Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Dresses

Here are the girls in their Christmas dresses for their 2009 portraits.

A Very Carey Christmas

I hope your Christmas was safe, warm, and full of only happy surprises. Ours was.

My Christmas Eve started with a trip to the dentist - 7:00 am, to be precise. It's admittedly a strange way to start the season, and I hope to not make a habit of it. But there you go. They did a periodontal cleaning, so they numbed my whole mouth. Fortunately, yogurt in a tube can be eaten even with a numb mouth (as long as you have a good napkin).

I still had a bit of shopping to do - some for Christmas presents, some for the regular weekly needs, and some for Christmas Eve dinner. My first stop wasn't too bad, since it was 8:00 am. However, by the time I finished my errands at around 1:00, parking lots and checkout lines were cram-packed with people.

To top it off, Mother Nature decided to bless us with a white Christmas, and she was in full-force delivery mode. I drove home in some very heavy, blowing snow. Fortunately, the day before had been in the mid seventies, so there was no real danger of snow sticking to the roads. By mid-afternoon, the yard was covered. The girls desperately wanted to go out and play, but I convinced them that snow blowing horizontally at 35 miles per hour was best enjoyed from behind glass.

Our Christmas dinner tradition is to have the big, formal meal on Christmas Eve, and then munch on left-overs Christmas day, so that's what we did.

Throughout the evening, Alyssa would periodically ask, "Where's Santa," at which point she and I would go into the office and check out the Google Maps/NORAD Santa tracker. By the time Santa was headed from Brazil to Uruguay, we were able to get the kids to bed, and then I finished up the present wrapping. I managed to get most of the gifts taken care of during the previous week, leaving me just a half-dozen or so to wrap that night. We got to bed before midnight for the first time on a Christmas eve in many, many years.

Alyssa was up pretty much every hour, and around 4:00 Anna sent her in to our room. Fortunately she was willing to snuggle up and go back to sleep. I walked her into her room a while later, and then went back to sleep until about 8:00! Yes, it was our own little Christmas Miracle.

Part of the reason we were able to sleep in and take a leisurely morning was because the snow outside was even more exciting than the presents.

The girls played in the snow, and I made up a buffet of finger foods designed to replace breakfast and lunch. High in fruits, veggies, and protein, it worked like a charm - quick, easy, convenient, and not a single blood sugar crash all day!

One of the things I wanted to make was a sour cream dill dip. Our dill was in the garage, where it's been for the last few years. I brought it in and started sprinkling it into my bowl of sour cream. In addition to the dill weed, this jar had some dill seeds mixed in. I thought that was unusual, so I checked the label - it didn't mention seeds. So I took one of the seeds into the office, where I have a magnifying loupe, and on closer examination I found that the seed had legs.

I rinsed out the bowl and invented an oregano parmesan sour cream dip to take its place.

I won't bore you with a laundry list of our gifts, but I do want to show you the doll high-chair Santa brought for Alyssa. She absolutely loves it, and has spent hours playing with her babies in it. She even has me buckle it into the van so the babies have a car seat to sit in.

Thanks to all who sent cards and letters and gifts. We had a great Christmas, and hope you did, too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Piggy Saga

This is a post far too long in the making, but it's time I get it up here for you to see.

As longtime readers of the blog will know, we here at the ranch are raising guinea pigs. It's a small operation, and with only little girl piggies it's destined to stay small.

We started out last year with Lillie and Duchess.

Then this summer, in a moment of tremendous weakness, I allowed Anna to get a third guinea pig named Mia (or Mina, as Alyssa calls her).

All was fine in piggy land until around Halloween, when Duchess got sick. Her little lymph glands grew to the size of large marbles, and after a course of antibiotics they still weren't reduced. About this same time, Lillie's glands started to swell as well.

So the vet lanced Duchess' glands and gave us a different antibiotic - enough for both Duchess and Lillie. The new antibiotic worked on the infection, but it also robbed the piggies of their appetites. Neither one would eat anything.

Despite our best efforts to nurse her back to health, Duchess passed away on November 30th, and Lillie had lost so much weight she seemed destined to follow.

Kara, however, was determined to keep Lillie alive. For two weeks, she made a mash of parsley, grass, and pellets, and fed this to Lillie with a syringe.

