Tuesday, March 31, 2009

All Tuckered Out

Poor little Elijah has been pretty sick the last couple of days.  It seems to be just a cold with a runny nose, but he is sleeping a lot too - he might be teething - anyway, while we were at Wal-Mart today he just couldn't take anymore.
(Pardon the quality, it was taken with my camera phone.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lucky Blue Giveaway!!

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In honor of my new Etsy shop (and to generate more traffic and advertising) I am going to give away $100 worth of services to one lucky winner.  To enter this contest, you will need to go and visit my shop http://myluckyblue.etsy.com and tell me what you would do with your $100.  To earn more entries, you can:
  1. Place the Lucky Blue button in your sidebar (just grab the code from my sidebar).
  2. Favorite me on Etsy
  3. Blog about Lucky Blue and this giveaway with a link back to THIS post.
So that's a total of 4 entries you can get.  Please leave a new comment for each entry.  (That's easier for me.)

The contest will end next Monday night - April 6th - at midnight.  Come Tuesday (or Wednesday at the latest) I will announce the winner.  Make sure I have a way to contact you, either by visiting your blog or through email.  

I'm so excited!  This will be so much fun!  And get this, the first Monday of every month, I will be giving away something different to one of my followers here or someone who heart's me on Etsy.  They won't all be this big though.  So, get going!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flash Back Friday/Intro to The Wall: Randal's First Day Home

Let me introduce you to the original Twitter/Facebook Wall/Blog:

This is the wall of what used to be my closet in high school.  As you can see, my mom now uses it to store holiday decorations and lots of other stuff.  But that whole wall has short little journal entries and one liners from each of us girls.  I think Samuel even posted something in there.
Well, here is what my Flash Back Friday is all about:

The whirlwind that was our courting.  The whole entire week of it.  That's right one whole week.  Actually, I'll probably only do the day he came home.  I'll leave you in suspense for the rest of it.  (Leave 'em wantin' more!) 

So, I always said that I would never date a boy who had been home from his mission for less than a year, and that I would date a boy for at least a year before I got engaged and that I would be engaged for at least 6 months before I got married.  Yeah, well, never say never.

The day he got home, he had invited me to meet him at the airport, but I just couldn't get out of work until noon and his flight came in around 11.  And I didn't have his phone number, so there was no way for me to call him.  I just had to wait until he called me.  Which he did that afternoon.  He invited me over to see him and run some errands with him - seeing his bishop and some friends and stuff.  When I pulled up in my 4-Runner, I remember thinking that I hoped he was impressed that I drove a stick shift.  I even wore a skirt because I knew he appreciated a girl in a skirt.  It was all so silly.  This is what I wrote about it in my journal:

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Well...  Randy is home.  Tina called me last night.  Apparently Chris [my cousin] told her I was engaged.  Well...  I'm not.  I think that in Randy's perfect world, we would be though.  He called me Wednesday night [the day he got home] and we hung out until almost 2 o'clock in the morning.  He started joking about marriage that night.  Towards the end his exact words were: "There's no doubt in my mind."  I was freaked out.
That night, we drove to his bishop's house (who remembered me!) to his friend, Brennan's, family's house, where I got to meet all them.  Brennan was attending BYU so we didn't get to see him, but I had met him a couple of times before Randal left on his mission.  And Randal got to talk to him on the phone while we were there.  I'm pretty sure we also drove to my family's house so they could all see him.  He flirted a lot and kept saying little one-line innuendoes about getting married and such.  It freaked me out, but I soon learned that that first night was mild compared to what he had in mind.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why I Do Fancy Things

When I first got married, over 6 years ago, I remember having the hardest time deciding on what decorating type things to register for.  I didn't know what my style was - I guess I didn't really have one.  Everything was pretty much white and cream.  Which I still love, but now I know how to mix and match and add little pops of color and so on and so on.  Anyway, it has been a very fun thing to find my style voice - really really fun.  I've discovered that I love rich colors and vintage stuff - but it has to be "clean."  I've got my great grandma's china hutch and dining table and I love them in my little house.  They match so well with the style of the house.  I love my guest room furniture.  It's so pretty and classic and it perfectly compliments my great grandma's quilt.  I also love big iron scrollwork wall decoration.  I've got one in my bedroom and in my last house, with the huge vaulted ceilings, I totally jacked a huge one from my mom's barn that wasn't being used to put on those huge walls.  My style is kind of all over the place, but it's mine and it's still evolving and growing and I love it.

