Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Car Makeover

Well, this week, the MOUSE MOBILE got a makeover! We spent a LOT, but little Mousy didn't get everything she desired.

She got a new battery. She got the battery cable replaced. She got a lube and oil--and a turn signal light replaced. She did not get a car wash (don't ALL dealerships wash the cars before giving them back?). She did NOT get the alarm fixed. She did NOT get new seat belts. Boo hoo, Mousy is crying.

Apparently, Mousy is so old that her seat belts have been discontinued. Our only option is to go to junk yards...... Poor Mousy! Maybe we'll get her washed this weekend and that will help squelch her disappointment.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Land of the FLIES......

I feel like we're living in the land of the flies. I realize that I'm not a top notch house-keeper, but this is beyond bad--and NOT related to my cleaning or lack thereof. I had been especially thorough in and around the kitchen and still there were the FLIES! There have been SO many flies about my kitchen the last couple of days--and hanging outside of my kitchen window.

Today, I started to put two and two together--there MUST be something dead outside. There was. Remember, we live on the side of a hill/mountain. We've seen the wildlife on the OTHER side of the chain-link fence. This time it was on our side--a rat--dead and STINKY.

My KNIGHT in shining armor disposed of it for me. Now all is right with the universe again, and in 2 more days, the flies will be a distant memory.

I wonder if Smoky the cat was bringing me a thank you present for my part in saving his life? I need to teach him about chocolate.

LITERAL Bumps in the Road

Yes, I felt it, did you? We had an earthquake this morning at 11:42 am. I was half-naked, getting ready to get into the shower and I heard it--sounded like a big truck. But the truck noise didn't go away and I realized that we were rolling around. So I hastily tried to get my discarded clothes back on, in case the house fell down and we were discovered later--a bit dramatic, but being half-naked at the time wasn't comforting. I like to be covered.

If you want to read about the official particulars, you can click HERE. It will take you to the US Geological Service. Interestingly, another earthquake happened about 17 hours before, near the Solomon Islands--we're not shaking alone.

To me, it felt like we rolled around, then it started to go away, and then it got bigger again. It felt like we shook for about 20 seconds--which is a LONG time!

I turned on the news, and the epicenter was near Chino Hills, north of us. Originally, they called it a 5.8, then on the news it got downgraded to 5.6, but on the internet, it's being called a 5.4. Whatever it was, I FELT it!

The kids were downstairs, watching a movie, and when I came down to check on them, they were completely oblivious to all of the shaking and noise. I guess being in perpetual motion saved them from the rocking.

I'm NOT a fan of earthquakes. Natural disasters scare me, but the inability to warn in advance of an earthquake scares me. When I see the potential for devastation, I get scared. I don't like them. Now that I have kiddos, I have to be strong and brave, so I won't freak them out, but inside I'm shaking too. All kinds of natural disasters can strike anywhere at any time, and the earthquakes here happen infrequently enough that I'm not suffering constant anxiety over the prospect of more. It HAS caused me to think of basic disaster 101:

*Tonight, in addition to doing our "disgusting science" and "chemistry" experiments that we were going to do for Family Home Evening (yes, on a TUESDAY instead of a Monday), we will also talk about earthquakes. We'll talk about what causes them, where they have happened, what they can cause, and what to do.

*I'm going to really make and implement a disaster plan with Robert for our family. We need to have and distribute a telephone tree, so that if a larger disaster hit, our loved ones could be informed--not necessarily by us. We talked about this when the fires hit, but didn't do it. We also need to physically go look at our water and gas shut-off's. I know where they are and how to do them, but I don't think I've actually LOOKED at them here in this house.

*We also need to get our important papers together and portable. I have most of this already done, but never finished it after we got back from the fires. I think it's a good plan to have a copy of all that's important stored with someone else in a different location. In this digital age, it's also possible to scan documents and keep a thumb drive with that information. Lots of ways to do it, but we NEED to DO it!

*I'll focus again and more on our Church's teachings that we should prepare ahead for disasters by having a year's supply. While we don't have the money or SPACE for an entire year's worth, I need to look over and figure out what we still need to complete a 3-week and then a 3-month supply. That is something I CAN and SHOULD have in place.

*Most of all, we'll hug and cuddle our precious kiddos and remind them that while it's scary, we're all safe and healthy. We know what to do when it happens, and if we are prepared, we don't need to be afraid.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bumps in the road

I've been contemplating the "bumps" we find in life's road. Just about always they turn out to benefit us in some way. We learn something or stretch our abilities and grow. If nothing else they build character.

Today was a bumpy day. Robert's car wouldn't start, so he took mine. I called AAA and got the battery jumped--it was SO BEYOND dead. Then I called AAA to come replace the battery (remember, it was beyond dead). I didn't even know AAA did that! It' was a little more expensive than going someplace like Sears, but they came to ME. Worth it! The guy working on the battery couldn't get the cable off the terminal though--battery acid had basically melted it. He worked for more than an hour! I thought I was going to have to get my car with brand new battery towed! The AAA guy rigged it so that I could drive it, but I wanted to have it looked at. My friend, Jen, met me at the dealership, to give me a ride home. As we were getting out of Jen's car when she brought us home, Hannah ACCIDENTALLY slammed Toph's head with the car door. OUCH! He's got a nice goose egg, but he's got a big rock head, so he'll live. Our car is being checked over, lubed and oiled, and having the seat belts replaced--another bump in our road.

While we were living in the Homeless Shelter (corporate housing our first 3 months here), a mouse found its way into our car. YIKES! I would have nothing to do with it once I knew that! We parked it for a week when we were out of town and put mouse poison in it. When we returned, the poison was all gone, but there was no dead mouse smell--so I was NOT driving that "MOUSE MOBILE." A few days later the smell came, so I REALLY wasn't driving the Mouse Mobile. Robert looked and looked and couldn't find the smelly source. He's been driving that car ever since (more proof that he LOVES me!). We borrowed my Aunt's ozone machine almost a year ago, and that helped with the smell. But while the mouse was living in our car, it ate several seat belts! Not something you can just walk into AutoZone and replace.

