Thursday, February 10, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Today after a busy schooling morning we decided to make Apple Cinnamon Rolls.  Fresh baked apple bread is such a great fall treat, but I couldn't resist trying out this recipe.

6-6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 pkgs. instant dry yeast
2 cups milk
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 cup butter, divided 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup
1 1/2 t. salt
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 t. plus 1/4 t. cinnamon
3/4 cup apple butter (I used applesauce)
2 cups apples, peeled and chopped
1 cup powdered sugar
1-3 T. apple juice

Combine 3 cups of the flour and yeast; set aside. In a saucepan, mix milk, sugar, 1/4 cup butter and salt until warm and butter begins to melt; stir into flour mixture (make sure milk mixture has cooled enough so as not to kill yeast). Add egg and beat on low for on minute. Increase speed to high for 3 minutes. Blend as much of the remaining flour as you can with a spoon. On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough of the remaining flour until dough is smooth. Place dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides. Let rise in a warm place for one hour or until double in size. Mix brown sugar, remaining butter and 2 t. cinnamon; Stir in apple butter (or applesauce) and chopped apple; set aside. When dough has risen, punch down and place on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and let rest 10 minutes. Roll each section of dough into a 16"X12" rectangle and top with half of the apple filling. Roll up each half of dough, jelly-roll style, beginning with the short end. Cut each roll into 6 slices and place, cut side down on a greased 13"X9" pan. Let rise until double then bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Blend powdered sugar, remaining cinnamon and one tablespoon of apple juice; add more apple juice, one teaspoon at a time until icing is desired consistency. Drizzle over rolls. Makes 12 large rolls.

The Dough

Dough topped with brown sugar mixture

The Roll-Up


Fresh out of the oven

Ready to eat!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A WOW of a Day!

Sometimes, friends say I exhaust them.  I try not to take it personally, it's just the way we roll.  It's not that I'm an energy drainer, but the pace at which we live life can be a bit faster and more spontaneous than many people prefer.  Fortunately, I married a man that moves at the same pace and we've produced offspring who take after their parents. 

This week I discovered Ree Drummond, a.k.a. Pioneer Woman, was going to be at a local Barnes and Noble for a book signing.  Occasionally, I follow her blog as she is a fellow homeschooler, baker, cook, photographer, writer, etc.  I can identify with the first three things and when I grow up I'd like to follow in her footsteps as a photographer and a writer.  I admire what she's developed from the small beginnings of a blog.  It amazes me.  I'm not quite sure how she does it all.  She must have Martha.  Martha's still one of my top faves, but Pioneer Woman seems to be a more down to earth, mud on the boots, adjusting-the-lingerie-in-public type of homeschool girlie who might be a little like a hair-in-a-pony messy kitchen girlie like me.  Martha's world is just what I dream of...someday.  It's all so perfect and beautiful.  It's really a Good Thing!  (Please no chastising me because I want to be Martha.  For me it's kind of like my kids dreaming of having a super-power.  My son wants to fly, and I want to be Martha).

Anyway, back to Pioneer Woman.  The evening before the event, I called Barnes and Noble for details.  I soon learned it was a "wristband" event.  Ugh!  This meant I'd have to drive about an hour, with the kids in the early morning, to hopefully get the wristband, then drive home only to drive back in the evening for the book signing.  I have a lot of energy, but I just didn't feel I had it in me to make the trek.

The next morning, after a cup of coffee and a discussion with the kids, we decided to just head out to B and N and enjoy the morning.  If I got a wristband I got a wristband.  If they were out ,we'd just have a treat, wander around the Farmer's Market and then head home.  Simple and casual. 

Beautiful Day

When we showed up to B and N we walked right up to the counter, got the wristband labeled "A" and left. So simple! Okay, first item checked off the list.

Got the wristband!

Off to the Farmer's Market.  I love this place!

The Grove
After the Farmer's Market we headed out walk a bit more so the kids could enjoy their slushie treats.  Then we noticed some filming activity.  We walked up and saw they were filming that evening's episode of EXTRA with Mario Lopez.  Fun! I snapped a couple pics of Mario and we stood watching the bustle of activity involved in filming.

