Thursday, December 22, 2011

Could one of them be Rudolf?

One of the side trips we took during our Santa Adventure at Chena Hot Springs, AK was to the Santa Claus House in North Pole, AK. What a great time we had. We had Santa all to our selves, home made fudge, shopping, reindeer, and more Santa.

The kids asked Santa where Rudolf was. He said Rudolf's nose is only red on Christmas Eve. Of course the main reason was to light the way for the sleigh ride. The other reason was because the other reindeer would be ignored when people visited the house...and that just wouldn't be fair. So I wonder...was one of these reindeer Rudolf?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa Adventure...Chena Hot Springs Resort

Do you have kids or grand kids between 5 and 8?  If so, you NEED to take a look at this magical adventure! 
We went to Chena Hot Springs, Alaska for a 4-day, 3-night Santa Adventure. It may seem a little pricey at first, but it’s all inclusive (except for getting there) and it’s a great deal vs buying each activity here and there. They only do it once a year, so bookmark it and don’t forget it next year!!! Oh, and I highly encourage you to get the transportation package vs driving on your own or renting a car…you don’t know the roads as well as they do, and they’re very good drivers. We were VERY glad we did it!
We swam every night, went on a dog sled ride, had appletini’s in the ice museum (they were extra…and unfortunately there are no drinks for kids), went on a scavenger hunt, visited the Santa Claus House in North Pole, went to the UAF Museum of the North, took pictures at the Pipeline Viewing area, had a Geothermal Energy tour (they are off the grid and produce all their own energy at the resort), had an elf read the Polar Express with Santa signing it for Erica, wrote letters to Santa, and made some GREAT friends!!!
It was one of the best vacations we've taken!  I can't  wait to get the memory book at the end of the month (also part of the package).  And of course, I took one of the pictures and added it to a layout I did during the Album in a Weekend!  I had this all planned out in my head...staged family fun!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

My dream...

As I mentioned in the Vegas friends post, I made a pact with myself to lose weight a year ago.  My goal was to lose 20 pounds by May...I actually lost 25 pounds.  Since then I've gained a few back, but I'm still 23 pounds from my initial weigh in.  We'll see what next year brings.

I didn't journal this on the layout, but I am sooo proud of my success.  In the past year, my cholesterol is all within the super good range...and all done thru diet and exercise.  I still struggle with "White Coat Syndrome" where my blood pressure is high in the doctor's office, but it's good at home. 

I'm also not shy about being caught in pictures.  A year ago I was happy to be behind the camera because I didn't like seeing how I looked in pictures.  Now I'm happy to pass the camera to Jeff to be included in more family activities.  This layout is essentially a before and after layout.  I can't believe what a difference 25 pounds has made. 
I've gotten rid of ALL my larger clothes.  So I can tell when I start to stray from my routine. So far it hasn't been an issue...here's hoping that continues!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Her mouth is too small...

Sounds familiar...I remember growing up and having to have teeth pulled because my mouth was too small.  And I also remember my dad laughing at that statement.  Yes, if you know me, you know that's a funny statement.  And life now comes full circle as Jeff and I laugh at the same statement about our very chatty 8-yr old. 
But seriously, our dentist suggested we have a consult with an orthodontist.  We did so and he asked that Erica have two teeth pulled as soon as possible to make room for all the teeth in her mouth.  And Erica's lucky day was this week.  We planned to take two teeth out, but the dentist said they have to be flexible in case it's too much for the kids.  Fortunately they used gas on her to relax her and she didn't even realize they gave her a shot.  They also said it was easier than a flu shot, which Erica got a week ago and said wasn't so bad.  So we lucked out and she was sooooo brave they were able to take both teeth out at once.  Here's her with the gas mask on.
And that night, she went to bed holding the teeth so she could catch the tooth fairy...no such luck, though.  She sleeps too hard and the tooth fairy snuck right in taking the teeth and leaving loot in it's place.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Make it...Eat it...

Erica is working on a few Brownie Try-Its on her own.  Each Try-It requires completing at least four activities.  This is the first activity she completed toward the Make It, Eat It Try-It:  Sloppy Joes.  Here's the journaling on the page:

Erica has been helping us cook for a long time.  I thought she'd like earning a Brownie Try-It for cooking:  "Make it, eat it."  Each Try-It requires you to do four activities.  The first one she did was to make Sloppy Joes.  I didn't really like the recipe int eh Try-It book, so we used the Better Homes Cookbook.  She did it all...even defrosting the ground beef.  We were so proud and impressed!  Dinner was awesome!  I can't wait for the next recipe.
This isn't a Basic Grey layout kit, but I did use one of the kit layouts as a sketch idea with papers from the K and Company Brownie kit.  The alphas are from American Crafts.  And the flowers are misc embellishments from the Basic Grey Pyrus kit I used last year (no, I don't throw away anything...just ask Jeff).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Turkey and spinach chili

