Monday, April 30, 2012

Recollections of Our Five-Year Anniversary Adventure

Since it was our big five-year anniversary, we decided to plan something a little extra and scheduled a fun overnight trip to Logan, leaving the kids with Brigham's dad and step-mom. I was EXTREMELY excited for the trip, but nervous about leaving my babies overnight for the first time. I also kept feeling like something was going to go wrong - that we would get in a car accident, or our car would break down, or some other hiccup. Of course with my worry-wart mind, the scenarios spun out of control and I was sure that Brigham and I were going to die on our trip and leave our kids parent-less. I was so sure that I had Brigham text his brothers to explain who would get the kids if we died.

I know. I have serious issues. But I had a feeling.

And what do you know, on the way to drop the kids off, when exiting the freeway, we got rear-ended. It wasn't a big deal and after checking both cars and finding no visible damage, we exchanged information and continued on our way. I already felt a lot better because my premonition was right and hopefully that was the extent of it. "I knew it! I knew something was going to happen!" I kept saying to Brigham who just shook his head at me and replied, "You are so creepy that way."

The shock of our incident wearing off, we dropped of the kids (I only cried a little bit) and then...we were off!

The drive was enjoyable with only minimal traffic delays, lots of junk food, and an air of anticipation. Soon we arrived here:

Seasons at Riter Mansion - where we had a room reserved for bed and breakfast. It was a quaint little place with cute themed rooms. I loved the location, being right downtown. We even had a beautiful view of the temple from the parking lot.

And we were close enough to walk to Bluebird, where we had our dinner.

Brigham had salmon and fries with a Cherry Ironport and a Vanilla Cream Soda.

I had the grilled chicken Parmesan and ate about three bites before I was so sick I thought I was going to puke. I ate WAY too many Doritos on the drive up! Thank goodness for boxes and husbands that will eat almost any leftover - even chicken Parmesan that sat in our car that night and the entire next day before it was refrigerated again. Scary. He hasn't died yet, but I'm keeping eye on him.

Wanting to walk off my sickness for awhile, we perused a nearby used book store.

I loved the smell of all the old books! We spent a long time laughing at crazy titles or raising our eyebrows at scandalous topics. It was truly enjoyable.

Finally, although sad to leave so many books, we headed back to our room. But don't be dismayed for me for too long because our room was, after all, the Library Room :)

Perfect for the book lover in me. It was a homey, nice little room with a jetted tub and everything. Besides the slightly-slanted bed making it so our feet were higher than our heads and a long night for this light sleeper, and being in so close quarters with couples staying in adjoining rooms, we really liked it.

Lots and lots of junk food later (I literally ate myself sick on junk food four different times this trip. SO worth it) a late night movie, etc, it was morning and time for breakfast which they nicely served to us.

After eating we changed, packed up, checked out, and said farewell to our Library Room,

Then went together to perform a session at the Logan Temple. It is such a beautiful place! I loved being in the temple on our anniversary, thinking back five years to being at a different temple and being sealed together forever. It was nice to keep that eternal perspective in the temple as we celebrated being together five years.

After the temple we went and tried out Firehouse Pizzeria for lunch.

I was nervous about trying it out because I normally don't enjoy pizza places, but with lots of high recommendations I decided to give it a shot.

And I loved it! The pizza we shared was so good and the prices were pretty great as well. I definitely want to go back.

After lunch we embarked on a hike I had planned and looked forward to most, the entire trip. The small drive through Logan canyon was gorgeous and soon we were ready to start hiking. I, unfortunately, realized that I drank way too much at the restaurant and the bathrooms were all closed down. While I am an outdoor enthusiast, I am not so enthusiastic as to squat behind a bush if I don't have to. It's just not that easy or clean. However, I determined that as long as I was walking I would be fine.

So we continued on.

We came to the river and noticed the bridge normally used to cross it was, well, gone.