One thing that I've discovered I really love is vintage and crystal and silver serving pieces.  They make me smile.  Anyway, tonight Deborah was throwing a baby shower for Talia - a super cute girl from church that I totally wish I hung out with more.  She and her hubbie are pretty cool - and get this, they met when he was teaching seminary - she was one of his students!!!  I hope that wasn't a secret, but I LOVE that!  I think it's so cute.  Mind you, he's only a couple, maybe 3, years older than her!  So, for the shower, I offered to help out by bringing a fruit salad.  Then I got started thinking about doing something fancy.

Enter all the supplies from yesterday's post (and a few more) and you get edible art.  I made fruit topiaries and this other awesome thing.  Here's how:

You'll need some wooden dowels.  I painted mine green.  I used 3 different shaped ones for some interesting detail.  You then pound them into a head of cabbage and stick that into some floral foam.  I also used some smooth river rock in my base so that it would get the center of balance right.  Now, mine is two tiered, but it was way too top heavy.  If you want to make a two tiered one, use foam balls and then just hot glue some cabbage or other green leaves onto them.  And see the distance between the two tiers?  It wasn't quite enough.  I didn't calculate that I would be adding an extra couple of inches when you add the fruit.  So, next you add the fruit with toothpicks.  I used grapes for the top tier and had to break the toothpicks in half for them.  For the bottom half, I used strawberries - those you need the whole toothpick for.

But, like I said, the two tiers became too top heavy, so I took off the top tier and ended up with this:

Hehe, I love it.  This one actually didn't make it to the shower though.  It just didn't come out right.  Well, it didn't come out perfect.  I sort of ran out of strawberries and the back side was all uneven.  But let me tell you, the next shower is going to have an AWESOME fruit topiary.  The other things turned out pretty fancy though.

Here's the strawberry arrangement I made.  It's all attached to a head of cabbage that is just sitting in that marvelous green bowl.  Let's talk about that bowl for a minute, and then I 'll give you the super easy recipe for the yummy fruit dip you see in the foreground.

So, I am totally into anything with a pedestal these days.  Cake plates, tiered serving dishes, and these gorgeous pedestalled bowls.  When I was looking for directions to make these online I saw them done in really pretty urns.  So, I went to Hobby Lobby just down the street and found some good urns, but they were $10, so even though I knew I would use them again, I decided I would try The Salvation Army first.  So, I did.  I found all the pedestalled bowls you see here for only a dollar each.  And I have to tell you, I am totally IN LOVE with this green one.  I think it's just gorgeous!  And hello???  99 cents!  I just can't get over it.  On a side note: I also got the square base for the topiary at The Salvation Army also.  Just lovely.

And now the fruit dip.  Listen closely and get something to write with.  Are you ready?  Here's the recipe: Mix a tub of low-fat strawberry cream cheese with a jar of marshmallow cream.  That's it.  So easy!  Now, I say low-fat cream cheese because it's softer than the full-fat kind - thereby easier to stir all together.  Which is also a reason you should always use full-fat cream cheese for cheese balls.

And remember the top tier of the topiary?  Well, that became a grape arrangement sitting atop this marvelous Salvation Army tiny pedestalled bowl.  And they match so perfectly.  And that bird made it to the top.  So cute.  The cake plate the arrangement and apples are sitting on is not a Salvation Army find though.  I think that one came from Ross.  I miss Ross.

Now, onto the gift.  I love this gift because it is so unique and easy (and afordable!), but still very sentimental, thoughtful, and sweet.

