Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sasha's Practicing Riding My Bike

by Sasha

I've been working on how fast I can go, and staying upright, and not putting my foot down, and pedal backwards to stop. I'm doing really well at going fast and staying upright and turning. The hardest part is to to stay up and keep your foot on the pedal and not to stop you riding. The easiest part is to pedal and ride.

I'm gonna ride fast to church. Dad said that when I'm really ready, like I got it, we are gonna ride to Smiths and get an ice cream or a snow cone. And I'm gonna ride it to church, the park, and to Grammy's house. Ooh and I also love riding bikes with my mommy and daddy and my whole family. And it's so far to ride my bike around the house and to my friend's house and to the park and I can't wait to show Grammy that I can ride my bike without training wheels.

I feel really happy and I like riding my bike. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

16 Years Strong

I know, I know, it doesn't seem possible but these two attractive young people have been married for sixteen - sixteen! - years. That means our marriage is now the same age as I was when Steve and I started dating. Woah.

And both despite and because of our adventures and growing experiences, trials and traumas, joys and blessings, and fun and games I am proud and grateful to confess that I love and respect this man more today than ever. Sixteen years sounds like an awfully long time, but I still feel like a 19-year-old girl giddy with the excitement of her wedding day. I hope I always do.

We celebrated our anniversary at Sundance enjoying big skies, mountain views, and our first ever Bluebird Cafe concert featuring Amy Grant! It was a blast - good music, perfect setting, and, yes, she sang both Baby, Baby and El Shaddai. It was quite the evening.

And then what did my amazing husband do? He surprised me with a full anniversary Sundance adventure! We stayed overnight in a fabulous Sundance room, spent the morning in the mountain sunshine on a lift ride, and then got massages. It was such a decadent weekend, and a wonderful celebration of sixteen fab years.

Happy anniversary to us! Can't wait to start planning for our 20th...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Not Exactly as Planned

Unfortunately, this week we were foiled in our attempts at a Tragedy Averted Tuesday and ended up instead with a Semi-Tragic Tuesday.

It appears that my road biking skills far surpass those of mountain biking and I ended up with an interosseous membrane tear - a tear of the membrane that connects the tibia and fibula. Sigh. Apparently falling down the mountain instead of continuing on the path across the mountain causes scrapes and bangs and a temporary cessation of independent walking ability. I'll keep that in mind on my next biking excursion... once I can walk again...

But in the big picture this isn't too terrible an injury. No surgery is required and everything should re-attach on its own. I'll spend a couple of weeks in the boot and then should be able to hobble freely again without the boot or crutches (which sounds amazing). And the boys are secretly grateful for the injury because they get to catch up on episodes of How I Met Your Mother with an immobile mom. And the best part is that the doc said that as soon as I can walk again on my own without sharp pain I can start riding - I'll just stick to the roads for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Antelope by Moonlight

There's not much I like more than riding my bike - except riding my bike with my family!

This weekend brought Antelope by Moonlight, a novel and family-friendly bike ride that promised glow sticks, a late night, and lots of fun - the perfect combo for our family!

Antelope by Moonlight is held on Antelope Island, the largest island in the Great Salt Lake.  We decided to camp on the island to make it a proper adventure (and avoid a sleepy drive home at 2 am).

As soon as we arrived we let Daddy set up camp while we got down to business - it was time to decorate the bikes! Two tubes of glow sticks later we had glow-tastic bicycles, a campsite ready for our very late night/early morning bedtime, and it was time to head to the ride.

Here's the "after" picture of Ben's bike. He took his spoke decorating very seriously.
Daddy was such a trooper hauling both the Trail-a-Bike and trailer! I'm pretty sure that all of the glow sticks Sasha and WanYing put on the bike handlebars were a continual source of inspiration for him.
Off we go! It was such a beautiful night for a ride.
Perfect weather, relatively low bug levels, and 4 very energetic kiddos made for a fantastic 26 miles. We started the ride at about 9:30 and got back to our campsite tired (or asleep in the case of the girls - that's why we brought the trailer) and happy at 1:30 am. The boys were such troopers pushing through all 26 miles with just a few short breaks to rest on the asphalt (Ben described the pavement as "pillowy" - I think his butt was pretty sore by that point so anything felt good as long as it wasn't a bike seat). And Daddy was the real hero towing 100 pounds of girl and trailer!

The best part of the ride was definitely seeing all of the decorated bikes in a glowing line stretched out all down the island road. The crowd was fun and friendly. And the giant full moon illuminated the whole landscape.

What an amazing evening!

Of course, camping on what is basically a desert island meant that we had no shade and woke to bright sunshiny skies at 7:30 am. Groan. Steve and the kids graciously let me sleep in a little longer and our new trailer provided us all with some extra room to play and lounge, but by 8:30 it was getting hot and it was time to go play in the Great Salt Lake.

