Monday, September 17, 2018

Sister Bake-off

It has begun. The time for eating pumpkin cookies is upon us once again. Usually, I just google pumpkin cookies and make the one with the highest ratings. However, this year two of my sisters have insisted they have the perfect pumpkin cookie recipe to rival all others. Since they both insisted theirs was the best, I decided to do a bake-off and decide which recipe truly was the best.

Honestly with food, everyone has preferences. I myself like soft cookies, but other people like crunchy cookies. In the pumpkin cookie world, soft and chocolate-filled trumps. I, like my sisters, am a chocolate miser. However, with these cookies, it is an essential ingredient, so I allowed myself to splurge.

 The dough, recipe and cookies on the left are Bonnie's. The dough, recipe, and cookies on the right are Sarah's.

While I was making the cookies, I noticed they mainly have the same ingredients. Bonnie's cookie dough had more moisture. Since I put the dough in the fridge before baking, that kept the cookies from melting too much in the oven. I cooked them together at 350 for 15 minutes and they turned out equally soft, with almost identical texture and taste. Sarah's cookies had a little more spice in them because instead of 2 tsp of cinnamon, she told me to put in 1 tsp cinnamon and then 1/4 tsp of cloves, allspice, ginger and nutmeg. 

As the judge of these cookies, I declare them almost exactly the same, with Sarah's a tiny bit more spicy.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Happy Birthday Son! And Daughter!

Technically, my babies do not actually turn one until July 6th, however, since we are moving to Tucson, AZ on Friday, we figured a little early celebration wouldn't hurt us one little bit. These aren't going to be in any kind of order, but I figure my descriptions out of order will be just as good.
 This is a picture on our porch of Cordy bear. She is 11 months old and we love her to pieces. My sister gave us these adorbs hair clips. They are easy to put in and Bruce just loves pulling them right out again. Probably because they are so beautiful.
 Bruce is such a sweetheart. If I put him on the front porch step, he will sit and kick his little legs. He waves from the step and waits for me. It melts my heart every time.

 Our friend Holly is so fun. She visits us. We eat treats and watch movies together. We also do crafts.

 The Ruiz's are some of our favorite people. They are such a caring bunch and thoughtful to boot. They were also kind enough to host the babies' one year celebration and our going away party. I was in charge of decorating and realized finally why party planning committees usually exist. Well played streamers and balloons. Well played.
 The Applins are super fun as well. We love to see them and play with them, but since we don't leave the house as often anymore, we didn't get to hang out with them as much as we would have liked. Charles worked with Brad though, and really enjoyed his time at Tapestry Solutions, learning valuable skills like nerf battles and other such top secret shenanigans.
 Flor and Heidi are more friends we didn't hang out with as much as we would have liked. However, luckily we did see them at girl's nights at Kiwi's house. They would also complement me on my cooking and make me feel really good about myself. Everyone needs friends like that.
 Our favorite pharmacist, just hanging out with Mark and remembering good times.
 Isabelle is such a fun and inclusive person. I am so glad we have such good friends here in San Luis Obispo.

Our friends the Krafts also came to celebrate with us. We love their sweet faces too and are so lucky to know such rock stars.

Really, I did want to invite everyone I know here in SLO to the party, but didn't want to overrun the Ruiz's house. It was a fun, laid-back celebration and we got to visit for a while. Mostly though, we just made sure the kids didn't get into anything they shouldn't and ate cake. Well, some of us ate cake.
 Cordy didn't eat her cake, she just crumpled it into nothingness with her hands. If you've seen the 5 Instagram videos, you'd see it took them a while to understand what was expected of them. Bruce actually never really got into it. He carefully picked off cereal pieces and ate a tiny bit of frosting. He actually preferred the watermelon we gave him to snack on. Secretly, it pleased me very much to see how they resisted the idea of making a mess. I guess that shows what a food control freak I am with these babies. We live in a carpeted enclosed space though, so I do it to keep our apartment sanitary.

 The beginning shot, before Cordelia played smash and Bruce delicately enjoyed his snack.

 Our friend Kim, who lovingly did our laundry for ages and taught us all sorts of great lessons about marriage and families. What a great teacher and friend!
 Our Costco cake specially ordered. I wrote "Can you do a spaceship please?" That's all the direction they got and I was insanely pleased with the result. Thanks Costco! It looked (and tasted) great!
 Our friends the Longs! We love them and their pizza nights. We also love their friendship and massages. Karol is also an Usborne book consultant. If you're looking for books, she's your lady.
 These are the moon cakes I made for the babies. I used this recipe for the cake and made cream cheese with yogurt frosting. I also added about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to make it semi-palatable. Apparently they weren't as good as they look. I did substitute baby food for the dates and coconut oil for the coconut. Honestly, I tried Bruce's again today and threw it away. I am comfortable with the idea that I didn't load my babies up with sugar on their birthday though.