So today's bumpy road is helping me remedy a previous bump--all bumps end up benefiting us in some way, right? Thanks Jen for coming to my rescue! You're a great friend! Thanks Honey for driving the stinky car because you love me! I love you too!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Typing test

I was looking at friends' blogs--in their "real" locations, not just on Google Reader. My friend, Tammy, had a typing speed test and I decided to give it a try. I didn't do too bad for a kid who BARELY passed typing in High School with a courtesy "C." Yep, I should have had a "D" but my teacher felt sorry for me--I'd been out a lot that year and typing was an attendance-based class.

See how you can do, and let me know!

62 words

Speed test

Some Help, please

Many of the people I've blog-stalked have talked about how to print your blog. I don't remember who does it though. Could those of you who print your blogs PLEASE tell me how to find that "place" on the internet? Is it free, or can you pay to have it in a book-like format? I NEED ANSWERS PEOPLE!

Oh, some more snooping, and I found THIS link on Becca's blog. Maybe a good idea?

Hannahism: Vacation

I totally forgot about this until tonight. We left on our vacation at the beginning of the month, and we had been in the car about 2 hours when Hannah asked, "Mom, can we eat at BurgersKing for dinner?" I told her that we'd be at Grandma's for dinner, so no. Then she asked if we could stay at BurgersKing then. Somewhat confused, I replied that we were going to visit GRANDMA, not Burger King. And the light came on, Hannah got her names mixed up. Grandma is from Kingsburg--not BurgersKing!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Monk Mania

So my must-see TV consists of: Monk, House, ER, and Extreme Home Makeover. I really LOVE that the Monk series starts in the middle of summer, when there's NOTHING else to watch--except Wipeout.

We recently "downsized" our Dish subscription. I mean, who REALLY needs 250 channels? But the ONE channel we don't get that I WILL miss is USA, because that's the channel that Monk is on, and the new season started last week.

I decided to try something. Lots of TV shows now have episodes on the internet, and I was HOPING that Monk would too. I almost was despairing, and then I saw the link. Monk shows episodes online!!! The only thing I have to endure is the same 30 second commercial six times--I can handle that.

If you don't know Monk, try it out! He's an amazing detective who happens to also have OCD. I just really laugh about all of his quirks.

New episodes on Fridays--and TOMORROW is Friday!!!

Mom, I have gills.

So, my crazy Hannah announced to me more than a month ago that she had gills. We argued about this for awhile, and I explained that FISH have gills, enabling them to breathe under water.

Well, I apparently know NOTHING (yikes, it's starting early) because Hannah leaned to the side and SHOWED me her gills.......

It's no use trying to tell her that the lines in her skin (uh, rolls) AREN'T gills, because she's convinced! Again, the value of Entertainment a la Hannah doesn't disappoint!

Oh, I forgot! When we were visiting with Aimee's family in Fresno, Uncle Matt asked Hannah if she could breathe through her gills, and she put her hand up to her gills and said that she COULD feel the air--completely serious!

Monday, July 21, 2008

From the South?

For MANY years I've been asked what part of the south I come from--people are trying to place my accent. This always amuses me because I lived in Fresno for 36 years--nowhere else until I moved to San Diego. I guess now I can tell them that I live in SOUTHERN California.

I realize that I say y'all, but I don't think I really have an accent. Robert always gets nervous when we spend time in the actual South--because then my "accent" gets stronger. He jokingly forbids me to listen to people talk when we're there.

I think a southern accent is cute. I wouldn't mind having one.

The Great Outdoors

We live in the wilderness--ok, not really. But there is a mountain in the backyard. Because of this beautiful mountain, we enjoy watching the bunnies on the hill, and we have nice trees and shrubs to look at.

With the good comes the bad though, and we have rattle snake habitat in the back yard too--a little close for comfort! We hear (and sometimes see) coyotes too. We also have (harmless) lizards living in and around the backyard. In fact, I think a family of them live behind a bush in my backyard.

Lately, we've heard all kinds of nocturnal noises--tramping around on the hill and AWFUL screeching or screaming. It's always at night and it always scares me almost to death. The neighbors think it's a bobcat--maybe hunting the bunnies? It gives me pause though, when I'm lying in bed, fighting to get to sleep, and I hear something roaming about in the foliage--is it IN my backyard? Is it on the hill? Is it animal or human? These are GREAT questions at 1 am.

Last summer a lizard committed suicide by getting stuck in the panels of the garage door. I thought it was a snake and I was FREAKING out--only part of the tail was visible on the outside. But from the inside of the garage, I could see the squished and dearly departed lizard. My attitude is that they are free to be and roam, but OUTSIDE. Once you cross the threshold of my domain, you'd better be prepared for battle. And I have a photo of this event, but when I looked at it, I figured my readers don't need the gore.

I'm not quite that lenient on my views of snakes though. I'd prefer that they slither on THEIR side of the chain link fence and stay on the mountain. I've even bargained that I won't go in their habitat if they stay out of mine. But a California King snake did NOT get the memo on Saturday. It was in my neighbor's yard, and got chased into mine. The neighbor was kind enough to go looking for it, but CK decided that behind my shed was a great place to hang out. Now I don't know WHERE it is, and THAT'S also a great thought to have at 1 am. Oh, and this snake was about 4 feet long--no baby snake! So I haven't been in the backyard since Saturday. Robert says that the CK preys on rattle snakes, so I guess that's good. While our friend lives in OUR yard, a rattle snake won't last long--but I still vote for NO snakes!

