Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Math Fun After School

One evening this fall, the kids' elementary school had a family math event. The kids and their parents did different age-appropriate math activities at different stations.

Counting the M&M's was a fan favorite. I know it was my favorite. It was kinda cool. Each child got a small package of M&Ms and had to sort how many there were of each color and do math activities (greater than, less than, adding, etc.). Fun and yummy!

Ellea enjoying some daddy time!

Mom and Morgan at a money counting station. Unfortunately, it was fake money. Shucks!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blog Envy

My dear hubby is probably my most devoted blog reader. Or, one of them anyway. He's very supportive and encouraging and wonderfully patient about all the time I spend online perfecting each post. He goes to work and reads my blog before he even checks his email.

Lately, he's been taking pictures of stuff that he thinks might be blog worthy. And they are blog worthy, but I have to laugh because he seems a little antsy for me to hurry up and use his pictures!

These pictures are from the Knights of Columbus (a men's Catholic organization) fundraiser "Steak Fry" that Glenn helps with.

They actually put the steak on a pitchfork and fry it in a big pan of oil that's been heated to temperature with a propane torch. You'll be happy to know it's a dedicated pitchfork. It's not used for other pitchfork-worthy tasks.

Not the healthiest red meat, but it is pretty tasty.

Photos courtesy of Glenn, of course. You may be seeing some "guest blogging" from him. I'm sure he'd have some good stuff to say, but I told him that I would retain all editorial control!! Ellea didn't think that sounded fair, but whose blog is it???! Mine, all mine!

(Love ya, Glenn! Have a great day!)

Monday, November 28, 2011


And the King and Queen of Seattle and All Things Tin Toil are.....

John and Wendi Drake!!

Ellea made them both tin foil crowns on the drive over to Seattle. Morgan made Wendi a necklace and Ellea made John a tie. Morgan colored both of them a picture.

They proudly wore their finery and mounted the pictures on their fridge. John even told Morgan that he has never had someone color a picture for him. He seemed truly pleased to have an original Morgan creation. And Morgan had made a point of drawing him a picture of Wall-E (from the movie) because he knew it was one of John's favorites! It was sweet.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Brownie Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

My biggest and best contribution to Thanksgiving dinner was a yummy cheesecake dessert that I found on And then I discovered I was missing an ingredient, so made it work with what I had! With a brownie crust and chocolate chips in the cheesecake, it was bound to become a new favorite.

I intended to snap a picture of a single slice on the plate, but, alas, I was too excited to eat it to worry about pictures!

Brownie Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

Yield 1 (9-inch) cheesecake


1 (19.5 ounce) package brownies (or if you don't want such a thick brownie crust, you can use a brownie mix for an 8x8 pan size--I used the bigger package, but kept out about a cup of batter)

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 c granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, tossed with 1 Tbs flour (so they won't sink in the cheesecake)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom only of 9-inch springform pan. Prepare brownie mix as package directs. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake 25-35 minutes or until set.

2. In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan.

3. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Place a bowl of water on bottom rack of oven. Bake 50 minutes. Turn off oven and crack oven door for 30 minutes to allow cheesecake to cool. Chill thoroughly. Remove side of springform pan. Garnish as desired. (I sprinkled the top with more mini chocolate chips.) Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

4. There will be no leftovers. If there are any leftovers, send them to me. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Birthday Girl

We had a fabulous day yesterday with my mom. It was her 67th birthday! (Hope that's okay to announce, mom!) The kids and I spent all day with her in Grangeville and boy wasy it jam packed with fun activities!

First was a little volunteer time (and shopping) at the Hospital Thrift Shop where she spends a lot of her time. Then on to a yummy Subway Sandwich. After lunch, we went to her house and set up her Christmas tree.

Next on the agenda was the indoor pool at Super 8. The pool water was way too cold for me, but the kids had fun anyway. The hot tub water felt like it was 115 degrees. Am I hard to please, or what?!!

After the pool, it was on to the movie theater. We really enjoyed the movie, Dolphin Tale. It's based on a true story about a dolphin that gets injured and has to have it's tail amputated. The dolphin in the movie is played by the actual dolphin, "Winter." You can find out more at the website,

And, finally, we went back to mom's, whipped up a gluten-free brownie mix, ate a quick dinner and enjoyed brownie sundaes. Oh, and I ordered my Christmas cards at and mom played UNO with the kids.

Phew! What a day!

Happy, happy Birthday, mom! You're the best!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey Day, 2011

Another day of overeating and good times. Thanksgiving was much quieter than ususal this year. Usually, if all of Glenn's family shows up, we have over 35 bodies. This year only 13. Nancy's son, Jason, and his wife Kathy, graciously hosted our small gathering.

Morgan was pleased with his headress and dried potato necklace from school. The potatoes are supposed to look like teeth. It's pretty beleivable.
Me, about to dive into one of the desserts I made. Brownie Chocolate Chip Cheesecake. Yum!! I'll try to share the recipe soon.

