Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!


Tristan decided to dress up but is still undecided as to whether he will get out!!
A cool last minute idea I thought! Like the bloody nose!!

Not sure what Grant is--a jester of sorts.
Not sure that he is going to get out either, but I told them both that if they decided that they wanted to get out of the car later, they had to have a costume!


Pretty little angel!
The real trick or treaters!!
The kids are trick or treating at Great Grandma's now (little too far for my call range--I didn't get to go). Supper is ready and we will be ready to hit the streets soon. Hope everyone has a safe and "sweet" Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Party

Football finals, sickness, and even rain didn't keep a good bunch of kids from enjoying the annual Halloween bash Sunday afternoon. As I was planning the dates and activities a few weeks ago for our Halloween party, this little nagging inside my head kept saying "what if it rains, what if the weather is bad" I tried stifling it by reassuring the voice that in 6 years, the weather had always been perfect--maybe a little wind here and there, but usually a beautiful afternoon! But because God's little voice had made me think (in the back of my mind) what I might do if the weather was bad--I found myself completely unsurprised by the cold, windy, totally rainy day that we got. As our luck also had it, about 15 kids that usually come had to miss out because of some pee wee football finals, and some because of sickness. So the 33 kids and 15 adults that made it fit into the house fine, and we were still able to carry on the festivities. We did many of the usual games--a worm eating contest, pumpkin launchin', balloon popping race and a few other races and relays. I had found some new games to try out this year, but we had to revert to the old stand-bys because we simply didn't have enough room in the house--and I didn't want to drag things back and forth between the shop and the house.
Even the adults get to participate in the races to help even up the numbers! We have never had to help them get up off the ground after popping the balloons with their butts before nabbing the cool candies inside!

Miss Camille was an angel. She quickly got rid of the sparkly head band. The wings HAD to go. She pulled the bottom of her dress up to her belly button, looked me square in the eyes and said "OFF!" But I won that one. She consented to keep her dress on since I pulled the wings off. She enjoyed running around checking on all the other little brothers and sisters, ate a few powdered donuts from the food eating race and savored every bit of her punch!!

I believe that this game is hands down the most popular one we do. The first few years we played it like you see in the pictures--around a table. The kids have to sit on their hands and using only their mouths must eat two gummy worms buried under a mound of whipped cream. They LOVE it! Even the girls. A few years ago we started putting a little twist into it and the kids did a wheel barrow race to get their partner to the end of the field to eat their worms while lying on the grass. They seemed to like that active-style a little more. Now a bit of a funny story. I had forgotten to get the whipped cream in town on Friday. We had gone to Wichita to see Wicked Saturday and I didn't want to drive back to town just to get whipped topping on Sunday--I knew I had too many things to prepare in too short of a time frame. Couldn't find any in Sam's, so my plan was to stop at Walmart in Pratt to get a tub. Well, we were talking and I forgot, till after we passed Walmart. It was nearly 10:00 so we headed for Dillions before they closed. There was one poor checker and a young cowboy couple checking out at 9:58 pm when I darted in. I hurried to the freezer, grabbed my HUGE tub of topping and blasted over to the checkout line. The checker had just handed the cowboy his change, looking out of the corner of his eye he says to me "Whipped topping the only thing you need tonight ma'am?" The cowboy's eye got really large and his lady was trying to hide a big grin. Me?? I had to laugh out loud, as I realized how obnoxious this whole scene was going down! I replied that I had no intention of mis-using my food product--just needed it for a little Halloween party the NEXT day. I laughed all the way out to the car, and then half the way home.
Another favorite is a punkin launchin! We saw this on TV several years ago and decided to try it out. The first year Jeremy made an apparatus to fling the little pumpkins and gourds. It worked OK, but then broke. I found this little device in a boating catalog. It is supposed to be used to launch water balloons--but it does a marvelous job for this trick! The first year we used it, they did it from the west edge of our yard, by our pine trees. The bigger kids could actually
get the gourds across the highway, so rather than taking a chance of hitting a car that we didn't see coming, we took them into the south pasture. This year we had to launch them off the west
deck--We were truly blessed that the wind wasn't blowing rain right onto the deck, so it was chilly, but dry--and most of the kids didn't even mind the chill. J's friend Tim helped him hold the shooter for the kids to wind it up--you can see how far Grant gets the thing back--the guys are just cut off on the right side of the photo. Oh, and the only picture of me this year--the witch in the back :-)

Food races or Fear Factor Foods is another one that the kids like. We had two teams and then the kids race to eat several foods. This year we did powdered donuts, dried apricots, and some peanut butter crackers that I found (we hadn't planned on doing this one) It takes a lot of spit to get those down in a hurry. A few crumbs shot out the mouths with the giggles, but nothing out of any noses! We had planned to bob for donuts (they are blind-folded and try to find and eat donuts that are suspended from a string above their heads using only their mouths) but didn't have a good location for that in the rain!

