Friday, January 30, 2009

New and exciting?

Nothing that blog-worthy happened this week. We've been keeping to our diet, but didn't exercise enough. Chad built a short retaining wall along the side of our house that faces the street, and put the gate back in (we had to remove it to tear out an old stump). At rehearsals for our upcoming Ten Virgins performance, only half the virgins showed, which stresses me out.

The most exciting thing that happened was we ordered a new car seat. Mason is way too big for the baby car seat he's been using, and now that he's turning one, and he's 20 lbs, he can face forward. So, he got upgraded to Bree's car seat, and we ordered her a new one. We aren't usually "top of the line" kind of people, but we did spend quite a bit on the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 because it has the 5-point harness option up to 65 pounds (most only go to 40 lbs). And because it's safest to keep your kid in 5-point for as long as possible, we coughed up the cash for the sake of our daughter's safety.

So Bree loves her new big-girl car seat with the built-in cup holder. And Mason LOVES facing forward. It's like experiencing a whole new world. Sometimes small things are a huge deal. And I have to admit, I love online shopping and the thrill of a huge box arriving at my door...even if it's just a car seat.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Amazing Chicken Tortilla Soup!

I've been really trying to make super-healthy meals lately (please see my other blog, More Healthy Me), and last night I didn't know what to make. I was about to pop open a can of soup, when I thought, "Why don't I make soup instead?" So I found this recipe online, which was super easy, and it turned out soooo delicious. And yes, you may notice that there are actually no tortillas in there...don't ask me why it's called Chicken Tortilla Soup...but it's less calories without them, and I didn't miss them anyway!
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
1 small can green chiles or jalapenos
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes (I left these out)
1 cup instant brown rice
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1) Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil in a large pot until soft.
2) Add all the rest of the ingredients to the large pot and bring to a boil.
3) After about 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts and shred. (I just used pre-cooked shredded chicken, so I skipped this step)
4) Simmer until rice is fully cooked
5) Each 1-cup serving only has about 195 calories as is, and we topped ours with low-fat sour cream, 2% shredded cheese, and fresh cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips if desired.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Best Vacation Ever!

Oh. My. We had so much fun I don't even know where to start! Okay, so I'll start at the beginning.
Sunday the 11th, we left the house at 6:00am, drove about 7 1/2 hours to the Long Beach pier, and checked into our tiny room on our enormous cruise ship. Then we stuffed ourselves at the buffet lunch (stuffing yourself is essential because, A: you want to make sure you're getting your money's worth, and B: a full tummy means no sea-sickness). After that, the ship set sail. We unpacked (the rooms may be small, but there was plenty of storage space for clothes and other stuff), walked around the ship trying to get familiar with the layout, took a tour of the gym and spa, and we ate soft-serve ice cream cones on the deck at sunset (I ate more than my fair share of that ice cream during the week!). Then we went to the nice sit-down dinner, which was delicious, but we were alone, since the other couple at our table wasn't there. After dinner, we went to karaoke, and I sang a couple songs. Then we did Game Show Mania, and watched some fellow cruisers win plastic ship trophies. The evening show was the welcome aboard show, where we saw the same exact song and dance routine that was on our last Carnival cruise to Ensenada two years ago, followed by a pretty funny comedian. Then our cruise director, Mark Price, came out afterwards, and talked to us for a while; he was hilarious. After the show we finished off the day with the late night buffet (which we did most nights).

Monday after a quick walk/run on the treadmills in the gym, we went to a seminar called “Secrets to a Flatter Stomach” where we learned that we were leaving out an essential element of weight loss: detox. Then we went to the In-Port Adventure Talk to learn about fun excursions. After lunch, we went to our personalized Body Composition evaluation (Chad was dragging his feet, but I told him this was what I wanted instead of a spa treatment). It was really informative. We got hooked up to a machine that told us our metabolic rate, our body’s fat weight and lean weight, and our body water weight. So, we’ve been told by a professional that I need to lose 10.7 lbs, and Chad needs to lose 17.6 lbs (we both need to get our body fat percentage down). So, after that informative session, we had some ice cream, and relaxed by the pool for a couple hours. We dressed up in our formals, and ate dinner at the reservations-only Steakhouse, which was delicious, but we decided not worth the extra $60. Then it was time for some more karaoke, and then a musical revue with singing and dancing.
Tuesday after breakfast, we walked around the deck, and then we went to an Austin Powers dance class (okay, so I learned the dance while Chad watched). We ate lunch, then sunbathed on the deck (this was temporarily interrupted by the hairy chest contest). Then we hit the Jacuzzi and the steam room. After getting showered, we went to the Love and Marriage show (AKA the Newlywed Game). I really wanted to get picked, but we were a little late, so we didn’t but it was hilarious to watch anyway. Then we went to tea time in one of the lounges, which was a fun little snack time complete with a selection of herbal teas and little cakes. After a delicious dinner, it was time for me to try out for the Carnival Legends show. Each night during karaoke, there was a tryout for different parts in the big finale show Saturday night (James Brown, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan, Elvis, Britney Spears, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Garth Brooks, Madonna, and Frank Sinatra). So, I tried out for Britney, and the audience chose me! Chad also sang karaoke for the first time ever, and tried out for Elvis! I was so proud of him, but the competition for the guys was really tough. Maybe next time! (Chad says there won’t be a next time!)

