Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pre-Thanksgiving Rush

Once I tore myself away from the snowman, Christmas tree and Santa legos this morning after having found the mother load of  instruction booklets on their website. I have since been covered in flour up to my elbows. I am on batch three of home made dinner rolls (a quest to match the rolls of an ex boyfriend's mother back in college, whom I have only one regret, and that is to not have snagged that darn recipe while I had a chance. That would have been cheating, I know but no one that I know of makes them in my own family.) I have put together two pie crusts. (Thanks Josh Schlup for the staple recipe in our house) and I am moving on to the Spinach Artichoke dip. I'm not even making the turkey but I've been up before 7 every day this week in anticipation of pulling off the mound of food I am preparing to go with the meat Nellie is making. I finished my shopping yesterday. I can't believe that people bring their grown children in numbers upward of 7 to one of the busiest grocery shopping days and have them saunter like teenagers do while the rest of us wait to get through the aisles. Can't they go look at the electronics or car air fresheners or something. And I'm probably a little excited about my side of the family coming out to celebrate with us. The boys are in the lobby making couch forts and I am secretly listening to Christmas music while Justin is busy grading papers. I love Thanksgiving break. It really is the best. Amazing my mom and grandmothers pulled off the feast all those years. Amazing anyone trusts me to do the same now that I have come of age. Wish me luck. I'm almost there. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Here is a game that the boys and I made the other day. Pretty fun. Using dice, everyone just plays all the way through using the 2x8 and 2x4 bricks only, adding and taking them away as shown. The one with the tallest tower at the end wins!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Primavera

I just ran across a new vegetarian recipe in a book my mom sent me that is awesome and easy. I thought you ladies might want to try it on the family so here it is.

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
2 zucchini, cut into 1/2" pieces
3 carrots, sliced into coins
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 red and 1 green pepper, cut into 1/2" pieces
4 roma tomatoes cut in half
1 large container of mushrooms, cut in half
(sweet potatoes and broccoli might be good, just use what you like and have on hand if need be)

Put them all on a shallow baking dish and toss with olive oil, seasoned salt and any kind of mixed herb bled you might have. A little oregano and rosemary would do too.

Roast at 400 for 1 hour, turning and mixing a few times. Turn the broiler on for the last few minutes to brown things up.

Take the tomatoes, pull off the skins and put in a blender with 1/4 cp olive oil, 1/4 cp raspberry vinegar (or you can just use that Brieanne's dressing which is what I did), 2 tsp mustard, salt and pepper and puree it.

Toss the veggies with prepared fettuccine noodles and pour the sauce over top. Stir to combine and garnish with parsley if you have it. WALA! SO easy, SO seasonal, and pretty darn healthy!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Surrogate Family

Maybe we have told you about Kip and Nellie before. They are some of our closest friends and actually some of our first friends here in Durango. They took us to lunch the first Sunday we attended St. Mark's and we were hooked. They have a way with taking both the young families and college students under their wings and spending time with them which results in nothing less than us all falling in love with them. They are great and have become our surrogate family out in the Rockies. Their kids live far away and our family does too so we've sort of found each other. 

Kip, although is a medical doc by trade is a passionate armchair philosopher. He teaches a medical ethics class up at the college on occasion and is always pulling Justin's ear about some book or philosophical topic. 

Nellie never comes over without a book from her own kids collection and no matter how busy and crazy our visit, always manages to find a quiet corner (even if it's the floor!) to read a story to the boys before she leaves.

They love to have the boys over for some hang time. It's good for us, them and especially for the boys. They always have something fun up their sleeves. Last month, they spent the afternoon, reading about and identifying real flies in all their developmental stages and the fishing flies that correspond to them over lunch.

 They then packed up and headed to the river to catch them like real entomologists. The boys are fascinated and come home chitter-chattering about the day, all they found and of course little vials full of writhing critters!

Who's more in to this?!?! Kip or the boys?

More recently, we have heard the sad story of the castle legos that were bought for their girls years ago and never really loved to their full capacity. But alas! The McBrayer boys LOVE legos. So the long forgotten legos have been resurrected (and added to thanks to Ebay and Nellies expertise in finding just the right thing on there). The boys were invited over for a reading of King Arthur comic strips (one of Kip's childhood favorites in need of an very attentive audience!), smoothies and castle lego time.

Smoothies with Nellie. Way better than the ones I make at home. 

Nellie getting a lesson on how these things work.

