Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Church ball

For the past two years, Andrew has had to forgo one of his very favorite pastimes--church basketball.  (We were members of a new stake and b-ball was near the bottom of the list of priorities for the new stake leaders.)  But (hooray!) this year, the holdout is over.

Our team was feeling pretty confident.  We've got several really talented athletes who have been playing together for years now.  So, imagine our surprise when the first game was a nail biter!  It was exciting to watch! And we pulled out the win in the end.

Brandon got to help out at the scoreboard some of the games.

The season went really well.
Check out that score!
Some of the games were blow-outs.
 We only lost one that same team 
that we barely beat the first game.
(Andrew, Michael, and Greg S all missed that one. Darn.)

Some action shots:

All of those were from the last game of the season.  It was another blow-out, we had the victory in the bag.  Andrew wanted to end the season on a high note and went up for a dunk with just seconds left in the game.

It did NOT end well.
He messed up his knee pretty bad.
The next day he paid a visit to his orthopedist.
(The doc joked that Drew should have his own private room there!)
The x-ray showed that it's not fractured.
He'll go back in a week for a follow-up MRI to 
check for soft-tissue damage.
Getting old really stinks.

Oh, and Andrew wanted me to share his high school highlight reel so that you (and he) can remember how good he was back in the glory days. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Staycation

For as much as I love to travel, I was completely happy to stay put for our Thanksgiving break this year.  We had so much fun together as a family and with our friends who have become like family.

The kids had the day off of school on Wed, but Andrew had to work.  I asked the kids for ideas on what they wanted to do and they suggested ice skating.  Huh.  I was hesitant.  How could I pull that off when neither of the girls had ever been skating before and Andrew wouldn't be there to help.  But...we decided to give it a try.

I'm so glad we did!

Brandon had been before and did really well. He likes skating and only fell a time or two. Poor Whit only got a one-lap tutorial and then I needed to help Care Bear.  Whit had a close, healthy relationship with the wall.  :)  When we first got to the rink (but of course AFTER I'd already paid for all of us to skate), Caroline started crying because she said she was too scared to skate.  Understandable.  It does look kinda scary.  So, she took a seat on the side of the rink while I helped her sis.  But after just a few minutes she had changed her mind.  We got her hooked up with a a little "skating trainer."  It was the cutest thing I'd ever seen--a little miniature PVC walker that she could push out on the ice.  She rocked as soon as she stepped out on the ice.  And she was FAST.  So much fun.

A cute little video of C Bear skating:

We had such a wonderful time with Tiffany, Chris, Ben, April and their kids last year, that we all decided to do a repeat gathering this year for Thanksgiving.  Hooray!

Andrew was in charge of the turkey again.  He loves it.  And brines a tasty bird.  Mmmmm.  The rest of us pitched in to round out the meal.  And we had our much-anticipated pie buffet once again.  The funny thing was, last year we made WAY too much food.  We had leftovers coming out of our ears and got sick of them before they were gone.  So, all of us cut back on the portions of our food.  But apparently our kids' appetites (or our appetites?) have grown since last year.  Because while we had plenty of food for the holiday, we didn't have much left over.  Darn.

The kids played together REALLY well again.  And after stuffing ourselves, we played Ticket to Ride, watched football, toured Chris and Tiffany's newly purchased land, played a big group game of reverse charades, and also a little Wits and Wagers. We stayed just long enough to push Caroline past her good-behavior limit so everyone could see her meltdown when it was time to leave.  :)

Friday was the annual Turkey Bowl.  The weather was PERFECT for it.  The guys had a blast.  I had fun practicing for my post-Andrew's-retirement career as a sports photographer.  Here are ten favorites from the TWELVE HUNDRED that I took.  Sheesh.

I did all my Black Friday shopping online.  LOVED that.

That night, we had Audrey babysit so Andrew and I could watch "Life of Pi." Neither of us had read the book, so didn't know what we were getting ourselves into.  I thought I was taking us to the 2D version, but accidentally ended up there at the 3D showtime.  What a happy mistake!  It was a GREAT movie and was visually stunning.  I was so glad we paid the extra for the 3D.

