Saturday, November 26, 2011

Our first non-traditional Thanksgiving...

This year found us childless. Both were with their other parents and we had a few days to ourselves, which is a little uncommon these days. We decided to get the heck out of Dodge and take a small trip. Since Squirt flew out from Portland Wednesday night, we took that as a cue to head northward.

Leaving Portland we drove toward Port Angeles with a couple stops on the way. Unfortunately, I was attacked by a vampire as we passed through Forks. It rained the majority of the time we were driving and we unexpectedly ran into some snow in Olympic National Park. It came completely out of the blue and didn't last very long. In Port Angeles we picked up some Jack in the Box burgers for Thanksgiving dinner. Don't fret, we did the turkey/stuffing/mashed potatoes/pie thing last weekend before Squirt left on her trip.

Port Angeles is a darling little town. From there we boarded a ferry bound for Victoria, B.C. We were expecting rain the entire weekend but found we had clear skies (and even sunshine) most of the time.  Victoria is beautiful. I think it's weaseled it's way into my soul and made me feel at least partially Canadian at heart.

The Butchart Gardens in Victoria are stunning. They were getting ready for the 12 Days of Christmas holiday display and once we figured out what all the random statues were supposed to be about we had to start at the beginning again and make sure we'd found them all.

After taking the ferry back to the states we spent a day in Seattle without taking any pictures, as unbelievable as that is. We drove up to the North Cascades and found the rain that we had escaped all weekend. Then we headed to Mt. Rainier but sadly didn't get to see the mountain as low clouds and snow took visibility down to an extremely minimal distance. No biggie. It was great to go and we've added some new locations to our summer camping bucket list.

This weekend added more things for us to be thankful for. Despite being a fairly atypical Holiday, we had a marvelous time and wouldn't change a thing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Day and the Things I am Thankful for...

This may sound like I am copying what my incredible wife did earlier today, but so be it. Never in a million years, would I imagine the twists, turns, ups and downs that my life has taken over the past 12 months. Having said that, I wouldn't change a single thing.

So in honor of turkey day, here is what I am thankful for.

  1. My indescribably, amazing and beautiful wife who complements me so well.
  2. Ellie-girl who I miss everyday, and whom without life doesn't feel quite complete. So I am completely ready for the three weeks we get to spend with her next month.
  3. Squirt, who is one of the sweetest children I have ever met in my life. She cares about everyone and everything.
  4. BYU sports. I am addicted what can I say?
  5. The University of Oregon, its Human Physiology Department, and everyone involved with the Cardiopulmonary and Respiratory Lab.
  6. Loving what I do. 
  7. While I will never believe for a moment that I should have been laid off by that company that has that annoying Flo chick, I am thankful for the opportunities that have come into my life as a result.
  8. California State University, Fullerton's kinesiology department. Seriously... I don't know how I could have accomplished what I did, in the time I did without the help of Dan, Jason, Jeremy, Caitlin, Carolyn, Barry, Dr. Brown, Dr. Coburn and everyone else that helped so I could push through my M.S. program in such a short time.
  9. For having a place of my own. It is a little, okay, a lot, sobering to look back and realize that from August 2009 - August 2011, I was for all and intents and purposes homeless.
  10. For constantly being surrounded by people that were crazy enough to let me live with them over the past couple years.
  11. Beautiful falls in August
  12. Being able to get a full night's rest. I don't have exact values, but I know the number of nights I have slept through the entire night this year (especially the last few months). I am not sure I had one of those nights at all from 2008-2010.
  13. For getting a paycheck every month that does come from the unemployment office.
  14. Five words - Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate
  15. My incredible parents, brothers and sister's-in-law, nephew and nieces. We are screwed up in our own special way, but we are pretty freaking awesome
  16. The love of cooking that my parents instilled me at a young age. That has been such a blessing and now I get to share that passion with my wife and daughters.
  17. For GPS, which allowed us to bypass the insane traffic that was between Eugene and Portland, allowing us to get Squirt to the airport so she could see her dad for Thanksgiving.
  18. Kim and her family. They are all amazing people, and I am thankful for all that they do in helping to raise Ellie when I am not around.
  19. Pre's Trail
  20. Falling asleep every night next while my wife snuggles next to me
  21. All-Clad cookware and Williams Sonoma
  22. The fact I don't get AMS
  23. Autzen Stadium, its atmosphere and the fact that "It never rains in Autzen!"
  24. My wife for handling my innate ability to get tunnel vision and my analytical side
  25. For silly goals like seeing as many temples as possible (52... 50 of them with Ellie-girl), and visiting every national park (13 and counting)
  26. Homemade pasta
  27. Having fresh rolls nearly every Sunday night for dinner
  28. Alton Brown, Giada de Laurenitis and Bon Appetit
  29. Ducks athletics, because it helps to fill the void of not being able to go to BYU sporting events
  30. My 2001 Nissan Xterra. If it can last until I graduate with my PhD, then I will be extra thankful
  31. Running. My love, and stress reliever for the past 3-1/2 years
  32. Ryan, Megan, Mike, Jaimee, Royce and Kristin and their families
  33. ESPN3
  34. Italian food
  35. No sales tax in Oregon
  36. For the University of Alabama also accepting me into their PhD program, this giving me piece of mind for the a few months, because I knew I would be going to school somewhere
  37. Our incredible new friends and ward here in Eugene. The transition to Oregon has been much easier because of them. 
  38. Being able to walk to school everyday
  39. For the road bike I will one day get as my graduation present to myself for getting my M.S.
  40. I have been extremely healthy this year. There have only been about 3 days I have been sick all year.
  41. Tom and Lois
  42. The quarter system. 
  43. Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  44. Back rubs from my wife
  45. Endless possibilities
  46. Subscription to Bon Appetit
  47. Eugene Saturday Farmer's Market
  48. Being an American. Yes things are screwed up here, but I enjoy the freedoms and blessings I am afforded by being an American.
  49. BYU football and basketball, California Angels, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Manchester United. Stupid sports teams that generally provide me instants of joy throughout the year
  50. For the trip that Michelle and I are going to take in about 30 minutes.
Life is good, what more can I say?

