Friday, December 28, 2007

Stay in the San Diego jungle

After we picked up our bags from the baggage claim, and made our way outside to wait for my Dad to pick us up, Franny saw the palm trees and said, "Look Mommy, the jungle."  (Franny has been really into the "Jungle Book" lately.  You should see her dance and sing to "The Bare Necessities.")  

There's a line in the movie where Mogli says something like, "I'm gonna stay in the jungle." Franny has been saying this to me at least four times a day:

"Mommy?  Mommy.  Mommy."
"Yes, Franny?"
"Stay in the jungle."

It's so funny!  I think it means she likes the California weather and being here with her Grandpa and aunts.  I can't say I blame her!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Kids say the darndest things.

Franny's old speech therapist once told us she thought Franny was developing her speech in a normal way, but just delayed. We've been noticing Franny saying a lot of funny things lately. I can only imagine that some of the stuff she's coming up with is similar to what a typically-developing 2 year old would be saying. I have to get some of this stuff written down or I'll be sure to forget.

Last night on the way to our family Christmas party, Bobby asked Franny to count to 20 for him. After she was finished, he asked her to count in Spanish. Here's what she said:

"Uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, siete. . . taco meat."

The other day I was doing her hair and she took the water bottle I was using and chucked it across the room because she wasn't happy with me for combing out all the snarls. After we were done, she walked over to the water bottle, picked it up and asked, "Are you okay?"

For a few weeks Franny was waking up every morning at 5 AM. One morning I definitely had not had enough sleep the night before and was less than thrilled with the wake-up call. I enlisted the help of our trusty DVD player and gave Franny her choice of DVD's so I could steal a few more minutes of sleep. She settled in with Cinderella with the volume turned down low, and I curled up on our couch. Ten minutes later Franny wants milk. Fine, no problem. Half an hour later she wants to eat. I sleepily pour her a bowl of cereal with some rice milk and then crawl back to my nest of blankets on the couch. I'm just starting to get comfortable when Franny demands another glass of milk. "Mommy, milk. Milk, please. Milk, milk, MILK! MILK!" So I get up, stomp in too the kitchen, pour a small glass of milk and practically throw it at her. No I'm not proud. On my way back to the couch I hear Franny say in a loud whisper, "She's mad."

Franny had a toilet training accident and I was cleaning up the mess and didn't really want an audience. I asked her to leave the room and I shut the door behind her. After about 30 seconds, I heard the door open and Franny stuck her head in and said, "That's disgustin'!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?

I saw this on Lori's blog and couldn't stop laughing. Click here to see my cute little elves.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What do my eyes tell you?

Lately Franny has taken an interest in having her picture taken. Sometimes I'm really lucky and I get one like this...

or this.

Otherwise, she looks at the camera like, "What on earth is that doggone contraption?!"

Here's my absolute favorite one from that category. (Franny just saw this picture on the computer screen and said, "she's scared!")

I used to get a lot of pictures like these of Franny. To get her to even look at the camera, I used to have to "neigh" like a horse really obnoxiously or scream at the top of my lungs. There's a lost and hazy look in these eyes that to me seems very autistic. I'm not saying that I don't ever see that look in her eyes anymore, but it is becoming more and more of a rarity. I'm glad she lets us see her eyes more.

I'm not really sure how many parents there are out there who read my blog and have a kid with an ASD, but my Dad has been checking out Autism websites lately and that has prompted some searching of my own. I found this cool website about setting up playdates and how to take data and how to set up ideal situations where our kids can learn how to play and be social. I think it's worth reading. Reading this is helping me realize that there is so much available out there!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's the most wonderful time of the year

I can't get this song out of my head these days. I'm constantly whistling it, singing it, sometimes even as I walk around Walmart (whistling, not singing). That song sometimes makes me think of my Dad because they used it for this Office Max commercial years ago for a back-to-school promo and there's a dad shopping with his two teenage kids and he's dancing around the cart tossing pens and notebooks and such, clearly thrilled that school is about to start, while his kids are sulkily following the cart from behind. He told me about the commercial a couple years before I actually saw it, and I have to say the picture my Dad painted for me with his description was much funnier than the actual commercial.