With the good (or GREAT) comes the bad--that's how it always is. We're not moving just because of some wild life.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fresno Vacation--pictures will follow

So, we (the kids and I) planned to go to Fresno for our vacation this year. The economy isn't in the best shape. We don't have tons of money to burn. And we LIVE at vacation. So we decided to go back to the old homestead and VISIT. Our last 3 visits to Fresno have been purpose-driven, and we haven't had a chance to see our friends and PLAY as much as we'd like.

We left on a Sunday and stayed with Grandma D (Robert's Mom). She misses us so much, and this was a chance for us to spend more than 3 hours with Grandma. We had a nice visit and updated the toys we keep at her home. Now the kids want to go back and play with the toys we bought.

Monday morning I had a chiropractor visit with Dr. J. I've been seeing his dad, Doc, for more than 20 years. But, once, Doc wasn't available--and Dr. J was. Dr. J has a technique he can do on my foot to make it feel better and Doc doesn't know how to do that--I know, more information than anyone else cares about. It was NICE to have my body all put back together again. The kids enjoyed the foot torture--and I enjoy how it feels afterward. Then we were off to Corbin's house. Corbin was born 17 days before Toph, and they were the BEST of friends when we all lived in Fresno. Corbin's family lived a couple of blocks from us and our families did lots together. Corbin moved to Clovis the year before Toph started school, and he's one of the people Toph mentions first when I ask who the kids want to visit. We played and swam and had lunch and got introduced to FLAVORED RAISINS. WOW, what a treat! I had to DRAG the kids away because we'd promised the cousins that we'd be there around 2. Then we went to Aimee's (my sister) and saw and played with the cousins. We joined the "camping gang" (Matt's family and some friends who'd been camping the previous week) for a BBQ/Swimming Family Home Evening, so we could watch the movie Matt made about the camping adventure.

Tuesday was the day we had NOTHING on the calendar. I need a day without any requirements and appointments to just catch my breath and be spontaneous. I spontaneously did nothing that day. We didn't go anywhere and didn't see anyone except relatives. It was GREAT! More swimming for the kids. By the way, have I mentioned how FANTASTIC my brother-in-law is? He watched the kids at the pool for me for HOURS!!! I stayed inside and scrapbooked with my sister. That doesn't sound too bad, unless you consider that it was 110-112 for 3 of the days we were there--and Matt was OUTSIDE with the kids! He's awesome! I couldn't ask for a better guy for my sister.

Wednesday we went to part of the old 'hood and visited some friends, one of Toph's first crushes. We saw the Kraus kids and had a nice visit. My kids mostly followed Jarom around and watched what he was doing. No fighting or complaining though, so that's good. Then we went to Chevy's to meet Junell for lunch. Junell is a good friend--"adopted" family. She's amazing! We had a great visit and a good lunch. Hannah was especially thankful, because we've got Chevy's here, but we won't go here. Our Chevy's sucks--the service is mediocre at best. So we drive 300+ miles to go to eat at Chevy's. Go figure. Took lots of pictures of one another and laughed a lot. Good times. Then it was back to Aimee's for MORE swimming. I think that's the day the "camping women" went for pedicures. I got to go along too, and I treated myself to a manicure too. I was in HEAVEN! That was only the second time in my life I'd had a pedicure, and I hadn't had a manicure since I got married--it was time! After dinner, Aimee and I took some food over to my Grandpa, and since he was at my Aunt's, we got to see their family briefly too.

Thursday my friend, Alicia, came over to Aimee's with her 3 little ones. It was 112 Thursday, and beyond MISERABLE! It was quite humid for Fresno, and the air quality was beyond bad, so we did as little as possible. After lunch, Matt took the kids swimming again while Aimee and I scrapbooked again. In the heat of the day, I went to WinCo (a cheaper prices, bag your own groceries store that we DON'T have here and I MISS) and I got to play "stock up." Groceries here are really expensive, so whenever possible, I stock up on things I know I'll use when I go to Fresno. My kids are WAY into graham crackers right now, and Toph has been eating them for breakfast every day. At Vons, not on sale, a box of graham crackers is $3+ but at WinCo, a box is only $1.18. I got 24 boxes--wasn't sure how they were all going to fit in the car, but I saved a LOT of money! My local sibs came over for a dinner that evening, and it was SO good to see all of them. My littlest nephew is growing so big and my sister-in-law finally looks pregnant (due in late September). WAY fun times.

Friday the kids and I went to lunch with my Grandpa. He took all the kids out to dinner to celebrate my Grandma's birthday, and when I called him that day, he told me we'd have to go out the next time I was in town. We met at Mimi's, which was one of Gram's favorite places to eat, and we had a nice lunch. Toph cracked me up. He was adamant that he was going to choose the CHEAPEST thing on the menu, so it wouldn't cost so much for lunch. It reminded me of a time last year when Toph decided that he'd quit school and run a lemonade stand, so he could earn some money for our family. I LOVE that guy! More swimming in the afternoon--thanks to whatever adult was with them, because I was scrapping with Aimee. Auntie Cody came over for part of the afternoon to scrap with us. Then we went to Sweet Tomatoes (same as Souplantation) with Aimee's family and Auntie Heidi. We LOVE to eat there! As we were looking for where the Farmer's Market was, we passed the cemetery where my Gram is buried. Toph popped up with the idea that he wanted to take roses to Gram's grave. I promised him that we'd do that the next day, after we visited with my Aunt. Friday evening we enjoyed the Farmer's Market and bought 20 lbs. of flavored raisins. They have a 2-year shelf life, but they won't last that long.

