Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Just Roll With It

This post is for my newfound friend, Karen. We met at a preschool Thanksgiving feast, where we gabbed over plates of stuffing & chicken nuggets & homemade rolls. She graciously asked me for my roll recipe. I happen to LOVE my roll recipe. It is the ONLY one after many failed attempts that I can get to work out here in the high altitude of Colorado. And may I say, they are scrumptious.
So here's to you Karen {you sweet thing!}, and all roll lovers everywhere! Enjoy!
1½ cups warm water
1 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP yeast
1½ cups warm milk
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 beaten eggs
6-7 cups bread flour

In a separate bowl, activate yeast, warm water, 1 TBSP sugar, and yeast; set aside until bubbly.

Melt butter in milk, then add sugar, salt and eggs.
Add 3 cups of flour to the milk mixture, then add the yeast mixture.
After combined, add the remaining 3 cups of flour. If dough is too sticky, add up to another cup of flour.

Cover and let rise for 1-2 hours.
Punch dough down and form into rolls. Let rise for another hour.
Bake at 375ยบ for 12-14 min.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Failing with grace

On June 7th, 2012, I won a little radio singing contest. I called in and sang my heart out to Take Me Out to the Ballgame. The DJ’s, with their discreet taste in crooning, crowned me the singing contest winner. My heart pounded, I called my family in to hear momma sing on the radio a few minutes later for the replay. The kids laughed and squealed. Daddy smiled, kind of rolled his eyes, and asked, "Well, what did you win?"
That’s when a slight panic set in. My prize was four tickets to the local minor league baseball game the next night…AND…the glory of throwing the first pitch out at said minor league game.
All very exciting, except that I had not thrown a baseball since I was nine years old. And, may I say, I was not an exceptional little leaguer. In fact, my coach scared the living daylights out of me, and I volunteered to sit the bench whenever possible.
My sweet hubby agreed to help me practice pitching, and a beautiful blog post about “getting out of your comfort zone and in to your improvement zone” started brewing in my little head. I had grand ideas about laying out the details of how I put myself in a highly uncomfortable position...practiced a new skill…and triumphed as I entered my improvement zone.
This process started well enough. I had indeed got myself into an uncomfortable position. I had agreed to pitch my first baseball in 25 years in front of a live audience of thousands. I did indeed practice this new skill. Dan and I got up early Friday morning and threw the ball back and forth for two and a half hours. When he came home from work, we practiced for another hour. {my shoulder was sore for days!} And by the end of training, I was feeling fairly confident. I could throw with decent accuracy, and with enough heat on the ball to at least make it over the plate – something that prior to my training sessions would have seemed miraculous. This ‘comfort zone to improvement zone’ post was going to be good!
And then, the moment of truth was upon me. I stepped up on the mound {after the seven other “first pitches” of the night were thrown – sure wasn’t expecting that} wound up, and chucked the official Skysox baseball about fifteen feet in front of me – straight into the ground.

My nerves got to me and the ball slipped out before I could finish my real throw. I walked past the cameraman for the local news with my head hung in shame, and cringed when one of my neighbors caught my attention from his seat and yelled out, “Hey, way to go Cumorah!” At the moment, I was hoping this event could go unnoticed, and undocumented, and unspoken about – forever. I believe mortified is the correct word.
It has now been two months since this event transpired, and I am finally ready to talk about it.
The pitch was not a triumph. In fact, if you look solely at the experience as my pitch from the mound at Skysox field, the entire event would look to be a complete failure. But I’d like to let you in on some behind the scenes successes from this story. I am clearly a better singer than I am an athlete. But, my adorable husband is an athlete.

He has large, lovely muscles. He played basketball for his Jr. College, and is my favorite soccer player of all time to watch in person. I love spending time with him, and spending time with him doing something he is great at is even more rewarding. I absolutely love it. That fateful Friday morning, when we got up early and donned our gloves to toss the old baseball around, will remain one of my most memorable mornings with him. It was the kind of morning where dew lingered on the grass, even while the sun kissed our cheeks. We laughed liked little kids. He coached me. And not like my loud little league coach, but lovingly, tenderly. Our children woke after we’d been practicing for awhile, and giggled when they found us outside playing baseball. They disappeared back inside the house, and reemerged with a homemade breakfast of toast, fruit salad, yogurt and orange juice. We took a break from training and sat down to a beautiful outdoors breakfast with our four bed-headed children. We talked and laughed and licked our plates clean.
That night, we went to the game as a family, ate stadium hotdogs and nachos, and those sweet little chitlins cheered wildly for their momma, even after her pitch came up short.

