Saturday, September 29, 2012

Martha Made Me Do It

Eight solid hours on my feet.....
NOW I will admit that I was absolutely nuts to buy 150 pounds of apples.

I know you already knew that, but I had this vision of myself having some totally Martha Stewart moments as I filled my home with the smell of cinnamon and apples and sang songs about pioneers and and stuff.

 I did not envision nearly amputating my thumb with the paring knife, burning the bottom of my most expensive pot because I got distracted and covering my hands with hundreds of splatters of boiling hot apple water.
The fact that it happens every single time had no impact on my canning fantasy.
It never does.

Actually, it was just fine.

Romy helped me for the first 45 seconds and then went off to go watch the video of that I Love Cats lady on youtube.

I cooked and mooshed 50 pounds of apples and got about 12 quarts done.
I tasted it after everything was finished and I'm not in love with the flavor of this batch. It's a little on the tart side. Sour apples are great, but not in applesauce.
Normally, I boil my apples in apple juice and sometimes add a little sugar to make it sweeter. This time I was going for super healthy organic.
Super healthy organic isn't awesome, IMO, at least not the way I made it.

It's not a loss though because applesauce makes a great oil substitute in a lot of baking, so I'll add it to my fats and oils in my food storage. It's always good to have some 'oil' that doesn't go rancid quickly. This will keep for 10 years, so I am happy with it, even if it isn't yummy applesauce.

I don't plan to touch the apples tomorrow, but I'll be back at it on Monday.
Try to wait until then for my third, fascinating post about apples.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Apple Pickin'

We love apple picking......

We went up to New York with the Hawkins, Ralston and Mathusek bunch and had a regular Mormon Mardi Gras.

There were apples as big as softballs and the kids had fun pummeling one another with rotten apples from the ground as we ate lunch. Okay, they called it "apple bowling" but I think that when you use people as pins......there's a little bonus if you manage to hit a sibling.

We had a great time.
 I bought 150 pounds of gorgeous apples.
When I tried to leave and realized I forgot my checkbook.
Cyndi helped me out and I was able to leave the farm with all of my treasure.

Last night we made these:

Can Jay-Z and Beyonce do that, my friends?
 I think not.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Granola, Eaten In Moderation....

Granola is such great stuff.
My grandmother's granola was the best, I've never had anything that quite compared to what Grandma Westfall use to make. I know that time and memory have probably transformed her granola from being simply great into the most amazing marriage of oats and coconut ever to occur on this planet.
Don't get me started on her peaches.
Romy and I love granola more than others in this house. 
When I buy it, I know that as much as I want to eat an entire box, it will have consequences.
One does not simply eat an entire box of high fiber cereal.
I will spare you the story of the Great Cracklin' Oat Bran Girls Camp Disaster of 1988.

Romy has been told to go easy on the granola and she has been told the reasons why, but she just caved in the face of temptation. 
She ate nothing but granola for almost 2 days, until the box was empty.

Live and learn, Kid.....

She wanted to miss school and I told her we do not miss school for tummy troubles due to eating a horse-size portion of grains. I gave her some Kaopectate and sent a note to her teachers, telling them that Romy was NOT sick, but she was over-fibered and if she asks to use the restroom, to please let her go as often as she asked.
(taken yesterday, NOT on  Fiberday)

She was mortified, but she survived.
She vowed to NEVER eat granola again........until yesterday, less than one week after her fiber fiasco.

I made granola yesterday and she's having a hard time finding anything else to eat because it's so good.

It's my own twist to a recipe that was just a little too bland.

Olson Peanut Butter Granola

2 cup light Karo Syrup 
1 cup peanut butter
Microwave for 1 minute, blend together

add 4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
mix together

6 C quick oats
1 C chopped peanuts (I used dry roasted, the kind you snack on because I like salty and sweet)
1/2 c sliced almonds
1 C coconut

Mix it all together in a big bowl until all of the dry ingredients are coated. 