These two are comparing castles and tackling a book of directions for a hand cart.
Very special people, these two. And that is precisely why we asked them to stand next to us as God parents to our boys as Patrick was baptized today. Just one of those days you will remember for the rest of your life. A true blessing to all of us!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Giant Creepy Crawlies

We took this and this...

coated it in this...

and got this!

Creepy Scorpion Aeneas!

With lots of black spray paint, duct tape and recycled cardboard, we have Dung Beetle Patrick!

We are ready to Trick or Treat Baby!

I hate bugs but these guys have me totally smitten! And I am coming around. I actually stopped the other day on a run to pick up and play with a tarantula! I even considered constructing a preying mantis costume for myself but I'm too tired. Maybe next year!
Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Fiasco

Every year I am more and more amazed at what sorts of costume ideas the boys come up with. They have an uncanny ability to think outside of the box and are very specific with what they have in mind. It's taken me 2 weeks to accomplish this years ideas but I can finally say that I am finished and I laugh to myself every time I pass them in the hall. I am the kind of mom that can yes, pull off most anything they can some up with however I am not your typical sewing master. I am more of your go to the dumpster and thrift to see what kind of trash and recycled things you can make your costume out of. I'd like to say it's because I am so environmentally conscious but it's probably more along the lines of being too cheap to pay for the fancy cloth or pre-made costumes!

This year's costumes are a riot but since I have yet to get them in a picture of them, I thought it would be fun to see what the boys came up with in the past years. Stay tuned, because pictures of this year's project is coming!

At four, Patrick said to me one day, "I want to be a basket ball goal for Halloween." I hesitated for a moment but with the help of a coworker, we managed to come up with and idea on how to execute. Aeneas went in a borrowed skunk costume which was a perfect fit given his personality.

Our first year in Durango, Patrick wanted to go as an "eagle where you look out of the mouth." So I purchased a jacket that we could use later and had about $3 into the felt. Used an old pillowcase for the "bald" of the bald eagle. Aeneas used our kitchen dress up stuff and just carried a little silver pot to get his candy in stirring it along the way. He would dump it each time into the larger pumpkin we were carrying for him. He got double candy for being so dang cute.

This was one of my favorite years. Aeneas, now that he could talk, wanted to be a "cat with green eyes." Thank goodness for college students that helped with the makeup on that one. Patrick insisted on being a T-rex skeleton! I had about $2 into the 3 poster boards, an old pair of tights that I used for the tail and stapled all of the bones onto a sweatsuit he already had!

Patrick wanted to be a pumpkin this year and I managed to find one for $10 at the thrift store. We tied green pipe cleaners into his hair. Aeneas went as a bubble wrap ghost floating around the neighborhood.

Just coming off of our first summer of reading Harry Potter and the Hobbit, wizards were in store. Capes and hats from the $ store and a wig made into a beard.

This was a particularly scary Halloween because Justin went as me! He shaved his legs and taught all day with boobs and long hair to which a number of his students left class claiming it to be just too disturbing to stay! He never even complained about his heels all day!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Creativity and Generosity

It seems that every year with the turning of the calendar to October, I begin thinking of Christmas gifts. Almost every year since Justin and I have been married, we have managed to have the largest part of our Christmas gifts bought, or made by Thanksgiving. And just like the stores in town, I keep planning earlier each year in an effort to take some of the pressure off the season both logistically and financially. I want to enjoy my cups of coffee in the morning and my weekends by spending time with friends and family and not running around stressed out and shopping for things I don't like or things the receivers won't like either. The most meaningful thing I can give to anyone, or receive for that matter, is something handmade. Something I thought about, enjoyed making and has a little bit of "me" built into it. And creating it is a gift to me in ways you can't imagine.

Aeneas snug in bed with is Mama hug.
So I brainstormed and came up with a few things that I have been wanting to make along with some gift ideas and have been working on them over the past few weeks. I started with something I found on Pinterest, which is by the way the most inspiring and addicting way to get ideas. It's like a virtual candy store for me! I made these collars filled with rice that you can heat up and wear out of some old pillowcases. The boys love the warm laundry out of the dryer and hate getting out of their toasty jammies in the morning so I made them each one of these contraptions that we call "Mama hugs." The boys thought it a little strange at first but totally love these things and ask for their "Mama hugs," all the time to warm them up. 

