Monday, December 6, 2010

New Menu Monday: White Chicken Chili

I haven't posted a menu in a few weeks because the last few weeks have not been worth sharing. No offense to Rachel Ray and Kraft, but not everything they create is a hit with our family.

But today will be a hit! I know because I have tasted it before. I just haven't made it for the family. Thanks to my Freezer Meal group, I how have the opportunity to serve it to my family AND I didn't even have to make it! I just pulled it out of the freezer, let it thaw and warmed it up! (I love those women and the dinners they prepare!)

Today we will be having White Chicken Chili. It's original origins are unknown. My friend, Brenda, got the recipe from a neighbor who's recipe card had the name "Charlotte Dopp" on it. So, to you, Charlotte Dopp, whoever you are, we say a big thank you from our family and everyone in our neighborhood who has enjoyed this chili over the years!

White Chili
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 medium onion
1 Tablespoon oil
2 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 (4 oz) cans chopped green chilies
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup whipping cream, 1 cup sour cream

In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion, and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in whipping cream and sour cream. Serve immediately.

We are also having baked potatoes with this... Enjoy!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to Stay Married While Remodeling

(I don't presume to be anything even close to an expert on this subject. These are just some observations I made while we remodeled our Family Room.)

1. Keep your strengths strong, accept your weaknesses and be patient with the weaknesses of others.

I have always had a pretty good head for math. I also have a talent for being able to visualize things. I can picture things in my head and be pretty close to how they will turn out.

When we started laying the wood flooring, it was hard to imaging EXACTLY how it would look but we did our best to imagine it, snapped our chalk lines and started gluing down the edge pieces. Jim was nice enough to "let" me figure out the measurements and angles. We had to let the glue set over night. Then the work began!

The two of us started gluing the boards together, making cuts at the angle and around the doors. There was a bit of a learning curve but once we both figured out each others strengths, we were on a roll.

2. Know when to ask for help.

It took us about 6 hours to get this little hall done. There were so many cuts! By the time we got into the bedroom/office we were on each others nerves just a little. Thankfully our friends, "B" and "A", came over to see the progress. "A" was kind enough to let "B" stay. She also took Austin to Tae Kwon Do and picked up the pizza I had ordered so I could stay and finish helping. What a great help that was! "B" stayed as long as he could and was an awesome helper!

It took us 15 hours, but we got all the wood flooring down before the carpet had to come the next morning.

3. Choose your battles or You don't have to get your way ALL the time.

I have written several times about how much I don't like carpet. You can go back and read about it if you'd like or you can just take my word for it. I REALLY didn't want carpet until I started figuring out how much it was going to cost to do something other than carpet. I could have begged and pleaded for something else. I do know how to get my way when I really want it. This time it wasn't as important to get my way. I wanted some new furniture and I knew the only way to get that was to save some money on flooring.

It actually turned out pretty good. The boys seemed to like the coziness of the carpet. Before I was able to get the camera, Josh was rolling back and forth on the new carpet and making "carpet angels".

4. Sometimes you have got to take the good with the bad.

We got the tape pulled up and got Kyle's room put back together. He was happy to have it back for a couple nights before he had to give it back up so Grammy could stay in it while visiting for Thanksgiving. He's a good sport for sharing. But sometimes when you have the biggest room and your own bathroom you have to give it up when visitors are in town.

5. If you hang in there, It usually turns out well in the end.

We were able to make a run it Ikea and get a little couch for the boys and their new TV area. We moved the flat screen from our room and put it in its new home. We also moved the Xbox and Wii up from the Theater. Of course, the boys love it! We still need a few other pieces of furniture to make the room cozy, but it will do until we can save up some more funds.

And now, sometime soon, we will get a new flat screen TV for our bedroom. I thought we would have some time without a TV in our room but Jim thinks we need one. So we have the old clunker 27" giant tube balancing on our dresser for now.

I am pretty happy with how it turned out. We still have a ways to go. There will be new rock around the fireplace and Jim is going to make built in bookshelves on either side of the fireplace. Eventually we want to replace the French doors. They are pretty bad! I would like a soft chair by the fire that I can sit in while I knit or read.

I imagine sitting there, knitting in front off the fire, while one of the boys plays soft music on the piano but I know, in reality, I will probably be sitting there watching them killing each other on some Xbox game, while yelling at them periodically, "Would you PLEASE turn it down!"

