Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Making Quiet Books for Church

** I had to add these links after finding them on UCreate's Top Ten Tutorials. (My friends Kathryn and Melissa and their cute blog Nannygoat are featured in the list!)

Here are some links for making Quiet Books:

Homemade By Jill Quiet Book (Oh so cute and free templates)
How To Make A Quiet Book Her instructions are very detailed with supplies needed and good pics of finished pages.
Modest Maven's Sew A Quiet Book Post She was able to keep her costs under $10! She has great instructions as well
Nap Time Journal's Quiet Book Ideas She used a coloring book for inspiration and drew the pages onto muslin. I like how her pages aren't attached to the cover. That way each child can work on a page, instead of making individual books for each child.
Crafty Chic's A Girl's Quiet Book The puzzle page in her book is one of my favorites. She doesn't give detailed instructions, but has some cute ideas.
Linda Stocking's Quiet Books These are the patterns I used to make my books. The advantage here is that she preprints her pages on Pellon. The disadvantage is the cost of the kits, $35 plus materials. I love how mine turned out. They were perfect for someone with no sewing skills and no ideas of my own. She's having a January sale so check it out!

I Still Have All 10 Fingers

I know y'all like to spend December doing fun things with your families, creating great traditions and celebrating the spirit of the season, but personally, I enjoy spending the month of December cursing, inflicting wounds on my hands and experiencing a general feeling of incompetence.

Every December I experience "Craft Delusion Syndrome." While the Thanksgiving turkey is still settling and people are out buying laptops and beating each other up for the latest toy, C.D.S. sets in for me. I begin to imagine lovely, handmade gifts for all the special people in my life. Visions of blankets, books, and cuteness dance before my eyes. I don't remember that I suck at crafting until late at night Dec. 24th while instead of being jolly and excited, I am crying about my failures in the cold, dark basement and wondering if perhaps I have some gift cards hiding somewhere that I can give instead of my half-finished project.

This year, I decided that I needed to finally make the quiet books that I'd been dreaming of since the beginning of our Fight-to-the-Death sacrament (church) meetings. I kind of knew what to expect since I had made a few pages for my niece and nephew once, but, like childbirth and pregnancy, my memories had faded. So I've been hiding in the cold (there is no heater vent in our tv room), dark basement SEWING! of all things.

I'm happy to say that I actually have a finished (kind of) project with only minor injuries to my hands and soul (for all the cursing). The girls took them to church today and were entertained enough to make the C.D.S. worth it. Although, I did vow that next year all C.D.S. projects had to be completed by Dec. 22nd, so I could at least save a little bit of my soul.

Now I just have to pull myself together enough to make covers for the dang things. Here's a few pictures of the dang cute things. Before you are overly impressed, these are made from a kit that can be purchased from a really nice lady at

Each cute vegetable detaches and reattaches with velcro.

More velcro matching fun. Each number and prophet picture detaches. On each number is a well-known thing about that prophet.

This page is supposed to have an I-Spy bag on it. But I didn't have the stamina to make one of those after all the other sewing I did. But it has some dolls and clothes that the girls can play with. Also those boots lace and tie (just like it says! Wow!) Each book has 10 pages of different activities.

This was a huge time commitment and a little bit of money for me. The kits cost $35 each, but don't include all the materials you need to make them. I had a "Party" and was able to get one kit free. I spent roughly $14 for pellon and wonder-under (with two 50% off coupon at Joanne's) and then, since I only experience C.D.S. once a year, I had to buy a lot of supplies like thread, material and crafty things that other people have rolling around in their underwear drawers. That was about $90. That's a grand total of about $73 per book. wowsa! The Pioneer book was more expensive because it required a lot of little crafty things like mini clothes pins and ox fur. I know you can do this cheaper if you play your coupons right and buy the pages on sale, individually. (She has sales twice a year, I think). Anyway, I love these books and hope they will last a long freaking time.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas and the Cat (A post that starts out funny then devolves into a travelogue)

Now that I have a cat (thank you Santa Claus), I can put up stupidly adorable cat pictures and write in that strange cat language that cat people seem to love on that icanhazcheezburger web site. Wait, before you unsubscribe, I is kiddingz.

Perhaps the cat and I will be enemies. What could be more fun than writing about my nemesis, The Cat? Unfortunately, so far she has proven unformidable (not a word, but should be). She curls up adorably in her cat bed. She has yet to scratch Kenzie and Hannah's eyes out even though they have danced with her and hefted her around like a sack of potatoes. She is already litter box trained. And she is cute and cuddly. I don't think I can hate her. Also, due to my "circumstance," I can't clean out the litter box. I guess we might have to be friends. But we'll see.

Christmas was relatively marvelous around here. Mike took from Tuesday on off and we spent the time wrapping up some last minute details. On the 23rd we went sledding and took the girls to see the Layton lights. On the 24th, I planned to make the day all special and stuff, but instead I spent the day sewing quiet books (more to come on this in a later post).

That evening we went to the annual C-clan party where the girls dressed up as angels for the nativity. Hannah and her cousin Gracie danced joyfully throughout the re-enactment. It was adorable. We left a little bit early and came home to read the Christmas story and open our Christmas Eve pjs.

Kenzie and Hannah were excited, but they were pretty tired and went right to sleep. I think. I couldn't hear them over my mad sewing and consequent cursing to notice if they stayed up late. Mike helped me set eyelets and cut out pictures.

Mike said my dad needed his help at midnight to put something together for my mom, a surprise. After he left I finished up a few things and fell into a coma, until I was awakened at 6:00 by loud mewing. The girls slept until normal time, eightish. As they were running out of their room, the kitty ran to greet them and trumped everything else. They were so excited.

Then we spent the rest of the morning convincing them that their other presents were exciting too. "Hey, look at these other presents. Look, don't you want to open them?" They spent the rest of the morning following the cat around saying, "Oh kitty. Kitty, kitty. Come here kitty. She wants to sleep on our bed."