After a what seemed like forever, Lillie finally started eating a little on her own, and now her appetite for grass and dandelions has outstripped the ability of our December yard to produce. And she's gained back most of the weight she lost while being sick.

So, for now, all is well here on the guinea pig farm.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First Annual Carey Family Gingerbread House

It was an epic holiday project two and a half weeks in the making!

Well, okay - maybe it wasn't really all that much. But it did manage to take two and a half weeks. However, the gingerbread house is now done, and bringing joy and laughter to all who see it.

Here's how it went down.

I mixed up our favorite gingerbread dough way back on November 29th, and then put it into the fridge to chill for two hours. Six days later, I took the dough out of the fridge, and rolled it out onto parchment paper.

I then cut out the five pieces that make up this modernist masterpiece and backed them to perfection.

After the pieces spent six days hardening, I put them together using nasty white frosting made from stale Crisco.

The unconventional design is so the finished product can live under glass.

Then the next day I attempted to move the house to its home on the cake plate, and it totally fell apart.

So the next time I put it together, it was on the cake plate itself. Then last night - finally! - I got the girls together and we decorated.

I mixed up a batch of thick run sugar (powdered sugar and water) and colored it green with some vegetable dyes we bought, and set Anna to work coloring the ice cream cone trees.

I piped on doors and windows, and then laid out the licorice sidewalk. Notice the marshmallow snowmen under the dome. We made those shortly after mixing up the dough. I especially like the little ET.

Then we took turns embellishing with candy canes, Sundrops, and jelly beans - all with natural colors, of course. Even the gummy worms and fruit slices are colored with fruit juice.

I bought enough candy to cover a small mansion, so there is a lot left over. In a fleeting moment of strength, I gave the bag to Kara and told her to hide it - I know I could never keep my hands off otherwise.

Then I made it "snow" on the roof and ground and landscaped with Anna's trees. Sadly there was only room for one snowman, but I think he looks sharp.

Since food smells can sometimes be a problem around here, I designed the house to fit under the cake plate. This will also have the added benefit of keeping the goodies free of dust, just in case we decide to eat the thing come New Years Day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fortuitous Forgetting and Santa Claus

This past Saturday, I convinced Alyssa to go shopping with me by promising to take her to the mall to visit Santa. I was not exactly looking forward to standing in a long line, only to have her hide when the big moment came. But I was willing to try.

As Santa didn't get to the mall until 10:00, we made Wal-Mart our first stop, where we stocked up on groceries and pull-ups and children's Motrin - all the essentials. We also needed to return a video to the Redbox there in the store, but I realized that we'd forgotten it on the seat of the van.

No problem- we just loaded the groceries in the van and took the video back into the store.

By this time, it was getting pretty close to 10:00, and my hopes of making it to the mall a little early were not to be. However, as we walked back into the store, I noticed a sign that said Santa would be at Wal-Mart at 10:00 - and they were taking free pictures.

Now, "free" is one of my favorite things, and I felt pretty certain the line for Santa at Wal-Mart would not be anything like the one at the mall. Granted, Santa and the whole set-up were Wal-Mart quality, but you get what you pay for and I didn't want to pay an hour of my Saturday if I didn't have to just for someone with a real beard and actual boots.

So Alyssa agreed to see Santa at Wal-Mart, and sure enough there were only two other kids waiting. Alyssa hid from him at first, covering her eyes, but by the time the other kids were done she was willing to stand by him, hold his hand, and hand him the picture of the doll high chair we had printed out to give him.

And she even almost smiled in the free picture.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Honor Band Anna

A couple of weekends ago, Anna spent nearly her entire Saturday with the rest of her band friends auditioning for a spot in one of the two All-Region Middle School Honor Bands. The region covers a pretty good chunk of the surrounding area, and includes probably a dozen middle and junior high schools.

Now, bear in mind that auditioning is not Anna's favorite thing. Add to that the way she aggressively guards Saturday time, and it becomes clear that the only way Anna would agree to do this audition was if it counted towards her grade.

Which it does.

So she did.

But despite not wanting to spend her Saturday auditioning, she made third chair in the second band, which was very exciting!

It also meant that she would have to give up another Saturday for rehearsals and the concert. Said Saturday was yesterday.

