Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Vacation

Hubs had a few days off at Christmas and we went over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house. It was really nice to see a bunch of our family, eat amazing food, and watch the kids open presents.

Watching the kids is the best part of presents at Christmas. The excitement and joy and chaos and mess of it all is awesome. Little Man got an acoustic guitar and has been serenading everything with a heartbeat. He's not a bad singer and he comes up with some great lyrics. I love him.

We had gourmet apps, crab legs, stuffed mushrooms, honey baked ham, cheesecake, rice pudding with raspberries, cookies galore and -drum roll, please- tres leche cake. My brother sent it up from Chicago as my Christmas gift. What a brother.

You may remember me talking about this cake before. This is the cake I would give a kidney for. This time I remembered to take a picture before we ate the whole thing.

Unfortunately, round two of the stomach flu hit on Christmas day. Hubs had it first and the worst, but we all got it to a certain extent over the past week. It wasn't the best Christmas we've ever had, but it wasn't the worst either; that was last year. At least it was a bit of a distraction for us.

We've been taking it easy for the most part this week. Hubs went straight from the flu to a bad cold and lost his voice and had to miss some work. Little Man and I have been avoiding him as much as possible, which is not fun. December has been a little rough in the illness department for us. Hopefully we'll get it all out of our system before the baby arrives!

Other than cleaning, sanitizing and washing laundry, we haven't done much else over our Christmas break. I got two delicious cookbooks for Christmas and have been reading a ton of great recipes and getting some great ideas for meals. When we are all finally well and eating again, my oven and range will be working overtime! Can't wait.

The highlight of the week was taking Little Man to a ski hill for ski jump lessons. It was his first time on skis and he did pretty well. He wiped out a few times and got some snow burn across one eye, but overall he had a great time and wants to go skiing again. It makes me miss the mountains big time.

We are looking forward to a shiny, bright, and healthy new year. We will be celebrating with movies and popcorn on the couch and Little Man will probably be the only one who makes it to midnight. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

Whoever sent Old Man Winter my way, thank you!

It just started snowing and it looks beautiful outside. I'm incredibly grateful for our white Christmas.

Our halls are decked, the stockings are hung by the TV with care, and the cookies are baked.

Baby Jesus keeps strange company in our house.

This is the first year Jameson has been "up there" for what I can only assume is the best birthday celebration ever. I'm excited for him. I wonder what kind of cake Jesus likes?

I wish you a Merry Christmas. May Christ fill your hearts and homes on His birthday.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Infirmary

Crossing my fingers did not work. I got sick Tuesday night, Little Man got sick again Wednesday, and the plague caught up with Hubs Thursday. It was a *fun* week. Thursday night after we put Little Man to bed, Hubs and I were curled up on opposite ends of the couch under mounds of blankets and I felt just like the old, sick grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Little Man and Hubs both rebounded quickly; by Friday night they were both eating real food and feeling pretty good, but it lingered for me. I was almost in tears with the aches and stomach pains Friday night. Either I'm a complete wuss or pregnancy just made it a lot harder to deal with. Thankfully, I woke up Saturday morning a new person, able to eat and actually move around. After three days of nothing but gatorade, jello and dry toast, it was a relief to be done with it all.

Hubs has always prescribed to the "Go big or go home" method of getting over stomach bugs. I usually laugh and think that for a doc-in-training he can really be obtuse, but he swears by it. Two years ago, after a particularly harsh stomach bug, he had pizza for his first meal. It didn't go well. This time, however, I was so sick of the BRAT diet, I kinda of dove right in with coffee and Christmas cookies. It was awesome. Little Man and I made Molasses Spice Crinkles- my favorite cookie. Oh they are so good.

Now that the plague has left our house and I've Lysoled and bleached every surface, we are in full blast Christmas mode. The tree is up and decorated, the Christmas music is on the stereo, the tree has presents under it, the stockings are on the mantle and the cookies are being baked every few days. I think today I'm going to try a new recipe for cranberry orange cookies. Now we just need snow! We've got cold and ice, but no snow. If you have seen Old Man Winter by you, please send him my way.

This week, we are taking Little Man to see Santa, checking out light displays, and we have Little Man's Christmas concert. It is going to be a good week. Oh, and I've discovered a recipe for Nutella Hot Chocolate! Just heat up a glass of milk and stir in a tablespoon or two (or, ahem, 3) and drink. I've also heard from a good source that a splash of Frangelico makes it a great cocktail. I'll have to wait to try that.

