Saturday, December 24, 2011


This is my favorite chili recipe. I got it from a magazine many years ago when I was struggling to make a good chili. It's a big hit with any crowd and I've been getting requests for the recipe, so here it is!


3 lbs. ground beef
1 large onion
4 cans of beans (I use a variety)
2 cans tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes
3 cups water
1 TBSP chicken boullion
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
heaping tsp. fresh garlic

Brown meat and onion, rinse, and drain. Boil beans separately for about 5 minutes (to reduce the farts). Mix all ingredients together and simmer all day in a large crock pot on low; or, bring to a boil in a large pan on the stove and then reduce the heat to simmer for another hour.

Being an Idaho girl, we often have this chili over potatoes for a potato bar! SO yummy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Anniversary Adventures in the Snow

Today (Dec. 10th) marks Matt and I's 17th Anniversary! We managed to get a great price on our resort for a couple days, so we talked my mom into coming down to take care of the kids for us. As my dad discovered, it's more like being a taxi driver for the social butterfly. Anyway, Matt and I have been very excited all week. Matt even took some time to find out what there is to do at Bear Lake in the middle of winter. He texted me from work a couple days before we were to go with a loaded question: "We've been wanting for years to try snowmobiling. I found a rental place and they even rent equipment. Should we do it?"

Warnings of danger, thoughts of being stranded in a snow bank on a random mountain crossed my mind. We're not prepared for stuff like this and really don't know what all we should bring with us. Would someone be able to find us? Surely the rental place would send a rescue team when we don't return their snowmobile. How long does a rescue team look before they give up? My sister in law, Julie, had told me just a day before that if we ever had the chance to go snowmobiling we should do it. Her and Jay went once and had a great time. They're geeks like us, so surely we can survive, too. I text him back, "How much will it cost us?" His reply, "Snowmobile for two rental is $159." UGH. Matt and I like to try new things together and opportunities like this don't come often. I text him back, "Ok," despite my brain screaming at me, "What are you thinking?"

I can't be a scaredy cat forever. Although I have to admit this is the first opportunity snowmobiling has presented itself, so I decided to be excited about it. After all, Matt and I are good drivers so we'll be fine. Driving a snow machine can't be that hard....right?

Matt also finds a nearby hot spring and we decide that would be a great place to go after spending a day on the snowmobile. And, in case that's not enough, Matt also discovers that there was to be a total lunar eclipse this morning that we'd be able to see if we arise at our usual time. Considering I've never seen an eclipse, I was super excited about this one. Besides, it's FREE! It won't cost anything but a little gas money to find a good viewing spot. This will be nice after spending a boat load of money at the rental shop.

Oh, I can't forget my part. Julie had also told me to make sure we stop and get the famous raspberry shakes while we're in Bear Lake. While they were there, they tried a different flavor shake every day. I'm all about ice cream, so I agreed this would be a lot of fun!

Matt and I decided to go to lunch on our way out of town. It's been forever since we've eaten a Texas Roadhouse Grill, so that's where we headed. Upon arrival, we discovered they do not open until 4pm. What's up with that? So...we look around and decide to go to TGIFriday's for lunch. Our meal was delicious. We mentioned to our server that we're celebrating our Anniversary and she offered us free ice cream. Now remember, I'm all about ice cream. I said with a smile, "No thanks!" When she walked away, Matt felt my forehead to see if I was feeling okay. I explained to him that raspberry shakes will be much tastier upon arriving in Bear Lake! Luckily he understood and agreed with me; otherwise, I might have spent the weekend being psychologically tested!

When we got to Bear Lake, we discovered that it's somewhat of a ghost town in the winter. Nearly everything closes since it's tourist season is summer time. There are a few places open, one of which is a big pizza shop that also sells...raspberry shakes, among other flavors. We ordered one raspberry shake and one mango peach shake. Mango peach is my favorite flavor smoothie served at our local coffee shop. As it turns out, it's REALLY good in the form of ice cream mixed with fresh fruit chunks. Matt and I decided to share both flavors and were quite full. We even had half a shake left that we stuck in the freezer for later!

The next morning we slept in! Considering we usually get up at 5am to cook breakfast for the kids and get them off to school, sleeping past 8am with no one to interrupt our slumber is a big deal. The dog didn’t bark, the alarm didn’t go off, we slept peacefully. Ahhh. There’s nothing quite like feeling well rested. After having a bagel, we decided to get ready to go snowmobiling! It took us an entire hour to get ourselves ready to go. This felt like forever, but we wanted to make sure we had everything we might need. I told Matt, “If we get stranded, I will regret not bringing my Kindle with me for something to do while we wait to be rescued.” He laughed at me and decided to leave his Kindle at home. I would be wearing his coat with tons of pockets and he would be wearing his motorcycle coat. I don’t have a good outdoor coat, so I was so glad he had one for me to use. I filled all those pockets with amazing things: peanuts, almonds, pork jerky, toe warmers (the whole case), my Kindle, chapstick, and a couple Kleenex. I also had a Camelbak full of water for us to carry, which would provide plenty of water for the few hours we’d be out.