Not to be stopped from my hike, and feeling adventurous, we shimmed across the pole and walked...straight UP a mountain.

I had done my research. The hike I planned included a bit along the Crimson Trail that started with a short incline and then evened out along the Great China Wall to finally loop around along the Riverside Trail to follow the Logan River. A nice three point five miles - about the same length as our normal family walk.

Sounds wonderful doesn't it? If only the trail EVER evened out. If only we ever got to walk along any Great Wall of China, let alone find the fork in the trail to loop back along the river. The other problem was Brigham being significantly out of shape thinking he needed to keep stopping to rest. If I stopped to rest with him I was sure I was going to pee my pants, so I just kept going.

See that little black speck down the trail? That's Brigham. We kept getting significantly further apart which started annoyed yelling across the mountain to wait or to hurry up.

We are so classy.

Getting frustrated, annoyed, uncomfortable, and determined to make this hike be what I wanted it to be, we kept hiking straight up thinking we just hadn't gone far enough. When the actual trail eventually all turned to snow (that's how far up we went) I gave up and turned around.

On our way back I noticed two forks in the path that I had previously missed before. Ugh, I was mad. Raising my fists to the sky I cried out, "Where are the trail signs and open bathrooms promised online?!"

No, I didn't. But I would have if I hadn't had to pee so bad.

We shimmied back across the river,

drove extremely fast to the nearest restroom, and then started back home. Exhausted and disappointed in such a failure of a hike, I may have cried for a good while saying, "I just wanted to walk along the river! All I wanted was a fun hike and to walk along the river!"

I really kill myself sometimes.

Luckily, I was calmed down when the check engine light popped on, otherwise I probably would have become hysterical. Thankfully our car made it back with no break downs, but that looming light still glares at me every time I get in my car. Just add it to my long list of things to do.

Picking up my babies was so sweet and thankfully they had been angels the entire time. Grandpa Dan and Grandma Nonie had spoiled them like crazy and they were happy little clams.

After our return home and an early bedtime for a tired family, I woke up the next morning with a couple new things:

1. REALLY sore legs and weak bladder muscles.
2. A renewed connection to my husband, with lots of feeling of love and joy for the time shared together.
3. An absence of the vacation itch that had plagued me for the past months.
4. Gratitude to family that is always willing to help us out and made it possible for Brigham and me to get away.
5. Great memories of not only a fun weekend-trip with Brigham, but of five great years growing and learning together as we try to raise our family and come closer to God.
6. Excitement to make it to our next big anniversary so we can do something so totally awesome again :)

And that is pretty much our trip all wrapped up :)

Happy Anniversary Brigham! I love you!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pork Ragu

I've always wanted to make a ragu sauce before. I also had a weird cut of pork roast I thought would be perfect to use in a ragu recipe that called for a pork roast. The recipe looked like your classic, easy crock pot recipe where you layer your veggies, seasonings, and meat and cook all day. Simple. Who cares if the recipe wanted a shoulder roast and I had a "family picnic" pork roast. Pork is pork - I would be fine right?

Well. Let's just get through the recipe.

First you were to dump some whole canned tomatoes in the crock pot.

I actually used stewed tomatoes...and then I chopped them up into small pieces. I just don't like big tomato chunks. I was also supposed to drain the tomatoes, but didn't - we tend to like more saucy dishes around these parts.

Next add four cloves of finely chopped garlic. Normally, I just use some of garlic from my giant jar of minced garlic in the fridge when a recipe calls for fresh garlic, but I decided I'd better follow the recipe somewhat and use actual cloves.

So I broke open the garlic and peeled the cloves. Thanks to my dedication to Rachel Ray I knew to grate the garlic rather than spend all day chopping it fine...and lost a few layers of my skin into the crock pot as well. After that process was over, I remembered why I usually just spoon a bunch of minced garlic, especially when left with garlicky hands for the rest of the day. I thought maybe if I used fresh garlic, I would be able to taste a difference - nah, not enough to go to all the extra work again.

