Sunday, August 30, 2009

Vive la France Tradition

Guest post from Reid Robison

Last Thursday evening, Diane and I went to our first movie since coming home from the mission:  Julie & Julia.  It blended together Diane's passion for fine cooking and blogs, and mine for fine eating and France.  So tonight we re instituted our Sunday night tradition of making French crêpes (pronounce cr ep.. not crape).  When I returned from my first mission to France, I made crepes as often as I could, and when our children were growing up, if we did not have a Sunday evening meeting going on, we made crêpes.

I recommend you see Julie & Julia, if for nothing else than the great visuals of Paris or to watch another passionate blogger.  We are committed to trying a new recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child every week.  Correction, I am committed to eating one and Diane is committed to cooking one.  This partnership works beautifully.

Here is the crêpe recipe from page 648:

Dessert crepes, especially if they are for crêpe Suzette, should be as thin and delicate as possible.  There are numerous varying recipes for making them; some use egg yolks, others use whole eggs, and still others specify cream rather than milk.  The lightness of crêpes made from the following recipe can be attributed to the used of milk diluted with water.  If you wish a heavier crêpe, use all milk, or light cream.  The batter for dessert crêpe -, like that for entree crêpes, must rest at least 2 hours before using.

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 3/4 cup cold water

  • 3 egg yolks

  • 1 Tb granulated sugar

  • 3 Tb orange liqueur, rum or brandy (we used orange juice plus a little vanilla extract)

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

  • 5 Tb melted butter

  • An electric blender

  • A rubber scraper

Place the ingredients in the blender jar in the order in which they are listed.  Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute.  If bits of flour adhere to the side of jar, dislodge with a rubber scraper and blend 3 seconds more.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

The first  crêpe is a trial one to test out the consistency of your batter, the exact amount you need for the pan, and the heat.  After preheating the pan to about an 8 out of 10, immediately remove from heat and, holding hand of pan in your right hand, pour with your left hand a scant 1/4 cup of batter into the middle of the pan.  Quickly tilt the pan in all directions to run the batter all over the bottom of the pan in a thin film.  Return the pan to the heat until the edges begin to separate from the pan and turn brown.  Lift its edges with a spatula and if the underside is a nice light brown, the crêpe is ready for turning.

You will find it best to lift the crêpes while cooking with your fingers to turn and cook them on the other side.  Crêpes may be made several hours before serving time.  Pile them in a dish, cover with waxed paper and a plate to keep them from drying out.

This is the BEST recipe I have ever used for crêpes.

Here are some of our (not Julia's) favorite toppings:

  • fresh lemon juice

  • sugar

  • butter

  • "nutella"

  • jam

  • chocolate powder

  • fruit

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Granny's squares

I remembered! I remembered!

My oldest daughter, Joelle, and her oldest daughters, Julia (12) and Rachel (10) wanted me to teach them how to make crocheted granny squares during our 'staycation'.  They were quite popular when I was a teenager and I remember making myself a vest. I even remember the colors - navy, sky blue, white and rose.  Funny.

The problem is - I forgot how to crochet. So today I unearthed some of my Grandmother's old craft books and gave myself a little tutorial - and after a little stumbling around, crocheting came right back! It's amazing how fingers can remember something that is totally gone from the mind. They just started chaining and yarning over all by themselves. It's really quite fun and relaxing - perfect for someone who has a hard time sitting still but is supposed to be recuperating.

I guess crocheting and granny squares are back in style.

Check out this great throw from Urban Outfitters

See if you can find the granny squares here in this post from my favorite design blog

And here's a post with whole collection of crocheted afghan photos from Flickr

And don't you just love the old fashioned crafty colorful feeling here?

What fun!

Now I just need to fine a wonderful little yarn shop....

Granny's toys

When I was growing up, I loved to visit my grandmother.

She was kind, fun, and did interesting things...

...and she had a TOY CLOSET!

I used to love exploring her ever changing collection.

Now that I'm home from my mission and reconnecting with kiddies -  I need to stock up.

How fun! Toy shopping!!!

I have a particular need to keep these guys happy and occupied:

They are the five baby boys born in our family in 2008 (now 6 months older)

Here's my two latest favorites for babies - both by Parents.

ABC Architect Blocks - squishy squeaky rubber blocks that stack up in colorful architectural towers.

The blocks cost about $21 including a years subscription to Parents magazine (that you can get refunded oddly enough). I got mine at Target last night (on my Kashi gathering trip).

Parents Ready Set Go - cars that pull back and zoom across the floor - dazzling for our baby boys.

The cars are harder to find. I got mine at Tutoring Toy - a nice toy store in Salt Lake City  for about $18 (but I bought the last one - sorry)

So, I think I'm ready

Bring on the BABY BOYS!

Here's a list by of best toys by age

Kashi – on sale and worth it

I am NOT a fan of frozen dinners! (I used to think)

Last week I picked up this Lemongrass Coconut Chicken Kashi frozen entree on sale at Sunflower Market. It was delicious!

It has 300 calories, 3 grams fat and 18 grams of protein (Reid and I shared - so half that amount). I was intrigued that it has quinoa in it - a grain-like food with an unusually high level of complete protein. So I found the Kashi website to see what else is available. They have cereals (I've had Go Lean before and it's great), crackers, snack bars, pilaf and frozen foods. I was particularly interested in frozen food since I am recovering from surgery and not a big fan of standing in the kitchen. I found the frozen foods page and they have all kinds of fun things. I love that you can click on each product and read reviews (scroll down).