There are a lot of things that aren't easy right now, but we really are trying to live intentionally and we are off to a pretty good start. I hope your Holidays are all merry and bright so far!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Santa's Special Delivery

I don't think Little Man will ever be the kid with perfect attendance in school. We are having another sick day; this time due to a stomach bug or something. Saturday night and Sunday morning were full of puke and empty of sleep. Always a stellar combo, but at least he is recovering nicely. He is totally loving his diet of gatorade, jello, and toast with apple butter. He smacks his lips and says, "Yes! Sugar!" as if he's a complete addict. I seem to have been spared; whether a result of antibodies or hand washing and lysol, I don't care. I'm just so glad this bug passed over me. Fingers and toes are all crossed as I knock on wood and hope it stays that way.

Last week I had some extra time to kill in town before picking up Little Man for swim lessons and I went to library. I am there a few times a month, usually with a list in hand; but this time I just wandered up and down the rows of books, trying to not get dizzy from reading sideways. I ended up lingering in both the coping and religion sections, picking up books here and there to bring home. I ended up with a stack of books all about coping with the loss of a child, what heaven will be like, and one book written by a hospice nurse about the end of life. I've spent a lot of time thinking about Jameson and our lives last year at this time while reading. I've read many stories about other parents learning(or not) to let go, about young and old hospice patients filled with peace and joy at the end of their lives, about perspective. I'm still processing a lot of it and not able to share much more than that, except to say that I'm glad I'm reading through this stack of books on my coffee table at this time in my life.

It is so strange, trying to reconcile the holidays with this upcoming anniversary. Celebrating thankfulness and the birth of Christ with joy while mourning the death of my son almost one year ago is confusing, painful, weird. I'm somewhat at a loss for words here.

Saturday morning, Little Man and I went shopping to pick out presents for all of his cousins. We were pulling into the Walmart parking lot when he told he he hadn't yet decided what to get Jameson. I responded with silence, trying desperately to not crash the car, start sobbing, or say the wrong thing. I mentioned to him that I'm not quite sure how we'd get a present up to heaven. He asked if Santa couldn't pick it up and bring it there on his way through town? Well, I don't see why not, I replied. So, Santa will not only be dropping off, but picking up a special delivery at our house this year. It is heart breaking, but genius at the same time. He is still thinking about what he wants to get J.

I'm thinking about what J likes, which leads me to wondering who Jameson is. Who is my son? Is he 3, like he was when he died last year? Or does the aging process stay the same, making him 4? Or do we maybe just have one perfect age in heaven and he could be 22 or 35 or 16? Will he still be J with the same irresistible smile and gorgeous red hair? Will we recognize each other in heaven someday? Will I still get to be his mom? I look at his pictures and strain to remember his little quirks. The sound of his laugh, the feel of his soft, creamy skin, the way he fit into me perfectly when sleeping. I have to really work to hear him running down the hallway to jump in bed with us in the early mornings, to picture the way he rode a bike, splashed in the tub, played with his brother. It can be such a struggle to hang on to who he was. To remember. To make him real again. To wonder who he is takes my breath away in an overwhelming, painful, and awesome way. Who is my son???

Patience, I hear in my mind. The answer almost makes me laugh, because the joke is on me. I want so badly to hit the fast forward button and just be there. Just be there and see him and have all the pain and fear and confusion of this world over. Why can't we just skip the mess and get to the happily ever after already? But we can't. So I try to breath deeply and I can't tell if the breath won't fill me full because of my grief or if it is from the baby pushing on my lungs, reminding me of my future here, my life here. Patience, my mind says again. This time it isn't funny at all, but I know that it is true.

The Lord's Prayer comes into my mind and I feel a smile pulling at my corners thinking about how I don't need to worry about getting through this whole life. We get to take this one day at a time. Give us this day our daily bread. Give me what I need to just make it through this day. And tomorrow I need to ask again. And the next day I need to ask again. It can be so overwhelming when the big picture is all I'm trying to see.

Sigh. I just need patience. And maybe a nap.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gobble! Gobble!

A holiday completely revolving around gratefulness and food. We had family, an off-the-chart menu, gingerbread houses, and kid wine. What's not to love?

