Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Menu ~ Baked French Toast

Put on your imaginations, because this will have no picture with it. You are going to have to imagine it in all its glory, then make it yourself to see what it looks like!

This is a great breakfast that you make the night before. It's a fabulous cinnamon/raisin baked french toast with a layer of caramelized apples. We like to have this on Christmas Eve (it's less than 6 months away!!) and on birthdays when we want to have a special breakfast but I don't want to work in the kitchen. This would also make a great "breakfast for dinner" meal, with some bacon and a big fruit salad. YUM!

Cinnamon-Raisin Overnight French Toast

Apple Filling:
2 TBSP butter
5 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 TBSP apple juice

French Toast:
1 loaf (16 oz.) sliced cinnamon-raisin bread
3 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
10 large eggs
1 TBSP butter
2 TBSP sugar

In a 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add apples and sugar, and cook for 20 minutes or until apples are deep golden, stirring occasionally. Stir in apple juice; cook 1 minute longer.

Grease a 13x9 glass baking dish. Arrange half of the bread slices, overlapping slightly, in dish.

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, salt, cinnamon and eggs until well blended. Pour half of the egg mixture over bread in casserole. Reserve 1/4 of apple filling. Cover and refrigerate to spoon onto casserole after baking. Evenly spread remaining apple filling over bread layer. Arrange remaining bread slices over apple filling. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread, gently pressing bread down with a spoon so it absorbs maximum amount of egg mixture. Dot top evenly with butter. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover dish and refrigerate overnight.

To bake, preheat oven to 325. Uncover casserole and bake 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Reheat reserved apple filling and spoon on top of french toast to serve. Makes 10-12 main dish servings.

This would also be great with a peach filling, blackberry filling, blueberry, mixed berry...whatever! If you are serving it for dinner, just make it in the morning and let it set in the refrigerator during the day. That soaking in of the egg mixture makes it oh-so-goo!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Summer....

*WARNING!! This post contains too many pictures!! View at your own risk...*

It's finally starting to sink in that it is summer! Without further ado, I give you three looks of summer:

Today we abandoned all "to-do" lists and went to take advantage of some low tides. We packed up our lunch and headed out to Tolmie and had quite the fun time checking everything out. As per the usual, Beth immediately began collecting. Brenna began sorting. And Alex began experimenting. Beth's collection began as sand dollars and ended as crabs. Brenna stuck to sand dollars. And Alex experimented with sending his flip-flops down the stream to see which current carried it farthest. And how cheating by throwing one downstream would effect the outcome. And then he switched to testing the pinching of crabs. Always using his brain, that one.

This scene cracked me up. The way Brenna was dancing around on this squishy bed of seaweed reminded me so much of the scene from "I Love Lucy" where Lucy and Ethel are stomping the grapes.

Brenna called this her "bank". Get it??

We missed Brad being there so much today. He is so good at all this stuff. I'm a poor substitute, especially when the kids start wanting to know any details of what we are looking at, what mountain we see, if sand dollars can live upside down...oh, the details.

Another look of summer is brought to us by Archie. This dog loves to eat the apples that randomly fall off our apple tree. He will sit under it and stare and wait for one to fall, then pounce on it before someone beats him to it. If the kids climb up the tree, he rushes over to sit under it again, as he's learned that their climbing often produced falling apples. We joke that it's his "manna from heaven" falling from the sky.

And, yeah, we are pretty sure he'll eat those leaves, too. He's not picky.

And our final look of summer is brought to us by Beth and her frogs. We are back up to 3 frogs! What better thing to do on a lazy summer day but fill the tub and let the frogs go for a swim? This picture is a great illustration of how Beth just cracks us up...she used her giant rubber frog as an "island" for the frogs to float on in the tub.

Brenna came up with a very witty observation...she thought this looked like the yet unnamed frog was doing CPR on the rubber frog. It looks like the ducks could use a little, too.

So, summer continues to call...onto eating hot dogs and then heading to a soccer game!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day Recap

I'd rather write about Father's Day and our other weekend wackiness than post a recipe today, so instead of Monday Menu, we'll have a smorgasbord of events:

We had a very fun-filled, food-filled Father's Day, celebrating one of the greats. Brad makes it very easy to celebrate him, because he truly is such a great dad. Our kids are so blessed to have him. They love him endlessly now, and I think they will only appreciate him more and more the older they get. He loves well. Every child should have it so good.