What was #4? Oh, yes, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Family Room Construction: Phase Two...Four Months Later

I was so excited that weekend in July when we started to take the family room apart. I even wrote about it. Then things were on pause. The last few months we have been in the process of refinancing our house so we could have the finances to do the remodel. It took longer than we had hoped but it is finally over and we can move forward with our plans. Here's the update:

This is Josh putting up the last piece of drywall on the south end of the family room next to the fireplace. He has been a great help to Jim. His favorite part of the drywall process is "rasping" the edges of the cut pieces. This makes lots of noise and dust; two things that are always closely associated with Josh!

This is from further back. we were going to replace the fireplace but, after pricing the flooring, we are going to keep the little, not so appealing, fire that came with the house.

This is looking left into the room that was formerly the office and is now Kyle's room. It will be an office again in the not so distant future so we will be putting down wood floors in this room, into the little "hall" just outside the room and up the stairs that lead to the entry/kitchen.

Anyone who is a regular reader of our blog knows how I feel about carpet. After lots of thought (and pleading by Jim) we have decided to put carpet in the family room. I would have preferred to have stained cement or any other surface that can be "swiffered". But carpet will be the warmest and the most cost effective. There will be rules about shoes and dogs. Hopefully that will help minimize the wear and tear that made our last carpet so gross.

The wood flooring is scheduled for tonight and the carpet is scheduled for Friday morning. I think there will be an Ikea run on either Friday night or Saturday to get a couple of the furniture pieces we have been eying.

So now when we have visitors there will be a place to sit that is not around the dining room table. The dining room table that we got as a hand-me-down about 15 years ago. The dining table that was well used before it made its way into our home and has been well used ever since.

The kitchen table that hopefully will be replaced before Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 8, 2010

New Menu Monday is BACK!

And so am I. I took a little blog break. I don't know why. It just wasn't a priority for a while but I have missed it.

Now, back to food...

Now that the weather is sufficiently chilly, I feel the need to make cozy, yummy dinners. I have also tried to keep introducing new foods to my family. Food is to magical to keep preparing it the same way over and over. That's why I started New Menu Monday. We try something we have never tried before every Monday. I record a variety of food related shows and I browse a few favorite food websites. Sometimes I present several ideas and let the guys decide which one sounds best to them but most times I just prepare something and everyone tries it.

Even when the kiddos were little, I used to make them try new things. If they thought they didn't like it even before they tasted it, I would make them take "No Thank You Bites". The amount of bites would be their age (age 5 = 5 bites). Most of the time they would find that they liked the taste after a few bites. Sometimes they didn't, and that's OK. If the majority of us didn't like it, I would throw away that recipe and never make it again. But most of the time we have a wonderful new addition to Mom's Cookbook and I try to incorporate it into the rotation.

I have heard that a lot of you have a hard time getting out of your dinner rut so I am now going to post our New Menu Monday choices on the blog. Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!!!

* * * * * * * *

We had this last Monday and thought it was GREAT!

Cheesy Hash Brown Chili by Rachel Ray

  • 2 tablespoons EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1-pound bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Yields: 4-6 servings (We had a little left over)


Preheat oven to 400°F. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, chili powder and cumin and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.


Stir in the tomato paste. Add the beef and cook, breaking up the meat, for 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper.


Add the beans and the tomatoes with their juice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Transfer to an 8-by-11-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes and cheese. Scatter the potato mixture over the chili. Place the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake until the potatoes are cooked through and the chili is bubbling, about 35 minutes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the cooler weather, foods and the silly things we do with friends. Hope you also get to enjoy some happiness and silliness this time of year with family and friends!

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJ

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Prince Among Men

Austin is our first born. We had him when we were very young and silly, but happy. He he grew and developed like any healthy boy should. His brothers followed very soon after that.

When he was not quite two years old, I noticed he wasn't doing things he used to be able to do and there were some words he used to be able to say and didn't anymore. I could tell there was something different about him. Many people around me would say things like, "He's just fine" or "There's nothing wrong with him" or "Maybe you just need to...". He was my first and I was young and naive. I didn't know what to do so I just kept doing my best.

He started preschool at Kiddie Kollege. After a few months Ms. Beverly talked to me about how he didn't sit still or listen. She handed me an article about ADHD and suggested I go see my pediatrician. I made an appointment, took Austin and explained what the teacher said. He suggested we put him on Ritalin... my 3 year old! That was the last time we went to that doctor.

