Monthly Archives: January 2013

Pinewood Derby Part III, Race Day!

PWD3-6This day has been months in coming. RACE DAY! Weeks and weeks of planning, countless hours of preparation and toil and finally, RACE DAY is here! Okay, truthfully about 3 days of planning and preparation and just a little bit of toil – just keepin’ it real – but none the less, it is RACE DAY!


The Wolf Den is ready.

And yes, they are about the cutest, sweetest bunch of Cub Scouts on the planet.


The track is set.


The cars are placed and ready to race.


The spectators (daddy, Nathan and grandma – Sara is helping with concessions and socializing as  big sisters do) are anxious as they wait to see just what the Great Devourer is truly made of!


The tension is palatable.


And one little brother, having moved to a better vantage point, is holding his breath hoping that his big brother (whom he normally wants to beat at EVERYTHING) wins, just this once – or at least until he’s racing too in a couple of years.

So, how did it all turn out?

Well, the Great Devourer seemed to have a mind of its own and jumped the track and then lost a wheel. The pit crew (daddy) raced in and repaired the wheel for a 3rd place finish in the next heat; to which Nathan shouts “OH NO, David LOSE!”


But still gave his brother the thumbs up after mommy reminded him that it is okay not to be first.

And in fact, despite not being first, David did win.


He won the “Flat Tire Award” (a bag of chocolate covered donuts) for jumping the track and losing a wheel in spectacular fashion!


And by judges vote, he won for “Most Original Design”.


I just have to say how proud I am of my sweet boy; not just because he worked hard on his car or won an award but because he was a true sportsman, cheering his friends on and showing genuine excitement for their success. I am proud of the maturity and grace I saw in him amid the disappointment of his car not performing as well as he would have like. I am proud of the young man he is becoming and how he reminded us that you don’t have to win to be a winner!

Pinewood Derby Part II

A little bit of planning, sawing, sanding, filing and painting and just like that … a rectangular block of wood has become a snake. Actually, a race car in the shape of a snake.

PWD2-3But not just any snake, this snake is the “Great Devourer” inspired by a LEGO character. And not just any Lego Character, a Lego NINJAGO character.

PWD2-10To my eight year old, the sun rises and sets Legos, particularly Lego Ninjago. So we weren’t even a little bit surprised when he informed us this year’s Pinewood Derby Car would be the “Great Devourer”. “We can do that? Right dad?” And so the creative process and collaboration between father and son began and a block of wood became something more.

After the carving, sanding and fine-tuning came the paint job and then weight placement. Pinewood Derby cars can be no more than 5 ounces in weight but you want to be right at 5 ounces to ensure it is as fast as it can possibly be – my kitchen scale came in very handy.


The wheels are the next step and take a bit of work to make them fast. A little bit of science, a few tricks learned from the internet and other dads, a sprinkle of pixie dust (or in this case, graphite powder) a lot of pre-race spinning and the wheels are ready.


The Great Devourer is finished and I have a very proud and excited boy in the house – his son is pretty happy too!

PWD2-4All ready to pack up and head over to the weigh-in.


PWD2-7David and his buddy Ryan anxiously await the Great Devourer’s official weight.


Exactly 5 ounces!


Car #6, impounded and ready to race!

Pinewood Derby Prep, When a Block of Wood Becomes Something More

It is Pinewood Derby time around here. Consider this the Indy 500 of the Cub Scout world.  My middle guy and his dad have been working hard on his Pinewood Derby Car; taking a small rectangular block of wood and whittling (or sawing and Dremeling) it into a unique and hopefully fast race car.


But truthfully, it doesn’t really matter how it looks, if it is fast or if it wins.

Because what they have really being doing, what it is really all about, is spending time together. Deepening their bond. Making memories. Teaching. Learning.

That is what really matters.


What could possibly mean more to a little boy than to have his small hand engulfed in the hand of his daddy as he helps him guide the saw and shows him “how to do it”.

“No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.” – Abraham Lincoln


When his father’s actions say …

You matter to me. Your interests matter to me. I am busy but I am not too busy for you.


