Friday, January 30, 2009

An Evening with the Cullen Clan

Tonight my sisters and I went to a Twilight book club hosted by my buddy Lisa. Okay, so really it was a Twilight party, because we spent most of the time swooning over the life-size Edward Cullen cutout. We also fit in a lot of snacking on yummy treats, a whole bunch of gabbing and laughing, putting together some custom designed Twilight shirts, and eventually, we did discuss the books a little bit. It was some good fun shared with my sisters, my friends and my favorite vampire family.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Semi-Single Mom

Well, Greg has officially gone back to school this week. We had decided he should quit attending class and just study from home so that we could have some time together as a couple, so he wouldn't be out of the house from 7:30am-10:30pm, so Palmer would be able to see his dad more than just on the weekends, etc. We originally wanted him to change his major to a shorter program, but we were told we would owe back all of the grant money we have so far received either way. So we decided to bring him home now.

Early this week his academic advisor finally figured it out that he could transfer to the shorter program and as long as he graduated we wouldn't have to pay back the grants. This came as bittersweet news to both of us. Yes, it is the best possible situation as we won't own money we don't have and he won't have to continue being away from the family for years to come. Yet, I can not help being sad. Now that I've experienced what it would be like to have him home more, I hate seeing him gone again. Looks like I'll be the semi-single mom a little while longer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eight Month and Hess Family Photo Shoot

These were, as always, taken at JCPenney's Portrait Studio. I am still loving them and the great pictures they take. The first two are from Palmer's eight month photo shoot. I think these captured the stage he is in wonderfully. He absolutely loves playing with toys now, and in the head shot you can see his two new teeth. Such a handsome little guy! The second two were taken in December when we got our pictures taken with Greg's family.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Spider Palmer

The title says it all. . .

Pearls of Wisdom

Church was awesome today! The bishopric spoke in sacrament meeting and I was touched and inspired by each of their talks. It's always nice to get that boost of the spirit and to feel a reformation of your testimony. I think I needed a bit of a recharge.

Relief Society was wonderful as well. We went over the talk "Come What May and Love It" by Elder Wirthlin, a man who just recently I have discovered to be a phenomenal speaker. I was deeply moved by his talk in the October 2007 General Conference "The Great Commandment" and had looked forward to his talks each conference prior. Today's message was equally inspirational. There were many aspects to the talk that I plan to take on as new mottos for myself, but this one quote I found to be especially powerful:

"Sometimes the very moments that seem to overcome us with suffering are those that will ultimately suffer us to overcome." - Elder Joseph P. Wirthlin

As I have been reflecting upon the trials in my life, I know this to be true. Because of some difficult trials going on in our life at the time (Greg's self-employment, or more accurately, unemployment and not being able to start a family of our own) we found ourselves moving in with my parents. What a blessing that turned out to be because I was able to be with my mother during her last years, to help her, to spend quality time together, and even, to see her extreme suffering firsthand so that I could finally realize I needed to let her go.

I know it's not easy to see the blessings of our trials and tribulation, but I know they indeed are there. I know we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and is mindful of us. I know he has a plan for us, and if we put our faith in him, all will be well.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Scrappin' Again

It's been a few months since I've worked on my scrapbook. Mostly because I scrapbook chronologically and my next pictures were of my mother's funeral; they overwhelmed me. I wanted the pages to be extra special and I wasn't sure how to go about them. I could journal endlessly about what my mother meant to me and the influence she had on my life. What should I include? And then, there is the whole battle of dealing with everything, which honestly, it's usually easier to pass over the grief and try to not dwell on it.

But alas, I finally decided it was time to take the plunge. I picked up the cardstock and Zig pen once more and set to work. I decided to make it simple: documenting the dates, meaningful titles, a clean elegant style, and I used the obituary (which I wrote with the help of my siblings), and the talk I gave at the service as the journaling. I did break down once and had a good cry, but I finished the task, and I am proud of it. Each of these layouts has a pocket full of extra mementos: "In Memory" has pictures of guests at the viewing, "Valerie May Nichols, My Dear Mother" has a pocket full of dried rose petals from the bouquet atop her casket, and "'Until We Meet Again" has the talk I wrote. Some nice little treasures for generations to come.

pattern paper: Chatterbox, diecut: quickutz Washington, lace: Fancy Pants, font: CK Legacy, unknown: vellum, metallic paper and hat pin

paper: KMA, stickers: My Minds Eye, pen: Zig, stamps and ink: Close to my Heart, chalk: Stampin' Up!, brads, Making Memories, unknown: lace

cardstock: Bazzill, pattern paper: Sonnets and Fancy Pants, lace: Bo Bunny, pearls: The Robins Nest, font: CK Heritage, silk flowers: Ofray, other: Lace Doiley, skeleton leaves, metal rimmed tag

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Can You Resist?

