Thursday, July 28, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011


Holy cow. Our last day in the car on the way into Alabama, Tony and I counted up the stats of our summer travels. Pretty unbelieveavle.

We visited 14 states.

We crossed the Mississippi River 2 times.

We crossed the (very high and a little scary) Missouri River 3 times.

We stayed in 5 different hotels, 3 homes and a very soggy TLF room.

And we had a ball. Here are some highlights:

Driving across beautiful Nebraska and enjoying the green carpet of corn...I miss it so much! Playing in the pool at the Kellogg's lovely home and being fed like royalty. Tony wouldn't stop anywhere in eastern Nebraska knowing that if I got out of the car, he wouldn't be able to get me back in.

Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. 4 major roller coasters, 2 train rides and 22 water bottle refills. The heat index that day was 105 degrees. No lines for the rides, but no pictures either because everytime I opened my camera, the lens would fog up.

A quick stop at Adam-ondi-ahman, Missouri--a site of importance to the history of our church. And another blown tire. Seriously.

An overnight in Nauvoo, Illinois to see the Nauvoo Pageant, the Nauvoo Temple and the lovely town of Old Nauvoo.

A somber and beautiful stop in Carthage, Illinois to visit the site of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum.

In St. Louis, a view form the bottom (and the top) of the Gateway Arch.

One last night in southern Illinois, and into Montgomery.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wheeler Farm & Wyoming

I know, the two don't really go together except in our crazy moving adventure! Our last day in Salt Lake, Lena and I took a bunch of the McIllece kids to Wheeler Farm. It is such a cute little place with farm animals, ducks to feed and a really fun hayride. They even had a penny press. Nice.

And for dinner? Why, Cafe Rio, of course!

Yesterday morning we finished packing and picked up Joan (Tony's mom) to start our trip to Alabama. Yesterday, we drove the entire width of Wyoming. And let me just say that every road trip disaster on our many drives between Omaha and Salt Lake ALL happened in Wyoming. I consider it pretty much the bane of my travel existence. But I must say, yesterday went extremely well. No flat tires, no blown spare, no pee breaks on the side of the road and no getting snowed in. And to top it all off, when we stopped for lunch, I ran over to Sonic because I knew they had diet Dr. Pepper on fountain and I needed one for the road. Not only did they have diet Dr. Pepper, but the had the BIGGEST diet Dr. Pepper I have ever seen. For $1. I'd say my relationship with Wyoming is lookin' up.

On to Nebraska!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Baby Rock

We are finally in Utah and living it up with the McIlleces. Lagoon, angry birds, lunch with my girlfriends, Harry Potter and playing the McIllece version of "Minute to Win It." But today was all about this little man.

This is baby Rock. He belongs to my sister April and is the newest member of the Nichols Family Tree. He is special in so many ways and has been a blessing to us from the minute he arrived in March. Today was the first time I have seen him and let me tell you, relative bias aside, he is one of the most beautiful babies I have ever seen. I snuggled him every chance I got this afternoon. Grandparents, a set of great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins converged on my sister's family today to bless baby Rock.

Let me step back a minute. My sister was about 3 months pregnant at my father's funeral last Fall. Later, we found out it was a baby boy. And because her last baby was delivered by c-section, they scheduled April's delivery date many weeks in advance. She called me after she had it scheduled--exactly 6 months after our father passed away, with no wiggle room. Now, April and her husband could have gone two ways with this. Poor baby Rock could have grown up knowing that every birthday would be tragically painful for his mother. Or they could use this date to celebrate the birth of this beautiful child and remember my father at the same time. So his name became James Rock. They call him Rock, but the James is after our father. Hearing it today in the blessing made me catch my breath, knowing that for the first time, my dad wasn't there to help bless one of his grandchildren. My father loved babies. And babies always loved him. So, today I can only imagine that six months my dad and Rock spent together in heaven and I know that Rock was born with his cheeks wet with my father's kisses.

So today, we celebrate this beautiful baby boy and the gift of healing and life he has brought to our family. We love you, baby Rock. Thanks for letting us be a part of your special day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday Stroll

After dinner last night Tony, my mom, me and all the kids went on a hike. My parents' house is at the end of a cul-de-sac and past them is miles and miles of Army land that they use for playing war, but is totally undeveloped and will probably stay undeveloped forever (yeah!). Makes for beautiful trails and wildlife...especially if you don't mind moose, bears, and wolves walking around with you. Yes, I have seen all of those in my neighborhood.

About a mile from the house is Campbell Creek which is pretty small up here but gets bigger and bigger as it flows to Cook Inlet. The pink salmon (Alaskans call them "humpies") are spawning so they turn bright red and travel upstream to where they were born to lay eggs and die. The kids kept singing "The Circle of Life" as we talked about the life cycle of salmon.

We found a spot where we could cross the creek and on the other side, we found this great tree swing. We all got in on the fun.

The fireweed is just starting to come of Tony's favorite things about Alaska. I like them too until they start sending up fluff that makes me sneeze and my eyes itch.

This metal
"fence" was built along the trail to keep motorized vehicles off the Army reservation. Right by Campbell Creek, we saw this and I had to take a picture. Man versus Mother Nature? Guess who wins every time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I took this picture last Thursday at 10:33 p.m. As in nighttime. Not daytime.

Gotta love these long Alaska summer days.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Linguini with Smoked Salmon, Asparagus & Dill

I haven't posted a recipe for a while and this one is spectacular! I made dinner for everyone at my mom's house this week and it was a huge hit. Even my kids love it. And where better to find some good smoked salmon than Alaska?

