Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Inside Jokes...

As I stand on the threshold of 2009, I've been taking the time to reflect on the good things in my life. I have been blessed with many wonderful friends in my life... real friends... loyal friends. Women (and men) who let me be myself in all of my imperfections (which are MANY) and like me all the better for it...who make me laugh and listen to me whine.

Last night I went out with some good friends to dinner and to a movie. When we're all together, we are LOUD! I mean, the kind of loud that makes other people look at us and gets us kicked out of swimming pools (another story, another time.) I couldn't help but think about all of the good times I've had with good friends and all of the "inside jokes" we share.

Phrases such as:

"Bloodless and amusing"

"Feral watermelon"

"Hey, let's go to Tony Romas tonight"

"Are there any albinos in this movie?"

"There's the big purple octopus!"
They don't mean anything to others, but send us into uncontrollable laughter. Memories of fun times and times when things have gone horribly wrong (in funny AND not so funny ways,) are the things long friendships are made of.

As we stood in my front yard at 12:30 last night; giving Natalie a quick hula hoop lesson, laughing our heads off, and shhhhing each other. I thought, "this will be the NEW fun story we remember (and retell) at a future gathering."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Now is not the time for Voter Apathy...

I think this sounds like a title from either Jenny's or Shannon's blogs, but here I am "getting out the vote."

I know I have more than 4 friends out there (or at least, I think I do)! OK, so my blog music isn't nearly as important as the state of the Union, but I'd like to know...REALLY. So, please go over to the poll and make your voice heard.

Don't worry about hurting my feelings, I'm a straight shooter, I can take it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Diving into the Poolish

I LOVE to bake! I enjoy desserts and breads most. I'm also willing to try out new methods and (obviously) like eating the end product. When I ran across a method for baking French Baguettes that involved using a "poolish" or starter, I decided to give it a try. The result was well worth the extra planning involved... the bread was dense and chewy with a very crisp crust. Here is the recipe:
Poolish (or starter)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup luke warm water
1/4 tsp yeast

Combine flour, water, and yeast and mix until well blended. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. It should look bubbly and round.

3 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
all of the poolish
3/4 cup luke warm water
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp yeast

"Bloom" the yeast in the water with the sugar. Combine flour, salt, poolish and bloomed yeast together in your mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment on low for 3 minutes. Adding more water or flour as needed to bring the dough together. Change out the paddle for the dough hook and "knead" for 4 minutes.

Place dough into an oiled bowl and allow to rise until double. Divide the dough into three (approximately) equal pieces. Let rest 15 minutes, shape into baguettes, cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Heat oven and baking stone to 475, slash several times on top of each loaf, spray or brush with water and bake for 15-18 minutes.

Joel and Lisa brought us a beautiful bottle of olive oil from Greece with herbs inside. I popped open that bottle, poured a little on a plate and dipped the hot bread in the fragrant oil....mmmmm that was all I needed for dinner, the rest of the fam had Christmas/Hanukkah leftovers :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

...and the Santa is...

Before I reveal our 12 days of Christmas Santa, I need to report on the rest of our experience.

ninth day: Bubble gum left in the mail box
tenth day: 10 eggs (for breakfast) left early in the morning on our window ledge with the note taped to the dining room window
eleventh day: 11 candy canes left that evening
DAY 12! A basket of fruit delivered to our door by Santa himself!
And our last Poem
On the twelfth day of Christmas,
12 fruits you'll find in here.
Sent with love and hope,
we've brought some Christmas Cheer?
As a final note we add:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The Parmenters
Now, as to be expected, we had a list of "suspects." Here was our list in no particular order:
Joel and Lisa
The Pattons were crossed out early in the game as we realized they were headed to Whistler and would not be available to finish the "days." We also considered the possibility that maybe this was a combined effort by them, with someone else taking over when they left town.
Funny side note: as Christmas drew near, the kids were not talking about their visit from the Northern Santa, but whether or not the 12 Days Santa would reveal himself on Christmas Day!
Now, it is not a secret that we are notorious geeks over here. The curiosity was so great, that the big boys (Kraig and Steve) set a "Santa Trap." They set up a motion detection/web cam system and waited for "Santa" to do his thing. We got lots of video of passing cars and the cats running to and from the door, but it only takes one good frame of video to reveal the "real" Santa. Below is that one good frame.

