Monday, October 30, 2006

Our Week and Other Major World Events...

Well, another week has passed by, more or less uneventfully. The kids have been busily occupied with counting down the days, hours and minutes until Halloween and trick-or-treating.

Dave had some particularly long work hours this week, so I amused myself with further culinary adventures. Among the dishes I attempted were Cider-Glazed Roast Pork Loin accompanied by sage-butter penne, and pumpkin soup (made from a real pumpkin). I also attempted to make delectable Banana Muffins and Penne with Spinach Garlic Cream Sauce.

A few notes on my discoveries: if you ever attempt to make pumpkin soup from a pumpkin (something that I have deduced that most sane people only do once) and attempt to peel it, make sure to have on hand a very sharp knife or a sledgehammer. Also, if you are going to go to all the work to slice and clean a fresh pumpkin for soup, don't completely ruin it by using cheap powdered $1 chicken bouillon powder from Walgreens. That said, the other dishes turned out pretty well. Strangely, I am finding that whenever I get on a cooking hobby kick, for some strange reason, our kitchen has unflagging huge piles of dirty dishes, try as I might to contain them. Hmmmm, more evidence that you really just can't have it all.....

I am continuing my workout program with great vigor but diminishing enthusiasm. I feel great after my workouts and revel in my confidence that this will bring lifelong intangible health benefits, but I weighed myself recently and since I started my program I have GAINED 4 pounds. Needless to say, I am really ticked off. Dave has tried to point out to me that I might be building muscle as a result of my weight lifting and it might be healthy weight gain, but I told him that was such a guy way to look at it. HEALTHY weight gain??? Whatever. Okay, fine, he may have a point, but I don't want to have to start lying on my drivers license form.

I started exercising regularly as an outlet for myself, to increase my general health and feel-good-ness, not as a weight-loss program, so why am I ticked off at a few pounds? Well, you would think that if I am working so hard and being so diligent (I have done this program faithfully for a whole 4 weeks now), =] that by now I would- just as a token side benefit of course- have an amazingly flat stomach and toned muscles that would put any supermodel to shame. Hmmmmm, maybe I do fall into the exercising-because-I'm-an-egomaniac-who-wants-to-look-like-Cindy-Crawford category. So how did I get from "I'm going to work out so I feel good and have an outlet for myself" to "I'm ticked off that I'm 4 pounds heavier?" Alas, vanity loves to intrude itself.

We had a tri-ward "trunk or treat" on Friday night, which was a huge highlight for Jared and Camryn. Jared dressed as Pooh Bear and Camryn dressed as a beautiful princess (wearing... guess what color... pink). When our home teachers came today, Jared informed them that there was a lucky adult who was going to get a surprise for being good and quiet during the lesson and he gave one of our home teachers a Kit Kat from his trunk-or-treat candy. Camryn, not to be outdone by her brother, gave our other home teacher a special surprise: a lollipop! A member of the bishopric came over to discuss a calling with Dave and I, and Jared and Camryn spent the first 10 minutes eagerly telling him about the trunk or treat and showing him their "Rhinoceros Tap" book page by page. When we went to a neighbor's house for a potluck tonight (and I was carrying a 10 lb. casserole) Camryn started to have a cow because she wanted to hold my hand and couldn't figure out why I wouldn't just drop the casserole and hold her hand instead.

So, Dave and I have a new calling together... in the Primary. We are being called to do Primary music together. Between the two of us we will conduct the music and play the piano, to be divided between us however we like. Having just finished a two-year stint as primary music director in January, at first I wasn't super-thrilled, but then I remembered that nobody in this ward has seen any of my ideas yet, so I can just recycle!! And I thought I was going to have to pack all my drums, scarves, bells and rhythm instruments in a box in the garage.... Dave suggested that maybe he can just accompany the primary on the guitar. I thought that was an awesome idea. So this does sound like fun after all. We're going to have the Dave and Karen show! (We'll see how long they like us doing this.... ) At first I was worried that are fun plans would come to naught because I know you can't have guitar in sacrament meeting, but Dave pointed out that you don't usually do rhythm instruments and scarves in sacrament meeting either, so we're probably OK.=]
So that's the long version of our uneventful week. Hope you are all doing well. Love you all!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Coconut Macaroons!!

