Family Christmas Countdown

Monday, December 31, 2007

The TRUE meaning of New Years

. . . is closet cleaning. So far this morning I have cleaned out my two bathroom drawers, three out of four of my bathroom shelves, and made a pass at the medicine chest. And now we are at work in the office, where we started working yesterday. Before the night is over, I might get to the drawer in my bed table, and do some work in the closet with the shelves and drawers Order, yes! Organization, yes! Clean start in the new year, yes!

Love to you all, Sandra

PS Went to see The Great Debaters last night as a reward for our office work--really good; I recommend it highly.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

O.K. Whats next?

I have a blog and is family time. How do I link it or whatever so you guys can see it? gmarilyn

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ellis family New Year

Well I can honestly say that we don't have ANY plans for New Years....kind of sad. We don't even have plans to celebrate in the morning, the afternoon - or anything. I think we'll probably play the Wii (our Ninetendo that we got before Christmas - we've got lots and lots of fun games now). We'll probably eat some junk food, some sparkling cider, and call it good. Since we've had Gabe we haven't celebrated New Years. I was sick and pregnant 2 years (with Gabe and Hunter), and then having babies really puts a kink into the going out late with friends idea. That's ok though, it wasn't my favorite holiday anyway.

Hope you all have a good time with whatever your plans are!

Friday, December 28, 2007

New Year 2008

It is funny to think of New Years in terms of celebrating New Years within the senior Community. Monday they will celebrate at the Senior Center at 10:oo A:M.
Sure ; laugh it gets better. In our Senior Housing complex they are celebrating at 2:00P:M:
So much for celebrating. A Few of us Sprightly ones will have a lite salad , sugar free soda, play old Big Band Cd's and last till 5 after nine.
I still hold out till the Ball drops in Times square and sleep the rest of the night in my recliner.

New Years addition

I forgot to mention that in the Carper household, we ring in the New Year on New York time - as soon as that apple drops in Times Square, Brian is off to bed. It's a time saver really. hehehe Charlotte

The Whisler New Years

Well the Whisler New Years will no doubt follow tradition, as follows:

At 4:15PM Ted will drive to the Kowloon Restaurant and order a #4 for two with an extra order of barbucue pork and oolong tea. He will then drive back home where the two of us will stuff ourselfs on goodChinese food and decide that this year we will stay up till midnight. At about 10:20 Carole will cave in and by 11:30 Ted will be gone and 2008 will just have to come in on its own.

Love you all and we certainly wish all of you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Great movie--highly recommended

We went to see the Tom Hanks movie, Charlie Wilson's War, last night. It was great, and I recommend it highly. Both serious and funny, really well written and directed, well acted. We enjoyed it a lot. Go see it if you get a chance. Love, Sandra

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Carper New Years plans

We don't really have any plans for New Years. There is a party at church on New Year's Eve, but it isn't a full dinner and it doesn't start until 8:00. We always hate to be out on the road late on New Year's Eve... 25 miles on dark, icy road with a bunch of drunks is not our idea of fun. Since New Year's Eve is on a Monday, they are having Family Home Evening as the theme - the High Priests group is planning to teach people how to do family group sheets for genealogy. We're a bit more advanced than that in our genealogy, so that doesn't sound too fun. The Elder's quorum is boycotting the event because none of the presidency wanted to go to any of the planning meetings or the party.... I finally convinced them to get some nacho cheese in a can and some corn chips to contribute to the snacks at the party, so at least they will contribute that. There are only 3 active elders plus the 3 in the presidency and ALL of them live at least 20 miles from the church, except one, so I think they are all planning to spend a quiet evening at home.

I imagine Alicia and Justin will go in to be with the young marrieds - they are all working hard to bond as a group and help each other get settled into married life. A great group of kids.

New Year's Day is FOOTBALL !!!! and sometimes college basketball. We have our usual cheese ball (Grandma Carole's recipe) and our brother-in-law Bill's clam dip and chips and Alicia got some kielbasa and little smokies and crackers at Sam's Club, so we should have enough of them to last thru the day.

Brian is busy now working on the big boat project, so he works most days on that - he's not real big on celebrating holidays. He would like to get as much done on the boat as he can while he is off from the school - he doesn't go back to work there until the 7th, I think. Justin is supposed to go back to work on the 2nd... hopefully, his ankle will be healed enough by then for him to work. It might be a severe sprain instead of a break.

So that's the Alaska plans for the New Year celebration. I'm imagining that Justin and Alicia will not be spending the day on their snowmachines as they had planned. :)


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Year plans

We will go out for lunch with the group of friends we meet every year for NYE day and have dim sum. We will come home and bake a turkey NYE night, since we are having an open house for the afternoon of NY Day. Nothing fancy--turkey, ginger molasses cookies, veggie platters, fresh tangerines. Maybe I will get my holiday decorating done by then!

We usually go to Jeannie and Kiran's for NY Day, but they are in India this year, so we decided to have one ourselves.

What is everyone else doing?

Love you all, Sandra

We're back

Well, we are back from our great trip to the central valley. Got there about 3 yesterday, stopped at a wildlife reserve where there were tons of ducks and swans--cinnamon teals, regular teals, widgens, buffleheads, pintails, etc. etc. Then we went to the crane reserve and had a fabulous hour there as the sun set. It was a gorgeous sunset that lasted a long time. As the reds, oranges, and purples came up in the sky they were reflected in the water. And the whole time, there were chevrons of sandhill cranes coming in for the night, and chevrons of ducks flying off to other places. We didn't see as many as Brian describes in his comment, but we must have seen a couple thousand. The best part is the amazing sounds they make--sort of a cross between a purr and a croak and a vibrato. We got up this morning to be there at sunrise to watch them fly off. Then we went for a walk at the wildlife center, checked out at the hotel, went to a mexican lunch and then went back to the wildlife center and walked a hike through the oakforest along the river, then went to one more place where there were cranes. It was really windy and cold all day today, though it was clear and pretty. Got home about 6:30 tonight.