We told the girls they had to think of a name. Kenzie said, "How about Kickety-Bickety?" This is her favorite name. She asked me if we could name our new baby Kickety Bickety.

So, wanting to save that name for the baby :), I said, "Well that's a nice name. Let's think of some more."

"How about Molly?" said Kenzie. "Because she mauls things."

Mike and I laughed heartily and thus the cat was christened Mauly.

Hannah loved Mauly. Then an errant scratch made her terrified. Since then it's been love/hate. Hannah loves to follow her around and then suddenly screeches about Mauly and how scary she is. She pets her lovingly and then pushes her off her chair. Perhaps this is good practice for how we shall treat (or not treat) the new baby. Kenzie carts her around and mothers her. She doesn't complain about scratches and loves her.

Mike surprised me with a new couch (Hooray, hooray, hooray!). He hid it in the garage when I fell into a coma. I'll have to post a picture when we bring it upstairs.

I didn't surprise Mike but he was excited nevertheless with his huge new monitor. Huge. It's larger than Hannah. (Maybe not, but it is large.) This, he says, is just the beginning of our dream computer.

After our morning festivities we headed over the Chambers for brunch and more presents. Here Shirley is excited about the food dehydrator we all bought her.

Kenzie got an erasable alphabet book that kept her entertained for the rest of the morning. She was also super excited about her princess painting book from Gracie. Hannah was upset about everything. The day before she had complained about her ear hurting, and we were going to take her in to Instacare, but she stopped complaining so we figured it was a sore in her ear that she'd been picking at. She was a little mollified by the puzzle she got from Koy and the book from Grandma and Grandpa but mostly she was just miserable.

By the time we got to my mom and dad's house that afternoon she was complaining about her ear and starting to burn up. She cried that she wanted to go to sleep. We quickly opened presents on arrival. The highlight was Hannah's new Fancy Nancy doll, which she clung to and said to Kenzie, "Now I have a Fancy Nancy, just like yours." It was true love. Right after that she went down for a nap with Fancy Nancy in tow.

Kenzie's fondest dreams were realized when my parents gave her a "Strawberry Shortcake house with all her friends." (The only thing she wanted from Santa Claus.)

I was excited because we surprised my mom. This never happens. She is the queen of guessing and always says, "I knew it. I just knew it," because she does. But this year Alisha, Shaelynn and I framed an oil painting she bought 3 years ago in Italy. We stole it from her closet. She was really surprised.

It was nice to see my Grandma Bette and Grandpa Charles, who were at my parent's house. They joined us with Ali and Shaelynn and my parents in a game of "Imagine if." The girls love their new bouncing balls from them. Hannah bounces all over the house now that she feels better.

We were going to head to my mom's family party after that, but Hannah was burning up so we opted for home and bed. Hannah is doing much better now and the girls are enjoying all their new stuff. As are we (a new Kitchenaid! A wheat grinder! I'm so excited and spoiled.)

We have about 200 pictures so I'll have to put together a little slideshow for posterity or something. I feel grateful that we were able to have such a nice Christmas. I hope yours was filled with family and fun! Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Being Released

Sometimes I love the evocative imagery of Mormon terms. For the last year I've served in the Young Women's with the 12-18 year old girls in our ward. I've loved this calling (that's what we Mormons call our jobs in the church).

I was the camp director (as I once so brilliantly explained it to my friends in Alabama, "It's a camp. For girls."), but I served as a counselor and sports director as well (I imparted all of my wisdom about ball sports, such as 'Duck!' and 'Run!'). I taught Sunday lessons, went to activities and fell in love with my calling. It was easy because the women and girls I served with were marvelous. A couple of the girls intimidated me, as I saw visions of what my little girls could become with their free agency, but most of them gave me courage and hope with their goodness, intelligence, and budding personalities. I love those girls.

But this week, they released me (That means it's someone else's turn to do the job). Release. I feel a sort of whooshing sort of windy noise with that word, as if something were holding on to me and suddenly let go. But release is such a powerful, ready-to-move-on word as well. It's what you feel when you achieve something, when the pressure relieves, when the baby's shoulder slides out :) Release is a freedom feeling too.

I am a little sad. I used to think my mom was strange when she cried when she was released. Now I know. Serving in a calling gives a different (not better, not worse, just different) kind of meaning and definition to your life than a job, or even motherhood.

I didn't cry until I was walking out to my car after the bishop told me they were extending a release to me (extending a release! Isn't that a great phrase? They're reaching out to let go. It seems perfect). Then, as Mike and I walked through the double doors of the church, a few tears squeezed out. There were so many things I had meant to do. Phone calls I should have made, girls I was just getting to know, lessons I was going to teach, personal progress I was going to do. Regret is often what makes our grief intense.

I'm not sure that I would even call my soft sadness about my release grief. My feeling is more like saying goodbye to a promising, not yet fully developed friend: "It was good while it lasted. I'll send you a Christmas card and maybe Facebook you." I will have sweet, edged-with-soft-blue- sadness moments when I think about being in the Young Women's. I love those girls, and that is the best memory I will have of this calling.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I promise I'll stop complaining. Soon. Like in 26 weeks or so.

I didn't get the barfs, at least not in the form everyone else in my family had. I just get the special, "letting-you-know-I'm-still-here-invading-your-body" throw-ups sent from my sweet fetus every day.

But before this blog turns into crazy "pregnancy complaint central," because I'm sure you all tune in here to get updates on my gastrointestinal distress, quick let me post some pictures of fun things we've done that I've forgotten about already.

On November 14 we went to Disney on Ice. The girls traded us their Halloween candy, minus a small sandwich bag full, to get their tickets to this event. We got good tickets through Gpa Reid's work and the girls and their cousins were awed and in wonder of all the beautiful princesses.

It was a good trade for the Halloween candy and a fun family activity. Next year I'm totally dressing up, but not as a princess, as the scary, scary Maleficent.

Thanksgiving weekend, in between all the barfing, we put up our tree.

