Monday, July 30, 2007

Minnesota Adventures: Memphis, Blaine, Mall of America, Funny Nate Story

On the way out to Oklahoma City we had a nice little breakfast pitstop with Matt and Karey in Memphis.
Since we had never seen the Memphis temple and it happen to be near the IHOP we decided to take a little side trip to go check it out. It's small, but of course still very lovely...although I do have to mention that there were several toilets sitting just outside the front door due to the ongoing renovations.
At my High School...Go Blaine Bengals!
Aunt Heather, Cami, Glen, and Spencer on the scary rotating roller coaster at the Mall of America...hey someone had to stay with the little ones.
Adam and Cami on a much tamer ride at the Mall of America. Of course I do feel compelled to mention that I have a vivid memory of riding a similar ride at Disney Land as a young child with my brother Nate. Nate was petrified and was trying to crawl under the steering wheel, and since he was the one nearest the lever to move us up and down we stayed steady. I was really, really mad at him for ruining the ride for me and didn't let him forget it for a long time. Thankfully Cami and Adam both had a fantastic time and there were no ill feelings.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Adventures in OKC

After countless summer vacations to Utah we decided it was time to bring the family to Oklahoma City to visit with my Nanaw and Granddad. It was a long journey in the car (thank goodness for portable DVD players), but worth every moment to be here to spend time with them.
Here is Adam hanging out with Granddad. We've really enjoyed listening to many of Granddad's stories about his days in the navy during WWII.
The kids are completely loving having Glen around and undistracted. There have been more pillow fights and wrestling matches in the last 24 hours than there have been in a long time.
Wow! We had forgotten what a fantastic cook and hostess my Nanaw is. Every meal was completely delicious, well rounded, and a work of art. I am inspired to go home and do better in my own cooking. We also really enjoyed looking at many old family pictures that my Nanaw has organized into albums...another inspiration for me!
Our only mishap was Ellie's little tumble into the bricks which required a little medical glue, but other than being tired she is little worse for the wear. She had been cheerful and excited to visit with Nanaw and Granddad!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cafe Rio Taco Salad Recipe

I've had a few requests for my Cafe Rio Taco Salad recipe, so here it is...a very good knock-off of the original. I usually will make the dressing and get the chicken started early in the day. Then do the rice and finish the chicken about 1 hour before we're ready to eat, and then the tortillas and black beans right before. Yummm.

Café Rio Dressing
1 buttermilk ranch dressing packet (make as per recipe)
2 tomatillos (tomato like vegetable with a husk around them)
½ bunch of cilantro
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeño (Use the seeds too if you like it spicy. You could substitute a few drops of green tobasco for the jalapeno.)
Use a food processor to blend all the ingredients well. Refrigerate.

Cafe Rio Chicken(not pictured: chicken breasts)

1 small bottle Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
3 cloves garlic—minced
2 lbs chicken breast
Cook all together in a crock pot for 4 hours, shred meat and cook 1 additional hour--this is what the instructions say. I cook my chicken in the crockpot with water and onion for 6-8 hours and then drain the water, shred the chicken with a fork, and add the dressing and spices about 1 hour before we're eating.

Café Rio Rice
6 c water
6 chicken bouillon cubes
4 t garlic –minced
½ bunch cilantro
1 can green chiles—or equivalent fresh
¾ t salt
1 T butter
½ onion
3 c rice (I like to use brown which takes longer to cook but is healthier)

I saute the dry rice and onion in the butter until it is just browned. Then blend cilantro, green chiles and another 1/2 onion together in food processor (with 1 cup of the water for easier blending). Bring water to a boil and add all ingredients, simmer covered 30 minutes or 50 minutes if using brown rice.

Brown both sides of the flour tortillas (we use whole wheat) on a lightly buttered griddle, sprinkling a little cheese to one of the sides after it is browned. It should be slightly crisp.

Serve with the crisp cheesy tortilla on the bottom, then layer the black beans, rice, lettuce, chicken, and dressing.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Happy Birthday Cami!

All the birthday festivities started yesterday with a joint birthday party with one of Cami's best friends, Megan. They took great care planning and preparing for the big day...
For those of you who are interested, you can see a glimpse of our new living room curtains in this picture.

...Planning such details as games, decorations, activities, treasure hunt, invitations, food, party favors, etc. All I had to do was shop. I have to admit it made my job MUCH easier, and my poor other kids have had quite the precedent set with the party planning...hmmm maybe I can just talk Cam into planning their parties as well. Watch out Martha Stewart!

Water balloons, the slip and slide, and our (very) little backyard pool were all a part of the party fun.
They even blew out their candles together...on their mint chocolate chip ice cream cake that they chose specifically.

Cami is off on the left cutting her cake and in the back of the picture you'll notice my cousin Aaron and his wife Trish making sure AnnaLisa has a memorable picture to show her kids someday.

In this picture you can catch a slight glimpse of my new dining room curtains, although the color is definitely not true to life.

