Friday, January 29, 2010

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Friday Flashback
National Park Series #12
When Lassen National Park showed up next on the "parks to visit" list, I was pretty excited, because I had fond memories of childhood vacations there with my family. In fact, we even went backpacking a couple of times. (Go here to see a couple of those pictures.)First we had to set up camp. This year Michelle wasn't content to stay in her little seat.As usual, we went on a lot of hikes. We even climbed to the top of Lassen Peak. It was COLD and WINDY! But we persevered anyway, and Wayne even climbed to the very tip top. (The next day the weather was gorgeous, but we were leaving, so Wayne took the oldest boys and climbed it again. They wanted to really see the view, but they didn't take the camera, so we'll just have to believe them that it was breathtaking.)This is Cinder Cone. That's one of the hikes I remember taking as a girl. No shade!Brad, David and Steven had plenty of opportunities to play King of the Mountain.
I just love Steven's smile, even if it's out of focus. We went blueberry picking on our way home. And there's Lassen Peak in the distance.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Yosemite National Park

Friday Flashback
National Park Series #11
Even though we went in August (1995), and the drive there and back was scorching, there was still plenty of snow to play in once we got to Yosemite. After living in California for a year, the boys enjoyed the chance to throw a few snowballs once again. And to climb on the snow drifts. There was also the traditional "stop at every roadside overlook" drive.
And plenty of opportunity to take some hikes.
This was called "Misty Trail" for a reason. Notice we're all wet.
The memorable story of this trip happened on the first day, when we were unloading the car and setting up camp. Our campsite was on the far edge of the campground. Even though for us it was a trek to the restrooms, the other campers probably appreciated our assignment; the one-year-old and two-year-old had a hard time sleeping in a tent. Anyway, there was a pretty fair distance between the parking space and the tent spot, with the table in between. We set up Michelle in her little seat next to the table and the rest of us were busy transporting supplies between the car and the tent. Imagine our surprise when we noticed a bear foraging in our little lunch cooler right next to the baby! Fortunately, it was easily scared off, but not before eating our peaches. And I felt SO guilty for feeding the bears, when there were signs plastered all over the place warning against that, and to keep all the food in the bear boxes or trunks. I didn't think it applied when there were people right next to it! Moral of the story: Don't turn your back on babies and coolers when in bear country.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rest and Relaxation - the 2010 Version

or Part Two of our eventful week

Last year, we really enjoyed our weekend getaway. However, we were disappointed that we didn't get to experience Coco Cay, so we decided we needed to try again. We also thought it might be fun to take the teenagers along, so we did. One of the goals on vacation is to capture as many sunrises and sunsets as we can. (Yes, I know that most normal people like to sleep in on vacation. In case you haven't figured it out by now, we're not normal.) We weren't disappointed. We live in a truly beautiful world.
One of the other goals, at least on a cruise, is to enjoy as much food as possible. We weren't disappointed here either. Steven got steak every day. That's all he wanted to be happy. But we also convinced him to take advantage of the opportunity to try some new foods. He decided roast duck was pretty good, but passed on the shrimp (which was fine with the rest of us). Michelle tried lobster bisque (but didn't finish it) and smoked salmon (not bad considering Dad said it would be awful). They both tried escargot, and we had to take picture proof of that.
As expected, Michelle liked it and Steven didn't.
We enjoyed our time off the boat as well, exploring a pirate museum, taking the nature trail on Coco Cay, and resting on the beach. Rest and relaxation are important!
We enjoyed our break from the normal routine and are happy to be home again. However, Wayne's already planning for next year. We'll see what happens!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Eventful Week

Go on over here to find out "Part One" of what's been happening in our family this week. Hint: it involves these two fantastic people. "Part Two" will be coming later when I have some more free time. It's been a busy week!

WFMW - Trying New Recipes

Works for Me Wednesday
Trying New Recipes, and more

Every family has unique food stories. One of ours concerns the dad's dislike, even hatred, of brussel sprouts. He's always said that even if he was starving he would never eat them. And to honor his preference, I've served brussel sprouts maybe twice in over 25 years (and even that was when he was out of town). However, I kind of like brussel sprouts. My mom served them occasionally and I don't have any psychologically scarring memories of them. So, the other day when I read a newspaper article on "foods you detested as a child because they weren't cooked right" - with brussel sprouts included on the list - I decided it was time to give them a try again. So, we did.

The authors pointed out that we had probably eaten them boiled to death, and so of course they would be mushy and yucchy. Instead, they suggested coating them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, and roasting them in the oven. This is what they looked like before baking:And this is what they looked like 30 minutes later: I thought they were delicious. The teenagers ate a few without complaining, but have no desire to have them again any time soon. The dad said it was a good thing he WAS really hungry, because that meant he was willing to try them. Brussel sprouts are still on his "most hated food" list. Hey, I tried. And I am perfectly happy to eat the leftovers all by myself.