Hi everyone,

A long time ago I found a recipe for fabulous coconut macaroons (the big chewy kind that you can get at specialty bakeries dipped in chocolate), but I lost it and have been mourning its loss ever since. Well, today I found another recipe for coconut macaroons; I made it and it was just like my other recipe! Given my rejoicing at this find, I thought it appropriate to share my happiness with my family, especially because they are super-easy and fast to make (they take about 2 1/2 minutes to mix up). This just makes one more thing besides marzipan that we have to make and dip in chocolate over Christmas break.....

These are super easy. They turn out yummy and chewy and would be great dipped in chocolate. If you don't have a cookie scoop, form the cookies into haystacks with your fingers, moistening your hands with water as needed to prevent sticking.
1 large egg white
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt

1¼ cups (3¾ oz.) sweetened flaked coconut
2 Tb. cornstarch
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together the egg white, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Toss the coconut and cornstarch together in a medium bowl, making sure to thoroughly coat the coconut with the cornstarch. Pour the liquid ingredients over the coconut mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until evenly moistened.

Drop heaping round tablespoons of batter onto baking sheet. Bake until light golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool the macaroons on the baking sheet until slightly set, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack. Cool for 10 minutes and serve. Makes 10 cookies.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Another Update Already?

Well, not much of consequence has happened since our last update, especially since our last one was sent late. I will forewarn you that this letter has not much in the way of exciting, important or relevant information, so feel free to skim or skip as you choose.

My latest thing (and about the only thing I have right now that resembles a goal...excuse me for a moment here while I pat myself on the back) is I have gone to the YMCA to work out 3x a week (consistently!) for the past 3 weeks. Not only that, but I have done 45-50 minutes of high-intensity cardio workout AND an additional 20 minutes or so weight lifting each time I have gone. (And no, I wasn't just tagging along with Dave, our household champion of fit lifestyles.) This is only funny coming from me, a lifetime, card-carrying member of the anti-workout club, who secretly believes that the only reason people really work out is because they are masochists who enjoy pain and discomfort or ego-maniacs who want to look like Arnold Schwarzennegger or Cindy Crawford. Well, I guess the fat lady has sung (or I've become a masochist or an ego-maniac =] ), because not only am I working out, I'm actually enjoying it. Maybe it's just because I have 90 minutes 3x a week when I actually can do something for myself, by myself (let me just say, hooray for YMCA childwatch!!) or maybe it is the fact that I can blast my mp3 player (thank you, Dave!) and let out any pent-up aggression built up from dealing with temperamental preschoolers without harming anyone or causing damage to property. =]

Now, having said that, I am finding a strange coincidence. In the past few weeks I have been having a very hard time keeping the house clean. In fact, the house seems to be in a perpetual state of decline from extraordinarily messy to national health hazard. We spent all day Saturday trying to restore some order and cleanliness to the house, as we were on the verge of having to open a ferry to get from the kid's room door to their bunk bed. Now, you may think that I am implying that this circumstance has something to do with my new regularity of workouts at the YMCA, but no, I am not trying to evade responsibility. I'm just finding you just can't have it all- at least not at the same time. =]

Jared continues to write prolifically and to be the most accurate phonetic speller I've ever seen. Too bad English isn't spelled phonetically (maybe he is a Russian at heart). He recently wrote in marker on a paint stick, "We r u prt uv u famly" (translation: We are a part of a family). I have to say, his way of spelling it makes much more sense. As I write this, he wrote "RTHR" (translation: Arthur) and is now currently drawing an October calendar: he is drawing rows of boxes, starting with "1" in the bottom left corner of the page, each with a number and a neatly-drawn candy corn.

We got adventurous this weekend and took the kids out for Thai food on Saturday night. After two years of avoiding Asian cuisine with the kids (after a disastrous outing at Chef Chu's that involved screaming and not very much eating) we finally tried again. And the shock of the evening was.... the kids liked it! They gobbled up their Vietnamese stir-fried pork and Pad Thai noodles. In fact, they liked it so much, that today during the Sacrament Meeting primary program, Jared spent the whole time telling the member of the Primary Presidency who was sitting next to him, "Last night we went out for Thai food. It's food from Thailand. I really liked the yummy sweet pork. It was SO good." At least that was what he did when he wasn't popping up and down in his seat, waving to Camryn with one hand and picking his nose with the other.

Well, that's more than anyone wanted or needed to hear, but that was our week..... Love ya.

Karen, Dave and kids

There are only two things a child will share willingly; communicable diseases and its mother's age. -Benjamin Spock

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Momentous, Stupendous Update

Dear Family,

Yet another week has passed by. We hit our 3-month anniversary of moving to Oregon on the 15th. (Wow, isn't it funny how time flies and drags at the same time?) A lot of this update will be similar to Susan's, but since I started writing it a few days ago, I'm going to send it anyway.

