Sunday, November 30, 2008

We made it!

We hit the road home from Lincoln today. It was snowing a bit when we left Lincoln, but nothing bad. We were making great time until we headed east on HWY 20 from I-35, then the snow hit with a nice layer of ice underneath. It didn't take long for the pace to slow to a crawl, and even then we passed probably 20 cars that had gone off the road. That added another hour to our trip, but at least it was only that portion of the trip that we had to deal with the weather. When we got home, John had about 4 inches of snow that had to be shoveled out of the driveway and off the sidewalk, which gave him an opportunity to put the shovel we bought last week to work (he says it works great, but maybe we oughta look into a John Deere snowblower...) Then, he and Renee played outside in the snow and made a snow fort and threw snowballs at Mommy when she came back from swimming!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cousins playing together

Just want to point you all toward the bottom of the page on the right side: look at the new video we posted of Renee and her cousin Melena. They were playing together tonight, ahh, such silly girls! I can't wait to see the looks on their faces when we show this to them 15 year from now!

From Cousins playing
From Cousins playing


Kelly saw her first Nebraska football game tonight, and she couldn't have picked a better game. The weather was beautiful, the stadium was rockin' with 85,000+ fans, and the Huskers won a thriller over Colorado off an unbelievable 57 yd field goal on a 4th and 25 play with 1:50 left in the game. Then, the defense came out and returned an interception for a touchdown with :58 left to seal the deal, with a final score of 40-31. We stood and shouted the entire 4th quarter, even when it seemed like we were sure to lose the game (seriously, 57 yards?!). The high drama, the mass enthusiasm, the call to arms, the "power of red" as they say in Memorial Stadium, was not to be missed! It was truly thrilling, Kelly cried, yes, caught up in all the excitement that even an artist could appreciate. What a game, what an experience, what an adventure! GO BIG RED! Kelly might never look at football the same way again! :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In the kitchen with Renee

Maybe someday that will be a program on the Food Network! Well, as we waited this morning for our furnace to get repaired (and knowing that cooking with the oven would help warm our chilly house) we decided to make pumpkin muffins. I found a good recipe for pumpkin muffins on the Epicurious website. But we made a few changes of course. Renee even had a suggestion, she wanted to put marshmallows in the muffins! So after my initial concern about catching the oven on fire by burning marshmallows, I decided what the heck- it sounds good! Here's *our* version:

Pumpkin Muffins

2 Cups flour
2 Tbsp baking powder (yes tablespoons)
1 Tbsp baking soda
6? Tbsp ground cinnamon (for all spices I just shake a lot until I think it's enough)
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
3/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 Cup honey
3/4 Cup pumpkin (I used the pumpkin from the farmer's market I had already cooked and run through the food processor- but you can use canned pumpkin)
1/2 cup (mostly milk with about 1 1/2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar to make 1/2 cup- well stirred) *note that original recipe calls for "1 /4 Cup buttermilk", and buttermilk would probably be a little better, but I didn't have any on hand, and I wanted to make the batter more moist so I used 1/2 Cup.
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp vanilla extract (a large splash)
1/2 Cup? mini marshmallows

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cups to make 12 regular size muffins.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl whisk together butter, brown sugar, honey, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Then add marshmallows.

4. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups (try to keep marshmallows below the surface). Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack.

Notes: My observation was that the marshmallows near the surface did pop through, and brown, but nothing burned or caught on fire! However the marshmallows that melt over the edge onto the muffin tin will become very hard as they cool and be difficult to clean. There is no evidence of marshmallows inside the muffins.. they seem to melt away. The muffins taste great (if you like a lot of spices like I do!) Maybe the marshmallows help the muffin puff up as it bakes, because there are just a few small pockets of air inside the cooked muffins, and the muffins are not too dense. The muffins cups were very full prior to putting them in the oven, and they look and taste great after they are all done! Watch out because the hot marshmallows on the top can burn your fingers. Overall- a very easy, very yummy recipe!

Also cooking with marshmallows reminded Renee of a book we got from the library about a month ago called: The Adventures of Max and Pinky: Best Buds. Pinky is a little pig who *loves* marshmallows!

Is my dog bad? I'm not sorry.

This is a question we throw out at our house all the time, with the standard answer of "yes, he's a very bad dog". But today it's more of a real question, not just a statement. We woke up this morning to a very cold house. Sometime last night the furnace decided to quit working. The beauty of living in a rental is that all I have to do is call the landlord. So I called our landlady at 9am. At 10am the repair person was already pulling into our driveway in his big orange and white van. Wow that's what I call service! But as Apollo gave his usual greeting (pulling on his leash and growling/barking) the man steps back and says "I don't want to get bit by a dog today!" I quickly assure him that my dog is actually nice, just a good guard dog. But later as the man goes back out of our house to get some tools from his truck, Apollo jumps off the couch and goes up to the man, barking, and pinning him in front of the TV. The man is obviously frightened and says "Get your dog away from me!". I do get up and take Apollo by the collar, but also ask the man if it's OK for Apollo to just smell his hand, since that will usually get him to relax if he can get to know the visitor in our house. The man reluctantly lets Apollo sniff him for just a moment and then squeezes past us and out the door. He stayed out at his van for a long time... Maybe 10 minutes? I was going to try and make Apollo sit on the couch again while the man went in and out of our house- thinking that it would be a good exercise for Apollo to get used to our visitor. But then I realized that our guest probably didn't really want to be used as such a "guinea pig". It's fine for me to try to get my dog to calm down. But what if the repair man left and decided not to fix our furnace because of my bad dog? Was it fair for me to use him to help train Apollo? As much as I wanted to continue training, I decided to lock Apollo up in the bedroom for the rest of the time it took for the repair person to fix the furnace- which he did in just an hour. As the man left, I told him thank you very much for fixing our furnace so quickly and especially on such short notice. But I did not apologize for my dog scaring him. Maybe I should have... what do you think? I just decided to dwell on the positive, instead of reminding him about the negative. I still feel a little guilty about the way I handled the situation, but I'm not really sorry. I probably should have been more careful not to let Apollo growl or bark at all, and I should have made sure that I was always holding onto his collar when the man walked by. But it doesn't stop me from wishing there were more people who weren't afraid of dogs. Obviously, and more importantly, I'm glad that my own child can learn to understand and react appropriately to dog behavior.

