Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Babysitter

We have found the most incredible babysitter ever. She's a good kid, our boys love being with her, she's organized, does lots of activities, and her mother gave her a pricing cap so she's also the first affordable babysitter I've seen in Milwaukee! All this, and she's only 12 years old.

She's one of those babysitters that's so good, we feel like lazy parents whenever we come back from a date. One of my favorite parts of her service is the list of "what we did" that she leaves posted on the fridge (and this is after putting the boys to bed and cleaning up any messes). Here's last night's list:

Not only does she put the kids to bed, she put them to bed THREE TIMES last night! Amazing!

I love the emphasis on fake campfire, just to ease our minds. Here's what it looks like in case you're wondering.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


We're bad people. We postponed a trip to the temple so we could go to the Wisconsin State Fair. We hadn't been since 2006, and we weren't planning on going this year, but our friends talked us into it on Friday night. Am I glad we went? Sort of. It was fun for Cynthia and me, but the kids were whiny the entire time and ornery for the rest of the day and part of Sunday.

See what I mean? It also cost a small fortune to go and eat dangerous foods. There's little chance of us going next year. Not to mention that Milwaukee's mayor was attacked by a guy with a metal pipe after leaving the fair...but that's a different story.

Still, there were some highlights to share! (by the way, the above pic of Jordan was after looking at rabbits, geese, turkeys, ducks, pigs, hogs, horses, cows, sheep, llamas, and goats...he'd seen just one too many stinkin' animals)

Jordan finally lived his dream of being turned into a robot.

We've never gone to the fair in the morning before. I'm SO glad we did this year. We were there before 9 am, so we were able to enjoy the venues that always have long queues. One was the milk house. We've always wanted to go, but this was the first time we did. Huge glasses of flavored milk for 25 cents each. We got chocolate, cherry vanilla, banana, and root beer. The root beer is divine, but the banana wasn't half bad! We were all pretty full after those glasses of milk.

This year's new food-on-a-stick was chocolate-covered bacon. My sister and I have been making fun of that "food item" for a few weeks now, so I had no intention of trying it. Apparently, no one gave that memo to Cynthia. She bought it, tried it, and hated it.

Then Jordan tried it. He thought it was ok.

Then Carter tried it. He thought it was chocolaty. Therefore, it must be tasty.

Then I tried it. And I finished both pieces of bacon. It was really quite good. I've always said that bacon is the candy bar of meats - one of the few meats that can be acceptable as sweet or savory. I may be the only one who thinks so, but it worked. Bonus points for them using dark chocolate. Sorry to disappoint you, Charlie (that's my sis).

We also had fried PB&Js (delicious) and a fried Reuben on a stick (not so delicious), Palermos pizza (perfection), and maple cotton candy (fun).

Thank goodness there was something for the kids to do that didn't cost both arms. The Department of Natural Resources had a fun educational stamp collecting expedition. It was much quieter than the rest of the fair because it was 'boring' and 'just for kids'. All four of us had a good time there. The above virtual postcard was taken in the DNR building; the message is subliminal...hurry up and visit us, y'all! We'll make ya chocolaty bacon on a stick!

Recycle Me

A humble family of four sits down for dinner. During a lull in conversation, the littlest one gets up and grabs a water bottle from the fridge. He sits back at the table and takes a few swigs. Let's see what happens next...

Daddy: "Where did you guys get this water bottle?"

Mommy: (says nothing, shrugs her shoulders)

Jordan: "I think Carter found it in the road, washed it out and then filled it up with water."

Daddy: "...Is that what happened?"

Carter: "Well....umm....maybe?"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

When I Grow Up

When I was a kid, anytime I said what I wanted to be someone would say something like "you'll never be that so pick something else." So I listened to them and kept changing. Here's the flow throughout my life: astronaut, baseball player, computer programmer, actor, teacher, MBA (though I was never sure what industry), Oracle DBA, actuary.

The reason I mention this is because Jordan and Carter are both keenly interested in what they want to be. And I hope no one ever tells them what they can or can't be. We'll just encourage them as much as possible in whatever interests they have.

Carter has always been interested in cooking. Anytime we're making something 'real' - meaning it actually requires the stove or oven - Carter is there standing on his step stool begging to help. So it was no surprise when he told us "I want to be a chef!". Not a cook, not a foodie, not a sous-chef, he wants to be THE chef. We asked him what he wanted to cook and he said "fancy dinners". I can't wait until he starts cooking for us.

The Naked Chef displays his work

This morning, Jordan was drawing a new book. He said to us "After I decide to stop being a farmer, I want to be an Arthur!" He means an author. A few hours later, he gave us his new book "The Monster Goes to the Moon", shown below.

It's best viewed in fullscreen.
The Monster Goes to the Moon

Wow. This book is amazing! I'm not sure which part I found most impressive: the front cover and back cover have details of the moon, the monster is cute and drawn the same throughout the book, the thought bubbles of the moon, or the bubbling around the dream sequence. We'll have to work on grammar and story development a bit, but I was darn impressed with this book.

Keep it up, boys.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

National Fondue Month!*

In a nation where every cause has its own month and every hobby has its own day, it really shouldn't come as a surprise that the sacred art of all things melty, fondue, has two national days: National Cheese Fondue Day (April 11) and National Chocolate Fondue Day (February 5).