The combined bands practiced all day Friday - into the early evening - and then again Saturday morning, with the concert early Saturday afternoon.

She did a great job, despite feeling like a penguin in her band uniform. Congratulations, Anna!

Next concert, this Thursday evening. It's a busy baritone season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Winter Arrives in North Texas

I'm sure my friends and family in Utah and other points north will be tempted to mock us and our pitiful little snowfall, but when such a thing only happens once or twice a season - and the weatherman predicted rain - even a little snow is a big deal.

I decided to try and take a picture with the Christmas lights on - the lights I hung five days ago in short sleeves - but you'll have to click through to the larger image to see them. I was able to hang them from the ladder, without actually climbing on the roof. So, yay!

The girls were excited for the snow, and I'm excited to be working from home and not have to commute in the white stuff.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is It Monday Yet?

Oh, my goodness. What. A. Weekend.

In a good way, of course.

Thanksgiving Weekend 2009 is winding to a close, and I am thoroughly exhausted. So much so that the thought of sitting on my bum all week writing computer code sounds like a bit of a vacation.

Kara, the girls, and I had a nice dinner here at home. A few weeks ago, we'd talked about taking a trip down to SeaWorld, but decided that would be just a bit too much, and would probably throw us off for the rest of the weekend.

Kara makes a wicked good turkey, and together we made our traditional honey pumpkin pie. (If there's enough interest, I'll have her post recipes.) I also made our famous eggnog ice cream (pour one quart eggnog into an ice cream freezer and say 'go.' That's it!) and baked a key lime pie recipe for my friend Josi (she writes culinary mysteries, and I'm lucky enough to be part of her test kitchen).

The girls helped quite a bit with making the other side dishes, which made the day fun. It was busy, but we spent some good, quality family time and had a great meal.

The rest of the weekend was work! The lawn got mowed, the bushes trimmed, Christmas lights were hung, shopping done (Christmas and grocery). We also had a family movie night and a family game night, and got a jump on our indoor Christmas decorating. The tree isn't up, but a bunch of other stuff is.

And this year, Alyssa and I decided to do a gingerbread house. This house is going to be a little different, as we're making one that will fit under our covered cake plate. This will keep the gingerbread smell from adding to allergy load, while keeping the candy and cookies free from dust. We got the dough made tonight, as well as a cardboard mock-up of the house so it will fit under the cake plate.

Watch this space for more details and photos as the project progresses, as well as the many back posts I need to write to catch you up on the significant events in our lives. I have at least three other topics listed in my notebook that are way past due!

Friday, November 20, 2009

My First Publishing Credential

There's a new Christmas story collection available, and I'm part of it!

The book is called Stolen Christmas and it's a compilation of winning stories from the LDSPublisher blog annual Christmas story contest. These books are being sold for the very affordable amount of $7.99. You can't even buy a hardback bestseller from Wal-Mart for that price! To purchase your very own copy (or two or three), click here.

By Lds Publisher, Roger Bonner, Don Carey, Laura Craner, Joyce DiPastena, Sarah M. Eden, L. T. Elliot, Gussie Fick, Melanie Goldmund, M. Gray, Taegyn Hutchinson, Angie Lofthouse, Lori Nawyn, Tristi Pinkston, Brian C. Ricks, Sandra Sorenson, Janice Sperry, Christine Thackeray

What happens when you're so poor you have to steal your Christmas presents? Have you ever taken a punch in the face as your Christmas gift to the girl you love? Or saved Christmas while hunting were-weevils?

These award-winning Christmas stories are the best of the best from the LDS Publisher Christmas Story Contests. From Christmases past, to present, to future; from sweet and inspirational, to zany and delightful-there's a story for everyone in this eclectic collection.

Seventeen stories to celebrate the season, from Sarah M. Eden, Tristi Pinkston, Joyce DiPastena, Christine Thackeray, Don Carey, and more.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story

Recently, I received an email from my friend Tristi Pinkston, Senior Editor of the new Valor Publishing Group, asking if I would read and review Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story as part of its virtual book tour. The book was written by Utah Attorney General Mark L. Shurtleff, and is the first title to be published by Valor.

I jumped at the chance to read and review this book, as I have heard a lot about it, and the story it tells marks a pivotal moment in the history of this great nation. Plus, I'm always happy to let someone send me a free book.