I then started making some reused things that I had been saving (I can't tell you what they are because many of you will get some of them!) into little gifts. Let's just say I've found some useful ways to reuse some old wooden checkers, paperclips and family pictures! What I didn't anticipate with all my crafting, is how into the act of creating and even more so, the idea of creating something for someone else would be for the boys. They have been creating and crafting and coming up with some of the greatest ideas for gifts for people (some of which I can't share, because some of the rest of you will get those as gifts eventually!). At this point, the glue gun and sharp objects need some oversight but are necessary tools for their projects. However, they are learning to problem solve, not rush the creative process and learning honestly to fail and retry things along the way with only safety help from me. 

My cardboard flip flops.
Patrick traced my shoes and cut out the straps for my cardboard shoes the other day, only asking help for putting them together with the glue gun! 

Shotgun shell foosball
The Blue team and the "Green Bay" team face off.

We went to the shooting range to shoot skeet the other day and they collected a bunch of shotgun shells. Patrick promptly, came home to tape numbers on them so they could be used in making a Foosball table out of recycled and found objects this morning. Aeneas raided the cardboard recycle bin as well and even though he made his into a house for he and his little bunny, it blesses me so much to see his creativity in his scorpion weather vane, decorated walls and cozy fireplace. A secret gift to his mother in some ways. He got a pillowcase and a self authored book to read to his rabbit snugly beside his miniature fireplace! 

Of course there is such a ting as a scorpion weather vane!

A little wall decorations by the infamous artist Aeneas.

Patrick helped him create a clock by tracing a plate.

Reading his very own book to his bunny.

They are all about making, crafting and creativity already and they have giving to others on their minds. Their thoughtfulness and generosity are gifts to this Mama and they too are a little ahead of the ball as the giving season approaches.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall is here!

I can't help myself. With the first crisp snap in the Fall air, I'm thinking all about the season and what it brings with it. All the colors, smells, and tastes. The family and holidays. I just finished reading the most beautiful depiction of the holidays in Wendell Berry's "Hannah Coulter." So good that I had to go back a read it again! I will post the excerpt for you to read here closer to the holidays.

To officially usher in the start of fall, I decided to celebrate with some fall cookies. I actually found this recipe posted somewhere on the web as a Christmas cookies recipe but it was a perfect excuse to use my maple leaf cookie cutters. And whether it's for fall or spring or Christmas, you can use this recipe with your kids and they will love it!

Painted Sugar Cookies

  • 2/3 cp shortening
  • 3/4 cp sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon or orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tsp milk
  • 2 cp flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt.
Cream the first 4 ingredients. Add the egg and milk. Sift the dry ingredients and then mix to make a batter. Roll out on a floured counter and cut with cutters.

Egg yolk "paint"
for each color you will need to mix the following:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp water
  • food coloring*
Paint the cookies with a new paint brush or one that you have only used for food stuffs before! Then bake at 350 until right before they start to brown. The original recipe, called for piping white icing to define the shapes but I just mixed a little bit of powdered sugar and milk to make a clear glaze. They are delicious leaving them as is. 

*If you are worried they will turn out like a muddy mess resembling those paintings they do at school, only offer colors of the same family that will blend well. 
Red + yellow + orange
blue + green + yellow
blue + red + purple
yellow + blue + green

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hard to Keep Up

It's so hard to keep up with this guy. He gets something in his head and he just can't let it go so I find myself rarely prepared for craft projects and he ends up disappointed when I can't deliver. Not this time. I was unprepared but pulled it off.

 A couple of summers ago, we put together a book of wildflowers that we took on our camera and the boys love it. It was not only a great exercise in flower identification, it serves as a  great resource while hiking the high country in the summers. And we are very proud of our little 3 ring binder with all of our OWN images.

The latest adventure in Aeneas's creativity has been his bug (and critter) book. All summer we have been taking pictures of the critters he has found. We catch a lot, A LOT, of critters, especially when we are camping. So when the boys came back with critters, I got out my camera and started shooting away. Granted some of them were so small it was difficult to get my crummy camera to focus but I snapped away anyway. I actually thought in the back of my mind that he would never remember this project and was trying to figure out how long I should have the random photos take up space on the hard drive.

Well, D sent us a goody box the other day and in it had some insect stickers. Just enough of a tip off to remind him of his little project. I was totally unprepared. I didn't have any of the pictures printed, I didn't have a book to put them in, or the lamination to cover them. I had to think fast and I've found that if I can keep cool and act like this was the plan all along, then the boys tend to just go with it.

