Wednesday, October 31, 2007

halloween times.

Halloween's over...but here is a quick recap.

I was a geisha, will not love you long time.

Rob was Indiana Jones. We went to a friend's Halloween party, and for the guys, they were supposed to dress up as their "call sign". Rob's call sign is Rexxxx, and Rex means dog, and Indiana Jones was apparently named after his dog, Indiana. Not sure how many girls can figure this one out, but dudes are so movie-oriented it seems, that no one even questioned his costume.

We three Brooks...
Meg, Wendy, me.

Our Sunday school's Harvest Party. Getting this many kids in one area is somewhat an accomplishment.
on the count of three - everybody say "awwwwwwww...." to my darling little boy in his doctor's costume, and now on to Thanksgiving and Christmas. If his costume isn't that flashy, it's primarily because I made it....the only part of the costume I was super excited about was making his ID please mention it to me when complimenting me on what a stupendous job I did. (wink, wink.)
Trey, as Tony Stewart, and Ben, as Dr. Ben.
Setting out on Wednesday night.
Trick or treat...
Give me something good to eat...
Meghan, Trey's sister...the cutest cat there is.

Wendy and me.

Looking for Willy Wonka....or just some candy. We don't know these people, I just wanted to photograph them.

Wendy and Rick, aka Cage. (Rob's fellow work cohort....also an Eagle driver)


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

petting "zoo" 'sippi style.

Doesn't the name of the zoo just say it all?! Today we went to the "Back 40" petting farm, that just so happens to be on our street, just farther north and closer to Alabama.

Ben after some roosters.

This is a pot-bellied pig.
Some goats.
Ben up close and personal with an American pig (that lives in the mud, unlike the pot-bellied ones). Just so you know: this pig weighs in at over 400 lbs! It could squash a few of us!! But Ben, wasn't afraid. (Mommy was, however.)

Ben's second pony ride. His first one was a couple weekends ago at Caledonia day. An arts/crafts fair in a town north of us that has only has one ha. The funny/sad/really pathetic thing is that when we got to the fair, Ben started yelling, "Yay! Disney World!" (Apparently, we need to get him out more). He also has thought that the toll booth to the toll road in Tuscaloosa is Disney World, the part where you first enter the park, and it looks like...well....big...toll...booths. So, I guess in Ben's defense, I can see why he might think that.

Bouncing Ben.
Ben and Teddy, the horse. This is, in my experience, the most affectionate, gentle horse I have ever met. I kinda wanted to take him home. He was so gentle and eager, he kept following us through the petting farm and you could just tell that he wanted people to pet him and be near him. Very sweet.

a couple emus.

The cost of going to a petting farm: $5.
The cost of being away from home with your kid in underwear: an outhouse.
The cost of your kid thinking he's at Disney World: a free Caledonia Day fair.
The cost of your kid nose to nose with a 450 lb American pig: priceless.

Friday, October 26, 2007

nummies in my tummy.

nummies in my tummy.

So Ben's taking a nap, and I just heard TWO absurd things. You see, when you're around a child all day, sometimes it's very important to break down the logic, so they understand. While Ben is a smarty pants, sometimes the "why" questions never stop, even when I feel like I have *adequately* explained myself. But, these two absurd things I just heard on a Today Show food segment, are so funny and illogical (if you really think about it) that I am almost positive that I wouldn't be able to break it down to Ben. (Note to the Today show producers: I really do understand what chef so-and-so is saying, but really just find it funny to hear out loud.)

Absurd Statement 1: Good fish – SHOULD NEVER – smell like fish. So while I know what he means, if you really think about it….shouldn't we really be afraid if the fish doesn't smell like fish?

Absurd Statement 2: Ann Curry talks about how all these chef concoctions look small on the plate, but she begins to explain/agree with chef so-and-so, that truly good food only requires a small portion, because if it is truly tasty and yummy, then it leaves you feeling like you just had enough. Ha! I don't know about you, but when I like something…I keep eating it.

A few examples:
ice cream
tacos (had 4.5 tacos last night)
chips and salsa (there was a Mexican restaurant I used to go to where I would only eat chips and salsa, and then have dessert (chocolate chimichangas). Those were good too.
two words: pi zza. (going to have that tonight at Wendy's and carve pumpkins.)
Wanted to share some of my food faves and weekly staples.
Note: I had written this food portion earlier, and then added this little witty intro to it. (even though I *am* *so* witty - I can't be witty at all the right times...-very much kidding)

Salsa – given to me by Shannon Dawson.
This is, by far, the best salsa recipe I have received to date.

26 oz can whole tomatoes
1 green peper
1 red pepper
1 jalapeno – she used the canned jalapeno, but a fresh one was easier for me.
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp cumin or chipotle chili powder
Blend in blender and enjoy.

I love this so much that I have made it almost weekly.

Carrot cake.