50 Things I am Thankful for v.2011

Those who knew me in my previous life, may remember that each year at Thanksgiving I blog a list of what I am thankful for that year. 50 things actually, some of which I find remain quite constant throughout the years. This is merely a beginning as I have so very many things to be thankful for.

This year especially.

I didn't know one year ago that my life would take the turns it has. 2011 has brought more dramatic changes than pretty much any other year of my life but they have all been welcome and even sought after. My list this year reflects those changes. Some are silly, some are serious, but all have contributed in some way to my joy this year.

In case you are curious, you can see previous years here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. 

  1. The seemingly endless crimson autumn leaves in the Pacific Northwest.
  2. Neighborhood clothing swaps that give new life to one's wardrobe.
  3. Time to indulge in creative endeavors. 
  4. The most amazing husband who ever lived. 
  5. Looking into the laughing eyes of my precious baby girl. 
  6. Adding another precious angel into my family and expanding the definition of my role as mother. 
  7. Hot glue guns.
  8. Peacock feathers. 
  9. Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate. 
  10. Tide pools and freezing cold waves. 
  11. The increasingly rare moments when sunlight floods in our bedroom window. 
  12. A realtor who works his derriere off on my behalf.
  13. Surprise job opportunities that surface as answers to unspoken prayers. 
  14. High thread count sheets and new bedding. 
  15. Personal spirituality. 
  16. Building amazing friendships in a staggeringly short period of time. 
  17. Glorious Silpats, which take my baking to a new level of enjoyment. (Thanks, Debbi!)
  18. Dishwashers - which I have learned to appreciate anew due to our lack of one. 
  19. The wealthy whatever percent who spend their money when the rest of us don't have any - creating numerous jobs and sustaining our economy.
  20. My cordless drill, which has found it's way into projects despite living in an apartment. 
  21. Squirt riding her bike.
  22. Crazy critter shapes in clouds. 
  23. Warm socks with no holes in the bottom. 
  24. Health insurance.
  25. free shipping. 
  26. Pinterest (There, I admit it).
  27. Giant, warm bear hugs. 
  28. Perfecting the art of buttery dinner rolls. 
  29. Morning runs that allow me to indulge in the illusion of control.
  30. The Eugene Saturday Market with the smell of freshly roasted chillies, bakery treats, shallots the size of a small human head, tomatoes to die for and sweet Walla Walla onions.
  31. Fun, dangly earrings. 
  32. Being friends with endlessly creative people who inspire me to trust my own ideas while also filling me with awe at theirs. 
  33. University sporting events - as much as I never thought I'd say that. 
  34. The way my spirit of wanderlust and His Hotness's sense of planning and analyzing work together to create lives filled with adventure. 
  35. Daydreams.
  36. The Kitchen Aid mixer. Enabling lives for the better since whenever the blessed thing was invented. 
  37. Mommy-bloggers who aren't afraid to share their heart and soul, so the rest of us feel like we aren't completely crazy or alone in this business of raising little people. 
  38. Ferry rides.
  39. The National Park Service. 
  40. Being able to take 42,000 pictures on a digital camera in search of the one that turns out just right.
  41. Eternal families. 
  42. An able body and mind, capable of acquiring knowledge and gaining skills in proportion to my willingness to try.
  43. Public education - a privilege, not a right. 
  44. Reliable transportation.
  45. Bridges with tons of brightly painted support lines. 
  46. The absolute blast of flavor imparted by a sprinkling of fresh thyme, rosemary, or basil.
  47. Bon Appetit magazine. 
  48. Purple nail polish. 
  49. Lindt Intense Orange chocolate bars - my new favorite. 
  50. Loving the life I live and making the choices to be certain that it stays that way. 
Happy Thanksgiving!
What are you thankful for?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lady Ducks B-ball

