Monday, September 28, 2009

And The Winner Is...

Okay, here we go with the winner...yeah, sorry you have to watch another video, but I wanted you to see that I really did draw a winner!

KATIE!!!! Can I just say how happy I am to be sending this to Katie? If Katie didn't win, I had already decided I was going to go buy her all this stuff and send it to her. Anything to bring a little ray of sunshine to this sweet gal. And she won anyway! (Truth be told, when I saw her entry I wanted to just shut the whole thing down and declare her the winner.)

So, Katie...I hope this brings you some joyful moments sipping some comfort in a cup! And I hope one day very, very soon you will have to share this with Ben! Know that this comes with a lot of love and our continued prayers! (You can hear Brad's cheer when your name was drawn, and our kids had the same reaction!)

And here is the link to Katie's blog where you read about her story. If you are reading this, please keep Ben & Katie in your prayers!!

And because I had so much fun reading YOURS, and I know you are so curious to read MINE, here is what my entry would look like. If I could enter my own contests. Which I can't. Bummer.

1. grande mocha with 1/2 the chocolate. decaf when I'm being good.

2. favorite thing about Fall: riding my bike over crunching leaves, football, chilly mornings, soup for dinner, anticipating Thanksgiving and Christmas, rain...

3. pie: chocolate pecan for sure. but I LOVE the variety and the excuse to make a big spread of desserts.

4. song: oh, so many. Silent Night, Sleigh Ride (harses, harses, harses), Christmas Cannon (I know, but I love it), So many, too many to list.

I love reading all your answers. Those of you who went all fancy on me and abbreviated your coffee presented quite the game for me to figure out what "DT" and "NF" and such really meant! Thanks for playing ~ let's do it again around Christmas time!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Starbucks Giveaway!!

The tease is over!! I know I've been saying that another "contest" is coming, and then I totally drop the ball. Life just has a way of interfering with good intentions! But here it is, and when all is said and done I think it is just perfect timing! Today is the first full day of Fall! I love this season. I love the smells, the sights, the soups, the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas...all of it! So this is going to be a very non-competitive event. It's a giveaway more than a contest. All you have to do is participate and you could win this lovely prize...

It's a stainless steel travel mug from Starbucks in what color?? Say it with me: CHOCOLATE BROWN! Yum. Even as a color that is yum. And a $15 gift card to fill this with your favorite drink a few times. Oh - and a "Chocolate Covered Cherry Dark Chocolate Bar" that is not pictured.

Why a giveaway? I truly love to give. It's at least as exciting, if not more exciting, for me to give something away than to get something. Really truly. So, with that being said, as long as you are in the U.S., you can win! Just answer a few questions, then I will take all entries and do a random draw for the winner. You have until Monday the 28th at 7:00 p.m. to enter. Just one entry per person.

Now for the questions:

1. What is your favorite Starbucks drink?

2. What is your favorite thing about Fall?

3. What is your favorite Thanksgiving Pie?

4. What is your favorite Christmas song?

There you have it! Good luck and happy Fall!

***an added disclaimer after the comment from my son: you are welcome to play, but if you live in this house you are not going to win, and you are too young to move out, so you are out of luck! but I just may take you out for a grande white chocolate peppermint mocha if you play your cards right. and you can probably eat food for Thanksgiving. and I will probably make a chocolate pecan pie. so it's all good.***

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Snapshots of our Special Shelley...

My sweet friend, Shelley, was here from California for a weekend visit. We crammed in a lot of fun in our 3 days!

Shelley got to see both the girls cheer...

And see Alex play his bassoon in the concert...

And have lunch with friends...

And a tea party with the girls...

And another lunch with more friends...

And just hanging out and enjoying being together...

The time always goes way too fast, and we really can't wait to do it again! The coffee pot is washed and put away until next time, Shelley!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

All Dressed Up and Somewhere To Play

Last night was Alex's debut as a paid bassoonist! He auditioned for the Capital Philharmonic Orchestra about 3 weeks ago, and this was the result: a young man in his first tuxedo, a mama with sentimental tears, a night of beautiful music, and a very proud family! Here's the recap in pictures:

Trying to get this to fit was like pinning a cummerbund onto a q-tip!

Ah, the price of beauty...I mean, handsomeness...