Saturday was our last in Fresno, and we didn't have too much planned in stone. We were going to play with cousins and the grown-ups were going on a date in the evening. Auntie Heidi came over for a few hours. Uncle Matt took the kids to McDonald's for lunch, so the mommies could scrap some more--and I FINISHED SOMETHING!!!!! I've been working on a family scrap book, so my kids can see pictures of the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I finished the pages I have photos for--a few more families to do pages for, but I need pictures first. It felt SO good to finish something! Auntie Cody (my sis-in-law) joined us again, and showed us her fun toy, the Cricut. Now I want one! It's WAY cool. I was supposed to take my kids to visit with my Aunt and her family, but something happened and we didn't get to see them. Uncle Matt took the kids to see Journey to the Center of the Earth instead. So Toph wasn't able to take flowers to Gram's grave, and he was NOT HAPPY about that when he realized we weren't going to do that on this trip (but we WILL in December!). Then Cousin Janice came over with her husband, Jeremy, to babysit for us while we went on our date. Aimee, Matt, and I met my other Cousin, Daniel, and his wife, Kham, at a nice steak place--Cool Hand Luke's. We had a fabulous dinner and a nice visit. After having the kids WITH me for so long (even though Uncle Matt took them for HOURS at the pool), it was NICE to be away for a few hours. But after dinner something very unhappy happened in my stomach, and I spent the rest of the night......indisposed, to say the least! NOT exactly the way I'd have chosen to spend my last night of vacation!

Sunday I had to do all the stuff I was planning on doing Saturday night, and pack up my car--I WAS able to cram it all in--even 24 boxes of graham crackers! We started our journey home about an hour later than I'd planned, which wasn't too bad considering I hadn't packed anything the night before. The drive home was MUCH less intense than the drive up to Fresno (several accidents and slow downs on the way to Fresno). We traveled a different route this time, so I had some variety. The kids did pretty well on the ride home, but neither napped. It was GREAT to be home though. As much as I enjoyed my time in Fresno and I REALLY did, there was so much joy coursing through me when I rounded a bend in the freeway and saw the ocean and knew I was close to HOME. We missed Robert dearly and were anxious to hug and kiss him and sleep in our own beds again.

So to the Ward family, THANK YOU TIMES A MILLION for letting us stay with you and for playing with us. We had such a good time and we miss all of our Fresno family and friends. It was WONDERFUL to get to spend some non-rushed time with all of you, and under good circumstances. But we were glad to get home again too. It feels good to re-establish some of our routines again. And after only 21 months, THIS is HOME now.

So, when you live at vacation, where do you go ON vacation? For us, Fresno. We'll do it again in the future too.

Princess Camp

So this week Hannah is at Princess Camp. Some sisters in our ward have invented a GREAT, CREATIVE way to earn some extra cash. They hold day camp for a week and invite all of the 3-10-year-old girls (boys, last week) to join them. Each day has a theme and the girls make at least 1 craft. They play and craft and swim every day. It's THREE HOURS OF HEAVEN--and Hannah has looked forward to it ALL year long.

Today was PJ/Spa day at Princess Camp. Robert always asks the kids what they did for the day when we're having dinner, so today when he asked Hannah, this is what she said: "We made slime for our feet that makes them soft."

Gotta love that girl! Toph piped up with, "I want to make some!" Gotta love my boy! I don't know what I'd do if they weren't so darn entertaining!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fried Chicken 101

Before I was a Mom, I was a professional school teacher. I taught middle school Home Economics, and as part of our curriculum, we cooked. I LOVE teaching cooking! I don't do as much cooking now that I'm a Mom, and that will change as Hannah enters school and life settles down (ok, it will just change). I was talking with a friend of mine tonight, and she confessed that she's never made fried chicken before. I offered to come teach her ANY TIME, because teaching cooking is one of my passions. The same offer holds true for any of my friends--I can help you learn how to cook most anything, and I will willingly tell you if you're trying to cook something out of my league.

Anyway, I was thinking that there may be more than one of my readers who has never made fried chicken before and would like to learn. Obviously, this is NOT diet food, but I don't make it more than about 4 times a year (and only once a year the last 2 years). I typed up a "tutorial" that I'm going to post here--but I still freely offer my services if you'd like personal help. This meal is a bit tricky, and a hands on lesson is probably NOT a bad idea.

I'm also going to add a slight disclaimer: This is a recipe adapted from my Grandma Betty. She made some of the BEST food in the universe, but her recipes were born of decades of cooking--so they don't have many exact measurements. Practice makes perfect. In my own cooking, I don't measure many things exactly. Most of the food I make doesn't depend on exact measurements--a pinch of this and a dash of that and voila! So if you're looking for exact measurements, you'd better look at because I don't have them!

Fried Chicken 101

Philosophy: First of all, if you are on a diet or can't spare the calories, you don't need to be making this dinner. Second, it's against my religion to make this dinner WITHOUT milk gravy and mashed potatoes, so this tutorial will include instructions based on that.

Tools Needed:
big fry pan (regular or cast iron)
2-3 pie pans or other shallow pans
2 pair tongs, 2 table forks
1 “cooking” fork (NOT the table kind)
cooling rack
cookie sheet
paper towels
sifter (nice to sift the flour after dipping the chicken—to use for gravy later)
wisk (silicone/rubber-coated, if your fry pan is non-stick)--for making gravy
big pot
potato masher
electric mixer (not necessary)

Food Needed:
chicken for frying (cut up fryer with bones is cheaper, but I use boneless, skinless breasts)
spices (pepper, seasoned (or not) salt, garlic, etc.)
eggs (amount depends on how much chicken you're cooking—about 1 for every 3 breasts)
oil for cooking (I use canola or vegetable; CAN use shortening)

potatoes for mashing
sour cream

milk (for gravy)

Basics for chicken frying, gravy making, and potato making:
First, rinse off and prepare your chicken. Cut off all the extra fat globs, and I like to cut the breasts in half—easier to maneuver in the pan when frying. Prepare your seasoned flour for dipping the chicken AND for making the gravy. I pour a “mess” of flour into a pie pan or shallow bowl—REAL exact measurement, I know. Then I dump in a LOT of garlic, some pepper, and some seasoned salt. Stir it all together with a fork. Then I make the “spudge.” I crack some eggs into another pie pan, add some water (like you were making scrambled eggs) and scramble the whole mess. THEN I make the “staging area.” I put a cutting mat or paper towels on my counter and sit a cooling rack on top of that. That's where your chicken will “rest” before putting it into the fry pan. Trust me, you'll be glad you do this step.