I think the rental place was called Fun Time Rentals and Kirk was great with answering all our questions so we felt informed and ready to go. Matt and I are very chatty people and it ended up taking an hour to get us processed and loaded to go. I told Kirk, “If we are not back by 5pm when you close, send a rescue team to come find us.” I was very serious about this. Despite the fact that we’d rented a machine specifically for staying on the groomed trails, reviewed all the rules as well as techniques for getting unstuck, I wanted him to know we were only planning to be gone a few hours. We let him know where we were headed, according to his recommendation, so that he’d know where to start looking.

With snow pants rented, balaclavas purchased, boots for Matt rented, our own gloves and helmets, we were finally loaded and ready to go. We had endured lessons on how to run the snowmobile and the rules of using it. Matt and I are not risk takers so there should be no problems.

Twenty minutes later we arrive on the other side of the mountain just over the summit where there is tons of snow! Matt said I could drive first. Woohoo! So we unloaded and away we went. I drove us through the meadow and to the hills and couldn’t find the groomed trail, so we turned around and went back to the parking lot to ask the people who had arrived just as we pulled out if they knew where the trail started. They’d never driven these trails before, so they had no idea, either. Huh.

Matt’s turn to drive. As I was sitting behind him, my eye began to itch. With goggles, a helmet, and my gloves tucked in, there was no way to scratch it. Then my nose began to run. I must be warm enough for my snot to be liquid rather than solid. Who knows how long that would last. I had to switch from my sunglasses to my goggles because the wind was whipping around Matt and blowing in my face. Funny, but I didn’t have this problem when I was driving. Ah, yes. That’s because there is a windshield. But I didn’t let any of this bother me because this is what we call FUN!

We follow some of the tracks back up the hills and figure maybe we’ll find a groomed trail. We reached the top of a hill and didn’t want to head up to the next peak since there were no other tracks to follow so we decided to turn around….in deep fresh powder. Please note we’re on one snowmobile that is NOT meant for fresh powder. In fact, one of the rules was to stay off the fresh powder. I’m all for following the rules, but if there’s no groomed trail, what the heck are you supposed to do? In trying to turn around, the skis on the snowmobile stayed straight even though we were turning the handles. So we leaned for all we were worth…and fell off. It took us about ten minutes to do as we had been taught to get the snowmobile unstuck and going. But we still couldn’t get it going the direction we needed to go and fell off again trying. We discovered that we could turn it a bit and apply a little pressure to the gas and it would pull itself out of being stuck.

Side note here: We’re high on the mountain top, the temperature is about 10 degrees (maybe) and every step we take off the snowmobile we sink at least two feet into fresh snow. There is much less oxygen up there and so after taking three steps, we are exhausted due to the fact that our muscles are not getting enough oxygen to go anywhere. Second side note: Up to this point, we’ve only been out in the snow for 30 minutes or less. SO…Matt is laying on his back exhausted, and I’m trying to get the snowmobile going the right direction. I once again applied the gas just a tiny bit to get it to pull forward when apparently we hit a slight downhill and instead of stopping when I let go of my one second application of gas, the snowmobile proceeded to sled down hill very slowly, gradually, gently…..without me.

I start running. Now remember, with every step I take, I sink two feet or so into the snow, so I’m running in slow motion with limbs flapping wildly in hopes of gaining momentum. Trying to gain momentum resulted in my upper body ready to move forward faster, while my legs are stuck going up and down frantically. So about every three steps I fall down, which isn’t very far, considering my legs are stuck two feet deep into the snow. Needless to say, the snowmobile was sledding down the hill faster than I could go to stop it. “Heavenly Father, HELP!” is my plea heavenward. I think the good Lord has an amazing sense of humor. Moments later, the snowmobile stops against a tree. I think the Lord figured it would be better for us to be stuck a mile and a half from the parking lot rather than several miles into the mountains. I collapsed, completely out of breath, my heart racing, practically pounding out of my chest. About five minutes later I continued down the hill to assess the damage, Matt close behind in descent.

Just going down the hill required another period of rest before we could decide on a plan. Then we brain stormed as to what action we should take to get the snowmobile unstuck…again. Our two previous times now seem easy and simple compared to this. The damage was minimal, thank goodness, considering we had opted to NOT pay the extra $25 for insurance. The deductible was $900, anyway, what could we possibly get ourselves into requiring more fixing than that? I am truly afraid to ask. The machine had hit the tree on the front bumper bar, just missing the ski, which means, we have to pull the snowmobile uphill about two feet in order to clear the tree and turn it around. The two of us could barely lift the rear of the snowmobile and move it a few inches to the side.

