I know I'm weird, but it's my blog and I can post what I want...

There are members of the human population that choose to name their cars. I am of that group. Except maybe people don't choose to name their car in the same such manner in which I named my car, Bradley Hobart.
I named my car after the billionaire Bradley Hobart.
Bradley Hobart lives in San Francisco and is a technological genius.
He is tall and wears dark rimmed glasses. He is kind and dorky and a little clumsy. But his wit is unparalleled.
This man is so successful that he doesn't need to work another day in his life, but continues to do so to contribute his savant to society. He's just that amazing.
Mr. Bradley Hobart is actually just a fake guy I had some dream about a long time ago. But he was my boyfriend in that dream and he needed to be memorialized.

I told you I'm weird.

P.S. Jimmy knows all about Brad



I have a lot of character flaws. Rather than get into them all, I'd like to delve into just one. I am absolutely AWFUL at sending thank you cards.
Truly abysmal.
And it's all in my mind.
Let me explain my thought process...
Someone gives me a great gift.
I am grateful and feel very touched.
I do one of two things- thank them verbally immediately or never at all.
You may think that I am not grateful for the gift or forget about the gesture. Not true. In fact, if I have never verbally thanked you for something you gave me ten years ago, I am still thinking about it. You see, when I love a gift, I want to thank the giver to the extent it changed me. And in order to express the proper amount of gratitude, I must sit and thoughtfully prepare a heartfelt message.
And then that message is never enough. Never.
It just sits somewhere being over thought in my head and collecting dust in my house. And then I feel guilty every time I see that person because I have a handwritten note at home expressing my gratitude that has never seen the light of day. Then time passes and saying thank you for something I received a year ago seems so trivial and lazy.
This is true (and embarrassing and never been shared) I wrote all the thank you cards for our wedding gifts and never sent them. I hand made each card. I still remember the color and texture of the paper. And I used a glossy gold ink pen. I had the stamps on them. I HAD THE STAMPS ON THEM! There is something in me, a great loud voice saying I am never enough, I will never be enough and that my efforts will never match my intentions. I go through each day thinking of all the things I haven't said and things I have wrongly said. I am paralyzed into inaction. I know, logically that this is wrong thinking. Almost every New Year's Eve, one of my resolutions is to write thank you cards and send them. I get all gung ho and write beautiful cards then they sit. And sit. And sit. And then its like that Shel Silverstein poem about returning a library book too late. You know, this one:

What do I do?
What do I do?
This library book is 42 Years overdue.
I admit that it’s mine But I can’t pay the fine - Should I turn it in
Or hide it again?
What do I do?
What do I do?

by Shel Silverstein

If you are reading this post, odds are you have a place in my heart expressing gratitude. Nearly every person I meet and grow close to has a little pocket in this heart of mine reserved for all the gratitude, love and admiration I have for them. So, if you are thinking this right now, "That Stephanie Graham! I gave her a bite of my dessert when we went out to a restaurant 11 years and 3 months ago and she never thanked me!"
Please hear me now.
And that's going to have to be enough for the both of us.


Happy Birthday to me!

You guys,
this birthday has been so fantastic!
It all started with a text last Wednesday,
"I was instructed to tell you that you are supposed to not get ready for the day, but instead wear 'active wear' and be Vivy free at your house around 8:15"
I was whisked away by Brittani promptly at 8:15. She drove me to Timberhill, my favorite hike in Napa, where a bunch of my awesome friends were waiting to go on a hike. It was gorgeous!
Then, we went to Napa General Store for breakfast where another group met to celebrate. And so the whole day went from surprise stop to surprise stop with different friends at each place!!!

After breakfast, I was taken home and given one hour for my first costume change. Then, off to an antique store, mani pedis (where I giggled uncontrollably at my feet being tickled). After our nails were freshly done, we went to the OxBow where there was another group waiting to have lunch with me. It felt like living a real life pop up book. After lunch, I was taken to the best book store in town and spent a whole afternoon browsing- that was pure bliss. Nearly as blissful was the ice cream we ate following the book store. Then home for another costume change and dinner at the new Thai restaurant. A new batch of friends at this stop! To end the night, we went to go see 'A Quiet Place'. My friends nailed it.
So hard.
I felt so loved and happy all day long.

Not only did my friends score 100%, my family was on point this year too!
My mom scheduled me a spa day and lunch over the weekend. I felt so pampered.
My dad wrote me a beautiful card from his hospital bed. That was a tear jerker.
My in-laws came over for a lazy (and perfect) Sunday evening outside. We talked late into the night. *I freaking love our backyard*

Today, my actual birthday, I spent reading and at the park and eating a deli sandwich in the backyard (the backyard I freaking love) and sushi tonight. Goodness gracious, its been just a long line of all my favorite things with my favorite people.

