Monday, December 31, 2007

One last Christmas Blog

Wow! Christmas sure came and went quick this year, didn't it? I have some final 2007 photos to share with you, and a few words to say: . (Who can guess what book that is from? :) Also a note on how crazy this year has been- now that it's over it seems to have gone by quickly, but if I really ponder on it, I will have to decide that it did not go by all that fast. Too many things have happened- Sean and Ashton turning 5 and starting kindergarten, numerous holidays with family across the country, a response from an author to a book review I wrote (whoo-hoo!), sledding, climbing, triathlons and my first half-marathon at Tahoe! Plus, the addition of pictures (as a result of a Feb. birthday) to my blogs with the help of my new pocket-friendly digital camera (and hopefully the addition of video clips to come soon!). That's quite a lot. And slooooowly working my way through a master's degree drags somethin' aweful! Not that the work is too hard (most of the time!); just that I'd rather be playing with the boys or reading what I want to read, and not some boring textbook.

Anyway, here are some pictures from Cornucopia at my parent's house. First up, a showing of the very lucky twins, who received (by far) the largest haul this year. (Every year?)

Next, my happy brother oggling his brand new Kitchen Aide (top model, I might add- thanks Mom!). We've used that thing every day at my house since then, including that night when I begged him to make me his fantastic molasses cookies.

And our friend Frank, whom I've known since the 8th grade when we started swimming together for McQueen H.S. And then lifeguarded together for several years. He and both of my brothers have remained really close, and I like it when he visits me too.

One of my parents, even if I couldn't get them to both look at me (and not blink) at the same time:

And finally, one of me:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Visit from Santa

Saturday we cut our tree. Then the boys decorated it almost entirely on their own. They learned about not letting two ornaments touch ("They might break!"), but somehow managed to break the lights. Here's Sean concentrating really hard:

And them both together, Ashton reaching for the high bare places:

Sunday, we went to Kevin's church, St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Church for mass and a wonderful luncheon and crafts for the kids. And a special visitor came: Santa! He came with three sacks of presents, and all the kids gathered 'round to sit at his feet while he called out names and cried out a merry "Ho Ho Ho!" here and there (he was really good!). This year was the first time Sean and Ashton actually asked to see him- last year they pretty much freaked out when we walked past his little "house" in the mall. That makes a second milestone for them this year: in the spring, they were still afraid of the ocean and when we went to LA for Thanksgiving, they went and put their feet in with me. Yeah for being big 5-year-olds! I digress~ They were SO excited, and sure had a lot to say to Santa in between each child called, and they even got high-fives!

Santa called out Ashton's name first:

Then Sean- grinning from ear to ear!

And here is the finished tree, and the boys displaying their gifts from Santa. We did get a really old piano that was donated to the music program at Kevin's school, but they didn't need it, so it is living in our dining room now- quite dusty and needs a couple serious tuning sessions, but otherwise in great shape! It has a nice sound for a hundred (ish) year-old piano.

Finally, I want to share one last picture: the most in-shape Santa there ever was!

(This is actually my friend Chris from the library, and except for his secret pillow stuffing habits, he really is a great Santa!)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Tree Cutting

After such a long, stressful and super busy semester (which officially ended yesterday, YEAH!), we were finally able to escape and cut our Christmas tree with Kevin's parents and sister. Of course I felt the need to document the entire morning on film and so now have many pictures to share with you! :) The nicest part is that we are lucky enough to live so close to Galena forest, and headed up Mt. Rose HWY for a few miles to Timberline Dr. where we off-roaded a bit (on balding tires- not good, but still managed not to get stuck, thanks to Kevin's truck driving skills). We found a good place to park, and hiked in to find our trees- here is a picture of the path we made through some very powdery snow.

It was so beautiful with the sun filtering through the trees, catching sparse patches of crystalline iridescence. Here's a close up of some dried grass poking through the snow flakes.

Here's Kevin shouting for the boys (and Pirate) to come check out the tree he found-

The trek back to the truck with the trees:

It was pretty cold- low 30s I'd guess, and proof that is how powdery the show was- it would barely stay together to make a snowball. I had Alice do a demonstration to show just how much snow can resemble dandelion fluff~

And The Boys with Papa, and the tree safely in the back of the truck:

Pirate wants in the picture too!

And here we have Sean eating snow: typical little 5-year-old!

And Ashton as well:

A fun day- just nice to be outside in the fresh air with family (and not working on the ever-ongoing stream of papers I seemed to have this semester)! I feel like I can finally start concentrating on Christmas instead of walking around preoccupied and trying to think of 8 things at the same time...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Apple Pie

I'm a little behind in my blogging, but I do have some pictures from our Thanksgiving vacation to L.A. that I want to share. We left Reno at 3 a.m. Thursday morning, and arrived in Bishop, CA at about 6:30 just in time for breakfast at the famous Erick Schat's Bakkery. Here is a picture of the front:

And a picture from the parking lot- you can see the blue roof a little better, and the "Schat's Mobile":

And finally, a picture of the boys getting their sugar high from the cinnamon rolls and dounuts they had for breakfast...

