Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dorina celebrates motherhood with another prego mama

On Saturday, I had the chance to bless my dear friend Jen Schultz with a "Mother Blessing Brunch" at our house. A small group of seven of us enjoyed a tea party brunch and some time encouraging Jen. What a great excuse to get out my Grandma Cora's china and to make the house girlie in honor of Jen's fourth girl - Samantha Quinn - coming in February.
The star of the show was this fabulous cake made by Jen's sister, Kim. The "baby bump cake" was in the signature pink and brown colors Jen loves and even featured polka-dotted lingerie and the prego mama's belly button!
I had fun catching up with some of the other Fresno Christian "coaches wives" like Chris Fuller. She was a fabulous help in the kitchen and even did dishes for this other prego mama.
Jen and I are two weeks apart on our due dates and it's been fun to walk this journey together of pregnancy and new beginnings for both our families as we move on from Fresno Christian and seek God for our futures. Baby Giada and baby Sam will be good friends!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cooking Club tries out "Deceptively Delicious" recipes on daddies and kiddos

January's Cooking Club was a fun mix of old friends and great new recipes. A few of the lovely ladies in our group have Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, and we've been talking about trying out some of the recipes together. The premise of the book is recipes with "hidden veggie" purees that help get kids (and adults) to eat more of the good stuff. Mama Christine led us in the cooking. She showed off her skills making Parmesan Chicken Nuggets (with hidden sweet potato and carrot purees).

Stacie got right to work on our Chocolate Peanut Butter Dip with Apples (and hidden carrot puree). Susan helped with the chicken nuggets. Meanwhile, the daddies gathered in the play room with all the toddlers. Meilani was leading the pack, followed by a toddling Caleb and Niana and climbing Olivia.

Mary was lead dessert chef, mixing up the brownies. (Mmmmm...did I mention Giada's addicted to chocolate? Hold me back!)

The batter used hidden spinach and carrot purees but the tasters never suspected a thing. You can't beat brownies with vanilla ice cream and Moo sauce from Trader Joe's. We also served up Mint Hot Chocolate (with hidden sweet potato puree) and some even had it kicked up a notch with Peppermint Schnapps.

The hit of the evening were two different versions of Gouda Mac & Cheese. This recipe was one of our own and the big debate was whether our guests liked the broccoli version or the spinach version. Yum-o!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Gilmores ring in the New Year with Ethiopian food

After a full December with lots of family in town, we decided to go a little more low-key for New Year's Eve and day. Our friends Stacie and Forest Benedict invited us to Fresno's only Ethiopian restaurant, Lucy's Lair. We joined them last year for this fabulous food and we decided to make it a new tradition. We ate Ethiopian in honor of the adopted Ethiopian child who will be joining the Benedict family this year. Doug and Maria, Paul and Michelle also joined us for the meal.

Baby Cindy also joined us for the meal. She led the team in "eating with your hands." (Meilani spent a few hours at Nama and Grandpa's house.)

The food was truly fabulous. We ordered a combination vegetarian plate and a combination meat plate. Ethiopian is eaten family style and served injera bread. The prices were surprisingly reasonable and we practically had the place to ourselves. Pretty night for New Year's Eve.

After dinner, Forest and Stacie returned to our house where we met up with Meilani and had a game night. We played a fun new game called "Speak Out Loud" and watched the ball drop in New York on television. Meilani girl even stayed up until midnight and had a glass of sparkling apple cider with the rest of us. Then we promptly headed for bed.

A Year to Remember: Footprints in the Sand of 2008

For several months we have planned to spend these first few days of the New Year at the Central Coast at a beach house owned by Ericlee’s grandparents. Meilani is home in Fresno indulging in her time with Nana and Papa Lazo and we are here in Arroyo Grande for a little R&R getaway. Curling up on the couch with our hot tea, calendars and journals, we find ourselves looking back at the footprints in the sand of another year. We are reminded that 2008 was definitely a year full of blessings, adventures, travel and surprises for the Gilmore family.

We tipped off January with Fresno Christian basketball season. Ericlee agreed to *one more* season of coaching with his best friend, Chris Schultz. Dorina and Meilani joined the Schultz girls on the bench for several games cheering on the varsity boys’ team. We also kicked it up a notch in the kitchen, starting our fourth year of our Cooking Club. Dorina hosts a monthly cooking party, which includes 10 girlfriends in the kitchen, trying out new recipes and cooking techniques. This year our group grew since the kiddos have multiplied. The mamas served up a Pizza Party, Food for Red Hot Lovers, Hawaiian Luau by the Pool, Whole Grains & Beans Bonanza and a fabulous French Christmas Party and more, and the daddies did the Dish Rag Dance tackling the clean-up.

In February, Ericlee sprinted into his eighth year as head coach of the Fresno Christian Track & Field team with Dorina serving as the women’s head coach. The highlights of the season included our first pole vaulter in school history earning a medal at the Small Schools Championships and our star girl sprinter setting the school record in the 400-meter dash. Dorina also busied herself in February as the co-chair for our church’s annual Women’s Missions Dinner. This year, the dinner raised money for our new Hispanic church plant, El Puente, and their outreach efforts.