After you've done the prep, it's time to get the chicken ready. You need a fork for each bowl, and DON”T MIX THEM UP! A fork for the wet stuff and another fork for the dry stuff. Spear a chicken piece and dredge it in the flour, then in the egg, then again in the flour—then put it on the cooling rack. You dip in the flour first, because that helps the egg to stick. Letting the chicken “rest” on the cooling rack helps the coating to harden a little bit, so that the crust doesn't all fall off during cooking. Once I get the cooling rack mostly full, I pour a little bit of oil into the fry pan—cover the bottom and come up the sides of the pan about ¼ inch. Chicken doesn't have to be submursed in oil to cook. Turn the heat on high and fix 1 more piece of chicken (that's about the length of time you'll need to get the oil to heat up if you have a gas stove—2 pieces if you have electric.).

When the oil is hot, take a piece of “rested” chicken and dredge in the flour again and put into the hot oil. Do this until the pan is full—but don't squish too much chicken in the pan. Chicken cooks about 5-7 minutes per side—it depends on how thick your chicken is and how hot you keep the oil (and if the chicken was fully defrosted when you started). After you get your chicken into the pan, you can turn the heat down somewhat—too hot and it smokes (fire potential); too cool and you get greasy chicken. While your chicken is cooking, you can prepare more chicken for the pan (if you're making lots). Also, turn your oven to 180-200, and insert a cookie sheet covered with paper towels. This is where your chicken will go when it's finished cooking.

I prefer to turn my chicken with tongs, rather than a cooking fork, so that the juices stay inside the chicken. When the chicken is golden brown on the bottom, turn it over and cook for another 4-7 minutes. Try not to turn it more than once, or the coating will start to fall off. When chicken is cooked throughout, put it in the pre-heated oven on the paper towel-covered cookie sheet. Keep cooking chicken until it's all cooked—the more batches you cook, the browner the chicken in the pan will get, so be careful (“dirty” oil makes browner food). Also watch your temperature. You should be able to turn the temperature down after the first chicken starts cooking. If your oil smokes, it's TOO HOT! While your last batch of chicken is cooking, sift the remaining flour into another bowl. This will get out any “chunks” that don't taste as good in gravy.

After your last batch is finished cooking and has gone into the oven, turn off the heat. Pour out any oil you don't need for gravy—trying to leave any “brown bits of heavenly goodness” still in the pan. How much oil you need is REALLY a matter of how much gravy you want to make, and I am NOT good at estimating that. You should want about ¼ to ½ cup. Get your wisk ready, and pour in enough flour to make a roux—about twice as much as your fat (enough to mix with all the fat). Then (still off the heat) mix in a bit of water—it will get real thick real fast. Then mix in some more and some more—small amounts (1/4-1/3 cup at a time). After your mixture starts to resemble THICK gravy, turn on the heat (medium high) and add at least 1 cup of milk. Gravy-making is NO exact science, so it's really hard to give exact measurements. It will be VERY thin. Stir constantly and bring to a boil. Gravy must cook at a full boil for at least 1 minute, or it tastes like paste. During cooking, it will thicken. If it gets too thick, add some more water. If you make it too thin, cook at a boil longer—eventually, the liquid will evaporate—just stir constantly. Keep in mind that milk gravy WILL thicken as it cools—you may have to add more water to it later, and you will certainly need to add more water to it if you're using leftover gravy. For leftover gravy, I heat it slightly in the microwave, and GRADUALLY stir in enough water to make it a little bit thinner than I want it. Then cook it until it's hot enough—then it's usually the perfect consistency.

Mashed potatoes: Unless you have someone else to help you, prepare your potatoes FIRST. Wash and/or peel them and put them in a big pot of water and start the water cooking. Potatoes need to boil 20-30 minutes before they can be mashed, so you have a little bit of time. I start the stove on the potatoes when I start dipping the first piece of chicken. After potatoes have cooked, drain, put them back in the pot and add butter and garlic powder—unless you don't like garlic. Use a potato masher (if you have one) to mash it up a bit. Then add a couple of globs (yes, an exact measurement) of sour cream, or a splash of milk. Either mash with the potato masher some more, OR use your electric mixer to “fluff” the potatoes. Use enough sour cream to reach your desired consistency. Eat with chicken and gravy—YUM! It's really handy to have another helper when your potatoes are ready for mashing, because at this point, you're probably making the gravy. If you don't have a helper, mash potatoes after making the gravy—then re-heat the gravy if you need to.

That's it! LABOR of LOVE, but SOOOOOO worth it!!!


Ok, so I've been GONE. I took the kids to Fresno for a vacation. For 3 of the days it was 110-112--HOT! Thanks to my AWESOME brother-in-law, Matt, my kids enjoyed HOURS in the pool. We had a FANTASTIC time, saw some friends, hung out with family, and played and played and played. I'll blog in better detail, with photos, later.

For now, I just have a teaser for all of you: FLAVORED RAISINS!

The Madera Tribune had an article about my newest obsession--here's part of the article. (Click on "Madera Tribune" if you want to read the whole thing.)

