Monday, January 31, 2011

 This recipe is actually from 'Eagle Brand Condensed Milk'- but I found it through a friend who found it on 'The Sister's Cafe'.  Maybe I've posted about it before- but it needs posting again because it is one of my favorite treats of all time and it's pretty easy to make. Plus- besides the toffee chips- everything else is something I usually have around the house.

They are to DIE for delicious. Pretty rich- and best when cooled a bit- but make sure you aren't home alone when you make them.  They are amazing.  Pictures don't really do the treat justice- so you'll have to trust me and just try them out.
(picture from mel's kitchen cafe)
2 1/3 c. flour
2/3 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 (12 oz.) pkg. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts - I used pecans, but walnuts or macadamias would be great, too. (or NO nuts)
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
10 oz. Skor toffee bits  (I used only about 4-6 oz and I'm glad!)

Stir together flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg and mix well. Stir in 1 1/2 c. chocolate chips and all of nuts. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of this mixture and press remaining into a greased 9x13 inch pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 350. Pour milk over hot crust and top with 1 1/2 cups toffee bits. Sprinkle remaining crumbs over top plus remaining chips. Bake 25-30 more minutes. Top with remaining toffee bits.

Friday, January 28, 2011

zeb's turn

 This kid is getting better every day.  He really is a good little boy.  Some days I feel like all I'm teaching him is how to be impatient and move quickly- but he must be learning something from somebody because he has been so sweet lately.  Yesterday our friend, Roxanne (who works here as maintenance and in the office), brought Zeb and Ike some treats (graham crackers and goldfish) as we were getting out of the car.  She handed them to Zeb and he looked right at her and said; "Roxanne, that is so nice of you to get me these! This is the best treat I've ever had! Thank you!"-  with the cutest smile and happiest face.  I couldn't believe the little phrases that popped out of his mouth- and all with such sincerity.
He's a really sensitive kid sometimes. He can get weepy pretty fast when he's upset and tends to gets his feelings hurt easily by friends- but I'll take that over a meany any day.  For awhile there when he was such a pusher/hitter I thought for sure we had a bully on our hands!

He also seems to be a pretty honest kiddo.  Yesterday at the grocery store he found a quarter on the floor at the checkout and picked it up all excited!  He showed it to me and I told him he could put it in his pocket to take home and put in his piggy bank (he's desperately trying to earn enough money to buy a few toys he 'really really needs').  Unprompted -he kept it in his hand and walked over to the woman at the self checkout next to ours and asked: "Lady, is this yours?". It was really cute and I'm pretty impressed that he did it! 

Right now he's suddenly obsessed with paper airplanes!  His cousin (Peter from Chicago) had a super cool paper airplane book that Zeb loved.  Kent found a website that has buckets of cool airplanes patterns to print out and make and the two have been having a lot of fun ever since.  Today Kent brought four patterns home to work on with him.  This is the 'Interceptor'. 
 Here's the rugrat making some adjustments.  These things fly amazingly well.
 Zeb is the coolest kid around.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Lately he's been acting like a howler monkey. When Ike gets really upset  (we put him in bed or take away something he's using as a weapon) he screams so loud it hurts our ears.  His volume level is much more effective at getting his point across than his language skills right now.  He actually speaks really well (mostly because of Zeb, I'm sure) but he always loves to shriek. Zeb accused him of being a 'screaming banshee' in the car yesterday.  I use that phrase far too often referring to my children and they seem to have picked up on it. 

Ike also loves to eat.  His favorite food is now ketchup- which luckily can be put on ANYthing.  He eats lots of black beans mixed with ketchup.  It actually makes me dry heave a little.  He also likes to dip bread, apples, pretzels, cheese, and carrots in it.
 Ike was devastated that Zeb got to go to a party one day so we took him to Costco for Ice Cream as a consolation prize.  We don't actually have a costco membership- but we go there a lot anyway :)  Free samples and you don't need a membership to eat at their little 'cafe'.
He's also the boy of ridiculous faces and smiles. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

last round of chicago vacation.