I moved him to a different preschool the next year. He did OK. I continued to wonder what was wrong. I shared my concerns with his teacher. She handled him well. I read everything I could about ADD and ADHD but it just didn't feel right. I treated him just like any other preschooler. He was expected to do his chores, be kind to his brothers and listen to his parents. We had communication issues. He had a hard time expressing what he wanted to say and I had a hard time getting him to listen to what I was saying. We did a lot of "Austin, look at my eyes when I talk to you" and "Austin, show me what you need."

Then Austin started Kindergarten. His teacher was an angel straight from heaven! She loved him no mater what he was like. She worked with his strengths and ignored his weaknesses. We started building a new house so at Christmas break we moved and Austin landed in a kindergarten class with a teacher that was old and mean. She didn't like dealing with him and disciplined him harshly. Austin, who potty trained fairly easily and hadn't had an accident since, started wetting the bed and having nightmares. And he didn't want to go to school. I pulled him out of school and taught him his ABC's on my own. Shortly after that, I decided to attend a meeting for parents with children with ADD and ADHD. I wanted to know what these parents were doing and what I could learn from them. They all talked about one particular specialist in Salt Lake City and how wonderful he was. I decided to take Austin to see him. We made the appointment and they told us to expect to be there for most of the day for different types of tests. The doctor was with Austin for about an hour when he came out and told me, "Your son does NOT have ADHD. I am pretty sure he has Autism. Let's finish the tests today. I will send you home with some questionnaires for his teachers. We will compile it all and send you our report." When people started learning the diagnosis, they asked me how I was feeling about it. I was just so relieved to have a diagnosis I felt great. It was such a weight off my shoulders.

I went back to his old school so I could have the angel teacher fill out the questionnaire. She was so happy to see us! I explained what was going on and she told me that she suspected as much. She also told us that Austin's desk was just the same as it was the last time he was there and she would love to have him back in her class. She talked to the principal and TOLD him Austin would be coming back. To this day I get teary eyed when I think of what she did for us and especially Austin. I will never forget her. Needless to say, he thrived in her class. No more nightmares, no more accidents.

We moved him back to our local elementary school for first grade. He adjusted well. His teachers loved him, the kids knew he was different and took advantage of that. Especially the ones that were in his special classes with him. I think they were just doing what they could to feel better about themselves. Junior High was no better, at least in his resource classes, and I worried if he would ever have any friends that would love him the way we loved him. I wondered if others would notice the sweet and lovable Austin that his teachers knew. Deep down he has such a good spirit. He just wants to help people and do what is right. He wants others to feel that way too. He really hates it when he knows others are breaking rules and he especially hates it when he hears swear words at school. But despite all of that and how he was treated by those few bad apples, he knew he wanted to do something to help others.

So in junior high, he started holding the front door open for the kids coning to school. He sometimes got upset if we were a little late and arrived after the bus because he missed out on holding the door open for those kids. A few of the kids noticed and got to know him from that.

Then he started high school.

Something magical happens when kids around here go to high school. They finally start to figure out whatever they were trying to figure out in junior high. Maybe it is because they find more people that have their same interests and they feel more accepted. Maybe it is because they have finished going through that awkward stage and feel more comfortable in their own skin. Maybe the raging hormones aren't raging so much. Whatever it is, they seem to clam down a bit and notice others more. At least I have noticed that with my teenagers. 13, 14 and 15 have been hard but by the time they are 16 I don't really want to strangle them as much!

Austin is now a senior at Syracuse High School. He continues to hold the door for the others at school and has since he started there. When I am around him at the school and around town, I can tell that the kids know who he is and seem to like him. I had no idea how much until this week.

I got a phone call from him while I was in Las Vegas visiting my sister's family. His communication skills are still being worked on but mostly understood what he was trying to tell me. He had been nominated for Homecoming Royalty! He was given a letter with all the things he would be doing the next week for Homecoming week. They were learning a song to sing at the Friday assembly, he would be in the parade, he found a date to take to the dance and the King would be announced at the football game the Friday of that week. I couldn't believe it and I was so excited for him.

The highlight of this week was riding on the float in the parade on Thursday. We made some signs to hold while he passed by and we yelled really loud. He was able to keep one of the big white balloons from the float decorations. It is still floating around our house!

Friday was a big day. First there was an assembly at school. That was the first time I realized how well liked Austin is at his school. When the royalty was announced and they came out onto the stage, Austin got the biggest cheer from the crowd. I was stunned! Later that night at the game, I was able to escort him onto the field at halftime for the announcement of the king, queen, first and second attendants. I was so nervous/excited for him all day. Here we are standing at mid-field when they introduced all the kids that were nominated. The roar of the crowd was deafening! I am glad Jim snapped this picture before the tears started falling. I was a wreck! To hear the kids cheer like that was music to a mother's heart.

