Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rockin' around the Christmas Tree at Nana & Papa's new house

Meilani girl is getting the hang of this tree decorating thang. We went to Nana and Papa Lazo's house last Saturday to help them hang the ornaments on their tree. Meilani got right to work. Meanwhile, our Haitian friends Gerby and Walquis played Christmas music on the saxophone and keyboard.

She had fun investigating all the sweet and goofy ornaments homemade by our family and Mom/Maria's students through the years. We found cookie cutter ornaments made by Caron, Christmas stocking ornaments with Nana as a hula dancer and even cross-stitched ornaments made by Mama (Dorina) when she was in elementary school.

Daddy lifted Meilani high into the sky to help put the "TAR!" on the top of the tree. Meilani can say the word and do the sign language sign for "star." And she sang out her new favorite word, "Wow!"

Walquis is digging in to his favorite American food - a bowl full of Cool Whip. (That's right, just Cool Whip.) We think he missed out on Nana Maria's homemade blueberry pie.

Meilani practices her text messaging *skills* with Grandpa Larry on the cell phone. She's already hitting up Santa for the newest camera phone. Yikes!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Meilani picks her first Christmas tree

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Gilmore home. We continued our tradition of going to our local Christmas tree farm (or lot, as it were) on the day after Thanksgiving to pick out our tree. This time Meilani joined in the festivities. Last year she was such a little elf she had no idea what we were doing. This year she followed the boxes of Christmas decorations coming out of the garage and joined us for the action.

"Tree," shouted Meilani, leading the way down the aisles of fresh trees. She got a little distracted playing chase with Daddy in and out of the rows but then we got back to business. We were tempted by the sweet, Charlie-Brown-style trees right at Meilani's height. In the end, we settled for six-footer perfect for the usual spot in our front room near the fireplace.

We also checked out some of the fancy wreaths. Mama dreamed about a huge wreath but we didn't actually get one. We decided to save our moolah for other holiday decorations and all the holiday parties to come.

Meilani loved the wreath with the large, crimson jingle bells. She tried them out - just to make sure they were working properly. She was also fascinated by the guys cutting the bottoms off the trees with chain saws. The big noise got an "oh my" face from this little girl.

And Daddy gave his matching "oh my" face when he actually got our tree in the patio door. Then we were on to the lights and decorating. This year Meilani was very aware of all the Christmas sensations. She was "WowWowWhoa"ing all the lights on the tree and the brightly-colored ornaments. She helped out with the bottom row. She wanted to help with the nativity scene but after she broke Joseph's arm we decided to move on to a different task. Her favorite past time, of course, is pushing the button on the dancing penguin scene. Who bought her that?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving Thanks for Healthy Choices

As most of you know, it's all about the food at the Gilmore home - and Thanksgiving is no exception. Our official Thanksgiving begins Wednesday night when we begin prepping for our feast. This year was fun because we had some extra hands in the kitchen. Meilani is almost a year and a half now and one of her favorite past times is "help-help"ing in the kitchen. A common job she helps me with is adding spices to whatever I'm making.

Grandma Chris put her to work helping add stuff to the traditional stuffing on Wednesday night. She poured in the chicken broth, tasted the celery and even added a few secret ingredients that we had to remove later (like a whole red pepper). She was delighted to be included in the cooking crew.

Grandma Chris loves the traditional Thanksgiving fixin's and she's great at making them. We also added a few healthy recipes since we're on our healthy living journey this year. We swapped out the candied yams and made Coconut-pecan sweet potatoes, which are really yummy and use way less sugar. Nana Maria and Dorina also made whole wheat crescent rolls to go with our Butternut Squash first course, which was full of harvest vegetables.

We had an extra helper in the kitchen this year. Our friend Gerby from Haiti was the chopper extraordinaire. It made a huge difference on Thursday morning to have all those veggies chopped for the soup and our new stuffing - Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing made with Whole Wheat bread. (We snagged this recipe from Food Network's Bobby Flay - alongwith a Pomegranate Sauce for the turkey.)

Daddy worked on the tough job of chopping our butternut squash. He's also the resident comedian in the kitchen - singing, dancing, joking and telling stories to keep everyone entertained. Meilani likes to join Daddy in the act. No surprise there. Meanwhile, Dorina was the Iron Chef, coordinating all the recipes and overseeing the prep work. She also made a new cranberry sauce with cinnamon and persimmons. Delectable!

Nana Maria, who has lots of experience teaching kids to cook, recruited Meilani for rolling out the homemade pie crust. This year's desserts included Maria's blueberry and pumpkin pies. We convinced her to use all-organic ingredients and we even substituted in some whole wheat pastry flour. Surprisingly, these additions did not ruin the recipes but made them better. Meilani loved rolling the dough and insisted she could do it on her own.