Next the recipe called for two medium carrots, cut up.

As you can see I did quite a few more than two - we really like cooked carrots around these parts.

Following the carrots, a large onion chopped up.

Thanks to our handy-dandy chopper, the chopping goes by real fast. But not fast enough that my eyes weren't on fire.

Once all the veggies were layered in the crock pot, the recipe calls for some dry white wine. Unfortunately, I drank all the wine the night before so I had to use chicken stock instead. Luckily I had the right amount left-over and frozen from a previous dish.

So I dumped it right on top of the veggies, still frozen and everything.

Next comes the seasonings.

Oregano, salt and pepper.

And then the meat. Oh the meat. Here is my roast:

Because I can be really dense, I failed to realize that what appears to be a top layer of fat, was actually skin. And it had a big giant bone in the middle of it. Quite unfortunate because I was supposed to quarter the roast and plop it in. Imagine my surprise when I try to quarter the meat and my knife WOULD NOT go through. And do you know how much work it is to rip skin off meat? It does not come of easy, I'll tell you. It's a long, dirty, cold, wet, gross, ripping and cutting process.

After I got off all the skin that completely surrounded my roast, I cut it into pieces as best I could and then chucked the whole thing, bone and all, into the crock pot.

Put a lid on, and cooked it all on low for about six hours.

After six hours, pull out your pork and shred it.

I already hate shredding meat, but thanks to my wonderful cut of meat, it took SO long because I had to shred out all of the yucky fat you can see was still left on the meat, and tear it off the bone. My hands hurt and I was so sick of pork, but I finished.

And then mixed the meat back in the sauce.

And put some noodles on to boil.

The recipe called for "pappardelle or other wide noodles", and despite looking at several stores, fettuccine was the widest noodle I could find.

While the noodles cooked, I chopped up some fresh parsley

and folded it into my ragu.

Once the noodles were done, I was ready to plate up!

Adding some Parmesan cheese on top, we served with some garlic toast to soak up the extra sauce.

I was definitely disappointed with the flavor. It was a really meaty flavor when I expected more of a vegetable/tomato sauce type of flavor. I do have to say that after handling the meat so much, I felt nauseous the rest of the day. Raw meat really gets to me. I might have been a bit scarred from my earlier meat trauma and couldn't stomach the actual dish. Maybe you shouldn't rely on my judgement.

Brigham LOVED it. I made an entire crock pot and expected to freeze half of the amount it made, but by time Brigham finished eating there was not enough left to freeze. And that's with me not eating very much at all. He got what little was left over for lunch the next day and raved again when he got home.

So it's your call. I don't think I'll make this again for a very long time. When I do, I'll be sure to use a shoulder roast as the recipe calls for. It would make everything one hundred percent easier and I would probably be able to actually eat. You could probably make this with other types of roast, like beef, as well. You could probably even use chicken breasts and shred them. Just please, make sure whatever you use has no skin or bone involved.

As for the actual recipe I got from my Woman's Day magazine:

1 28oz can whole tomatoes, drained
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt and pepper
2 1/2lb pork shoulder, trimmed and quartered
12 oz pappardelle or other wide noodle
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 oz)

1. In a 5- to 6-qt slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, garlic, carrots, onion, wine, oregano, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.
2. Add the pork to the slow cooker and cook, covered, until the pork is cooked through and easily pulls apart, 6 to 8 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high.
3. Twenty minutes before serving, cook the pasta according to package directions. Using a fork, break the meat into smaller pieces, then stir it into its cooking liquid; fold in the parsley. Serve the pork over the pasta and sprinkle with the Parmesan

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

For The Rainy Days

We keep going through spouts of rain between amazing days of sunshine. Reminds me of my hometown, Washington. I like the change up, but I know it gets dreary after awhile. Especially when you are stuck inside. So for when those rainy-day blues hit, here are some happy outdoors picture to cheer you up. I know they cheer me up!

