Monday, December 31, 2007

That's my girl!

I am one proud mama today! Know why? Because my daughter went pee AND poop in the toilet!!!

For weeks Chloe has been informing me when she's had to go, or when she's just gone. And more recently, she's started to tell me when she's actually going. After several rushed trips to the bathroom, only to find out we were too late, we finally reached success today! The second she said she had to go I plopped her on the toilet and within minutes (yes, minutes - it took a little while), she started to grunt. Then the next thing I hear is, "I poop!!" And sure enough... (I'll spare you the details). Then after a minute or so she peed. She wouldn't let me get her down for probably ten minutes. I guess she just wanted to absorb every moment of praise and recognition possible! When she was finally finished, she peeked over the edge of the toilet to catch a glimpse of the "goods" before flushing them down and waving goodbye.

And she just went again this evening! Woohoo! That's my girl!

Looks like we're on our way to days of potty charts, pull-ups, and treats for going! I've already got the M&M jar ready!

It's incredible (and kind of pathetic) the things that excite us moms, eh?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas in Cowtown

This Christmas was an extra special one for me. We spent it in Vacaville, CA, where Neil's brother and sister-in-law are currently living. They are stationed at Travis AFB, which happens to be the same base my dad was stationed at 41 years ago, when he and the brand new Mrs. Halliday left their hometown of Salt Lake City, UT to start their lives together as newlyweds in sunny California. I was born and raised in Vacaville and lived in the same house from birth up to age 20. At that point I moved to Orem, UT, and only a year later, my parents retired back to their "home" of Salt Lake. So clearly I've had little reason to go back to Vacaville since 2001, which is why this trip was so exciting and special!

There's nothing like a hometown. Memories that I didn't even know existed came pouring into my head as Neil, Chloe and I drove around, and there was an especially warm feeling as I thought back to the twenty Christmases I spent in the Neil Street house with my family... hanging Christmas lights with Dad, baking shortbread with Mom, Christmas shopping at the good old Outlet stores and Solano Mall, exchanging gifts near the fireplace, listening to "Deano" sing 'A Marshmallow World' over and over AND OVER again, Dad's Christmas Eve radio show on 90.3FM, admiring the tree and mantle lights late at night, laughing together, Mom's chili, Christmas movie classics like 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'An Affair to Remember'. Even though I didn't have the pleasure of celebrating Christmas with Dad, Mom and David this year, it still felt in a way like we were together.

We spent a solid four days in Vacaville and had a blast! Sunday I took Neil and Chloe to my home ward and saw several people who I've known a good portion, if not all of my life! It was so fun introducing old and familiar faces to Neil and Chloe.

Monday (Christmas Eve) we had dinner at Pietro's, which was one of our family restaurants growing up. It turns out Allison's family always had pizza on Christmas Eve, so we just sorta combined two family traditions. We ordered the usual - Super Special - and it as yummy as I remember it.

Christmas morning we read the story of Christ's birth in Luke, exchanged gifts and ate monkey cake. Then we did something I've never done on Christmas day - drove to to San Fransisco! More memories flooded my brain as we approached the city - mostly of my Dad, who was always my city date! We took a brisk walk in the cool ocean air, captured some pictures on the shore, enjoyed clam chowder bread bowls at Boudin - yum, and finished the evening with a drive down Lombard Street.

Wednesday Neil, Chloe and I explored Vacaville a bit, drove by my old house, high school, Hot Shots (first place I worked), Padan Elementary (where my mom taught for thirty five years), Vacaville Ballet Academy (where I spent several afternoons a week growing up), and other memorable and meaningful places. We also had lunch at Chevys, which holds a special place in our hearts. It is, after all, where we met! We both worked at the Orem, UT location back in February of 2002, and the rest is history. They've since closed that location down, and in all the places we've lived since leaving Utah, there's never been a Chevys anywhere. It definitely brought back memories, and I'm glad we had a chance to go.

