Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pork Kabobs With Orange and Thyme

Holy YUMMY!! I found this recipe some time ago in Martha Stewart Living --even the kids were impressed (and that takes somethin'...). So enjoy your grill a few more times before it gets cleaned and stored for the winter! (That is, unless you're lucky enough to live where its warm enough to grill year-round...)

Pork Kabobs With Orange and Thyme

1/4 cup fresh orange juice
plus 1 Tbsp. freshly grated zest
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into cubes

Whisk together orange juice and zest, garlic, thyme, mustard, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a large bowl. Whisking constantly, pour oil in a slow, steady stream; whisk until emulsified. Add pork; toss to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow pork to marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature. Heat a grill or grill pan until medium-hot. Thread 5 or 6 cubes of pork on each of 4 skewers; season with salt and pepper. Discard marinade. Grill pork, turning occasionally, until cooked through and slightly charred, about 12 minutes.

I doubled the recipe to feed my family and 1 guest.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Since the big move, I have finished decorating every room...except one. Since we have a dedicated living room in our new home, I have had a really hard time deciding what to put on the wall above our sofa. And it irritated the heck out of me to not have this project finished! Yesterday, my typography alphabet arrived from Pottery Barn and once I had framed the "M"s, inspiration hit! So the wall above the sofa is done, everything is straight, and we finally feel at home!

The artwork in the middle is a flower acrylic by Bellet that I bought at an art auction on our cruise...I found it tucked away in a corner and fell in love with the colors. He does all his work with a palette knife...incredible! The three little pictures are the hospital pictures of the children.

This picture is of the top of my china cabinet in the dining room with the third "M" in my typography set. LOVE the way it turned out!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Girlfriends Matter!

Several weeks ago, I got a surprise little package in the mail from one of my girlfriends and enclosed was the cutest card. I was delighted when I found the same stamp at Hobby Lobby and made a batch of cards with it for me to send on to other girlfriends. But it really was the message that struck me...Girlfriends Matter!

It got me thinking. Where would I be without my girlfriends? Although my girlfriends (and that includes my sisters and sister-in-laws) live all around the world, they have been my extended family when I was far from my parents, they have shared recipes, they have watched my children, they have opened their homes to me, they have held my hand through 3 difficult pregnancies and 4 major deployments, they have comforted, guided and inspired me. They have helped calm my spirit. They have made me better and helped me learn to trust myself. I only hope one day to return the favors.

So thank you, thank you, my friends! May we continue to matter!

Friday, September 21, 2007


That's right! After the CRAZY week we had here at our house (which I'll blog about more tomorrow), at least I know that I'm not completely nuts! While I was reading the newest "Real Simple" magazine, I came across this word. It means the fear of sharks. Okay, now what I have really isn't a phobia. It's more of a certainty. A certainty that I will be the one person that gets eaten by a shark at any given time at any given locale where the ocean is part of the scenery. This particular part of my very cute nature is extremely frustrating for my adorable husband who takes me all over the world to different beaches and I flat out refuse to get in the water. For example, Hanauma Bay, Hawaii. Tony: "Come snorkel with me!" Amber: "No thank you. I just saw all those very same fish at the aquarium." In Carlsbad, California. Tony: "Amber, come get in the water!" Amber: "I'm good. Just catching some rays." In Destin, Florida. Tony: "Amber, let's go hit the beach!" Amber: "No, thanks. I think they filmed part of "Jaws" here."
To my credit, I did get in the water and went snorkeling with Tony at Trunk Bay in St. John during our cruise last year, but only because visibility was incredible and I'd at least see an attack coming.

