Monthly Archives: July 2013

Homemade Vanilla :)

When we first moved back from Hawaii my MIL gave me some homemade vanilla, which was amazing.  I finally made pancakes with them that my hubby actually liked with it.  When I ran out I tried all sorts of things to get that taste: imitation vanilla, putting in an insane amount of the imitation stuff, and buying store brand real vanilla.  But nothing worked, I couldn’t get that pure vanilla taste that my husband liked so much in his pancakes.  So I decided to make my own.  It’s actually very easy to do, and healthier (the imitation vanilla is full of bad stuff surprise surprise!), and one blog I read even tried to claim it’s cheaper.  I’m not sure I’m believing that last one since imitation vanilla is soooo cheap, but since I didn’t keep track of my expenses this time around I still don’t know for sure.

All you need are vanilla beans, an empty bottle and vodka. I had never been in a  liquor store before and I made sure the guy helping me knew I was making vanilla out of all this vodka I was buying, not drinking it! Not that he cared one bit, it just made me feel better telling him that. 😉


Slice each vanilla bean almost to the top so it is split open:

IMG_0339 IMG_0340

Put the beans in your empty bottle and add vodka. I made 1 quart of vanilla, so I needed 20 vanilla beans and a quart of vanilla.



Now you just let it sit for a long time in a cool dark place until it’s ready. You should shake it about once a week to stir up the beans.  I got a lot of different times on how long to let it sit, anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months!  Mine sat about 5 1/2 months.

When you think it’s done you need to strain it.  A lot of places I read said to strain it into a coffee filter so you don’t get all the seeds, but I didn’t have one and most of my seeds stayed at the bottom of the bottle anyway.


Then I poured the strained vanilla into a new bottle, I didn’t have a funnel so I

made one out of the vodka bottle. 😉


And that’s all it takes ladies (and I guess any gentlemen that read this blog?)


I put all the beans and the vodka I had left over from the first batch into the same bottle with all the seeds to sit another 6 months. I guess you can use the beans twice, so maybe it is cheaper than the imitation stuff?

And finally a picture of the pancakes I made that morning with the ‘real vanilla’.  I’d have to say, I’m kind of disappointed as they did not taste the same way as the first ones 2 1/2 years ago did.  There are several kinds of vanilla beans, so maybe I didn’t get the same kind.  Or maybe I didn’t let it sit long enough and isn’t very strong vanilla. I also wasn’t very good at remembering to shake the bottle, so maybe that was it? The very interesting thing is that the pancakes turned out very fluffy, which they hadn’t been all these years I’ve made them with the imitation vanilla.  Does vodka make pancakes fluffy? 🙂


Saying good bye, Denver, and going home

After not enough days we said our goodbyes at the reunion.  Next time I think we need more days to sit around a talk. (I’m sure my introverted hubby wouldn’t agree with me though).

IMG_1040 IMG_1041

Our little cabin, and saying goodbye to Kala. We are both pregnant here: Kala is about 8 weeks I think she said, and I was about 18. 😉

IMG_1038 IMG_1039

Pictures from my A. Mimi:

the beard picture:


The whole group:


After we said good bye we left James with my mom and took my two little brothers, Levi and Lincoln, to Denver with us to look for houses.  It was a very frustrating time in Denver.  Apparently the housing market is booming there and stuff is renting or selling extremely fast. I had spent quite a bit of time looking on the internet and making calls before we left, and while we where there I spent hours. Out of the all the e-mails I sent, and phone messages I left only two people called back.  But they were very helpful in the info they gave me.  I found out that we wouldn’t even qualify for the houses we were interested in until Titus has his part-time job.  All in all it was a complete waste of time and money.  We left Denver deciding A. to just live in the hotel we were staying at or B.  get temporary housing and find a permanent house after we move there.  I like option A. 🙂 We have stayed at that hotel twice now and we know the area and how to get to a few places already. ha ha.  With option B, I really really didn’t want to move twice.  Especially since a new baby is coming in December.   But it seems that it’s the best way to go, and most people moving there seem to do it that way.  I took a little time off since being home before looking again.  I thought temp housing would be cheaper, but of course it wouldn’t be.  They are all furnished too, so that means we are going to have to put all our stuff in storage now.  Lovely.  This is by far the most difficult move we have ever done.

Lincoln liked this restaurant we ate at in the Cherry Creek mall because they made smiley faces with the ketchup.


