Monday, December 16, 2013

Cranberry Christmas Cake

So I don't lose this recipe, and to prove I am still capable of posting things once every six months or so, I'm sharing this recipe.

I've made it a couple times now, and it is so delicious.  Sweet and tart and buttery.  And very pretty, too.

 Cranberry Christmas Cake

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
12 oz fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout.

Spread in a buttered 9x13 pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. (I baked mine for 43 minutes.) Let cool completely before cutting into small slices. I cut mine into fairly small pieces, about 1"x2", so that they could be easily eaten at a party. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Good News!

We had gotten off to a rough start.  My kids were grumpy and bickering all through breakfast. I was so grateful to drop one of the worst offenders off at school this morning, though we did have to turn around and run back to the car and retrieve the backpack she'd forgotten.  In her classroom, another student was passing out full treat bags to every student in honor of her birthday.  Really, parents?  Unnecessary.

Safely at home, one child happily playing with a visiting friend, the other "helping" me, I watered my garden.  I got a little lost in my plants, breathing in the pungent smell of the tomato plants, excitedly finding my first few peppers.  Then I realized that my smallest helper was no where in sight. 

I walked into the house and wondered why I was hearing trickling water.  And then I splashed into it.  Droplets flew as I hurried down the hall to the bathroom to discover the toilet, merrily overflowing.  So . . .

Good news! I now know a motivated toddler can clog our toilet with about half a roll of toilet paper!

Good news! I learned that water flowing out of my bathroom will go directly down the tile hall and out towards the front door, only dampening the first foot or so of carpet in my bedroom and the living room!

Good news!  I just mopped my bathroom and hall!

Good news!  I vacuumed behind the couch and shampooed part of the carpet!

Good news!  All the towels in the house are washed/being washed!  And some of the blankets, too!

Good news!  I didn't swear out loud in front of a guest!  Or my own children!

Good news!  Though Rosie slipped and fell several times on the wet floor as I tried to be my own branch of FEMA, she didn't crack her head open, nor did she land hard enough on her bum to cause her incredibly smelly diaper to blow out its contents. 

Good news! I hadn't had time to put on makeup yet, so I didn't sweat it all off as I frantically sopped up water!

Good news!  I no longer feel any guilt about laying down for a nap this afternoon.  I have earned it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Notes from my children

 I love the notes my children leave for me.  Chloe has recently learned to ride her bike and left the above missive all across the driveway for me when it took me longer to drive home that it took her to ride (I was talking to my friend.  I don't actually drive that slowly.)  I know it's hard to read, but it said something to the tune of, "I am the best bike rider ever!  I can ride faster than a car!  I beat you home!"
"No disturbing"
 Addie has been writing those magical notes only a new reader/write can compose.  I found the one above on my door after a recent nap.  So very thoughtful!  The note below has been floating around the house for a few weeks.  I'm not sure what interaction with dad inspired it, but it's hilarious.
It's better to be with mom.  Love Addie
 And then there are more fantastic captions coming home on Maggie's artwork.  She is learning to write, though, and currently likes to write lengthy compositions, full of all the letters she knows, and then asks me to read them back to her so she knows what she wrote.
I think the lead in question on this particular piece was, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  Maggie wants to just be herself.  And to do that she needs to be nude.

Garage Sales

I went garage sale-ing yesterday.  Our community has a huge sale every year, and last year there were many amazing finds.  And two other neighborhoods were having community sales also.  I made sure I was out the door the second the sale started this year.  I learned, and was reminded of, some things.