Divide between two cookie sheets and spread out. 

bake at 275 for 40-50 minutes, take it out and stir it every 15 or the bottom and edges will overcook and burn.

I do not like fruit in my cereal and this granola is not overly sweet. It's a crunchy nutty granola with a subtle peanut butter flavor. Add whatever you think will make it yummy to you. If you want a ton of peanut butter flavor, add another half cup or full cup of peanut butter. It's granola, you can't screw this up. I'm going to add hot cocoa mix next time and see how that goes. 

Eat it, it's good.
Just don't eat it all in one day. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Muchas Cupcakeitas

Last night was Taco Night at the Olson House.
We don't have a standing, weekly Taco Night, but I've read of such things on blogs and Pinterest boards.
Okay, I just made that up, but I needed an excuse to say 'Taco Night' because it's fun to say and I didn't want to mislead anyone into thinking it's an actual thing here. 

We were not up to ending the meal with a pinata, but I did make these cupcakes and they were ah-may-ZING.

It was a semi homemade-esque recipe I came up with myself.
Sometimes my cupcakes run on the dry side, these were moist and muy fantastico.


Sticky Dulce de Leche Cupcakes 

1 box yellow cake mix
1 package instant butterscotch pudding
3 eggs
1 stick soft butter or margarine
2/3 c. milk
1/3 can dulce de leche (you will use the rest later)
1/2 c water
1/4 tsp orange zest (Thank you Lisa!)

Whip all that business together. 
batter should be fluffy and airy, the pudding makes it have a more foamy texture than regular cake batter. 

full cupcake cups about 2/3 full and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until done

1/2 package cream cheese
1/2 stick soft butter
another 1/4 tsp orange zest
dash of cinnamon
1/3 can of dulce de leche
1/4 cup milk

Whip that together, then add powdered sugar until it's the consistence you like- I used about 2-3 cups.

With remaining dulce de leche, microwave it until it is a liquid. I mixed a little caramel syrup we had for ice cream, too. Needs to be 'drizzle' consistency. (I poured mine into the empty caramel syrup bottle.)

Frost the cupcake and drizzle fo'shizzle.

Yeah, I just said 'for shizzle.'
Don't judge me, Dawg.
Make the cupcakes and then remember why you put up with this from me. 

Taco Night will never be the same.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Baking...Like a Boss

I cannot express how much I love this new season.
They call it "fall" here.
(Not my picture, but one of our town )

It's amazing.
I know you have autumn in Utah, but to tell the truth.....not like this.
I grew up in Arizona. There is not such thing as Autumn/Fall. It's too hot to wear long sleeves when you go Trick or Treating and sometime in November, it's finally not like living on the surface of the sun. You might even need a sweatshirt for the months of December -February. There are no piles of leaves to jump in and your jack-o-lantern starts to rot if you carve it more than a week before Halloween.
Don't get me wrong, it was great to be a teenager in the land that heavy winter coats forgot. 
When I moved to Utah, I was delighted to have Spring and Fall.
However, those seasons are what I referred to as Sybil Time. You'd start off the morning freezing, by noon it would be so hot you considered just leaving that coat you wore in the morning by the side of the road, it was too hot to even carry the stupid thing. Sometimes it would freeze early and ruin your garden and just as you were pulling out the sweaters and accepting the cold weather, it would be 85 degrees again for a few weeks.
The weather in Salt Lake had multiple personalities most of the time. 
Summer, Winter and "Mother Nature has a hangover, so she'll just put on whatever looks clean."

Here, we've had this GROSS humid summer.  It's awful. Cooking is terrible because even the crock pot makes the whole house seem to heat up. I used my oven as little as possible and every time I did, we paid the price. Our electric bill was insane. It was way worse than any bill I'd had in the worst Arizona summers. we were all dehydrated and the summer weather was a huge shock to our bodies and we had a lot of migraines and stink.
Then, September came and slowly the weather has been cooling down. One morning there was a crisp breeze and it practically smelled like Autumn. I was expecting it to be a fluke, but every day it's just a little bit cooler and the air feels a little more clean and the leaves are slowly changing color. In Utah, you have window of about 1-3 weeks where the leaves all turn and you make sure to load up the kids and drive to the mountains if you want to see all of that "autumn" stuff in nature- at least, that's how we experienced it. 