What an overwhelmingly wonderful Christmas! Thank you again, Jeff and Allison, for your hospitality, for showing us a good time, and for making special efforts to make me feel back at home. And thank you, Dad and Mom, for the memories of Vacaville, which will always remain in my heart.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dear Santa... Love, Mom

If you're a mom, this will give you a chuckle. Merry Christmas!

Dear Santa,
I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand, visited the doctor's office more than my doctor and sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground. I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I'll find anymore free time in the next 18 years.
Here are my Christmas wishes. I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (in any color, except purple,which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze,but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the candy aisle in the grocery store. I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy. If you're hauling big ticket items this year I'd like fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music, a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals, and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, "Yes, Mommy" to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools. I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting "Don't eat in the living room" and "Take your hands off your brother," because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the dog.
If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container. If you don't mind, I could also use a few Christmas miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely. It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.
Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is calling and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back. Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the door, and come in and dry off so you don't catch cold. Help yourself to cookies on the table but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet.
Yours Always,MOM...
P.S. One more can cancel all my requests if you can keep my children young enough to believe in Santa.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Visit with Santa

Well, she didn't cry this year! In fact, she continuously repeated "Santa come!" and "Santa lap!" throughout the afternoon and evening leading up to their visit. As we stood in line waiting to finally see him, I pointed out as many other kids sitting on his lap as possible, so she'd be that much more comfortable with the idea and less likely to back out at the last minute. When it was finally her turn she couldn't have been more ready! That little girl marched right up to Santa with no fear or hesitation and put her arms up in the air waiting for him to pick her up. Despite her eagerness, however, once she was plopped on his lap, she immediately got in a zone, expressionless, and silent. When Santa asked what she wanted for Christmas, her response was a blank stare. It was so funny considering moments earlier when she was giddy and excited as ever. I suppose the important thing is that she didn't scream bloody murder like last year, or have an explosion in her diaper like she did the previous year (gotta love those newborn blowouts).

Maybe next year Santa will get something in return for a change!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tasty Traditions!

I've been wanting to do Christmas goodies for years, but whenever mid-December has hit, it just hasn't happened. This year, however, I was determined to start the tradition once and for all! I can hardly think of anything more enjoyable than gathering my little ones in the kitchen for some Christmas baking. Sure, it's a common tradition among families, but still one I wanted to (and did) initiate this year. As Christmas music played in the background, Chloe and I happily slaved away a good portion of the weekend, mixing, baking, icing, sprinkling, and "testing" all sorts of scrumptious goodies. Neil even poked his head in to help here and there, and together the three of us created some very happy memories.

In my opinion, you can't have Christmas without good old sugar cookies! Chloe and I made two batches! It's a lot of work but so worth it in the end! I could eat an entire batch in one day if I let myself! Perhaps that's why we made way more than we could (or would) ever give away. I used Dayna's recipe because frankly, it makes the best dang sugar cookies I've ever tasted!


1 stick of butter, softened (or 5 T. butter, 3 T. shortening for even softer cookies)
1 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
2 1/4 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Beat butter at medium speed until creamy; gradually add sugar, followed by egg and vanilla; beat well.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended (if the dough is dry and crumbly, add 1-2 T. milk until you have the right consistency). Shape dough into a ball; cover and chill 1 hour.

Divide dough into thirds. Work with 1 portion of dough at a time, storing remaining dough in refrigerator. Roll each portion into 1/8-in. thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut with a 3-inch cookie cutter and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or line the cookie sheet with parchment paper - it makes a HUGE difference for me).

Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. I always check them after 6 minutes, and generally take them out when they are still extremely soft, as they continue to bake even after they're out of the oven. They harden up just right after a few minutes, and that's when I generally transfer them over to the cooling rack.

I use powdered sugar frosting (powdered sugar, milk and a dash of vanilla). Yummmy!!


I found this recipe on Allrecipes website. It had good reviews and looked promising, so I gave it a shot. I'm not huge on chocolate chips, but I got a thumb's up from Neil, Brady and Brett, who all tested them for me shortly after they came out of the oven. :)

1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used half semisweet and half white chocolate with green and red swirls to give them a more festive look)
2 c. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine butter, shortening, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Beat in egg. Gradually add flour mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.

