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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Most of this post was written at the end of March. Why did I never release? Who knows.

On January 7th, I started a weight loss competition at work. The goal was for your team of 3 to each lose 10 lbs in 10 weeks. I was close to my highest weight ever (245) and my body fat percentage was depressing (25%). I really wanted a change.

I had not biked much in the second half of 2012 after being hit by a car and I put in a fair amount of time studying and writing a dissertation for my FSA. At the end of Seussical, one of TLC's friends asked if I was using a fake belly on stage...I was not. Ouch.

I set a goal on January 7th to hit 200 by July 4th. Go big or go home, right?

It was quite clear early on in the competition that I was doing well, but someone else was doing much, much better. Over those ten weeks, I had a singular focus: be the biggest loser.

Here's what I did:

Week One: I started counting calories with MyFitnessPal and started biking to work again. I was too heavy for my summer road bike so I toughed it out on my heavier winter bike.

Week Two: I purchased a BodyMedia Fit. I knew how many calories I was taking in, but I had no idea how many calories I was expending on an average day or by biking. Cliché, but this little device has changed my life.

Week Three: The BodyMedia data quickly told me that I was only burning about 400-500 calories during my bike commute instead of the 750 that I expected. Even worse, my metabolic equivalents (METs) were never high enough on the bike to qualify for vigorous activity. I'd only get METs around 4.5, or 7.5 calories per minute. So I thought I'd go jogging a few times to see how vigorous that was. Turns out that my METs were about 9.0; I burn 15 calories per minute of light jogging. I've never been a runner, but I decided right then that it was time to start.

Week Four: I start to incorporate weight training. I've enjoyed weights since high school, but I never had a very good program. I downloaded JeFit on my phone and started following the beginners routine. I noticed HUGE gains in just a few weeks so I switched over to the intermediate program.

Week Five: By this time I was actively following a couch to 10k program. Over 25 sessions (2-3 per week) I gradually went from being exhausted running five 3-minute intervals (split by 3-minute walks) to easily running for an hour straight. Around week 5 I decided to sign up for a half-marathon in June.

Week Six: I purchased "Zombies, Run". That's probably the best $4 purchase of my life. It's a running game app with an extremely well-written story. You are Runner 5, gathering supplies, outrunning zombies, and saving humanity all while going for a jog around town. The best part is the Zombie Chase - two or three times per episode you need to increase your pace 20% over 45-60 seconds to outrun a zombie horde. So you get the added benefit of HIIT! Nothing has ever inspired me so much to be active.

Weeks Seven, Eight, Nine: I keep going. I'm now light enough for my summer bike again (yeah!) and I'm consistently about 3-5 pounds behind the biggest loser in the competition.

Week Ten: I stop lifting to minimize the muscle mass gains, fast most of the weekend, and give up water the day before the weigh-in. Closest I'll ever feel to a wrestler.

Final weigh-in: I was down 29.5 lbs. The other guy? 28.5.


I got a $50 REI gift card for my victory.

Update: July 4th has come and gone and I managed to get down to 197.5 lbs with a body fat of 14%. BOOM! I have a marathon on September 28th and still use all of the apps mentioned (though less religiously).

Monday, August 19, 2013


Is it a May Day or a Mayday?

Jordan came to us on the morning of May 1st, saying that he couldn't bend his wrist back. I looked at it and it was so huge I knew something was wrong. I hoped that it was just broken. When I asked him how it happened, (he thought it was from playing wall-ball) and how long it had been like this he said, "about three months." I thought for sure he must be exaggerating the time in his memory. It must have seemed longer than it actually was. As I was driving him to the doctor, I had a cloudy recollection of him telling me about his hand and me examining it. "Jordan did you tell me about your hand earlier?" I asked.  "Um... I may have told you that my hand felt weak." he answered. "Well that explains it." I thought "I examined it three months ago and thought it was sprained, and told him to tell me about it if it got worse or didn't get better." But he didn't mention it again. I also remember noticing one day that his hand looked awfully strange, when he was reaching up and his long sleeve slipped back (he always wears long sleeve shirts so I never noticed his wrist getting bigger). I tried to make a mental note to talk to Peter about it and take Jordan to a doctor, but that note slipped my mind. That's when I knew he wasn't exaggerating the time. It really had been about three months.

