Move Over Griswold Family

We actually just put up some basic Christmas lights, but it was a big deal for us.

And required a big machine.

Steve even had fun.

And would have been smiling if it wouldn't have been so cold.

Steve's crowning achievement may have been plugging in the lights; mine was when the kids decided to go sledding and all four kids had coats, hats, gloves, snow pants, and boots.

Bonus: Two of them can even get themselves dressed.


Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving was perfect.

Partly because we ate at Rickenbacker's:

Partly because of these cute kids:

And mostly because my sweet husband did all of the work:


Thanksgiving Craft Day: Butter and Boats

For Craft Day yesterday, we made butter and boats.

1. To make the butter, you will need heavy whipping cream and some small canning jars. (Smaller jars are easier for smaller arms to shake.)

2. Let the whipping cream warm to room temperature.

3. Fill the jars halfway full with the whipping cream and screw the lids on very tightly.

4. Turn on some music and start shaking:


5. After a while (20 minutes or so) you will see the cream start to pull away from the jar. And then you will see the butter starting to form:

6. Keep shaking for another 5 or 10 minutes, until it becomes more of a lump of butter, surrounded by buttermilk.

7. Open the lid and drain the buttermilk. (It is not buttermilk like you would buy at the store; I wouldn't recommend drinking it.)

8. Pour cold water into the jar, shake for another minute, and drain again. (If any buttermilk is left on the butter, it will spoil within 24 hours.)

9. Press any remaining water out of the butter. (You can use your hands, the back of a spoon, or a clean cloth.)

10. Flavor with salt and enjoy!

We ate scrambled eggs, hash browns, and toast for dinner so we could use the butter on our toast.

I get lots of neat ideas from the blog, Say Yes to Hoboken. Liz often posts links to things she contributes to the Babble Family Style blog. I really liked these Top 5 Last Minute Thanksgiving Crafts and Activities for Kids.

The Walnut boats were my favorite so we made them too. Buy extra walnuts; they are hard to crack.


Patience and Precision

A good baker needs to have patience and precision. I have neither.

I am a decent cook. . . with dishes that allow for improvising. But baking has never really worked out for me. I'm not very patient. Or precise. That probably explains why I'm a bad sewer too.

Steve is a much better baker than me, but he lacks in the time department. I'm pretty sure his love for me would double if I started baking bread. So one of these days when I'm ready to impress him, I will.

Our favorite service missionary in our ward taught her recipe for Pumpkin Bars at our November Relief Society cooking class. They were so good! She sent her husband to our house a couple days later with a huge plate of them for our family.

We are hooked.

I've made four batches in two days.

Steve told me if I could be a good Pumpkin Bar baker, then that would suffice. . . I wouldn't need to be able to bake anything else. (I don't really think he's willing to abandon his dream of a bread-baking wife, but that's what he said.)

So here's the recipe. . . it's super quick and easy. And by the way, it's really more like a pumpkin cake. I want to try my next batch in a bundt pan.

Pumpkin Bars
by Debbie Olsen

1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix together, pour on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool and ice.

Cream Cheese Icing:

4 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar (or more, depending on consistency you want)
3/4 stick butter
1 Tbsp milk

Mix until creamy and spread over pumpkin bars.

I was bragging to Steve about my new baking skills and he told me this was just a phase. . . like going to the gym. Watch me prove him wrong.


I Am a Mother Too

I really enjoyed reading this article on the front page of today's Deseret News:

So then I watched this video clip:

And now I want to read this:

I don't read books very often. But I really am going to read this one. (As soon as I get it for Christmas.)

I have never had a promising career. (Okay, I've never had a career at all.) But this glamorous life as a mother has provided me with plenty of "What If" moments.

And it was very inspiring learning about a woman who has seen both sides and has proudly chosen motherhood.

I'm going to add Jane Clayson Johnson to my list of women I wish I was friends with. I don't actually have a list like that yet, but I think it's time to start one:

2. Jane Clayson Johnson

Who else should be on my list?

