Wednesday, May 30, 2007

WARNING: This post contains an obscene number of pictures

I finally have a moment to sit down, resize pics, and write about our fun weekend.

Our drive down went fairly well. Traffic wasn't a problem, and the kids behaved decently. However, they were THRILLED to get out of the car and did not waste a moment getting into all of Grandpa Les and Grandma Karen's things. They had just returned from a fishing trip and Ethan helped offload items. He loved the nets.

We definitely had to take a trip to the beach, so after putting away the boat, we packed up and drove the 5 minutes to the beach (I'm so jealous of their location. I want to live on the coast!)

Gwen wasn't too sure about the ocean. It was cold! I do think the Oregon coast is probably the only place that you'll find people in swimsuits and people not 100 feet away in down parkas and blankets.

Right away we made some friends. The owners were afraid that the kids would be frightened of large wet dogs. Ha! We reassured them that big wet dogs were a normal event in our lives. The dogs were fun.

Learning how to make sand castles. Can you believe that I wasn't able to make even one successfully?

A sisters work is never done. Brother convinced her to carry his bucket.

Missed a spot!

Ethan went nuts, rolling down the dunes and getting sand everywhere. Everywhere is not an exaggeration.

The kids pretending to sleep in a hole they found in the sand.

There was a cool old boat hull on the beach and it was Ethan's dream jungle gym.

She looks so grown up in this picture.

A good one of Gwen and I.

After the beach, obviously, came bath! There was a good amount of sand left in the tub at the end.

Sunday the weather was iffy so we went to a local park. Gwen found a boyfriend there. He was probably about 4 years old and he was so in love with her. He was even pushing her swing and letting her crash into him so she'd laugh. She'd laugh, then say, "I shy" like a little coquette. She'll be trouble in a few years.

I was feeling silly, so I decided to hide and scare Ethan. Jason was able to capture the event pretty well I think.

Waiting expectantly...

He suspected something was up...



The weather finally cleared enough to go fishing so we headed out on the Columbia River to fish for sturgeon. This picture was snapped just before Ethan fell dead asleep on my lap for nearly 2 hours. He missed us catching a fish (Grandma Karen, technically). It was barely legal at 47 inches, but legal nonetheless! He also missed most of our trip home which was BUMPY! 8-10 foot swells, with a 40lb Ethan on my lap and holding onto the boat frame for my life. 'Twas great fun!

Ok, all for now. It took me forever to put this post together :)

Friday, May 25, 2007

I hope everyone enjoys the long holiday. We'll be leaving early tomorrow morning to head to the Astoria area to visit family. We are so excited to see the ocean and have the kids experience it for the first time as kids, not babies.

Funny story... tonight we were sitting on the couch and Gwen was playing with a small balloon. I joked that she probably thought it was a boob and she let out this hysterical giggle right after I said it. This cracked Jason and I right up because the timing was just perfect. I'm not sure if she actually understood what we were saying or it was just coincidence. There is evidence that she DID know what we said because right after that she tried to nurse the balloon, then Ethan wanted to try too. Jason was mortified that they'll do this in public and I thought it was the funniest thing I'd seen in a long time!

Well, off to bed. We'll be up early to get on the road before horrible traffic hits.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why you should always check your child over before putting them to bed...

If you can't tell, that is a sucker that is wrapped up tight in her hair. It must have gotten stuck to her clothing in the car and when I put her into bed I missed it. Luckily it was removed easily with warm water. She was, understandably, quite upset about the whole ordeal.

Today we spent the morning over at my Mom's. No real reason, just because. The kids had a blast and it was nice to take a shower in peace, catch up with all my Mom's magazines and talk. I enjoy seeing Shelly when she is home for the summers, and this time is especially precious since she's leaving for Boston in August.

While I was making dinner, Ethan was watching over the quesadillas and chatting with me. I told him that Grammy would be here tomorrow to babysit him and Gwen. He asked, "Poppa too?". I replied, "No, do you remember that Poppa went to heaven to be with Jesus?". He sagely replies, "Poppa misses a lot of people". Rather stunned at this reply from a 3 year old, I said, "Yes, he does. Do you miss him?". He hung his head and said, "Yeah".

Wow. Feelings of loss just hit you at the most unexpected places and times.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Two more recipes that I require you try :)

We were knocked off our chairs by this one. Far exceeded our expectations. Simple, cheap, fantastically delicious.

