Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back Home and Back to Work
















































Some of us are back home and back to work. Others of us are back home and sleeping in! We had a great Christmas together. As much fun as it was to be together, in some ways its good to be home and getting some rest from all of the stresses of traveling. We are so very grateful for our family and for the good relationships that we have with each other. It's amazing to watch our family grow. Now that Audrey and Sam are engaged the circle is almost complete. In fact the best part of the baby blessing for Owen was to see the priesthood circle of our family! (We look forward to a time when Mike and Carrie and Nicholas can also be with us)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Update

Ron, mom, and I arrived in Stillwater, OK on Monday evening. We stopped in Dallas on the way to take a tour of JCPenney corp. to see where Audrey works. We also took one picture of the burb near Leona TX- when the 200,000 miles rolled over. If, I post that picture, Ron wants to know which old girl has more miles- me or the burb? :) Of course it's me :) (The burb only represents miles on ONE car, that I have driven to death. There have been others.)
Any way...back to Christmas-
Sam and Audrey arrived on Wednesday evening. Christmas morning was just for Jared and Nathan. Christmas afternoon, Micah, Alison, Daniel, Ashley, and Jaden all arrived. We never told Nathan and Jared that Jaden was coming. And Jaden knew he was going on a trip but he didn't know where. SURPRISE- three boys together. Christmas evening we had a huge dinner, round two of gifts and our family Christmas story/singing. Now we are hanging around- all of us at Annie's house. Good thing, our kids all like each other and enjoy each others company. Tomorrow we will all go to church- Alex will bless Owen at sacrament meeting, since most of our family is here. Sunday evening and then Monday morning we will start heading home. We should have Owen sufficiently spoiled by then :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

This and That

I got started decorating and then got busy with other things. So ... no lights in the yard, not much decor inside either. My trees look much nicer in person than the photos. I don't have time for any other explaination. Ron almost has the car loaded- so we are about to leave for Stillwater, Ok. We will be back after Christmas- it should be a great week!









We are headed off to Oklahoma today. Before we even make it to Dallas, my suburban will turn over 200,000 miles. Ron was suggesting we might have a celebration when that happens. But, probably we will just watch it roll over and say- look at that :) Then we will be praying like crazy that it makes the trip and back okay! This picture was a few years ago. It has more wear and tear now, some things are just getting worn out on it and Ron thinks its a truck to haul lumber in :) I'm hoping that the 'car maker crisis' will get to the point where they are giving away suburbans- then I'll get a new one. Until that happens we will probably drive this one until it dies :) (Thanks Karen - this has been a great car!)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

O K Simms

No pictures yet, but we have a name- Owen Knight Simms.
Annie and Owen will go home on Friday. Audrey is there now with Nathan and Jared, but after she leaves later today- Alex has a schedule that he needs to stick to for "when and where" the boys will be for tonight, tomorrow and Friday :)

December 16 Birthdays




Yesterday Jaden was four years old! Yes!
(I don't even want to think about how old that makes me:) AND The Simms have another boy, who will get to share his birthday with Jaden, but...
we don't even have a name yet. Stay tuned for more details to come. I'm sure that Annie will be blogging soon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Lights


I have two favorite things about Christmas. One is the Christmas music and the other is Christmas lights. The Christmas music is easy to come by, just pop in the CD or turn on the radio. In fact the radio stations started having Christmas music long before Thanksgiving. (Which I think was a little too early.) At church we sing Christmas hymns all month and have various activities where the Christmas hymns are sung or played. At our Relief Society Christmas dinner the two missionaries from our ward sang Silent Night, which was very good. Ron and I went to an activity last night that had great Christmas music. I hope everyone is taking the opportunity to participate in activities this month to enjoy the music of the season. The Christmas hymns bring a beautiful spirit with them.
Enjoying the Christmas lights takes more effort than enjoying the music. The lights around the house always take several steps- find them, untangle them, figure out what bulbs are burned out, find new bulbs, replace the bad ones, and then actually put them up. At this point this year, we are still trying to find them :) I have always loved driving around to look at the houses decorated with Christmas lights. Ron never has been very fond of that. When the kids were younger, sometimes he would go along for the ride and sometimes just the kids and I went. This year, I have a new plan. I'm going to try to figure out a good place to go see lights here in Houston and then Ron will want to go with me and he will have fun, because...