We stayed with Kevin's Aunt Sandee and Uncle Mike in Costa Mesa, and Sierra (their daughter) requested an apple pie. So I volunteered because I've been looking for a reason to try out Turi's recipe he posted on his blog, plus they had this great apple corer/peeler/slicer that was way too much fun (and super fast) to use. But to make things interesting, Uncle Mike walked in and poured himself a whiskey and Coke, so, in the spirit of baking and friendship (and getting really drunk really fast), I poured myself one too! Accidentally filled my cup half way though, and if you look at the pictures as I was baking, you can see my progress. Here is the first picture of the apples after I had sauteed them in butter, and set them on a pan to cool. (Jack and Coke to the left.)

While that was cooling, I unrolled a pre-made pie crust and sliced an extra one into long strips for the lattice work on the top. (Notice the two loaves of Schat's bread at the top left?)

Skipping ahead, here is a pic of the pie filled, latticed, trimmed. I deviated from the recipe slightly (sorry Turi) and brushed the top with egg white and sprinkled white sugar- a suggestion I found in the Joy of Cooking. (Glass only half full at this point, alcohol settling into my blood stream nicely by now- and a good thing I had the pie done as well! :)

And finally, the finished product (and an empty glass!) I had to pull it out before the timer went off (baked only about 38 minutes) because the top was getting dark. Turned out perfect! Pie was gone before we left for Reno...

I had to take a nap after the pie was done, but I did get up and make a tortilla soup recipe for dinner that has been growing in popularity of late~

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pumpkin Cookies!

I haven't done any food blogs for a while, but I've been baking a bit this week. I made a chocolate pumpkin pie on Monday with Sean and Ashton to help me, courtesy of the Baking Bites website. I modified that recipe a bit and instead of using canned pumpkin, I used a sugar pumpkin that I cooked and pureed myself. It took a little longer to bake because of the extra moisture, but it was worth the wait! It had a nice balance of chocolate and pumpkin, without either overpowering the other. This picture doesn't look like much, but you must forgive me since I forgot to take a picture before we dove into the pie. Couldn't wait that long!

Tonight I baked pumpkin cookies with a light brown caramel glaze using a recipe that was circulating around the staff members at my library. I love pumpkin anything, and since I had some left-over pumpkin puree (and since Ashton has been begging to bake cookies all week) I thought it would be a good night to bake them. The recipe was simple, and I learned how to make a successful caramel glaze! I'd seen my little brother, gourmet chef extraordinaire, make caramel for apple-dipping, but had never actually tried to make it myself. It seems to me the trick lies in browning the butter just right before adding the powdered sugar and milk and vanilla. But maybe that's just me. Anyway, these cookies were very tasty, with and without the glaze (didn't quite make enough, as you can see from the picture). Sean and Ashton sure enjoyed them anyway. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Boys Update

I have some pictures I'd like to share, and just some general updates on how they're doing. First, we had our second parent-teacher conference this week, and both of them are doing really well in Kindergarten. They are really good at rhyming words because of all the nursery rhymes we sing together, and they are starting to learn some sight words such as "you, it, my, the, & and." They also can sound out short 3-letter words, and are reading the Colin Hawkin's series to me! They are very short picture books with one word on each page, and only the first letter changes. Each of the 5 books focus on a different short vowel sound. Other news, Sean and Ashton's molars are coming in! Sean's top two have poked all the way through, and the two on the bottom are just beneath the surface. None of Ashton's have come through yet, but there are big flat spaces and I can feel the teeth underneath with my finger. My babies are getting adult teeth! They keep asking me when their teeth will fall out. We've been talking and reading books about this topic lately 'cause I didn't want them to freak out when one of their teeth gets loose- I was 5 when I lost my first tooth, and I remember poking it back and forth with my tongue, and the grass tooth-pulling machine my older brother made to try to help pull it out! My grandma sure needed her grass cut that summer.

Other news, the boys made a new friend this weekend named Charlie. We met him at the park in Double Diamond through a mutual friend, Haley. Here are pictures of the four of them together:

Also, my boys are wiry like their Uncle Scotty, and shimmied right up the rock wall with no hesitations, again and again. Here is Sean's progression up the wall:

And here is Ashton- Are you noticing their great technique, keeping their hips close to the wall, and their toes turned out instead of trying to climb up like a ladder? I'm so proud!

