This time of year is a busy time. I love getting ready for Christmas, but for some reason things get quite hectic. This year had a few special twists of its own, but that's what makes each year special, right?

Our craziest day this week by far was Tuesday. After a weekend of grading papers, baking, and delivering goodies, Tuesday morning was supposed to be smooth sailing. However, around 10 I took a look at Emma and got the sneaking suspicion that pinkeye had hit us again (we had a bought of it last February just as we were moving). As the day progressed, it became more and more clear that Emma definitely had pinkeye. Luckily the drops from last time were still good, so we didn't have to run to the doctor's office, but my final for my class was from 3-5. Do you know anyone who wants to babysit a child with pinkeye? After several increasingly frantic phone calls, I found a young couple who had just moved into the ward. They have, hurray for me, no kids. They've been married for 3 weeks. Megan came right over without a hesitation even though she had never met me. I am so grateful for good people, good wards, and answered prayers. My final went great, most of my students will pass the class, and my kids were happy when I got home.

Then came Wednesday and another answered prayer. For those of you who have been following, I love teaching. Wednesday morning I was able to go to Idaho Falls and meet a woman over the general education classes at Eastern Idaho Technical College. She hired me to teach an ENGL 101 course next semester. I'll have to drive to Idaho Falls, but it's only one evening a week. I'm looking forward to it. Hurray! I get to teach.

Friday, Nick and I went to Boise for Nick's work party. His parents came all the way from Wyoming on nasty roads to stay with the girls. Nick and I had decent traveling weather and enjoyed a fun couple of days. Last night when we got home, Grandma and Grandpa Charles let the girls open their Christmas presents. They gave Ashlyn a rocking horse that whinnies and wags its tail. Emma has somewhat claimed it for now and has named it Fire Rose. Yes, she came up with that one on her own. Nick is trying his best to get her to call it Spit Wad, of all nasty things. What I have to put up with some times. Sigh. Emma received a trunk with three dresses, slippers, crowns, and necklaces. That's all she has worn except for the little while we were able to get her into her Christmas church dress. She has referred to Nick as nothing other than Prince and has expected him to dance with her all day. He's humored her and they've spent some good daddy/daughter time together. I think it's kind of hard for him to see his girls be girly. He keeps wanting to make them rather tom-boyish. There's not too much tomboy in their mother, however, so his efforts are rather bouycotted when he's not around.

I was really hoping to get pictures of the girls in their church dresses today, but that just didn't seem to be in the cards. These are what we did get. The video is a bit wobbly at times, sorry. But it is a fun one of the Christmas craziness. I hope you're all having a great holiday and are enjoying Christmas as much as we are. We're looking forward to seeing family and friends over the next couple of weeks.


My Own Little Me

I know. I don't post for two weeks and then post three times in one day. What can I say. I have nothing to grade tonight (final papers are being turned in tomorrow), the kids are in bed, and Nick is off playing basketball. Oddly enough the house is even clean.

Anyways, Emma was supposedly helping clean up when this is what I found. She even has my shoes on. I've been told several times that she looks just like me. What do you think?

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

My friend asked me to post this recipe. I got it off allrecipes.com. (Does anyone know copyright stuff on this one? I should know, but I wonder if there's something against my listing this here since it's from allrecipes.com.) I love how my house smells when I make these, and they never seem to last long enough. I'll post a picture next time I make them.

2 1/4 c flour
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c margarine, softened
1 c white sugar
1 egg
1 T water
1/4 c molasses
2 T white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 c sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Time Flies . . .

Wow. I can't believe it's been so long. So much for writing about why I love to blog, right? (Sheepish grin.) Actually, life has just been busy.