I finally got into the Christmas spirit the other day after a really fun afternoon of Christmas-candy making with some friends. While we were all indoors recreating Williams-Sonoma's peppermint bark (Natalie's vision and we're all so glad she had it), our town was dumped on with big beautiful snowflakes. It was so pretty outside! It seemed like the perfect day to put on some Christmas music and decorate the house.

The next day we took the kids outside to play in the snow. Bobby and I were not at all surprised at Franny's eagerness to dive into the snow. She loves to get wet and dirty and doesn't care about being too cold usually. Sophie, on the other hand, did surprise us with her aversion to the cold snow. At first she was having a good time, but that all changed when the smallest little bit of snow crept between her gloves and coat sleeve and touched her skin. She could not be consoled, so we stuck her in this sleigh for a few minutes to watch us have some fun. (Sophie has a mean mommy.)

At first she pouted and tried to freeze us out. When that didn't work, it turned ugly.

Naturally, Franny could not be bothered with photographs, thus these lovely pictures...

We tried to appease Miss Sophie with a sleighride, but she wasn't too happy when she fell out of the sleigh into the cold wet snow. Franny of course had a ball. Poor Sophie, but I just love figuring out their little personalities and how they can be so different!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Orange Almond Scones with just a hint of Cinnamon

I had fun coming up with this recipe and was really happy with the result. Scones are really fun to play test kitchen with because they're so easy and roll out so quickly.

2 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds
zest of 1 orange
1 tsp almond extract
2/3 c buttermilk

glaze for scones:
1 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tbs milk
1/8 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract
powdered sugar

Mix dry ingredients in food processor. Add diced butter and pulse until butter is the size of peas. Add orange zest and pulse again. Add buttermilk and almond extract all at once and process until dough starts to come together. Then add almonds and pulse 2 or 3 more times. Pat dough on a floured surface into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut into circles or half-moons. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and brush with glaze.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Sophie, use your words."

There was a time in the not-too distant past that I thought that Franny might never learn to speak. At 2 1/2, she could sign for "more" and say "uh-oh" and "Alyssa" and a few others I could count on my hand. Things have changed a lot since then and I am happy to report that Franny has a lot more to say than "uh-oh" and "Alyssa" these days. (However, I do wish she was saying Alyssa more, and seeing Alyssa more. We miss her!) I am so grateful for Franny's giant strides in speech. I remember a time when I was so desperate to hear what she had to say. Well, lately her words have been cracking us up.

This was taken at the bowling alley the night before Thanksgiving. Franny's a pretty good bowler. I love this picture!

Here are some of Franny's words that have been flying around my house lately:

When Sophie cries or whines, "Sophie, use your words!"
"Hi Miss Mommy" and my favorite: "Hi Miss Daddy!"
If we're in a hurry and I don't bother putting socks on with her shoes, she says, "bye-bye socks."
"Give her the hug"- then she comes up to me and hugs me.
She's learning about actions at school and she'll start running and then she'll say, "What am I doing? Running!" Today I saw her jumping and I said, "What are you doing?" And she stopped and bent over, touched the ground with one hand and reached towards the ceiling with the other hand and said, "Stretching!"
Narration for all of our actions: "Daddy sleeping." "Sophie crying." "Mommy go potty."

It's really fun to see how much her speech and language have improved. I'm so grateful for the wonderful people who work with her and help her to achieve so much.

Sophie has had some things to say lately, too. I made this in photoshop a few weeks ago but never put it on my blog because I got busy with Thanksgiving. It's a strange feeling for Bobby and I to feel so calm about Sophie's development. Of course we are grateful and relieved with how well she is doing, but it also makes us feel a little sad for Miss Franny and how hard she's had to work to learn the things that seem to come so easy to Sophie. Most of the time, we try not to compare our children, but it's not always easy.