Cordelia mutilating hers with a couple nibbles in between and Bruce taking a piece of cereal here and there for munching was fine by me. I don't know if we caught it very well on camera, but Bruce did tentatively try and put his whole mouth on the cake. He reconsidered this methodology, and ended up taking very careful assessments of that cake.
 Here are my three sweet babies before bedtime. Look at those sweet smiles.
And finally, this is a picture of Cordelia with her bangs in her face. This is what I see every morning first thing- a big smile and hair in her eyes. Bruce is also usually in the background, semi-patiently grabbing our toes and telling us to wake up.

This was taken today. Charles spider-cocooned himself and the babies didn't even notice he was on the ground. Maybe I'll try this one day when I want to suffocate myself during a Sunday nap.

Nearer my God to thee- A talk given by me in church 6/24/18

How have my life experiences brought me closer to Jesus Christ?

Modification of a Ground Based Atomic Oxygen Simulation Apparatus to Accommodate Three Dimensional Specimens. Charles' talk- if he'd been assigned.

When hard things happen in my life, I get mad. I think, "Why in the heck are these bad things happening to me? Am I being punished for past sins. Did I skip milking our goat Yaruba too often or was it my bad attitude as a teenager?" After thinking such things for a time and stewing over my bad luck, I eventually part the weeds of doubt and look over a pond of love and inspiration.

I am often in difficult straits, and after my initial anger, finally realize how much our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ actually love me. This love is manifested to me in three ways 1. By dispelling my fears 2. By guiding me through acute pain and sadness 3. By manifold demonstrations of love

I. God's love for me manifested by-1. Dispelling my fears

A. Topical Guide- Fear can have two meanings: (1) to fear God is to feel reverence and awe for him and to obey his commandments; (2) to fear man, mortal dangers, pain, and evil is to be afraid of such things and to dread them.

B. "Fear rarely has the power to change our hearts, and it will never transform us into people who love what is right and who want to obey Heavenly Father.

People who are fearful may say and do the right things, but they do not feel the right things. They often feel helpless and resentful, even angry. Over time these feelings lead to mistrust, defiance, even rebellion…

(God) wants us to reach out and take firm hold of the iron rod, confront our fears, and bravely step forward and upward along the strait and narrow path. He wants this for us because He loves us and because this is the way to happiness." Dieter F. Uchtdorf; Perfect Love Casteth out Fear; April 2017

C. Germany age 25
1. Danielle- What now?
a.  Reasons not to: 18 months is a long time, talk to strangers, no flirting with boys, a lot of money
b. Pray about mission- resounding assurance answer was yes
2. Train to Florence Italy- fears magnified
a. Saw Drew in the train station, testimony of His care

D. Testimony- I know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know our fears and the direct line to   dispelling those fears

II.  God's love for me manifested by- 2. Tender Guidance through personal times of acute pain and sadness

A. Revelation 21:4- And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

B. "There are few of us, if any, who don’t walk the refiner’s fire of adversity and despair, sometimes known to others but for many quietly hidden and privately endured. Most of the heartache, pain, and suffering we would not choose today. But we did choose.

We chose when we could see the complete plan. We chose when we had a clear vision of the Savior’s rescue of us. And if our faith and understanding were as clear today as it was when we first made that choice, I believe we would choose again.

Therefore, perhaps the challenge is to have the kind of faith during the hard times that we exercised when we first chose." Richard C. Edgley; For thy Good; April 2002

C. Most painful times of my life: Single life. Childlessness- Why? Foster Care. IVF 5x. Weeping.

D. Testimony- I know we experience specific, difficult things so we can learn specific, difficult lessons

III. God's love for me manifested by- 3. Manifold Demonstrations of love

A. 1 John 4:19- We love him, because he first loved us

B. " One of the strongest connections we have with our premortal life is how much our Father and Jesus loved us and how much we loved Them. Even though a veil was drawn over our memory, whenever we sense true love, it awakens a longing that cannot be denied.

Responding to true love is part of our very being. We innately desire to reconnect here with the love we felt there. Only as we feel God’s love and fill our hearts with His love can we be truly happy.

God’s love fills the immensity of space; therefore, there is no shortage of love in the universe, only in our willingness to do what is needed to feel it. To do this, Jesus explained we must “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, … soul, … strength, and … mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27)." John H. Groberg; The Power of God's Love; October 2004

C.  Specific acts of love shown to me: Meals brought, sorting piles of baby clothes, babysitting, midnight visits, work offered, laundry, visits from friends, giant stacks of movies loaned, baby holding, baby gifts, hugs, sweet words of encouragement, help with moving, money for expensive IVF treatments, and loads of other manifestations of love

Excerpt from Charles' acknowledgements- " (I would like to acknowledge) Merilee, for supporting me since my community college years, for blessing our home with two children, and for being what has made everything worth it."