Ah, don't you feel better now? Now to search out some real sun on this rainy day - even if it's only my babes' shining smiles :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Reality of Dreams

On a recent "clean house day", I moved from sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor onto cleaning the bathroom while the kids made the rest of my house a mess around me. When I ventured from the bathroom to grab the broom from the kitchen, I found Lydia like this:

She had fashioned a bed using a couch cushion and the rugs that I had thrown off to the side while the kitchen floor dried. When I approached her she said, "Mom, I'm tired" - this was meant to explain her makeshift bed on the floor. I laughed, took a picture, and then told her to get up because kitchen rugs aren't the cleanest things to be laying under, and it was grossing me out.

Lydia's sleep has been an interesting topic around here lately because she has started remembering her dreams. It's fascinating because she can't separate them from reality yet. We have a Baby Einstein movie with a cow that makes a silly face in it (ask Lydia and she'll make the face for you), and Lydia claimed it as her favorite movie for the last few months...that is, until she had a dream about the cow. She claims the cow came OUT of the television and laid ON her stomach. It was a mean cow. She doesn't like that cow. She is sure it really happened, no matter how many times we tell her it wasn't real, and she now refuses to watch that movie. The Baby Einstein featuring the goat is her new favorite.

Lydia also had a dream that an orange animal came in through her window and got into bed with her. I thought, oh this might be a nice dream. But no. I asked her if the animal was nice and her face became very grave as she shook her head and replied that it was NOT nice. I tried to get more clarification, but she just keeps restating that the animal was orange, it got in her bed with her, and that it was a mean animal. And that it REALLY happened. 

I tell Lydia that the dreams are pretend. And though she nods at me while I'm talking, I can see the doubt in her eyes. After all, SHE was the one the orange animal got into bed with. It was HER stomach the cow laid on. Someday she'll figure out her scary dreams aren't real, the poor girl. But for now she can snuggle up in her kitchen rugs and escape into her own world.

Now, see if you can figure out if that's a real booger or not on Ammon's face -

It is, in fact, cereal that got stuck under his nose in his snot. Just thought you'd enjoy it :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter - Take 2

Thanks to my wonderful, smart, computer savvy friends, I was able to recover my lost Easter pictures. Huzzah!! This makes me so happy. This momma loves her pictures of her babies. And after reading the last post, I realized how dreary it sounds. So, luckily, I get another go at it. So check out my two sweethearts in their Easter apparel:

Thank you Uncle Kyle for holding Ammon still, though he was not happy.
And for teaching Lydia to stick out her tongue instead of smiling.
It's already virtually impossible to get her to smile for the camera anymore.
And for this boy it is impossible. I take what I can get.
There you have it. Sure, they aren't pictures of the century and you may wonder why I care so much about them, but looking back at my own Easter pictures with my siblings is one of my favorite things. I love how we change throughout the years with our Easter outfits. So these pictures are like little nuggets of gold to me that I want to preserve for my kids when they are older to look back and smile on.

And maybe someday I can give a cheesy object lesson about the miracle of the "resurrection" of these pictures and how wonderful it was and how happy it made me when the pictures were brought back from death....I can hear my kids groaning now :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Weekend Blur

We had a very crazy Easter weekend full of sickness, frustration, egg hunts, and candy. After finding out that Brigham did not get ANY of the BAJILLION  jobs that he's been interviewing for, we both had a sort of breakdown Friday night. To top that off, my two germ monsters spread a very nasty bug to the whole family that had at least one of us out of commission all weekend. We're still trying to slowly recover. Of course it hit Ammon the hardest and turned into a sinus infection plus a yeast infection on his little bum. Just add another doctor trip to his repertoire. 

Despite that chaos, we manged to make it through three Easter Egg hunts, consume enormous amounts of chocolate, and spend some time with family. Unfortunately, we left our entire dozen "painted" eggs (as Lydia calls the dyed Easter eggs) at my cousin's house so I'm going to have to find something else to make for dinner besides the previously planned egg salad sandwiches.