The house is pleasant. The weather outside is amazing. Cool enough to wear jeans now, but they don't become denim sauna pants by late afternoon. It's comfortable and I can cook now without my whole house going into shock.
I promised Zane I'd make pumpkin roll. It's his favorite dessert I make and I don't blame him. It's as addictive as crack. Sweet pumpkin and cream cheese flavored crack.
I made one today, but it looks bad. I used the wrong pan, so the cake was too thin and even though it tastes like orange heaven, it looks like an orange poo.
So I'll post a picture of one that another person baked.
Someone who cooled it the right way and used the right pan and who sifts her powdered sugar so it doesn't look like clumps of carpet fresh.

The recipe I use is the one you find on the inside of the can of Libby's Pumpkin. If you haven't made this- DO IT. Everyone you share it with will want to kiss you after they are done licking the filling off their fingers and singing songs of praise. It's so good.

I also made a new recipe today.
We're having pasta for dinner tonight and since I was feeling extra bake-y I made bread sticks.
They were so easy and they are super good.
I got the recipe from the Worldwide Ward Cookbook, Mom's Best Recipes.

The think that makes these amazing is that they are quick and simple and you cook them in a pool of butter.
I know!

Buttery Bread Sticks
1T Yeast
1 1/2 C warm water
2 T sugar
1/2 t. salt
3 C flour
1/2 C butter

Preheat the oven to 350.
 Take your stick of butter and put it on a shallow baking sheet and pop it in the oven until it melts.

put yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and let it do it's thing for about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix flour & salt, then add yeast mixture.
knead until it's firm and elastic. I just did it all with the dough hook in my mixer, it worked great. I think I let it run about 5 minutes. The recipe says hand knead for 10. 
Whatever floats your boat.

Let the dough rest and raise for about 10 minutes, then divide it into 12 balls- roll and shape like bread sticks.
Take your bread stick snakes and roll them in the melted butter in the pan.
I sprinkled garlic powder on mine, if we had Parmesan cheese in the house I would have used some of that, too.
Let the sticks rise in the pan of buttery goodness for 15-20 minutes.
Then brush on some more of the butter, just to make sure it's going to make your heart stop beating for sure.

Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Pinch yourself that they were that easy and they are so freaking good. 
Olive Garden has nothing on these, I'm telling you.
 It's my new favorite roll recipe.
The bottom is soaked with butter and has a light flaky crust on it, but they are very soft.(
 I turned one upside down so you could get an idea of how much butter those babies soaked up, but it looks burned in the picture. It's not burned, just too much of whatever Instagram effect I used/)

They took about an hour start to finish. It makes 12 bread
sticks, but I can't count so I only made 8. The story I'm telling the family is that it only made 7 though because I was hungry, Yo.
There I go again with the "Yo."
That's my cue to stop typing and eat some pumpkin roll.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mormon Rosh Hashana

The kids had two days off this week for Rosh Hashana and we spent one of those day on a little hike with friends from the ward. It took about 10 minutes for the boys to abandon the nice, paved walking/bike train and go straight down the steep slope of the hill.
Hey, they heard water. It was calling, Yo.

We old folk followed with the younger kids, trying not to fall on our faces and wondering if we'd be able to make it back up later.

I have to say, the kids found a stunning place to play and get soaked.

Nobody fell...well, nobody drew blood when they fell, and I'm considering that a win.
When I came home, I was quite proud of myself for not being a total weenie and actually hiking. 
You all know how I feel about getting nature all over my body. 
Ew, burns usssss......

When my body reminded me that it hates me that evening and I went to soak in the tub, I saw that I am old. I not only felt like I'd been through the wringer, I looked like I had, too.