On Saturday, we *tried* to take the kids to a matinee showing of "Rise of the Guardians," but it was sold out.  Boo.  Instead we watched Wreck-It Ralph.  Again.  The kids were happy.  Andrew and I both took cat naps.  It was good the first time around, but once in a month was plenty. After the movie, we went out to our family's favorite restaurant--Bonsai!  It was scrumptious, as always.  And we had a groupon for it, so it was cheap, too.  Double hooray!

The ward choir sang one of my favorite songs at church today, "Come Thou Fount." We had more singers than we've ever had and it sounded beautiful.  I loved being part of it.  Whitney is singing with us now, too, which is fun.

Andrew had his first speaking assignment as a High Councilor.  He thought it went pretty well. I'm sure it was great.  He's a wonderful speaker.

It's going to be hard to send the kids back to school tomorrow.  And I guess I better hit the books myself, too.  Sports Psychology.  I'm loving the material, but falling behind my timeline.  D'oh.

Monday, November 19, 2012

How we came to enjoy Saffron Chicken

Sometime in the last two months, I got in a cooking funk.  One of those times where I was tired of using all the same recipes. Not that they weren't good recipes.  But you can only eat the same pasta dishes over and over for so many months before you want to throw the cute little bow ties right out the window.

But I'm such a picky eater.  And I find it exhausting to look through page after page (or webpage after webpage) of recipes.  Most of them either include 1) ingredients my kids won't eat 2) ingredients I won't eat or 3) directions that are beyond my scope of kitchen abilities.

What to do?

After sitting on that question for a few days, the thought came to me that I should ask my family for more input.  I started to feel bad for them.  Since I am the head chef of the household, I choose all the recipes.  I decide what goes in our mouths for dinner every night...except for birthdays and Father's Day.  I am a dinner nazi.  My poor family!  They are subject to my finickiness, affinity for pasta and rice, and aversion for all things that were once living and walking around.  I felt like it was my executive privilege to cook the meals that matched my palate.

The more I thought about it, the more I decided this was a great opportunity for change.  It would require some sacrifice on my part, but I had a vision of the possibilities and I liked what I saw.  Here's what I decided.  I was going to ask each family member to choose a meal that they would like to eat.  Something that's not normally in our dinner rotation.  That person would be in charge of helping me cook their chosen meal.  Bonus!  We would add variety to the menu AND I'd have willing helpers at dinnertime.

Andrew chose Japanese food.  That's what prompted his decision to make white sauce.  Yum.  Whitney chose turkey and yams.  (Unfortunately, we had to modify her choice, because we can't regularly eat a whole turkey.  And they are too expensive.)  Caroline chose chicken and rice and homemade tortillas.  And when I asked Brandon for his input, he said, "I don't know.  I guess something with saffron in it."  Not exactly what I was expecting to hear from my 11-year-old son.

Before I went grocery shopping, I added the new ingredients for these dinners to my list.  And I looked up a recipe for Saffron Chicken with couscous.  When I was in the grocery store, I asked for help finding the saffron.  It turns out my local Wal-Mart was all out of saffron, but the nice worker showed me where I should have been able to find it in the spice aisle.  My jaw dropped when I saw the price:  $17.96.  For one little bottle of saffron.  Come to find out, saffron is a VERY expensive ingredient.  Apparently it's the most expensive spice in the world.  Go figure!  I came home and told Brandon that he was going to have to modify his meal as well because I did not want to pay $18 for a little jar of spice that we may or may not even like!  He said he'd think about it.

In the meantime, I was perusing through out newly added grocery aisles at Target and found that they had a teeny tiny packet of saffron for only ten bucks!  AND I had a coupon for an extra 5% off.  Score!  We were SO trying Saffron Chicken.  I was crossing my fingers and hoping this would be worth it.

We grilled up some chicken breast on my grill pan that has been sitting my cupboard for six months after I bought it as an impulse purchase at Ikea because I read that they were a "must have" in some famous chef's kitchen.  It really came in handy! 