After several small movements, and several rests, we realized we were getting nowhere as we could not manage to pull it backwards up the hill. This realization took us about an hour and a half of agony. So I asked Matt, “At what point do we decide to give up and call for help? We don’t want to be so worn out that we can’t walk back to the car.” We decided we had reached that point and began to walk and take breaks. Matt checked his phone a couple times to see if he had cell reception; of course not.

We reached the top of the first hill and the thought crossed my mind, “Maybe it would be easier to roll down the hill than to walk it.” I conveyed this thought to Matt and he laughed and said, “You’re serious!” We put on our helmets and laid down to start rolling. After rolling about three times, I was so dizzy and had to stop. Rolling made Matt feel nauseous so he had stopped already, too. So much for that idea. About half an hour into our return trip back to the parking lot, we decided to sit down and take a break. Matt pulled out his cell phone and said, “I have a bar!” He pulled the phone up to him to make the call and said, “It’s gone.” So he put the phone back down, dialed and put it on speaker phone. After explaining the situation, the guy said they’d come get the snowmobile unstuck but they’d have to charge us “shop rates.” Our thoughts were, “I don’t care how much shop rates are, I’m not paying for a snowmobile, come and get it!” Yeah, shop rates are $90 an hour and he didn’t exactly say at what point he would start charging shop rates. heavy sigh

After enjoying some nuts, and pork jerky, we pull out the camelback to discover everything in the tube was frozen. It took a bit to bite the ice into bits and manage to suck some water through. Finally, we got some water. Luckily Matt and I had dressed warm enough for the occasion so that we were not icicles like the water in the camelback. After a nice rest, we continued our journey. It took us an hour and a half to go about a mile and a half and our rescue park arrived at the parking lot the same time we arrived. Matt and I were exhausted.

Luckily Kirk brought his friend, Brandon with him. Matt hopped on the back of one of their machines and the three of them headed back up the mountain to locate the stuck machine. My hip wasn’t feeling so great, so I volunteered to stay at the van. I pulled out my Kindle and read my scriptures for a few minutes and prayed that the Lord would help them get that heavy snowmobile out of there without too much problem. A few minutes later I could see the three headlights coming down the mountain. Hurray! So pathetic that I could see where we’d been stuck from the van. Talk about an expensive first time on the snowmobile; twenty minutes of fun and several hours of frustration.

Matt and I both agreed if we had to be stranded somewhere, we would prefer to be stranded with each other. We also decided we’d like to try again….later; maybe next year. And, if all else fails, we’ll rent a snowmobile to haul kids up the huge hill for sledding! We’re not as likely to get stuck that way.

Once we got back to the rental store, Kirk only charged us an hour for the rescue mission, and that was only because Matt insisted he charge us at least an hour. Even though the rescue part only took half an hour, the poor guy spent an hour loading and driving to get to us. He also had to pay Brandon for helping him with the rescue. With enthusiasm, we told Kirk we plan to see him again next year in hopes to have a more successful day in the snow, thanked him for his great customer service and headed back to the resort.

What a relief for all of that to be over. We decided to go take a soak in the hot tub and then have dinner once we’d had a chance to relax our sore muscles. The hot tub was already full of people when we got there. They asked us if we’d been snowmobiling today, Matt responded with the affirmative and explained that we’d spent the day stuck. One of the guys said, “We figured you might have been stuck somewhere ‘cause we didn’t see ya on our way out so we looked around to see if you needed help but couldn’t find ya.” Holy Cow. Talk about coincidence. The people in the hot tub were the same people we’d talked to at the beginning of our snow journey to see if they knew where the trail was. Crazy. So they told us some of their own stories of being stuck, getting out and having fun, and encouraged us to try again.

After t-bone steaks for dinner, (I found them on clearance, WOOT!) We headed back to the pizza place to buy shakes for dessert. The server suggested peanut butter oreo so we decided to try it out! YUM! And of course we had to get another raspberry shake because those are the best. Sharing the two flavors is fun! We spent probably an hour visiting with the owner, who showed us his ovens that are large enough to cook a three foot pizza weighing in at 15 lbs. WOW! Truly huge. Matt and I want to bring the kids to that pizza joint just to try out their “Old Ephraim” pizza. If you want to see pictures, you can find them on FB under “Old Ephraim Pizza” I think. Anyway, the owners are extremely nice people and it was a lot of fun learning about their three businesses. They’ve got a steak house next door, a gift shop with all homemade candies and preserves, and the pizza parlor. This is their idea of retirement.

As always, time flies and we had to return home to our beautiful children, recently broken washing machine, and crazy household. Back to reality. With amazing memories to hang on to and our love stronger than ever, Matt and I are ready to take on yet another year of marriage.