I was driving around today feeling so loved and a tad guilty for how well I have been treated.
Many thanks to those that contributed to a fantastic week!


I have an excuse, really, I do...

I know it's for dumbest reason ever, but I stopped blogging in the middle of the good Norway posts because for some silly reason, I can't post pictures anymore. I tried to rectify the situation, but not as wholeheartedly as I could muster. Which, unfortunately resulted in me taking a blogging hiatus for longer than I had ever wanted. I use this blog for my own personal reasons. I love to look back on the  days that may have felt mundane at the time. Because it is those days that are actually with which I build my life. Rather than try to remember each day in Norway, I am choosing to share the stuff I don't have to try too hard to remember. It is a travesty that no pictures will accompany this post, but not so much as if I did not write at all.

Norway. The gorgeous country that I would gladly call home for many reasons. The landscape was not like anything I have ever seen. Until cruising through the fjords, my favorite place on earth was Yellowstone National Park. But the moment I drifted on a ferry in between cliffs higher than any building I've ever seen, I had found a place closer to heaven than I had ever experienced. To tour this gorgeous country just hours and days after losing our home to a wildfire made the place all the more magical. The gorgeous countryside was just a backdrop for the beauty that is my family in Norway. There was no better person to ease my heartache than AnneBrit. She scooped me up with her laughter and cradled me in her artistic hands. Being in her home so lovingly adorned with art and freshly baked bread, mismatched dishes and handmade linens brought healing to me. Learning how to knit at AnneBrit's side was a gift that was better than any souvenir I could have ever brought home.

The rest of the family we met were so kind and welcoming and lovely. Straight up fantastic.
I hope if my family from Norway ever comes, we can be as great of a host as they were. In quiet moments, I plan all the things I would show them if they came. Maybe my hope is that they will read this here blog post, stumble on that last sentence and then book a trip. Because I would love nothing more than to plan a whole tour for them! (Sending these vibes into the universe)

I loved the food. LOVED the food. Except maybe the $70 Burger King! Whaaaa??? It's true, folks. I ate reindeer and cloudberries and the best breads and jams and Swedish licorice.

The details have waned because I too distracted to finish this post (Vivy woke up) so I'm just going to leave this here:
I can't wait to go back.



I am so inspired by the records kept by my Norwegian people. We got to study books of all the family farms in Norway and see this AMAZING family tree dating back to the 1500's.

Once landing in Trondheim, AnneBrit (Kate's namesake- Kailtin Annabritt Graham) and Kate were instant name twins.
It warmed my heart to be welcomed off the airplane with such loving, open arms.
We went from the airport to my family's home and had a delicious dinner. This is where the fun begins for me! I kept asking about how the meal was prepared and what types of food was a typical meal in Norway. Everyone spoke impeccable English, so talking was so smooth and easy. We were welcomed so kindly. It was when we compared our family trees after dinner that we realized our family relation went back quite a few generations, hahaha! We used 'cousins' but never the 'distant' part of the term when referring to each other, it was fabulous.
After dinner we had a special table set up with desserts. We were treated like royalty.
This is Einar's brother on the cover of the local newspaper celebrating his 95th birthday!

 We traveled around the country visiting all kinds of family. It was an amazing experience to meet everyone!