At first, while I was busy putting out the nativity, we let the girls put the ornaments on the tree. I think they've inherited my decorating skills.

This my friends, is the only untouchable ornament on our tree. It is an ornament that my first grade teacher claimed that I painted. I'm pretty sure the room mothers painted it for me, but hey, I'm pretending that early on I had skills. Now this poor clay ornament has been glued a few times, but I kind of like it. And I'm really impressed that my first grade teacher even attempted an activity like this with 30-ish small children. She must have been amazing.

Since our ornament collection is sparse, we decided to spice it up a bit by painting some clear balls. Mike said, in his best engineering voice, "We need a centrifuge to make these."

Kenzie had a great time squirting the paint into the balls and swirling it around. She's really enjoying doing crafty things lately. She's always asking me to help her make something. Maybe she didn't get the memo about me being the Anti-Martha.

Here's one of our painted ornaments. For a craft anarchist, I think squirting paint into clear ornaments and shaking them is a pretty good activity.

And last but not least, here is our favorite hypochondriac (this is her latest bed time ruse. "My bum hurts." "My elbow hurts." "My arm hurts." "My leg hurts.") showing us her highly inventive princess shoes. She's modeling her beloved cupcake dress, which she asks me everyday if she can wear. Of course she hates tights, because they ruin the "twirl" effect. (It took me about 20 times to understand her version of twirl. "ihl" is about how she says it.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Throw-ups

On Tuesday Kenzie barfed all over the couch (see comments on post below). I still can't convince Mike we need a new couch. And yes, that was the day I told her to stop being a wimp a go to tumbling. (Before she threw-up, not after. I'm only kind of mean.)
On Thursday no one barfed. Not even pregnant me. So we loaded up and headed to the church for the annual 5K. Mike ran with a friend from our Alabama experience, Mike, and then they went to play the annual football game.

Summer and I congratulated ourselves heartily for walking 2 miles (we shortcut the 5K course). The girls were delightful screamers during the race. I blame my evil, hated double jogger.

At noon we took our creamed corn and headed to a church in North Ogden. We had more food than imaginable with the extended C-clan and afterward Mike punished his body even more with dodgeball. The girls bossed everyone around and played happily with their cousins in the nursery.

After that, we watched UP (I cried a lot), and then headed to my Aunt Leslie's for pie night. Did I ever tell you that my mom makes the best pies ever? She does. After pie we took our extremely cranky children home to bed.

No one barfed on Friday and we bought a few things online and mostly just sat around, still digesting Thursday's feast. We did manage to mooch some leftovers from my mom. Nothing beats the divinity of turkey and rolls.

On Friday night, Hannah was up all night barfing every half hour.

If we need a new bio-warfare option that brings enemies to their knees, willing to do anything, may I suggest this particular disease? It was awful.

She's fine now, but we kept her home from church to make sure. She cried bitterly. "I'm not sick! I'm better. I want to go to church! I want to go to church!" I figure I better record that particular sentiment and remind her of it when she's a teenager.

We did copy my friend Emily and her family and made a Grateful Garland. I'm just grateful I only throw-up once a day, not contiguously (why use simple words when you can use large ones?) for 8-12 hours.

**Update: Since I wrote this Mike is home from work barfing and moaning. I can't wait for my turn.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mysteries Solved

I like to keep my life mysterious. Lately my favorite mystery is "What food can I eat that will not taste vile on the way back up?" Well, does anyone have an answer? I don't.

Here are some other mysteries that have been solved:

Hannah's mysterious love of Spaghetti-Os.
Kenzie says while eating Macaroni and Cheese, "Hannah, why do you like Spaghetti-os?"
Hannah replies gleefully, almost singing, "Because they are so very good."

How it feels to have a cold for 6 weeks and counting.
Awful. It sucks your will to live.

Exercises Good for Pregnant Sick Women
Expanding your belly. While sleeping

How many books can Stephanie read while laying around moaning about her condition and ignoring everyone's needs
1.5 (I highly recommend Shannon Hale's "The Actor and the Housewife")

Why Environmentalists should worry about the Planet
Because a lot of people do laundry like I do. :)

How Hannah can make her own sandwhich at the young age of 2
"By my big self! By my big self!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Laundry, a Tutorial

I've thought about putting a tag line on this blog. Something like, "Making lazy look industrious" or "How to be as Lazy as possible" or "The Laziest mother in Blogland" because if everyone has a tragic flaw, mine is definitely sloth. To prove to you that I am the laziest person in the world let me bore you with the details of the laundry around here. Although I do have to say, Mike has one-upped my laziness in the laundry department. He invented Step 16, which I must say takes the laundry laziness to a whole new level.

Step 1: Run out of underwear
Step 2: Sort laundry
Step 3: Put load of underwear and other whites in washer
Step 4: Forget about the underwear load because you haven't showered or needed clean underwear for a few days.
Step 5: Re-Wash the now stinky underwear load
Step 6: Move to dryer
Step 7: Run downstairs after your shower to get a clean pair of underwear, ignoring the rest of the laundry in the dryer.
Step 8: Forget about the laundry in the dryer except to grab the needed underwear in the mornings
Step 9: Run out of shirts
Step 10: Put a load of shirts in the washer
Step 11: Sigh with frustration when you go to move the shirts to the dryer because the underwear load is still in the dryer.
Step 12: Re-dry the underwear load because if you take it out now it will be all wrinkly and you might have to iron something.
Step 13: Forget about the laundry
Step 14: Run out of clothes
Step 15: Pull out the cold, wrinkly underwear load in frustration.
Step 16: Leave it in the laundry basket for another 2 days
Step 17: Finally dump it out and fold a few pieces. The rest are too wrinkly. Throw them back in the dirty clothes.
Step 18: Rewash the shirt load
Step 19: Move it to the dryer
Step 20: Repeat.

