Archive for November 2007

Family Home Evening

Our Family Home Evenings generally follow the format that I grew up with as a kid – opening song and prayer, special presentation, lesson, family journal, closing song and prayer. Last night we started late because I was late getting home from work so the kids were already in their pajamas. It was Diana’s turn for the music, Samuel’s turn for the special presentation, Anne’s turn for the lesson, and Texas’ turn to conduct.

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Diana leading the opening song

Anne taught the lesson so she could count it towards her Faith in God award. When its the older kids turn to teach they like to cover every last bit of material in the lesson manuel and we usually have to tell them to cut it short. When it’s the younger kids turn to teach then either Nancy or I help them and the lessons are short and sweet.

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Anne teaching the lesson

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Texas conducting

Sam’s special presentation was to have the whole family decorate the Christmas tree. Nancy and I put the tree up this past Friday and I did the lights on Sunday. Unfortunately, I ran out of lights towards the top of the tree so the top foot is dark.

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We’ve had the tree for about 8 or 9 years now. We bought it Modern Display when Anne was a baby so we’re certainly getting our money’s worth out of it. We’ve talked about getting a real tree one year but it’s just too easy to get the fake tree out each year and the kids haven’t ever had a real tree so they don’t seem to mind the fake one each year. Nancy got the angel at ShopKo when we got the tree and each year our collection of ornaments grows a bit as the kids bring home the ornaments they made at school and church.

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This year will be the first year we’ve ever had a fireplace so my next task is to figure out a way to hang our stockings on the mantle without putting too many hooks or nails in it.

How Should I Respond?

I have a question for my loyal readers:

How would you prefer that I respond to comments and do updates to posts? I’ve generally responded to comments by adding my own comments but I’m not sure if anyone goes back and reads them. Does anyone read my comments in response to your comments? Also, when I update a post, should I move it back to the top of the posting heirarchy so that you can see it’s been updated?

Does anyone use an RSS reader to automatically check for new posts/comments? If you are using Internet Explorer 7 it comes with an RSS reader built in (unfortunately, IE7 breaks a lot of websites so a lot of people still haven’t converted to it yet). What’s even cooler is that if you are using IE7 with Windows Vista you can have the gadgets toolbar automatially display new updates. If you use an RSS reader to check for comments then you’ll be able to see my responses without having to constantly check the site for updates or go back through old posts and see if there are new comments.

Any feedback you can give me on the best way to respond to comments and update posts would be appreciated.

A Great Time to Be a Cougar Fan!

Yesterday BYU beat #6 Louisville in basketball. Today the BYU football team beat the Utes with a touchdown in the last minute. It’s definitely a great time to be a Cougar fan!

Emily, Caroline, and Sam went with me to the game. We dressed warmly because it was cold (below 40) but it was nice and sunny so it was a great day for football. We left a little earlier than usual and were glad we did because traffic was bad on the way down and it took forever just to make our way to the stadium parking lot once we got to Provo. Samuel and I had to wait forever while Emily and Caroline went potty before the game (the line for the women’s restroom was way long) but we still made the national anthem and kickoff.

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Waiting before the kickoff

The kids were pretty good at the game. Samuel is starting to become more of a fan of footbal as opposed to just a fan of nachos and hot dogs. He gets excited when someone scores a touchdown and likes to look at the scoreboard to see who is winning and losing; however, he’s still a bit fuzzy when it comes to figuring out which team has the ball, which team made a first down, which team scored the touchdown, etc.

Caroline got really excited when the Cougars ran out on the field and BYU fired off their cannon. She didn’t say anything but I could tell she was excited because she came over and gave me a big hug. When the Utes when up by a point with 1:30 left in the 4th quarter Emily started to get a few tears but that was a good sign for me – it means my kids are interested in BYU winning the game.

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Cheering on the Cougs

In the end the Cougars came back and won it by converting on a 4th and 18 and then going on to score a touchdown. We all cheered and high fived and watched the students rush the field after the game. Sam wanted to go down on the field and I did too but I decided against it. Perhaps we’ll rush the field when he gets a little older.