We had the chance to go to Richland, WA on Saturday and Sunday. Chris and Crystal (Dave's brother and his wife) were having their daughter Cailyn's baby blessing. After a beauftiful drive through the Columbia River Gorge and a not-so-beautiful drive through desert-y central/eastern oregon, we got to Chris and Crystal's on Saturday afternoon for our momentous first meeting with baby Cailyn! Cailyn is beautiful and absolutely perfect (my compliments to the parents=] ) and Chris gave her a beautiful, inspired blessing on Sunday.

Crystal's dad is an apple farmer, so on Saturday afternoon, Chris took Dave, Jared, Camryn, Susan and I on a tour of his orchard. We picked a few apples (okay, a few large boxes of apples) and Dave tried out Phil's 4-wheeler to see how fast it could accelerate (only shortening my life by a few hours as a result....). Dave has since informed me that we need to add a 4-wheeler to our list of must-purchase cool toys. As we were getting ready to get home and it was getting colder and darker, Camryn came up up to me with her shirt off. When I asked her why she took her shirt off, she replied, "Because I'm SO sweaty!" Okay, so which parent is she related to? Probably as a result of this escapade, Camryn got a nice, big, fat mosquito bite right next to her belly button.

On Monday, we celebrated the momentous and stupendous occasion of Jared turning in his first.... homework assignment! Before you are shocked at this unseemly example of child labor, you should know that the assignment involved tracing, coloring and cutting out shapes and gluing them on to a page to make your own monster (yes, they work them hard, even in kindergarten).

Jared and Camryn are obsessed with "mailing" letters right now. We actually ran out of a ream of paper and are running low on envelopes since they started the habit of writing several "letters" multiple times a day. Camryn, amazingly, has started writing her name. She can write "CAM" by herself, complete with an upside-down A, and can copy the other letters of her name if you write them for her.

Yesterday I went to the dentist for the first time in a while (after a break of I won't say how long... Hooray for dental coverage and good health insurance!). Camryn and Jared also had their well-child check-ups with our new doctor. I was informed that if Camryn keeps on the same growth trend she has had thus far in life, she's on target to be 5'11". Despite this shocking surprise, =] I had already resigned myself to being the shortest- er, um, second-shortest =] -person in Dave's family, so my self-esteem was undeterred by this revelation.

So this momentous update has turned out to be much ado about nothing. Oh well. The less there is to say, the more words it takes to say it in.=] I hope you all are having a great week. Love,

Karen (and D,J, and C)

Where have all the clean clothes gone? Kids have worn them, every one....

Sunday, October 8, 2006

The Ever-Anticipated Update

Hi everyone,

We had a very exciting week. After swimming lessons on Monday, Camryn got the week off to a rousing start by barfing in Safeway while we were shopping for groceries. Luckily we had just started shopping so we were able to make a quick exit after cleaning it up with the complimentary sanitize-your-cart-handle wipes. We took Camryn to the doctor on Tuesday to make sure she was staying hydrated, but she was and they said it was basically a wait-it-out kind of thing. So Camryn (and I) had a less-than-exciting week of mostly staying indoors and trying to stay away from people. By Thursday she was feeling better and was back to preschool (where she painted a very nice picture of a tree).

Jared, luckily, did not get whatever Camryn had. He had his school pictures taken on Wednesday.

He continues to experiment in the kitchen. The other day while I was upstairs, he made himself a bowl of cinnamon sugar and when I came down (and was a trifle suspicious that some cinnamon-snitching had taken place) he had a great cover up: "Mom, I made this bowl of cinnamon sugar for you to eat and put in the cinnamon jar" (this was said with brown lips and face). However, I was very impressed when he reproduced the feat of making a bowl of cinnamon sugar completely by himself with no help (this involved climbing the counters to get down the sugar). On Tuesday and Wednesday since we were stuck at home all day, I used the afternoons to experiment in the kitchen. I concocted chicken with herb butter, tri-color fettucine, cinnamon-sugar acorn squash and broiled herb tomatoes on Tuesday and then on Wednesday we made home-made applesauce in the microwave along with pot roast. Jared and Camryn enjoyed making the homemade applesauce, but when it came to eating it, they preferred the Tree-Top variety we get from Costco (their loss!).

