Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

I'm beginning this post on Saturday, May 29th. Midnight. And not sleepy. I already went to bed, already went to sleep, and already even dreamed before I woke up an hour later (now). Wide wide awake. What better time to get a few things done, like write a blog post (and eat some ice cream)...

First, a quick report from Saturday:
Can you spot the moose? This is at the cabin.

A nice neighbor by my in-laws' cabin volunteered to keep an eye on the rising river, so Jeff felt safe leaving the cabin for the day - which meant we took a spur of the moment trip to Yellowstone today. I love living close enough to Yellowstone (and Grand Teton Nat'l Park) that we can do day trips.
The new Visitor Education Center at Old Faithful is now open, so we took the kids there,
followed by a boardwalk tour of geysers, hot pots, steam vents, and a spectacular show put on by Old Faithful herself (himself?). We ended the evening with dinner in West Yellowstone and a play at the Playmill Theater (High School Musical - we loved it).

And home by 10pm. Asleep by 11. Awake by 12. Bother.

And snippets from my children's lives:
When we arrived in Yellowstone today, Charlotte asked a question I'd never considered, "Where is Purplestone?" Hmm.
When I told Eleanor it was going to be cold and snowy in Yellowstone, she informed me that she was warm-blooded. Yes, and warm-blooded little girls need to wear coats to keep warm.
Oliver has been speed-reading through the Harry Potter series for the, what, seventh time? Funny kid - when I told him he'd have to either clean his room or owe me housekeeping money, he found some coins and asked me how much. He just doesn't really care about having, keeping, saving, spending, or losing the stuff. Or keeping his room clean.
Samuel, on the other hand, has been working every chance he could and saving every cent he earned to finally get enough money to buy a new DSI (handheld gaming device, for those who don't know). He's also a funny kid - he already has a DS. I guess it was his money, but I wouldn't have bought something that essentially replaces what I already have. Still, he has a great work ethic so he can do what he will (within reason) with his money.

Running and Reading:
I'm reading a running book or two, so that's why this is combined. I had a breakthrough run on Wednesday and found myself running long (2 miles each) intervals at a speed I didn't think I'd ever find again. My running partner pushed me through my barrier, but I tell you what - I've been recovering ever since!
The books are "Brain Training for Runners" (it's all in your head - just kidding, there's a lot lot lot more to it than that), and "Run Less, Run Faster" (doesn't that sound like having your cake and eating it, too? You can!).
Speaking of cake and reading, I went to a book group gathering this week (discussed "The Help" which I LOVED) and had the very best cake I've ever ever ever had. I begged for the recipe and will give it a go when it comes (and post it if I don't mess it up).

Wouldn't it be nice if I actually had something to say? I honestly wonder if my creative juices flow only every other year or so. I want to say something, but I'm just too tired and too busy. So there goes any semblance of talent, now long hidden away under piles of laundry, peanut butter sandwiches, and thriving weeds - and withering away as quickly as if I'd sprayed round-up on my once-emerging flower of writing.
So busy, yet I have time to run. Hmm - priorities? I run at 5:30am so I can be home by 7 to be the mom. Would I write at 5:30am? Goodness, no - I'd fall asleep! It's hard to fall asleep when you're running, so perhaps that's why running happens and writing doesn't.
Of course, there's always the chance that a midnight blog post will revive the dead or dying writer in me. (Is this what they call burning the candle at both ends?)
I'll post some pictures of our trip later. Not like later tonight, but later tomorrow. Oh, wait, it is tomorrow. 12:40am. Bed. Again. And sleep again. For more than one hour, I hope.

And now for May 30th, Monday:
We decided to stay closer to home so we made a morning trip to the Zoo after Jeff got back from a 40 mile ride. (The group he rode with kept going - Jeff turned off early - and they finished their ride at the same time we got back from the zoo. By then it was raining and snowing. Maybe they should've gone to the zoo, too.)
We had to go to the zoo. Really. Eleanor has been begging for a year to go back and we needed to satisfy her (so we could have a little peace :) Just kidding). When we told her we'd go, she practically jumped through the ceiling with joy. She and sweet little Charlotte (who follows big sister everywhere) packed up their backpacks with nature books, put on "nature shoes" and Eleanor donned a pink Cowgirl hat (I guess she thinks that's Naturalist garb). She has wanted to be a Naturalist before she even knew the word. A trip to the zoo helped her along that path (although she was somewhat disappointed to end the day still not being an official Naturalist).

My bunch. Cute, eh?