I had a really good time going to games this year. It was fun to take the kids so often and start establishing traditions. I’m also pleased that Sam is starting to like sports and be interested in the teams and what is happening in the game. Overall it’s been a great weekend for BYU sports. But it doesn’t end yet. Tonight BYU takes on the #1 ranked team in the country in basketball – North Carolina. Is it too much to hope that the Cougars can pull off another stunning upset?

UPDATE: 11/25/2007 11:33 p.m. Unfortunately my beloved Cougars couldn’t pull off the upset of North Carolina. They hung tough for most of the game but fell apart the last five minutes of the second half when they went on a big shooting draught (partly because NC really stepped up their D). Overall the Cougars acquitted themselves well and got plenty of love from the ESPN crew (I generally don’t prefer to listen to Dickie V because he constantly fawns over Duke and the ACC but I don’t mind him so much when he’s giving love to the Cougars) and the Cougs have a shot at being ranked after this weekend. Even though they didn’t beat the #1 team in the country, it is still a great time to be a Cougar fan.

Thanksgiving Day

Today was an excellent Thanksgiving Day. In the morning Sam and I played football in the yard while waiting for the turkey to cook. When the turkey was done, Nancy made gravy, corn, and mashed potatos while I set the dining room table. I decided to pull out Grandma Connie’s china just to make things extra special. We had our Thanksgiving feast about 3:00 in the afternoon so everyone was nice and hungry.

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Our Thanksgiving feast

Our Thanksgiving feast was a bit non-traditional in that Nancy made a seven layer dip. Not exactly what your Grandma would make on Thanksgiving but we all liked it. The kids did a pretty good job of eating in at the dining room table without making any stains on the chairs or carpets. After dinner we took a nap, played trains in Samuel’s room, played a game of Clue, and ate Nancy’s pies. You couldn’t ask for a better Thanksgiving.

Brining a Turkey

Brining a turkey seems to be a popular thing to do nowdays so I figured I would try brining ours this Thanksgiving. Basically, brining is just soaking a turkey in salt water. For various reasons, brining a turkey is supposed to create a very moist, tender turkey.

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Cooking the brine

I looked up a few brining recipes off the Internet and decided on this one that some internet friends gave me:

1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
6 cloves garlic, crushed
several sprigs of rosemary or thyme
2 bay leaves

Mix a day in advance, bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Cool and pour into container big enough to hold brine and turkey. Refrigerate, breast side down for at least 12 hours, turning at least once.

It was easy to cook up the brine. The only problem was clearing space in the fridge for the big pot. The other problem was that my hands smelled like garlic for the rest of the night.
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Soaking the turkey

This morning we got up and took the turkey out of the fridge, rinsed it, and put it in the over to cook for four hours. One thing I forgot to do was to turn the turkey. Hopefully that won’t make much difference. Stay tuned to see how the brine experiement worked out.
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Ready to rinse and cook

UPDATE 11/25/2007 11:20 p.m. I forgot to come back and tell how the brining turned out. Sorry about that. Here is my take on the brining experiment:

The turkey was significantly more moist than doing it without brining. I could only taste the flavor of the brine (which was good) on the outside pieces of turkey – the inner turkey meat just had normal turkey flavor. The biggest difference was in the gravy. The brine provided a lot of drippings with which to make gravy and the gravy had an excellent flavor. Making gravy from scratch is generally so hard that we don’t even bother and just make it from a mix but we had heard that brining makes good gravy so we tried it. I think it is safe to say that this was the best gravy we have ever made from scratch. Overall, the brining was easy to do so it makes sense to do it for the moisture benefits alone. When you add in the gravy benefits I don’t see why I would ever cook another turkey without brining it.