I have totally forgotten to post the last meal and recipe from the Album in a Weekend.  I found a vegetarian chili recipe that called for spinach and two kinds of beans.  I made it, and Jeff said, "Real men eat meat!"  Since then I have added ground turkey to the recipe.  It's so quick and easy...and very healthy.  Again, I have to apologize for not being able to give credit to the recipe.  I got it from the same website that I found the Shrimp Paella recipe.  Enjoy!!!
Turkey and Spinach Chili (modified vegetarian chili)
1 lb ground turkey
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp oil
1 15oz can of chili style beans
1 15oz can of pinto beans (rinsed and drained)
1 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes
4 oz frozen spinach (I use a full 10 oz pkg)
3 c brown rice cooked

Saute garlic in oil.  Add ground turkey.  Add all but rice and bring to a boil.  Simmer 10-15 minutes.  Serve over rice.

Easy...peasy.  And I thought I took a pix, but I can't find it.  Oh, well...chili mostly looks the same anyway, right?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking back at the first day of school

As I've posted before, Erica and I started a tradition of going to breakfast the morning of the first day of school.  Last year Jeff joined us and this year Grandma and Grandpa were in town, so they joined us, too.  We used to go to the Muffin Man for a giant muffin, but last year we mixed it up and went to Denny's.  This year was even better, as we went to Kriner's Diner (our favorite breakfast joint).  Because Grandma and Grandpa were in town, Erica didn't have the choice of going to school on the Faith bus with her friends...so we dropped her off.  I wonder how long she'll want to continue this tradition.  I hope it lasts for several more years!!!
This was another Basic Grey laout that just came together soooo quickly.  I can't tell you how nice those layout kits are...I can't wait to do more!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Snow Day...and Crafts...

Well, here we are in the middle of a snow day (well, the beginning).  Snow days are few and far between because we're used to getting snow, and lots of it.  The problem is when Mother Nature can't decide what season we're in and it warms up and freezes after the snow melts.  That kinda happened over night.  Yesterday it rained and snowed most of the day and it was a slushy mess.  Then last night it snowed about 6 inches (at least at our house it was about 6 inches).  So they called school for the day.  I could've driven in and taken Erica to daycare, but I had my work computer, so we're trying to work from home.  The trick is that she's trying to grab all my attention (as evidence by the fact that I'm posting this and not working).  I'm hoping to get back to work and have her distracted long enough until her neighbor friend can be called to play.

So she's making Christmas ornaments for her teachers.  She's punching circles and flower circles, folding them in half, and gluing them together to make dimensional balls.  Then we'll punch holes and put string thru them to hang them on the tree.  It took a little time to get her set up and gluing them at the folds consistently, but now she's on auto pilot (yeah).  Here she is...don't you just love the cute little pink tool bag?  It's a mini version of mine.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Erica's Birthday BIG Game

I just LOVE being able to search the internet for ideas.  When Erica decided she wanted to have a sleep over, we immediately started searching for activities.  We found all kinds of ideas.  My favorite was and still is the giant board game.  I drew the board and the girls put different things in each square (move forward one, move back two, jump up and down, take a rest, etc).  Jeff brought home a big square box that we spray painted white and added black dots to make it a die.  The girls had such a great time they played it over and over...they just didn't like the part about being sent back to start.  The best part for me was when the girls would take the ONE die and shake it up and down, saying, "Come on Six..."  Ha!  It totally cracked me up!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Deck the Halls 2011

Despite having a crazy Album in a Weekend the Fri-Sat after Thanksgiving, I *had* to put up the Christmas Tree on Sunday...and because I had a layout that had empty spaces on it (staged family fun, as Jeff would say).  We barely fit the angel on the top of the tree, and even then, the tree is about a foot from the wall so it can fit on top (angled ceiling).  I wish we'd put out lights in front of the house, but I haven't been able to convince Jeff...maybe next year.  And one of these years I'd like to decorate the inside a bit more.  But that just means I'd have to take it all down at the end of the season.  We'll see...one of these years I'll give it a try...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vegas friends

Before I get more carried away with Erica layouts and Chena Hot Springs vacation adventures...here's a ME layout.  Shhhhh...don't tell Jeff.  I don't really have a layout of him (yet...I got some great shots and stories at Chena Hot Springs!).
These are pictures of me and "the gals" at Vegas this summer.  I was sooooo excited to have lost 25 pounds for our trip.  Never mind that I've gained a little back, but I'm working on that!  Let's just hope the holidays don't sabotage me tooooo much more (yeah...like THAT'S the problem).

Of course this is another Basic Grey kit...I think it's Marjolaine.  What pretty blue and green colors!!!  I added the "Vegas" letters for the title.  Just don't look too closely at these layouts or you'll see most of them still don't have journaling.  I promise I'll get it done before the end of the year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hot tubbing in winter...