On Thursday, I was still in the "I would rather cook than clean" mode, so I decided that I wanted to try to invent something with our pot-roast leftovers since we had lots and I didn't really feel like a meal of now-mushy carrots and potatoes. So I (and I have to say, I am so proud of myself over this) invented a recipe with our leftovers and it was amazing. In a frying pan I mixed up the leftover potatoes, carrots and roast with the leftover gravy (thinned down with a little milk) and added some thyme, basil and oregano. I topped it with biscuits and baked it to make a roast beef pie. Combined with a side of acorn squash topped with cinnamon-brown sugar-walnuts, it was a great meal. It was quite comical how excited and thrilled I was about my invention- I even called my mom- but hey- simple pleasures.

But that was about as exciting as my week got. And apparently all of my culinary adventures must have sapped my energy because by the time Saturday came around, I (gasp) did not feel like working on the yard. At all. And Dave didn't either. I guess the yard mania must have passed.

Dave got transferred to a new project at work this week. He was kind of disappointed because he really liked his old project, but he's building a gizmo to take measurements that involves a record player from goodwill and a plate spinner/lazy susan thing from Bed Bath and Beyond, and I think that's just way cool. Oh to be an engineer! They get all the fun. =]

We hope you all are doing well. Love ya, miss ya.

Karen, Dave, Jared and Camryn

I've noticed that one thing about parents is that no matter what stage your child is in, the parents who have older children always tell you the next stage is worse. -Dave Barry

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Life in Oregon

Hello everyone!

We're not particularly good at keeping in touch with everyone, so I thought I could at least send an email update. We've been doing really well. We still love Oregon so far, even though we have gotten at least a taste of the rain that they say is going to come. However, the past week it's been sunny and beautiful again. Having our own house helps a lot, but we just love the area in general. I was called as the ward chorister. The good part is I get to pick the hymns. The bad part is that we have to be to church early and it starts at 9:00 am. I guess it's been good for us. We've become remarkably punctual. Dave is the Elders Quorum moving coordinator. We really like our ward so far.
Buying a house has turned Dave and I from ordinary semi-normal people to yard maniacs. We have literally spent every single weekend since we moved here in July- except one- working on our yard. We have successfully re-seeded and greened up our semi-dead front lawn. In the front yard I planted the space under the front window, by our front walk, and next to our driveway with bushes and flowers. In the backyard, we built a Costco play structure (it basically comes as a kit), ripped out 6 unfortunately placed trees (we still have about 10 others- don't worry), pruned several overgrown trees, removed the rocks that were in our border (note:don't ever put in small rocks in your yard without landscape fabric beneath them), cleared out the ugly dead plants from our border, worked manure into the border soil, planted 3 trees and 10 bushes (including 3 blueberries), put brick edging around the whole yard and we're in the process of finishing it with mulch. I also stained our music cabinet and our $20 tv stand to be walnut so they wouldn't clash with our dining table. So, yeah, we've been busy, but I guess Dave and I are overkill personalities. But the weird thing is we've been really enjoying it (Is it really possible to enjoy mowing the lawn and weeding? Who would have thought?).
Jared started kindergarten at the beginning of September.

He really likes it, although I think his favorite part is riding the bus. The bus picks him up at 7:30 am. That's been a big schedule change for us- I used to think that getting out by 9:30am was early. But the bus stop is two doors down from us and the kindergarten bus drops him off at our house, so it's basically doorstep service- I can deal with that.=]
Camryn started preschool and she really likes having her own "school" that she gets to go to. The kids are taking swimming lessons at the YMCA and I go there to work out several times a week (the membership includes free childcare- talk about a windfall!). Jared and Camryn also like to cook. In the past week Jared has invented two classic dishes (Food Network here we come...): the super-dooper noodly sandwich (bread with smashed bananas, peanut butter and a variety of sprinkles) and a chocolate nanjareene (cocoa mixed with cinnamon, honey, baking powder, brown sugar and a variety of sprinkles). The chocolate nanjareene, Jared has informed me, doesn't taste very good, it's just meant to be smelled and not eaten. It also needs to be stirred every day until Halloween. Today Jared signed me up for his class on how to make chocolate nanjareenes and I got world-class instruction from the pro himself.
Dave is loving his new job. It has been pretty high-intensity, but he's enjoying it. I am loving that Dave's work is only 7 minutes away, so when he has to work long hours he can get home quickly! I have really enjoyed working in the yard and working out at the YMCA. I haven't played the piano much recently, although I've been meaning to get back into it. I can always tell it's been a little too long when I have a recurring nightmare that I have a jury in less than a week and I somehow just haven't practiced the whole semester. =]
Love ya all,
Karen, Dave, Jared and Camryn