  •  There are people who drive Smart Cars to garage sales!  Isn't that like bringing a knife to a gunfight?
  • If you really think it is that collectable of an item, don't try to sell it at a garage sale.  You probably will get to keep your $10 Serena Williams Barbie in a crushed box.
  • If you go to the same garage sale two years in a row, you will see some of the exact same items for sale two years in a row.
  • People have a lot, A LOT of baby gear they are trying to unload.
  • Do not let your awkward tween man the garage sale by himself.  I walked by one, carrying a load of books I has just bought for my girls.  "Do you like books?  I have books."  No thanks, just these ones for me.  "What are you looking for then?  What do you want?"  Oh, I'm mainly looking for bigger things.  "I have this printer.  It's a bigger thing."  Thanks, but no.
  • If a house has the filthiest stove you have seen in your life (and remember, I served a mission in the south.  I have seen filthy) sitting outside it for sale, you can confidently walk away from that sale knowing everything they are selling will have a smell you can't get rid of.
  • There are bike trailers for dogs!  For dogs!  And it looked nicer than the nice bike trailer for kids I bought at the garage sale last year!
  • Do not, under any circumstances, let your shopping become synchronized with they irritating couple who double park, block driveways, drive super-duper slowly, and then cut you off when they decide to do a three point turn in the middle of the street.  Street after street after street.
  • If you talk to a sweet older lady and tell her how much you admire her cute yard, she might take you into her back yard and show you the amazing playhouse her late husband built for their granddaughters.  

  •  If you buy a stack of sombreros for a party you're planning, and a stack of fairy books for your daughters and walk into the house carrying both, your daughters will jump off the couch and run toward you with lights and excitement in your eyes . . . and grab the sombreros.
  • Sometimes, even though you've planned ahead and gotten $100 dollars out of the bank in anticipation of the tremendous deals you will find, at the end of the day you realize how much you already have and how much you don't really need and you  only spend $6 in a morning of garage sale-ing.  And then, you console yourself by planning out how you will trick your husband into thinking you spent all your money before you reveal how little you actually spent, and HE NEVER EVEN ASKS!  Oh well, it was still a good morning.

The End of the Road

 We had debated going back into the park on Friday, the last day of our trip.  There was so much more to do and see.  But, once we finally got back to our campsite and settled in for the night, Bracken and I realized how seriously we had hit the wall.  We were completely out of steam.  Our trip had been wonderful, but we were done.  It was actually a really good feeling knowing we had had a fabulous time, and now we got to go back home. 

We spent Friday morning exploring the campground we were at, Yosemite Pines.  It was still pretty empty that time of year, but we could imagine how fun it could be at the peak.  We visited the petting zoo.
 She may look like she's scowling, but it's really just the sun in her eyes.  This girl could not love animals more.
 We fed the animals all our remaining bread, which they enjoyed a lot.
 They really wanted more. 
We then walked around and played on the playground, took a walk on the nature trail (until it because a little too "Choose Your Own Adventure" for my tastes), and checked out the ampitheater.  Bracken got the RV all packed up and emptied and refilled as necessary while we explored.  Then we loaded up for the 3 hour drive home. 

We were so happy to be there.  We quickly unpacked and cleaned the RV, which we returned the next day with fond farewells and promises to see it again soon.  Then we returned home and I seriously questioned the choice to leave the house in all its Easter glory on Easter day.  I thought about that choice a lot over the next week as I tried to get our lives back to normal function.


We woke up the morning of our day in Yosemite to the sound of rain.  Which was fine, because we were in an RV!  We ate a nice warm breakfast, packed up, and headed into the park.  GPS said it would take us about an hour and a half to make it to the valley, but we were only a little bit into our  drive before we saw this.  Our rainy morning gave us extra drama in the view.  Clouds, hovering below the mountains.  And everywhere we looked, waterfalls.  In looking at one, we would almost miss the next one.

The only time I had been to Yosemite before was for my honeymoon.  We realized as we drove into the park on April 4 that it was exactly 10 1/2 years since our wedding day.  What a great place to spend our anniversary and a half.  When we had come in October 2002, I remember driving into the valley and feeling my heart stop at the beauty and majesty of it all.  But in the fall, there are no falls.  I honestly don't even remember seeing Bridal Veil fall, the only waterfall in Yosemite that runs year round.  Coming in the spring was a completely different experience.

We kept pulling over as we drove in to point out waterfalls to the girls.

 There was just to much to see on that misty morning.
 There was only Yosemite walls the last time I came.  Also, there weren't any of these cute girls.
 The other cute girls preferred to stay dry in the car.
 We parked the RV and started trekking through  put the valley.  We  visited the visitor's center, then walked over to the lodge to buy tickets for the bus tour of the valley.  Bracken and I had gone on it before, though I was super grateful that in the colder months, they use a normal bus instead of the open air one!
 Chloe and Addie on the bus.
 Rosie and Bracken on the bus.
 Maggie and me on the bus.
 Every time we stopped, I flashed back to being on that bus as a newlywed. 