Mario Lopez

While we were standing around watching, the organizer-type guy motioned for us to fill in the background.  He told us to "Move in, move in."  I looked at the kids and started giggling.  They returned with puzzled glances.  I then told them, "I think we're going to be on TV."  The next thing I knew, a gal told me to stand right next to Mario and that we were going to have a conversation.  I asked him what we were going to talk about and he said, "I'll tell you."  He was so nice and made everyone feel at ease.  The kids were place next to him also.  Our youngest was so excited about her television debut! 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we don't have cable, so I asked friends and/or family to DVR the episode for us.  It looks like it may be months, but one day we'll be able to see it.  Apparently, we were on about four times.

As we were leaving, our youngest told me how much she loved being in front of the camera.  So cute!

After our 15 seconds of fame we headed home for the daily routine activities.  We were all excited about our surprise EXTRA event and the kids were busily calling grandparents, aunts, and friends letting them know to watch.

Late in the afternoon I headed back to B and N for the book signing.  Traffic was minimal and I made it in good time.  I was directed upstairs and placed in the "A" line.  I was nearly at the front of the line. 

Waiting for Ree to show up

The signing area

Just after 6:00pm Ree showed up.  She looked almost like what I expected.  She seemed different than her pictures in real-life.  She was so sweet and gracious.  Some gals had waited all day, and somehow I was in front of them.  Funny how that works out.  Anyway, when my turn came, rather than have someone else take the pic I opted for my famous self-portrait that I do with friends.  I know she's not a "real" friend, but when you follow someone on-line you kind of feel like they're a friend.  I think of my mom when she used to refer to her friends Jim (Dr. James Dobson) and Chuck (Chuck Swindoll) like they were her good buddies.  I guess when you listen to or read about someone you begin to feel like you know them. 

I told Ree we homeschooled also and we compared ages of kids.  It was a short meeting, but it was worth the craziness of the busy day.  I guess this is one more day lived to the fullest!

Ree signing other books

Ree and Me

The Book

Monday, February 07, 2011

Super Bowl XLV 2011

We don't have cable.  We thought it would be a good idea.  Cutting cable saves a few extra dollars in the monthly budget.  And, I read The Plug-In Drug over the last year.  It was definitely not one of my favorite books.  I committed to read it, and persevered.  Granted, I would usually only read 1-2 pages per day, so let's say, it took me about 200 days to finish it (and those were not consecutive days).  That's pretty pitiful and downright sad, but I just couldn't get into a book that found it appalling that a child would want to watch Electric Company.  Oooooo....Yikes!  Or perhaps Flintstones.  I think the book needs to be updated.  These days there's a lot more on TV/cable and most parents would be grateful for a little Electric Company.  Remember B...AT, Bat, C...At, Cat, etc.?  Okay, if you don't maybe you can find it somewhere online. 

Anyway, I already know watching a bunch of television isn't great.  Kids who don't watch hours of television might do more interactive things, like play games with each other.  Furthermore, moms who love FOX News might have to check the news in the morning, and then not worry about the troubles of the world for the rest of the day.  Lastly, husbands who don't have access to television may not be able to watch soccer highlights.  My sweetheart loves his soccer.  These are all good things in moderation, but we were just feeling they might have been interrupting some of our quality family time.

Well, since cutting the TV IV out of our home life, our kids do play more games together.  In fact they'd love to play board games all day.  We're all reading much more and we have extra time for activities, exercise, sports, piano, and the like.

Now, don't think we're proud or cool over this little experiment.  We still have televisions in our house.  Unlike the days mentioned in The Plug-In Drug, we don't have an antennae that might blow over in a wind storm thus inhibiting television viewing.  We also don't have televisions that break down for that matter.  I'm not going to throw out a perfectly good flat screen.  I'm not crazy!  We still access Netflix through the Wii.  We're not anti-gaming, but we limit them considerably.  We do watch movies.  Friday night, movie night is one of the best nights at our house.  We have traditions.  I'm not going to throw that baby out with the bath water.  And, our kids have now found an appreciation for The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy.  That makes me smile for some reason.