Grapes are a seasonal fruit, but when they become raisins, they are transformed into a year-round product. Increasing the uses for the product may not only prove to be a culinary delight but may give a boost to the local economy and the raisin farmers and packing companies that produce them.

Local distributor Kinabrew Farms collaborated with Victor Packing to market the flavored raisins. Bruce Kinabrew began selling them in October 2003.

Kinabrew said these raisins aren’t flavored topically, the raisins are dehydrated and re-hydrated and infused with fruit juice, so they won’t lose their flavor when used in muffins or other baked goods.

He sells customers large or small quantities in five flavors: blueberry, raspberry, sour cherry, peach and strawberry. All-natural fruit juice is used as flavoring. No artificial flavoring and no sugar are added. The food is high in potassium, iron and fiber.

“One fourth cup gives you 10 percent of what you need for the day,” Kinabrew said.

Flavored raisins are said to have a shelf life of two years and can easily be marketed as a winter fruit, a product that Kinabrew sells as, “Berry Blasters,” at Farmers Markets and Cole’s Books and Bagels. They were introduced at the 2004 World Ag Expo in Tulare. The product caught notice even though Kinabrew was one of 1,500 vendors. Sales were increased by 40 percent the next day.

“That launched us,” Kinabrew said.

Ok, these were SOOOOOOO good! And I'm not much of a raisin fan (sorry, Dan). I'll eat some with a handful of dry roasted peanuts, but I don't just sit down with a bunch of raisins. Yeah, now I do! They are so soft and fresh. The raspberry raisins taste like CANDY, but they're good for you! Wow, do I LOVE these! Hannah does too. We bought some raspberry, strawberry, and peach raisins. YUMMY!

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th FLOP!

So Happy Birthday America!!

We have had a low key day--relaxing, movies, and BBQ for dinner. I got to go on errands today ALONE--thanks Robert! That's a real treat. I've hated my cell phone almost since I got it, and I decided it was time to go LOOK and TOUCH new phones. I wanted one that had a KEYBOARD, so I could text with Robert easier. I also wanted one that would sync with my computer to transfer my calendar and my address book. No sense putting it all into the phone twice! I wasn't due for a new phone yet--not until February (which is a LONG time to wait if you hate your phone). BUT Robert WAS due for a new phone. Since he loves his phone, they let me get a new one instead--for a $20 fee, of course. LOVE the new phone. I also got to go to Borders and the grocery by myself!

I got some nice steak in preparation for our BBQ. Made some lovely roasted potatoes and garlic green beans to go with it. MMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.......... Heaven for the tummy!

As I was putting away the groceries, Toph told me that he had a sore throat. It was a LITTLE bit red, and he has a 99.3 "fever." I told him to drink something and relax. He got to the dinner table (NOT food he hates) and said that he felt like he was going to throw up. So I spent 10 minutes in the bathroom rubbing his back while he tried to make his offering--no dice. Robert was the back rubber on two other occasions. Still no dice. I decided to go to the grocery AGAIN and get the "flu favorites:" COKE (regular, with sugar) for it's stomach calming effects, ginger ale (same), and peppermint hard candies (same). I'm not making it up about the Coke, either. Once Toph was SICK, and we took him to urgent care and got a $200 Coke. The doc there told us that there's something in the Coke formula that helps with nausea--so give 1-2 ounces every hour. It seems to help.

Hannah has a new habit--she LOVES to copy her brother--in ALL things. So she said that her throat hurts. Without tonsils, I can't tell. She also had a 99 "fever." Then she said that she felt like she was going to throw up. I explained to her that she could stop eating, but if she changed her mind later and decided that her tummy didn't hurt and that she WAS hungry, it would be the same food--just in case she was trying to get a different dinner.

So, instead of going to watch fireworks, we're going to sit in the family room, both kids' heads in "puke pots," and maybe we'll find some fireworks on TV to watch. That's kind of a bummer, because although the kids HATE fireworks that you set off in the street, they LOVE the kind in the air. There's always next year!

But what does this mean for the DATE that Robert and I have planned tomorrow (our first since our anniversary in April) AND what does this mean for our vacation plans??? Let's get the barf party started, if that's what we're going to do--so we can move on with our lives!!

In spite of it all, Happy 4th! I LOVE living in this country! I LOVE our freedom! I LOVE the people who so selflessly give to help defend our country! Thanks!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The ABC's of ME

A ~ Attached or Single?-Attached--married to my best friend.
B ~ Best Friend-Hubby (of course!) and Wendy
C ~ Cake or Pie?- PIE, coconut cream
D ~ Day of choice?- Saturday
E ~ Essential item?-computer, cell phone, BOOKS
F ~ Favorite color?- blue
G ~ Gummy bears or worms?- bears
H ~ Hometown?- Fresno
I ~ Favorite Indulgence?- Hard one--books, Moose Munch, Disney passes
J ~ January or July?- January (cool weather) AND July (no school, time w/ family)
K ~ Kids?- 2 (sometimes hubby makes me think I have 3)
M ~ Marriage Date?- April 7, 1998
N ~ Number of Bro & Sis?- 3 Sisters, 1 Brother, all younger
O ~ Oranges or Apples?- depends on my mood, apples--dipped in caramel
P ~ Phobia and Fears?- face under water, NEED to breathe fresh air, heights
Q ~ Quote?- "Decide early on whether you're going to be a Tigger or an Eyore" (
Professor Randy Pausch, from his last lecture.)
R ~ Reason to smile?- Sound of kids' laughter
S ~ Season of choice?- Spring, for the flowers (just need lots of Allegra)
T ~ Tag Ten People?- Laura Keith (yes, do it!), Jen, Alicia C, Sunshine--BOTH, Melissa, Diane, Christin, Katie, Tammy
U ~ Unknown fact about me?- When I was student teaching at Fresno High, one of my students (a senior) wanted me to marry him--so he could get a green card and go to Fresno City College.
V ~ Vegetable?- broccoli, salad, corn (on the cob), green beans, CARROTS
W ~ Worst habit?- too many. I'm a "pile-r," meaning that there are PILES of stuff around our house.
Y ~ Your favorite food? Yanni's steak dinner--with gorgonzola cream sauce and garlic mashed potatoes and mashed butternut squash and steamed veggies AND Budino for dessert. Now I'm hungry again!
Z ~ Zodiac sign? Scorpio

Livin' in PARADISE

Have I mentioned that I LOVE it here? I do! Don't get me wrong, there ARE some things I don't like about here too, but that's for another post.....