 Here is the classic view of the valley, though somewhat obscured by clouds.  I was certain we had a matching picture from our honeymoon, and was going to cutely juxtapose the two.  Alas, we fell victim to the problem of honeymooners.  There are only the two of you, and you are so wrapped up in each other, you forget to include, or even talk to, anyone else.  

 The best I can do is offer this selfie from the parking lot while we looked at the very same view.
 Halfway through the bus ride, three of the girls were asleep.  And the sun came out!  We snapped a quick shot of Half Dome.
 After the bus ride, we woke everybody up.  To stop their tears, I busted out the bag of Cheetos.  Perfect.  We then walked the trail to the base of Yosemite Falls.  It was beautiful.  And loud.  And wet.  Good thing we still had our rain gear on.

10.5 years ago, we snapped this picture up at Glacier Point (which we couldn't revisit since it was still closed for the winter).
 10.5 years later, we are still happy to be married to each other.
 Though we do have some baggage now.  Cute, pink baggage.

 After the falls, we visited the Indian Village and Museum, and got some pressed pennies, and made the trek back to the RV.  Once there, we decided to make some macaroni and cheese before we headed out, proving once again that the RV was fantastic.  Once we finally got on the road, I made Bracken stop so I could hike the short trail to the base of Bridal Veil Fall.  I just couldn't let the opportunity pass.

 Quickly I scurried up the trail, and reached the base of the falls to find myself completely alone.  I tried to snap a decent picture of myself with the falls, but it was far too wet.  I stayed there for a bit, admiring the beauty, overwhelmed with the sound and feel of the water.  I was seriously startled when I heard voices of the next group approaching.  I was so hypnotized by it all I completely forgot other people were there!

 Yosemite was just gorgeous.  It took my breath away just as much as it had before.  We definitely won't wait another 10 years to go again.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Baking in Bakersfield

 Dear Bakersfield Walmart,

It has already been conclusively established that Bakersfield is the worst.  It is hot, it is dusty, it is boring.  It is even worse when you have packed up your RV and left San Clemente and family behind, which is sad.  And then you find it necessary to stop at the Walmart partway through your seven hour drive to Yosemite.

Bakersfield Walmart, you added a whole new level of hell.  Your store was hot, and confusing.  It took me many laps to find some very basic necessities that were not in logical places.  As I tried to shop and hurry out to rescue my baking children, and husband in the car, I texted my husband to complain about the store.  He texted back that at least I wasn't stuck in there with a screaming baby.  Touche.
She screamed herself to sprawled out, stretched out sleep.
 I finally made it to the front of the store, my toilet paper and sundries finally collected.  I had a bag of ice in my cart, a bag I had grabbed as I walked in the store, back when I was still under the impression that this would be a quick trip.  It was difficult to pick which line to stand in since they were all equally long.  I managed to pick the one with the slowest cashier, so that was fun.

And then, oh Walmart, what a delightful treat you had in store for me.  An employee approached me and informed me that my ice was melting.  I replied, "Well, I've been in line for about 3 days, so I'm not surprised."  She looked to the couple in front of me for support, who replied, "Yes, we've been here for 4."  She turned back to me, "But it's melting and getting on the floor."  I had no idea what she wanted me to do about it. 

She left and came back with a bag for my ice.  I told her she could just take it because I didn't want the melted ice any more.  She took the ice and went and chatted with another coworker for a while, no doubt telling her how impossible I was being by not keeping my ice from melting, or not having a pocket mop to clean my mess up.  Honestly, I really do try to be polite and nice to most store employees.  I know whatever problem I'm having is generally not their fault.  But by the time this one returned with a glare and a handful of paper towels, I was ready to give her a piece of my mind, to the tune of, "If you have time to make 3 different trips to my cart, YOU HAVE TIME TO OPEN A REGISTER AND HELP SOME OF US GET OUT OF THIS HELL!"