It's a tiny little vase with a poem attached.  Smaller vases work well because that's the kind of flowers little hands like to pick for mamas.  Just the right size for dandelions or those little yellow flowers on the ground cover bushes found all over Phoenix.

And, no joke, every single time I hear, read, or even think about this poem I being to cry.  In fact, it's happening right now.  I'm not kidding.  If you're a mom, I dare you to try and read through it without your eyes beginning to water.  

See?  Couldn't do it.  Every single time.  I just love that poem.  And I love my boys.  I think I'll go in and kiss their sweet little sleeping heads when I'm done.  (Click on the poem for the full-sized printable version - because I like you that much!)

Anyway, so why do I do fancy things?  Well for one, I like feeling fancy.  And two, so other people can talk about how fancy I am (instead of how [fill in the blank] I am).  It's true.

And here is another Salvation Army find.  This brilliant scarf all tied in a bow.  See how fancy I am?  (I'm accessorized and everything!)

Love to you all!

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

The Grass is Always Greener...

When you haven't seen it in 5 months.  We've been getting rain the last few days and it's encouraged the green grass to start shooting up.  I don't think grass has ever looked so inviting.  Israel was in Heaven - obviously.
I could hardly get him to stand still for a picture.  But that's how he's been lately, just going, going, going.  Crazy kid.

I love this picture.  The way he's holding his tummy is just so cute.  It's so strange to see his personality come out more and more.  And for him to talk so much.  And that I can understand him.

I bought this vintage English pram - or Swiss, Emaljunga anyone?  Anyway, I bought it a couple of years ago at a garage sale.  There was this one, which is a double one, and also a single one.  I keep kicking myself that I didn't buy the single one.  It would be so great for photography, but then it occured to me, I could just do some creative framing and you wouldn't even know it was a double, and then it's like I've got two vintage English strollers - one a pram and one for bigger kids.  So we had some fun with it.  I just love it's look!  And I love this old quilt.  Chantal has the matching one and she told me recently that she found another one in perfect condition at a second hand store.  I am so jealous.

With Elijah, in the end, it's always about what he can gnaw on though.

What a cute kid.  How could I not take pictures of him all day long?  He's so smiley.

See?

And finally, can anyone guess what all these things have in common?  Yes, No?  Well tune in tomorrow to find out.  I'm pretty excited about it.


Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who's Tweets Do You Follow?

I only follow a handful of people - The Pioneer Woman and a couple of friends being among them. I don't really understand the whole Twitter thing yet, but I really enjoy some of the posts - Pioneer Woman especially. She just seems so real and down to earth. But she's not what I was going to write about today. I was going to show you the best two Tweets from the last couple of days. Both from the Post Secret guy.  Enjoy.

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Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

PS - Happy Birthday to Tina (on Monday)!!  Sorry I didn't call or anything.  I totally suck.

Monday, March 23, 2009

An Interesting Thing...

So, an interesting thing happened to me last week.  I received two emails from two different companies asking me to feature them.  Well, feature may be too exciting a word - more like mention them.  It may be because I have posted an email address to get in touch with me and so it's just kind of a 'spam' thing.  But, I've since emailed both of the parties and so far one has returned the email - seemingly from a real person!  That one is about a giveaway!!  So, if you enjoy cooking, and love looking through restaurant supply stores and catalogs, check this place out: Food Service Warehouse.  Actually, I really love restaurant supply stores.  Anyone ever been to Gygi in Salt Lake?  Love that place!  Anyhow, much of the site is stuff that I would have absolutely no use for, as it's big restaurant quality appliances, and bulk china, serving ware, etc.  But in the "Catering" section, I found many bowls and pedestal serving pieces that I am totally coveting.  And have you ever wanted "good ice" on demand?  You know, the kind of ice you get at Sonic.  Well, if you have upwards of $1,500, you can get one for your kitchen - or back patio or garage, if you don't have room in your kitchen.  Oh, how fun would that be?  Anyway, they are giving away $1,000 worth of cookware.  All you have to do is go to their site and enter your information.  And they don't sell your info or use it for marketing purposes.  By the way, this would be great for me, as I forgot to pack all of the lids for my pots and pans in this last move.

