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Pinch Hitters

Pinch Hitters

Last week Noel’s aunt and cousin came to town to visit Glenna (Noel’s mom) and ease some of our burdens (as well as visit and dote on Glenna). We turned the baby monitor off for a week (we use it so we can hear her at night, when we’re in the basement, outside, etc) and took advantage of being able to leave the house at the same time. We were content to do exotic things like shop for pants and go to the gym together, but everyone insisted we needed a night away and we aim to please. We were kind of dubious that the excursion would actually happen. It seems like every time we plan something lately someone ends up in the hospital or deathly ill. (Sometimes both when we’re lucky.) In fact, Marsha and Jessie were actually in town for several days before they came over because Glenna didn’t escape the virus I mentioned we had. I attacked the house with the mindset of total germ annihilation because even though I usually believe in “good germs” too I just wasn’t taking any chances. Our getaway was going to take place on Friday the 13th which seemed somewhat ominous, but as it turns out, unlucky things are pretty lucky for us. (This really shouldn’t surprise me. I’m the kind of person that wins Loser’s Bingo. You know, where the last person to NOT have any of the drawn letter/number combos wins.)  We spent a night in Boulder where we ate Indian food and sat in the hot tub, then the next day we ate at Snooze and went snowshoeing at Brainard Lake.

Now, let me tell you about us and snowshoeing at Brainard Lake. We have been trying to snowshoe to the lake for years. We went once when our kids were young enough to be carried and when we got out of the car the wind was so strong Cooper got knocked over and everyone was crying. We ended up getting back in the car and going somewhere else. When the kids were older we tried taking them again, but only made it 3/4 mile before everyone melted down. Noel has also taken the Boy Scouts and they honestly didn’t do much better than the kids. This time it was going to happen though. The weather was perfect: sunny, 29,° and hardly any wind which is unheard of there. Without scouts or children holding us back, we made it to the lake and even further to the cabin just beyond the lake. When we were done we rewarded ourselves with cake from Piece, Love, and Chocolate. (Which sadly my body was kind of unhappy about because apparently I’m old and cake no longer constitutes a real lunch.)

We are so grateful to Marsha and Jessie for helping us out for a few days!

PS Right now Glenna is pretty stable and we’re hoping she’ll stay that way for awhile or even make improvements. It’s a day to day, week to week game so we shall see!

Easter 2015

Easter 2015

We’ve had some pretty exciting Easters, and while this one definitely wouldn’t fall into that category, it was nice to have a low-key Easter this year.

Easter Buckets

On Easter morning, the kids came out to find their Easter buckets (yes, buckets). They were excited to get warm weather pajamas, a special gift (a book for Cooper and Hello Kitty silverware for Ellen) as well as a somewhat spiritual movie (and personal favorite) The Prince of Egypt.

Bucket Buddies
Cooper giving Ellen one of her eggs.

After reading the Easter story in their picture scriptures and eating a wholesome breakfast, we let them go hunt for eggs in the backyard. We put two different kinds of stickers on the eggs with one assigned to each of them, so they’d find an equal number of eggs. They were really good about only taking the eggs that belonged to them.

Bad squirrels The squirrels, however, were not good at this. We’d hidden the eggs about an hour before the kids started looking for them and the squirrels got into four of them. Everyone thinks they’re cute, but trust me, they’re really evil. Fortunately, most of the candy was stuff we’d reused from our church’s egg hunt and most of my homemade peanut butter cups were safely in the fridge.

After the kids each ate a few pieces of candy, it was time to watch General Conference.

2015-04-05 10.00.57The kids obviously didn’t have the attention span to watch all of the sessions in their entirety, but they did enjoy the music and they got excited when President Monson spoke.

2015-04-05 13.29.34In between sessions we had a picnic in the backyard and relaxed elbowed each other in the hammock.


After all the sessions were over, we had a lovely ham dinner with shredded potato casserole, roasted carrots, and pound cake for dessert.

