Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of Twenty-ten

Don't you just love reading end of the year top ten lists?  Best movies, books, songs, news stories, inventions. Always makes me feel like I'm watching history unfold.  My own personal list isn't full of anything new or shocking, but these are ten discoveries that have made my year a little happier...

01.  audiobooks
I don't know how I'd ever work out, fold laundry, or get through all my other zillions of mind-numbing momtasks without audible entertainment.  And let's face it, once the twins started all-day school, the house was just WAY too quiet.  My listening library is a life saver.

02.  cerave skin care
Sara Vee?  Saravay?  Karavie?   I'm not sure how to say it, but I love this stuff.  It's cheap.  It's gentle.  It's recommended by my dermatologist.  Hey, I'm 40 now.  My skin needs all the help it can get.

03.  crossword love

Call me nerd if you must, but crosswords are my new favorite brain workout.  USA Today puzzles are the best, in my opinion.  And, if your husband travels a lot, he can bring them to you from hotel rooms around the country.  Sweet.

04.  my iphone
Yeah.  The whole smartphone revolution...I get it now.  

05.  friday night lights

Brad and I are addicted.  It's enough "All My Children" for me and plenty of "Sports Center" for him.  He doesn't seem to mind that I have a teeny crush on Coach Taylor.  Maybe because he thinks Tami is pretty cute.  Thank you, Netflix.

06.  charming charlie

I didn't know such a store existed til we moved West.  Can you say "candy store for grown women"!?  Cheap and non-fattening.  Also known to cure PMS.

07.  honey + licorice

These got me through my last East Coast winter.  (And it was a doozy...)  Sadly, I have not been able to find them anywhere since we moved.  I will keep scouring drugstore shelves, though, because my pocketbook is lonesome for their crinkly-wrapped goodness.

08.  shower power
Tilex Fresh Shower.  You know the kind you spray and leave?  And your brand-new, beautifully tiled shower stays streak- and mildew-free?  I love housekeeping when it's this simple.

09.  digital trainer

I've been using  MapMyRun  to help me stay motivated this month.  Technology is just so great.  With the help of #1 and #4, this little app is digitally kicking my trash.

10.  babysitters in da howse

The single greatest discovery of 2010 is the fact that my kids can take care of themselves for a few hours while Brad and I catch a movie or grab a bite.  In other words, I am saving so much money, I can head to Charming Charlie on a regular basis.  And I can go child-free!  Happy New Year to me.

What's on your Top Ten?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Christmas When

2010 was the Christmas when Opa and Oma came to stay.  Oma treated the girls to pedicures, lunch and shopping.  Opa got up early to repair and wax all our antique leather books. (How many houseguests do that?!)  They spent lots of time loving their grandkids and no one wanted them to leave.
It was the Christmas when, for the first time EVER, our kids got to celebrate the big day with both sets of grandparents.  

How lucky am I?  My parents are healthy, happy and still in love with each other.  My in-laws are healthy, happy and still in love with each other.  Both sets of parents get along without a single bit of drama.  They all dote on their grandchildren AND make Brad and me feel like capable, successful adults.  I realize that we represent a very small subset of the population in this respect, but I am thankful.  It made for a merry Christmas.

2010 was the Christmas when Nana brought her world-famous Swedish tea ring for breakfast and helped us start a new Christmas dinner tradition. (And this recipe was perfect for an apres-bain repast.)

This was the Christmas when Santa's elves brought a hot tub just in time for some Yuletide soaking.  Mrs. Claus especially appreciated the hydrotherapy.
2010 was the Christmas when we brought our traditional Christmas Eve hot-dog roasting party out west.  Instead of old pals standing by the fireplace, we got to know some new friends as we sat around the backyard fire pit.  We discovered that the Christmas spirit isn't subject to temperature change.

This was the Christmas when everyone's favorite gift rolled into the backyard...
...and took away more than it left behind!
Come for a dip in 2011!

 Happy New Year and thanks to everyone who made our Christmas so merry.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Hacienda

Yay!  My laptop is alive!  The camera is a little blurry, but it would be asking too much for everything to function perfectly at once, right?  Anyway, here is a little peek into our desert Christmas.

Last month I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get into the Christmas Spirit without snow or cozy sweaters.  But it's amazing how 72 degree sunshine can put you in the ho-ho-holiday mood.  I love running all my errands without a bulky coat.  I love shooing the kids outside while I play Mrs. Claus indoors.

I love my Christmas cards!  Just looking at my photogenic friends and family puts me in the holliest, jolliest mood ever.  You know what I think when I look at this wall?  I think, If I died tomorrow, these are the people who would care.  Is that weird?  I find it vaguely comforting.  