Thursday morning we recruited Mom and Dad Lazo for our now 5-year tradition of running Fresno's Turkey Trot, a 5K through the beautiful Woodward Park. Dad and Dorina ran together. (Dad got 3rd in his age group - not bad for an old guy.) Ericlee ran with one of his cross country athletes, Doug Daniel. And Mom walked the 3.1-mile course. (Dorina met up with her for the final mile.) As Dad pointed out, we all earned our turkey.

We had 10 at our table this year, including Christene and Larry, Gerby and Walquis, Maria and Doug, and our friend (and Mom's old neighbor) Barbara from San Francisco. Meilani and Grandpa Larry were big fans of the soup. (Yes, this girl is a soup lover!)

Walquis, who conveniently avoided any prep work this year, was quite pleased with his turkey leg. Gerby claimed the other one. And the rest of us feasted and feasted and feasted on everything else. This was, indeed, a Thanksgiving to remember - with a healthy twist. (The best part is not feeling sick and bloated at the end.)

After all the dishes and a feisty Uno game, the family left and the Gilmores were left for an evening of relaxing. Meilani went to bed early (gasp!) and Ericlee & Dorina enjoyed watching the movie, "Amazing Grace." We were inspired and went to bed so thankful for a day full of God's blessings.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What's on the Thanksgiving Menu?

Something old, something new, something borrowed...and something pomegranate. Here's our menu from our 2007 Thanksgiving festivities.

Thanksgiving Menu

Gorgonzola & Pear Pizza
Spicy Artichoke Dip with Whole Wheat Crackers
Dorina's Butternut Squash Soup
Crescent Rolls & Whole Wheat Rolls

Roasted Turkey with Pomegranate Sauce
Wild Rice & Goat Cheese Stuffing

Mashed Coconut-Pecan Sweet Potatoes
Persimmon Cranberry Sauce
Green Bean Casserole
Mom’s Armenian Pilaf

Maria’s Homemade Pumpkin Pie
Maria’s Homemade Blueberry Pie
Italian Pizzelle Cookies
Sparkling Apple-Cranberry Cider & Coffee

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cooking Club Stirs Up Creative Crockpots

Saturday was our monthly Cooking Club and this one included creative crockpot recipes and rats! Paula Beery poses here with her dynamite taco soup. She slaved over this one at home and brought it ready to go Saturday night - complete with all the taco fixings. We also had Cori Schmidt's Italian Beef on Ciabatta Rolls, Spicy Artichoke Dip Crostini and even a crockpot Apple Gingerbread cake to round out our meal.

Ericlee digs into the appetizers with Josh Beery. They are the "royal taste testers" of our group. The Spicy Artichoke dip on crostini bread was a favorite this time around. Throw a bunch of ingredients in a small crockpot, swirl the spoon a few times, and voila! You have a perfect appetizer dip (or sandwich spread) with a kick. (Could be a crowd pleaser for Thanksgiving if anyone's interested.)

Allison and Troy Vasquez joined us for the November Cooking Club to check out the festivities. Baby Mia slept in the guest room while we all feasted on "easy" crockpot fare. Allison was the chief for the making of the Apple Gingerbread Cake, which turned out surprisingly good. We were all a bit skeptical about how a cake would actually turn out in a crockpot but it was that perfect meld of sweet harvest tastes.

Meilani's favorite was the Taco Soup. She actually ate four bowls of the stuff. With all the beans and yummy veggies, Mama and Daddy were very happy. And, of course, she loved the toppings like cheese and cilantro to sprinkle on top.

Paula's daughter, Juliahna, who just turned 5 this week, also joined in on our fun. She took her little sister, Ella, and Meilani under her wing. This Cooking Club was definitely more kid-focused. (Not much time for adult board games.)
After dinner, the ladies and kids started a food movie/cartoon. Here's where the rats come in: we watched Ratatouille, a wonderful family movie about a cute rat chef who makes it big in Paris. Marcy Pusey holds her growing boy, Corban. The Puseys new foster son, Angel, also joined us. He was Meilani's new favorite friend and they huddled together on the couch for the movie. The theme of the night was crockpot comfort food and relaxing with friends. Bon Appetit!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Meilani rocks out at her first concert

On Wednesday night, Meilani experienced her first rock concert. Fresno Christian Schools hosted an event called "Rock These Walls," featuring four Christian artists, including Building 429 and Aaron Shust at Peoples Church. Since Daddy's a teacher, he was assigned to security for the evening and Meilani was assigned to entertaining the entertainers.

