Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thanksgiving in September: A Fall Cooking Club Adventure

*Gorgonzola-Pear Pizza with Caramelized onions
*Honey-jalapeno Cornbread muffins
*Butternut Squash soup
*Orange-coconut sweet potatoes
*Herb Roasted Turkey with
*Apple Cider Pan Gravy
*Chicken-Apple Sausage Stuffing
*Green Bean Casserole
*Hot Spiced Pomegranate-Apple Cider
*Pumpkin tiramisu
*Banana-chocolate chip pumpkin bread

Who ever heard of Thanksgiving in September? Our Cooking Club decided this was the perfect time to learn some new recipes for the holidays long before we would be sick of turkey. The meal was, indeed, fabulous.

The house was flooded with new babies - Baby Niana (pictured here) with her proud Mama Susan, Baby Corban with his parents Jeremy and Marcy Pusey, and Baby Caleb with his parents Chris and Christine Johnson. As Jeremy said, "Our Cooking Club is multiplying - literally." Must be all the good food.

Dorina prepped the turkey at noon and tried out a spice rub a la Sunset Magazine, including curry, fresh rosemary, oregano, basil, salt and more. It was definitely different from your traditional turkey taste. The house smelled like an Indian restaurant. Ericlee was our resident turkey carver - his usual Thanksgiving special assignment. And the end result was a savory turkey that everyone enjoyed.
Marcy prepared our traditional green bean casserole for the event. She also helped with a chicken sausage and fennel stuffing recipe. She enjoyed a little break from Corban while his daddy Jeremy took over.

One benefit of enjoying Thanksgiving in September is the wonderful weather on the patio. We were able to all (12 of us) eat at the same table. (A special thank you to Dorina's brother, Paul, who helped Ericlee build the table earlier this year. Perfect for dinner parties like this one.) We set the table with warm fall colors.

Meilani poses in her new favorite position - standing in her high chair - something we are diligently working on. (Yes, it gets old saying, "Sit down!" myriad times a day.) Meilani was a big fan of a new recipe we tried from our friend Jen VanderMeulen - Orange-Coconut Sweet Potatoes. These were a unique dish and a definite crowd-pleaser. Meilani also couldn't get enough of the spice-rubbed turkey. She's looking forward to November.

We asked our friends to join us in a Gilmore family tradition - sharing one thing you are thankful for or blessing you had this year. Mary and Antonio shared their joy in getting married and now pregnant (baby coming in April). Dorina shared her thankfulness for a community of friends to journey through life alongside. (Eight years ago this week, I moved to Fresno and didn't know a soul. What a contrast to my life today full of friends at every turn.)
Mama Christine burps Baby Caleb Rodney after his "Thanksgiving meal" of Mama's milk. He seems quite satisfied with his taste of turkey and all the best fixings. Or, maybe he's just happy because of all the girls oohing and ahhing over him! After a difficult pregnancy, Christine and Chris said Caleb was definitely their *blessing* this year. Christine added, "I'm just so glad I'm not pregnant anymore."

We also had a new addition to the Cooking Club crew - our friend Jana, who just returned from two years on the mission field in Thailand. Jana was part of our first mission team to Haiti in 2001 where many of us met. We all commented on how far God has brought each of us in these past seven years.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Meilani adds to her world wardrobe

Our friend, Jana Fleming, has been in Thailand for two years teaching and doing mission work. She came to visit us this week and brought Meilani this special outfit. Meilani loved it so much she had Jana help her put it on right away over her clothes and then she actually sat and posed for pictures. (That's amazing since I usually have to chase her around with a camera - she's so full of energy.) Jana will be home for a year to do some paperwork and raise support and then she plans to return to Thailand as a career missionary.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Gilmores embark on healthy living journey

We’re starting a new journey, a quest of sorts, seeking higher ground. For those of you who know us, you might say this has been a long time coming. After all, Ericlee has been a disciplined athlete and coach for almost 20 years and Dorina has been passionate about homemade, good-tasting, fresh food for about the same amount of time.