Like others, we spent Thanksgiving with family. This year we were with Nick's family. It was a rather busy and noisy weekend, but it was so good to see family we don't see nearly often enough. I have been very blessed with amazing in-laws. I love the lot of them. We had all sorts of fun making and decorating gingerbread men and houses, having our annual white elephant gift exchange, running and laughing with cousins, watching deer through grandma and grandpas' front window, feeding their pet wild rabbits, and so much more. We took gobs of pictures, but somehow they are all on everyone else's cameras. We didn't make it home with a single one. That's part of the reason it's taken me so long to post. I kept thinking I would have someone email me some.

Since Thanksgiving is now behind us, we pulled out the Christmas decorations and headed up to get a Christmas tree. We only had one free afternoon last week and that was after my class Friday, so we didn't head into the mountains until 3:30. Ashlyn loved being out but couldn't figure out how to walk in her boots. Emma, however, freaked out every time Nick walked around a corner or into the trees out of her sight. We almost left without a tree.

Dad and his girls. Emma loves her 'noclears.

The tree we cut down in the dark and Emma's stick.

Needless to say, we got our tree home. When we got around to decorating it, we discovered that the entire backside is bare but for one lonely branch. It fits perfectly in the corner and doesn't look bad now that it's decorated. Nick and I got quite the laugh out of it though when we first brought it in. The girls didn't care though and just loved decorating it.

In fact, I've included a little clip of the experience. I hope Ashlyn isn't too loud.


Why I Blog

Note to the reader: This is a rather long discourse.

Since we still have a lot of Halloween candy, Emma and I have started doing occasional treasure hunts with two pieces of candy as the treasure. Emma gets one and Ashlyn gets one. Last night, Ashlyn was enjoying eating her Nerds out of a bowl and I looked at her and saw this amazing little person who is growing far too fast. I looked at her curly pigtails and watched her eat tiny Nerds with incredible precision and I had a brief glimpse of how short her childhood really will be. For a second I thought, "I should take a picture." Then it occurred to me that I could actually share such a moment with friends and family, not to mention posterity if I preserve this blog correctly.

Blogging has opened a new world for me. As a teenager I use to write in my journal every night. I have books of journal entrys. I'll admit that there's nothing remarkable about those journals, but I have them. For some reason, when I met Nick I stopped writing. I have maybe a dozen entrees from the last 7 1/2 years. It's pathetic. Blogging, however, has allowed me to capture memories in a new way and for a new audience. Now I get to write about the fun experiences we have as a family, the small moments of note, and the things that make our lives tick. I also get to post pictures that represent those times. As you've likely noticed, I also post recipes. Right now, as a mother of young children, I cook often. Creating food is what I do, so I post recipes. They represent us as well.

I also love the fact that I'm not the only one reads this. My audience is different, therefore my writing is different. When I write on my blog, I tend to share the things that I want to remember. There will likely be times when I am down or frustrated and need to write about my troubles, but so far, my posts have allowed me to focus on the good side of things. They have helped me focus on how fun my kids are by my sharing the fun things they do. I love it. I need more things in my life that make me optimistic. There are far too many things that work on me in the opposite direction.

Anyways, there's a bit of my brain. For those of you who actually read this entire thing, you may know me a bit better now, or you may be afraid of reading future posts. Either way, thanks for being a part of my life. I post a lot of these things to stay in touch with you. You all impact me in such great ways. Thanks.


Accomplishments, Disappointments, and Nakedness

Hurray! This baby blanket is finished. I had Nick's sister Lacee choose a blanket for me to make for her as soon as we found out she was having a boy. Well, I'm a very slow knitter, so even though he's two months old, I've just finished it. To my credit though, he was born 7 weeks early. This turned out to be quite the project, but I loved doing it. I love being finished with it that much more. I hope baby Carson enjoys it. It's trimmed with satin ribbons and backed with minky.

On a sad note, I received a letter from ISU the other day telling me that all part-time teachers are being relieved of their classes next semester due to budget problems. I'm so disappointed. I love teaching. Maybe something will happen, but I rather doubt it. My only chance is that I was scheduled to teach online and it was the only ENGL 101 online course being offered next semester. I should know by the end of the week. Wish me luck.

