Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nie Nie Recovery

So this family needs some help and I entered some writing contest that's for a book that will benefit them.
So anyway . . . Here's a link to their site

I would share the contest with you, but it ends tonight in 1 hour. I just found out about it. This is a link to the blog that is sponsoring the contest. She seems nice, maybe she will still let you submit an entry.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Attempting the Impossible. . . Little girl hair

Apparently one of the talents I should have acquired instead of working on my totally unused Library Science degree is "Turning ultra-fine, breakable and uneven hair into fabulous hairstyles." This is not something I am good at. Poor Kenzie and Hannah will have to suffer the indignities of uneven parts and bows that sometimes look like tumors growing out of their heads until I learn.

Here is our first attempt at french braids. They worked out beautifully--for about 5 minutes. Then they self-destructed into crazy-girl hair. I often think that Kenzie's hair at the end of the day reflects how I feel inwardly---Frazzled, out-of-control, and crazy.

At least there is one small moment where everything is put together and lovely. So, I am determined to learn the secrets of fabulous little girl hair, because I remember what a difference it made to me when my mom would come home from work to do my hair for me. I always felt pretty, or at least presentable, when she did my hair (which was everyday up until like eighth/ninth grade at a great sacrifice to her) .
My friend, Kathryn, put together some great links for little girl hair--and they have some great (and impossibly difficult looking) ideas. Now, I'm not saying that I am going to be supermom hairstyler, but at least I will attempt it. Sometimes. When I have extra stores of patience. And Kenzie does too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another sign that I am strange

Our television has not been hooked up for 2.5 years. What started out as laziness (gosh the cable to hook it up is far away and too short, and I'm too lazy to buy a new one), has morphed into a lifestyle. I have never seen a full episode of American Idol, and I'm not sure where the romance between Jim and Pam stands (once I watched part of AI on youtube and it was David Archuleta vs. that other David and old episodes of the office have somehow found a home on our xbox).
Sometimes I have a hard time fitting in with others because I don't know about the latest episode of Lost, or Dancing with the Stars, or some other tv show. This can usually be remedied by reading magazine titles in line at the grocery store and reading the entertainment section of the paper. (I don't watch tv shows, I read about them, how's that for nerdy?)
But mostly, I forget how strange it is to not be joined into the fantasy world o' fun until we have a baby sitter come over. Here is my rushed explanation to said b-sitter, "So once the kids are in bed, I guess you could watch a movie, if you can figure out the Xbox, it's really quite simple, no never mind. Well, I have a lot of books. And if those are boring, you can use the computer. Nevermind, I don't have any parental controls on the computer and I don't want you inviting any online predators over. So here's a deck of cards and instructions on how to play Solitaire. Have fun."
This usually isn't an issue, since our family lives close enough that they baby sit for us a lot. (Which reminds me, I am in serious favor-debt for all these hours of b-sitting.)

So our prime-time-less situation is not usually at the forefront of my mind. But then I read somewhere that educational programming after the age of 2 is beneficial to children and helps them learn their numbers and letters. Then I started pining after Sesame Street. I felt the need to incorporate educational programming into my children's life (and did they really say 2 years old? What about 18 months? Isn't that good for children too becuase I need something to do with Hannah after all the coloring, dancing, eating, reading fun is over). I even asked Mike to hook up the t.v. Luckily, laziness hit again (or actually in Mike's case busy-ness because he is working on his supersecret alien project "The Host", you know). And before Mike hooked up the tv I found this:
It's a new version of the Sesame Street home page that has playlists of games mixed with old and new sesame street episodes. It is wonderful! We love it! Hooray for Sesame Street! I even found my new favorite singer--- Feist-- on this website. She does a guest appearance and sings 1,2,3,4.
So does anybody else have some good suggestions for educational preschooler websites?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Ghetto is Surprisingly lovely

So, even though Mark of Kristen and Mark told me that it wasn't the ghetto, per se, I still think of O-town avenue A by the Mountain Apartments and the train yard as the ghetto.