 We cooked up our couscous, red peppers, edamame, and shallots (NONE of which I had cooked with before!).  And added our 1/8 of a teaspoon of saffron threads.  One eighth!  I don't even have a measuring spoon that small.  I had to guesstimate by trying to fill the 1/4 tsp half-way.  I kept thinking, "These darn well BETTER taste good considering what we paid for them!"

Oh, wow.

Caroline was not a fan.  Then again, she is not really a fan of many foods.  The rest of us gobbled it up.  I wish my couscous would have been a little more moist, but other than that I LOVED it.

Lessons learned from this experience:

1.  Ask my family members for their input on homemaking ideas more often.

2.  Brandon has apparently been developing a refined palate behind our backs.  :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Celebrate good times

We had a great week.  
Lots of reasons to celebrate in our house.

1.  Andrew's birthday 

The date
 Our awesome friends watched the kids overnight.
We went to the temple.

 Then out to dinner at the Olive Garden.

We hadn't been there in years. They are running this special on select entrees where you can order one for dinner and a SECOND to take home for the next night...all for $12.95. There aren't many meaty dishes, so Andrew wasn't interested, but I was all over that! It was awesome.

The family party
 We had a quiet dinner here at home.

Cooked up some yummy Japanese food--
hibachi chicken and steak, stir fried veggies, rice,
and vegetables tempura.
Andrew even whipped up some white sauce to go 
along with it.  Delicious!!

 Another dear friend at church made us a 
SCRUMPTIOUS, moist strawberry cake.

 The gifts
Andrew's big present was his ticket to the Panther's game
earlier this year.  So, he just got little things from the kids.
Caroline continued her tradition of purchasing random, heartfelt gifts:
a can of tuna fish.

Whit made him a Panthers pillow cover and a
"Happy 80th Birthday" card.

B-train gave him some beef jerky, folded some pieces of origami
for him, and included some coupons like "5 minute massage,"
"Board game of your choice," and the one I can't wait for Drew
to cash in:  "Perfect Behavior for One Day!"

We had a great time celebrating and visiting with friends and family on the phone.

2. Soccer runner-ups

Brandon's team finished as the regular season champs. Woo hoo! They played in the championship game of the tournament. It ended in a 0-0 tie at the end of regulation. So they played a five minute overtime...which also ended in a 0-0 tie.  So it went to penalty kicks....and our team lost.  Boo. 

Way to go, Thunder!

3. Reflections contest

Miss Whitney entered a painting into the Reflections contest at school.  The theme was "Magic of the Moment."  When I asked her what came to mind when she thought about that theme, she said, "A baby bird hatching."  So cute!!  She did a rough draft and then her painting.  It turned out so well.  And I'm mad that I forgot to take a picture before we turned it in!  She moved up in age divisions this year, so was competing against 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.  And she won!  First place in visual arts.  We are so proud of her.  Her painting will be entered in the county competition next.

4. Good grades

We got our first set of reports cards for this school year and both kids rocked!  I am so glad that they work hard at school and do so well.  They had Veteran's Day off of school, so Andrew took the day off of work, and we told them they could choose what we would do.  Whitney chose to go to Magiquest.

The big kids had a blast.  Caroline thought she was old enough for a wand of her own, so we got one.  Turns out she *wasn't* quite ready.  Even though it's not meant to be a scary game, some of the characters are intimidating for a four-year-old girl.  She decided she'd rather hang out in the lobby with her parents and play games on the ipad.  
For B's activity, he wanted to go to Concord Mills (a humongous mall) and all of us got a little fun money to spend.  I like the way that boy thinks!  The girls spent theirs at the Disney store.  

 And a carousel ride.

And all of us had fun in the candy store, too.

I couldn't head down to Charlotte without sneaking in a trip to Ikea.  We got Brandon a new storage chest for his Legos.  Now maybe I can decorate with the Room Doodles I ordered for his room this summer!

Hooray for celebrations!