The complete description of this book can be found below, but in a nutshell, Dred Scott was a slave who took his fight for freedom all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Court's decision in the case of Scott vs. Sanford galvanized both sides in the slavery debate, and was referenced heavily in the successful presidential campaign of Abraham Lincoln.

Am I Not A Man? The Dred Scott Story is a very powerful book. It is a novelization of true events, and as such, some liberties were taken in inventing dialog and details, but the story itself comes straight out of history. Many of the facts surrounding slavery in the United States are unpleasant at best, and often downright brutal. Because of this, Am I Not A Man? can be difficult to read in places. This is no light-weight beach book.

However, the story of courage and determination -- from Dred Scott, his family, and his white benefactors -- is truly inspiring. While not strictly chronological, the book covers the whole of Dred's life, from his birth on the Blow plantation during a visit by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, to his death a few short years before the start of the Civil War.

Mr. Shurtleff does an excellent job of presenting the story of Dred Scott, both his trials and his triumphs. I must admit at first to being put off by some of the historical asides that pepper the narrative, but as the story progressed I found myself grateful for the context and background these asides provide.

Am I Not A Man: The Dred Scott Story arrived in bookstores on November 3rd, and will make a worthy addition to your reading list.

An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."

Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.

Dred Scott's inspiring and compelling true story of adventure, courage, love, hatred, and friendship parallels the history of this nation from the long night of slavery to the narrow crack in the door that would ultimately lead to freedom and equality for all men.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Used and Abandoned

So Saturday, after I got the mud washed off of me and my tools, it was time for the weekly grocery shopping trip. I like taking one (but not both!) of the girls with me, as it's fun to have someone to talk to as I go from store to store. Neither one really likes going, though. However, I still ask anyway.

When I asked Alyssa if she wanted to go to Costco and get some samples, she said, "Park?"

I agreed that if she came with me, we could stop at the park (or in this case, the playground at her school).

While I pushed her on the swings, it occurred to me that I had forgotten the RedBox video, which needed to be returned. So we drove back home to get the movie.

Once we were there, Alyssa insisted that I leave her at home.

"Don't you want to go to Costco and get samples?"

"No! Me home." There was no convincing her otherwise, and I ran my errands all alone. She'd gotten her trip to the park, and nothing else mattered.

Used and abandoned by my own child.

Monday, November 9, 2009

When Check Valves Check Out

We have at our house and aerobic septic system. This means that the water gets separated and processed and purified and pumped out through sprinklers in the back yard, while the yucky stuff stays behind in the tank. It's an efficient system, and works pretty well.

Except when it doesn't.

We've noticed that while one of the sprinklers has been spraying correctly, the other one has been sporadic, and recently stopped working all together. This triggered an alarm condition on the system, and we called the maintenance guy to come take a look.

He fixed a problem with the pump, and then went to look at the second sprinkler. Nothing was coming out, even though the pump was working and the first sprinkler was going great guns.

So he took the sprinkler head off. Nothing.

Assuming this must mean a rock or something was plugging the connection, he dug up the end of the pipe and cut it off.

Still nothing.

Since this fix-it guy charges big money per hour, and the problem was obviously in a piece of PVC pipe between two known points, I decided to tackle the rest of the job myself.

Armed with rubber gloves, several shovels and a pipe cutter, I found that the check valve - a little one-way flow regulator that keeps the water from running backwards - had turned into a no-way flow preventer.

So after a trip to Home Depot and $15 worth of bits, both sprinklers are as good as new.

Now if only the same could be said about my bending over and digging muscles. Oooh - ouch!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween At Sea World - Seen and Heard

The girls and I had a great time at Sea World yesterday. I will attempt to share the fun of the day in Seen and Heard format, with a Texted thrown in for good measure.

Seen: Anna watching cartoons on her computer instead of getting ready to go.
Heard: Dad - Anna, come on and get in the car. It's time to go.
Anna - But I haven't eaten breakfast yet!

Seen: Some kind of butterfly migration taking place near San Antonio and making a mess of our windshield.

Seen: Anna and Alyssa loving on each other while posing at the Trick or Treat Street props. (Sadly, Alyssa was too old to participate in the Trick or Treat Street.)

