Saturday, December 31, 2011

Taking a Break

We have officially had the driest December in Utah History.
And since there was NO snow.
And since it is the last day of the year.

what better way to celebrate 60* in December than to go to Zion's for a little fresh air.
I haven't been in Zion's since I was in high school, but I have decided that the best time to go to any National Park is in the "off-season".  
There was nobody there.  
And we could drive through the park and not have to ride the shuttle.
But, the hike we tried to do was closed because of ice.  
So, we only did about 1/4 of the intended hike.

oh well.
But it was good for the body and good for the mind.
Here was our laugh of the day...
"Ethan, what the flip is wrong with you?"
(quoted by Ethan's sister, as Ethan was forcing his sister right off the trail as he gazed as the beauty around him.)

Another observation.  or two.
(Spoiler alert) also didn't help the level of success of Santa when one week before Christmas we were wrapping gifts and Cole walked right into the storage room where all of his santa gifts were hidden in plain sight.  Soooo, we had to rearrange what gifts everyone was giving each other so Cole wouldn't discover that his Santa gifts were sitting in the basement a week before Christmas.  
And Summer pointed out that because we have done home school for the past 2 Decembers, those 2 Christmas's were much more Christmassy.
We didn't have to devote so much time to things that didn't matter.  
We could spend more time together and do more family things and devote more time to the Spirit of Christmas.  I won't try to promote the homeschooling thing or even try to convince anyone, but for us it really did make a difference in our Spirit of Christmas for the last 2 years.  And we really noticed it this year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

H Family Party

Cole played his Christmas song

Summer accompanied Sierra on the violin.  they would have played all night if we woulda let 'em.

easy to please

that a good look, Kelli
I need to figure out how to get that date off the camera again.  Maybe Cole can teach me.
I also need to learn how to take pictures.  Maybe Summer could help me.

Family Par-Tay

Nanners with the Grandkids
 We had so much fun at Thanksgiving Point last year that we thought we should do it again.  
It kind of didn't live up.  Guess we'll move on to Plan B for next year.

Nanners with the kids 
Minute to Win It Games:
Lanny and Jason were the cotton ball counters.
 This was the frisbee throw.  Cole is planning his strategy against the girls.
Notice how Bryan showed up this year.  It was easy since he's living at Mom's house.

 I think I will get Cole a stack of cups for Christmas next year.  
(remember...low expectations...)
Cole, Fisher, Lance

The Highlights and the low lights...

We did pull it together after the Christmas Tree FHE Fiasco a few weeks ago.
This particular FHE involved sticks, glue, markers, and glitter so most of the family was happy.
the glue gun injury on my finger will heal soon enough, I suppose.

Just like the real thing...
Every single one is different.

It was fine, until Cole started using his flake to pick his nose.

The kids did admit that it was a Christmas Fail this year.
We were too busy.  too preoccupied with stuff.  too much time in the car.
I personally checked out back in October sometime and didn't return to the show until about 12/15.

The girls admitted it too...we didn't go to Temple Square, or make gingerbread houses or watch all of ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas movies.
I did all of my shopping online.  I didn't step foot in the malls.  I missed out on that aspect of holidays.  Except that week that I went to Walmart 3 days in a row which doesn't do a thing for the Christmas spirit.  It mostly just makes me want to eat en entire batch of chocolate covered pretzels.  
Which I did.  Each time I went to Walmart.
Rick worked a TON in December, especially on the weekends.

 Cole had a Polar Express Activity for his last day of school.
The kids had to get their pass punched 5 times during the month of December so that they could board the Polar Express.  We tried to talk to Cole to explain how it was going to work.  But to no avail.  
He had it set in his mind what the Polar Express was and let me just did not live up.
The kids got to line up their chairs in the hall and watch the movie.  
Then Santa made an appearance with bells and all.  
Cole could not have been more expressionless for the entire event.
The kids went back into the classroom and I was able to get a quick picture with the big guy.  
My plan was to use it to bribe Cole into thinking that I had a tight relationship with S. Claus.
This is all he had to say about it...
It was a totally fake real Santa.
And even though it looks like there is snow on the ground and it was a white Christmas...
Not.  That is all an optical allusion.  The only real snow that was have had this year was back in October when the grass was green and the leaves were still on the trees.  I'm not entirely complaining about that, it's just weird.