A cringe worthy anecdote in the middle of my Norway posts

Sooo... I can’t explain myself to the the person who’s been the victim to my erratic behavior. But something must be said. Seriously.
I work on the Film Festival operational team each year. I freaking love my job. LOVE it. I work with pretty spectacular people. Well, this year being a part of the festival was a great time to be too busy to think about the fire. I was running around like crazy getting work done and it felt so good. The ops team worked in conjunction with one another to get all the background stuff running to make the front of the house look pristine during the festival. Most of the people I worked with on this team were men. I endearingly called them my ops boys. Jimmy thought that was a little weird. However, it does not compare to the weirdness to ensue.
Because the film festival is so dear to me, I had total post festival withdrawal. One of the ops guys, whom I love so dearly, lives out of state and is going home soon. Because I wanted to see him before he left to say goodbye, I thought I'd get a couple of my boys together for dinner. Now, you all know me well enough to know that I am a doer. I get stuff done. And I am over the top. And I talk too much. And I am a little too bubbly for most people to handle. But you also know that I am sincere and love to make people happy. Well, imagine that you don't know me that well. Imagine that you are not immune to my shenanigans. Imagine that you only see me about 7 days out of 365 and those 7 days I am mostly professional. Now, my dear ones, imagine that you are a single man that mentioned that to me. And that I might get the idea to set up said man.
Trouble, folks.
This poor defenseless man didn't know what hit him. In fact I think he might have thought that I was the one HITTING on him. Gah!
So our conversation went something like this (now I paraphrase because the real words are just too embarrassing. Guys, I made a fool)
Me: So what kind of girl are you into?
Poor Defenseless Ops Boy: I'm into crazy- the good kind of crazy- chicks
M: Well, I'm already taken, hahaha! (I am an idiot)
PDOB: uhhhh... (nervous laughter)
M: I don't mean that- I was just kidding, I can find crazy.
and the conversation continued okay, until I chose to deliver on my promise.
The following day I proceeded to text this PDOB and pretty much scared the living daylights out of him. Why, you ask? Because I may have mentioned the words: stalker, creeper, intense etc., in reference to my awesome self. And then offered to bring him lunch (Because I was swinging by another friend's house and Jimmy's work to drop off lunch to them as well. But he didn't know that.)
And rather than cease and desist I kept texting....
because, you know, he needed to understand that I was just trying to help.
(insert face palm here)
Then, I was really good and stopped myself from continuing to dig my hole and actually consulted the level headed member of my marriage.
That's when Jimmy said, "Now don't freak out, but you kind of sound like the main character from that show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. You should probably apologize..."
So, the following day I decided to follow the advice of my level headed husband. But, I think I followed it too closely.
How my text read:
My husband said I sound like the crazy one from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and I should apologize to you... (then listed some great qualities of a dear friend of mine I'd like to set him up with. I KNOW GUYS. I need to stop the madness)
I sent the text. I.sent.the.text. !!!!!
I swear, the girl was PERFECT for him. I felt like I had a duty to true love.
But, oh my goodness, I am writing this and cringing.
So, I let the text marinate.
And then deleted it.
So, what's worse? Sending that awful text or sending it and then deleting it?
Jimmy came home to me sheepishly cuddled in bed and listening to T-Swift. Because that is honestly the only way I could deal. I showed Jimmy every single text I wrote (and I did not censor it like I did for this here post. My husband is a saint.) He first look horrified and then we just laughed hysterically. We decided I'm not allowed to text boys anymore.
You guys, I am not a creepy stalker. But that poor boy did not know what hit him. Rapid fire texts from a crazy lady may change his mind about what kind of girl he's looking for...

Getting to Norway

My mom called asking if she could buy a laptop for Kate for her birthday. Kate already has a laptop for school, so I suggested that maybe she plan an adventure instead. When I was thinking adventure, I had a drive around Napa in mind. My mom had other plans...

Kate got a ticket to Norway for a birthday gift and I decided to invite myself. Because if not an over enthusiastic and overbearing mother, what am I? How glad I was in the serendipitous decision. Purchasing tickets was almost as difficult as finding the right time to travel. But definitely not harder than acquiring passports. You guys, this was the pre-adventure. 

It takes months in Napa to wait for an appointment at the post office, so it is recommended one goes to another post office to get passports. To receive passports, one must also obtain passport photos. 
Because I am a cheapskate (strike that: frugal), we chose to go to Walmart for photos. Dude, mistake. We waited approximately 3 hours (1 in line, 2 in a corner by the passport photo backdrop). The two hours were abysmal. We had Vivy. Enough said, right? When we were nearing the end of our wait time, I ignored Vivy's antics hoping that the clerk would want us out so bad that they would speed up our service. That was a no go. All it did was make my passport photo sweaty. 

After getting photos taken, we went to the passport office in a dinky little post office up valley. Jimmy had to take the time off work and we had all the paperwork necessary. Because we were so well prepared, our family was abke to pop to the front of the line. Whilst in the office, the post master asked for our IDs. I smugly pulled out my wallet ready to deliver. Those unprepared people we cut in line had nothing on me! Except that maybe they remembered to take their ID out of the copier when preparing their needed documents. Because that is something I did not do... Gah!

Round two: we run up valley again. Jimmy has to take a day off work again. This time we have Vivy. This time we had all documents. This day, the post office had a sign on the door saying that no passports would be given because the postmaster was sick. Are you freaking kidding me?! Darn quaint little post office with two employees. 

