Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gift Card Love

Kris and I received some gift cards for Christmas, which we LOVE! So last night after dinner, we headed off in search of some great deals and new stuff. I know I know, but it's a rare time when we buy things that include clothes or superfluous things that aren't for the house or to eat. So, we were pretty excited! We decided to go to Target to start, we never really shop there, so it was actually a nice change of scenery as well. We didn't use both of the gift cards we each had, but I scoured the sale racks and found some pretty great deals! I love the racks that are like, 50% or more off, hey, if you pay retail all the time, you are wasting your money I say! I bought 4 out of 5 shirts from the sales rack, one was just too darn pretty to leave on the hanger, even though it was full price I bought it anyway. But hey, 4 out of 5 isn't bad! I decided I needed to buy really nice, pretty shirts that I can pair with a skirt on Sunday and it looks dressy enough, or pair it with jeans to go on a date with, so I think I accomplished my mission. Kris got some clothes also, but he was on his own, so I can't tell you about his adventures in the store. Marin, although she got tons of stuff for Christmas, did pick a few books off of the 1$ shelf, she was being such a good girl :)

Here is my little monkey girl eating her pancake! She LOVES pancakes, and I have found that if I just make a batch for the the family and cook the rest of the batter and freeze the pancakes, I have a super quick breakfast in the morning! I also make pumpkin pancakes and freeze those too, just to get a few more vitamins in her ;)

Today is off to the gym and laundry, then grocery shopping!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Case of the Missing Food Storage

So, I had ordered some food storage at church on Sunday, and I called the girl who was going to be delivering my stuff to ask when she was going to be dropping it off or if I needed to go pick it up. She said she had already delivered it.....Hmmmmm? I called and asked Kris if maybe he put it away somewhere......No? Hmmmmm. My only conclusion is that someone must have stolen it! Crazy right?! At first I thought that they only would have taken it if they saw what it was and really needed it, but after a conversation with my brother-the-cop, he said it doesn't matter what it is, people don't even look at what it is they are taking, they just take it. Well, I guess I hope they put it to good use then! I'm not mad, but it does make me scrunch my face up to think about someone stealing a few cans that contain powdered milk, dried onions and potato pearls...haha! I wonder what they must have thought when they opened it up and saw that! Oh well :)

I made some Christmas goodies last week and put them in cute little cellophane bags to deliver. I love the cellophane bags because I think they look nicer than a paper plate covered with plastic wrap or tin foil. Anyway, here is my basket full and ready to deliver!

I have been giving Marin a spoon pretty much every time I give her a meal. She will sometimes try to use it and other times just go in and grab. I thought I would give yogurt a try, and do you know, she got the hang of it! It was just thick enough to stick to the spoon so she could get some every time she dipped it in. She finished the whole thing with her spoon!

Goin' in for more!

Oh, and the Dinner Club meal calendar is all set for January! I am so excited for this meal exchange and can't wait to see how things go, I will certainly let you all know. Maybe it's something you can try where you live!
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Holiday Recap

Wow, I cannot believe that Christmas is over! It seems as though we have been looking forward to it for so long and now it's gone! I am happy to be moving into the new year though, it's nice to finish off the year with a happy Christmas celebration, and send you into the new year with a smile on your face and relief that the holidays are over.

Santa did indeed find our home and Marin fared pretty well. She got some pretty new dresses, a puzzle and bath toy from Grandma and Grandpa Owens, a fun Curious George toy and homemade pillowcase from Grandpa Duane and Sallie, and Bestamor gave her some incredible footage of Kris as a kid on two thoughtful CD's. She also scored some large Lego's, play-dough, a coloring book, and some other fun little toys. She has certainly been a good girl, and all of her gifts were well deserved. Besides, her gifts at this stage of life aren't very expensive, so we can get more bang for our buck!

We appreciate all of the gifts that our family has sent to Marin and Kris and me. You have all been so kind and thoughtful and we really do think you are all just the best. I e-mailed out a little last-minute Christmas update on our family, and although I would have loved to send out the real deal Christmas card with family picture, well....we didn't. Hopefully the blog is enough!

Kris and I had some friends over for dinner on Christmas Day, and it was wonderfully relaxed and easygoing. I had prepared most of the food the evening before, so all I had to do was turn the oven on and wait, it was great! I embarked on a French culinary adventure as I attempted to make croque-en-bouche, a traditional French wedding "cake" this year for the dessert. It is a tower of creme puffs stuck together with a caramel sugar syrup that hardens to make it crispy, hence the literal translation that means "crunch in mouth". Well, I had tried it quite a few years ago, and I don't think I cooked the sugar to the right temperature, because nothing stuck together. This time around though....it was JUST right, and everything stuck and hardened and it really turned out great! It wasn't as tall as I expected, but hey, who's complaining?

