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’).