Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shoes Beware!

No shoes are safe with this bug-a-boo around! She absolutely LOVES shoes, and is always putting somebody's shoes on and tromping around. It is quite adorabe- even though now when we leave she insists on putting on her own socks and shoes, which she really can't quite do yet, so that is a little annoying.

Other than keeping our shoes on high alret, Claire is getting into and attempting to destroy everything in sight. She is very curious, and she thinks if her big sister can do it, than she can do it too.

She still loves wrestling her big sister, but Audra loves it, so they have a lot of fun together. Audra is also very good at coming up with games that she thinks Claire is playing, when in reality all Claire is doing is wandering around aimlessly. It works out well for them.

Claire has really started talking/babbling quite a bit. Here are some of my favorites:
"Scharr": Translation: "share" This is said everytime Audra has something that Claire wants
"mo peas": Translation: "More Please." This is especially cute when she has finished a bowl of ice-cream and is handing us her bowl and expecting more. One bowl is all she gets, though.
"Yes." Translation: Yes. I especially love this because she says the "S" sound and it is oh so cute. It is also cute when Audra will ask her something like, "do you want to eat mud, Claire?" and Claire says, "yes!"
"duck" and "gooooos": Translation: Duck and Goose. She was saying that today at the park. She absolutely loves animals- though they are rightfully terrified of her.
"Audwa": Translation: Audra. She really loves her big sister!
"Beam!" Translation: "Sunbeam"- a favorite song of hers, with her fist going in the air on "beam" and everything
"Fur-word": Translation: Fast-forward. Even at age 21 months she knows that we do not watch commercials at our house- especailly during Horton Hears a Who- her favorite movie.

She is also very good at repeating individual words and she is starting to form short sentences.

She still loves to read books and she has started singing some songs.

Her favorite foods are still bread, yogurt, and cheese. She still will only drink water- nothing else.

She takes one 2-hour nap every afternoon at 1 and sleeps from about 7:30-7:15. The second she wakes up Audra goes into her room and entertains her until Ben or I decide to go get her. When she is tired, we know it- she does not keep it a secret.

Claire is a pretty feisty girl- she definitely knows what she wants and when she wants it, and she knows how to tell us what she wants. And if she doesn't get it- watch out!

She is a hitter- and a little bit of a biter. I took her into nursery a few weeks ago and said, "We noticed she is starting to hit. Please feel free to put her in time-out or discipline her however you see fit" and they said, "We know she hits." Apparently she and this other boy, Jack, both have the same feisty personality and they get on each other's nerves- ie., fight over the same toys. But, during sacrament while Jack was in the hall with his mommy, he went door to door knocking and saying, "Claire? Claire?" A future romance? Time will tell!

Her hair is nice and long- as you can see in the picture- but she hates for me to put it up. HATES it. So, I only have about 15 seconds to hold her down and put her hair up. The Pebbles hairstyle is the only one I have time for, and I love it so that's what she gets. Or, she sports the Bieber look- which she also looks cute in.

It has been really fun to watch she and Audra be best friends. All of Audra's friends love her, and they have a blast together. It's certainly never a dull moment, and she definitley keeps us on our toes, but she is pretty awesome in our opinion!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The PERFECT Bread!

I have been on the hunt for the perfect homemade bread. Many of you know, I started making almost all of my own bread about a year ago. I have an excellent cinnamon raisin bread for french toast (a huge family favorite!), lots of great roll recipes, and a great bread recipe for everyday occasions- a quick bread that can be made when we have pasta or just need a bread with dinner.

In vain, however, I had searched and searched for a good sandwich bread recipe. Most of the sandwich breads I made were coarse or dry or just not quite right.

About a month ago I was at a party and I discovered that one of the women I met at the party was a good bread maker (yes, I know I am lame to be asking people for bread recipes at parties). I asked her if she had a good sandwich bread recipe, and she said she did and that she would gladly send me the recipe.

It took me awhile to give it a try, but last week I made it, and I made it again today. And, let me say: IT IS WITHOUT A DOUBT THE MOST PERFECT BREAD IN THE WORLD!!!! I absolutely LOVE this recipe, and I will make this a thousand times more, I am sure!

Here is the recipe for those who would like to give it a shot:

Whole Wheat Bread

1/3 cup Oil
1/3 cup Molasses
1/3 cup Honey
1 T Salt
3 T Yeast
5 ½ cups Warm water - not too hot, just warm enough to wash your hands...but not too cool!
½ cup wheat gluten (optional...but makes texture of bread so nice!)
12-14 cups Whole wheat white flour

1. Mix the first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Then add the warm water and stir it all together. Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes, until there are big frothy bubbles.