Palmer is known for his big, bright, infectious smiles. Everyone comments on what a happy baby he is. He is such a flirt and flashes his brilliant grin everywhere we go. Tuesday night we went out to dinner as a family at Red Robin (yum!), and Palmer was working his usual charm with the party sitting behind us. Halfway through our dinner, the woman from the neighboring table dropped by and surprised Palmer with a stuffed mouse to play with. In response to Palmer's playful smiles she had decided to try her hand at the claw and hook stuffed animal game, and played until she won a prize for him. I am extremely touched by the kind gesture from this complete stranger. But I have to admit, I understand her impulse. That smile of his is pretty hard to resist!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Still Sore

About a week ago Greg mentioned that he would be turning 27 this year. I nodded along nonchalantly until I realized that also meant I would be turning 27 this year, and then I instantly began to freak out. I'll be honest with you, I do this every year, with every birthday. I am not one who ages well. With every additional year, I stress about how many things I have not done, everything I am behind on, how I am no longer young and cute, etc. As always, Greg shook his head and sighed in slight exasperation and then desperately tried to convince me that it wasn't a big deal, and that I actually wasn't getting "really old" as I so insisted. His implore fell on deaf ears as I rebutted that I was almost thirty and that we instantly needed to have another child. We ended the conversation agreeing to disagree.

Well, I now have proof that I am getting old and decrepit! On Sunday, after church, as I was clad in my pantyhose and missing the traction of my earlier worn shoes, I slipped on our hardwood stairs and fell down hard. (A little side note on my impressive spill - I tumbled down three stairs while holding a cup of liquid in each hand. The glasses, as well as my water and Greg's root beer both remained intact, besides some back splashing on my clothes. I don't know if this unconscious action to sacrifice my body in order to protect what I carried in my arms comes from a maternal instinct or what, but nonetheless I saved our apparently precious drinks.) The point of my mentioning my very loud, forceful and somewhat ridiculous looking fall - it occurred Sunday; today is Tuesday, and I am still hurting! So yes, it's official, I am an old fogie, because only old people fall down and hurt for days afterward.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Wii"nter Party

Who says you can't play baseball in the winter?

Last night we put the Christmas gift from London (a winter party basket) to good use. We hosted our first annual "Wii"nter Tournament and invited some of our fellow gaming buddies over to join in on the fun. We had two Wiis going, one upstairs and one downstairs. The upstairs unit didn't get much use because everyone wanted to play with Greg's new Guitar Hero World Tour band kit, which was set up downstairs. We served light snacks and London provided a gorgeous winter-esk french vanilla cake.

Congratulations to our award winners:

  • Ultimate Cheer"Wii"der - Sariah
  • "Wii"lly Moving It - Scott
  • Best "Wii"sician - Brian & Peyton
  • "Wii"lly Fabulous Vocals - Rachel
  • Most Un"Wii"warded Effort - London
  • Trash Talking Sp"Wii"ch - Erin
  • "Wii"nner Up - Mindy
  • Overall "Wii"nner - Jon

Thanks for the fun night everyone. Game on!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Big Slobbery Kisses

Palmer has started giving kisses. He is a bit stingy with them, as in he will only give them to Momma right now (Daddy has been trying hard to get some sugar too, but so far without success). They are intense and absolutely darling! Each time he steadies himself by using both hands to grab and yank onto some aspect of my head, usually one hand squeezes tightly on my ear and the other one is in a death grip in my hair, opens his mouth wide and shoves his face into my cheek. He then proceeds to breath heavily in and out a few times while slobbering all over me. Okay, so as I am describing this I realize it doesn't sound so great, but believe me... it's the best thing in the whole world! I'm still trying to get a picture of it; I'll post it when I do.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Funny Man

Greg has been home a lot more lately (still haven't worked out whether he will be going back to school or studying from home), and I must say, he is so fun to have around. He is such a goof and gives me some great laughs!

