Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dates with dad

We've started something fun with our kids. Every Tuesday Dave takes one of them out on a date. There's not a whole lot to do in our town in the winter, but they enjoy going out to dinner or playing arcade games at the pizza place or going to the candy shop. Then sometimes they'll run an errand while they're out. I can't tell you how much the boys look forward to this! They love choosing what to do and spending special time with their dad. This week he took Tyler to A&W for burgers and a root beer float; then they picked up some things for me at Wal-Mart, looked at Play Station games and brought home salt water taffy to share. It's amazingly calm here at home with just 4 of us, and I always like to have a break from fixing dinner. We usually have leftovers or something really simple. It's been a good thing for everyone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2 new things

I did 2 things for the first time on Saturday. First I drove a truck. After 3 years of wanting to put wood chips under the playset, we finally did it; we decided it would be a good day because the ground was soft from the rain. Dave recruited the cousins to come help dig (their favorite thing in the world), while I borrowed Nathan's truck to pick up the wood chips from a local nursery.

Alec & Braden were hard workers! They kept working long after all the other kids got tired and went in to watch a movie.It doesn't look that deep, but they dug down about 4", put weed barrier down, then covered it with 2 cubic yards of wood chips. It feels so good to finally have that project done.

My other first was making egg rolls, which is something I've always wanted to do. I just followed the recipe on the wrapper package, and they were super easy and yummy. First I cooked the pork, then I added shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, and green onions. It called for oyster sauce, which we didn't have, so I used Teriyaki sauce instead. Then I wrapped them up and fried them in oil. And we had the perfect tray to put them on, thanks to Emily. Next I want to try making dumplings.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Date night

For date night Friday we went down to see grandpa, who had just gotten out of the hospital. First we ate at our favorite crepe restaurant and did a little shopping at Costco. Then we went to visit with my mom, my uncle Michael and grandpa. He did NOT like being in the hospital and got almost no sleep. He kept saying "So there I was for 48 hours, with that thing (I.V.) in my arm." Poor grandpa. I told him it's amazing he's been in the hospital as little as he has. He really is very healthy for 87. Then we headed over to Borders to spend a couple of Christmas gift certificates, although we ended up not buying anything because we were getting too tired to make a decision. I guess we'll have to go there earlier in the evening next time.
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So I have to take some time to stress the importance of weekly dates. I have talked to several friends recently who admit they haven't been on a date with their husband in months. Gasp. When Dave was called to be on the high council recently, one of the things he was instructed to do was weekly dates with his wife! I thought that was so cool. It's not just a luxury - it's essential. I find myself looking forward to it all week, and I'm almost giddy with excitement Friday. We have been going much more regularly since my nephews moved here. Kristen tells Christopher and Jonathan to keep their Friday nights open, and they use one while we use the other. Of course we pay them, but it just helps to have it put into the schedule. Our problem before was waiting too long in the week to decide what to do for our date, and by then it was almost impossible to find a babysitter. So I encourage all you married couples out there to make weekly dates a priority. Just put it into the schedule, and it will be more likely to happen. Then lose the guilt - it's important for your relationship no matter how long you've been married, and it will make you a better parent, no matter how old your kids are.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chocolate-covered cherry cookies

I took dinner over to Kristen's family yesterday; I wanted to make something extra special for dessert, since she can have sugar again. My mom made these coookies a few years ago, and when I bit into one I couldn't believe how incredibly good it was. So I just have to share the recipe. I don't know if it's the exact same one my mom uses, but I got it from my Better Homes and Garden Homemade Cookies cookbook.1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 10 oz jar maraschino cherries
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Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl mix dry ingredients. In a large bowl mix butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix altogether. Shape dough into 1" balls and place 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press down center of each ball with your thumb. Drain cherries, reserving juice. Place a cherry in the center of each cookie.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
4 tsp reserved cherry juice
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For frosting: in a small saucepan combine chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk; heat over medium heat until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and stir in cherry juice. Spoon about 1 tsp of frosting over each cherry, spreading to cover cherry. If necessary, thin frosting with additional cherry juice. Bake about 10 minutes or until sides are set. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. I thought some of the cookies needed more icing, so I added a little bit after they got out. I ran out of cherries for the last few cookies because I doubled the recipe and used marshmallows instead. They were totally yummy too. Next time I might add nuts also.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

When it rains it pours

We're finally getting a little rain around here. Although we've loved the warm sunny weather, what we really needed was cloudy and wet. The boys were all excited to be able to use their umbrellas this morning.
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My family is keeping the medical community in business this week. Kristen is coming home from the hospital today. My mom had a stent placed to allow her many kidney stones to pass. My father-in-law had two surgeries in a week. My sister Emily had surgery on Monday. And my grandpa was admitted yesterday with a dangerously high calcium level. Our prayers have been rather lengthy this week.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome baby Luke!