After our first doctor visit and x-ray we were told, "I don't know what's wrong". They gave us a fancy sling to immobilize it, and sent us to see the orthopedic doctor the next day. The Orthopedic doctor gave us the same exact answer, " I don't know." and added "He needs an MRI." It was frustrating to get no answers. Not even a guess as to why his hand looked so...wrong.

The MRI was scheduled as soon as possible. It was the first MRI that I had experienced. They warned me it would be loud. I even watched YouTube videos to help us prepare for it so Jordan wouldn't be scared. Even then, I had no idea it was going to be that loud! I felt really bad for Jordan, especially when they had a hard time putting in the IV, for the contrast image. I also worried that he would freak out, and not be able to hold still for the required hour and a half. That would mean a redo of the process at a much costlier style, by sedating him as well. But after they finally had the IV in and started the MRI I never saw him move a muscle. I couldn't even see him breathing. He was completely relaxed. It was a huge relief, and they said that he was one of their best patients ever. They gave him two chapter books to keep and read for being so good. He said he actually liked the noise, that it was like he was in space in a rocket.

The MRI results came back a week later with a preliminary diagnosis: "Extensive wrist swelling due to Inflammatory Arthropathy. They wanted us to get in to see a Pediatric Rheumatologist. The only problem with that was that the first available appointment was August 1st. Are there really THAT many kids with arthritis? least we had an answer.

So, until then I tried to call a few times and see if we could get an earlier appointment, and I looked up information on the internet to see if there were things I should and shouldn't be doing. But there was really nothing online about how to treat it. So we waited. And his hand got worse. It even started to curl his fingers in. He worried about it, that it would never go away and get back to normal. I wasn't worried though. Peter had given him a priesthood blessing before the MRI, and it was clear that everything would be fine, but that he would have "a period of healing, and that he should listen to his doctors".

So August 1st came and went, and now I can say we are two weeks into treatment. His Rheumatologist confirmed that he does have arthritis, in the wrist and in both of his knees. They took some tests to try and determine the specific type he has, and they put him on oral steroids. I'm happy to report that it has taken the swelling down almost completely, and he can move his wrist again.

All the rest of the side effects came with it too! Moodiness...He spent a whole day in tears with one break down after another. That was a trying day. And increased appetite... Jordan is EXTREMELY thin. So he needed to gain a little weight anyway, but WOW! Jordan went from being a very tiny eater who didn't like almost everything to a very BIG eater, and it is catching up to his face. His arms are still frail looking, but his face has really filled out!

Both of these side effects worried me when I heard about them. First of all Jordan is already a moody boy at times and he can be very dramatic about it. I don't need anything aggravating his moodiness for sure. And the increased appetite didn't sound really great to me either, because food planning and preparation is by far my least favorite duty as a mom, and the one I struggle with the most. But this side effect has actually been a blessing for me.

Because Jordan is so hungry all the time, he wants to make food ALL the time. So he has taken on a new interest in becoming "as great of a cook as Daddy!" He is anxious to cook and help me in the kitchen now. I have taught him how to make chicken, poached eggs, fried eggs, etc. and he eats them up and then goes to making it again and eating another helping. It's great practice for him, less work for me, and he is an eager learner. It is always so much more pleasant to teach a child when he wants to learn. Before all this happened I can promise you this would have been whiny work for him. I find it all very fulfilling to be doing this kind of teaching as a mother, and he is REALLY good at it. I could never make tender chicken and perfect eggs at his age, but he can now do those things, completely by himself, and it tastes superb! It makes me a proud mama. And, because he is eating better, and the swelling is going down, he seems to be able to handle the emotions with a more optimistic spirit. I feel very blessed. It is weird how getting a problem can actually make life easier for you and take away other problems.

I know they aren't all over though. There is no cure for arthritis, and unlike what I originally thought he probably won't out grow it. So, as far as I understand right now, he will most likely have to have treatments for the rest of his life. We are still so new at this, and don't know so much. But the plan right now is to knock down the inflammation with the oral steroids and then take him off the medication and just do injections into the effected joints. The benefits of the injections could last for up to a year and a half without the side effects of the oral medication.So he should be able to live without pain and swelling, as long as he remains in treatment. Without treatment the swelling would deteriorate his joints.

