Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Gift to Me Last Friday

Laura, Allison, Andrea and Stephanie sit around my table. There is nothing I like more than having good people around my table. So that made this meal something I liked very much.

I was recently invited to be part of a recipe exchange. Once each month a few of us gather, each having brought something to contribute to a meal centered around a theme. We eat together, we talk. We enjoy one another. And we trade recipes and divide up the leftovers.

I'm flattered to have been invited.

But not because I'm thankful to be recognized as some kind of chef, whose cooking is worthy of boasting about. I'm a decent cook, and a better baker, but that is not why I am flattered.

I feel humbled and honored to be near such great women. To listen and learn from them. And to be listened to by them, when we sit around the table and share.

Thank you friends, for being friends to me. For allowing me to speak. For listening and for teaching me when you share your thoughts and ideas.

And thanks for the recipes too!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dinner Night on Steroids

Brynley patiently stuffs won tons with a pungeant shrimp and ginger mixture
do notice the swim towell on the ground behind Brynley, and the various random items on the counter. Our family is a work in progress. Sometimes work is messy...

Just a hint of the involved process, the won tons are now cooked and draining in a strainer, as new delicious bites are cooked on the stove. Again, see the chaos around us? We live in a measure of chaos all the time. Order is vital to my sanity, yet I rarely experience it for more than minutes a day.

We have for a few years had a practice of assigning the kids one night of the week to help in the kitchen. The mission was three fold: teach the children to work, spend time alone working with them, and help them learn how to cook. This has worked well at times and not worked so well at others. It is a big commitment for me, and for them, because it involves a lengthy stay in the kitchen preparing, setting table, serving, clearing table and cleaning up (all with the partnership of a parent). When it has worked well, it has worked wonderfully. When it hasn't worked well, it hasn't worked at all.

Bryn has become an interesting phenomenon when it comes to dinner night. She wants to cook things that she likes to eat. These things are involved and time consuming to prepare (not to mention difficult to CLEAN UP after). Bryn is undaunted. She wants to sit down to something she enjoys more than she wants to be finished with dinner night sooner rather than later (oh yeah, and Bryn rarely believes she will actually have to clean up her messes-I think she is of the view that if she produces something spectacular, she should be exempt from cleaning up after herself. It has been a hard realization for both of us ;).

Last week we gave in to Bryn's long time persistent pestering that she make shrimp pot stickers, from scratch. She has this amazing arsenal of cook books that John has collected over the years, and from them she had produced this recipe that was several ingredients (as well as pots, pans, spatulas and strainers) long. We purchased the ingredients, she went to work. She began cooking at 4:30 p.m. or so. The prep work was complete just about in time for her piano lesson to begin. The dinner was hot and ready while she was playing her scales. A sister and father were at soccer practice. A brother was at final dress rehearsal for the school play. Another brother was hard hitting at football practice. The dinner was served (a mountain of food by the way) to the two little sisters and a frantic mother who could only see the dishes, (think; ' forest for the trees') and the mess to be cleaned up.

It was delicious.

Bryn's lesson ended. She reveled in her work. She boasted of its goodness. Then she excused herself from the kitchen. It took many threats and some gnashing of teeth to get the girl back in the kitchen and help me clean it up.

Sometimes I wonder, in the middle of dinner messes, why on earth I work so hard to teach our kids how to work in the kitchen ....

The other night during a discussion about what our kids want to become before they leave our home we listened to the children say things that they want to have experienced when they no longer live under our roof.

Ya know what Brynley said? "I want to leave home with a huge list of recipes that I know how to cook!"

and my wondering heart was at peace.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You've Heard All This Before...

I finished this run like 9 minutes ahead of my personal prediction. I was so proud of myself I yelled "I win!" as I handed off to my teammate. My fellow runners were pretty stunned. My time was not amazing, yet I was so thrilled! Its all in the setting of realistic goals :)

That is a photo of me running the Wasatch Back last June. I am a bit embarrassed to show you my man sized thighs-I've always had football player's legs...but I am posting this picture for a reason:

I am heavier now than I was when I ran this race last June.