So...after church, we stopped and got some coffee, then headed out to Lattin's Cider Mill for some apple fritters hot out of the fryer. These fritters are so good. They make grocery store fritters look like shoe leather. And Brad is a huge apple fritter fan, so he was a happy man.

After we stuffed ourselves with that, the girls and I made him his requested cake: peanut butter/chocolate. Oh, my. I do believe it turned out the best I've ever made it. I've gone back to scratch cakes, and I'm so sorry I ever relied on a box to save a couple minutes! This cake is divine. Dense. Moist. Mmm.

We spent the afternoon at the air show, watching planes spin down like they were going to crash and then soar back up. Spinning themselves. Tipping themselves. I won't even try to make this sound exciting and fun, because frankly I just don't get it. That is too close to how the show "Lost" all began, and I don't get that either. But Brad loved it, and that's all that counts on this day. The kids were pretty into it, also. So if 4 out of 5 is good enough reviews for toothpaste, I guess it's good enough for a Father's Day air show.

Then we came home to make Brad's requested dinner. He made it so easy on me, bless him. He wanted grilled hamburgers. I must admit, I make a great burger. And last night was no exception. They were yummy in every way. Loaded with grilled red onion, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, cheddar jack cheese, bbq sauce...

Finally, after dinner and some Mexican Train, we dug into that cake. Ironically, a few posts ago I wrote about Alex reaching his satiation point at Disneyland. Well, it happened again last night! Now, in his defense, he is sick with a cold and felt really crummy yesterday. But here's what he left "for another time":

I know, even Alex couldn't believe himself. Oh, the shame. But, never to fear! About 20 minutes later he went into the kitchen and finished off his piece of cake. So, I guess when you are 14, "save it for later" really means just a pause.

When the youngest 2 were off to bed, the oldest 3 watched a bit more of "24". Gasp!! Tony needs his mama to have a good talk with him. I'm very disappointed with what is apparently happening, but then you never know with this show. We have several more hours of this day to watch.

The rest of the fun stuff really does deserve it's own space, so I'll quit this and come back another time. As it is, I have been writing this for 2 hours. I keep getting delightfully interrupted by the cutest little girls needing to try on cheerleading uniforms. What an adorable group of girls I am getting to work with this year! THAT'S for another time, too!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Flashback Friday ~ Three Amigos

With school ending this week, I thought this was a wonderfully appropriate flashback, complete with a current update!

Look at these three kindergarten cuties! This is Samantha, Faith, and Brenna on their field trip to Northwest Trek, spring of their kindergarten year, 2004.

Brenna was 9 months old when Samantha was born, and they have been buddies since then. Somewhere I have some great pictures of them hanging out together as babies. Faith is just over a month younger than Brenna. Her mom and I met at church when we were both rocking our babies in the family room. We have slowly built a close friendship over these last 11 years, as have the girls. Good buddies, these three.

It's been fun to watch these girls go through elementary school together, and I look forward to more of the same as they tackle the big world of middle school.

Here's the current yesterday's 5th grade party. They are now officially Bulldogs!

I love these other two girls like daughters, and I pray that they are always in Brenna's life and my life. And I pray that as their world continues to get bigger, their friendship will continue to get stronger, that they will always find things to laugh together about, and that they will always have each other's back. Here's to lifelong friendships, you three amigos!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A New Addition to the Family!

We are very pleased to introduce our newest family member...

Same kid, new BASSOON!! This is a very exciting purchase in our home. The need to purchase a bassoon has been hanging over our heads for a couple months now, knowing the last day of school would mean Alex had to turn in the school's instrument. These things are pricey. Very pricey. For the level of instrument he needs to be playing on...big ouch to the finances. We've been praying that we would find just the right one at just the right time. We've kept our eyes peeled on e-bay and Craig's list, thinking one surely had to come along so we wouldn't have to buy new. Last day of school? Today. Great find on e-bay? Last night! And this was for sale just an hour and a half down I-5. So Brad and Alex drove down and checked it out today and came home with it! It's a beautiful instrument, the guy gave us a 90 day "trial period" in case it doesn't work out for him. It has been fully re-padded, polished, greased and all ready to go, even came with 6 reeds and some very nice reed making tools! These are surely desperately boring details, but it is just such an answer to prayer. Still a huge chunk of money, but less than we were prepared for. And perhaps a pre-payment of some college. Perhaps. It really is a beautiful instrument.