It's all high adventure, and I know that this is one adventure that Heavenly Father has planned for us, and we can enjoy where it will take us.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Yep, I'm this far behind. Thanksgiving 2012. As in last Thanksgiving...4 months ago. I debated not posting this, but our Thanksgiving may not ever turn out better, so I had to gloat a little. :)

Our old college pals, the Jakemans, came from Kennewick, WA to join us for Turkey Day this year. I was worried about all of our kids getting along and making such a huge feast, but everything turned out perfectly. So glad they could make it down here, especially because we found out that they may be moving to Reno soon. Dang it.

I still brined my turkey like usual, but I went for a different spice blend this year. I basically used citrus and provincial herbs and it was absolutely divine. The following day I made 3 gallons of stock out of the bird and we just barely finished using it last week - it made some of the best chili I've ever tasted. "Turkey - the bird that keeps on giving!"

Our sides were pretty typical: potato rolls, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin bread stuffing, cranberry-citrus-ginger sauce, etc. BUT THEY WERE ALL PERFECTLY MADE! Anyone who has cooked a full Thanksgiving meal can tell you that it's near impossible to have every side turn out just right and still be warm right at serving time. Truly miraculous. Oh, and isn't Cynthia's centerpiece cute?

And the pies, oh, the pies!!! Pumpkin pie, Chocolate Silk, Boysenberry, and Dutch Apple. I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie but I loved this one - and the leaves made it look spectacular. The chocolate silk pie was the first pie to go - I've tried making the same pie since, but none of them tasted as good as this one. Boysenberry pies are difficult to make - my Mom used to work at the birthplace of boysenberries (Knott's Berry Farm restaurant) making the pies regularly and still has troubles getting the filling to turn out consistently. Well, I bet you can guess how well mine turned out this year. And the Dutch Apple? Perfect combo of apple pie and apple crisp.


I've been putting this post off for a long time. So long, in fact, that I promised myself I wouldn't post anything else until wrapping up these stories. So, here goes.

Jordan and I were in a musical last November. Our church stake put on the production. It consumed 5 months of our family's life. You'd think that this would be easy to write about, but...there were a lot of negative aspects. Overall I think the experience was a net gain, but theater is inherently full of various emotions and ups & downs.

I had not been in a play for 17 years. Theater was something I really enjoyed and excelled in back in high school but I quickly gave it up when I realized that I couldn't make a living out of it. Jordan had done a few short musicals in school and had been bitten by the acting bug. So we decided that as long as I passed my final actuarial exam (which I did) we would both tryout for the play. Carter also wanted to participate, but I didn't think the long, late hours would be appropriate at his age.

We started with weekly music rehearsals in June, a full 3 months before the auditions. The idea was to get acquainted with the vast span of music in the production. We attended most of these sessions and I don't think I ever saw more than 7 people there. That's probably for the best because these early rehearsals were mostly wasted time. Reason: It's hard to teach music without sheet music.

Auditions were held in September. I actually wondered if the production would have to be cancelled because I didn't see any other men at the early rehearsals. Luckily, they came out of the woodwork (all 9 guys) for the auditions. I personally had the worst audition of my life. Every single element went horribly wrong. Worse yet, I've always excelled at callbacks where there's actual material to read/sing through, but there were no callbacks for adults. Definitely one of the most frustrating experiences of my life.

Jordan was cast as Thing 1, I was cast as the Mayor of Whoville. We were both very disappointed with the roles, but c'est la vie. I was actually quite glad that Jordan was cast in a role that didn't require memorization of lines and songs (in particular harmonies). I think he was just a bit shy of the maturity level required.

A week after auditions we started the 5 hours of rehearsals per week with the 50 cast members. For a production of this size there are usually 50 rehearsals. We had to do the show in 25 rehearsals. Yikes.

I tried to use the experience as a way of meeting as many people as possible throughout my stake. Unfortunately, Seussical is split into two distinct casts (The Whos / Jungle Animals) and I was in the wrong group from a social perspective. I was mostly seen as an outsider despite my best efforts. I still made a few good friends, it's just that the crowd wasn't quite as friendly as I'd hoped.