2. After the yeast water is bubbly, add (optional) gluten and 10 cups of flour. Mix for about 10 minutes with a mixer on high, until the consistency has changed to a big glop and sticks together into a nice ball.

3. Add remaining flour (2-4 cups) and mix well. You can tell if there is enough flour by oiling your fingers and touching the dough. If it is sticking to your fingers, it needs more flour. If it isn’t sticking to your fingers, you have enough flour. Don’t add so much flour that the dough becomes really stiff - you want to put in just enough flour to keep it from sticking to your fingers. Then put the flour away - you won’t need it anymore!

4. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, and flip the ball of dough over in the bowl so the whole ball is oiled. Cover the bowl with a towel, and let rise until it is twice as big, about 30 minutes.

5. Form into 4 loaves and put into greased pans. (DO NOT use flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter when you are forming the dough! It will ruin the texture. Use oil on your hands and the counter top. I often re-oil the counter before each loaf that I form.)

6. Let rise in pans 11 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees for 32 minutes.

7. Take it out of the oven. Take the bread out of the pans right away, then let it cool on wire racks.

Christina again:
The first time I made it, I followed the directions exactly and it turned out perfect. But, it was way too much for my poor KitchenAid (we have the small model, I guess) and the dough exploded everywhere by the end. So today I did a half recipe, and it still turned out perfect and it didn't explode everywhere. Of course, it only made 2 loaves, but that should be enough for a week at our house. It is a workout for the mixer, however! The KitchenAid was bouncing everywhere (so watch it so it doesn't fall off the counter), and it really makes the motor run and get hot- hopefully it doesn't break the mixer!

Pay attention to how long you have it in the oven- we don't need quite 32 minutes.

Also, you can taste the molasses in the bread. If you hate the taste of molasses, you may want to try using more honey and less molasses and see what that does.

Truly, this is the perfect bread!!!! I will never buy store bought again (unless I really need it and I am in a bind. But I will only buy it in an emergency!)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Have You Ever?

I beg you to tell me if you have ever seen a more stylish bike rider:

Please notice the shoes on the wrong feet and the pants that practically come to her knees. And yes, that's a leotard under her jeans.

This is our Audra- a little eccentric when it comes to clothes, but oh so cute!

Here is a little update on what she's up to:

The other day we sat at the dinner table and she said- in all seriousness- "So, Ben, how was work today?"
It was hard not to laugh at that one.

We have started using "priviledeges" with her to get her to listen better. Time-outs weren't working, and for awhile we were throwing away candy and it worked for a few weeks. But, when I say, "if you want to go the park tomorrow, you have to behave at the store today" it works pretty much 100% of the time and has made our lives a lot easier. She was having horrible tantrums with transitions- when we had to leave grandma and grandpas or a friends house, for example. Now, those tantrums have disappeared because she has to earn her priviledges by being good.

In reality, she is an angel child. Seriously. In primary, she loves to sing and she sits so nicely that the teacher puts the kids who are misbehaving next to Audra and she helps them to behave by her example.

She has no interest in her letters or numbers, but I don't care. She will sit and flip through a book for an hour, making up a story and using her creativity. She'll catch on to the rest when she's ready, but I'm not going to push her. I want her to love learning, and I think letting her just have fun with books right now does that.

She is really excited to have found out that grandma and grandpa are Ben's mom and dad. Now she'll say, "remember, daddy, that grandma is your mommy and grandpa is your daddy, but they're my grandma and my grandpa." Everytime she says it as if Ben had forgotten.

Speaking of Ben...she is figuring out how to manipulate Ben a little bit. While I go put Claire down for bedtime, Ben puts Audra in bed and gives her a kiss good-night. Now, Audra will ask for a cup of water, which Ben gets. Then, she all of a sudden gets the urge to tell Ben everything that happened during the day, everthing that will happen tomorrow, and everything else she can think up. She will rattle off information super fast for 5 minutes (delaying bedtime) while Ben listens. I tell him it is her stall tactic so she doesn't have to go to bed, but he doesn't care because he loves to hear her talk. I can't blame him- I love to listen to her talk as well.

Since the binkie fairy came, she does not take naps. That has been an adjustment for me. I am playing a lot more CandyLand. Thankfully, the weather has been nice and she'll go play in the backyard for quite a bit so I can attempt to get things done around the house.

Speaking of which, I need to get back to the laundry. Claire's mini-update will come later.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Birthday Fun

I pretty much ROCK when it comes to celebrating Ben's Birthday. I used to be able to say I had the monopoly on throwing awesome Birthday's, but then Ben took me to the Straight No Chaser concert for my Birthday, so it's getting harder and harder to outdo him.

