Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Long Stay In The UK

Allen got to go on a business trip to England for 9 days. I have to admit I was a tad bit jealous because he got to visit so many awesome places. Their hotel was right next to the London Eye and had a great view of Big Ben and Parliament.
Each evening they did touristy things (this one's for you Sweeney Todd fans)
(he could not find anyone selling meat pies)

or caught a show. They saw The 39 Steps as well as this one:
But he was nice enough to pass on this one:
so I wouldn't be completely jealous.

The breakfast buffet at the hotel offered some typical morning fare as well as a few interesting things that we wouldn't normally think to eat for breakfast, like pork and beans on toast. During various meals he was able to try fish and chips and a pasty as well as cuisine from a good variety of other cultures.
Allen emailed us a few pictures each day and this was definitely one of the kids' favorites:
because he didn't even know he could have dialed 62443 and gotten into the Ministry of Magic! (He can be such a muggle sometimes.)

Oh, yeah - he did work, too.
They rode on either a really fast train or a subway system called The Tube to get to where they needed to be:
(at the train station)

(on the tube)

As much as I missed him while he was gone it was a lot of fun to be a world traveler vicariously and to hear about and see snapshots of everything he experienced.

My favorite part of his trip, however, was when he got home. And not just because he brought us these:
although that was a nice little bonus.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Italian vs. Mexican

pin here

In a post from a while back I listed a typical menu around here, asked if anyone wanted recipes, then didn't post them. Well, better late than never, right?

My problem is that I want to show pictures when I post a recipe, yet every time I have prepared these culinary creations for dinner I have forgotten to snap a few photos. Some recipes I get a beginning photo for, and some I only remember to take a picture of the finished product.

You'll see what I mean in a minute.

My blogger pal Jerri asked: What is the difference between Italian and Mexican Chicken? I decided to answer that today, and what better way than with recipes?

First off, Italian Chicken and Rice. This is such an easy and delicious meal. Here are the ingredients (except I forgot the butter in my snapshot):

which you put into your crockpot in the following order:

melted butter
softened cream cheese
Italian seasoning
cream of chicken soup

And then just let it cook there on your counter for a few hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Every once in awhile, look over at your countertop and marvel at the beauty of a kitchen appliance who does all of the work for you.

I love you, CrockPot.

Once it's done, take two forks and shred the chicken into smaller pieces. Then serve it over rice.

(I have made this 3 times since posting the menu and never remembered to take a picture of the finished product. Just imagine a plate of rice covered in chickeny-gravyish goodness.)

Now for Mexican Chicken and Rice:

In this case I didn't take any pictures until I was done cooking.


And if you're still wondering what the difference is, just check out the recipes and make them for yourself. These are both tried and true meals that our whole family loves.

Italian Chicken and Rice

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1 packet of Italian Seasoning (or Italian salad dressing mix)
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (use more or less depending on whether you like more gravy or more chicken)
1 large (26 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
Cooked rice (I do 4 cups rice + 8 cups water)

Melt butter in microwave then dump melted butter in the bottom of the crockpot. Add softened cream cheese and mix it into the butter. Add Italian seasoning. Add chicken. Stir everything around a little if you want, but it's not mandatory. Dump cream of chicken soup over the top of everything. Put the lid on your crockpot, turn it to low (6-8 hours) or high (3-4 hours). When finished cooking, take two forks and shred the chicken into the gravy. Serve over hot rice. (Serves about 10 if you have a mixture of adult-eaters and kid-eaters. Not sure how many otherwise.)

Mexican Chicken and Rice

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cut into small chunks
1 1/2 cups mild chunky salsa (unless you like things spicy - I don't)
1 package (or 2 Tablespoons) taco seasoning
6 cups water
3 cups uncooked rice
2 cans black beans, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream (optional, but we like it)

Bring chicken, salsa, taco seasoning, water and rice to a boil in a large pan; cover. Simmer at medium heat until rice has absorbed all of the water, stirring occasionally to make sure the beans don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with cheese and (optional) serve topped with a dollop of sour cream. Chow down! (Serves about 10 if you have a mixture of adult-eaters and kid-eaters. Not sure how many otherwise.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Brotherly Love

One of my favorite things about Coolister coming home for dinner on Sundays is that he immediately gravitates to his youngest siblings. He loves to play with them, comfort them, read to them, hold them and even take a little snooze with them from time to time.