Wednesday was our first port: Puerto Vallarta. We took the Tropical Jungle tour, which took us through the town, past the beach overlook to Los Arcos rock formations, and up a dirt road to a secluded restaurant in the hills. We took a short beautiful hike through the jungle (we had to cross through a stream barefoot), and then we ate a small lunch at the (overpriced) restaurant. The scenery was gorgeous. Then we took the bus back to downtown, and walked around the shops and the beach, and ate a second lunch at Si Senor Restaurant, which was recommended. The food (enchiladas and quesadillas) was delicious, even if it was geared towards tourists. I loved the authentic feel of Puerto Vallarta and its buildings. We did stop at Walmart, which was across the street from the marina, to get a few essentials. It was fun to try and shop for allergy medicine when the packages were all in Spanish! And we bought some Dr. Peppers, which they sell in single cans on the shelf, which is weird. After we got back on the ship, we sunbathed and I practiced my Britney Spears song. We ate dinner, and finally met the other couple at our table, a nice Philipino couple who were expecting their first baby. After dinner we sat down to watch the Mexican Folkloric Show, but it turned out to be a mariachi band, which neither of us can stand, so we left. That evening we did karaoke, then saw a comedian who was pretty funny.

Thursday we were in Mazatlan. We took a taxi to the “Golden Zone” to do some shopping. We bought a little pink sombrero for Bree, a blue swim cover-up for me, some candied nuts, and some random shell jewelry. It was my second experience with bartering, and I think I really hit my stride this time. We got some great deals. Mazatlan was not that pretty, but the shopping was good, and there were some great beaches. We stopped by where the cliff divers perform on our way back to the ship, but since we didn’t time it when a tour came by, we would have had to pay $15 to see them dive. So I snapped a picture of the tall cliff, and we got back in the taxi (open air this time, which was fun). We didn’t eat in Mazatlan, because why would you pay for food when you can eat on the ship for free? We cleaned up and ate dinner, then went to a great show by cruise standards, we thought. We saw Barry Van Wie play an amazing electric fiddle and guitar. He was SUPER talented. Then we listened to the hilarious comedy of JeROME.

Friday we arrived in beautiful Cabo San Lucas, which was such a picturesque resort city. It looked exactly like the gorgeous pictures I saw before going. We did a little shopping around the pier, and I bartered myself a couple deals on jewelry (I know it’s fake silver, but if the price is good enough, I don’t care!), and took a picture with a couple iguanas (yeah, it cost me $2, but those guys have to make a living somehow, right?). Then, we went on our Santa Maria and Chileno Bay Snorkeling excursion, which was amazing. We went out on a speed boat, and passed Lover’s Beach (picture below) and Los Arcos and a colony of sea lions (at this point my camera battery died. Apparently the indicator is totally useless. The waterproof case I bought to take photos under water did not get used. Oh well.). Then we went out into the ocean and saw humpback whales come up out of the water—we got pretty close! Then we went to two different bays to snorkel. It was a first for both of us, and it was a blast! Our guide dove down and brought up an anemone, a blow fish, and a puffer fish for us to touch and hold. The water was like 75 degrees, which was warm enough because the weather was so hot, and the visibility was awesome. We had to get back on the ship after our excursion (I wish we had more time in this port). We had a snack (again, we were cheap and didn’t eat in Cabo), showered, and then went to dinner (I know, we ate a lot). Showtime that evening was a pretty gay revue of 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s music and dancing. Apparently it is possible to make the Village People even more gay than they originally were. Then we did some karaoke (we were all friends in the karaoke circuit by now), and listened to a comedy act.

Saturday was a quiet day at sea. I am apparently allergic to Mexico, because my sinuses were totally blocked Thursday through Saturday, which really sucked. So on Saturday I had a rehearsal and costume fitting for the big show. We ran through where we were supposed to stand on stage, and sang our songs while the dancers practiced their choreography. I was so messed up with allergies, I didn’t sound all that great, but it was so much fun! Saturday afternoon I napped, then we ate dinner. I had to report to the dressing room an hour before the show with my makeup done, and I got into costume. The performance was a blast! By this time, I was friends with most of the people in the show, and everyone did really well. We took pictures afterward, and they gave me an 8x10 photo and a DVD of the show, in addition to my little plastic ship trophy as a prize. It was fun being an on-ship celebrity during the week (I wore the flashing pin they gave me to wear, and people would say, “Hi Britney” all the time), and to hear my new friends in the audience cheering for me that night.
Sunday we woke early and debarked (I almost forgot my Britney mementos, but Chad thankfully remembered them at the VERY last minute!). We were tired, and I think ready to get off the ship, if not ready to come back to reality. The drive home was uneventful, but we were looking forward to seeing the kids again (whom my parents watched all week, bless them!). The first thing I noticed was that Bree’s hair seemed longer, and Mason’s huge cheesy grin had been replaced by a less intense smile. I’ll miss that. It’s amazing how much he changed in only a week! So, no, we didn’t miss the kids while we were on the cruise, but we were happy to see them when we got home. It was the best vacation we’ve ever had!