Yes, I was in the tub when this picture was taken.
Yes, I know it's TMI, but the picture ends at my knees, deal with it.
Yes, my husband gave me a weird look when I asked him to take a picture of me in the tub, since that's not how we roll, Yo.

Yes, I know my habit of saying "Yo" whenever I say something that was remotely cool 15 years ago is supremely dorky, but that's how I ro.....never mind.

Today I had another series of steroid shots in my back.
That procedure I had before we moved was not successful, my new doctor said he hates that procedure because it rarely works and it does more harm than good. 
Whatever Dude, just make it stop hurting.........Yo.
We have a pain plan. Every three months I get injections, even if I'm not dying. He says we need to stay ahead of the arthritis, knowing what it is means we stop trying to 'fix' something that can't be fixed and we stop letting it get so out of control pain-wise before we deal with it. 
How's that for a metaphor for life....Yo?
How often do we wait until we are already underwater before asking someone to throw us a line?
I do it. I do it most of the time.
I wonder how my life would be different if I saw my needs as important and when I needed help, I just asked- before it became a huge, overwhelming deal.
I'm not emotionally in a place where I can fix that now, but it helps to be aware of it. I can start doing better and start taking better care of myself and do what needs to be done so that my soul pains don't take over. 

I expected this move to be hard.
 It has been harder than I expected and I don't think I'm handling things the best way. You can prepare yourself mentally for almost anything, but your heart isn't a Boy Scout. Your heart always  goes "What the Heck?" when things are hard. At least mine does.
I'm starting to see some of the work the Lord has for me to do here in the big old city, and part of me just keeps saying "not today" because my heart feels as beat up as my mosquito savaged legs still.
It isn't a choice that keeps me on top of pain.
So, that's the new goal- pain is fine, pain is a message your body or soul is sending that lets you know something needs to be dealt with- but pain shouldn't be the center of your life, pain shouldn't be in charge.

On a brighter note, look at these cute kids. 
Don't you just love surprise no school days because it's a Jewish Holiday you don't celebrate?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of My Hat

Romy, Romy, Romy....
My sweet little ball of fairy dist mixed with a strobe light.

We had a meeting with her teachers this week to see how she is adjusting to her new school.
They feel she is very stressed out and trying to be brave and strong.  All of her teachers talked about how Romy talks a lot about her old pets from Utah. They knew the names of the pets and that Roe is really having a hard time with all she left behind. Her oldest brother stayed back to go to college and play video games, her sisters also stayed back in Utah. She does not remember a life without four more siblings around most of the time.
She also doesn't remember a time when we didn't have at least one annoying pet for her to maul and love on.
We tried to take the pets, we did, but it was going to be $600 per pet to bring them here. The rabbit- was a rabbit. It wasn't going to happen, we promised to get a new rabbit.
The dog- that dog was a beast. His owner, Zane, was a beast. We had some weird power struggle going on and Zane refused to train that dog, so Rosie only listened to Mom and even then, she didn't do it very well. Mom didn't want a wire haired dog that peed when you touched it and loved to eat her own turds. We were still planning to bring her, and were looking into getting a new fence put up in the yard and wondering how we would deal with her barking at squirrels 24/7.  When we talked to Zane, he was open to finding her a new home. I think the dog didn't quite live up to the dream and we were relieved when he said he was okay with us finding a rescue group and letting her eat the carpets in another home.
The cat, Wrigley, was beautiful, but mean. He was a big territory marker and that doesn't work when you have a dog that tinkles with every touch. Wrigley also hated Emma. That cat peed or pooped wherever Emma slept every single time. When she'd leave her dirty clothes on the floor, the cat would pee on them- just Emma's. He'd pee on her towel, he'd pee if she sat somewhere for very long. I don't know what made that cat decide that Emma was the enemy, but it was bad. I'm not paying $600 for that angry cat to come and ruin our new house.