We always feel so filled with the spirit and so peaceful and calm after this expedition.

Love to you all, Sandra

Merry Belated Christmas!

We apologize for not posting much on the blog this year. Between getting wrapped up with school, getting a job offer the next week (see our family blog), and baking long nights at the bakery, we haven't been much on the Internet.

We had a very nice Christmas in Driggs with Nicole's folks. We came out here Saturday morning and probably won't leave until Friday evening. Some of the things that have kept us busy:
  • We completed a 1000-piece Thomas Kincade puzzle by Christmas Eve.
  • We rented a couple of pair of cross-country skis and enjoyed the groomed trails up Teton Canyon and at Grand Targhee ski resort. (although now we are sore and tired :) ) We got nearly a foot of fresh snow on Christmas Eve - a white Christmas!
  • Taylor got a number of toys and books that we have enjoyed sharing with her. (Thank you all for you generosity). She loved the wrapping paper and the sounds and lights of her toys.
  • Watching a video recording I made of the Las Vegas Bowl (BYU vs. UCLA) and the Cougar's miraculous last second field-goal block for the win! It was BYU's first win against UCLA since 1983 and Steve Young, I think they were saying.
  • Watching the movie "the Ultimate Gift". If you haven't seen it, I would highly recommend it. It's very inspirational. It is based on a novel that we have already ordered for our ourselves and for a couple of 'good-bye' gifts for people as we leave Rexburg.

I'll try and post some pictures and short videos when we get back to Rexburg and can load them up on our computer. Hope you had a beautiful holiday! It was great to talk to some of you. Sorry we missed the rest of you--- we don't have cell-phone service out here and I didn't want to run up my in-law's long-distance bill.

What does everyone have planned for New Year's Eve?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Then today CHRISTMAS we had a ham two small turkeys.Several salads the dessert and apple pie ,wonderful dressing.
We had all religions including Muslim and Jews and we all shook ands and wished each other peace and all agreed it had to begin with us.

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White Christmas

Merry Christmas to all our family and friends. Just got in from the snowy outdoors, the neighbor plowed our snow, and I went over and borrowed his front end loader to clean up the drifts and places close to the shop and house. Justin is ensconsed on the couch, and we are getting ready to slice the ham. Sweet potatoes are almost roasted, to go with twice baked potatoes, and deviled eggs. YUM! Have a joyous holiday, we love you all. Brian

Off to the rice fields

which are purposely flooded this time of year to provide feeding grounds for the sandhill cranes.

We are leaving about three hours late (leisurely morning after a fun but tiring yesterday and evening at Linda's, where there was good food and good laughter and love).

Will post more tomorrow.

Love and merry christmas to all, Sandra

PS Sorry I didn't get up in time to call folks like I usually do. . .

A couple more...

Here are just a few more pics from our Christmas morning. The first one is another shot of the tree, etc. The last shot is to show you the pretty necklace/earrings my sweetie gave me for Christmas.

But, when it comes right down to it, the greatest gifts of Christmas are the gifts of family,friends,shared love and the mercy and love of the Savior. How blessed we are! Merry Christmas!

Earlene, Scott and Julia

Merry Christmas to All!

Well, I have been pretty absent from the blogging world. Life will hopefully be slowing down a little bit now and I hope to get back to more of it. I have SO enjoyed hearing from each of you this Christmas season and have tried to comment often.

I just thought I'd take a few minutes this afternoon to post a picture or two from our house to yours and to wish you a Merry Christmas.

The first one is of Julia thinking about a clue to one of her presents. We had a little treasure hunt for her to find one of her presents. Anything to drag it all out a bit. :) she was posing cheesily in the photo. But, she really was contemplating where the next clue might be.

This is the little tree that we have in the family room, with a view of our fireplace and our stockings, etc. Some of the stockings are not hanging in the picture, but that is because Santa had already arrived and filled ours.

We have thought of all of you this morning and throughout the season. We love you and appreciate the time you have all taken to keep in touch and share your holidays. May all your Christmas dreams and wishes come true.

With love,
Earlene, Scott and Julia

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Just wanted to wish everyone a very merry Christmas, or as they say in Harry Potter, Happy Christmas. :) We hope that all of you have a wonderful, relaxing, peaceful holiday. We've been busy today, trying to get all the last minute stuff done, and the holiday food. Then, Justin was out snowmachining today, and had a small accident and broke his ankle, so we went to the ER this afternoon. But then when I stopped at the pharmacy to get his pills, I got to finish the last minute stocking stuff, so that was good at least. We've got a huge blizzard going on today, supposed to get 12 inches, and 30-45 mph winds. Brr! So we're happy to be staying home, and enjoying the holidays snug in our house. We've got lots of fun eats planned too. Anyway, just wanted to say hello, and Merry Christmas! We love you. Alicia and Justin

Merry Christmas!

Funeral Potatoes

Sandy had asked us to post the recipe I used for the funeral potatoes I made the other day. I'm not sure why they're called funeral potatoes. The first time I ever had them was when I was on my mission, right before I came home. They had a big dinner for the missionaries, and we had these potatoes. They're really easy.

Funeral Potatoes
1 bag (30 or 32 oz) frozen hash browns (I like the little square ones better for this recipe)
2 ten oz cans cream of chicken soup
1 pint sour cream
1-2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 tbl (or a little more if you like) dried onion (or equivalent fresh onion)
1 1/2 tsp. seasoning salt (like Johnny's)
3/4 teas. garlic powder or salt
1/2 teas. onion salt or powder

Then the recipe called for a corn flake crust, which I find nasty, so I don't do that.
Mix everything but the potatoes in a bowl. Add the hash browns, and stir it all up. Spread in a 13x9 or slightly bigger pan, and bake at 350, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes, or until everything is bubbling nicely, and the potatoes are cooked through.