My parents Anniversary is this week and now they’re up in Bear Lake celebrating while I watch my handicapped sister for a few days to give them a break. I’m sure their adventures will be less exciting than mine, but I’m glad they get to experience the beauty of that area for their Anniversary.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Precious Moments

Today Elijah asked me to take him Black Friday shopping. He didn't really understand that I'd already endured six hours of shopping in the middle of the night. Despite telling him I'd already been shopping, he wanted to go. It didn't help that he had money burning a hole in his pocket. Besides that, I wanted to take Zack with me back to Kohl's to pick out a new dress shirt in whatever color he chooses.

After showers and getting turkey soup in the crock pot, we headed to Kohl's to do some Black Friday shopping. While shopping, we stopped to look at several things. On our way to another part of the store, Elijah commented, "Mom, do you have to stop every ten seconds to look at something and talk about it?" My response was, "Yes, you asked to go Black Friday shopping with me, this is how it works!"

Luckily there was no line once we were done. I'd spent at least 45 minutes in line from about 3-4am. On our way out of the store, Zack commented on the cute stuffed animals at the register. I said in a cutsie little voice, "Should we get you a story book and a matching stuffed animal?" Teasing my 14 year old didn't work, "Well, yeah, this dolphin is SO soft." Then Elijah chimes in, "I want the lion, it's cute!" So much for being a tease. They're being serious.

As we leave the store, I explained to the kids that all the money made from the sales of those story books and matching stuffed animals goes to charity. "What's charity?" Elijah asks. I tend to forget that he doesn't know everything yet. So I explained to him that charity means helping people in need, so the money from selling those probably goes directly to helping children who are in need of food, clothes, and toys. He seemed pleased with that answer and understood.

Minutes later we arrived at Walmart for him to shop in hopes to spend his money. Just as we approached the entrance, a guy was setting up his big bowl in preparation to ring his bell and take donations. Eli asked me what he was doing and I told him this man is collecting money for charity, to help people who need things for Christmas. Elijah took $2 out of his pocket and asked me if he could donate this money. I told him yes and he put the bills into the big bowl. The man seemed a bit surprised to see a child donating money. I about cried as I realized that my nine year old boy was donating his hard earned allowance to help someone he doesn't know. I was very touched and a bit teary eyed. That $2 represented about 10% of what he had in his pocket, also note he'd already paid 10% in tithing donations as well, so the money in his pocket represented nearly two months allowance. That boy never ceases to amaze me.

I was surprised to find there was anything left on the shelves after the chaos I experienced at 10pm in Walmart last night. Elijah found a great deal on a skateboard and a cool basketball and still had enough to pay for both! Zack found a cool t-shirt and a CD that he bought with his money. I know it might be annoying to a cashier to have several transactions for one family, but it's so good for my kids to learn to be responsible with their money, save it, spend it carefully, figure in how much tax will be, and truly appreciate their purchases. Most cashiers don't seem to mind!

After all is said and done, my mind still turns to the moment Elijah pulled out his own money to donate to the Salvation Army. I hope many other people will be as kind in sharing their blessings as my son was today. With Thanksgiving out of the way, it is officially the Christmas season. Charity is the pure love of Christ. Most of us have more than we need. Even if it is a sacrifice to help others, every little bit counts.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Norwegian Salad

This mom's recipe given to her by a friend when I was a child. We've eaten "Frog Eye Salad" every year for Thanksgiving since we got this recipe while living in Germany! It does take prep time a day in advance and even though it takes some time, it's well worth every minute!

Shopping list:
1 pkg. Acini de Pepe (tini tiny pasta)
2 cans pineapple crushed
2 cans pineapple chunks
2 cans mandarin oranges
1 bottle maraschino cherries
1 ctn. Cool Whip

Other ingredients:
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
3 quarts water
1 Tbsp oil
2 1/2 tsp salt (separated)
1 Tbsp. flour

In a large pot, put 3 quarts of water, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 Tbsp oil and bring it to a boil. Then add the box of Acini de Pepe and let it cook for 10-15 minutes. Then drain the water off of it without loosing all your noodles!

While that's cooking, open your cans of fruit, keeping only the pineapple juice. Measure 2 1/2 cups pineapple juice into a large saucepan. Add 1 Tbsp flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 eggs, to the pineapple juice and cook until thickened. Then add 1 tsp lemon juice when you take it off the heat! (Don't forget).

While this is cooking, cut the mandarin oranges in half or small pieces. Using gloves, cut the maraschino cherries into quarters. All the fruit can be combined into a bowl and put into the fridge.

Combine the noodles and the sauce together in a very large bowl. Put the lid on it and let it sit over night or for about 8 hours to marinate. The next day, combine the bowl of fruit, the container of Cool Whip into the bowl of noodles and stir well. Enjoy!

This recipe is much better than any other "Frog Eye Salad" I've ever had.

Whopper Pie!