                      Believe it or not the morning we left to drive home Lincoln came down with the flu.  Up to this point this had been the very best trip we had ever gone on concerning our kids and sleep and over all holding up well.   So for the first 10 hours of the trip I A. nursed Gideon what seemed like constantly and B tried to find some kind of happy place while Lincoln threw up in a to go mug behind me. I have a weak stomach anyway but while pregnant it’s even worse!  We stopped at Cabella’s in Omaha to let everyone out for a bit.
IMG_1044 IMG_1046 IMG_1047 IMG_1051 IMG_1052 IMG_1054 IMG_1055

They had a little gun range there that all the boys liked.  Sadly it was not working so no one got to play.


It was a nice break!  By this time I was really tired of riding in the back.  Lincoln being sick and taking care of Gideon had just worn me out. So I told Titus I was ready to drive. After we switched Lincoln made a miraculous recovery, and even felt good enough to play with Gideon a bit. So Titus just sat back there doing nothing while I was stuck in the front trying to endure Levi’s non stop chatter about Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. After telling me about some guy that stabs some dude and then licks the blood off the knife I got sick again. Yes I’m serious.  By Worthington my stomach was hurting too and before I went to bed for the night both Titus and I had the flu.  Not the greatest conclusion to our trip, but it was a really really short flu so it really wasn’t that bad to get through.

It was so great to see James again. Below are the pictures of Titus showing James his presents since he didn’t get to go to Denver with us.These are some kind of mechanical bugs. I’m not terribly fond of them, but the boys thought they were great!

IMG_1058 IMG_1060

Titus also bought James a big spiral train track set for his train table.  It’s really nice. I over heard Titus say to James, “You are a lucky little boy. I never had something like this. I had to wait until I was 27 before I had one!”  Ha ha ha

IMG_1062 IMG_1063

And in conclusion, this is what happens when you get back from a long trip, and both parents get the flu.  Titus did his wonderful complete unpacking of the van, he does such a great job getting every last thing. Unfortunately he also did his normal dump-everything-right-inside-the-front-door-so-no-one-can-get-in-or-out specialty too. 🙂


That ‘oops parenting’ moment

Being a parent is hard.  Just plan and simple.  Every day you have to make choices that not only affect you, but the lives of your children as well.  There are tons of parenting books out there these days, couple that with the amazing internet and any parent is doomed to fail in today’s age.  There also seems to be a rather ‘free to parent other people’s kids’ attitude out there as well, particularly among the child-free population.  Just recently I had someone (who has no children of her own mind you) shout over my head to one of my children to not do something. Do you really not see me here??? That is my child and I’ll tell him no, thank you very much. 


Which brings me to today.  I probably should have said no this time around.  Painting toe nails is strictly a girl thing in this country.  A few months ago I painted my nails outside and didn’t have any problems with James wanting to do it too.  Not this time.Oops!  Boy was he interested!!  I had just told him he couldn’t climb to the top of the van roof and clean it. Maybe I should have let him do that so I could paint my nails, but what ever.  So he came wandering over to see what I was up to.  As soon as I dumped the bag of polish on the outside steps and James said, “Oooo!” I knew I was in trouble. Oops! Maybe I should have packed it all up then and waited until later (like after he was asleep), but I can be stubborn and I really wanted to do it now.  James didn’t let up either, “James do it?” “This one?” “Pink?”  So I gave him a color I thought wouldn’t show up and let him paint his toe nails.  Oops!  Well one color led to another and lets just say, all 10 toes were a rainbow by the end.  You’d think I’d have learned my lesson 20 years ago when I got in huge trouble painting my little brother’s toe nails bright pink on Saturday night.  But noooooo, I guess not. Oops!


But you know what? It was a great, fun time with James.  He kept me laughing at his cute little words.  I even heard him say something new today, “Just a minute!” when I told him it was time to be done.  I didn’t know he could say that!  We went and stood in the pool for a bit kinda hoping it would wash off, but it didn’t.  I was trying to brainstorm how I was going to get all that off before tomorrow, which happens to be a Sunday. Another oops! What is with me and painting little boy’s toe nails on summer Saturdays when they wear sandals everywhere???  I decided the only way to get his off was to take mine off too.  So I told him we were going to clean our feet next.  He also had a GREAT time with this!  Apparently putting nail polish remover on paper towels is great fun to a 2-year-old.  I was able to scrub his feet while he was busy with the remover.  And I only had to take off the polish on one of my toes!