And that is a slippery slope my friends.

I will turn 40 in less than a year. I've heard the statistics, I know this drill. If I do not work hard to avoid it, my body will turn into mashed potatoes and gravy before I can say 45.

The 30 or so m&m's I ate tonight (one at a time) are evidence of my greatest challenge...

I have no will power right now.

I have had, in my past. But since school started? It's been a steady chorus of "eat whatever you feel like" playing in the back of my head.

I'm working out. I know how to eat right, I even know how to "diet". But the problem is, I don't want to.

I'm a very reward driven personality. I want something waiting for me at the end of my accomplishments that constitute more than a pat on the back. Show me the money would be more like it, thank you very much.

I've set some recent goals, and I'm trying to devise adequate reward for the accomplishment of these goals. Any of you who know me, write some suggestions as to what kind of reward the completion of these goals deserves...I'm curious what YOU think my accomplishment is worth!

From Now until Thanksgiving:

Goal 1; exercise 5-6 times a week (1 Yoga session counts, but otherwise sweat and heavy breathing must be involved, and the duration must be more than 30 minutes).

Goal 2: "eat right". This one is a tricky one for me. I've tried "the Zone" and I lost some weight, but it was a pretty miserable experience and not a food lifestyle I think can be sustained. So this is a bit of a work in progress, but at least it includes the following:
a. Week 1; no more than 1 dessert on Sunday, no more than one dessert on another day of the week (I've gone without completely before, only to binge instead. So I'm trying moderation and reality this time.)
b. Week 2: only 1 dessert per week. Not a "free day", that doesn't work for me, but one dessert a week is manageable til thanksgiving at least. With one exception; when John and I are in Napa. Then, any time John has dessert, I can share with him...
c. By week 3 (or before) a "diet" will be decided upon; this isn't so much a diet as it is an eating plan. It will likely be "the zone" because I know how it works. But I'd rather find some guidelines that are more specific to this ideal.
d. 100 oz. of water a day.
e. No more soda. period. This has very subtly crept into my life a bit as I've eaten out with John or the family, or as I've gotten up before the sun to run with my neighbor and friend. When one is dragging through the day it seems justifiable to have a diet coke....but this is a luxury that cannot become habit, so NO MORE starting right now.

Goal 3: overall well being
a. Lights out before 10.30 4 of 7 nights each week. It isn't realistic to do this every night, especially if John is traveling. But when he is home I know I can get my fanny under the covers by 10.30. Plus, I know he will be a willing partner to help ;).
b. 1 day a week designated for being "home". This will be Thursdays this year. No preschool pick ups on Thursdays, no volunteering in the school, no early afternoon carpool. The only exception will be if I have the chance to enjoy a friend or neighbor, or to do something kind for myself (like a haircut, or an extra yoga class, or a chance to take a walk or go hiking with Lucy). Lucy will be by my side all day, but the idea is to spend the day at home. Finishing projects, baking bread or trying a new recipe or just organizing the cupboard. A day where homemaking is the flow of the day from 9 am until 3.
c. Read my scriptures 10 minutes or more, 5 days per week; This has been a difficult habit for me to form in recent years (it used to be so natural for me...). So I am being realistic, but I'm also hopeful that I will read EVERY day, and that adding devotional messages and sermons from current church leaders will also be a part of my study.

Those goals are lofty, but also very achievable. Especially for a month of the year. And especially in a month where practices and weekend games are subsiding and there is "space" between the rush of autumn activities and the bigger rush of the holidays to come.

What goals are you currently working on? What are the "rewards" of your efforts? Are you like me, do you need something concrete to substantiate your success? Or is the achievement reward enough (if so, I'm truly jealous!) wish me good luck, I'll post my progress as I go.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What is Up at Our House...