Now for the comical note. We woke up to a naked baby the other morning. I am now a firm believer in those nice little tabs on pajamas that snap over the zipper. Ashlyn was incredibly disappointed when Nick caught her and got her dressed. Sigh. Being 1 and naked must be the best. I've opted to keep her bare bum off the internet, so I'm not sharing a picture, but here's for snapping tabs!

Chicken Noodle Soup

This is the yummiest soup from my mom's kitchen. I love it every time. If I don't have time to make noodles from scratch, frozen noodles work fine, too, but aren't quite as tasty. I like to double the noodle recipe and freeze half of them for next time. Some times for extra liquid, I add a can of chicken broth. This soup goes well with the potato roll recipe posted below.

6 c water
2 heaping T chicken base
1/4 scant tsp thyme
1 onion chopped
3 carrots, sliced
1 c frozen peas
1 c water plus 1 1/2 T flour (mixed to thicken)
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 T salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can mushrooms

In a large pot, bring water and chicken to a boil. Add additional ingredients. Bring to a boil. Add noodles and boil for 12-15 minutes.

1/2 tsp salt
1 c flour
1 egg
2 T milk

Measure flour into a bowl. Make a well at center. Add egg and salt. With hands mix well. Add milk 1 T at a time. Mix thoroughly each time. Form dough into a ball. Knead on a well-floured cloth about 10 min until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rest. Roll 1/2 of dough paper thin. Cut into 1/4 inch strips. Shake out. Repeat with other half. If desired, dry for 2 hours before adding to soup.

Potato Rolls

This is one of my favorite recipes from my mother-in-law. One of my favorite memories is from when she taught me how to make them. We like to double the recipe and still make 24 rolls. They make for some large, delicious rolls. Also, they work well with 50/50 wheat/white flour and for a time-saver, use re-hydrated potato pearls or potato flakes to make your mashed potatoes and scald your milk in the microwave on 70% power.

2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
1/4 c warm water
1/2 c hut mashed potatoes
1/4 c shortening
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 c milk, scalded
1 egg
4-4 1/2 c flour

Soften yeast in warm water (110 degrees). Combine potatoes, shortening, sugar, salt, and hot milk. Cool to lukewarm.

Add softened yeast and eggs. Stir in 2 c flour; beat well. Stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough. Kneed on lightly floured surface until smooth (6-8 min). Cover. Let rise until double its size. Punch down. Shape into balls, dip in melted butter, and place on baking sheet. Let rise until double its size again (about 1 hour). Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 2 dozen.


Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Perfect for any chocolate lover. These literally melt in your mouth. I often like to use Andes mint pieces from WalMart in place of the chocolate chips, and if I don't have time, I don't refrigerate the dough like the recipe suggests.

1 1/4 c butter or margarine, softened
2 1/4 c confectioners' sugar
1/3 c baking cocoa
1/4 c sour cream
1 T vanilla
2 1/4 c flour
2 c (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 c chocolate sprinkles

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar and cocoa until light and fluffy. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Add flour; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 1 hr. Roll into 1-in balls; dip in chocolate sprinkles. Place, sprinkled side up, 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes or until set. Cool 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 5 1/2 dozen.


Happy 30th Birthday Nick

Sunday was Nick's birthday. Kids sure make birthdays more fun. From the minute Emma woke up she reveled in Dad's birthday. It was really fun. We made him a candy bar bouquet and took it to him at work Friday. Thanks Sarah R. for picking out and sending the bottle. It was great. The girls and I had so much fun making our bouquet, and Nick really enjoyed it (and is still enjoying it). Thanks Jadi for sharing the idea.

Food is one of our birthday favorites, so we celebrated Nick by eating well. The recipes below are those we made Sunday. What can I say, the Charles family loves to eat.

