween morning. It was so good that it will be making several more appearances center stage at our morning repast. When the air starts to chill (a frigid 65 degrees in the morning now) I just can't get enough of the pumpkin. Hope you enjoy it, too!

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 C. flour (I use fresh ground whole wheat)
1C. milk
1 egg
1/4 C. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 C. canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or add cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger individually)

Mix well and cook on a griddle. (I usually triple this recipe for our family with just a few left-overs. You can also mix up a batch of instant pancake mix and add the pumpkin, brown sugar and spices. It would taste just as good, I'm sure.)

Cinnamon Vanilla Syrup

1 stick butter
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. buttermilk (I used regular milk)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe that is served at Girl's Camp every summer. It's also remarkably similar to my sister-in-law Kristin's delicious syrup, but not exactly. Heat all ingredients in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for five to ten minutes. Remove cinnamon stick before serving. Serve warm over pumpkin (or regular!) pancakes.

PS... I've been asleep for most of the day and I AM feeling better. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be back at full speed. I can't afford to lose one more day.


Waving the White Flag

I surrender!!! I've been feeling like I've been trying to get sick all week. Sinus pressure (the right side of my face hurts like Hades), body aches, exhaustion . . . but I've been fighting, thinking that I could will myself into health. I mean, I don't have a fever . . .

I came home yesterday from a day at Youth Conference with the exuberant teens from church feeling like I had been run over by a bus. Still I didn't give in. Had a nap. Went to a birthday shindig last night. Got up this morning and prayed to just make it through church, which I did with a smile. Tonight I'm throwing in the towel. I'm done waiting for it to get worse because it's already pretty dang bad. I don't know what it is, but it wins. I'm going to bed and not getting out until I feel like myself again. Or until Tuesday when I have an oh-so-convenient quarterly check up scheduled with my doctor.

Typical Sunday Morning


Relapse is a Part of the Recovery Process, Right?

Yeah, so. Lets be honest, we've all done things you're not proud of. Coke has come back to town and I'm letting it crash on my emotional couch for a little while. Sure, I KNOW Coke's no good for me. I grasp that intellectually . . . . It's just that we were more-than-friends for so long. Old habits are hard to break. I've watched enough Dr. Phil and Celebrity Rehab to know that this little relapse of mine was to be expected. I went five weeks Coke-less and then six, and that's when I got cocky. We were at Disneyland and in a moment of reckless abandon Brent and I shared a 32-ouncer. It was every bit as calming on my theme park-frazzled nerves as I remembered it to be. When we got home, it was my birthday and I justified a binge as a little birthday gift to myself. And that was the beginning of the end.

I am sipping a cold one now and I'm not gonna' lie, it's heavenly. But it's my last. My very last sweet, refreshing jaunt over to the dark side. Tomorrow morning I'm off to the gym first thing with a bottle of water in tow. I'm always a little better at resisting this particular brand of temptation with a 700-calorie deficit working for me. It's going to be an uphill battle for the next few weeks, folks.

Just For Kicks . . .

My little middle's kickball team just won the intramural "Gecko Bowl" at school. This supah-dupah action shot was featured in the school newsletter sent home last month. Sweet, huh? I'm pretty proud of my MVP.


All Hallow's Eve

Good times were had by all this Halloween. I had the most fun I've had in years decking out my trunk for the annual Trunk-or-Treat at church Friday evening.
My utter lack of photography skill makes it difficult to appreciate how fun it really was. The chandelier was my very favorite part. It was the perfect finishing touch, in my humble opinion. I won a box of instant hot cocoa for my troubles. Nice.
I also enjoyed how the white painted pumpkins turned out. Sis carved the one next to them that says boo. Clever, huh?
She was the cutest little Dorothy you've ever seen. Her complete bliss in that costume made all the sewing and fitting and re-sewing worthwhile.
The boys were a little bit less demanding this year. We found this cool black cloaks at a thrift shop and that's all they wanted to wear. No skeleton face make-up. Nothing. D did carry a light saber -- he was Darth Sidious. Not up to my usual costume designing standards, but whatever. They had fun and that's all that matters.
We had a lovely meal of Monster Sandwiches and Goblin Juice to kick off Saturday evening's festivities.
Looks delicious, no?
OK, for the record, I CAN cook real, truly delicious food when I want to. For our Halloween breakfast I made Pumpkin Pancakes with Homemade Cinnamon Vanilla Syrup. Breakfast "to die for" . . . such a perfect way to start off a spooky day!

Now we're up to our eyeballs in candy, the little monsters are bouncing off the walls, and Cass has found her newest love in life -- Caramel Apple Candy Corn. They happen to be my favorite, too, and I may or may not be her supplier. So, sue me. She deserves some fun, too.

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