The boys love sleeping in "The Annex"

All packed up and ready for the second half of our Antelope Island adventure
I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but although we've lived in Utah for a dozen years we've never gone swimming in the Great Salt Lake. We decided this was the year to fix this clear failure in our kids' upbringing.

So we grabbed umbrellas, snacks, towels, and all of the beach paraphernalia and walked out to the lake.

The verdict? The Great Salt Lake is weird and a little bit gross, but a lot of fun. We managed to find a good place to set up our umbrella after the line of bird carcasses but before the clouds of gnats. Both of those are categorized under the "weird and gross" parts of the lake. The gnat clouds are strangely memorizing and most of them move out of the way in billowy waves in front of you so you don't actually have to walk through them. Mostly.

But once you get through the gnats to the water it's not so bad. The temperature is great, the water is clean, and the whole lake is beautifully shallow and calm. Just don't get any water in your eyes, otherwise you have to make it back to shore through teary eyes and gnat clouds to your towel (don't go past it or you'll end up amid the bird carcasses!) to pour some precious water from your bottle into your eyes.

And the floating is amazing. The Great Salt Lake is somewhere around 20% (for comparison, sea water is 3.5%) and it was worth braving the bugs and dead birds for the sensation of floating in those waters. It's tough to describe the feeling - Steve and I could float while sitting indian style in the water without having to tread water. It was so cool.

It's tough to see, but if you click on this picture you can see the clouds of gnats rising around Sam
After showers (thank you, God, for coin-operated showers) and root beer floats to replenish our energy stores we headed out on the final leg of our Antelope Island expedition - buffalo hunting. Antelope Island is home to about 700 buffalo from a heard of 12 that was brought to the island in the late 1800's. Already that trip we had seen antelope and deer and it was time to track down some tatonka.

I think we're on the right track
Ta dah! Our adventure is complete! Buffalo, antelope, and deer spotted. 26 miles conquered in highly luminescent style. Great Salt Lake experienced. Yep, our first Antelope by Moonlight was a stunning success.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

WanYing's First Time Riding My Bike Without Training Wheels

by WanYing

I rided my bike by myself without training wheels today. It's cause I wanted to ride like the boys did. So I rided my bike without training wheels.

I took my training wheels off at the park and then after that I rode my bike home all by myself.

It feeled like I was proud. The hardest part was staying upright. The easiest part was pedaling. Now I think I can ride my bike to church without training wheels and Smith's and Grammy's house and the ice cream place.

When I am bigger I want to ride with my mom and go to ice cream places and snow cone places and all sorts of that places. I like riding with my mom.

That's what I can do without training wheels!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

How to Make an NES Controller Cake - Morningstar Style

I have several friends who do food blogs and they do a beautiful job documenting their culinary journeys (see my friend Sarah's blog for fabulous examples). While we like to eat well here in Morningstarland, we rarely make blog-worthy creations. We're more meatball sub and Costco salad kind of people which, shockingly, we never think to blog about. ("Open jar of premade Target spaghetti sauce. Microwave frozen meatballs. Combine both on 99¢ white bread hot dog rolls. Bake." See what I mean?)

But the one thing we do well are cakes. They're not professional. They're always amusing. They generally taste pretty darn good. And they always end up costing three times what a store bought cake would have because of waste, extra decoration purchasement, and other misfires. Here are a few fun examples from the past: the ice cream sandwich cake (it was way too hot to cook last year), the Indiana Jones snake cake, the bike cake, the Iron Man cake.

This year Ben wanted a video game controller cake, and, since we were bored with time and money we decided to construct one ourselves. It all sounded so simple... but by the third time I had broken down into near-tearful hysterics because I couldn't make icing the right color gray, well, I decided this was a blog-worthy adventure.

So, here you go:

How to Make an NES Controller Cake - Morningstar Style
Drama by Jamie
(Most) Photos by Sam

Step 1 - Google Image Search for NES Controller on your iPad so you can have the picture in front of you as you plan and create. Admire its deceptive simplicity and think, "I can do this."

You'll need to leave this image open on your iPad but, since the cake will take approximately 4 hours to finish, your iPad will keep timing out. So of course you'll keep pushing the power button with icing-covered fingers.  Your husband will not appreciate this dedication to your craft. You'll patiently explain that you have a degree in Computer Science, thank you very much, and know for a fact that buttercream icing is good for electronics.

Step 2 - Make a white cake. From scratch. This step doesn't even deserve photography because it's so simple. Seriously, there is no reason to buy a white cake mix. And extract the cake from its pan without incident (this is a minor miracle, usually I have to paste it back together with icing, but this time the cake came out clean! I should have known it was just lulling me into a false sense of security).

Step 3 - Make gray icing. Oh how simple this sounds.

Step 3a - Go to Smith's to pick up cake making supplies, such as five different possible materials you could use to make red buttons (this is why your cakes cost three times the price of store-bought cakes), Cocoa Krispies to make the black background, and Swiss Rolls for the d-pad.