Seen: This guy, standing ten feet tall, wearing a glittery blue fish on his head, and giving me a great idea for a character in a future novel.

Seen: Alyssa absolutely refusing to pose with a mermaid.

Heard: Alyssa insisting on posing with this couple, and Anna being the one to refuse.

Seen and Heard: The Count, Elmo, and the gang. Alyssa loved this show even more than I expected. Anna was a good sport about it.

Seen: Dad carrying Alyssa through half of the Haunted Forest, which was in "Family Friendly" mode, meaning full daylight and without the actors who jump out and say "Boo!"

Heard: Alyssa - Yeah, me go spooky place again.
Dad - You want to go back to the Spooky Forest?
Alyssa - Yes.
Dad - No way. You were already freaked out before, and I had to carry you. Now it's dark and they have the people who jump out and scare you.
Alyssa - Yeah, me go!
(We didn't.)

Heard: Dad - Repeatedly nagging the girls to ride on a roller coaster with him.
Anna and Alyssa - No!

Seen: Dad bribing the girls with ice cream to sit and wait for him while he rides The Great White roller coaster.

Heard: Dad (On the first big drop) - Whoooooooo!
Alyssa (At a picnic table very near the roller coaster) - Dad?

Texted: Anna to Dad - Heard you screaming.
Dad to Anna - I was cheering.

Seen: Dad and Alyssa sitting outside a gift shop while Anna goes in to buy a post card. Anna then comes out and hands Dad a bag.
Anna - I don't want anyone to think I'm stealing this. (She hands over a previously-purchased nick-knack, while in her other hand is the as yet UN-purchased post card.)

Seen: A dad and his girls enjoying their Halloween. We hope you had a fun one, too!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The "Alternative" Halloween

It all started last month when I noticed October 31st fell on a Saturday. I asked the girls if they would like to spend Halloween at Sea World, and they both jumped at the chance. We know they decorate the park and have special shows during October, so we thought this would be a lot of fun.

Plus, it would get us out of Trick-0r-Treats for the year. This is a good thing, because neither girl holds their sugar well. And besides, this still left the Trunk or Treat activity our church does every year for costumes and candy.

The bombshell came a couple of weeks ago, when it was announced that Trunk or Treat would be held the same night as Anna's band concert. "I'm not going to the concert," she announced.

"You're willing to fail band just to get a bunch of candy?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied.

"I don't think so."

So this year, Halloween is going to be a little different around our house. We still brought down the old Imagewriter II box and unloaded the traditional decorations, but that's about it. We won't be buying candy or pumpkins. We're not even doing costumes this year which, after my recent dress-up post on my writer's blog, might make me a bit of a hypocrite.

But we'll still be celebrating Halloween, just in a different way, and with several thousand of our closest friends. Plus a few dozen marine mammals.

That's better than a whole pillowcase full of Tootsie Rolls and Hershey bars, right?


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kara's Meme Answers

Josi, Thank you for your kind words. You are an inspiration to us as well! I have some thoughts on who to tag. I'll pass on my suggestions to Don.

1. Where is your cell phone?....On the counter charging.

2. Your hair? ...... Thicker and curlier than ever.

3. Your mother? ...... Hopefully smiling.

4. Your father?..... cat lover.

5. Your favorite food? ...... Do I have to choose just one? cassava and yak, oh, and pumpkin pie!

6. Your dream last night?.... should've asked me when I woke up.

7. Your favorite drink?.... Since this is Texas, I have to answer Dr. Pepper. It's like the law or something.

8. Your dream/goal? .... For my family to be in perfect health and on our way to Italy.

9. What room are you in? ...... bedroom.

10. Your hobby? .... creating recipes for the family.

11. Your fear? ..... I will be stuck inside for the rest of my life!

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years?... Financially secure and physically healthy.

13. Where were you last night?..... home, watching Halloweentown with my kiddos and hubby.

14. Something you aren't?..... a seamstress

15. Muffins? ..... Love, love, love 'em. Unfortunately my kids don't.

16. Wish list item? .... Cirrus SR-22.... same as Don's. They're like a flying sports car! Way fun to fly!!

17. Where did you grow up?...... Othello, WA

18. Last thing you did?...... Take an antigen for my digestive enzyme. :-)

19. What are you wearing? ...... Green shirt and a linen floral skirt.

20. Your TV? ..... 32 inch Sony, with the captioning turned on.

21. Your pets? ......... Guinea pigs Duchess, Lillie, and Mia. Also, Tucker the orange tabby tom cat who loves it when I bring him tuna.

