Many Happy Returns

Thanks for all your birthday wishes. All in all, #28 definitely wasn't my worst birthday ever. No, that honor is still held by #18, when I was working for Bailey's Moving & Storage, and got stuck on an office move for 17 hours. Oh the memories.

After I got home from work on Thursday, we went to visit Eddie's newest cousin, Sarah (see Eddie's Photo of the Week), then stuffed ourselves silly at Texas Roadhouse. I got a card in the mail from Kristen's Grandparents. As I was opening it, I remarked to Kristen, "I hope it is old lady-ish," and it did not disappoint. I particularly enjoy the model sailboat.

Friday night we had some of my friends over for a barbecue, and Kristen made me a non-traditional birthday ice cream pie. This is one of those hidden treasures from the Barton Family Cookbook. It has been years since I had it last, but it was just as delicious as I remember. I made a few tweaks to the recipe based on Kristen's recommendations to thicken up the crust and forgo adding a layer of the topping in the middle.

Ice Cream Sundae Pie

Phase I: The Crust
• 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
• 4 1/2 tbsp butter
• 3 cups Rice Krispies
• 1/2 tsp vanilla

Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil. In a heavy saucepan, melt chips and butter, stirring constantly. Add cereal and vanilla. Toss to coat completely. Press into bottom of pan. Freeze until firm.

Phase II: The Filling
• Half gallon of ice cream (we used cookies & cream)

Soften the ice cream. Remove crust from freezer, peel off foil and replace the crust in the pan. Spoon on the ice cream, and spread evenly over the crust. Freeze until firm.

Phase III: The Topping
• 1 12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips
• 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 cups mini marshmallows

Melt chips in heavy saucepan. Stir in milk, vanilla, and salt. Allow to cool and stir in marshmallows. Spread the sauce evenly over the ice cream and freeze. Serves 12-15.


Happy Birthday, Dave!

For those who don't know, Dave turns 28 today. Since we have a rule of not posting anything TOO sentimental on our blog, all I will say to Dave is this: you're not as old and moldy as I like to make you think you are and I'm sorry I am the cause of your gray hair. I didn't mean to do it.

And now, in honor of Dave's birthday, here's a post about Dave's favorite person... ME!

Ten Things...

...I want to do before I'm 30

As Dave inches ever closer to that frighteningly serious age of 30, I have begun contemplating how much longer it will be before I reach such a milestone. I'm not particularly ambitious, but I thought I've got enough time that I ought to set some goals of what I'd like to accomplish by November 24, 2014.

Feel free to submit any additional suggestions in the comments. I'll try to fit as much into those 6.5 years as I can.

10. Part ways with our '94 Honda Accord (it can be yours for $3000 -- price subject to negotiation).

9. Finish Dave's mission scrapbook.

8. Move into a larger house to make room for the results of #2 (I know, the suspense is probably killing you).

7. See church history sites.

6. Get in good enough shape to actually RUN a 5k.

5. Read the 8 remaining Charles Dickens novels that I have not read (here's looking at you Martin Chuzzlewit).

4. Fit into those size 8 jeans in the bottom of my dresser drawer.

3. Own a real piano and re-learn how to play it.

2. Work up the courage to have one or two more kids (and then work up the courage to purchase a mini-van).

1. Have something I've written published (hopefully for money).


Five Favorites

While I have always considered myself a fan of British literature, a recent conversation with the dentist got me thinking about my favorite American authors. It also reminded me how long it has been since I've had an intellectual conversation about literature. In an attempt to satisfy this urge, this post came to be.

So as to not bore all our fans out there, I have trimmed the list of my favorite American authors to five and have ordered them chronologically (so as to not play favorites among the favorites). I would also like to add that I quite enjoy other books as well, but this list is comprised of works that I consider to be real literature (so that's why Stephenie Meyer's Twilight didn't make the list).

1. Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown - While I do quite enjoy The Scarlet Letter, my favorite work of Hawthorne's is this short story. The entire story is an allegory of good and evil, virtue and vice, as Young Goodman Brown journeys into the woods with the devil and spends the rest of his life wondering if what he found there was a dream or reality. If you can handle Romanticism and allegory, by all means, check it out.

