Monday, January 26, 2015

Best of 2014 Photo Album

Every year, since 2006, we have gone back through the year's collection of photos to gather the absolute best into one album. Our definition of 'best' is admittedly vague; the album contains our best shots, stories we wanted to tell, events to remember, pictures that strike an emotional chord, etc (and you're left to guess for what reason the pic is included!). As far as I can tell each image is chronological so each album is like watching our year in fast forward. Want to see the other albums? Go here.

2014's edition is 163 photos, much longer than usual, but it's getting harder and harder to eliminate photos when we take so many at a time. For example, Cynthia took the kids sledding today and in less than 2 hours, she took 75 pictures! Multiply that by a year of great experiences and it is just too overwhelming for me to manage and trim effectively. So in my attempt to make my life a little bit easier, I'm providing this massive album of our best shots in 2014.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Carter's Baptism

Carter was baptized in February!!! I say this with great exclamation because I'm so proud of his choice. Sometimes we think of a child baptism as an automatic thing - that's not the case for Carter. We were worried about him for several years because he didn't seem to have the sensitivity to spiritual matters that his brother did. We took the approach of teaching him correct principles and letting him make his own choices. He really wanted to make this commitment himself without pressure from us - and that's what makes me so proud of him. It's been a privilege watching this smart boy grow in so many ways over the past few years. Congratulations, Carter!

Cub Scout Roundup

The scouting program year officially ends in three weeks, but I am already celebrating. I don't have to teach this month and the final pack meeting was a few weeks ago. Being a leader in Cub Scouts keeps me far busier than I care to admit. This is the first year that Jordan and Carter were both in Scouts and it's really difficult putting time into both of their goals and keeping track of a den of 8 boys all at the same time!!! Here are some of the year's highlights for our boys.

Jordan received his Arrow of Light in May! He now has 17 of the 20 activity badges in Webelos and he has a goal of getting all 20 by his birthday. By way of comparison, I think I earned 8 as a Webelos.

One of the most fun activity badges was "Outdoorsman". We built a fire pit in our back yard and cooked S'mores as part of the requirements. Cynthia really enjoyed this event and it was great early exposure for both Carter and Davis to the fun of scouting.

Jordan also earned his Webelos badge last Fall as well as the Cub Scout Religious Square Knot (which I hear is rare these days).

Carter started Cub Scouts in January and quickly earned his Bobcat badge. I feel a little bad that I haven't helped him complete his Wolf badge yet, but I guess I can't do everything.

Carter and Jordan also had a very successful Pinewood Derby. Carter earned 2nd place and Jordan had the 3rd fastest car overall, but was kicked out of the semi-finals as he was in the same heat as the eventual 1st and 2nd place winners. I polished the axles like normal but I also did the railriding technique this year. Very succesful. The 1st place winner didn't have BSA approved wheels so it's no wonder that he won every single race he had.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Finally, Before and After

The concept of  "Before and After" shots when losing weight is very strange to me. I have troubles defining when the "before" actually occurred and even more problems figuring out when the goal of "after" is actually complete.

My before picture is a definitive starting point, even in my mind. In May 2010, we took this photo at the Lan Su Chinese Gardens. I was at or near my largest weight of 250 lbs. When I put the photo on my computer, it was kind of shocking - like I never realized how big I had gotten over the years. This picture, in a negative way, became my motivation for everything that came afterward.

It's been exactly 4 years since that picture, and I still hesitate releasing an 'after' shot. I've hit so many goals but I still feel like there's more to be done. Sadly, I'm not sure that I'll ever have a healthy body image ever again. But as 185 lbs was the absolute lowest I could possibly fathom, it's time. I'm now at 182.5 (67.5 lbs down!), and I'm giving you my after picture. We went back to the Lan Su Gardens just to take this shot. This is the new me:

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best of Year Album - 2013

Every year, since 2006, we have gone back through the year's collection of photos to gather the absolute best into one album. Our definition of 'best' is admittedly vague; the album contains our best shots, stories we wanted to tell, events to remember, pictures that strike an emotional chord, etc (and you're left to guess for what reason the pic is included!). As far as I can tell each image is chronological so each album is like watching our year in fast forward. Want to see the other albums? Go here.