Sometimes failure is laced with unexpected successes.
Looking at this experience two months later, I can put the embarrassment of failing on the mound behind me, as I recall and cherish the beautiful moments this failure created for me and my sweetie and our four little ones. Thank you Skysox and 95.1 for giving me this blessed opportunity to fail and love it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Carnival Party ~ Behind the Scenes

I am a girl who loves cotton candy, and kettle corn, and face paint and squeals of laughter, and any game that could possibly end in prize winning. I am a girl who loves carnivals. Fortunately for me, my little girl happens to love all of those things too. So, a few months back when we thought we were moving at the end of the summer, I promised that carnie loving chica a big birthday bash to not only celebrate her big day, but also to make memories with her dear friends one last time before our departure. After Grammy & Grandpa’s home burned down, we decided as a family to postpone our move to be here to help them rebuild their home and their lives. Although we have put off our move temporarily, I couldn’t bring myself to cancel or even scale down Azure’s ‘farewell’ birthday carnival…so…the show went on. However, I will admit, that my attention was certainly placed elsewhere for the weeks leading up to the party. Thus, this event was thrown together in one week’s time. While it was not Martha Stewart style perfection, it was eight year old girl style elation.

Just in case you are ever considering throwing your own backyard carnival, or just in case you are the type of person who will find yourself haphazardly volunteering at the first PTA meeting of the upcoming school year to head up the annual ‘Fall Festival’, I’ll give you a behind the scenes look on how I whipped together Azure’s fair, to help you get those creative carnie juices flowing!

I designed the invite on Publisher (I know, so old school) and printed them at Costco as 4x6 photos. We ran them around to friends and neighbors one week before the party…and ended up with 34 friends with ‘yes!’ rsvp’s.

You know all those lovely 11-13 year old neighbor girls who love to come over to play? They make the best booth helpers! These sweet girls came early, helped with set up and were some of the most adorable carnies I’ve ever met!

Make a plan, and do NOT invite the wind. Heaven help me. I cannot stand the wind. Can.not.stand.it. Remember the backyard wedding reception we threw that was dramatically different than planned due to consistent 40mph wind that day? Apparently, two years is long enough to forget that every day is a windy day here, and that while I had quickly sketched plans for the carnival backdrop to look like this:
it ended up looking like this:
Sweet hubby bought rebar from Home Depot to stake the conduit poles into the ground, tied string across the tops, and we hung red and white alternating cheap plastic tablecloths (54”x108”) purchased at Hobby Lobby by stapling and taping them to the string, and securing them to the ground with big rocks in the back.  Sadly, it didn’t matter how they were attached/secured, the wind whipped them to and fro like they were thin, cheap plastic tablecloths or something. If you have the funds and minimal wind, canvas fabric would work well, or perhaps oversized beach towels.

I designed the signs to be printed at Staples as a 36”x90” $12 Engineer print. Right click, copy and paste, and you can use it too! Happy Birthday to you! Cut out the signs with a little white around the outside edges. I backed mine with blue and red poster board purchased at Target, punched holes in the corners, strung red ribbon through, and tied the blue signs over the red backdrops, and the red signs over the white backdrops. If your neighborhood is riddled with wind as mine is, it might be a good idea to simply staple gun these signs to wooden stakes and plunk them in the ground in front of each booth.

I gave each party goer a polka dot bag with their name on it as their favor bag. I only put a clown nose, a pixie stick, animal cookies and circus peanuts inside, and then they had to earn the rest of their favors by winning the carnival games. They were given a piece of candy for each game they conquered.
Giant Bowling- (purchased from Wal Mart.) Knock over all the pins in 3 tries, and you win! 

Ring Toss - tape colored paper around water bottles, and toss 6 mini discs (from Hobby Lobby) around them. If you get at least 3 rings around the bottle, you win!

Spray Away - stick golf tees (WalMart) into a block of styrofoam (Hobby Lobby), place ping pong balls (WalMart) on top and let contestants attempt to knock the ping pong balls down with a blast of water from a squirt gun. I had six golf tees & ping pong balls, but three would do it. It was difficult for the booth helper to get the balls steady on all the tees in between each player.  

Use Your Noodle - Duct tape 6 skinny pool noodles (WalMart) together as circles, then duct tape those to two thicker pool noodles that function as support poles. Use rebar (Home Depot) inside the support noodles and hammered 6" into the ground to make the noodle structure stand. Each contestant gets 3 skinny noodles to use as javelins to attempt to throw through the circles. Get all three through a hoop, and you win!

 Tin Can Crash - Wrap large tin cans (donated from friends) in colorful paper. Stack, and give contestants 3 tennis balls to use in attempt to topple all the cans. If they can crash all the cans in 3 tries, they win!
Clotehspin Drop - contestants try to drop 10 clothespins in a large glass mason jar. If they get at least three in the jar, they win! (somehow we didn't get any photos of our pin drop game)

Fortune Teller - elect a helper to dress up gypsy style and either give fake fortunes on the fly, or arm them with several paper fortune tellers and let party goers pick their own fortunes.