we will be able to go in his car with the top down. Only in Texas can you go look at Christmas lights in the convertible :) :) (My only other problem is whether we actually have a free evening to go do that- I still have lots to do before we are ready to go to Stillwater next week.)
PS-The picture I posted is of a tree near our church building. The picture did not turn out as well as I had hoped. But it is an amazing huge oak tree decorated for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 10 Birthday

Happy Happy Birthday


























We are grateful to have you in our family. Have a great day. D&R

Monday, December 8, 2008

Baby Pictures

As I go blogging, seems like everyone is posting baby pictures. I decided maybe I should post baby pictures, too.
























So... just because my baby is 21 and her baby will turn 4 this month- can I still post baby pics? :)
Ashley is our youngest daughter. She grew up doing gymnastics, with some soccer and volleyball on the side. She loved growing up with a brother and three sisters. She had to move to Texas with us as an only child. Everyone else was married, at school, or on a mission. Jaden was born during her senior year of high school. What an amazing story that has been. As a line from a movie says, "plan to be surprised". (We just never know exactly what life holds for any of us and it doesn't do us much good to try to guess.) Ashley was a single mom for 3 years, living in Houston, then Oklahoma, and then Utah. There really was a 'plan' all along- she met a wonderful young man (at school in Utah) and they were married in August. We still continue to be amazed at her strength and her testimony. The best trait Ashley has , is her happiness. As a baby and as a child she was always happy. Even when there were sad or hard times, she could bounce back quick and be happy. She always seems to say "life is good". We are expecting a "happily ever after" story here :)













PS- Daniel, you might have to help her put on sunscreen. This is what happens when she does it herself. (she had to show up at a gymnastics meet looking like this :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Life is Not Fair

We have a family gift exchange for Christmas. Each person gets one name and then we send out emails with a "wish list" to help with the gift buying dilemma. When I read Alison's wish list and after seeing the blogs of the Christmas trees, (by the way, Ashley we are still waiting for pictures of your tree :) I realized that life is not fair. I have too many decorations and the girls have very few. I have an attic full of "stuff" that they might want :) I am going to box some of it up and send it to Utah and then take some of it to Oklahoma. Mike, you are the only one at this time exempt from receiving "stuff", but just wait until you actually live some where longer than 6 months :) Instead of sharing the wealth, I can share the stuff. That will make Ron happy. I put out a few decorations at our house. Ron never comments on things like that. GG is always reminding me, "Whatever you get out, you have to put away". I did one new little tree this year and bought a couple of new ornaments when they were half price. I also have other new ornaments but I bought those last January when they were on clearance. The ornaments for my big tree are still sitting on the table- I might get to that project this weekend.




Two new frog ornaments that don't match anything I already have- but they were so cute- I couldn't resist. And my "pear tree". It has a gold bird on top and cute little red pears. It looks better in real life- sorry the picture is not very good.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Snapdragons




My "yard man" spent most of his free time on Friday and Saturday, working (where else?) in the yard. It takes him several hours each Saturday to mow, edge, trim, weed , and ant bait the yard. Since he had an extra day (Friday), he got some extra things done. He has started building an "above ground garden". (I will take pics. and let you know how that progresses later). He started putting out the Christmas decor. When I told him I would decorate the inside and he was in charge of the outside- he asked if he could just put out a "bah, hum bug" sign. I said, "yep, as long as it has lights on it." :) The best thing he did, was he planted some snapdragons for me. (They are a winter flower here in Texas) They are one of my favorite flowers. The reason for that is because I have a special connection with snapdragons. My grandmother, Martha, had snapdragons growing around her house. She would take me to look at them and show me how to carefully pinch them to make them open up. I mentioned on another post one of my particular memories of Faye was frosted flakes and cinnamon toast. With grandma and grandpa Berling we would always have 7Up floats and sugar cookies. The other interesting connection, was that Arika was stillborn on Martha's birthday. If there are snapdragons in heaven- I think Martha is showing them to Arika, too.