2013's edition is 100 photos from eleven different cameras. Yowza. Organizing each year of pics on my computer is a massive undertaking. For the entire year, we had 3,567 pictures or 17.3 gigs. One trend I noticed this year is that our best camera is quickly becoming our least utilized thanks to the convenience and relatively good quality of cell phone cameras.


More Amazing Graze

So, The Amazing Graze was much more difficult than expected. I would like to keep doing this, but I'm not sure if we'll be able to. It takes 2-3 hours to plan the meal, a few hours to procure exotic ingredients, and usually several hours to make the food. Not to mention that the food is usually quite expensive, how busy I was at work, traveling, holidays, etc. All in all, we only had meals for 5 of the 11 episodes. But each was really a great culinary experience.

Another season of The Amazing Race (all-stars!) starts in February. Here's to wishful thinking that I'll be able to continue the new tradition.

Episode 3 - "King Arthur Style"
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
1st Course: Caldo Verde Soup with Broa
2nd Course: Potato Arugula Salad with Sardines
3rd Course: Salt Cod with Onions and Potato Slices (Bacalhau a minhota)

Reactions: The Caldo Verde was excellent. Kind of like Olive Garden's famed Zuppa Toscano, but better. And the broa loaf (Portuguese cornbread) was also great. The arugula salad had an excellent vinaigrette, though most were turned off by the sardines. I've gotta say though; fresh sardines are downright tasty. The Salt Cod? Practically inedible due to its high salt content. Of course, it didn't help that I prepared it incorrectly...

Episode 8 - "One Hot Camel"
Location - United Arab Emirates
Course 1: Flat bread with Hummus and Baba Ghanoush
Course 2: Lamb Kebabs and Falafel with Saffron Jasmine Rice
Course 3 (dessert): Basboosa and Pomegranate Peppermint Tea

Reactions: This was, hands down, my favorite week and what I was most excited to prepare as I love Mid-Eastern cuisine above any other. I catered out the first course to a Lebanese restaurant nearby. I made the kebabs in a rosemary greek yogurt marinade that was heavenly. My falafel was spicy but well-flavored. The peppermint tea was the perfect way to end the meal and relax while watching an episode. The only flaw in the night was the basboosa which...well...sucked as a dessert. It's basically cream of wheat with rose flavor. Those daring enough to try it only had a bite or two before pushing it aside. I should have stuck to basic puff pastries, but I did want to branch out. Oh well.

Episode 12 - "Amazing Crazy Race"
Location 1 - Tokyo, Japan
Location 2 - Juneau, Alaska
Course 1: Red Miso Soup
Course 2: Green Machine Spring Rolls
Course 3: Alaskan Salmon Sashimi
Course 4: Neopolitan Baked Alaska with Raspberry Sauce

Reactions: Is miso soup ever truly great? Well, it wasn't this time either. I catered out the spring rolls and sashimi to Bamboo Sushi, a wonderful sushi joint that Cynthia discovered. Their spring rolls with some tempura are probably the most wonderful bite I've ever placed in my mouth. Sadly, we didn't order them with tempura this time (who knows why). The sashimi was excellent, of course. Do you see how I tied in both Japan and Alaska to one dish??!! The Baked Alaska was pretty good, but mostly it was just fun to make. Each guest covered their ice cream serving with meringue so we had about a 15-minute intermission in the middle of the 2-hour episode. Each meringue pattern was unique and it was just fun to talk and watch each guest bring a bit of creativity to the menu. I also prepared a raspberry sauce for the dish, but I forgot to bring it out until almost everyone was done chowing down.

Christmas Newsletter 2013

Christmas preparations were really difficult this year...or was it just me? With Thanksgiving so late in the month of November this year, it just seemed like we had troubles getting everything done. But with lots of planning and dedication, we managed to get through everything just in time. Hooray!

I sent out 75% of our Christmas cards before the end of November. There was just no other way to fit in everything else. We ordered 120 cards this year and only have 7 left. In case you missed it, here's what we sent. Merry Christmas!

And here's the text from the back of the card:


10. DAVIS - You know how the "Terrible Twos" are. Ask Cynthia, she is now a Nursery leader.

9. DOCTORS - Cynthia tore her meniscus requiring physical therapy and Jordan was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis requiring...a lot.