Luke Hansen made his grand entrance this morning at 6:05 after just one push, weighing in at just 6 lb 2 oz and measuring 19.5" in lenth.After getting the big kids off to school, I took Dallin, Eric and Brennan down to the hospital to meet him. Seeing Luke's bare legs, Eric told Kristen he wants to take him home and put clothes on him. The boys were ready to go after just 5 minutes, but I didn't want to leave. This is the first time I've been able to visit one of my sisters in the hospital with their new baby, and I could hold that sweet little baby all day.
"Baby!"
Welcome to the family, Luke. We're so happy to have you here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Temple trip

We drove down to L.A. Friday night, stayed at the temple apartments, and participated with Stake Temple Day on Saturday. It always seems like such a huge thing to go down there, but then we have a wonderful time and it's so worth it. The kids always love road trips, especially when we eat at Red Lobster on the way home.Dave and I took turns going to the temple and watching the kids. It was an incredibly warm day (I really should have packed shorts and t-shirts), and the boys loved being near the temple.
First they rode scooters and played at the park behind the apartments.

Dallin took this picture of me. It's a bit crooked, but I still like it.
When we got too hot we put our scooters away, went over to the mission house to watch the Joseph Smith video (the visitors center is still under construction), then headed over to the temple grounds.
There was a bridal party there, and Brennan kept trying to get in their pictures.
There are a couple really cool trees to climb there.
At one point Brennan tried to run into the temple when the doors were open, Tyler tackled him to the ground to stop him, and Brennan screamed for all to hear. I was on the other side of the reflecting pool, so it took me a little while to get to them. That was exciting.
Dallin looks mad in this picture, but actually he was being reverent. Do you realize how close the temple is to Beverly Hills?! I've been looking at a dresser at Crate and Barrel online, and since we had a couple hours between our sessions, Dave suggested we go to the store to check it out. They didn't have it in stock, but I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the store anyway. I can't remember the last time I've been in a store and loved everything in it. And Dave's excited he's found a way for me to want to go to the temple more often. Oh the time I could spend here...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Surprise!

I gave my sister Kristen a surprise baby shower/brunch today. She had no idea I was planning it, which is pretty amazing considering all my kids knew about it.

There was a good turnout - 10 ladies came. Joddy made the quiches - yum! All the food was diabetes-friendly for Kristen (she has gestational diabetes with this baby). I also served little sandwiches, sausages, fruit and nuts. I even found sugar-free candy bars and chocolate-covered almonds, which were actually quite good.It started around 10:00, after everyone dropped off their kindergarteners. We had 12 babies and preschoolers here, and they all had fun playing together - even little Eli and Tobin. And we're having some kind of heat wave (it's been in the 70's all week), so the older ones ate and played outside the whole time.

Michelle is due in a couple weeks also - with baby #10! Our other friend Kristen is due around the same time, but she called me last night to say she was in labor. Then she dropped off a gift for the shower on her way to the hospital, apologizing there wasn't a card! We just ate, visited and opened gifts (no games because I don't like them), and had so much fun we decided we need to get together for brunch more often. We're thinking about starting a day-time book club as an excuse.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Skype

video

I gave Dave and his parents Skype webcams for Christmas, and I finally got around to installing ours last night. Dallin and Brennan LOVE watching themselves on the computer. They record themselves then watch it back over and over, laughing themselves silly. This video is when they were watching one of their recordings without realizing it was recording them again. I love Brennan shaking his head at the beginning. Too cute. And it didn't even take me too long to figure out how to put it on here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lake hike

We went on a hike around a nearby lake on Saturday. We had been there before, but I think it's been about 5 years so of course the kids didn't remember it. They were amazed that such a cool place was only half an hour away. Brennan started out on Dave's back but ended up walking almost the whole way. We didn't go too fast because the boys kept finding cool rocks to climb, so Brennan was able to keep up.In fact they kept freaking me out climbing up these huge rocks with sheer drop-offs on the other side. I was the nervous mom who kept telling them to get back down. But not until after I got a picture. This is Brennan's new "cheese" face. Of course everyone had to choose a walking stick.
The cool thing about this hike is that it had a lot of great views of the lake as the path wound up and down and all around. It was a beautiful day - cool enough for sweatshirts at the beginning then warming up enough to shed them halfway through. This hike should be avoided in the summer though because it gets way too hot.
We ended up down by the lake and the kids threw rocks in the water and collected shells.