Now I've solved all your laundry conundrums. Because, Dang! Doesn't this make your laundry process look good?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Yes, this is an announcment

Let this be a lesson to you. Never promise yourself that you will be happy with your weight at some point in the future. Because then you will get pregnant and gain weight copiously. Or maybe that's what you should do. Anyway. . .

In honor of this 3-month along growing little peanut, which we are very excited for, I thought I would do a random blog post on "things" about pregnancy.

"Things I love about Pregnancy"
1. A baby comes at the end (and generally speaking about three months after they are born and we are starting to sleep a little this makes me very happy)
2. I actually have a cup size for a little bit.
And that about sums it up. Being pregnant is not my favorite thing in the world, but I am grateful and I will not write a list of things I hate about pregnancy. Because it's good. Pregnancy is good.

"Things that help me during Pregnancy"
1. Those dorky donut cushions for your butt
2. A bra extender. (Haven't heard of it? You need one. Here's a picture with lots of white space.) 3. Vitamins because if I thought vegetables were disgusting before, during pregnancy they are despicable. Horrid. Trash-can smelling. Vile. Gag-reflex inducing.

"Things people lie about when you are pregnant"
1. How pregnant you really look
2. That special glow (You mean all the extra zits and rashes that break out across my body? Yes, those do give off a certain glow.)
3. That the delivery is the hard part.
4. Your due date (those lying doctors.)
5. "morning" sickness
6. Your pre-pregnancy size will be the size of your maternity clothes. (Multiply your pre-pregnancy size by 3 and that's my m-clothes size, thanks. And at the end, just buy bolts of material and wrap me in them because it still won't cover my belly)

"Things I feel while pregnant"
1. GIVE ME SOME FOOD NOW! Does anyone else find it highly ironic that at the moment everything becomes nauseous your body starts demanding food all of the time? "Okay, okay," I tell it, "but what should I eat that I won't barf up all over again? So far not bananas. Not raisin bran. Not vegetables. Bread. Lots and lots of bread at 11 p.m. at 5:00 a.m. Whenever.

As you can see I am highly pleasant to be around. Please send your condolences to Mike. Or maybe send him some curses because lately he has said, "Are you sure this isn't all in your head? You've just read a lot of books about being sick and now. . ." Blah, blah blah.

I said, "Excuse me?" And stood up so I could kick him in the groin. Because I'm pretty sure that's all in his head. He's just seen a lot of males grimace in pain when they are kicked there, so he thinks it will hurt. It's all in his head.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm due May 28th and I won't be putting up one one of those cute little sidebar countdowns. It will drive me nuts. My fondest dream in the world is to wake up one day with stomach cramps and wonder what they are and then go to the hospital and wow! Suddenly there's a baby, so since that dream has already been foiled, I will do the next best thing: not keep track of exact days. And when I'm not feeling like a wet-behind-the-ears sailor I'll pretend I'm not pregnant. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009


It's the Wicked Witch of the West here, just checking in to make sure I'm still on my A-game. Because after only one day of fights and tears this week I'm pretty sure I've lost my evil touch.

For three days, probably induced by a sugar-coma, my girls have been playing nicely together. Their latest fascination? Making mardi-gras bead necklaces into leashes for all their stuffed animals, also putting ill-fitting dresses on their stuffed dogs. Today, the fun and games ended when Hannah discovered that not only are the beaded necklaces good for leashes, but they make good whipping tools as well. Ahh, the joys of childhood.

Well, anyway, I should post some Halloween pictures. I didn't dress up as the Wicked Witch, but las chiquitas were adorable. Right before Halloween I did manage to whip out my Molly Mormon facade and made them tutus and ironed on princess jewels on their shirts. Lest you are impressed, here is how I made the tutus from my friend nannygoat, and let me tell you that that's the first time I've used my iron in about six months.

Without further ado:

We started off the festivities with Mike's Aunt Lonnie's annual Halloween party. The girls loved their barn spook alley as long as the lights were on.

Kenzie and Hannah had tons of fun with their cousins and loved all the candy and compliments on their costumes. Thanks to all of Mike's Aunts and Uncles. We always have fun at this pre-Halloween party.

For almost the whole month of October we've been promising the girls we could "carve" pumpkins. Since knives seem like a bad idea in the hands of girls that like to throw fits, we went with washable paint and had a marvelous time.

Kenzie was very careful to spread the paint evenly so it would dry.

The finished products!

Mike did his annual tribute to love and I went for the vampire pumpkin. I told Kenzie it didn't bite and then when she stuck her finger in its mouth I made a growling sound and moved it quickly. I shouldn't laugh, but the memory of her scream still makes me giggle. (I'll get you my pretty.)

Both girls had Halloween parties at their schools. For Hannah's Kenzie got to come for a little bit and they decorated cookies and made necklaces. They had a blast.

For Kenzie's school party we froze our tushies off on a tractor ride out at Black Island Farms. They kids each got to pick their own pumpkin and on a warmer day I'm sure it would have been a blast.

The actual day of Halloween we had a ward trick-or-treat parade on one of the streets in our neighborhood. After that fun candy-fest we went to visit my parents. Hannah threw a fit, Kenzie went trick-or-treating with them. Eventually Hannah got over whatever horrible life-ending event that caused her tears and helped hand out candy at my parents'. She loved giving it out. When Kenzie returned we went to Mike's parents for some chili and some more trick-or-treats. Then, since it was really only 7:30, because of Daylight Savings, we went to Matt and Cristina's for some serious Rock Band excitement. We jammed out and stayed up too late and ate too much. It was great.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When I say this is boring, I really mean EXCITING. FUN. MUST READ.

So I'm pretty much turning this blog into a treatise on canning. An ill-informed and lazy treatise that will probably give you food poisoning, but nonetheless, a treatise on canning.

I think I can finally put away the water bath canner that has been lurking on my stove like some medieval cauldron. I like canning, but this year I think I went a little overboard. I now have 27 bottles of applesauce to add to my canning booty. Surely we don't need a tv room. We just need more canned goods to break all over the floor and cut our feet when the world ends by earthquake. And I'm thinking about giving up my job and becoming a designer of applesauce makers, because surely I can do better than the machines we tested.