I didn't say this though.  I just waited with my mouth shut, and grabbed a new bag of ice when it was eventually time for me to check out.  I finally left, we continued on our journey, and arrived in one piece at our campground outside Yosemite that night where we enjoyed a delicious dinner and campfire and smores.  Despite your best efforts, Bakersfield Walmart, you did not ruin our day!

 I hope there's not a next time, Bakersfield Walmart.  I sincerely hope there is not.  But if there is, you better watch yourself.  Because you were very close to me pulling out that camping hatchet I bought, and using it on something.

No regards,

P.S.  My very favorite part of of very long day came just as we were nearing Yosemite.  We saw our first forest wildlife.  As Bracken excitedly pointed out the two deer to the left of the RV on the windy two lane road, I yelled at him to watch out for the other deer about to dash in front of us on the right.  I'm just glad Bracken was driving.  My track record with avoiding hitting deer is not good.

San Clemente Beach Day

 San Clemente obviously didn't get the message that the weather was supposed to be cold and gray.  We spent a gorgeous day at the beach, just down the street from my brother's apartment. 

 Maggie immediately threw herself down and made a sand angel. 

 Chloe followed suit shortly thereafter.

Rosie was just happy to play in the sand.

 And play hide and seek with Bracken and Uncle Ben's boogie board.

 She is just yummy.

 Addie had a lot of fun, too, thought I didn't get any shots of her enjoying the water.  Which she definitely did. She ran straight into the water when we got there and was in all the way up to her chest in a few seconds. Then, just as quickly, she was only up to her knees!  This beach had an odd dip to it.  I was afraid she would take another step and plunge right out of sight. 

 My little jungle girl had such a great time in the water. 

 It was next to impossible to get her out.

 And she was happy to just wander away and play with whomever she could find. 

 One must always eat Twizzlers at the beach. 

 They are delicious!

 So is juice. 

 We played for a long time, and enjoyed a visit from Aunt Megan, who I didn't get any pictures of, and who I didn't really visit with because I ducked away to get some fresh seafood on the pier and it took longer than I thought it would.  That was disappointing.  I like that Megan.  After I ate, I convinced a couple girls to go for a walk down the pier with me. 

 Maggie kept scaring me by climbing all the way to the top of the fence.  Thank goodness she didn't tumble off!

 I guess we're number one?!?

 Me and my girls.

 That blue speck in the middle is Bracken and Rosie, playing in the water.  We had so much fun!  I managed to get out on the boogie board for a little bit.  I really had a hard time timing the waves on this beach, though.  Darn double break. 

 After a glorious day in the sun, we packed up our stuff and headed over to Ben and Megan's.  Bracken ran to the store while I started cleaning the girls up.  One by one, I loaded them into the shower and as I contemplated trying to reach in and wash all four of them, I decided it would be best to just climb in and join them.  It was going surprisingly well.  I had all the sand washed out of four heads of hair, four slippery little bodies washed, and was just starting to tend to myself when I smelled it.  The unmistakeable scent of a Code Brown.  I am grateful for this: that it was a shower and not a bath, that it was firm and easy to move, and none of the ten feet in the shower stepped in it. 

We finished getting ready and then enjoyed a delicious dinner with Megan's family.  I had been doing pretty good on my diet up until this point.  I had only enjoyed a few Cadbury Heroin eggs, and was feeling pretty good about things.  I was even feeling firm in my commitment to not eat any of the chocolate chip cookies Shari had baked while we were there.  And then she plopped the rest of the dough down with spoons and my will power ran away. Oh well!

My girls had a great time playing with Megan's brother Jared.  I'm kind of surprised that Maggie is not in this picture because I remember her being velcroed to him all night. 

 Cute, overdue Megan and her parents.  That darn little nephew of mine refused to make an appearance until after we left. 

 Here I am reading a delightful, not really a children's book, to Rosie called All My Friends Are Dead.  The real winner of the evening, though, was Pat the Zombie, a disgusting adaptation of one of Rosie's favorite book.  Samantha attempted to soften the blow and explain away the gorier details, but guess what?  4 weeks later and Chloe can still pretty much recite it verbatim.  Rosie's favorite book has been forever violated.