This is one of those pictures that tells a story without too many words on my part. I am going to miss capturing moments like this a few months down the road when Coolister leaves for two years to serve a mission for our church.

For now, I'm going to just soak this stuff up as much as I can.

Quick Quips

Coolister: Doesn't tuberculosis have to do with your wrists? Oh, wait... that's carpel tunnel.

Princess: Something smells like farts!
Hubba: Yeah, it's All-a-Boy's breath.
All-a-Boy: Whatever! It's your hands!

Curly: Mom, what does deformed mean?
Me: It usually means something looks different than you're used to. Like Quasimodo's face in the Hunchback of Notre Dame - his face was kind of deformed.
Princess: Yeah, sort of like Mom's. (pause) I didn't mean it like that!

Curly: (While saying a prayer) ...and please bless us to have a great prayer - if we even have a prayer...
Me: (whispered) Curly, you're saying the prayer right now.
Curly: Oh, right.

The following conversation took place through the bathroom door.
Little O: Mom? Mooooom? MOOOOOOM?!
Me: WHAT?!
Little O: I needs-a get my pay-ants on.
Me: Put them on, then! I'm in the shower.
Little O: Do they go on this way? (pause) Or this way?
Me: Um... that way.
Little O: This way?
Me: Yes.
Little O: Thanks, mom!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Double One!

Today is our sweet Cowgirl's 11th birthday. Here are eleven things that I love about her:

1. She was born not even a month after my dad died. I was still having a hard time with that loss when this sweet, wide-eyed little darling joined our family. I am not exaggerating when I say she was a perfect baby. She almost never cried, and when she did it was just a sweet little sound to let us know she needed something. She would wake up and lay there in the crib until someone noticed her. She was born with a birth mark on her forehead which the nurse who helped with her delivery called an angel's kiss - and I believe she really was sent down with an extra measure of love from my dad.

2. Cowgirl was our first brown-eyed girl and I loved singing the chorus of Van Morrison's song to her as we'd dance around the house when she was small. When we got to the part where I'd sing, sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-dee-dah she would giggle like crazy and just melt my heart every time.

3. She has such a kind heart. Cowgirl is always looking out for those who are left out or sad so she can try to somehow brighten their day.

4. She is excited to be old enough to babysit for others and actually enjoys getting some good practice in with her younger siblings when I run a quick errand somewhere close by. She comes up with fun and inventive things for everyone to do in order to keep everyone happy.

5. She is a great artist and writer. She loves to draw pictures and has a notebook filled with dress designs that she'd like to actually make someday. Cowgirl loves notebooks and fills them with pictures and words. Her poems and stories offer a unique and interesting perspective and are almost always cleverly funny, too.

6. I think it started back when we went to our first Texas family reunion, but Cowgirl is a country girl at heart. She loves horses, boots and cowboy hats over the usual cutesy girl stuff (but she can be cutesy, too). She loves being outdoors and often points out the beauties of nature that are overlooked. Every chance she gets she asks for a horse. Maybe someday, Cowgirl. It's good to dream.

7. Cowgirl is amazingly creative. She can turn a box into a fort complete with skylights, curtained windows and a secret exit. She can turn a piece of fabric into a purse, doll clothes, a costume or any number of other things. She likes to do things differently than others and I love her unique perspective.

8. She is almost painfully shy if you don't know her well or if she's put into a situation she's not familiar with. But she takes the time to observe what's going on and how she can best fit in before she starts to come out of her shell a bit. And once you get to know her really well, she can get pretty crazy.

9. Cowgirl loves music. They are learning how to play the recorder in her music class at school and she has mastered it to the point where she helps other kids now. She has a beautiful singing voice, plays the piano and wants a ukulele, too.

10. She wants to be a runner like Coolister, play basketball like ElemenoB, become a seamstress like Thumbelina and go on campouts like All-a-Boy. She looks up to her older siblings and wants to have the best parts of each of them as a part of who she is.

11. Cowgirl is some sugar and some spice, which keeps things interesting.

I can't believe it has been eleven years. As the saying goes, time flies on wings of lightning! You're growing into such a bright and lovely young lady, Cowgirl. Have an awesome 11th birthday.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Modern-Day Hairy Tale

...there was a boy named Coolister.
One day, after Coolister had proven that he was ready,
he left his home to attend a university where he could learn new things, make new friends and experience all sorts of new adventures.
Before he knew it, Coolister was living a very full and busy life.
Very, very full and very, very busy.
So busy, in fact, that he didn't have time to cut his hair.
Coolister's hair grew and grew and grew some more. One day, Coolister went home to visit his family.
"Coolister, we love you!" his family exclaimed joyfully. "But we do not love your hair!"