I am really excited about Sophie's new words, though. Today Bobby was leaving and she waved at him and said, "bye!" in her sweet and tiny little voice. It was so cute!

Peppermint Dessert

This is my mother's recipe. She adapted it from a recipe called Peppermint Surprise that she found in the Pinch of Salt Lake cookbook. Here's the recipe with her changes:

2 cups crushed chocolate wafers (I grind them up in my food processor. I couldn't find the traditional chocolate wafers that we usually use, so this time I made my sister Maggie scrape the cream filling off a bag of Oreos.)
5 Tbs butter, softened

First Layer:
1 half-gallon peppermint ice cream, softened slightly

Second Layer
2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup butter
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
3 egg whites

Combine wafer crumbs and butter in a medium-size mixing bowl; reserve 1/4 cup for topping (I skip this step and use all the crumbs for the crust.) Press into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Spread ice cream over and freeze.

In a medium size saucepan melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Remove from heat and gradually add beaten egg yolks, stirring continuously. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and nuts. Mix together and cool thoroughly. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into cooled chocolate mixture. Spread over ice cream layer, sprinkle with reserved crumbs and freeze. Allow to soften slightly before cutting into squares and serving.

A couple hints with this recipe- this last time I put the crust in the freezer for 30 minutes before I spread the ice cream, that made it easier to spread. Also, heat the chocolate VERY slowly. I almost always screw the sauce up once and have to start over. This time I screwed it up TWICE. I probably should have just pulled out the double boiler. This fudge sauce can't be beat. I also always make sure to prepare this the night before I plan to serve it, so it has plenty of time to harden. I love this recipe!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I've been looking forward to Thanksgiving for a long time now and it did not disappoint! It did come and go rather quickly, though, and I've been sad ever since without the menu to daydream about and the anticipation of my family's visit. At least now I get to relive it all here on my blog. Here's our Thanksgiving table. Ashley and my Dad figured out how to fold my mother's Thanksgiving napkins into poinsettas and we placed a leaf-shaped shortbread cookie on top of each of them as favors. This was my first time using my china for guests, so it was a big deal for me. Ashley unpacked and washed each piece, and then after my Dad handwashed our dinner plates, she stood and repacked them all after dinner! That's a lot of work after a big meal! We were late getting everything ready to go, but everyone was so nice and patient and willing to make last-minute trips to the store or home because I forgot to buy Cream of Mushroom soup! (Thank you, Chrissy!)

I have no picture of the beautiful golden turkey. I feel a little bit sad about that, but I do have a funny story to share. I brought the turkey to Natalie's house to roast. (Thank you Natalie!) I brought it over at 6:45 AM and knew it would need a long time to roast due to it's enormous size. At 1:30, two hours before showtime, I called Ashley who was staying at Natalie's for an update on the bird's internal temperature. She checked the thermometer and reported a whopping 197 degrees! I couldn't stifle the "WHAT?!!!" when I heard such a high number. Luckily, I had inserted the thermometer into the wrong part of the turkey, and the temperature was exactly where it needed to be. Phew!! I ended up using a combination of this and this for my brine. I stuffed the cavity with the apple-sausage stuffing, which tasted fabulous by the way.

A disclaimer: I was having camera issues that day but no time to deal with them, so the pictures I do have leave something to be desired. That said, let's get a look at the food!

My mother's artichoke dip. This recipe is a holiday party staple in our family. It's easy and delicious and gets the people going! I don't know about that last bit, but it's definitely a crowd-pleaser. 1 cup mayo, 1 cup shredded parmesan, 1 softened package of cream cheese, 1 drained can of artichoke hearts, blended with a hand mixer and baked in a dish at 350 for one hour. Serve with tortilla chips. Also pictured above is the spinach gratin. It was definitely good, but I'm not sure it can hold its own on the Thanksgiving table and therefore will most likely not be making an appearance next year.