And we didn't make time to drive around and see the lights--an activity that I love each year and remember way back when the Christmas Light Highlights was to drive up above the Temple and see the lights, especially the well-lit Osmond Lane.  
So, on Christmas Eve we finally made time to drive to Spanish Fork and see the jam packed Christmas display for $5.
Which did not leave us any time for making cookies for Santa.  He got cupcakes instead.
So, it wasn't a huge fail, just lots of minor fails.
The good thing is that by recording this, we will see what we can do to make next year better.
First, real estate deals around the holiday.
Second, say no to all of the activities and lessons.
Third, it is not necessary to make homemade caramels every day for 2 weeks.  
I still can't wear my favorite pants.
And last, expect way less.  If your expectations are low, you will not be disappointed.  
I was told on more than one occasion this year that I care too much.  
So, for next year I will try very hard to set my expectations very, very low.  
And not just for the holidays, but for the whole year.
The R family joke that "I just want to serve..."  yeah, that's going right out the window.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Kooks

The Kooks are a band that Rick started listening to a while back.  He takes pride in his skills to find unknown artists, then listen to them and become familiar with them before the rest of the world even knows who they are.
So, the Kooks were doing a US tour in some smaller venues and they made a stop in Salt Lake.  I heard about it and thought that Rick might like to hear them.  However, Rick had to work on the evening of November 30 and it wasn't worth the bother of a schedule change.
On November 29, I picked up Summer from school and as we were driving home, they had a contest on the radio to give away tickets to see the Kooks in the Endzone (a live, semi-personal show that the radio station does earlier in the day of some of the local concerts).  Summer grabbed her phone and started dialing as she asked me if she could enter.  I just rolled my eyes and said, "whatever".  And it started to ring.  And then the DJ answered and Summer said, "Hi, I'm just calling about tickets to see the Kooks."  She won!!
So, she called Rick to tell him that she won tickets.  He said, "Too bad I have to work."  And she said, "It's OK, we can still go.  I won tickets to the Endzone earlier in the day!"  So, Rick and Summer went to see the Kooks and eat free pizza with the 101.9 The End people.
Summer said that it was fun and she liked the music.  But, they had a strong British accent and she could only understand half of what they said.  She walked around the house for a week repeating some of the phrases and then laughing out loud.
One song that you MIGHT be familiar with is Junk of the Heart (Happy).  Google it.
AND, if I were that gambling type of person, I would totally take Summer to Vegas with me.  The kid has the magic touch.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So Worth $1

Initially, I didn't think this was one of my better mom decisions, but you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes.
I was at Walmart.  I had the twins.  
And I was grocery shopping.  
And YW shopping.  (Trying to use the last of our budget by the end of the year.)
After 2 long hours (or at least what felt like 2 long hours of shopping, I stumbled across a bin of $1 items for stocking stuffers.  
This is exactly the kind of stuff that I needed for YW.  
So Summer and I started digging through the bins of crap really cool stuff.  
It was taking a while.  
Cole got impatient.  He started searching with us.  
He pulled out this Pepsi version of chapstick.   
He asked if the Young Women needed a Pepsi.  I said, "probably not."
So He started begging for the (chapstick) Pepsi.
For $1, I said Yes without even hesitating, but then immediately regretted it.  
But at that point it wasn't worth (another) meltdown in Walmart.  
He played with it, talked to it, and grinned for a good 15 minutes until we got to the car.  
He said, "Can I finally try my Pepsi?"
"This is gross."
"What is gross?"
I turned around and there he sat with a mouth full of Pepsi chapstick.
He had taken a bite out of the Pepsi chapstick.
I said, "See, I told you Pepsi was gross."

