Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Adventures & Shish Kabobs

St. Anthony Pioneer Days' Fun Run (July 24th)

My brother Jim pushed our brother Don in this year's St. Anthony Pioneer Days' race. My sons Samuel (10 at the time) and Oliver (8) ran, too, in the 5K. Last year I pushed Don in the 10K all alone and boy was he a fun running partner! But... it was kinda tough. I was more than happy to let Jim have a go while I paced Oliver. Sam ran on up ahead of Oliver and me, and Jim & Don were somewhere ahead of Sam. It was a great race. I LOVE the technical shirts, plus I won a pair of $10 swimming goggles. That just about paid for my whole registration fee. :)
Like always, racing with Don wouldn't have been possible without Dad. Thank you, Dad, for your early morning help! Jeff was right on time with the girls and my Mom to see us off. Jeff's parents were there cheering us on, too. Kind of cool. Okay, really cool. I love the race day atmosphere.
Samuel (the race director said) placed 2nd, and Oliver 3rd (although the newspaper reported it differently - but we saw the boys come in 2nd & 3rd). The very very cool thing about this race is that, although it is t-i-n-y, all the children receive a finisher's medal.

Pictures from the Blue Angels Air Show. We were invited to join the private showing (how private can it be when it's up in the sky?) with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It was a very gracious invitation, and we were delighted with the entire thing. Amazing Air Acrobats, is all I can say. The moves made me gasp more than once. I could've watched them all day. Star Wars folks joined the fun.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's - 4 Planes!!! (There were actually 6, but pictured here are 4)

Two princesses

This is how close our seats were to the Blue Angels - they loaded up right behind where I'm standing (and I was standing right in front of our seats).

Cycling 101

When it comes to cycling, I'm the first to admit that I am way out of my comfort zone. Running is easy - you just kinda put one foot I front of then other and go. Sure, there are things you can hone in on, like form and intervals, but pretty much anyone can jog without much instruction. Swimming I do just because I like it and since I took lessons as a kid, it also pretty much just happens. There are tons of things I can work on there - balance, technique, and conditioning - but it doesn't make me uncomfortable. Not like my bike does.

So I used to think cycling was just hopping on and going, like lacing up my running shoes and taking off. I guess for most cyclists that's really how it is, but for yours truly this is a new sport for me and new things terrify me. Ever meet someone who wants to be perfect at anything she tries? And if she isn't doing it right she's convinced she's a full-blown failure? That'd be me. So the very fact that I've been hopping on and joining rides is a huge deal for me.

Why in the world am I even stretching myself like this if it's so tough? Well, because of a lot of reasons. Some of the very neatest ladies I know are great cyclists (and also very patient, especially when I had a flat a few rides ago). I love being in their company. And of course, cycling is a fabulous cross-training workout, which helps curb boredom and avoid over-use injuries while training for marathons. I'm also branching out because my husband, who can't run, can (and does) ride, so this is something we can do together.

And the number one reason I'm sticking with this sport - well, surprise surprise, because it's just plain fun! I don't need to know all the ins and outs of components and cadence and climbing before I have fun. I don't need to be an expert at the sport before I even dare try it in the first place (how backwards is that?)! That knowledge will come with experience, and if I make a mess of things in the meantime, well, so what? At least I'm having a good time.

With winter gone and basement workouts on my trainer now a dim memory, I am thrilled to get out and go farther and faster on wheels than ever in my running shoes. I still love my running (and swimming), but my cute little bike is becoming quite the friend. Who knows, I may even get serious enough to invest in a really cool bike someday (I'll see if I can impress my husband by becoming a biker chick).

Now that I'm daring to make a fool of myself (and honestly having too much fun to care anyway), I'm beginning to dare to learn the mysteries of the bike universe and have even asked my husband to teach me to change a flat. Yup. I asked. I haven't actually learned yet, but hey - baby steps, right?

Pictures: Just for fun. The girls, the boys, and the boys and the girls.

Recipe: Grilled Bacon-wrapped chicken with veggies Shish Kabobs in a honey-soy sauce marinade. OH YUMMY!