This is SO easy to make, and I think really yummy. Its not fantastically healthy, but if you're wanting to make something to take that's easy and filling, it works good. I like them a lot. A lot of people use the shredded hash browns, but I got the square ones because they were on sale, and that's what Safeway had, and I liked them much better, they had a better texture, but took a little longer to cook.

So those are funeral potatoes! Quick and easy. :) Love Alicia

The Count Down is On

We're getting near to being ready here in Seattle. We have all our presents wrapped and under the tree, the Christmas feast supplies have been purchased, and we are on vacation time. Let the good times roll.

We started yesterday off by cooking some rack of lamb. It's my first rack of lamb. But it looked so easy on the Food Network and they had such nice racks at the store, we took a chance. All in all it turned out pretty good. I did a mustard and herbs sauce for it and served it with some stuffing and a green salad with some dried fruit. Yum.

Today we are slipping out to see a movie and do some last minute stocking stuffer shopping. I think we are going to Atonement. We saw Sweeny Todd on Friday. I enjoyed it, but I could see it not being everyone's cup of tea. Actually I could see it not being most people's cup of tea. Gothic horror combined with broadway musical is a strange mix of crowds that don't usually over lap. But Johnny Depp is great as usual and I've alway admired Helen Bonom's hair.

As usual we took of the time between Christmas and New Year to have a little home based vacation. We don't go anywhere, we just relax and catch up and have fun around the house. So, we are cooking a big feast with an emphasis on having lots of leftovers that we can graze on for the next week or so. Turkey for Christmas, with a back up Ham for when we get sick of Turkey sandwhiches.

We are debating taking a day trip down to Portland to go to the Rhienlander. Those that came to the wedding will remember that as the restraunt where we had our after reception dinner. There are no good German restraunts in Seattle (boo). But, we will see if we feel up to the drive. We try not to over plan this week and just relax with the flow.

We've been away

Well we've been away since Thursday so I'm trying to catch up on the blog posts. Cory's family has a tradition of a family ski trip before or around Christmas. This year we all went to some condos in Eden, Utah - which is up Ogden Canyon. It was beautiful and snowy! Gabe tried skiing, but there was so much snow, and he's so little - that we think we'll work on it again next year. (for heaven's sake - he's only 2!!!)

Anyway, we ate good food, enjoyed family time and the craziness that comes with that. We did a pinata too - to pull in some Rhien tradition into the Ellis fun. Gabe got a cold and Hunter is now coming down with it too - so I guess we're not breaking tradition and making sure someone in the family is sick....(not a very fun tradition though!) Hunter did however sleep through the night last night - so maybe there is something to this 'being sick'.....(or maybe it's the Motrin we gave him....)

Oh - while we were gone I made a really tasty dessert for dinner one of the nights we were there. I had meant to take a picture of it - but didn't get that done. Anyway - check out this recipe - it's delicious! I took the recipe and layout from my friend Sherrelle's blog. (However, I would have changed the 2 TBSP of rum extract to just one TBSP - it was pretty strong flavored). It was fun because I made them in the little individual pie crusts and everyone had their own. I think it's a treat I'll definetly make again!

Yesterday we stopped in quickly to see Grandma Marilyn and Grandpa & Grandma Whisler. We're sorry that our trips were so short, but we hope that by keeping them short we didn't spread too many of our yucky germs. We love you guys and wished we could have stayed longer!

Well today we're running around trying to fnish up the last Christmas preparations. Tonight we're having our friends the Springers over with their 3 boys like we did last year. We are having Mexican food again, doing another pinata, decorating the boy's cookies for Santa and enjoying time with friends. Since neither of us have family here it's nice to spend time with other people you care about.

Hope everyone has a wonderful day and that tomorrow is fantastic as well!

This morning I awoke to an hour, I would have thought unnecessarily early due to a very active child inside of me.  I couldn't sleep.  My mind kept turning.  I kept thinking about how we've always been so blessed, how I've always felt so rich, in a number of ways.  

And as we all know, this season is about Christ, the greatest gift ever given.  I was overwhelmed and couldn't stop thinking about how grateful I am for His example, and His atoning sacrifice.  I am so happy that my parents put such a large focus on this at Christmas time, for as long as I can remember.  I'm really at a loss for words at the moment.  I  guess just writing it in my journal wasn't enough.  I wanted to put a short post about it on the blog. 

As a young child,  I remember the excitement of opening gifts, and wondering if Santa was real, (as far as I can remember, I was always skeptical about him!!)  But, that wasn't the important thing. Gifts that come in packages cannot hold a candle to other types of gifts.  

"Of course, among the greatest of gifts is the gift of love...  Among these true gifts are: the gift of peace, the gift of love, the  gift of service, the gift of self, and the gift of faith."- Elder Faust

I know that Jed, Allison, and I have been the recipients of these gifts that Elder Faust has spoken about.  If I had sufficient words to express how deeply aware I am of how all of you have given these, and how it has blessed and changed our lives... well...  Next year we'd get a ton of cards that say, "Merry Christmas, you have me, (enter name here) in your family!!!!" and know that it would most likely be our  favorite thing we'd open! 

we love you all, 
    Merry Christmas


Happy Festevus

We here in Alaska decided today to celebrate that old favorite - Festevus. It is a made up holiday from the Seinfeld show. Brian has been watching Seinfeld reruns in the afternoon - he had never seen the show more than once or twice when it was in primetime.

They had the Festevus episode this month, but we didn't watch it, so we were a little sketchy about some of the details. Brian did find a really nice Prime Rib roast that he cooked up for us today and then there is something in the festival about the "airing of the grievances" and then people wrestle. We kept threatening to start the "airing of the grievances" but in the end, we dipped candy instead.

We finally have snow and blizzards and it is good everyone can stay inside if they want to - and Justin can go outside and play in the snow, cuz he wants to. The dog is happy, the cat - not so much. I'm just thankful that Justin and Alicia discovered the holes in my bedroom walls this summer and patched them up. There are times now that it will be blowing and blizzarding and I won't even know it.