We started the day with a house full of littles who all got up way too early. But we had good coffee and homemade apple caramel rolls to ease us into the day.

My sister-in-law is an amazing cook and she made some of the food, including the appetizers. We had a cooked shrimp ceviche and a beef and black bean dip. Both were awesome and I somehow did not manage to get pictures. I also made a veggie platter, trying to squeeze something remotely healthy into the butter/carb/sugar overload Thanksgiving tends to be.

The dinner menu consisted of sage sausage stuffing, sweet potato casserole, corn pudding, cheesy hash potatoes, green jello, cranberries, potato rolls and turkey.

It was all so good, but the turkey stole the show. I'm so glad it did, because it wasn't easy. I deboned a 17 pound bird, filled it with a bourbon soaked cranberry and fig dressing, and rolled it into a roulade. There were a lot of firsts, but after watching this Julia Child video 10+ times and taking notes on it, I thought I could handle it. Okay, seriously, I'm a complete amateur! What took them about 4 minutes to do, took me almost an hour. I had turkey juice everywhere and practically needed a shower in bleach afterwards. It was quite a learning experience and I was really, really hoping all of the effort and clean up would be worth it.

The bird did not disappoint.

Those drumsticks you see sticking out were the only bones in the turkey. It was tender, flavorful, and not dried out at all. I will probably be making this turkey every year. It was a lot of prep work, but on Thanksgiving day, all I did was brown it for a few minutes on each side, deglaze with white wine and then throw it in the oven for two hours. It was such a relaxing Thanksgiving since I was able to make almost everything the day before.

For dessert, we had a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake.

All in all, it was a fantastic day. We had such great time hanging out with our family and we all ate like kings. I'm soooooo glad my monthly prenatal weigh in was last week and not this week. Because I ate like a king all weekend, too.

This week, the menu is very veggie heavy. Gotta get a few good days in before we start baking Christmas cookies!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks

I've been reading a lot about being deliberate in my life. Devotionals, blogs, random friends' facebook posts- everyone seems to be talking about being intentional. It is a good reminder. Living purposefully makes a huge difference in big and small ways.

For instance, this holiday season, I am going out of my way to make Thanksgiving and Christmas memorable and special for Little Man, even though I'm not feeling it. What I'm feeling is sad and tired and huge and kinda mopey. Instead of thinking turkey and stuffing, I'm thinking that last Sunday was our due date for the baby we lost in March. *Yay* for this week! Yep, I'm feeling Thanksgiving. Please notice the heavy sarcasm...

But you know what? Feelings can be deceiving. Feelings can change like the wind. Feelings don't have to control me. So Sunday, instead of lying in bed all day eating Nutella and pretzels like I wanted to, we went to church and cried through the service. Then we had donuts and juice and talked with our friends. And I smiled and cooked lunch for my guys. And when I got really crabby in the afternoon, I went for a walk up the dirt road with the dogs. It was cold and quiet and beautiful outside. And suddenly, I noticed that I wasn't sad anymore. I was too busy marveling at the ice crystals on the beach, and watching the dogs run through the snow covered forest, and breathing in the fresh, winter air mingled with the scent of wood stoves to notice I was supposed be sad and moping. It took all day, but intentionally focusing on things other than my feelings worked. Of course, then I saw the Vikings score and was a little sad again.

Living intentionally. Making good choices even when it is difficult. Giving thanks even when I don't feel thankful. These are all things I'm focusing on and it is working. I'm getting ridiculously excited about all of the cooking and baking tomorrow and Thursday hold. And the eating. And the family. I'm thinking about where the Christmas tree is going to go and what kind of homemade decorations Little Man and I can work on together. I'm spending more time looking out instead of in and finding all kinds of things to be thankful for.

It reminds me of the book One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. She basically states that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving. She's right, too. And I'm really trying to be intentional in my thanksgiving. When I'm feeling my crummiest and least thankful, that is when I'm trying my hardest to find something to thank God for. There is always something.

Little Man made this great envelope and we've been writing down what we are thankful for.

Isn't that so cute? He did the whole thing all by himself. The other side is decorated with leaves and flowers. I love his handwriting. It has been fun to think about things to write down every day and fill it up. Here are a few things I am thankful for this week.

Homemade bread.