Then the big moment was upon us. They had announced the second attendants and were about to announce the first. I could barely breathe. When they said his name for first attnedant I was so proud! He gave me a quick hug and went to stand up front with the beautiful girl that was also named first attendant. The boy that was king is a boy that is from our neighborhood. He is a great kid and I really like him. The only thing Austin heard was "first" so according to him, he was the winner.

So the next night was the dance. Kyle and his friends again rallied around Austin to make sure he had a date. This sweet girl was his date. I so appreciate her and her willingness to be such a good sport.

Here is part of the group that went together. Kyle on the left with his girlfriend and Austin on the right. They met three other couples for dinner and went to the dance together. They all ended up in our basement theater to watch a movie. From what I can tell, it was a wonderful evening for everyone!

There have been a lot of great memories in the last 17 and a half years with Austin but this week is going to be up there toward the top. It has been fun and busy but totally worth all the struggles. We don't know what the future holds for Austin. What we know is that we love him and we are tremendously proud of the things he has accomplished. We know that it will be our responsibility to live good enough in this life so that we can be with him in the next. We know he has already secured his place in heaven.

Plus, there's always Prom King.........

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Jim works in the IT department of his company. He works with some of the most knowledgeable "computer geeks" I know.

One of them thinks he's super funny (which he is, but not this time) and he hacked into my blog! He changed Jim's shirt from a BYU shirt to a U of U shirt in the last blog post.

So, sorry to those of you that are on the email list. You are getting that blog post twice because I had to go in and replace the picture.

I didn't mention in that blog post, and I probably should now, that as much as Jim likes watching BYU football, he also likes keeping up with Ute football. He is "Switzerland" when it comes to the whole in-state rivalry. Passionate about sport, not a crazy my-team-is-better-than-your-team fanatic.

So, Hacker, I know who you are. And I could "out" you here on my blog and all over Facebook. But I choose not to. I, too, will be "Switzerland".

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rise and Shout, the Barbers are Out!

Last weekend, after my visit to Vegas, Jim and I hurried home because we had people coming over to our house that night. It was the opening weekend for College Football and the BYU Cougars were playing.

When I married Jim, I knew he was a sports fan. Shortly after meeting his family (one girl, and SIX boys!) I knew that sports, and competition in general, was deeply ingrained in most of the family rituals. I did the math and this is how it turned out:


But not all football is created equal. They do love the NFL but they REALLY love watching BYU Football!!!

So, for the opening game we had most of the brothers (and a nephew or two) over at our house watching the Cougars in the theater. Here are just a couple of thing I love about watching the Barber Boys watching BYU Football together:
  • Their "outfits" usually match - I think there is enough BYU clothing in the family that all 40 of us could take a family picture together and be wearing something with a Y on it!
  • The cheering wakes babies - There have been countless times when something great has happened in a game that has either woken a sleeping baby or just scared them so bad they burst into tears.
  • It promotes family togetherness - It is hard to get men to bond but it seams that if they are passionate about SOMETHING, even if it is college football, they will have meaningful conversations, get together often and like each other more.

Plus, I love being the hostess. I love to make yummy food to share. I especially love to hear people tell me how yummy the food is. that happens less and less with my own family so I have to bring in extended family to hear the praises.

So, there are some bright sides to football season starting. The priorities shift a little with the changing seasons but there are also opportunities that open up now that the weather is cooling off. And as I post this, I can hear Jim down in the theater hollering at me to come down and sit with him. There's a game on...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sweet Ava

A couple of weeks ago, my sweet niece, Ava Rose, turned eight years old. That is a special time for kids who grow up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That is when it is time to get baptized! We are all so proud that she made the choice to become an official member of the church!

I was able to go down and stay with Craig and the kiddos for a few days before. It was so nice to be there and just spend time with them. I helped out around the house a little while they were at work and school. I was able to walk the girls to school and help them with hair and homework. It was nice to be able to reconnect with them after not seeing them for a couple of months. Ava is the best parts of my sister, Lisa. Her beautiful face and her love for life and everyone around her reminds me so much of what I miss about my sister.

Jim came down a few days later for the baptism and we were able to drive home together, just the two of us. It was a very quick trip for him but it was so nice to be able to spend that time in the car with him, no kids, no noise, just great conversation and an In-N-Out Burger.

It was really hard for me to leave but there are so many people who love, pray for and care for that family. It was nice to meet Chloe and Ava' s friends. They are all such cute girls! I know they are in good hands. I know there are people in the neighborhood and at church who look out for them.