Thanks Parmenters! It was one of the funnest (I know that's not really a word) Christmases we've ever're the best!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hanukkah OH Hanukkah...

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. No, we're not converting, but every year we do a Hanukkah Family Home Evening. Steve grew up in a neighborhood near Detroit where many of his friends were Jewish. He has very warm memories of participating in the Hanukkah celebrations of good friends. We decided early on, that it would be a fun thing to experience with the kids. So every year,we play Dreidel and eat Hanukkah food. There's no Menorah, (although, I think it would be great to have one,) and no Hanukkah gifts...sorry kids you have to wait for Christmas gifts, no double dipping. We play the menu very loosely, this is not a kosher meal...we mix dairy and meat... it is the experience we're after. We keep a bunch of Dreidels with our Christmas decorations and use M & Ms for "gelt."
The Menu:
Latkes with applesauce and sour cream
Challah Bread
Mushroom Barley Casserole

Challah Bread
This recipe makes two braided loaves

1 cup luke warm water
1 Tbl yeast
1 Tbl sugar
mix together and allow the yeast to bloom

6 cups bread flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbl sugar (yes another)
combine in your mixer bowl

3 Tbl veg oil
2 large eggs (room temp)
1 egg yolk

After the yeast becomes "foamy," add the oil and eggs to your other liquid ingredients. Using the bread hook on your mixer, mix the liquids in with the flour etc. "Knead" with the mixer for 7-10 minutes. Put dough in an oiled bowl and allow to raise until double. Divide dough in half and each half into thirds. Roll each third into 16" ropes. Braid three "ropes" together, brush with a beaten egg, and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes.

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The "Christmas Letter"

I hate Christmas letters... or I should say I hate my Christmas letters. I do enjoy Bob's extraordinary letter every year, of course, it is a work of pure fiction...and darned funny. On the other hand, I feel the social pressure to produce one every year. I often rebel, but this year, I'll relent. Since I don't have Bob's talent, and let's face it, we're just not that interesting, I've decided to go with a list approach. This is our year in a nutshell.

basketball, great to be 8 party, Preisthood Preview, mom is in her 30's for the LAST time, hosting bookclub (family complaining that we're too loud and up too late,) HULA HOOPS, Kraig is 16...still no license and no dates, Annual Easter Egg Hunt and brunch in our back yard, Abby turns 8! Mom goes to Cabo with her friends, Dad sends mom an e-mail (in Cabo) saying he's been called to the Bishopric (killjoy,) granddad comes to ordain dad a high priest, Preschool Carnival, BASEBALL, school carnival, more baseball, Abby is Baptized, primary talent show, mom called to be enrichment counselor, Ballet recital, Pioneer Trek (Kraig got THE BEST Ma and Pa, just like in real life,) Dad is definitely over 40, St. Louis Arch, metro link, Grant's Farm, Nauvoo, handcarts, CARTHAGE, swimming lessons at heidi's, Ben turns 4, ward BBQ (dad is NOT in charge this year, YEA!), HP Picnic (too darned hot,) Drive to Idaho, swim in grandma's pool, Camp with the grandparents in the Bitterroot Mountains, Stand on the Continental Divide, cross country meets, Reed turns 12, Reed receives the Aaronic Priesthood, NO BROKEN BONES THIS YEAR, grandma and grandpa come to visit, Ward Halloween Party, TRICK OR TREATING, Merit badge clinic, basketball (again,) Ward Christmas Party, SNOW DAYS, waiting for santa...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

...and the "DAYS" Continue

An Update:

I can't even tell you how much fun it has been for us to be the recipient of the "Twelve Days of Christmas." The Farrar kids have grown to really look forward to our daily treat and note. We love the puzzle, and have had a great time speculating about who thinks enough of us to treat us to such a big thing. Committing to 12 days of gifts, 12 days of secrets, and 12 days of cute rhymes is HUGE and the love and effort has not been lost.

So to let you know how the days have continued:

The fifth day: 5 SWEEEET Treats

The sixth day: 6 cans of soda (one was a diet coke, just for mom)

The seventh day: 7 oranges

The eighth day: 8 cookies (those mint Milano cookies from Pepperridge Farms, I wonder if our giver knows that those are one of my favorites.)

