Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Flute Loops Have Left the Building...

(Okay, Marlece...snowman is gone!  I picked something quickly because I do love the red/brown.  I didn't realize it was all heart-y and valentine-y.  Oh, well.  Maybe another change to come, maybe not!)

For the last 4 years, Brenna and her bestie have been playing the flute together.  For three years, they have done a duet for the solo/ensemble competition.  All good things must come to an end, I suppose, and both girls have decided to end their flute careers as they head into high school.  (I can't believe I just typed those words.  My heart and mind are having trouble wrapping around the fact that my little girls is heading into high school.)

In fact, a big piece of me still expects to see this when I enter a room:

And instead, I see this beautiful young lady:

Ugh.  I just got myself all teary-eyed.

Anyway, back to Brenna and Julia.  They have called themselves The Flute Loops for these past 3 years.  They have giggled and laughed their way through many practice sessions.

And on Saturday, they officially ended their flute duet days with a great performance, sweetly earning a Superior once again.

I love that the adjudicator complemented these two girls on the way they performed with poise and confidence.  They are poised, beautiful, confident young ladies, and I can't wait to watch them enter this next season with that same happy, giggly, poised confidence!

Pre-performance posing.

Warming up (and giggling out the nerves) with a little coaching from Julia's music-master dad!

Performing beautifully.

The traditional post-performance trip for ice cream!

I love both these girls so much.  Brenna I love for obvious and innumerable reasons.  Julia I love for many reasons, but here's my top three:

1. She has a very infectious, happy laugh.
2. She tells me my food tastes like it should be in a restaurant.
3. She is a great friend and loves my little girl.

So goodbye to The Flute Loops, but hello to many more happy memories to come!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Menu (Gasp!) ~ Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

I actually have a recipe to post on a Monday!  It's a Monday Menu resurrection!!  Well, for today anyway.  Next Monday I won't want to dwell on recipes.  Or maybe I will.  Actually, I probably will.  Nevermind all that.

Back to the Monday Menu!!

These cupcakes are the sum of all I love in a dessert.  Peanut butter....chocolate...in a cupcake! Yes, I do love them.  I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and knew I had to try it.  I tweaked it just a bit, and my frosting recipe may frustrate those that are in need of precision.  But you really do need to experience these cupcakes.  They are deee-lightful, and your tongue and tummy will thank you kindly.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cupcakes


6 TBSP butter, softened
3/4 cup peanut butter (Jiff, please)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
2 cups miniature chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Frosting:

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter (Jiff again, please)
1 tsp vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk

For the cupcakes, beat together butter, peanut butter and both sugars until smooth and creamy.  Add vanilla and eggs, beat well.  Add salt, baking powder and half the flour.  Mix until just combined.  And milk and combine well.  Add remaining flour and stir just until combined.  Add chocolate chips and fold in with a spatula.

Spoon into lined baking cups, filling about 3/4 full.  Bake at 350 for 21-23 minutes, until lightly golden and center springs back when touched.

Remove from oven and cool completely.

For the frosting, beat together butter and peanut butter.  Add vanilla and beat well.  Add powdered sugar and beat until well combined and lump-less.  Add milk, and beat until creamy.  You may need to add more milk or powdered sugar until it's the right spreading consistency.  You can totally dump a little more of this or that until it tastes like you want it and it's as thick or thin as you like your frosting.

Scoop a nice fluffy bloop of frosting onto each cooled cupcake.  Drizzle with a little melted chocolate if you want, or just dive right in.

I mean really, now.  Mmmm.

Another beautiful view of the cupcakes, but check out the angels in the window in the background!  They are even moved to praise!

Maybe they always look like that, but I like to believe that even they were a bit excited about the beauty before them.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gymboree, Flubber, and Snow

We were able to cram a lot of fun into a little weekend.  Alex had to be at a rehearsal in Tacoma Saturday morning, and then head straight up to Seattle for a lesson.  So we decided to make a fun day of it.