“The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward, with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil”

2. Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie - I love Dreiser's take on the American Dream. In both Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy, he takes characters who are striving for material success and shows how those desires lead to their destruction. A realist and a socialist, Dreiser criticized American society for being too bent on material gain while not providing equal opportunities for all. If you have the patience to delve through his slow-moving narrative, I recommend him.

“We see man far removed from the lairs of the jungles, his innate instincts dulled by too near an approach to freewill, his freewill not sufficiently developed to replace his instincts and afford him perfect guidance. He is becoming too wise to hearken always to instincts and desires; he is still too weak to always prevail against them.”

3. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged - This is probably one of my favorite books of all time. It is about a fictional industrial America whose government is slowly socializing and destroying the free market economy. John Galt decides to 'stop the motor of the world,' and does so. I think it's really about the power of the individual to affect the entire world. Of course, Atlas Shrugged is over 1,000 pages, so you'd better be sure you're ready for it before diving in.

"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose—because it contains all the others—the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to make money.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity—to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created."

4. Joseph Heller's Catch-22 - I read this last year and it quickly became a favorite. While very irreverent and ridiculous, the book serves to capture the desperation of one soldier trying as hard as he can to not get killed in World War II. The novel has some great comic characters, such as Major Major Major Major and Milo Minderbinder. While it is a hilarious satire, there are also serious elements because it's a story about war.

"History did not demand Yossarian's premature demise, justice could be satisfied without it, progress did not hinge upon it, victory did not depend on it. That men would die was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance. But that was war."

5. Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried - I discovered this author through my 'Gender and War' class my last semester of college. In the class, we read The Things They Carried, a half truth/half fiction collection of stories about O'Brien's experiences in the Vietnam War. I love this book. A word of warning, though: it is a book about war and includes all the gruesome details that some people like to avoid (and I generally like to avoid as well). But it is a great read despite all that because even if it's not all true, it's still honest.

"They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to die of embarrassment."


The Many Faces of Ed

In addition to getting rolls in some really weird places, Eddie has started to become more generous with his smiles over the past week or two. It took some cajoling, but we managed to capture a few grins on camera.

Here are a some of the other faces we have come to know and love over the past seven weeks:

The Deep Thinker Face

The "What's That Smell?" Face

The "I Know I'm Cute" Face

The Yawn Face

The "I Think Mommy Drugged Me So She Could Take A Shower" Face

The Out Cold Face

The About to Explode Face

The Dr. Evil Face

The Content Face

The "No More Photos, Please" Face


"I'm Batman."

1. Michael Keaton - 9 votes
Keaton batdanced his way to victory on the strength of the nostalgia vote, which is more powerful than a well-honed set of abs. In honor of his narrow triumph, I pulled out some vintage sketchwork dated '93. Keaton is also the winner of the "most times sketched by me as an adololescent" award.

2. Christian Bale - 8 votes
Even though history will likely see Bale vindicated as the best bat on the block, he simply hasn't been around long enough overcome the sentimentality held for Keaton. Some day Cowboy, your dreams will come true, in Santa Fe....

3. Adam West - 3 votes
Thanks to a few "Jokers" out there, West earned an unlikely third place finish. Now he gets yet another chance to remember how playing Batman pretty much ruined the rest of his career. Holy typecasting, Batman!

4. Val Kilmer - 2 votes
Maybe if this poll had been "favorite teeth snaps of the '80s", Val would have had a better showing. At least he managed a pair of votes, which is considerably better than...

5. George Clooney - 0 votes
I guess 11 years hasn't been quite long enough to make us forget the travesty that was Batman & Robin. Sorry George, you got your ice kicked.


Bats in the Belfry

With a little over a month to go until The Dark Knight arrives in theaters, it is time to cast your vote for your favorite actor to play the Caped Crusader in our latest poll. I have changed the settings on our blog so we can now accept comments from anyone (no google account required), so by all means, don't keep your thoughts to yourself.

Adam West

Transportation: Batcopter, Batcycle...if it starts with "Bat-," he's used it
Arsenal: Shark repellant
Likes: Doing the Batusi, Julie Newmar
Dislikes: The Joker's makeup-caked mustache

"To the Batcave, Robin! There's not a moment to lose!"