So, we drove an hour to another neighboring town's post office. With my documents, with my license, with Vivy. We got to the post office right before closing and stood at the end of a veerrrry long line. But, stars aligned, folks. Because we were entirely prepared, again we got to cut to the front of the line. This time I was humble. Because we know what smug got me last time. The woman processing our paperwork talked so fast that I couldn't keep up. The first thing she did was discard of the photos we so painstakingly took at Walmart because they were done wrong. Niiiice.... but that was the only hiccup. After taking new photos, we were out of the post office in 15 minutes!!! 
That post office worker is hero status, people. 

We received our passports less than two weeks later and were ready to rumble. 
Our first flight into Oslo was uneventful. But late. So late that we ended up missing our connecting flight to Trondheim. We had to buy new tickets and board on a very small plane to make it to our final destination. A rainbow welcomed us to Trondheim as we disembarked off the back of the plane. It was magical. And that was the last day I called Atlas Peak my home. 

Just the beginning...

My trip to Norway and the wild fire that tragically took our home happened simultaneously. It seems that these two events sit on the opposite end of the world and my spectrum of experience. But because life is so achingly beautiful, these opposite events brought great peace by working in tandem in the fabric of my life.

I'm finally ready to write about it. I have been putting this off for over a month. Unfortunately, with the delay in writing, I am sure to have lost some of the most raw emotion and true feelings that came with this life changing time. It could be a bad thing. Or possibly good.

Here I am, sitting at a computer I do not own in a house that is not mine, wearing clothes I did not purchase. I spend my days confused mostly. I am constantly having to redirect myself while driving because my auto pilot still has our old address as the beacon. I ache. But that's not why I'm here. I'm here to tell you why I am not decimated. Why I still have hope. And to tell you about how amazing Norway was...


Proud Wifey

I am just bursting with pride! So much so that I decided to stay up super late so I could just brag to you all about it...

Jimmy hit 100,000 subscribers on YouTube today! (well, technically yesterday, but I am way past my bedtime)
What does this mean?
It means that after a decade of hard work and perseverance, Jimmy will be awarded a plaque from YouTube and just keep getting better from here.
It means that he is starting to get recognized in public and even may have been asked for an autograph a couple of times.
It means that a ton of people agree with me on how awesome this guy really is.
This is a pretty big deal.
He is a pretty big deal.
Great job, babe.



While we were at the Hamilton's house last week, Vivy found a new friend. 
Actually, she found a best friend. 
She came in one day while I was in the kitchen working and stated, matter-of-factly, "I found my best friend!"
I was wondering which Hamilton child she would drag me to as she took my hand for the fateful introduction. I didn't have to go far. A few feet, in fact. 
Vivy introduced me to the trash can. 
She looked square at the can then commanded, "Show me it!"
The automatic lid popped open and she praised, "Good job!" 
Then she hugged it. 
My daughter hugged a trashcan. For the rest of the time we spent at the Hamilton home, Vivy would lovingly stroke her friend and continue to throw phrases of affirmation as she threw the trash away. I suppose Vivy will never have a problem finding friend, her standards are pretty low...


Girls' Day Out

I decided to spend a whole day with Kate after Trek. We brought Vivy to preschool and started our day off  right- with exercise. And Bouchon Bakery.

After Bouchon, Kate and I went to the boutique shops in Yountville, one of which is a fabulous children's store filled with adorable, one of a kind (translation: expensive) clothes and interesting toys. As I was strolling around the store, I noticed the caliber of games. I am a game girl, so seeing different and exciting games makes my heart happy. In the toy section, the inventory matched in quality. There was hand painted wooden puzzles and education math toys and a lifelike spider climbing from shelf to shelf. I wanted to see that spider closer to see how it worked and shrieked. This was no toy! It was a HUGE (like bum the size of my thumb. Dude, it has to be big if I thought it was a freaking toy) black widow. I am well versed in spiders due to living in the country and sleeping with the windows open. This one threw me for a loop. I think it could have literally thrown me for a loop due to its size. But I digress... The shop keeper heard my scream and came over to check on me. .She also screamed.  Loudly. Which brought the attention of all the other shoppers, who came to investigate. And also screamed. It was kind of  like watching a study in pack mentality. I told the shop keeper that I would kill it and she gave me a measly tissue. I assure all of you that there was no way this beast was going down in a single ply kleenex. Armed with the multitude of tissues she gave me after the first was insufficient, I was poised to pounce. And then uttered aloud, "What's my exit strategy?!" I looked around in a panic for a toilet I knew would not be there. I was in a pickle. The shopkeeper called the janitor in my moment of fear. While waiting for reinforcements, my job was to keep the spider from hiding behind the toys and games, just perching to attack an innocent child. That task was harder than you think. Especially with a crowd of people watching my progress. The janitor was unavailable, but we got the manager of thwe whole shop collection. He came armed with the monthly budget, rolled up in preparation to strike. I don't think he got the memo. To Whom it May Concern: This spider is nearly the size of Rhode Island, prepare accordingly.
He hit the spider with great force, but it did not submit. No, this contender just ran behind a whole shelf of puzzles, getting ready for the next round. I am not afriad of spider normally, but I am not kidding when I say I terrified right now. I found this spider and turned it in. It will hunt me down with it's cronies and make my demise look like an accident. The manager slowly pulled out all the puzzles, found the spider and attacked again. This time, the monthly budget did its job. Praise Jesus. The mess was cleaned up with the many, many tissues I still held in my trembling hand. After that whole scene, I was ready for a more relaxing day.
Kate and I continued to peruse the shops. We headed into St. Helena when we were done, ready for lunch. I took Kate on her maiden trip to Rutherford Grill. It was so fun to experience that with her. Of course we got the skillet cornbread and oreo dessert. That is always a must. After lunch we went to a movie at the Cameo Cinema. It was a slow paced independent film that I lived for and a 13 year old teenager hated. But, the teenager got buttered popcorn, so it was a success.