8. VISITORS - Cynthia's brother, Darrin, brought his family to visit from Utah in August.

7. TRIPS TO UTAH - We all attended a family reunion in July. Peter also visited his brother, Daniel, who left for a two-year LDS mission in Milwaukee, WI.

6. SCHOOL - Cynthia continues art classes at a local college. Jordan (4th grade) and Carter (2nd grade) really enjoyed an after-school program this year focused on engineering. Cynthia still teaches Art Literacy to both boys' classes.

5. SOCCER - Jordan and Carter both continued playing soccer this Fall for Westside Warriors.

4. WORK - Peter switched to a Medicare role at work, received a promotion, and lost 40 lbs. in a 'Biggest Loser' contest.

3. SCOUTS - Jordan earned his Bear badge, won his troop's Pinewood Derby, and started Webelos. Peter also started as a Webelos leader this year.

2. CYCLING - Cynthia picked up cycling this year and biked with Peter in The Gourmet Century, a 70-mile ride for serious foodies.

1. RUNNING - Peter ran his first marathon (3:47:13). Cynthia ran various 5k and 10k races, and the boys joined us for a family 10k relay race!

Kids Say The Darndest Things, Part V

You may know the routine by now. We keep fun quotes from our kids in the sidebar of the blog. Whenever we reach 12 quotes, we remove the oldest 10 and place them in a post. To see the full collection of quotes, click here.

Jordan and Carter aren't saying as many ridiculous things anymore (why do they have to grow up?) but Davis has now made his first contribution to the sidebar! Let's hope the pace of weird quotes picks up soon.

Carter - "Hi, tough guy!" Daddy - "What makes me look tough?" Carter - "Because you're fat!"
This was before my 2013 weight loss. Though, truth be told, they still think I'm fat.

Jordan - "Can we go to that store that Grandma took us to? I think it's called...Mexico?" Daddy - "You mean Costco?" Jordan - "Yeah!"
Potato, potahto...whatever. Costco is truly Grandma's favorite store so I'm glad she could pass that on. :)

Daddy - "We are out of bread." Mommy (not hearing correctly) - "What do you mean we can't be friends!?"
This was at Silver Falls State Park when Terrisa and Craig visited us. I remember it well because it was the last time we saw Craig before he passed away. The whole trip was full of memorable events and quotes.

Daddy - "I bet that sled is named Rosebud." Carter - "I bet it's called RoseCarter!"
...Maybe I should actually show him classic movies before I make references like this? 

Jordan to Teacher - "My Daddy finished a big exam and won't know if he passed until July." Teacher - "What's you dad's job?" Jordan - "I think he's a....OH! I remember now...he's an employee!"
My kids are just as clueless about my work as everyone else. 

Daddy during the celebration dinner for passing the exam - "A belly this full makes me think 'job well done!' " Jordan - "A belly this full makes me think 'no breakfast tomorrow.' "
We ate at Cheesecake Factory every time I passed an actuarial exam and this quote comes from the last exam celebration. Huge portions, what can I say. Now that I'm done with exams, we haven't been back since.

Jordan - "And most people just think,'Oh, origami won't catch anyone's attention.'"
Jordan is very passionate about his hobbies. This line came after he was telling us about his plans to make an origami amusement park, a la LegoLand.

Carter - "I wasn't asleep. My eyes were just a little closed."

Jordan - "I'll be pooped out." Carter - " 'Poofed' is more appropriate."
Unfortunately, I can't remember any details of this conversation.

Carter's Motto: "You get what you get and you get more and if you don't get it you throw a fit."
Jordan learned the correct version of the mantra in kindergarten "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit". Carter tailored it to his needs. This is both funny and scary because it totally fits his personality.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Carol Puzzle Poem

I wrote the Christmas carol anagram puzzle below for the December issue of a newsletter at work. I figured actuaries are pretty good at puzzles so I threw in a few tricky items. It took 8 days to get a full solution from anyone and the solver had to enlist 3 helpers! See if you're smarter than an actuary! Feel free to comment your solutions. 