P4050062After dinner the kids tried to catch rabbits until we made them take baths and go to bed. (Much to the bunnies relief.) It was a rejuvenating weekend on all fronts.

Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells

Family Pic at Lake

Two years ago we went camping at Maroon Bells.  It was an enjoyable experience and we’ve been wanting to go back ever since. Campsites at Maroon Bells itself are pretty hard to come by, especially on weekends, so I had a reminder in my google calendar to make a reservation the second the sites opened up for our chosen days. Months ago that Google reminder popped up and I made a reservation hoping for a nice calm getaway, completely unaware that the trip would end up being bookended by a trip to Utah and Noel going to Scout camp.  Such is life.

Chris and Vanessa scrubbing the Volcano.
Chris and Vanessa scrubbing the Volcano.

We invited Noel’s sister, Vanessa Joy, and her husband, Chris to come with us. After a near death experience earlier this year, we figured they could use some R&R.

The whole crew at Maroon Lake.
The whole crew at Maroon Lake.

Despite the insanity surrounding the trip, we did our best to relax. Not having cell phone reception at our campground greatly aided that.

Ellen insisted on carrying her sleeping bag to our campsite.
Ellen insisted on carrying her sleeping bag to our campsite.
I loved our campground. You took a short trail to get it so it was nice and secluded.
I loved our campsite.  You took a short trail to get it so it was nice and secluded. This picture is taken from the “dining area” so the campground was also pretty spacious.
"Relaxing" in the hammock.
“Relaxing” in the hammock.

We did an ambling “hike” with everyone and Noel and I went on a hike alone while Vanessa and Chris kindly watched the kids.

Taking a break on our walk around the lake.
Taking a break on our walk around the lake.
Noel and me at Crater Lake, no not the one in Oregon.
Noel and me at Crater Lake, no not the one in Oregon.
A moose we saw at the lake.

The kids slept worse than they ever have on a camping trip and we experienced some frustrating potty training setbacks. (It seems Cooper was terrified to poop in the vault toilets . . . )

Kids messing around instead of sleeping.
Kids messing around instead of sleeping.

Somehow Vanessa and Chris still thought the kids were adorable though. Phew.

 Holding Hands
Holding hands with Uncle Chris.
Aunt Vanesa Joy feeding Ellen cake for breakfast.
Aunt Vanesa Joy feeding Ellen cake for breakfast. Best breakfast ever.

And because this is us, we also ate delicious food. Keep an eye on our food blog for all the recipes!

Dutch oven summer vegetable tian. Simply delicious.
Dutch oven summer vegetable tian. Simply delicious.

All too quickly, we had to pack up and head our separate ways.  We said our goodbyes to the beautiful scenery. When we got reception again Noel’s phone rang a million times with messages so I drove home so he could take care of scouting business.

Chris and Vanessa brought the kids Toy Story toys (and cleverly assigned three toys to each of them so they wouldn't fight.
Chris and Vanessa brought the kids Toy Story toys (and cleverly assigned three toys to each of them so they wouldn’t fight).

I’ll have to add another reminder to my google calendar so we can do this again next year, only hopefully not the day before Scout camp.


Just A Bit of Self-Promotion

Just A Bit of Self-Promotion

Loyal readers may be saddened (or perhaps relieved) that we haven’t been blogging as frequently lately. I guess we’ve been a little caught up in some selfish endeavors lately, allow me to fill you in.

Get that pear in my belly!Noel and I have long talked about the possibility of doing a separate blog and finally decided to give it a shot. We’ve had a lot of fun coming up with the idea and building a bit of content. Our focus will be all things food: recipes, kitchen anecdotes, and the joys of feeding little people. We’d love for you to hop on over and join the Dirty Dish Club.

PoserI’ve been busy stocking my shop and taking a multitude of self portraits in the yard. I’m pretty sure my neighbors all think I’m a weirdo and they might not be too far off. I also made an awkward, yet informative video on how to style my nursing covers for anyone interested.

