Friday, February 27, 2009

Triple Layer Peanut Butter Brownies

Yesterday was the Blue and Gold banquet for cub scouts. This year we had a pie contest. Not being a big dessert maker Alex, Tyler, and I had to get creative. Tyler made a yummy mint chocolate chip ice cream pie with a rice krispie crust. Alex and I found the following recipe in my kraft foods magazine. We made it in a pie pan and it was sure a hit last night. Thought I would share the recipe:

Total Time: 2 hr 10 min

Makes: Makes 32 servings.

What You Need!

1 pkg. (19 to 21 oz.) brownie mix(13x9-inch pan size)
1 cup cold milk
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-1/2 cups COOL WHIP Whipped Topping (Do not thaw.)
3 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate (we just used chocolate chips)
1/2 cup PLANTERS Dry Roasted Peanuts, coarsely chopped

Make It!

PREPARE and bake brownies in 13x9-inch pan as directed on package; cool. Meanwhile, beat milk and pudding mix with whisk 2 min. Add peanut butter and sugar; mix well. Refrigerate until brownies are completely cooled.

SPREAD pudding mixture over brownies.

MICROWAVE COOL WHIP and chocolate on HIGH 1 min., stirring every 30 sec. Spread over pudding; sprinkle with nuts. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Last week Birch and I had the treat of spending five days being rocked to sleep...literally. About three years ago Birch's family set a goal of "Feelin' Fine in 2009" -- an adult-only cruise (and yes, it was complete with matching embroidered shirts for the girls and swim trunks for the boys). We all really enjoy being together and with 21 grand kids under 10 years old we have desired to have a trip where naps, dirty diapers, mass feedings, and picking up toys weren't part of the fun. I've always wanted to go on a cruise so it didn't take much convincing for us to decide that we didn't want to miss out on the fun and to start saving our pennies and nickels to make it possible. Of course, a major part of any trip that Birch and I go on is figuring out what we are going to do with the six kids. My mom has made most all of our trips possible...what would we all do without our moms? After my mom watched the kids last year for several days we all realized that it would be much nicer if she had an accomplice to join her for this trip. My sister-in-law Caroline jumped on "ship" as soon as we asked her. How did I end up with such a great family?

So...early Saturday morning (Feb 7th) Birch and I loaded on the plane and arrived in San Diego just in time for a little rain storm. We barely made it on the boat because our plane was late and we were conned into taking this shuttle bus to the cruise ship which ended up being 45 minutes late. Kind of a long story but we were thrilled when we finally made it on the ship and unloaded our stuff in our cabin just in time for the emergency drill. This was the first time that we saw the rest of Birch's family who had become a little nervous that maybe we weren't going to make it in time. Birch's sister Blayre had just returned from a 19 month mission for our church just two days prior to our cruise so it was SO fun to see her after such a long time.
We spent Thursday night having a little Ditto Karaoke night. Seriously it was just our family rockin' out for the first hour or so and then a few others joined us. Birch dedicated "Wonderful Tonight" to his "lovely wife of twelve years" sweet. Birch's mom brought the house down with "Funky Town"--something none of us will ever forget.
Then we basically started eating....And we didn't stop for five days. The food in the dining rooms was fabulous. Even if I didn't love what I had ordered I still admired the beautiful. But don't worry, I never went hungry as I usually ordered two main dishes (just because I could) and often two appetizers. Our head waiter from Indonesia never made me feel like I was a big fat lazy pig but instead reminded me "this your cooking, no cleaning." Since I am not a big dessert eater I mostly stuck with a beautiful plate of fresh fruit.
Birch enjoying a little escargot.