WEATHER is one of the things I LOVE about here. Sure, May and June are unpredictable and often chilly. September mornings and afternoons feel like we've stepped onto the surface of the sun. When the Santa Ana winds blow, we end up trying to electrocute ourselves with all of the static electricity. But on the whole, it's pretty freakin' WONDERFUL here most of the time!

Take, for example, a simple temperature comparison. It's a little bit after midnight, and it's a comfortable 62 outside (it does feel a BIT warmer than that, but you can't argue with In Fresno, land of my birth, right now it's 78 and it won't get much cooler until about 3:30 am. The hotter the day, the longer it takes to cool too. So when it's 108 for the high temperature, it will still be in the high 90's at midnight--ouch! We complain here when it gets hot (like that 107 the weekend my parents were here visiting), BUT it always cools down at night. By the time the sun goes down, it has started to cool, and you can usually feel the breeze.

It don't get much better than that! Yeah, I LOVE it here!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thunder Mountain Trauma

Toph doesn't like roller coasters. Enough said!

Robert took this photo on Thunder Mountain Railroad, one of OUR favorites! It's not easy to capture a photo while RIDING at the same time.

Plugs, Rags, Silkies, and Thumbs

Both of my kids suck--er, like to suck.
Toph had a "plug" and Hannah has her thumb.

Toph loved the pacifier. He liked it from the beginning. The "nursing nazi's" weren't so happy that we were willing to plug the hole, but HE was comforted. We called it "the plug" and Toph's renditions were pretty funny--"thlug."

Toph also has his "rags." Initially these started out as burp rags. They're cloth diapers with ribbon sewn along both edges. When he was about 3 months old, he started holding them when he'd fall asleep. He doesn't have the plug any more, but he still likes the rag. In fact, Toph has worn most of them out. They were all the same, except for the ribbon on the edges--silly me, I thought variety was important. Toph had a special affinity for "the other green ball rag." You see, the "green ball rag" had primary colored polka dots on it. "The OTHER green ball rag" has pastel polka dots on it. At 12-months-old Toph could differentiate this. MANY times he'd come uncorked because we couldn't find "the OTHER green ball rag." And he has worn it out! It is tattered and falling apart, and we're going to put it in a shadow box.

I love my boy!

Hannah never liked the plug. We'd have to literally hold it in her mouth, and she never really liked it. She'd been sucking her thumb in an ultrasound, and she finally found the thumb after birth too. Once she could control getting the thumb into the mouth, we were set! I LIKE that she sucks her thumb. We always have one handy, and I didn't have to go looking for it in the middle of the night. She's toned it down over the years and only sucks it now (most of the time) when she's sleepy.

Hannah inherited some "silkies" I made for Toph. When his first set of rags needed to go to the rag bag, I made him these "silkies" like his friend, Corbin, had. They're flannel on one side and silky fabric on the other. Toph would have NOTHING to do with them, so Hannah inherited them, and she loves them. Again, about age 3 months, she'd have to hold a "silky" while falling asleep. And I only made TWO kinds of "silkies" (intending the blue ones for Toph and the white ones for the unborn baby). Hannah also has a preference. She ONLY likes the heart silkies--white ones. Hannah wants NOTHING to do with the "dark silkies," which are light blue. This poses a problem now that we only have 2 heart silkies left. When we moved here, we went to the fabric store and picked out "big girl" silkie fabrics--yeah, she doesn't like those either. So, for now, we're just grateful that we have the 2 heart silkies. They've been washed so many times that you can't really see the print on the flannel any more.

As she gets older, Hannah has fewer "freak outs" related to the missing silkies. I'm confident that she'll give them up when she no longer needs the comfort. She already doesn't suck her thumb ALL night. Many nights when I check on her, she's not sucking her thumb at all. So, hopefully before she goes to girl's camp as a teen, we'll probably be able to retire the silkies.

I love my girl!

The Big Move (Fresno Factoids, con't.)

So, back when I wrote Fresno Factoids, I promised to continue the story. It's been awhile. Sorry.

So, as Toph's asthma got worse and air quality days got more numerous, I decided it was probably TIME to consider moving away. I gave Robert the green light, and he started looking around. He worked for the water department of the City of Fresno, and conditions at his work were deteriorating, so it was good timing all around. I had some specific conditions: it had to be someplace with better air; it had to be someplace with decent weather (not too hot, not too cold), he had to go to stable employment with good health insurance.

So Robert and I talked about various jobs and places, and he applied for a job in Atlanta (I LOVED the people there--wasn't sure about the humidity though). He applied for a job in Texas (wow, we could have sold our home in Fresno and bought a bigger house there for CASH), and he applied for a job with Sony in San Diego. I laughed when he told me that and told my dear hubby that the interview would be good experience, but we could never move to San Diego. We could never afford to live in San Diego--GREAT weather and location, but I wasn't holding my breath.

