Monday, March 31, 2008

Ryan's Birthday

The official festivities started on Friday night, unbeknownst to Ryan. Ryan takes the older girls on a Daddy-daughter date once a month and so they went to Red Robin. While they were there Madison had to go tot he bathroom. Or so she said. What she was really doing was alerting the waitress to her dad's birthday. Now let me interject here that Ryan HATES to be sung to in restaurants. He sees it as a humiliating experience and abhors the attention. I love it. My girls love it. We seek for opportunities to be sung to in restaurant settings. Ryan won't let us be sung to in his presence. So back to the story. When Madison got back, she communicated with her eyes to McKayla that everything was ready. They were giggling like mad, to which Ryan wanted to know what was up. They explained that they had just seen a cute boy from school, knowing that their dad would immediately want to change the subject. Ryan's back was to the waitress so he had no clue what was up when the waitress slipped the birthday sundae in front of him. Then about twelve waiters came and sang so loud the whole place stopped. Ryan was startled and completely embarrassed. Afterwards lots of people approached him and said happy birthday. When they got home, they announced that they had succeeded. They had gotten their dad. Ryan declared them the victors.

Sunday was Family dinner with Ryan's B-day as the theme. The family was over (Kym and Chris had to miss because of illness) but the rest joined together to celebrate. Ryan picked the menu: chili dogs, sliders, nachos. The veggies and ranch and strawberries I added because of some morality issues with balanced diets and children. For dessert, in lieu of birthday cake, which Ryan is also not into, we had a make-your-own sundae bar. Here he is blowing out his candles on his sundae and then another one wearing a special hair-hat gift he got from his parents. We did our traditional birthday quiz. Here are the questions and Ryan's answers:

All About Ryan

What is Ryan’s favorite color? BLUE

What is Ryan’s favorite movie of all-time? GLADIATOR

What is his favorite golf course that he has played? PEBBLE BEACH

What is his dream golf course to play? AUGUSTA NATIONAL (home of the Masters)

If Ryan could play with one golfer, throughout history, who would it be? TIGER WOODS (but everyone else thought that it should be Ben Hogan – why else do we have pictures of him on our walls???)

What is Ryan’s favorite country that he has been to? AUSTRIA

What is the country he wants to visit the most, which he has not been to? AUSTRALIA

What is Ryan’s favorite restaurant? RUTH CHRIS STEAKHOUSE

Where does Ryan want to live? MONTEREY

Which is Ryan’s favorite temple? SAN DIEGO

What do you like best about Ryan? TOO MANY TO LIST

Monday, we had his special breakfast of omelets and raspberry danish. He still had to work, but his co-workers were good to him. A group took him out to lunch at The Cheesecake Factory and the ladies that he supervises brought him a Suzy-Q cake, card, and $50 gift certificate to Del Taco. Here are the comments on the card:

Kelli: "Birthdays are natures way of telling us to eat more cake. So enjoy it! Happy Birthday"

Denise: "You're the best! Happy B-day!"

Michelle: "Happy Birthday! I feel very blessed to have you as my leader. Hope you to work for you for many years!"

"Happy Birthday!" from Lori, Merv, Kit, Heather, Bron, Kathryn

Amber: "Happy Birthday, we are blessed to have you as a manager and appreciate all you do!! Have a great day!"

Kathy: "Happy Birthday Boss, glad we can celebrate with you! You are the best!"

After work, we went with one of his best friends, Brigham, and his wife, Jenn, to Ruth Chris Steakhouse to use those gift certificates that we still had. Our girls babysat their son so it worked out for everyone. Fun times.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Visiting Family

During Spring break, we got to spend time with my mom, my sister Karen, my sister Nancy, and her daughter Layne.

Whenever we go back to Valencia to visit, we always have our list of places we want to eat: Cupid's Hot Dogs, Claim Jumper, Stonefire, and Souplantation. Depending on how long the visit is, we will add to the list.

At Claim Jumper, we met my nephew Jayme and his girlfriend Emily Ann. He is awaiting his mission call and we are all very excited about that.