Cookware from Food Service Warehouse

The second site was ebeanstalk.com.  I'd never heard of them before, but they specialize in developmental toys for babies, toddlers, and young children.  Now, being the poor students we are - and the failing economy, we don't spend much money on toys - unless they're Legos.  But, if we did buy new toys, I would definitely check this place out first.  They do tons of product reviews and use real moms for testing and reviewing products before they sell them.  I like that - because although an "expert's" opinion is nice to consider, I am much more convinced when I know other kids actually enjoy it and moms don't hate it.

So, there's the two companies that contacted me last week.  I was a little wary of it, thinking it was just annoying spam, but actually getting what looked like real emails (from real people) in reply and answering specific questions I had about the information seems to be legit.  Am I more widely read than I thought?  Weird.  If so, I'm interested in what you reader's want.  Do you care about the cooking stuff (cause that's kind of one of my fav's) or about children's toys and product reviews (cause I can tell you how much Israel loves Legos and Spiderman, but after that it's pretty sparse)?

Hugs & Kisses from Charmaine

Saturday, March 21, 2009

BBQ

Tonight constituted the first BBQ of the year.  The weather was a perfect 68F so I broke out the steaks I bought earlier this week and put them on the grill.  I really love my grill.  I didn't take any pictures because I am sort of - ok, really exhausted today and Elijah was sort of - ok, really screaming at me.  But being exhausted is totally worth it.  Guess who I got to watch which movie last night?  That's right, I went to Wal-Mart at midnight and bought the 2-disc special edition of Twilight.  AND Randal watched it with me when I got home.  AND he enjoyed it!!

So let's talk about this movie for just one tiny moment.  It's sort of cheesy and the acting isn't the best ever, but I just love this movie - and the book - and all of Stephenie Meyer's books.  In fact, there has been just one movie kiss that I've been like - "Wow, that was a really good kiss."  Want to guess which one?  You'll be wrong.  It's the kiss from 10 Things I Hate About You after Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles have been playing paint ball.  I don't know, it just looks so sincere.  Well, now there are two.  And holy moly, this one's a doozie.  At the end of the movie, when Edward and Bella are at the prom, Rob Pattinson goes in for the kiss and his facial expression seems to convey everything Edward feels about it.  It actually looks painful for him - but in such a sweet and loving way.  Sounds so dumb, but I mean, my gosh!

So, dinner is done.  I think I'll go get the kids cleaned at ready for bed and church tomorrow and go watch the Twilight bonus disc!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flash Back Friday: The Mission (Part 2) & EFY



During the last summer of Randal's mission (it was actually winter in Brazil), I spent 6 weeks in California as an EFY counselor.  Besides housewife and mom, EFY counselor is seriously the best job in the world!  During that time, we didn't really exchange any letters because I didn't have a permanent address, so we emailed each other every week.  On Wednesdays, if I remember correctly.  Randal's emails were always so funny.  He loved what he was doing as a missionary, but he would flirt and put these little one-liners in his emails talking about marriage and ...  stuff.  This one was actually from a couple of weeks before I left for EFY, but it's pretty representative of Randal's personality:
I have only about 4 months left.  That's crazy!  I don't have any idea of what I'll do.  I have mixed feelings about going/coming home.  It is unbeatable to be able to preach the Gospel as an ordained minister of the Restored Gospel.  Testifying of Jesus Christ and prophets and baptizing and changing lives.

On the other hand, it is unbeatable, as I remember to hold a girl's hand and snowboard and go to the temple every week and talk to girls on the phone and go on dates and dance, etc.  I get nervous just thinking about it...