This is the EASIEST pie ever! I made the whole thing in just a few short minutes. Here's the list of ingredients you will need:

2 graham cracker crusts (oreo is best)
1 container vanilla ice cream (I like vanilla bean)
1 container whipped cream
2 theatre size boxes of whoppers

Leave your whipped cream and your ice cream out to thaw for at least half an hour, maybe a little more. In a gallon size bag, crush all the whopppers into large chunks. In a large bowl, combine whipped cream, ice cream, and 3/4 of your crushed whoppers. Split into two graham cracker crusts and sprinkle the extra whoppers over both pies. Put the plastic from the pie tins over the pies to protect them and put them in the freezer to refreeze!

This recipe is so popular with my family that it's a yearly Thanksgiving tradition. Zack loves it so much that he asks for it instead of a birthday cake every summer!

I'd love to hear back if any of you decide to make this pie and what you think of it. I waited too long to shop for oreo crusts so this year we'll have graham cracker crusts. It'll still be delicious!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

McDonald's...or not.

I am not a McDonald's fan. Their food is gross, in my ever so humble opinion. I have all but boycotted McDonald's for the last several years. We try not to eat fast food very often, especially since I can make it at home with a much better quality and taste.

Don't get me wrong, I do like my fast food. I've been spoiled by Chick Fil A being close by. Getting real chicken in my nuggets is very nice. Soft, juicy, tender meat. Okay, enough of that, I'm now salivating. Oh, wait. Then there's my newest obsession: BombDigitty's. They sell beefalo burgers and custard and their fries are to die for. Seriously people, this food is truly delicious. I will confess the occasional In-N-Out splurge since they're three blocks from my house. So compared to these, McDonald's serves crappy food. I also disagree with their getting involved in politics.

HOWEVER...there is one thing at McDonald's that I do like....a LOT. It is the McRib sandwich. Matt imagines that in order to have enough processed, boneless ribs for this occasional McDonald's deal, there are employees somewhere stashing as many rib tips as possible and freezing them until there is enough to feed us all McRib sandwiches for a whopping month of the year. I'm not even sure they have it that often.

Anyway, the McRib is currently available for a short period of time. One day earlier this month, my seven year old called me from school saying he was feeling sick. I was in the middle of errands at Walmart (which has a McDonald's) when I had to leave to go get him. So on our way to the car, I told Josh that I was running errands and asked him if he could endure a short shopping trip if it included lunch at McDonald's first, or would he rather go home and go to bed. His response was something to the effect of, "Well, I do need to rest, but I think it would be appropriate to have lunch first." I thought so. Poor boy, I did not even give him a choice of what he could eat at McDonald's. I simply bought him a McRib sandwich. He raved about how good it was. The funniest part was when he said, "I think this is the first time I've ever been to McDonald's." Well, I probably took him when he was little to play in the play place, but he apparently doesn't remember that. And yes, it has actually been that many years since we've frequented McDonald's.

Several days later, I was out and about with Elijah. Joshua also happened to be with me that trip. It was lunch time and we were at Walmart. Hmmm, how 'bout a McRib? Once again, I took the boys into McDonald's at Walmart and ordered us each a McRib. The boys commented on how gross the fries are, but the McRib's are great! Elijah also commented, "I think this is the first time I've ever been to McDonald's." I kinda feel bad that they didn't even get to experience the regular restaurant, just the Walmart miniature. Ah, no way. I don't feel bad at all. On the way home Elijah said, "Even if I knew what a McDonald's hamburger tastes like, I'd still think In-N-Out burgers are better!" I laughed so hard. I thought that was pretty funny.

Last night Matt and I made a quick trip to Walmart for a couple things, including newspapers for my coupon collection. We were brainstorming ideas for what to make for dinner when an idea seized me and Matt didn't seem to mind. You guessed it. McRib's all around, please! We took McDonald's food home to the children for dinner, probably the first time ever. Matt texted the teenagers to set the table and the children were all in shock that we were having McDonald's for dinner. Everyone enjoyed their ribs, the kids asked me why I haven't tried making these myself, and as usual, Zack was not filled by just one. There's nothing like growing teenage boys with hollow legs.

So there you have it folks. While I despise McDonald's, this month I am helping keep them in business. My craving for McRibs has been satiated and until next time, I will again swear off McDonald's and go for the other, higher quality fast food options. Have you had your McRib today?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Childhood Memories

In two weeks my baby girl turns 16. I'm not sure when she grew up, but suddenly she's a young woman ready to date and drive. YIKES! So far having teenagers has been a lot of fun, hopefully that will continue.

Occasionally memories come to mind of when she was a little girl. When Sara was a toddler, we drove up to Idaho in January to celebrate my father's birthday. In the kitchen we sang "Happy Birthday" to my dad and decided to go upstairs to have dad open presents. We all went upstairs and had a good time while surprises were given. Then we looked around to discover that Sara was not with us. We realized, in fact, that she hadn't come upstairs at all.

So where could she be? Oh no. Ummm, yes. Mom and I took off running down the stairs with everyone else right behind us. We arrived in the kitchen to discover that Sara had been eating the cake...with her hands. We laughed, and took a couple pictures.