Celebrating Ben's Birthday this year has been years in the making.
Before we were married, Ben told me one of his life-long dreams was to stay at the Broadmoor- a 5-star hotel in Colorado Springs. I tucked that bit of knowlege away thinking I might be able to use it someday, but then we had kids and the timing just wasn't quite right. The thought of taking a nursing baby on a romantic getaway just didn't seem that great, you know?

But, finally the stars aligned! A couple of months ago I made reservations, and thankfully Ben's parents willingly agreed to watch the kiddos overnight (thank goodness for grandparents who live nearby!)

Ben was totally clueless. I loved it, but I learned something this last weekend:
1. I LOVE surprises!
2. Ben HATES surprises!

I dropped the girls off at Mac and Ann's and then I came home and said, "Ben- get in the car!" It's about a 70 minute drive to the hotel, and the entire time he kept saying, "So, where are you taking me?" and I kept saying, "don't you trust me?" to which he responded, "I guess not. I'm scared."

About 10 minutes from the hotel I had him take out a card that explained his Birthday surprise getaway. I expected him to jump up and down with excitement (admittedly, this would have been car while in his seat belt, but I expected it nevertheless). Instead, he said, "oh, that's what we're doing?"

Not quite the response I had hoped for.

I should explain, however, why he had that reaction.

We are not "high society" people. In fact, we really don't like rich people. At all. We don't know how to act around them. We don't know how much to tip, and who to tip, and how the whole rich way of life works.

So Ben was a little thrown off- not having time to prepare himself mentally for being around the rich and for being catered to hand and foot. One would think one could just jump right in to the high life, but it takes some getting used to when you've never had it before.

But we were in this together! We checked in and went to the hotel room, and discovered this:

 This was the nicest room! The bed (and the chairs) were so incredibly comfortable that I thought I was sitting and sleeping on a cloud. I may not like the rich way of life, but I could get used to what the rich have to offer!

Below is one of the many lounges- breathtakinly beautiful!
 The Broadmoor is more like a resort- it has several different buildings, or wings, surrounding this beautiful lake. We stayed in the "West Wing" because I thought it would be cool to say that we stayed in the "West Wing." Did we just jump high on the cool meter for staying there?

It was a little windy, but we enjoyed walking around, relaxing, and enjoying the beautiful scenery- and the beautiful hotel. We really did feel like we had left the world behind and we were in our own little paradise. It was great!
 Because we are not used to being "rich", I didn't even think to pack nice clothes. But, of the 18 restaurants in the Broadmoore, all but a few required at least "Resort Casual" (whatever that is). So, we went to basically the only one that would admit us in jeans: The Golden Bee.

This was the highlight of the night! It is an English style Pub- the first Pub Ben has ever been to. We LOVED it! The food was delicious, and the atmosphere was right up our ally- casual and loud! In fact, Ben loved it so much he has been looking up pubs in the Denver area that we can try out to try and find something that compares in awesome-ness.

 This is for my sister, Michelle. It is an ale-barrell that was actually used in England in the 1800's and says, "The King God Bless Him."

Lest you think we are now all hoity-toity, let me tell you our most humbling experience.

In our entire lives, we have never used valet parking.

We have also never had any problems with my little Toyota Corolla. I've had it for 10 years now, and it has been perfect.

But what should happen on the very day that we are going to be using valet parking? Our interior door handle on the driver side broke. The valet parking attendants had to roll down the window and open the door from the outside to get out of the car.

Talk about embarrassing- but I suppose that is just to remind us that we are nothing special- even though we sure felt that way while we were there!

(Another thing to remind us that we are nothing special is that when we went to pick the girls up, Audra cried and didn't want to leave. She wants to move in with Grandma and Grandpa. I think Claire missed us at least a ltitle bit, but when we asked Audra if she missed us it didn't even take her half a second to answer, "na-uh." I guess no matter what we do, grandparents will always be the kids favorite!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Perfect Day For The Zoo!

We decided to go to the zoo today. Actually, this has been in the works for a couple of weeks because we decided to go to a zoo that is a bit far away- about a 90 minute drive. But, I had heard it is the best zoo EVER, so this morning we went with some friends to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

They actually get to feed the giraffes at this zoo- how cool is that? That was definitely the best part!
Audra was a little scared of the giraffes, actually. But, she overcame her fears and did great.
 You can see Claire here behind Audra- she LOVED this! It was very hard for me to keep with her, however.
 Audra got to pretend to be a monkey.

 At this exhibit, the kids got to feed the birds with sticks with birdseed on them. As hard as they tried, however, the birds would not eat. They must not have been hungry.

 Claire in a spider web.
 Audra hatching.

 On the Merry-go-round, a favorite for the kiddos.