Cut into chunks 3 chicken breasts and a package of large mushrooms. Add to the:
Mix together the following (I mix it in a gallon size ziploc bag).
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Cider Vinegar
1/4 Tbs. Honey
1/4 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Lemon-lime soda pop (optional)
1 Tbs. garlic powder
One large, diced green onion.

Let marinate in large plastic bag or glass bowl for at least one hour.

Veggies of choice
Pineapple chunks
1/2 lb. Bacon, thin sliced (thick is okay, but harder to wrap around chicken)

Boil 1/2 lb. thin sliced bacon, cut in half, for 5 minutes. Drain.
When ready to assemble shish kabobs, drain & save marinade from chicken & mushrooms. Wrap a half slice of bacon around each chunk of chicken (when you run out of either one, just put whatever is left over on the skewers).

Alternate pineapple, veggies & meat on skewers. I used red onion (Vidalias are great, too), green peppers, and grape tomatoes in addition to the bacon-wrapped chicken and mushrooms.

Preheat oiled grill on high for 10 minutes. Turn heat to low, then grill shish kabobs for a few minutes each side, basting with some of the remaining marinade, until done (about 15 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is). Serve with rice.

With remaining marinade, boil in microwave for a few minutes, skim off any scummy stuff (from the soda and chicken). In a separate bowl, mix 1 Tbs. cornstarch with 1 Tbs. cold water. Add to hot marinade, return to microwave and cook on high another minute or so (until it thickens). Then play around with the marinade-now-sauce until it tastes great. I added some more soy sauce, a little sugar, and some sweet hot chili sauce. Use on rice & veggies.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oliver was so pleased (and so were the rest of us!) with his white chocolate fudge. Super easy, kid-friendly, and definitely tasty. He is an amazing cook, and really an amazing person. I'll have more of his Good Eats feature in future posts.

1 2/3 Cups Vanilla Baking Chips
2/3 Cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Butter an 8x8 pan. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt chips and milk, stirring constantly, until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Spread into prepared pan, cover & refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour).

(Picture: How can a tiny little barely-3 year-old manage to take up an entire King size bed all by herself? It happens. Like, all the time.)

(Picture: Jeff, Oliver, Eleanor & Charlotte at the 4th of July Parade when we got to ride on the very cool antique firetruck).
Just for my own records (and if anyone ever dares ask what a mom does all day), here's a brief recounting of my day so far (written at 5pm): It began with a 5am swim, 6am bike ride (27 miles); breakfast, laundry, washed the hard floors, cleaned all six bathrooms, watered all 27 potted plants, tidied up the attic, the main floor, and the basement, then I made lunch. After I got the kids their lunch, I emptied the dishwasher, then set up the little pools outside, then sent the kids out to play. While they played I cleaned up from lunch, answered some emails, worked on the laundry, then spent about 1 1/2 hours outside with the kids - I was hulling strawberries while I watched them play. Now I've made them afternoon snacks, got them ready for soccer, and am waiting for a window-blind guy to arrive to measure windows in the basement. At 6 pm I have to get 2 kids to 2 different parks for 2 soccer games, and 7pm we have a 3rd soccer game at a 3rd park. All three children are providing soccer treats for their teams tonight. I hope Jeff comes home soon. Oh, and I think it's time I had my breakfast now. And my lunch. No wonder I'm dragging!

Yep, today I'm feeling very human. I'm finding that I do have limits! Sometimes you just keep doing what you're supposed to because it's the right thing to do, even though it is tough. It's all good, though, because it is worth it. Still, wouldn't it be nice sometimes to cave in and just play all the time? I picture myself riding off into the sunset on my great big horse (which I don't have and won't ever have, but would still like to have), leaving behind housework, meetings, deadlines, schedules, and just plain being lazy for once. I guess that probably wouldn't be permanently satisfying. Hmm. I feel like I'm talking to myself. In the end, I admit I am pleased with the results of hard work and love the chance to involve the kids. I do it for them and for Jeff, and that's what matters most to me. They make it worthwhile. Cheesy though it may seem, my favorite part of the day is when Jeff walks in the door after work, happy to see us, and the kids all shout in delight, "Dad's home!"