Slow Cooker Pepper Pork Chops
(we skipped the brine, but I probably would do it next time)

2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, slightly crushed
1 pound ice
4 (1 to 1 1/2-inch thick) bone-in pork chops
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 ounces dried apple slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, julienned
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Combine the vegetable broth, 1/2 cup kosher salt, brown sugar and peppercorns in a medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Cook just until the salt and sugar dissolve, then remove from the heat and add the ice. Place the pork chops into a 2-gallon zip-top bag along with the mixture and seal. Place in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the chops from the brine, rinse, and pat dry. Season on both sides with the kosher salt and set aside

Place the apples in the slow cooker.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch stainless steel saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute the pork chops on both sides until golden brown, approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side. Once browned, place the pork chops into the slow cooker atop the apples.

Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan followed by the onions and saute until they begin to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth to the pan to deglaze. Add the black pepper and thyme and stir to combine. Transfer this to the slow cooker, set to high, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Decrease the heat to low and continue cooking for another 4 hours and 30 minutes or until the pork is tender and falling away from the bone.

The second, more luxurious, recipe is from one of the best food books ever written... "It Must Have Been Something I Ate" by Jeffrey Steingarten. It was given to him by Pierre Herme, one of the greats of French pastry. We just made it tonight and WOW. It totally blows away the other hot chocolate recipe I've posted a few times. Its not one we'll do often... its rich and more work, but it was like drinking chocolate mousse. Chocolaty without being cloying. It didn't dull your taste buds, it was smooth as silk. Loveliness... and I'm not even a huge chocolate fan.

Chocolate Chaud

(adapted from Pierre Herme)

2 1/4 cups whole milk

1/4 cup bottled still water

1/4 cup (generous) superfine granulated sugar

1 bar (3.5 oz.) dark bittersweet chocolate, finely sliced with a serrated bread knife

1/4 cup cocoa powder

In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together the milk, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the chopped chocolate and the cocoa and bring to a boil again, whisking until the chocolate and cocoa are dissolved and the mixture has thickened. Reduce the heat to very low.

Blend for 5 minutes with an immersion mixer or whirl the hot chocolate in a standard blender for half a minute, until thick and foamy. Yield: Four 6-ounce cups of hot chocolate.

Note: I use a dark chocolate containing close to 70 percent cocoa, though Lindt bittersweet also works just fine. The Mayans and the Aztecs considered the froth the best part. Today, five minutes with an immersion mixer or a blender accomplishes what a half hour of beating did long ago.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

So I have to show you what I've been laboring over the last two days. There were many, many, many, struggles with it, but it came out ok. Next time I will be wiser!

And for the record, I hate everything about this picture except for my hair. I was having a great hair day despite being blown about by woodsmoke at Shel's grad party.

The dress is actually not as formless as it appears in this pose. The print did a great job of hiding my mistakes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

There are three recipes I want to share with ya'll.

For dinner yesterday we had Thai Chicken and Shrimp Noodle Salad. It was light, fresh, and so darn healthy you could eat the whole recipe yourself ;)

Tonight we had another great, simple dish. Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Capers. It took like 10 minutes to make. The only changes I made was to add more lemon juice (I like a tart vinaigrette) and Dijon mustard. Oh, and I grilled the chicken breasts to keep the kitchen cool. We had it over rice with roasted beets on the side. Num!

I'd wanted a dessert, but not something dreadfully bad for us and not anything chocolate-y. So I made these Oatmeal Raspberry bars. We had 3 mostly empty jars of jam, so instead of straight raspberry we had cherry, grape and raspberry. I also grated some lemon zest into the mix since I had the lemons out for dinner. Quite a fine dessert for exceedingly little effort.

I feel like I've been told a lie. People tell you about the toddler years and they give it cutesy names like "Terrible Twos" and things like that. But lets just say what it is folks.

Basically, your children become teenagers for a year or two, then God, knowing that parents could not handle this for 18 years, allows a rest period and hides it (mostly) for a bit. Eventually it re-appears just about the time that children are ready to start being independent and move out of the parents home. Basically, dear readers, I am living with two teenagers. All the sass, all the attitude, all the independence and absolutely no reward for me! I can't tell them to clean their rooms or chop and haul wood (that was a good Mom, we hated that chore). Ah well, the Lord will have mercy on Jason and I soon enough and we will have some years of peace before our punishment for being dreadful teenagers ourselves starts up.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gosh, its been a long time since I blogged.