Michael Keaton

Transportation: A surprisingly un-bulletproof Batwing, Batmissile
Arsenal: Filled with many wonderful toys
Likes: Michelle Pfieffer in black vinyl, brooding
Dislikes: Getting upstaged by The Joker, Penguin's nasty fish breath

"I'm Batman."

Val Kilmer

Transportation: Gravity-defying Batmobile for all his driving-up-the-wall needs
Arsenal: Security guard's hearing aid
Likes: Flirting with Nicole Kidman, solving riddles
Dislikes: Nerdy inventors with man crushes, Boiling acid

"It's the car, right? Chicks love the car."

George Clooney

Transportation: Bat skates, makeshift board for sky surfing
Arsenal: Rubber nipples
Likes: Having pun contests with Mr. Freeze, gratuitous neon
Dislikes: Putting up with that punk Robin, monologuing villains

"This is why Superman works alone."

Christian Bale

Transportation: The Tumbler, runaway trains
Arsenal: That growling voice
Likes: Spelunking, Katie Holmes (don't ask me why)
Dislikes: Learning polo, bats (who knew?)

"Didn't you ever learn to mind your surroundings?"


Ten Things...

...I Have Learned From '80s Movies

We had something of an unofficial '80s movies marathon this past weekend. We saw all or parts of Better Off Dead, Can't Buy Me Love, Footloose, The Princess Bride, and Stand By Me on TV. So naturally, a blog post came out of it. Here goes:

10. It's okay to have a questionable relationship with an eccentric inventor. Having a questionable relationship with your mom? Not so much. (Back to the Future)

9. Before he was the heartthrob of Grey's Anatomy and a slew of chick flicks, Patrick Dempsey was hopelessly nerdy. (Can't Buy Me Love)

8. Nothing dates a movie quite like a claymation hamburger singing Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some." Well, except maybe encorporating "advanced" computer technology as a plot device in the '90s. (Better Off Dead)

7. Castor oil, raw eggs, and blueberry pie don't mix. (Stand By Me)

6. There is no better way to exude intimidation in the locker room than snapping your teeth at another guy. Wait, did I say intimidation? What I meant was homoeroticism. (Top Gun)

5. Andre the Giant should be subtitled at all times. (The Princess Bride)

4. Spectators will turn out in droves for an All Valley Karate Tournament, because honestly, what else is there to do in California on a Saturday? (The Karate Kid)

3. Some people should be allowed to remain 17 forever. People like Matthew Broderick, John Cusack, and Michael J. Fox.

2. The best way to let off some steam is to find an empty warehouse and just dance. (Footloose)

1. The next best way is to have Arnold Schwarzenegger hurl a giant pipe through your torso. (Commando)


License to Grill

Thanks to my constant hint-dropping (and some unevenly cooked burgers), Kristen finally conceded that it was time to retire the 15 year old, half-working, hand-me-down grill that we got from her parents, and invest in a new one. The idea was for it to be a joint Father's Day/Birthday present, but Sears had all their Kenmore grills on sale for Memorial Day, so I got my present a little early.

The new grill features LED lights in the lid handle for all my night grilling needs, porcelain cast iron cooking grids, and three stainless steel tube burners that generate 39,000 BTU's of heat. I'm not really sure what BTU's are, but I'm guessing that 39,000 is a lot. By the way, if anyone is in the market for a 15 year old, half-working, hand-me-down grill, today is your lucky day.

In honor of this joyous occasion, here is one of our favorite grilling recipes. It is from the Better Homes & Gardens Grilling Book:

Chops in Smoky Chile Marinade

From the cookbook: The indispensable ingredient in this marinade is the smoky chipotle chile peppers. Canned chipotles are packed in a piquant sauce made from chiles, herbs, and vinegar. I heartily concur. The marinade makes these chops really tender and juicy. The chipotle peppers (which can typically be found on the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store) give the chops a slighty sweet, slightly spicy flavor.

• 4 pork loin butterfly chops, 3/4 inch thick
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1/2 tsp finely shredded lime peel
• 2 tbsp lime juice
• 2 tbsp finely chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
• 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
• 3 cloves garlic, minced

Place chops in a self-sealing plastic bag or shallow dish. For marinade, in a small bowl combine olive oil, lime peel, lime juice, chipotle peppers, oregano, and garlic. Pour over chops, seal bag. Marinate in refrigerator for 4 hours, turning bag occasionally.

