Saturday, July 31, 2010


He's still not a teenager, but twelve is a big milestone, and deserves a big celebration. We pretty much had an all-day party. We started off with a pancake breakfast up the canyon. Luckily the Elders Quorum put that together, so all we had to do was show up. When we got home Robbie opened his presents—he had a few more than we usually give, but they were mostly utilitarian. He got suit pants, a white shirt, a couple of ties, a belt and shoes, plus a Bible to go with the triple combination he received when he turned eight. There were a few fun gifts too, some books and legos. I'm sure it won't be long before he just wants cash. We caught a matinee of How to Tame Your Dragon and then the kids played with the new legos while Rob rode his bike and I fixed the birthday meal. The "Died and Gone to Heaven Chicken" will have to have its own post later. It was a pretty good day, for a really great kid.

Friday, July 30, 2010

An annual tradition

Last year we had such a great time at this show we decided to make it a tradition. We staked out a large area on the lawn with the Stringhams, Canteras and Dunfords. Angela joined us, and we saw the Breinholts, Ensigns, Watermans and a couple of Allens too. Good times. Can't wait until next year!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Birthday dreams do come true.

We started out with a pancake breakfast.

I know I've posted this link before, but in case you missed it, these are the best pancakes ever.

We ended the day with brownies, of course. But not just any brownies. Rob requested S'mores Brownies, which I'd never made before. I made a graham-cracker crust, poured the batter on top, and then threw marshmallows on top the last few minutes of baking. I turned on the broiler to brown them up, and about a minute later the smoke alarms started going off. Yes, they were all on fire, and I wish that I'd had time to snap a photo. Luckily they were the jumbo marshmallows, and even after I scrapped off the burnt top, we had more than enough. They were way too rich for me, but everyone else gave them a thumbs-up, in spite of the messy factor. I'm going to have to play around with this recipe so that it's easier to cut and not so rich. But not for a while.

Anyway, all the hard work in the kitchen + a new iPad = definite proof that I love Rob the most.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Final swim meet

...for the summer, anyway.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Award-winning Brownies

Alright, I haven't actually won an award for these brownies, but after reading this column by Garrison Keillor, I was contemplating what might possibly qualify me to win an award, and I had to conclude that it would be for making excellent brownies. I haven't made brownies from a box in this century, and very few before that. When I was growning up it was simply because we didn't have brownie mixes on hand, but we did usually have flour, sugar, eggs, cocoa and vanilla. Now I'm just a brownie snob. I'm not even tempted by the boxed versions. I've posted some of our favorite recipes, but not this one:

The photo isn't great—I had just bitten into the very last one when I realized I still needed a picture for the recipe card.

This also led to a fun dinner conversation. When I asked everyone else what they'd win an award for, here's what they responded:

Rob: The Cheesy Mustache Award
Robbie: Reading
Joey: Video gamer
Ellie: Jumping rope
Ainsley: Eating all the brownies

How about you? What would your award be?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pioneer Day = Clowns

Thank you, Shawn, for not being a photo scrooge. And for letting me steal a copy of your photo. I like the caption you used too—"Two clowns with two interestingly dressed people." Yep. Clowns who rode over a hundred miles today. Nice.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Food Storage Fridays

Freud thought "The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind." It's super-easy to figure out my number-one fear based on my dreams. Last night it was Ellie's birthday party. I was shopping for seemingly hours—paper plates, piƱata, presents—only to somehow end up at home with nothing. Except carloads of little girls waiting for the fun to begin. I had no plan, no cake, no party-favors. The only recurring nightmare I have is the one where I show up for a final in a class I haven't attended or made any attempt at studying. I've also dreamt that I'm on the starting line of a marathon and I haven't run a single training mile. You get the idea.

Clearly my greatest fear is being unprepared. And, let's face it, this is not entirely unfounded. If disaster struck right now, we've probably got enough food, but only because we'd die of thirst before it ran out. My approach to food storage has been sporadic and unorganized, an occasional trip to the cannery (okay, that means twice in 15 years) or putting together emergency backpacks, but then not bothering to rotate them (I'm pretty sure there are still diapers in Ainsley's).

I'm ready to change all that. After seeing how a little progress each week adds up on Scouting Mondays and Scrapbooking Thursdays, I've decided to add Food Storage Fridays. I'm not sure Friday is the best day for this, but I do like the alliteration. So today I did two things. First, I found a website I like: Food Storage Made Easy. I'm going to work on their Baby Steps. Second, I cleaned out the two 50-gallon water containers I just bought. Okay, technically, I'm still working on that. Letting them soak, then I need to get them into the basement, onto some boards (someone told me they should not be stored on cement) and then filled up.