I've loaded a short slide show so you can catch a glimpse of our Christmas this year. I hope you all had a great holiday! What did you do to celebrate the season this year?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Sense

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints via last.fm

You know, I got to thinking the other day about the Christmas Season and what it means to different people. And I started wondering what it is that people celebrate when they don't believe in Christ. It certainly can't be Santa Clause, I think we have all determined the truth about his existence (for the little ones though, he IS real!). Is it the presents then? Or the dinner? The cookies, the cards, the snow? What do they celebrate? Then, it hit me. An oh-so-sly twist of irony from God Himself. It made me laugh. These non-believers in their infinite wisdom of all things mortal, fail to realize that every year, as they decorate the Christmas tree, and bake goodies for their neighbors and wrap gifts to place under the tree, are in truth, paying homage to their God they renounce on every other day. They acknowledge His life and death without realizing it. Some may claim that Christ never lived, that He never came into the world, but with records that date back over 2,000 years, who can deny that he DID live? We may not be able to prove of his mortal existence (Bible excluded momentarily), but we certainly can't say he didn't exist. Even if he WAS just an ordinary man? But then again, if a man named Jesus Christ was so ordinary, why are we celebrating his life over 2,000 years later? Certainly Gandhi was an extraordinary man of many good deeds and a lifetime of accomplishments, why then, do we not celebrate his life every year with trees and cards and well wishing? Perhaps then, the truth might lie within each of us, and our willingness to open our eyes, and hearts to a simple, but extraordinary man named Jesus, that was born so long ago, to save us from our own silly ignorance. We celebrate His life every year at Christmas-time and Easter and for perhaps, too few of us, on Sunday's. Whether or not we pass those words from our mouth or remain flatly indignant each year, we acknowledge His power and glory, especially at Christmas-time because we know He lives.

A new year is coming, and perhaps a time for new beginnings. My family and I are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or Mormon's if you prefer that term). We believe in God, his Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. We believe that Christ came to this world in the humblest of beginnings and lived His life and died for us, and will come again. We also believe that the gospel was restored to it's entirety through a man chosen by God, Joseph Smith in the early 1800's. We believe that families are eternal and are CENTRAL to God's plan and only through the sealing powers of the temple can we be together forever with our spouse and family. Please take this special time of year to reflect on the true meaning of the season and perhaps what God's plan for you is.

You can learn more about of church by visiting here: http://www.lds.org/ .

I wish each and every one of you the Merriest Christmas ever and wonderful everything! Our family has been eternally blessed by Him, and we wish those same wonderful blessings on each and every one of you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Almost Here!

Christmas is almost here! I can't believe it! This will be our 4th Christmas together for Kris and I, time is just FLYING by. Wow. Well, I have purchased a few things for Kris and those are wrapped and sitting under the tree, but I haven't gotten anything for Marin yet, except for her stocking stuffers. I would love to get her a little table and chair set she can use to start eating her meals at and color at etc..., but I'm not sure how pricey that's going to be, so we may just settle for a couple of toys.

Christmas Day we've invited a couple from our ward over for dinner, they don't have children yet, but she used to be my visiting teacher and they are such nice people. I know I'll be making a yummy pork roast, but I'm not sure what else to have....hmmmmm.....I think I need some ideas. Maybe for dessert I was thinking a traditional French Croque-en-Bouche. It's a bunch a little creme puffs stuck together with a caramel sauce in the shape of a tower. We'll see how ambitious I get!

The other night Marin helped me make some vegetable lasagna, and it was soooo good! She tried to be such a big helper, and will push the chair over to the counter when she wants to be a part of the action, silly girl!

I cut a slice of apple for her, but she was more interested in the BIG part of the apple than the slice.
Helping mommy with the lasagna! And my shameful pile of dirty dishes in the background, don't look!