One of the reasons my girls love Souplantation is of course the food. Luckily my girls like salad and soup. But they also like pasta, bread, and little ice cream cones at the end of the meal. Monterey had to share everyone's cone. Somehow she was looking for the tastiest. The first two pictures are her trying to get at other's cones. The rest are mocking her, including my sister who loves to get goofy with my girls. McKayla wisely decided she did not want to share and ended the game. Thank goodness for someone with some decorum.
These other pictures are my girls with their cousin Layne. They love her so much and are so excited about the little sibling that will be joining her in the fall. She spent the night with us and all three just loved every minute of dancing, singing, playing and hugging they could cram in.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Solvang is a hidden little gem. It is about 30 minutes northeast of Santa Barbara, (inland) and is a little Scandinavian village. It is so cute and has the best bakeries in the whole world (even Martha Stewart featured my all-time favorite cookie from my all-time favorite bakery on her show and shared the recipe - I have never attempted it because there are too many steps but here is the link to the "Sarah Bernhardt" for those of you more brave than I.)

Admittedly, my family is a little obsessed with Solvang and anytime Ryan hears that we are planning a visit, he rolls his eyes and thanks his lucky stars that he does not have to witness our escapades every time we go. My girls have Swedish blood on both sides. Ryan's grandmother was born in Sweden and came to the US when she was a little girl. On my side, we also have quite a few ancestors from Sweden. But whether you have blood from Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Icelandic, or even a country that borders the North Sea or Baltic Sea; you are welcome here. Even if you don't, it is loads of fun.

The buildings all have strict codes that insist on a Scandinavian look. There are places where you can buy clothing, shoes, and accessories that are traditional or made there. Lots of restaurants that feature smorgasbords and pancakes galore. There are quilt stores (my secret passion, if I ever had all the time, money, and space in the world, and talent too, I would love to be a quilter.) There are stores that sell an abundance of both American and European brands of cooking equipment (a not-so-secret passion.) There are gourmet/wine/cheese shops. There is a store that teaches and sells the materials to do spinning and weaving - like hardcore pioneer era supplies-that is amazing. (another things I would get into if I had unlimited time, money, and space.) We had a mini weaving lesson while we were there. The nice man taught us that all our clothing is either weaved, knitted (crochet falls into this category) felted or natural (like leather.) Now we are all going around trying to figure out how the cloth in our clothing was made.

Then there are the bakeries. Solvang is really famous for them. Everything is made with rich almond flour or marzipan, sugar, cream, eggs, and butter. Most of their ingredients are locally made/produced or imported from Europe (like the butter.) If you are a nut for European pastries, this is your playground. Everything is also super rich, so pace yourself. After two pastries, you will probably be done for the day.

The restaurants serve various pancakes in the morning. My girls love the little round pancake balls known as abelskivvers. Here they are at breakfast. After that you have your basic (scary) foods like herring and pickled everything. Yes, everyone has meatballs, sausages, red cabbage, mashed potatoes, etc. Some have German specialities like wienerschnitzel and spatzle. I cannot honestly say I have embraced all of it, but it is always fun to try new things.

One thing I do not like elsewhere, but love here, is Anderson's Pea Soup. The girls were even willing to try it and loved it. We do have history here, but it is the dark and embarrassing kind. The kind that is not repeated for fear . . . of what I am not sure. The mystery remains. Let's just say that it was the first time in years that my mom dared to go back inside.

We also hung out at the ice cream parlor. There is nothing more special about this one than any other. It is just fun sitting up on the stools when you are little.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Santa Barbara

The number one spot on the whole earth that I would want to live is Santa Barbara. Ever since I was a little girl I have loved the weather, the beaches, the architecture, the history, the views. Ryan is so sick of hearing this, but I just love it. So spending time there for spring break was a chance to convince my children that mommy is always right. A few reasons I love it is their strict codes on building. Most of their buildings have have a Spanish white-wall, red-roof look. The rest are in a Victorian style. There are no commercial-looking restaurants or stores; they all have to blend. Lots of trees. Just look at their average temperature! Santa Barbara has mountains and beaches. It has an adorable zoo and a great university (UCSB,) lots of performing arts and botanical gardens. It is a tight knit community and is not too touristy because it is just far enough out that it is too far for a typical tourist and without major amusements (like Sea World or Legoland) it manages to avoid being a major tourist draw. In other words, it is just the right size for me, gets me on the beach, and is still close enough to LA. Do I ask too much?
We ate lunch at Pascucci, a quaint little Italian place where the garlic slaps you in the face when you walk in. (That's how I know it is good.) Garlic bread, salads, and shrimp for the adults and pizza for the little ones. Pascucci is in Paseo Nuevo which is an outdoor shopping mall that runs through the downtown area. Madison brought her money and was ready to shop.