When his guidance and patience send the message …

I am here to do what you can’t but I will show you how to do what you can.

And trust you to do it.




When his teaching shows that with a little teamwork, cooperation, and persistence a plain block of wood will become something amazing.


When the gift of his time reminds his son …

You are part of a team. Loved. And your dad is on your side.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” John 5:19

Favorite Family Dinners – Meatloaf

With the start of the New Year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the direction of my blog and how to best present all of the interests, recipes, happenings, goings on and musings that encompass my life and may be of interest, benefit or encouragement to those of you who are so kind to stop by now and again.

Where to start? How about … meatloaf. It is always good to start with the basics.


Actually, I am really starting with a new category “Favorite Family Dinners”. I love to try new dishes and am always looking for new recipes but for regular weekday cooking, where I need to get a healthy and yummy meal on the table for dinner quickly and easily, I have a several go-to favorites.

And yes, meatloaf or “meat stuff” as my 8-year-old used to call it is definitely a favorite around here. “Mommy, can you make that meat stuff? I really like that stuff.” Anytime I hear something like that from one of my kids, a mental note is made and a sticky note is triumphantly placed in the cookbook.

Meatloaf. I know, it can be scary, bringing up images of bad cafeteria fare dry and smothered in cold brown gravy. There was a time when my husband swore he hated meatloaf (this is the same mid-western boy who hates casseroles) but this meatloaf is so yummy, even he has been won over. Here’s the really good news; it is a healthier version of traditional meatloaf. The recipe comes from Ellie Krieger’s cookbook “The Food You Crave”;

Notice all of the sticky notes "sticking" out the side? I wasn't kidding.

Notice all of the sticky notes “sticking” out the side? I wasn’t kidding.

but of course, I have made some modifications according to personal taste so I will give you the link to the original recipe and then share with you what I do.

Mom’s Turkey Meatloaf


First, I don’t usually make it with turkey. I use lean ground beef because we like the flavor better but ground turkey is a great option.


Meatloaf-EssentialsMeatloaf Essentials


Ellie calls for the addition of red bell peppers and chopped onion. I omit the peppers and saute the onion until it has a little bit of color and is softened up. Then I throw in a minced garlic clove, which is not in the original recipe, and saute for another minute or so. Let the onions cool before putting them in the meat mixture.


I love Worcestershire Sauce so I add an extra splash (or teaspoon) beyond what the recipe calls for. I mix with my hands, being careful just to incorporate and not over-mix which can make the meatloaf tough.


I shape it into my favorite meatloaf dish and then


top it with the tomato sauce and thinly sliced onion – but only on one side as I have little people who still think onions are gross. Please don’t tell them about the onions concealed within the meatloaf.

Bake for about an hour and voila …


Here is why I love this meatstuff, I mean loaf …

It is moist, tender and flavorful despite being lower in calories (only 205 per serving if you use turkey and lean beef doesn’t add a lot). The oatmeal is the perfect binder (whole grain and good for you) and pretty much disappears into the finished product but helps make it very moist. I love the tomato sauce on top rather than ketchup as it is a little more subtle and has great flavor.

I serve the meatloaf with either mashed potatoes (or smashed – skins on) or baked potatoes and my favorite frozen green beans from Archer Farms. The only other thing I can recommend is to sit down at the table with your family and enjoy it together!

Give it a try. And, as always, be sure to let me know what you think. Even better, try it your way and tell me what you did to change it up a bit. I’d love to hear from you.

Future Favorite Family Dinners to watch for … Chili Stacks, Flank Steak, Pesto Grilled Chicken and Roasted Loin of Pork.

The Trouble with Tonsils

Our first ER visit of 2013, January 9th. This has to be some sort of record.

As you may know our family has been waging war against a cold virus of some sort. Well, despite my best battle strategies, the enemy virus decided to play dirty and take the game to a whole new level; landing us in the pediatrician’s office on Monday, the ER on Wednesday and the next two days in the children’s hospital. The battleground? My daughter’s left tonsil.