The boys had just as much fun as the girls. I wish I'd taken a picture of a certain monkey (no, not my child) that buddied up to my boys. We'll just have to go back and visit their new pal sometime.

Best seat in the house - Dad's shoulder.

Eleanor, Charlotte, Samuel, and Oliver. And a fake tiger.

My parents' house is in full bloom. I couldn't resist posting the pictures of spring colors (it's about time we had spring, since Summer is theoretically just around the corner). My mom does a marvelous job with her flowers, which we all enjoy.


I made frozen yogurt pie last week. The crumb crust was made from cinnamon cookies I'd made that nobody liked - so I crumbed the cookies, added some graham cracker crumbs, and some butter to make it stick. So easy. Then I mixed about 2 cups of plain yogurt with a small carton of Cool Whip (gently so it stays nice and fluffy). I had crushed up strawberries and added sugar (Eleanor calls it "Strawberry Mush"), so I stirred in the strawberry mush to the yogurt mixture, spooned it all into the crust, popped it into the freezer, and voila - a delicious dessert.

Oliver (my gourmet guy) has been begging me to try a recipe for blueberry muffins. The recipe is printed on a hand towel that has been hanging on the cabinet handle for some time now. The batter turned out quite thick, almost like cookie dough, and I was worried it'd be a waste. But they baked up nicely and turned out more like scones than typical muffins. Jeff raved about them, and when Jeff likes something you know it's good. The only drawback was they didn't taste as good the second day, so eat 'em fresh! The recipe says baking "powder" then the directions say baking "soda" - I stuck with the baking powder (more biscuity and it was tasty!).

Blueberry Muffins from the Hand Towel (I doubled it for my family, but here's the single batch recipe)

2 Cups Flour

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/2 tsp. Salt

1 Tbs. Baking Powder

1 1/2 Cups Blueberries

1/4 Cup Milk

1/2 Cup Butter, Melted

2 Eggs, Beaten

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder (the is where the hand towel says "soda" - never trust a hand towel)

Add 1 Tablespoon of flour mixture to blueberries, tossing to coat.

In a small bowl, combine milk, butter and eggs until blended. Stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Fill in blueberries. Spoon evenly into greased or paper lined muffin cups. Bake 10-25 minutes at 400. Makes 8-10 muffins.

Lasagna Soup

(Warning: this uses fake food, but it's good when you're in a rush). I actually made this in a Dutch Oven on the stove, then later put it in a crock pot just before dinner to reheat.

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 C. chopped onion
1 pckg (7 3/4 oz) lasagna dinner mix (This is where I'm embarrassed - using a box. I had bought some when on sale for food storage and needed to use them up, so today's soup was a triple batch)
5 cups water
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained (I used tomatoes from my in-laws' garden that I'd canned - don't know if I'll ever can again, but it was good to have in storage)
1 can (7oz) whole kernel corn, undrained (I used corn from my in-laws' garden that I had frozen last year)
2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
Any veggies you want to add. I sauteed green peppers and celery, threw in some canned mushrooms (no, I didn't can them from my in-laws' garden :) hee-hee), And at the end you can put in zucchini, summer squash, etc.

In a Dutch oven (which I used) or soup kettle, cook beef and onion over medium heat until no longer pink, drain. Add contents of lasagna dinner SAUCE MIX (not the noodles yet), water, tomaotes, corn, other vegetables (but not soft veggies, like the zucchini or summer squash), and Parmesan cheese (I forgot to put in the Parmesan this time, it was fine).; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the lasagna noodles and zucchini or other squash. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until noodles are tender.
Makes 2 1/2 qts (10 servings).

Speaking of Dutch Ovens, I made our chicken in one this week because the grill was out of gas and I like Dutch Ovens. In the background is some asparagus from my in-laws' garden. Tasty!

Besides asparagus, chicken, fruit, & cottage cheese, here is also baked sweet potato fries (my favorite!). Cut sweet potatoes into strips, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt, and bake at 400F on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

And the trick to asparagus, by the way, is this:

Cut off the woody ends, rinse, then soak in a pan of ice water. Meanwhile, bring a large skillet of water to a boil on the stove. When boiling, add chilled asparagus to the water, then let the water return to a boil. As soon as it begins to boil, remove the asparagus and return it to the ice water pan (you might need to add more ice). The asparagus is perfectly cooked. Sometimes I then grill it a little (brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt). Sooooo good.

The wrap was so pretty I had to take a picture. I used Italian Flat-Out bread, alfalfa sprouts, lots of lettuce, carrots, and left-over chicken, and mustard for flavor.