We strolled thorough downtown St. Helena for a short while, but it was so incredibly hot, we didn't last too long. Then back down to Napa to choose a birthday gift for a friend and Panera for dinner. Dude. Dude. There is a new salad at Panera that was phenomenal. Arugula, watermelon, feta, quinoa, dijon vinaigrette. LOVED it. I sound so basic right now.
We completed our day with a trip to Ulta where Kate happily applied testers freely to her face. When there was no room left on her face to color in, we left. It was an amazing day with an amazing girl.

Another salad- because I need somewhere to save it

This salad is perfection in the summer

Blueberry and Feta salad with olive oil roasted almonds and honey balsamic vinaigrette

butter lettuce
crumbled feta
almonds (chop almonds, toss in olive oil and kosher salt and roast at 425* for 7-8 minutes. Do not skip this step. They make the salad)
2 TB balsamic vinegar
2 TB honey
salt and pepper
dash of ground thyme
Whisk and drizzle in:
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil

That simple!


Hanging with the Hamiltons: Day 4

Today would have been perfect had it not been hotter than a redneck butt on chili night.
Seriously, over 100*.
We had great morning with everyone. Cleaned the house, packed the car and headed out. We ate lunch at our place so the kids could play with our dog and cat. They watered the neighbor's garden and loved it. We decided to go to a great park that had peacocks roaming the grounds. The park was beautiful and well appointed and dang hot. So, so, so hot. But we all played on the three story high slide, found crawdads in the pond and collected leaves. Not a single peacock was spotted, but we did spot a person exercising their legal right to smoke marijuana when one of the kids said, "Do peacocks smell kind of like skunk? I think I'm getting closer!" We braved Costco with all the kids. Because, I am ambitious. And free samples.
The kids all piled in carts and we took them on a hunt for delicious little morsels hidden in paper cups. It was really fun. I don't know if it was necessary to even buy anyone dinner there, because we all feasted plentifully on the samples. But dinner was bought and (kind of) eaten. The heat started getting to everyone because our seat was right by the door where heat was pouring in. We had a couple of meltdowns that were easily fixed with a $1 churro. Cheapest peace I've ever bought. It was bittersweet to take to kids home to meet with their parents because it was seriously a joy to watch them. I was thrilled to see Kate. She glowing from the great time she had at Trek.

Thought of the day: Next time it is so hot, just plan to spend the ENTIRE day in Costco. They have couches on display and free samples.

Hanging with the Hamiltons: Day 3

Friday needs to be renamed, Crayday.
Because Friday be cray cray.
Kids out the door on time, check.
Everything else ran smoothly, not check.
Friend saves me with burrito, check.