Unpacking the Santas and little forest of Christmas trees, I felt like I was reuniting with old friends.  They help make our new house feel a little more like home.

The train is circling the living room tree, but I'm finding my little engineers aren't quite as captivated with the chugga-chugging this year.  Sad.

And the Tooth Fairy finally made a stop at Luke's pillow!  All he wants for Christmas is his two front teeth.  And a Bakugan.  And a plasma car.  And Rock Band.  And a puppy...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

No, I'm Not Dead. But My Laptop Might Be.

Everyone close your eyes right now and say a little Christmas prayer for the Gabtop 3000.  She is in the fight of her life, trying to survive a bout with a deadly online virus.  Terminal illness is never convenient.  But in the month of December, it can be particularly painful.  And since Brad's big old bulky desktop isn't really a fan of snuggling by the Christmas tree, my online shopping (not to mention my cyber social life) is suffering.  Big Time.

But here is what I have been doing in my screen-free time:

Moving to a new place is like going to a new high school.  You find yourself trying new things.  Hanging out with a different crowd. Taking new classes, inventing a new persona. Insecure teens might get talked into drugs or alcohol.  Insecure 40 year olds might get talked into running a 24 hour overnight relay.

Yes, I am running the Ragnar Del Sol in less than three months.  No, I have never done anything remotely like this in my entire life.  Yes, I am racing with 11 other Mormon moms.  (We have approximately 55 kids between the 12 of us and are seriously considering the team name "Sister Wives.")  Yes, I am training every day.  No, I have not experienced any notable weight-loss.  But, yes, it is surprisingly fun and addictive.

The kids are running too.  I guess 24/7 sunshine just makes everybody want to lace up the sneakers.  The PE teacher sponsors a twice-weekly running club after school, so that's where we can all be found Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.  Some of us are fast, some of us are slow.  Some of us whine and some of us glow. Needless to say, the backseat of the minivan is not the place you want to be on a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon.  Post-run showers are mandatory.

So this is the part where I ask any runners out there for advice on shoes or training or good music for the iPod.  In the past, my eyes would completely glaze over when I encountered any running I promise not to get zealous.

 And, if the sick laptop ever makes a miraculous holiday recovery, I will post photos of our Christmas Casa!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Drumsticks and Sunshine

Our Black Friday this year was actually quite golden.  No mall, no movie theater, no boots, no gloves, no shoveling.  Just a big blue sky, sixty degree temperatures and a lovely family hike up Goldmine Mountain.  Not sure it burned off the butter fest known as Thanksgiving Twenty-Ten, but it was a start.

Having some family in our hometown made Thanksgiving so easy! Grandparents, cousins and friends came just for the afternoon.  No one had to cross a time zone or brave a blizzard or get the airport pat-down.

The food was all homemade and delicious.  And nothing makes a house feel more like home than hosting family and friends.  Much to be thankful for!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Our new hometown is one part Southern California and one part Laramie, Wyoming.

Last night, we hitched up our britches, pulled on our boots and headed to our first-ever rodeo.

Cute cowgirls,
hotdoggies and chili,
country music, pony rides and chicken chasing.   

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Weather, Harry Potter and Other Things I Know You're Dying to Hear About

Ahhh.  November in Arizona is complete heaven.  The sun shines every day.  Temperatures hover around 75 during the day, then cool off enough for cozy jammies at night.  My kids are constantly outside.  I go for a jog in the sunshine every morning.  THIS is why we live here.

The twins are settling nicely into first grade.  However, Luke has decided he wants nothing to do with his brother.  Last week, he was "Hero of the Week" and did not want to include a single picture of Sam on his poster.  I guess this makes sense developmentally.  He wants to be his own person...define himself.  But it makes me a little sad.

They have also decided they want to play separate sports.  Sam-soccer.  Luke-tennis.  But I am torturing them both with piano lessons!  They started this week.

Last week, Brad and I took a trip to Orlando.  We did the parks WITHOUT the kids.  Pure fun.  Harry Potter at Universal Studios was the highlight.  (Crowded but worth the wait!) We really are kids at heart.  Thanks, Babe for planning.  Thanks to Nana and Aunt Geesh for babysitting.

Em chose to choreograph a roller-blade number for the Activity Girls' Talent Night at church.  She performed beautifully, especially considering the fact that the day before she had five (!) teeth pulled.  Two of the teeth removed had crowns.  Nice.  I love paying to have all that expensive work taken out.  By the time this kid is 18, she will have a million dollar smile.  Literally.
Jake has become a sixth grade party animal.  The doorbell rings non-stop with friends asking to play.  He bikes to the park everyday with his buddies, has all kinds of birthday party invites and a great scout troop.  For the first time in his life, Jake has an age-appropriate social life and I am so happy for him.