I have had phlebitis for about a week now - so have had to cancel all my plans and put off sending my Christmas cards and letter and finishing some gifts. I thought that if I was really patient and stayed off it like I should, I would be well by Christmas. It doesn't look like that will be the case, but at least I am home and not in the hospital for Christmas, so I guess my efforts paid off a little. It is driving me crazy to not be able to be on the computer or piano or anything. I was supposed to play the organ for church today and help in the nursery and I had to have people cover for me - Thank you Laura and Angie - and I missed the church Christmas party. Alicia made the best green pistachio pudding salad and the best funeral potatoes I have ever eaten... two great Mormon classics that she has mastered. Are Mormons really the only people that eat those 2 foods??

Anyway, they have lots of plans to bake tomorrow.... you know we have our cinnamon roll and breakfast for Christmas eve dinner and then we have a ham for Christmas. Justin is going snow machineing with a guy from work who just got divorced and is alone for Christmas. I'm testing my blood sugar about 8 times a day to keep a really close tab on it for the next few days. I have found a couple holiday favorites that a diabetic really should avoid (Muddy Buddies, for instance - which I DON'T understand... they are just chex cereal, peanut butter, chocolate chips and powdered sugar. I would have thought that goodness of the whole wheat cereal and the peanut butter would have cancelled out the bad chocolate and powdered sugar, but NO.) sheesh Anyway for all you diabetics out there, just FYI - they will make your sugars sky rocket fast.

We never did get our tree decorated. We got 3 of those giant silver balls that are popular this year and we put a couple presents in the branches and called it good. I finally figured out it was because my house has been so disorganized and messy this year, that the thought of dragging down boxes of small, cluttery, busy, fuzzy objects and adding them to my living room would just be the last straw... So after I had figured out why I didn't want to decorate, Alicia was cool with letting me just have my pretty, green, plain tree in the middle of the living room.

Well, I'm not supposed to be sitting upright and being on the computer, so again, I will wish you all a Happy Festevus and now that is is after midnight - A Happy Christmas Eve to you all, as well. Love, Charlotte

Sunday, December 23, 2007

California holiday update

Well, it's Dec/ 23, and four of the branches of the ginko tree still have their leaves--I think this is the latest winter ever since I've been counting. . .

Friday and yesterday we did some last minute running around. Last night we went to this cool musical/video event to observe the solstice. There's this really cool columbarium (a place where the cremated ashes of dead people are kept) in Oakland. The original bldg was designed by Julia Morgan and even the modern additions have lots of cool architectural detail, nooks, etc. And scattered throughout the bldg are improvisational performances, computer generated music, videos, etc. They have one at the summer and one at the winter solstice. The one we went to last summer was so crowded it wasn't much fun. The one last night, in the dark and cold, had way fewer people and was really satisfying. Then I came home and finished the scarf, though now I have decided I don't like it (ugh gift anxiety and creative anxiety all mushed together). And I finally got the holiday arrangements in the vases on each side of the fireplace done. Tonight we are going to the movies with Dick and Greg (I think we are going to Walk Hard, that spoof on being a rock musician. I wanted to go to Charlie Wilson's War but I couldn't convince anyone else). And then to dinner. Love you all, Sandra

Friday, December 21, 2007

A little holiday diversion

Scott got off a little early this afternoon so we decided to take the rest of the afternoon off for a little serendipitous holiday diversion. We went to see the movie, National Treasure:Book of Secrets. Whether or not you would enjoy it probably depends on what you thought of the first National Treasure movie. We found both to be great fun. Far fetched and unbelievable, but fun. Fairly cheesy and predicatable,but fun. So, if you liked the first one, take some time off during the holidays and enjoy #2.

Here is a link to the trailer, if you are interested.

Do any of the rest of you go to the movies over the holidays? What other movies do you plan to take in during this holiday break?

Julia and I also watched the video, Elf, last night. I have to admit falling asleep about 1/2 of the way through. I don't do so well with at home movies after about 8:00 PM. I just get too comfy and ...zzzzzzz.

We had a little snow today and that was exciting, although none of it stuck to the ground. The winds that followed were SO chilly. BRRR!

Love, Earlene

Cheese Cake

Here's a good recipe, make sure you read all the tips before you start, and start baking in the morning!  (:

2 Cups of Chocolate wafer crumbs (about 32 wafers) or gram crackers
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup butter or margarine, melted

3-4 packages of cream cheese (depending on how thick you want it), softened (8 oz each)
1-1/4 Cups of sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup Whipping cream (use chocolate or add cocoa for a hint of cocoa flavor) 
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 Cup of miniature semisweet chocolate chips, divided (opt) 

In a bowl, combine crumbs and sugar; stir in butter.  Press onto the bottom and  2 inches up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan; set aside.  In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add flour and beat well.  Add eggs, beating on low speed just until combined.  In a small bowl, combine whip cream and a generous amount of cocoa (opt if you are going for a chocolate flavor but not the a full on chocolate cheesecake).; let stand for one minute.  Add to cream cheese mixture with vanilla; beat just until mixed Stir in 3/4 Cups of chocolate chips (again optional).  Bake at 325 degrees  for 50-55 minutes or until center is almost set.  Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour.  Refrigerate overnight.  Remove side of pan.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing. 
Yield: 12-14 servings

The trick with Cheese cake is how it's done, here's some great tips I received that can change the success of a cheesecake. Even if your cheesecake "cracks" it'll still  taste good. If you'd like to cover up the top, you can use a topping such as slightly sweetened sour cream, whipped cream, fresh fruit or preserves to hide any cracks.