Little cruise details

Towel animals:

Entrees and Appetizers:
Salmon Appetizer, Sweet and Sour Jumbo Shrimp, Cucumber Mousse and Hummus, Salmon with Caviar, Crab Cake, Shrimp Cocktail, Filet Mignon, New York Strip Steak, Rack of Lamb, Seafood Platter
Creme Brulee with Berries, Chocolate Melting Cake, Chocolate Apple Torte, Mini Desserts: Chocolate mousse, Tirimisu, etc., Assorted Truffles and Candied Pineapple, Grand Marnier Souffle with Vanilla Orange Sauce

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Packing up

This Sunday, we will be heading out at like 4:00am to drive to Long Beach for our CRUISE!!! So, this might be my last post until after we get back. Right now, we're trying to do laundry so I can pack (Chad, of course, is packed already; he's always way ahead of me in that regard). This is always frustrating for me, because I wear the same 5 outfits every week, and rotate between 2 pairs of favorite jeans, so how am I supposed to pack? Am I just supposed to wear reject clothes for the next 3 days to keep my favorite clothes clean? I hate packing. I hate unpacking even more. But packing is stressful--especially on a cruise, because who wants to take time away from the fun to go shopping for forgotten articles at the Mazatlan Walmart? Anyway, I'm packing swimsuits and sweaters, to be fully prepared for all weather, and hopefully I'll have awesome pictures to share when I get back.
Just a note: last night we had our first rehearsal for the Ten Virgins performance that 11 of the sisters in our ward are taking part in. Guess who the Bishop put in charge? It's going to be a lot of fun, but we only have 2 months to get ready, and last night we only had 5 of the 10 virgins present at rehearsal. I promised the girls that I didn't type-cast, but it was ironic how the "foolish" virgins were the ones who didn't show...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mason is walking! (and Bree too)

Mason took his first steps at the beginning of December, but didn't really get into the walking thing until a couple of weeks ago. Now, all of a sudden, he's walking like crazy! He seems way too small to be walking around, and it just makes me laugh to watch him. He'll be two in one more month, and by then he'll be an old pro.

Sibling rivalry has set in lately. Maybe Bree was still too young (22 months) when Mason came along for her to realize that she had cause to be jealous. But now, I'm constantly hearing, "No, Mason, no!" followed by a thud and Mason crying. She doesn't quite get it that when she shoves him away (because he's touching her precious armchair or her toys), he falls right over and whacks his head on the floor. She's been needing more attention lately since Mason has been getting lots of attention for walking and just being so darn cute in general (notice at the end of Mason's video, she starts to say, "Now it's my turn!") But I know that deep down she loves him. And boy, does he love her--his face lights up when she smiles or plays with him, and he loves to watch her jump around and be silly.

For Christmas Chad gave me a webcam, which we've used to call Gramma and Papa Wallace a couple times. It's so awesome, and Bree loves to see them on the computer screen. Gramma got to see Mason walk live today, which was really cool. So, anyone out there who wants to talk on Skype ( for free download), let us know!

PS--Exerpts from Bree's latest bedtime prayers: "Thank you this day... please have Christmas... Santa come down the chimney and bring me presents (I've tried to explain that Christmas is over)...and go to Gramma's house...wear my Cinderella costune...and get Jesus Christ, amen."

Adam and Heather's Wedding

A week ago my parents, Mason, and I flew to Sacramento to see my brother Adam and Heather get married in the Sacramento temple. It was a wonderful sealing, and Heather looked gorgeous. Unfortunately, the sun came out just in time for pictures (I had flash-backs of my temple photo session: it was literally freezing, with painfully bright Las Vegas sunshine, and that notorious Vegas wind). It was a fun, but crazy weekend, and Mason was a good sport through the plane rides and the strange hotel room and crib. He was the life of the reception--everyone thought he was to cutest ever. I was able to take some video clips with my camera(thanks again, Skinny Cow scrapbook contest for my awesome prize!). I posted one that shows Adam's and Heather's true personality.
After coming home from Sacramento and recovering a little, I got to work on making 260 truffles for the reception here in Arizona at my parents' house. They have been slaving away in their backyard to lay like 10,000 paver stones to create a gorgeous and huge courtyard, soon to be complete with a pond and fountain. My mom made beautiful canopies over the tables to ward off that pesky January hot sun, and the tables were all festooned with silver and blue. The food was delicious (especially the truffles!), and there was a really good turn-out, considering the long, bumpy, dusty drive to get there!
So, now it's over, and we can all rest and recover. Well, except for Adam and Heather, who have to find an apartment in Provo (which is nigh-unto impossible, apparently) and start a new semester. I'm so happy for my brother, and I love, love, love my new sister Heather. I didn't think I'd ever approve of someone for Adam, but I just hadn't met Heather yet.

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