Memory Lane

Matt and I decided to do a morning date this morning to change things up a bit. Partially because we have nothing going on today and are able to do whatever we'd like, and partially because there's a storm on the horizon and we're not sure if we should be out and about tonight. So for lunch we went to Winger's. As usual, I had a Sticky Finger Dinner and Matt had All You Can Eat Wings with Original Sauce. YUM!

On the way home, we passed an empty garbage bin in the middle of our dirt road and I had a flash back. The wind is blowing right now at a steady 30+ miles per hour with crazy gusts. Many years ago we were having a seriously windy storm in Tooele. I was pregnant, though I don't recall which child I was carrying. I remember hearing something unusual and looking out the window to see a garbage bin blowing down the street. I ran outside, barefoot and pregnant, and ran down the road to stop the garbage bin. Picking it upright and dragging it back was a bit of a challenge considering we were going against the winds that were absolutely crazy.

Once I arrived back home, I discovered the garbage bin was not mine. *heavy sigh* I had rescued a neighbor's bin. Our typical plan for preventing this from happening again was to put a large rock on top of the bin to weigh it down a bit and keep the lid from flapping open, allowing physics to do it's work as the garbage bin falls over.

Today I was grateful it was not my garbage bin all the way down the dirt road, and I'm also grateful not to be pregnant. As this storm comes upon us, my garbage bins are against the house, protected from the south and western winds that whip around the side of the house and blow everything around.

Now to get the last handful of large things out of the garage so I can park the van inside. Never a dull moment!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap: Take 2

Earlier this year I decided to add one more thing to my routine of saving money. After reading a friends' blog, I made my own laundry soap. I originally made a small first batch and decided I liked it, then made a huge batch that has lasted us for at least six months! This week as the laundry continued to get a PhD (piled higher and deeper), I noticed that I was almost out of my homemade laundry soap.

A couple friends of mine wanted to know after several months what effect homemade soap has on my laundry. It has been great! I don't feel that the clothing has faded and I haven't had a problem with stains not coming out, unless they're heavy duty stains with permanent marker or something to that effect. We did notice that heavily stinky clothing needed a bit more soap to come out smelling nice, or a bit of vinegar, which I had been using regularly anyway before I started using my own homemade laundry soap. In the end, I use less vinegar in my laundry, and I save a ton of money by not buying commercially made soaps. I know what is in our laundry soap and I don't have to worry about artificial stuff. Just in case you're wondering, I do still use dryer sheets, and have recently learned that they can be used more than once!

The recipe I use is very easy. Here's the small formula:

1 bar soap grated (I use Fels Naptha)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1 cup oxi clean
Use 2 TBSP of laundry soap per load
This is a low foaming mixture and works fine in front loader machines!

The Oxi Clean really helps with keeping the stains under control. Some recipes don't call for it and admittedly, it is the expensive part of the homemade laundry soap, but with three boys in the house, it is well worth it to me. I wait to buy it 'til Costco has a coupon for it, usually $4 off a huge box of it, which is basically a year's supply for you laundry soap.

You can use any kind of bar soap EXCEPT ones that have added oils in them. This gives you the option of choosing the smell of your laundry soap. I used Dial in my first batch, but decided to try the Fels Naptha this time around because it is meant for removing stains (again three boys, plus the hubby equals lots of stains to remove). The Fels Naptha bars are huge, so I actually double that recipe and only use one bar of soap.

The easiest way to grate the soap is to put your small grater attachment on your food processor or Kitchen Aid and grate away! I do hope you have one of those. If not, borrow one. I would seriously hate to grate many bars by hand.

To make a larger batch, try to purchase your boxes of borax, oxi clean, and washing soda to equal the same weight. For example, 1 box of borax is close to the amount of 2 boxes of washing soda. Then if I'm using the Costco size Oxi Clean, I would use about half of that box. This would require 7-8 bars of Fels Naptha. So instead of measuring everything out by cup, layer your ingredients into a bucket or a couple of large bowls and mix it with a wooden spoon. This example fills two cereal size storage containers and lasts me 6-8 months with a family of six.

If you prefer liquid soap, this same recipe works to make liquid soap as well. Shake the google tree for homemade laundry soap, and follow the directions to melt your mixture down with hot water, which then forms a gel!

I have found the ingredients to be cheapest at Walmart. For example, a bar of Fels Naptha at Walmart is $1. I priced them at Smith's yesterday and they're $1.69. That .69 adds up when you're buying 8 bars at a time. Borax and Washing Soda were also approximately $1 more per box at Smith's than at Walmart. I'll have to check Winco to see if they're any cheaper there.