We decided to take the 90 minute trolley tour. Whenever I go, I usually go to the same old places: beach, zoo, UCSB, Sandpiper golf course (Ryan played there a few times when he was on his college golf team) so I figured we could see a wider view. Even though I have been through it this was my first guided tour. It was fun to ride on the trolley and see all the bea-u-ti-ful neighborhoods. The little ones loved riding on a outdoor trolley, but they were wearing flip-flops and I had to keep checking to make sure they were wearing them and had not lost them somewhere on the streets. We stopped at the Santa Barbara mission. It is one of the few working missions and they still had all the Easter regalia up. It is way up on a hill with a rose garden and beautiful views of the city.

The beach was great. The water was too cold to go in but the temperature was perfect so we decided to rent a bike for seven and ride around beach front and pier. Monterey, my sister Karen and I were the only ones brave enough to go in. It was not bad for So Cal water (which is naturally colder than most beaches because of our exceedingly steep underwater coastline.) [By the way, the only science course that I ever got an A in, in college or high school, was oceanography. So I feel like I am an expert. But don't put me next to anyone who really knows anything.]

We rented a bike for seven. The little ones loved the bike, mainly because they got to sit up front, did not have to pedal, wore cute helmets, and got to ring the bell. The rest of us had to work hard. We had lots of laughs. Afterwards, we went to the fisHouse for some lemonade and clam chowder.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Treat Making

I wasn't going to make any Easter treats, but when all the girls wanted to do it, how could I say no? So here are the Easter sugar cookies.

I also made the homemade chocolate covered marshmallows for the second time this week. The first time was for an Enrichment class on Monday morning. After the girls saw the evidence of what I had done, they insisted on doing that too. They are fun and easy and pretty much a yearly tradition.

Step 1: Make flour molds with plastic eggs.

Step 2: Pour marshmallow mixture in molds.

Step 3: When set, roll in flour.

Step 4: Pat off excess flour.

Step 5: Dip in chocolate.

I love, love , love making holiday treats. And even though I sometimes claim I don't want to do it because of the time and mess "issues," I love the end results. I especially love doing it with my girls. In most years, I would do it all myself and delight them with the end results. That was fun too. But now that we can make them together, it is a LOT more fun.

Since I am using this as our family history AND I am also using this as a way of telling the history of my childhood and my relatives, when I can, I will tell the story of why I love making sugar cookies. I have a very special rolling pin. It has been in the family since my mom was a small child and the story of how it came into the family is why I treasure it.

A couple of years ago, Martha Stewart did a segment on rolling pins: wood, plastic, marble, thin, thick, etc. You know how thoroughly she dissects everything. Well, she brought out a well-worn, wooden, tapered, rolling pin and gushed about it's greatness. She gave the history of it and it's purpose. She said it originated from Italy and was the best for rolling out pastas and pastries and gave a pastry chef an amazing ability to roll things out super thin with total control. She said it would last forever with proper care. I was interested, because it was the rolling pin I had grown up using with my mom but knew nothing about it. I called my mom up and explained what I had seen on the show, told her if she ever got rid of it, I wanted it and asked her where she got it. She told me the story of how she came to own it.

My grandparents had moved from Montana with their small family to the San Fernando Valley during World War II to help out with the war effort. This was a time of great sacrifice: ration coupons for sugar, tires, gas, even shoes. There was no new construction. Essentially everything was put to a stop unless it went toward the war or was an absolute necessity. This was when sayings like "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" were resurrected from the depression years. Even after the war, they still felt the effects of having limited resources.

After a few years of suffering through a difficult and unfaithful marriage, my grandparents got divorced in 1949. Without going into too much detail . . . well, lets just say it was an impossible situation. My grandfather ended up with the house and the children. My grandmother was given time to remove her belongings from the house. It was in the fall and she went in, while her children were at school and my grandfather was at work, and stripped the house of everything. She not only took her stuff and all the furniture, but the kitchen equipment and personal items. They were left devastated. And it could not be replaced because of the limited income as a result of the legal expenses from the divorce.