And today was the last day of school. Always a tear in my eye on this day. And today was no different.

Alex left home this morning a Bulldog and came home a Bear.

Brenna left home this morning a Star and came home a Bulldog.

Beth left home this morning a Star and came home a bigger Star.

I'm a bit stunned that I am now the mother of a high school kid! Feel free to tell me I look way too young to have a kid in high school. I feel too young, anyway.

The upside to this day?? We are now officially on summer break!!! Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Red Jacket and Red Jersey

This is the time of year for endings and goodbyes. I don't like this part. The end of a school year means I have to admit that my kids are a year older. I don't like that part.

But saying goodbye to things means some more open spaces on the calendar. I do like this part. And the end of a school year means we get to take a breather from evenings filled with homework and rushed mornings and tight attentions to so many details. I do like that part.

Here are two things we've said goodbye to recently...

First, the red jacket. It struck me as that concert drew near that it was the last time Alex would wear this jacket, the last time he would play for Mr. Allison. Now, Alex won't miss wearing the jacket, but he will miss Mr. Allison. Here's a rare picture of Alex with both instruments...the odd smile is due to extreme parental embarrassment at...gasp!...his parents actually wanting a picture of their son.

And the other goodbye goes to the red jersey. We are still a bit sad at this goodbye. I don't think we are ever quite ready to say goodbye to a baseball season, but this year is especially hard because this team is officially done playing together after some great years. Who knows what the future holds, but we were aware last night that it's possible that was the last baseball game for Alex. His team made it to the championship game, and lost last night to take 2nd place. Still a great end to a great season. Someone I know maybe was up to bat with the bases loaded and 2 outs...fouled off a would have been a great drop in to left field that may have scored a couple runs...brought it to a full count...then struck out to end the game. That stings. But, that one at bat does not define his season. That memory will fade, and we will be left with a season full of great memories with a group of great boys.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I think I'm in Love

Love. It's a beautiful thing.

And I'm in it. Deep.

Last weekend, Brad and I had from 5:00 Saturday night until Sunday at 2:00 totally to ourselves. No. Kids.

We did something I had been wanting to do for over a month. Ever since seeing a simple little ad, I have been day dreaming daily about a cupcake store. Trophy Cupcakes. You gotta go on their site, click on flavors, and read the descriptions of their cupcakes. If you don't salivate, there just may be something wrong with you.

I fell in love, and I mean that, with the Triple Chocolate. The frosting to cupcake ratio is generous and perfect, the chocolate is powerful in a perfect way, and the texture is so wonderfully perfect that it perfectly coats your throat on the way down. The Triple Coconut was perfect in a perfectly different way. I challenge anyone who says they don't like coconut to try this and still not like coconut. So. Good.

After taking in a couple other fun things while we were in...oh, did I mention we drove all the way to Seattle for this cupcake?? So worth it. Anyway, we did a couple other fun things up there and then scooted home... finally start watching the latest season of "24". The love fest just continued...more cupcakes while we watched Jack Bauer begin another very long day. So happy to see Tony back this season, even though now he's a bad guy, no he's really a good guy pretending to be bad...or is he?? (Don't tell me, we are just a few episodes in.)

Beth made me this sweet sign today, and since it's along the theme of love, I thought I'd share it...

And just for fun, here's one more picture of love...

Yep, I'm in love.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Flashback Friday ~ Satiation

I'm only flashing back to one year and eleven days ago, but it's something that truly deserves to be given it's own blog post. And since I wasn't a blogger then, this is my chance.

It was Alex's 13th birthday. We were celebrating it in Disneyland, on a long-awaited vacation. Such a great week. So many memories. One that stands out is the moment that we reached our children's satiation point.

You see, our children just do not satiate when it comes to their food. They can graze all day or eat regular, scheduled meals. Doesn't matter the schedule. They just love to eat. Very healthy eaters, and not picky. Just love food. Especially Alex. He has been a voracious eater from the moment he left my womb.