The church is built in a circle so we did about 80 laps, chasing Meilani throughout the concert. She especially enjoyed flirting with the band (special privileges since Daddy was security) and saying hi to anyone and everyone. We also snuck up to the balcony, which was closed for the concert, so Mama could actually watch the show and Meilani could run around. This also helped since the guitars were a bit loud for Meilani on the main level.

We also visited Nana Maria who was selling T-shirts for the show. Meilani entertained Nana for a little while too. This truly was a family event. We saw elementary kids from Nana's class and high schoolers from the track team. We were most impressed with Building 429 and surprised at how many songs we really did know the lyrics too. Meilani had fun rocking out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Team Gilmore breaks their Half Marathon record

In the words of William Shakespeare, "it was the best of times, the worst of times" Sunday morning for the Trail of Two Cities Half Marathon. When we woke up in the wee hours before the sun, it was sprinkling. Maybe not a good sign for the running enthusiasts who hoped to take their jogging stroller and Meilani in tow. But we perservered. When we arrived at the race start, we discovered that *no one* else had strollers and we were making an "illegal" choice. But we didn't have any grandparents available at this point so we had to go for it.
Luckily, they had "chip timing," which means each runner gets a little chip or ankle band and when you cross the start your personal timer begins. That way everyone's timing is more accurate. We were surprised that there were so many people in this race - 1,500 isn't bad for Fresno. In fact, at the beginning I was having visions of the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon when there were so many people there wasn't room to run. We had to weave in and out. I was very nervous about the stroller thing so the first mile was kind of hard.

With the help of my trainer, Ericlee, and my main cheerleader, Meilani, I was able to make the 13.1 miles. Ericlee encouraged me every step of the way and I *literally* could not have done it without him. Distance running is such a mental game for me. I'm a sprinter. You don't have to push me to sprint, but running after you've already done 5 or 8 or 10 miles can sometimes be tough. Not to mention the aches and pains. I guess it's good coaching practice for Ericlee and there are always "life lessons" for me in the whole running experience so I keep at it.

The happy news is I beat my half marathon record from 2004 in Visalia. In fact, I got 2 hours and 1 minute this time so I beat my record by 8 minutes. I was hoping to beat 2 hours but I think this was a great ending - considering I've had a baby since 2004. I think the bathroom break and the flat tire on the stroller at mile 12 deterred us a bit.

My dad greeted us at the finish line. It was funny because Ericlee was hefting the stroller with the flat tire for the last miles so he told me to sprint ahead to the finish. (He knows I live for this final sprint so he sacrificed.) Dad was looking out for the stroller though and totally missed me going by him. Oh well, I did get my hug at the end. My dad was my original running partner when I was a kid. We would always do the Ridge Run together in Chicago. Overall, "it was the best of times."

Meilani Visits a few of her Faves

On Friday, we took our free afternoon to do some visiting. First stop: Grandma Christene's office. Grandma is usually *very* busy tending to her doctors but on this Friday we caught her when she had a break. She had fun showing off Meilani to all her friends at the office.
Meilani loved Grandma's work cubby and seeing all the pictures of her and the colorful files. She was quite the performer on this little stool. (What else is new?)
We also stopped by Fresno Christian to see Daddy on his lunch break and drop off a few things to him before he headed for his weekend retreat with the basketball team. (We just had to squeeze in a few more hugs and loves.) Meilani and I were in "single girl" mode for a few days but it was fun.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Cross Country season closes; Ericlee's basketball team hoops it up

Yesterday was the official close to Ericlee's Cross Country season. His team competed at the Valley Championships at Woodward Park. One athlete - Whitney Chessum - will be continuing on. She placed 11th yesterday and won an invitation to the State meet in a few weeks. We're so proud of her.

One of our track seniors, Ellie Wilhelm, also ran yesterday and impressed us with her perserverance until the end. Ellie has been a thrower, jumper, hurdler and sprinter for our track program and now she can add long distance running to her talents.

The star of the boys' team is Sophomore Doug Daniel who got this Cross Country team running at the start and finished in the top 10 yesterday. He just missed an invitation to the State meet by one place. We were so sad about that but celebrating with him for a great race. (There's always future years for Doug!)

And now our family is transitioning into basketball season. Ericlee is the assistant coach for the Varsity Boys' team this year. He will be coaching with his best friend, Chris Schultz, so he's very excited about that, despite the late nights and long days. Last Sunday, we helped host a Coaches' Family Potluck for all the girls and boys basketball coaches and their families. Pictured here is Isaiah Tosland, son of Josh & Amy. Josh coaches the girls' team.