I still have no idea how or why a tonsil abscesses but they can and do and it can be dangerous. When you start hearing things like “potential airway obstruction” and “nasty infection” you don’t play around.

So, after six hours in the ER we were on our way via ambulance to the children’s hospital for whatever procedure the ENT doc determined best. Despite the condition of her tonsil, a CT scan, and being bored after six hours – SIX HOURS – of waiting (I won’t elaborate on the 5 1/2 hours of Disney tween shows I am still trying to purge from my collective conscience) this was all a big adventure for my daughter. She was a little bit scared but asked great questions and was reassured by the wonderful ER staff who took the time to answer each of them and respect her need to know what was happening with her body. I was very proud of her and let her take the reins a little as I listened to her ask some very mature and appropriate questions. Okay, there were a few questions like “Will my voice always sound like this? ‘Cause it’s kinda’ cool!” but all-in-all, she was right on track.

Most of our wait was due to locating a bed at one of the area children’s hospitals and then getting the ambulance ride scheduled. Ahhh, the ambulance ride, a highlight for Sara, but nothing I would like to repeat anytime soon or ever. The paramedic was professional and nice but shared a little too much of his own tonsil stories and how he still has to gargle with Listerine to keep them from “flaring up”. Vote number one for tonsil removal as I tried to imagine a lifetime of gargling with Listerine as my daughter’s fate.

We arrived at the Children’s Hospital very late Wednesday night and were settled in by Susan who would be Sara’s nurse on the night shift. I was pleased to find that the hospital felt a lot less like a hospital than it could have. With a “room service” type menu (which Sara thought was awesome – even though she couldn’t eat), lots of movies to choose from on the TV, a cafeteria open until 2:30 am, all the coffee I could ever want and a pull-out bed for me in her room. They did everything they could to make us as comfortable as possible; including bringing me a much-needed toothbrush.

The next day, after consulting with the doctor, it was determined that the best course of action was to remove both tonsils. The doctor gave us a couple of options but was supportive of our decision to ensure that she would never have to go through this again and that she would avoid a future dependent on Listerene.


Her surgery went well and she wasn’t in nearly as much pain as I thought she would be afterward. After one more night in the hospital, we were cleared to head home the next day (yesterday) to recover and enjoy lots of Jello, Popsicles and sorbet – contrary to popular belief, ice cream is not part of the recommended diet. Sara is doing great. I am wiped out but relieved and happy to be home.

We certainly don’t wish or choose for things like this to happen, but when they do there is always a silver lining to be found. There is always something to be learned. Always something to be thankful for. Always a blessing.

What have I learned …

My daughter is growing up and is not a little girl anymore. Out of this experience I have gained a new respect for her as I watched her handle herself with maturity and confidence. She was brave. She was assertive. She was trusting. These are qualities she has had to work hard to find after the trauma and hurt she suffered in her past. She is overcoming and she is strong.

Always listen to your mother’s instinct; that gut feeling that tells you to act. I truly believe it is a prompting from the Holy Spirit. Worry, fretting and fear are not what I’m talking about – those are never of God. I’m talking about the intuition that tells you something is not right and you need to do something about it. Listen to it. Seek out health care professional who respect and value that intuition as well. Walk away from those who don’t or those who treat you in a condescending or dismissive manner. You are MOM (or dad) and you know your kid.

What I have been reminded of …

God is in every detail of our lives. Fear set in when Sara was in pre-op awaiting surgery. It was the first time I really saw her get scared. She had been anxious here and there but now she was scared. As she cried, I took her hand and her dad and I prayed with her. She stopped crying and her breathing relaxed as she was filled with the assurance that even though we could not go into the OR with her, she would not be alone.

What I am thankful for …

My God who is in the details.

My husband. Who is always there and gets us through whatever comes.

The amazing people God has placed in my life. Friends who were there to take my boys at a moments notice and knew just which magazines to bring me.


I am also thankful for the funny moments, because in our world – no matter what – there are always funny moments. When Sara was looking over the patient “room service” menu and says “LOOK mommy, they have cocktails!” I got excited for a moment but then reason caught up and I realized that what they really have is “fruit cocktail”.