(Picture: Sam marching in his first summer band parade - alto clarinet in hand. He's awesome).

Tomorrow I will meet a friend for some serious swim drills in the morning (I'm really excited to get her help!), maybe run, vacuum the carpets, dust, finish folding laundry, set out beds for our company, get the boys to piano, the girls to their weekly summer club, put up window treatments, make dinner for our I'll be skipping book group tomorrow night but for a good cause. Meanwhile, I have to plan a Relief Society (women's church group) activity sometime soon!
(Picture: Out on a hike on the South Butte with our great friend and my former geology professor Ed Williams).

Since I'm calendaring and have a captive audience of, well, of at least me :) I'll keep going: Thursday - long morning run (hoping for 18 miles), company visits then leaves, 3 soccer games. Friday: Jeff will be off on a morning bike ride so I have a good excuse to sleep in (since one of us always has to be here w/the kids, I might as well stay in bed!). Note to self: on Friday I need to bake Samuel's birthday cake. Saturday - I'll be pushing my brother in his running chair at the St. Anthony Pioneer Days 5K and running alongside my boys. I'm excited to share the race with my sons and brother. We'll stay for the parade afterwards, spend the day at the cabin, then have Samuel's 11th birthday party that night - I'm pretty sure he wasn't born eleven years ago, though. I think it's been only 3 or 4 at the most. My, how time does fly! We'll celebrate two days early so Jeff's parents can join us before they leave on Sunday to go to Utah to begin their 2-week training before heading off to Ukraine to serve in the LDS Kiev (Kyev) Temple for the next 2 years!! How excited we all are for them! We're already exploring the idea of visiting them. Time to learn a little Russian and Ukrainian, I guess!

How I love that my kids are friends!

Eleanor & Charlotte, both such sweet little things, taking care of each other.

My boys (sans video games which are on probation/banned), enjoying Life. Really. They love this game.

Friday, July 9, 2010

2-Toned Blondies, Where's Jeff, and Sunday Morning plans

Another blast from my past, this recipe is addicting, easy, delicious, fast, and worth making two of. Or three. I didn't post the picture because it looks just like a yellow cake in a 9x13 pan. Nothing interesting to look at. But definitely amazing to eat! (Oh, so NOT good for you. Yum.)

2 Toned Coconut Blondies

1 Pckg. yellow cake mix
3/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 c (6 oz) chocolate chips (I like the mini chips)
1 C. coconut
1/4 C. water
1 tsp. vanilla

Blend cake mix and butter, set aside 1/3 of the cake mix/butter mixture.
With the 2/3 cake/butter mixture, blend in eggs and chips. Pat into bottom of 9x13 greased pan. Combine coconut, water, vanilla with the reserved 1/3 cake/butter mixture. Spoon and spread on top of the pan. Bake at 325 for 45-50 minutes.

Running: I signed my boys, my brother, and myself up for a 5K on July 24th, a triathlon for myself in August, and the Pocatello marathon in early September (and I have a Logan marathon in late September). That was Monday. Then I re-injured my back on Tuesday. Of course. This always happens. (Eeyore and I are good friends, by the way.) But I am being so very smart this time and haven't run for the past 6 (SIX!?) days! (okay, since Jeff's gone and we've been at the cabin most of the time, I wouldn't have run anyway, but I'm going to take credit for being a wise injured-runner regardless). I do not like this, Steph-I-Am, I do not like that I once ran (and that I'm not running now - had to make it sorta rhyme). Sometimes I wonder if I'm done running. If so, I better find something else to do quick before I get grouchy again! I've been too busy to let it bother me this week.
So if running won't work, I'm thinking of working on my cycling (which aggravates my current injury so cycling is on hold, too. Dang it!). When I've had a moment, I've been following the Tour de France. The crashes scare me, the race stresses me, and the whole thing is very impressive. Since I'll never race like that, I won't let the enormity of it all quash my desire to at least try to be better and race faster. I'm easing into cycling, and I can tell I have A LOT to learn (like how to change my flat tire...Jeff-my-own-bike-mechanic, where are you!?)