The festivities continued today (her actual birthday) with the always exciting family party, where she gets to choose her own dinner. So in keeping with the same dinner she's chosen since she was four (no exaggeration) we had broccoli cheese soup in bread bowls. At least I know what to buy at the grocery store, unlike others of my children who change their mind three times in two days.

And here she gets her first choice of homemade cakes (I'm not brave enough to make an ice cream cake!)...a carrot cake that Aunt AnnaLisa made for her.

Happy 10th birthday to our sweet Cami Rose!

Glen's Far East Explorations

Literally the day after we got back from our family trip to Boston I (Glen) got on a plane bound for Asia. It was mostly a business trip with stops in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Tokyo. I had previously been to all of those cities except for Beijing, so I planned the trip so that me and my work associate that was travelling with me (Rick) were able to spend the weekend in Beijing to have some time to see some sights. Our colleagues in Beijing went out and hired a professional guide to lead us around some of Beijing's most famous landmarks and it was fascinating (let me know if you ever need a guide in Beijing - ours was great)!

Our first stop on our site seeing tour was to visit the Great Wall of China. I thought I knew what to expect with the wall, but I was pleasantly surprised at how breathtaking the scenery was there. The Wall was initially 3,800 continuous miles long, but over time, the entire wall has not been taken care of adequately on now, only sections are able to be walked on. The section we went to was about 1 hour outside of Beijing and is the main section tourists go to. We didn't see a lot of rain on our trip, but when we got to the top of the hill the Wall is on, it was absolutely pouring! The first 30 minutes we were there, it was just torrential downpours with very low visibility. We were disappointed because we could tell the view was spectacular, but we couldn't see it because of the mist/fog. However, after hiking the Wall for awhile, the rain stopped and the mist/fog began to lift. The view was out of this world! I would highly recommend taking the opportunity to go visit the Great Wall of China if you every get the chance - it is stunning.

Me and my colleague Rick on the Great Wall after the rain had died down and the mist began to lift. You can see we are soaked from head to foot, but it was a spectular experience and well worth the hike to the top of the hill!

Our next stop was to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is right in the heart of Beijing and used to be restricted to only the emperor and his servants. It is enormous and extravagant. The Chinese government has opened about one third of the Forbidden City to the public now and when we were there, it was amazing how many native Chinese people flocked to the City. We were the only westerners there that we saw. The people really embrace this city and seemed to be fascinated with the history that is found there. The other two-thirds of the city is still restricted, but is not used by the emperor - only government appointed historians are allowed in that section to conduct research.

Me and Rick outside the gate to the Forbidden City. The water is the moat that used to protect the city. The architecture of the building in the background is consistent with the architecture of most of the buildings within the city.

Our business trip went very well, but it certainly was a highlight to visit these very unique places. It is very interesting to visit these foreign lands and see how differently other cultures live. I have many more pictures of our weekend ventures, drop me a line if you'd like to see more and I'd be happy to send some more pictures. Most of them are from the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, but there are some additional pictures including Tianamen Square.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Emma: Before and After

Emma got new glasses!
You can't tell from the picture, but her new glasses are bifocals. As strange as it seems to have a six year old in bifocals, so far it really does seem to be helping her eye issues. We're really hoping this will prevent her from needing another eye surgery.
Emma loves her new glasses, but what she's really excited about is her new Disney Princess glasses case. So cute!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah! Tales from Scout camp!

Here is the actual letter we received from Spencer while at Scout Camp.

Read the letter, then watch the video. I actually only wanted you to be able to listen to the song while reading, but since it's Harry Potter mania around here (Fairfax, Vienna, and Falls Church, VA are among the "Harryest" places in America according to I thought this particular video (but especially the song) would be appropriate accompaniment.

Dear Mom & Dad,
I am here at camp right now with all my friends. The merit badges we are taking are; environmental science, canoeing, pioneering, and swimming. I enjoy envi. Sci. and pioneering about as much as fajitas [he HATES fajitas], swimming as much as tortilla soup [he only strongly dislikes tortilla soup], and canoeing as much as tostada salad [this meal’s from Baja Fresh and he Loves it]. The thing I miss most about home is your cooking (the food here comes back to haunt you). The first thing I am going to do is eat all of the REAL food I can find [real food being chips and popsicles]. We just noticed a fox that was probably rabid. By the time you read this I will probably be dead (jk), but we did see a fox. So how are the kids back home? I can’t believe it’s only been two days, it feels like it should be Friday. I have to go.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

That be funny!

At breakfast the other morning Ellie was just jabbering up a storm. We really were listening, but comprehension was just a bit elusive to us at that particular time. So, although we didn’t quite grasp the story, apparently it was a comedic story, as her final phrase (which we understood perfectly) was, “That be funny Mama, huh?” °Ü°

Friday, July 6, 2007

Our little boy is all grown up and off to Scout Camp

I'm not sure if you noticed that Spencer is not in any of our Independence Day pictures this year, but we wanted to assure you that it's not because we've disowned him or anything. He is just off to his first ever week-long Scout Camp.
He was pretty excited about it in general, although I have to say that waking him at 4:30 wasn't the easiest job I've had (as illustrated in the above picture).