Now, if someone could plan a birthday party for me, I might be able to sleep at night.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Up and Running with Photoshop

At the beginning of the summer Melissa and I decided to reserve Thursday afternoons for some sort of memory keeping activity. I'd say scrapbooking, but the reality is, I've spent most of my time simply organizing photos, memorabilia and supplies. And although we've had six Thursdays (minus one for vacation), I've hardly made a dent in that. Today neither of us could manage to get anything together to work on, so we went through the first lesson in an online Photoshop class we're both taking. The first lesson was just a template, so we just had to drop photos and type—not necessarily the style of either of us, but we're getting started. Here's our completed layout:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

H26 Summer Party

H26 stand for Holladay 26th Ward. Every summer we have a great party at Canyon Rim Park, and this year the party committee outdid themselves. When we pulled into the parking lot and the kids saw the inflatable slides they had the doors open before we came to a complete stop. They also loved the face art and rocket launching. After dinner we had a talent show, which in most church groups is scary, or at best, laughable. Peter Breinholt was in charge of ours, so it was more like a private concert. And it wasn't just Pete—even the last minute performers and the four year-old were awesome. They opened up the mike for jokes and both Joey and Robbie volunteered. I was a little worried, since I've never heard them tell a funny joke, but they did okay with the twelve-and-under crowd. It was fun. We are lucky to rub shoulders with exceptional people on a regular basis.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A few of my favorite things

And I mean things, not people, not things I like to do, actual objects.

I know I've mentioned most of these before, but I'm hoping to cover the basics today and update occasionally as things come to mind.

1. My camera.

It's a Nikon D90. It's not as convenient to carry around as a small point & shoot, but the photo quality more than makes up for it. I love that I can shoot HD quality video with it. I currently have the 18-55 mm and 55-200 mm lenses, and I'm coveting the 70-300 mm. Oh, and I love my camera bag too.

2. Photos. My Mac.


3. My sandals.

They're Dansko Lolita's, and for the past three summers I've had a pair in brown and one in black. I wear them every single day. I might need to stock up in case they discontinue this style. The red ones are really cute too. Oh, and since they're in the background of this photo, I love my couch and ottoman too.

4. Cereal.

I should really do a separate post for foods I love, but cereal would be in the top five. Quick, easy, delicious, nutritious—what's not to love? My current favorite is Kashi GoLean Crunch Honey Almond Flax.

5. My bed.

It's an IntelliBed, and it was worth every penny. Every time we take a trip now, I have to evaluate whether it'll be worth missing this comfy mattress.

6. Good books.

Pretty sure I've never mentioned this before. :)

7. My iPod.

Okay, technically this is Rob's iPod. But mine isn't holding a charge anymore so I've commandeered his. I love music while I'm running, listening to an audio book while I clean, and one of these days I need to get some video footage of the kids listening, since they like to sing along.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Scouting Monday

At the beginning of the summer we decided to adopt the Stringham's great idea of working on scouts each Monday. Today Joey made mint brownies for Family Home Evening, passing off Bear Requirement 9f.
Robbie has some catching up to do in order to get his Faith in God award by his birthday in only twelve days. He planned and made a nutritious meal (well, tacos, semi-nutritious at least) and also gave the FHE lesson on renewing baptismal covenants through the sacrament and staying faithful.
We also used the brownies as a service project, delivering some to a family in our neighborhood, and taking some to Rob's Grandpa, who has just had his knee replaced. We had a nice visit with his grandparents, at least until Ainsley broke an irreplaceable glass pitcher. I guess every silver-lining has a cloud.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

From the archives

Today was a nice lazy day, and I couldn't be bothered to take a photo of the day. So here's one more photo taken in Zion National Park...fifteen years ago. Rob and I met on August 6, 1995, and less than a month later joined our two groups of friends for this hiking trip. Char, Nikki, Anna, Jen and I stayed at a hotel in Mesquite while Rob, Troy and Chris stayed at Jim's house in Hurricane. We hiked the Orderville Narrows on Saturday, September 2nd and the Subway on Monday. Tuesday when we got back we had our first official date. After that we saw each other everyday. Good times. And doesn't Rob look hot? Would he be kicked out of the bishopric if he grew a goatee now?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A guest post from Robbie:

This week my dad and I went to Zions for scout camp. We did some cool hikes: Angel's Landing and the Narrows. On Angel's Landing, we went a little farther than the first chains. At the Narrows, we hiked so long and I worked so hard, I fell asleep easily on the hard ground. That night I had a nightmare. I had to walk a 500 mile hike, while I'm starving with no food to eat, thirsty with nothing to drink, and needing to go to the bathroom when I'm surrounded by people. My dad listened to me all night saying,"no... no..." with me rolling around and hitting him. I still had fun though, and I learned another card game, B.S. Also, we built a dam in the Virgin River. I caught tadpoles in the river and saw some wildlife: deer, lizards, plenty of birds, fish, a frog, cows, horses, and an ostrich. I had the time of my life. Here are some of the pictures we took:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sibling sleepover

With Rob and Robbie gone, the girls were all set to sleep on the floor in my room. I talked them into making a huge bed with couch cushions in the TV room instead, and it was a huge success. Hoping they'll all sleep in tomorrow!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Girl's night out