Vegetable Lasagna:
Filling: *Half of a large onion, cut into small chunks
*1 large clove of garlic, minced
*1 carrot, grated
*1 medium zucchini, grated
*1 medium yellow summer squash, grated
*1 pkg button mushrooms, sliced
*3 C packed fresh spinach, chopped (it wilts down to nothing), you can use the frozen kind, just only use about half.
*Any other vegetable you want to try!
-Sautee the onion and garlic until soft and translucent, add in the other veggies and cook until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside in large bowl to cool. Then add:
*1, 15 oz container part skim ricotta cheese
*1/2 C grated parmesean cheese
*1 egg
*S&P to taste
-Combine and set aside.
****You will need to make a garlic Bechemel sauce (if you aren't sure how to do this, check my food column sidebar or my other blog for how to do it, it's so easy!). You'll need about 3 cups.
Assembly: I use the no-boil lasagna noodles (SO EASY!)
*Spread a bit of bechemel in the bottom of your baking dish.
*Top with no-boil lasagna noodles.
*Spread hard noodles with your filling.
*Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
*Ladle some of your bechemel over that evenly.
*Continue until your baking dish is full.
*BAKE at 350 covered with aluminum foil for about 40 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 20 minutes or so. Cooking time depends on size of baking dish.
You will LOVE this lasagna, Marin gobbled it right down! Let me know how you do!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Festivity

Last night was a rare evening as I had no YW and Kris had no homework (Tuesday was the last night of class before a two week break!), so we took the opportunity to have a little celebration! Kris is about halfway through his MBA program and I am so proud of him! He has worked so hard and well, I can't say enough about how much I love him and how I see his love as he spends night after late night sitting in front of the computer trying to make a better life for his family. Anyway, we went to the Olive Garden for dinner and took miss Marin monkey with us....nervously. She has a bad reputation for acting up in restaurants if you don't know already. Kris and I were astonished at how good she was! She sat in her high chair and ate her tomatoes and noodles and even some chicken, the meal was SOOOO pleasant! Kris and I talked and made googley eyes at each other ;) as we watched our daughter eat her dinner, it was fantastic.

After dinner, we headed over to the Bellagio to check out their atrium. One of our favorite seasonal activites. They had of course decorated for Christmas and it was just lovely. Marin had a blast running everywhere and taking in the festive splendor. She kept saying "Oooooooh!" and "Woooow!", so cute. As a side note, I can put her hair in piggy tails on the side of her head, getting most of her hair in the pig tail, it is soooo cute, and it makes her look so grown up!

Here are some of our pictures!

Marin giveng mama a snuggle is the atrium, I love Marin snuggles!
A giant ornament with squirty water underneath.

Marin and Kris in front of the giantest Christmas tree EVER, just wait until you see the rest of the pics.

Isn't this tree HUGE? I think it must be close to, heck, I don't know, it reached to very tippy top of the atrium though. It was beautiful to see something so massive all decorated and lit up.

This picture should give you an idea of how big this tree is, Kris is standing to the right of the base of the tree.

Marin interacting with the camera.

Mr. Snowman. Would you believe he is made of real flowers?

Ooooh, daddy look!

Mommy, what are we looking at here?!

Waiting for the train to come around on the track.

It was such a great night, and Kris is glad to be done with school for a couple of weeks. He finished off his Quantitative Reasoning in Business class (ummm, blech!) and needs to recouperate. Anyone can BS their way through a paper, but you can't really do that with math problems. And I'm no help with math anyway, so he was kind of on his own.
Hopefully next week will be a little less hectic, these past two weeks have been crazy, and I am ready to be home with my family. Have a great one!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Naptime Drama

Oh....My....GOODNESS! For about the last two weeks, we can't figure out if Marin wants one nap or two naps a day. Most days, it's a toss up. Either way, she only sleeps for about a total of an hour during the day now, and it is driving me CRAZY! I am used to having her sleep between 2-4 hours for her nap or naps combined, and I am not adjusting well. And today, my patience is oh-so-thin. I think she slept for about half an hour this time around, and she has been yelling in her crib for the other half an hour. I am scrambling to find a routine to fit her into, and nothing is working. Any advice is welcome!

Monday, December 14, 2009


We tell Marin so many times every day "I Love You!", and now she can say it back....kind of.... it sounds more like "I Lub", and then she lays her head on your shoulder. So sweet!

Last week was CRAZY! Yikes! I finished up work on Saturday and was glad to be done. We finally managed to get our Christmas tree up and decorated, hooray! I tried to let Marin help me decorate the tree, but she was so much more interested in hanging onto the decorations and running all over the house with them. So I gave her some jingle bells and a Christmas tin and let her have fun. I will have to take a picture of our tree, it is the the fattest little tree I have ever seen!

