Friday, October 30, 2009

Recipe(s) of the Decade: Fall Favorites

In honor of the season, here are a couple of my favorite Fall recipes. This first one is a simple alternative to pumpkin pie, and feeds a ton!

Pumpkin Shortbread
(by Taste of Home)


  • 1 3/4 c. sugar, divided
  • 1/2 c. cold butter
  • 1 (29oz.) can solid-packed pumpkin
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. ground ginger
  • 2 (12oz. cans evaporated milk)


In bowl, combine 1/4 c. sugar and flour; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbles. Press into an ungreased 9x13 in. casserole dish. In another bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin, salt, spices and remaining sugar. Stir in milk. Pour over crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 50-55 minutes longer, or until filling is set. Cool on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate over night. Cut into squares. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.


This next recipe I have loved for years. My friend Amy had it simmering in her crock pot one afternoon when I was hanging out at her house. One taste of it sold me. It's very basic, but so so good! Here's the original recipe, plus my own two cents at the bottom. Be sure to read those, because they offer great improvements to an already amazing meal!

All-American Beef Stew
(by Land O Lakes)


  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 lb. beef stew meat, cut into cubes *(or see my "two cents" below)
  • 2 c. vegetable juice cocktail
  • 1 (14.5oz.) can beef broth
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1-in. pieces
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 t. garlic salt
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 t. marjoram leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 c. frozen peas
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 3 T. all-purpose flour
  • 2 T. red wine or beef broth


Melt butter in large skillet until sizzling; add meat. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned (5-7 minutes).

Place meat in crock pot. Stir in all remaining ingredients except peas, water, flour and wine/beef broth.

Cover; cook on LOW for 8-9 hours, or HIGH for 5-6 hours, or until beef is tender. Uncover, remove bay leaf. Stir in peas.

Stir together water, flour and wine/beef broth in small bowl until smooth. Slowly stir flour mixture into beef mixture, stirring constantly. Switch to HIGH setting, stirring occasionally, until thickened (8-10 minutes).

My own two cents:

Here's an alternative to the stew meat. The night BEFORE you make the stew, brown a 2-3 lb. roast, then place in crock pot on LOW, along with 1 c. water. By morning (10-12 hours later), the meat will be falling apart tender, and the juices produced from the roast can be used in place of the beef broth. Last time I did this, I cooked a 3 lb. roast and used half the meat in the stew, then put the other half in a ziploc bag and into the freezer for later use. It is SO MUCH BETTER than standard old stew meat. Give it a try!

Happy Fall, everyone! Or should I say winter? That's what it's felt more like around here so far!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New business, an unexpected haircut and family photos

I have been such a slacker with this blog. Life has been busy, what can I say? Here is an overdue update!

To start things off, I registered my business with the state of Colorado yesterday! So Valeri Andersen Photography is officially official! With things taking off so quickly, I felt like I needed to do it. It will be tedious having to keep track of every little detail (thank goodness for Microsoft Excel), but there are plenty of advantages, and ultimately it's the honest way to operate a business. Things are beginning to slow down for me, which I'm happy about. For a while it seemed things were getting out of control. I have no one to blame for that but myself. Still, I am so grateful for the growth and confidence I've gained though the many opportunities presented to me in the recent weeks. It's been a great start to what I hope will be a successful business!

I have not updated my photography blog in weeks! A lot of it is lack of time, but I'm also so far behind, I hardly even know where to begin. I have easily done 15 sessions that aren't even posted on there. It's a time-consuming process going through and picking out the best photos from any given session, and then posting them. By the time I finish the editing process, the last thing I feel like doing is updating my blog. Instead I want to burn a cd, give it to the client and be done! I am also in the process of creating a website, so it's possible that the blog will eventually fizzle out. We'll see. I did create a fan page on Facebook, so look me up if you're interested! There are some recent photos there. I do love my fans and plan to offer some fun incentives in the coming months, so check it out.

Speaking of photography, we did our family photos last Saturday!