My two handsome guys working it out together.

Aunt Shelley happened to be visiting from California this weekend, so she got to share this fun night. She was a bit surprised at how big this "little guy" grew in the last 2 years!

Proud mom and dad with our "little man".

This concert was "An American Tribute", very moving and inspiring.

Here is Alex playing side-by-side with his teacher, Lantz. Big man, little man.

Making some beautiful music!

Alex with his proud grandparents.

Our happy little family.
"Where do you want to go out for dessert, Alex?"
"A Dairy Queen blizzard sounds awesome!"
Once we got there: "I think I'll get a bacon cheeseburger to go with my blizzard."
Cuz, you know, this boy is always hungry. And a burger just tastes better in a tux!
So there it is. We are so looking forward to the next concert with this group. December 11 and 12, the Christmas concert. I'm already looking forward to it! I'm imagining a night of cocoa, sugar cookies, and more beautiful music. And maybe a bacon cheeseburger.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

19 Years and Counting!

19 years ago today...

On this day, I was so excited to be marrying my best friend. So in love. So excited to begin a new season of my life. So curious what the future held...

And that excitement and curiosity has continued for 19 years and counting. Still my best friend. Still in love. Still excited about all the seasons we have had together, and those still to come. Still curious about what the future holds.

I am so blessed to call this man my husband and best friend. He is strong but gentle. He is kind but firm. He is adventurous and patient. He is a hard worker and loyal. He is truthful. He is easy-going. Not easily offended. Always forgiving. Always approachable. Even though he doesn't always "get"me, he's always understanding. He loves my cooking, even when it's not worthy of love. He appreciates me and whatever I do. He would do anything for his family. He is the best dad I know, and I'm so thankful that our kids have him as an example of a man.

I'm so thankful I get to spend my life with him for many, many years to come. As long as we both shall live...and then forever.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Menu ~ Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

It is so ironic that I am posting a recipe today. So ironic. Let's just say there was an unfortunate incident while preparing dinner. It involved an exploding plate (literally) of chicken resulting in 2 burns/chips in my floor, ruined chicken, lots of clean-up, and frozen pizza in the oven. Oh - and a lot of frustration. The 2 spots on my floor should be fine. You can only see them if you get down on your hands and knees. So don't get down on your hands and knees when you are in my kitchen. Unless, of course, you have cleaning tools in your hand and in that case knock yourself out! recipe for exploding chicken. Instead, these yummy little jewels that are perfect for the back-to-school-here-comes-fall season we are in. I think a long while back I posted this recipe for the Harvest Loaf, which comes via Molly. This is the same recipe, just baked in these little mini-muffin pans. Makes a great lunch box snack or a "quick-I-need-something-sweet-right-now" snack. I make a double batch of these and keep them in the freezer. Exploding is optional. Not recommended.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 (16 0z.) can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

Combine flour, baking soda and spices. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Blend in eggs; beat at low speed to combine. Stir in pumpkin until well combined. Add dry ingredients, mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Lightly spray a non-stick mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray. Using a medium cookie scoop, drop batter into muffin cups. Bake at 350 for about 16 or until they spring back when lightly touched. Do not overbake. No one likes an overbaked, dry muffin. Or an exploding one. Especially not exploding chicken. But that's a recipe for another day...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fabulous Forty!

What a fun-filled, fantastic, fabulous day turning 40! I do think it was my best birthday ever! Brad took the day off today, I gave the treadmill the day off, and we took off for Seattle. I don't mean to bore your eyes with repetitious themes, but we went to Seattle for a very repetitious go get cupcakes! All I wanted for my birthday cake was a cupcake from Trophy Cupcakes. Well, as evidence of my Creator's love for me, one of the featured cupcakes today was Chocolate Peanut Butter. Oh, the love. I started this post promising myself I would not go on and on about the cupcakes. I've done that enough. So I'm using great restraint right now, because you can trust me that those cupcakes are worth going on and on and on.

The day started with these beautiful roses from my hubby. Can't you just almost smell them through this picture?!