So, the pets did not come to New Jersey with us.
As annoying as the pets were, it wasn't a decision we took lightly. We make jokes about it, but it was a hard decision for all of us.
 There were more reasons to find them new homes than to bring them, it was the right decision, but it was still hard.
It was harder on Romy than we realized.
We planned to get a new pet in the spring and she knew this. Her teachers also knew this, as Roe has been counting the days until she can get a new pet.
After talking to them, I realized that she just had to give up too much. I can't bring back a lot of the things we had to leave in Utah, but I can get another pet for her. Matt and I talked and we agreed that we needed to get a new rabbit this weekend and not wait until spring.
Romy needs something to love on and snuggle to death and rabbits are pretty easy.

I picked her up from school and we had a talk about how things are going.
The child is super stressed out and she is trying to be strong for everyone else.
Ah, you're just a kid.
The weight of the world will always be there if you want to take it on, but let's not do that just yet.
Be a child.
Be happy.
Get a bunny.

And she was so happy.
It's the perfect companion.
That's the smile we love to see, Roe.

The bunny is a different breed than we had before and it's very active and friendly.
Absolutely perfect.

She named it "Jacob." He's a breed that has all white fur except for black around the eyes. Very specific, but Jacob shows that somewhere in the line, they had some Dutch genes and he looked different from his siblings. If we were rabbit people, he is the 'dud' and not desirable because of his black coat.
If you are an 11 year old girl looking at a pen full of white bunnies and one black bunny-- it's fate.

Welcome to the family, Jacob Rabbit.
Thank you for not eating your own turds.

Friday, September 14, 2012



Matt's cousin, Lisa, came all the way from Renton, Washington to visit us and to see New York City for the first time.
Because it was the first week of school, we couldn't go into the city every day, but we did manage to go in enough times that I think we all had our fill of the noise and traffic. Matt and Lisa hit the city one of the days, I went the next day with them and we saw the Museum of Natural History until we were all so sick of walking that our legs nearly fell off.

We made her play board games every evening. We taught her how to play Small World, Ticket to Ride and Munchkin, as a thank-you to our family for having her stay, she surprised us with a gift of Dominion and Set.

We've really just gone over the deep end with our board game geekery, but what a happy deep end it is. Lisa kicked our butts in most of the games, but I did manage to dominate in Flux that last night she was here.

While she was here she made her family's favorite recipe for orange biscuits. Sweet yum, those were fantastic.
We talked her into making them twice. :)

What a nice visit we all had, it was a hectic week with school starting, but Lisa was really nice about going with the flow and we had a great time with her. 

I was a real mess that first day school started and it was really helpful to have someone here to keep me grounded. I also got a call from one of my amazing other mothers, Joie and one of my new friends in our ward, Tara, invited us to go have lunch. I swear these women were all inspired to hold my hand and keep my head on straight while I worried myself into knots that first day of school.

So, that's two house guests we've had since we moved-- when are YOU coming to see us?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Meet the Mormons

We are now in phase 2 of our East Coast Culture Shock.
We are shocking New Jersey.

Okay, we're not shocking, but we are 'out' in terms of being a peculiar people. 

There is one other active LDS family in our town. When they moved here from California, it was hard on the kids because they were the only LDS kids in the entire school. Lots of questions, lots of pressure to show what a Mormon was and they were all alone in their faith. It's a big change from a school out West where there are always enough LDS youth in any school to fill a lunch table.
They handled it with grace and I couldn't be more amazed by those kids. 
And now, the Olsons are here with their 9 passenger SUV covered in BYU and Romney 2012 stickers.
(Okay, there is only one of each and I did take off the giant stick figure family but it's still pretty obvious.)

It took about 3 days for the entire school to know Zane was ....a MORMON.
And they really don't even know what that is.

They know Mitt Romney is one of those Mormons and that's the biggest issue their parents have with him. They know all those Polygamists were Mormons and they live in compounds and don't believe in birth control or electricity. They know we all marry 13 year old girls and wear dresses with high collars.
They know it's one of those weird cults.

