Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Risotto with butternut squash sauce, and our Stay-cation

 Scott and I were able to go out on a date last weekend...more often than not, we stay in for dates. We got dinner at a restaurant in Denver called Root Down. We had gone to their sister restaurant, Linger, a couple of months before and really liked it, and this was just as good. I came home and a couple days later made a copycat recipe of what I'd eaten. It's Risotto with some red quinoa, maple-candied chopped nuts, a couple of sauteed veggies, all over a butternut squash sauce. Oh and I cubed and cooked some sweet potatoes and threw those on top as well.

It was so yummy, and the kids loved it!
 Several of them went back for seconds, and Charles for thirds!
 The kids have this week off of school for the Thanksgiving holiday. Scott has a bunch of vacation time he needs to take before the end of the year (he can only roll-over so many hours into the next year and everything else he'll lose), so he decided to take this week off and the week of Christmas! What a treat! I am SO happy that we'll all get to be together for an entire week! We plan on doing some fun things around the area with the'll be a little stay-cation. Here's Jane helping dad put up our Christmas lights. We like to get them up when it's not freezing outside so this was a good day.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Friday Night: Homemade Pizza and Ice Cream

One of our weekly traditions is to have homemade pizza for dinner on either Friday or Saturday.  You can find that recipe here.

I got an ice cream maker a few weeks ago and we've made several batches since...we're still on our sugar fast so we make our ice cream with a little pure maple syrup instead of sugar; and/or fruit puree :).
 Nora loves to hug the ice cream maker while it's churning the cream :). She's just so excited and happy about having ice cream!

And all the kids enjoy taking a peek to check on it's progress. 
 We made strawberry ice cream this past weekend and added a little extra strawberry topping (1c frozen strawberries cooked with 3 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup and then blended).

Jane is constantly taking my camera and I find all sorts of pictures on there of things at her level. Here I am, sitting on the cedar chest, double checking the Ice Cream maker instructions and reading more ice cream recipes for the future. I remember reading a pistachio ice cream recipe that sounded heavenly. Can't wait to give it a try!
 After pizza, many times we'll play a game or watch a movie. This week, after Lis and Char played chess, and after we put the two 'littles' to bed, we taught the three oldest how to play Pit, and boy was it a hit! (like my rhyme! Lol!).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Freezing Temperatures, update on sugar fast, CTR cake

This past week was busy, as usual. I made a CTR (choose the right) cake for our missionaries Zone Conference on Monday; I kept it pretty simple because I didn't have a whole lot of time to decorate.

Elisabeth, Charles and Annabelle all auditioned for our schools musical, Aladdin. At the last minute, Charles was about to pull out (he gets a bit nervous, but I think experience and practice will help with that a little), but I bribed him with dinner-out and it worked :). They all think they did alright. I snapped this picture of Charles doing his audition, through the window.
It got really cold this week. I took this picture of my weather app on Wednesday this week. Brrr!
We got a little snow as well. I took this as I was sitting at our kitchen table eating grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch (leftovers from the night before).

The girls enjoy getting bundled up in their hats, scarves and gloves. They helped me shovel our driveway one afternoon. 

Elisabeth has outgrown her old snowsuit (it's a size 6 and she's 10; but she still used it this week before we got her a new one), so I picked up another at Target. I got size 10-12, partly because of the way the sizes jump, it goes from 6 to 8 to 10-12, and I didn't want to get her 8 because she'd probably out grow it in a year. So we bought the 10-12 which is way too long, but we've just been rolling them under and they seem to work fine. Now she's set for another few years!

When it's snowing outside, or just plain freezing cold, I don't like to go out anywhere. I like to be inside my home cleaning, cooking warm foods, or sitting on the couch with a blanket and a book...and usually in sweats or comfy jeans :). And so I did that a lot this week. The girls and I made 4 loaves of 100% whole wheat bread, plus and additional loaf that we turned into a cinnamon swirl bread. You can find the recipe for that bread here.
For the cinnamon swirl, we just roll out one loafs worth of dough, spread it with butter, sprinkle it with cinnamon and drizzle it with honey and then we roll up the dough into a loaf shape, pinch off the ends, stick it in the pan and allow it to rise and bake. So yummy! And a great, wholesome comfort food!
We've recently discovered an amazingly delicious and chewy, wonderful peanut butter cookie recipe that is made from all whole food ingredients like whole wheat flour and honey and pure maple syrup as the sweetener, no sugar! And in order to get the recipe just right, we had to experiment with it a bit and we ended up making several batches before we got it exactly the way we wanted them. You can find that recipe here.
We actually made several soups this week. Warm soup is really the only thing I feel like eating when it's so cold outside. This is a family favorite, it's a Black Bean Soup that we puree...the kids love that there are no chunks in this soup. You can find that recipe here.