The Pepsi chapstick has been sitting on the kitchen counter all week.
Every time I see it, I can picture the look on Cole's face with a mouthful of Pepsi chapstick--so worth $1.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Does it have sugar in it, then YES!

I bought the stuff to make the licorice caramels last year, but I never got around to making them.  So, this year, about a week after Halloween, I decided that I COULD NOT live another day without licorice caramels.  Here is the recipe and the beginning of a bad, bad breakfast habit...

Licorice Caramels (from Red Couch Recipes blog)

1 can of sweetened condensed milk
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 cup butter
1 t. salt
1 t. anise oil
1 t. black food coloring

Place sweeteened condensed milk, sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt in heavy-bottomed sauce pan.  Cook and stir on medium until firm ball stage (245-250).  Take off heat and add anise oil and food coloring.  Pour into prepared buttered glass baking dish (9x13).  Let cool and cut or break into pieces and wrap in cellophane wrappers.

(As  side note...every time I hear the word CELLOPHANE, I think of my dad.  Because he is the only person in the world that I ever heard use that word on a daily basis.)

So, then Rick had to take a treat to his Home Teaching families and we thought it would be a great idea to make caramels.  It was a good idea, because I had 4 cans of sweetened condensed milk that were close to their expiration date, as well as some very hard brown sugar.

Here is the recipe for
Home Made Caramel (from the Giver's Log blog)
1 cup butter, unsalted
1 cup light corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk (or 2 cups half and half or light cream)
2 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 t. vanilla

Here are her instructions and tips...
Line pan with parchment paper.
Cut butter into smaller pieces, even sized cubes for even melting.  Melt over low in sauce pan.
Carefully add sugar by pouring in into the center of the pan.  If any sugar crystals stick to side of pan, push them down with a damp pastry brush so they do not crystallize the entire batch and make you want to cry.
Add and mix in corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk.
Cook and stir on medium for one minute, then medium high until boiling.  Make sure the butter is fully blended into the caramel mixture.  Reduce heat to medium and keep a steady boil.  Stir frequently.
Temperature does not raise at a steady rate, so watch thermometer closely.
When caramel reaches thread stage (230 to 233) take out any caramel that you would like to use as dip.
When temperature reaches late soft ball stage (234-240) dip a few apples.
When thermometer reaches 244, remove caramel from heat (low firm ball stage).
Stir in vanilla.
Pour into prepared pan.
Allow to cool for several hours.

My own notes:
Use some (brand new) sandpaper and rough up the apple peels to dip caramel apples.  It will help the caramel from slipping off the apple.
Plan on 30 minutes to make the caramel and 3 hours to wrap it.

We made a second batch of the caramels for FHE (which went much better than the previous week FHE).  We dipped some apples and then wrapped the rest.
And then we found some pecans.  
So, made another batch with pecans.
Then a few days later I saw this in the newspaper:

Old Fashioned Caramels  (Daily Herald, last week sometime)
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 corn syrup
1 c. butter
2 cups cream, divided
1/2 c. cocoa
2 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped nuts

Butter pan and set aside.
Boil sugar, corn syrup, butter, 1 cup cream, and 1/2 c. cocoa until mixture comes to a complete rolling boil that can't be stirred down.  Continue boiling, slowly add the second cup of cream while continuing to stir and allowing the mixture to keep boiling.  Stir and cook until the mixture reaches hard ball stage (250).  Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla and nuts and pour into the prepared pan to cool.