I know you've already stopped reading, but just in case I still have you, this my friends will be no ordinary tale of Canning. This is the Tale of the Two Applesauce Makers and their DUEL TO THE DEATH. Well, maybe not death, but their duel to the gut-spitting applesauce making finish. Young vs. old. Machine vs. Woman. Exciting. Fun. A must read.

Our tale begins with the homely, yet useful and trusty Victorio Strainer. Although it looked malevolent it was really not a torture device. Instead it was a handy tool in the making of applesauce. Wash the apples, cut up the apples, boil the apples (using just a little bit of water because they boil out a lot of juice), feed the apples through the trusty Victorio and viola! The seeds and core go one way, while the applesauce boils out into a bowl as you turn the crank. My mom has owned Victorio for years and years.

This year, a new dude entered the scene. Mr. Kitchenaid Strainer Attachment, borrowed from my neighbor. He looked sleek, powerful and quick. Could he do the job that Victorio had done so faithfully? And could he do it with less mess, less work and more quickly? The tests were set up, Mr. Kitchenaid was put to work. And lo and behold, he had copied his style from Victorio-- with the machine cranking for you. So you don't bang your knuckles accidentally on the counter while turning the crank. Not that I ever did that before. I just can imagine.

First off they tested his speed--could this machine from the future beat out Victorio and Vickie cranking away? He tried his best, but he was unable to beat the quick turning hands of Vickie and the Victorio--a winning combination full of wonderful consonation.

Next test, yield. Mr. Kitchenaid may have been slower, but was it because he did a more thorough job? Why yes, yes it was. But maybe that was because Victorio was getting old and feeble after 30 years of service. Then in rushed a masked man. Pushing both machines to the floor he stood on the counter and yelled that no one would ever beat his method of applesauce making. He kissed the heroine and rode off into the night. The end.

We'll never know if Mr. Masked Man really has a better applesauce method because he ran away.

Here's my conclusions about Victorio vs. Kitchenaid. Victorio is messy and is hard to attach to countertops--it seems best attached to a cutting board and it moves. I don't have a cutting board. Victorio only works at my mom's. Although, Victorio has a generous loading mechanism. You can practically load all your wrinkled, cooked apples into it at once. It also had more surface area for applesauce to come out, helping make it the fastest draw in the west.

Kitchenaid--Oh dear. They really could have done so much, but they chose mediocrity. Ironically, this too will work only at my mom's, since she has one and I don't. Anyway, you set your machine on a 4--it goes as high as a 10, and attach your Victorio looking in miniature stuff. Could they not have designed something to harness all that power into churning out applesauce faster? I guess not, since it finished the applesauce 2 minutes slower than my mom operated Victorio and about the same with Stephanie operated Victorio. Also, it has a wimpy, wimpy cinch sack loading mechanism, requiring you to stand over the machine and load apples practically one at a time. But in our tests, it averaged 1/2 c. to 1 c. more yield than the Victorio. If you don't already own a Kitchenaid this is the far more expensive option. Victorios go for around $50, while Kitchenaids go for around $289 plus $80 for the attachments. Phew. I think I'll just keep borrowing stuff for awhile.

Conclusion: I wish they would invent something better for the Kitchenaid. While they're at it could they make it cheaper and more durable as well?

This year I got my apples from my kind neighbors, who have grown them for 30 years. We filled our three different size coolers full and that made 3 batches in my 9-jar canner. Thank you to my mom for helping me and Mike for being the kind soul that he is. Also Thank you Disney for entertaining my children.

And now I'm done. I promise not to bore you again about canning. EVER.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Abundant Sunshine

I saw this title on a weather webpage (a few weeks ago), and it made me laugh. Abundant Sunshine indeed.
During September Mike and I left the girls with relatives and headed for San Diego with some friends. Now, the jury is out. Do vacations without your children make you a better or worse parent? I could argue either way. It was a nice trip. We are now in debt forever to a number of people who helped take care of the girls while we were gone.

Here's my San Diego scrapblog, finally.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You've lost that loving feeling, now it's gone, gone, gone

Sorry, sad neglected little blog. It's been almost a month since I've updated. I'm stuck somewhere in September--the week Mike and I went on vacation without las chiquitas. I just haven't been able to get past sitting on the beach, jumping in the waves, being completely irresponsible.

Also, I've been writing a lot of stories for ye old Standard-Examiner--including election stories, which happen to be the bane of my existence lately. One very nice gentleman called to thank me for the article. "Oh you're welcome," I said.
"There's just one problem," he said.
"Oh, what's that?"
"That's not my last name."
Cue squishy shameful feeling. Enter humiliation. Always check spelling. Even if their name is Harry.* Always, always.

The polka dot girls at Joyschool at our house. Our little schools have been keeping me busy as well. Both girls love to go to school and it has been really fun. Next week I host Kenzie's preschool. We'll see how much fun I think it is after seven four year-olds learn about the letter P with me.

Let's see, what else seems to be happening? After canning my brains out, I'm ready for any major disasters--as long as said disasters involve no shaking, major tornadoes or hurricanes. Because that would break all my bottles. I have an exciting post for you about applesauce but first I have to take some pictures.

Umm, that's just about it for now. As for Mike and I and our challenge, we've lost track of exactly how many points we've earned. I'm going to make up some numbers and post them in my sidebar now. After a rash of devoted scripture reading while riding the bus to work, Mike is one point ahead. And after my cold this past week we both stopped exercising. Call me crazy but working out while you can't breathe seems exceptionally counterproductive to me.

*Not his name.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Loving My Weight

Levis are omnipotent. At least, I have granted the four pairs of size 8 jeans sitting in my bottom drawer that level of power for the last 2 years and four months. They have had the power to make me miserable. They have had the power to give me extreme joy (they haven't done that yet) and they have controlled my self-esteem.