You might say we’re on a “food journey.” But it’s more than a road trip down the latest fad diet lane or culinary trend. We are really thinking and changing our lifestyle to embrace healthy living - in all areas. Of course that includes a diversity of topics, including how we care for our bodies, what we eat, how we exercise, how we raise our children, what we believe about medicine, how we recycle and give back to the earth, how we invest our resources, how we live in community and even how we live out our faith.

Our most conscious thinking on this topic started two summers ago. We were living in Roanoke, Virginia and our friends, Jan and Pat Wright, opened their home to us. While staying with them, Jan began to tell us what she had learned about the benefits of whole grains and eating according to God’s design. She recommended two books, GRAINS OF TRUTH by Donna Span and WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT HEALTHY LIVING by Dr. Rex Russell. We didn’t have time to read these books that summer but Jan told us about their contents in detail. She also influenced us by *living* their contents. She bought a flour mill for her family and began making homemade, whole grain breads and muffins. (They were delicious!) She also started making yogurts and granola at home and replacing white sugar in recipes with honey. And the best part was she and Pat, shared their knowledge and abundance with us. We learned by watching what these healthy additions could do for your diet.

Not long after our time in Virginia, we got pregnant with Meilani. That started us on a new stretch of our journey as we began thinking about birthing and raising a child in today’s world. Would we have a natural birth or take drugs during childbirth or choose a C-section? Would we breastfeed or bottle feed? Would we give her inoculations according to the doctor’s recommendations? What would we feed her when she began solids? How would we prepare our home for a baby? What would we eat during pregnancy and as role models for our daughter? How would we include her in our exercise routines? For those of you who are parents or parents-to-be, you know the questions abound. So do the answers. Everyone and their mother’s mother has something to say about how to raise kids properly. It’s a bit unnerving for first-time parents who are just trying to do the right thing and getting so many conflicting messages.

Meilani was born in May and we began to make some tough choices about our lifestyle – some unpopular choices we discovered. We were already on this road but we cut out all fast food during my pregnancy (except for the occasional In ‘n’ Out Burger – which are made with hormone-free beef, fresh veggies, cheese and buns, by the way). We also decided to take the natural birth route and Dorina survived Meilani’s birth without extra drugs. Dorina also committed to breastfeeding our children. We become more convinced each day as we read about breastfeeding that this is God’s design to help children combat diseases, allergies and other healthy problems. Now as Meilani is eating solid foods in addition to breastfeeding we daily have to make tough choices about snacks, meals, etc.

This summer we returned to Virginia where Dorina was working on her master’s degree and we reconnected with our friends, the Wrights. Ericlee also spent his free time (while chasing Meilani around) reading those two books Jan originally recommended, GRAINS OF TRUTH by Donna Span and WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT HEALTHY LIVING by Rex Russell. Basically, that reading changed his life – all of our lives.

Ericlee graduated with a master’s degree in Kinesiology. He has read numerous books about nutrition and health as related to athletics. He has always believed there was a better plan – God’s plan – for healthy eating and living, but all the books he read felt like fad diets or new scientific trends missing that link to faith and the Bible. These two books piqued his interest because they were both biblically based. The books present a mix of philosophy about eating and practical ideas about how to live in today’s society.

This fall Ericlee has been involved in a major overhaul at Fresno Christian Schools in regards to nutrition and attitidudes on health. Many of you may have probably heard about the revolution in the California public schools taking out sodas, candy and increasing the healthy food options in the cafeterias. Ericlee feels strongly that a private school like Fresno Christian should be leading the bandwagon on this issue, not jumping on as an afterthought. He brought his convictions and readings to school administrators and received some positive feedback.