I imagine that he's having a grand time (can't be sure, but we assume no news is good news). The hardest part is trying not to think about wild bears, giant storms (see below), getting lost in the wilderness, tipped canoes, etc.

We're definitely looking forward to having our family complete again when he arrives back home tomorrow!

4th of July Fun!

We started the day with our own bang with Glen finally arriving home from Asia. We were so ecstatic to have him home again, and the poor guy was completely exhausted with his schedule reversed (Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of here).

Then after a little weather scare (you know severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings...funnel clouds spotted 3 miles away) that put into question whether we would ever want to leave the house...we ended up having a wonderful 4th of July celebration.
The kids had fun getting decked out in their patriotic clothes.

Then we headed downtown DC to go watch the fireworks from the top of a friend's office building. It was our first experience with watching from such a grand and pleasant vantage point. We completely enjoyed being able to sit in comfortable chairs, having a catered dinner (even though it was picnic fare--it's always so nice to eat things I didn't cook myself), and most importantly having clean restrooms easily accessible!

Our vantage point.

The whole firework and social experience was quite enjoyable, but it started to go downhill from there. There was more than an hour wait to get our car from the parking garage who had shifted to valet only for the night. While we were waiting we got to witness drunkards doing most unpleasant things, see mice scurry, and have the kids whimper and melt in exhaustion (except Ellie who was in especially rare form--giggling, talking, and bouncing).

It might be said that I had a little too much fun doing their hair!

We finally got home at midnight and I'm not sure who was more tired at that point...the kids who were several hours past their bedtimes or Glen who was severely jetlagged after a 15 hour flight. Afterwards we were very grateful we went downtown this year as the two fireworks shows closest to our home where we normally attend, were both cut short due to major firework malfunctions that injured several children...a couple fairly severely. Note: Since I wrote this I have learned that some friends of ours including a little boy in Emma's kindergarten class were among the injured. He and especially his Dad were hurt pretty badly but should be fine. Their friends they were with were injured much more severely and will remain in the hospital for some time still. What a sad story that suddenly hits a lot closer to home when it's a friend.

All in all it was quite a fun day, but the best part of it all was definitely having Daddy back from his trip! It was lonely around here without him!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

This picture was taken last year on Memorial Day!

This year Emma has developed a keen interest in the lives of our great forefathers--George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, etc. We've read many books about them, visited some amazing historical places and had many discussions on their accomplishments. Although I've always considered myself a patriot, these experiences have awakened a new love in my heart for this great land we live in. With that also has come a deep desire to convey this gratitude and love of country to our children. The inspired words to the classic patriotic hymn, "America the Beautiful" have taken on a new depth of meaning to me as I ponder the heroes the author alludes to.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!...

How much I want our children to understand that these great men and women truly were inspired by God to create this land. We owe much to their sacrifices and devotion to God and country.

...America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From Sea to shining sea!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Behind the times!

Spencer has recently informed me that when he grows up he's going to be a "techo-freak", getting the latest and greatest new technology as soon as possible. (This particular comment was made in reference to his interest in the latest I-phone) I wished him luck in his endeavors and reflected at what would make him make that comment.

It could be that it stems from the fact that Glen & I are "anti-techno-freaks"...which means we're the kind of people who use things until they are beyond obsolete, then update out of complete necessity (or familial pressure) and wonder how we ever lived without it.
I hear constant jabs from my family about "You're not still using that old thing?" Or, "Come on! You're wasting your time with that." And I have to admit that not only have we been technologically behind the times, but our house is a little outdated, our cars work great, but have no frills (when was the last time you rolled down a window by hand?), our appliances were all old (try a dryer that takes 5 runs through to get a load dry), our computer was 7+ years old and hasn't had any sound for years, we've only had broadcast television, dial-up internet, etc. Can you see the trend?

Well I am excited to announce that we've made a lot of progress towards entering the 21st century this past year!

We finally are making some much needed home updates. Got a dryer that dries faster than the washer washes! Got satellite tv (completely over-rated if you ask me)! Got a new computer (although I didn't realize I needed to buy speakers, so it doesn't currently have sound either). And the thing that my family will most applaud us for...we are finally hooked up to high speed internet and loving it! Just like they told me, I can't imagine why we've waited this long.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

America the Beautiful--a little levity on Fast Sunday

For the last few days I have been babysitting two of my cousin's children, while they are out of town at a wedding. It's been a little crazy with Glen in Tokyo, but thank goodness for AnnaLisa, who is keeping me sane.

So I was sitting there on the back pew of the chapel today--just me and seven kids (five of them 6 and under) --armed with a boatload of books, paper, and crayons. I was a little nervous to say the least.

Now I am a big fan of patriotic music and so I was quite happy to see that we were singing "America the Beautiful" for our opening hymn. JD is 5 and eagerly sang along with an open hymn book in an opera-like voice. Most of my own kids are kind of mumbling singers, so I was very impressed by his zeal. Well, he decided to finish his opera version with a bang--holding the last note, vibrato, for a good 10-seconds past when the music had completely finished.

It was a very giggly opening prayer in our neck of the chapel.

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