Due to the less than desirable weather we didn't get to spend as much time soaking in the sun as we all had anticipated. I did manage to sunburn my nose while reading outside in the "sweet spot" that was sheltered from the wind. I spent a lot of time reading, which was a real treat for me. Birch even cracked open a book which he rarely has time to do or chooses to do since he gets his fill of reading research articles for work.
Instead of lounging around in swimsuits on the ship deck we found other fun things to do. Birch played basketball, volleyball, and lots of ping pong (sometimes the top deck level with the basketball and volleyball would be closed because of the rough waters so he had to resort to some hardcore ping pong). I missed the one time Birch went down the water slide after a game of basketball but he said it was fun and the water was quite chilly (it comes straight from the ocean). The Ditto family LOVES to play games, although I AM a Ditto this hasn't worn off on me yet. I did breakdown several times and join in on "Rook," "Hand and Foot," and "Golf."
We stopped in two ports during our five night cruise. The first was by far my favorite day of the whole cruise...Cabo San Lucas. For one thing the water was more need for Dramamine but the main reason was the warm sun. I need two things in life to be happy...heat and food. That sounds a little superficial as I write it so let's just say that both of those things are very important to me. The ship docks in the Sea of Cortez so you take a little tender boat to land where you are immediately mobbed with Mexican men offering to take you places. We decided to first walk farther into town and do a little shopping at the flea market. I'm guessing because around 4000 tourists come to their town on an almost daily basis that the little shops are not forced to have dirt cheap prices like I had envisioned. We all shopped with American money (you could even pay with your credit card at the restaurants). I was able to buy a really cute little dress for Chloe. I could have spent all my money on buying little dresses for her; they make them so little...I have a soft spot for cute little girl clothes. We got several others little gifts for the kids and then had a tasty lunch at a Mexican restaurant--imagine that??.
Then we split up and one group went to a resort beach and went para sailing and our group decided to hire the "Mavis" to take us to "Lovers Beach" and to see the famous rock arch.
We had a splendid afternoon on Lover's Beach. Birch and his brother Kelly went snorkeling and saw some cool fish. They had a great time rock jumping. I laid in the sun and read my book, enjoyed exploring, and just soaked in the good life. We were honestly a little sad to have to get back on the rocky boat and leave our smooth waters and warm sun behind us.
The next day on the water was probably the roughest. In fact we had several other people on the ship tell us that they have been on 9+ cruises and this was the roughest waters they had ever been on. Fortunately I was no longer feeling nauseous (a couple of my sisters-in-law really weren't feeling good) and I didn't need to take the Dramamine. Between the rocking of the boat, the fatty plentiful foods, lack of exercise, and the Dramamine it would just lull you to sleep--no fun when you just wanting to have a good time. The night show was really fun that night; lots of energetic dancing and pretty good singing.

Our last port stop was Ensenada. We had been told by several that this isn't the most exciting stop and so plan to find your own fun. We did just that!!! Birch's brothers had all decided that it would be super fun to rent ATVs and cruise around Ensenada all day. We found a place to rent them just after getting off the boat and the ten of us all loaded on five 4-wheelers and took off around town. Our first stop was Home Depot to buy some bungee cords to attach our bags to the ATVs. It was funny seeing Walmart, Applebees, McDonalds, and Costco--just like I was right back at home. Then we headed to the sand dunes. Let's just say that Birch really loved this day and it wasn't my favorite. I'm not one for scary adventure...I like to play it safe. Cruising around ON THE ROAD with only a helmet for my protection from cars, and jumping off of sand dunes is not fun to me. Birch loved every minute! I had him drop me off on the beach were I tried to make a little nest for myself with everyone's towels to keep me warm (it was only 61 degrees and quite windy).
We did all enjoy a tasty authentic Mexican restaurant (Las Cazuelas) for lunch. Birch's Spanish became very useful as we cruised around town trying to find the recommended lunch spot. Again, the Mexican people were very kind to us and served us a delicious meal.
One of our daily cool animal towel creations


