Friday, January 27, 2012

What I've Been Cooking

Here are some links to recipes I've tried recently.  Thanks to Pinterest of course!

30 minute rolls
These worked great for me except they didn't bake into separate rolls - more like into one big one.  I need to find a remedy for that problem.  Maybe parkerhouse rolls?

White Chicken Enchiladas
Yummy.  I used a store-bought rotisserie chicken and shredded it.

No-Bake Nutella Peanut Butter Cookies
Easy and delicious!

This didn't really have a title...I am going to call it:
Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
Easy and very, very rich.  My serving sizes were about 1/4 of the ones shown in the picture.  

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken
I thought this had a good flavor - and the chicken was tender.  Just a little dry.  Why is my chicken always dry when I cook it in the crockpot?  Am I cooking it too long?

Oh my these were soooo good!  Just be sure to let them cool and stand long enough to set.  

Ham and Cheese Sliders
These would be perfect for a ladies lunch.  Not too kid-friendly.  At least not for my kids.  Don't mix the sauce together until right before you pour it over the sandwiches.  

I have at least a dozen recipes found on Pinterest that I still need to try.  I will post the result!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I've Been Reading and Watching

A few pass-along titles for reading and watching...

1.  Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Anyone who knows me knows I hate to run.  My family loves to tell the story about how Wes and I were in the car with the kids (just toddlers) when I had to run back into the house to grab something.  My kids exclaimed to their dad, "Mom can run!?"  Sad, I know.  That being said - this book was fantastic!  I loved it and I can only imagine that a true runner would only enjoy it more.  
 2.  The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. 
This is the first book I have read by Morton and I just happened to pick it up on a whim at the school book fair.  I rarely start a book without at least one recommendation.  But it seemed to fit the mold of books I love - historical fiction, England and romance.  Who could ask for more? Well I did enjoy it.  I didn't loooove it.  But it was very intriguing and entertaining.  An escape novel for sure.
 3.  The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.
I have to admit that I am still about 20 pages away from finishing this book.  But I am going to recommend it anyway because I have enjoyed it so much.  Another genre I love - historical non-fiction.  This was absolutely fascinating.  It reads a lot like a novel and is filled with so many interesting historical insights.  Read this! 
 4.  American Experience - New York.
I found this documentary on Netflix.  It has a total of 8 (yes 8!) discs and I am only on disc 5 - I get one every couple of months.  It is directed by Ric Burns (Ken's younger brother) and follows the history of New York City from it's very beginning to just before the Twin Towers fell.  If you are intrigued by the city of New York as much as I am - you will love this documentary.
 5.  Between the Folds
My mother-in-law recommended this short documentary on the art of modern origami.  What these artists do is simply amazing!  My kids were doing origami for a week straight after watching this!  (Watch instantly on Netflix.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dried Apple Project

Before Christmas Isaac and Cate decided to make some dried apple faces.  I did this when I was a child.  Liz and I made the faces and then attached them to a dishsoap bottle that we covered in fabric to look like a dress.  It was supposed to be an old woman.  
Anyway here are the carved apple faces.  Cate's and Isaac's.  We soaked them in some lemon juice to prevent them from over-browning.
Here are the apples after having dried 4-5 weeks.

Cate's apple:
Isaac's apple:
I think they turned out pretty cool.  They would be fun to do for Halloween - to make them as scary as possible.  Anyway - a fun and easy project for kids.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Turtle Trauma

Remember the red ear slider turtles that my parents gave Cate and Sarah for Christmas?  Well - it has turned out to be quite a saga.

First we brought the turtles home and immediately transferred them from their little homes to a grand mansion of an aquarium we have had sitting in our garage for months.  It came equipped with cool rocks and plants and we thought it would be turtle heaven!

We plopped Speedy and Rosie into their new home and anxiously watched to see how they acclimated.  They swam and dove and we called it a success.  Except they wouldn't eat.  And they wouldn't come out of the water to bask - which we read they were supposed to love to do.  They spent all their time in the water (except when they got manhandled by my kids).

My parents - lovers of all animals - volunteered to take care of Speedy and Rosie while we were gone to Atlanta.  All was well until the day after we got back.  My dad had some bad news - the turtles had died the night before.  Nobody had a clue as to why.  But my parents had already called our neighbor who was in St. George and asked her if she would bring home two more turtles to replace the deceased.  They were to arrive later that evening.

We decided that we would give this turtle thing another try.  Wes and I went to the pet store and came home with a few supplies - just to make sure we were providing our turtles the best home.  The new turtles arrived - they were assigned the same names as the dead ones.  But these new versions of Speedy and Rosy were very different.  They would never swim.  They would just sit with their eyes closed and bask for hours and hours and never move.  If we put them in the water they would swim for a while but then the next thing we knew - they were basking again.  And again - they would never eat.  It was a mystery to us because we were doing everything that the experts said to do - a basking light, clean water, we even had a thermometer to track the temp of the water, etc.  It was obvious our turtles were not doing well.
Here is our set-up.  You can see the turtles at the top of the ramp.  They must have just crawled out of the water.
One day we came home from some errands and found Sarah's turtle floating in the water.  Dead.  Ugh.  We put the turtle in the freezer and broke the news to Sarah the next day.  She cried at first but got over it pretty quick.  Immediately we figured there must be something wrong with the aquarium.  We removed Speedy to a separate tub to see if we could nurse him back to health.  He is still alive but the prognosis doesn't look good.
Poor Speedy.
We have drained the tank - and you can see Speedy's isolation tub. 

