Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You Can Call Us The Apple Dumpling Gang

Ever since I was a smallish child I have wondered about Apple Dumplings. Why was that Disney movie called "The Apple Dumpling Gang", and why did the kids like them so much? Were they like fritters? Were they like Chicken and Dumplings - only with apples?

I'm not saying I thought about this every day between then and now. But I read a post while blog surfing where someone wrote about making apple dumplings. And I thought to myself, "I have more apples than I know what to do with. I am DONE with applesauce! I am going to make apple dumplings!"

Now, here are a few a big 'secrets' that it took me years to learn:
1. ANYONE can be an amazing cook if they are willing to make the time to do things from scratch and follow directions.
2. Pretty much anything you could ever want to make is found in the Betty Crocker Cookbook with the red and white cover. Even those things you're embarrassed to admit you don't know how to make. This book has saved my life on many occasions. Boiled eggs? Check. Mashed potatoes? Check. Toast? Figured that one out on my own, thank you very much.
3. Be flexible with recipes. If it says to keep the apples whole and you want to chop them up, do what you want!
Sprinkle cinnamon on the apples before sealing the dumplings up! Add some nutmeg to the syrup! Get crazy!
Put 2 pans in the oven at the same time if you want. I know, air circulation and all that. But I'm flexible! And it worked. Besides, what's better than one pan of dumplings? Two. I like to peek while things are cooking. Look at how puffy they are getting! And that syrup is getting all thick and bubbly and um, ...sweetupy. (You can also invent words to describe things you are cooking. It makes it more splendiful.)
Then presto! Apple Dumpling Goodness for everyone! (side note: Am I a good mom or a bad mom since we ate these instead of lunch?)
My favorite thing to do with treats I produce that turn out tasty is to share. So, these went to a neighbor:
And life was good.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


One question I am often asked is this: So, when are you moving? I didn't know we were even considering it.

I guess people assume that a family of 11 cannot fit comfortably in our home. Sure, it can be tight sometimes, but here's the main reason we hope to live out the rest of our days here: location.

When I stand in front of my house, I can turn in any direction and gaze upon some of Utah's finest mountain peaks. It is beautiful here.

We also live in a neighborhood that has a "small-town" feeling that I adore. For example, in the short drive to my kids' school I see horses, cows, sheep and llamas. To get there I drive down what we call the "farm road" where there are open fields and pumpkin patches and old wooden structures that are dilapidated enough to hold my interest but sturdy enough to not look trashy.

On my way to drop the Princess off at kindergarten today I had to stop for 2 cows who were crossing the road. Cows! Crossing the road! They were probably loose but I didn't know which door to knock on and say, "Hey, your cows are out" so I just let them cross to go visit with the horses and went on my way.

2 days ago I stopped a block away from home so Hubba and I could watch a tortoise cross the street.

When we are driving home late at night in the winter we sometimes see deer wandering the neighborhood.

People wave at each other when they drive around our streets. Half the time I don't even know who I'm waving at - but if they want to be friendly, I'm happy to return the gesture!

Plus, as an added bonus, neighbors bring me treats and treasures at random times.

Marci shares lunch-sized portions of Tortellini Soup or Chinese Chicken Salad.

Jenny sends over just enough brownie edges or chocolates for me to eat in the pantry or my bedroom closet when I hope no one's paying attention.

Bethany treats me to her homemade salsa.

Jan gives me everything from 'counterfeit rolls' to 'peach bubbly' to rice pudding to Dove chocolate bars at least once a month.

I found chocolate mini donuts on my porch recently from ?? My kids had them devoured in record time.

(thanks to ??)

Barbara and Howard gave us 27 pumpkins and enough cornstalks (all from her garden) to complete our haunted decor for this year. (It's going to be SPECTACULAR!!) And they threw in a load of garden-fresh carrots for good measure. And frosted cookies for the kids.

It doesn't stop there. Everyone looks out for everyone else. We genuinely care for each other. I had meals brought in for over a week when I had my last baby. People were lined up to feed a family of ELEVEN. Can you find this stuff in just any neighborhood? Nope.

I know you're getting jealous, so I'll stop.

Tell me, why would we move?

That's what I thought.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What We Do For Fun

Guess what we did this month? Family pictures. And because we love the feeling of herding cats, we did it twice.

The first time (see above) we wore authentic 70's clothing purchased from our local thrift stores.

The second time we dressed a little more 2008.