Come November, I plan to wrest their evil power from their too-small crotches and miniscule waistbands by DI-ing the dang things. I often think about burning them (along with my double jogger), but that would be wasteful, so I'll give them away.

I'm tired of wishing to fit into them. I'm tired of sucking my waist in and barely getting the button shut. I'm tired of "fitting" into them only to have my skin newly lined with aching cutmarks in a few hours. And I'm tired of endlessly kvetching about it to and with all the other healthy, beautiful, talented and with-it women that join me in throwing the smack-down to our bodies.

I'm done. I'm happy with my body. I want my daughters and the young women I teach and all the women around me to know that I love my body. I am healthy. I am 2 sizes larger than I was before I had children. I workout and I try hard to eat well. And I'm okay. I'm glad. I'm lucky. I work hard for my body and dang, I look good.

Why November? Since giving birth to Hannah the all-powerful Levis have mocked me from their throne, and I have been chasing an elusive ideal-- I would fit back into them. I would! I would! I ran a marathon. I ran a 19-min 5K (that was last year). I helped my team win a 24-hour relay race. I did two parts of a triathlon. I joined a gym. I exercised religiously. Off and on I've tried restricting my sweets and dessert intake as well. That hasn't gone as well as I wanted. I have a serious sweet tooth.

My weight fluctuates 5-10 pds above "ideal." And still the Levis sit in their drawer. And I complain. And I whine. And I say, "I'm just too fat. If I could just drop 5 pounds." And I'm annoying myself and probably everyone around me.

This contest I'm having with Mike, which includes a point a day for exercise, eating no sweets and scripture reading, is my full-health test and it ends in November. Besides exercising regularly I am truly giving eating healthy a good try. This contest is a good effort. It's an honest, maintainable effort as well. Come Thanksgiving, when the contest ends, I will know that my body is happy at whatever weight it is. That will be my new ideal.

In the meantime, I will refrain from falling into the trap of complaining about weight and "how I used to fit into those." And I will stop saying, "I see now why women get plastic surgery." And I will stop scrutinizing pictures to see how much fatter I look now than I used to. And I will think to myself, "Dang. I look good. I feel good. I am good."

And come November those evil omnipotent Levis will be gone.

I'm working on loving what I have. Won't you?

The butterfly does not wish to be a caterpillar again. Why should we as mothers wish for our old caterpillar bodies? :)

Other excellent posts about body image:
From the Segullah Blog
This entry, "Beauty in the Age of Plastics" is really though-provoking. I like the comment trail as well. Also, this CJane entry, "Sweet Cheeks" is a nice 'love yourself' continuation. It references the excellent "To Young Women" talk by Elder Holland
Next, from Mormon Mommy Wars we have "Insecure" by Heather O. Her invitation to name one thing you love about yourself is wonderful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hooper Tomato Days (We missed the plane crash)

I'm only about a month and a half behind in my posts about family life.

For Labor Day we have the privilege of attending Hooper Tomato Days. Usually Mike and I run the 5K to start off the day. This year, since I'm not supposed to run until January, I let my friend Janae win it. Not really. Janae would have kicked my butt even if I were well. She even set a new course record of 19:17. I challenged her to a duel to the death next year. I'm planning on training all year just for that race. :)
Mike ran it and did well, coming in at 20:45 minutes and taking second in his age group.

They had a Kids race after the 5K and Koy, Kandelyn and Kenzie raced in it. So much fun!

Every year the Chambers play in the volleyball tournament and I swear I will not play because I am so bad at it. But they are nice and let me play with them. And they don't yell at me or make me feel bad when I hit just about every ball out of bounds, or miss it entirely. It was a lot of fun to play this year.

Here is my scrapblog about it:

Case lot Sale

I need some sort of a record of what I bought and how much I spent on it, and instead of complaining about how Kenzie refuses to be quiet during quiet time ("Mom, While I was getting my doll out I accidentally scraped her arm on the wall. Is this a big deal?" "Mom, when is quiet time over?" "Mom, I want to show you something." "mom, mom, mom, mom" every five minutes or so.) I will treat you to an insider report of my spending and eating habits. Plus I'm going for efficiency here. If I record how much I bought and look at it during next year's case lot sale I can see what I need to buy more of and what I need to buy less of. Also, then I can effectively yell about how much prices have gone up and how the world is going to he** in a handbasket.

What I bought:
1 Case of Ramen 3.42
1 Case of Tomato Sauce (24 cans) 12.00
1 case of Mac and Cheese 6.00
2 Bags of Flour 6.49 each
2 Bags of Sugar 9.77 each
4 Brown Sugars .99 each
1/2 case of Cream of chicken 6.00
1/2 case of Cream of Mushroom 6.00
1 case of diced tomatoes 12.00
1 case of black beans 13.68
1 case of green chilies 10.56
1 case of pineapple (just for the heck of it) 21.12 (holy smokes. Pineapple is expensive)
2 things (scientific term) of paper towels 5.99
1 thing of toilet paper (I'm interested to see how long 24 rolls last us. Not long since both girls enjoy using copious amounts of toilet paper. Hannah seems to think that if she goes potty she must take at least 4 squares off the roll to throw in the toilet on top of the pee. Not to wipe with-- that's extra--just to throw in to cover up the smell or something.)
1/2 case of peanut butter (12 8 oz jars) 20.28

And just because I'm pretty sure the world will end soon, I bought 50 pds of wheat for 14.99. Not that I have a wheat grinder or anything, but I'm sure I could use those extra paving stones we have in the driveway if worse comes to worst. (Worst. That's such a funny word. Worst.)

p.s. I was just reading over this and realized that I also bought a box of thin spaghetti noodles. It's not on my receipt. Dang it. Now I will have to be all honest and have them charge me on my next trip. And I don't usually shop there. ARGHHH. So much for efficiency.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Boring Canning Details

My brain functions with a Catch and Release sort of mentality. Reel em in and Let em go, is the general idea of all my knowledge. Right now my brain is full of Xterra athlete and event details, because that is what I spent all week writing stories about. Next time they come to town though I won't be able to remember who won what or how the event is run. I might even have to look up if I was there. I used to be smart. I'm not quite sure what happened.