Today, somehow half of my Easter pictures got deleted, including those of Lydia and Ammon in their adorable Easter outfits :( I'm still devastated by it. I'm hoping my uncle managed to get a few snapshots of them on his camera. They really were smashing. But here are the ones I managed to keep from Easter morning.

With so much going on it, everything blurred by in one of our least graceful Easters. I'm just glad we were able to do what we could to celebrate Christ's triumph over death and the glory of life that we each have thanks to Him. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Few Firsts

This past weekend was exciting, not only because it was General Conference, but also because we had a few firsts happen.

The most exciting first was the new baby added to the Tappana family.

Jackson, our new nephew, was born on Friday and we couldn't wait to meet him so we rushed over that very night and took up way too much time bothering his tired parents to check out this cute little guy. He's the first boy cousin for my kids and my very first nephew! Lydia enjoyed holding him and despite Ammon's first reaction of curious stares, I'm sure he'll be glad to toddle around with another little boy soon. So welcome Jackson, you handsome little boy!

Now as for the next first, you'll probably laugh.

Most of the time, while Brigham's out at the Priesthood Session of Conference and then with his Dad and brothers for dinner, I mope around wishing I had some ladies around to party with or lament that my family lives so far away. Basically I throw myself a loner's pity party.

This year I determined that I would make my own fun so I took the kids for a complete new experience: Happy Meals at McDonalds.

Yep. My kids have never been to McDonalds, played in a playplace, or had a Happy Meal. Brigham and I both strongly dislike the place and avoid it completely. However, I thought my kids, by right, should experience the wonders of greasy food, greasy slides, and a new toy to fight over and lose that very day.

As you can tell, Lydia's share of the Happy Meal mostly consisted of swallows of chocolate milk amid running to and from the playplace - she had a blast! And Ammon was all too happy to reap the benefits of forgotten chicken nuggets, apples, and french fries (well the french fries Mommy decided to share). I snuck in Wendys for the majority of my dinner :)

The kids had much more fun than me in that hot, crowded room. But making my kids happy makes me happy, and there was no moping going on. We were all in a good mood going out on the town - even if our definition of a new, exciting night is a Happy Meals at McDonalds.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cauliflower Mini Pizzas

Lately I've been trying to incorporate cauliflower into different dishes. I've made mashed cauliflower, cauliflower pizza, and this time I wanted to try out a recipe I found for mini cauliflower pizza bites on one of my new favorite sites, Dashing Dish. I was hoping the mini bites wouldn't be soggy like my other cauliflower pizza crust experiment.

To make the mini pizza bites, you cut up about a half a head of cauliflower,

And then pulse it to a rice-like consistency.

Dump it into a bowl to microwave uncovered for eight minutes. After it's done in the microwave, start adding stuff to make it delicious:

Stir it all up and microwave it for two more minutes.

While it was being zapped, I got the liners ready in the muffin tin and sprayed liberally with cooking spray.

Then I added the mixture and really packed it into each of the liners.

Top with a bit more turkey pepperoni

And bake!

They come out looking like this:

I served them with a fancy apple-toasted walnut-cranberry salad (which was AMAZING) and some homemade pizza sauce to dip them in.

I was pleased with the results. The mini bites weren't soggy and tasted good, especially dipped in the pizza sauce. I will say, don't use paper liners because no matter how much I greased, the mini bites stuck to the liner and had to be scraped out with a fork. Luckily, half my liners were some metallic type of material that worked much better.

Also, the mini-bites are definitely small and this recipe doesn't really make more than twelve. It's definitely more of an appetizer rather than part of a meal. Fortunately, I made tons of the salad, otherwise we all would have been left hungry.

All said and done, we liked the flavor of the pizza bites and it was easy enough to make that I probably would make these again as a side dish or appetizer. This recipe is definitely my favorite cauliflower experiment so far.