And if knowing that is not enough, I know that I am welcome to go and visit anytime I want!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Traffic Jam in Adam's Canyon

Labor day. No school and no work. Kyle and Jordann (his friend-that-is-a-girl) wanted to do something. I'm not sure if it was Kyle's idea or Jim's idea but someone thought it would be a great day for a hike up to the waterfall in Adam's Canyon. And it was. The day started out a little chilly and breezy, just right for being outside. The forecast was for the high temperature to be in the high 70's to low 80's. (have I ever mentioned how much I love fall in Utah? I think I have!) The bad part about it being the perfect day for a hike is that lots and lots of other people noticed it also. There were SOOOO many people on the trail. Jim and the boys have been up there several times. He said he has never seen it that busy, ever! Monday was my first time all the way up to the waterfall. When we got to the the top there were about 8-10 groups up there taking pictures and having lunch. We found a place to sit and tried our best to enjoy what we had packed for our lunch.

You need to know something about me before I go on. It bothers me when people don't watch what their kids are doing. I have tried to teach my kids to be aware of their surroundings and be respectful to others around them. I don't want them to be those loud or obnoxious kids that make you wonder who their parents are. I understand that little girls like to scream and little boys like to run and jump. But there needs to be a level of respect to those you are sharing public space with. A few little screams from a little girl is not as bad as letting her scream at will. Boys running and throwing rocks is fine as long as they aren't hurting or bothering anyone else. Kids have natural tenancies, parents are there to keep them in check!

That being said, it would have been a perfectly relaxing half hour or so up at the waterfall except for that one group. The one with the boy waving sticks around like swords, throwing rocks all over, running around and between other groups, and with dogs off their leashes. To top it all off, they were all being supervised by the dad that yelled idle threats with a booming voice but never got up off his seat to do anything about it. The dogs kept coming over and sniffing my lunch and the boy finally hit someone with his stick sword.

We were able to take a few pictures. We forgot the camera but I had my phone. Good thing it takes OK pictures.

This is me keeping an eye on what my son is doing. I don't think he was bothering anyone else in the vicinity.

When we had enough, we started back down the trail. I think there may have been more people on the trail on our way down! All in all, it was a great way to spend time with Kyle and Jordann on a lovely almost-fall day.

* * * * *

Now as a side note, sorry if it sounds like I am a bit grumpy as I write this, it's probably because I am. Grumpy that my body is still recovering from that hike that should have been no big deal. I feel REALLY bad for my husband who has to put up with me and my "condition". He is Mr. Adventure. He loves to get out and do fun things. I love to also but it just takes so much out of me now. I am fine when I go for my daily walk. In fact, I could walk all day long. I love walking. But I used to love running. I used to be able to do lots of things I can't do anymore. Well, I can, but I pay for it later. If my heart rate gets too high I get dizzy. If I push myself too hard I need extra time to recover. Poor Jim had to wait for me several times along the trail and that was super frustrating for me. But not for him. He was so patient. I should be more patient with myself but I remember all the things I used to be able to do. I don't like feeling like an 80 year old when my body isn't even 40 yet. When we got home from our hike, I showered and laid down to rest for a bit. I fell asleep for four hours! I got up and made dinner, then I went back to bed and slept all night! There are a lot of times I avoid doing things because I know it will wipe me out. Most days I am just grateful my family is so helpful and that things aren't worse than they are. But sometimes, especially when I want to keep up with Mr. Adventure, I get frustrated with what my body is going through knowing that it most likely will not get better and slowly get worse.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Last Hurrah of Summer

Last weekend we got a visit from my sister. She lives in northern California and we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like to so we were pretty excited that the whole family (excluding their oldest who is serving a mission in Puerto Rico) could come to Utah for a week.

We were able to go to Seven Peaks last Saturday and let the kids burn off what was left of their summer. And, boy, did we burn. I applied sunscreen three times and still got burned! I am just now starting to peel. The boys had a great time on all the slides. The grown-ups had a great time in the lazy river and the wave pool. I also took along some knitting and was able to sit under the shade for a while and knit a few rows of my latest lace project.

This is Kyle being brave on one of the speed slides. They did them all several times!

This is my nephew coming out of one of the tube slides.

After an exhausting day of sitting on the shore of the wave pool and laying on a tube in the Lazy River, we needed a rest!