So with some cardboard and card stock paper Aeneas and I created this little book. The decorating kept him entertained long enough for me to pick up the pictures the following day. He cut them and stuck them in just the way he wanted to and he has room for more (Oh help me)! He is very proud of this book and looking back, I am quite proud of him myself. And although the stubbornness and insistence of this kid drive me to insanity at times, there are good things that happen on account of it. I'm just trying hard to keep up! Good job little buddy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Why is Sex Fun"

What have you been reading lately?!?! Have you heard of Jarred Diamond? If not, have you heard of the books "Guns, Germs and Steel," or " Collapse"? I have one of those husbands that has actually made up a reading list for me in the past which has opened my eyes to things like "The Aeneid," "All the Kings Men," "The River Why" "Mere Christianity" and most recently, "Why is Sex Fun?" After he found me reading some dumb totally predictable novel that I picked up in my 15 seconds out the door of the library, he said he had better.

So he comes home with "Why is Sex Fun." As a remarkable writer and truly brilliant Anthropological Biologist, Jarred Diamond attempts to answer questions like:

  • Why are humans the only mammals to have a hidden ovulatory cycle?
  • WTH is with the whole post copulatory desertion with other animals and some men's neccesity to do the same? 
  • What's the added benefit for those men to stick around for the long run of child rearing?
  • Why do women go through menopause when very few other animals do so?
  • How did woman and men become attracted to certain aspects of our physique? 

One of my favorite chapters is titled "Making more by making less:The evolution of female menopause"

He speaks about oral tradition in some of our native cultures around the world. And how even though women past their prime in child bearing are no longer contributing to the passing on of genes through childbirth, they offer wisdom and guidance that contributes to our survival. His examples detailed the elderly who knew the plants that one could eat during an extreme famine despite their lack of taste. And then goes on to say that in our 1st world societies today, we rarely need such with the help of the internet.

I have spent the last 5 days cutting and prepping and putting up applesauce. A truly exhausting endeavor to say the least. One of my good friends and mentors, Nellie, came by to help me for a few hours. And just talking and watching her cut apples taught me more than I could have ever learned by an internet search. Sure I could have gotten the recipes, the canning times and temps, the jar sterilization techniques from a webpage somewhere in the web cloud, however, nowhere online could have or would have demonstrated the best way to cut those apples, a technique I learned by simply watching and which in the end saved me hours of time. Observation made me twice as fast! There's something to that.

After reading the book and more specifically, the last chapter, "Truth in Advertising: The evolution of body signals," I also began to reflect some about what sorts of things I found attractive in a male. And interestingly enough, some of them were quite simple. The ability to provide for the family, not so much monetarily as much as ability to survive in the wild. Would he know what to do in an emergency? Would he be cool and collected under pressure? Would he have good marksmanship with any number of tools and weapons? Reasonable and thoughtful and intelligent in a liberal arts sort of way. Ability to solve problems with his body and intellect. A man that has both strength and endurance and a nurturing mentality to provide for and protect the next generation. An ability to keep home the safest and most relaxing place to retreat to.

So I worked with some computer people and some math people and some Excel pros along with some sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers, doctors and such to create an algorithm and computer program that you could basically input your preferences and it would spit out a good match for you. Here was the result:

Ha! I guess I didn't do so bad! READ IT. It's fascinating! Buy it here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Abundant Autumn Apples, by Anna

With close to 200 lbs of apples and 5 days of running 3 crockpots, a huge stew pot and a canner nonstop you too can have 8 gallon freezer bags plus 36 quarts of canned applesauce, 5 apple hand pies, and a baked apple french toast! The boys quote of the weekend? "Put me to work, Mom!" We've been busy! I love this time of year. I don't know what we would do if we actually owned our own apple tree! Thank you Fort Lewis College!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Simple Weekend Treats

We made mini cinnamon rolls last weekend. They kids did them completely by themselves and were so proud. Try them with your little guys, they are easy peasy!

Mini Cinnamon Rolls

  • Crescent Rolls
  • Butter 
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Powdered Sugar
Unroll the Crescent rolls and pinch together all of the seams. Brush melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Roll them up starting at the long end. Slice and put them sideways into a mini muffin pan. Bake as directed on the package maybe for just 8-10 min.  Cut in 2 Tbsp butter into 1 cup powdered sugar, add about 3 tbsp maple syrup and then milk to make it smooth. Spread the icing over top while they are still warm. Walla!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Learning the Ropes

Patrick is getting a bit of coaching on how to
hold your break on the way down

Durango has lots of rocks to climb on if you are just getting your feet wet. Justin used to climb waaaaayyyy back in his college days, so we decided it would be fun to get the boys into it a little and to prep them for the Doony and Sheels Summer Climbing Camp in the future. We bought a full body harness and have explored a couple different places around town. Turtle Lake is great for bouldering. Nothing we did was so high we needed ropes, but high enough that we could practice repelling and climbing on a rope. X-Rock has some pretty big cliff faces that we were able to explore. Backing over that edge to repel is the worst part but the boys didn't seem to mind it much. They were naturals!