Oh, and in case your wondering, Washing Soda is a lot like Baking Soda, except that Washing Soda has a stronger PH balance, which works better as a cleaning agent. So keep your baking soda for cooking and buy Washing Soda for cleaning!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Adventures after Disneyland

If you’re driving all the way to CA, you can’t just go to Disneyland for three days and come home. Okay, you might be able to, but I can’t. There’s an ocean over there, not to mention awesome friends that have moved to CA that need to be visited once in awhile. So, after spending three days at Disneyland (we do have our priorities straight), we spent a day doing “nothing” which means we get to relax. We certainly do stuff but we’re not necessarily on a time schedule. For example, I napped for several hours, trying to recover from walking for three days straight so Matt and my younger boys went down to the pool for a couple hours. That was all they wanted to do that day.

Matt and I had decided we wanted to take the kids to dinner on the pier. Matt looked up the beach towns and found one that’s very public friendly and not the party crowds. Huntington Beach has a Ruby’s Diner out on the edge of the pier over the ocean! SO cool. I wanted to see the sunset over the ocean, so we combined the two. The kids came back from the pool and I had them change into their regular clothes and we all hopped into the van to head to the beach!

We got there and decided to let the kids play in the sand while we watched the sun set. Of course this turned into, “Can I get my feet wet in the ocean.” And then next thing I know, all three of my boys are soaked up to the top of their legs. What was I thinking? “Okay kids, change out of your bathing suits so we can go to the beach and swim in our jeans!” To make matters worse, I hadn’t brought any sand toys or towels. Obviously I’m not well practiced at planning an outing to the beach. In my defense Matt told the kids, “There are six brains among us. She does not have to be the only one to use her brain to realize we need bathing suits and towels.”

The sunset was absolutely pathetic. heavy sigh I was hoping that between the fog and the smog the sunset would be absolutely gorgeous. The fog was very thick out on the ocean, so as the sun went down, it got completely eaten by the fog with no color to light up the rest of the sky. Seriously? Well yes, after all, since I was not prepared to be on the beach, apparently mother nature hadn’t planned to entertain me. We finally got the kids out of the water and walked down the pier to the Diner with three of us dripping wet. I’m surprised they even let us in, but I guess they’ve seen this before. If not, then I’m the only one that has ever brought her family to the beach unprepared.

Anyway, the food was typical diner food, the service was great until we got our food. Then suddenly the place was packed and we didn’t see our server again for ages and had to hunt him down to get refills on drinks, fries, and the check. Ummm, no refills on the check please!

We had planned to spend Friday evening with friends but needed to check out of the resort by noon. We had a few hours to kill (or so we thought) and since the kids had such a good time at the beach we decided to go back. This time we put the kids in their bathing suits and brought towels. Hurray! This time I drove to the beach. We were at the stoplight waiting for a protected left green light when some pedestrians were crossing in front of us. I started hollering at the kids, “Look at that guy, he’s got a shark in a bucket! Look, right there! Do you see him? And that guy has two sharks in his bucket and he can hardly cross the street!” It was one of the oddest sights I’ve ever seen apparently they were fishermen (they had fishing poles, that was the dead give away) and they had already gutted the sharks. They had a look of embarrassed excitement on their faces as they could hardly get those sharks across the street. By the way, these sharks were the ones that have a saw for a nose that’s about four feet long. I seriously wish I would have gotten out of my car and taken a picture of those guys.

Okay, back to our visit to the beach. Elijah’s all excited to get in the ocean and asks, “Is it all chlorinated like the pool?” That’s a big deal at home because Zack and Sara have serious issues with the chlorine affecting their eyes. I thought it was a very funny comment. Matt and I noticed a farmer’s market going on in the parking lot and sent the kids to play in the sand for a few minutes. We bought amazing plums that were larger than your average apple and so juicy! I bought a dragon fruit to try for the first time, and we also bought a photo on canvas of a beautiful sunset on Huntington Beach. That was the sunset I wanted to see. But since I had been to the beach and seen the sunset, I felt like it was a good alternative to the pathetic sunset I saw. Matt and I chipped in our fun money to pay the lady the $45 she was charging and we were very excited to have bought a piece of artwork!

Back on the beach the boys were getting antsy to get into the water. For one hour the boys played in the ocean and battled the waves. Sara sat under and umbrella and read her novel. Matt played in the sand and I wandered between everyone making sure everyone was okay. It was about 65 degrees on the beach, which was wonderful unless you’d been in the ocean. Elijah commented that he wished it was in the middle of the summer and also said, “At the pool you get used to the temperature of the water, but here, you don’t get used to it,” as he stood on the beach sopping wet and shivering.

The time arrived in which we needed to dry off and head towards Bakersfield to a town called Lehiccup, no, Techoo, no, Tehechapi. UGH, I’m really not sure if that’s right. It’s up in the mountains outside of Bakersfield. Anyway, we were headed there to visit my High School friend, Kristin! I haven’t kept in touch with anyone from High School. The interesting thing is that we didn’t go to the same school, but we were in the same ward. So we spent as much time together at church and YW activities and occasionally got together for more fun when possible.