With that preamble, here is a boring post about canning because I get tired of re-inventing the wheel. Last year I posted about peaches and pears and boy oh boy did I use that post this year. By the time I dusted off my canning equipment, I'd forgotten what a peach looked like, let alone how to can it. I'm a little less thrilled about how my peaches turned out this year, the color is not as beautiful as usual, but I'm sure I can figure out a way to fix that and still manage to be a lazy canner.

This year you will be treated to a post about Blackberries! And how I made my kitchen look as if I had killed someone in it. Isn't that appetizing. Makes you want to open a fresh jar of jam right now, doesn't it?

Early this month we were invited by Mike's aunt and uncle to pick from their stash. Holy Canoly. It was marvelous. The girls stuffed themselves and turned their fingers and mouths purple. We filled five huge cookie sheets and one 10x10 pan with blackberries. What to do with all of them? JAM! And freeze a few. And give some to my mom (with hopes she'll make me a pie with them) And give some to Sherrie. And eat some, sweetness exploding in my mouth! Oh yum.

I've never made Blackberry jam before and I thought syrup sounded good too. Well, toss the idea of syrup right into the Canning Hall of Fame terrible tragedies. It was not worth the effort.

I decided to experiment with jam recipes. I'm somewhat obsessed with how much sugar is in everything. I'd like to use less and have my kids consume less, so I was basically trying to see how much sugar I could do without before I put the jam in the freezer for my posterity to be grossed out about when they find it after I die. Because I wouldn't throw it away. I would pretend that I was going to eat it. So I wouldn't be wasteful. Anyway here's the recipes I used:

Batch 1:
I used a recipe (kind of) from Savory Sweet Life. I found this site while looking for jams without pectin. I had some strange idea that pectin made jams unhealthy. The more I read about pectin the more I realized that it's just dried fruit rinds. Or something equally benign. Anyway, I wanted to make some jam without pectin, mostly because I didn't have any.

So I used 6 c. berries and 3 c. sugar and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. I cooked it the way she said to. It tasted great, was a little runny, and yielded 7 pints. I processed them for 15 min in my canner, but I put two in the freezer. Just to see. Someday I'm going to be blogging from my hospital bed about horrible indigestion, but until then I'll keep trying to figure out exactly what I can get away with in the kitchen. Besides I have a stomach of steel. (knock on wood)

Batch 2: This was freezer jam. I broke down and bought some pectin. Like I said, it's only citrus rinds. You can mimic its effects by adding orange rinds (or something. I didn't try this. It seemed much easier to dump in a box of pectin.) I used 4 c. berries and 1.5 cups sugar and a box of pectin for this recipe. Yield: 6 pints. This was by far easier than my first batch and the method I will use in the future. Pectin, I believe in you. I actually followed the recipe in the pectin box on this one, since it called for minimal sugar. Here's a link to the Ball freezer jam pectin I bought. If I wanted to get all crazy and go sugar-free, I could even buy sugar-free pectin. Mah-ve-lous.

Now for the syrup. A Disaster. I blame my sieve. Supposedly you can strain all the seeds out of the berries and have delicious syrup. Well. Here's what I got for my effort. 1 lousy half pint of syrup. Pssh. That's not worth canning. I found a couple syrup recipes and tried this one, kind of. I used 4 c. berries and added sugar to taste. Someone said the syrup was super runny, so I brilliantly though I would just eliminate the water in the recipe. Brilliant. It just got stuck in my sieve. I left it for hours hoping it was just a really slow drip. Nope. The leftover berry mixture in the sieve looked a lot like jam to me. So I poured it into a jar and canned it as jam. It's a little seed-thick, but tastes fine to me. So my yield from that was 1 pint jam and 1/2 pint of syrup. Not an effective method at all.

Second Syrup Batch.
I decided to give the syrup a second chance. After all it was my fault for not putting in the water right? Right-o. Poor little syrup it never had a chance. This time I was going to follow the blackberry syrup recipe that I found here. I really was. But it called for a lot of sugar. A lot. How much do you really need? This requires further research which I am far too lazy to do. I just thought I'd subject my stomach to a few experiments. I'll let you know when I open my last bottle of blackberry jam if diarrhea or other horrors ensue. Until then I'd consult some other source for recipes and canning tips. Like the Ball Website. I just read their FAQs and you don't have to add sugar to can safely.

Anyway I used 6 c. berries and 1/4 c. sugar and 1/2 c. water. Seriously, these blackberries were sweet. I followed their method until it said add more sugar and boil it all again. Nope didn't do that. Yeah. If I were you, I don't think I'd accept any form of jam or syrup from me except the pectin freezer jam. That was done according to regulations. I got 3 c. syrup (1.5 pints) that tasted fine. But again with the sieve! I poured it in and waited and waited and then gave up, scooped out the leftovers, turned them into 2.5 pint jars of jam and gave up on canning syrup completely.

Well, this experiment was completely unscientific. What have we learned? 1. Not to take blackberry jams and jellies from Stephanie. 2. Blackberries are delicious and will stain. 3. Canning syrup is not worth it. I would make some fresh syrup or syrup from frozen berries for breakfast, but I will never, ever make syrup with the intent of canning it unless someone introduces me to a cheap and easy way to do it. 4. Freezer pectin jam is the method to use. 5. Picking blackberries makes you feel like Huckleberry Finn 6. Consult somewhere else for safety and recipe tips.