Patrick has got the hang of it as long as we can keep the
crazy hair out of the figure 8!

With barely enough weight to counter the friction, Aeneas has
to work a little harder to get down.

No problem. This kid isn't afraid of anything!

And since we didn't get enough of heights, we went to DMR and did
the bungee where Aeneas has gained enough confidence to do flips!

Brothers race to the top of the climbing wall at DMR.

Aeneas's flip. I've got to do a few lessons for the videographer ;)

Patrick had a 5 flip pass. He's been taking notes from the bungee guys on how to do it. No video of it unfortunately. Bummer.

Mama even got a flip or two in!
(not so good on the stomach, crazy dizzy!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Veggie Recipe!

I was looking last week for non-dairy/ vegetarian recipe ideas. No we aren't vegan. We just eat free-range (which is expensive) and we are cutting dairy (because we think Aeneas might be allergic). AND I am getting tired of my recipes and am ready to purge my collection and start trying some new things. This week I started with this recipe and then adapted it for what suited my tastes and the crisper drawer. Here is what I came up with.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • Bring the broth and quinoa to a boil, cover and simmer until water is absorbed.

1 cup frozen corn
Simmer in water until done. Drain.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 3 cups black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan adding the onions first, then the garlic and zucchini. Saute until tender. Add the beans, corn and quinoa. 

Season with:
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Garnish with:
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Chopped avocado
  • lime juice squeeze
Serve over tortilla chips...or wrap with lettuce in a tortilla, or serve over salad with crumbled chips and jap-ranch dressing or make a quesadilla with it as the filling. So good and a nice healthy leftover for Mama for the next few days!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

School is in session!

It's been a crazy week! The USA Pro Challenge bike race has been here for the last week, training and getting ready for the start of the race in downtown Durango. The start of the public schools were even delayed a day since a lot of the roads en route to school were closed for the race. One of FLC's alum is on the Garmin team and one of the favorites for winning. He managed to win the King of the Mountain jersey twice out of the first 3 stages of the 7 stage race across Colorado. The are teams from all over the world and it was fun having them here staying across the hall! We made friends with the United Healthcare team and scored some hats for the kids as well as some autographs.  

Dancing on the huge painted logo in one of FLC's fields.

 Threatening rain, we bundled up to watch the race.

Serious spectator!

Waiting for the cyclists to come by.

Here they are. We were able to watch from the rim where they passed right in front of us.

We then ran to the edge of the rim and were able to see them dieseling down Florida Rd. back toward downtown and off to Telluride for the first stage.

After everything settled down on campus we got into bed early for our first day of school the following day. I have tried to cut down as much as possible on the waste associated with lunch food packaging. Last year I used reusable sandwich wraps and containers. This year I found these cool bento box containers on Amazon and thought we would try them out. 

I am a firm believer that if the presentation is there, you can get kids to eat most anything! They have two sides to them; one for a sandwich and the other with smaller compartments for things like veggie sticks, chips and fruit. No one makes a water bottle small enough for lunchboxes so I went to our local outdoor store and got some backpacking bottles for $2 each. I figured out the shaped sandwiches last year after I ran out of bread except for the heels. I cut a shape out and turned it over and Patrick thought it was the coolest. This year, I am trying pumpernickel and wheat combo and they think it is the best. So easy and fun.

Here they are, ready to go. It is cold in the mornings in Colorado, even in August! Patrick rode his bike and Aeneas rode in the trailer. Mom got a workout on the way home!

And here is the man of the day. First day of kindergarten!
They do a stagger start here so that the poor kinder teachers aren't facing a room full of first timers all wanting their moms. So Aeneas went on Tuesday and then he goes with everyone on Friday. What have we done the last two days he has been home with me?

We had fun doing a little face painting yesterday. Got on line to have him pick something out and he was determined to want this one. He's very creepy! Today Justin and I have helped haul boxes for our Animas residents who are moving in today and Aeneas served lemonade (and ate cookies the RA's set out for students all day. What a life)! It has been a fun and crazy week for sure! Happy back to school everyone!