Alright, we didn't go out to eat, or go see the latest vampire movie, or sit around gossiping, but a running clinic counts, right? Mandy (in the background, wearing red), Melissa, Lupita, and Krisse are not even signed up for a marathon, but came with me anyway to a free marathon training clinic at TOSH. I was impressed with the nutritionist, orthopedist and physical therapists who taught us—they crammed a ton of information into an hour-and-a-half. It could have easily been a four-week series. I'll definitely be implementing some of their tips on form, flexibility and core strength into my training plan. I'm also planning on checking out some of their other classes, if anyone wants to come along:

Free B.E.S.T. Sports Nutrition Clinics, August 4th—Cooking 101
September 1st—School lunches

$5 Nutrition at Noon Workshops Includes lunch

$15 Adult Sports Nutrition Includes dinner

And Shawn, they didn't cover any aspect of motivation/sports psychology/mental training, so I'm counting on you for that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Off to scout camp

I know, it seems like every single post is all about how old my kids are getting, it's all going way too fast, blah, blah, blah. Rob's comment at their milestones is more like "it's about time." He's pretty excited that Robbie is old enough to hike Angel's Landing and the Narrows with him. Hopefully they'll take a few photos along the way.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Out of my comfort zone

I'm three days into an adult swimming class. This is pretty huge for me—not only do I hate to wear a swimsuit and get my face wet, but I've never swum laps in my life. Thanks to some pressure encouragement I finally tried it on Friday. I've already noticed some progress, and I definitely have the most potential for improvement in the group! It cracks me up when Ellie and Ainsley tell me what a great job I'm doing. :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

A couple of days late

This wasn't taken today—it's the photo I should have used to restart last Saturday, but I took it using Shawn's iPhone and just grabbed it on his blog yesterday (thanks, not just for the photo, but for the post—it made me laugh). You can read it here—Shawn is a much better storyteller than I am. The only thing I can add is that in addition to running 10 miles roundtrip to take this shot, I came within about 5 inches of a large snake of unknown species on my way there. The really great photo would have been the jump and sprint following that encounter. Anyway, Rob rocked the hill climb. He's been tearing it up on his bike all season long. He should be in great shape for LOTOJA this year. I'm so proud.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Birthday season

Rob's birthday on July 28th is the beginning of our 2 1/2 month celebration. I have the only birthday in our family that doesn't fall within this period. And since we always have our Riley family birthday dinner on the 2nd Sunday of the month, today we celebrated birthdays for Sydney, Robbie and Rob. I didn't take any extraordinary photos. But I'm learning to appreciate the ordinary ones. I'm grateful every time we add another candle to the cake.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Starting over. Again. Long Story.

My friend Julie told me today that logging on to my blog and finding the same post that's been up for over a month made her feel better that she hadn't updated either. So I'm really sorry Julie.

I haven't stopped taking photos. In fact, since June 4th (my last post) I've taken 1637 photos and 27 movies. I've just quit telling the stories that go along with the photos. Last week I read this on Stacy Julian's blog:

There are too many [people] not telling their story because they are sinking in an ocean of excess photos.

We tend to assign an immense amount of value to photos because in the past, they have been rare and therefore extremely valuable. In other words, 12,000 photos are not as valuable as twelve. Stop and think about that for a minute.If you had only twelve photos from your childhood, they would automatically (regardless of their quality) be valuable–they are all you have.
12, 000 photos are not individually valuable, until you assign value to a few of them.

Excess photos create an environment of anxiety.

Creativity requires full engagement. To connect to that most essential place inside of you where emotion and memory come together to find expression, you really can’t feel anxious or distracted or overwhelmed.

Anxiety does not allow full engagement. You can hardly take a deep breath when you feel anxious, let alone find the calm and focus to fully engage!

I believe the antidote to all this anxiety is (quite simply) action. We need to learn to take action, in small chunks of time with small groups of images. We need to develop the skill of selecting a relatively small percentage of our digital images and then we need to assign value to them–somehow make them different from the rest. Make them rare.

So I've decided to start again, choosing only one (or so) photos to "make rare" and tell our story. Here's my photo for today:

I read both of these books over the past week, and LOVED them. It was serendipitous to read them in conjunction. The Power of One is an uplifting, moving story of a boy in apartheid Africa who overcomes huge obstacles to lead a full, exciting life which impacts many people for good. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is the story of an author who edits his autobiographical book so that it can be made into a movie, and it's a very thought-provoking look at what makes a story (or life) interesting and meaningful, and how we can re-write our own stories to become the protagonist we want to be. I love this quote:

"A good storyteller speaks something into nothing. Where there is an absence of story, or perhaps a bad story, a good storyteller walks in and changes reality. He doesn't critique the existing story, or lament about his boredom, like a critic. He just tells something different and invites other people into the new story he is telling."

You're invited.