01 December 2015

Vanilla Steamers

Super, super easy to make.

To make a single vanilla steamer:

Get a mug (6-8 oz) and fill it with milk.  Heat it to the temperature you want it in the microwave.  Take out of the microwave.  Add one tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla.  Stir.  If you like, you can sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg (I love nutmeg!) on top.


Fancy vanilla steamer:

When I made vanilla steamers this past weekend, I wanted to cook for a bigger crowd and make it a little fancier.  So I put 8 cups of milk on medium-low on the stove top.  I added 3 cups of cream and then sweetened it with almost an entire 14 oz can of sweetened, condensed milk.  When it was up to temperature, I stirred in 1/4 cup of vanilla.  Poured into cups, sprinkled nutmeg and topped with whipped cream.

Eventually, I would like to perfect my homemade hot chocolate recipe.  The first time I made it was delicious but too rich, too sweet, and actually too chocolatey.  So I've made it again reducing the chocolate and the sugar, but haven't reduced it enough to reach perfection yet.  When I find the perfect balance, I will post that recipe, too.

Thanksgiving Weekend 2015

Thanksgiving was lovely.

This year I started cooking the day before.  Why have I never done that before?  So nice!  I made the dough for the rolls and put them in a pan and then just put it in the fridge.  I made the mashed potatoes and kept them in the garage in the crockpot.  Then on Thanksgiving morning, I brought it in and plugged it in and set it to warm.  By Thanksgiving afternoon, we were ready to roll!  I made the cranberry sauce and baked the pies.  It was warm and cozy.

I listened to this Christmas playlist all weekend long.

 With all the cooking and the baking and the kids home from school and the cold, gray weather and the fire in our fireplace and the scented candles glowing, it was almost heaven.  Except that in my heaven, Wiyah and JJ would be there, too.

On Thanksgiving morning, we had plenty of time to kick back and enjoy the day.  We weren't doing a big turkey and much of the food had already been prepared.  So we just had down time to rest and enjoy each other's company and the fire.

Later in the morning, the Hubba and I took the four little kids out on our Traditional Thanksgiving Day walk.  They grabbed their bags so they could collect pine cones and berries and leaves to decorate our table.  Pinkleberry and I ironed the table cloth and place mats.

Our menu this year was delicious.  Turkey, steak, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, parmesan crusted green beans, pearl onions and brussel sprouts in cream sauce, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls and juices with ginger ale.

The Hubba pulled this out of the oven just before we were ready to eat and Baboo asked, "What's that?"  She couldn't stop laughing when we told her that was the turkey!  It was slightly larger than her hand.  Even though it was that small, we still had leftovers enough for everyone who wanted turkey the next day.  There was steak enough for everyone and leftovers, too.  It was perfect!

Baboo made the sweet potatoes.  Some people just wanted them cooked with butter.  Some people wanted them candied and some wanted them candied with marshmallows.  So Baboo made three small batches to please everyone.

We only had 13 pies this year!  4 pumpkin, 1 chocolate, 1 lemon meringue, 1 key lime, 1 apple, 1 peach, 1 berry, 1 cherry and the Hubba made two pies out of nutella, chocolate chips, bananas, peanut butter and whipped cream.

Everyone loved these rolls.  I just used my regular bread stick recipe (but with 4 cups whole wheat flour and 2 cups white flour) and divided the dough into 18 large rolls.  Then I sprayed a cupcake pan with oil and put a bat of melted butter in each cup.  I put the dough in  and covered it with saran wrap and stuck it in the fridge over night.  The breadstick recipe doesn't call for letting the dough rise, but it rose overnight anyway.  Then about an hour or two before we were eating, I took the dough out of the fridge to rise in the warm kitchen.  They were huge and fluffy and warm and beautiful.  Seriously.  People couldn't get enough.
This fuzzy photo of X in the background looks startlingly like Wiyah!  I can't tell you how many times I catch X driving home from school and as he passes me in the car he looks exactly like Wiyah.