We were never able to call home while we were gone which was kind of unusual for us because on previous trips we have always called each evening. It was super expensive to call so we opted to just get filled in when we got home. I was mostly concerned about Chloe and how she would do without her mommy. My mom and Caroline had had a pretty good first couple of days with the kids. They celebrated my mom's birthday, went to church, did lots of crafts, and enjoyed each other's company. THEN...Monday night rolls around and Tyler wakes up throwing up while managing to hit all four bunk beds. By Tuesday afternoon Nate, Alysee, and Cooper had all joined in on the larfing fest. Cousin Tommy (Caroline's one year old) was not far behind and then Chloe didn't want to feel left out so she started throwing up each night for the next five days. From what I understand only one child made it to the toilet to throw up the rest was scrubbed up by Caroline and my mom. I think Caroline calculated 16 vomit clean ups, not counting the additional 16 between herself and Tommy. Alex joined in the fun the day after we got home from our trip and Chloe continues to spit up/throw up every few days and have nasty diapers. Birch and I both felt dizzy and a little nauseous the first few days but I think that is attributed to being on solid ground again.

Despite being sick, the kids had a great time with Ami (my mom), Caroline, and Tommy. They each felt loved and enjoyed the special things they did together. Even Chloe seemed to bond easily with my mom which had worried me since she is a momma/daddy girl. I had prepared myself that she might be mad at me when we got home...she was. My mom was holding her and walked up to me, Chloe took one look at me and started crying and turned around to snuggle into my mom. About a half an hour later she stretched her arms out to Birch but still didn't want anything to do with me. It took her a good hour or two to forgive me and then she came to me, though I've noticed she still preferred Birch for the first couple of days. So sad that she felt I had abandoned her.

Not wanting to sound ungrateful or critical of our splendid vacation many have asked me to evaluate the trip and whether I would recommend a cruise.

My favorite parts:
--being with MY LOVER
--beautiful limitless food
--warm Cabo
--fun night shows (dancing, singing, and hypnotist)
--being with nine of my favorite people
--having someone clean up after you

Not so favorite parts:
--smoking (really hard to get away from it. The "smoking areas" were in central locations and tainted much of the out-lying areas)
--fatty foods (of course, I could have chosen to eat more healthy but then would it have been a vacation?)
--rocky boat=feeling sick and limited deck activities
--yucky weather=I think I would opt to pay more to go at a more predictable warm time of the year (or location) because much of what we wanted to do or planned on wearing required some warm sun
--not so family friendly night shows--I'm not saying they were bad I just wouldn't want my kids watching them (their outfits weren't so modest). Very Las Vegas style shows.
--drinking--this didn't bother me too much because I was prepared that it would be everywhere which it was. Not a good idea for a recovering alcoholic, nor would I want my kids around it either.

IF I were to do it again I would pick a nicer boat (I think the saying is true that you get what you pay for in this circumstance). We were on the Carnival Elation which is known to be more of a party boat. It looks like it was built in the 70s with its orange and gold decor. I would go to a warmer location or a time that is more guaranteed to be warmer. If the weather isn't nice you get a little "ship fever" with lack of things to do since all the outside activities aren't as plentiful.
Our cabin

Honestly I think I would rather do an all-inclusive resort in an area that I know I would enjoy. I could have spent all five days in Cabo and have been a very happy woman. Next stop for me (well, I guess I'll invite Birch) will be Hawaii or a warm beach in Mexico!!!

So do I sound like a spoiled brat now? The past couple of months I have really been reminded how lucky of a girl I am. I also have been reminded that you can't expect your marriage to flourish without giving it some meat to chew on. Birch and I have been blessed to take a couples' trip for the past several years--I think these five days with just the two of us has helped recharge the GLUE to keep us stuck together through the not so blissful or mundane parts of life. I'm obsessed with the movie "Fireproof" right now and we are just starting the 40 day challenge in the book that was referred to on the movie called "The Love Dare." I can't imagine life without my LOVER and I know that it takes work to keep a marriage alive. So thank you again to Caroline and my mom for making this possible for us!

Our traditional pose we've been sportin' for years.