Having spent three years in the Caribbean, I was drawn to this pizza:

Product description:

Caribbean Carnival Original Crust Pizza
Plantains, mangos, kale and fire-roasted red onions with mozzarella cheese and a sweet & spicy guava-infused, Jerk sauce on stone-fired Kashi 7 Whole Grains & Sesame® with flax seed crust.

Doesn't that sound great? Ohhhhh how I miss mangos!

After drooling my way through the website, I convinced my husband to take me to Target last night to see if, by chance, they had some of these dinners.

And - guess what!?

Not only did they have them, they were on SALE!  Life is good.

Here's our haul:

That ought to keep us in dinners during my down time.

Target sale prices:

  • Entrees - $2.88

  • Pizzas - $4.31

  • Pocket Bread Sandwiches - $1.77


If you register on the Kashi website, you will receive coupons.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My favorite summer breakfast

Fresh Utah peaches, blueberries, plain yogurt - all sprinkled with Nature's Path Organic Flax Pus Granola

You can get this cereal at Costco

It's our absolute favorite!

Monday, August 24, 2009


No - I didn't make up that word

In fact, there just happens to be a definition of "staycation" in Wikipedia:

A staycation (or stay-cation, or stacation,or staykation) is a neologism for a period of time in which an individual or family stays at home and relaxes at home or takes day trips from their home to area attractions. Staycations have achieved high popularity in the financial crisis of 2007–2009 in which unemployment levels and gas prices are high. The term was added to the 2009 version of the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

After our mission we were anxious to have a family vacation. However, as we started planning we quickly realized there aren't many places suitable and affordable for a family of 11 adults and 15 kids - including 5 baby boys! Plus it was so nice to be back in our home - we kind of hated to leave. So we organized a staycation and it was fun! We ended up with only a long weekend all together - but i think that was a good amount of time for our first try.

Here is the story of our first 'staycation'


First - I wanted a theme that would be memorable, fun, but also uplifting. We chose the Tree of Life from Lehi's dream in 1 Nephi 8 of the Book of Mormon. That wonderful symbolic story is full of teachings about happy family life.

A little shopping

After deciding on the theme, I started finding little things that would make the staycation memorable.

Like this tree wall sticker tree I found at Ikea - for 99 cents!

It really is just stickers

And a few things from Oriental Trading company

Tropical prizes and 'bribes' to keep things focused during family pictures and devotionals

"Keep your feet on the path" flip flop "medallions" for game winners (everyone was a winner)

And I happened upon these perfect "tree of life" leaf plates on sale at Pier One (only a couple of dollars each)


Getting organized

I started by making and sharing this google document with a schedule of meal and activity assignments. I felt wonderfully organized - but found out later that busy families don't always take time to read long google documents sent to them via email. Looking back now, I realize it was great to have a set plan, but flexibility is key to low stress fun. I think we changed about half the assignments and that worked out just fine.


Feeding 24 people for 3 days.....what to do?

I assigned out breakfasts, planned take out for most of the dinners (ended up changing that) and had plenty of sandwich supplies on hand for fix your own lunches. That worked out pretty well.

The first morning, Reid made his famous sourdough blueberry pancakes

"It's a buffet!" they said

One morning we had "French" breakfast of cocoa, baguettes, berries and pain au chocolate - a family favorite.


It was kid approved

CPK helped us out with one of our dinners

Instead of ordering out, one night we recreated "The Counter" - a fun hamburger restaurant with amazing gourmet toppings. The older kids became the waiters - taking orders and serving the burgers (and getting a few nice tips).

Sunday Jen and Jason made their famous, yummy, creamy mac and cheese

Favorite dessert?  S'mores of course



We tried to keep things simple and kid friendly

Who needs tables and chairs?

Of course, there's a never ending demand for food so I kept plenty of drinks and snacks on hand - good old Costco was the perfect source.


Friday was boat and beach day. We rented a boat and headed to Deer Creek Reservoir.

It certainly wasn't the Caribbean!

But the kids didn't care

They had fun throwing rocks and creating mud

Jack even had a little "fishing" incident

What's that in his mouth?
Jack fish

A closer look
Jack fish (1)

We "fished" out the head - and here is Jack's catch. (Jamie called it fish jerky)
Jack fish (2)

Kids (and dads) loved boating

Saturday we had a fun at home day with games, crafts, competitions and plenty of water.

I found this waterslide on sale at Walmart early in the summer and we have used it over and over again

It was a little chilly but hot tubs are great for warming up


We had...

puzzle competitions (older kids had to hold hands - and could only use their free hands)

freeze dance


water games


cup stacking

and lots more - a tennis ladder, ping pong, movie making, crafts and plenty of free "chill out and chat" times

Plus performances by guest entertainer - Jack

on the steel pan


and in gymnastics



Only the "out of towners' (2 families, 10 kids) slept over - but that was plenty! We had two free bedrooms for couples, plus a few quiet corners to tuck pack 'n plays for babies.  The older kids all slept in one big room that came to be known as the "orphanage" (from "Annie"?). They loved it! Each night we had wall to wall mats, sofas and blow-up mattresses - and scary fun bedtime stories from Grandpa!


Special moments

Each day we had a scripture study devotional. It was NOT easy to gather such a large group of varied ages - but it was DEFINITELY worth it.


The first night we discussed Lehi's dream. Each family picked one of the four groups Lehi saw and listed what they did, step by step

Then we shared, compared and found some interesting connections (I'll do a post on some of the things we learned, later)

We followed up during the staycation with Tree of Life art projects

Older kids did paintings


And the little ones created with stickers


Some of them even became the tree

Each day we had a different devotional and we finished on Sunday morning with a review of all we learned.

It was a wonderful few days.

The bottom line - STAYCATIONS ARE GREAT!

Because they bring brothers and sisters and cousins and in-laws and parents and grandparents together