Today's poem:

On the eighth day of Christmas,

we're nearly out of rhyme.

But here's 8 nice cookies

to enhance your Christmas time.

The gift arrived shortly after we got home from Church (I hope no one saw me walking through the house WHILE changing out of my church clothes...I've got to quit doing that.) I apologize if I have scarred you or any of your children for life.

  • Santa has started changing up the "gifting" time. On the sixth day, we found the present before seminary, today it was after church...about 12:30

  • Santa knows that mom is a giant diet coke fan (who doesn't? That probably doesn't mean anything)

  • Santa is not getting any slower, just more daring...showing up in the light of day Hmmmm....the investigation continues!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fun in the snow with Reed

Thanks to Joel for sending us this fun video of Reed in the snow.

Are you people still HERE?!! The Novelty has WORN OFF!

ANOTHER Snow Day! This is the third one this week. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE having the kids home, BUT they will be home for the next two weeks for Christmas break.

Here is the progression of our snow days.
Day 1: "HEY GUYS! NO SCHOOL TODAY!! Hot chocolate is going in the cocoa machine, can someone get out the whipped cream? Who wants blueberries in their pancakes?!"

Day 2: "Cereal is in the cupboard, help yourself."

Day 3: "Are you sure there is no school? Yeah, you can eat a cookie for breakfast if you want. If there is any fighting over ANY video games today...that X box will be MINE!"

Front:Brady Parmenter, Mason Patton

Back:Reed Farrar, Miles Parmenter, Joel Phair, & Reece Parmenter

I'm plagiarizing Alison's photos because, quite frankly, I'm too lazy to unload the camera. Plus they are pretty cool pictures...way better than what I would have gotten.

Interesting Side Note: We have lived in Oregon for nearly 14 years and have NEVER seen snow before Christmas. I decided to explore this further...our friend, Jaimy GREW UP in Oregon and doesn't EVER remember snow before Christmas (I'm taking that with a grain of salt, he doesn't have a great memory.) We will officially maybe have a White Christmas in Western Oregon (IF it doesn't warm up and IF is doesn't start raining again...which it probably will.)
Ben's snowman, he made the snow balls all by himself and Kraig helped him put them together

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

12 days of Christmas

We have a puzzle at our house...some secret Santa somewhere is leaving little gifts on our step each night.

The first day of Christmas: we got a lovely loaf of
home made bread
The second day: two rolls of scotch tape
The third day: three boxes of jello
Today: four rolls of TP

Each little gift is accompanied by a cute poem. Today's poem says
"It's the fourth day of Christmas, And I'll bet you thought we missed you.
We didn't though, and here you have four rolls of bathroom tissue."
So, here are the clues:
  • Our "Santa" comes each evening between 5:00 and 6:00.
  • We've never seen a car speeding away.
  • The gifts arrived even during a snow storm.
  • Santa is gutsy, Steve & I were working in front of our dining room window on the first full view of the front door and "he" gifted us anyway.
We're thinking neighbor, but our usual suspect is taking off for Whistler tomorrow and wouldn't be around to do the remaining "Days of Christmas." The other thought is that there is a dad somewhere that has the assignment of dropping the gifts at the front door each night on his way home from work. I'm thinking that the delivery person is a teen aged boy, Santa is QUICK!
Any ideas?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crazy Blogger?

OK, I think I've officially crossed over into crazy blogger territory. I've spent a lot of time in the "not me, look how blog crazy my friends are," zone. I have friends who post multiple times a day, who spend lots of time making their blogs oh so very cute, and who track every hit (you all know who you are.) I had a phone conversation with a friend one day while blog surfing and she said "I can see that you're on my blog right now," HOW does she DO that? Do you know there are people who actually go out and comment on total strangers blogs to generate traffic on their own blog? Now THAT'S what I call crazy!