Despite the third week of January historically being the coldest week of the year in Chicago, we actually spent a lot of time outside!  There's something about big cities that is so exciting to me! I'm glad we don't live in one- the traffic makes me absolutely INSANE- but I love being a part of the chaos for a few days!
 It was pretty chilly- but the day we spent roaming the city wasn't too bad with us all bundled up!  Being cold with my big fur hat (thanks, laney!) running around trying to get as much done and seen as possible in a small amount of time made me feel like I was in Moscow as a missionary again.   Kent and I would NOT have been good mission companions- and we definitely could NEVER do the amazing race together- but other than that I think we are the perfect match :)
We actually rode the 'L' into town and that may have been the boys' favorite part of the excursion. Being on a train that went through tunnels, underground, along the highway with cars, and above the city between buildings was amazing to them.  It was my favorite part because it was only two bucks for adults and the kiddos were free.  Just parking for a few hours in the city can be over twenty bucks!  We lucked out that our hotel had a free shuttle to take us and pick us up from an 'L' station.
There were a few spots where the train got pretty loud and Ike got scared- but Zeb enjoyed all of it.  I love my  kiddos scared faces.
They especially loved looking down the underground tunnels and waiting for trains to arrive. I love the way the metro sounds as it coming rushing into the station.
We did a lot of walking down the magnificent mile and hit the most important stores like NikeTown and the Disney store (where the rugrats each picked out their very own toy -for five dollars or less),
the Hershey Store where we got free factory hats,
and the Ghiradelli store where we got free fabulous chocolate.
We even stopped in the American Girl store but everybody got bored pretty quickly.  Then finally- when we were all exhausted and Kent was carrying both boys because they wanted it that way- Zeb exclaimed: "We finally made it! Look! there it is!! we made it to McDonalds!".  Funny thing is- McDonalds was never part of our plan and we had no idea it was at the top of the metro stairs- but we stopped and got them some nuggets anyway- because apparently we had been searching for McDonalds all day long.
The last few days of our vacation we stayed at a hotel I'd found for crazy cheap on Hotwire (if anybody is going to book a hotel in a big city- ask me about this fabulous website I found. It gives away the secrets of sites like hotwire). This Holiday Inn express was AMAZING.  Free breakfast buffet, free shuttle to the 'L', fabulous workout room, and a kiddie pool! Have you ever seen a hotel with a kiddie pool?  It was shallow, warm, and had some cool little water features. It was super fun.
It saved me while Kent was taking his eight hour test (the real reason we went to chicago) and I didn't want to go much of anywhere without him.
I did venture out with the kiddos to see the temple and check out the LDS bookstore, though. 
 And then we spent the rest of the eight hours jumping on the hotel beds like crazy monkeys.
 The Leavitts were fabulous enough to host us for the first leg of our trip and gave us a snowy adventure each night we were there.  Steve even got out his ice drill one night while we were sledding and tried to sink us in the pond. 
Have I mentioned that I love my cousins?!
I'm so sad that it's all over!  Until next time chicago!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The second coolest part of our excursion to Chicago was definitely getting to meet up with cousin steve-o 'the evolutionary biologist' at the Field Museum where he works.  He actually takes part in the 'ask a scientist' question and answer period there. He's the real deal and he got us in to see the exhibits at both the field museum and aquarium for free - even the ones that cost extra money. 

My favorite exhibits were a tie between the DNA lab and the Evolution section.

Here I am trying to get the kids equally excited about the double helix as I am.
 And if you look extra hard in this one- you can see me giving a great big hug to strand of DNA.  I just love DNA. It was my very favorite subject to teach when I taught Biology. I think it's fascinating and exciting and just plain wonderful.
 Here's the evolving planet exhibit.
Zeb loved the exhibit, except for the fact that we had to pass through five 'mass extinctions' to get to the present day.  Really and truly Zeb was devastated at each and every one.  Hear we are after the third, I believe.  He couldn't figure out why all of the plants and animals died off.  Check out his eyelashes!
After the meteor struck and killed off the dinosaurs, he got down on the ground and wouldn't budge.  He kept asking the same questions over and over:  "But why did they all have to die?  I really like dinosaurs, mom!  why can't they live on the Earth today?"

Ike decided to get down and copy him even though he had no idea what was going on.
 Ike got a little nervous next to this giant dino- but loved everything else.
 When all was said and done and Zeb got to see the woolly mammoths and then the early hominids and humans- I think he was okay with it all.  He got a good bio lesson and I think he actually learned some stuff.  He was, in fact, almost named Charles Darwin.  And is still named after him with the 'Charles'.