Life is good.

Monday, November 1, 2010

November Cleanse and List Day

November 1 was official Cleanse and List Day around here. I feel so much better. Some serious pumpkin-pitching, one manic trip to the carwash, a fast-acting Fiber One bar for breakfast and I am a whole new woman.

I also got my new yellow legal pad (mini-size) ready for the annual Christmas list.

Now I know there is certainly some higher-tech way I should be organizing my Christmas plans. I know there probably is some foolproof holiday app right at my fingertips. But, quite frankly, I enjoy keeping the holiday a pen-and-paper kind of operation, okay?

Besides, my kids will definitely find the list if it's hidden on the iPhone. But if it is out in plain sight, on the kitchen counter, on the same kind of paper that I use for the Saturday chore lists, they will avoid it like a green vegetable.

I have saved my Christmas legal pads for years all wrapped up in rubber bands. I think it's fun to go back and read what I gave everybody in 2008 (Phillies' World Series sweatshirts) and what the kids wanted when they were really little. (2010 will be the first Christmas in years with no Thomas trains under the tree. Sniff.)

At the back of my little trusty legal pads, I also write a post-holiday review and helpful hints to remember next year. Order more cards! Send packages before Thanksgiving! Neighbor cookie party= big hit! Reading notes from my former festive self actually energizes me and gets me right back in the holiday spirit.

Last year I wrote: Keep It Simple! No Homemade Anything!

Now, I am NOT trying to rush the Christmas season. I honestly became nauseous last week in Hobby Lobby's pine and tinsel aisle. (Seriously, how can anyone stomach Silver Bells and cinnamon pine cones when it is 89 degrees?)

However turning 40 has led me down a path of increased self-awareness and I DO know myself pretty well after all these years. I know that I am an early bird....I get my best day's work done before noon, I get my best holiday cheer on before Thanksgiving. The longer I leave tasks undone, even fun yuletide tasks, the less likely I am to ever get them finished.

So today, I struck while the iron (and desert sun) were hot. I ordered a few gifts online. I planned a few holiday surprises. I threw out the Jack-o-lanterns. I walked off a couple Hershey miniatures. It felt good.

Holiday madness? Bring it on. My legal pad and I are ready.

For now anyway.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Boo to You

What happened to my cute little scarecrows, clowns and kitty cats? Yikes.

The kids are sugared up, the pumpkins are carved up and my house is seriously messed up.

No time to write tonight. But here is one of my all-time favorite Halloween posts, for old time's sake.

Happy Halloween to everyone. Here's hoping your kids share their Snickers and that the pumpkin guts come out of your new carpet.

Love, The Gab-lin

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Not Good, Not Bad, Just Different: Old vs. New

It's been four months since our little minivan rolled out of a Philadelphia suburb and followed the sun to the Grand Canyon State. Hard to believe, we've already had a quarter of a year to get used to life in the wild, wild West. It's a bigger adjustment than I expected.

Although both Brad and I grew up west of the Mississippi, it is amazing how a dozen adult years along the Atlantic Seaboard turned us into a pair of East Coast snobs.

Now that we have returned to our western roots, we've experienced just a wee bit of culture shock. Some changes have been wonderful (My car actually fits in the garage!) and some not so much (Really? This is the best bagel place in town?).

But, like my dad always taught us kids when traveling to new places, "Remember differences aren't good. They aren't bad. They're just different."

I'm trying to teach my kids the same lesson...and remind myself, too.

Here's one of the biggest differences between living in the Northeast and living in the Southwest... Old versus New.

Every fifth grader knows that Pennsylvania was one of the original 13 colonies. So we got used to old. Historical landmarks and places steeped in tradition. A little crumbly around the edges, sometimes. But charmingly so.

Arizona, on the other hand, was the last continental state admitted to the Union. There's not a lot of old stuff here. Plus, it doesn't rain much, so things don't get damp or dingy. A little dusty, maybe, but no moldy oldies. Our kids have all noticed that the cars here all look new and shiny. Everything here seems new and shiny.

I like new and I like shiny, within reason. In places like the gym or the post office or the grocery store, newness is a very good thing. I love the fact that our new dentist's office and hair salons are space-age and gleaming.

But my heart absolutely aches for beautiful old churches, historical homes, and century-old cemeteries. Driving around a whole bunch of pre-planned neighborhoods and strip malls all day can feel pretty soulless sometimes.
Back in PA, most everyone we knew lived in older homes. All our friends were remodeling or updating or ripping out old wallpaper. A couple years ago, every home in our neighborhood turned 30 and every family in the development got a new roof for Christmas or Hannukkah.