When my friend Tracy (who had Nathan) sent me this text: “I just had to share a Nathan chuckle. He asked for another cookie (yes, I gave him one, that’s probably why he loves me!) … anyway he had already had a bag of popcorn so I told him he would have to wait because he couldn’t possibly be hungry. He said ‘ok, can I eat a banana while I wait to be hungry?'”  I so needed to hear from that funny little boy just then.

I am thankful for my daughter’s wonderful teacher who came by yesterday afternoon to visit with her, drop of her make-up work and give her the cards her friends and classmates made for her. She felt very loved and missed and was grinning from ear-to-ear. I have to share what her friend Madison wrote as it is so adorable (11-year-old girl dramatic but adorable) … “Wow, I never knew how much you meant to me until you were gone! I realized you were always there for me. You are someone I can fall back on. I realized I love you.” I am thankful to know my daughter has such sweet friends.



I am thankful to be home now and have this latest “adventure” behind us. I am exhausted but relieved as I see my daughter sitting and doing her make-up homework healthy and healing and only down a couple of tonsils. That two days in the hospital with my child has really made me think about the parents and kids that face terrifying diagnoses, hospitals, ambulances, ERs, doctors, IVs, needles, procedures, tests, fear and uncertainty every day. We are blessed to be healthy.

I am also blessed to have had this opportunity to bond with my daughter. Things are not always easy for her and I and we butt heads … A LOT. As crazy as it sounds, two days in a small hospital room together was very good for us. Next time we need a bonding moment though and I reminder of how much we really mean to each other, I’m hoping we can just get pedicures.

A few special post-tonsil ordeal thanks …

Thanks to Tracy and Eileen for each taking a “Brewer Boy” so their mom and dad could be with their sister without worry, knowing they were being loved and cared for.

Thanks to all of the friends and family who offered their support and prayers through a multitude of texts, phone calls and Facebook messages.

Thanks to the Gilbert Hospital ER staff for the excellent care. I hope we never need an ER again, but if we do it will be yours.

Thanks to the staff at Cardons Children’s Medical Center, especially our night nurse Susan who made Sara feel very special and Dr. Page who advised and informed but also listened.

Is it too Late to Say Happy New Year? – Revised and Corrected


I knew it published early when my computer seemed to go crazy mid-post writing and then suddenly displays a “Congratulations, you have 31 posts”.


I.AM.NOT.FINISHED. Not revised, not edited, not checked and re-checked; content I have been debating and unsure of POSTED. This was in no way as bad as the time I hit “save draft” and everything was gone – poof – never to be seen again … 0 words. I can barely mention it.

Nothing terrible, just unfinished and a little hap-hazard; ultimately edited, revised, corrected and published about an hour later as I intended. Unfortunately, I can’t take back all of the e-mails my wonderful followers received (which I just realized when I checked my e-mail a few minutes ago) so, I just thought I would let you know that I am not quite as scattered as I may have appeared in the unfinished post you read via e-mail.

Not quite. It is true, however, I don’t do gin and tonic – which did not make the final edit so you guys are the only ones who know the whole story.

Fidget Pie

Fidget-Pie-11I found this recipe in Victoria Magazine in 1993 and have made it many, many, many times since then. I made it for my parents and family and then for my husband. I made it for our first Christmas Eve meal as a married couple and every year after. It is now a happy tradition in our home.

My first married Christmas, that was one of the very best Christmases I can remember. My husband and I were newly married and had just moved to Altus, Oklahoma with the Air Force. We hadn’t yet sold our house in Washington State and were still paying for it along with our new place in Altus and by new I mean the 1925 Four Square with the sagging front porch and sloping floors that was the first true indulgence of a practical husband to his bride with big ideas and the need for a project. He would have much preferred base housing and nothing to fix, remodel or worry about but he knew I wanted that crazy little house so, there we settled. Paying for two houses left little in the budget for Christmas gifts so we decided to cut out the spending of money we didn’t have and focus on what really mattered; being together, celebrating our savior and eating. It was one of the most wonderful, peaceful, happy Christmases I have ever enjoyed. A fire, a loving husband, twinkling lights on the tree and a plate of steaming Fidget Pie – I didn’t need anything more.