*When mixing, be sure that the cream cheese has softened and the other ingredients are at room temperature. You can set out your ingredients the night before you plan on baking the cheesecake

*Before adding the eggs, beat other ingredients until smooth, scraping the side of the mixing bowl often to eliminate lumps . Then beat eggs into the mixture on low speed just until blended.  (If  too much air is beaten into the mixture, it will puff during baking, then collapse and split when cooled.)


*Grease the sides of the springform pan to help prevent the filling from cracking when the cheesecake cools.  (It will naturally pull away from the sides.)


*Place the rack at the middle level of the  oven
*Check the accuracy of your oven temperature with an oven thermometer.  Cheesecake generally requires moderate temperatures (from 325 -350)

*Open the oven door as seldom as possible during baking, particularly during the first 30 minutes. Drafts can cause a cheesecake to crack.

*Do NOT use a knife to test for doneness, because it may create a crack in the top.  The center of a cheesecake (about the size of a walnut) should NOT be a completely set and will jiggle slightly when removed from the oven.  Retained heat will continue to cook the cheesecake, and it will become firm throughout.


*Cool the cheesecake for 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Then run a sharp knife around the inside  edge of the pan to loosen the cheesecake.  Do not remove the sides of the pan.

*Cool the cheesecake on a wire rack in a  draft-free location for 1 hour ( I use a towel over or keep it in the oven), then refrigerate it.  When completely cool, cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.  This allows the cheesecake to set and will make it easier to cut.  It also mellows the flavors and give a creamier texture to the cheesecake.

*Before serving , unlatch the springform pan and carefully remove the sides.  Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Calling All Cars

We are in some what of a cooking crisis here at the Seattle home office. Johanna decided to make a classic cheesecake for Christmas dessert. We've not had home made cheesecake for a couple years as we outsourced the task of cheesecake making to the Cheesecake Factory. I mean, its a factory...for making cheesecake.... How can the mom and pop home baker stand up to such industrialization?

In any event, we always used the same method for making cheesecake as we did for making chocolate chip cookies. IE, you flip over the package of Nestle's Tollhouse Chocolate Chips and follow the instructions. Only in this case it had been the Philadelphia Cream Cheese recipe on the back of the box.

Apparently, we've been saved from our own selves by the Kraft corporation. Which has saw fit to change the recipe to something "healthier". They basically removed a bunch of the fatty ingrediants in their recipe. They didn't reduce how much cream cheese you put in.... No they need you to keep buying that, but they reduced everything else. Last I checked, cream cheese is still pretty unhealthy. So, your left with a recipe that is neither healthy nor the tasty original. The limbo of cheesecake, if you will.

So, I thought that maybe one you might have tucked away an old school cheese cake recipe some where, might be willing to post it, and save Christmas (well, that's overly dramatic, but you get the idea).


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Movie help

I found that the movies kept stalling - but I kept hitting replay, and each time it would start over, more of it would show and I got to see the whole thing. They're all so cute. I wish we could have this much fun all the time. Thanks Blake and Jed for putting these together for us. We've just been watching and laughing all day.

Sandra - congrats on your last day of work. Brian has one more, then he is off until January 7 and Justin might have one more, but we are having a blizzard tonight, so he probably will be off starting tonight too. Justin and Alicia are at their company party right now and Brian is at work.

I'm doing the trim on a wheel chair afghan for the long term care gift and then I have about 5 scarves to make. (They're not going to get finished before Christmas - I have 2 too many furry helpers that really like to help with yarn, so I have to wait until they are asleep or distracted.)
Love, Charlotte

Now the holidays really begin

Hurray, hurray, I am finished with work until Jan. 2. Tomorrow I am going to get my new glasses fitted (seems like a present to me!), buy the cheeses for the cheese plate for Christmas eve, and get the outside lights up at last. I still have to finish a scarf I am crocheting for Karla (the name I drew in Susan's family celebration) and cook some more ginger cookies, but I am definitely moving into the holiday time.

Love to you all, and a happy solstice! Cheers, Sandra


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Same characters as the second movie... I was going to do other people, but it takes so long to load everyone when the server is busy.

Love to all-


snowball fight

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Our stockings

Justin and I decided to do stockings for each other, for Christmas morning, I thought it sounded like fun (hopefully he does too). :) So I wanted to make some for us, in case we find our family having more members some day, then I could make however many we needed, and we'd all have the same stockings. Well anyway, I found this really cute fabric in the Debbie Mumm collection at Joann's, and made these. The shape is off the stockings mom made for Blake and I years ago, I just changed it a little. I think they turned our pretty good. :) Mine in the middle picture (or on the right in the pic of the two together). See - my snowgirl has eyelashes. :) love Alicia

The Christmas Spirit is Strong with This One.

I've tried to have the spirit of Christmas this year. I really have. But after seeing the following video I knew that I had fallen far behind the rest of the family in experiencing the holiday cheer. I'm just shocked you were all able to get together to practice.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


At Sandra's and Susan's Unitarin Church they have a custom that I have enjoyed very much. They have a shout 0ut for you when you visit. All the people shout out a welcome to you and it gave me a very warm and fuzzy feeling.
So please join me in giving Earlene
You inspire us all with your Christ like attitude.
You talk the TALK
and you walk the WALK

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Neighbor Gifts

Thought I'd share what we did for our neighbor gifts this year. I found these cute little "JOY" words that are made out of metal. I got red and white ones, wrapped them in cellophane and tied cute tags on them. The tags say (on the front): "We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year". Then on the back they say,

Christmas is a time of JOY
A time for love and cheer.
A time for making meories
to last throughout the year.
May your Christmas season be filled with JOY
Love, The Ellis Family

We took them around for Family Home Evening last night and it's nice to have that checked off of our list. It was also neat to take them around to our special friends and neighbors and realize how blessed we are to have special people we love in our lives. (Including all of you!)