I made these bran muffins a while ago. I'll add the recipe later (the kids are going crazy with me on the computer). The nice thing is that you make the recipe, bake up what you want, and keep the rest of the batter in the fridge - then bake new muffins as needed. Scrumptious.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Water water everywhere

Summer vacation began with a windchill of 33F today, winds up to 50mph (gusts), clouds, and chance of rain. Gotta love Rexburg.
This is a view of the watered valley from the top of the Menan Butte (the "R" Mountain) on an early morning run last week. There's even more water now.
Jeff's been at his parents' cabin most of his free time this week (and the week before, and the week before that). The river runneth over, and so he has to tend the pumps. He's keeping the water at bay, but just barely. I guess we should be grateful for cool temperatures so that the snow pack doesn't melt too quickly! I suggested taking the family to the cabin so we could spend time together, but Jeff is worried about safety with the water so high and so fast. So what to do for Memorial Day that will keep us sort of close to home in case the water rises? I don't know. Go bowling, I guess.
It's 1am so I'm going back to bed, but I did want to remember a cute Charlotte story. She opened a fortune cookie this week and had me read it to her: "There is a pleasant surprise in store for you." She was thrilled and wanted to go immediately to the store to get her pleasant surprise! She was not happy when I tried explaining to her that there wasn't really a surprise at a store... Personally, I think 3 year olds are too young to have their fortunes told.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Note to Self

What do you get when you run dehydrated and don't replenish electrolytes during or after (and then drink too much water the next two days because you're thirsty)? Edema. Water retention. Hyponatremia. My 20 mile run Saturday was a little sluggish, but manageable. The 12 lbs water gained over the last two days since the run, however, is just ridiculous. Lesson learned: drink before you're thirsty, pop the electrolyte pills even on a cool morning, and avoid free water ("free" not as in cost, but as in just plain water). I knew that. I really did. After years of long runs, I pretty much have my body figured out. I just kind of forgot, I guess. Oh, well. Better on a training run than in a race! I do not like the puffy marshmallow feeling and can't wait for my body to settle back down. Meanwhile, I'm taking two complete rest days and drinking Nuun, Gatorade, chicken broth, and tea. No water pills - the last thing I need is to be dehydrated again.
I hope I remember what I already know next time I do a long run. Silly me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to Bounce an Egg (really!)

Oliver and I have been working on his science project. I haven't had so much fun in a long time! Did you know you can soak a raw egg in vinegar for 3-4 days, take the egg out, and bounce it? Yup. The vinegar dissolves the shell and sort of "cooks" the white, and voila - a bouncing egg.
But be sure to bounce the egg outside - it's still raw and after a few bounces it bursts. A bouncing egg is cool. A splattered egg isn't.

Family Time

We got to attend my big brother's graduation last week. He got his Ph.D. in something or other (just kidding - I know what it was, just not how to explain it. It has to do with instructional technology).

It was fun to have all the Croasmun side little ones together. The kids sure had fun! (So did we).

Caramel Frosted Yellow Cake
And I haven't posted any food pics for a while. I have to put this on because it was so tasty. A yellow cake w/pudding in the mix, then a butter caramel frosting. I baked two 9x9 square pans and cut each in half, so there are four layers with frosting in between. Then I topped it with truffles and pressed nuts on the side - scrumptious.

Homemade Greek Yogurt

I've also been making my own Greek Yogurt lately. It's fun, it's way cheaper than store-bought, and fresh yogurt tastes so good. Basically you just make yogurt (plenty of recipes online), then strain off the whey (I use coffee filters). Use a store-bought Greek Yogurt for the start.
Heat up 4 qts good quality milk (any %fat will do) to 180F, then let cool to 120F, then stir in about 2 tsp. Plain Greek Yogurt. Place in slightly warm oven (heat it up for a minute or so, then turn it off). Keep the bowl covered with saran wrap and wrapped in a towel. The trick then is to keep the oven between 105-120F (NO HOTTER or it will kill the yogurt bacteria). I just keep my oven light on with a thermometer in the oven, and when it starts getting hot, I turn off the light. Yes, I do have to be around, but it's not hard if I'm home anyway. It takes 10-12 hours. Then pour off the water (whey), and strain in batches in coffee filters. If you over-strain it, it gets almost a cottage cheese consistency, which is fine if you like it that way. I mix in fresh berries (frozen work, too), honey, homemade jam, whatever. It's high protein and just plain good eats.