Mike and I took the girls, and we invited Mark and Kristen, to have a picnic and maybe canoe a little at Fort Buenaventura. I'd never been there, and although it is suprisingly located right smack in downtown O-town, it really is quite lovely. There's a pond, trails, a river, a small visitor's center, lots of large trees, a campground and a great picnic area.

Kenzie had a great time. Hannah never has a good time any more. She just wants to bury her large head into my small chest, all the time. She is too big for this feat so it is very awkward these days, what with trying to hold all 30 pounds of her below my waist so her head can rest comfortably. Anyway.

It was too windy to canoe, but Kenzie and Rusti (and Addison) had a great time pretending they were canoeing and exploring the teepees and fort. On the way there I tried to explain to Kenzie what a fort was and decided that I needed some pc story-telling skills. This is me trying to tell Kenzie why people wanted to have a fort, "See the white people came and there were the Indians, I mean, Native Americans, and they fought with each other, so we, I mean the white people, built a big wall to protect their stuff."
At the fort Kenzie asked me where the white people were. Then she asked me where the Indians were. I want to be kind and fair to others who don't have my viewpoint, and give my children a balanced education about history, but I have a hard time knowing how to do this. I guess I should check some books out and see if they can tell her better than I did.
Here's Kenzie in the old school house. I wonder what the fort settlers would have to say about the history?

Oh yeah, thanks everyone for the camera advice. I finally saved enough money (by stealing toys from people's garbage) to buy a new camera. Actually I wrote this camera into existence. Thank you Standard-Examiner for the new camera. Can't you tell by the stunning quality of my latest photos that I have bought a . . . Nikon D40? :) It's a real low-end SLR, but hey I can only write so many stories for the Standard and garbage day only comes once a week. Eventually Mike and I are going to buy a new little camera as well. We like the idea of having both. Besides the SLR doesn't make movies, nor does it travel well on moonlit mountain bike rides.

I'm trying to think if anything else exciting is happening. Aha! Mike got accepted to a 6 week class at Maxwell Airforce base in the spring. Only 54 civilians get accepted and it's supposed to be really great. I think we are going to try and go with him. So what should I do on a six week "vacation" to Montgomery, Alabama with two small children? Any ideas?

Alrighty then

Rules associated with this award:

1. The recipient must link back to the awards creator......a student in Texas(http://www.thebabblingsofmere.blogspot.com/)

2. You must post these rules if you receive the award. (done)

3. You must choose 5 people to receive the award after receiving it yourself. (check the list below and see if you are on it)

4. You must fit the characteristics of the recipient of the award, as posted by Mere.
5. You must post the characteristics of a recipient. (look below)

6. You must create a post sharing your win with others.

7. You must thank your giver. (Natalie Vincent)

Characteristics for the Smile Award:

1. Must display a cheerful attitude.

2. Must love one another.

3. Must make mistakes.

4. Must learn from others.

5. Must be a positive contributor to blog world.

6. Must love life.

7. Must love kids. (Stephanie Speaking--Maybe I should decline this award, because I love kids, but sometimes I think bad thoughts about them. Should I add some more requirements to this award like: 8. Never swears (out loud, or unless it is really warranted). 9. Manages to find humor in poop and 10.Sometimes smile wears thin, but manages to pull it off anyway?)

5 Awesome Bloggers Who Qualify for This Major Award!

Hollie--my cousin, who despite stressful attempts at canning still makes me laugh every time I read her blog. When I see her (like once a year at Christmas), she is always smiling.

Holly--my aunt, who's not really my aunt, but kind of is. She has been a major help in this bloggy world and I love reading about her adventures and zest for life.

Kristin--my friend, who shows me how to relax and not be so uptight about things Mike might want to do. She is like the ultimate "cool" wife and is a really patient mom. Her blog is funny (and private) too.

Kathryn-- my friend, who is cute, smart, amazing, crafty, talented, etc., etc. Kathryn convinced me to get into this blog stuff, and boy am I grateful. Kathryn was a great friend through many times and always helped me smile!

Emily R.-- A new bloggy friend, who grew up with Mike, Em is the absolute example of smile. She has a precocious pre-schooler and toddler twins and she manages to smile and laugh through all their antics. Thanks for your nice comments Em, they always make me feel good.