This is my version of a Gooseberry Patch recipe from their Family Favorites Cookbook. It's an awesome find...I have yet to have a meal crash and burn from this book.

Linguine with Smoked Salmon, Asparagus, and Dill

8 ounce package of linguine, uncooked (you can use whatever pasta you like)
1 pound asparagus
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped (worth it to use fresh...don't use the dried stuff)
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
4 oz smoked salmon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cook pasta per package instructions. Prepare the asparagus stalks and then cut them into 1" pieces. Add the asparagus to the pasta during the last 3 minutes of cooking time. Drain pasta and asparagus and put in serving dish. While the pasta is cooking, heat the cream, fresh dill, and horseradish in a pan over low heat until hot. (I like to try and time the two parts so they are done at the same time and then nothing cools). Pour sauce over the pasta and asparagus. Add chopped smoked salmon to mixture. Toss to coat.

I don't like lemon on this, but some of my family members do so I just squeeze the lemon into a small bowl and let them at it to their own dish.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hand-Me-Down Drama

Yesterday my mom got out her box of loose photos that she has of my sisters and I and all the grand kids to show Sam, Anna, and Josh the pictures of them when they were babies. She started with Sam--my mom would show the pictures to Sam one by one and then lay them on the floor for the other kids to see. Josh was bouncing around, obviously a little distracted. When he finally decided to join the party, there were all of Sam's photos laid out on the floor, many of which Sam was wearing clothes that turned into hand-me-downs for Josh. Josh grabs one photo, says, "Hey. That is MY red shirt. Wha? This is MY church sweater." He throws the pictures on the floor, folds his arms across his chest and utters this gem:

Josh: "Sam! You are wearin' ALL MY CLOTHES!"

He promptly bursts into tears, spins on his heel and stomps his way to his bedroom and quietly shuts the door. He's been told there will be dire consequences if he slams his door anymore. Didn't quite have the same impact, but he got his point across.

What a nut.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Launching Water Balloons

We had a picnic late this afternoon with my grand-parents around the fire pit in the backyard. The weather was glorious and none of us were really in a hurry to go inside. So mom dug out her water balloon launcher and water balloons and we waged water warfare against our neighbors front lawns.

After a few backfires and some premature explosions, we finally got the hang of it. The kids had a ball launching and watching the balloons hang in the air and then cheering when they hit the ground and exploded. So much fun. She wants us to take it with us to Utah and I can only imagine the carnage this thing will unleash in the hands of a group of McIllece brothers...

I guess water balloon launching is the Cranney Family Reunion Official Sport (my mom's family) but only after we're done launching rockets. Water balloons are Act II. My Aunt Lori helped my mom make this one with drilled dowels, stiff canvas, and surgical tubing from a pharmacy. I took a close-up just in case you wanted to make your very own family water warfare wager.

Try saying THAT three times fast.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Celebrating the Fourth

Growing up, July 4th was a big day for our family. My Grandpa and my Uncle Mel both have birthdays on the 4th so we always had a big family picnic to celebrate. It has continued as a family tradition and whenever we are home over the holiday, we get to go, too. Ribs, potato salad, beans, burgers, hot dogs, chips, cake, games for the kids (and a few brave adults), flags, pistachios and a big backyard makes for a pretty fun day!

This is my wonderful Grandpa. And baby Lola. Grandpa turned 88 today and Lola is 5 weeks old. The oldest and the youngest in the family.

As we were leaving, Tony and I went over to say goodbye to my grandparents and Grandpa was waxing a little nostalgic. He was looking over the backyard full of great-grandkids (28 to be exact) and he asked my Grandma, "Could you ever have imagined this?" She turned to him and said, "Well, that's what happens when you don't stay on your side of the bed." Classic Grandma.

And crazy Joshua. Flag in one hand and a piece of chocolate cake in the other. Doesn't get much better than that.

After we got home, my mom and I drove out to the cemetery and changed the flowers for my dad and put a flag by his marker. Although it was so nice to be with family for the day, it was a little hard to be there without my dad. And everywhere I looked, I seemed to catch a glimpse of him. In the kids, in his brother. We miss him just a little bit extra today.

Happy Fourth!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Just For the Halibut...

We are officially homeless and jobless for the next month. Only in our crazy life would that be a good thing! And we're in Alaska visiting my mom. For two weeks. It has been glorious to have all the time in the world and nothing to worry about.

The first item of business for the boys was a hardcore fishing trip. So yesterday Sam and Tony drove to Ninilchik for a halibut fishing charter. On the way, they saw a bear and a couple moose. It was a beautiful day and nobody got seasick until Sam puked right as they hit the dock at the end of the trip. Besides Sam taking a nose dive into the ocean, I was the most worried about him getting seasick because Especially when everyone else is busy catching fish while you're puking your guts out. Miserable.

This is Mt. Redoubt across Cook Inlet from the Kenai Peninsula. It actually erupted when I was in high school and we had to wear masks whenever we went outside and the ash gathered on everything like gray snow.

This is Sam on the boat. Tony said he did great and was the boat favorite! His biggest fish was about 30 lbs. and outweighed anything Tony caught. But lucky for Tony, Sam hasn't rubbed it in too much. Aside from the halibut, they also caught a ton of Pacific cod. In fact, Sam caught the first cod on the boat as well as the first keeper halibut. That's my boy!

Tony and Sam in front of all the halibut caught on the charter. The largest was about 60 pounds. Not as big as a barn door like some of them get, but at this size, they are the best for eating. So we're having fresh halibut for dinner tonight.

Aren't they cute? Blah. I wonder about the first guy brave enough to eat one of these suckers. They may be ugly, but they sure taste good!

More of our adventures soon...