Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ringing in the "New Year"

We are not night owls at our house. I am in bed by 9pm every night. So instead of ringing in the actual New Year, or even New York's New Year, I queued up London's recorded celebration. Lame? Maybe. Functional? Of course.

Silly String. Donuts. Sparkling grape juice. Music and fireworks on the TV. That's how we do New Year's.

20 of My 32 Things: Not Bad

I didn't give up on the idea of accomplishing my 32 Things list in 2014, but I didn't let it depress me when it became obvious that I wasn't going to make it. And 2015 is a new year.
  • Go hiking with the family (San Tan Mountain Regional Park) 
  • Go camping with the family (in Payson; Lincoln got a wicked burn on his hand) 
  • Family vacation to Washington state  
  • Go on a date with Chad to somewhere new (Olive Mill for wood-fired pizza al fresco)  
  • Volunteer in Mason's kindergarten class 
  • Organize a play-date just for Lincoln (Owen came over for "swimming" in the blow-up pool) 
  • Donate blood  (I actually attempted 3 times, but was rejected twice: once for a high pulse, and once because I was on antibiotics)
  • Read the Book of Mormon  
  • Update the RS email directory (back when I was still the ward RS secretary)
  • Know all the sisters in my ward by name (I came pretty darn close, though there are still some I've never seen) 
  • Display family photos in the house (the beloved collage-frame has since been broken by a toy thrown off the balcony)
  • Plant something (herbs in pots on the kitchen window sill totally count) 
  • Make a chalkboard message wall in the kitchen (done, though I still need to patch the nail holes)
  • Decorate with a thrift store find (I found a cute fake herb-looking plant at a yard sale. I painted the pot yellow, and it looks cute on my kitchen island)
  • Furnish the loft with more light (Chad and his dad installed a ceiling fan and light, both of which were sorely needed)
  • Make bread pudding like the kind served at Famous Dave's
  • Make a tablecloth for the kitchen table (I totally made one, but have never used it, because I used a thick, cheap vinyl that I can't get the wrinkles out of)
  • Sew or refashion an article of clothing (I have altered several cheap men's t-shirts from Walmart to have a more feminine fit and neckline)
  • Read a biography (Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers. It was terrible.)
  • Take pictures every day for one week (easily accomplished during our vacation to Washington)
Not Completed:
  • Redecorate Bree's Barbie house with her (the plain white one she got from Santa two years ago)
  • Make a Family Home Evening assignment board (so I'm not the only one giving the lessons) 
  • Go to the temple at least 8 times (I've been twice so far...and almost made it two more times.)
  • Repair my living room curtains
  • Reupholster the couch in the loft (one of its arms used to be just there are chunks of foam missing)
  • Can butter    
  • Do 20 real pushups with good form 
  • Stay at or under my goal weight for a month
  • Read 52 books
  • Read War and Peace (I only got about a fifth of the way through...I think I might give up on this one) 
  • Publish my 2012 blog book (barely started) 
  • Scan and digitize my bin of old photos

Goal Categories: (at least I didn't completely neglect any categories)

More December Highlights

1: Bree got hit square in the face during her soccer game on the 6th, but kept right on playing. When I complimented her on it, she said, "A few tears were shed, but eh, I'm fine."
2: Candy making day! Caramel nut clusters, toffee, brittle, truffles, oh my.
3: The first casualty of the season. I was feeling so proud of myself for getting some early wrapping done. The next morning, Chad's gifts were open and strewn across the floor. Lincoln!
4: I started a Mary Kay page on Facebook. I've been trying to widen my client base, and it's been fun to post about makeup and skin care tips! This post was about applying sparkle eye shadow.
5: The latest version of the kids' chore list is up on the chalkboard. Because they can't seem to remember the basics, and I'm tired of sounding like a broken record. Their allowance depends on how many check marks they have, so hopefully they'll stay motivated.
6: Phineas and Ferb Christmas episode. Dark house and twinkle lights. Love it.
7: Pinterest success! Buckeye Brownie Cookies. Uh-MAZING.
8: At the ward Christmas party with my friend Reyna. I made her put on some of my red lipstick, cuz that's the kind of friend I am.
9 and 10: Chad and I celebrated our 13-year anniversary with a night at a resort. We ate out, saw a movie, and generally enjoyed quiet one-on-one time. I finally got to experience the magic that is a movie theater recliner seat. Yes, it is as awesome as I imagined it would be. We watched was weird, but I had a great time anyway.
11: How does she do it all? The baking, Christmas wrapping, running kids around, all the while looking fabulous? This is how. Plenty of crap gets left undone. Thank goodness for Chad, otherwise we'd have no clean laundry either.
12: We went to walk around the Loop of Lights this year. A nearby neighborhood goes all out with Christmas lights. This was the Cinderella house. One insane house has millions of lights, all programmed with music. It was awesome.