Mini Poser
Cooper ambushing one of my photo shoots.
Ellen practicing the art of accessorizing.
Ellen practicing the art of accessorizing.

The kids aren’t really involved in any new selfish endeavors, just the normal attention demanding shenanigans we are used to.

Brownies cannot be healthy

Brownies cannot be healthy

I really wanted it to be true.

Let me back up a bit: A while ago I was reading an article in Runner’s World by Scott Jurek, world famous ultra-marathoner of Born to Run fame. The gist of the article is that he has become vegan and it has revolutionized his running and athleticism. It’s an interesting article and the purpose of it was to plug for his new book Eat and Run, which is an interesting read as well.

In the article (and book) he has a recipe for Chocolate Adzuki Bars. (It’s towards the bottom of the page in the article linked above.) In his book he introduces these “brownies” like so:

If you’re going to eat a moist, dense dessert on the run, this one is ideal. Made from the most digestible of beans [that’s the adzuki part], along with banana, rice flour, and vanilla, these lightly sweetened bars taste even better than their ingredients suggest. Plus, they are an excellent source of carbohydrates and protein.

This was intriguing to me. I really love brownies, but like most people feel sick and disgusting when I eat half a pan of them. For me it’s the rich chocolate that makes it, super sweet brownies aren’t my thing, so reading that these were lightly sweetened didn’t scare me off. I began to think, what if I could have it all? Brownies that would satisfy my chocolate craving and that I could still feel smug about eating.


So, I raided the bulk bins at Whole Foods to get all the strange ingredients required. I made rice milk from scratch and cooked the adzuki beans. Audrey actually made the bars as a surprise for me earlier this week when I got home from work.

It was too good to be true. Those chocolate bars tasted exactly like their ingredients suggest: like bananas, mashed beans, and cocoa powder. We tried to pawn them off on the kids. Ellen liked them pretty well (she doesn’t know any better) and Cooper took a bite or two and then started eating the chocolate chips off the top. After sitting on top of the microwave for a few days they ended up in the garbage.

Ever since then, I have been craving real brownies. So naturally I turned to our favorite brownie-obsessed food blogger to crank out some of her favorites. (A version of these brownies with a white chocolate-mint ganache has earned Audrey a reputation among the women at church.) As the author of that blog states:

There are no bad from-scratch brownies, unless you’re adding pureed carrots or flax seed and if you are, seriously, shame on you. Also: why? Why would you ruin a brownie like that? I demand an answer!

Point taken, Deb. I’m going to go eat brownies now.



Note: In Scott Jurek’s defense, not all his recipes are terrible. His salsa verde is outstanding. We also tried a bulgar chili recipe that is similar to his that was also very good. Oh yeah, and his suggestion of putting nutritional yeast (a.k.a. “hippie dust”, the vegan way to get a cheesy flavor without cheese) on popcorn blew my socks off it was so good. We now buy nutritional yeast just to put on popcorn.

March = Party Month

March = Party Month

Silly GirlThere is a lot that goes on in March. I feel like every time we turn around we’re celebrating something new. It keeps life exciting, but also means my house is in need of some serious post-celebratory-cleaning. Here’s a brief recap of what we’ve celebrated so far. A million birthdays, including our favorite little lady’s.

Trains! Free day at the train museum. Cooper was actually a little overwhelmed by the huge trains, but really liked the model train display.

Spring InsideOur anniversary. Six years and counting. This year it fell on a Sunday so we were going to go on a date the day before, but then there was a big blizzard. Luckily, I’d picked up some tulips the day before that made being trapped at home seem less dreary. (I rarely buy fresh cut flowers, but there was a one day sale at Whole Foods and I had a feeling we might need something special to brighten the weekend.)

BuckeyesI’d also read that the sixth anniversary was the “candy anniversary” so the day of we made some Buckeyes. Ours were ugly, but terribly delicious. Fortunately, we know we lack willpower around confections of this sort and had the sense to make a half batch. It was pretty low-key, but that’s okay because we have a really fun belated anniversary trip planned for next month.