Ah, here are my two FAVORITE Thanksgiving side dishes. Mmmm.... raspberry pretzel jello salad and Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Apples.

We were lucky enough to have Ashley's famous dinner rolls prepared by Ashley herself and served with raspberry butter. Also, a delicious homeade cranberry sauce prepared by Chrissy that was perfect. And here is my Thanksgiving dinner plate masterpiece. I love all the pretty bright colors- like an artist's palette! (Not pictured: creamed corn. Creamed corn and I have had a volatile relationship ever since my Mom forced me to eat it as a kid and I gagged. Maggie loves it and insisted on Aunt Gayle's recipe. She and I have had several conversations about my creamed corn aversion and this time something she said finally got through to me: corn, cream, and parmesan cheese.... what's not to like? Hmmm... a valid point, Maggie. Well put. Still couldn't make room on my Thanksgiving plate for it, however. Maybe next year I'll make a little room for some yellow.)

I am so glad I only made two pumpkin pies, and not three. I also made an apple pie and my mother's peppermint dessert. I thought it seemed like an appropriate way to usher in the Christmas season after a big Thanksgiving meal. I am fully aware that I think about food way too much. Even with all the people, we still had a lot of leftover dessert, so I've been having a little helping of each of them with just about every meal since Thursday. Naughty.

And our guests. (Bobby is missing from this photo because he was helping Franny.) We were so glad to be able to have friends and family with us on Thanksgiving. I had so much fun with all of you. I am so pleased with my first Thanksgiving-hosting experience and I think my Mom would be proud. I tried to do it "Marianne-style" and even got to use her table cloth and napkins and Thanksgiving salt and pepper shakers, thanks to my Dad. He also brought See's candy like she always served at parties. Dad, you're the best. It was fun to use the china she helped me pick out and the beautiful Lenox casserole dish she surprised me with at one of my bridal showers for the mashed potatoes. There is nothing like having the perfect serving dish! Thanks for coming everyone and for all your help! Some of you had to travel to get to us and we were so grateful to have you all there with us.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Turkey Salad Sandwich

Here's my something pomegranate for Thanksgiving! (or post-Thanksgiving, rather.)

1 cup chopped pineapple
3 cups diced cooked turkey
1 cup celery, sliced on the slant
1 cup diced apples (Rome, Winesap, or any red-skinned variety)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream

Toss pineapple in large bowl with turkey, celery, apple, and pomegranate seeds. In separate bowl, combine mayonnaise and sour cream. Toss dressing with turkey mix in the larger bowl. Garnish with additional pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds.

Vegetable Tian

This vegetable recipe is so good, I would almost call it a dessert. It is so delicious! I don't make it that much because it seems a little too labor-intensive for a side dish, but it is worth it!

Good olive oil
2 large yellow onions, cut in half and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound medium round potatoes, unpeeled
3/4 pound zucchini
1 1/4 pounds medium tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with olive oil. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs and drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for another 30 minutes until browned. Serve warm.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Family is Here!

I am so happy that my family could come out here and spend time with us for Thanksgiving!! We all are. I think this picture adequately captures how Franny felt about their impending arrival. She had the biggest grin when they walked in the house that night.

This is my Dad. He once won a Harrison Ford look-alike contest. That's not true, and I'm going to get in trouble for saying that, but when I was in high school two of my best friends did used to tell me how handsome my Dad was. At the time it embarrassed me a little, but now I think it's kind of fun. His granddaughters just love him. Look at the outfits he picked out and sent them.

Some of us made the drive to Nauvoo today to go to the temple and see some of the sites. It was a really nice day. We had a wonderful time. I'm so happy they're here. I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was funny- it seems like every time we're together for a long car ride, no matter what time of day it is, everyone zonks out and takes a nap while my Mom or Dad drives us home. Well tonight it was me driving my slumbering family home. Which is weird, because as I've said before, I'm a borderline narcoleptic, so it doesn't seem very prudent to let me drive in the dark unsupervised. It was great to be together and laugh and talk.