On the Internet there are a lot of different brine recipes designed to give various flavors to the turkey. I’m not sure that I’m all that interested in trying to give my turkey a new flavor – we tried putting in citrus slices a few years ago and didn’t really like the citrusy flavor – but I’ll definitely be brining the turkey again next year.

Pie

For our family cherry and apple are the pies of choice. This year however we decided to make pumpkin pie because Sam requested it. At the store this week I bought a couple of pie crusts so I wouldn’t have so much work to do. I thought I would use one for the pumpkin and the other for the apple. I ran into one problem however when I made the pumpkin pie filling, I made too much so I had to use both of the pie shells I bought at the store for the pumpkin pie. I don’t think I saved myself very much time, I should have got more pie crusts instead. The pumpkin pie tasted good, but for the other pies you would have to ask the others because I didn’t have any.

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All I Want For Christmas

I don’t know if I’m hard to give to or not but now that my siblings have drawn names I figure I’ll publish a list of what I want/need for Christmas. In addition, I’ll have Nancy start making a list as well so I don’t have to try and read her mind each year. We’ll keep updating this over the next couple of weeks. Might as well make it easier for others to shop for us!

BYUFan
– Grill brush
– Pair of jeans. I wrecked my current pair scootching around on my bum on the roof. (I’m down to a size 40 now. Hopefully those jeans will only be used for 3-4 months because I’ll have dropped down another size or two).
– Dark dress socks
– BYU Gear (sweatshirt, hoodie, golf shirt, etc.)
– Jigsaw puzzle 5000 pieces or greater. If you really want to go all out you can always get me the worlds largest jigsaw puzzle.
– A paid off mortgage (A guy can always dream can’t he?)

Nancy
– Cookbooks – We have plenty of Asian cookbooks so I would like something European or Meditteranean. Greek, Italian, Scandinavian, French, etc.
– Spa/manicure/pedicure
– House plants/plant stands
– Dry erase whiteboard that I can hang in my kitchen

Saturday Project – Part 2

The other project for today was giving Sam a haircut. He was starting to look a little shaggy. I’ve always been the one to cut Sam’s hair. I think he’s only had a regular haircut once in his life. And when I cut hair there is only one possible outcome – a total and complete buzz. Fortunately for Sam, he thinks buzzes are just great at this stage of his life.

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Before

As Sam has gotten a little bit older he’s also gotten a little less squirmy so each time I cut his hair it gets a bit easier. The hardest part is around the ears and the back of the neck. Nancy always gets on my case when I do the back – she thinks I do it too short, too uneven, too dorky looking. Fortunately, Sam isn’t picky and he can’t see the back of his head anyway so he doesn’t mind.

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After

I’m sure that some day Sam will probably want something other than a buzz cut but for now he’s got the classic look of a ‘do’ by Dad.

Saturday Project

My big project for today was to hang Christmas lights. I’m terrified of heights and ever since we moved into this house I’ve been thinking about how I was going to hang lights on such a high roof. I even investigated paying one of those lighting companies to come out and do it but the cost was signficant. Last year the bishop in our old ward, who is an older gentleman, hung his own lights on a steeply pitched roof. I asked him how he did it and he told me he tied a rope around his waist and then anchored the rope on his chimney – it helped him walk around on his roof. I decided that if he could do it then I could certainly get a rope and do my own lights as well. So, this morning I set off with Diana in tow to get a rope (Nancy took the other kids to their practice session for tomorrow’s Primary Program in Sacrament Meeting). Where to get a rope? Well, rock climbers need ropes. Hmm, where do rock climbers go to buy stuff? How aobut REI?

Diana and I went into REI and ended up with a climbing rope, a harness, a locking carabiner, and a gadget thingy that let me belay my own rope and catch me if I fell. The gadget thingy was more than I wanted to spend but the guy at the store recommended it and I figured it would come in handy. The guy at the store showed me how to put the harness on, how to rig the gadget thingy, and how to lock in the carabiner. I came home with new confidence in my ability to put lights on the roof without killing myself.