Lots of other people make me smile! Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Applause Please

The Dread Piano Chambers is done! (well almost, there is this one part that I thought wouldn't show, but it does, and now I have to do it, and I was going to buy a new bench but then I had an aneurysm when I saw how expensive they were and that I would just have to paint it to match, so I'm redoing the bench now too)

Feast your eyes on this sight:
Before pic:
Before I went crazy with the piano it had splotches of white paint all over the front. Otherwise it was probably fine. (I started this DPC project in August of last year, before I really got into documenting everything with pictures, so this is the best before picture I have. See that sexy pink bench? That's what I'm redoing now)

I'm a little bit distressed about the distressing. I want to love it because I put SOOOOOOOOOOOO x10 to the 3,000 power much work into it. But I just kind of like it, I don't really love it. I don't walk in and think, "Dang! I'm good." I think, "Sheesh. That was a lot of work. And gosh, who beat up my piano?" I have refinishers remorse! But I am kind of determined to love it.

I guess my piano and I will have to have therapy. Anyone know of a good piano/person relationship therapist?

Perhaps I should just "Fake it til I feel it."

At first, I planned to refinish it with a beautiful stain that brought out the original grain of the beautiful wood. The best laid plans of mice and men. . . can be ruined by a power sander and high grit sandpaper in one instant. (Do you think that could make a good poem or book?) So now it is black. Then since I was having such a hard time with it, I decided to distress it. Now I am not sure about that.
Maybe instead of piano therapy I need some retail therapy-- some decorations to accessorize my beautiful, unique piano (see I'm already trying to fake it).

Other news from the world of us: Mike and I took "Excited and Confused" to a whole new level on Monday night. It was a full moon, what can I say? We took our mtn bikes up to Snowbasin and biked up Cold Water to an overlook of Ogden with only the light of the moon (and Ryan Watkins) to guide us. Wow! It was awesome. I haven't been on a mtn bike (on a mountain) for two years now, so I was a little bit worried about my first endeavor being in the dark on an unknown trail. Really, it was probably better that way, because I couldn't see a lot of obstacles I just went over them and afterwards thought, "Hmm, that was probably scary." My butt is only a little bit sore.

On Saturday we went to HAFB airplane museum. Once a year they have an event where they open up the planes and let people climb inside. In each plane the guide was usually a veteran that had flown the plane. We heard some great stories and Kenzie loved sitting in the "pirate's" seat. (I tried to explain, but she has selective hearing). Pictures:
Mike in the navigator's seat of the C-130

Hannah got a lot of enjoyment out of this trip.

The C-130 from the outside. It's huge. Mike kept saying, "And they did all this before computers. Can you imagine?"

Kenzie in the "pirate's seat" of the C-130. Obviously this was our favorite plane.

Monday, September 15, 2008


The Ultimate Guide to Canning--
Canning makes me feel as if I have reached some sort of "Mormon-wife" standard that is otherwise unattainable/undesirable to me. Plus I love the taste of home-canned fruit. So much better than the store. SO MUCH!
This entry is bound to catapult my blog into internet stardom, since I am sure the world wants to know how I can peaches and pears. Fascinating stuff here.

Actually this entry is so I can remember how to do it again next year, because I have this habit of purging my brain of all nonessential information. Last year I canned quite a few bottles of pears and peaches, but this year I could not even remember how to peel and pit a pear. Honestly. You'd think I could remember how to do something that I did about 150 times over and over. Oh well, so much for that habit idea that doing it three times makes it unforgettable.
This pear has a butt. Haha. What's canning without a little "that's the best pair (yuck yuck) I've ever seen."

So onto the canning process-o.

1. Buy pears/peaches.
Pears: Buy pears green and let them ripen in the box. Place a blanket/sheet/tarp/whatever over the pears and they will ripen pretty evenly. This year I bought 2 and 1/2 bushels of pears, which equaled 5 boxes of pears. They were selling for $15/half bushel. It took about 4-5 days for the pears to ripen. They should have a little give and be yellowish. My pears were Bartlett pears.