We like trying new recipes. I've discovered this past year that I really like roasted vegetables. Tonight we're having Roasted Turnips, Sweet Potatoes, Apples and Dried Cranberries. I don't expect the rest of the family to enjoy it, but it looked like an intriguing way to use the turnips that came in the co-op basket last week. Most importantly, at the very least it will provide an additional story to add to the family memory bank. And that's what works for me!

Remember to check out We are THAT Family for lots of fun ideas of things that work.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Creative Cupcakes

Have you missed Flashback Friday? I have, but things have been busy lately. Hopefully they'll settle down soon, but I'm not holding my breath!
Anyway, Michelle has a friend who loves Elmo and when she saw a picture of these cupcakes a few months ago, she knew exactly what to give her on her birthday. Since her birthday's today, guess what we did yesterday? If you google "Elmo cupcakes" you can find a lot of inspiration, and we decided to go with plain old buttercream frosting, tinted with a LOT of paste food coloring, and frosted using a star decorator tip, mini chocolate chips for the eyeballs, orange peanut M&M's for Elmo's nose and half of a separated Oreo for his mouth. Cookie Monster is eating a mini chocolate chip cookie half. We had a lot of fun together, and I'm sure Miss A. will be surprised!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lunch-box Tip

Works for Me Wednesday
This is kind of a "two in one" idea, but as I was preparing lunches the other day I realized that someone else might appreciate this little tip we discovered years ago.

When I sent whole apples in my children's lunch boxes, they often came home uneaten (and therefore bruised), or with just a bite or two taken out. That was a lot of waste. So, I started cutting them up. (Then, I could give just half an apple if that's all that was needed.) But who wants to eat yucky brown apples? Squirting them with lemon juice solved that problem. And since it's cheaper to buy lemon juice in a large container, and I didn't like hauling it out every morning, we re-purposed a soy sauce container. Personally, I think it would look much nicer with a yellow cap, but I've learned to not let the red cap bother me too much.

So, that's what works for us. To get more ideas, head on over to We Are THAT Family!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Question Time

Works for Me Wednesday - Backwards Edition
This week over at We are THAT Family, instead of sharing answers, it's time to share questions. So, here's my question:
How do you plan your dinner menu for the month? or week? or year???
I posted our plan here a while ago, but we're putting together a class on meal planning, and I thought it was time to revisit the subject. In spite of having a plan, recently I've had too many "what do I fix for dinner now?" days and so maybe it's time for a change. Even if I go back to our reliable method, I think I'll be excited about it again if I evaluate it against some other choices. So, I'm looking forward to your suggestions!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's over (and we're sad)

You'll have noticed a lack of posts lately. That's because the main purpose of this blog is to keep the Utah kids informed of the happenings at the 813. Well, they were here and an integral part of the activities for a fabulous ten days; they didn't need to check the internet. But now they can have a reminder of our fun times, and the rest of you can enjoy them vicariously as well. The crew arrived anxious to see Brad for the first time in over two years. We were pretty excited to see them as well, even if it had only been a few months since our last visit.

First on the schedule was painting the baseboards. (I forgot to take pictures, but they all worked together to get it done.) We wanted to make sure they appreciated the fact that they didn't have to study for finals anymore! Michelle DID have homework, but it involved a trip to the Dali Museum in St. Pete which we were able to follow with a quick trip to the beach. It was a little chilly, but at least there weren't any snowflakes around to destroy the fun.Christmas Eve afternoon we took a stroll around Lykes Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa, and took some time to "rest and relax" following the instructions in the guidebook.

Then it was time for a yummy dinner and our Christmas Eve tradition of opening a new nativity, reading the Christmas story from the Bible and singing selections from Handel's Messiah, along with our friend's wonderful Christmas Cantata. No one left cookies for Santa. I guess they figured he didn't need any.

But Santa came anyway. And so did a phone call from Elder Jeff. Merry (Belated) Christmas to everyone!

Then it was time for some more family adventures. Due to his bum knee, Weston got out of walking 12 miles of the Pinellas Trail, but no one else did. We ended the section at Honeymoon Island State Park. Don't plan your honeymoon trip there for December - it was pretty cold!!

The next hike was at Flatwoods Park. This time it was a loop, and Weston managed to hobble around while Brad and David decided they would jog the whole way. The weather cooperated and we had a gorgeous day for our family activity.

Then it was time to work again! The girls dismantled Christmas and the boys trimmed a giant tree. Of course, all along there was still time for normal holiday pastimes - eating snacks, watching football, playing games, and staying up late.
There was one more hike on the list - the Orlando City Walk. Michelle stayed home to babysit, Steven stayed home to do homework, and we took the college kids to Orlando. After time spent in the temple, we had lunch and then enjoyed walking around Lake Eola downtown.

The next day the kids took a final trip at the beach before they had to board a plane and head back to the snow. Hopefully looking at these pictures will warm your heart if nothing else. We miss you!