So, I have officially made one recipe of caramels every day now for 8 days in a row.
Rick told me that it HAS TO END.  He has eaten caramel with every meal for a week.  Sometimes it IS his meal.  I am happy to say that I have used up all of the sweetened condensed milk (and then some), all of the hard brown sugar, and all of the corn syrup--which I think is pure evil--from the food storage.
The candy thermometer temperatures were adjusted for the altitude here in Mapleton, UT (4700).
If you are making candy at sea level (like Hawaii) or at the top of Maple Mountain (10,000) then you might need to make some adjustments.  I'm sure there's an app for that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

O Christmas Tree

There may have been a story floating about regarding last week's FHE and the putting up of the Christmas decorations.  I just wanted to clear up the rumors and set the story straight...
Last week Rick thought it would be a really fun idea to put up the Christmas decorations for FHE and it went like this:  (short version)
Rick hauls the ginormous tree in from the garage, scratching the tile floor, happy it wasn't the wood floor.
Girls are fighting over who can sing the loudest, and which Christmas CD we have get to listen to.
Rick puts the 12 foot tree together.  
Rick takes the tree apart to put it together in the correct order (it comes in about 50 pieces).
Rick plugs in the lights for the tree.   only 1/2 the tree lights up.
(there may have been some swear words)
Girls are still fighting.
Cole wants to help.
Cole dumps out the nativity.
Wiseman lands on his head.
Rick is still working on the lights on the tree.
Rick exclaims loudly that he is "done with this tree."
Rick hauls tree out to front porch.
Kelli offers 12 ft. partially pre-lit tree on freecycle.
5 minutes later someone claims the tree.
The girls are still fighting and get sent to their rooms.
Cole is crying because he can't help decorate the tree.
Rick decides to leave for work early and jumps in his car and heads down the street.
Rick returns 15 seconds later with a flat tire.
Kids exclaim that they are hungry.
Kids eat Chex Muddy Buddies for dinner.  and for breakfast the next morning.

Summary:  Hugely effective FHE.  One we will not soon forget.

But, just to clear the record...we do have a smaller tree:
I decorated it all by myself the next morning when the kids went to school as I finished off the last of the Muddy Buddies.
When they came home from school they all exclaimed:  
"Why didn't you let us decorate the tree?"
"Why did you use those ugly colors?"

hum, maybe next year.
And as I was taking these pictures, Summer told me that I probably should learn how to take photos.
She said that I'm so bad, that it will probably require taking a class.  Nice.
And we won't be eating dinner for a couple of weeks because our kitchen table is in the entry way where tree is supposed to be.  But, it's OK.  
Rick splurged on this train when we were living in Michigan.  I don't even remember if we had a tree, but we sure did have a train. 
We put it around our tree when we lived in Mississippi.
We tried to put it up a few years ago, but Cole would NOT leave the train alone.  
So, it has been on the top shelf down in the basement for a few years.
We got it out this year and put it with the Department 56 Village that Rick likes to put together.
We gor the first 2 pieces when we lived in Michigan.
There is a "Christmas Village" north of Flint called Frankenmuth.
I remember driving up there once when Sierra was 2 weeks old.
It's a little German town, but one of the big attraction is Bronner's.  It's about the size of Costco, but it is completely Christmas.  It's full of trees, ornaments, wreaths, and decorations of all types and sizes.  And it was then and there that Rick decided he wanted to collect the Department 56 Village pieces.  There are a few different types of villages and he specifically likes the Snow Village.
It was there that we picked up the house on the left and the house  under construction on the right/rear.
This year, in an effort to console himself on the loss of the 12 foot tree, Rick purchased "Friendly Car Sales" (the one with the red roof) and Dinah's Drive In (the one with the hamburger on the roof).
Rick has also collected a few pieces of Department 56 Halloween village but we have not displayed those for a while for the same reason...Cole.

On Saturday morning when Cole got up, he asked me what we were going to do.  
I said "Nothing" because that it usually what we do all day on a Saturday, right?
He said, "Good because I just want to sit here and watch the train."
I said, "all day?"
He said, "all day."
Here is the nativity with the wiseman missing his head.