Step 3b - Realize that you had no real conception of scale or color when you purchased said supplies and also forgot the black food coloring to tint the icing so go back to Smith's to pick up some Kit Kats for the buttons and black food coloring. Approach panic when you realize that Smith's doesn't sell black food coloring. Go to the bakery where they agree to sell you a cup of black frosting for 25¢ that you can blend into your icing to color it. Feel pretty smug. (I'm skipping the part where the checkout clerk doesn't believe that the Kit Kat Dark that you purchased was 44¢ not 89¢ and you have to show it to him on the shelf and then explain to him how to void an item.)

Step 3c - Make a double recipe of icing because it always pisses you off to feel like your icing supplies are constrained. When it's at a good consistency and you and then entire kitchen are covered in powdered sugar, add a dollop of black icing from the Smith's bakery. Blend it in and realize, with horror, that it's way too dark. Add all of the rest of the powdered sugar in the house to the mixture and realize that you now have about 3 pounds of way too dark gray icing. Break down a little.

Step 3d - Go back to Smith's for more powdered sugar and Oreo cookies because the Cocoa Krispies are too light and so the kids ate them for breakfast. Think with gratitude that at least you're only 1/2 mile from the grocery store and at least you're getting your biking miles in today. Hear Dave Ramsey's voice in your head judging you for charging $1.55 worth of powdered sugar on your credit card because you forgot to grab cash. Mutter "F you, Dave Ramsey," which probably doesn't further endear you to the check out clerk that you trained on item voiding to get 40¢ off of your Kit Kat Dark earlier that morning.

Step 3e - Make yet another batch of icing using the same beaters.  The dark gray icing left on the beaters will be just enough color to make light gray for the controller. You now have 5 or 6 pounds of gray icing in various shades and experience no little pride knowing that you could easily ice 10 cakes. Not a bad morning's work! But no time to rest or eat icing by the handful - it's only an hour until the party and so far all you've done this morning is make disgusting amounts of disgustingly colored icing!!!

Step 4 - Ice the cake and cover over the icing you want to show through with waxed paper. While you do this, your son will gladly open Oreos and scrape out their white guts as long as it means he doesn't have to help clean the house, which you had every intention of doing after making the cake, which seemed like a great idea before invested your entire morning in the aforementioned icing disasters.

Step 5 - Take out your icing frustrations by crushing Oreo cookies with a mallet. Distribute the punished crumbs over the cake.

Step 6 - Your other son will discover a bowl filled with Oreo guts. He will consume these Oreo guts in a ginormous open faced Oreo sandwich. You and your other son will dry heave because everybody knows that Oreo guts are gross and only there to hold the glorious cookie halves together.

Step 7 - Remove the protective waxed paper and admire your NES controller stripes thinking, "maybe this is going to work out after all!" Almost weep with relief that something is actually working as planned.
Step 8 - Decorate! Use a shot glass to cut down giant cookies that, when you were astoundingly confused on the proportions of a controller and the size of a 9x13" cake, you thought were the right size.

Step 9 - Add a little extra gray icing around the buttons and d-pad because a) they have a little gray boarder in the actual controller and b) you made 15 pounds of icing and getter use as much as you possibly can.
Step 10 - Tah dah! Remove the rest of the waxed paper and watch your oldest child try out the Konami Code on your creation. Assume this is a compliment.

Step 11 - Look around at the rest of your disheveled house, shrug, and assume that the crew of tween and teen boys coming to your house probably couldn't care less that the carpets aren't freshly vacuumed and will not notice the powdered sugar covering every surface of the kitchen.

And smile that your kids really do genuinely think that the cake you made is cool.

Happy Birthday Ben - thanks for always finding the adventure in everything and for never letting our lives get too easy.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How to Have a Great Birthday

How to Have a Great Birthday
by Ben

Well, first you go to Fitz and the Tantrums and I sat in line before the concert but then we went inside and we listened to some boring people and then we listened to Fitz and the Tantrums. They were AWESOME. And we were about 3 rows away. I danced later on when Fitz and the Tantrums was going, but not when the boring people were on.

p.s. the link on Fitz and the Tantrums is Walker, their most popular song but then you can go to their YouTube channel.

Step 2 - Get awesome presents, which consist of a big rubber band shooting gun, an ice cream ball maker (quart size), an Xbox One controller, an Xbox One controller charger, and Bravely Default and a squirt gun and candy and gems in Clash of Clans and a book and an explody thing.

Step 3 - You get some awesome swag at your mom's work, which consist of a hat, sunglasses, a shirt, a drink, a backpack, 3 notebooks, M&Ms with Qs on them, and a shoot dart thingie.

Step 4 - Go to a zip line. Put on your helmet. Put on your harness. Put on your gloves. Get your own brake. And go on a zip line (with guides).

And then while you're on the last zip line have all your family (except for your mom cause she was taking pictures) wait at the bottom and shoot party confetti poppers at you. And that's how you get an awesome birthday! (and then insert party)


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