After dinner, we had some friends over for pie and games.  We haven't had friends over in years and it was fun.  Until one of their boys totally mooned us from another room.  I laughed and mentioned it.  So the mom dutifully calls her son in to talk to her and she asks him what he did.  He showed her and pulled his pants down again!  Unfortunately, Winkleberry had the misfortune of sitting on the floor next to where he was standing and she got a facefull of moon!  Haha!  The kid had not put on underwear that morning either.  It was about that time that we also realized that his pants were wet.  They did not stay for very long after that!  But it was nice to converse and share our 13 pies with other people.

After our friends left, we played several rounds of psychiatrist with just our family before sending people off to bed.

On Friday we drove a ways to another town where the local university was having an exhibit of Norman Rockwell's paintings.  It was very cool.  Stayed long enough to take it all in but not so long that the little kids got bored and cranky.  On our way out, we took some family photos in front of some fabulous fall trees.

After the art, the Hubba took the kids to the library and then Baboo and Kelvinator went out looking for the Hunger Games movie.

Saturday was a quiet day of pie eating and playing.  The kids went out sledding and snowboarding and generally playing ouside in the first real snowfall of the year.  It wasn't much but they made the most of it!  That evening we took them to Temple Square.  First we ate at a nice restaurant.  As we were being seated, they gave each of the three youngest kids a paper to fill out for Santa.  Something they want, something they need, something they'll wear, something they'll read.  Pinkleberry said she really really wanted a wheelchair.  And Winkleberry said she needed love.  I thought it was sweet.  But I wondered if anyone besides Santa would be reading these things and feel sorry for the two little girls in the Beautopotamus family who just need love and a wheelchair....

We ate overlooking the Christmas lights of downtown before going down to see them in person.  Somehow, we ended up exploring a different part of temple square that I guess we've never been to before.  I certainly have never seen the display of nativities depicting places all over the world.  I wondered if it was new this year or if we really just had never been to that side before??

Baboo was actually there at the same time as us for a little mission reunion.  But we did not see her.

That night, the three littles watched a Chipmunks movie while the rest of us bigger folk indulged in a Hunger Games Marathon.  Kelvinator had just finished reading the first two books. We did not finish until almost 2am.  It was so funny because we love the Studio C parodies of the movies and haven't seen the movies since we've seen the parodies.  Oh my gosh.  Hilarious!  I loved it that Kelvinator got the humor at a deeper level now that he's actually read the books and seen the movies.  Anyway, I was super proud that even with our late night, Kelvinator got up and ready on time and didn't fall asleep in church once!

Sunday evening we tidied up and the little kids brought the Christmas decorations upstairs while I made homemade vanilla steamers.  Yum!  Then we listened to Christmas music as we put up the tree.  The plan was to do all decorating, but we ran into technical difficulties with that.  So everything else is postponed for the time being.

All in all it was a very koselig weekend.

Today I Met an Angel

I don't know how else to describe it.  It all started because JJ lost his camera on his flight to Tahiti.  So at the first opportunity to email me, he told me that he had lost it.  But he also told me that there was someone who was currently in our area who would be flying back to Tahiti this week so if I made contact, she could possibly take the camera to JJ.  (Apparently digital cameras in Tahiti cost like three times as much as they do here.)  JJ gave me the phone number to his mission companion's mother.  That was all I had to go on.

So I called the companion's mom and she did indeed know how to contact this woman flying back to Tahiti and then I had a great conversation with her about our boys and I picked her brain about everything she knew about having an Elder in Tahiti.  She told me the wonderful things that her son had said about mine and it was great.

When I got off the phone with her, I called this other woman.  She was very gracious and helpful and agreed to carry this camera to JJ in Tahiti.  We set it up for her to swing by my house today.  And in fact, she just left.