Friday nights are fantastic. We often spend weekends at some Duck event or another. One perk of activities being included in student fees is that now we feel like we can go to games whenever we want and it's totally free. Even though it was paid for. Anywho...

Squirt takes her stuffed duck to most of the games. Tonight she packed it into this stinking cute owl bag I just finished for her that I affectionately refer to as my I-saw-it-on-pinterest-and-actually-made-it bag; And His Hotness made his characteristic serious face for the photo op.

We sat at the baseline (or as non-sports people call it - the skinny end) of the court and were in the second row. The cheerleaders sat right in front of us and Squirt spent the entire evening deciding whose hair looked most like hers and who she wants to be like when she's a teenager. Um, yes. I might cry.

At halftime there was an elementary unicycle club that displayed their skills. The group twirled and circled to the Star Wars theme and it was especially cute to see how little some of them are and how capable they are. Of course, the collisions were pretty awesome too :)

I didn't take a single picture of actual basketball or think of the self-portrait until we were back at the car. Clearly we aren't all in focus - but it's the best there was.

You'll just have to believe me that we won 77-74 over Illinois. Go Ducks!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recent artistic expression

Squirt loves to draw. It's really convenient actually since it's an easy way to keep her busy while I'm making dinner or something else. Oh, who am I kidding, His Hotness usually cooks dinner and Squirt often draws all over her homework when she's supposed to be working on multiplication. I still get a kick out of the pictures.

Squirt and I have been talking about making a new job chart. Her mother (yes, me) has procrastinated the task and so she took it upon herself to get it done. I love that she only has one job each day and that she only has to "Lisin to mom" on Wednesdays.

Self portraits make me happy. If I drew one of myself it might look almost this good. 

Clearly this was drawn on a day she was less than pleased with me... :) I'm still adjusting to the desire for privacy - and yet I'm happy about it to because I know it's normal. And hey, when I'm a bird I 'm really tall!

As if to demonstrate that she knows how to keep herself busy by herself, I love this representation of everything she could be doing. 

I confess I didn't understand this one until Jim told me about it. Squirt loves to make "mailboxes" to keep outside her room for me to leave her little letters. It was the spelling of "eeroww" (arrow) that took a while to connect.

Introducing our first imaginary friend. It's funny to me that she invented Lilly after knowing clearly that she's purely pretend. Lilly surfaces only once in a great while and often it is when she is upset and seeking for an escape, but I still find it to be the most awesome thing ever.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A successful failure.

This weekend I endeavored to make an angel food cake with chocolate whipped cream icing (both recipes found on Epicurious here and here). I was headed to a a "favorite things" party on Friday night and needed a treat to take along. The cake turned out beautifully - my best angel food cake yet - and I was really excited to try this icing. I love light, fluffy, whipped cream based toppings.