And here's one more really funny kid picture.  Both kids were MORTIFIED of the mummy tomb.  Zeb was begging to get out.
Ike's favorite part of the museum was the wrestling match he and Zeb had under 'Sue' the T-rex.  We lucked out with a near empty museum and the boys took full advantage.

Here's the beginning of round 1.  Ike is pretty quick and efficient with his take-downs.
 The museum really is beautiful.
 Zeb's very favorite part of the day was the soil exhibit.  This earwig is about twice as big as Zeb.  We went through a 'shrinking machine' and got to see everything that happens under ground.  Neither kid would sit still long enough for a picture.  Isn't the earwig disgusting? it's thorax would fly up at you and the pincers would go crazy when you got close.  Earwigs are truly disgusting.

And here's the giant penny. Zeb won't stop talking about it and wants me to post the picture. It was three times his size.
 We also checked out the aquarium next door.  It was pretty cold right here on the Lake!  I think Zeb was pretty ticked I was trying to get a picture.
  This museum has a GIANT circular indoor aquarium full of sting rays, little sharks, giant turtles, and tons of fish that the kiddos just sat and watched forever.
Our day of museums was fabulous! and our new Christmas GPS (thanks nannie annie and gramps!) saved our lives by rerouting us around some pretty crazy chicago traffic and keeping us unlost downtown!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I don't know how it's possible that so many of us ended up in this part of the country at the same time! I LOVE that we have family all over the place.  We went to Chicago so that Kent could take the last set of his boards- but we made it a fabulous vacation and mini cousin reunion, too.

Cousin Hailey and her husband Steve live in Chicago- as do cousin Robert and his wife Laura.  Plus Amy and Craig made the trek over from Grand Rapids and we had a blast.  I really do have the greatest cousins EVER. I just wish that ALL the cousins lived in the midwest.

We all went to church together and let our ten rugrats make lots of noise together!  Plus we spent plenty of time talking, laughing, and eating!  I love that we all get along so well and that we all married such great people who also get along so well.

I hope that when I have a little girl she has curly pigtails and chubby cheeks like Sophie and Kate! 
Here are most of the boys playing on the computer.
Cousin Roberto has the coolest flight simulator on his computer that was the hit of the night at their place.
And here's Kent playing some duets with Annie.  I think Kent is pretty excited for our kiddos to get old enough to do cool stuff like this. 
Getting to see so much family was definitely the highlight of our trip (Zeb has been crying for his cousins DAILY) but I've also got buckets more pictures of our adventures in the actual city and of our snow adventures. Hopefully I can get them posted all in one big swoop tomorrow.

Friday, January 21, 2011

We're back.

After six fabulously amazing days- we're back! The Windy City was soooo much fun and not nearly as cold and windy as I expected.  It sure is freezing here today, though! It's 14 degrees but feels like ZERO.
 And what better way to celebrate than going to a beach party!  Zeb went to a friend's beach themed birthday party a few days back and LOVED it.  He was so excited to wear his Wall-E flip flops again.
I had to get that Zeb picture posted because I love it :)  and I know that I've got lots of blog catch up to do- but my house is screaming for a cleaning first! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

warning. graphic pictures.

I've been meaning to post this since last week when it happened- but I keep getting distracted. And now- since Modern Family isn't on tonight like I had thought it would be- I have time.

And if you are wondering why on earth I post things like this- then you don't know me very well.  I am a journaler.  A documenter of the fabulous, mundane, terrible, and crazy things that happen to me and those around me.

Laney got CRAZY sick right after we left Buffalo for christmas and ended up in the hospital for SIX days! She was admitted from the ER with pancreatitis and spent the six days getting all sorts of tests performed. She had an MRI, CAT scan, ultra sounds, scopes, removal of stones from pancreas and ducts, blood tests, ridiculously long fasts, and surgery resulting in one less organ. 

Let it be known that Kent and I BOTH urged her for the past year or so to get her gall bladder checked out (considering I had mine out).  It turns out that recently her stones started escaping out of the gall bladder and getting stuck in places they shouldn't (common bile duct, liver, pancreas) - causing major issues- so they took it out as soon as she had recovered enough from pancreatitis and liver issues.

I love that she got pictures because I'm fairly certain that my gall bladder looked the same way!  And she didn't get to keep stones like I did- but from the pictures of hers they appear to be the same size and look of mine.
 My stones post surgery.
So I'm pretty bummed that she's back to having fewer organs than me- but I'm anxiously waiting for my appendix to go!