Nancy's daughter, Shari, played a rousing game of Uno with her nephews and Morgan.

I did some shopping on our hosts' computer. JCPenney had their Black Friday deals online already! I avoided the crowds, the early morning and got free shipping. What more could a person want?!

The adults played a rousing game of Twenty-one/Thirty-one. Shari took our money!

And a grand time was had by all!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy this special time of preparation for Christmas. God bless!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Seattle--Zoo Memories

Oops! Found a few more zoo pictures! Imagine that.

Our kids are hooked on those machines that press an image onto a penny. We've done them a couple other places. I tried to argue they'd lose them, but they have a special place to keep them. Well, how can I to argue with that?!!

You pop in your money (two quarters and the penny), chose the design you like and turn the handle.

And, voila, out comes a smashed penny! Here a mama giraffe nuzzles her baby and it says Woodland Park Zoo. One of the kids wondered if it was legal to smash a penny. Must be. Don't turn us in if it's illegal. Okay? Just saying.

The kids also wanted to do the photo booth, but their cheapo mom said no. Cousin Wendi stepped up. They really got a kick out of it.

And they had this handy dandy screen on the outside of the booth, so cheapo mom could watch the fun unfold!

So, I think that may be the last of the zoo pictures, but you can't hold me to that. I'm just keeping it exciting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


There's a crazy-big troll statue under a bridge in Seattle that we had to check out. It didn't hurt that it was a free attraction!
It's funny, but sometimes the free attractions seem more interesting to the kids than the spendier ones!

Troll sitting.

This was the end of day three in Seattle. We were all tired and cold. John and Wendi were very good sports about taking us wherever we wanted to go and doing so with a smile! They're the best hosts!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Seattle has an area of downtown with underground passageways that we toured with John and Wendi. The story goes that the original downtown was built right on the tide flats and so was notorious for flooding. After a big fire burnt all the buildings to the ground, it was decided to regrade above sea level. This was going to take a few years, so in the meantime, owners rebuilt their businesses knowing the roadbed would be built 12 to 30 feet higher than the original road. They planned to eventually use the upper floor as the entrance.

We also heard in great detail about the trouble with the gravity-fed sewer system that drained into the bay and backed up daily with high tide. Fascinating, no?

On the tour, they take you down to where the original sidewalks were. They pointed out these "skylights" that were installed in the new sidewalks so there would be natural light in the passageways.

This is a display of one of the original "pipes" used for the original water system. Rustic.

And then there was the gift shop at the end of the tour. Not sure what a horse head mask has to do with underground Seattle, but Nicole couldn't resist. And, or course, if she can't resist trying it on, I'm not about to resist taking a picture!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Already Been Chewed

Yup, as in ABC Gum. It's called the Market Theater Gum Wall, and it's in an ally near Pike's Place Market. The theater patrons began sticking their gum to the wall in 1993. According to Wikipedia, the theater employees scraped it clean a couple times before it was deemed a tourist attraction in 1999. It was deemed the 5th germiest tourist attraction in 2009. There's something to brag about.

In some places the gum is several inches thick and it's 15 feet high and 50 feet long. It's often used by wedding photographers. Can you imagine? No, I don't think I want a picture of myself in a wedding dress in front of a gum wall.

One of those things that's interesting and icky all at the same time!

Maybe no wedding dresses, but a good opportunity for a family pic! Not something you want to stand too close to for pictures!!! Ewww!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed!

Downtown Seattle was fascinating.

These guys were good. They even had CDs of their music for sale. They were outside of Starbucks.
John and Wendi took us to the very first Starbucks store. It was founded in 1971. It's a tiny little store and the line takes up the entire building, so there are no tables. They treated us to yummy hot cocoa.

If you ever go to Seattle, you may notice there is a Starbucks store on almost every street corner! John and Wendi said you have to be very specific when you're meeting someone at Starbucks because there are so many!

This guy was, by far, my favorite street entertainer!! He was singing a very funkified version of "No More Monkey's Jumping on the Bed." He had bells on one foot, clackers on the other, a harmonica, guitar and hula hoop! After I snapped the picture, I took notice of the signs in his guitar case. It was open for donations, of course, but the signs read SALE 50% off donations! He even has a website there for true fans., in case you're interested.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Market

On day three in Seattle, we started out with a visit to Pike Place Market (after sleeping in and eating a yummy breakfast courtesy of John and Wendi). Pike Place was fascinating. Lots and lots of people. Lots and lots of stuff for sale. We didn't buy a thing!

We parked at Wendi's office building (free parking again!!) and walked a few blocks to get down to the waterfront. She said because it was Sunday, the streets of downtown weren't very crowded. It looked like a lot of people to me, but I'm used to Cottonwood, Idaho!