Pi Day! I think this was actually the first year that I realized it was pi day and had enough time to do something about it. We made chocolate pudding pie that didn’t disappoint.

ConstructionSt. Patrick’s Day. I was contemplating buying Ellen a St. Patrick’s Day tee from Carter’s and even dropped by the store when we walked the mall with playgroup one week. I was a little miffed to discover the shirt cost more in store than it did online and then when the line to checkout was really long I just put it back and left. (I have pretty low tolerance for lines. I have to really want/need what’s at the front to wait in them.) Still, that little red-haired girl needed something festive to wear so I gathered one of Cooper’s old t-shirts, fabric paint, glitter, and some painter’s tape.

L-Clover-V-EIf I could do it over, I would do the letters closer together, but for something she’ll only wear a handful of times I think it turned out great.

Leprechaun With the exception of Cooper getting Roseola and having his third ear infection this year, it’s been a fabulous March so far. Now, I better go clean my house before I have to get ready for Easter.

Best Breadsticks

Best Breadsticks

The other day I was at my friend’s house. She was telling me about how excited she was to try a recipe for Olive Garden breadsticks when I made a confession. “I don’t get why everybody loves Olive Garden breadsticks so much.” This was of course met by a look of surprise and horror that I’m sure you just matched as you stare at your computer screen. It’s true, I am not a huge fan of those Olive Garden breadsticks. They taste fine and if I happen to find myself at an Olive Garden I will likely eat my share of several basketfuls (I am a carb-addict after all), but if I’m going to be making breadsticks in my own home they certainly will not be patterned after them. My go to breadsticks recipe is the one my mom made when I was growing up. They’re titled “Best Breadsticks” and can be found in my mom’s kitchen in a three-ring binder stuffed to the brim with delicious recipes. I have no idea where the original recipe came from, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are mouthwatering good. They always disappear at potlucks and off our own table. The best part is that they aren’t even that difficult (for bread anyway) and are adaptable to many variations.

Best Breadsticks

1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp honey or sugar
1 ½ C warm water
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp salt
4-4 ½ C flour
Toppings: 4 TBSP butter and any of the following: Garlic powder (or fresh minced and sautéed if you’re feeling fancy), shredded parmesan cheese (During the college years I used the stuff in the shakers with great success), salt, Italian seasoning, Rosemary, etc. 
  1. Mix yeast and honey/sugar in water. Let sit until foamy. (Tip: When measuring honey spritz the measuring cup/spoon with cooking spray or swirl a tiny bit of oil into it prior to measuring. This will make it so the honey slides right out.) 

  2. Add milk and salt.

  3. Gradually add flour until the dough forms a ball. (I do this old school with a wooden spoon which I abandon towards the end to mash and knead it all together with my bare hands.) 

  4. For fluffy breadsticks: Rip off pieces of dough and roll out into snake shapes (can make two skinnier snakes and roll them together if you want to be fancy). Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 30 minutes in a nice warm place. (I’ll often put them on top of my oven while it’s preheating or on the counter above the dishwasher if the dishwasher is running. Allowing the breadsticks to rise a little longer will make them even more fluffy, but the 30 minute rise will still produce delicious results.) Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cheese and/or desired spices. At a minimum I always use garlic, salt, and parmesan. It probably goes without saying, but the more butter and toppings the worse they are for you better they taste. 


    For crispy breadsticks (Noel says they’re more like pretzels, but this was how I cut corners as a college student and since I have a love for all things crispy, I cannot resist them.): Roll out dough on lightly floured surface. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cheese and/or desired spices. Cut into strips and transfer to cookie sheets.

  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. 

    Pairs well with any kind of soup or pasta. Shown here with Pioneer Woman’s Skillet Bowtie Chicken Alfredo. I should also mention that I generally half the recipe as I prefer fresh breadsticks and half a recipe is pretty much perfect for our little family. Enjoy! 

