Bangarang, Robin

I can’t say too much here because I really am overcome with sadness, but I wanted to to express my love for Robin Williams. I loved his work. I loved the joy he brought to this world. I loved his talent. I loved that he was just a good man. I mourn his loss as if I knew him, and I pray for peace for his family. Robin Williams, you will be greatly missed.

 

Peter Pan

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Let’s Read: The Light Between Oceans

I’ve stated before how much I love to read and I’m constantly in competition with myself to find and read as many great books as I possibly can. I will read almost anything (well, fiction. I am partial to fiction) and I love sharing recommendations with and getting recommendations from my friends. This one came to me highly recommended by my friend Brooke (also a voracious reader, awesome mom, and talented writer). A couple of months ago I read The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman and I still can’t get it out of my head.

At the start of the book, you might think this is just another cute love story about Tom (a WWI vet and current lighthouse keeper on a remote island off the coast of Australia) and Isabel (a feisty, bright girl whole captures Tom’s heart and teaches him to trust love again). They marry and are happy on their little island together… Until life becomes more real and Isabel suffers three miscarriages. Then fate washes a boat ashore with a dead man and a very much alive baby. And that is where our story takes such a turn. Isabel and Tom are faced with countless moral and emotional decisions. I loved Tom and Isabel and wanted to root for them. I understand the grief Isabel has gone through, so I can empathize with her choices. And once you find out more about the baby and her mother, I almost hated Tom and Isabel, too. This novel really ran the gamut emotionally. 

The writing was beautiful and captivating. I cared about each character, in spite of their many flaws. Everything became so real and my heart hurt for everyone involved. I felt the ending was handled wonderfully with the perfect amount of resolution. This would make a great book club pick because it would inspire a ton of discussion. There are so many “what ifs” and “what would you do” situations.

thelightbetweenoceans

Here is the Goodreads description:

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them. 

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss. 

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

Most of the reviews on Goodreads are pretty favorable and it averages 3.97 (out of 5) stars. I rated it the full 5 stars because I loved it that much. I hope you do, too!

Good Eats: Waffle Love

I have to tell you all about my new favorite place to eat. This place has the most delicious food that everyone in my family loves. If I won the lottery, we’d eat here every other night. I only have two problems: 1) The lines are long because everyone else loves them, too. 2) It travels. Okay, those aren’t major problems at all. I can live with it!

I’m talking about a food truck called Waffle Love. It’s really hard to actually describe just how good this food is. Whenever you’re talking to someone about Waffle Love, you get a lot of, “Oh my gosh, it’s just so… mmmm… I mean, yummm!! I just… mmmmm!” Their eyes kind of glaze over for a minute and some people even mimic eating their waffles for a moment. I’d say that’s a glowing recommendation.

Waffle Love Truck

 

The food offered is (of course) a variety of liege waffles. Liege waffles are essentially Belgian waffles: a dense, rick, chewy dough cooked with sugar that caramelize on the outside. (“Mmmmmm”) There are a variety of toppings: fresh fruit, whipped cream, chocolate, Nutella, cinammon… I actually heard someone ask incredulously about maple syrup. Ummm, no. Trust me, you want this other stuff. I got the Chocolate Dream (chocolate inside the waffle, topped with bananas, chocolate, and whipped cream) and one of my sons got Nutella Love (Nutella, strawberries, whipped cream). We adore Nutella in our house and there isn’t much that is more European than eating a liege waffle with fruit and Nutella!

 

 

Nutella Love (could be renamed for my son: Parker Love)

Nutella Love (could be renamed for my son: Parker Love)

Finding the truck to satisfy your craving can be a little tricky, but not impossible. You can Like Waffle Love on Facebook (here) and they constantly put up their schedule of where to find them. You can also follow them on Instagram (here). They are the nicest people (who gave me permission to use any of their pictures) and make the yummiest food, so go online and find out where they are. They also do catering and make appearances at events and fundraisers. Call them if you need them for a private party or a fundraiser. Well worth it!

Chocolate Dream. You can't see all the chocolatey goodness, but take a bite and oh, it's like tasting Heaven.

Chocolate Dream. You can’t see all the chocolatey goodness, but take a bite and oh, it’s like tasting Heaven.

 

The lines can be long, but believe me, it’s worth it. If you’re driving down the street and see that big, blue truck you know you have to stop. Let them do the cooking for you on a hot day. Satisfy your sweet tooth while filling your belly.

Waffle Love

*** And a shout out to my Utah friends: You get Waffle Love there, too! In fact, that’s where it started. Thank you, Utah, for the yummiest food truck!! Check out their website here.