 And Audra telling me to "stop taking pictures, mom!"
Overall, a GREAT day- but I am really tired!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Feeding The Geese

On Tuesday we went to the park and had a wonderful, albeit slightly cold, time. We even got a special surprise: one of Audra's friends brought some bread to feed the geese! I am not sure if we are allowed/supposed to feed the geese, but the girls absolutely LOVED it! Claire was the happiest I have ever seen her- she seriously thought it was the greatest thing ever. Here are the pictures to prove it:
 I had to be right next to Claire the entire time. The dock actually seemed quite dangerous, and I was worried she would fall in. She probably would have thought it was great to swim with the geese, however!

 She wanted the geese to come up and eat the bread out of her hands- thankfully, they never did or she would have had a nice little bite.
 Audra also thought it was wonderful, though thankfully I didn't have to worry nearly as much about  her as I did with Claire.

 I was holding onto Claire the whole time!
 Here are Audra and one of her best friends, Hannah, on the swings.
 Claire playing in the woodchips- she could do that all day!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Like I am sure many of you, I have been glued to my TV the past few days as the scenes of what has transpired in Japan has unfolded. I wanted to write a post on Japan, in part to document and in part to try and process what is happening.

Certianly apocolyptic scenes being displayed on live TV isn't new- we saw the devastation of Haiti and the 2004 tsunami that both killed so many. But for some reason Japan has affeceted me a little differently. I hope I do not sound callous when I say that- my heart broke for the people in Haiti and of course in all those island countries as thousands lost their lives.

And  my heart is wrenching again for the people in Japan, but in a slightly different way. I think I have narrowed down in two ways why this particular disaster has been so difficult for me to process:

1. The news footage is so graphic because everybody in Japan has cell phones to record what was happening literally as it happened- certainly that has played a factor

But, I also think this is another reason:

2. Japan is not a third world country- they are like us. When I see devastating images of a third world county, it is horrific and depressing, but somehow not entirely a surprise because they don't have the infrstructure or the resources of a first world country. But, Japan spends billions of dollars a year (more than any other country) protecting itself against what happened- and the destruction is still unimaginable. It hits home for me just a little bit more, because it could just as well be us that it is happening too.

As Ben told me last night, "no matter what you do, you can't beat Mother Nature."

Granted, of course, without their infrastructure thousands more would have died- so thank goodness they have done all that they have done to protect themselves.

But this disaster reminds me yet again of the importance of doing all we can personally to prepare- both spiritually and physically- because Mother Nature can strike at anytime and anywhere- not just in third world countries.

Now excuse me while I go back to the TV.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The REAL Bedtime Routine

Claire likes to come up with games that she thinks are really funny, but we don't enjoy nearly as much. One of her favorites: Hiding from Daddy under the chair to avoid a diaper change. Look at her face- she thinks it is absolutely hilarious.                                               

Claire putting on Audra's shoes and/or clothes- pretty much getting into anything and everything.

Audra playing with a "magic wand" (it's much scarier when Claire plays with it) while we are saying, "it's scripture time."
In reality, they actually go to bed incredibly easily and bedtime is a non-issue, but it's funny how we try to have scripture time and family prayer while they are just running around playing. Oh, well- line upon line, precept upon precept, right?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Odds and Ends

Things have been pretty boring around here, but I think that's a good thing.
But, on Tuesday as I was going to a meeting and saying good-bye to everyone, this little munchkin said, "I love you" for the first time. She sure knows how to melt my heart!
 Claire is really big into drawing/coloring right now, but I thought this picture with Audra giving her a hug was pretty cute. Claire, of course, wouldn't look at the camera because she was too busy drawing.
We went to Pump it Up yesterday and had a great time. This is Audra's excited face. We will be going back!

Other notes:
My friend is holding an on-line auction for her daughter, Cici, who many of you keep tabs on. Part of the proceeds will also go to a project called "Ben's Bells." My friend is looking for items to use in her aution- homemade items, new baby clothes, gift cards, etc.- really anything that can be shipped in the mail. If you are willing to donate anything, send me an e-mail and I will get you her info.

And, lastly:
BYU has been in the news a lot lately because of it's honor code and a star basketball player who violated the honor code and was kicked off the team (and maybe the school?) right before the NCAA tournament- where it is likely BYU will be a #1 or #2 seed.

As an alumni of BYU, I wanted to give a huge shout out to BYU. I think it is awesome that in a world of failing values and moral decline, there is a place where people are expected to keep their word and honor their committments. Though you do not have to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to attend BYU, you do have to sign the honor code and agree to live by it's terms to attend.

I love that it wasn't even a question as to whether or not to keep this player on the team. He broke the code, the punsihment of which is that you cannot be on the team. Period.

Though I am certain I complained of the rules while I was there (because some of them really are strict), I am proud to be an alumni of BYU and I completely agree with their decision!