Peaches: My peaches were Gleasons Early Elberta and I (as in my mother and father-in-law) got an awesome price: $10 a half bushel. This year peaches are selling for $18-22 a half bushel. Holy smokes! They were mostly ready by the day after I bought them. By mostly I mean about 10 out of the bunch were not ripe enough to peel.

2. Gather canning equipment: Jars, lids, canner (I use one of those Granite-ware 9-jar ones), bottle picker-upper (yeah, I don't know the technical name), large bowl. Make sure your jars are clean. Because last time I checked, spider web peaches were not yummy.

3. Peel and pit the fruit. Ahh this is the most exciting step. I like to put in some good music, or a book on tape, and set to work.
Pears: I used a potato peeler, and it was faster than a knife. After I peeled it though I had to cut it in half (with a knife, not a potato peeler) and used a melon baller to get out the core/pit/stringy thing that tastes gross in the middle of a pear. The melon baller was a good tool to use. Remind me to buy one so I don't have to use my mom's next year. I also sliced the pear halves in half again. It makes life easier with small children.
Peaches: Blanch your peaches! Blanch them I say! Martha says you should lightly score an x in the bottom of each peach and some websites say you have to boil them for long periods of time. Whatever. Also some websites claim that you lose nutritional value by blanching. Well it looks like in my 10 minutes of research that the studies have been on vegetables, and if I didn't blanch my peaches I would probably hack most of the peach off in an attempt to peel it. So, I'm sticking with my blanching method which is: Boil a large pot of water. Use a slotted spoon to drop the peaches in (careful, careful). Count to ten. Pull them out. Viola! Your peach will peel itself. I don't even put them in a bucket of icy water, (EDITED TWO YEARS LATER: Look, don't be an idiot. Follow the directions and put them in the icy water or you WILL BE SORRY.) and hey they work fine. Although I'm sure that's bad too. Now all you have to do is be careful that small pieces of the pit do not become lodged under you nail while using your (freshly washed) hands to pit the peach. I also sliced my peaches to save fork action later.
Tip for next year: Blanching might be easier if you put a colander full of peaches into the boiling water rather than dropping them in and removing them one at a time.

4. Drop into jars, kind of pushing down (not mashing) to fill jar. Fill to just under the rim of where the lid screws on. I do this as I peel (unless my mom has been coerced into helping me and we assembly line it). Since my canner holds 9 jars I do 9 jars at a time. Brilliant, I know.

5. Add a scant 1/4 cup of sugar to each jar. This is a very very light syrup. I hate heavy syrups.

6. Add water up to the rim of where the lid screws on. I boil my water, since that's what my mom does. My mother-in-law, who also cans delicious sanitary jars of fruit does not boil her water, she uses hot tap water and then light shakes/swirls the jar to mix the sugar (see step 8 before attempting this). With boiling water I don't swirl my jars. Either way works fine. **Disclaimer-- I don't have a food handler's permit. I don't know if using boiling water or not will kill germs or kill you or cause some sort of world problems. My training has been at the hands of my capable mother and mother-in-law who have years of canning experience between them. If you feel wary about this follow some sort of highly researched and technical instructions from somewhere else.

7. Make sure canner is filled with water. I fill mine to the first rim, because adding jars is going to make the water go higher. (Wow, you can tell I am not into scientific terms here. If this were my husband writing this he would talk about volume and displacement and throw in some sort of equation.) I turn the stove on about now because it takes for-ev-er for the water to heat up.

8. Wash rims of jars to get the sugar off and add lids (Obviously you would do this before you swirled/shook your jars if using tap water). I also boil my lids, because that's what my mom did/does. Really the only reason I boil my lids is because I got a canning kit for my birthday and it had a hand dandy lid-magnetic-thing that I use to pull the lids from the boiling water. For some reason, using this tool gives me joy. If I didn't have this tool I wouldn't boil my lids. Shirley (mother-in-law) does not boil lids and they work fine. Twist the ring on now.

9. Place jars carefully into the canner. Most granite-ware canners come with a jar holder to keep the bottles in place. I haven't tried canning without one, so I would recommend you use it. Lower jars into water. Make sure the water completely covers the tops of the jars, by like 1-2 inches. Now put the lid on. (Make sure stove is on from step 7). Now you have to wait for the water to boil. Like a good boil, not just some wimpy half bubbles coming up once in awhile, a real boil. Now you can start your timer for processing the jars, which seals the lids on.