D. Testimony- We receive so much love from everywhere, it is sometimes overlooked, but I know the Lord loves each and every one of us. Through these manifestations of God's love in my life, I see how my experiences bring me closer to Him and his son Jesus Christ.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Clean up-

Today I made a cbj cake. That's chocolate butter jelly cake. Mostly I did it because Charles does not like fruit with his chocolate cake and I can't eat peanut butter. So I made this cake halfsies. It is so sweet, but I liked it.  

 This is a couple of babies lounging. People love when they put their feet up. They comment on that and on their blue eyes. Last week at Institute, Cordelia spewed orange baby food all over Charles. She also threw up on a girl holding her a little earlier that night, but we thought it was a fluke. Like when they spit up randomly. Luckily we found out it wasn't a fluke...on Charles.. instead of on one of our friends. Thanks for that. It did come out in the wash.
 We found out after a couple of fevers and a visit to the doctor's office, that we had gathered up sicknesses like mommy's rose bouquet from Mother's Day. Cordelia and Bruce both had hand foot mouth disease, Bruce had a bad sore throat and cough, Cordy had an ear infection and a bacterial infection on her nose, and they both had terrible yeast infections. It was a rough week, but we are getting better.
 Feeding times are fun to do. Bruce and Cordelia are expressing more independence in their food choices. Bruce refuses to eat baby food from a spoon- his favorite expression of displeasure is hitting the spoon and knocking food everywhere. Mommy loves that trick.
 Cordelia loves giving us the fishy face and shakes her head when we offer her food. She also wants to feed herself, but refuses to eat anything lumpy. That limits her options for consumption. She will eat cheese. Besides that, we are hit and miss on foods. Surprisingly, she and Bruce are also gradually losing interest in nursing. Maybe that will push them on to trying new foods.
 This is the lovely red skittle slurpee at Taco Bell. If you get it between 2-5 pm, it costs $1. Yum, drinking red skittles is de best. Especially when the babies are asleep.
 Speaking of sleeping babies, this happened one morning when Bruce wouldn't go back to sleep after nursing. He played with Daddy and then fell asleep in his high chair while Daddy was dancing for him.
 Thanks for a wonderful Mother's Day Charles! He made me a wishing machine and got me roses and chocolate. He made me breakfast and lunch. He made me lemon cookies and let me sleep in. Well, the babies were pounding on the door and screaming, but he did his best.

 This picture is a little fuzzy, but makes me think of a mad scientist. I love it. Cordy pulls out her hair if I don't pull it back during meal times. Recently she's been pulling off the hat, but barrettes still work.
 Sunday clothes.. right before we stripped these babies down and fed them lunch

Friday, May 11, 2018

Calling all Hairpins-

You ladies know all about this. I am missing some hair bands and pins. Where do they go? Who knows- besides the hair supply dragon who lives in the wind, the one responsible for eating them.

I should admit that it's actually been a while since I invested in hair articles, but they have dwindled down to three or so.

Cordelia needs big barrettes for her beautiful bangs these days, or they go straight into her eyes. She used to wear a food hat for meals, so her hair didn't get gooped but recently she has been de-capitating herself during meal times. Luckily, it's just her cap and not her actual head.

Bruce has been feeding himself or shunning the spoon and gooping the floor. Thanks Bruce. It's not my favorite habit, but I should be used to it by now. Instead of spooning food into his mouth, I have been chopping up kids bits and letting him feed himself. Tonight, he dropped one morsel into his chair. Somehow, he got every other piece into his mouth. He's very advanced. Obviously.

Both of my precious cherubs charge doorways and open baby gates. They love eating paper and toes. Neither one can stand alone for long, but they both can do it. They still do better out and about, but lately it has become more difficult taking them to un-babyproofed places. Exhibit A: Book club- with a giant magazine table. Exhibit B: Play dates with fridge magnets. Exhibit C: Enrichment with random food or paper bits on the floor.

Charles finished his master's thesis today. We are excited to see more of Daddy. I myself have been packing a couple of boxes a week. We have reserved an apartment in Tucson, AZ and hope to move around June 30th.

No, our new apartment does not have laundry in the unit. At least we do have it on-site though. We will hopefully last like that a little longer until we can buy a house. Thankfully, the cost of living in Tucson is lower than here in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Turns out we eat a lot of Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies. We have been trying to get through our food storage before we move.