With one rabbit, two cats and a six foot long boa constrictor - I think we could be considered a "pet family" but I am starting to think that maybe turtles just aren't our thing.

At least the turtles will have some good company in our small but growing pet cemetery.  Those buried there include "Streak" the frog, "Cheezit" the gold fish, a baby robin and "Mopsy" our Netherland dwarf rabbit.  May they rest in peace.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 Home Improvement in Review

To say that 2011 was a busy year for us is an understatement.  Besides the fact that we were majorly involved in church callings and school events and that our kids were involved in many extracurricular activities  - we took on some major home improvement projects.

The first and biggest project we endured was a major remodel/uplift to our kitchen and main floor.
To peruse the before and after pictures and see the work in progress, click HERE.

We took a break during the summer while we enjoyed our new kitchen.  But it wasn't long before we started getting restless so we turned our thoughts to the backyard.  With the canal blocked off - we felt we had many options before us.  We decided to have a landscaper install a stone patio in this space.
The digging...
 Nice entertainment for the afternoon...
 Look at the size of those roots!  I hope our trees survive...
 Work in progress.

 The finished product - view from our back deck.

 We will eventually plant some greenery. We can't wait to use it next Summer!

Not long after the dust settled from the landscaping project, we were at it again.  (I will admit it - I think we are officially addicted to home improvement projects!)  We wanted to fix another major sore spot in our home - the office area or lack thereof.  So we called our trusty Ikea specialists - Artisan Installations (love these guys!) - and they designed a media center for our family room. We started the project several days before Christmas (what were we thinking?!) and the final touches were finished yesterday.
I searched and searched for some before pictures to show how cluttered and crazy it looked but couldn't find any.  All crammed in this corner of the room was a large computer hutch, a set of drawers with art supplies, a cabinet for DVD storage and a "homework" table that was a constant pile of binders, papers and clutter.  It drove me crazy!
Here are the after pictures:

 Each child has a drawer to put all of their stuff in.  I can't say enough how excited I am about this!!!

 I wonder what projects 2012 will bring?  Maybe we should just take a year off... 

Monday, January 2, 2012

We Raced in Georgia

I really should have divided this into two separate posts but I didn't.  Prepare for a lot of pictures!

We just returned from a quick but very fun trip to Georgia.  The main purpose of our trip was to participate in the annual Petit BraMans go-cart race.  More about that later...
We arrived a day early so we could spend some time at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.  We didn't think we would ever see an aquarium as cool as the Monterey Bay Aquarium but this did not disappoint!  It was fantastic!

This diver was in the huge coral reef tank.

We walked through a huge aquarium as 15 foot whale sharks swam above us!
And giant sting and manta rays.

After walking in a tunnel through the huge aquarium, we were able to just sit at this window and watch.  Amazing!

There was a tank of baluga whales.
And a hands-on pool with rays and small sharks.

An albino alligator.
Here we are waiting for the dolphin show.
Back at the hotel...

Later that evening we met up with Dave, Connie, Eliott, Carlee and "C" for a peek at the track.
Here's the scoop:  Weston's uncle is a motor sports enthusiast and Grand Am team owner.  He hosts a go-cart race each year called the Petit BraMans (named after the Petit Le Mans).  It is held in what was once a women's brazier factory - hence the name.  There are a couple dozen teams of 4-6 people racing go-carts for 6 hours (yep - 6 HOURS!).  Which I guess is short compared to the 10 hour and 24 hour races they used to host.  Anyway - we were invited to join the race this year so even though we had no idea what to expect - we accepted.
Here is the track:

Grandpa Dave:
They even had a kiddie track for the little ones.  They didn't drive these cars, though.
They drove go-carts.
The smallest helmet they had.

Cate was an awesome driver!

Even I got behind the wheel!
At this point it was all fun and games and I still was not anticipating racing the next day.
Here I come!
There I go!
When we arrived at the track the next day - I was shocked at how fast they were driving!!  I was a little nervous but was assured that our teams' goal was to lose.  I could probably manage that.

We got all suited up...

Addie's got her game face on!
Pit stop area.
Team Optimus Prime consisted of Dave, Connie, Wes, Emily, Eliott, Addie and Isaac.  We each drove 15 minute intervals for the entire 6 hour race.

The little girls stayed in the kids room to watch movies and play with toys.  And occasionally did some laps on the kiddie track.
Wes decided he need to look the part and found some sponsors.

Ready, set...go! 
After our first few drivers, we were in 9th place!! (We were known at that time as "Kart 5").
The spectators.  There were about 100 people total at the race.  And apparently some big names like David Murray and Johnny O'Connell were there racing too!
Connie was awesome!  Once the kids and I took to the wheel, we dropped to 13th place where we stayed for the rest of the race.  There were a total of 19 teams.
When we weren't racing, we toured the HUGE warehouse.
There is enough equipment, materials and machinery in here to make an entire race car - from scratch.  Which is exactly what they were doing.

I wish I knew more about what I was looking at...because I'm sure what I was looking at was incredible!

Weston's uncle has the world's largest collection of rotary engines.

The race finished about 8 pm.  We came in 13th place.  It was a long day.  Our hands and arms were stiff and sore.  We were all dirty and reeked of exhaust and gasoline.  But we had such a great time!!  It was one of the coolest things we have ever done.  Thanks to Dennis and Pat and the family for an awesome day!