I had been on a dark chocolate fix lately, thanks in part to my doctor who prescribed it as a natural cough suppressant for my pneumonia, or whooping cough, or whatever it was that was going on with me for the last 4 weeks. The idea of chocolate whip cream made my heart sing. Only I was in a hurry. So I read the recipe and got started - without double checking the amounts. I should have learned by now not to trust my short-term memory so instead of 1/2 cup of milk and 2 cups whipped cream I ended up measuring out 1 1/4 cups milk and compensating by reducing the cream by 3/4 cup.

Long story short, it will not hold stiff peaks regardless how fast you swirl the stuff around in the mixer. It looked like an unusual type of chocolate soup. I gave up, took the cake to the party plain, and popped that chocolate mixture in the fridge. It's a shame to waste all that good whipping cream.

Yesterday we popped that failed topping into the ice cream maker. Once it had completely frozen I drizzled in some melted Ghirardelli 86% cacao chocolate and let it cool and break into thin whispy strips.

The verdict?

It's pretty darn tasty. Not such a bad outcome from my epic failure after all.

BTW- have you ever been to a Favorite Things party? It was pretty fun. Each person brings a few (in our case 3) of something that is their favorite for under $5 each. I brought bright purple nail polish (my current toes of choice) and Lindt Intense Orange chocolate bars. When you arrive at the party, each person put their name on three pieces of paper and dropped them into a bowl. After some chatter and girl talk we started going around the group and sharing what we brought and why it was our favorite. What an interesting way to get to know people!

When everyone had finished, we passed around the bowl of names. We each drew a name, then got the item that that person had brought. (Doesn't it sound strange to say that that?) At the end of the night each person went home with 3 different favorite things brought by others and a whole slew of funny moments. It was a blast and I highly suggest you try it with your friends. It's amazing what you'll learn :) The plan is for ours to be an annual affair. I don't think this idea would ever get old.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chop chop

Have you ever just needed a change? Reached a sudden realization that you were in a rut? That was me. I've been growing increasingly irritated by how long it takes to do my hair here (long, thick hair + 90% humidity + natural curl on half of my hair = usually damp and/or frizzy locks) and found that I'd pull it up in that sloppy mom-ponytail every single day - after letting it air dry for 2-3 hours that is. Gross. Even if it was really pretty on the days when I would take the time and it would cooperate.

So, it got the chop.

Ignore that the middle pic makes me look like a bobble head doll.

What do you think?

I'm not so sure yet, but it does take only 1/4 the amount of time to dry which is a gold medal in my book. To quote a friend when she took the plunge and went short "I look like a mom." But I'm a mom without a sloppy ponytail who can't wait to show off some really fantastic earrings...

All Hallows Eve

It began as any other day, since Buglet's school doesn't allow costumes at school. Instead they held a Harvest Festival the Friday before. That was quite different than any school function we had ever been to in the sense that it was "laid back" and "minimally organized" as another parent tried to explain to me. We arrived 5 minutes after the affair was to begin and nothing was set up and none of the staff knew where the kids were supposed to be, but the Principal was greeting everyone while dressed as a shark. Eventually the local-apple-tasting tables were set up, the craft tables were accessible, and the music was playing in the black-lit gym. There was not a piece of candy in sight but the kids didn't care. They ran around in costume and had a ball, which made me think of how much we overdo things in the name of fun. Kids don't really need much to be happy.

Also last week we attended our church Halloween party. This was a complete blast as we seriously adore all the littles we live near and seeing them in costume was pretty fantastic.

But back to Monday... the University of Oregon held a Halloween carnival for K-3 grades in the dorms. Random, I know. They had carnival games, pumpkin and cookie decorating, and then trick-or-treating in the dorms. I wasn't sure what to expect but it ended up being really cute and quite fun. At least Squirt had fun.

She snarfed down the cookie she iced as we headed home and went to the little gathering in our apartment's community room - which was interrupted as we saw friends starting to trick-or-treat and ran to join them. More families from the apartments gradually emerged and we all walked around together.  It was a challenge to know where to go as the "come get a 'trick or treaters welcome' sign" memo was not well communicated. We gave out glow bracelets as we meandered around and giggled at the cuteness of so many of the little people.

After which we came home and finally had dinner. Shower, scriptures, and it was time for bed. Tuesday, she got a package of candy from her dad. Which means she got a full basket of candy last Wednesday, a full basket Monday, and a big box yesterday. Today I am thankful for dental insurance.

A good, busy Holiday week for Batgirl.