Coming up in January, and I am reeeeeally excited about this, two of my friends from the ward and I are starting a dinner club together! If you have never heard of one, this is what it's about: We all choose a day of the week we want to cook a meal, and we make enough for the other families and drop off dinner. Isn't that great?! I get three meals a week for the price of one big meal! I love it! We have worked out the details and I am so excited to start things up. Not only will I get the opportunity to share my meals and recipes with other people, but I get to try great new recipes from other people, pretty cool, no?!

Starting in February, my work schedule is going to be crazy. Lest I have some administrative readers from the hospital, I shan't get into the gory and ridiculous reasons why I will have no consistency to my schedule whatsoever. What I WILL say, is that I am lucky enough to have another LDS girl from work that I will be kid swapping with. That is going to be a huge money saver for us, and a great opportunity for Marin to make some new friends!

And can you believe, I have not done a LICK of Christmas shopping! Not that this year Kris and I are allowing much shopping as we spent more than enough on our Paris tickets. A couple of gifts under the Christmas tree will be more than plenty :) I do need to get on the ball with my Christmas baking, I was thinking of making some chocolate bark and shotrbread cookies for the families on my list....mmmmmm :)

Marin is down to one bottle a day, her bedtime bottle, and has done surprisingly well! Of course, she'll never refuse a bottle, but she will drink from her sippy cup when she's thirsty, and I'm satisfied with her number of wet diapers a day, so I think we are A-O-K. Next step....POTTY TRAINING! And I do wonder if she is on her way to one nap a day. Some days she wants two, other days she refuses to go down for a second nap and screams the whole time. Speaking of screaming, I hear a little girl who had a too-short nap yelling for her mommy.

Marin and daddy having story time, she loves daddy and loves story time.
Marin helps me go get the mail in the evening time, and she waits for me to hand her the mail key, here she is waiting for that key!

Putting the jingle bells into the Christmas tin!

Have a good one!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Weekend Jumble

Back to Monday again eh? The weeks just fly by now! Work was busy and I can't ever wait to get home to my smiley little girl and delicious hubby. We were scheduled to have the missionaries over for dinner on Sunday, but they called to say they had the flu, so I whipped up some chicken noodle soup and homemade bread for Kris to drop off to them. Our friend BJ came by for a visit and we had mac and cheese, crunch green beans and cupcakes, quite the jumble!

This week is going to be BUSY! I just got a call for some last minute visiting teaching this afternoon, tomorrow is baby watching day, Wednesday I have a meeting for work in the morning, Thursday morning I have a presidency meeting for Young Women's, then I have a policy meeting at seven that night, and Friday and Saturday is back to work. Yikes! Like I said, the weeks are flying by!

Those are some snowy white cupcakes! No snow here in Las Vegas though...

Ahhh, yes, I almost forgot! I made some delicious 'Chicken with Forty Cloves' for dinnner last week, that chicken was sooooo tender and delicious, yum. Plus, I got to use my dutch over :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Final Countdown

We have taken Marin down to two bottles a day now, hooray! I am excited not to have to deal with bottles anymore, and a little sad I guess. It's yet another manifestation that my baby girl is...well, not a baby anymore! We've cut out her morning bottle, which she seems to be doing well with, she is a bit more eager to eat breakfast and also a bit more willing to take her sippy cup because she's so thirsty. She takes a bottle mid morning around 11 or so, and then her other one at bedtime. The next one to cut out will be the mid morning one, and the final will be the bedtime. I am hoping to get all of the bottles out by 18 months, and then it's on to potty training, yikes! I can't believe I am even saying that.

You know what's funny is that last night, the YW activity was at the home of one of the other leaders who had a baby in October, and as I held her baby, I thought "Wow! My little girl used to be this little?!". Every day she is more and more like a little girl, I can't say it enough! It wasn't enough to make me want another one just yet though. I am happy to have my body to myself for a little while, and it's nice not to be carrying a baby everywhere and have a walking child (sooo nice!). Soon enough I suppose, right?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Little Trip to the Park

The weather here has been just about warm enough to spend some time outside, and the other day Marin and I went to the park to run off some energy. She was able to play with some other kiddo's her age and came home STARVING! She ate all of her avacado grilled cheese sandwich and mandarin oranges and went down for a nice long nap.

It has been fun to see Marin grow every day. More and more she is looking and acting like a little girl instead of a baby. She understands and comprehends and responds and it amazes me that she is so smart! Here is her list of current words:

*uh-huh, sock, shoe, sadie, no, hot, all done, dog, kitty, uh-oh, wow, mama, dad, wheee!, what's that (sounds like "uh-sat").*

She has also gotten into cuddling lately, and it's been so nice. Marin was never a cuddly baby, I guess she's like her mama that way. She has never been able to fall asleep in your arms and wants to be up and looking at the world all of the time. Lately though, she will climb up on my lap and either put her head on my chest or on my shoulder. It is so sweet!