Anyway, despite the irrational fear I have of being eaten by a shark, we actually LOVE sharks at our house. Got 'em in the tub. Got the movie. And every year, we faithfully watch Shark Week. At least now, I have a name for it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Boys' Weekend

Well, it was a weekend to remember for the two big McIllece boys...a road trip to Tulsa to see BYU play! Tony and Sam left with Brian, Ben and Jacob Cochran on Saturday morning and drove 6 1/2 hours south to Tulsa to tailgate,

mingle with other die-hard fans,

make some new friends,

chat it up with Cosmo,

and enjoy an evening game with the Lymans, Cottons, and both Cochran families.
It would have been a perfect weekend had the Cougs not broken our hearts, yet again. This time, 55-47. We'll keep cheering...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Joy School

Anna started Joy School this week and she insisted on a "first day of school" picture...just like brother! I was blessed to be invited to join a group that was looking for one more little girl...we all have girls about the same age (one in our ward and two in a neighboring ward) and it has been a ball! I think Anna has felt a little left out since we decided to not put her in a regular preschool this year (she'd be bored out of her mind) and this was a good option because it mixes all sorts of learning as well as social skills in a very structured curriculum. And who can beat a 4 little girl class? We take turns teaching and I'm really looking forward to spending some time with these little sweethearts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


My very observant Sam asked me on the way to school this morning,"Mom, why are all the flags halfway down?" And so began the difficult task of explaining to a sweet 6-year-old why anyone would fly an airplane full of people into a building. I think that is what makes this 6th anniversary the most poignant yet for me...remembering that my innocent babe was just 9 months old in 2001. And now, I have to explain about evil in the world, much before I am ready to.

I went back to what I journaled just after 9/11 and want to share just a few of the feelings I had as the tragedy unfolded. Reading it today, those feelings come rushing back, but they are tempered with gratefulness also. Grateful for my country, for my family, and for the sacrifices made daily for both.

"About the time the first tower fell, Tony called from school (he was about 4 weeks into his first semester of law school) and wanted to know details about what was going on that he couldn't get at the school--all he knew was that the towers had been hit and that his first morning class had been cancelled. I tried my best to explain to him that one of the towers had collapsed. He kept trying to say,'Part of it collapsed?' and I kept repeating, 'It is completely gone.' He hung up so he could find a TV with some of his friends. Not long after that, the second tower fell and the damage to the Pentagon was reported. I started to think about our friends and loved ones in the Armed Forces and what this was going to mean for them and the sacrifice that they and their families would be required to make. I was profoundly grateful that my sweet husband was in school and was somewhat protected from any military action. He returned home from school before lunch--we both wanted more than anything to have our family together. When our innocent baby Sam awoke from his nap, I remember whispering in his ear, 'our world has changed forever.'"

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Divided Loyalties and a Yummy Snack

I must admit, our family has divided loyalties. I mean, we live in Nebraska and spent 3 blessed years in Husker territory, so we love Nebraska football. But we also have a love/hate relationship with our Cougars.
So today, we got to watch BOTH our winning and one losing...Thanks to the Cochrans for hosting the party for the BYU game and here is a new recipe for a yummy football watchin' snack we tried out tonight. GO BIG RED COUGS!! Whatever.:-)

Vanilla Chex Mix

1 bag semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups corn Chex cereal
2 cups rice Chex cereal
2 cups wheat Chex cereal
2 cups salted dry-roasted peanuts
2 cups small pretzel twists
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 pkg. almond bark

Place chocolate chips in freezer to chill. Mix cereals, peanuts, pretzels, and marshmallows in a large bowl. Microwave candy coating in microwave for 1 minute. 30 seconds. Stir, breaking apart large chunks. Repeat until coating can be stirred smooth. Gently and quickly pour coating onto cereal mixture until evenly coated. Stir in chilled chocolate chips. Spread on waxed paper; cool completely. Break into chunks.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Top Five Summer Reads

I LOVE to read. I LOVE to read really good books. One of my favorite things is to be reading a really good book and to have 3 or 4 new books on my nightstand ready to be enjoyed. Unfortunately, with the move this summer and with limited access to a library, I didn't get a lot read. But here are my top five picks from the summer months:

#5 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
A girls just gotta know how things turn out.

#4 Finding Peace, Happiness and Joy by Elder Richard G. Scott
I loved this book, despite the fact that Elder Scott scares me when I watch him during General Conference...I swear the man can see right through to my soul.

#3 Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
I read this for my Great Falls book group (I sure miss you guys!) and was pleasantly surprised. Quite an ending.