See, this is why my posts are always too long – tangents. I can’t seem to help myself. Thank you for your patience. Back to the pie.

Fidget Pie is an English dish and is rumored to have been a favorite of Charles Dickens as he was quoted as saying ” it was no sooner brought into my room … than I fainted away … it prevents my writing  at any length, as my faculties are absorbed in crust.” When you smell this pie baking, you can’t help but imagine an earlier time and be enchanted by the thought of all who have enjoyed such a dish. This is what I love about good food; about making good food. It brings us together, connects us, reminds us of a simpler time and satisfies us in a way that mindless consuming for the sake of convenience never could. Slow down. Sit down. Enjoy.

Fidget Pie from Victoria Magazine, Jan. 1993



  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 3 and I use Yukon Gold)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 chopped fresh sage leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups diced cooked ham (12 ounces)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced (about 3)
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth or stock
  • Pastry for single crust 9-inch pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter a deep, 2 quart casserole. Layer potato slices in the bottom of the casserole. Season with salt, pepper, sage, and nutmeg. Continue layering and seasoning …


first ham,


then onion,


finally apples.


Pour broth over all. Roll out pastry on floured board until 1/4″ thick.


Fit pastry over pie, sealing and fluting it to the edge of the casserole. Cut a decorative hole in the center with a small cookie cutter so steam can escape – I cut and “F” for Fidget Pie because that is how my mom always vented her pies; “C” for cherry, “A” for apple – you get the picture.

The original recipe doesn’t call for it, but I brush the crust with an egg wash


and then sprinkle with sea salt.


Place on a sheet tray and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake for 40-45 minutes until pastry is crisp and golden and potatoes are tender. (Note: unlike a typical American pot pie, pan juices will be thin.) Yield: 4 servings. This pie will serve my family of 5 but there are NO leftovers.


I have made this pie many times and here are a few things I have discovered that really make it amazing:

Fresh sage and six leaves instead of four.

Freshly grated nutmeg. I don’t measure it, I just grate a fine layer over the potatoes and then another fine layer over the apples.

Homemade Stock – it really does make a difference. I always make stock out of my Thanksgiving turkey carcass and freeze it so I have some on hand as it is great for soups and … Fidget Pie.


It is a filling, hearty but not heavy, lovely dish that is perfect for winter. I hope you will try it, sit around the table or by the fire with someone you love and slow down and enjoy. As always, let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you.

Final tangent …

Do you remember how I told you that I have made this dish every Christmas Eve since I was first married? Well that is every one except for this year, I ran out of time – 3 children and piling too much on your plate will do that to you. So, because I had all of the ingredients on hand I decided to do a quicker – deconstructed version (isn’t that all the rage now anyway) and thought I would share.

Fried Potatoes and Onions


Sliced Ham


and Apple Sauce for authenticity.


.A little sad, I know, but delicious, we ate at 7pm and not at midnight and I made the Fidget Pie a few days later so the tradition lives on.

Is it too Late to Say “Happy New Year”?

Yes, I am three days late but I still can not miss the chance to wish you HAPPY NEW YEAR!  A BLESSED New Year full of promise and adventure. I am so hoping yours started a lot “healthier” than ours did, which brings me to the culprit behind the belated salutation – a nasty virus. For your own sake, I will say no more about it.

Despite that which I will not speak of (nasty virus), the Holiday season is still in full swing around here … siggghhhh. Yep, full swing. Long ago, crazy newlywed me thought it would be sweet to humor my adorable new husband and agree that the festivities (including decorations) shouldn’t end (or get put away) until after his early (but not nearly early enough) January birthday. I love Christmas. I love my house all done up for Christmas. I also love the fresh start of the New Year and am at this point I.T.C.H.I.N.G. to get the decorations down and the house put back in order (well as ‘in order’ as it ever is). Truth be told, with the uhum … nasty virus… it wouldn’t have all been put away by now anyway but I still find myself longing for that fresh clean slate. Silly, I know. My husband doesn’t ask for much so the Christmas lights twinkling into mid-January really isn’t that big of a deal.