Where's Jeff? Jeff is volunteering for a week at a very cool cancer camp A pilot from the Angel Flight program picked him up at the airport here in town, then they hopped over to another city to pick up a camper, then flew on up to Salmon to begin the week on the river. I think it is wonderful and am delighted Jeff gets to help out. He worked at scout camp during his teenage years, camped every month at least once for years with his dad, was a Park Ranger Naturalist at Grand Teton National Park, and just kinda fits right in with the camping scene. So in addition to being the doc, he's probably (I'm imagining this) leading the kids in campfire songs, telling silly spooky stories, and pointing out wildflowers when the group is off the river. I expect he's having a great time. (Haven't heard for sure - no cell phone reception - but I know he had a great time last year). Happy for him, happy to help, but I can't help missing him!

Dream a little dream: With all the craziness of this past week, I haven't been getting much sleep. Being over-tired does odd things to me, like makes me not sleep well. Talk about messed up! Anyway, last night as I tossed and turned between visits to the kitchen (bad habit!) and checking all the doors in the house (wow, every time I checked they were STILL locked! Cool!), I did dream a little. I dreamed about banana bread.
So I planned, in the wee hours of the morning, that this Sunday morning (church doesn't start until 1 pm) my kids and I would spend a happy, quiet time together in the kitchen making banana bread. It would be a memory-making experience, laughing together, tasting the batter, smooshing bananas, sitting around the table eating. I even had walnuts (at 3 am, in my mind) to put in the bread for good texture.

Guess what? I don't have any walnuts. And, more importantly, I don't have any bananas. It is 9 am and three of the four kids are still zonked out (like I said, it's been a very busy week and everyone's exhausted). There goes my morning, there go my walnuts, there goes my banana bread. But I'm okay with that because (do I dare say this?) I don't really like banana bread anyway. (Is this totally un-American?). But I do like raisin bread, and I have raisins...
Now I just need energy to bake. Naw, I think I'll go back to bed and dream up something new.

4th of July Week - Vegetable Salad, Snickerdoodles, & Indoor S'mores

Wow - somebody SLOW ME DOWN! Life has been on superspeed lately. Summer band is over, swimming lessons are done, family visits are through (after today - sad!), and Jeff will be home Tuesday night after a week as the camp doc for a cancer camp, and although I still have 3 soccer games every Tuesday and Thursday (and 2 piano lessons on Wednesdays, and the girls' Summer Club on Wednesdays, and Scouts 2x/ week, and the boys' lawn-mowing jobs) I expect life to settle down a little now. I hope. I'm plum tuckered out. But we've had fun. I don't have time to really write, so this is mostly a picture entry. Hope you've all had a good 4th Holiday time.

Thanks to my dad and to Pam W., for the 4th of July Parade pics! We had a great time. Samuel wasn't on the fire truck with us because he was marching with the band (see last parade picture - he's in there, somewhere... with an alto clarinet). Still, we all got to be in the parade and practice our waving-while-smiling technique (Charlotte couldn't seem to do both at once, but she's barely 3, so it's okay.) Thanks to Terry & Betty for inviting us - Terry has a soft spot for Eleanor, who hugs him every time she sees him.

Snickerdoodles: Pretty much the best snickerdoodle recipe EVER. They're very sweet, though, so I usually make half with the cinnamon sugar coating, and half without.

1 cup Butter Flavor Crisco (Crisco is usually much better than generic brand...)
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 Tbls. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
3 cups flour

4 Tbls. granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugars. Add egg, vanilla, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Mix on high until smooth and well incorporated. Add flour and mix well. Preheat oven to 300 F. LET DOUGH REST IN FRIDGE FOR 30-60 MINUTES.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon for topping.

With your hands, roll dough into balls about the size of a golf ball. Roll the balls in the cinnamon/sugar mixtrue (coat them really well) and press into ungreased cookie sheet (3 across, 4 down).
Bake 10 - 11 minutes and NO LONGER. They will seem undercooked, but will be soft and chewy once they've cooled. Don't overcook, unless you want snickerdoodle crackers.