Thanksgiving




For Thanksgiving, we invited a few friends to come to our house for dinner. Since there was 9 of us, all together, we couldn't all sit around our kitchen table. We used the two picnic tables on our porch. Not exactly "fancy shmancy" (as Alison would say) but it worked okay. Plus, I got to have my turkey sandwich on Thursday evening. The real reason I spend all morning cooking is for my turkey and mayo sandwich on Thanksgiving evening :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cryin In My Water...

My friend, Karen has "Cryin in my water music- because I don't drink beer" on her blog. I think there is a song about "cryin a tear in my beer for ya dear"... :) Any way I guess this is my "cryin a tear in my water (also because I don't drink beer) post. I'm feeling rather blue- the empty nest syndrome always hits harder at holiday times. Basically I'm just missing all of the kids and the grand kids- it's just me (and mom) and the "yard man" left. I guess I could have gone to Stillwater, to help Annie cook- but too many cooks spoil the turkey :) I could have gone on the 14 hour road trip with Ashley, Daniel, and Jaden, but there would not have been enough room in the car :) I could have gone to Highland with Alison and Micah, but 1 mom on a holiday is enough :) I could have gone to Cape Town, but after a 24 hour plane trip- there might not even be Thanksgiving there :) I could have gone with Sam and Audrey to St George, but I can already hear Audrey exclaim, "awkward!" Or I could have gone to Denver to see my brothers, but I'm not very good at the turkey "bowling" thing. (Similar to the turkey bowl, but real "bowling".)
Its funny- when the kids were younger, it seemed like we were all alike. We ate the same foods, we did the same activities, we all thought alike. Then as they each got older- their own personalities began to appear. They began to be influenced by other people and other families and other activities. Now they each have their own likes and dislikes, their own activities and other families to spend time with. Which is exactly the way "the plan" works. They are only ours for a brief time, then its time to start families of their own and its just "me and the yard man" left. And that's okay- as long as everyone "blogs in" :) so we still feel connected even with the actual distance between us. And did I tell you that the "yard man" does a great job ? :) He also did the dishes and his usually Thanksgiving job- of taking all of the turkey meat off the bones :)
Life is still good.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fourth Child- Third Daughter



(Before you look any further- my disclaimer is that, "If I'm going to get into trouble, I might as well do a good job of it :) Audrey, Alison, and Ashley are all together in Utah for the next few days- this post should prove to be interesting to them and to "their guys" :)
Alison was my only hope of one of my girls being interested in fashion design, sewing, and the dress business. Things were going along fairly well- at one point it even looked like she would have a fashion design degree and work at my store. Then... along comes Micah and snatches her off to Utah :) While Alison and I still have an interesting connection in the dress business, she is not here in Houston working at The Silver Hanger- she is in Utah working for Beautifully Modest. (the next best thing)
Alison is an interesting combination of Ron's personality and my personality. While the other kids might tend to favor more of Ron or more of me- Alison is an even split of us both. She is a rare combination of athletics, intelligence, and creativity.

Alison has two famous childhood stories. (sorry Alison, but I have to tell)
When she was about 4 years old, she and Audrey were playing together in our family room. Alison decided it would be fun to jump off of a book case. When she landed on the hard floor she broke her elbow. She always claimed her broken arm was Audrey's fault for not catching her when she jumped.

Later, when Alison was alittle older and learning to ride a bike, she was good at getting started but not good at stopping. We had lots of trees in our yard, so when she wanted to stop, she would ride straight toward a tree- jump off the bike and let it crash into the tree. I think she also tried that same technic with the riding lawn mower :) When she sent pictures back from her mission of her on a bike- we thought, oh no- don't let her ride a bike, she will need a tree in order to stop!