1: I helped out in Bree's classroom for their Christmas party! I taught the kids how to make 3D snowflakes. She loves having me there.
2 and 3: Bree and Mason both played their final games of soccer, and received their medals! They stuck it out, played hard and with good attitudes, and we're so proud of them.
4: My mom took Bree and I for some much-needed pre-Christmas pedicures. Toes need to be ready for Christmas too.
5: As Emmit from the Lego Movie would say, "Follow the instructions." So we are sorting all of Mason's legos. Building anything is impossible unless we do.
6: Bree loves helping out in the kitchen. Grandma let her pierce the apple-blueberry pie before it went in the oven.
7: I THINK Santa brought us enough DVDs...maybe...
8: Mason and Bree went shopping with their Christmas money from Grandma and Grandpa Wallace. Bree chose a CD and Ever After High dolls, and Mason chose Legos, of course.
9: Lincoln saw Grandma wearing her glasses to work a puzzle, so he went over to the end table where extra glasses are kept, and put these on. I am dying from the cuteness.
10: Copycat Famous Dave's Bread Pudding. Enough said.
11: We got a record-breaking number of Christmas cards this year. Seeing them fill up the chalkboard made me happy. Does this mean we're getting more popular?
12: This might have been Bree's last visit to Smaland at IKEA. Sad.

Monday, December 29, 2014

#21: Famous Dave's Bread Pudding

With the year almost gone, I set out to accomplish one last VERY important goal. I needed to attempt to make Famous Dave's bread pudding. On our first visit to Famous Dave's (delicious BBQ) we were treated to a complimentary dessert: bread pudding. I haven't been exposed to a lot of bread pudding in my life, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Well, this dessert blew me away. The only trouble is, by the time you finish your delicious dinner, you don't have any room left for dessert. So I decided to try to recreate this dish at home. I found a copycat recipe online, complete with Plantation praline sauce. I was pretty sure our kids would not be interested in eating it, so I saved the recipe for a time when we'd be together with other adults who would appreciate the dessert. Today, hanging out at my parents house, I finally put the recipe to the test. And we all agree that it is a huge success.
  • 1 loaf cinnamon swirl bread (I used Cinnabon brand, since that's all I could find)
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins (I omitted these)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup vanilla extract
  • 8 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
    1. Coat bottom and sides of 13-by-9-inch baking pan heavily with butter.
    2. Tear bread into 1-inch pieces. Mix with raisins in bowl. Lay bread mixture evenly in prepared dish, turning crust side down, as this tends to burn easily.
    3. In bowl, whisk sugar, milk, whipping cream, vanilla, eggs and cinnamon until blended. Pour over bread mixture.
    4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
    5. Place baking dish in larger 4-inch deep baking pan. Add water to reach halfway up side of dish. Bake in preheated oven 1 hour, or until all liquid is absorbed and custard-like.
    6. Remove from water bath. Let stand 20 minutes.
    PRALINE SAUCE (I cut this in half and it was plenty, but you may want extra on hand for ice cream, etc., because it is freakin' delicious)
  • 3 lbs. light brown sugar (about 3 1/4 cups packed)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1. In small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of the butter until melted.
    2. Add pecans and mix well. Bring to a boil.
    3. Cook until pecans begin to change color. Mixture will foam up.
    4. Add remaining 1/2 cup cubed butter and mix well. (This will cool pecan mixture and stop the cooking process.) Remove from heat.
    5. In a separate, large saucepan, combine brown sugar, whipping cream and cinnamon and mix well.
    6. Cook over low heat until blended, stirring constantly. Increase heat and cook until mixture comes to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer (temperature is crucial to final consistency of sauce).
    7. Stir in pecan mixture. Remove from heat.
    8. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix well.

    Friday, December 26, 2014

    Christmas Morning

    It was our first Christmas morning in this house, and it was perfect. It was stress-free, work-free, and we were all healthy. That's all I ever want, really... Except for maybe a Bissell Symphony. I really did want that. It has changed my life.