#2 Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Another Great Falls book choice for the upcoming year. And I'm not QUITE done (have you seen how LONG the thing is??) but I am thoroughly enjoying it.

And the #1 Amber's Choice read of the summer is:

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
It sure had a lot to live up to after The Kite Runner, but I absolutely LOVED this book. In fact, it's not in the picture because I've been pawning it off to whoever I can find because I loved it so much.

And on a side (but related) note, my friend Angela Wirick (and Jack and her Sam) came to visit us in Great Falls right before the big move and she was telling me that she had been into making journals. I was so inspired that I finally did a reading journal the other night to keep track of books that I have heard are good, new books on the Bestsellers list and the Pulitzer Prize list.
I make sure to note who recommended the book and leave a few lines to give my impressions when I get it read. I'm hoping this will save me time and energy at the library or when I'm browsing the book aisles at Target. It turned out so cute I had to share.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Missing Stan

As Megan, Anna and I were heading to the movie on Labor Day afternoon, we drove through a part of Omaha that I am not very familiar with. So as we drove, we kept a close eye on our surroundings, trying to find any cool new haunts that we could check out later. And there it was. On the left side of the road...a Sizzler. Now, we're all quasi-familiar with the Sizzler chain...they have come and gone and relocated all over the western US for years. It also happens to have been one of Stan's very favorite places to eat. In fact, we all ate there as a family on the way to Stan's funeral earlier this year in his honor. Kinda made him feel closer in a way. But the weirdest part was that when I saw it, my brain INSTANTLY said, "Wow! We have a Sizzler! We'll have to take Stan when he comes to visit..." And then my brain caught up and I got kinda sad.

When I told Tony about it that evening, he shared an experience he had had earlier that morning as he prepared to take Sam fishing. He was going through a fishing tackle box that he had inherited when Stan passed and in the top little compartment, the first place that he'd open, was a pair of Stan's reading glasses, all ready for his next fishing trip. I think we'll keep them there.

Labor Day Catch-Up

We had a fabulous Labor Day! Tony and Sam got up early and went over to the Walnut Creek Reservoir( about 1/2 mile from our home) and went fishing. The day was glorious and a dream for every fisherman...they caught crappies and sunfish at almost every cast!

Megan also came up for Sunday dinner and stayed overnight. Anna was a little disappointed that she didn't get to go fishing so the girls went to a movie on Monday afternoon. Since Joshua joined our family, Anna is very aware that there are more boys than girls in our family. So when Megan is here, she says we have "girl power" and makes us all pile-up hands. What a cutie!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Take out from IHOP: $15.00
Season 3 of The Office: $38.00
Spending an evening laughing hysterically
with my husband: Priceless

Saturday, September 1, 2007

It's Game Day!

Finally, the day we have all been waiting...and waiting...and waiting for. The football season opener of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Let me explain. For the people of Nebraska, there is nothing bigger. They love their families, they love their country, they work hard, they pray hard, but there is nothing bigger than Nebraska football.
This is Memorial Stadium on the downtown campus of the University of Nebraska. All's quiet now, but give it a couple hours and the place will be rockin', filled to capacity and beyond with crazed fans. When filled on game day, Memorial Stadium becomes the 3rd largest city in Nebraska.

It was "Game Day Friday" for Sam at school yesterday so he wore his jersey and made the cutest little husker guy (at this rate his red crayon will be gone by Thanksgiving). Those are your tax dollars hard at work.

Let me digress. Stan (Tony's dad) came out to Lincoln to go to a game with Tony during his second year of law school. They were playing Texas. Well, they had left for the game and Sam and I were braving the traffic for a quick trip to Target. We had stopped at a stoplight and a jeep full of crazed college-aged boys pulled up behind us. Well, they start to scream and yell, honk their horn, and flip me off. I couldn't figure out what their problem was...until I realized that our little purple Civic still had Texas plates on it. I looked down at my BRIGHT RED HUSKER SWEATSHIRT and back at Sam in his BRIGHT RED JERSEY and just had to shake my head. That's the kind of fans we have here.
So, we hang our flag, we don our red, and we wait...not so patiently...for kick-off.