So, for the most part, the benefits have far outweighed the negatives for cable-free home life.  There are, however, a few exceptions.  Super Bowl.  This year as Super Bowl XLV rolled around we had no plans for watching.  I guess we could have huddled around a computer to try to catch it, but that wouldn't have been much fun.  So, what to do when you live in Southern California and you don't have a way to watch the Super Bowl?  Go to Downtown Disney and watch it at ESPN Zone!  I think that's a perfect way to make lemonade out of lemons.

So, here's my sweetheart and boys hanging out in front of ESPN ZONE watching the game on the BIG SCREENS! I must admit I'm not so much a football girlie. So, my girlie and I went to Sephora for a bit and made it back for the fun, energy boosting half-time show.

Rainforest Cafe in the background

Notice the beautiful glow on my cheek bone?  Or perhaps the highlight on my browbone?  Thank you Sephora!

Downtown Disney

Fergie and the half-time show....Boom Boom Pow!

The wait to eat inside was CRAZY, but we had a good time hanging out with the other sports fans outside.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

My Kind of Celebrity

Our Family with Fred Thompson

One of the GREATEST weeks of my Life! Pt. 3

Sometimes, I really don't like it when someone tells me I can't do something.  This happened this week on February 2nd.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, we receive email updates for upcoming events at the Reagan Library & Museum.  One such update I received, was for the Centennial Concert being held at the Library on February 5th, 2011.  Again, this was an event that wasn't, supposedly, open to the General Public, but I received an email that had an rsvp on it.  I didn't click on it because I figured it was sold out.

At the Library on February 2nd, I was talking with a younger docent (younger meaning, she didn't have gray hair).  I mentioned that I had received an email about the concert.  Before I even had the words out of my mouth, she began shaking her head, "No," in a manner that to me spoke, "You can't go!"  Hmmm...Really?  But I got the email?  So while waiting for the lecture to begin, I checked my email (yes, I do love my new phone) and for the heck of it rsvp'd.  There was a waiting list, but I figured, it doesn't hurt to try.

At about 9:00pm on the evening of February 3rd, I got email notification that we were no longer on the wait list. WE WERE GOING TO THE CONCERT!!  The live concert featured many great bands, speakers, and political leaders.  Amazing, simply amazing!  I was feeling quite blessed!

While visiting the Library on the 4th, I once again ran into that young docent.  I exclaimed, "We got tickets to the concert!"  I think she was in shock.  She congratulated us and by her expression I could see she was just as surprised as I was.

So, on the afternoon of February 5th, after two basketball games and a baseball clinic, we headed out to Simi Valley once again.  This time the kids and I were accompanied by their Dad, my sweetheart.  This was his maiden voyage to the illustrious Reagan Library.  There was no disguising my anticipation and excitement for him to see one of my favorite destinations.

We arrived to the shuttle parking lot and rode the bus to the Library.  This is a good experience for homeschoolers- riding the bus.  It allows them to check that one off their curiosity list.

We arrived and were directed to get in line for the concert held in the Air Force One Pavilion.  The Pavilion was shining like I've never seen it shine before.  Beauty, absolute beauty.  We were given the "Gray" sticker.  It designates where you can sit.  We sat on the second floor, but I wanted to be closer.  I did some talking and found we could sit on the main floor.  I quickly did some more talking, secured five seats with a great view and we were on our way.

Sharing one of my loves with my LOVE

Under Air Force 1.  We sat in this section of chairs at the bottom of the photo.

At our first table, but we quickly moved after the kids ate a hot dog

So cute!

The Program for the Evening

Video Tribute

Video Tribute, Mrs. Reagan

The Stage

The evening began with a welcome from John Heubusch and a video tribute on The Life of Ronald Reagan.  Fred Thompson emceed the events of the night.

Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson

USC Marching Band

USC Marching Band
Drums, horns and marching from the USC Marching band followed.  Oh My!!  I think I want to take up the clarinet again, go to USC and learn to march.  I'm not a Trojan, but if I was I'd probably have fainted with excitement.  They were GREAT!  Goosebumps!