And one final photo of them loungin' in the sun at the top together:

Thursday, November 1, 2007


I just wanted to post some pictures of the boys- their 5th Halloween, and the third in this neighborhood trick-or-treating. They have been asking me nearly everyday for the past 2 months if it was Halloween yet. And I would tell them, 2 weeks left, or 6 days, or not until tomorrow for the 10th time! Finally the big day came, and the question was, "No more weeks and no more days?!" That was Sean. Last night, Greg and Jess and Abbie came over for our 3rd Halloween together, and they boys were absolutely hyper-active! We didn't even get the chance to eat dinner before we HAD to go out begging for candy. Here's one of the boys (Sean is the Ninja Turtle, Ashton the Transformer) and Abbie:

And one without the masks:

And one of the boys with their hands in the pumpkin guts before we carved Jack-O-Lanterns (but don't be fooled by this picture- they were super grossed out with having slimy pumpkin strings on their hands, and I only got a smile 'cause they're such posers!):

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"The Snow Leopard"

I was searching for new non-fiction books at my school librarian conference this weekend, and I happened upon a new title by Jackie Morris called, "The Snow Leopard." (Great website, BTW, check it out if you have a chance- there are some beautiful pictures of a family of snow leopards.) I can only imagine the enthusiastic squeal I think I let escape when the vendor pulled the book off one of the displays when I queried (for the 20th time) if she had any snow leopard books. This is a fiction book, but with a picture book format. Yes, there is a bit of text, but I've seen some picture books with way more words, and I think this one could easily fit on the picture book shelves. But maybe because it's size is so much larger than the other fiction books on the same shelf, it will stand out and hopefully be checked out more often. (Yes, I did already place it on my order for my library branch.) Of course, I'll also be displaying this book every chance I get, so hopefully it will circulate a lot and at least the local children will be exposed to the snow leopard...

This book shares a more mythical story than presents actual facts about snow leopards. In this allegory, the snow leopard sings a song of protection for her valley in the Himalayan Mountains to hide and secret the people and animals. A sleeping child hears her music and sleeps in peace. But all grow old in time, and the snow leopard changes her song, and the valley is invaded by soldiers looking for gold and slaves. She chases them out by sending nightmares until the soldiers think they are being haunted by demons, and run from the valley. When the sleeping child wakes, the snow leopard teaches her about the lark and the swift, the fox, hare, bharal and all the animals who share the valley, as well as her spirit songs of the earth and of protection. And so the old snow leopard leaps to the stars, and the new snow leopard begins her own song.

In my last snow leopard blog I vowed to help educate, and while I'm not writing my own book, at least I can share this one and still feel like I'm contributing. :)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Baker and Taylor, and Band

It has been one busy week for me! I had a 6 day work week instead of 4 like everyone else (nope, I didn't get Nevada Day off) because I went to a conference for school librarians. AASL (American Association of School Librarians) is a nation wide assoc, and this conference was much like the public library conferences I've attended. There were great sessions on the new children's literature that's out (and coming out), a chance to meet a variety of authors, and program ideas. Plus, there are the vendors from all domains- publishing companies supporting their new children's book series or types of binding, new databases to order materials through, and even library furniture. I had a field day in there! Or rather, field weekend- I must have wheedled over $100 in brand new books, posters, stuffed animals and all other manner of handouts, and even a display of a character from a book that was translated from French, named Nicholas. He's about 4 feet tall, and hanging out in the boys' playroom until I decided if I want to take him to the library. I think they boys will think he's pretty cool, since he's taller than they are! I came home with 5 bags splitting at the seams with goodies. It's going to take me all week to get that stuff to my library- hopefully I can add some of those books! And I did get to take a picture with the famous Baker & Taylor cats, a local duo who used to live in the Douglas County Library a few decades ago who managed to get a major book vendor named after them.

Their eyes are a little creepy...

After I got home from the conference, I ate a quick dinner and headed out to Carson City High School where Kevin's band (Galena High School) was competing today, both in a parade this morning and field show at 7:30 this evening. The boys even got to ride on the cart in the parade this morning! I've only gotten to see the band perform a few times, and tonight they looked great- I noticed a lot of little changes and details (horn flash, high stepping) to make them look sharp and clean. It was fun to hang out with the kids until they went on, and my boys loved all the attention they got from the high-schoolers. Here they are, goofing off with one of the props:

Such sillies! :)

Also in the news yesterday, the moon last night and tonight is the closest it gets to Earth, about 30,000 miles closer than it's furthest full moon. The Halloween Moon, it is named, both for it's abnormally large size and for the bright orange color at its rising which fades to a yellow, and then to white as the night wears on. I snapped 5 or 6 photos of it- couldn't stop staring at it, but this is the best one, even if it's not as orange as when it first crested the mountain top.

And this other one I took first, but it isn't as clear because I zoomed in too far- but you can see what a brilliant orange it was. Pretty eerie with the clouds passing in front of it...