And what other books should I put on my wishlist for Christmas? I'm ready to start reading again.

(Confession: A few weeks after I married Steve, I had this split-second-thought, while he was inside 7-11 paying for gas, about running away. But it was raining. And I don't like being cold. And then I quickly remembered how much I like Steve. . . Thankfully, I've never again forgotten.)


56 Days Without a Microwave

Our old microwave was a fatality of the canning explosion.

We scheduled an appointment with our trusty repairman for diagnosis, ordered a new part, waited for the new part to arrive, scheduled another appointment with kind repairman, and then found out the microwave was not repairable.

Five hundred bucks for the replacement microwave.

So we continued on. . . with a blue hole above our stove. . . for weeks. While I came to terms with the fact that my dumb mistake had not only caused a mess of a kitchen, a narrow escape from serious injury, but was going to cost me five hundred bucks. I know, I know. It could have been so much worse. But why couldn't I have just remembered to go turn off the stove?!?

I've made quite a few expensive mistakes in my life. . . spilling bleach on new clothes mistakes, throwing tomatoes at Sarah Jolley's house mistakes, speeding ticket mistakes, crayons in the dryer mistakes, breaking cell phone mistakes. . . but I've had very few five-hundred-dollar-mistakes.

I finally broke down/saved my pennies and bought it.

(I gladly paid an extra hundred bucks for a six-year warranty.)

Our repairman came and installed it.

Fifty-six days without a microwave came to an end.

We are back to eating microwave popcorn every night. And now that we have a convenient way to reheat food without creating a dozen dirty pans a day, we are actually eating our leftovers again.

Life with a microwave is good.


A Lunch Conversation with Adam

Adam: What's an octagon?
Me: It's a shape with eight sides and eight corners, like a STOP sign.
Adam: Is it like a triangle?
Me: A triangle has three sides and three corners; an octagon has eight sides and eight corners.
Adam: Do they transform into anything?
Me: Nope.
Adam: Octagons are really cool.
Me: Yep.
Adam: I like pumas too.
Me: Yep.
Adam: Can we drive to Africa to go see a puma?


Our PG-Rated Trip to the Las Vegas Strip

Clear back in September, we went on a family trip to Las Vegas. It was actually a business trip for Steve (International Baking Industry Expo) that I morphed into a family trip. We have never had this experience before, and I know that it is not probable to ever happen again, so I feel the need to document that we really did have a PG-rated trip to the Las Vegas Strip.

Steve and I go to Las Vegas every year, but it had been a few years since we had taken our kids. We were worried about exposing them to the filth that, unfortunately, accompanies the amazement that is Las Vegas.

Prior to our departure, Steve sat down with Rachel and Lucy and gave them quite a talk about modesty, morality, etc. in preparation of what we were certain they would see. But thankfully, they never saw it.

We checked into our (slightly off-strip. . . no smoking allowed) hotel and went straight to Fremont Street for the light show. The kids were completely enthralled.

We saw people dressed up like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and every other pop culture icon you can imagine. It was probably the most risque part of the whole trip.

Have you ever seen a balloon man without a line? He made each of the kids a sword and a belt with a sword holder.

We met up with Courtney and his wife, Brandi, and went to the Stratosphere. Steve, Courtney, and Rachel rode the Big Shot, which catapults riders at 45 miles per hour from the top of the 921-foot tall platform straight up an additional 160 feet, to a height of 1,081 feet. Rachel loved it.

While Steve and Courtney were at the food show the next day, I took the kids, along with Brandi and her very-quiet-and-well-behaved-one-year-old little girl to see the sites on the strip. To say she was overwhelmed by my not-quiet-nor-very-well-behaved kids would be an understatement. (But she was very polite and put up with us nicely.)

Overall, I did pretty well with four little kids on the strip. But there was a lot of yelling: "Rachel, slow down!" "Lucy, watch out!" "Adam, hurry up!" It was a little hard to get my camera in and out of my bag and its case to get good pictures while I was trying to manage the kids, so I settled with my phone most of the time. And there were a few tense moments.