Monday, December 17, 2007

This is a view from my patio
I leave the lights on day and night.
In the bitter cold weather it has been so sparkly and shinny.
Cool Dessert
Put 3/4 a cup of frozen mixed berries in a pretty tall thin glass.
Do not thaw
Layer the berries and sprinkle with sweetener
Pour cold milk till the berries are covered.
Put back in freeaer for about fifteen min.

the Ultimate Nativity Scene

Martha Stewart had a Nativity set on her show a couple weeks ago from a company that imports them from Germany where they are made from ancient molds. It would take a lifetime to collect the whole thing..... there are five pages of items you can order - for instance, 2 camels and a camel handler are $144.00, 3 chickens are $22.00, etc. This link should take you to page 5 which shows you an overview of what Martha showed. You should be able to navigate from there to see all the pieces. It is a really gorgeous set.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

christmas 07

I have no idea why they have come out black and white. I must have hit the wrong thing on the camera. I will have to try again. any way welcome to fairy land for 2007 Grandpa

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I think maybe this will do it. After all this time here are pics of our first cantaloupe. Grandpa

Santa is coming to Town!!!

Our decorations

Here's the tree we started with. We had to cut the top off, it made the tree too tall, and the top was kind of spindly, and not as nice as the lower part of the tree. So we chopped it off, intending to put a topper on.
Justin hanging the candy canes
Us in front of the tree
Tree with lights. We bought some cool new lights, they are garland style, so they have three bulbs close together, instead of 1 bulb ever few inches. It made it really light and bright.

How it all looks together.
Up close of the nativity
Tree in the dark.
Nutcrackers and nativity. Kind of looks like the nutcrackers are standing guard over the nativity. I have a couple more nutcrackers, but they're upstairs.
Here's the finished tree. We don't have a topper yet, I haven't been able to find one that I like and that fits the style of our tree. Some years there are a dozen ones that I like, this year - not so much. Oh well. I think the tree turned out great. :) Its one of the fullest natural/nonfarm raised trees we've ever seen. I was worried we'd end up with a charlie brown style tree, but Justin found this one, and I think its a really good tree.
Love you all. Alicia
oh, ps, this is all downstairs in our apartment. The table cloth is one from the wedding reception, I saw this thing on tv, to decorate using the colors in your house, and the colors I had they showed with this tuscan style decorations, in red and gold, and stuff. I bought what i could afford this year (I waited until Joanns had ornaments 50% off, and boxed ornaments 3 for the price of 1, so that worked out really good) and it was plenty to fill the tree, especially when I added in some of the traditional ornaments I've had for years.

Christmas Music

My Favorites:

Il Divo
Tabernacle Choir
3 Tenors
Josh Groben
Statler Brothers
A bunch of others, but these are my very favorite.

We just love Christmas as you all know.

Grandma and Grandpa

Winter/Holiday Radio

I don't know how many of you have heard of or used Pandora Internet Radio. The concept is simple. You tell them songs or artists that you like and they play random music that matches or is similar to your suggestions. If a song comes on that you don't really like, you give it a 'thumbs down' or if you really like it, you give it a 'thumbs up' and it works to make an internet radio station personalized to your taste. It's free and there are no commercials (other than the banner ads on the website).

Try it out here with a couple of pre-made stations to start:
Macy's Holiday/Winter Radio

and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Technical advice solicited

OK, so the blog lets me post and make comments from my Mac at home, but it won't recognize me on my PC at work, even though I log on with the same password and login. What is going on? Is it because of the firewalls and anti spam stuff at work? I keep forgetting, and I write these long replies, only to fail to post them cuz I can't get logged in successfully.

Advice humbly requested, Sandra

Visual Evidence of Tree

Well, after a bit of a struggle and a bit of a tipping scare and a bit of doubt that maybe its time to buy a new tree stand... the tree has been put up. We decided to stay with the living kind for one more year. We found a place that delivered, which was nice, because there is no way that tree was getting home in the back or on top of our Civic.

Monday, December 10, 2007

S&S's Christmas Music

Bruce Cockburn, Christmas
Tuck Andress, Hymns, Carols, and Songs About Snow
Take Six, He is Chistmas
Joe Pass. Six String Santa
Vince Guaraldi, A Charlie Brown Christmas
David Grisman's Acoustic Christmas
Aaron Neville, Christmas Prayer (this is my new favorite this year!--what an amazing voice)
Windham Hill--Selected Artists, Celtic Christmas

I am interested in how different our different soundtracks are!

Love to you all, Sandra


We listen to a couple generic Christmas carol albums (one sung, the other instramental) and the Nutcracker.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Brian's favs

In Brian's defense, I will let you know he does have a couple favorites -

1. Grandma got run over by a reindeer
2. Twas the night after Christmas by Jeff Foxworthy
3. Leroy the redneck reinder

Charlotte's music favs

Well, to start - Brian doesn't allow Christmas music in the house ( it reminds him of painful school programs as a child and he is just not a fan at all) so I'm not sure of actual artists that I like ( I'm a closet listener) but I'll try.

1. Bing Crosby - White Christmas , of course
2. Mel Torme' - I think his specialty is The Christmas Song
3. The Nutcracker by any great orchestra - my cd is the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
4. Rock around the Christmas tree - don't know the artist
5. I used to love the entire Messiah album we had as kids - I think it was the Tabernacle Choir and the Philadelphia or Boston orchestra
6. Sandy, Charlotte and Earlene harmonizing - I believe our best song was the one with the melody of Greensleeves - What child is this.
7. I LOVE the Ukranian Bell song Alicia was talking about, but once I hear it, I can't get it out of my head for days - and I love I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, because it was my daddy's favorite

Joanna's music

Yay! I like this one. I LOVE Christmas music, and this year I haven't gotten to listen to it nearly as much as I'd like. Everytime I turn anything other than the soundtrack to CARS Gabe throws a royal fit. So I have been avoiding temper-tantrums and just not turning music on unless Gabe's not around. Anyway, it's been disappointing, but I have gotten some in. And sorry - but I had to do 10...I couldn't narrow it down to just 5. My faves are:
  1. Josh Groban
  2. Amy Grant
  3. The Carpenters
  4. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
  5. Celine Dion
  6. Jewel
  7. Kurt Bestor
  8. Manheim Steamroller
  9. Peter Brienholt
  10. Sarah Mclaughlin

(But you know what I'd love to find? A copy of "The Northridge Elementary Choir's Christmas concerts" from 1989-1990. Anyone? Anyone?)