Silly Lunch

Silly Lunch

I’ve never been a huge fan of lunch. I can easily rotate through three or four quick dishes for breakfast and I take a certain delight in planning delicious dinners, but lunch is just that inconvenient-meal-in-the-middle-of-the-day. When I was in grade school I generally brought a lunch from home, but I made things complicated by refusing to eat sandwiches. My poor mother nearly went crazy trying to come up with ideas of what she could pack that I might actually eat. In college I often counted a granola bar on the go as lunch and only once I was pregnant with Cooper did I actually make lunch a priority. Now that I’m a mom, lunch seems to sneak up on me every day. Things are going just fine, I’m getting things done,  and then someone has a hunger meltdown. If there aren’t any leftovers in the fridge, I run through the rolodex of ideas in my head. Apparently, that rolodex is pretty empty because nine times out of ten we eat nachos. (It doesn’t help that we buy Costco sized portions of tortilla chips, salsa, and cheddar cheese.)

Today, lunch snuck up on me again. I’d even spent my entire morning thinking about food. Planning dinner and baking bread and muffins for an upcoming baby shower. I had an entire counter full of baked goods, but not a single idea about what to eat. There weren’t any leftovers from dinner and the stash of nacho ingredients needs to be replenished. Noel had baked a loaf of sandwich bread last night slating it for PB&Js (He knows of my struggles with lunch.), but my sandwich stigma lingers and I just couldn’t talk myself into it. So we nibbled on muffins and snarfed some blue cheese garlic dip. Maybe some day I’ll get out of my pathetic lunch rut, but at least dinner is going to be amazing!

Use the Heat

Use the Heat

We’ve already had some record highs here in CO and the forecast isn’t making us feel much better about things. It’s unpleasant and kind of scary with all the fires we already have, but I’m doing my best to find at least something good in this whole situation. Not only do my clothes dry faster than they would in the dryer, but I’ve found some awesome ideas for channeling the sun’s power to cook. I’ve pinned a few DIY solar cookers I think could be fun to try, some of them look really easy requiring simple things like cardboard and aluminum foil. Then there’s a method for baking cookies in your car, which I would totally try if our car sat somewhere besides our garage. The one thing I actually have tried though is making fruit roll-ups in the sun.

I used this recipe for 100% real fruit snacks, spread the stuff on a pan, covered it with some netting so things wouldn’t get stuck in it, and sat it in the sun for most of the day. Delicious and my house didn’t get heated up. Perfect. My only advice is don’t put two different flavors on the same pan because they don’t cook at the same speed, so my berry side was a lot tougher than my mango apricot side. I’m definitely going to be making more.

I’m starting to think

I’m starting to think

  • we don’t eat like most people.  I just finished a bowl of  leftover Vidalia Onion Soup with Wild Rice topped with Blue Cheese Croutons for lunch.
  • I’ve unintentionally turned my daughter into a social experiment. It seems like every time I take her out in public I dress her in blue or green. People get excited when they see the car seat and exclaim, “Oh, such a cute little . . . ” Their eyes flit back and forth from the safari print car seat to the flower blanket to her supposedly male colored clothes. (Ruffles and accessories apparently doesn’t make the gender detection easier.) Don’t worry everyone, I’m just messing with you.

  • about racing again. It’s crazy what your first trail run in 2 1/2 years  will get you thinking.
  • I traumatized my son by brutally murdering two moths that he was happily chasing around the house.

  • about opening an Etsy shop, but worry it will be a flop.
  • I may never get “What Doesn’t Kill You” out of my head. (Oh Kelly, you’ll always have a special place in my heart. Remember when Since U Been Gone was the theme song for my sophomore year of college? Oh those were . . .  Well, they were times anyway. )
  • my kids have me exactly where they want me. Every time they’re about to push me over the edge, they pull one of these stunts and all is forgiven.