Fast forward a few months and now he is starting a Wellness Council at the school, encouraging kids at lunch hour about healthy options for lunches and talking to teachers and parents about nutrition. Dorina was recruited to help create the first installment of Nutrition News. We used what we’ve learned from these books and included some of our own two-cents worth as well. We’re slated to write this newsletter at least twice a year for the Fresno Christian community.

Our small group (four other young Christian couples starting families) have already voluntarily joined us on this journey. We meet every other week for dinner and fellowship. We’re starting to read WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT HEALTHY LIVING together and discussing how we can live out these “healthy lifestyle goals” practically in community. How can we help each other? How can we hold each other accountable? How can we influence and encourage others? These are some of the questions we will be grappling with as a group.

We are inviting all of you, our friends and family from many walks of life, to join us on the journey. You may want to engage in conversation or send comments through this blog. We would love your input, comments, criticism, kudos or whatever. We'll include recipes, quotes, ah ha moments and we'd love to hear yours. Read on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Keep it Running: Ericlee coaches cross country

Ericlee's newest venture this school year is coaching high school cross country. The team started with three devoted team members. Ericlee told them they needed six for him to coach. As you can see in this photo taken at the team dinner on our patio, the team has already tripled and now has 12 members. With seven boys and five girls they are able to compete as a team.
The school did not have enough funds to pay a coach and have a cross country team so the athletes (led by Doug Daniel, a particularly determined young man) raised the money to pay Ericlee's salary. Dorina pitched in by cooking an Italian fundraiser lunch a few weeks ago.
So far the team has competed in three meets and raked in seven individual medals, which has been very exciting for Fresno Christian H.S. Doug Daniel has won the most medals for the boys. Janae Ford and Whitney Chessum have pulled in two medals each and the girls team is already ranked 4th among Division 5 schools.
This is the first cross country team Fresno Christian has had in 20-some years. Putting together a team has been one of Ericlee's goals for 8 years. This is the first year he saw it materialize. He says it's great experience if he pursues coaching Track & Field and cross country at the college level in the future. Meilani has her running shoes ready to go.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Gilmores escape to California's Central Coast for a visit with old friends and some R&R

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This weekend we traveled to California's Central Coast for a little getaway. The trip was prompted by Dorina's high school friend Anjali, who was flying out from Boston for a wedding in San Luis Obispo. We haven't seen Anjali for a few years and we thought this would be a great excuse to escape for the weekend. We stayed at Ericlee's grandparents' place - a wonderful house shared by the family and an inexpensive hotel for us. We arrived Friday night and got settled. Anjali and her friend, Jen, drove up from L.A. Saturday morning and we enjoyed a 30th birthday brunch. Dorina made french toast casserole and fruit salad. Then we all piled in the hybrid and headed down the road to the beach. We walked on the beach and watched Meilani with her hip-shaking run on the sand. The weather was especially gorgeous - no wind, a brilliant, blue sky and soft, warm sand to tickle our toes. The time quickly flew by and then we returned to the house for Anjali and Jen to get ready for the wedding. We really enjoyed the time with them. The rest of Saturday and Sunday we relaxed. We went for a long run, watched some football and Food Network, and lunched with Ericlee's college friends, Ryan and Laurene and their sweet son, Kedrick.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Picnic at the Park with the Schultzes

Wednesday afternoon we escaped to the park for some play time with our friends, the Schultzes. (left to right) Meilani, Addison, Tessa and Kamryn wanted to ride the bear at Oso de Oro park. We tried for a group photo but then there's that special challenge of getting everyone to look at the camera at the same time.
Here's Tessa chillin' with the mommies on the picnic blanket. She was a big fan of the chunks of cantaloupe we brought to share with the group. Of course, the three other girls were already racing away from the mommies by this point.
Meilani, the bird lover that she is, was not at all interested in our relaxing picnic lunch. She was off and running toward the geese and ducks in the pond. We did bring some crusty bread to share with the *very large* geese and more tame ducks. The birds towered over Meilani and Tessa so we decided to take the less-intimidating spot, feeding the birds from behind the gate with Kamryn leading the brigade.
Meilani tried out the many varieties of swings at Oso de Oro. Mama's favorite were the lounging seat swings. If only I had a book...but then I was off and chasing Meilani who was already at the top of the twisty slide. Oh, wait, she was climbing up the twisty slide like a little monkey, not going down it like the big kids. This girl has no fear - that's for sure!