P.S. Dear neighbors: I plan to give you all a jar of jam for Christmas. I bought a half bushel of pears and made pear honey (scroll down for recipe). This yielded 48 half pints of jam. (I told Mike we could have as many friends as we wanted this Christmas. We certainly have enough jam) I followed the recipe and safe canning guidelines. I canned it safely. I did not perform experiments with it. No worries. I promise. If I give you a jar of blackberry jam though, consider our friendship to be in dire straights.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Juggling: Why I've been gone for two weeks

I keep throwing balls into the air and pretending that I am a juggler. In reality, I've always had a fear of balls, so as they hurtle towards me I am trying to dodge and deflect their blows.
Balls I have recently thrown into the air:

Home Preschool: Sherrie, Trisha and I started a group for our 4-year-olds with three other moms. We're each taking a week and developing our own curriculum. So far Kenzie loves it, but cries and gets clingy when I try to leave. She has this Jekyl/Hyde sort of thing going on. She wants to be big and grown-up, but she still likes to cling and cry.

Home "Joyschool": Hannah has been so excited to do a school of her own. So Summer and two other girls in my ward and I started a Wednesday school. We're trying to make it somewhat educational, but still lots of fun. We all have little girls in the same school age group. We're not using the Joyschool curriculum, we're making it up as we go around a theme for each month. On Wednesday morning I have 1.5 hours without the girls. This works out wonderfully as I try to juggle my next "ball."

Work: This is the time of year that things get really crazy for me as a writer for the Standard-Examiner. Cross country, Xterra races and fall road races really add up. This year I picked up a few stories on Lotoja as well as what I thought was easy money on some election stories. It turns out I chose to cover two towns of people who don't have email addresses and don't understand that I have a right to get election results.

Trips: Mike and I just returned from an absolutely fabulous 5-day vacation to San Diego. I'll have to post more when I get caught up. We're also planning to take the girls with us to China Lake in California in a couple weeks while Mike has a work trip there.

Canning: Somehow, even though we don't have a garden, we ended up with copious amounts of produce. It made me happy and stressed all at once. Some of it I bought and some of it was given to us by neighbors (Thanks Melissa!), and some of it was thrown at us while we were trying to escape. :) Not really. We went to pick blackberries at Mike's uncles and walked away with loads of blackberries, beans, cabbage, peaches, tomatoes and corn. That same week blueberries and strawberries went on sale and I decided to do peaches and pears. I plan to do a completely boring detailed post about my canning experiences as well. Gosh dang it. I still need to do applesauce.

I'm feeling a little crazy right now. If you see me muttering to myself or hitting myself repeatedly--no worries. I've probably just dropped one of my juggling balls.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kenzie and the Dance Class

I'm not even going to get into the whole psychology of teaching little girls to "sha*e their b**ti*s." Let's just leave it at: Kenzie took her first dance class from the Falcettes. One of the girls Sherrie (Mike's sister) teaches in YW is a Falcette so we signed up Kandelyn, Kenzie and Gracie for a week-long class culminating in the half time show on the 28th. They had an awesome time together and loved showing off their moves. Besides it was highly entertaining to watch the high school girls try to herd 50 3-6 year olds. Hannah went and would join them for a little bit and then decide she was sad (a common occurrence these days) and sit with me. I believe in prepping your children for their experiences, so I told Kenzie there would be tons of people watching her at the football game. Kenzie told me she was going to be scared, but then she had no problem.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Family Journal Catch-Up A Trip to Snowbird

Awhile ago I might have mentioned having two blogs and keeping family journal stuff on one and something else on the other. It turns out I am far too lazy to have two blogs. It involves way too much clicking. So until I can figure out how to not be so lazy (or really until all my children are safely installed in school and I have so much spare time I start thinking about starting a non-profit organization for poor destitute blue herons), this will continue to be as the title states, "Excited and Confused"-- a conglomerate of things that happen to occur to my mother-adled brain.

Anyway. . . Here are a bunch of pictures with captions so that I don't forget what I did during my summer vacation. Well, I will still forget, but now, if the magic of the Internet lasts for another 100 years, I will be able to come back here and read them and pretend that I remember.

While the Tour of Utah was in town the week of Aug 17-23 I got to write a few stories about it and cover some of the event. It was really a cool race and the excitement about the big name bikers was fun. For one day of the race Mike and I took the girls to watch one of our friends finish a stage of the race (he was racing in the amateur section) at Snowbird. I was also able to convert the trip into a biking action story for the newspaper.

We decided we would have some fun while we were there and ended up riding the tram ($12/adult) and the alpine slide ($9/adult $3/lap rider). The girls loved it. Later we found out we could have bought an all-day fun pass at Costco for cheaper, but we were pretending we were rich, so we pretended we didn't care. (And then we made the girls eat samples for dinner.)

Hannah and Kenzie love sitting on things. Rocks, buckets, cable boxes, and sometimes even chairs. Here they are while we were watching the racers finish the 1000 Warriors race. It was an insane race that started in Park City and finished with that crazy crazy climb to Snowbird.

The alpine slide at Snowbird is a long way to walk, so we rode the lift like the lazy people we are. The lift was free and I think we would have thrilled our children just as much if we just rode the lift over and over.

Hannah and me on the lift. I kept my arm tightly wrapped around her. My overactive imagination kept picturing a kamikaze Hannah bent on jumping off the lift. She was really good and sat very still.

You know, I really like delighted children. Hannah and Kenzie were both absolutely thrilled with the alpine slide.

The line was annoying but the squeals of delight as we raced down on our sleds were worth it. Now Mike plans to install one of these in our backyard, right next to the track and the rock climbing wall.

Next we rode the tram to the top of Hidden Peak at 11,000 feet. Wow! It was amazing. The girls were so excited. Mike, is that a twinkle in your eye? (not an announcement, but if we have another child this picture could make for a good play on the old, "before you were even a twinkle in my eye" line.)

Oktoberfest was also going on this weekend so these horn players rode the tram and played some songs at the top. It was beautiful to hear the music echoing all around the view. On the way down Kenzie got a little bit scared and wouldn't look out the window anymore. Instead she found a tiny hole in the bottom of the tram and looked down it during the ride. I'm not sure how that didn't make her sick.

Happy times.

P.S. I realize that once my children are in school I will probably have far less spare time than I imagine. Especially since I will be saving blue herons.