    There were tons of Legos for Mason, tons of Ever After High dolls for Bree, and Lincoln LOVES his "smart phone" toy.

    Then there was the winding down of Christmas morning. A magical time. Cocoa, homemade orange rolls, and Lego building, of course.

    Tuesday, December 23, 2014

    Temple Lights

    The Christmas Lights at the Mesa Temple are, without a doubt, the most amazing free Christmas display in the state. They get more breathtaking every year.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    The Trump Card

    Me, "Get off the table Lincoln."
    Lincoln, "Why?"
    "Because that's the rule."
    "Why? "
    "Because rules are to keep us happy and safe."
    "Because that's what God wants."
    I think he figured I had him there.

    Thursday, December 11, 2014

    Amateur Chef: Moroccan Style

    Today's "Amateur Chef" recipe was a masterpiece! Bastilla is a Moroccan dish with chicken, eggs, almonds, and cinnamon in a phyllo crust. So fun, and I felt like I was eating dessert! Thank you to Heavenly's hubbie for the tutorial!

    1: Layer phyllo dough in pie crust, sprinkle with cinnamon almond mixture.
    2: Alternately layer chicken/egg mixture and cinnamon/almond mixture.
    3: Fold phyllo over top, trimming as necessary. Brush with melted butter.
    4: Bake until golden, flipping half-way to brown both side.
    5: Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and use a stencil to sprinkle cinnamon in a design.
    6: Slice and serve!

    Saturday, December 6, 2014

    Bass Pro Christmas...Again

    I swore we'd never come back. Bass Pro Shops are getting too busy now that everyone has caught on to the beauty of free Santa photos inside a winter wonderland of free fun. But, here we are again. Call us cheap. Call it a tradition. Whatever. At any rate, I stood in an atrocious line while the kids roamed the store with Chad. Bree took the time to write a letter to Santa, while Mason reminded me that he had already mailed four letters, so he was good. Lincoln rode the carousel for the first time. I think he had fun, though it was difficult to tell by his expression. And the atmosphere is pretty cool. And if I'm completely honest, we'll probably be back next year.

    Tuesday, December 2, 2014

    Mason's Latest

    On our way home from school yesterday:
    Mason: "Mom, I met a girl today who I want to be my girlfriend someday."
    Me: "Oh yeah? What's she like?"
    Mason: "She's, like, in 6th grade. She's SO beautiful. She has blond hair."
    Me: "Is blond hair your favorite?"
    Mason: "Yeah! She's the most beautifulest girl in the whole world....well, except for you Mom."

    Also, on a completely unrelated note, I have grossly underestimated the rate at which my children would lose their sweaters and hoodies. We're not even officially into winter yet. Heaven forbid it dips below 50 degrees here...THEN they'll be sorry.

    Monday, December 1, 2014

    Christmas At Our House

    I gave the kids free reign on decorating the tree this year, and only intervened when the tree started to sag in places from too many ornaments in one place. The placement drives Chad crazy (my wonderful OCD husband), but I am surprisingly okay with it. And I finally agreed that we should add some blue ornaments this year, and I don't know why I resisted so long. It's gorgeous. AndI love how the entry way looks, all welcoming and Christmasy. And the Christmas Village fits perfectly on the "mantle" Chad built for me.
    Photos taken November 24th and 25th.

     And our elves impressed us this year. They are so helpful!

    Sunday, November 30, 2014

    November Tidbits

    1: The season of letters to Santa has begun. Mason got off to an early start. On the list: Cloud Cuckoo Palace, Bad Cop's Pursuit, Zoomer Dino, Millennium Falcon, Toxikita's Toxic Meltdown. All Legos except for the Dino.
    2: November 8th was the first game of the soccer season for Mason and Bree. A perfect time of year for being outside.
    3: I tested a new cupcake recipe in honor Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Marshmallow. They turned out delicious, though I couldn't really taste the sweet potato. Which was actually fine by me.
    4: Soccer practice under a gorgeous Arizona sunset. My pictures never do it justice.
    5 and 6: Chad has been looking forward to the Reptile Expo for months. I went with him, and we made a day of it. I thought it was hilarious that they were selling reptiles in tupperware. I'm not sure what I expected...
    7: Chad and I got new smartphones! Thanks to a great deal because of his job, we got a great monthly price, and awesome phones for free. This was my first selfie with the new phone. Everything about my LG2 makes my old "smart" phone look like a joke. I can't believe I used that thing for a whole year.
    8: The kids' soccer league is Christian-based, and they say a prayer before every game.
    9: I don't know if all bearded dragons are as weird as Ash. She rests in the strangest positions.
    10: Ever since discovering Legendary Doughnuts on our trip to Washington this year, I have been trying to find somewhere that sells doughsants (half doughnut, half croissant) like theirs. I was so excited to snag this at Dunkin, but was hugely disappointed. Nothing like that crispy, buttery, chewy croissant-like doughnut from my memories. But I will not stop searching.
    11: I have a couple friends that sell Jamberry nail wraps. This design was actually for kids, but it was too cute for me to pass up.
    12: Mason and my dad spent most of Thanksgiving day playing video games. Mason was, of course, in heaven.