For a charcoal grill, place chops on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 7 to 9 minutes or until slighty pink in the center and the juices run clear (160° F), turning once halfway through grilling. For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place chops on grill rack over heat. Cover; grill as above.


Ten Things...

...I Have Learned From Being a Mother

Eddie is only a month old, but what a month it has been for all of us. I guess I was a little naive before he was born (so all of you more experienced parents can say "I told you so"), but I never realized how demanding such a little person can be. My whole life is entirely consumed by him at the moment, and I already look forward to the day when I can have a little more freedom (like when I can take 2 minutes to use the bathroom without feeling bad for abandoning my child or when I will have time and energy to go places out of more than necessity).

All in all, I would say that parenthood is completely different from what I imagined, but I still wouldn't trade it for anything. Inspired by a similar post our friend Amanda made on their blog, I thought I would share some of the things that I have learned over the past 4 weeks. (My sincere apologies to Steve for making yet another baby-related post. Like I said, my entire life is consumed by Eddie, so any post about me becomes a post about him by default.)

10. Achieving a cute belly button is quite the process.

9. The extra dollars that went toward stain protection on our couches were well spent.

8. If you and the baby are already on your second outfits and it is still only 8 am, it is going to be a long day.

7. Waitresses in restaurants are much more attentive to you, but not in a "can I get you another refill of Sprite?" kind of way.

6. Sometimes it really can be funny to witness someone pee all over your carpet.

5. Nothing is worse than having a snot-sucker up your nose.

4. Babies give strangers an excuse to strike up silly conversations (I'm looking at you middle-aged man in the Sears parking lot).

3. The lyrics to Barry Manilow's "Mandy" are versatile, and can be modified to fit almost any baby-related activity (i.e. "oh Eddie, you went and filled up your diaper")

2. The chorus of "oh, you just wait" doesn't stop when pregnancy does.

1. Even if you are still in the hospital recovering, it is never too early for people to ask when you are having another one (to answer your question: not for a long long time).


He Came From Outer Space!

Here we have Eddie's birth announcement (just in case you didn't know about him yet). We started out with a simple, classy announcement in mind (not unlike the one we did for his blessing day), but the space-themed quilt from my Aunt Marilyn that we were posing him on, combined with Independence Day being on TV in the background, led me to come up with the 1950's B-Movie Poster idea. Anyone out there that wants to pretty up their fridge and hasn't gotten a print from us yet, just leave your name and address in the comments and we will send you one.

We started out attempting to get a tasteful body shot of him in the buff (that we could embarrass him with when he is a teen), but gave up after not too long when we couldn't get him to cooperate. I ended up shooting somewhere between 80-100 photos that night and the next morning (when he was in a better mood). With so many funny facial expressions and poses, it was hard to pick just one. Here is a musical slide show of some of our favorites that didn't quite make the cut.


Blessing Day

Today was Eddie's blessing day. We discovered when we got to church that there were actually five baby blessings (and a confirmation) scheduled for Sacrament meeting. Luckily I got to go first so I didn't have to stress about it through all the other blessings (having a last name that starts with 'B' really pays off sometimes). Plus, thanks to the plethora of visitors, it took extra long for the sacrament to be passed.

So by the time the first counselor got up to commence the testimonies and remind everyone that we needed to conclude at five after, it was already 2:00. When all was said and done, there was only time for three people to get up (best...testimony meeting...ever). We had family and friends over to our house afterwards for cookies and ice cream. I was busy entertaining and didn't have much of a chance to take many photos, but here are the few I have. If others have more pictures on their cameras, please send them our way.

The guest of honor. Little Eddie and his posh blessing romper elicited lots of sighs from the ladies. This is how he spent most of the day—sleeping.

The high school gang. That's my friend Scott, his daughter Lucy, me and Eddie, Marc, and his son Calvin. My mom remarked how amazing it has been that the three of us have managed to stay close after all these years. It has been quite a ride.

Our little family. I'm the only one that didn't get a new outfit for the occasion. What a jip.

Once again, thanks to all our friends and family who were able to attend with us and make the day extra special.