Teu coracao bate um pouco mais rapido quando recebe a minha carta atraves doe correios? {Babel Fish Translation to English: "Your heart beats a little faster when it receives my letter through the post offices?"}
Last time, I told you all about how I would make the commute home and back to work during lunch, if I knew I had a received a letter.  Well, don't think that I was the only one:
Monday I received your tape and letter.  I was pretty happy.  Actually, I called and cancelled lunch and we went to the area of the other Elders because they had grabbed our letters.  We didn't need to do this, but Elder Lau said that I got a tape and so the decision was made.
And here are some examples of the kinds of things he would write to make sure that I didn't forget about him while I was in California - this one is actually really special, because he made it rhyme.
My companion's fine and doing well
In California, you'll do just swell.

I am such a big dork.
Here in Brazil, we eat a lot of pork.

Forget me not, say I unto you
Especially for a California surfer who surfs the "Big Blue"
Well, I didn't "hook up" with any California guys while I was there, but I did make so many wonderful friendships with people who I am still in touch with today (thank you Facebook).  One night, me and two other girls were up late working on end of the week notes for our girls and I had been talking about "Randy" and all the tapes and letters and emails we had been exchanging and the girls wanted to hear more.  So, I went and got my boombox and one of Randy's tapes and put it on for them.  There were so many nights during those six weeks that I listened to those tapes over and over again.  In fact, if I had trouble sleeping, I would put on one of his tapes - not because they were boring, but because his voice was so soothing to me.  It still is.  In fact, if we are up late in bed talking, and he uses just the right tone, it can totally put me out.  I really love my husband's voice.  But back to the story.

So I was in California, having the time of my life, and Randal was in Brazil dealing with some tough things.  One week, a man attacked him - he wasn't hurt physically, but having someone right up in your face, accusing you of some horrible lies can be just as hurtful and draining as being sucker punched.  He always made sure to write to me every week though.  One Wednesday he missed because of some of those tough situations, but he sort of kind of broke the rules a teeny tiny bit and wrote to me on Saturday.  Which was good because I was kind of worried.  What I loved the most though, was that he always threw in some little flirty comments that made me smile and like him just that much more.
So, how is EFY going?  Are you having fun?  Are you learning a lot?  Are you making sure to stay far away from those vulturous guys who are working there also?...

I dreamed about you several times (we were married).  Prophetical?...

I will be sending you out a tape so that when you get home, you'll have a tape.  You haven't gotten yourself engaged yet, have you?...  I am looking forward to getting home and going on a date with you. ...
The awkward words and grammar crack me.  Remember, he was speaking Portuguese full-time, as he had a companion who was Brazilian.

I say that these little one-liners were cute and endearing, which they were, but they also freaked me out.  Big time.  The following is from my journal.  (And by the way all the "..."s are actually written in the journal, I'm not leaving stuff out.  I just overused that particular punctuation.)
I am getting scared for him (Randal) coming home...  It really freaks me out.  I don't think I'm going to go to the airport.  I think he needs to focus on his family.  He can call me later or something...  I'll go to his homecoming - I'll even bring my family... but I just don't want to expect anything and I don't want him to either.  

While we're on the subject...  Marriage scares me.  Don't take that the wrong way - I guess what I should say is that getting married scares me...  I {heart} marriage - I know how important it is and I just want to do it right and I want whoever I marry to know how important and sacred it all is.
In September, I started at ASU.  Finally, after nearly 5 years taking many different classes and changing my mind about majors about half a dozen times, I knew what I wanted to study and major in.  Religious studies, specifically Jewish studies, was my poison of choice.  I LOVED it!  Before I started school, I asked my father for a special blessing to give me strength and comfort as I started this new school year.  It was a beautiful blessing.  I wrote down what I could remember from it in my journal.  One of the very last things I wrote down was a bit confusing to me though.  I wrote down that I would understand Heavenly Father's plan more and that I would help bring my family to the Church and be an example.  Which was interesting, because all of my family went to my church.  Cousins, aunts, uncles, even my new brother-in-law's family were all church going people. 

That September, I also wrote this in my journal:
Grandaddy thinks I'm on the right track and that I'm doing well.  What a compliment.
So the summer and that first month of fall left me on a high.