Celebrating the Present & the Past with a College Roomie: Happy 30th Birthday, Jen!

Tuesday afternoon my college roommate, Jen Vander Meulen and her daughters, Ella and Delia made the trek to Fresno to visit for a few days. We always love company and especially a chance to catch up with friends we don't see as often as we would like. Jen was avoiding a little cabin fever since her husband is a busy pastor this time of year. This turned into a trip celebrating the past and present of our friendship.
Ella is 2 and Meilani is 15 months so they're not too far apart in age. They play well together. Jen and I enjoyed watching them in our poolside, make-your-own hot tub pictured here. We had to laugh, thinking about our times in college in our apartment hot tub. (We even went in that thing in the dead of Michigan winter with snow on the ground.)
Ella and Meilani had some fun-loving wrestling time on the kitchen floor. Girl power! Jen and I reminisced about our WWF sessions in college when we would put pillows on the floor in our apartment and all our friends would come over for pillow wrestling. (Yes, scary, we did do this!)
Meilani indulged in another of Jen and my favorite activities from college - swapping shoes (and clothes!) Meilani, my hula girl, was fascinated with Ella's pink cowboy boots and decided to try them on during dinner. She couldn't really walk in them but she played the hula cowgirl part quite well. (A special thanks to Ella for sharing...)
On Wednesday morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of quiche, fruit and homemade peanut butter granola. We even had girl bonding time in the bathroom brushing our teeth. Yes, this too reminded us of college roomie time. (Some of our deepest talks happened in the bathroom back at Calvin College in Michigan.)
The highlight of our few days together was having some "just mommy" time after the kids and Ericlee went to bed. Jen and I indulged in her 30th birthday dessert - a pumpkin tiramisu - and stayed up late in our pjs. We talked about mothering, our latest reads, giggled at pictures of our friends on Facebook and swapped recipes. This is quality time we so rarely get.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Are you ready for some Football?

The weather is cooling down a bit - you know, 80s for us. School is in session for Ericlee. And with the cooler autumn nights comes football season. This weekend we enjoyed two football games supporting Fresno Christian athletes. Friday night we met Ericlee at the high school football game. (His Cross Country team also competed Friday night with 3 of 9 athletes getting medals.)
Now that Meilani is so much more interactive she loved watching the football game, imitating the cheerleaders with her own dancing, eating veggies & dip with Nana and Papa, and, of course, digging in the dirt and sand. (The long jump pit near the football field makes for a great sandbox!) The great thing about Fresno Christian games is the abundance of kids for Meilani to play with and follow. She had her own little entourage of girls chasing her down the dirt track and helping her build sand castles.
Saturday night was a full family football affair. Ericlee was working at the game, running the clock and serving as security. Meilani and I joined him in the press box for the peewee and junior football games. The press box has a great view of all the action. Meanwhile, Nana Maria and Papa Doug helped selling tickets at the gate. We all enjoyed a beautiful sunset and a fun night with our Fresno Christian community.

A New Throne for the Gilmores

Meilani has decided that it's time to potty train. Yes, we think 15 months is a bit early too but our little girl has been telling us lately when she goes to the bathroom. She runs to one of us and points to her diaper and will not stop until we change her. In church this morning she even took off her diaper and handed it to me because it was too heavy. Go figure.
In response to Meilani's needs, we went out on Friday and bought a little potty seat from Babies 'R' Us. A friend recommended we let her just sit on it after we change her diaper so she gets the idea that you use the toilet this way. We're all for taking it slow. We don't want to push her this early but at the same time she seems ready. As a mommy, I kind of panicked. I haven't read this chapter in the parenting books yet. I'm not sure what to do. But I'm jumping in too and learning as I go.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Welcome Home, Grandma Chris!