Face Painting - I purchased my Snazaroo face painting pallet from Amazon, and was quite pleased with the quality. I would suggest to do all the face painting AFTER any water games, as lots of painted faces got washed away during our water balloon fight!
Photo Booth- Who doesn't love to don a feather boa and a cowboy hat every now and again? I freehand cut black paper mustaches and hot glue gunned them to skinny wooden dowels (Hobby Lobby). I gathered props and costumes from our playroom as well as Hobby Lobby and Party City. 
As much as I love carnie games, at a party like this, it’s a good idea to have other group games planned as well. It gives you a chance to gather all the kids up for a little structured play time before you do cake and presents .

which quickly ended up in a (parent sanctioned) WATER BALLOON FIGHT.

 An obstacle course, relay race, and/or hula hoop contest would all work really well here too. We just ran out of time.

I am a simple country girl. I don’t know if there is any food I love more than Navajo tacos and elephant ears. I needed to keep it a little more simple for this carnival though, since I knew I would be busy keeping close tabs on a lot of kiddos, coordinating all the events and running the face painting booth as well. The food needed to consist of items that could be prepped before hand that little fingers could help themselves to. So, I decided on some of mine and Azure's other favorite fair treats…kettle corn, cotton candy (machine rented from Bruno’s Party Time Rental), licorice, salt water taffy, pretzels from Costco with melted Velveeta cheese, sugar cookies made to look like Whirly Pops, and cake & cupcakes made to look like buckets of popcorn. 
Yes, my dears, get your printers ready...here are the RECIPES for my homemade fair fare:

Make your favorite cupcake recipe. Mine is found at the cheekykitchen.
Top with your favorite butter cream frosting, mine is found here.

And then follow one of the many guides to making mini-marshmallows look like popcorn. I watched this one, and modified.
In an effort to save time whilst creating 80 cupcakes, I did not cut my marshmallows – I ripped and twisted and pinched and then placed them on the buttercream topped cakes. I scoured my city and couldn’t find red & white striped paper anywhere, and remembered while standing in the middle of the fifth store on my search, that I had red & white striped wrapping paper tucked away in a closet back home. That’s what I used, and though it was a little flimsy, did the job. {Thanks Grammy for helping with cupcake paper wrapping!} I also did not get to the 'butter' painting. I saved that for very last of all my things to get done that day, just in case I had spare time. Clearly, I did not have spare time, but I think they looked just delightful, even without it.

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup whipping cream
*cream together
5 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
*mix together
Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. milk
2 tsp. light corn syrup
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
red food coloring (only for swirls)

Insert the sucker stick immediately after baking, with cookie lying on cooling rack. Let cool completely. Frost with white icing. Let harden. Ice with red swirls. Put in freezer over night to harden. Place in clear treat bags (purchased at Target), and tie with red ribbon. Return to freezer for up to 2 weeks until the day of your party.

MOCK KETTLE CORNair popper style, (popcorn bags from Hobby Lobby)
½ cup unpopped popcorn
¼ cup corn syrup
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup butter
½ tsp. vanilla
1 tsp salt

Pop corn in a hot-AIR popper
In a small saucepan, combine butter, corn syrup and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Cook over medium heat 1 minute, continuing to stir gently.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Sprinkle salt over popcorn, then pour syrup over popcorn and stir to coat evenly.
Let cool slightly before serving.

And there you have it. A carnival fit for a king, or a sweet eight year old girl, and 34 of her closest friends.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Through the Ashes

Once a pond a time, (that’s how my little Azure begins all of her writings) I was a blogger. I wrote to feel useful. I blogged to hopefully inspire someone, anyone. I tapped out words on my keyboard to share some of the little things I’ve learned in this life that maybe, just maybe, you would like to learn too.
And then, I went through a period of time when I felt a little less than inspiring. A little less than useful. A little less than wise. Nothing big happened to change anything. I just let myself get busy with this thing called life, and failed to take the time to internalize the daily lessons, light, and knowledge that we’re all given if we look hard enough.
My tender-hearted Dad is someone who always looks hard enough. I remember sitting at a volleyball game with him once, and after seeing his eyes get misty, asked “Dad, are you ok?” I have never forgotten his response, though I think I was merely 11 years old at the time: “Oh yes. I was just thinking, isn’t it amazing? Isn’t it amazing that we are blessed with these amazing bodies that can run, jump, leap, dive? We have so much to be thankful for! Life is amazing!”
Life is amazing. Even with its twists and turns, its disappointments and trials, it is amazing. 14 days ago today, my husband’s parents’ home burned to the ground in the blaze of the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs.
It has been beyond devastating. When they rushed out to beat the flames that were racing their way, Grammy and Grandpa were able to grab a couple outfits each, a few photo albums, the small safe with important documents (but not the keys to said safe), and their vehicles. They suffered no physical injury (thank the heavens!) but the emotional pain has been heart wrenching. Their home of 24 years, where they raised their 6 children, where they housed their parents’ heirlooms, their memories, and their hopes, is now a pile of twisted metal and ash.