Since taking family photos is nearly impossible (or at least tricky) when you'd like to be in them yourself, my friend Rachael and I helped each other out. We each brought our own camera and took turns playing photographer. It was a great system! We ran out of day light quickly, so I didn't get hardly anything of the kids, nor of Neil and me, which I'd really hoped. Luckily both the kids have birthdays in the next couple weeks, so I'll be doing their year photos around then. And, well, maybe one of these days I can talk Neil into doing some good old husband/wife photos...

You wouldn't know it, but only an hour or two prior to our shoot, Chloe decided she needed a haircut! I'm sure you know where this is going. I was actually giving her a small trim when I left the room for a minute to grab a water bottle. Before leaving, I specifically told her NOT to touch the scissors. I really thought she would listen, but would I be sharing all of this if she had ? Probably not. When I came back into the bathroom less than a minute later, here's what I found in the sink. Let's just say Chloe almost didn't survive the day. I was so mad, mainly because she deliberately disobeyed me. But the fact that we had pictures that same day didn't help anything. I think I scared the you know what out of her! And I don't think she'll be attempting that again! Luckily she took a small chunk off each side of her head. Why she chose those areas are beyond me, but I think it saved the photos because I was able to lay the hair on top of her head over those areas. Needless to say she'll pretty much be wearing her hair down non-stop until the hair grows back enough that it doesn't look ridiculous! Crazy kid.

{This one's my favorite}

The kids are doing great. Yesterday and today I've spotted Ryan standing several times on his own, not holding onto anything. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before he's taking his first steps, and then taking OFF! He still only has 2 teeth. That top left one is sure being stubborn. I've been watching and feeling for it for over a week now, and it still hasn't broken through. Poor Ryan. Hopefully the teething stage, at least for now, will be past him soon! He has a birthday in just a little over a week! Where did my baby go? Ah!

Not much more going on. Neil has quite enjoyed being able to relax and watch football on Saturdays without having to worry about house projects. I think we are all relieved to have them over with!

That's about it with us for now. Friday I'm going to try and venture out to a local pumpkin patch with the kids. I had originally planned to go today until the snow hit. So now the plan is Friday. We'll see if the weather holds up. Friday evening begins the Halloween festivities with a church chili cook-off and plenty of candy and games for the kids. Chloe is going to be a LSU cheerleader and Ryan is going to be a tiger (LSU's mascot). For those of you wondering what our connection to LSU is, read this post. Chloe keeps complaining that she wants to be a princess, even though she was initially excited about the cheerleader idea. Oh well! Once she has a decent amount of candy to distract her, I don't think she'll care what she is!

More October photos to come! Have a good night everyone!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Birthday David!

Happy Birthday to my brother, and one of my very best friends, David!

{David with Ryan - October 2009 in Brighton, UT}

How else do I put it? You are awesome! I love your surprises. I love your sense of humor. I love your compassion. I love the way you love your niece and nephew. I love the way you value family. Thank you for everything you do. The Hallidays lucked out when you came along 36 years ago today! We all know it, and I hope you do too! Happy Birthday!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chloe's tale of Princess Joseph

Apparently Chloe got quite the bedtime/Bible/princess story fill during Grandpa and Grandma's recent visit. Two weeks ago for Family Home Evening, she decided to read us a story. When we gave her the okay, she raced to her room with excitement, only to race back to the living room carrying 'The Chronicles of Narnia' set. She then opened the final book in the series, 'The Last Battle', and proceeded to "read" from it out loud. The story went a little something like this:

Chloe: "Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lived a very beautiful princess!"

Okay. So far, so good. I especially like the "long, long ago." It wasn't just long ago. It was long, long ago! And this is a very beautiful princess we're talking about. Way to be descriptive, Chloe!

Neil: "Did the princess have a name?"

Chloe: "Yes! Her name was Joseph!"

Neil: "Joseph, huh?"

Interesting name choice....

Chloe: "But then one day she died."

Neil: "What!? She died? Well, how did that happen?"

Chloe: "Actually, um, well, the TV fell on top of her!" (giggles...apparently she thought this part of the story was funny).

Okay, so let me get this straight. This princess - Joseph - who lived long, long ago, and who was very beautiful, was tragically struck by a TV? Wow. That could ruin some one's day. And who knew TVs existed back then?!

Chloe: "But then she grew alive again!"