    Saturday, November 29, 2014

    Thanksgiving Tradition

    I has become a tradition for our family to take pictures together on Thanksgiving. Just in time for sending out Christmas cards. They are, in fact, the only pictures I took on Thanksgiving. I blame the 85-degree weather. It's just unnatural. But the photos turned out cute.

    Happy Thanksgiving! 2014

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    Christmas Open House

    I decided (with some prompting from Chad) to host an open house to showcase all the "stuff" I sell, in time for friends' Christmas shopping. I still had tons of flower hair clips, headbands, etc. from the Sweet Whimsy booth business in Globe. And I also have nursing covers, Mary Kay, and baked goods. It took a lot of prep (probably more than it was worth!), but the result included an impressive spread of goodies that I had to document.

    Free samples for everyone:
    Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes, Chocolate Almond Toffee, White Chocolate Cashew Toffee, Cream Cheese M&M Cookie Bars, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cupcakes, Peanut Brittle, Pecan Pie, Soft Sugar Cookies, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes.

    Sunday, November 16, 2014

    Getting to know you...Ash

     A month ago we welcomed a new member of the family. Ash is a bearded dragon.
    She's just an adorable little baby, and so calm and fun to hold. The kids were so excited to finally get a pet after our long petless period.

    One month later, Lincoln gets to know Ash, up close and personal.

    Friday, October 31, 2014

    Halloween "Party"

    We love Halloween at our house. I think I get really into it because it's the beginning of the holiday season, and it gives me an excuse to decorate and make themed food. We hosted a Halloween night drop by and eat party like we did last year. We made way too much food again, but those who came had a good time. I should have taken more pictures (as always), but I at least got one of our family in costume. My mom is an amazing seamstress!

    And Adam's family was adorable. I cannot look at Corban here and not smile.

    And speaking of themed food, I give you Pumpkin Cheeseball (just the shape, not the flavor):

    And spooky drinks and mix-ins, for brewing your own potion (the kids LOVED these):

    I'm thinking we'll do it again next year.

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    A Special Pumpkin Fest

    Chad and I had a chance to take Lincoln to a free fall event for kids with special needs at the Desert Botanical Gardens. It was sunny and hot, because that's how we do fall around here.

    There were Halloween tattoos (Lincoln was not a fan):

    Art projects:

    And a hay maze perfect for kids Lincoln's size:

    The petting zoo was cool--Lincoln loved the tiny pigs:

    And he got to pick out his own free pumpkin (Chad wanted to grab a huge one, but we let Lincoln choose, and he opted for a small one):

    We finished the trip off with free entry to the Butterfly Exhibit (I got yelled at for trying to get one to crawl on my finger):

    Saturday, October 11, 2014

    A Budding Seamstress

    Bree and Mason each got to spend a couple days on their own with my mom during fall break. When she asked Bree what she wanted to do, she said she wanted to learn to sew. My mom let her choose her own fabrics and patterns, and walked her through the process. She told me that Bree did every single stitch herself, and that she was a natural with the sewing machine. Bree is so proud of her accomplishments, and wears her creations frequently. Here she is modeling one dress:


    Sunday, October 5, 2014

    Fall Break: Family Style

    Fall Break found us in Vegas again. The kids don't get to see enough of Grandma and Papa Wallace, so the drive is well worth it. We did a couple popular favorites. 
    Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay:

    Discovery Children's Museum:

    And new for us this year was a jaunt up to St. George to visit Mike's family, and see cousin Taysom return home from her mission! We are so proud of her!

    And we "women" went to the General Women's meeting broadcast and dinner at the Cheesecake Factory! Love this picture. But Bree is way too grown up.