Loons on the lake.

Icy beaches and a husband who is a great photographer.

Happy memories and Jesus' sacrifice, which means this goodbye isn't forever.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, full of love, grace, and joy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sick Day

I have a seal instead of a boy at home with me today. This is the *first* time in five years that we haven't had to nebulize him for the croup. It was so nice to have Daddy check him out before work this morning and keep him out of the clinic. And it is even nicer to have a little boy whose lungs are happy, despite the barking and sneezing.

This morning we threw caution to the wind and ran to Target to pick up a limited edition CD. We had to wait in line for 5 minutes before the store opened and held our breath, hoping they would still have some left by the time we got there. It made me feel like a teenager again.

We also bought this.

No good can come from this.

Okay, maybe some good.... But seriously, what was I thinking? Pregnant women should never walk through the snack aisles when it is close to second breakfast time. Yes, I do eat 2 breakfasts everyday. I'm like a Hobbit.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a turkey to paint with Little Man. We are getting our craft on, snuggling, and rocking out to some awesome music this morning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Changing Season

Winter has arrived. I'm sure we'll see our grass again before it comes for good, but today was a good "practice" run for driving in snow and ice.

Little Man was so excited to break out the boots and snow pants for the walk to the bus stop.

The changing of the seasons seems to always get me. Any change gets to me. I've just been thinking about Jameson and crying a lot lately. I can't even make it through church without breaking down. Every.Sunday. It's like being at the soccer field all over again, trying to cry discreetly in the pew. People must think I'm a lunatic. Part of it is the preggo hormones, I'm sure. But that isn't all of it. I just miss my boy. And this first snow reminds me of the snowy days last year. Looking out the PICU windows and seeing a white Minneapolis. Driving to the hospital and trying to stay on the roads. Being cold and tired and scared all of the time. It was a particularly harsh winter to begin with and with our added fears, sleep deprivation, stress, etc., it was too much and I really don't know how we made it.

Winter is also a reminder that we are coming up on the one year anniversary. I've found myself looking back at pictures of Jameson in the hospital and missing that time. But I can't really miss those four months, can I? I can't really miss the agony of watching him suffer and decline. I can't really miss the stressful time of always being away from one of my boys. I can't really miss the couch sleeping, the bad coffee, the cafeteria food. Can I? Of course I don't. But I miss my J and I'm selfish enough to wish he were still here- even if here still meant the PICU.

But he is gone and we are left trying to navigate this uncertain and broken future. It seems at least once a week I come across something that I just don't know how to handle. Like Christmas cards. And family pictures. How do we ever have one ever again? I can't handle thinking about my family without him in the picture. And do we still hang his stocking? Does Santa still bring him candy? They seem like such silly little things and maybe they are, but I don't know how to figure out what is right for us. I'm not looking for answers; we have to find our own way through this stuff, but it ain't easy. Just for the record, after you've lost a child, the holidays totally suck. All of them. And the coming weeks with all of the thankfulness and Christmas cheer will be even harder than August and September were.

I don't know how to make a smooth transition from that. I'm sorry if I sound like such a Debbie Downer. Because I'm not unhappy. I don't cry all of the time. I still laugh and smile and enjoy life. I am just emotional and missing my sweet boy so much. But I am still excited to cook a turkey next week and have family up to eat and share Thanksgiving with us. To make gingerbread houses and decorate a tree. And I'm very excited to cry my way through Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. And watch Little Man open his gifts. And be with family to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But, (here is my broken record line)it is, as always, bittersweet. And it always will be.

However, now it is time to do the dishes, get started on the bread for dinner, and make some soup to warm our souls and bodies on this cold and snowy day. Hopefully it will be as good as this carrot soup and kale bread were last week.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Now that's a bagel!

This one reminds me of my preggo belly button.

They taste as good as they look, too. I'm so happy I found a better recipe.

Not bad looking pizza either, huh? The crust was just divine. And the squash pizza was the overwhelming favorite. We added asparagus at Little Man's request and it turned out to be a great idea. The Brussels sprout pizza was okay, it just needed more kick and less cheese. I'll have to work on that one.