We had parked at New York New York, walked through the casino, up the escalator, and across the pedestrian walkway. Rachel and Lucy were wearing Heelys, I was pushing Kaleigh in the stroller, and Adam was supposed to be on the Buggy Board. . . except when we rode the escalators. Everyone got on the escalator to go down, but Adam just stood there at the top, frozen. Of course, there were hoards of people trying to get on the escalator and I couldn't run up to rescue him because I was balancing Kaleigh in the stroller. I yelled for Rachel to go help him, but she couldn't outrun the escalator. It was certainly only a few seconds, but seemed to last an eternity. He finally decided to get on and made it down safely with the rest of us.

M&M World was definitely a highlight for the kids. I tried to keep them from touching everything in the four floors of M&M novelty gift heaven. We watched the 3-D movie, ate some M&Ms, and made it out without breaking anything.

We walked next door to the Coca-Cola store. The two kids who weren't afraid of the bear posed for a picture.

And then Adam gave me my second scare. . . when he climbed onto the outside of the escalator in the middle of the store. I noticed just in time and grabbed his foot, a second or so before he rode out of my reach.

I pumped them full of more sugar, as we tasted sodas from around the world.

Immediately after posing for this picture, Rachel was a little concerned it might end up on my blog. . . and here it is.

We walked back to the car and drove over to Ceasar's Palace. (Thank goodness for valet parking.) Courtney and his wife went to lunch with Steve at Mesa Grill, and I walked around with the kids. Since Mesa Grill is my favorite restaurant, it was a little painful, but Steve brought me Spicy Chicken and Sweet Potato Hash to go. Mmmmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. While we waited, the kids watched the fish in the aquarium for two hours. No joke.

That night, we went to dinner with Ether at Lavo and then for dessert at Tao, while his sister watched our kids. I absolutely love the Giant Fortune Cookie, but my stomach hurt so bad from dinner that I couldn't even manage to finish it off. Oh what I would give to have another bite right now.

Steve woke up early and went to find a FedEx Office to get some work done. He showed up at breakfast just in time to rescue me. It was a little slow and the hostesses were far too concerned about Adam and Kaleigh, who were standing up on their chairs. Rachel and Lucy, on the other hand, were quite pleasant the entire time and made excellent little tourists.

When we first planned the trip, I figured a late-September trip to Las Vegas would put the temperature at about 90 degrees, perfect for swimming. But it was so hot. Record-breaking hot. 105 degrees hot. By 9:30 am, it was plenty warm to go swimming outside. By 10:00 am, my iPhone shut down because it was so hot. But we still had lots of fun at the pool.

Steve and Courtney went back to the food show and off to check out some other restaurants. I got the kids changed and everything packed. Somehow, I managed to get all four kids and our luggage down from our room and packed up in the car. . . in one load! I wonder if the businessman with a bell boy carrying his two small bags felt dumb as he passed me in the hall. He probably thought I was dumb.

Not sure why I thought record-breaking heat was a good time to go to the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Garden Tour. . . but we went. It was a short little trip.

And then we went to Circus Circus for my first time. It was just as bad as Steve described it. Actually, worse. . . I used most of a bottle of hand sanitizer before we left. Each kid had been promised one "ride" at the Adventuredome, and I tried to get in and out as quickly as possible. But everyone got hungry and we ended up buying lunch from some little store with gas station-style food and ate on a bench in hall. (Meanwhile, Steve and Courtney were enjoying a fabulous lunch at Dos Caminos.)

We met up with Steve and Courtney at the Palazzo, let Lucy enjoy flying across the perfectly-smooth marble floors one last time on her Heelys, and then we were ready to go.

Las Vegas is the BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD to wear Heelys.

We loaded the tired kids up in the car, started a DVD to keep their eyes off the inappropriate billboards, and left Las Vegas.

At first, I was thinking that a trip to sunny Las Vegas sounded really nice right now. . . but this made me too tired. I think I'm good for a while.