About half of the pictures taken of Greg have him making a funny face or doing a silly pose. Such pictures usually do not make it to the printer. Here are a couple from our nine month pregnancy photo shoot that did not make the cut.

His coworkers are always telling him that he should do stand up comedy. I agree that he is rather hilarious, but stand up might put it a little over the top. In fact, in the past I've told Greg he's not allowed to watch Last Comic Standing when I'm home, because it gets him in such a silly mood that he spends the rest of the evening cracking not-always-so-great one liners about everything he sees.

Here are a few recent examples of his recent goofiness:
  • During Christmas, he took up more religious talk, a.k.a. turning his dialog into a scriptural tense. When I insisted we throw out my deviled eggs after they had a spill in the car on our way to my sister's house, he replied, "That which ye do unto these eggs, ye also do unto me."
  • In a work meeting his boss was asking for workers to volunteer for weekend shifts. Greg said he was willing to work Saturdays but not Sundays. His coworkers, giving him a hard time, asked if he believed God would strike him dead with lightening for working Sundays. He replied, "No, I believe God would strike you dead with lightening for making me work Sundays."
  • The other night as I was feeding Palmer dinner, I remarked that he had made such a mess that a word did not exist for it. Greg interjected saying, "We will call it Palmer."

So maybe you had to be there with these, but he sure does give me a good chuckle!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Recipe - Steak and Kidney Pie, Minus the Kidney

Get ready for a whole load of recipes from the Hess home this week. This one is very dear and special to me. My granny was a cook for royalty in England where they always had steak and kidney pie for Christmas dinner. Granny carried on the tradition and cooked it for my mother every Christmas Eve and so my mother also made it for us every Christmas Eve. I have wonderful memories of this meal. We always made one pie with kidney and one without. My mother would have to special order the kidney since it's not the most popular meat. And, I'll let you in on a secret that makes the kidney even more unappetizing than you would originally conceive... it stinks! Man oh man, does it ever stink. It cooks all day long and it's pungent smell fills the entire house. I, not being one who enjoys the kidney, always opted for the other pie. In fact, neither of my sisters like the kidney either and I honestly believe my parents only ate it in observance of the tradition. One beauty of this meal is that you can make it as simple or as in depth as you like, as in you can use boxed and instant or make the layers fresh and from scratch. My parents always went with a premade pie crust and instant mashed potatoes and their faithful and reliable can of Veg-All (ugh! Not a fan of the Veg-All). I, on the other hand, add a little more love to it. Anyhow, I will be carrying on the third generational tradition of steak and kidney pie for my family every Christmas, minus the kidney that is.

Steak and Kidney Pie

pie crust
beef kidney
cubed steak
cream of mushroom soup
mashed potatoes
mixed vegetables
beef gravy

Chop kidney and cook by boiling all day. Precook steak also. Mix meats with cream of mushroom soup and vegetables. Line the bottom of a pie plate with pie crust. Add meat mixture. Top with mashed potatoes. Garnish potatoes with a little sprinkling of seasoning salt, paprika or parsley. Bake 375 for about an hour. Serve with gravy alongside.

Recipe - Swedish Meatballs

This week we took a meal to one of the families Greg home teaches because they had a new baby. Receiving meals after I had Palmer was such a blessing and now that I know just what a service it is, I try to pass on the kindness. We took them Swedish meatballs, warm from the oven Parmesan breadsticks, peas, and raspberry cream pie. This Swedish meatball recipe is so very easy and has a nice comfort food quality about it. Enjoy!

Swedish Meatballs

2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 c. sour cream
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
¼ c. milk
frozen meatballs, enough to feed your family
egg noodles, cooked

Mix all ingredients, except for noodles and meatballs, together in sauce pan. Bring to a slight boil. Reduce the heat and add meatballs. Simmer about 15 minutes, or until meatballs are warmed through. Serve over cooked noodles.

Recipe - Raspberry Cream Pie

I love this dessert, but don't have the justification to make it too often because it makes three pies at once. This time I took one pie with the dinner I made for a ward member, kept another and had planned on giving the third away, but whoops, we quickly ate the first and started on the second before I got rid of it!