Today is a busy day, but with leftovers like this, I don't think anyone will mind that I am not cooking dinner. Have a great day, my friends!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The View From Here

Last Thursday the power was out at our house for almost the whole day. When it finally came back on, I went about the house resetting all the clocks. Geeze, I must really have pregnancy brain (I wonder what my excuse will be after the baby comes?) because Friday morning I looked at the clock in the kitchen and told Little Man to get his shoes on for school.

Then we walked out the door and I flipped open my cell phone to check that time to see how fast we had to walk to the bus stop. Um, yeah. We had less than five minutes to walk up the uphill, dirt, loooong drive way and then 1/4 mile down the dirt road to the bus stop. Doh! So we ran- and what a sight that must have been. We weren't even half way there and I could hear the whine of the bus getting to the stop. Luckily, he has to U-turn at the stop and he turns towards our road. So here we are, running as fast as we can, which isn't very fast at all. I'm the pregnant lady with morning breath, hair half in a bumpy ponytail, half falling out, running down a dirt road, flailing my arms above my head to get the driver's attention. Hot. I know. I even got a honk. I'm sure the bus driver had a good laugh that morning. At least we made it. Instead of kissing Little Man goodbye that morning, I threw his backpack at him and shoved him towards the bus while I doubled over, tried to catch my breath and figure out which muscles I discovered on the run. It was *awesome* to say the least. I walked home leisurely and enjoyed the sunrise through the trees. When I got back to our house, I was rewarded with this fine view.

After the pink faded from the sky, I went in and promptly reset all the clocks in the house.

The weather was gorgeous this weekend. We enjoyed some nice walks on our road and even got the canoe out on the water. No fish, but we saw a few loons and bald eagles. Delightful. We would have loved to have gone for some long hikes, but it was the hunting opener in Minnesota and we just don't own enough orange.

We ate some great food, too. I made crockpot pumpkin oatmeal, baked eggplant parmesean, pasties, and an experimental wild rice pudding with rhubarb-orange sauce. It turned out pretty good.

I've had a hankering for sourdough, so I played with some breads this weekend. The sourdough bagels turned out too soft and fluffy and then they sunk down to flat, oily hockey pucks. They are so flat, you don't even need to cut them to fit them in the toaster. What a disappointment.

So, I'm trying again today with a new recipe. Hopefully the second batch will be chewy and dense, like a bagel should be.

And tonight, we are having sourdough pizza with some crazy toppings. One will be an acorn squash sauce with onions, sage, and Gouda cheese. Maybe some spinach and or chicken sausage for fun. The other one will be a Brussels sprout pizza with mushrooms, garlic, bacon, and fresh sliced tomatoes. I haven't decided on the sauce yet. Can't wait! I love trying new foods. For now, I've got to run and shape this second batch of bagels; I'm determined to get it right!

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Angel Tree

As most of you know, Reece's Rainbow is a charity near and dear to my heart. Someday I hope to bring home a Reece's Rainbow.

I am excited to share their annual Christmas Angel Tree with you! This is their biggest fundraiser of the year and every dollar counts! Just click here and you can help a beautiful, deserving child be adopted into a loving family. Plus, if you donate $35+, you also get an ornament with a picture of your Christmas Angel to put on your tree.

I cannot think of a better gift to give this Christmas than the hope of a family.
Thank you for your generosity!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Just remembering my Cutie-Pie-Guy during Halloween when he was here. I wonder if they eat candy in heaven? I bet they do and it is really, really good.

This one makes me happy and sad. Happy because he loved dinosaurs so much and wouldn't have wanted to be anything else. And, he was totally the cutest little dino the PICU ever saw. I so wish he could have been home and we could have taken him trick-or-treating and let him eat too much candy and stay up too late.

This year we picked out a pumpkin for J and carved it up and put a candle in it. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have him here now.

Tonight we will go trick-or-treating with Spiderman and let him eat too much candy and stay up too late. Because life is way too short to not enjoy the ride.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Food & Faith

I have been baking a lot. Maybe too much. At this very moment there are three different loaves of bread on the counter and a dozen or so pumpkin cream cheese muffins in the fridge. Additionally, we had homemade pizza, french onion soup, chicken cordon bleu and homemade chicken salad all this week. And tonight I'm making spinach, gruyere and pear grilled cheese sandwiches on cinnamon bread. I think the past week was a wee bit stressful and baking and cooking are my preferred coping mechanisms.