During this time the neighbors saw what was going on, and although they had limited funds as well, they were shocked at the callousness of my grandmother. Most of them were first generation Americans from Italy. (We always called my grandfather Poppy and I did not realize that was an Italian nickname until Seinfeld.) They decided to collect items from the neighbors to donate to my grandfather and his children. They came with everything they could spare. They brought a smattering of cooking items. Among them this rolling pin. Most likely brought from Italy as one of a few precious possessions that a mother brought to make food for her family. She gave it up to help this poor family in their greatest need.

My mother asked for it from my grandfather when she became an adult and left home. She did not know it was Italian in origin at the time, but told me that made sense, because it was given by a woman named Treasa, who was Italian and helped take care of my mom's younger brother.

Knowing the story behind it, makes it one of my most precious possessions. My mom gave it to me a few years ago so I could make cookies with my daughters. I love it and every time I use it, I think of my mom, as a little girl, receiving charity from people who gave not because they could afford to, but because they saw a great need and gave all that they could.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Day. . . Spring Is Here

Maya and Monterey were invited to a Princess Tea Party Birthday Party at a nice El Paseo bistro (El Paseo is the Rodeo Drive of the Desert.) It was nice and quaint and all the princesses and fairies got plenty of oohs and aahs from all the older people enjoying their ordinarily mundane lunch. It was a sweet group of eight little girls. Mine loved their little blow toys (I don't know the official name of that thing) and practically hyperventilated at trying to keep the paper thingy out as long as they could. All was sweet as could be with lemonade, turkey club finger sandwiches, curly fries and birthday cake.

At Tiny Tots, they had an egg hunt. They had over a thousand eggs spread on the grass. They told the kids: "Only pick up ten eggs each." Maya made a run for it and was picking up every egg until her bag was full. I told her: "Maya, you were only supposed to take ten." She replied: "I know mom, I was getting them for my friends." Sure enough, after she met up with them, she gave handfuls away. I still think they might have enjoyed picking them up for themselves, but she thinks she was doing them a favor, so I will let her keep thinking that. All the kids looked so cute in their spring clothes running and squealing as they filled their bags.

Afterwards they went back in and each got a turn visiting with the Easter Bunny. Well, maybe they just took a picture because I don't think Easter Bunnies talk all that much. They were so sweet and so excited. Afterwards we were leaving at the same time and the girls thought for a minute that the Easter Bunny was going to follow us home. But then he turned a different corner than we did. I assured them he would come very early in the morning on Easter.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Maya & her funny quotes

3/19: Maya (age 4) asked me: "Mom, when you had a baby in your tummy and it was coming out, did you freak out? 'Cause if I had a baby in my tummy and it started coming out, I would totally freak out."

6/10: Lisa: "How did you get to be so smart?" Maya: "'Cause when I was a baby I was thinking about smart stuff."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pacific Life Open

One of the things that I will definitely miss, if I ever leave the desert, is the opportunity to view world-class tennis. Because tennis is so international in it's tournaments, players, audience, and venues; it is fairly rare to have the chance to see it in action.

We have gone every year to see some of the best players in the world. (Luckily, because of Ryan's jobs, we have always received complementary tickets.) Usually Ryan and I go, or Ryan takes the older girls. This year we decided to brave it and take the whole family for our FHE "fun activity."

Anyway, we braved the parking and the stares of people who did not believe our girls could be quiet enough for professional tennis. They all did very well. We stayed for one whole match of the women and then one set of the men. It was chilly but a little hot chocolate and snuggling solved that problem.

First we watched the women. Number 3 in the world and number 1 at this tournament was Ana Ivanovic (from Serbia.) At six feet tall, she was gorgeous, athletic and dominated the match at 6-3, 6-0 against Italian Tatiana Garbin.

Next was number 3 in the world and at this tournament: Novak Djokovic (from Serbia.) He is tall, dark and young as he dominated his match against German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-2.

On a sad note, one of the teachers at Mad's school passed away on Thurs. They had the funeral today and they have a guest book for those who want to leave messages for her family. She was only 44 and had battled breast cancer for 8 years. It is very sad for the students and teachers and staff and parents at the school right now. She taught almost to the very end.