Well, Texas didn't want to hire someone from out of state and I don't remember what happened with Atlanta. Robert came down to San Diego for an interview and said that they were taking him to lunch too. So at 2 pm when I hadn't heard, I was getting antsy. At 4, I could hardly contain myself. I left numerous voicemail messages (like, "surely you have had to use the bathroom while you're there, couldn't you spare a MINUTE to call?!"). It was interesting when Robert was preparing to go to his interview, because I was misinformed in college. ALL of our job interview seminars stressed wearing your BEST and dressing to impress when going for an interview--even to hand in an application (yes, this was in the day when you actually used your legs to pound the pavement). Apparently, for an IT job, if you show up in a suit, you WON'T get hired?! Crazy! Well, some time passed while things were getting worked out--seemed like ages to me. Then we FINALLY heard: San Diego wanted Robert! Not only did they want him, but they were willing to pay a salary that we could live with (nope, we're not getting RICH, but we can afford to buy food--at least this week). They were also willing to pay for our relocation--that was another of my "requirements."

I was floored. Then we found out that they wanted him to start work on October 1--in 4 weeks! We had 25 days in which to pack up our lives and relocate--and get our house up for sale and wrap up all the loose ends. That was CRAZY! We'd lived in our house for 9 years, so we'd accumulated a LOT of stuff. Just thinking about packing all of it up was enough to make you crazy. I initially thought I would stay until the house sold, and then we thought about it. We were going to be moving during one of the WORST times of an asthma year--so why would I want to be a single parent and try to sell the house while living in it? Sony was paying for temporary housing, regardless of if it was for 1 person or for 4 people, so we listened to reason and we all moved together and trusted our house to sell "naked."

I was CRAZY worried about our house NOT selling in 3 months. I was so afraid we'd have to figure out how to pay a mortgage AND rent. But we put our trust in higher hands and started packing the stuff we needed to go to the "homeless shelter." Yes, I called our corporate housing adventure the HOMELESS SHELTER. We were technically homeless and it was our shelter, and if you can't keep your sense of humor, you will lose it!

We called a Realtor, cleaned up what we could, painted walls and welcomed the moving crew. It's AMAZING how fast those guys could pack up 10 years' worth of stuff! Since we had such a SHORT time, we basically didn't have the luxury of going through the stuff and getting rid of a bunch of it. We HAD to focus our efforts on getting our house ready to sell. I'm sure the moving guys thought we were crazy as they packed boxes and boxes of crap--but it all came with us!

We arrived in San Diego LATE on a Friday night at the end of September--and it was FOGGY! Our Homeless Shelter was fairly nice. We had (at the time) some nice neighbors. It was a "fully furnished" unit--but we learned that "fully furnished" to one is not "fully furnished" another. We had wine glasses and a coffee maker and a naked picture on the wall--not exactly what an LDS family with YOUNG kids needs! The relocation people were GREAT though. They switched out the naked picture and promptly replaced a DVD player that died. They were Johnny on the spot for any concern we had.

Our greatest challenge was trying to get Toph started in school. You see, schools require TWO proofs of residency, and we had NO bills--the Homeless Shelter paid for rent, phone, internet, Dish, and everything. All I had to offer was my renter's insurance paper.

At the time, and even more so in retrospect, we KNOW that San Diego is where we're supposed to be. EVERY aspect of our move just SCREAMED of a loving Heavenly Father's hand. We had tons of help to move. We didn't have to initially worry about where we were living. We were able to save some money for 3 months. We were able to sell our home--in a STAGNANT market--in just 21 days. We were able to find a NICE place to rent. We were able to be in 2 great wards at Church. We live in a GREAT school district. And, best of all, ROBERT LOVES HIS JOB! Who can doubt that we had some Heavenly help?

At the time I cried TONS of tears. I was mourning leaving the only place I'd known as "home" and the people I'd miss. I was TERRIFIED of being able to find my way around. You see, I'm quite directionally challenged. I HATE moving--so it was very traumatic. Robert, being the kind soul that he is, asked numerous times if I had changed my mind (he'd have stayed). No, I just had some "growing" pains.

The folks here have been amazing! Robert LOVED his new job SO much, he even looked younger. His job with the City of Fresno was good work, but it was beyond stressful. He was on call basically 24/7, and in the summer months (May through September or later), the pager was relentless. He'd work 18-hour days, sometimes 6 days a week. And if he made a mistake, he could have KILLED people. Lots of stress. And we discovered that Government work, while steady employment, fosters an acceptance of "minimal effort is great." That's not in Robert's nature. He was starting to need to be around more geeks. Being "the guy" was getting old, and the help desk calls were making him CRAZY! At Sony, he's in a team of at least 9 other geeks. He's surrounded by geeks. There are more opportunities for learning and more people to learn from. His superior is also in the field and "gets it." He's in a place where he can really thrive and improve his "mad skills." And if he makes a mistake, the worst that can happen is that folks can't play games online. Nobody dies. I can live with that. He'd come home from work so HAPPY. I hadn't seen that in a few years. Sure, life with the family would cause Robert happiness, but work-related stuff was always looming in the background. Now he actually looks forward to going to work. And, even after almost 2 years, I still have to call him each evening to remind him to come home.

In all aspects this has been a good move for our family. Sure, we miss PEOPLE, but Fresno doesn't feel like HOME any more. When we go back to visit, it feels like a VISIT--which is entirely strange to me. We've adapted quite nicely to San Diego weather and air, and to quote Hannah, "we always get sick when we go to Fresno." Unfortunately that HAS been our experience more often than not. HOPEFULLY not this next trip! But we're closer as a family and we're all growing together. It's nice. Distance also helps us appreciate the time we DO get to spend with loved ones.

So, now we're here, and we plan on staying!

Getting ready

4 loads of laundry
2 clean bedrooms
LOTS of dishes washed
errands completed
groceries shopped
1 box unpacked (yes, we still have boxes)
almost ready for our "vacation"