There were a number of remarks given by younger men and women who were part of the National Youth Leadership Committee.  They were bright, confident leaders.  This is an organization I need to find out more about.

Then came LONESTAR.  I remember listening to Lonestar just after our first son was born.  I think I nearly wore out the cd.  I remember painting a room yellow in a rental we were living in while we were building our first house.  I played AMAZED over and over and over again.  Still love that song and LOVE the LOVE that Ronnie and Nancy had.





Jerry West, famous L.A. Laker spoke about President Reagan. 

There were video tributes from Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush

President George H.W. Bush

President George W. Bush
Next up with Roger Williams.  When he walked on the stage, my little precious girlie whispered, "What's so special about him?"  He then sat down at the piano and proceeded to WOW us with his magnificent talent.  After the first song, I leaned over to her and whispered, "Do you now hear what's so special about him?"  She quickly grinned. 

One thing we didn't know was Roger Williams and Ronald Reagan both started out at the same radio station in Des Moines, Iowa.  Reagan called sporting events and Williams had a program playing piano.  I think that's very interesting.

Mr. Roger Williams

Mr. Roger Williams
Roger Williams played Our Love is Here to Stay to a video tribute to the loved shared between Ronald and Nancy Reagan.  I couldn't help but cry my eyes out.  They have such a beautiful love story!  He also played Impossible Dream.  He read some of the words to us and stated he felt those words told the story of Ronald Reagan better than any other.  The words are worth reflecting upon.

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

After Roger Williams we heard from Jeffrey Immelt.  My hub saw him earlier in the evening and knew immediately who he was.  I didn't know, but I don't follow business the way he does.  Following Jeffery Immelt we heard video tributes from Edwin Meese, Marlin Fitzwater, Aaron Schock, AND the Jonas Brothers.  Not sure how they got in that line-up, but my girlie was pretty excited to see them on the screens.

I wish I could tell you which Jonas was which, but I'll leave that to the more educated pop culture peeps in my life.
The next performer of the night had me in tears again.  She sang Someone Like You from Les Miserables, and I Dreamed a Dream from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Beautiful voice!

Camp Rock's Ana Maria Perez de Tagle 
On the political forefront we saw many greats in the audience.  Among them were George Schulz.  I think I saw Jan Brewer.  Sam Donaldson was present.  Gov. Rick Perry spoke about President Reagan's Greatness.  I've often wondered if we should move to Texas.  I think many of my people are there.

Governor Rick Perry, TX

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry
Next up was one of the Reagan's favorite bands...The Beach Boys!  What an energizing, fun-filled time!  Everyone loves the classic Beach Boys tunes, but how much better are they when you live in Southern California?  There were suited people in their 60's dancing, whooping it up when the Beach Boys hit the stage.  AND much to our surprise, a guest band member, John Stamos, was there to sing and play with them.  Our kids, who are allowed to watch Full House, were so excited to see Jesse in "real life!" 

Okay, maybe I went a little crazy with the Beach Boys pics, but I couldn't resist.  I remember seeing them when I was a kid at a local fair.  They were great then, they're great now!

We're coming to the end of the evening.  I'm so happy to report Peggy Noonan was able to be there!  She missed the lecture on Tuesday evening, but apparently was able to make it out for this special event.

Peggy Noonan.  If you haven't read When Character Was King, it's well worth the read.
Peggy Noonan

We were honored to have representatives from the USS Ronald Reagan present.  They spoke about his legacy and how he has impacted their lives.  There was also a video tribute from the Captain of the USS Ronald Reagan.  I'm forever grateful Ronald Reagan honored our military.  I'm sure he would have been so humbled and proud of the service of our many men and women around the globe.

Wrapping up the evening was a performance of America by the Los Robles Master Chorale followed up by the finale of God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood.  I was so completely awed and privileged to be present at this event.  My heart is full!

Lee Greenwood

Lee Greenwood

Here we are with Fred Thompson.  I wish the man who offered to take the pic would have turned the camera.  Oh well!

The End of a GREAT night!
Happy Birthday Mr. President!