We were going to hike back the same way, but then we found the road that took us back much quicker and flatter. Good call there, Dave.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sleep issues

Well it looks like Spencer has inherited Dave's sleep-walking gene. This morning I woke up at 5:15 to Dave searching the house (he was on his way out to play racquetball and noticed he wasn't in his bed). I got up and yelled Spencer's name, and he awoke totally confused in Brennan's crib. It hadn't occurred to us to look there. Spencer had no idea how he got there or why I was yelling his name.
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Wednesday night we had our friend's kids here again while she took her diabetic daughter to Standford. The last time they stayed here it took a really long time for everyone to settle down and go to sleep. So this time Dave decided to try the penny trick, but with inflation we increased it to nickles. Each kid got 3 nickles outside their bedroom door, and we told them that every time they came out of bed or called for us or got too loud, we would take away a nickle. Then they could keep the nickles that were left in the morning. Amazingly, no one lost any nickles. It was worth all 75 cents.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Allergy-free double chocolate muffins

Dallin and I made chocolate muffins yesterday morning, and Brennan was feeling totally left out. So while the muffins were in the oven I looked up a recipe for allergy-free muffins in my Sophie-Safe Cookbook and made a few changes. A couple days ago when I was at the health food store, I found coconut flour - how cool is that? So I substituted some of the oat flour with it. The results were delicious, and although I still preferred the regular chocolate muffins, I've had requests for this recipe. So here it is:

1 1/2 cups oat flour (grind oats in blender)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup oil
1 egg, egg substitute, or 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup soy milk
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and liquid ingredients in another, then add all together and mix just until moist. Add chocolate chips. Fill lined muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from pan; they're a little crumbly.

I love Photoshop

On Saturday I met Ellen and Jason at the park to take pictures of his whole family, who hadn't all been together since before his parents moved to Hawaii.

Although it was windy and cold and Anna had just woken up from a nap, she was still happy and smiley.

Plus I had a quacking toy duck to get her attention. What a cute family! The photo shoot itself took about 45 minutes, but then I spent the next several days playing with the pictures on Photoshop: Fixing the lighting and coloring, clone-stamping out snot and fuzzies...

But the coolest thing I did on Photoshop was open Ellen's eyes in this picture. I took several shots in this position, but the one I liked best of everyone else was the one where Ellen's eyes were closed. So I used this cool feature where you put 2 similar pictures side by side, zoom way in, and switch out the part you don't like. I just drew a line between her eyes and walla! Her eyes magically opened. So now you know what I've been doing since the kids went back to school and why I haven't blogged in a few days. I wonder if I could make money fixing people's pictures? It's just too fun.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Last night

We had a bon fire at Kristen's house Friday night, and the kids roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. Then we put the fire out and sent all the kids up to watch a movie while the adults went out to dinner. This is one of my favorite things about having family visit. Mom came up, but Ellen, Jason and Ben were at the temple. We went to A.J. Spurs, which is a fun western steak house with live piano music and huge portions - we all shared meals and it was plenty. When we got back the kids were in bed (good job, Christopher & Jonathan - which reminds me, we still owe you money), and we watched a silly movie I found on Netflix called Love Comes Softly. It was pretty sappy and predictable, but the story was sweet. Plus it's nice to watch a movie when you don't have to worry about there being anything inappropriate, especially when you're in a group. Then we said goodbye to Emily and Troy, who drove home Saturday. I read in the paper yesterday that the high in Salt Lake City was 24 and the low was 7, and I felt bad letting them go. But it wasn't supposed to snow, so hopefully their trip was uneventful. It was so much fun having them here, and the 2 weeks off school really flew by for all of us.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Years Day at the Bay

After we all recovered from our late night, we decided to head over to the bay and kayak out to the sand spit. We rented the Man of War, which is a 15 passenger canoe. We put 3 adults and 12 kids from Alec and Braden down in it. What a sight! Then we borrowed 4 kayaks from our friends and the rental place even threw in 2 more kayaks for free. It was quite the expedition. Mom and Kristen stayed on the embarcadero with Brennan and Anna.Then we explored the sand spit, searched for shells, and kayaked all around.This was my first time out there (they made a similar expedition with the same group a couple years ago, but I didn't go that time). I was surprised by how huge and hilly the sand spit was. It would be perfect for capture the flag. Ellen was my kayak buddy on the way out. I actually don't remember if I've ever kayaked before, but it was a lot of fun. We made a great team, but we got some wet bums. I was good at remembering a change of clothes for the boys, but not me. Brrr.Of course Spencer searched for shells and even found a sea cucumber.Then the big guys took turns giving all the kids rides on the kayaks. They LOVED it.
I wanted to take more pictures (I didn't even get any of the Smalleys), but my batteries died. Our kids were cold, wet and tired by the time we got back to the embarcadero, but once they changed clothes and warmed up in the van, they were much happier. So we went to Hofbrau for our favorite dinner of clam chowder, french dip sandwiches, and fish and chips. I love it when family visits. It makes us do more adventurous things like this.