Coolister laughed (as he was known to do) and he and his long hair went back to the university. His hair grew and grew until eventually it could fall back against the sides of his head like two wings on the side of a bird. It grew over his ears and curled up at the back of his neck.
Every time Coolister made the journey home, his family rejoiced at his return. But still they said, "Coolister, we love you! But we do not love your hair!"

And Coolister always laughed (as he was known to do).

One day Coolister decided he had had enough of this small animal who was taking residence upon his head. He told his mother, "I am ready. It is time to cut my hair."

There was much joy and rejoicing throughout the land!
Coolister and his mother went to visit a cousin who was well-known for her ability to use her magic scissors in order to transform hairy beasts into handsome young men. With a snip-snip here and a clip-clip there, Coolister's transformation was complete.
When Coolister's family gazed upon his new hairstyle, they shouted for joy. "Coolister, we love you! AND we love your hair!"
Then Coolister laughed (as he was known to do) and they all lived happily ever after.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Great Hair Debate

What is it with a woman and her hair? Or maybe that would be better stated as: what is it with me and my hair?

I have noticed that many of my friends have matured enough to have found a hairstyle that they are content with, one that they maintain and keep. It doesn't look like it changes much because they visit their hairdresser regularly and keep it the way they like it. I'm not sure I will ever reach that point.

First off, I can not get the whole 'regular visits to your hairdresser' thing down. Sometimes there can be as much as a year lapse between my haircuts because I'll just... forget. But when I do make an appointment? Whoa, man. Look out. The entire week between the day I call the hairdresser and the day I get to the salon I am constantly debating what to do with my hair.

Every day I am Googling pictures of possibilities, pasting them into a word document and then looking them over obsessively. Is this model's face as long as mine? Is her hair naturally curly or are those curls created? Could I pull off this straight look? I resist the temptation to go on to Facebook and create a poll:

Gerb's getting her hair cut, what do you think?
1. Short, medium or long?
2. Dark, light or a different color?
3. Highlights?
4. Keep the bangs or lose them?
5. Stay curly or go straight?

When it comes down to it, I always end up just looking like myself, the same old Gerb I've looked like since my late high school years (plus a few well-earned laugh lines). But no matter what happens, I always wonder; if someone with a little more fashion sense could choose the way I styled my hair, what would they tell me to do?

I'm getting my hair done tomorrow. And I'm going to love the outcome, no matter what, because I'm a happy person who loves me for me.


(But seriously, what do you think? Maybe you should answer that poll in a comment.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Quick Quips

From the mouths of my kids...

Me (to Allen): I just sent that to your email.
Hubba: What?! I didn't know Dad had email! That's awesome!

(in a fit of rage) Kids in other families don't have jobs! You only make us do jobs because you just... you just... I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU MAKE US DO JOBS!!

Hubba: Could you turn on the radio so we can listen to some sweet tunes?

Mom! Stop acting crazy like that. I only like it when you're really, super freaky. It's weird when you're just a little crazy.

Look out! I have a gun with my thingers (fingers)!

You're not a girl. You're just a MOM!

Me: Little O, are you going to pick up those toys or what?
Little O: What.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thinking Inside The Box

My littlest 3 were pretty busy a few days ago.

First they took a train ride from the desert to the ocean.

Then two of them were robots while one played garbage collector.

Curly piloted a rocketship through the solar system to discover an unknown planet where they played hide-and-seek with some friendly aliens.

Then they enjoyed a drive-in showing of Megamind, each in their very own vehicle.

Curly and Little O repeatedly built a tall building for Godzilla (a.k.a. Baby X) to destroy.

Unique works of art were created.

And this was all before lunchtime!

A few days later some other kids asked if they could have a huge box that was folded flat in a corner of our garage. I figured, why not?

All-A-Boy, Cowgirl, Princess and Hubba made this cool bedroom/house/fort and had a blast playing in it for two days straight.

Cowgirl had to come up with a creative book report on the last biography she read. She decided to make a TV monitor and crawl inside to be a real live news anchor reporting on a famous speech given by the person she read about.

She would tell about Martin Luther King's legacy, flip this picture up from the inside and then read part of his "I Have A Dream" speech.

The kids all took turns being the stars of their own TV shows after this was built.

Remind me again why I bother buying toys?