When I opened the door and saw her, my first thought was that she was absolutely, radiantly beautiful.  And I felt like I knew her.  She looked familiar to me.  Which is saying quite a lot since I often don't recognize people I have actually met before or known for years.  I'm serious.  My husband actually made me take a test to see if I had face blindness.  (I passed the test just fine.  Great.  But we still don't understand why I don't recognize people so frequently.)  She later told me the same thing, that when she saw me, she thought we must have met and felt like she already knew me.

Anyway, we were talking in my doorway and I was opening up the box with the camera to show her I wasn't asking her to transport any crazy things.  And then I don't even know how it happened, but I was crying.  Then we were hugging.  And then we were talking and just having a really intimate conversation and before I knew it, I had asked her if she wanted to come in and sit down.

In my living room.  In my house that I had not prepared for any visitors.  Me--the hermit.  I didn't even THINK about it.  I felt no hesitation, no embarrassment whatsoever.

Then we were sitting down and she was probably here for 30 minutes or so.  And I felt like in that short time, our conversation touched on every single issue that causes me pain in my life.  But every time the conversation took a turn to that new topic, it was like her words were a soothing balm to my heart.  And I kept crying and we kept talking and periodically hugging and just baring our souls and bearing testimony to each other.

She is an amazing woman and there was just this instant connection.  And some of the things that she said to me are still playing around in my head.  It's not really that she said anything really extraordinary or new.  It's just that I felt the power of her words straight to my heart when she was saying them.  And I could have just listened and watched her speak all day because she was absolutely beautiful and so peaceful.

We exchanged email addresses and she promised that she would take care of JJ for me when she got back.

And I really do feel like there was Providence involved in my meeting her today.  How on earth did this woman fly all the way from Tahiti to have this effect on me?  And the simple, small act that started this chain of events was that JJ lost his camera on his way to Tahiti.  I feel like the Lord sent an angel from halfway across the world just for me.

30 November 2015

# A Savior Is Born

For family home evening tonight, we explored www.christmas.mormon.org and watched the two videos there.

Then we used their printables and hashtagged ourselves to post online.

Then Mack asked if we could do Secret Santa that night.  We agreed that we could so the Hubba was putting all the names in the santa hat and we were discussing whether or not Baboo was participating.  I said to put her name in and I would draw for her (she was at FHE with her ward).  And just then we got a phone call from her and she was asking if we were doing Secret Santas tonight because if we were, she wanted to make sure we put her name in!

27 November 2015

Feelin' the pressure

Approximately a year and a half ago, Wiyah had only hours left on her deadline to accept admissions at a university.  She was choosing between two.  #1 Was her dream school as far as the academics and program went.  It was the absolute perfect match for what she wanted to study.  It was also extremely expensive and even though she got a huge scholarship, it wasn't nearly enough.  Culturally, this school would be difficult for her because there aren't very many women there  (they recently hit 25%) and much, much fewer LDS students.  It's in a super small town with limited activities and opportunities.  #2 Was actually another great school that she would have loved to attend but they didn't have the program she wanted to go into at all.  She would probably receive a regents scholarship to that school and between that and financial aid, she would probably just have to pay for housing and books.  It's a much bigger university where she would have a better social life.

Making the decision with just minutes to go on the deadine was tortuous.  She was so frustrated and didn't know what to do.  

I encouraged her to follow her dream, even though she didn't know how she would pay for it, and choose #1.  If things didn't work out, she could most likely still get accepted later to #2 (although she would no longer have a scholarship, it would still be cheaper).   I told her to have faith that it would all work out.

Well, now she's on her mission and it's time to start thinking about the fall.  Tuition down payment is due.  Housing down payment is due after that.  She is so far away from being able to pay for her first semester.  It's time to start applying for as many scholarships as possible.  Except she is a missionary, so it's me who's searching and organizing and applying for her.  And trying to fund that much of an education is a full time job!

I feel overwhelmed and I also responsible because I encouraged her to make this choice.  And now that I'm the one who has to fulfill the promise and do the work, my faith is totally faltering.  How on earth can she possibly pay for this school?  But it's her dream school and she got in and she got a scholarship.  I want her to at least have one year there.  Surely there is a way...


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