Roll into 2 in. balls. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 8 or so minutes.


1 package OREO cookies
1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 8oz. packages BAKER'S semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted

Crush oreos (I first put them in a ziploc bag and used a rolling pin, then threw them in a bowl and crushed them even more with a potato masher - you'll figure out what works for you). Add cream cheese; mix until well-blended (I used an electric mixter). Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.

Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour (doesn't take more than a half hour, really). I drizzled white chocolate over the top (microwaved white chocolate chips in a ziploc bag for 1 minute, then sliced a small hole in the corner of the bag). The hole was too big though, so rather than "drizzles" the chocolate looked kind of like "goops," as you can see above. Oh well, it's the taste that matters, right?


1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
4 squares BAKER'S semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
1 6 oz. package BAKER's premium white baking chocolate (I just used white chocolate chips)
12 hard peppermint candies, crushed (I just used red and white peppermint sprinkles)

Preheat oven to 350. Beat cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add flour and baking soda; mix well. Blend in semi-sweet chocolate.

Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into 52 balls. Roll each ball into 3-inch-long rope. Place, 2 inches apart, on baking sheet, bending top of each slightly to resemble a candy cane.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned; cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely. Microwave white chocolate as directed on package; drizzle over cookies (or goop it on, like I did - hehe). Sprinkle with crushed candies. Let stand until chocolate is firm.

I actually wasn't real thrilled with the flavor (don't get me wrong - they didn't taste bad, but at the same time they weren't anything special). The thing I found appealing was their shape, and the potential fun kiddos could have with them. At this point, Chloe was more interested in just eating them, but I bet next year she'll get pretty excited when she recognizes that they're shaped like candy canes!

Here's a link to a step-by-step instructional video.

*Parchment paper is my friend! It makes baking much easier and cookies oh-so-soft! I highly recommend it over a greased baking sheet.
*As mentioned before, using shortening in place of some of the butter (example: 5 T. butter, 3 T. shortening vs. 8 T. butter) is another guarantee for softer cookies!


I'm so grateful to have had my little helper to keep me going all weekend. Last night we put her to bed at 8:00, and at 10:30 she was STILL WIDE AWAKE, just chattering away in her crib! I finally went and got her, thinking if I let her run around for fifteen minutes she might wear herself out. Upon discovering what I was doing, however, she wanted only to be a part of the kitchen action! She was such a joy to have around both yesterday and today, as she played with measuring cups, spatulas, and other random utensils that were within her reach. Whenever I'd ask what she was doing, she'd say, "I cookin'!" She'd often find something in a drawer, such as a can opener or carrot peeler (always something of little or not use to me), hold it up and say, "Here ya go, Mommy!" What a sweet little treasure she is! We made some deliveries to neighbors and friends tonight, and will do a second round tomorrow evening. I love starting new traditions with my family, and look forward to many more years of building on these traditions as our family grows.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The joys of family portraits with a two-year-old!

Yesterday we had our family pictures taken. My friend, Paula, is getting back into photography and did a wonderful job for us. Unfortunately, Chloe had a breakdown about fifteen minutes into the session, and refused to cooperate from then on. She normally puts on a great show when she sees a camera, as any of you who frequent her babysite know. But NOT yesterday! Ah well, I suppose there are worse things!

This is Neil's favorite. Chloe looks adorable, and her pose is priceless. Neil looks handsome as usual, but my smile is too teethy (if that's even a word).

This is where Chloe decided she'd had enough. I especially like the second picture. You'd think Santa was holding her or something!

In a desperate effort to keep this little girl smiling, we tickled, twirled, and bribed away. But just when it appeared she'd snapped out it, the sob fest would start all over again.

This was our stopping point.

I would absolutely recommend Paula, if you are in the area and looking for a great photographer. Check out her blog to see more of her work.