Madi has made her debut as an accompanist. She played in our Church Sacrament meeting while other darling girls sang "the Fourth Article of Faith".
This has taken hours of practice including me singing the song over and over as she played. I am beaming with pride as I write this; she was awesome.

the Daily pick-up routine is out of control. In the morning I holler at the kids to gather their things. By night, those things are all out again; dress-ups, shoes, school supplies, sporting equipment; A perfect homemaker I am not, but I do expect things to be straight!

Friday after school entertaining is a regular thing around here. I've tried to keep healthy snacks out on the counter so the kids can take their pick; o.k., so Halloween oreos aren't healthy; just wanted Sharon Cliff to have a reason to smile :)

We took a break over "Fall Break" and went up to Park City for a couple of nights. That is my favorite getaway with our family. Next time I hope we do less Disney Channel watching (!) and more hiking in the autumn beauty. Just being in that town helps me feel relaxed and youthful. I hope my kids find the same enjoyment in that charming place.

Yes! My eye is totally swollen and red. No one in our house hold has had pink eye; until me! I've fought red, itchy, weepy yuck for almost a week. Haven't dared use my make-up, and have had two professionals advise me that our whole house will go through it-Yuck!

We are in the homestretch of Autumn's most frenetic activities. Only 2 more weekends of soccer, 3-4 more weekends of football and 7 more days of the High School Musical (break a leg Mason!). John's travel schedule has eased from 4 nights per week to 1. We have had our longest fall break until Thanksgiving, the garden has pretty much finished growing (or at least I've finished tending it) and I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

I am looking forward-and the future looks bright.

Dinner together as a family will be making a come-back in November, and skiing will appear as the sole family activity aside from piano swim team and dance (hey, that's fewer than half the activities we've been running to and from since the week that school began...). I'm ready to blog more regularly again; I want to write about this year's family theme and share more suggestions about things to do in our city. I want to ask you-whoever is still reading this that is-how you remember treating your parents when you were teenagers. I want to reflect on life with a traveling husband, and I want to share the good things that our family has experienced this year.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

If you ever come to Salt Lake City...

A "cone of frites" is enough for several to share...

the waffles are to die for, try them with fruit and whipped creme fraishe

I was recently asked by a magazine to be interviewed concerning awesome things to do in 'my' city. If that interview ever is published I will tell you more about why I was chosen and what that was like...but anyway...

I thought it was a great excuse to explore my city a little bit more. I grew up here, but this place has changed so intensely since my childhood (and then my experiences were so limited geographically). Salt Lake has become more "sophisticated" in so many ways-and some would say its arguable as to whether or not that is really a good thing-

my side of that argument would be that, it is. A good thing.

So I thought I'd share with you every once in a while something I think you should try should you be in my general neck of the woods.

Across the street from Pioneer park, at 336 West Broadway, there is a tiny little waffle shop; Bruges Waffles and Frites. The guy who owns and runs it is - you guessed it- from Bruges. The waffles are fantastic, but be sure to eat them warm. Especially good with the whipped Creme Fraishe and any kind of fruit. And the fries; top notch. Lucy loved them. I loved the dill mayo sauce they came with. Great for an afternoon shopping snack or a treat after a basketball game or time spent at the Farmer's market across the street in the park.

Try them. You'll like them

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Trooper

A high fever has plagued our girl for going on 3 days. She wraps herself in her own little dress, trying not to shiver and to sleep.

Molly, though very strong in personality and spirit, was not born strong of body. She bruises easily, she scars when cut or scratched. And when she gets sick, she gets really really sick...

Fevers seem to run out of control through her little body. Her eyes become red and blood-shot. She is listless. She is weak.

And it worries me so much.

The other night in the rage of her fever John and I sat with Molly on the couch. Her head was heavy on John's lap. I stroked her beautiful hair. She whispered and whined a little. But mostly she was still.