Neil: "Oh, okay! Whew, I was worried!"

Chloe: (giggling, again) "Then she died again!"

This is where the giggling turned into complete hysterics. I've never seen a child crack herself up to the extreme that Chloe did at this very moment.

Neil: "What? AGAIN? Well, how this time?"

Chloe: "A clock fell on her!"

And on and on the story went. Not really sure what she's been getting too much of that would produce such an imaginatively disturbing tale in the mind of a 3 year old! Too much 'Enchanted', perhaps? She has been a bit obsessed with that movie. Well, needless to say, Family Home Evening was an entertaining one that night!

{To keep with the theme of this post, here's Grandma and Chloe reading bedtime stories - Sept '09.}


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ryan's latest

My goal of writing monthly updates for Ryan vanished a while ago, but I have still managed to jot down most of the important facts. Here's the latest on our handsome boy.

He will celebrate his 1st birthday in 26 days!

He has a tooth! It isn’t much of one yet – more like a tiny white stump, but it’s slowly making its way through! It's his bottom left, and I noticed it Monday. His two top teeth aren't far behind.

Ryan's favorite things:

  • Pulling every single wipe out of the wipes container.

  • Pulling clothes out of dresser drawers, books off shelves and just about anything else that looks out of place to him! He has an eye for organization!

  • Pooping right after a diaper change.

  • "Helping" load and unload the dishwasher.

    Notice Mr. Daredevil's going straight for the steak knife!

  • Dropping food off his food tray, whether he's full or just looking for further amusement.

  • Mom's cell phone. He's quite the texter!

  • Cheetos!

    Recent milestones:

  • Can stand for 5-10 seconds at a time, but shows little if any interest in walking. He is so capable, but has no drive whatsoever. I'm actually just fine with that, to be quite honest!

  • Raises his hands up in the air when he hears someone say, "hooray!" He learned it from his friend, Lasson.

  • Waves and says "Dat, dat!" when he hears someone say "Night, night" or "Bye, bye".

  • Dances on cue (or rather, bounces up and down while smiling with glee).

  • Is climbing! He climbed his first flight of stairs a couple weeks ago, and continues to climb anything he thinks he can manage. His lack of fear worries me. You'd think after a handful of falls he would learn. But no. He just keeps on climbin'.

    My favorite things:

  • He is more cuddly than ever. During Brady and Sara's family dinner the night before their wedding last Tuesday evening, Ryan fell asleep in my arms. I can probably count on one hand the number of times he's done this! It was so sweet that I just couldn't bring myself to go lay him down. While it isn't often that he'll fall asleep, he will rest his head on my shoulder peacefully and just chill. He's my little snuggler.

  • I'm his favorite.

  • His facial expressions. Especially when he gives me that gummy smile, closes his eyes, scrunches his nose and tilts his head back like Stevie Wonder.

  • Whenever I tell him "No no!", he immediately shakes his head in agreement. Darling.

  • Everything is "dat, dat, dat..."

  • He continues to grunt, grumble, and groan. He sounds like he's pretending to be a fierce animal at times. Hilarious.

    Just for you, Grandma Susie! Geaux Tigers!

    My sweet little boy is just growing too fast! As Fall has clearly made its entrance, I've found myself reminiscing about last year at this time, when Ryan was almost here. My, how time flies. I look at him and can hardly believe he will celebrate his first birthday in less than 4 weeks! It's bittersweet. Of course I love witnessing each milestone and cheering him on. But oh, how I miss the itty bitty baby he was for only a few blinks of an eye.

    Love you, buddy.

{By the way, I'm aware that some of the photos in this post are cut off on the right side. I can't figure out what the problem is. They are centered just like the ones that aren't getting cut off are.}


Monday, October 12, 2009

My boys

I came home from a photo shoot this evening to find this...

...and I just had to capture it. So SO sweet. I love my boys.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wedding bells...

I've been in Utah for the past week celebrating wedding festivities for Brady and Sara, attending Conference, spending time with both sides of the family, and building memories. Now I am home trying to catch up on the life I left behind. Just had to post this photo. If you're on facebook, check out my page for some others I took of the bride and groom! More updates to come soon. I have hundreds of pictures I need to get through!