And here is the variety pack of cupcakes we came home with. Just look at them. Oh, please.
Now here's where the fun just kept coming! Brad and I went out to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. Sitting right next to us at this long table was a Red Hat Club. They were so sweet. I just kept grinning at the irony of turning 40 and being seated next to these sweet older ladies. Not that I was struggling with 4-0 in any way, but if I had been, this would have been great perspective! So while we were waiting for our lunch and they were waiting for their supper, I went over and sat with them and chatted them up a bit. I asked if they would mind a picture, and they were kind enough, despite being a bit perplexed, to agree. When I told them I was celebrating my 40th, they got all excited and told me I was old enough to now be a "princess" in this Red Hat society. Apparently I'm now free to wear pink! Not red, but pink! How cute is that?? I'll have to get myself a pink hat now.
And, for the record, I did not eat any cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. I was saving that sweet spot for a fabulous cupcake. Have I mentioned the cupcakes??

Then, driving home from Seattle, we see this plane flying a banner. As it turned the corner, we saw this...the 12th Man flag!! I like to imagine that in the light blue rectangle it says, "Happy Birthday Leanne". Perhaps they should have made the letters a bit bigger. That's okay, because my next gift is below...and it totally makes up for it!

Ta-da!!! A Seahawk jersey with my name! I know they put it on there because there's like a real player that just so happens to share my great last name. I do know that. But think about it! It doesn't matter if the football-playing Carlson is traded or injured (I mean it matters, but you know...), this jersey will always work because this will always be my name and I'll always be a Seahawk fan! (At this point you should be sensing the sugar rush coming through my fingers!)

Then, this phenomenally sweet gift...a birth stone ring! I have always wanted a sapphire, and now I have this beautiful one from my sweet man. Love, love, love it. And please notice how the ring posed itself above the cupcakes. Good taste, that ring. And that cupcake.

Then our time went into hyper motion. The girls both had cheer practice, and Alex had a music rehearsal from 7-10. So we got some super fabulous Daddy-O burgers and ate in the park. I love these 3 so much, and I love celebrating my birthday with them! And, should you doubt my words, they will testify to the goodness of the cupcakes.

And my sweet cheer girls made practice so much fun. I lost count of how many times they burst into a made-up Happy Birthday cheer. They brought me flowers and...hold on...CUPCAKES!, and cards. I was so spoiled by them. I loved every single hug and sweet wish. So, very appropriately, I spent some of my lunch with a group of gals in their 80's (and one 90!), and then my evening with sixteen 7 & 8 year-olds! What a perfect blend! And above all, I spent such great moments with my family. I'm a blessed girl!

See? 40 truly is fabulous!!

3 Kids, 3 Ways

The start of school was yesterday...and our first year to have 3 kids going 3 different directions:

Alex began his Freshman year of high school! He's now a Bear...going to the same high school that Brad and I met at. He's playing his saxophone in the marching band, so our first football game last Friday night found us sitting in the stadium listening to our old fight song, played on the same saxophone Brad played as a Bear. Coming full circle, we are. Because he has spent the last 3 weeks practicing with this band, we have been back and forth to the high school a ton. In that regard, we felt like we were living in limbo land. School had kinda started, but kinda not. We were just ready to get it going already and see what we were in for. Alex came home very upbeat and loved everything about it! Although I really assumed it would be that way, it was still a relief to hear it from him. I think he's in for a great high school experience! And although he was a bit hesitant to take this "first day of school" picture, I could have made it worse for him by following him there and taking his picture at school. He's learned a lot in his 14 to put up with my first option, because the second option is always less pleasant!

Then we have sweet little Brenna, who is not so little but still so sweet! She began her first day of middle school. The excitement was strong, but the nerves were running wild. The biggest concern for her? Getting her locker open. We practiced and practiced at orientation, to mixed success. Brenna was very disappointed to learn that her dad and I would not be actually walking her into the school like we did in elementary. Believe me, I would have walked her to every class if I didn't know better than to subject her to that sort of social disgrace. So much to her disappointment, she was dropped off at the front of the school. (She, by the way, is going to the same middle school that I went to! So we really do keep things in the family.) Her day was a huge success. She has friends in each of her classes, found her way to each class without incident, and had lunch with a huge group of friends that she misses in her classes. And the dreaded locker? Mixed success. Fortunately, the teachers all stand in the hallway between classes to direct lost little 6th graders. So Brenna snagged one and had her open the locker. Another time she asked a friend for help. One time she even got it on her own! Just the nerves. And if they have to express themselves in some physical way, I guess this is a safe way! She left this morning very confident about opening it on her own each time today. I now look forward to the daily locker update!