Christmas music

I'm not sure I could come up with 5 artists all together that I like to listen to. But I do have a couple artists, and a couple songs.
1. Bing Crosby
2. Nutcracker suite
3. Kung Pao Buckaroo Holiday
4. Grandma got runover by a reindeer
5. any of the "bells" songs, i.e I heard the bells on christmas day, and that other one, that doesn't have words, just piano, the one I can't think of the name to right now. :) Oh well.
Love Alicia

Ode To A Partridge In A Pear Tree Or NOBODYS PERFECT

As far as I can recall Charlotte issued the challenge to one and all
Make an ornament with these feathers Brain got from a pheasant this fall

I thought of angels and Wings ,birds and things
Then all of sudden in my head , a bell rings!
I got it I shouted with glee!!
A Partridge In a Pear tree!
I molded and folded and painted and until I was blue
and so to the challenge I had been true
But , to my utter dismay
They were so terrible maybe, they should be thrown away.
In purple, aqua, brown,and green
They were a sight to be seen
So off in the mail they went
To my children's homes they were sent
Oh how they must have laughed and howled
Really more than should be allowed
After some time and gone by
and in Charlotte's house I did spy
This poor droopy deplorable little unrecognizable ??
It had long adorned her cupboard shelf
sitting there all by itself
Why did you keep this dreary thing?
The answer had a sensible ring
Well, mom it is to remind me ,"NOBODY IS PERFECT!!!"
As we hurry and scurry about this Holdiday Season when things go wrong ,cookies burn and so many things get dropped or just forgot. Have a Little laugh and remember__ NOBODY'S PERFECT!!!
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukah, Feliz Navidad
This is in reference to Sandra's remark about the ugly thing with feathers stuck in it's butt.

New Decorations...

You're probably going to laugh when I say this, but I recently won a $10 gift card to Porter's Craft & Frame (the store Cory & Joanna used to work for) on a radio trivia contest. We had a fun time looking around the store and deciding what to spend it on. We haven't really been married long enough to have collected very many Christmas decorations. So it was fun to get this snowman sled to welcome friends and visitors outside our front door...

As for your question, Charlotte, we don't really have any favorite Christmas movies that haven't been mentioned here. (Elf, Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, It's a Wonderful Life, Christmas Story, etc.)

Here's my question. If you could choose only 5 artists to listen to at Christmas time, who would they be? Here's ours:

Paul: Nicole:
- Frank Sinatra - Frank Sinatra
- Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Carpenter's
- Mannheim Steamroller - Mormon Tabernacle Choir
- Amy Grant - Celine Dion
Nat King Cole - Amy Grant

Cory & Joanna's favorites


  1. It's a Wonderful Life
  2. Elf
  3. Charlie Brown Christmas
  4. White Christmas
  5. this year - "Shrek the Halls" - it was actually really cute


"All of the James Bond movies that they show on TV during Christmas time" (I'm not sure they're Christmas movies....but whatever works for ya!)

Favorite movies

My favorite Christmas movies are:
1. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
2. The Santa Clause
3. Frosty the Snowman/Peanuts Christmas
4. Home Alone - I think its a Christmas movie :)

Gotta post some pictures tomorrow of our tree - we put it up today - YAY! Love you all. Alicia

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Christmas lights Out side!!

I set up a little Forrest of trees out on my patio. They are covered with red lights and white lights. I have 2 sets of miniature coke bottles lights and two sets of coke bears.
then I made some covers for the red lights out of the bottom of small coke plastic bottles and shrank art them and drilled holes in them. I like it .
I leave them on 24-7.

My favorite movie is White Christmas -Bing Crosby. I still cry over the Match Box girl. And I always thought that " the Wizard of OZ was a Christmas movie.

My biggest tradition besides the presents Christmas Eve *8pm. - til mid.One at a time very slowly pressing the paper saving the ribbons and relishing memories of Christmas past.Calls from Family and friends. Christmas Morning I start out with the L.D.S film Of Luke.
I also spend the afternoon visiting the lonely and ill and just giving out care an cheer and love

Sandra's favorites

Miracle on 34th St
White Christmas
Christmas decorations at the WhiteHouse (I go get a snack when George is lighting the Christmas tree)
The HGTV show of this year's decorations at the big stores around the country

Decorating at home and work

Well, I finally got my mantle done at home, with the big antique gold glass pillars for the candles (the short ones are in the center of the two little wreaths decorated with walnuts and hazelnuts that I bought at Trader Joes so we would have some christmas smell--on the dining room table).
And a gold striped cloth as the base, and lots of those fruits with the glitter or glass beads on them--apples, pears, pomegranates, plums, berries. I've been collecting them for a few years so I have quite a few now. And mixed in are little star ornaments in gold and copper and bronze matte finish. I think it looks really nice.

I spent most of the afternoon at work making flower arrangements. The past few years they haven't done much decorating cuz it was so hard not to offend someone (we have jews, christians, christian scientists, muslims, hindus, etc.). So I came up with this color scheme of lime green, purple, and silver and did several big flower arrangements of mostly different kinds of eucalyptus stems, silver glitter stems, and lime colored orchids with purply centers and purple statice. I wrapped the outsides of the vases with olive green chiffon and tied big purple wire ribbon around it. I think they look really nice--we will see what the consensus is.