Monday, November 24, 2008

There's a mouse in our house

So last night John says to me, "I think there's a mouse in our house". Huh? Well, we've been on a blueberry muffin kick all weekend, and the latest batch (or what was left of it) was in a large plastic baggie on the counter. Now I figured he was talking about "Mommy mouse" since I had one right before bedtime. But John said although he'd had one, too, he still thought there was one missing. I didn't think anything of it, and I just assumed I was still the culprit of the odd count on the muffins. Low and behold I woke up this morning to check on Renee. My sweet little girl was still fast asleep at 8am (she stayed up way too late last night trying every trick in the book to avoid bedtime). And didn't I just laugh-out-loud when I found an empty muffin wrapper lying on her pillow. Renee was asleep next to her pillow, and I could feel the crumbs all over her jammies! Dearest Daddy was right after all! She must have snuck into the kitchen last night! I asked Renee about it today, saying "Hey there are lots of crumbs in your bed! Was there a muffin in here?" Renee beamed. Then she said, "Yes I did! Mommy was in the bathroom, and I got a muffin all by myself!" So, Mouse Mystery- solved! I have to admit, I'm almost proud of her! Is this some new developmental milestone I missed reading about? Well there it is. The next time a muffin goes missing, follow the trail of crumbs!

New feature!

Check out the "What we're listening to" section in the right column. These are the albums that are currently in our Rhapsody queue. You can click on the link to hear one of the songs from the album. Feel free to recommend anything you're currently listening to in the comments, and check back later to see if your recommendation makes it onto our list!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lots of new pictures

We just added about 80 pictures from the last few years. Check them out by clicking on the slideshow to the right!

Winter is here

We woke up today to a pretty dusting of snow and some cold weather. Of course that meant we had to go out and play in it, so John and Renee bundled up and took Monster over to the park to romp. Renee was very excited to wear her new pink snow pants, and was very interested in the bird prints that were left on our front step.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Guess who was on NPR today?

We love KUNI, and NPR in general! And since John was so excited when I told him, I thought I'd share with all of you that I was on the air today 11/21/08! I called in to ask a question on a local program here called Talk@12. Today they were having a question and answer session with a horticulture gang from our local area. I asked about how best to take care of my pots of raspberries over the winter. Listen here as soon as today's show gets archived. I came on toward the end of the show, in the last 15 minutes. The basic answer is that I can probably keep them in their pots in the garage -if it stays at a stable temperature, between 20-30 degrees F. The plants should stay dormant and won't need any light, just have to make sure the soil does not completely dry out. I can't leave the plants in their pots outside above ground because the soil in the pots will just get way too cold and kill the plants. So there it was, my 15 seconds of fame!

Breakfast- easiest muffins ever

Chalk this up to the "wish you were here" category... This morning Renee wanted blueberry muffins for breakfast, so I pulled out my easiest recipe which we originally found in the May 2007 issue of Parents magazine (you can find this recipe and others online, too). I love this recipe because I always have these simple ingredients available and it's easy enough for Renee to help, too! I altered this recipe slightly, but this is how I make it. We also use fresh raspberries during the summer when our raspberry plants are full and ripe!

1 3/4 Cup Bisquick
1/2 Cup dry oatmeal
1/2 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup milk
1 large egg
2 TBS. vegetable oil
1 (generous) Cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)

STEP 1: Heat oven to 375F. Line 12 regular size muffin cups with baking liners.
STEP 2: In large bowl combine all ingredients except blueberries.
STEP 3: Add blueberries and stir. Using an ice cream scoop, place batter in muffin cups.
STEP 4: Bake in oven for 17 minutes (or longer if using frozen berries) or until tops are lightly browned and toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean (unless you hit a blueberry!)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This is what we mean when we say "she's chunnin' out!"

A rose by any other name

So really, what's in a name? What is "chun-beeks" anyway? It's a name that John came up with one afternoon while taking Renee for a walk around the lake at our old house in Washington state. He told me he made up a new name for us to call Renee. Now that was nothing new- we've always made up ridiculous names for her, and Apollo and sometimes even ourselves. Renee was originally "Smoosh" or "Smoosher" or "Mooshka" and others. So John says "chun-beek"! And I looked at him with a questioning frown... "What? That sounds like some sort of food." It took at least 2 minutes for me to accept that chun-beek didn't just sound ridiculous. And then John explained the riddle: b_un ch_eeks becomes chun-beeks! Renee is now usually called "chun", which can be made into a verb, as in: "she's chunnin' out bigtime". That basically means she's a punky kid.
So welcome to chun-beeks! This is going to be a forum for sharing our family stories and pictures and most importantly for keeping in touch with all those friends and family scattered around the globe. Keeping in touch could be tough even if we lived in the same county, and now that we're separated by so many miles, we can't just drop in for dinner on a whim. So perhaps these posts here at chun-beeks will be those weekend dinner conversations we've been missing. Those revelating moments at the barn, those stories we swapped at the doggie park, the laughs we had while grabbing a coffee aren't gone forever. They now just take on a digital format!
Thanks for stopping by, and remember that we love you and miss you all, too! -hugs-

-Kelly, John, Renee and Apollo