Mama Amy Tosland is joining me in the Coaches' Wives/Mamas Club. We've promised to band together and support each other throughout the long basketball season with tournaments, trips and two games a week. Amy has TWO kids this season so I'm going to watch and see how she works it. Also, joining us is Jen Schultz, mama to three kids and my personal hero.

Shanda and Chad Posthumus were the basketball coach and spouse with the *skills* on Sunday night. They won our couples' shooting competition and bragging rights for the season. All in all, it was a relaxing evening of getting to know each other, praying for this new season ahead and some fabulous food. (When we say potluck, we mean enough food for ... the whole season!)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Meilani Meets 17 months with Gusto!

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Meilani's actual 17-month mark was October 28, but since we were so caught up in our harvest/Halloween festivities we thought we'd record some fun milestones today. This little girl has definitely morphed into a toddler. She's now using the potty 2-3 times a day on her own. She embraces the whole process - pooping, peeing, wiping, cleaning, flushing and saying ByeBye to her friends.

A few weeks ago we converted her crib to a toddler bed and she's now sleeping (at least half the night) in her room. (Yeah, for Mama and Daddy!) Meilani's also working on lots of two-syllable words like Nigh-Night, apple, Mommy, ByeBye and cracker, to name a few of her faves.

Meilani is still bursting with energy, especially in the morning when she wakes up, stands on her bed and screams, "Da-DDY!" in all her volume. (She's a big Daddy's girl now.) She loves to splash in the bath tub and show off her moves like doing the splits and floating on her back.

Meilani is really good at that toddler favorite, "NO!" We're not sure if she always knows what it means but she sure loves to say it. She also loves helping Mama in the kitchen. "Help. Help," she tells me and jumps in on tasks like wiping tables, mixing cookie dough, and, of course, pouring the box of Trader O's all over the floor. She's also figured out the child safety locks with a simple push of her index finger. (Great!)

This month we've spent lots of time with friends (pictured in our collage), including Meilani's favorite baby, Mia Vasquez, an old friend from our Chicago neighborhood, Lin Chow, and my friend from church, Rebecca Horn, and her little ones, Jake and newborn Ally. (Yes, we're raising a social bug. It's all about the hugs.)

Today we are counting ourselves blessed parents and celebrating this little life who rules our world!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Harvest from our Purr-fect li'l Tiger!

We're not really into the tricks or the treats or all the gross, ghoulish and garish parts of Halloween but we are into dressing up and spending good times with friends. This year Meilani was a little tiger with a great hand-me-down costume from our friend Ella and a fabulous mask and new shoes from Target.

Wednesday morning we picked up Papa Doug and headed for the Fresno Borders Halloween Story Time. They hosted a trick-or-treat time in the store with various staff in costume handing out the goods. We ended up in the children's section with lots of monkeys, princesses and Harry Potter lookalikes. They offered coloring sheets and crayons but no stories. Meilani had a grand old time running down the aisles, gathering up all the stuffed animals in the children's sections and reading dog books with Mama.

In the afternoon, we headed over the High School Cross Country League Champs to cheer on Daddy's team and show off Meilani's costume. It was quite amusing to watch this little tiger yell, "Go, Go, GO!" the the high schoolers at the last stretch of their 3.1 miles. Here she eats her "treat" - a ripe banana. (I know, we're such mean parents, no candy!)

Both the girls and boys teams placed second at the League Champs and we were all so proud. All 12 runners brought in personal records as well. Meilani congratulates Ellie Wilhelm and Janae Ford, a few of her favorite girls, after their race.

After the Cross Country meet, we made a quick trick-or-treat stop at Troy & Allison Vasquez's house. We just *had* to see the Happy Feet Penguins, and especially baby Mia Penguin. So positively cute!

Grandma Christene stopped by after work for a quick glimpse at our little tiger. Meilani and Grandma gave out a few handfuls of treats to the kids from our neighborhood. Meanwhile, Meilani made a few international phone calls and took photos on Grandma's fancy camera.

We ended our day at the Bridge Church Harvest Party, where Nana and Papa were serving food to kids and parents. Surprise, surprise - Nana and Papa were dressed in Hawaiian garb. ALOHA! Our tiger rRRRRoARED her way into Nana's arms.

The harvest party was quite impressive - complete with pony rides, bounce houses, mazes and all kinds of free games, including this duck pond game. The nice ladies at the duckduckduck pond help Meilani find the special duck that wins a prize.

We pose here with our pastor's wife, Hillbilly Michelle, along with Marcy & Corban Pusey. We saw quite the array of baby costumes at the Harvest Party, including a poodle, a crayon, lots of pumpkins and bears and even a whole family tetris game. Cool.

Meilani was quite tuckered out after a long day of festivities. She informed us in the car that this little tiger wanted to go "NighNigh." How Purr-fect!