Enter October.  My cousin was getting married to a girl I really loved and adored.  We were all in the single's ward together and she was going through the temple for the first time.  Right before I left, I got an email from Randy.  His father had passed away and he was just two weeks from coming home.  He asked me to check in on them and see if they needed anything.  I'm going to be honest with you, the prospect of checking in on a family that I had never met or talked to, during such an emotional and hard time really freaked me out.  But I did.  Turns out, the ward that his mom lived in (none of his family actually being members of his church), had taken care of everything.  I did bring by some flowers though and met his mom and youngest sister, who was only 6 at the time.  I made one of my former roommates, Jacque, come with me.  I don't think she'll ever forget that experience.  It was...  well, let's just say, "It was."  Randal made the decision to finish out the last few weeks of his mission rather than come home early.  And so he did.  The last email I got from Brazil was on October 16th.   He arrived at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, AZ on the morning of Wednesday, October 23, 2002.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kiss Me, I'm Irish!

No really!  I'm actually Irish.  Courtesy of Mary Emma Adams, whose parents imigrated to America from Hillsborough, Ireland in 1844, I am 1/16th Irish!  I may not be as Irish as my cousin, Patrick Fitzpatrick (seriously) or as my red-headed niece, but on St. Patrick's Day I proudly claim my Irish heritage!

So, what did I do to celebrate St. Patrick's Day?  Randal and the boys and I went to Marvin and Deborah's house and had Mexican food for dinner.  Appropriate because, actually, I'm 1/4 Mexican, courtesy of 2 great-grandparents born in Chihuahua, Mexico.  But, don't worry!

We had pork with green chiles in burritos.

We had a green salad.

And Marvin made a green mint chocolate ice cream pie for dessert.

I even fed the baby green baby food!

And for my contribution, I made guacamole.  That's green!  And, because it is so dang yummy and I love you all so much, I have included the recipe.  I even took the time to take pictures of each step!

Guacamole (and Salsa Mexico!)
First you start with your base of Salsa Mexico (so named because it is red, white, and green, but you have to pronounce it like a true Mexican - "Salsa Me-he-coe")

Start by dicing 5 tomatoes into small pieces - very small!  Normally, when I use tomatoes without cooking them, I de-seed them, but with this, you want all those juices and stuff - so don't do that!  And even though these pictures are on my stove, you don't cook this, the stove just happens to be right next to my biggest stretch of open counter space.  And it was the only clean space this afternoon when I made this.

Then dice 2 jalepenos very small.  I de-seed these because the heat is all in the seeds (and veins too, I'm told).  So, if you want more heat, leave some or all the seeds.

Next, dice a medium-large yellow or white onion - the smaller the dice, the better.  And I prefer sweet yellow onions, but either yellow or white will work.

Then chop up the leaves from one bunch of cilantro.  Yumm!!!  Be sure to rinse your cilantro really well, they almost have sand and mud left on them!  And normally, I would pick off the leaves and then chop, because I'm a little OCD that way, but today I was in a hurry so I just chopped the top half of the bunch, leaves, stems, and all!

Next squeeze the juice from two limes - or even 3 if you're feeling frisky.

I only had one lime, so here's a trick to get more juice from your citrus:  Use the side of your knife to scrape the inside of the lime and get most of the pulp out.  The pulp usually retains some juice and has a lot of taste, especially in limes.  Be careful when you do this though!!

Finally, add some fresh ground pepper and kosher salt.

Mix it all up and you've got some super yummy Salsa Mexico.  You could just stop here and use it on burritos or tacos or anything!  You could also just eat it plain with chips, but we're going for guacamole!

So, get out your avocados and start slicing them in half.  You'll need 5.  Run your knife through the skin and meat just to the seed in the center and cut around the avocado in a circle.  Then twist and pull apart.  Normally, your seed will stay in one side while the other is seedless.  This one didn't do that.  I've never seen an avocado do this before.  To remove the seed, stick your knife in it and twist it out.  Normally, you would give it one good whack not with the tip of your knife, but with the cutting edge, so the knife embeds and you can twist it out.  This scares the heebeegee's out of me though.