Audrey and Ashley introduced Alison to a wonderful young man, who was one of their neighbors in Highland. Their wedding was a great family event last June. What a cute couple! We love you Micah, oh and you too, Alison :)

































Friday, November 21, 2008

Recipe

Sweet potato and apple casserole.
4 med. sweet potatoes, 2 granny smith apples, 1 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 c. sugar, 1/4 c. brown sugar, 3 T. flour, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 c. butter, 1 c. chopped nuts. Cook potatoes and slice-either pierce the potatoes and place on foil covered baking sheet- bake at 400 for 1 hour- cool, peel, slice. Or peel and slice, then boil for a few minutes until almost soft. Peel and slice apples. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Place apple slices in the pan- put potato slices on top of apples. Stir together orange juice, sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Pour over apples and potatoes. Sprinkle with nuts, dot with butter. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes. (For those of you who might want marshmallows, add those and return to oven- just until brown :) This makes 12 servings- I am going to do "half" of everything for us. Plus I will use the splenda sugar instead of the real thing :) You could also add pineapple- either crushed or tidbits- drained. (Or use the pineapple juice instead of the orange juice).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Getting Ahead of Myself

Since I'm still learning this "blog thing", I didn't realize that when I save a draft and post it later- it doesn't go to the top. So for those of you watching the "titles" to see a new post, I actually have three new things- this one, the Ada Faye one, and the talking turkey one. I don't know if anyone else is enjoying the blogs- but mom and I are having a great time! Everyone is keeping us well entertained- we love the sense of humor that radiates in our family :) ILY all LT

Monday, November 17, 2008

Last But Not Least














Alison was the last one to check in and she is the only one of us that might have the most similarities to Ada Faye Wilson. (Yes, Audrey gets the prize- we will try to send the mummified turkey to her :)
Ada Faye was born on Sep.7, 1905. She married Paul Harkness in January of 1926. They had two children, Donald Lee and Ruth Ann. She died in 1970 at the age of 65. She lost her battle with throat and lung cancer. So to most of you she is great grandma. One of my rather unusual memories is eating frosted flakes and cinnamon toast at grandmas house. Who knows- maybe Arika Faye is the one who most resembles Ada Faye.

Lets Talk Turkey
















If you are just checking in and did not read the post called, "Turkey Bowl Dilemma"- read that one first and then come back to this one. Two other disclaimers here- 1. I did not know how to cook when I got married either- it has all been trial and error. (luckily not too many errors:) And my main man loves everything I cook :) :) Okay almost everything :)
2. I'm sure that I will offend the "make it from scratch cooks". (the trial part of 'trial and error')
So the short version of this post would be- just go goggle "turkey" and I'm sure that you'll find more info. than you ever wanted to know about turkeys :) Now for my personal opinions- what ever they might be worth.