In those still hours of illness I realize how Molly was not meant to be still. Though she came to us without a whimper or a cry, her voice found itself soon after. Her body, ever moving and her mind ever active, she is sometimes a challenge to corral onto the church pew or into the classroom.

But that is how Molly is meant to be. Busy like a bee. And hopping like a bunny. Loud like a lion. And tender like a kitten.

So I hope Molly will be well soon. so soon. So that we can have her back, even though "back" means "busy".

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Anatomy of a PreTeen Late Night

Love Sac jumping and dressing up were the surprise activities of the evening for this unseasoned mom
. and also sailing down our steep road in our 15 year old wagon

girls not seen in the photo are huddled in the corner, braiding and twisting each other's hair.
girls will be girls

Bryn's carefully crafted busy work suitable for endless conversation as many hands make light work

Lots of Sugar; m&m's, licorice, gummy anything, marshmallow s'mores, Halloween Ore's (all of them inhaled in bulk)

Some miscellaneous junk food; hot dogs on the grill, chips and salsa, "regular chips" and grapes (our one food served in its natural original state)

Water: balloons, hoses, buckets, pitchers
Blow dryers and other hair drying/styling tools: vanity runs rampant between friends
Towels: almost every clean towel in our home was dirtied.

A 'chic flick': The girls chose "Letters to Juliet" and let me watch too. Its been a while since I've viewed anything slightly romantic. As poorly constructed as the movie was, it was perfect for young hearts with clean pure minds.

A 'craft': something to occupy busy hands. These girls braided embroidery floss with myriad color combinations. And they braided each other's hair. And they wore every single dress-up in our huge dress-up collection (which proves these girls are still young teenagers, even pre-teenagers. They still have some girl left in them).

A partner in crime: John was the partner who prepped the house and yard while I cheered Madi at her swim meet. Mandy, my sis, was the partner who stepped out for extra hot dog buns when supplies were running low. An army of 12 year old girls is nothing to be reckoned with alone!

Bryn cleaned and scrubbed, mowed the lawn and made signs and notes so her friends would be directed through the evening's events.

I hope we enjoy many more late nights-its good to see who your kids count as friends, and even better to observe the group as it makes its way through the muddled real-ness of adolescence. And best? Oh, best is seeing your daughter believe for just a few hours on a Saturday night, that you are still her ever-loving, truly devoted, loyal and even sorta cool- in-a-dorky-kind-of-a-way MOM.

Friday, October 01, 2010

October Begins

pounds of candy from the discount grocery store is the bulk of this year's decor

Though still warm enough for swimming and tomato growing (some of ours are just finally coming on) it is time to awknowledge October. Unlike many mothers I greatly admire, I do not anticipate this month of costumes and candy. Maybe its because I was never good at playing dress up as a kid (though I made a very brave Princess Leah when my brother and the neighborhood boys wanted to play Star Wars...I was good with a light saber and even better with a lazer gun). Maybe its the frugal side of me (do I have one of those?) that has a hard time spending money on costumes that will not be handed down (we've tried that a hundred times-no one wants to be the witch that Madi was, or the secret service agent of Mason's yester-years). Maybe its just that when the weather turns, my natural instinct is to hibernate instead of go into hyper-drive creating costumes for the crew and getting from corn maze to costume party with magical speed and eerie enthusiasm...

At least this year we are down to 4 costumes, as we've announced to the teenagers that if they want to be teenagers (Bryn's age does not include the suffix teen, yet she insists she is one) we no longer want to be responsible for providing costumes with which they can greedily go ask the neighbors for candy that belongs in the pillow case carryalls of children...little children.

For whatever the reason, I accept October, but I do not embrace. I tolerate, and I smile and I try not to be a scrooge (wait, wrong holiday) and I patiently wait. For while the kids dream of candy to sort and trade with each other in the early dark evenings of November, I have already happily planned for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Heee Heee Heee Hee Heeeeee!