Ericlee's Mom returned to Fresno last night after her trip to Haiti. We met her at the airport because she *had* to see "her baby." Grandma brought well wishes and news from all our Haitian friends. She also brought some special gifts for Meilani. The ladies in Haiti made Meilani a little purse/bag with a hand-stitched hanky. Mom also bought her a little Haitian doll with a wooden chair to rest in.
Meilani already has her own little wooden Haitian chair at home so she was a little confused about this smaller one. She first hugged it like a doll. Then she set it up on the ground and tried sitting on it. This was a funny sight since her buns are a little big for it. She fell on her back like Alice in Wonderland. I've since taught her how to set up the Haitian doll in the chair and she gets her bigger chair.

Grandma says she had a good trip to Haiti. She visited the church in Pignon where we have gone for our short-term mission trips. We are looking forward to our trip to Haiti in March. Welcome Home, Grandma Chris!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We call her Happy Gilmore!

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When we announced we were pregnant with Meilani the favorite joke was that we would name our child Happy. "Ha! Ha!" we thought. That's creative. Now that she's 15 months we are nicknaming this girl Happy, which happens to be her new favorite word. She runs around the house yelling "Hap-py, Hap-py, Hap-py" at the top of her lungs. Lots of times people ask me if she's ever not happy. (The answer is yes. There are times she's really not too happy. We are in the teething stage, you know.) But most of the time this girl is our Happy Gilmore. She brings a smile to your face with the goofy things she does like '80s headbanger dancing, saying "ByeBye" whenever the toilet flushes or the pure joy she gets out of seeing a dog or greeting Daddy at the door.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Team Gilmore sprints in Cross City Race

This morning we continued an 8-year tradition for the Gilmore family. (Well, Ericlee's been doing it longer than that.) We ran in the Cross City Race in downtown Fresno. Meilani was a trooper and got out of bed with Mama and Daddy at that ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. She was a little bleary-eyed but she's always up for a new adventure.

We picked up Nana to come cheer us on. At 7 a.m. Daddy ran in the 2-mile sprint and came in 4th in his age group. His time was 12:07 - just 7 seconds off his goal. He did a phenomenal job given the tough week he had at work with little sleep. Meilani enjoyed watching the balloon finish line and saying hello to the life-sized giraffe doctor.

There were less runners this year and we were very excited to see Daddy come sprinting down the runway to the finish in the top 20. He was very impressive. We also cheered on our friend, Cori Schmidt, who ran in the 2-mile and broke her record. Go Cori!

Mommy competed in the 10K or 6.2-mile race while Ericlee pushed Meilani in the jogging stroller. (Yes, Meilani got to ride in a jeep while Mama was running - where is the justice?) Mama's been sick for two days in bed after inhaling too much bad Valley air on a training run Thursday morning. But Dorina rallied after mile two (with Ericlee's encouraging coaching) and was able to pull off a personal record in this race at 57:03. "I just wish I could have breathed out of my nose," she says, laughing. Meilani watched the kids races (we're prepping her for next year) and played a few carnival games for prizes. Her highlights: a box of raisins and a giant peach. We're all looking forward to next year watching Meilani run in the quarter-mile race with preschoolers. (No, we're not pushing her!)

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Trip to the Li-BEAR-y (or Library!)

The highlight of our Thursday was a trip to the local library for Infant Toddler Lap-Sit. I read about this program on my last trip to the library and thought I'd try it out now that I am a bonafied stay-at-home Mama. Surprisingly, the place was packed with 30-some kids and their moms plus one papa (Meilani's grandpa Doug). The theme of the day was bears and we learned a wealth of new kid songs about bears and listened to three bear books. Meilani is already a big fan of bears and her new favorite pastime is walking around the house with her arms filled with as many stuffed bears as she can find. My mom even dug out one of my Care Bears from days of old. (See the pink Friendship Bear?) Apparently, those things are back in style again. For all you mamas out there, if you're looking for a great way to get your toddler out of the house, check out your local library - the events are FREE!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Meilani is going to have a NEW cousin!