Will I do it again? Probably not.  And I now doomed myself to painting my nails in dark closets until he’s too old to want to anymore (what age is that at? 10???).  But do I regret it? Absolutely not!  He had so much fun, and I had fun watching him.  It even turned educational because we practiced colors. 😀  If I had said no we both would have missed out. Maybe next time we’ll use some kind of wash off paint.  Now if you will excuse me, I have to go scrub a small spot on the upstairs carpet that seems to some how gotten purple polish on it. We are after all trying to sell this house. Oops!


IMG_1066 IMG_1068


Boys and mud.

During the church service James and Gideon played with their second cousin, Wade, in the mud.

IMG_0885 IMG_0886 IMG_0889 IMG_0890

We got smart after a bit and took off any clothes that had white on them.

IMG_0892 IMG_0893

Then one little boy got sprayed with muddy water by a ball.


Daddy tried to comfort him, but he just needed Mommy this time.

IMG_0896 IMG_0895 IMG_0899

Wade, my cousin’s cute little boy! He’s just a few months older than Gideon.

IMG_0910 IMG_0911

James and his truck went mudding!

IMG_0900 IMG_0901 IMG_0918

A picture of me.  I’m always taking the pictures and am never in them anymore. Life story of a mom!


Boys and boats

There were boats at the camp we stayed at for the reunion.   My brothers loved the time on the water, and naturally James did too.  They were sweet enough to include James on their excursions.

IMG_1000 IMG_1002 IMG_1003 IMG_1004 IMG_1010 IMG_1011 IMG_1015

While they were boating I took these super cute pictures of Gideon.  I’m just loving the colors and his smile in these!

IMG_1018 IMG_1019 IMG_1020 IMG_1021

Then the boys decided to go rescue a paddle boat that was off by it’s self.  So Grandma had to get involved.

IMG_1025 IMG_1028 IMG_1029 IMG_1031


Family pictures reunion part 2

The point of a family reunion is to take pictures, right? I missed most of them but this is what I got.

Chantal’s family plus Grandpa and Grandma.

IMG_0972 IMG_0973 IMG_0974

Another try at family pictures:

IMG_0977 IMG_0976 IMG_0975

The best part of the reunion was seeing my dear cousin Kala and meeting her little family:

IMG_0971     IMG_0969

Playing some kind of ball game

IMG_0968 IMG_0967

My cousin and his boys:


Country boy. 😉 I told him we will have to get him some new clothes if we are going to fit in in Denver. 😀


Family Reunion on Chantal’s side

We have been in the Black Hills for the last few days enjoying a family reunion on my (Chantal’s) side.  Warning, lots of pictures coming!

At the beginning of the trip! Happy boys eating cereal for breakfast while watching Charlotte’s Web.  Notice the flowers between Titus and I. 🙂  I just couldn’t leave them at home when he had just giving them to me. Now they are sitting on the table in our cabin. 🙂

IMG_0854   IMG_0856

A neat storm that we drove through.  It had two fronts that moved through, and it dropped 20 degrees outside!

. IMG_0857

A nice break from driving at a gas station in Wall.  We had caught up to Mom, Emma, Levi, and Lincoln at this point and were driving together.  Gideon is excited about the candy bag in his hands.

IMG_0860       IMG_0859

Second cousins Wade and Gideon.  If they get together enough they just might be as good of friends as their mommies are.

IMG_0861       IMG_0862


IMG_0866       IMG_0864

Talking and more talking:

IMG_0875       IMG_0877

Boys will be, humm, boys. It’s impossible to get a normal picture of them.  My brothers and one of my cousin’s sons.

IMG_0869        IMG_0868

But then they started teaching James how to do it. Not cool!


Grandma Norma and A. Mimi


Off to the side of the dinning room there is a big mostly empty space for the kids to run. I’m loving it since I can eat with two hands! The kids are loving it too! Add a few balls and they are happy!

IMG_0880 IMG_0881

Grandpa’s 90th birthday party. It was so cute to see him excited about presents!

IMG_0980 IMG_0982 IMG_0983

My tired men:


Prayer for our new house

My hope and prayer for a new house in Denver is:

~A house, townhouse, or condo. NOT an apartment.  It will stress me out to live in an apartment with kids.

~A fenced in yard, back or front, it doesn’t matter.