Our family took a Vision trip to Haiti in March with Ericlee’s mom, our good friends Stacie and Forest Benedict, Clint Yarbrough and our church’s Missions Director Stephanie Ridgeway. This was Meilani’s first trip out of the country and she embraced the change like a true missionary. We hosted two Sports Outreach events, visited four mountain churches and had the privilege of sharing Easter Sunday with our Haitian friends and family. While we were in Haiti, our niece Cynthia Joy Lazo was born two months early back in California.

This past April, we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary with a getaway trip to the mountains. We returned to the Tenaya Lodge near Yosemite where we got married and enjoyed a fabulous dinner. Then we stayed at the nearby Apple Tree Inn. Also in April, we took a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the Festival of Faith and Writing. Dorina was invited as a speaker for this special festival at Calvin College, her alma mater and had a chance to share about her children’s books and poetry. Ericlee and Meilani explored the campus and Grand Rapids area with Ericlee’s cousins who live in nearby Kalamazoo.

May was a month to celebrate! We celebrated Meilani’s second birthday almost all month long with a Kids Cooking Party, A Noah’s Ark Two by Two pool party and then a trip to Los Angeles to celebrate with Auntie Michelle, Uncle Paul, Baby Cynthia and Meilani’s fave dog, “Bumper”. Our two-year-old loves to run, jump, chat on the phone, listen to Bible stories, sing “Sound of Music” showtunes at the top of her lungs and dance like a party animal. At the end of May, we took a camping trip with Dorina’s family to Bishop, California. The Bishop public library hired Dorina to run a Poetry Workshop and paid for our trip so we all explored a new part of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Our travels continued in June with a family vacation with the Schultzes and their three little girls, to Mono Hot Springs. We traipsed up the mountains and took dips in the steamy natural baths, indulging our quality time with good friends. In mid-June we departed for our summer. We spent a weekend in Atlanta with Ericlee’s cousins, Paul and Cheri Jimenez and their two children. Then we continued on to Roanoke, Virginia for our third summer at Hollins University where Dorina completed her final two MFA classes in Children’s Literature. June was also a big month because we found out we were pregnant with our second child. We were thrilled about the pregnancy; Dorina was not so thrilled to spend the next month on the couch, trying to write graduate papers and keep from throwing up.

Despite pregnancy sickness, we did manage some fun hiking trips and weekends away in July. We celebrated Fourth of July with our dear friend, Shawn Young. Ericlee’s cousins, Sean and Amy Bennett, treated us to a weekend at the Outer Banks beyond North Carolina. Meilani built sand castles and chased her cousin Whitaker up and down the sand dunes. At the end of July, we met up with Dorina’s best friends Cindy and Greg and their kiddos. We all rented an inexpensive cabin in the mountains of Georgia and spent a week truly relaxing, eating fabulous meals and letting the kids run wild in the woods.

Before heading back to Fresno, we took a couple days to attend a wedding in Chicago. Dorina’s high school friend, Jenny Lee, marched down the aisle at the Drake Hotel. Jenny and Chris hosted the most elegant city wedding we’ve ever attended and we loved showing Meilani Mama’s home town. She also met her great grandma, Sara Yaquinto, for the first time. After living out of a suitcase for two months, we finally boarded a plane and headed home to Fresno. Ah, Home Sweet Home.

This fall, Ericlee started his ninth year of teaching at Fresno Christian Schools. He took on a new position, including a combination of teaching Elementary Physical Education and coordinating the new Healthy School lunch program for grades 3-12. As the Health & Wellness Director, he started a Wellness Council of parents, staff and students to inspire a healthier environment on campus. He also started his second year coaching the Cross Country team for high school, later sharing victory with his girl’s team and one individual boy who qualified for the State Cross Country Championships.

In September, Dorina started her third Beth Moore Bible study with women from our church. On Tuesday mornings, Dorina invests in this community of women while Meilani attends her own preschool study with other children. Ericlee also joined the Men’s Fraternity small group for a second year.

The highlight of October was peeking at our baby girl (!) through an ultrasound. Giada Esther Gilmore is healthy so far. We’ve hired a certified nurse midwife and hope to have a gentle home birth in late February.

Dorina has been honing her healthy cooking skills this year. She continues to spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating recipes and adding to our healthy living blog. In November, she was invited to do a cooking show at our church for 120 women. She demonstrated two recipes for this event and shared her passion for health and hospitality.

On December 3, Ericlee was one of five faculty and staff laid off from Fresno Christian. The school has been experiencing financial problems this year as are many private schools across the nation. We were shocked but God certainly wasn’t and He continues to provide for our needs. As Ericlee said his goodbyes to students and staff, we prepared ourselves emotionally for hard times ahead. Once again we have been surprised by the love and unbelievable generosity of our community. This Christmas we have been showered with unexpected gifts, heartfelt prayers, grocery gift cards, encouraging notes and even job offers from families at Fresno Christian, our church family and good friends. What an awesome reminder of God’s goodness and the sincere hearts of people around us.

We shared this holiday season with Dorina’s brother and family at Thanksgiving, Dorina’s sister and family at Christmas, and, of course, our parents, Chris and Larry Karlyn and Doug and Maria Lazo, who live just a mile from us. We were so blessed to have much quality time with friends and family in 2008. Our faith remains strong in God’s plan for our lives as we step into 2009. Happy New Year!

With love,
Ericlee, Dorina,
Meilani and baby Giada