In our new stomping grounds, most houses are less than 5 years old. Everything smells like new paint. Travertine and stainless and hand-scraped wood surfaces shimmer. Nothing is stained or cracked or broken in.

It's fun to walk through all the bright new spaces, but sometimes I have a really, really, really hard time not breaking the Tenth Commandment. Today I took the kids to a birthday party and, while they ricocheted through the inflatable slides and bouncehouses, I wandered the Tommy Bahama-themed backyard and patio turning every shade of green.

That's the main problem, I think with new. It is addictive. A new house calls for new furniture, new appliances, new accessories. New. New. New. And soon, the new stuff is old and you have to start all over again.

But old has its problems too. Progress happens for a reason. I mean, who wants to live without air conditioning or Netflix these days? Not me.

And so, this cross-country adventure has reminded me about the importance of honoring the old while still embracing the new. I'm looking for new friendships and new favorite lunch spots, trying not to miss dear old friends and places too much.

It's tough, sometimes. But it's not good. It's not bad. It's just different.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Off the Vine

I've been spending a lot of time with my pumpkins the last 2 1/2 weeks and have developed a love/hate relationship with Fall Break. Love the cooler weather. (It's 85 degrees, I need a sweater.) Love the relaxed mornings and unstructured afternoons. Hate the constant mess, noise and feeding. Really? Didn't we just clean up breakfast? Do you people HAVE to eat lunch? Every day?
Sam wins Most Photogenic Pumpkin this week. Actually he wins almost every week. The kid has loved getting his picture taken since before he was born. Seriously, back when he was only known as "Baby A," the sonogram techs were always impressed with his cooperation onscreen. "Baby B" was another story. Still is. But I love them both.

This little pumpkin got her braces on last week. Just in time for Halloween. More Tootsie Rolls for me, I guess. We were worried that Miss Em might be a little dramatic when it came to the orthodontist's chair, but she LOVES it. The sparkle, the shine, a bag full of tiny toothbrushes. It's like her own private spa. Only more expensive.

Halloween is the perfect season if you are an eleven year old boy. It's gross. It's scary. Your mom buys you a rubber mask and a knife with fake oozing blood. You roller blade around the neighborhood breaking them in. Your little sister screams in a most satisfying manner. Plus all your favorite candy is available in miniature size. Heaven.

Brad is gearing up to hike the entire Grand Canyon this weekend. I know.

Luke is ready to go back to school. Fall Break is fun, up to a point. But even the strictest First Grade Teacher is a breath of fresh air compared to three October-weary siblings.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gab & The Giant Peach

I've just decided that the second week of Fall Break is not the time to start a new diet.

Or a new budget.

Fall Break can be a very happy family time as long as Mom keeps the snacks coming and the activities rolling.

Since we've been back in town, we have been wallowing in a peach-induced coma. I went a little crazy. I bought bushels and bushels of Utah peaches because they are, and I am not exaggerating here, nature's most perfect food.

We've made peach jam, peach muffins, peach ice cream, peach smoothies, peaches and cream, peach cobbler. If I cried right now, my tears would be sweet and sticky.

Here is my all-time favorite peach recipe. Try it. Eating peaches is good for the complexion. You are what you eat, right?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Heart Fall

The absolute best thing about starting school in July is getting two weeks off in October. So beautiful.

We started early and headed up to The Motherland last week.

I know a lot of folks don't like Utah, but they just don't know the right Utah people. Or the good places to eat. I, for one, love visiting the Beehive State. I know all the right people and am related to most of them.

The only photo I can get off my phone. More to come.

Highlights of our trip have included: meeting old friends, a 64th birthday bash, ATV rides, taking the big kids to General Conference, Twinkie Power squared, Alpine Sliding and some serious cousinlove.

We've spent the past few days in Park City and I've loved it. Our family had a getaway place here when I was growing up and a drive up the canyon always meant something fun was going to happen. Feeding the ducks and roasting marshmallows. Singing along with the old-fashioned player piano. Breakfast at a restaurant or skiing at Deer Valley, if we were really lucky.

Brad and I came here on our honeymoon. We've brought our kids almost every year. Now it's a place full of happy memories for them as well as for me. After all the summer upheaval, it is heavenly to spend a few days resting in the mountains. We're loving the autumn colors and crisp weather.

What am I reading? My mom's awesome book, Son of a Gun, of course! Did I tell you she is being published?! And it's really really good. Watch for it at a bookstore near you.

Tomorrow we head to Vegas.

I am seriously loving October.
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