And of course we always eat!! That's the best part. We send them on a sugar high!! The moms make all kinds of spooky desserts and stuff like bloody sausages and mummy dogs. And it wouldn't be complete without Halloween colored punch!!

How do you beat a deal like that?? I am usually exhausted after the two hour party, but so satisfied that everyone has enjoyed themselves--dressed up in their best costumes playing silly games and eating more sugar than they are usually allowed in a
day!! It doesn't get ANY better!! Happy Halloween everyone--be safe and have fun!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Topeka Trip

Well, we survived the big trip to Topeka last weekend. It went better than I could have possibly imagined, as far as traveling 5 hours with 4 children I mean. Our first stop was the eye doctor.

Seems T is getting to be a pro with the contact and the doctor was pleased with his eyes. He got a box of his own contacts and we don't have to go back till next summer. Next stop was McPherson at Pizza Hut for lunch. Everyone behaved and ate well--Cami was still dry and did her duties there. We made it to Topeka by a little after 2. The cousins and friends had a BLAST playing football in the yard while we watched people shop at the garage sale. Cami and Kadon had a blast checking out all the toys (their toys) for sale. They just played and played and only removed a few stickers.

We did a little shopping at Kohls Friday evening and the kids watched a movie. Saturday was busy with Chris taking the boys to their games. My boys sure enjoyed watching the games and especially playing FB with uncle Chris before they started. Kristi said that overall the garage sale went pretty well, not as many people attended as they would have when they lived right off 75 highway. We had SOOO much stuff and so much good stuff left over, that Kristi and Samantha decided to take turns opening up the sale for one more weekend. Hopefully we will get rid of lots more stuff before taking things to the Goodwill store. Cami got a "new" pair of sparkly tennis shoes (that fit great). Kristi be sure to tell Samantha that she LOVES them. I did some shopping at our garage sale and traded Samantha out of a couple little things, then stole a cute little quilted wall hanging size thing from my sister, who was just GIVING it away (practically) and I guess she did give it away. . . to HER favorite sister!! (I have some ideas about what to do with it, just not sure yet--I'll take a picture when I decide!) We enjoyed a nice Mexican supper with all three of our families (totally 11 kids in all) and then Kristi and I took the kids to a pumpkin patch east of Topeka. They stay open until 11:00 pm, and seemed to be popular hangout for high school and college age kids. The pictures are from there. We stood in line for about 25 minutes before we could even get in. By the way, it was 32 degrees when we got back in the car, I forgot to look when we got out--a blessing I think!

We took some pictures with the signs--Crazy, excited kids!! Then we spotted this huge slide made out of some type of corrugated plastic pipe. I had to try it out too--it was quite a ride!! The kids loved that. We would watch the kids come out one at a time--quickly and quietly--until we would hear someone yelling from the top of the tube. Then more yelling, finally our 5 boys would come out all at once in a huge train of bumping bodies at the bottom--everyone collapsed in giggles. Mom, I know you are having a hard time imagining this!

We took a hayrack ride around the corn field. That was just plain cold! Next we pulled out our flashlights and went through half of the 8 acre corn maize. The corn stalks were amazingly tall. I was afraid that we would lose someone, but we didn't. D was ready to stop when we surfaced at the half-way mark--truthfully, so was I! By this time, my feet were starting to get cold! We found our way to the hot cocoa and REAL apple cider and then went to pick out pumpkins. My advice is that one should always pick out pumpkins in the light!! But it was a fun experience nonetheless. We came home with a few pumpkins for the carving and decorating contest at school, so everyone was happy. Chris stayed home with the two wee ones, who were also happy to be warm and munching on popcorn!
Sunday was a long trip home, as the trip home usually is. We stopped to shop a couple places. Dev looked thoroughly through the toy aisle, seeing what he may like for his birthday and Christmas. The big boys and Cami admired the fish department--also dreaming about Christmas. We got home just in time to unload the car and head for our Financial Peace class. Jeremy was glad to see us. He had a good time racing, and made it through 5 rounds in eliminations. He lost out around 2:30 in the morning--he thought his reaction time was slow because of the time of day!! He slept in his trailer again Saturday night and came home Sunday morning. He got the heat/thermostat/ and water hookups in my greenhouse, so now it fully functional. Things are growing and looking good. . . Bring on the winter!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mi Vida Loca