Indoor S'Mores: These treats remind me of being little - my mom made these when we were growing up. Don't use Guittard chocolate chips, though - they don't melt the right way. The measurements in italics are for a larger 10x15 pyrex pan.

3/4 Cup light corn syrup (1 1/8 Cup)
3 Tbls. margarine or butter (4 1/2 Tbls.)
1 package (11 1/2 oz) milk chocolate chips (semi-sweet isn't the best for this recipe) (3 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla (1 1/2 tsp.)
9 cups Golden Grahams cereal (13 1/2 cups)
3 Cups miniature marshmallows (4 1/2 cups)

Butter rectangular pand, 9x13x2 inches. Heat corn syrup, margarine and chocolate chips to boiling in 3 qt. saucepan, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour over cereal in large mixing bowl; toss quickly until completely coated with chocolate. Fold in marshmallows, 1 cups at a time. Press mixture evenly in pane with buttered back of spoon (or I use a wet (CLEAN) hand). Let stand until firm, at least 1 hour. Cut into about 1 1/2 inch squares. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Sunny Vegetable Salad: I LOVE this salad. Use the 10 calorie mayo instead, and you've got a good, healthy lunch. And dinner. And (why not!?) breakfast! :)
5 Cups broccoli florets
5 Cups cauliflower florets
2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 Cups (or less, to taste) chopped onion (can use green onion if you prefer)
1/2 Cup raisins
1 Cup Mayonaise
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tbls. Cider Vinegar
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1/4 Cups sunflower kernels

In a large salad bowl, toss broccoli, cauliflower, cheese, onion, and raisins. In a small bowl, combine mayo, sugar, and vinegar. Pour over salad, toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Mix again to bring up any dressing that settled on the bottom. Sprinkle with bacon and sunflower kernels before serving.

At the Hancock Family Reunion, we had some traditional games, including the sack race. See if you can spot little Charlotte just right of the center (only her head is sticking out - the sack swallowed her!), and Eleanor, just left of the boy in the red shirt. Jeff is standing behind, supervising.

We've spent most of our time at the Hancock family cabin on the Henry's Fork of the Snake River. We had our 2nd annual "Dash & Splash" - a family-friendly run from the cabin around to the bridge (5K), then hop into the river for a float on tubes back down to the cabin. The kids are all encouraged to do the best they can, with a couple of support vehicles following along to pick up the kids when they need a break and drop them off when they're ready to run again. It's very satisfying for the kids to do it, and absolutely no pressure. It's the best race - and free! Samuel and I ran side-by-side, Jeff ran with Oliver (who did the whole thing this year for the first time!), and the girls both made it the first 1/4 mile. A few of the brave (including my boys and Jeff) jumped from the bridge into the river - they were hot enough to enjoy it. The river was really cold, though, so we were happy for hot showers after we finished floating back down to the cabin.

I can't repeat it often enough: Eleanor LOVES bugs. Here she is with a dragonfly, one of the many bugs she captured, observed, and let loose while we were at the cabin this week. I can't tell if Charlotte is more fascinated with the bugs or with Eleanor's interest in bugs (and lack of any fear).

We lifted the ban (temporarily) on video games, and the boys loved it. Here's Samuel, learning to drive. Okay, so he's beyond learning - he's really good.

And Oliver is racing the tractor. Just kidding. He had a good time learning to drive, also - not a video game, but the real deal. Mini "50" dirt bikes are cute. Oops, I mean cool.

On the 5th of July we took a jaunt over the mountains to spend the day in Grand Teton National Park with Hancock family and our good friends, the Whitesides. We rambled over to Phelp's Lake, stopped in the visitor's center (and the Rockefeller Center), and enjoyed getting wet at Jenny Lake. It was really really really beautiful. Jeff and I lived at the Park when he worked as a Park Ranger Naturalist, and it still feels like coming home to me. It was especially fun to share the day with such good friends and family.