Last Thursday I started feeling some pre-term labor symptoms and all weekend long they just got worse and worse. I was trying my best to not lose my cool and jump to the worst case scenario, but by Sunday afternoon I was afraid to get off the couch and crying at the drop of a hat. I know I get a free pass on the crying thing; pregnancy births tears all nine months for me. But I was seriously losing it; all I could think was that I've already lost two babies this year, please, God, don't take this one too. And I couldn't help but wonder if we did lose this baby that maybe I am not cut out for motherhood. Just to get the drama out of the way, I went to the doctor on Monday and all the tests have come back fine- the baby is fine, maybe just having a growth spurt.

Back to the thoughts and feelings- talk about a crummy weekend! It stinks to be scared like that and to let a fear cause me to spiral down so quickly. When I think about it now, it makes me mad, although I'm not exactly sure I can put it into words. I think part of it is that I feel like I lost faith for a minute. Not faith as in I stopped believing in God or miracles or that the baby could be fine. But faith that no matter what, God's plan is the best plan there is, even if that means I lose another child. Please don't mistake me; I do not say this flippantly. Plain and simple, I can't see the outcomes when I'm living the tragedy; I have to keep the faith that there is a reason and that someday when I die and step into God's kingdom, it will all make sense. Because God really does love me and Jameson and the baby I lost and this baby growing inside of me. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Another thought that has really stuck with me is that at one point I told Hubs that no matter what happens, I don't think I can ever mentally handle the stress of doing this again. But that can't be true. I refuse to live with that kind of fear hanging over my head like a gauntlet ready to fall. Because life after birth is just as uncertain as life in the womb. And I don't want to go though my life worrying about whether or not Little Man's cough is a cold or something worse, or whether my headache is a brain tumor or just dehydration, or whether the reason Hubs is late is because he is delivering a baby at the hospital or he got in a car accident. Again, this goes back to the faith issue; when I take a deep breath and think about God's promises, I can have peace instead of anxiety. But this is a choice I have to make. I can choose to indulge the drama queen and freak out or I can choose to calm down and have a little faith. Most of the time, I think I'm somewhere in the middle. Because the faith thing is really, really hard sometimes, especially when something scary is happening.

I freaked out a little more than I wish I would have over the weekend and now we have enough food in our kitchen to open a small restaurant. Which is all fine and dandy; it means I have two happy guys, but it also means in another month I'm gonna have a bigger butt. I've got to say, though, those muffins are worth it.

Calling them muffins is really a stretch, too. They are more like the Juicy Lucy of cupcakes with that cream cheese frosting center. Lord almighty, I might just go have one more. There go the hips.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Back In The Kitchen

Now that Little Man is in school full-time and we are all unpacked and settled in, I have a lot of time on my hands. A lot. Too much, actually, but I'm working on fixing that with volunteer opportunities and hopefully a part-time job. In the meantime, I'm enjoying reading, napping, exploring the area and cooking.

Yes, I am back in the kitchen; after taking a month off to move and camp, it is great. I've become good friends with my first gas oven, successfully not burning or under cooking anything yet. I think this is the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

The breadmaker has been working overtime as well. I've been using the dough cycle for soft pretzels for after-school snacks(cinnamon sugar soft pretzels are dynamite dipped in a pumpkin cream cheese dip!), pizza dough, cinnamon roll dough, etc. Plus, we've been eating a loaf of bread every two or three days. I've been playing around with whole wheat- flax meal bread and we are just finishing up a loaf of oatmeal honey wheat bread. I think today I'm going to make a loaf of cottage cheese bread for the weekend. I would die on a low carb diet.

Here are a few pics of the deliciousness we've been enjoying up north.

Baked pumpkin macaroni and cheese.

Hoisin pulled pork on homemade bread with spaghetti squash.

Butternut squash and wild rice soup with apple, curry, and coconut milk. I let Hubs help stir and he added almost a 1/4 cup of curry to the soup, so it had some kick. Yogurt helped knock it down for Little Man.

And the favorite dish of the week: caramel apple rolls. I put a few of those amazing honeycrisps we picked at the orchard to work and they starred well in my almost-famous caramel rolls. They are amazing as is, but I'm not sure I can ever go back now...apples and caramel are meant to be together.

It is just amazing how much happiness a, ahem, few sticks of butter can bring to the breakfast table. Which is why we only have them a few times a year. Life is too short to not enjoy good food, though.