Me? I post a few times a month, my blog is still basic cute wall blinking phrases, but I have come to realize that I am (probably) no less crazy (maybe more.) I LOVE the "visitor map" on stats counter and look at it every time I log on (no, not every day, I try not to be completely obsessive) and last week I noticed I got a hit from Vietnam (our friend Paul was there on business, and must have been REAL bored.) This was not the first international hit I've had, but I have to admit that I like seeing those red "pins" go up in obscure places on the map.
, I decided to take a proactive (aka crazy) approach. My good friend is a commercial pilot and another good friend travels for work, so I fired off a couple of little e-mails..."hey, would you hit my blog when you travel outside the country." OK, in hind-site, this could be construed as wacko...but that's how it went down. Less than an hour later, my cell phone rings and the caller ID comes up "James A." and of course, I answer.
"Hey, what are you doing?"
J. A. "Do I need to make you an appointment with a therapist?"
Me: "What are you talking about?"
J. A. "Don't you think that whole blog hit thing is a little crazy?"
Me: "Noooo (maybe)... I'm so far down on the crazy blogger scale, I'm practically normal!" (denial, denial, denial)
The rest of the conversation sounded a little like Charlie Brown's teacher "wah wah wah wah waahhh" With me thinking "wow, that was a little crazy, how did I get here?" I think I can sum up this entire episode in two words SLIPPERY SLOPE!
OH MY GOSH! I think I was just part of an intervention!
So my question is...what makes a crazy blogger?

Oh, and by the way, if you leave the country, could you visit my blog while you're there?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cookies, Cookies, EVERYWHERE!

This weekend we baked 55 dozen cookies (yes, I said DOZEN.) For the past five Decembers, our friend has hired us to bake cookies for him to deliver around the hospital. Steve LOVES this little project of ours (at least, he says he loves the project, I think it is more likely that he loves the extra money,) he takes a day off work and we mix and bake (and mix and bake) for two straight days.

Here is the list of cookies:
Dipped Ginger Snaps
White Chocolate Cranberry
Sugar Cookie Christmas Trees

Now, the kitchen is a mess, but we're too tired to clean. We've got lots of cookies that we don't get to eat (not that we really WANT to eat cookies at this point,) and a little extra Christmas cash. We're happy to be done, but most happy that the cookies are leaving tomorrow morning for their new homes. Their mission; to be gobbled up by hungry health care workers at our hospital.
AND, by next year, we'll forget all about the pain, and look forward to making Christmas cookies again (isn't that what "they" say about childbirth?)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Storybook Land

We have a fun (and free) tradition in our area...Storybook Land. Volunteers spend countless hours turning a building at the fair grounds into a winter wonderland of vignettes from books, nursery rhymes, popular TV shows, and movies. Each vignette is surrounded by trees creating a "forest" effect. There is also an extensive collection of model trains that the kids get to see run on their tracks.

It is really well done and the kids always enjoy the time we spend there each year. The price of admission is one can of food AND at the end, you get to speak to the man in Red himself...what a bargain!

Needy families in our area benefit in the form of Christmas food baskets and we have at least one "pre-done" Family Home Evening each December. Ben and I went with his preschool class this week and had a great time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gingerbread Oatmeal

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Or, at least, I'll bet it is somewhere. Here, in Western Oregon, it still looks a lot like Fall. So, on this very first day of December, I thought I would give my friends and family a gift that is just from me (and lets face it, with the way things are going over at HP, it might be all you get.) I'm sure I'm deluded, but I (in my mind) created this recipe, we love it... it is warm and comforting and tastes just like Christmas.

Gingerbread Oatmeal
2 adult servings (or me and the two little kids)

1 cup regular old fashioned oatmeal
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp (scant) ginger powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 Tbl molasses (if you like it sweeter...add more!)
1/4 cup craisins
1/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (the green ones, sometimes called pepita)

Cook on the stove top in a small sauce pan for about 5 minutes until thick, creamy, and steaming. Serve with a big mound of spray-can whipped cream on top.

Now change it up "Kris" style; Pecans are really yummy in it, use raisins or dried apples instead of craisins. Sometimes, I sprinkle a little crystallized ginger on top, but only do that if you are a BIG ginger fan. BUT, don't mess with the whipped cream...that is a MUST!

I would take a picture to show you (but mostly, to show off my beloved Fiestaware,) but I already ate it all...Sorry :(
Merry Christmas to all and to all a GOOD breakfast!!