We asked this groundskeeper to take our picture after our session and he sweetly offered to walk with us to a spot he knew of where he could get the whole temple in the picture. But my heart sank when he crouched down to take a picture from every woman's least favorite angle. Yuck. Oh well, I'm posting it anyway. Just know I am not happy with that picture. Oh yeah, and I'm glad he was sure to include the horse's rear in the photo.

What did I say about needing supervision? As I was driving in silence, I thought of my little hitchhiking ladybug who apparently was finished with Nauvoo and wanted to head west. Here he is on my steering wheel. I started to wonder what would happen to him once he got off in our town. Then I thought, "what is the life expectancy of a ladybug?" Which made me wonder, "Does anyone even know or care?" And then, "How could the lifespan of a ladybug be tracked?" Which then prompted, "What kind of freak wonders about the life expectancy of ladybugs?" Then I answered my own question by taking a picture inside my car- the same kind of freak who takes a picture of a ladybug while she's driving. Luckily the car ride was over soon thereafter and I forgot all about the hitchhiking ladybug. He'll spend a warm and cozy night in the Sienna and I'll drop him off at Franny's school tomorrow morning.

Yikes- it's really late. I'm going to go to bed before I think too much about all the ladybug nonsense I just wrote about.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I can't seem to finalize my Thanksgiving menu, but I promised I would post it in advance, so here's what I've got so far.

Mom's artichoke dip with tortilla chips
Smoked salmon served with crackers, cream cheese and lemon wedges
Vegetable crudite

Turkey (still working on the recipe. Looking for the perfect brine.)
Cranberry Sauce
Green Bean Casserole (courtesy of French's Fried Onions and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom- per Maggie's request)
Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples
Apple-sausage Stuffing
Raspberry Pretzel Jello
Creamed Corn (Aunt Gayle's recipe)
Mashed Potatoes
Rolls (Ashley's recipe)
Spinach Gratin

Pumpkin Pie (3)
Apple Pie
Peppermint Dessert (this is my mother's recipe. It is fabulous! Will post the recipe when I get a spare minute.)


Rice Krispie Treat Master Class

I've had a long-standing love affair with rice krispie treats. I used to love this old commercial that was on when I was a kid (I remember it was on our taped copy of Neverending Story so I saw it all the time- "Come for me, Mork- I am Atreyu!") where the Mom is in the kitchen reading a book and her family is calling out to her from the other room: "Are they ready yet, Mom?" She calls back, exasperated, "In just a second!" Then she grabs some flour, throws it in her face and walks out with the tray of rice krispie treats. I remember one time when Bobby and I were first married, we ate a big batch of rice krispie treats in lieu of dinner. That's it. Just rice krispie treats.

What other dessert can you prepare in five minutes with a baby on your hip?

But I don't follow the recipe. I'm about to share the secret to really amazing rice krispie treats with you.
Start with one bag of marshmallows- large, mini, it doesn't matter which. Now here come's the secret. Add 1 cube of butter instead of the 1/4 cup the recipe suggests. Trust me.

Melt in microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Mix marshmallows and butter until butter melts and mixture is smooth. (If the butter doesn't melt, microwave for an extra 15 seconds or so.)
Now this part I'm afraid I can't teach you. I just pour the rice krispies into the bowl without messing with measuring cups. I can tell you that it's nearly a whole 15 oz. box of cereal.

Mix away. What we're trying to avoid here is big gloppy amounts of white marshmallow. That is how all the recipes on the backs of marshmallow bags and on the side of rice krispie boxes try and lead you astray. You see, what I'm proposing is not actually doubling the butter (although that's not always a bad idea), but reducing the marshmallows by half. Once the marshmallow-butter mixture is evenly mixed in, pour into a pan and allow to set. Enjoy, and come back and tell me about it.
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