Cheers, Sandra

1. It's a wonderful life
2. Elf
3. White Christmas/Holiday Inn
4. The grinch who stole christmas (cartoon version)
5. Charlie Brown's Christmas


Charlotte's Favorites

1. Christmas Vacation
2. The Santa Clause 1, then 2
3. It Happened One Christmas (with Marlo Thomas, Not Jimmy Stewart)
4. Home Alone 1
5. Holiday Inn, then White Christmas

Question for Saturday

Okay, Everybody - what are your favorite Christmas movies?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


So tonight I needed to take a treat to Young Women's and I made a double batch of my favorite recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies (from the Better Homes and Gardens classic cook-book). I added one bag of milk chocolate chips, and one bag of butterscotch - just for my hubby. As I finished making them I remembered that I needed a dessert to take to our big Relief Society Christmas party tomorrow night too and that I'd bought the stuff to make these tasty looking pretzels. So instead of eating a bunch of cookies tonight, and then eating a bunch of the hug pretzels tomorrow too I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and get them both done today while the boys were sleeping. The hug pretzels turned out so yummy looking (they're cooling in the fridge). Since I'm trying to be good and not eat myself into a Santa suit I hope I can resist enough that we can still have enough for the Relief Society party.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tree is up!

Well, it took awhile to put the artificial tree together (especially when it turned out we had used the middle section as the bottom section). But decorating it was way easier than a real tree--no struggling with the lights, no spilling the water, no dealing with the holes and lack of branches and strange top that real trees always have. I miss the big colored lights on the inside of the tree, but over all it looks really nice. There were lots of places to hang the kind of ornaments we have. The lights are nice and sparkly. It fits between the chair and couch in front of the window (we got one of the slim trees). the big red sparkly chiffon butterfly we have for a tree topper looks great (and I do mean big--it must be 11 or 12 inches across). We have lots of glass, lots of glittery ornaments, lots of fruit, birds, snowflakes, trains, musical instruments, bells, ornaments made by Charlotte, Earlene, Marilyn through the years (does anyone else still have that funny purple bird with the pheasant feathers coming out its butt?).
And I still have the old santa that Grandpa Ted had when he was a boy, and the silver boot with the Santa that we three kids got on the little blackboard the year I was five, and the angel made out of Kleenex with my face on it we made in 1st grade. Also a pinecone, and the little red bell, and the purple ornament with Silent Night on it, and the pink one with the sparkle part inside.

I still have the rest of the inside decorating to do, and it's time for another week of work, but it is cool to have the tree up, which I would never have done if we had to go buy a live one this weekend. I wish I had time to do the sparkly fruits over the fireplace, but not this weekend.

Love to you all, Sandra

It's about time...

Sorry, we've been so inactive on the blogs lately. We've read and enjoyed everyone else's Thanksgiving and early Christmas season posts. It's just that it is the final crazy weeks of school. Classes will be wrapped up by the 14th, and then we can relax and enjoy the holidays. Not to say that we haven't been enjoying the season thus far...

We had a great time in New Mexico. It was a LOT of driving, but we really can't complain. Taylor was so well behaved in the car. We were glad to see Jed & Laura & Alli especially, since we had seen everyone else over Labor Day. All of my parent's grandkids have really grown up since we had seen them last. It was fun to tickle Alli and to listen to Gabe talk and talk. Even Hunter had a lot more personality. I hope having everyone all together didn't overwhelm Nicole too much.

The trip wouldn't be complete without making the stop in Salt Lake City to see Grandma Marilyn, & Grandpa and Grandma Whisler. They were certainly glad to see Taylor again! She seemed glad to see them too...

Our beautiful new nativity scene. Mama & Papa (Bob & Maxine) Rhien got this for us this year for Christmas. I don't think they knew that we really wanted a nativity scene - they couldn't have known that this exact one is our favorite.

We finally got our Christmas tree lights and ornaments up tonight during the First Presidency fireside. Don't be fooled by how many Christmas presents there are under the tree... most of them are for Taylor :)

Make sure and check out our blog as well for more pictures of our family in the recent weeks. We hope you all have a very nice holiday season.

working up to Christmas

My sad lemon trees have never recovered from being with the tomatoes this summer. Any tips????
Ok from the front, not so much from the back :)

I started our decorating this week. While we were on our trip, I got really excited to start decorating. So I've been doing a little bit every day. This year we have had to re-work things a little bit because of Mya being a little wild, and the dangers of dog ball. So we tried putting these big wooden things I made up on the counter, but it just doesn't work. Its ok from the living room, but from the back, in the kitchen, its a little weird. :) Oh well, they can't all be good ideas.

Finally! A great success!!!

Ok, we've been trying to make divinity and keep track of the good recipe for YEARS! Last year it was an almost success, but not quite. This year though, I looked at a bunch of different recipes, before deciding on this recipe from a special publication from the Oregonian from years ago. It was perfect! Mom and I were watching the mixer chugging along, and then all of a sudden, POOF the "batter" changed, and we knew we'd done it. Usually we stop too soon, before it changes, and then you end up with gooey little globs that are very sticky. But this year, its perfect! We're very excited. :) Love you all. Alicia
here's the recipe if anyone wants a good one to add to the collection.
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teas. salt
1/2 cup water
2 egg whites (at room temperature)
1 teas. vanilla
In 2 quart heavy pan, combine sugar, sorn syrup, salt and water. Bring to a boil, stirring only until sugar dissolves. Clip candy thermometer to side of pan and continue cooking to 260 degrees (hard ball stage). Meanwhile, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually pou syrup over eg wthies, beating at high speed on eletric mixer. Add vanilla, and beat until candy holds its shape, 4 to 5 minutes. Quickly drop from a teaspoon onto wax paper.
Tips for divinity:
1. Pour hot mixture ina thin stream over egg whites.
2. have bowl, beater, and all equipment very clean.
3. have everything at room temperature.
4. high humidity and divinity don't mix, if its humid at all, it won't work (no cloudy days).
5. Make sure you have a good strong mixture that's up to 5 minutes of stiff beating.