This is our version of "Elf on the Shelf"
We made these a couple of years ago.
They are supposed to help Santa by checking on good behavior at our house.  
I hope they weren't watching too closely during FHE last week.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Cole was helping me make caramels the other day.  He begged and begged for me to let him eat that chunk of butter.  Seriously.  I had to convince him that it would taste so much better when it was mixed with sugar, more sugar, and vanilla.
Here is a Cole story from this past week:

Cole:  "mom, were you embarassed?"
Me:  "when?"
Cole:  "you know, when you got know...when you had to kiss dad?"
Me:  "no"
Cole:  "how embarrassing mom, I just don't know if I can do it, you know, kiss someone in front of ALL THOSE PEOPLE!!"

I told him not to worry, it's not the biggest part of getting married in the temple.  So, a temple wedding is looking really good to Cole right now.

Then, Cole asked me yesterday if we could go to the store.  I asked him why and he said that he needed to buy some mistletoe to take to school.

I said, "I thought you were too embarrassed to kiss anyone." 
He quickly said, "it's not for me."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

YW in Excellence

Our theme for the Evening was "Patterning our Lives after Personal Progress"
Our YW President gave a cut talk about using the different sewing tools and comparing them to our lives.  
For example, we can follow a pattern=scriptures.  
or a seam ripper=repentance.
I talked about tools such as technology and the online Personal Progress Program (which is kinda my "thing" lately).
I also told about how I have been doing Personal Progress myself and included a story about my dad. (of course, right?)

here are some pictures...
This table was just outside the door and had the programs as well as the bags of mints that are inside the box.  The mints were in the shapes of thread, scissors, etc.

For 2 of the activities prior to this evening, we made aprons.
We didn't let the girls take them home.  
I kept them to use for decorations for the evening and then let the girls take them home that night.
I was in charge of the decorations (that's your quilt, BK)
I only spent $5 on decorations.  Everything else came from my stash of trash.
Except the vintage sewing machine which was Sadie's.
Another view of the back of the room.
Making room for the cupcakes on the table...

These girls sang a song for the program.  (Summer in the red skirt)

The sewing machine and cupcakes...

*This idea was not at all original to us.  BK gave me the original idea.  We decided to use it.  We scoured the internet and used lots of different ideas.  My cute friend Lisa printed up invitations that looked exactly like a pattern envelope.  This is just a glimpse of how we pulled the ideas together.

Christmas Countdown

This is my latest Pinterest project...
and a story to go along with it.

I saw this on Pinterest and I figured it was a reasonable project that would cost NO $$.
I whipped it up using a bunch of scrap scrapbook paper.  And some cotton balls.

Each evening we cut off a strip. 
And before you know it, Santa's beard is gone and it's Christmas.

Now, for the story...
I was using Rick's camera to photograph my cute little Santa.
I took off the lens cap and put the camera up to my face to look through the window, and...
Camera strap right. in. my. eye.
With a blurry eye, I quickly snapped a picture and then ran upstairs.
My eye was killing me.  Red.  Splotchy.  And burning....just like when I got a stick in my eye.
I called Rick to see which of the eye drops I should use to make the BURN go away.
He asked me what happened.
Then he said, "Kelli, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?
When you poked your eye out last time, 
I told you to wear protective eye gear when you do dangerous stuff.  
Now, I'm saying--just wear protective eye gear always!!"
Obviously my reaction times are slow.
At least he'll know what to get me for Christmas.

(AND, it looks like Santa needs bigger eyes.  Maybe I will fix that.  And outfit him with some protective eye gear.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy 6 to Cole

2 weeks old, Flowood, MS 

Winter Quarters, Nebraska
Cole & BK, July 4

San Diego Zoo

San Diego
Destin, FL
Destin.  Cole got mad and threw a tantrum.  He laid his head down and sobbed.  Then he fell asleep.
Skyline Drive

Disney World, 11/2010
First day of Kindergarten