Another night we made street tacos, and we got to use our new tortilla press. Charles loved helping me make tortillas. In fact, when we took him to bed that night, making those tortillas just happened to be one of his favorite things from that day! Maybe we'll start calling him Chef Charles; he has mentioned that he'd one day like to be a Chef and have his own cooking show (perhaps that came from mom watching Chef Brad on occasion).
Nothing quite like a homemade tortilla!
And last but not least, an update on our sugar fast. Scott and I started a sugar fast after Halloween and it'll go until Thanksgiving. We're still having honey and pure maple syrup, but not actual sugar. For a treat this weekend we got these Odwalla fruit smoothies. I love fruit and fruit smoothies, and Scott does too so that works nicely. The kids haven't really been good about their sugar fast. They say they're doing it still, but whenever they're presented with a sugary treat, they almost always take it...though Elisabeth has been a little better. I know she declined a treat or two, but she also had a treat or two :). But that's alright. I mostly just needed the help and support of Scott; we're in this together!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Activity Days Mother-Daughter 'Tea' Party

As the first counselor in our Primary Presidency at church, I am also over the Activity Day girls (girls ages 8-11 that meet monthly for an activity where they are learning new skills etc). We've recently had some big changes in primary callings and we're currently without an Activity Days leader but we had planned a Mother-Daughter Tea Party early on in the year and I still really wanted to do it, so with the help of the other primary presidency members, we put it on.

Even though it's called a 'tea party', we don't actually serve any tea, because we're Mormon :). But, we did have cute little tea kettles and cups and got all dressed up in our nice/fancy clothes like you would for a tea party, or at least, how Pinterest portrayed other tea parties :).
Rachel, our just released president, did pretty much all of the decor. She's amazing and she has beautiful decorations for all sorts of party themes. I took lots of pictures so that I can hopefully learn from her.
I created a sign-up genius online page and had all the mother's sign up to bring a finger food which worked out nicely. The categories were sandwich triangles, fruit, savory snack and dessert.
I made the rainbow fruit kabobs.

A small sampling of just some of the foods.

While we ate and mingled, the girls and mothers filled out these questionnaires. Daughters answered questions about their mothers, and mothers about their daughters. They had to do it without discussing any questions or answers with one another. The activity was about an hour and 15 minutes before the end, I read the questions aloud, one for the mothers, they would check their answer, then one for the daughters, until we got through them all.

I had a wonderful time and I think all the mothers and daughters did too. Gigi came with her camera and set up a little spot in the corner to take pictures of moms with their daughters which was so nice. A lot of people helped with food, set up and clean up and more and I'm grateful for them all! The party was a success and not too high maintenance for any one person which was nice. As we were finishing up, a couple of the girls took turns on the piano. When Elisabeth started playing "Let It Go", they all surrounded her and sang along! Loved it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Christmas music after Halloween

Last weekend, just after Halloween, as we were eating dinner together, Scott says to the kids, "when I'm gone at work, make sure mom doesn't turn on the Christmas music, okay?" He got some smiles and nods in return. I just can't seem to help myself :). Now I just need to learn not to hum and whistle those tunes once he gets home so I don't give myself away.   

But I mostly just listen to classical, instrumental type Christmas music until Thanksgiving, at which time I listen to it all! It just doesn't seem fair that we're supposed to only listen to this beautiful music about our Savior for only one month out of the year! Well, now that that's off my chest, here's some fun pictures from the week. Look at this darling! Isn't she adorable? 

Pretty girls!
Annabelle's self-portrait:

Elisabeth is in school choir this year and they had their first performance this past week singing at the high school with several other school choirs.
These girls love to help me in the kitchen! On this particular day we were making strawberry-lemon muffins. Yum! We like to make a double batch and then freeze half of them so that kids and Scott can pop a frozen muffin in their packed lunch in the morning and by the time lunch rolls around it's nicely defrosted and ready to eat.
Enjoying the fruits of their labor:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Weekend Traditions

We have lots of traditions in our family. Some occur yearly like detailed celebrations of birthdays and other holidays or visits to see family, some every two years like our Grazzini family reunion, we have traditions that occur a couple of times a year like watching General Conference in October and April (and I want to start the tradition of updating food storage or at least, 72 hr kits at that time). We have monthly and weekly traditions as well like PPI which, essentially, are personal interviews with dad and each child once a month, and Family Home Evening on Mondays. Several of the pictures I took this weekend just happened to show some of our weekly, weekend traditions. Each weekend, Scott and I have a date night. I'd say three out of four are usually in-home date nights because it can be hard to find a babysitter here and we save money that way :). But, we still plan ahead and make our in-home date nights special. We have a favorite spot by our house to get take-out because it's close and it's so yummy and that's what we're eating in this picture: take-out from Jewel House of India and I made a Mango Lassi smoothie to go with it. Yum! I love eating together on dates because it's a great time to visit and enjoy one anothers company. 

Saturdays we get our chores done in the morning, usually we'll get some exercise in as well, sometimes with the whole family on a jog or playing sports. One Saturday morning each month I go to the temple and Scott goes on another Saturday morning. Once chores are done we have some time to relax and play. The kids will play with neighbors, we read or watch a show, 
 we'll go to a park or play sports on a field. Here we are playing flag football, one of Charles' favorites.
 This past weekend we did a babysitting swap. We watched our neighbors kids Saturday so they could go on a date and in a week or two, Scott and I will do the same. Our kids and the neighbors love each other which makes babysitting nice :).
 They play a lot of games and jam on the piano when they're together.

Sunday mornings we always cook a bigger breakfast. Weekday mornings everyone is on their own and people will have granola, toast, eggs, yogurt, green smoothie or whatever else we have around. But Sundays Scott and I will cook pancakes or waffles or something along those lines.
 Pictured here is a pumpkin spice waffle; all whole white wheat of course :). After breakfast we clean up and head to church. Lots of great traditions. They define our family, and make us stronger and happier, which is what good traditions should do.