OK, so sledding may not be our favorite winter activity after this past weekend.  WOW...we had such a BLAST.  We went to Chena Hot Springs north of Fairbanks, AK for a 4-day, 3-night Santa Adventure.  While we were there, we went swimming, went on a dog sled ride (Jeff got to drive them), went swimming, visited the ice museum and drank appletini's out of an glass carved from ice, went swimming, saw Santa at the Santa Claus House, went swimming, saw the Aurora Borealis, and went swimming some more...along with some other fun stuff.  And let me tell you, sitting in the hot tub outside in the middle of winter is AWESOME!  This is one of the better pictures from the hot tub (the steam kept getting in the way). 
There were natural hot springs that got to 140 degrees...OUCH!  The resort converted all their power from diesel to geothermal energy.  They are completely off the grid and don't buy any energy.  They also have a green house that produces 700 pounds of tomatoes a week...A WEEK! 

I'll post more pictures...but I don't want to give it all away.  Jeff needs fodder for the annual Christmas letter, after all.  Yes, he will be writing it again!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Girl Scout Camping...sledding

Our favorite winter activity is sledding...all it takes is a sled, some snow, and a hill.  And sometimes it only takes snow and a hill (Erica has gone down on her bottom before).  We went camping with the Girl Scouts to Camp Togowoods in early November for our annual troop winter camping trip.  At least this year it wasn't below zero.  Of course, the girls HAD to go sledding.  The hill we went on didn't look that great, it wasn't very steep and it had little twigs coming out from all over.  But it turned out to be perfect!  The girls loved it!  And there was a little broken tree at the bottom that made for a nice fun jump at the end.

This is another Basic Grey Nordic Holiday layout...and one of the first ones I scrapped.  I just love winter layouts!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Moroccan Chicken and Couscous Soup Recip

Time for another recipe.  We didn't actually have this during our album in a weekend, but we've had it in the past...and we were supposed to have it on Saturday night.  Kelly and I were the last ones standing (sitting at the scrappy table) on Saturday night, so we opted to have left overs.  I thought I'd post the recipe for this because I know I had requests for it from prior scrappy events.  This recipe is from Food & Wine's quick from scratch chicken cookbook:

Moroccan and chicken couscous soup
2 Tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb shredded chicken
1/4 tsp cayenne (even Erica can handle this much)
1 tsp cumin
1-3/4 tsp salt (I only use 1 tsp)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 sweet potato peeled and cut into 3/4" cubes
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1" pieces
3/4 c tomato puree
1 qt water
2 c low sodium chicken broth
1/2 c couscous
1/3 c chopped fresh parsley (I usually forget this)

Heat oil over medium in large pot.  Add onion and cook until translucent, approx 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Increase heat to medium high.  Add chicken, cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes.
Stir in sweet potato, zucchini, tomato, water, and broth.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
Add couscous.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and let set for 2 minutes.  Add parsley and serve.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Birthday Celebration

Well, I'm all over the place on what I'm posting, sorry!  I've just been grabbing a few things here and there as they "hit" me.  It was hit and miss during Erica's party on the pictures I took.  Fortunately I got all the pictures of her presents.  She was excited to get the cute little webkins (the blue sea horse), but we still haven't registered it and REALLY gotten to play with it.  I think that will be a good activity for a slow weekend...if we ever manage to have one.
Another layout from the Life of the Party kit.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Let it snow...but please not be too cold!!!

We are taking full advantage of everything AK has to offer in the winter time.  Did you know that Chena Hot Springs in Alaska has a really cool Santa Adventure vacation?  I'll tell you all about it when we get back.  Let's hope the weather holds up and we don't experience the FULL Fairbanks winter adventure, complete with the 40 below temperatures.  We got to experience that a few summers ago...for 5 minutes in a cooler.  That was good enough for me.

This layout is from last year.  Erica and Jeff built a fort next to the drive way out of snow.  I think it was the week of Thanksgiving by the looks of the ice in the street.  Either way, she had a blast, and that's all that matters!
This is the Basic Grey Nordic Holiday kit.  Have I said how much fun I've been having with the kits?  I have!!!  I think I may need to get them EVERY YEAR!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chicken and White Bean Soup Recipe

Here's another of my favorite comfort food recipes.  I got this from the Jillian Michaels Newsletter I get weekly.  This recipe is so healthy and very filling!  Every time I serve this, people want the recipe.  Enjoy!
Chicken and White Bean Soup
2 tsp Olive Oil
2 leeks cut into 1/4" rounds (white and light green parts only)
1 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped (I leave this out cuz Erica doesn't like it)
28 oz reduced sodium chicken broth
2 c water
15 oz cannellini beans (aka Great Northern or White Kidney Beans)
2 lbs shredded chicken (we used turkey this week!!!)

Heat oil in dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add leeks and cook, stirring often, approx 3 minutes.
Stir in sage and continue cooking until aromatic, about 30 seconds.  Stir in broth and water.  Increase heat to high, cover and bring to boil.
Add beans and chicken and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 3 minutes.
Quick and easy!  We make this for weeknight dinners, too.  Oh, I forgot to add that we put in two cans of beans!