~A big enough yard to have a garden.

~Close to Titus’ school.  I don’t want him wasting time driving a long ways.  We aren’t going to see much of him as it is.

~At least three bedrooms. One for Titus and I, one for James and Gideon, and one for Baby.  🙂

~Close to a park.  It’s going to be a big change for me to have to drive to everything.  I’m used to walking or riding my bike to the library, park, store and anything else.   If we could at least walk to a park that would be great.

~Reasonably priced, which I’m finding out is hard to find.

~No mold or mildew in the house.  We did that for a year and James was so sick the whole time!

~A nice kitchen, I spend so much time there.

~Some what private, not on a busy road.

We are going next week to look at houses.  We’ll see how many of these things I can get

and how many I’m going to have to let go.


The happiest day of my life.

I just finished reading a two-part series that went through 4 generations of women. It started with the great-grandma and ended with her great-granddaughter.  The great-grandma immigrated to the states and the rest of the story takes place there.  Needless to say the story included at least three wars: WW2, Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Titus has a medal for serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom).   If I had known that 3 of the 4 husbands would have gone to war I’m not sure I would have read it.  Even now so many years later war stories and movies still bring it all back.  July 4th will mark 3 years and 7 months since the day that Titus flew into Oahu, completely safe and sound.

It’s kind of a funny story.  I had bought a plane ticket for Nov 5th but a few weeks before Titus’ return date changed to Nov 4th.  I will be forever grateful to the man from the airlines that talked me into spending the $150 to change my ticket a measly 24 hours.  “Just do it. It’s worth it.  You need to be there.” And he was right.  Two of Titus’ friends’ wives picked me up from the airport, took me out to eat (Cheeseburger in Paradise) and let me stay the night with them.  I’ll admit I might not have told the whole truth when I talked to Titus, but is it a lie if you tell the truth in the end? 😉  Titus’ friends on the plane with him told him they had a surprise waiting for him when they landed.  He thought it was a gallon of milk.  He’s such a country, dairy farmer boy. 😉

I didn’t sleep well that night.  It had been 10 months since I had seen him, about six of those he had been in Afghan.  Did we still love each other?  Did we still have things in common? Were we the same people? So much had happened in those few months.  I had moved back to the states after living in Ecuador for 8 months.  My dad almost died.  Titus had been in a IED blast that totaled the truck he was driving. He lost a friend, Garcia, the same week Dad got sick.  He was in a fire fight. He was drained, emotionally and physically.

Nov 4th was hot.  I remember being so warm in the capris and poke a dot shirt I was wearing.  We drove to the military hanger.  It was everything you’d see in a movie: a band was playing, there were flags every where, some people had made big banners that said things like, “Welcome home Daddy”.

2_3 HOMECOMING 4NOV09 2009_11_05_22_20_28

We all watched  the sky, waiting for the plane.

2_3 HOMECOMING 4NOV09 2009_11_05_22_20_28

A wrong one came first, which made us all mad that they would get our hopes up like that.  Someone in the crowd told us that the men are let off the plane alphabetically by last name.  I had to wait for P. Sigh.  When the plane came there was a line of higher-ups that gave them leis and welcomed them home, then they were left to find their loved ones in the crowd of people waiting.

2_3 HOMECOMING 4NOV09 2009_11_05_22_20_28

2_3 HOMECOMING 4NOV09 2009_11_05_22_20_28

Titus was one of the first guys off, the whole alphabetically thing was not true. We looked at this picture and we both think the guy at the very very top might be Titus. 😀

2_3 HOMECOMING 4NOV09 2009_11_05_22_20_28

I was in the back and my plan was to wait until he saw me.  He wasn’t after all expecting to see me.  He thought he was going to pick me up later that day at the Honolulu airport.  But I was so happy to see him I ran up to him, put a lei around his neck and hugged him like there was no tomorrow. 😀  He had his gun in one hand and his computer case in the other, and he didn’t hug me back. It was like hugging a pine board. After a second he said, “Um, okay?”.  Ha ha ha, he didn’t know who it was hugging him.  He told me later that he thought I was one of his friend’s wives or something.  So I stepped back so he could get a good look at me.  Once the shock wore off he said, “You aren’t supposed to be here yet.” Now I had kinda thought it would take him awhile to process everything, so I wasn’t mad that he wasn’t more excited to see me.  Men need to think things through for a while sometimes.  We stood at the back and watched other people greeting each other. I distinctly remember this big guy with two huge duffel bags walking up to his girl, throwing the bags on the ground, and grabbing her and kissing her like there was no tomorrow. 🙂  It is a good memory, but at the time slightly awkward since Titus and I weren’t kissing each other yet (we waited until our wedding day).  Then they all had to leave on a bus to go turn in their guns, more waiting for us.  When they came back Titus was mentally ready to see me.  And gave me a big happy  hug.  It was the happiest day of my life.  Some women say it’s their wedding day, the day their first baby is born, maybe it’s your 16th birthday and your dad bought you a car, or the day you graduated from college.  But for me it is Nov 4th about 9:45 a.m.  The day God brought Titus safely home.  Thank you Jesus.