WOW! It has been so incredibly wild here for the last couple weeks. Hopefully we are on the downhill slide for a bit. The weather has been pretty dreary for the last few days. This morning I was interrupted in my shower by Grant wanting to know who I had made mad yesterday. When I asked what he was talking about, he replied that there was toilet paper all over the yard! Sure enough it was everywhere. It seems that the idea had been brought up on a little survey we had taken at work discussing what our receptionist should do for her 60th birthday. Learning how to pole dance and getting a tattoo were a few ideas that we all voted on. At the end of the week a suggestion had been added to TP my house. HAHA. I thought nothing of it. . . Seems Bam has a more adventurous spirit than I had given her credit for--all the while her house was getting TP'd too and styrofoam cups stuck into her fence announcing to the world (she lives on the main drag) that she is now SIXTY! " That's not old, is it dad!!
We have been doing a lot of church activities the last few weeks. We had a skating party for the youth group the night we made salsa. Unfortunately, when we got there, the rink was closed for repairs and will be open THIS weekend. Blah! so we took them to the park--never mind that it was dark and cold. We played kick the can for about 1 1/2 hours. The kids were amazed that I could still climb trees! I guess that will teach them to mess with this old woman!! We had 9 kids come to our first youth group meeting and then had 15 last night, with several more tentative commitments. It is pretty exciting. We are feeding them supper because we get them right off the sports bus at the corner and then take them down to our little country church. The kids are really enjoying it, and I think the adults are too. D is still going to kids club after school on Wednesday nights and loves it. He has been helping me lead the worship music and looks so proud! He was a little miffed that he couldn't attend the junior high group last week! He got over it!

Not even the baby was safe from these pranksters!
T's last game is tonight. He has gotten to play a fair amount of football this season. They have had 2 of the starters break their arms--(ya think they might need more milk??) and for the last 3 weeks we have had sick kids each game. I worked today so I didn't travel the hour to the game tonight--guess he didn't break an arm--no one has called! He has finally got his contacts figured out. He had a horrible time learning how to insert that puppy! He can see better. He checks in with the eye doctor in the morning to make sure it is fitting right.

The two older boys start BB practice in 1 1/2 weeks-Grant can't wait. Parent teacher conferences are also next week. I hope those go well.

Dev got to go to a local pumpkin patch this morning and came home with a HUGE pumpkin. He is excited. We are trying to figure out what he and Cami will be for Halloween. Costumes are on our weekend shopping list.

Cami is not going to potty train--she can pee on command now when you set her on, and occasionally she will tell us she needs to go but mostly if we don't catch her, she doesn't catch us! AHHH--I hate potty training! Took her to the chiropracter this week to assist her in her PMS phase--I think it helped--and her daycare provider thought she was back to her nice self. She just keeps growing and growing!

Our other nurse practitioner has been gone for the better part of 2 weeks now, so call has been more often and busier. I am ready for April to be here and flu season to be over. The sick list on Monday for elementary and middle school was 21, by 12:30 it was up to 36 and by the end of the day it was 42. Whole families are dropping like flies! We have had confirmed H1N1 in the county and many positive influenza A screens(the same strain as H1N1) So far this family has been lucky! I am counting down the days until the end of the year. I am feeling very overwhelmed between kids/family/home/sports/church activities/and 4-H stuff. I know, I know. . . JUST SAY NOOOOO!

Tomorrow I am loading up 4 kids, (providing none of them are on the sick list) and heading for Topeka to visit Sis and her family. I have been sending boxes of Cami's outgrown clothing and boy stuff for 2 years now and she is having a garage sale. So we are going up to help out and hang out. The new Yukon has a DVD player in the back, so that should help the ride go faster and more quietly!

J is headed to the last race of the season in Great Bend. He took out a couple of weeks ago and was home by 7:30 am (he left a little after 6) because he was feeling so rotten from a cold. So he feels good, the weather should be nice, and he will be GONE!!