 

Summer Movies

After today, my kids only have FIVE days of school left. I heard on the radio it’s going to be 104 here this weekend. Folks, summer is here. I can’t believe it! What am I going to do with four boys at home all day, every day, and it’s just too hot to actually spend time outside? It’s time to come up with my summer plan. (Well, it’s past time, but we don’t need to talk about what a procrastinator I am)

My family loves movies. As much fun as it is to pick up something from Redbox every Friday night (family tradition… Pizza and a Movie Night!), there is nothing like sitting in those big comfy seats of a theatre, in front of a giant screen. Movie theatre popcorn is the best popcorn (okay, not really. But we love it!) and it’s one of the few times I let my kids drink soda.

2014-SMF-Page-Banner

Harkins Theatres has a great program each summer called the Harkins Summer Movie Fun. This is a great program for bored kids. You buy a pack of tickets ($7) to see a different movie each week for 10 weeks. It works out to less than $1 a movie. Yes, these are a little bit older movies that you can get on DVD, but I like this because it’s a fun outing for kids to actually go to the movie theatre. You pick the theatre you want to go to, then pick the day of the week you prefer. Just be aware that these often sell out quickly and now schools sell the packs as fundraisers so it can be difficult to get the theatre and/or day you prefer. Still worth a shot, however.

The 2014 movies are Escape From Planet Earth, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2, Despicable Me 2, The Croods, The Lego Movie, Epic, The Smurfs 2, Turbo, Horton Hears A Who, and Free Birds.

The other way we like to see movies is by going to a “cheap”, or “second run” type of movie theatre. This time the movies usually aren’t quite out on DVD yet, but they are no longer in the regular theatre. Admission prices are discounted, the seats and screen aren’t as nice, but it’s still a giant screen, great sound, movie theatre popcorn, and air conditioning. The theatre my family mostly goes to is the Picture Show at Superstition Springs and on Tuesdays tickets are only $2! (Get in line early. Like, waaaaay early. Trust me.). We also really like the Tempe Cinemas. Tickets are $3 and $2 on Tuesdays. Doesn’t get much better than that!

With four kids, it gets really pricey to take them to the theatre and we don’t get to do it often. This way we still get the movie theatre experience, but we can afford it and do it more often than we would if we went to a movie during opening week. The best part? Getting out of the house and enjoying the air conditioning somewhere else. That’s huge around here!

 

Good Eats: Grilled Cheeseburger Wraps

I am an avid recipe hunter on Pinterest. I am very particular about the food I pin. I always check out the recipe (for one thing to make sure there actually *is* a recipe!), read the reviews, and read it thoroughly to make sure it’s something I think I can handle. See, I don’t particularly like cooking, so I have to find recipes without anything “hard”. By hard, I mean calling for buttermilk or some such nonsense because no, I just don’t have that kind of stuff in my pantry or in my fridge on a regular basis. That and I have four boys who are all kind of particular about what they eat. My main rule is “Eat it or starve”, but I do try to give them foods they’ll eat and not actually starve! After I’ve made it I then repin it from my Food Glorious Food board to my Made It and Loved It! board so I know to come back and make it again. If we don’t like the recipe, I delete the pin altogether and will comment on other people’s pins of the same recipe on what went wrong and why we didn’t like it. I’m kinda crazy about it, I know.

Anyway, I came across this particular recipe a couple of years ago from Mostly Homemade Mom (who I really need to read more of her blog. So much good, yummy stuff!!) and she apparently got it from somewhere else… Aw, who cares. It’s SO good. You wouldn’t know it when you first look at it and think about it, but then you take a bite… YUMMMM. I made it once for my good friend Stephanie, she adopted it and calls this her Man Keeper Meal. And two of my brothers specifically request this meal when they come visit now.

It’s super easy to make. Brown up some hamburger meat (often I’ll add some diced onion or dried onion while I’m cooking the meat), drain it, then add some Worchester Sauce and ketchup. Mix it all up good.

Now you’re going to put some of that meat in a tortilla with a bit of lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and shredded cheese. We use cheddar, but I bet you could get creative and make it more gourmet. (I’m simple.) Add a bit of ketchup and mustard on top.  Kinda looks like a weird mess, I know, but trust me. So good.

 

Next you’ll roll it up like a burrito and use one of my all-time favorite inventions: The George Foreman Grill. I just have a small one and I wish I’d bought the big family size, but still. This thing is awesome. I seriously use it at least once a week. (I’ll share lots more recipes using this handy grill, don’t worry!) Depending on the size of the tortilla, I can usually fit two  wraps on the grill at once. Grill it to melt the cheese and warm everything up and get a nice, golden-brown grill design on the tortilla.

One lonely wrap...

One lonely wrap…

It only takes a couple of minutes on the grill. Enough time to wrap up one or two more to put on the grill, so you can get a nice assembly line going. Then… it’s dinner time!

Look at those happy, hungry kids! Let’s eat!!

 

Let Us Eat Cake!