I got all the kids where they needed to go and headed into work with Mac and Vivy. Kids at the preschool were fine-ish. until someone fell and scraped their knee at the park. And someone insisted they were dying of thirst. And someone ran into another someone coming down the slide as they were going up the slide. And someone didn't pick as many dandelions as they wanted because the field (and Miss Stephanie's hands) ran out. It was a typical tired toddler day.  After work, I ran to go get two of the girls, one of which would be at a friend's house. (explaining that would be too long and tricky, just go with it) Friend's house, no one was home. That's because friend was being an angel and buying me lunch and preparing to take the older girls. Older girls at a play date, Vivy taking a nap, burrito in hand, Grey's Anatomy queued up, ready to take my first juicy bite...
knock at the door. The guy who was supposed to install the A/C at 8:30 am was ready to install it at 1:46 pm. It's so funny, because, you see- 1:46 pm was also the time I was going to Netflix and chow. I let him in and discreetly hid my burrito as I walked him quietly upstairs. Upstairs, next to the sleeping feral child, hoping we wouldn't wake the beast. Fortunately for the installation guy (whom I would have taken out) did not wake the child. Funny thing, he didn't install the A/C either. I don't know what he was doing upstairs while I scarfed my burrito in a very unladylike way, but it wasn't until he drove away and I went to wake Vivy that I noticed nothing was done. Errr... instead of waiting around trying to solve that puzzle, I grabbed a gymnastics leotard (for the kid, not me. Wouldn't that be a sight?) And raced off  to get the girls for their afternoon activities.  We made a cray cray drop off/pick-up that I will list so you can get the full effect and proceed to ooh and aah over my mad skillz.
3:17- get to friend's house to pick up girls
3:18- listen to gymnastics attender explain that I brought the wrong sized leotard
3:22- pick up right sized leotard at the house
3:31- made it (just one minute late to gymnastics)
3:47- brought other girl to appointment
3:48- chase Vivy into the Thai restaurant next to appointment location because she was just intoxicated by the delicious smell and needed to see where it was coming from
3:50- Made it into the building where the appointment was located. Walked around the whole thing realized our parking choice was poor.
4:00- dropped off girl 2 for appointment
4:01- drove home to go get swim suit
4:31- Left home to get boy at preschool
4:47- Get boy at preschool
4:47-4:49- played trains with boy at preschool
4:53- pick up baby at daycare
5:02- pick up girl 2 at appointment
5:14- pick up girl 1 at gymnastics
5:22- go to the house and get swimsuits, order pizza, load the car and race out the door
5:23- turn around to go get forgotten floatie
5:37- pick up pizza and go to pool
Play, eat, laugh, have a grand old time with cousins and aunties.
 I just scrolled up and realized that schedule was overkill. You get it, I was frenzied. But folks, that does not compare with what happened next. I was dressing all the kids in their jim jams (because I am brilliant) and I heard my sister-in-law's car alarm go off. She ran out and tried to fix it to no avail. While I was loading the kids in our car, Jimmy was trying to help with her car. After my sweet (not so handy) Jimmy struggled long enough, I went down to help. After the very handy Stephanie located the fuse for the horn and Jimmy pulled it out, we finally got peace after over 25 minutes of honking. The theft detection system was disarmed after a helpful YouTube video and we started to drive away. My sister-in-law's car refused to be put into gear. So, we drove the kids home, I got them in bed while Jimmy drove back to drive our nieces and nephews home as my in-laws had the car towed to a dealership. This whole ordeal did not wrap up until after midnight. If I were to use one word to describe the day? Cray to the cray.

Thought of the day: Stephanie has very nice friends.


Hanging with the Hamiltons: Day 2

Starting the day with a crying toddler at 5:30 am does not a happy family make. Vivy was upset that Jimmy went to work in the morning and proceeded to cry next to my bed. Once realizing that I was not to be roused from my beauty sleep, she moved on to the next victims. Ryann and Cara were awoken by Vivy's wails. We still got out the door early regardless of the rough morning, due to my perpetually thirty minute advance internal clock.
It took me the full morning commute and pet feeding to finally let go of the frustration with our unpleasant alarm clock. Just enough time to start prepping for the missionary dinner for which we had signed up.  Am I crazy?! (Yes. Yes, I am.)
The girls, as always were a huge help. They picked up the house while I cooked dinner. Luckily we were so efficient because Jimmy came home from work sick and was not able to pitch in at all. Dinner with the missionaries was... interesting. Usually we talk about investigators and the work the missionaries are doing. This time around, we had a new elder that had watched Jimmy's YouTube station at home and monopolized the whole conversation with language I did not understand. Fortunately, the food was good because it kept me and the kids occupied. Seriously, the kids downed everything. And so, I will leave a copy of the recipe on this here post just in case you want in on the action.

Thought of the day: How can someone so little cause so much turbulence?

