Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sun Valley

This year Hero competed in her first out-of-town skating competition.  It was a mixed bag, due to a lot of back-and-forth between Sun Valley and Boise, and two ER visits (!), but it was very interesting, and it's fun to get away, even if it's just for a long weekend.

Independence Day

4th of July is one of the easiest holidays.  It's a day of relaxation and pure fun.  We eat a little, swim a lot, and enjoy some fireworks in the street (I think this year was the best I've seen).  At heart, I'm a girly girl, and I was so excited by the prospect of just having some extra time without rushing around in the morning that I decided to play with my girls' hair.  I think it turned out pretty cute.  For all four girls, I spent about three hours doing their hair, but honestly it didn't feel that long.  It was a good three hours of girl time, with laughter and chatting.  I need that more often, I've determined.

Hero Graduates from Junior High

It's strange to think that we have only three more years with our oldest child living full-time under our roof.  She is so ready to move on to high school, so I think for her, graduation from West Junior High couldn't come fast enough.  She had a great three year run there, earning a 4.0 Award, Presidential Academic Award, and Outstanding English Department student (a girl after my own heart) Award, and was one of the 12 Best Of West nominees.  I foresee great things for our super-responsible and smart daughter, and it's fun to watch her future unfold.

Our 16th Anniversary

We celebrated 16 years of wedded (mostly) bliss on May 23rd with a dinner date to Tucanos and a rare photo together.  We purchased a fire pit as our gift for each other.  We've used it a few times, but man it's been so hot this summer that it's hard to get out there and stomach the heat until after 9 or 10.  Hopefully we can use it more in the fall.

Cecily Turns 5

Cecily was so excited to turn 5!  She thought it was the hugest deal in the world.  We celebrated on her birthday day with a little homemade cake, and then on Saturday we had a party with the eight of us and Papa in the backyard.  As you can tell by the lift in her chin, she's a very confident and self-posessed 5 year old!

Grandpa's Visit

My dad stopped by for a week-long visit in May, which is always a great pleasure.  We belatedly celebrated his birthday with my homemade German Chocolate Cake.  He also got to spend Mother's Day with us, which meant a relaxed barbecue in the backyard with family.  The kids are always so happy to have him around, it's funny how, if I suggested playing at the park with a frisbee I'd be met with "whatever Moms" but when Grandpa wants to do it, they are all over it.

Zoo Fun

There hasn't been a year that I haven't made it to Zoo Boise at least once, between the annual preschool trip and the annual kindergarten trip.  This year we just had one combined trip for the girls, as their classes went at the same time.  Next year we will double up again, as Cecily will go for kindergarten and Elle will go again for preschool.  This year was a nice treat as Daddy got to go too!


I felt so excited for Easter this year, which was a glorious feeling that I haven't always had.  Too often I'm preoccupied with all the attendant preparations that come with getting eight people out of the house in time for sunrise service, combined with making sure food is ready for the following holiday meal.  But, and I can only credit the Lord for this, this year I was able to stay focused on the importance of the season, and was mostly undistracted by all the other fluff.  What a blessing!  We had a lovely day of worship and fellowship.


We celebrated our second family Passover this year, and it went more smoothly, being that we now have a better idea of what we are doing.  I also was excited to purchase some of our own holiday things.  I tried a few Martha Stewart recipes, some of which were successes and others not so much (I'm looking at you, tzimmes).  It was a lovely night, and is fast becoming one of the holidays I look most forward to, because it's truly about faith and family (in that order).  There's so little commercialization around Passover in a very non-Jewish region, that it feels pure and uncorrupted in a way that Easter and Christmas just don't.  

Skating Mom

While I love watching my kids in all activities, my favorite mom designation is probably "Skating Mom".  I really enjoy the sport, and have made a lot of wonderful friends through my involvement on the board of the Boise Figure Skating Club.  The annual Boise Ice Classic happened in early April, and was a great success.  It's exhausting to put it on (I'm the Volunteer Chair), but really thrilling to see it all come together at the same time.  And it's always a pleasure to watch Hero skate, although nerve-wracking too!  We were very proud of her bringing home one gold and one silver medal in the two events she competed in.

New Traditions

Trying to institute new traditions is more difficult than it always seems, when you first get the idea.  I had to purchase our very own Seder plate for Passover this year, and Lenox had an incredible sale going on, so I also decided, on a whim, to purchase some candlesticks and a challah plate, so that we could institute a family Shabbat.  Well, so far we've only done it once, but I have high hopes for trying to make it a regular part of our new routine once the school year starts in late August.  It sounds like such a grand idea - to have a night dedicated to family, a nice home-cooked meal, and fellowship?  I think that's one of the most common yearnings the modern mama has.  

March Pictures & A Delicious Recipe

If one cat is great, two cats must be fabulous, and we certainly agree with that in our household.  We love Miss Essie and Miss Stella, both cats from the Humane Society.  It was a tricky first month or so of them learning to get along, but now they are best friends.

March saw us celebrate Purim for the first time with a reading of the book of Esther with attendant noisemakers and Purim treats (hamantaschen, yum!)

I snagged an old Rachael Ray cookbook at a thrift store earlier in the year (I know, I know, the last thing I need is more cookbooks, but I love new recipes) and the recipes are surprisingly fantastic.  This was one of the first ones I tried and it's so yummy I wanted to share the recipe (and the smell during the cooking process is seriously Ah-mazing).

Oregon-Style Pork Chops with Pinot Noir and Cranberries
Oregon Hash with Wild Mushrooms, Greens, Beets, Hazelnuts, and Blue Cheese
Charred Whole-Grain Bread with Butter and Chives

Pork Chops:
4 boneless pork loin chops, 1 1/2 inches thick
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks
3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup hazelnut pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
1 cup chicken broth or stock
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
1 bunch of kale, chopped (4-5 cups)
1 15oz can sliced beets, drained
1 loaf crusty bread
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp chopped chives

Preheat large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season chops with salt and pepper.  Add 2 Tbsp EVOO to the hot skillet and then add the chops.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.  While they cook, split the leeks lengthwise, slice in 1/2 inch half moon pieces, and wash vigorously. Shake to dry.

To make the hash, preheat a second large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the nuts to the skillet and brown for 2-3 minutes, then remove and set aside.

Remove the chops to a warm plate, tent with foil, and set aside.  To the skillet, add another Tbsp of the EVOO and the leeks.  Cook the leeks until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the cranberries and Pinot Noir to the pan.  Scrape up the pan drippings and stir in the chicken stock.  When the sauce comes to a bubble, add the chops back to the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Finish cooking the chops through, about 10 minutes.

To finish the hash: To the skillet used to toast the nuts, add the tbsp of EVOO and 1 tbsp of the butter.  When the butter melts into the oil, add the shallots and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, then add the kale.  Wilt the kale into the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste.  When the kale is hot and wilted, add the beets and gentle combine.  Adjust the seasonings.

Preheat the broiler.  Pull the chops from their sauce and reserve on a clean warm plate.  Raise the heat and bring the sauce back to a bubble.  Cut off 4 thick slices of the bread.  Char the bread under the broiler on each side while you finish the sauce.  Add 2 Tbsp of butter to the sauce to give it gloss and weight, and turn off the heat.  Spread the charred bread with the remaining Tbsp of butter and sprinkle with chopped chives.

Pour the sauce over the chops.  Serve with the hash alongside the chops and toasts and top with crumbles of blue cheese.

Serves 4