Picture Time!

Marin taking stock of the chain ladder. Hmmmmm, can I do it mommy?
I love this picture! She is trying so hard to climb the rock wall! Making daddy proud :)

Mama, can you help me? This looks like fun!
She LOVED the slides and got a huge grin on her face when we went down them. Such a big girl.

Have a great day!
P.S.: I've loaded some Christmas music onto my music player, so turn your sound on for a little holiday spirit!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Not your Granmother's Gravy

Gravy can sound hard, but it's really simple, and no need for lumps or a nasty flour taste! You can make gravy ahead of time and warm it on the stove, but if you are using turkey or chicken drippings, you may not be able to do this. You can have delicious gravy in 4 easy steps....no joke! Try this out:

Prep: Chop one medium onion and refrigerate until ready.

1. Pour chicken or turkey drippings into a saucepan (if there is a lot of oil on top, you can skim some off) over med heat.
2. Pull out your onions and dump them into the drippings, S&P, sautee until golden brown and soft.
3. Sprinkle in 2-3 TBS of flour and cook for at least one minute (this gets rid of that raw flour taste).
4. Pour in 2-3 C. chicken broth and whisk until combined and just the right consistency, add more or less depending on your taste, S&P as desired.


*Do NOT add more flour in the end all by itself, you will get nasty raw flour lumps in your gravy. If you MUST thicken the gravy, melt some butter in a seperate bowl and mix in flour, stir well and pour into gravy. Slowly stir to combine and thicken.

Tackling the Turkey

Thanksgiving turkey - with recipeImage by master phillip via Flickr

Thanksgiving can be CRAZY stressful....if you let it. Keep this in mind: pretty much everything can be made in advance and finished off on the big day, so you can spend time with your family and friends.

Let's start with the turkey, don't be afraid, just because it may be big, doesn't mean it has to be scary.

Purchasing: Buy a fresh turkey, it will make a difference in what the final product tastes like. Of course, if you can even get a turkey slaughtered for you, that would be way cool, but hey, work with what you have. Plus, you don't have to worry about defrosting the turkey at home, yuck, what a nightmare.

Flavor Prep: Do this the night before. Combine: Olive oil and softened butter, fresh rosemary and thyme, chopped, poultry seasoning and dried sage, salt and pepper. I haven't given you amounts, it's going to depend on how big your bird is. Set aside. Chop 2 onions into quarters, you don't even have to take the skin off. Chop 2 garlic heads in half, skin on. Set the veggies aside.

Getting Dirty: Take your turkey and remove all the stuff from the inside, you know the gizzards and neck etc. Wash your turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Find the ...ahem...large hole between the thighs and slide your fingers in between the skin and meat of the bird on the breasts. Be gentle and continue separating the skin all the way over the breasts, being careful not to tear the skin. Take some of your rub and slather underneath the skin, then all over the top of the skin, the thighs and the rest of the bird. Grab your onions and garlic and stuff the inside of the bird with them, pack them in there!

Final Evening Prep: Tuck the wings under where the neck would be, tie the thighs together with string and place your bird on the roasting rack in the pan. Pour some cooking (non alcoholic) white wine, and chicken broth into the roasting pan, add in a few bay leaves, some more dried sage and cover your turkey for the night and po into the fridge.

Morning Prep: About an hour before you need to put the turkey into the oven, pull it out of the fridge and do a technique called "icing the breasts". Since dark meat takes longer to come to the same temp as the white meat, we want to keep the breasts chilled while the rest of the bird comes to room temp. So fill a plastic bag with ice and place on the breasts while you preheat the oven. Right before you pop the bird in the oven, remove the bag of ice and drizzle the whole bird lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with more salt and pepper.

Cooking: High heat, around 425 for about 20-30 minutes to get the sking crispy, then lower the temp to 325 or 350 for the rest of the cooking time. Of course, cooking time will vary, but you are looking for an internal temp of 165. Don't baste, if you keep opening the door, the temp will lower and your cooking time will increase. If you need, in the middle of the cooking process, add more white wine or broth to the bottom of the roasting pan to keep it moist.

Finishing: Remove your turkey, cover lightly with foil and let it sit for at least 15 minutes to let the juices redistribute. Carve and enjoy!

*You can most definately do this with chicken, I have done it many times before and it turns out great, good luck!