Puzzle Poem – Christmas Drudgery
by Peter Hedgecock

With my beloved I wander the mall, ‘The Noel Twist’ blasting through the PA,
To naively hold thy peace with holiday cheer and encourage overspending ways.

Lo, Christmas but a week away the finer lots of gifts and goods are gone,
Naught but a solar cart kit for Tommy and a princess tea set for Jane remain.

Yet here we peruse the shelves, shopping for our cherished senile Mom,
I sit in exhaustion, my chair stumbles, and I ask myself “Isn’t a card enough”?

The buying spree which mistreats my feet makes me vow to stand no more,
My beloved, on soapbox, berates my sissy way; mania, anger, pleas fill my ears.

What guilt! Legs betrayed the pledge; my able cohorts fell. The throngs await!

Poetry isn’t my forte, but I do love a good puzzle! Somewhere in each line of the poem is a group of two or three consecutive words that forms an anagram of a Holiday song (e.g., Hidden in ‘Starbucks reforms this mocha chai’ is an anagram of ‘Home for Christmas’).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Amazing Graze Begins!

So there I sat, pondering the mysteries of the universe when I said to myself, "Self, you and TLC love The Amazing Race. Moreover, dear self, you are both crazy foodies. Lastly, you're a world-class chef (at least in your own mind, old sport!) who hasn't had a culinary challenge in quite some time." Two things came out of this conversation. A realization that my inner voice sounds like Jay Gatsby and, more importantly, the birth of THE AMAZING GRAZE! least that's what I'm calling it here, I've never actually uttered those words...

I decided that every week as The Amazing Race moves from country to country, I would prepare an authentic three-course meal from the new destination to enjoy while watching the show. For FUN! And invite friends over! For FREE!!! But sometimes the contestants don't change countries between episodes, what then? How about making three desserts from that country instead! PERFECT!!!

Google and Wikipedia are my best friends while researching all of this. Wikipedia has been especially helpful in not only giving me dishes native to the country, but to the exact region of each country they visit! Google Chrome's auto-translate feature ensures that I always have authentic recipes in somewhat-easy-to-understand-broken-English.

We're only two episodes into the season so far, but I've already had a blast planning and preparing the events. Here's what we've had so far:

Episode 1 - "We're Not in Oklahoma No More"
Location: Iqique, Chile
1st Course: Vegetable-stuffed Quinoa Salad on a Bed of Greens
2nd Course: Tortillas de Mariscos (Seafood Omelettes) with bay shrimp and calamari (hoods and tentacles)
3rd Course: Lamb Stew

Reactions: The lamb stew was really good. The quinoa salad was the strongest flavored quinoa I've ever had...and not necessarily in a good way. Too salty for sure. The omelette was interesting because of the calamari. I've only ever had fried calamari rings before. This was both hoods and tentacles lightly sauteed. The tentacles were a bit too chewy for my taste, but TLC didn't have a problem with it.

Episode 2 - "Zip it, Bingo!"
Location: Santiago, Chile
1st Dessert: Alfajores (shortbread-esque cookies with 'Manjar' caramel)
2nd Dessert: Brazo de Reina (literally "Queen's Arm', a meringue-based cake flavored with coconut and cherry then filled with 'Manjar' caramel)
3rd Dessert: Mote con Huesillo (a sugary peach drink with cooked wheat berries)

Reactions: We learned that most Chilean desserts take an existing dessert from a different country and add Manjar caramel (a thicker version of dulce de leche). This was fun because we got to yell MANJAR!!! at least 50 times that night, but we were sick of MANJAR!!! by the end of the experience. The Alfajores were quite unique though: it's not quite shortbread because the cookie is cornstarch based. It was tasty like shortbread, but just a little dry. And that peach drink with wheat in it? Not nearly as terrible as it sounds. Though I still don't know why anyone ever thought to throw wheat berries in a sugary drink.

The Amazing Graze lives on! I'm extremely excited for next week which will be in Portugal. I've already planned the meal. Believe it or not, the hardest part of these events is getting friends over to watch TV and eat free food with us. (I know, right?) It seems like we've reached a point in our lives when all our friends are more concerned with bedtime than about shindigs. But regardless of the turnout, at least TLC and I will be grazing deliciousness every Monday night.