However, two days out of the year just doesn't cut it, in my humble opinion. Fondue deserves an entire month. I hereby decree August to forever be known as National Fondue Month! I may not have the authority of congress to ratify such a statement, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so what I say goes.

Cyn and I recently picked up a cheapo fondue cookbook on a whim while at our local Pick 'n Save. We usually have fondue about 6 times a year, enough to warrant owning a Cuisinart electric fondue set and have our favorite recipes down by heart. But that's the problem with our fondue nights - we use the same three recipes over and over again. The intent of the new cookbook was to add a little variety to our pot and get the creative juices flowing a bit.

In order to use such a stunning array of recipes in a short time-span, we decided to have a fondue night every weekend in August. We even had an intro week in July and we'll probably have an outro week in September. Not only do we have a higher chance of getting friends to come over in August (you've gotta share fondue), but it's also the month of our seventh anniversary! Plenty to celebrate!

So, please join us in celebrating National Fondue month.

We're trying out meat, cheese, and dessert fondues, along with lots of sauces, but here's a glimpse at the cheese fondues we've had so far and where we're going next:

Brie with caramelized red onions fondue (in a white grape juice base). This is the recipe that preceded our trip to the ER. But man, was it delicious. Brie was an excellent cheese for fondue; it blended well, mellow to the taste with a biting aftertaste, and the thyme paired delightfully.

This cheese and bacon recipe also had onions and mushrooms in Monterey Jack (milk base). This recipe was very close to our typical recipe of bacon and green onions in white Cheddar and Mozzarella with a white Cheddar soup base. Both are excellent. You just can't go wrong with thick-sliced apple wood smoked bacon.

The Monterey Jack wasn't an ideal cheese for fondue - it never fully blended with the base - but it was uniquely fun. It was more like pulling fresh hot curds out of the pot and trying to swallow them whole. An oddly pleasant mouth feel.

Here is this weekend's future fondue: Israeli fondue. Edam cheese with avocados and crème fraîche. A Californian's dream fondue; I'm so excited! I've got the Edam in the fridge and the crème fraîche cultures setting as we speak. Now we just need to find a couple willing to try something new... most of our normal invitees are out of town or previously engaged.

Like I said, we are experimenting with the full gamut of fondues - not just cheese. The dessert varieties have kind of flopped on us though, because we already have the perfect chocolate fondue recipe. It's actually more of a ganache and doesn't require a fondue pot to make or serve it. I'm not sure we'll ever top it. I'm including the recipe below so you can all do your patriotic duty by celebrating National Fondue Month with us.

This (simplified) recipe comes from the bible of sweets baking, "The Secrets of Baking" (which every kitchen should have) by the impeccable Sherry Yard.

Fudge Fondue

1. Chop 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (about 60% cacao) and place in heatproof bowl appropriate for fondue use. (Baker's brand semisweet works really well)
2. Bring 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk and 1/2 cup whole milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over chopped chocolate.
3. Let sit for one minute to melt chocolate, and stir slowly to blend.
4. When fondue reaches 98 degrees (eating temperature) add 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped orange zest. Stir to incorporate.
5. Enjoy with small pieces of apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, marshmallows, angel food cake, and any other delectable thing you have on hand.

Edit: Despite what the by-line says, this was written by Bushchicken. I've really got to stop doing this.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Three is a lonely number

On Wednesday, July 22nd, I drove Cynthia up to the Dells for Girls' Camp. Cynthia was staying until Saturday afternoon which gave me plenty of time to play with the boys. The drive was a little longer than anticipated - I finally got home at 1 am.

Waking up the next morning was pretty rough. Jordan and Carter were able to get sufficient sleep on the drive, so they were up at the crack of dawn trying to wake me up. Jordan's persistence paid off, and I groggily ripped myself from the inviting sheets. For the rest of the day, everything felt too bright for my tired eyes.

We went fishing at Mill Pond and didn't catch a thing...again. We have a really bad habit of doing that. Maybe we need some private lessons or something.

Then we went swimming at North Junior high. It's a much nicer pool than I anticipated, but since we were confined to the shallow end, we mostly just played water basketball for the better part of two hours. I had to take a nap after all the swimming, but that was also short-lived as Jordan woke me up AGAIN! So we finished the rest of the night by watching manly SpongeBob and Bob the Builder.

On Friday, we caught the pizza tour at Palermo's. That was lots of fun - I recommend it. For $5, we got an hour tour of the factory, a slice of their delicious fresh pizza for all three of us and a ball of dough so we could make more pizza! We're all pizza-ed out, but it was lots of fun. They also gave us a little kitchen ruler with notches for pulling out oven racks; Carter has been happily manning the oven ever since.

As much fun as it was to spend some alone time with the boys, we all really, really missed Cynthia. I had to explain to Carter umpteen times what day and time Mommy was coming home. On Saturday morning, we had a ward member leave a message on our answering machine while the three of us were at the store. The message was basically asking what time the campers would come back. Carter heard it and knew it was about camp and therefore, about his Mommy. He got visibly angry, threw his hand up in the air and shouted "that bad lady has Mommy and won't give her back!!!" Sorry Jill, you're on Carter's naughty list.

We happily welcomed Cyn home with a bouquet of purple flowers, a clean house, and a day's worth of completed laundry.