On his birthday, we went to eat at Goofy's Kitchen. Fun buffet where many of the characters roam around table to table and interact with the kids and take pictures. We did not find this a place to go for the food, but great fun to go for the entertainment. But the kids really get excited for a buffet. It's a paradise to them. So all three filled their plates and went crazy with all the amazing choices.

At the end of the meal, they brought out a beautiful, glossy, chocolate cupcake with a candle in it and sang Happy Birthday to Alex. Just before this happened, I had fixed myself a bowl of soft serve ice cream over a piece of apple crisp. As is typical with me, I really just wanted a bite or two. So, while Alex was checking out his cupcake, I asked Brenna if she wanted my ice cream. Oh, how I wish I could have captured her expression on film! She physically recoiled, got a pained expression on her face, and shook her head as if the mere thought of it was enough to cause her to lose her lunch. Then I looked at Beth, and she had pushed her plate away from the table and was looking like she was ready for a long nap. And that's when Alex said, "Mom, do you want my cupcake?"


And then he said the words that I never thought would leave his lips:

"I just can't eat another bite."

We pulled out the camera, of course, and took pictures and a video. It truly was a moment to remember.

And, just to show that everyone recovered quite nicely, here is a great shot of the family on California Screamin', which was by far Beth's favorite ride. I think she went on it 7 or 8 times while we were there, along with Brad and Alex. Brenna went once, and that was enough for her. I stayed solidly on the ground and tried not to hyperventilate as I watched my family be flung upside down in a loop.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

She Was Born With a Gift

Here we are with more adventure, as promised in the post below, but this time a bit less creepy. A bit.

You see, this third-born of ours was born with a gift. Think "The Karate Kid" with no chopsticks. Beth has always been fascinated with bugs of any kind. Flying bugs. Crawling bugs. Cute bugs. Creepy bugs. Snakes. Lizards. Frogs. Anything in any of those animal families. It's just IN her. She loves them. And here's the gift...from little-bitty, this girl has been able to catch flies with her thumb and pointer finger. As a little 18-month old, as in the picture below, she would patiently watch them fly around, wait for them to go to the window, climb up on the back of the couch, and work hard to snag one. Then she'd hold it really close and study it. Most of the time they survived. This was the one area of her life that she had patience and an attention span beyond her age. She didn't care how long it took, but she always got it. I know, a fly is dirty and gross. But a girl's gotta pursue her passion. (And notice Brenna staying safely behind her little sister...) Beth will still occasionally catch a fly to feed to her frogs, but she's moved on for the most part. She's expanded the gift...

Now, she will catch just about anything. Frogs of course are a favorite, though not much of a challenge. The patience is more used up in locating the right creature. I thought nothing could surprise me with what was being caught, until a couple nights ago...

Beth came rushing into the house from the garage, straight into the bathroom, then rushed back out. I asked what she was getting. "Floss." Floss?? I knew better than to assume she was going to self-initiate flossing her teeth, so I followed her out to the garage to see what she was going to do with the floss. Here was the answer:

"I'm going to tie it around the frozen bee."

Apparently, Alex and Beth had the brilliant idea to freeze a bee, tie a piece of floss around it, then let it thaw to see if they could fly the bee around on a "leash". Oh, my. Now I know from growing up with brothers that it can be done with dragonflies. I've never shared that little tidbit with my own kids. But bees??

When I checked out the final product, I found that bee to have had no chance. That "leash" was cinched up around the bees waist good and tight. More like a tourniquet than a leash. And, surprise!, the bee never "thawed". But it was a good try. A funny twist...when Brad came home and I shared with him the animal adventure of the day, he didn't even miss a beat. He said, "Oh, they must have frozen the bee too quickly." HUH?! I didn't even ask for clarification. There are some things I prefer not to clutter my mind with.

But here's the bountiful supply of bees...makes for easy hunting.

Enough about about some beauty?

Here are Brenna and Beth before the last choir concert of the year. They are looking more and more alike all the time. Two beautiful little ladies, for sure.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No Need for a Double-Dog Dare

Here's another glimpse into the adventure my kids bring into my life. In this case, the near heart attacks they bring into my life.

Last week, I was looking through our pictures trying to find a sweet one of Beth with her frog, Sally, to do something special with. I stumbled upon a folder which contained pictures the kids had clearly taken themselves. Some very sweet. Brenna and Beth with their bunnies. Archie wrapped in packing appears the girls were trying to dress him like a bride. He was wonderfully cooperative...ya know, considering he's a he...and a dog.

