Saturday, December 22, 2007

Oh f.u.d.g.e.

As you can probably surmise, I'm a freak for peanut butter. As per request, here is the peanut butter fudge recipe. It's from the Kraft Marshmallow Creme jar to Laura Graff to moi last Christmas in Iowa.


3 c. sugar
1 stick butter
1 sm. can evap. milk (5 oz)
1 c. peanut butter
1 jar Kraft marshmallow creme (7 oz)
1 tsp vanilla

In medium saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and evap milk. Bring to rolling boil on medium heat. Boil for FOUR minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Take off heat and add peanut butter and marshmallow creme, stir until melted. Add vanilla and pour into foil lined (I used parchment paper--you could also do wax paper I'm sure) 9x13 pan. Cool at least 4 hours.

Don't forget to either eat it all or hide it in the laundry room before your kids gouge the bejeebers out of it the next morning.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


From our house to yours! A delicious loaf of chocolate chip pumpkin bread with all the glaze licked off and a few bites off of all the tops. By a little mouse. Named Ellison. Kinda anticlimactic after a night of baking until 1:00 am to wake up and find the nibbled aftermath. So I got over it, reglazed them and took them to the neighbors anyways. Just kidding. You hope. Martha Stewart is horrified.

Next morning, it was the peanut butter fudge. Huge scoops carved out from fingers suspiciously E's size as damning evidence. This is the price I pay for trying to get a couple of extra Zzzz's in the a.m. And not putting the fudge out of reach. (I KNEW I should have hid it in the laundry room!) So I'm contemplating her fate: guillotine, the rack, Chinese water torture, etc. Marc settled on an appropriate mild verbal chastisement. Why am I obsessed with chronicling(sp?) my childrens' utter misery as of late? I'm not sure. (Reference previous post of Charlotte's breakdown). I'll have to get back to you on that one after I thoroughly overanalyze it. I suppose it beats corporal punishment.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Parade of Bob's Home Tour

Since I have about five Christmas decorations up (waiting for the sales to stock up since I ditched some tattered Christmas stuff in Iowa during the move), I have to live vicariously through my friends who have NOT abandoned all yuletide cheer. Like my friend Bob for example. A gal I've known for over fifteen years. I adore Bob's house like crazy. Not coveting, but close. The woman is the master (or is it mistress?) of details. I'm inviting myself over for another playdate.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


With bread.

Without bread.

With bread again.

Without bread again.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

So You Think You Can Take Pictures?

And a hearty congratulations goes out to photographer JSchomaker.

She just beat out all other contestants on "SYTYCTMFKATTGTTPFADPWAIVX". ("So You Think You Can Take My Four Kids and Try To Get Them To Pose For a Decent Photo Without an IV Drip of Xanax?")

For some, it's shoes. For others it's jewelry. Tupperware. Handbags. Dishes. Good makeup. Scrapbooking supplies. Kids' Clothing. Pricey haircuts. Whatever. We all have our weaknesses.

For me, it's fine photography.

Which is why I have about three pairs of shoes (you've all seen them and know the ones to which I'm referring), and I buy my jewelry at Claire's. I rationalize that I can always buy the jeans or shoes or end table, but in ten years you can't go BACK and take good photos of childhood.

I love a photograph that really captures the "happy days are here again" attitude of youth, (not that the happy days ever really left for them--HELLO how bad could life have really gotten as an eight year old?).

One day I'll get my own GOOD camera and learn some tricks of the trade, but right now, I'm at the mercy of the pros. I'm so jealous of people who can look through the lens and be creative and capture color and light and beauty just right.

I was scouring the greater metropolitan Phoenix area for a photographer, and I kid you not, I probably googled about 50 photographers before I stumbled upon J's website. Liked it. Emailed her. Set up appointment. Figured I'd have to drive like forever to downtown Phoenix or some other nether-region of the Valley with kids in frilly frocks.

Turns out Jenny lives two streets away from me and is Big Guy's Primary Teacher at church. Trippy. Anyways, I digress. I'm kind of a digressor if you haven't noticed. What can I say? I'm a verbose girl. See?

The point is: Yo, this chick can take pictures.

Are these pettiskirts not the fluffiest, funnest, marshmallowy puffs of chiffon froth that you have ever seen in your lifetime? It's fun to have girls, I must admit. My kids had so much fun at J.'s studio (yep, it's all at her house and even her garage).

The girl has amazing talent and captured my kids' personalities to perfection. She was like "Would you guys like to jump on my couch whilst I take your photo?"

{Dumbfounded, my kids are all slowly climbing onto her couch looking at me waiting for the maternal rebuke which never came}.