The next Monday, we hosted a multi-family FHE (Family Home Evening). My sister's family stayed at our house that night. We also were able to enjoy the company of some friends of ours that we have known forever. They came up for dinner and provided the spiritual thought. We played volleyball, ate too much dinner, had our lesson and ended the night with s'mores. It was a really fun evening!

We are so glad the cousins were able to spend some quality time together!

From our house, they drove to St George and then Las Vegas, visiting our other siblings along the way. Today they finally mad it home safe. Her family is the same size as ours but now she is down to only having one last boy at home. I look at them and see what my not-so-distant future will look like.

Most days I am okay with change. The changes that are coming up are all good changes. Especially if things stay on the same track they are on so far. It is good to see your kids grow and develop into functioning members of society. I want them to find all the happiness I have found in getting an education, finding the love of my life and having a family. I look forward to the time when Jim and I get to spend more time together. We didn't really get that when we were newlywed.

But not yet. I still get a few more years of being the mom. I will gladly hang on to these boys as long as they will let me...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Fair Knitter

When I first started knitting, I knew nothing! I still feel like I don't know as much as I should about the subject but I try to learn as much as I can because I so enjoy everything about it. I started by taking a beginning class one Saturday and just ran from there. I have been known to listen to podcasts (audio and video) about knitting. I read a couple blogs about knitting. I have a few really good books and several favorite patterns (and hope to get more). I have a favorite shop that I like to go to where the people there are wonderful, friendly and encouraging. I have even thought about writing my own knitting blog but I would rather spend my time knitting than writing about it.

As soon as I could follow a pattern, I was knitting for everyone else and their new babies. I didn't care. I just love the process of taking a ball of string, and some sticks moving them back and forth, and magically ending up with s pair of socks, a hat, a sweater or whatever. I also love the look on the faces of others when you tell them they need to hand wash their knew item because it was hand knitted. The usual response is, "YOU did this?"

About a year ago, I wanted something for myself. I had seen some knitted lace in the yarn shops and thought it was WAY beyond anything I could do. But I went ahead and purchased some lace weight alpaca and a pattern to go with it. I read the pattern a couple times. I would take the soft yarn out of it's drawer and feel it's softness. But I was still too afraid to start.

The day I finally started was a new day for me! I waited for it to get to difficult but it didn't. (It is just not something you can do while carrying on a conversation or watching a movie you have never seen before). I finished one part and set it aside to tackle a few other projects and kind of forgot about it for a while.

A couple of months ago I picked it back up and was determined to finish. I wanted to wear it. Not to any place in particular but I just wanted to have that one thing that I had knitted for myself that was not a pair of socks. Then I got the idea to enter it into the fair. That gave me a deadline of when I needed to finish. I didn't have to rush. I had plenty of time. I was pretty happy with how it looked. Little did I know that I would soon fall in love with knitting lace.

When you first start it doesn't really look like anything. Even when you finish it is not that impressive. The magic happens when you "block" your knitting. You fill up a sink, tub, or in my case, a large Tupperware bowl, with water and a small amount of a detergent made for fine fibers. You soak your knitted item for at least 30 minutes or up to a couple hours. This relaxes the fibers so you can stretch them within an inch of their little lives. Then you take up every bit of horizontal space in your kitchen that is usually set aside for eating and lay out your damp item. I happen to have lace blocking wires and blocking mats. Those get threaded through the edges of the wet lace one row at a time. It takes FOREVER! Then you stretch it into the shape desired and, using a million pins, hope it stays in that shape until it is dry. This project took only a couple hours to dry. When I knitted Jim a pair of felted slippers it took a couple of days for them to dry! (One of the reasons I have fallen in love with lace knitting.) Then, when it has fully dried, you un-pin and take out the wires and... Abracadabra... it has turned into something you never imagined could be so lovely!!!

There are some pictures somewhere of the blocking process. I just couldn't find them. But here are some pictures of the finished product:

I couldn't find anywhere in my house that looked good so I went outside to take this picture.

The next two are close ups of the lace detail

Last Saturday was the day that items needed to be turned into the fair. The judging was on Monday and Tuesday. I anxiously woke up this morning and, after knitting a few rows on my next bit of lace, got ready to head down to the fair grounds. It opened at noon so I bribed the boys with lunch if they came with me. It took a minute for me to find my entries. There were so many wonderfully hand crafted items. I had fun browsing. Then we saw it...