    Pictures taken 9/29/14 thru 10/2/14

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014

    September Stuff

     1: For months I kept hearing, "They're building a Kneaders near us!" Um, a what? Apparently Kneaders is an awesome bakery I'd never heard of, but that would change my life. Well, it opened, and yes, my life is changed. I am fatter. Delicious sandwiches made on freshly baked bread, yummy bottomless cinnamon bread french toast, and a huge assortment of goodies. This particular box contains a peanut butter pie my mom bought for everyone to share one day...along with tarts, "croissants" (in quotes because they are SO not real croissants), and pretty much one of everything that looked good. Our favorites? The Napoleon, key lime pie, chocolate dome, and raspberry cream pie.
    2: Chad loves reptiles. The first time we saw this house, before we even bought it, he said the built-in shelf in the loft would make a perfect spot for a terrarium. And when he found one for a great price at a yard sale, all that was left to do was fill it. He found this little guy in the desert one day. We kept him for a little while before Chad released him. Too skittish to make an actual pet.
    3: I can't remember exactly why I snapped a photo of this plaque I saw at Kohl's. Probably because it describes me very accurately. And I'm not always silent about it either.
    4: I was visiting a friend of mine, and when I saw her kids playing on this car (the youngest of whom is 6), I asked if she occasionally babysat a toddler. She laughed and said no, that her kids just loved it. But she decided it was time to let go, so she gave it to Lincoln! He LOVES it. You can see in the picture that he is taking his baby for a ride.
    5 and 6: The range that came with this house was sub-par. The oven temperature fluctuated 100 degrees up and down, there was no window, no oven light, and there was only one large coil burner, which didn't work unless you hit it just right. We got a surprise early inheritance from my grandparents, which finally made a new range a possibility! The disgusting picture shows all the treasures I found when the old range was taken away: a long lost spoon, a toy car, 35 cents, 2 legos, 5 wine corks, and some cat food (the last two were leftover from the previous owner, which is awesome). I LOVE my new range! So much easier to cook and clean.
    7 and 8: September 8th was a memorable day. "The kind of storm you'll tell your grandkids about," the headline said. More than 3 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, which is about half of our yearly rainfall in one day. We here in the valley can't handle that kind of precipitation, and consequently the roads were flooded, buses couldn't get through, and school was cancelled. Bree: "This is my worst nightmare, not being able to go to school." Mason: "This is the best day of my life!!!"
    9: The view of the Sharing Down Syndrome Walk at Tempe Diablo Stadium. 4th year going, and lots of fun.
    10: I'm not sure when exactly this picture was taken, but one of Bree's favorite things to do is go on walks with my dad in the desert. He has taught her about edible desert plants, and here she is helping him gather saguaro cactus fruit.
    11: I noticed that peanut butter powder was on group special this month, and asked around hoping I could get other people interested so I could order the 12 can minimum. I ended up ordering 37 cans for 16 people! And that stuff is AWESOME in smoothies.
    12: Lincoln is so little. SO, SO little. He makes me nervous climbing at the park, and I have to forcefully tell myself to just let him go for it. He has never fallen. He knows his limits, and he growing every day.
    13: Is September 21st too early to decorate for Halloween? If so, clearly we don't care.
    14: Mason: "I wanted to look like Duck Dynasty!"
    15: I am obsessed with Febreze Air Effects. But this new Spiced Pear scent? It's obsession on a whole new level. (Not a paid advertisement)
    16: I started a cooking group with a couple friends last month, and called it Amateur Chef (in homage to one of my favorite shows: Master Chef). This month Christie taught us how to make Hamam Ma'shi (stuffed hens) and Aish Baladi (Egyptian pita). So awesome! I LOVED the pitas. So easy, and delicious dipped in her dad's homemade hummus.
    17 through 20: Snapshots from our visit to Vegas for Fall Break. The kids playing games with Grandma. Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. Cousin Abby being so sweet to Lincoln. Grandma teaching Bree how to make her famous Chicken and Rice.

    Saturday, September 20, 2014

    4th Time Already?!

    This year we participated in the Annual Walk for Down Syndrome for the FOURTH time. Somehow time has flown, and we are pretty well-versed in the special needs arena.

    We've gone from dazed first-timers:

    To old pros:

    And we've had a bit of fun along the way.

    And Lincoln's Heroes is still going strong:

    Rock on Lincoln.
    Saturday, September 20th
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