Today is a blustery, cold, and overcast day and I'm debating between making vegetarian chili or garlicky spinach-sausage gratin from my Cooking Light magazine. The subscription was a birthday gift last year and our whole family has enjoyed the deliciousness of it. The caramel rolls are most definitely not from there.

Happy Friday, friends.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I've been trying to think how to sum up our vacation in one posting- so many pictures, so many memories, so many awe inspiring moments, so much great food. We were gone for 3 weeks. We spent 20 nights away, 18 of which were in this tent.

It was actually quite comfy, except for the last few nights in Jackson, WY and Yellowstone. Both nights were in the 20's and there was literally frost inside the tent. It made it much easier to get up in time for sunrise in order to get in the truck and turn the heat on!

We saw many amazing places, but for the most part, it was a tease; I could easily spend a week in each location we visited and still not do everything I would like. We have a list of future vacations made; now we just need time and money. Ha!

The most notable places for me were: Jackson, Wy and the Tetons, Hood River, OR, the Oregon Coast, and the entire Olympic Peninsula. The Washington Coast has completely stolen my heart. The greenery, the trees, the ocean and mountains together. I don't see how it gets any better than that. I could gush forever, but instead, I'll show you some of my favorite pictures.

We went to Yellowstone twice. It was really amazing. Artist Point and Mammoth Falls were the big highlights there, but again, we spent two short days in the park and would have liked to have two weeks there.

We saw some great cities along the way- Leavenworth, WA is a really neat place to visit, as is Bend, OR, but nothing could capture my heart like the ocean did. I've been to the ocean many times, but never this ocean. This was my first introduction to the Pacific and I fell hardcore.

I didn't think it could get any better than Port Townsend and Port Angeles, but then we drove up Hurricane Ridge Highway into the Olympic National Park. Seriously, we splashed in the ocean in the morning and a few hours later we were on top of majestic mountains, standing on snow, overlooking glaciers and the ocean. I'm at a loss for words. This is how I picture heaven. That is about all I can say.

That night we camped in the Heart of the Hills campground in the park; by far the coolest campground I've ever stayed in. There were huge boulders and gigantic trees all over the place. And even though it was high up in the mountains, everything was still so green and lush. It seemed so magical to me.

The next day we drove to Rialto Beach and then camped in a rainforest! Doesn't that just sound so cool? It was really cool; and it barely rained, which is a major bonus when tent camping.

Oh that beach. This was probably my favorite place of the whole trip. I love walking on the beach and hearing the waves roll in and the crackle and clicking of the pebbles as the waters rushes back out. The trees were gorgeous, standing and fallen. There is something beautiful about the massive, bleached driftwood along the shoreline. The trees of Washington just slay me anyway. Cedars and Sitka still my heart.

I teared up a little when we left the Washington coast. But I didn't have much time to remember to be sad because our next major stop was Portland. Hello Foodie Heaven and Beervana! I joked with some friends that I ate for two and Hubs drank for two. I was slightly jealous, but he let me have a teeny sip of the best here and there.

My brother begged me to go to Voodoo Donuts and have a Maple Bacon Bar. That was easy and well worth the wait and calories. Drooling just thinking about it. And can I please get an AMEN for food carts? Seriously- wood-fired artisan pizza and fig, goat cheese and proscuitto crepes from campers? Totally in!

Portland was really fun. I can't speak highly enough for their public transportation. We took the MAX, their light rail, everywhere. It was awesome. Little Man loved it. But I was ready to get out of the city when we left. And it was back to the beach for us. We hit up the Oregon coast and the dunes. Again, awesome.

Again, I almost cried when we left the coast. But Hood River and Bend we both great towns and then we got to Jackson, WY. And that is probably my favorite mountain town. I love the kitschy tourism, the restaurants, the arts, the Snake River. And the Tetons are phenomenal.

Who doesn't wish they were a cowgirl living in Jackson right now? I totally want to go back there someday and see the park on horseback. Someday.

After Jackson, we cruised through Yellowstone again, drove the Beartooth Scenic Highway- which is the second most beautiful drive I've ever taken- and saw Red Lodge and Billings, MT before heading home. Sigh. Now I just need to find a way to get our families to all move out west with us. But for now, I've got some great memories and dreams...and life at the lake isn't so bad!