Then, I scrolled down to this picture...and literally let out a gasp of disgust.

And who do those lips belong to? Beth, of course. I can tell by the facial features. And by the fact that only Beth WOULD do this. Who was the photographer? Alex, of course. Brenna would never have supported something like this. She would have been as disgusted as her mother. And Alex is a brother. Beth adores him, so she's pretty much game for whatever he thinks is a good idea. He doesn't even need to double-dog dare her. I'm sure it went something like this:

Beth: Alex, look at this cool spider I found!

Alex: That's awesome! Let me go get the camera!

(Beth stares closely at it to get a good view...)

Alex: Beth, get close to it and I'll take your picture. Now act like you are going to give it a kiss. Closer. Stick your lips out further. A little closer! (Snap) Oh, that's awesome!!

(Big guffaws and boisterous laughing)

This picture was taken on August 17, 2008. So I know that no nasty diseases or fungus or poison or whatever you can "catch" from kissing a spider was caught by Beth. Thank you, Lord. And a note to self...Add "don't kiss spiders, no matter what your brother says" to my list of instructions I should give Beth. That list is quite long.

That same brother/sister duo provided me with another great illustration of their creative adventures just last night. Stay tuned for that, as well as some prettier pictures that will help erase the disgusting one above.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Menu ~ Lemon Blossoms

Here is another Paula Deen gem! These pretty mini-cakes are all kinds of yumminess. A very summery kind of taste to them, and they are great all by themselves or with some sliced strawberries. And, since Spooners opens on Wednesday (hello, summer!), I will need lots of things to do with strawberries. Maybe you will like these, too!

Lemon Blossoms

1 box yellow cake mix

1 box (3.4 oz.) instant lemon pudding

4 large eggs

3/4 cup plus 3 TBSP vegetable oil, divided

4 cups powdered sugar

1 TBSP lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from same lemon)

3 TBSP water

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, and 3/4 cup oil. Beat with mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Spray mini muffin pan with non-stick spray. Spoon about 1 TBSP batter into each muffin cup. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes. Turn cakes onto a cloth towel.

In a medium bowl, sift powdered sugar. Add lemon zest & juice, remaining 3 TBSP oil, and water, stirring until smooth. Dip cakes into glaze while they are still warm, covering as much of the cake as possible. Place dipped cakes onto wire rack with wax paper underneath to catch drips. Let glaze set thoroughly, then store in airtight container. Makes about 5 dozen.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Flashback Friday ~ Brenna's Determination

Today we are going way back to June of 1998. Little Miss Brenna was 6 months old, and determined to get herself up and standing. All three of our kids have determination, each expressed in their own way. On the outside, Brenna is definitely our most gentle of the three. She has a beautiful blend of gentleness and strength. She's a bulldog in her determination and persistence, yet as gentle-spirited as they come. Such a sweet combination. We saw early evidence of this in her when she decided she wanted to learn how to stand up.

First, we crawl up to a "stable" surface, bounce a few times on our knees, then decide that, yes, today is a good day to stand up...

Next, flex those quads and hamstrings and muscle your way into a "stand". While you are at it, why not get a taste of that chair and leave behind your mark in the form on some wet, bubbly drool? But, be careful, because if you get distracted by that and stay on your tip-toes, you just might get off-balance and take a tumble...

When you realize you are back down in a "baby position", let out a big 'ole yowl and let everyone know how frustrated you are! And then get as mad as a hornet when your mother takes a picture before offering any comfort or help!

Now, use that frustration as fuel and just go for it again! Proof that you can be strong and shed some tears at the same time...

And suddenly...ta-da!! You are standing up, baby cakes! Now, look over at the family photographer and give a cheesy grin that says, "I told you I could do it!"

We have seen this same determined spirit in Brenna so many times over the last 11 years. She has the strongest work ethic. She never, ever complains that something is too hard. If something is hard, she just works harder. I admire that so much about her, and I am completely confident that Brenna will accomplish any goal in her life that she sets out to achieve. Even if it's hard. Even if she falls while she's trying. So don't let her gentleness fool you...she's a strong one, my Brenna.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Fourteen years ago today, this little man burst into my life...

And although I wouldn't have thought it possible at the time, I love him more today than I even did then.