Happy days immortalized.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Lightning Strikes Twice

Brace yourself for the mother of all rants. Just when I had gotten back my false sense of security, it happened again. Somebody at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, CA, is spending our hard earned money with wild abandon. Somebody is having a very merry one on the Toblers. Several thousand dollars so far at Armani, Gucci, Bloomingdale's, and my personal non-favorite: Footlocker. What a waste. Haute couture is one thing, but high tops and sports paraphanelia?!

So I'm enjoying a satisfying and somewhat nutritional bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats yesterday morning, and I hear Marc holler from upstairs: "Karen, did you spend $1,600 at Bloomingdale's yesterday?" With less than subtle tones of irritation. Urgency. Panic.

Sure. I wish. On a Sunday when Marc was on call and I was sick at home with my kids alone except for the couple of hours I dragged my sorry rear to the church to teach 6 sweet but "special" 4-5 year olds. "Maybe a couple a' hundy at The Target last week combined", I'm thinking to myself. At this point the panic set in and we both knew exactly what had happened. Given how easy it is, we knew it was just a matter of time until we'd be scammed again. We've been on the phone all morning trying to minimize the damage, and have cancelled both our cards. (What will I use tonight for my Target run? A moot point.)

My mom was right again, blast it all to heck. Score: Mom 437 Karen 2. She had warned us that "those debit cards" are maybe not the best idea as a main source of paying for stuff, and that we should be careful.

WHY, in the name of all that is holy and good, does someone else get to shop at Gucci with our money and it's not me? I'm so hot under the collar about this, for obvious reasons. Apprently they actually counterfeited MY card. So when I'm at Chick-Fil-A (for example), and give them my debit card or one of the other 2867 places I use my debit card, some little nitwit copies my number and makes a fake card.

We've been S.U.C.K.A.S. before. Many of you may remember the "Great Break-In of 2004", where I actually found somebody hiding in my boy's (then four years old)closet while unpacking after we got home from vacation. We were living in Temple, Texas at the time, and I opened his closet to hang some stuff up and smelled her nasty cigarette smoke from her clothes and then I saw her feet under the Elmo chair. She had meticulously and ever-so-neatly folded up (in one of MY large Ziplock bags from MY kitchen) all our birth certificates, my passport, our social security cards, all our credit card statements with account #s, PINs, bank statements, etc. Every sensitive document that could've destroyed us financially. More embarrassing details on that episode later.

I don't want to feel like everybody is out to get us, but I've been left with no other choice but to obsess about my neuroses, which, according to Marc, are out of control already. Open to suggestions. Maybe I could use an extra lil' bit of "charity" in my stocking this year, because I ain't feeling any for the perps, and would frankly like to kick them in the nutter-butters if given the opportunity.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Yet More Gingerbread

A few pals have asked me to post photos of my sis-in-laws' gingerbread houses as well--and here they are in all their splendor. It's quite extraordinary how our houses match our personalities. I present to you Stephanie's masterpiece:

And here is Maren's grand opus:

Also, as a bonus, a photo of my abject failure of a pecan pie for Thanksgiving:(I can usually pull off a pecan pie but not this time)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oye, Tonto!

My mom spent every summer growing up at the Tonto Natural Bridge in Pine, AZ. My grandparents used to own it, and they boarded guests every summer. My mom and her five siblings used to help run the place. Lots of work--cooking, washing clothes and all the linens, cooking, cleaning, cooking, entertaining, cooking, etc. for many houseguests every day would be exhausting. This is the hearty stock I come from. No wonder Marc makes fun of me for bellowing at him for not finding the closest parking spot because I'll have to walk farther. (like 10 feet). I suppose I could buck up a little.

Now the State of Arizona/Parks and Recreation runs it, and it was fun to go back and hike under the bridge like we used to do as kids every summer. Miraculously, out of about 80 relatives, nobody managed to break a limb, and mountain goats Caroline and Jackson loved the challenge and ditched us quick.

Tonto was the Lone Ranger's horse. Interestingly, "tonto" also means "stupid idiot" in Spanish.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Day After

I love hosting houseguests I decided. For the past decade, it's been my dream to have my whole family here at my house for Thanksgiving, or any other holiday for that matter. No brutal delayed plane flights with cranky/sick kids. People actually came to us! My brother Gavin and his wife Ashley and their fun kids, Dalton and Shelby, stayed with us this year, and it was a good stay, not just a couple of days where you're always rushing. Kids loved it. Plus my brother John and his family, my sis Megan and her family, my sis Susan and her family, and my parents (all staying at other places, I might add). We had a Randall Reunion with Thanksgiving Feast at Aunt Jane's (only 112 of us)with scads of my Randall cousins, and a fantastico trip to the Tonto Natural Bridge. (photos later when I can track down my camera).