The most exciting part of our weekend camping trip was a special announcement from my brother Paul and sister-in-law Michelle. Those crazy kids brought photos of their "new car" to show the family. Who cares about a Lexus? The final photo in the group was of a baby seat and a sign that said, "We're pregnant!" Paul and Michelle went to the doctor today and it's official. They are due in May (Yes, that makes #6 May birthday for our immediate family.) Pray for a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

California Dreamin': Campin' & Beachin' It

This Labor Day Weekend we piled in the Gilmore hybrid for a road trip/camping adventure with Nana and Papa, Auntie Michelle and Uncle Paul, and the famous dog, Buster. Our destination: Rancho Oso campground in the mountains above Santa Barbara. The trip there was a grueling five hours on Friday night as we got a late start (surprise! surprise!) and traveled across to the Central Coast and then south to Santa Barbara. We even managed to miss one of our turnoffs which took us about 30 more minutes out of the way.

Meilani was a pro for her second-ever camping trip and decided she should put up the tents on her own. Following in her Papa's footsteps, she got right down to business organizing tent poles and giving out orders. (Not bad for a 15-month-old!)

She had great fun at our fancy schmancy camp site complete with flush toilets, hot showers, a club house with wifi (we didn't use it), horse back riding, a playground, mini golf and even a chapel. Of course, our low maintenance girl doesn't need entertainment for real fun. She just followed Paul's dog Buster around and made "woof-woof" sounds at him. They only had one tiny run-in when she accidentally stepped on his tail and Buster growled. We're still learning.

Saturday we headed down the coast to Capitola state beach for a day of honest-to-goodness California fun. The ocean sparkled. Dolphins swam about 100 feet away from us. Ericlee and I enjoyed body surfing while the parents and auntie/uncle watched our sweet girl. Meilani was a little afraid of the huge, crashing waves so she stayed by her big Uncle Paul's side for the first half of the day.

Later, she did venture out for a walk with Nana and Papa. Then she and Auntie Michelle made friends with another little girl on the beach who had some really cool beach toys to share (since we forgot ours!)

On Sunday, we went to the campground chapel for a little service and then headed out of the mountains to beat the heat. (By early morning, the temperature was already pushing 100 so we made a beeline for the ocean once again.) This time we found a little park right near Carpenteria State Beach and parked our stuff under a big shade tree.
The highlight of Sunday afternoon was family nap time when even Buster the dog took a little snooze in the shade. Of course, Meilani was not about to take a nap when everyone else wanted one so we took turns walking with her. Paul and I even got in a few card games while the others were exploring.
And just because we Lazos always have to describe our food in detail we barbequed salmon with an herb-butter sauce and a tropical salsa on top. (Paul shows off his here.) We also had pasta salad made by Michelle and turtle brownies made by me for dessert.

After naps and lounging in the afternoon, we continued back to Santa Barbara for a dinner on the beach. We caught a great color show as the sun set behind the palms. We ate some (sandy) teriyaki chicken, rice & black beans (gallo pinto), strawberry-spinach salad with goat cheese, garlic toast and pomegrenate juice. We even squeezed in a game of frisbee.
Meilani giggled with Nana and wriggled her toes in the sand. She tried eating a sand pie for dessert and then spent the next 15 minutes trying to spit it out. Yech!
We concluded our Lazo Family Vacation with a quick trip to the Camarillo outlet mall for new running shoes and then lunch at California Pizza Kitchen in Thousand Oaks with Nana/Mom's cousin Modie and her husband, Norm. All in all it was a fabulous weekend of quality family time, incredible eats and no agenda. I guess this is why we labor for the rest of the year...