2_3 HOMECOMING 4NOV09 PART 2 2009_11_05_22_41_20

A quick note, I did not take any of these pictures.  My camera was broken and I didn’t have another one.  All the credit goes to Dog Barney Productions.  Thank you for being there and taking these pictures!  It’s the only picture I have of that week in Hawaii after Titus’ homecoming.

Reading books or watching movies that have war things in them is good for me in a way.  Even though I cry through them all (I almost cried writing this post!) it reminds me of how close I came to losing Titus.  It reminds me that I need to treat him like a hero every day, because that is what he is to me.  It reminds me of the things we went through, to have the very happy life we have now.  Just this week he cleaned the very messy house for me, and had flowers delivered just because.

IMG_0852         IMG_0851

He is so sweet, and I don’t deserve him.  I love you honey.  Thank you for serving, and thank you for marrying me.

One more parade! Jackson

I guess we weren’t done with parades yet.  We were invited by Dustin and Samantha to go to the Jackson parade with them and then a cookout afterwards. This parade was smaller and not nearly as long as the other two we’ve been too, which turned out to be a good thing because my boys hardly watched it.  I think they are paraded out. 😀

To me the best part of this parade is that Titus came with us.  Thank you Angela for milking and doing chores so we could have a family day.

IMG_0814 IMG_0819

My kids got way more candy this time around.  At first I thought it was because this parade just handed out more candy, but then I figured out that we weren’t sitting with a bunch of other kids like the last parades.  They had all the candy to themselves.

IMG_0816 IMG_0815

Picking up candy:

IMG_0818 IMG_0828 IMG_0829

James got this little green ball from someone and he was more excited about that then watching the parade or picking up candy.

IMG_0830      IMG_0831

Gideon on the other hand finally got the idea and didn’t have any big kids getting in the way.  He kept clutching the candy in both his chubby little hands. It was very cute.

IMG_0821 IMG_0822

Despite the candy Gideon still wanted to wander off, which he did at all the other parades.  I think he would have been happy to walk in it. 🙂  It was nice to have someone else chase him for a change.

IMG_0823 IMG_0824

The cutest part of this parade were the mini ponies with little kids riding them.  I’m begging Titus for mini ponies now so that James and Gideon can start riding them and stop trying to ride the dogs at Grandma’s. 😉

IMG_0826 IMG_0825

After the parade we went to a grocery store to get stuff for the cookout.  This was a new store and they had carts with cars on the front. Boy oh boy were my kids excited!!!  I wish our store would get some!  Of course we got the one that only had one steering wheel instead of two (it was broken) and it didn’t take long for the fighting to begin.


Then we went to the park and played while Dustin cooked. Thanks Dustin!

IMG_0838  IMG_0840

IMG_0841   IMG_0839

Titus and I lounging in the grass.


James and baby Thomas.


It was a fun family day.  After we ate Dustin and Samantha came over to our house. Then they decided to stay the night and go to church in the morning with us! What fun. I can be spontaneous if I don’t know it’s coming. 😉  I had to quickly come up with a Sunday dinner though. So I cooked a roast in the oven, but had to stop at the store on the way home for potatoes. They weren’t anything special, just baked in the microwave.  I also made caramelized carrots, which were really good.  Dustin said it was the best pot roast he had ever had.  Which was really nice, but I can’t take credit for it.  I didn’t do anything to it! I was completely out of seasonings so I just threw it in a roasting pan with some water and cooked it while we were at church.  My in-laws just grow really good beef. 😀

All in all it was a great day!

Another try at a family picture.  We did wait until the parade was done, but there must of been

something over there that was interesting!

IMG_0833      IMG_0832