I got really busy last week and let everything else in my life slide away. Two of my sons had birthdays, Ches and I had our 16th anniversary, and I hosted an end of year party for the winter guard I coach. Somehow I got it into my head that I was going to make super awesome cakes for my sons and the guard girls (Ches and I share our anniversary with one of the birthdays, so we don’t tend to make a huge deal out of it). I did research and picked out what I was going to do. No problem, right?

Let me make something clear: I am not a baker. I am not a cake decorator. I have never been trained. My husband took classes in high school and actually knows a thing or two, but he was busy with work all week so there was no way he was going to help me.

Thankfully, I have friends. One friend, in particular, who volunteered to help me. She helped me figure out what to buy and how much  and when I should bake what. Then she came over and helped me decorate. While I made marshmallow fondant and colored frosting, she carved and frosted. I made shapes out of the fondant and added finishing touches. I made cake pops and dipped them in chocolate. She did most of the hard work, really, and gave me the credit.

It took an entire week to make it all, but it was worth it. Everyone loved everything!

Cars Cake

This is Collin’s Cars cake. Which he loved, but mostly because he wanted to play with Mater and Lightening McQueen. 🙂 The cake is lemon with butter cream frosting.

Lego CakeLego Cake

This is Dallin’s Lego cake. It’s a Devil’s Food chocolate with buttercream frosting and marshmallow fondant. The most fun part of this cake (for me!) was going to the Lego store and building the Mini Figures myself. Did you know you can do that? 3 for less than $10! They have a giant bin and you pick out legs, a torso, a head, hat or hair, and an accessory. The Lego Store worker was very helpful as he searched in the back for the orange construction torsos and the safety hats for me. He even found me the tools. Dallin is very excited because he got new Mini-Figures to play with in addition to an awesome looking cake.

Olaf Cake

Lastly is the Olaf cake. We had a Frozen sing-along party for the winter guard (we set up a “screen” in my backyard, and watched the movie, singing at the top of our lungs!) and I had to go all out with the theme, of course. This cake is also Devil’s Food with a buttercream frosting. Olaf, his cup, sunscreen, and beachball are all made out of marshmallow fondant. In addition to the cake we had a chocolate fountain and chocolate fondue (the girls all brought food to dip: marshmallows, strawberries, bananas, iced animal cookies, pretzels, animal crackers, cinnamon bears, and pineapple), and lemon and Devil’s Food cake pops. Believe me, we all had a chocolate hangover the next day. I’m only sorry I didn’t get a picture of the food table.

Now, I know not everyone has a friend they can just call over to do favors for them, and I know how hard it is to do this yourself. So I’m going to let you know about my friend so you can hire her! Her name is Kim and she’s awesome. You can find her on Facebook at Kim’s Great Cakes or her website by the same name, Kim’s Great Cakes. All her cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, and cookies are delicious. I have helped her with a few cakes and such over the last few years, and I know she works very hard.  She does weddings, birthdays, teacher luncheons, all kinds of special occasions… Go check her out.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, we still have a TON of cake to eat, and I’m kinda hungry…

Great Arizona Puppet Theater

Today I got to accompany my 1st grader, Parker, and all the 1st graders from his school to watch a performance of “Oh, Coyote” by the Great Arizona Puppet Theater. It was a fun little show, geared towards younger grades, and one of the theater’s touring shows. The coolest thing (to me, anyway) is that this play is centric to Arizona as it takes it’s stories from Arizona Native tribes. Three stories from Mohave, Navaho, and Hopi tribes are woven together in one arching story. Large rod puppets as well as shadow puppets are used. At the end of the show, the two performers came out and took questions from the audience. I was impressed at the inquisitive minds of 7 year olds. They wanted to know how puppets are made, how they work, how to do the voices… It was great! Everyone had a lot of fun.

*Photo courtesy Great Arizona Puppet Theatre

*Photo courtesy Great Arizona Puppet Theatre

This Saturday, April 26th, is the National Day of Puppetry. To celebrate the Great Arizona Puppet Theater is holding an entire day of puppetry. From 10 to 3 puppet shows will be showcased every hour. There will also be face painting, booths to make your own puppets, and puppet parades. Food and drink vendors will be available. It only costs $10 a person ($8 for members) and that lasts the entire day. Doors open at 9:30 and close at 4:30. It looks like a lot of fun and I know my kids will enjoy it.

*Photo courtesy Great Arizona Puppet Theatre

*Photo courtesy Great Arizona Puppet Theatre

To find out more information for Saturday or for any of their shows, visit their website: www.azpuppets.org

What: National Day of Puppetry at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater
When: Saturday, April 26, 2014
Time: 9:30 am – 4 pm
Where: Great Arizona Puppet Theater
302 W. Latham St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003
Cost: $10 per child or adult
More information: www.azpuppets.org