We have never had so much fun taking family photos - from posing to the blaring tunes of Saturday Night Fever on a deserted water truck to running amok on a playground...

Jason, you did an amazing job. Thank you for putting up with our crazy antics.

Want to see a few more? Click here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Time For Tea

My friend Jan invited me to a tea party today. She does this for me every month - sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with others. Often we visit at her kitchen table, but if the sun is shining we enjoy each other's company on her patio.

The Tin Man and Elphaba (driving a mack truck, no less!) welcomed me as I arrived.

The decorations were perfect, as always...

down to every last detail.

These are the ladies who gathered for tea today. They are some of my favorite people in our neighborhood. Once we were ready, Jan began with a blessing on the food, which included thanks for "this scrumptious day". How can you not love someone who talks like that?

June was even so kind as to model her wrap for us when asked. Isn't she elegant? I can only hope that time treats me this kindly.

We ate beautiful food and sipped Italian Amaretto hot chocolate from 100 year old teacups.

Jan topped all that off with a 3-layer orange cake prepared in honor of Teresa's birthday.

There were many finger foods available to snack on...

and everything was served on the most exquisite dishes.

This is the woman who puts it all together.

Jan calls herself eccentric. Why do you think I love her so much?

I call Jan amazing.

She is who I want to be when I grow up.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shine On

There was a full moon last night.

As I looked up to admire it I realized that it looked distinctly like a spotlight. I started to wonder - what if it was shining for me, waiting for me to make my debut? And who's watching?

So I sang a line from a song that was playing in my head and gave a little twirl-hip-shake, just in case.

I hope I get rave reviews.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

He's Always Thinking

While watching our church's General Conference today All-a-Boy asked me, "Mom, who is in charge of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?"

"I think Mack Wilberg is the name of the director." I responded.

fast forward 20 minutes...

"I trust you to mail this" All-a-Boy says, handing me a piece of notebook paper.

Here is what he wrote:

Dear Mack Willberg,

My mom said you were the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I had an idea that would even make nursery kids watch generel confrence too! Have the choir sing songs like Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam and popcorn popping on the apricot tree! I'd be anxious to watch that! You could even have them do the hand motions for popcorn popping and have them jump up on 'beam' on Sunbeam! Consider my idea.


You better believe I'll be mailing the letter tomorrow. Do I even need to say how much I love the way this kid's brain works?

If You Are A Super Villain, Please Stop Reading

So, it turns out I am not invincible.

I discovered this on Thursday night as I tried to sprint across the street.

However, the verdict is still out on whether or not I can fly.

(I'll get back to you on that.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hooray For Halloween!

Remember how we decorated our (haunted) house 2 years ago? And then how we went all out and even did a spook alley last year?

Remember how we said we're taking a break this year?

We lied.

All of the decorations will be back up this year, but not until Halloween week. So if you missed seeing Allen's amazing Halloween brainchild last year, come check it out!

And if you think it looks impressive during the day, you've got to check it out at night.

(But no spook alley this year. Sorry.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just Peachy

I got an email a couple of days ago.


Allen's work was in close proximity to the location of the Great Peach Giveaway, so he and a co-worker went to fetch some FREE PEACHES! for us.

I had visions of my pantry stocked with enough canned peaches to last us the year. I love canned peaches! Maybe even some jam... my mouth was watering. I was not looking forward to the actual work of canning but I knew that the end result would be well worth it.

Allen came home that day with two huge boxes packed full of delicious looking peaches. I could not believe our luck! Not a blemish was in sight. These were some fine quality peaches, and they were FREE!

Yesterday was canning day. Those of you who are familiar with canning peaches will know that the skins are easily slipped off once the fruit is plunged into boiling water for 30 seconds or so and then immersed in cold water immediately after.

Such was not the case with these. The skins would not come off unless they were actually pried off with a knife. At first I wondered if I was going about things wrong. I checked my cookbooks, I looked online - I was doing things correctly. So why weren't the peaches cooperating?

In the process of peeling and slicing I couldn't resist taking a bite. As I slipped a slice of peachy goodness into my mouth, I stopped cold. It was not a sweet flavor, but a bland one. And as I chewed, the peach's texture was grainy.

Was I disappointed? Yes. But, there were lessons learned.

First off, you often get what you pay for.

But, when life hands you lemons you make lemonade. Or - when you get some tasteless peaches, add lots of sugar and they still make a pretty tasty cobbler.

And last of all, outward appearance is not always a sure indicator of what you will find on the inside.

(And I'm not just talking about peaches.)