30 Reasons We Love Nick AKA Daddy (in no specific order)

1. Humorous
2. Hard working
3. Can fix anything
4. Can make anything
5. Cooks a fantastic lasagna (see #4)
6. Knows how to find a deal
7. Loves to ski
8. Loves to backpack
9. Always willing to change a diaper
10. Never hesitates to jump in when I've had it
11. Honors his Priesthood
12. Encourages me to learn
13. Gives the best hugs
14. Reads books with me
15. Puts up with my knitting, quilting, and card-making
16. Eats what I cook (even if it has mushrooms)
17. Plays with and loves the girls

18. Has incredibly ticklish feet (his one weakness)
19. Loves to go on family vacations
20. Makes incredible family movies
21. Puts family first
22. Takes care of honey-dos before I think of them
23. Loves chocolate (it's a fun fact)
24. He knows amazing, and often odd, facts
25. Is patient
26. Eager to learn everything
27. Keeps up with and shares current events
28. Scrubs the bathtub (my least favorite job)
29. Never leaves a job half-done if he can help it
30. Climbs a new mountain every year


Monkey Bread

We love this for breakfast. It's an easy breakfast to prepare the night before, and it tastes amazing. Sorry. No picture. It was eaten too quickly.

24 frozen rolls
1/2 c brown sugar
1 3.5 oz box of butterscotch pudding (cook)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c chopped nuts
1/4 c butter, melted

Grease and flour a bundt pan. Place rolls in pan. Sprinkle dry ingredients over rolls. Pour melted butter over rolls. Cover and let rise over night. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes then dump out of pan.

Penne a la Betsy

I found this recipe on thepioneerwoman.com. While I was a bit leery right up until the first bite, if you like shrimp, this recipe is amazing. It made for a great birthday dinner. Even the girls enjoyed it.

1 lb extra large shrimp
3/4 lb penne pasta
olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c white whine (or chicken broth)
8 oz tomato sauce
1 c heavy cream (or evaporated milk)
fresh parsley
fresh basil
salt and paper

Cook the penne pasta until tender-firm, also known as al dente.

Peel, devein, and rinse (under cool water) shrimp. Heat 1 T butter and oil in a skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for a couple of minutes until just opaque. Do not overcook. Remove shrimp to a plate and let cool for a few minutes. Finely dice one small onion. Mince two cloves of garlic.

In a large skillet heat 2 T butter and 2 T oil. Add the garlic and onion and saute, stirring occasionally. Now, put the cooked shrimp on the cutting board and pull off the tails. Chop the shrimp into bite-sized pieces and set aside. After the garlic and onions have cooked a bit add your white wine. Let the white evaporate for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Next add tomato sauce. Stir well until combined. Add heavy cream. Continue stirring. Turn heat down and simmer while you chop herbs. Add 1 T each parsley and basil.

Add chopped shrimp and herbs to sauce. Stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Finally, combine sauce with pasta and ENJOY!

Brownie Torte

This has become a family favorite. It's easy to make and always delicious. Usually you top this with whipped cream and summer fruit, but I added a strawberry sauce with ice cream.

3/4 c sugar
6 T butter
1 T water
1 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 c flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Combine sugar, butter, and water in small, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Add 3/4 c chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add flour, baking soda, and salt; stir until well blended. Stir in remaining chocolate chips. Pour into waxed paper-lined and greased 9-inch-round cake pan.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick test comes out slightly sticky. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert onto wire rack; remove waxed paper. Turn right side up; cool completely. Top with desired topping. Chill. Makes 8 to 10 servings.



What do you do with a one-year-old? Love her, love her, and laugh with her. This photo is definitely one for the blackmail file.


Happy Halloween!

Wow. Halloween is definitely different from the parent end of things. We had fun today, but I am now exhausted. Our ward had a truck-or-treat at 4:30 this afternoon followed by dinner and a bit of a carnival. It was perfect. The kids had so much fun, and they have enough sugar in their systems to get them through until Christmas. I had a bit of a time getting either of the kids to sit still and look at the camera at the same time, so the pictures I have are the best I could get. Enjoy!