While he was at his rehearsal, we did some fun shopping.  It was nice to wander around with just Beth and have nowhere to be.  We looked around Build-A-Bear and remembered fun times we've had there over the years.  I can still picture her little 3-year old self making "Tootsie" in that store.  I got so sentimental with the stuffed animal memories that I made her also look around Gymboree with me!  They have a line there that looks custom made for Beth...all frogs and tulips!  She's been saying lately that she needs a new swimsuit, so I offered to buy her anything in that store.  She didn't take the bait.  But she did let me drape clothes on here and try to shove on little toddler hats.  A good sport, this Beth...

We went right from this store to a "cooler" store, so all was well.

After lots of fun shopping we went to lunch.  It's always so fun to have our kids one-on-one.  I love the conversations that can flow when the gift of unhurried time comes your way.  And our lunch was at Panera, our first time.  Yum.

After more fun up in Seattle, we came home and had another new meal: Chipotle!  Oh, yes, please for Chipotle anytime, anywhere.  So yummy. 

And then we finally got to make a fun project!  I watched a dad in kindergarten demonstrate this on Friday, and knew instantly that I must make this at home!  I knew it would be a huge hit, and I was so right.  I love playing with it, and the kids kinda dig it too.  Even Alex, who was skeptical and asked repeatedly what you "do" with it, could not resist joining in.  Gak, Flubber, whatever name you call it?  Fabulous!  It's one of those very calming tactile things that I love.  Like play-dough but not really.

Wanna make it?


2 cups white Elmer's Glue
1 1/2 cups warm water
food coloring (green to be authentic "Flubber", or any fun color)

3 tsp. Borax
1 1/3 cups warm water

In one bowl, mix together glue and water.  Add in a few drops food coloring and mix well. 

In another bowl, mix together Borax and water.  Stir well, then add to the glue mixture.

Stir together with your hands.  This part is COOL!  There is some sort of chemical reaction that makes the flubber appear immediately, then you'll just be kneading in the remainder of the liquid.

Once it is all mixed together, let stand a few minutes.  Now play away!  Store in an airtight container.

And how did the day end?

Happy for their happiness, but blech!

Day 2 of weekend fun:  Brad and Alex went to White Pass for some snowboarding!  They were hosting a 24-hour "Hope on the Slopes" cancer fund-raiser.  Because of the music stuff, they could only go Sunday, but they made the most of it.  Brad hadn't skied since he was younger than Alex, and neither had ever been on a snowboard.

Those two love to have adventures, and they loved this one.  They'll be back, for sure.  And I'm sure the girls will be there with them.  Me?  Nooooooooo.  Beautiful, but noooooo.  I'll maybe go sit in the lodge and people watch, but on that chair lift with my feet dangling above the side of a mountain??  Nooooooo. 

Anyway, here's their day in pictures:

These elk were everywhere, and I have multiple pictures ~ but you can get "the picture" from just this picture!

So happy for their fun.  Me? Noooooooo thank you.

Alex said he was "dancing" not falling in this picture.

Really, this is beautiful.

Love these boys.

And on their way home, they found this sign.  Of course, Alex had to scale the snowbank to have is picture with it.  Yeah, Alex, I guess you rock.

While they were playing in the snow, I made the whole corned beef meal, a day late, but that's okay.  It was de-lish!  Perfection.

And Beth made a cake for dessert!  Proud of my little baking buddy:


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Because Every Picture Has A Story To Tell

Okay, so a couple months ago, a friend at work was doing this Photo a Day thing and it was so fun.  She did it with several friends and they all would text their pictures to each other.  When I saw this idea again on Pinterest, I decided I wanted to play too!  I'm not sure if I'll do it via Facebook or on my blog, but I wanted to write this all up so you can play too.  Some of these I copied from a list on Pinterest, but I've changed several of them to suit me.  I didn't like that the month ended with "something that makes you sad".  No thank you.  So here's my own list...

The idea is to take a picture of whatever the topic is that day, then post it.  Be creative.  I've seen people take this literally and people be a bit abstract with it, both are fun!