There has been a fairly steady decline in my mood since my last blog. I can't really pin down the reason as to why, but I'm sure it has to do with the busy schedule we've had of late, mixed with dealing with my Grandfather's death and the hassles of two toddlers and their burgeoning identities and opinions.

Last week I picked up this pattern. Its a simple yet trendy look. We didn't really have the money to buy fabric, so I put my thinking cap on and improvised. My first time through I made the shirt using cut up t-shirts that J had been given at Linux World. I had to be creative with cutting them out as to not get the logos and stuff on the fabric. I also cut it in such a way that the hems of the shirt remained intact and I didn't have to hem the shirt. It came out great (considering it was my first run, I put the sleeves on the wrong arms and the stretchiness of the fabric), but a tad small. So the next day I tried again. This time I rummaged through the garage and came across a sheet that Tilli had torn and I had saved for some reason. Voila! Shirt #2. This one came out better though still not wearable outside the house because the fabric was worn in some areas. All in all though, I was rather pleased with my craftiness and now I can practically make the shirt from memory.

By the end of this month or early next I'll have piles of lovely fabric from my Amy Butler group (purchased at 1/2 the retail cost) to play with. Its good that I'm practicing ahead of time because this fabric is too nice and too spendy to make mistakes with!

On Wednesday we went to Jump Planet in Lynnwood with April, Gibson, Tamara and her daughter Chloe. Last time we did this (at the Bothell place) Ethan hated it. Not this time! Gwen and Ethan had a BLAST! Unfortunately, both the kids (and Chloe too) picked up a mild bug that causes runny noses and upset tummies. Nothing serious, but no fun either.

Friday was our last MOPS meeting. I'm sad that its ending... VERY sad. I really looked forward to it every other week. It was a great meeting because there was no speakers and they gave away gifts and massages (on site!) and foot scrubs and all sorts of things. We made be-ribboned flip flops (a smidge too fru fru for me) and lots of other fun things and mostly just sat around, ate, and talked up a storm. The good thing is that they have MOPS play dates lined up pretty much every week until we meet again in September. Some of them sound like a blast! They include the zoo, a ferry trip to Jetty Island, a petting zoo, a music in the park event and lots of other fun things. We will be attending a lot of them I think.

Saturday I attended April's baby shower and had a great time. Instead of the traditional baby shower, we painted her nursery. 6 or so women make it quick work! After the first coat, we had a delicious lunch prepared by Tamara (girl can cook), played two games (one of which I tied for first) and opened gifts. After all that we did a second coat and were done! Unfortunately, I was driving Jason's car (as he had the kids) and I locked the keys in the car. April, bless her, had AAA and she called them to come and rescue my keys. They did so pretty quickly using a really awesome technique too.

Sunday we skipped church (bad, I know, but none of us were feeling up to anything really) and stayed home. Jason gave me a beautiful watch that I had been drooling over for awhile... A Citizen J-Class Eco-Drive (i.e. solar powered). However, the watch was broken upon arrival so I'll have to wait a few more days until I can get my replacement :) Jason also let me sleep in and when I did awake, I did so to two little faces peering at me, holding a card and wishing me Happy Mothers Day. It was sweet. There was coffee and breakfast waiting for me. J did good! The rest of the day didn't go so well for various reasons which I will not elaborate on but it can be summed up thusly: sick children. We spent the evening at my Mom's visiting and talking and that was great, but we were so worn out by the time we got there that J and I weren't the best of company!

Despite feeling like crap today (and the kids feeling the same) I have managed to sweep and mop the floors. It was needed badly. The only other thing I may tackle today is putting the kids laundry away. I've let things go for so long now its a real challenge to catch up.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ethan had a couple quips today that really cracked me up. He speaks very well, and understands even better.

Today in the car, "Gwennie-pooh!", then when he has her attention he whispers, "Shoes" and starts taking his off. I always wondered how they both took off their shoes at the same time... now i know he was planning behind my back!