And by the way, none of these pictures are going in our Christmas card. You're just going to have to wait to see that one when it's dropped in your mailbox! Don't worry, I'm mailing them out tomorrow. Hopefully you won't lose too much sleep between now and then.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Birthday Dad!

"Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad." -Author Unknown

Happy 65th, Dad!! I'm so proud to be your daughter and I love you!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Oh, to be a kid again!

Whether you've been there yourself, or just witnessed your child, I think we can all relate in one way or another!

Looks like Santa could use a haircut... or a bigger head!

Wow! He was even scary back then?

I don't think mom intended to be in this picture.

This guy doesn't even look like Santa! And what is he starring at anyway?

Where did Billy go?

What is this dude's deal? He's probably using the Santa suit as a disguise. That look in his eyes just screams serial killer.

Looks like this Santa had a few too many drinks before his 3:00 shift.

Can we say hypnotized? Creepy.

This one's my favorite. Between the excessive eye make-up and the look of horror on this poor kid's face, it's just priceless!

Holy cow! This one's the scariest by far! He must be Serial killer Santa's accomplice. Or maybe he's just an angry elf dressed in a Santa costume. Kinda has that look about him.

And last but not least - my sweet (and terrified) Chloe! Clearly she wasn't fond of Santa last year, and because her picture blended so well with the rest of these, I couldn't help but throw it in. We'll see how she does Friday when she and Santa meet again!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Christmas music

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Christmas music! I've been playing it in the car and at home almost non-stop since we got back from Utah. If Neil would let me, I'd probably start playing it before Thanksgiving! :)

One of the beauties of music is its ability to bring back old memories. Just like the smell of a roast in the oven will forever remind me of my grandmother, a classic Christmas tune will always take me back to childhood Decembers.

I created a playlist of some of my favorites (what I could find on the internet anyway). Perhaps some of these tunes will take you back as well.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Need a good laugh?

My friend, Liz, sent this to me just for fun. By the time I'd gotten through it, I had tears streaming down my face and a very sore stomach! Perhaps it'll give you a good laugh too! Be sure your volume is on.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

I'm back!

Neil had "Three month school" in Orange County, CA last week (a follow-up on his IN training last April). Chloe and I decided it would be a more enjoyable week if spent in Salt Lake with my family than at home by ourselves. So all three of us (Neil, Chloe and I) packed our bags Monday morning and headed to DIA. Our flights left and returned within minutes of each other's, which made that portion of our travels very convenient!

The week flew by in a flash, but happy memories were created and will be remembered forever. Some of the hi-lights included Mom's ham and asparagus crepes, sushi with my brother, getting the Christmas tree up (courtesy of "Pompa" and Chloe), a trip to IKEA, Hires hamburgers, an afternoon with Wendy, lunch with my uncle and all my wonderful aunts (including my newest aunt, Diane!), an evening with my 91-year-old grandmother, late-into-the-night conversations with Dad and Mom, a crisp evening walk through Temple Square to see the Christmas lights, Cafe Rio (I tell ya, if they opened one here in CO, Neil and I alone would keep them in business), Grandma's apple pie, and to top it all off, a fresh blanket of snow on the ground to compliment the Christmas lights my dad so lovingly hung in time for our arrival.

We got home late Friday night and are slowly adjusting back to normal life. I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend, just the three of us, but since we've been home it's been non-stop go go go again! I did manage to finish all six loads of laundry yesterday. That was quite an accomplishment! If only there were such thing as a post-vacation vacation!

Chloe on the airplane - quite the adventure!!

Enjoying some Ahh Sushi with my favorite brother

Chloe with second-cousin, Chase (they are 16 days apart)

Chloe with her great-aunt Valeri, whom I was named after

Playing on the bed with "Mama" Jill

Chloe with "Pompa" Roy at his Bible study

Chloe "helping" trim the tree

Chloe visiting great-grandma Martha

All bundled up at Temple Square

Oh, if you're wondering where that lovely bruise between Chloe's eyes came from, she fell off the couch last Sunday and hit the coffee table on her way down. Great timing for our trip. I was getting looks at the airport Monday.