1.  Your reflection
2.  soft
3.  warm
4.  tiny
5.  strong
6.  mail
7.  lunch
8.  sunset
9.  shadow
10. something you're thankful for
11. where you ate breakfast
12. the last thing you bought
13. hair
14. a younger you
15. comfortable
16. words
17. looking down
18. flower
19. color
20. liquid
21. vegetable
22. looking up
23. 3 pm
24. sweet
25. something you drew
26. happy
27. a circle
28. inside your purse or wallet
29. peaceful
30. yummy

Just a sweet memory

You have 2 weeks to get that camera or phone charged up and ready to shoot!  I love how this can bring some thoughtfulness to a day.

Friday, March 9, 2012

"C" Is For Snowman?

Good grief, I just today noticed that I still have my blog decorated for Christmas, complete with the snowman and falling snow.  And it's March.  And tomorrow we turn our clocks forward, a sure sign of SPRING!  So maybe this weekend I will give some effort to Springinating my blog.  Maybe not.  But that's really not what I was going to write about.

I had a wee little burst of needing to be creative, and decided to do this photo-collage monogram that I've seen on Pinterest.  I had so much fun picking pictures for it, and although I know this is full of flaws that I would do better if I could do it over, I do love the outcome.  And since it is a family collage, I guess it's fitting that it's a bit flawed.  Because our family is full of flaws that I would do better if I could do it over, but that is just life.  And we are full of more fun that flaws, and I tried to capture that.  As soon as it was done, I had plans to re-do it, but now I kinda like it in its imperfect state.  It's a lot like me!

Now I just need to figure out where her permanent home will be and how I will accessorize her.  But there are so many things on here that make me smile, warm my heart, and bring to mind a happy moment.  Flaws and all!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Future Is Safe From Monkeys

Oh, what a day.  It was eventful in some very fun ways!

My morning was blessed by one of those endearing kindergarten moments that makes you smile from the inside out.  One of the little guys who is a bit rambunctious and energy-filled (and very interested in expending his energies in creative ways) has been so sweet to me this week.  Yesterday he presented me with a treasure:  a glass bead that he was oh-so-proud to give me!  Love it.  I'm going to make a necklace of some sort out of it so he can see how much I love it.  And today?  He tells me this story:

"Mrs. Carlson, when I grow up I'm going to be a person that studies and trains monkeys!"

I told him I thought that was a fabulous plan!

He says, "Yes, that way I can keep you safe from all the monkeys."

I am not totally sure what he is talking about, but the sentiment is so very sweet in that kindergarten kind of way!  Love that boy.  And I love that chivalry is alive and well in the next generation.

Later in the day, my reading group was delightfully interrupted by a visit from Rhubarb the Moose, a local baseball team mascot.  Sadly, no pictures...but it was a treat!  My kindergarteners were lost to me after that.  I have nothing in my repertoire to compete with a giant moose.  Oh, wait.  I think Rhubarb is a reindeer??? I dunno.  He's a 6'7" furry guy with big antlers and a very happy face.

And, today I received truly one of my all-time favorite gifts!  My sweet friend made this pin for me:

Uh, huh!  Yes, she MADE that!!  I can't even find words for how excited I was!  I love it so much.  How can you not love it?

Monkeys + reindeer/moose + cookies = A Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Last Chapter

Oh, the dreaming and wondering and pondering and seeking and asking and thinking and plotting and planning and dreaming and wondering and pondering...

So much discussion.  So much unknown.

Last night in church, Pastor Jon asked how many people, when they get a new book, open to the last chapter and read how the book is going to end.  Alex enthusiastically raised his hand.  We talked about that a bit later, and it so fits where he is.  What is the NEXT chapter, not to mention the last??  This is the season of figuring it out, dreaming the dreams, wondering the options, pondering the realities.

Big dreams, this young man has.

Big hopes.

Big aspirations.