The stocking I knitted for myself. I am in the process of knitting one for each of us. The same pattern but with different colors. Everyone got to choose their own colors. Mine is pink in honor of my sister, Lisa. I guess that worked because it won first place in the "Christmas" category. (Sorry about the bad quality of the pictures. I used my phone and was a bit shaky from excitement)

Then after a few minutes we found the lace shawl. It also had a blue ribbon! It won first place in the "Clothing/Accessories" category!

I only wish Jim had been there. He is so patient with me and my addiction. But he is off enjoying his (Fly fishing trip pictures to come soon). I guess I will have to set aside a few thing each year and take them down to the fair. I think I am brave enough now to enter the Utah State Fair next month.

Each first prize wins $25, which more than pays for the materials I used to make these items (another reason I have fallen in love with lace knitting. You can use one $12 hank of yarn and knit a whole project!). I can pick up my prize money on Monday. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to use my winnings to purchase more yarn... :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blessed, Honored Pioneer

The Mormon Pioneer story is a story that is filled with faith, persecution, hope, trials, triumph, tears, and of course, lots of walking. It is sometimes hard to hear the stories about the trials but it is uplifting to know the results of those trials that were endured well. It is important to learn from history, not only the pioneer history, but all history. It is important to teach our children stories from history so they can learn from the trials and triumphs of others. The first weekend in June, we had the great opportunity to participate in a short reenactment of what some of the Handcart Pioneers experienced.

There were over 70,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that made their way west starting in 1856. The first wagon train entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24th, 1847. Later, there were several members of the church that came all the way from England and other places in western Europe. It was an expensive journey so the leaders were inspired to provide a less expensive way to make the overland journey. Instead of using oxen and wagons they started building mini-wagons, or handcarts, and using people power, they were able to get to Salt Lake City using fewer resources. They did, however, need to walk every step of the 1,300 miles!

Our journey started in January. It was announced that the youth would be participating in a "trek" this year at Martin's Cove and there was a need for adult volunteers to be "Ma & Pa" over small groups of kids. Only the youth between the ages of 14-18 are allowed to participate. All three of our boys happen to fall between those ages. Jim and I had the opportunity to trek at that sacred place about nine years ago so when I heard the announcement I immediately thought, "Wow! Our whole family can all go on trek together!" Later I found out that Jim's first thought was, "Wow! All three of the boys will be gone on the same weekend! I wonder what Aimee and I will do?" It didn't take much to talk Jim into going.

We went through our "Ma & Pa" training. We started purchasing any equipment we were in need of. I made myself an authentic pioneer dress, apron and bonnet. About a week before it was time to leave we started gathering our equipment. Everyone was allowed to pack 17lbs. of clothing and personal items (not including bedding and tents) that would be pulled on out handcarts. I taped the checklists to the wall and put each of our buckets under the lists. Because we were "Ma & Pa", Jim and I were allowed/required to pack more gear. There were things we would need to help our "family" along the way.

This is what my living room looked like for about a week

There were almost 500 people that were heading up to Wyoming. Our journey started at 5am. The kids were excited and quite wild on the bus ride. Eventually, and after two stops, we made it up to our destination. Our gear was waiting for us (it was trucked up the night before). We found our cart and gathered our "family" and we were off...

This is our "trek family". These were the great kids we got to look after for the three days we were walking in the footsteps of previous faithful pioneers.

On the second day we were able to gather our real family together for a picture just before we made the walk into the cove. Notice our rain gear and ponchos. It was quite stormy and we got really wet that weekend!

Just before we made our way into Martin's Cove, we were treated to a well planned devotional. We listened to music that set the tone. We were told stories of why this place is sacred and why those pioneers willingly endured the hardships for what they knew to be true.

I love that place! I am so glad we went even though we had lots of rain, wet equipment, micro-burst thunderstorms and lots of mud. I am grateful for my husband and his knowledge of how to stay safe, warm and dry in any conditions. But most of all, and especially on Pioneer Day, I am thankful that pioneers did what they did. Weather they came across the plains in wagons, handcarts or they are like my parents and welcomed the missionaries into their home to hear the message of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. They are an inspiration to me. They remind me that it is always best to stand up for truth and righteousness no matter what it might do to your immediate situation. It the long run it is always best to do what's right. God promises us that if we do what is right he will support us.

Even during the clean up process...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Construction or Destruction?

When we built our house, we chose flooring based on the fact that we have three boys and a dog. Almost one third of the flooring in our home is tile. The other parts are carpet. I have grown to loathe carpet over the last 12 years! The family room carpet is the worst. But that is probably due to it being the most used room in the house. I have wanted to rip it out for years. Most of you may remember that it is what started the whole basement/theater thing. I love what came of it but I still had gross carpet in the family room.