It's always so depressing to have everybody leave, so anticlimactic. Conversely, would it kill me to do a load of laundry already? The grim reality is that once the holiday is over, it's back to L.I.F.E. Business as usual. Not that that's bad. It's probably for the best, considering I spotted a couple of dreadlocks in my hair today from not having had time to wash it since the late 1980s. I miss houseguests.

Monday, November 19, 2007

We Are Thankful

For Family Night last week, the kids did the "We Are Thankful for..." alphabet tree. Idea courtesy of Thanks Iowa overachieving friends who just created it! Check out the link, it's a fabulous new online magazine for moms just like me who want/desperately need to breathe new life into their recipes, minds, FHEs, souls, families, Ipods. I love inexpensive homemade decorations like this. "O" was tricky, but we decided that yes, indeed, we are VERY thankful for opposable thumbs.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


As I'm putting laundry away last week, doing my usual inadvertent eavesdropping on the girls' seemingly-mundane-but-usually-entertaining-gabfests, I get a chuckle out of Caroline hurling what she considered to be her worst epithet to her stuffed animals as she's trying to get them to go to "sleep". Frustrated, she mutters:

"Go to bed, you silly democracks!"

Marion Barry, maybe. But Texi the Horse and Uni the Unicorn? Please.

She has subsequently asked me about every member of our immediate and extended families' political affiliation. "Is Great Uncle Reynold Republican or Democrack?" (If you must know, we're a politically well-rounded family--Marc's side Democrack and my side predominantly Republican). My politically astute 1st grader.

Friday, November 16, 2007

PB & P

Addicting recipe alert. Peanut butter popcorn. As I was eating the entire bowl my mind kept screaming "Abort Mission! Abort Mission!" But I never did abort mission and ate the whole bowl. Plus most of my kids. Muy bueno.

Got this recipe from Laura Graff a la Iowa City, who also got me addicted to peanut butter fudge last Christmas. Love peanut butter. Plus all things with peanut butter. Peanut butter chocolate ice cream, Scotcheroos, aforementioned peanut butter fudge, Loretta Parker's peanut butter fudge brownies, candy bars (what happened to Reese's Fast Break? I've not seen it around lately), etc. etc. Really all the world is a medium for peanut butter. And butter. (just ask my dad).

Tried it tonight and it was a crowd pleaser for family movie night. And it was fun staging the photo. Like I was working for a food magazine or something but not as professional.

1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. Karo light syrup
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
Bring all this stuff to boil in saucepan and pour over 2-3 bags of microwave popcorn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Price We Pay

PRO: Our gracious landlords left their golf cart for us to use.

CON: It's a totally pimped out USC Trojans golf cart with a lift kit and a sound system. (actually we like the sound system a lot, except Jackson makes us turn it off as we approach the school because he's so embarrassed).

PRO: Kids love riding to school or Walgreens or driving thru McDonalds in it.

CON: Marc hates driving it, because, did I mention that it's a USC Trojans golf cart that says "FEAR THIS" on the hood? (Sorry Jill and Scott). One of our favorite days was when our Texas Longhorns beat the Trojans in the Rose Bowl a couple of years ago. Hook 'em horns.

PRO: It is outfitted with seat belts for the kids so they don't fly out.

CON: I look like a freak driving it around with my infant car seat in front by me, and am anticipating the call from CPS any day now.

PRO: The weather is PERFECT for driving the golf cart all through winter. This time last year we were colder than stink in Iowa.

CON: Lest I seem braggadocious, consider this: warm weather in AZ is ideal for insidious bark scorpions. We've already found one right by the baby's room and in the kitchen, and use a black light at night to hunt them down in the yard and kill them before they come in the house.(it's kind of fun). The freaky things glow in the dark.

Nothing spells S-A-F-E-T-Y quite like having an insect two feet from your baby's room whose sting requires an antivenom. No pesticide is really effective against these creepy, ugly, gross little crunchy exoskeleton things, which is why they have survived since prehistoric times practically. It doesn't help that I hear different versions of "too horrific to even imagine" or "urban legend" stories about the parents whose baby was screaming and eventually they found a scorpion in the diaper and had stung the baby like 19 times. Then there is my neighbor, Margo, who was driving to work and was stung on her bubs by one hiding in her bra. No words describe the creeps I feel just thinking about those things. Marc just came in right now and said he found another one in the garage on the wall. I've had one in the shower with me (hiding between the shower curtain folds), and one dropped down through our recessed can light.

Come visit soon!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I Can't Compete

So my sweet little red headed Ellison has got it all figured out. I love the three year old mind, you can practically hear the wheels turning inside of her head. The past week she's been very adamant in her wants/desires. She knows I'll say no to candy for breakfast, no to not wearing a shirt to preschool, and no to carrying her baby sister down the stairs.

Here's what I imagine her thought process might be like: "Who is the boss of my mom? Who can make my mom say yes to the outrageous things I want to do today? Is is daddy? nope. Grandma and Grandpa? nope."