I processed both my pears and peaches for 30 minutes. Now, my mother-in-law, who doesn't boil the water she puts in the jars, processes them for 40 minutes. Her method is raw pack. My mom's is hot pack (kind of). And it looks like you have to process raw pack longer than hot pack. But it all has to do with altitude and honestly, it's an inexact science. (Look at the chart. Do you really think they canned peaches at 1,000 feet and then moved up to 1,001 feet just to see if the lids didn't seal and someone died from food poisoning?) So anyway. . . I should probably do some more research. But really I'm too lazy, so here's a link for you to do your own research: The USDA Guide to Canning

10. Use your bottle picker-upper and lift the jars out (after the timer goes off). Allow them to cool and sit on a flat surface overnight. The popping sounds are your lids sealing. What a fun time.
Other facinating facts:
It took from 5-7 peaches to fill a jar.
One bushel of peaches yielded 27 quart jars. (and I had extra peaches to eat for a few days after too)
One bushel of pears yielded 21 quart jars. I canned 2 and 1/4 bushels and made pear honey with the other 1/4 bushel.
This is my absolute favorite jam in the whole wide world.
Pear Honey:
Peel and mash pears with potato masher (or I use a pastry cutter)
4 c. of mashed pears (This was about 20 pears for me this year)
1 can of pineapple (I would drain the juice, but if you don't mind runny jam, then don't)
3 1/2 c. of sugar (really just add it to taste)
2 Tbs of lemon juice
Bring to boil and let simmer for 20-25 min. Then add 1 tsp. vanilla.
Process for 10 min. (My mom just turned her jars upside down and they sealed, but I processed mine)
If you made it through this post, congratulations. You are a nice person. Now would you mind leaving me a comment? :)

Added in Jan 2011,
Grape Juice:
1 1/2 - 2 c. grapes
1/2 c. sugar

Stem grapes, add to jar, add sugar, add hot tap water until filled to the bottom rim. Process for 25 minutes. Viola! My white grape juice is not as flavorful as purple, but still okay.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Please fill in the correct answer

Multiple Choice:
Please write your name at the top of the paper and answer the following questions to the best of your knowledge. Remember to read through each question thoroughly before choosing.

1. These past two weeks Stephanie remembered she loved music because
A. That wonderful children's cd that she got free in the mail is teaching her that "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" can be wonderful if sung from the depths of your soul.
B. She decided to become a Collective Soul groupie and drove to Wendover for their rocking, if short, concert.
C. She got to drive in the car, alone, and listened to the radio, instead of those wonderful children's songs or NPR, and thought, "Hey. Music can be nice when it's not about small woodland creatures."
At the Collective Soul concert! This summer has been my concert-going summer. I have never attended a "famous" band in concert and this summer I went to three. Can you see my 'cool factor' rising? Going to concerts is the only way I can get my groove on these days (unless you count running down the street with a black truck as getting your groove on). The CS concert was definitely the best--despite the fact, or rather because of the fact, that no one was smoking Mary Jane. Seriously, the Peppermill concert venue rocked.

2. This last week Kenzie fell in love with:
A. Braids. And said disgustedly, when I didn't braid her hair in the correct manner, "Mom, I wanted a big braid, not this fluffy thing!"
B. Gymnastics. Where she didn't get to jump on the trampoline, but when asked what her favorite part was said, "The trampoline."
C. The little boy down the street, who got one of those neat-o, why-is-a-three-year-old-allowed-in-that? electric cars for his birthday.
The trampoline at Grandma and Grandpa Chambers is the best thing in the world. Kenzie's love of it inspired me to sign her up for tumbling/gymnastics. I love her little class. They don't have to buy some spangly outfit and they don't have some interminable recital. Someday I'm sure I will enjoy going to many dance recitals and such, but I'm not ready yet.