This is the iconic fish stand where they throw the fish around. We didn't get to see much throwing because there weren't many customers buying anything. The guy in the foreground is throwing a crab to the guy in the middle here.

Looks pretty crabby!

They sell a little of everything at the market, but the best deal looked to be the fresh flowers, and they were everywhere!!! This bunch was only $15!! Aren't they purty?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chase the Goose

The location of the Locks in Seattle had some very park-like surroundings. Where we parked the car (free parking--yippee!) there was a whole gaggle of geese! Nicole was determined to get to touch one.

They had no intention of cooperating with her plan!!

Ellea even got in on the action. Don't you love Nicole's technique. It's more hunchback of Notre Dame than goose-like! Luckily none of the geese were rabid or aggressive! They just calmly kept two steps ahead of her.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Seattle--Zoo, Last Time!

The zoo had a station where you could pay a dollar to buy a seed stick and feed the birds.

There were parrots and cocatiels and parakeets. The parakeets were the most eager to eat our seeds.

In fact, poor Ellea mustered enough courage to hold a seed stick (she's suspicious of animals attacking her), and while one parakeet was eating her seeds, another dive-bombed her! She was not impressed. It didn't help my cause in convincing her that most animals are harmless.

Another fabulous John Drake picture. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my!

And then there were the wolf and elk exhibits. We were convinced that these predator-prey creatures were in the same enclosure. We were impressed that they could feed the wolves enough to make them not attack the elk. Yeah, right. Turns out there is ditch between them that contains the fence. Seems cruel to make them live by such unnatural neighbors! Like making me live next to a chocolate factory with no access inside. Ugh. The trauma!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Seattle--Zoo, again!

Morgan was determined to get a picture with the snake. Some big variety. I can't recall what it was called. A boa constrictor perhaps. You can barely see it behind the glass, but he's there!

The elephant took a stick in his trunk and threw it into the trees which knocked some leaves and branches onto the ground which he gobbled up. Pretty resourceful, if you ask me. I wish I could throw a stick at something to get food. Maybe I'll try that with Glenn. I have my doubts it will produce the desired effect.

Imagine that, another animal statue!

This was, by far, the best zoo picture. Of course, I didn't take, but it's still my favorite! Courtesy, John Drake. Again, with the camera-coveting!

Lookie here! Another statue. What's surprising is the kids didn't hesitate to pose at every single daggum statue! Are they well trained, or what?!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


We hadn't taken the kids to a zoo in a few years. I sure enjoyed the animals and I think they did too. I know Nicole did. At about 50% of the animals, she'd say, "Oh, I love this one. They're my favorite!"

I wish I could remember what kind of monkey-creature this is. He was sitting there looking at another lady when we walked up. Ellea sat down when she that lady left and he just stared at her. One of his eyes was cloudy. He must have a cataract. I love this picture (by John Drake--thanks!). You can hardly see the glass separating them.

Morgan took a turn sitting by the monkey, too.

The orangutans were funny. A caretaker gave them a paper cup with water and demonstrated how to drink out of it. This one carefully held it in her mouth while she climbed up on this platform then proceeded to pour out the water and eat the cup! The one in the background is already chowing down on his cup! Yummy snacks! Morgan said the male in the back had a face like a baseball mit! He really did. (As an aside: I used to pronounce it oragutanG, but there's no G. Just sharing!)

And, of course, we had to take a photo op with the monkey statue! (Another John Drake Photo.)

Many more to come of the kids with animal statues!!

Sorry. I can't help it. It's a disease.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Seattle--Woodland Park Zoo

The highlight of the Seattle trip was the Woodland Park Zoo. It's a delightful zoo with lots of animals and exhibits to check out. We spend a solid 3 hours there and were tired and cold, but if it wasn't closing time, we could've checked out a couple more things. The weather was delightfully sunny and beautiful. A person gets pretty lucky to visit Seattle and see barely a drop of rain this time of year. The vacation gods were surely smiling down on us. Or we just got lucky.

I spent most of the day coveting after John's beautiful Canon camera. I have a similarly beautiful Canon camera. But mine uses this prehistoric material called film. My parents got me that great camera when I graduated from high school. I will someday take the plunge and buy a newer, high-fangled digital version. Until then, I'm stuck with my point and shoot! John was gracious enough to send us home with a CD loaded with all his best zoo shots including the above family photo.

And this cool one of Glenn checking out the map. Thank goodness for our map.

Meerkats are so lovable looking. Doesn't he look like he'd make a great lap meerkat?(Photo courtesy John Drake.)

We were fascinated to watch this big guy chowing down on his dinner. He's cute in a dopey sort of way, don't you think? He looks like such a gentle giant, but hippos are actually considered to be one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. Hard to believe an herbivore could be so nasty!

So, this is the closest I hope to ever get to one!!

Stay tuned if you're interested in more zoo photos. We (mostly John!) got so many great pics! If you're not interested, skip the next few days!!!