Raspberry Cream Pie

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 3 oz. package of raspberry Jello
1 cup boiling water
1 small package of frozen raspberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pint whipping cream
3 9 inch graham cracker pie shells

Cream sugar and cream cheese in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, dissolve Jello in boiling water and add frozen raspberries to cool it down. Add lemon juice to Jello mixture. In a third bowl, beat whipping cream. Add Jello mixture to sugar and cream cheese. Beat until smooth. Fold in whipping cream and pour into pie shells. Chill for 2 to 3 hours or until pies set. Store in refrigerator.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Friends

Thanks to our parents, who gave Greg and I very generous amounts of money for Christmas, I was able to purchase an iPod Nano. This is my first MP3 player and I must say I am in love with it! The one I wanted, the blue 16GB, was out everywhere, so we had to order it. It took a couple weeks to make it to me, but it was worth the wait. It has made my workouts so much more enjoyable! And now I can listen to the book our book group is currently reading while cleaning and not have to feel guilty about neglecting my house and family in order to finish it on time. It's totally fab!

Greg spent his money on the full band kit for Guitar Hero World Tour. I had bought him the game and guitar on Black Friday because I was able to get a killer deal on it, but now that he had enough money, he wanted the drums and microphone too. We put the slightly used game and guitar on KSL for the price we purchased it and it sold in one hour! Greg is a drummer, so I wasn't surprised that he liked the drums but he has also enjoyed singing to the songs as well. Anyone up for a Wii game night?

What fun, what fun!

Monday, January 5, 2009

My Fairy Tale Wedding

I posted in December about our tree and how it is decorated with all the ornaments from our wedding. I received a couple requests to post our wedding pictures, so for those of you who missed the event, here they are! What I loved about our wedding day:

  • I was married in the right place to the right person.

  • Greg was so excited that he showed up at the temple more than an hour early and was given some wedding advice from the temple workers as he waited for everyone else.

  • I was a little nervous beforehand but once I entered the sealing room I felt absolute peace.

  • Since my mother was physically handicapped and was unable to help me get into my dress, I was allowed to have not only her but also my mother-in-law in the bride's room with me.

  • We held a ring ceremony on the temple grounds afterwards. My father officiated and we recited to each other the same scripture my parents and older sister and her husband said to each other at their weddings. Ruth 1:16 "...for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."

  • We took lots of kissy pictures. Greg and I kissing, Greg and I and my parents and his parents kissing, Greg's sisters kissing his cheeks, me kissing my mom's cheek, etc. (This, by the way, is the only page I have scrapbooked of my wedding. I have done countless wedding albums for friends and for business, but have never gotten to my own.)
What I loved about our wedding reception:

  • It was absolutely beautiful! I love the cool muted colors of winter, I love the soft delicate snowflakes and anything that sparkles and glistens, and all of that was captured perfectly. Just about the whole ward left their lighted Christmas trees put together after Christmas so that we could use them at the reception.

  • We had live music, a pianist and two violinists. The same trio played at my mother's viewing two and a half years later.

  • So many wonderful friends and family came to support and congratulate us.

  • Our sign in book was a scrapbook I had made of our engagement pictures with open spaces for journaling intended for our friends and family. I often go back and read everyone's well wishes and encouragement.

  • After smashing cake in each other's faces, to all the guests astonishment, Greg licked the frosting off the side of my face.

  • My cake was gorgeous! It was from Schmidt's Bakery where Greg's sister worked at the time. It was totally custom designed by my older sister and I. There were intricately rolled fondant snowflakes with silver balls covering the cake.

  • Greg's father cut in on my dance with my father and instead of dancing with me, to the utter embarrassment of my father, he started dancing with him.

  • Our car was decked out with Saran Wrap around the doors, condom balloons, slightly obscene writing, and Oreo's spelling out the word "love". The Oreo's froze to the car and we were initially unable to get them off, so on our honeymoon trip to Sun Valley, one by one they would fly off the hood and smack into our windshield.
Such wonderful memories I have of our wedding day. I would do it all over again every year if I could! I guess a nice anniversary date will have to be suffice.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Four Year Anniversary

Four years ago today I was lucky enough to marry my sweetheart, and the love of my life, my hubby Greg. He is such a wonderful husband and father. He is extremely patient and kind. He never gets angry at me. (I wish I could return that favor, but for some reason I seem to care about a lot more things than he does.) He has a great sense of humor, and always makes me laugh. He makes life fun. He has a strong testimony of the gospel and is a good and worthy priesthood holder. I am so thankful he chose me to be his eternal companion. I love him more and more each day!