Carving Pumpkins

Carving pumpkins is simply fun. It's gooey, slimy, silly work, i.e., a perfect kid activity. Especially when it's finished off with soft ginger snaps. Fun! Emma loved getting her hands dirty; Ashlyn wasn't so sure. We all had fun, though.

Wedding Dress

While we were driving around in the car the other day, Emma asked rather concerned, "Mom, which dress am I going to wear when I get married?" It took me a while to convince her that she didn't need to worry about it right now, but that when that day does come, we'll get her a beautiful wedding dress. Yikes! 3-year-old minds are fascinating.



A week ago yesterday, we were finally able to venture to Yellowstone. We live too close to pass that one up. We left Friday night for Grandma and Grandpa Millar's house in Rexburg so we could get a head start Saturday morning. Little did we know that Emma would wake up at 4:30 and refuse to go back to bed. It was an unplanned beginning, but we put our sleepiness aside and hit the road as soon as Ashlyn woke up.

We saw several sights that neither Nick nor I had seen since we were younger. Emma wasn't so fond of Norris, however, and keeps saying that she doesn't want to go back to the stink pots. As we walked through the steam she would plug her nose and walk as close to the ground as she could. She has never been fond of yucky smells.

We were pretty fortunate to see all kinds of wildlife. Come to think of it, we only saw elk, buffalo, and a grizzly bear, but the bear was impressive and the big animals were plentiful enough to make up for any unseen critters. We also had a lot of fun seeing the waterfalls in the park. To get a close-up view of the Lower Yellowstone Falls, we climbed down 385 stairs. Going down, I went with Emma at a 3-year-old's pace. I kept looking at the steep slope below the stairs and getting dizzy. It was worth it, though. The falls were beautiful. The climb back up however was tough since we were each carrying one if the girls. It made up for all the sitting in the car we had done.

All in all, it was a good trip. The only thing that could have made it better was if we had been able to meet up with Adam and Ranee. We'll have to plan better next time. We did get a pass, though, so I know we'll be back at least once next year. This is an open invitation. We always enjoy company!

These stairs to the falls just went down and down forever.

The trek was worth the view. The kids, however, were almost done.

Ashlyn loved seeing everything. Her eyes were huge the entire time.

Can I say that these girls love their daddy? He's quite fond of them, too (can't you tell!).

See that tiny, black dot? That's a grizzly, I promise.

The family at Norris Geyser Basin (where the mud or "stink" pots are).


Waking Up

This morning when my alarm clock went off (Ashlyn crying out like the does every morning when she wakes up), I went in to get her out of her crib. It was still dark, so I was surprised to pick her up and feel something on her hand. Here is her morning attire.

Socks will always be one of the coolest toys money can buy. She wore her sock on her hand for quite a while.

Then, as we looked out the window, this is what we saw. A kiddo's first memorable snowstorm is always exciting. She kept climbing on the table and saying "See, see!" It's fun to be little. This afternoon Nick took the girls sledding down our hill. Emma had a blast, and Ashlyn wasn't quite sure what to think.


Pumpkin Patch

Emma's preschool visited a pumpkin patch today, so I canceled my class and Ashlyn and I joined the crew. The kids had so much fun. We went through a corn maze ("It's dark in here, Mommy"), fed corn stalks to the horses, cried when the pig squealed too loudly (Ashlyn), pet a duck, and then got to pick out our very own pumpkin to bring home. I'm so glad we went. I'm a bit tempted to go back out with Nick and get a bigger pumpkin. I couldn't figure out how to carry anything larger than the one we got since I was also been packing Ashlyn. It was so much fun.


We had a couple of friends over yesterday and got to play dress-up. How Halloween appropriate is that! We had a lot of fun, and the girls especially loved posing for the camera. Too bad Ashlyn refused to put on the butterfly wings (she thinks the ladybug costume is hers).


They're Done!