So there ya have it, wanted to update all the far away families on our happenings around here. The greenhouse is up and running, tomato and pepper plants are repotted, green onion seeds are planted, lettuce is nearly ready to eat!! I think this adventure is going to be a blast!! Next weekend I'm heading on a girls trip to see the musical Wicked in Wichita (I have been waiting on the edge of my seat since winter 2008 when they first reported that it was coming!). Our 7th annual Halloween party will take place next Sunday afternoon. A lot of our usual crowd has a final peewee football game that day, so our crowd may be down a little! Usually there are over 40 kids there! It is a ball! Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Salsa-nators!!

What do you get when you mix these. . .

With some of these. . . ???

A nice big pot of THIS!!



and DUNN. . .

That's our name and salsa is our game. Are ya scared??

Once a year we change our hats and put on our salsanator aprons and then. . . LOOK OUT!!

We've been doin this for so long now that it is down to a science. . . nearly (I'll explain that later). We know what our responsibilities are and how to do them. It's a down-to-business attitude. Our kids are sure that we should sell our creations and we could all retire in style. What holds us from that you ask?? Pure selfishness. . . This is the BEST salsa ever, and we just can't bear to part with much of it. . .if you have ever had it shared with you. . . YOU are among the few! (not really)

We started early this year--8:30 in the morning ( I had to take kids to a youth group skating party that evening so we needed to be done) We set our personal record this year in quantity. Lisa already had her tomatos skinned and cut up in the freezer waiting for "salsa day" as it is affectionately known as in our households. I was feeling bad because I just washed mine and threw them in whole, since I think they are easier to skin after they are frozen. So Friday night I thawed and peeled and chopped icy tomatos so we wouldn't have to do it Saturday. Well, being the OCD victim that I am, next thing I knew, I had a double batch of our favorite flavor chopped, spiced, and mixed in the pot--so by 7:30 Saturday morning, it was already boiling away on the stove waiting for Brooks to arrive! This was the first time ever that we actually had jars canned before lunch!
We have 4 different flavors that we make--one fashioned after a local restaurant recipe, our ORIGINAL recipe that we started out with so many years before, and two recipe variations of our original salsa. We adjusted our original recipe to create a recipe that includes chopped chipotle peppers instead of garden jalepenos, and another that has lime juice and cilantro in it. Here is the caveat about our work being science. This year after breaking open the wine in the afternoon (we learned long ago that if you consume any alcohol it MUST be after you are done trying to double measurements in your head) we came up with a new recipe. Now let me say this first--we had already made 19 batches of our 4 different flavored salsas and were down to canning the last couple batches. We always had a small pot of our favorite restaurant recipe on the front burner, a large pot that held a double batch of one of the recipes that stemmed from our original recipe on the back burner, and a roaster full of a double batch of our original salsa on the counter waiting to hit the stove. We were also using a pressure canner that we ran off the propane grill on the deck and a large water bath canner that you can see in the photos. SO that all being said--you can totally understand how our confusion came about. Back to the story. . .So we were on the last few batches, we had had a couple tiny glasses of wine (really---not that much), and then it happened. We needed part of one salsa container emptied into another salsa container to heat up while waiting for its turn in the canner. OOOPS--we got confused on which salsa was which and so now we have a chipotle mix--which is actually quite good--but we will never be able to re-create it!! We just laughed, threw in some extra vinegar (the el charro recipe has very little vinegar in it, which is why we have to pressure can it. . . you know, to avoid that nasty little devil called BOTULISM) and canned it up anyway!
When we first started, we used our own tomatos and it took us ALL day! Now we use our own tomatos and purchase huge cans of diced tomatos and add peppers from our gardens. Our first year's salsa didn't go very far, and we ran out way before the next year came around. This year we made the equivalent of 162 pints of salsa. Most are really pints, but some are little 1/2 pints to put in gift baskets and some are in quarts for the BIG family gatherings. We always open a bag of chips first thing to taste test with. Maybe the best salsa ever is that chip full of steaming salsa right out of the pot that we only get to enjoy once yearly. The kids know the protocol. One chip at a time, dip only once in the kettle, OOH and AHH about how good it is. They come and go through the entire process, tasting all the pots multiple times! Our other tradition is to eat enchiladas while we work for our meal, which is sometimes lunch and sometimes supper!

Brooks and Dunn Salsa

It's a good, symbiotic relationship

It's about enjoying the fruits of our labor

It's 2 women enjoying each other's company outside of our jobs doing something that we don't normally do

It's about our families asking for months when "Salsa Day" is

It's about hardly being able to stand purchased salsa because ours is SO GOOD

It's about making good memories

It's about being proud of a job well done

It's about this!!

All in a hard day's work!!

Thanks Brooks, it was a BLAST!