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Clipping my harness into the gadget thingy

The big problem with my house is that I don’t have a chimney up on top to tie off to. Also, I needed to be able to prevent myself from falling off any side of the house. If I tied off to the concrete porch anchors in the back yard, I would be safe while I was in the the front but I wouldn’t be safe in the back. If I tied off to someplace in front, I would be safe in back but not in front. I needed a place on top of the roof to tie off to. In the end I decided to put in a big eyebolt on the peak of the roof that I could run my rope through and thus belay myself to any side of house. The hardest part about putting the bolt in was dragging the drill up to the top of the roof so I could drill a pilot hole for my 3/8″ bolt. I eventually got the bolt in, rigged up my gear, and set off for the edge of the roof where the electrical outlet that’s hooked to a light-switch inside our house is located. As soon as I got to the edge and realized that I would have to get down on my belly, hang over the side of the house, and reach up under the eaves in order to plug in the lights I became extremely grateful for the gadget descender thingy that the guy at the store had sold me. It was worth every penny. When you’re hanging over the edge of the roof at the top of a 2-story house, the price you paid for the gadgets that keep you feeling safe becomes insignificant. Once I had accomplished that task (I actually plugged in a little extension cord that I’ll probably leave there so I’ll never have to do the belly-hang thing again) I was able to wire up the rest of the house with relative ease. I say relative because although wiring up the rest of the house wasn’t as bad as doing the belly hang, it was still terrifying for a guy that is afraid of heights. I spent the whole afternoon hanging on to my rope and moving a few inches at a time along the edge of the eaves: let the gadget thing slide down the rope a bit, scootch over to the edge, take up the slack and make sure the gadget thingy locked tight to the rope, grit teeth while reaching over the edge of the raingutter to hang the lights, scootch back up to the roof cling for dear life to the rope and the gadget thingy, sigh a sigh of relief. Repeat ad nausuem. I ended up missing the whole BYU game but once I got on the roof there was no way I was coming down until the job was finished.

In the end I was able to wire up the whole front and sides of the house along with some of the back. After a whole day of hanging lights, here is what I learned:

  • 300 light strings are worse than 100 light strings because they are harder to control and move with you along the side of the house. Better to work in small chunks and string 3 100 light strings together than to use 1 300 light string.
  • Shingles are wierd. They’re rough enough to hurt the skin of your hands and arms yet they’re slippery enough to make me want to scootch along on my bum rather than stand upright – even with a rope.
  • For how much work it is to string lights I should have bought the bigger outdoor only bulbs (you know – the kind Dad used to string up when we lived in Arizona) rather than the little indoor/outdoor bulbs. The outdoor bulbs are much brighter than the indoor/outdoor bulbs. If I’m going to spend a terrifying afternoon scootching around on the roof in a climbing harness I might as well get a nice display of light for my troubles rather than the wimpier display that the indoor/outdoor bulbs give off.
  • Roofers, high rise construction people, and window washers are probably all severely underpaid.
  • While the rope, harness, and gadget made hanging the lights possible, it certainly didn’t make hanging the lights desirable. As soon as I can afford it, I’ll pay someone to hang my lights.

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Not as bright as I had hoped

In the end I’m just glad the project is done for now. Even though the homeowner’s association gets on everybody’s case about leaving the lights hanging up past the end of January I can tell you one thing: if there’s even a hint of snow/water/ice on the roof I’m leaving the lights up until June.

Indian Princess

In the past few years I have not been able to spend much time sewing because of such things as taking care of 5 kids, building and moving into a new home etc. Just lately though the sewing bug has come back since I made Sam’s costume for Halloween. BYUFan’s sister Kelly asked me if I would be willing to make her an indian costume for a cub scout function and I jumped at the opportunity. I bought the needed materials on Tuesday, started sewing on Wednesday and was finished by Friday afternoon. I could have had it done quicker, but I only sew in spurts because one or all of my children always seems to need me for something. Now I just hope Kelly likes the costume and that it fits well.

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