Black Beans and Mango Salsa with Lime Crema

1 lb dried black beans
2 onions (one whole and peeled, one diced)
2 bay leaves
1 TB dried oregano
4-6 slices good bacon, cubed
2 tsp cumin
1 jalapeno, minced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, place rinsed black beans, one whole onion, two bay leaves and oregano. Cover with cold water by two inches and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 2-3 hours. Add more water as needed. Meanwhile, saute bacon until crispy. Add diced onion and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add jalapeno, garlic and cumin, cook until fragrant. Stir in cilantro and cook another 2 minutes. Set aside. When beans are tender, remove bay leaves and onion. Reserve cooking liquid. Still bacon mixture into beans and slowly stir in enough cooking liquid to bring beans to your desired consistency. Salt a pepper generously. Bring to a boil. Serve.

Mango Salsa
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 tomato, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 TB finely minced red onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
zest and juice of one lime
Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients and serve over beans.

Lime Crema
1 cup sour cream
zest and juice of one lime
1-2 tsp chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped
salt and pepper
 Stir together and serve over beans.


Hanging with the Hamiltons: Day 1

Back in February, during our stake conference, my friends and I were texting a commentary of all the was transpiring during conference. It was not Mystery Theater 3000 style in that we were not being negative or satirical. We were, however having a steady stream for the whole thing. During the conference, the subject of Summer activities to take place this year was brought up. Among those activities was Trek. Trek is a trip the teenagers take to appreciate the pioneer heritage of the early pioneers. As the stake president admonished all to make sure the youth made Trek a part of their Summer, my friend Brittani texted to the group, "I feel like I am supposed to be a Ma for Trek". And that is when I felt equally pulled towards a desire to serve and offered to watch Brittani's kids while she was gone. And so, here we are, months later both of us ladies fulfilling the promptings we felt. And so I begin a mini series on this here blog: Hanging with the Hamiltons. Here's how day one went down...

WE arrived at the church at 6:30am to meet the group to begin Trek. Now, the email said 6;45 am, but I like to be early. Apparently, I am the only one who likes to be early when the call time is before 7:00 am. Seriously, we waited in an empty parking lot for what seemed like an eternity when compared to how much longer we could have laid in our cozy beds. WE sent Kate off in her braids and bonnet and went to go check on Britt's kids. When Jimmy and I got to the house, the kids were all up and getting ready for the day. It was quite inspiring to watch everyone making their breakfast and picking out their clothes because when Kate is in charge of those tasks, she takes full advantage of her independence. These kids were making oatmeal, BACON AND EGGS, cereal. Kate will make herself an ice cream sundae if I do not directly tell her to choose a breakfast food. The morning ran smoothly in terms of getting everyone out of the house. We got to the first stop half an hour early. Thank goodness I have a DVD player in the car, because Beauty and the Beast saved us from utter destruction. After dropping off kid one, we raced over to camp two. Funny, no one was in the parking lot. Hmm... unfortunately, I do not know the campus (the very large campus) well and traipsed all over the place looking for the right place. Still, no luck. Ryann said, "They changed spots. It's not here anymore! It's at Lake Forest now." From the morning that we had, I knew Ryann to be trustworthy and googled 'Lake Forest, Napa'. The top hit was for an automotive shop. I may not know much about sports, but I do know that you cannot hold volleyball camp in a place with oil drips on the floor and a mechanic named Al. Unless Al played volleyball in college and has a real passion for the sport. But I doubt that...
I sat in the car with the kids for awhile trying figure everything out. Then it dawned on me, "Ryann, did you mean Las Flores??" She shouted, "Yeah! That's the place, Lake Forest!"
We made in time to volleyball camp. That's what happens when you're running 30 minutes ahead of schedule all morning. Too bad we didn't get to see Al. The two littles got off to preschool and daycare just fine. Vivy and I spent the morning feeding our pets at home and taking care of the neighbor's garden.
Our next goal was to get everyone to afternoon activities and dinner done. We did pretty well. Again, 30 minutes early to everything! I am in the habit of giving myself half an hour from where we live. Every time we left the Hamilton's house early it took less than five minutes to where we were going. Kind of nice. We got through to the point Beast turned to the prince when we done commuting for the day, so I declare that a win.
As I was busy patting myself on the back, I came home to Jimmy with Vivy and hit the ffirst snag of the day. For the 10 minutes I was gone with all the other kids, Vivy managed to thwart Jimmy. My little crazy used a scissors to cut off her ponytail. She now has bangs that don't lay quite flat due to their shortness. Nice. It was very kind of Cara and Ryann to make me a memorial of Viviy's hair by putting it in a ziploc bag adorned with magic marker pictures and glitter.

Regardless of the end of the day occurrence, I call this day a success.

Thought of the Day: We live very far away from civilization.