We have been slowly emptying the family room of it's contents. A few months ago we sold our big sectional couch to some friends that just finished building their cabin. We gave our big screen TV to Jim's parents. We have also sold other furniture pieces on to some of the most random people I have ever met. We were down to the boys little video game TV, a few miscellaneous chairs and the dog bed.

Then, Jim had a five day weekend. July 4th fell on a Sunday this year so he got Friday and Monday off. One morning that weekend he woke up and said, "Let's rip up the family room carpet." I was confused, bewildered, dazed and above all, ecstatic! The boys love destruction days. They had fun removing the baseboard, pulling up the carpet and ripping up the tack strip out of the cement foundation. It was noisy and dusty. There were a couple times I had to step in and help them work together without fighting, but in a couple hours the family was carpet free! Jim helped them rip out the little platform we had in the corner that the TV was on. I wish I had thought to get a before picture. I'm sure if I dug around the millions of pictures we have I could find a good family room picture but I'm too lazy. I did, however, get pictures of them taking the rock off the wall around the fireplace:

Kyle helped Jim with that part of the demolition. They removed the mantle and covered the glass over the fireplace.

When that was done, Josh and Kyle loaded the rock into the trailer that also held the old carpet. Then they tackled the drywall. One of these days it will all go to the dump.

The dust has settled. The room was swept and vacuumed. The tools that will be used later are neatly stacked in the corner ready for the building back up of this well used room. It has been a little hard for the boys lately. The only place to play Xbox and Wii is down in the theater and that room is mostly off limits. The only place to watch TV is in our bedroom and it is DEFINITELY NOT the family room. But Jim has already drawn up plans for built in book cases that he will build on both sides of the fireplace. There will be a new layout to the room that we both agree on. We'd like to replace the french doors that are on the back of the house. Most of the decisions will impact Kyle's room because it is on the same level as the family room. But as much as we agree on everything else, we are still debating on what type of flooring to put down.

I am voting strongly against carpet!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer of Spontaneity

I am a planner. I like to make lists. I like to know what I am going to do and stick to my schedule... usually. I seem to be straying off my path a bit this summer. It started with our trip to the Snake River a couple weekends ago. We got invited, packed and a little more than 12 hours later we were camping! Then last weekend Jim was going to take Kyle fishing. One of his favorite spots is on the Weber River near where his uncle has a cabin. He was talking to Uncle Rock and told him they would be up fishing. He told Jim, "The cabin will be empty. Why don't you just go for the weekend?" (We help them a lot with their computers and he lets us stay in his cabin when it's available. I feel like we get the better end of the bargain!)

So that's just what we did. We were at our friends house last Friday (which is something we do just about every Thursday or Friday night, depending on the weekend) and we talked about going. They said they could be ready in a couple hours. We could be ready in less so we ran to the grocery store while they packed up their kids. By 8pm we were all packed and headed up the canyon. We got there late and went straight to bed.

The next morning we were greeted with wonderful weather and this giant moth on the front porch. I put my fingers next to it so you could see just how big it was. It was about the size of my BlackBerry. We weren't as thrilled about the giant flying creature as we were about the weather. It was GLORIOUS! It is usually about 10°-15° cooler up at the cabin than it is down in the valley. The weather was just right for fishing and hiking.

First thing Friday morning, Jim and Kyle went right down to the river and caught a few fish.

This is the one they kept.

Then we packed up some lunch and went up to the lake for a hike.

Along the trail there is a rope hanging from a tree. Of course, the boys had to take advantage of that. This is Josh...

And this is Kyle. It was really fun to watch!

We found a little place to stop and eat our lunch.

When we got back, I had to shower. When I got out of the shower, all of the kids were playing games and coloring. This is how I found all the adults! I had to take the picture from upstairs looking down for the full affect.

I am glad I am letting myself be more spontaneous. Sometimes some of the best things happen spur of the moment. I know we had a ton of fun at the cabin. We always do. I am always very relaxed and rested when I get home from that place. And it always reminds me of Lisa when I am up there. We took her and the kids up there the summer before she passed. I usually spend some time, early in the morning, sitting on the porch swing just thinking about her and what a great sister she is. She really appreciated the beauty of that canyon and marveled over how many trees there were. I like to sit quietly and look at the trees and feel grateful that our Heavenly Father has given us such wonderful things to appreciate on this earth. I like to think about all the things I learned from my sister, one of which is living life more fully, which might mean straying from the schedule and doing something completely unplanned.