Tonight as we were praying I said, "Thank you Jesus for letting us see our Nana and Aunts". Ethan interrupts, "Mama, we didn't see ants! We didn't!". "Ethan, I meant Aunt Jenni and Aunt Michelle". "Ohhhhhh.... AUNTS!". Its like you could see the little gears and levers working in his brain.

The other day I was stressing over something at the stove. Ethan was at my side. Jason recommended that I relax and Ethan put his hand on my arm and said, "Yeah Mom, relax. Its ok, just relax. Its no big deal".

That kid!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Oh, I also wanted to post a poem I heard on Prairie Home Companion on my way home from the graduation.

The guy who was reading it (the author) read it with such humor and that is lost here, but I still like the poem!

The Lanyard

Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
This morning, I left early to attend Michelle's graduation. What a day for her! She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwest University with a major in English and a minor in Literature (and something else?). Shel, correct me if I'm wrong! Anyway, it was long, as all graduations are, but not as boring as some of the others I've attended :) We are so proud of all the work she has put in to this degree, and we are all so thankful that she will have some rest now to prepare for her graduate studies in Boston, starting in a year or so.

After I got home, I finished Gwen's pillowcase (or in our case, bandanna) dress. I would have finished it last night, but the sewing machine was jamming up for some reason. Thanks to the advice of Grandma Betty and Grammy at lunch (namely replacing the needle, oiling parts and clearing all lint), I was able to fix the machine and finish my project.

I used the method of running elastic through the front, then using binding around the armholes, continuing out to become the ties. (Please excuse the dirty baby).

It came out pretty good. I like the look of the elastic, but for me, sewing on binding is a major pain. I may have to work out a different way to handle that, or maybe just practice more :)

Tonight as we were putting the kids to bed we had our nightly prayer. We've done this every night since they were babies. This time they weren't really paying attention while we prayed and so when we were done I reminded them that we need to sit still and think about Jesus and what we are thankful for, etc. etc.

Anyway, I put Gwen in her crib and she folds her tiny little hands and closes her delicate little eyes and says, "Dear Jesus, *something I couldn't make out* Poppa and Grammy". She said this over and over again. She started pacing the bed and kept repeating those words. She was quite serious about it. We prayed so very often when my Grandpa was sick. It was sweet, but also gave me a great pang in my chest that she would never grow up knowing the man she was praying for right now. When she was done, she said, "Amen" and smiled and was ready for sleep.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I've been on a sewing kick lately.

A bit ago, I posted a picture of a smocket I made for Gwen. My next project was a wrap apron for myself. By far the hardest thing I'd ever tried to make. It came out ok. I used this Simplicity 7481 pattern, done in the short version. Based on reviews that I read, I made it smaller than I'd normally wear (I made a small). Even with that, I took nearly 6 inches off the sides and, because I wanted it shorter, I took 9 inches off the bottom as well. It required binding, which was extremely vexing. I didn't like my binding color, but at that point, I didn't care... it just needed to be finished!

I'll probably try it again, with a more subdued fabric and better binding... and better techniques too! I was hoping it would be something stylish that I could wear outside the house, but no. It does make a fine apron though :)

Last night I finished a pinafore top, based off a tutorial online. I didn't completely understand the directions so I ended up winging it which resulted in odd results, namely, my straps being too short (or maybe just awkward because of my wonky back). And it looking like a maternity shirt, which isn't bad, but isn't really what I was going for. Part of it was that instead of gathering the body (as the directions indicated) I was lazy and pleated. Pleated off the top of my head too as I've never done a pleat before. They came out well, but did give that maternity feel. If someone would like it, let me know. Its too snug under the arms for me, but otherwise its quite comfortable.

Today I'm going to try and whip out a pillowcase dress for Gwen. I may modify that pattern a bit... some call for a ribbon to be pulled through and tied, others for elastic, with a binding tie. I'll have to make that decision when I get there.

My biggest (and most complicated project) will be started here in a week or two, once I get my fabric. Its a beautiful, delicious pattern from Amy Butler, called "Barcelona Skirts"

See? (click for a bigger picture)

The pattern makes three items. A layered skirt (pictured in the middle there). An A-line skirt (on the left) and an apron overlay, which can be worn alone (lower right) or over the A-line skirt (upper right). I can't wait to get started on these!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Today is my Grandpa's birthday. May it be his most joyful ever.