22. Your friends? ...... Always been one to have just a few close friends. Been able to reconnect with many on FB. Also made a few new ones through blogs ... and a few more through doctor's offices.

23. Your life?...... a much better place to be the last 1 1/2 years.

24. Your mood? .... mostly happy.

25. Missing someone? ..... All the family in Washington and Utah.

26. Vehicle? ...... Faded red Chrystler mini-van with two missing hubcaps that I am so happy to have because I can sit in it AND be able to feel relaxed and breath. White Ford Ranger with a quarter-million miles that still smells a little like rubber. Both more than half-way through their second decade.

27. Something you're not wearing? ...... Shoes

28. Your favorite store? ....... Nordstrom.

29. Your favorite color? ...... it seems to change daily. Today, dark green.

30. When was the last time you laughed? ...... A few minutes ago when Alyssa planted a "tooth pastey" kiss on my nose.

31. Last time you cried? ..... This afternoon watching this video of one of my favorite songs.

32. Your best friend?...... Don is my best friend.

33. One place that I go over and over? ....... Oh, gee, what choices. The only place I go besides my doctors office's is Whole Foods.

34. One person who emails me regularly?....... Betsy

35. Favorite place to eat? ....... Carmellos in Ausin, TX. On the corner of 5th and Red River.

Bloggy Award and Meme

Last week Kara and I were given this award by the lovely and talented Josi Kilpack, an amazing lady who has quickly become one of our favorite authors. I'm honored to consider Josi both a mentor and a friend, and I was tickled to get this award from her.

This is Josi and I at the 2009 Whitney Awards Gala.

Here's what she said about us:
Don & Kara—They joint blog, so it goes to both of them, but together, and apart, they are such examples of what life really is. They have some trials, big ones that I can’t imagine, and yet if you ever read their blog they have such joy in their lives, in each other, and in their two daughters. AND, despite their family focus and optimism amid trial, they are generous and motivated toward the accomplishment of their own goals and dreams. That is a very rare gift indeed.

Wow - that was great! Thank you, Josi.

This award comes with a meme, which I have completed below. (I'm still thinking of who to pass this award on to - I'm not particularly good at that kind of thing, although I really probably ought to be better. Maybe Kara has some suggestions...)

1. Where is your cell phone?.... In my pocket, where my thigh can press the buttons and disconnect my calls before they ring. I had a holster once, but once it was worn out enough to dump my phone all over town, I got rid of it and haven't been able to find a suitable replacement.

2. Your hair? ...... Grayer and thinner than I ever wanted it to be. But it got cut this week, so it's not too long any more.

3. Your mother? ...... The sweetest woman you would care to meet.

4. Your father?..... Brilliant and funny.

5. Your favorite food? ...... Pizza

6. Your dream last night?.... Has been completely forgotten. Certainly not as interesting as the time I dreamed I was Kermit the Frog and got to host the Muppet Show.

7. Your favorite drink?.... Since this is Texas, I have to answer Dr. Pepper. It's like the law or something.

8. Your dream/goal? .... For my sweeties and I to be well and well off enough to do some traveling - preferably in our own little plane. Vroom!

9. What room are you in? ...... office.

10. Your hobby? .... Mostly writing at the moment, although I pick up my ukulele every once in a while.

11. Your fear? ..... Missing out on the good stuff in life.

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years?... Financially secure and physically healthy.

13. Where were you last night?..... Since Anna went to the circus with a friend, I took Alyssa to her favorite place - The Ice Cream Shop (yes, that's the name). A little old drive in with very low overhead costs, serving great, inexpensive food. She got chocolate chip in a cup; I got a pineapple cone.

14. Something you aren't?..... Confident - although I've made great progress over the last dozen years.

15. Muffins? ..... I really liked the big ol' bran raisin muffins that came from Costco. I don't think they even make that flavor any more.