 Sweet Bethany has had to explain over and over what a Mormon is and is not. Zane now gets to help because the kids at school can't stop buzzing about how there is another Mormon at school. The first wave of rumors was that he was Bethany's brother. Yes, her brother who didn't go to school and lived in hiding for a year and who is one month younger than her.....No, not her brother.
If he isn't her brother, what is he? Ah, he goes to her Mormon church with her.....Yes, he goes to church, but he goes with his own family, they just happen to go to the same services.
Yesterday, he had a counselor come up to him and say "you're from Utah, right?"
"All I know about Utah is mountains and they have lots of wives."
"They do have mountains, but not lots of wives."

In one class they watched a video on diversity and the question was raised "how do you learn more about other cultures?" The kid in the video said "I learned about the Mormon culture when I visited Utah." The kids in the class turned to stare at Zane to see what he would do. He sat there and kept taking notes.

I went to my back doctor yesterday. I had seen him last month and told him I'd just moved here from Salt Lake. He told me he loved skiing there and all the good places to visit in New Jersey, then we talked about my back.
Yesterday, he came into the room with a resident who was shadowing him all day because it's a teaching hospital. He walks in and says "and THIS is my Mormon patient. She's a real Mormon. My Mormon patient, the only one I've ever had. She even wears that Mormon underwear."
I shook hands with the other man and said "Hi, I'm Chris and, yep, I'm a Mormon."
His eyes bugged out a little, I think he was looking to see if I sprouted horns or pulled some sister wives out of my purse. 

And it wasn't exactly appropriate, but appropriate isn't high on the priority list for the people of New Jersey. They say what is on their minds and would rather talk about it than be polite and wonder. I find it refreshing, even when it's a little startling. Romy is thriving here like you wouldn't believe. She fits right in with these Jersey kids who say what they think and blurt everything out.  
(Free snow cone to anyone who gets this joke)

In gym class this week a kid walked up to Zane and said "you're from Utah?"
"Did you come from one of those Mormon colonies?"
"Um, there's no such thing as a Mormon colony."
"Huh.(laughs) Did I just make that up?"
"You might have."

Well, Springfield New Jersey, we're here and we're not going anywhere anytime soon. 

Ask away and we will answer. You'll find that we are not what you may have seen on TV when the crazies get airtime. We're just normal people. No smoking and drinking and the kids don't go out to play on Sundays. We're not intolerant bigots, not all Republicans and we all have our own set of ideals and morals. Plenty of us on the pill, drinking Diet Coke and  watching PG-13 movies. We're just like you, only we say "Oh my Heck" and "Gosh" unless we're stuck in traffic. Then we try to every intersection sometimes. (Drive through the Holland Tunnel on a Friday, you will understand.)

Next month, they are actually having an activity at church called "Meet the Mormons." 
It's very different from Utah where everyone knows who we are and we're encouraged to not even use the nickname "Mormons." We're "Latter Day Saints" in Utah. 
In New Jersey, we're THE MORMONS.

And in our town, the schools just doubled their Mormon population with our moving here. 

How is Zane handling it?

Well, yesterday he wore his blue and white BYU rugby jersey to school. Greyson also wore a Cougars t-shirt to school this week and Romy chose her BYU shirt to use as her  P.E. shirt. 
I am proud of them. They handle to scrutiny in a way that doesn't put other kids off, they answer with confidence and they don't take it personally when asked if their dad has more than one wife. They don't think "uniformed" is the same thing as "ignorant." They are expecting some kids to not be as curious and nice about it, and they are okay with that. 

They're firm and I am thankful for that. It helps that they have the Ralston kids there as well, kids who have their backs and who really did the hardest part of this kind of transition.

As the people react to the new Mormons in town, I am feeling blessed and proud to be associated with these kids. I know your Father in Heaven is so proud of you, too.

You're doing your Mormon Colony proud, I'll meet you on board the mother ship after school.
We have cookies.

(Thanks, byumemes for every single picture in this post.)