I have had the great pleasure to house, hug, and feed them. I have had the great honor to see the goodness of our community as they have reached out in thoughtfulness, blessed kindness, and beautiful generosity to them.
 I have had the opportunity to return to the burn site along with Grammy, Grandpa, my husband, my brother-in-law, and three sister-in-laws to help remove rubble and sift through ash. We worked harder together than we’ve ever had to before.

We cleared the space of huge pieces of corrugated metal roof. We hefted the metal innards of recliners, sofas, refrigerators and appliances into a towering scrap pile. And then we searched, through square foot by square foot of ash, for anything worth saving.

We found broken china, charred silverware, Christmas mugs with melted glass caked to the sides, and the remains of Grammy’s jewelry rack.

But we also, bless the good Lord above, found two treasures that once belonged to my husband’s grandmother. Sweet Grammy was heartbroken that she didn’t snatch up anything of her mother’s on her way out the door; but through the Lord’s tender mercy, these two heirlooms, one a small statue, and the other, a ceramic pitcher, were saved from the fire and the falling debris. The small statue has some damage and melted glass affixed to it, but it’s in one piece, and it has retained some of its color.
With a good cleaning, the pitcher will be pristine.  
This is truly incredible in comparison to the condition of nearly everything else that once filled their home. It feels nearly miraculous.We unearthed a few other treasuers as well, including the remains of Grandpa's military medals, a salt and pepper shaker set, some handmade kid pottery, and several charred, yet intact pieces from a seventies dish set, that by today’s standards is slightly unsightly…oh but heaven help me if those dishes weren’t the most beautiful site to behold amidst the filthy, grey ash.
Life is Amazing. Devastating. Trying. Frustrating. Intriguing. Enlightening. Humbling.  Exciting. Life is amazing, and I am immensely grateful that I have so many amazing people to share it with, even if some happen to be (temprorarily) homeless. J

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Fairy To Do List

You know that beautiful to do list you make for the week while you're sitting at church, and of course listening to the inspiring lesson at the same time? Oh good, you do that too? Glad I am not alone!

Each week, my list looks quite similiar. I write out all of my kid things, house things, church things, work things, and then get to the part of the list that I love the most...My Projects. This is my Fairy Godmother portion of the list. Everything else is a little Cinderella-esque. Wash the dishes, sweep the floor, scrub down the inside of the van...but then, if I'm a good girl, and work hard to finish all of my other chores, then I can spend time on My Projects. As life goes, my weeks usually end up pretty full of real life...you know...homework, and chores, and sick kids, and sick me, and cooking, and chores, and errands and working out, and chores, and running kids to swim, soccer, tennis, kids' zumba, piano, spanish club, birthday parties, doctor's appointments, and preschool, and chores, and spending fabulous time talking with my great friend who is about to move, and certifying to be a Zumba Instructor (woohoo!), and chores, to the point that it would take a wave of a Fairy Godmother's wand to grant me the time to reach that magical part of my list that seems to reappear untouched every week.
That, as you may have guessed, is the part of my list where I jot down my goal to write and create fabulous posts for this little blog of mine at least three times a week. It is in that portion of the list that I remind myself with exclamation points to take beautiful pictures of the healthy recipes I promised my readers at least a month ago, and challenge myself to figure out how to unlock the recording of an awesome interview I did with a very inspirational woman so I can finally share it with you all. It is also the place I vow to offer my personalized graphic design services to you.
Perhaps, if I could sleep a little less...I could fit it all in. So that's my goal this week. Sleep less. Do more. We'll see how that works out.
Until then, I have a little sample of one of the things I can do for you.
Last month, my friend emailed me this list of words:
Go Lancers
Liberty Basketball
Work Hard
You must work like a champion to play here
She wanted something special to display at a basketball ceremony, and to give to her son's teammates. I took her list of the basketball team's core values, along with the instructions that the team colors are blue & red, and that no swirly girl fonts were allowed, and created this:

And wouldn't you know it? They loved it.

Would you like your very own personalized subway-style art? Would you like me to do it for you? Oh, you're a doll. Thanks! Email your words to me at: cumorah@jencotech.com. For $20 I'll send you a completed PDF & JPG file of your artwork. If you want me to print it for you...we'll have to chat.

I wish you all a selfless, passionate, industrious and Fairy Godmother blessed type of week!xoxo,Cumorah