I feel like, if pressed to do so, I could write the next chapter for you, Alex.  At least an outline of it.  The details may not be fully formed, the characters may be unknown, the setting may be multi-optioned, but the basic theme?  Simple to outline.  It will be heavy with success, full of love, music, rewarding, challenging.  You will be enjoying the fruits of your labor, even while you continue to labor.  You will be loving life, LIVING life fully, meeting challenges with determination and hard work to fully realize your hopes and dreams.

Not actually the last chapter, for this is a story that will continue to unfold before you.  As you weigh your options and pray through your decisions, keep this in mind:

"...he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it..."  Phil. 1:6

And if you must know the end first, even though that's the best way to ruin a good story, read this:

Stay soft, keep praying, keep listening, keep working hard...we are excited to watch this next chapter be written.  We are wondering, pondering, dreaming right along with you.  We believe in you.  We love you.

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's About Time

It's about time I get a little caught up on things.  Thanks to a no-student day at school and a training that ended at 12:00 and a brief break before I shuttle children to and fro, it's a moment I have to blog.

Why haven't I been on here?  It's about time, you see.  I'm finding, more than anything, my children's increasing need for the computer means I haven been bumped off many times.  And when it is my turn, I'm too mushy brained and tired to make any sense.  So I just think the next day would be better.  And then the next day comes and we repeat the cycle.  So in all ways, it's about time. 

And now I'll quit wasting it and catch up!

Let's see.  Two weeks ago, Alex went to the All-State conference in Yakima.  He had such a great time.  He was with his peeps.  He met some new peeps.  He played a lot of music.  He fell in love with music in a new and fresh way.  He is extremely passionate about music right now.  I could do an entire post on that.  How do you bridle passion?  Or do you?  Oh, don't get me started on that.  And what do you do when advise is given by a respected person that you disagree with and then that causes some conflict?  I said don't get me started and I mean it.  It's all being processed, thought-through, chewed-on, mulled over, discussed, passionately discussed, and pondered.  More on that in the future, I'm sure.

My first Alex sighting! Any manner of things could be the reason, but I'm choosing to believe that little grin was because he saw his mommy in the crowd!

Alex and his number one know competitor at this year's state solo contest. They are very friendly rivals!

The full All-State Chamber Orchestra! 50 bonus points for picking Alex out of that crowd.

Olive Garden after the concert, finally hearing all about it!

Anyway, the weekend was great for him.  Brad and I went over for the concert.  And after 4 days, I missed that boy.  And the concert was so very beautiful, what a pleasure to be gifted with listening to that!

Because the concert was at 10:00 in the morning, Brad and I went over the afternoon before and actually had time ALONE TOGETHER!  Alone together, my favorite oxymoron.

The only picture of our time I have is our take-out dinner.  A little hole-in-the-wall place in Ellensburg that makes beautiful perfection out of a hamburger.  YUM!


And then last weekend was an event to remember!  Alex and Brenna ran their first race together!  It was a 6-mile, 2 person run.  Each person runs 1.5 miles, tags their partner who then runs 1.5, and you repeat that.  It was so much fun to watch them do that together.  Alex was mostly excited because they were the only brother/sister entry, so they were guaranteed a prize!  And it was a c-c-c-c-c-c-cooooooold morning!  Oh, boy, did we get chilled! 

Brenna finishing her first leg.

Alex coming in to pass the bracelet off to Brenna.

Alex coming into the finishing chute!

A post-race picture!

Receiving their "major award"!  And it was...a deck of cards! :)

Fun times.  And somewhere in the midst of the last two weeks, I had my pie judged at the pie fest!  That was such a great event, and so many gorgeous (and delicious!) pies to see and eat.  The judging?  Very mixed.  One judge seemed to really like it, giving me all 8's out of 10.  Another judge really didn't care for it, giving me mostly 4's out of 10.  The third judge was a blend of both.  So now I'm challenged!!!  Can't wait to try again and try to blow them away with the "brightness" of my flavors, whatever that means.

Ah...I feel a bit more caught up now!  I'm really feeling the itch to be back on here regularly.  I'm hoping my kids' teachers will cooperate with that plan and decide to stop giving writing assignments for the next few months!

Until next time...