So, I quarter my avocados and them just grab the seed with my hand and pull.  This way, it's also easier to peel because you have a point to start at and you can just pull the skin off.

Once your avocados are all out, begin mashing with a fork.  I just mash right on the cutting board.  Here's a little tip:  Hold the other end with your other hand, otherwise it will go shooting off your cutting board and onto the floor.  And that's a bummer.

Once they're all mashed, season with a little fresh ground pepper and kosher salt.  Then transfer them to the salsa and mix, mix, mix.

Then, serve in your special fiesta pottery and enjoy!

So, this makes a ton.  If you are just making enough for you and that special someone, here is the smaller recipe.
1 tomato
1 avocado
1/2 small white or yellow onion - or a quarter of a medium-large one
1/2 jalepeno
1/4 of a bunch of cilantro
juice from 1/4 - 1/2 lime
fresh ground pepper and kosher salt

PS - If Ryan H. reads this blog - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  I will always remember because it's so easy.  I bet you don't remember by birthday!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Water Snob

Do you notice the subtle differences in the way water tastes?  For example, spring water is much different from filtered water.  I don't care for spring water.  And even among filtered waters, there is a difference.  I prefer Dasani over Auqafina, although I like the Aquafina bottles better, so sometimes I get Auqafina.  My sister, Chantal, prefers spring water though.  But she also used to lick rocks growing up.  Pretty sure she has some kind of mineral imbalance or deficiency or something.  

Having spent all of my life (up until June of this last year) in the west and southwest, I grew up on bottled water.  Have you ever had to drink Chandler, AZ tap water?  Gross.  Just, gross.  And where we lived in Peoria, AZ they sent out a water review every year of the local tap water.  I think it was well water, so that was why they needed to send out the stats every year.  Well, they (the water people) specifically said that the elderly and babies should not drink the tap water.  Pretty sure it causes cancer or something.  (I hope the water people don't come looking for me!)  When we lived in Salt Lake, I got away with just using a Brita filter for awhile, but when I got pregnant and all of my senses were suddenly magnified, I had to start buying bottled water.  And when we moved to AZ again, we bought the water cooler and 3 gallon jugs so that we could fill them up ourselves at the local water store.  At only 25 cents a gallon or less, it's the cheapest way to go - and I think it tastes the best!  Every place I have ever lived in AZ (as far as I know) has had a water and ice store within one mile.  Utah doesn't have that, and neither does Iowa.  It's one of the biggest reasons that I hope to live in AZ again someday.  I love Water and Ice water.  It's the best. 

Anyhow, when we moved here, Randal told me that Ames, IA tap water had been rated among the best tasting tap water in the country.  They do that?  Apparently so.  So, I tried it.  It wasn't as bad as Chandler, but still, it left a weird after taste.  I even tried cooling it down in the refrigerator - sometimes that helps.  It didn't.  So, I began buying water, because, alas, no water and ice store to go and fill my water jugs.  I could have water delivered monthly, but we go through at least a gallon a day (just between me and the baby!), sometimes more, and that's a LOT of money when you are having it delivered.  I've noticed in Wal-Mart there is a Culligan water filter machine that I can get my jugs filled at, but it's in the VERY back of the store, and I've got 23 gallons worth of 3 and 5 gallon jugs to fill.  Honestly, I don't want to be the water freak with all those jugs.  It's a whole lot easier to just buy 5 or 6 gallons and a 24-pack of water bottles when I go grocery shopping.  Cub Foods also has a water filter machine.  It's not in the back of the store, and it's also not as busy in the middle of the night.  So, I could get away with a whole lot less staring.  But, I've resisted.  Until today.  I finally broke down and pulled out the water cooler and washed it all out and put on the 4 gallon water jug I got at Sam's Club today and turned it on.  The hum of the cooling coils almost made me cry.  Now, I just need to clean out all my jugs and make a midnight run to the Cub Foods in my hoodie and Jackie-O glasses and hope that nobody recognizes me.  Just call me the water snob with the jugs. 