4th of July

This year our holiday was pretty quiet and uneventful... until Vivy got a hold of it. 
 We started festivities with a viewing of the Silverado Resort fiireworks show on July 3rd. That was fun watching Vivy marching around to the John Phillips Sousa music. We didn't tell her to march, she just instinctively knew that was the right thing to do with that music. She narrowly missed a cactus or two while marching. I am surprised Jimmy survived with all the panic running through his veins.

We had a relaxing morning and we opted to sleep in rather than attend the parade. Best choice ever. 
The evening brought a water balloon fight with the family the began with a good forty minutes of filling up water balloons followed by a whopping 15 second fight. Still, fun was had by all. Mostly. Except for Danny, the three year old that got a balloon popped on his head. By his mother. Niiice, Melissa...

We were completely soaked and laughing all night. The BBQ was yummy and the kids loved the root beer floats. When it got dark, we all went to our church lawn to watch fireworks. After the first firework, and realizing that the trees covered most of the viewing, we high tailed it up to the Young Women's room to watch in the VIP lounge. That seemed like a great idea. It actually would have been a fabulous idea if we didn't have rambunctious children that had already revved their engines rolling down the grassy hill and wrestling. The wrestling continued in the dark YW room from which we viewing the show. One cousin got shoved by Vivy and spent the rest of the night on his Mama's lap. It was only when we turned on the lights that we realized that cousin was covered in blood. Oh geez... Vivy had pushed him into a corner, where he sliced his eyebrow. Luckily, I have a nurse friend that looked at it and determined he didn't need stitches. Like I said, uneventful and relaxing until the veeery end...


Two salads: one my recipe, one, not so much

For our 4th of July barbeque, I made two of my favorite salads. 
The first recipe- my own creation. It works well in a lettuce based sald or a pasta based salad. I used greens this time around. 
A rough recipe:
Butter lettuce
crisp bacon pieces
1 TB shallots, minced
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
zest and juice of one lemon
 1/2 tsp dill
salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup Olive oil
Second yummy salad
1 lb cooked pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
1 container mozzarella balls, cut in half 
2 pints grape tomatoes, quartered
2 handfuls torn basil
1/4 cup balsamic
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
(these are all according to how you like it- add more or use less of anything)


Date Night

Jimmy and I went on a date last night,. It was so much fun to dress up. We decided to use a Groupon (seriously, groupon saves us sooo much). I knew nothing about the restaurant except that it served a fusion of barbecue and sushi. Well, doesn't that sound interesting?? I was excited to try because I freaking love sushi. Like, so much. When we got to the restaurant, the waiter greeted us and started some small talk. In that small talk he may have mentioned that we were at a Guy Fieri restaurant. Upon hearing that name, I almost bolted. I have never had Guy Fieri's food- but there was no way I was going to eat it now. I am not a fan of him. At all. But, we had already scanned our Groupon, so we gave it a try. Honest Review: sushi was okay, but the shrimp appetizer was the best shrimp dish I've ever had. Ever. I am embarrassed to admit that I liked something so much at this restaurant. But I am nothing, if not honest. After a quite satisfactory dinner Jimmy and I walked to the nearest movie theater. The tickets were only $3! For a current movie! Whaa?? As you know from my love of Groupon that I am quite a frugal lady, I jumped at the chance to go to a $3 movie. And then we got inside. Guys, I am not even joking when I say this place was shady. Probably due to the many broken lights. Using the bathroom before the film felt like a good idea. I suppose my conscience is broken because the bathroom didn't look like a good idea at all. Nevertheless, I persisted. After the (scary) trip to the bathroom, we sat in the theater. It literally looked like someone had just covered the top of a parking lot full of seats. Straight up concrete floors. The seat in front of me was broken and hanging on its hinges, which distracted me as I chose my seat. I got quite a startle as I sat down and was poked by a spring sticking out of the cushion. You can't make this stuff up. Jimmy and I just laughed and laughed as each new scenario presented itself. Except that my laughing died down a bit when I looked into my future and saw a vision of myself combing lice out of my very long hair. Jimmy wasn't going to have to worry about that...

Fortunately for me, the lice have not actually come to pass. The movie was okay, but the experience was top notch. I love adventures. Thank goodness Jimmy likes adventures too, because folks, I am no picnic. But, I will get you the best deal around! 


Tahoe Trip- Sugar Pine Point Hike

Another great day, another great hike.
This hike was pretty fascinating because it was a trail used for the Olympics cross country skiing route. It turned out to be just over 9 miles. Ooops. Not something we were expecting. But the ice cream afterwards was well worth it. The kids were all troopers and we still had a blast even though everyone was pretty beat.