So, how do the Brewers ring in the New Year? With food, of course. Even when we’re sick. We also celebrate at home in our PJs with our kids, a roaring fire, a good movie and a few fireworks (not the incendiary kind, the pop and leave steamers of colorful confetti paper all over the yard kind) wondering who will actually make it to midnight. Exciting? Maybe not, but it is my favorite kind of party and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


That is how I grew up and I have very happy memories of New Year’s Eve. I want the same for my kids. My dad was a ski-area manager so he worked late into New Year’s Eve and then was back up the mountain at the crack of dawn New Years Day. Needless to say, my parents didn’t party like rock stars, everything they did was family oriented. I think that is why I am the same way; that and the fact that I am over 40 with three young kids and could no longer party like a rock star even if I wanted to. Say what you will about keeping your mojo but I am good with my jammies and my slippers.

My mom always made the evening special for my sister and I. First of all, we got to have Dr. Pepper. For us, soda was a treat and a whole can of Dr. Pepper was a BIG deal! I actually drank a Dr. Pepper this year and it was heavenly! Partly because my throat hurt so badly it was the only thing that sounded good. Is it just me or is there something delightful about carbonation on a sore throat? She always put out fancy little finger foods and festive plates and napkins. Just to make it special. Just for us. My kids had a blast with the plastic champagne flutes that I bought just for them.



Our feast this year consisted of pigs in a blanket, mini-quiche, cheese tarts and hot wings with homemade blue cheese dressing, sparkling cider and a little bit of good Cabernet (it was New Year’s Eve, I had a virus, I wasn’t dead).


I had planned on making French Onion Soup from a recipe I found on one of my very favorite blogs, My French Heaven by Stephane Gabart, but I could only muster enough culinary gumption for heat and serve. I think the soup is on the menu for tonight, I am so excited to try it!

David helped me make the favorite of the night, pigs in a blanket which were created out of 7 hot dogs I had in the fridge and puff pastry from the spare freezer. You can do just about anything if you have puff pastry in the freezer.


I told him seam side down (even showed him) but he’s eight and in the end, liked the crazy pastry puffs sticking out the side anyway.

We did fireworks at about 9pm as making it to midnight wasn’t looking good for any of us.


Happy-New-Year-7He looks a little scruffy ruggedly handsome (he’s been sick) but it was such a cute picture that I had to put it in.


If his feet aren’t bare, they are in flip-flops.


I think they look like Charlie’s Angels in this picture, if Charlie’s Angels were under the age of 11 and two of them were boys.

So that was our New Year’s Rockin’ Eve!

Who made it to midnight? Nathan … and Gary and I, but only because Nathan did.

I am so excited for 2013 and have so much to look forward to and share here on this little blog that I have come to love writing so much. Thank you for encouraging and supporting me. Thank you for reading and liking my posts for sharing them on Facebook and Pinterest and for leaving your comments that are so important to me. I have made some wonderful connections since I started this new venture in October and I can’t wait to see where 2013 takes me.

A few things to watch for in the coming months …

More on the Hacienda, the fixer-upper that only I would be crazy enough to take on (well my husband and I – he is either crazy too or just really loves me). Next up, master bathroom remodel.

Many, many more recipes as I am finally going to put together the family cookbook that I have wanted to do for so long.

My love/hate (mostly love until I’ve been shredded by a Palo Verde branch) relationship with gardening in the desert and the creatures that inevitably visit us on the “Brewer Nature Preserve”.

Healthy food and fitness posts as I am going to try not to get any chubbier in the process of writing a cookbook and testing recipes.

Lots of memories and stories and of course, faith and family life including, but not limited to, all the birthday parties, holidays, celebrations, mischief, mishaps and mayhem you can stand. Inevitably, there will be some posts that will really only interest our grandmas but they are part of our story and our memories which is a big part, the biggest part, of what this is all about.

Thanks for joining us on the journey. As always, you are Welcome Company!