I don't really think there is much difference between the expense turkeys and the cheap ones. Thanksgiving dinner really is a very economical holiday meal. In the store I found everything from $.39 a pound to $2.99 a pound. (Audrey if you've got the money- go for the $2.99 a pound- already cooked turkey- just thaw, heat and eat:) I expected the fresh turkeys to be more expensive than the frozen, but they were about the same. (Except, no $.39 ones, but between $1.29 and $1.99 a pound) Fresh, can just be kept in the refrig- no thawing. The frozen turkeys just need to be in the refrig. for 1-3 days, to thaw, while still kept cold. A quicker method is to put the turkey in a sink full of cold water (turkey still in plastic bag- remember you asked for details :) You will need to turn it over several times and maybe change the water, if it gets warm. Don't thaw the turkey at room temp. (like just setting in the sink or on the counter without the cold water) Using this method probably only takes a few hours (but don't quote me on that) The best method is in the refrig. with a tray or towel under it. You will be able to tell when its thawed- soft to squeeze. And probably a puddle in the frig. (hehe) unless wrapped in really good plastic with no holes. When you are ready to cook- unwrap the turkey- remove the paper bag of giblets from under the skin flap and take the neck out of the inside. You'll know what I'm talking about when you get to that point. (One of my early trial and errors was not knowing those paper bags were there and cooking the whole thing :) The next step is to get a 'good grip on that bird' and rinse it inside and out in the sink, by holding it under running water. You will probably only drop it a couple of times :) By doing these first couple of steps- you will quickly determine if the turkey is completely thawed or still frozen on the inside. (In fact rinsing the inside will help thaw that part if still slightly frozen) Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan. I have a black roaster pan- but an 8x12 cake pan will work- 0r an aluminum roaster pan (just be careful with the aluminum one, it will be flimsey with the weight of the turkey). Most directions say to brush the entire outside with veg. oil- simple way- spray it with 'Pam". Cook in an oven temp. of 325 degrees. A 12-14 pound turkey will take about 3 to 3 3/4 hours- unstuffed. (I don't recommend putting the stuffing inside the bird- see comments later on stuffing). Each turkey will have specific directions on the package or inside the wrapper. There are also plastic 'Oven Bags' that you can use, when cooking the turkey. They claim to be the easiest way to the "juiciest, most tender turkey". The directions are on the box.
A few other random thoughts- using a meat thermometer, really is a good idea so that you know the internal temp. of the turkey. (I bought the honeysuckle turkey that has the "pop up" thermometer already in it.) (Call me for details on the meat thermometer if needed)
I used to spend hours 1.cooking giblets, 2.peeling potatoes, 3.making pie crust, 4.drying bread crumbs and chopping celery/onions/mushrooms etc. At least I am wiser now-
1. My homemade gravy comes straight from the Campbells soup can. That way I can get low fat, low sodium (if I want it), always creamy texture, tastes good etc. They also had a canned turkey gravy that is fat free and cholesterol free. My gravy will be a can of turkey gravy, a can of chicken soup, and a can of mushroom soup. (add enough milk or water or both, for what ever thickness you like) I know one of the uses for the 'giblets' (which means inner turkey parts, like heart, liver, and gizzard) is to flavor the gravy. But have you actually tasted those parts? (Sorry Ron and Grammy, but those parts get thrown away) When I thought very carefully about my feelings for gravy- I realized that I had a tramatic experience when I was in high school trying to make traditional gravy by thickening the turkey drippings- it was not a pretty sight nor was it anything that tasted good! I just can't do the thickened meat fat gravy :)
2. 'Idahoan' instant potatoes taste great. Instant potatoes used to taste like the cardboard box- but these taste like the real thing, only much simpler. Just heat water, stir in potato flakes and serve. Also comes in lots of flavors, or you can add more "fatting stuff" to them- like cream cheese, sour cream, butter, and bacon. (Just think- you could top all that with thickened turkey fat gravy. hehe)
3. The refrigerated or frozen pie crust turns out good every time. My favorite is the refrigerated Pillsbury Pie Crust. It is usually with the refrig. cookies, pudding etc. Just unroll and bake. We will be having sour cherrie turnovers and pumpkin cake for dessert. Remember always use real Cool Whip- no Dream Whip allowed :)
4. Homemade stuffing just doesn't taste as good as Stove Top. And they have already done all of the bread drying and veg. chopping. Make it with chicken broth rather than with water, if you want. I am going to try mixing a box of stove top with a box of cornbread stuffing. I'll let you know how that works.
One last thought- fresh or frozen green beans are better than canned. But remember on your way to the freezer isle- the fresh ones would have to be washed, cleaned, and cooked. The frozen ones just pop into the boiling water or microwave :)

One more last thought- I do have a good recipe for sweet potato, apple casserole. I haven't found a good substitute for the real sweet potato yet. I still peel those and make ahead of time. (And sorry Audrey but no more marshmallows, those went out when the 'low carb-low sugar" came in.) I will hunt down that recipe and give it later. (Ashley, I will also look for pork chop recipes)

Good luck- ya'll know how to call and ask questions :)