My pears are done! Whew. That was a lot of work. Several hours and 20 quarts later, I have a good supply of fruit for the winter. I keep thinking about why in the world I can. It's tricky to do with little hands wanting to help so desperately, jars are not cheap, and they really do take a long time to do (at least for me). But you know, I love looking at the final product. In fact, I like looking at it so much that I sometimes have a hard time opening a jar to eat it. Weird, I know. But honestly, my cupboards are so colorful right now. I have apricot nectar, apple sauce, peaches, and pears. Do any of you want to come over for some fruit cobbler? My treat. Next year I want to try green beans, tomatoes, and whatever else comes my way.

Also, my students' papers are graded and returned. I wonder who dropped class since Wednesday. Just kidding. Some of you have asked about my teaching. I love it. I'm just teaching one ENGL 101 course this semester for Idaho State University. It's perfect. It gets me out of the house for just 6-8 hours a week. Even better, I teach during Emma's preschool and Ashlyn's nap, so I don't feel guilty about leaving the girls. The pay isn't too bad either for the time involved. Mostly though, I just love to teach. There's just something about it that gives me a high. Part of it is that writing is a necessary fact of life so it's worth my time to teach, and, well, Nick sometimes teases me that I have a social cavern that must be filled, and teaching seems to help there. What more can I say? I love it.


It's Fun to Learn

Wow! Thanks to Sarah B. I've figured out backgrounds. How fun! Thanks for your help.

This week has been great fun. I went to April's in-law's and picked more apples and pears! I made the apples into frozen pie filling (yummy) and the pears are in the basement ripening. I'll be canning them later this week. It's a lot of work, but my family really enjoys having it throughout the winter. Besides fruit, I've been grading my first batch of freshman comp papers. So far they've been rather entertaining. I've read about everything from losing your big toe in Judo to working as a bouncer at a strip club. I'm always nervously excited to see what my students will write about. So far, they've made it interesting.

The girls, as always, are keeping us laughing. Ashlyn has learned how to draw her eyebrows together into the perfect scowl and has perfected the "no no" phrase. She has also decided that our side hill is the perfect slide. She scoots down the rather steep hill on her bottom just to turn around and try it again. Emma keeps us laughing with comments like, "Dad, no tickling me while I'm sleeping" and "Our baby isn't a baby any more, is she?" They grow so quickly. I'm loving every minute of it. Well, most minutes. One of my favorite phrases is, The days sometimes crawl by, but the weeks and months fly. Well, I'm ready for the next adventure in parenting, I hope.


I've been tagged

The rules of the game. Go to your pictures folder and take the fourth picture from the fourth file and post it. That's it. (Thanks Heidi.) This picture was taken at Nick's parent's home. Emma dumped an entire box of cereal on the floor and proceeded to eat the marshmallows next to Aunt Lacee's little dog Rusty. Emma sure has grown. This picture seems like it was taken just yesterday rather than Dec of 06. I'm so grateful for cameras that catch memorable moments like this one. Now I tag Sarah R., Sarah B., Ranee, and Kerri.


Catching Up

I was just looking over our pictures from September to date, and well, I hope you don't mind me playing a bit of catch up. Here goes.

Ashlyn and her daddy have a special relationship.
Emma's heading off to her first day of preschool. she's growing up so fast. It's fun watching her learn so much every day.

We went for a drive last Sunday to Scout Mountain. It was rather pretty up there, but this is the only picture where either girl was actually looking at the camera. Too bad daddy's not in this one. The leaves are starting to change already. We love this time of year.

These last two pictures are of Nick's little sister Lacee, her husband Monte, and their brand new, tiny baby Carson. Carson surprised everyone by coming 7 weeks early. His arrival even included a life-flight trip from Evanston to Ogden. He's all of 4 lbs 8 oz and 18 inches long. He's tiny, but he's a fighter. He's already doing much better than anyone expected. Lacee and Monte deserve to be proud of him. He's so adorable. We look forward to when they get to bring him home. Keep growing little guy. We love you.