I love you pure, wonderful, yummy, filtered water.
PS - Pardon the freaky hair and no make-up, it's late and I'm just so happy, I don't care.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Grandma Lope's Award Wining Chili

This last week, we had one really cold overcast day - a perfect day for chili!  This is also a GREAT cook once, eat twice meal.  (See here for more recipes, crafts, and hobby-type stuff!)
And it really is award-winning.  My sister, Chantal, made it for their church chili cook-off and won!!  It's super easy and super yummy!

So here's the recipe, courtesy of Grandma Lope (she's the one in the middle!)

Here is the list of ingredients:
1 large onion, diced (I like pretty big chunks)
1 cup of celery, chopped (I don't like celery in soups, stews, or chili - pretty much anything where it's cooked, so I omit the celery, but add celery seed at the end, because I do appreciate the flavor)
1 lb. of hamburger
2 Tbls oil (I use Canola)
garlic salt
pepper
chili powder (I used probably 2-3 tsp., but I'll explain how I measure it in a moment)
1 can (regular sized) of tomato sauce
1 can (regular sized) of diced tomatoes
1 can (little one) of diced green chiles
1 can (regular sized) of beans, kidney or pinto (I used pinto)
NOW...  here's the secret ingredient: 1/2 - 1 tsp. peanut butter (I'll explain later.)

First, fry the onion, celery, and hamburger in the oil.  Once the hamburger is almost all the way browned, add garlic salt and pepper and enough chili powder to cover the meat.  (I use the "fresh" chili powder that you find by the Mexican food in the grocery store - not the bottled stuff you find by the spices - it's just better.  And it's even better if you're in the Southwest!)

When the meat is fully browned add the cans.  You want to rinse the tomato cans with a little bit of water (a 1/4 of a can or less) and put that in the chili pot also.  If you find your chili a little too thick, add more water.  Or, if it's a little to thin, just let it boil off a little.  Then, if you didn't use celery, like me, you can now add the celery seed.  And finally, add the peanut butter.  This helps to age the chili - so it tastes like it's been cooking together all day - or like you made it yesterday.

And ta da!  Grandma Lope's award winning chili!  It's super yummy.  We called it "Hamburger Soup" so Israel would eat it.  We let him put cheese on it to make it "Cheeseburger Soup."  You can also add sour cream and crackers.  Personally, I just like it plain with a dinner roll.  This is comfort food for me.

And for a variation, omit the chiles, but add corn, green beans, carrots, and pasta and you have a different kind of soup.  

Now, if you've got leftovers, you can have one of my family's favorites the next night, with only a little bit of effort.

Frito Plate!
You'll need:
Grandma Lope's Award Winning Chili
Rice (we always use white minute rice)
Fritos
cheese
lettuce, chopped up
tomatoes, diced
and if you're eating it at my parents house:
Red Devil
El Pato tomato sauce
Fried eggs (over medium - so that the yolk is runny, but the white is cooked through)

Build your plate:
Fritos, then rice, then chili, then cheese, then lettuce, then tomatoes.
You could stop there.  But I don't.
Then a fried egg.  And if I'm feeling extra indulgent, TWO fried eggs.  Believe me, it makes the dish!
And if you're Grandpa or my sister, Jenny, you add Red Devil.
And if you're my mom, you add El Pato.
And if you're my brother-in-law, Logan, you add Ranch dressing (must be Hidden Valley!  The kid seriously adds Hidden Valley Ranch dressing to everything!  He even brought a little bottle of it on our cruise!)
You could also add green onions or avocados, but personally, I like it pretty simple, with that fried egg.
Oh, man.  That fried egg.  Seriously, it may sound weird, but Frito plate with a fried egg is probably one of my top-ten favorite dishes.  And for sure in the top 3 of things I have mom make me when I'm home!