And this little cutie is now a big 'ole 3rd grader! Beth was a bundle of nerves, and it was such a relief to me that we still get to escort her to the school and watch her wait in line with her teacher. It was tough to leave her, because I could see the jitters all over her face! It was another of those times as a mother when you pull out all your acting skills and be the calm, confident one. But it worked, and she let me hug on her and kiss her and she hugged on me and kissed me. Then I walked away, wiping tears after I was out of sight. She came home very excited about her teacher ("She's not nearly as strict as I thought she was going to be!") and very excited about her 3rd grade year. This is a big year ya know, you gotta learn those multiplication tables!

So we are off and running in three different directions! It's going to be a great year!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Menu ~ Cheeseburger Meatloaf

Here is a recipe that is great (although picture-less) for a fall dinner! This is our favorite meatloaf, and it makes the yummiest sandwiches the next day, too.

Cheeseburger Meatloaf

1 lb. ground beef
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
4 slices thick bacon
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers
1 tsp. seasoned salt
2 slices white bread

Cook bacon until cooked but still chewy, not crispy. Remove bacon and add chopped onion, cooking for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Combine ground beef, chopped bacon, cooked onions, all seasonings, cheese, sour cream and crackers. Mix together well.

Line a loaf pan with the 2 slices of bread. Shape meat mixture into a loaf shape and place on top of bread. (The bread will absorb the grease as it bakes. Discard the bread after baking.)

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes or so before slicing.

This would be yummy served with these


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Music Man

I normally do not do 2 posts in one day, but the events of the evening totally warrant this:

Alex auditioned tonight for the Capital Philharmonic Orchestra and he made it! Woo-hoo!! This is an actual paid position! He gets paid for each rehearsal and performance. Kinda sorta like a professional musician at 14! (To us, anyway...)

He knew the other 2 bassoonists who were auditioning, and thought he had no chance against them. But he wanted to audition anyway because he thought the audition itself would be a great experience. And then, according to Brad who heard all 3 auditions, he was the obvious winner tonight. I know that's according to the dad, but still...

So proud of you, Alex! (Always, but on this night particularly proud of your hard work!)

Here is the link to the website in case you want to come out to a concert and hear some great songs...I mean, pieces? (I'm trying, Brenda.) How about some great music?!

This is what happens when a gift combines with discipline and hard work. Way to go, Alex!

Mountains & Bears

This past weekend was filled with fun stuff! The boys took their annual father/son camping trip, this year heading to Mt. Rainier. They had another fabulous time together, made some great memories, and hiked lots of miles! They called briefly in the midst of the girls' marathon shopping trip, and Alex's enthusiasm over the phone was so fun to listen to. "Mom - you would just love this. This is so beautiful. M0m - I'm serious, you would totally love this." I seriously, totally believe him! They left the camera sitting on the table at home, which made it very hard for them to get any decent pictures. I have a zoom and all, but, you know, it doesn't quite zoom that far. I'm totally serious.
So all I have for the sharing are some pictures snapped from the cell phone....

All I can think of when I see this picture? The opening scenes of "The Sound of Music"! The hills are alive...

Now they want to go back and do a week-long hike. And Alex seriously & totally wants to climb Mt. Rainier. Someday.

And our other big event was the football Jamboree! The girls' big season debut on their cheer squads. It was a full day of cheering, and the girls were just as cute as you can imagine. They looked so spiffy, and they did a great job.

This is Beth's squad, 2nd & 3rd grade, that I get to coach. They are so much fun! And they cannot get enough of this cheer stuff. During their lunch break, as soon as the food was gone they were on their feet cheering in the stands. Making up cheers. Cheering about chips and dip. Yep, they are a cheerful bunch!

Go Oly Bears!

And here is the always cheerful Brenna and her 6th grade squad. It was a pleasure to sit in the stands and watch this sweet bunch of girls do their thing and cheer along with them!

Fans in the stands, show us how to clap your hands...

And these two lovely little ladies were the hit of the show. Well, the show I was watching anyway...