16. Wish list item? ...... Cirrus SR-22

17. Where did you grow up?...... Laie, HI

18. Last thing you did?...... Started making cookies - then found out the dough needs to refrigerate for an hour. Perfect for a blog break.

19. What are you wearing? ...... Kirkland Signature jeans (we go for the big labels around here) and one of the three non-Hawaiian casual shirts I own.

20. Your TV? ..... 32 inch Sony, with the captioning turned.

21. Your pets? ......... Duchess, Lilly, and Mia - the guinea pig troika. Also, Tucker the tom cat eats and sometimes sleeps in our garage.

22. Your friends? ...... Maintaining friendships during the last decade has been a real challenge. In the last few years, however, I've made a lot of great new friends and caught up with a ton of old ones, mostly through blogs and Facebook.

23. Your life?...... "an aggregate of hope and dispair; joy and pain; failure and (sometimes) success - all held together by a large helping of delusion."

24. Your mood? .... more hopeful than it's been in years.

25. Missing someone? ..... All the Utah and Washington family.

26. Vehicle? ...... Faded red Chrystler mini-van with two missing hubcaps, and a white Ford Ranger with a quarter-million miles. Both more than half-way through their second decade.

27. Something you're not wearing? ...... Shoes

28. Your favorite store? ....... It's not PetSmart, I can tell you that. Or Toys R Us. I'd have to say Ikea.

29. Your favorite color? ...... Purple

30. When was the last time you laughed? ...... A couple of hours ago, during AFV. Love that show!

31. Last time you cried? ..... A couple of weeks ago, looking through pictures of fun times before Kara got sick and the world turned upside down.

32. Your best friend?...... Kara is my best friend. Anna and Alyssa are tied for a close second.

33. One place that I go over and over? ....... This year, it's been Sea World in San Antonio - 4.5 hours away. I'm kind of looking forward to the season passes expiring on January 1.

34. One person who emails me regularly?....... David Farland. Okay, so it's actually a daily email newsletter. Still, it's regular.

35. Favorite place to eat? ....... It's been over a decade since I've been there, but my favorite place to eat is Mangia Pizza in Austin. Yum! I looked them up real quick, just to make sure they're still in business, and found that they've opened a location right across from the apartments where we used to live. It's probably a good thing that wasn't open when we were there - pizza every night!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Few Recipes to Keep You Going

Things have been happening here. Rain and temperatures are both falling, animal populations are shifting and changing, and seasonal decorations are finding their way out of the attic. We also got a nice blog award from our friend, Josi, and we'll be posting about that soon.

But first, a report on some of the fun things happening in the kitchen.

We have an old recipe, a new recipe, a blue recipe, and they're all borrowed. (It kinda works, right?)

Okay, here we go. First up, the old: Gingerbread.

This is an old favorite. We've been making these cookies for years. With the cooler weather, it's now gingerbread season, although in my opinion it's always gingerbread season.

In the interest of typing time, blog space, and giving proper credit, I'll go ahead and link to the recipe. We use the classic Betty Crocker recipe, which can be found here.

Next is the blue: Almond Blueberry Cookies.

These are some cookies Kara recently came up with. They have quickly become a favorite. They taste a lot like blueberry muffins. Yum! The recipe is on the Food Network site, and can be found here.

The new is: Soft Pretzels.

We got this recipe long ago from a friend of ours, Bette Hawley, in a ward cookbook. I've been itching to make soft pretzels for a long time now, and finally did it.

I decided to make sticks instead of twists for several reasons. First, they're easier, and I wanted to focus on the baking rather than the twisting. Second, sticks take up less room on the sheet, so I could bake the whole batch at once. And finally, each serving is smaller - so important when one's delusions involve trying to lose weight. Never mind that I ate six last night after they were done. Ahem.

Anyway, here's the recipe for the pretzels:

1 Tbsp. Yeast
1 1/3 c. warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/2-4 c. flour
1 egg white + 1 Tbsp water

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add to remaining ingredients. Knead for 5 minutes. Let rise until double. Roll and shape. Brush with egg white and water mixture. Sprinkle with salt. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.

Mine went longer than the fifteen minutes, but I didn't time to see exactly how much longer. I got 20 sticks, each 40 grams of dough. (Yes, I weigh as I divide my dough. It's a nerd thing.)

Have a great week, and bake up something yummy!