The long hours of rehearsals started taking a toll on Jordan. His teacher noticed a change in his school efforts, he became moody at rehearsals and moodier at home, etc. At that point, we were just praying for the end of the show.

With two weeks left before opening night in November, the show seemed destined for disaster. I purposely did not tell my coworkers that I was in a show because of how awful I thought it would be. However, everything came together perfectly. It really was quite a good show in the end. I did end up telling a few coworkers about it. One came and several of our neighbors also came to see the show.

I'm really glad I got to have this experience. I really have missed theater and with my exams finished, I wanted to get back into all the good things in life that I missed out on. I thought at one point that this would be a stepping stone into doing many shows (there are TONS of production companies in Portland), I think my time would be best spent in other areas.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Ted Geisel!

 Today is Dr. Seuss' birthday. How do I know? Well, I got home from the gym at 8am and found...

Cat-in-the-Hat striped snickerdoodles,  

balloons with drawings of Sneetches and the Cat in the Hat, 

 and the cutest Thing 1 that ever was reading Seuss books to his brothers.

Sometimes kids are amazing - this is one of those times! Neither TLC or I had any idea that they were planning this. What's amazing is how all the supplies were just sitting around. TLC made the (undecorated) snickerdoodles on a whim yesterday, the balloons are left over from the Blue and Gold Banquet last night, the costume was from Seussical, and everything else was just lying around the house. 

What a fun morning, and it's only 9am!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Uptown Billiards

Cynthia and I have a new favorite haunt. A co-worker recommended a place called Uptown Billiards Club and...well, we haven't gone anywhere else for dinner since. I'm sure that's an unsustainable trend, but this place is more than just a great dinner - it's an experience.

Looks nice, no? Kinda feels like a millionaire's bachelor pad. But the real reason to dine here is because of the gimmick.

Ever seen Iron Chef? The whole secret ingredient in each course idea? That's what they use for the five course meal at Uptown Billiards. And the chef knows what he's doing!

Here's the menu for the first time we went. The ingredient was one of my favorites, figs. (sadly, these pictures straight from their website are nowhere near as good as the food looked when we dined there)

Fig and Arugula Salad
This was a pretty standard salad, done well but nothing to write home about. I was a bit worried about the whole fig theme because TLC is not a fan of figs. After she tried this first fig, I think she was receptive. But the next course sold her completely... 

Sweet Potato Creme Brulee
This is the dish I'll tell my grandkids about someday. The creme brulee was perfectly executed and the fig on top added the perfect note. The plate also included a seared foie gras on wilted spinach and caramelized figs in a sherry gastrique. There are no words to describe the party in your mouth this dish created.

Prosciutto Wrapped Scallop
with a fig balsamic reduction and risotto. Did I mention that TLC loves scallops? Even after the life-changing second course, I think we were wondering if we should have just ordered a huge plate of these scallops. 

Roasted Lamb Rib
In case you were wondering if chili and fig go together, this course answers affirmatively. Lamb also happens to be my favorite animal protein.

Fig Layer Cake and Fig Pistachio Ice Cream
This looked SO much better at the restaurant. Not only can their chef whip up an incredible meal, he can act as a great pastry chef too! Just an amazing meal from start to finish.

And when the meal is done, you get an hour of pool time. Such a great place! I'm sure we'll be here MANY more times.

Christmas Card 2012

We never truly sent out all of the Christmas cards and newsletters that we intended. By the time mid-January rolled around, I figured it just wasn't worth the effort anymore. So if you didn't receive something, I'm very sorry...we'll try to be more prepared next year. In any case, here's the newsletter we sent for 2012.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Best of Year Album - 2012

I've got to admit that Windows 8 really saved my bucket this year. I like to organize all of the year's pictures into one folder (2012) with a subfolder for each month. Each month contains all pics taken during that month with a standard naming convention: "Label YYYY-MM-DD ##". We have nine different cameras and only recently moved to one central storage location so getting everything in its place can prove quite challenging. But Win8 was incredible for moving all 6,132 files around. Hands down, the best organization OS yet. Anyway, enough gushing.

So, below is the hand-picked collection of our best photos of 2012. Normally these annual albums are about 75 pics long. But 2012 was HUGE so there are 158 pics this year. I could probably eliminate up to ten from that tally, but anymore would be difficult. There are just too many stories from the past year.