3. In the past two weeks Hannah has become upset and thrown her large head back in massive, noisy fits of crying and yelling "No!" when:
A. The water bottle she was drinking from had the audacity to roll away from her.
B. She was forced into anyone else's arms besides her mother's.
C. She had to eat
D. She had to go to bed
E. She felt ignored
F. Her diaper had to be changed
G. Kenzie came too close
H. She had to put clothes on
I. She had to ride in the car
J. She was awake
Poor Hannah! I think she wasn't feeling very good this week. She's getting her back molars and had some pretty bad diarrhea, (yeah, who knows how to spell that?)

4. In the past two weeks Mike has:
A. Been forced to work like a slave on Stephanie's stupid Dread Piano Chambers, but still smiled and told her it looked terrific.
B. Got into a discussion that convinced Stephanie that he is working in Area 51 on some supersecret alien project where they have managed to brain wash him. And I quote: "When you're dealing with two dimensions, you have to worry about aliasing on two levels. Yeah. It's fun." (And when he read this post he said in all seriousness, as if I understood anything he was saying, "I've told you about sampling in one dimension, haven't I? Like when you sample in the time domain?")
C. Been storing massive amounts of data on the Xbox (illegally modified, yes.) which makes our computer run really really slow. Of course there is a solution to this: Allow him to build a new computer.

Mike relaxing his large brain. Honestly, his project at work is called "The Host" and he works on "aliasing." Enter "Twilight Zone" music or the "Jaws" theme.

Thanks for taking my quiz. I've been having these dreams that I was teaching school again and I wanted to relive the extremely satisfying experience of writing quizzes on subjects no one knows anything about.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A farewell to summer

September is flying by faster than Hannah goes through diapers--and with her diarrhea of late that's pretty fast. Ewww.
I'm a little sad to see summer end, (like two weeks ago), and I'm all into "Odes" so I thought I would write a little Ode to Summer:
Summer was fun and
Now it is done.
The End.
Here's some NEVER SEEN BEFORE photos that tell a little more about our Summer:
Joyschool Graduation. Hooray for Kenzie! She now knows that she prefers toys at everyone else's house and Bologna is good.

My parents have a giant rhubarb plant on the side of the house. Kenzie kept eating it and pulling faces, saying, "I like it Mom. I really like it." Hannah really did love it.

Swimming lessons at the Roy pool. We took these in June for two weeks everyday and now Kenzie will dunk her head under the water. I wish that it had been like twice a week or something. Kristen helped me out by watching Hannah while I swam with Kenzie.

What's summer without at least one fat lip? Hannah propelled herself into my parents stair railing and bit through her top lip. Since we are bad parents we didn't take her to the doctor--we made her tough it out with a popsicle.

We moved the girls into the same room so we could make a playroom where all the toys stay, never cluttering our house again. Right. Mike wasn't going to move the rocking chair, but I almost cried because Hannah is still my baby. She needs to be rocked. Look at how much she loves it. :)

Let's do some fashionable sweeping. We like to assign chores at an early age. My floor is alwasy spotless thanks to Hannah's skill. Actually, I think my floor could be the testing ground for NASA super-adherents. If only they would use a little milk/cheerio/applesauce paste they would never lose parts off the space shuttle again.

Does Kenzie look better as a brunette?

Picking flowers in Grandma and Grandpa's yard after swimming in the alligator pool. My flowers did not grow like this, and they were from the same bulbs as my mom's. Instead they took so long to bloom that I decided to check to see if they were really flowers by pulling them up. Yep. They were (emphasis on past tense) flowers.

Sippy cup sisterhood! Yeah, yeah.

The backyard pool was so exciting, but obviously not as exciting as the makeshift hottub. Kenzie loved having her friend Noel come to play this summer, and going to her house.

Summer time requires a backyard pool and cousins to play with. We had a cousin swim party with Gracie, Koy and Kandelyn in August. Kandelyn can get some serious air.

One day, Kenzie let me curl her hair. She looked too cute. Maybe someday I will curl it again. (But don't get your hopes up, mom.)

We spent a lot of time in the pool this summer. Notice the neglected black truck that I sacrificed my dignity for and the beloved plastic bag that replaced it as a favorite.

Ahhh. Summer, summer, summer time. Now it's on to fall! I know you are excited for my post on canning. Stay tuned. . .