We celebrated our anniversary in grand fashion this year, as in we spent a lot of money and went out without the baby... a couple things we rarely do.

Friday night we went to see Body Worlds 3. Greg has been dying to go, and we could finally justify the money. It was truly fascinating. A few parts were a bit much for me and I got a little creeped out, but Greg was enthralled. Palmer was a perfect little boy. We were in line for an hour and the exhibit took another two hours, and the elevator from the parking lot to the museum was broken, so we had to hike the baby and stroller up the outside stairs, but he took it all like a trooper. The people in line were loving his smiles and flirtation.

Saturday we had Greg's mom babysit. First we went to a matinee of Marley and Me. We loved it! So sweet, so easy to relate to. I'm not even a huge animal lover and I was very touched by the film. The film was good fun and had lots of laughs, and even surprisingly, a lot of deeper significance. It gets the Hess seal of approval.

We went to lunch at Rodizio Grill, one of our favorite places that we only allow ourselves to go to on birthdays or anniversaries. It did not disappoint. Oh... the pineapple... my mouth waters just thinking of it! Afterwards we stopped by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for some gourmet caramel apples. Greg has gotten me hooked on the apple pie variety (caramel, white chocolate, cinnamon and sugar, it's absolute loveliness!).

Palmer even had a nice surprise for us today. Greg was letting him chew on his finger in Gospel Doctrine, and he felt a tooth. Upon our investigation we discovered that both bottom front two teeth had finally popped out!

Woo Hoo! Greg and Lera, four years and still going strong!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Eight Months

At eight months Palmer is wigglier than ever! He can't crawl yet, but he still finds ways to get into everything. Changing diapers is a joke. Trying to hold him in your lap is almost impossible; I can't even burp him anymore because he won't sit still. I put him down for a nap this afternoon and when I went in 20 minutes later to check on him, he had wiggled out of his pants. Oh goodness!

He has learned: to sit on his own, more babbling (now mutters mama, dada, bub and bob), has started using a sippy cup and feeding himself with his Fresh Food Feeder, and today he was giving me five (I'll have to see if he remembers how to do it tomorrow)

His likes: toys, toys and more toys, being tickled, getting out of the house at least once a day, the wind, his jumperoo, baby food, and some adult food (I let him try a little bit of his first cookie, a snickerdoodle, and it was quite the hit)

His dislikes: his winter coat, too much noise and stimulation, watching others eat when he is not eating

Things he does that makes us laugh: "swims" when on his belly (his arms are always out to the side like an airplane as he bobs his head and chest and kicks his feet - shown above), shoves his fingers in our mouths and all over our faces, lots of smiles and laughs

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year

New Years was pretty laid back this year. We had dinner with Greg's family on the New Years Eve and went home around ten to put Palmer to bed. Greg watched a movie and I read and then at five til midnight we tuned in to watch the ball drop. New Years Day we visited my family, dejunked a big part of our backroom (stuff left from my parents, who we bought the house from), and I made a yummy meal.

2008 was a great year for us. I am so thankful for all we are blessed with: our family, friends, home, jobs, ward... I could go on and on.

I am also looking forward to the new year, and am excited to have a fresh start on some goals I've left to the wayside. This year I am trying to stick to only a few so that I can really focus on them and not feel so overwhelmed. My physical goal is to lose weight (the same every year, sigh) by exercising regularly and cutting out the sweets (gasp, I know I took this one hard too). I do still love to bake though, so my friends and neighbors can look forward to some yummy treats as I give away most of the goods in attempts to not eat them all. My spiritual goal is to attend the temple once a month. When we are steady in our temple attendance, life just seems to be better. I am happier and more at peace. And lastly, a personal goal, I will finish my book. I started writing a novel a couple months ago, and have been neglecting it a bit lately. I'll have to give myself a page quota to meet each week. Greg and I have a couples goal as well - to live within our means and not use credit. We sat down and figured out a budget today; it will be difficult, but we have faith that we will be provided for.

Well there it is. I've told all of cyberworld my resolutions. I suppose that means I had better follow through, because if I don't, everyone will know of my failures. Yikes! There's some motivation.