In planning our drive to Tehechapi, we did not take into account that there would be traffic. The GPS said it would take us 3 hours to get there, so that is what we had planned. We got stuck in rush hour traffic for not only L.A., but every other city between L.A., and Tehechapi, adding an hour to our trip. UGH. We’d just get through a major slowdown and get going the speed limit and Matt would say something about being excited that it’s clear sailing from here on out. I told him, “Shhh!” and then around the next corner we’d be at a stand still again. About the third time this happened, Matt said, “Nobody’s ever heard of a traffic jam in the Mojave Desert.” And then around the corner we were at a stand still again. Yes folks, that is because people LIVE in the Mojave Desert. That’s pretty crazy if you ask me.

We stayed the night with Kristin and Todd’s family and had such a good time. Her six kids range from 9 years old down to 2 years old, with a set of twins in there. My teenagers were a bit bored, but my younger boys had such a good time! After joking and laughing for hours, we finally got some sleep. We had delicious pumpkin muffins for breakfast, as well as eggs and sausage. YUM! Then after getting everyone dressed for the day, we packed up what little we’d brought in and left to visit more friends.

Next stop, the Granados family. Now some of you readers happen to know the Granados family! They haven’t changed a bit, except that Jory is 6’2” and the other three kids have grown like crazy as well. Rumor has it that’s what happens when you feed your kids healthy food. Timi has lost a bunch of weight to relieve complications from some serious health problems. She looks great! After visiting for about an hour, we decided to leave the kids at the house and we went on a double date to lunch at their favorite Mexican restaurant. Timi and I both had fajitas and their salsa was delicious! I could eat that stuff all day long. The guys had Mexican food, too. LOL! Oh, right. Matt got his usual favorite, Carne Asada Burrito smothered in Chili Verde. I don’t remember what Nash ate.

As part of our date, we went Walmart hopping. The day before when checking out of the resort, the battery died. A guy that worked at the resort had the nerve to tell me, “I guess you’ll have to call AAA road side assistance.” The thought that went through my head was, “You’re not in Utah anymore, Christy.” I begged the retired couple behind us to help with a jump start. Luckily I carry jumper cables with me. He didn’t even know where his battery was in the engine. Phfftt. To own a sports car. I may never know what that’s like. The van barely started that morning when leaving Kristin’s so we decided to buy a new battery. heavy sigh Well, the first Walmart we went to didn’t have many batteries on the shelf. We headed to another Walmart. This one did have the battery we needed! The cool thing about buying Walmart batteries and the habits our kids have of leaving a light on in the van is that the battery has a 3 year warranty. Without the receipt, the sticker on the battery shows that we bought it two years ago. Woohoo! All I had to pay for the new battery was the core charge fee of $10. I shouldn’t have had to pay that, but they couldn’t figure out how to delete the charge. I’m not complaining!

After finally getting the battery back home and into the van, we decided to take both family’s out for ice cream at DaddyO’s! This is one of those places where you fill your own cup, then dump how ever much topping on top you could possibly want. Then…you pay by weight. This was a particularly fun activity since Timi and I used to go out for ice cream when one of us was having a particularly bad day. Wow, I just used “particularly” twice in one sentence. Anyway, due to dairy issues, Timi and I both resorted to sorbet, but it was yummy and a good time was had by all.

It was time to hit the road and come home. The day before, Matt and I discussed the difficulty of driving all the way home after spending so much of the day visiting with friends. We decided it would be helpful to stop in Las Vegas for the night instead of driving straight through. Luckily the nice man on the other end of the phone found us a room after someone cancelled so that we’d have a place to stay. Hurray! Another resort! We love those places. This one has three pools and about a dozen buildings as part of the resort and they were booked solid. Crazy. The weather was unseasonably nice so we let the kids play in the pool before hitting the road again the next morning. We milked it for all it was worth and checked out right at noon.

Of course by then the kids were hungry. Feeling tapped out financially, we weighed our options and decided to eat at a Del Taco just up the road. I was so excited! We got six tacos, six bean burritos, and 4 little cheesecake tasters for $12. Wow! That’s the cheapest meal we’ve eaten out in ages. Each person ate a taco and a bean and cheese burrito. Then I started to have second thoughts about this decision of a cheap lunch stock full of beans. We would be in the car for probably seven hours; in close quarters with fully digested beans. To make matters worse, we hit UEA traffic driving through Utah! Then there was an accident in Spanish Fork and we crept along the highway for quite awhile until we passed it. Yes, those beans did come back to haunt us. Enough said. My travel tip to you, eat more tacos, not burritos if Del Taco is your meal of choice during a road trip.

After walking for three days straight and sleeping in beds that were not my own, doing laundry in tiny loads at the resort and trying to be frugal while having a good time, I was so very grateful to be home and sleep in my own bed again! That is until reality hit at 5am when the alarm went off. Time to cook for the kids and get Sara out the door to early morning seminary. So much fun.