Our definition of 'best' is admittedly vague; the album contains our best shots, stories we want to tell, events to remember, pictures that strike an emotional chord, etc. You are left to guess for what reason the pic is included! As far as I can tell each image is chronological so the album is like watching our year in fast forward.

Mosaic Madness

You know all those end-of-year things you have to do before you feel ready to tackle a new year? I'm finally getting through that list. I still have about 15 "Christmas" cards left to send out (now in danger of not even being New Year's cards), I have to organize our photos for 2012, settle the budget, etc. As tedious as that list can be, I always enjoy this next item: the creation of our family photo mosaic.

I've done this for five or six years now and four of those images are on the blog. I take all of the pictures from our family's history (now up to 29,913 images since 2002) and use them as a tile library for a photomosaic of our family photo. This particular image has 10,296 images, 1200 dpi, 5000 x 4000 pixels, and a 20% recolor. The final file is 19.8 megs!

Call me a family photo junkie, but I could spend hours zooming in and out of the image to see what it's made of. A few fun facts:

  1. The shape of TLC's nose is created by multiple images of rainbows. Her beauty is such that only rainbows and unicorns can compare. tee hee.
  2. Davis' vest is mostly made of photos that we've taken since moving to Oregon. I guess Oregon is greener than WI and UT. 
  3. We like knowing what our eyes are made of, so here's a list (one eye for each of us):
    • Dad - ducks at the WWII memorial
    • TLC - a car from a 1942 road trip
    • Jordan - a newborn Davis
    • Carter - Grand Canyon
    • Davis - Bryce Canyon

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Family Pics or Bust

Family pictures were an absolute bust this year. Note to self: if your photographer starts off the session by saying how badly she wants to go home...make a beeline for the door. Do not pass go, do not spend $200. alright...I didn't spend that much.

We usually get our annual pic taken at JCP or Sears because it's cheap, but I think next year I'll take out a second mortgage and go to a better photographer. Plus, the major reason we get a picture taken is to get Christmas cards which were about $2 per this year, so something's gotta change.

So! The shots of the boys didn't turn out too bad, but the family pictures did. In the end we had to agree on the lesser of two evils and voila...the annual family picture was done.

Halloween Roundup

I just found this post as a draft. A bit late to be sharing Halloween pics, but I've never been very punctual about these sorts of things, have I?

Jordan and Carter were Lego Knights, and li'l Davis was Wicket the Ewok. Given that Davis was Yoda last year, I think this makes me an official geek. Our friends round out the group as Superman, a princess, and Princess Leia. The boys gathered a combined 11 lbs 12 oz of loot, woot!

No costumes for Cyn and I...hopefully next year.

I love autumn! This is the view on our driveway every time we open the car door.

Jordan decided to make his own template this year and this is the result. He calls it a Zombie Pumpkin.

I convinced Carter and Cynthia to carve themed pumpkins with me and here are the results. Count Chocula was hands-down the most difficult pumpkin I've ever carved, but it also came out as the best result ever. Had to order a special carving knife set to make it work...I guess that's further evidence that I'm a geek.

This was our first Halloween in a house! We had 29 trick-or-treaters, a paltry sum, but that is more than  we've had visit our apartments in the last 6 years combined.

The New Rules

Three full months without a post. Three whole months.

My old mantra was to post every other week at a minimum, but times have changed...

  • Readership has drastically decreased on this blog. Facebook has completely taken over. I never expected many views so I thank you for reading in the first place. But it does decrease my motivation to come up with great posts if nobody's here to notice.
  • My career has taken off in 2012 decreasing my free time and possibly the therapeutic effect of blogging.
  • Q4 is my busiest time of the year at work and December is definitely the busiest month at home (and I know I'm not alone in that one).
Still, I have no desire to kill off my major form of journaling. I'm here on this blog to stay, or at least until Google destroys Blogspot. I made it past the Mayan apocalypse, I might as well continue forever now!

So, my new when you can...but only after you: Experience life, enjoy being with your boys and wife, make up for the eight years of studying by doing what I truly want to do, eat hearty servings of toast and marmalade, and live after the manner of happiness.