So Ellison plays the ultimate trump card. That's right. It's Jesus.

Me: "Ellison, you need to put on a shirt so we can go to preschool."

Ellison: "Jesus says I don't have to." or "Jesus says it's OK if I have a popsicle for breakfast." or "Mom, Jesus says that the baby likes it when I poke her eye."

And I can't compete with that.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Willy Wonka Threw Up?

Purchase ingredients for gingerbread. Check. Mix said ingredients. Check. Bake and rebake gingerbread to get moisture out. Check. Purchase ghastly amounts of candy over several trips to Target, Walgreens, and grocery store. Check. Call sister in laws 16 times to get tips/ask questions about above mentioned gingerbread. Check. Make 4 batches of merengue cement icing. You get the idea. Spend all day Saturday having great relaxing time at sis in law Stephanie's house decorating gingerbread house with cute daughter Caroline and sis in law Maren, listening to great Christmas tunes and drinking wassail. CHECK.

Bro in law said it looked like Willy Wonka threw up candy in the kitchen. I must say I was very proud of my bohemian free-spirited house. Tobler tradition? We'll have to see. Maybe next Leap Year.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Allright, allright! I'll post the dang photo. I hate this picture of me, but whatever. YOU try finding a size 12 prom dress at D.I. Weren't we all about a size 2 in high school when we were actually attending the prom? (OK maybe an 8) Even my Spanx were like "we can only do so much..." We showed up and our friends, the Eastleys, were already yukking it up as Napoleon/Deb. My kids are now in love with the movie, and Ellison and Jax can't get enough of the dance scene--Ellison actually has some skills. They probably watched it 20 times. I can't believe we don't own this DVD yet. It's a staple.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Halloween Scrooge

I am not into Halloween. It could come and go and I couldn't care less. I don't particularly enjoy dressing up (I never have creative costume ideas), I don't enjoy putting an itchy hot costume on my snot-nosed baby, I don't enjoy the subsequent root canals (no kidding--Jackson has one, Caroline, TWO) that I know are in the making from the repulsive excess of candy. (I do, however, enjoy the KitKats and Reese's). My poor kids had to be whatever fit them in the existing costume bin (except for Jackson, who is the oldest and rebuffed my idea of throwing a white sheet over his head and cutting eyes out to be a "spooky ghost"). I think I had one crappy Halloween toll-painted wreath that was given to us as a wedding present a decade ago. (Hope one of you didn't give that to me--oops--it was cute for years and the first five moves).

I am the antithesis of my sister Susan, who is the "Mistress of all things Halloween". I think she had her Halloween decorations up in August. She throws magnificent Halloween soirees. She tediously hand carves 37 very small pumpkins and strings lights through them and hangs them up around her yard for a more "festive flavor". She dresses her cute family up in grand thematic fashion (she was a spider web and her baby was the spider).

This year, by Jove, was going to be different. I promptly copied my VT Jill's window decor ideas--surprisingly easy with black felt/flannel and white iron-on backing--and started cutting. I bought cute little witches feet to hang out of drawers. I bought orange lights to go around the door. We "Boo'ed" our neighbors. I bought a huge cauldron to put candy in. Marc and I went to an adults only Halloween party as Napoleon Dynamite and Deb(again), and abandoned every last shred of our pride and dignity as we participated in a video scavenger hunt--racing shopping carts in the Wal-Mart parking lot, and singing "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" (with four other costumed self-respecting adults) to a bunch of teenagers at In-N-Out Burger. Marc still hasn't forgiven me for making him go with me, but he was a mighty good sport. Marc did look kinda cute acting like a Deacon again.

My boy Jackson: "Mom, thanks for finally getting into the Halloween spirit after ten years."

Me: "You're welcome."

"Nice to Do"

Much to Marc's chagrin, the blog is up and running. Apparently blogging doesn't merit the respect that, say, Fantasy Basketball does. Gosh honest truth is that now he's got competition for our one computer every night. He's patiently waiting to check his scores right now.

Let's face it, blogging probably does not make Julie Beck's "Must Do" category--not even a "Should Do", really. I should be reading my girls bedtime stories right now. But it's been so fun to scrape this thing together thus far. Plus, I knew I had no choice when my BROTHER-in-law Kevin started a blog for his family. I couldn't be left in the dust any longer. It was out of my hands.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Bandwagon

We're on it. Or in it. Does one get on or in the bandwagon? Whatever the case, we're officially aboard. After entertaining starting a blog for a few months, I figure--why not? I'd been warned by friends that blogs can be addicting, but that's just a risk I'll have to take. All in the name of "journaling". I admit, I do adore reading others' blogs. It's voyeurism to be sure, yet enlightening/entertaining, even educational.