2 C flour
2 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs
1 C veg oil
3 C shredded carrots (people will know you made it by your orange fingers from all the carrot least fun part)

Combine dry ingredients
Add in wet ingredients
Add in carrots
Bake at 350 degrees
2 round pans 30-35 mins
12x9 rectangle 35-40 mins

Cream cheese frosting
6 oz cream cheese - softened
½ stick butter - softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
Mix well, add powdered sugar until it's frosting consistency – about 1.5 – 2 C

Salad made easy.

Something I usually dread doing weekly is making salad. Mostly, I dread it because I don't really eat it and it is for Rob along with Ben who loves the tomatoes and cucumbers. He seriously is a rabbit. When I was first married, I was good about buying fresh romaine – the unbagged kind – but then out of convenience, I started buying the ready lettuce in a bag. After visiting my aunt and uncle in Phoenix, I have since gone back to fresh romaine, because of a trick my Aunt Amy showed me. I thought this might be useful to others who might also dread preparing fresh lettuce – especially romaine. Or maybe not, and I'm just lazy.

The spin cycle! (and yes, I have a salad spinner.) This is another tip that my aunt told me about that she got off the Food Network. That channel is great. After washing your lettuce, place it in a pillow case and put it in your washing machine and use the spin cycle. It works great, and it's sometimes easier when you have so much lettuce that you can't fit it all in your salad spinner.

Cutting Romaine. The main reason I hated chopping it was that the pieces were so big. The little trick I learned was to fold the leaf in half lengthwise, and cut out the spine. (I keep a few and put it back in the salad, because I like that part.) But with the lettuce leaf you take a bunch of spineless lettuce pieces, roll them all up together, and make one cut vertically and 3 or 4 horizontally, and it makes the perfect bite-sized pieces!

Happy eating and feasting as we swing into the holiday season that is very conducive to doing just that! :)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

pumpkin patch.

This weekend we took Ben to a pumpkin patch and we took a couple home. It was a good time.
"Go Tigers!" And Rainey and her big head. See her ears back? She knows she's in trouble, yet she's still naughty!
Being Ben.

On the tractor ride back to the front of the patch.
Ben wore underwear all day. And the only accident we had was once in the morning - at home. We managed to keep dry to the countless places we went that day: pumpkin patch, Rob's work, the Commissary, Old Navy, Profitt's Porch, and Belk. It is still a slow work in progress, but we're at least a *little* interested. I tell him that when he figures out this whole potty thing, he will be rewarded with the toys he had from Lolo and Lola's house.

It seems we barter a whole lot more these days, and rewards and punishments actually work in terms of Ben obeying. Is that bad? It's bribery. Shouldn't he just want to obey his parents all the time? Shouldn't he just be grateful that he has a nice home, parents, a dog, friends to play with?!?! None the less, it sure helps during those times he wants to act against me or Rob. Eh, what can ya do?

Friday, October 12, 2007

pack it up, val!

“Pack it up Val.”

That one box. That one box that we never saw again – after it was packed up in Clovis, NM – almost a couple years ago now.

The contents of this box is still indefinitely undetermined. However, when we realize that there is something that we once had, that we no longer have anymore, Rob jokingly tells me “Pack it up Val!” He jokes with me because it pretty much nutshells my personality. And it pretty much contradicts his personality along with his upbringing. The day we had movers in Clovis, I kept jokingly saying to one mover, “Pack it up, Val” when asked what to do with certain things, in an attempt to just get it all out of my hair. Even after we got married, and my dad was helping us move my stuff, he was seizing the moment to get rid of his own ‘crap’. I love the differences of both sides of our family. I truly think they compliment very well, as long as we can find balance.

Rob grew up in a family with a lot of tradition – and with that comes a lot of nostalgia. I grew up in a family where I am the only child and my mom moved away from the Philippines with only her suitcase, leaving many memories behind. My dad is the only child, although he has one adopted brother and on half brother. The main difference between the Taylor family and the Brooks family I think is that we keep the memories in a different way. It seems the Brooks keep them in boxes along with their hearts, but the Taylors keep them in their heart mostly. And the physical memories they just want to get rid of! J And I am almost never surprised when we visit the Brooks’ in SC and Liz is trying to get me to take Rob’s stuffed animals home with us! The funny thing is that no one wants to be the person to throw it away….so the stuffed animals stay, and Liz waits until we visit again. J Because it is Rob and me that have to live with each others’ differences, we come to a meeting point most times. But sometimes they have come at a price of a minor argument here and there.

With all that being said….I love having two families because it reminds me that both, “roots” and “wings” are equally important. And without the nostalgia, you can forget where you came from.

I am including a few pictures from Rob’s files (the kind that doesn’t take up boxes in the attic! J), because they are such neat reminders of roots. It is so neat to be able to see legacies being created, and from that I feel the strong joy of having children.

These are photos of Rob’s maternal grandmother, who was a pilot instructor. She was given a grant from the GI Bill that allowed women to learn to fly! How very memorable and pivotal. We enjoy Rob’s Gram very much when we go to visit my in-laws. And a good number of Rob’s relatives reside on the same golf course, so hitting many birds with one stone is an advantage. Especially for the “No-hassle-keep-it-simple-pack-it-up-Val” kind of person! J wink, wink. One Brooks’ tradition I have grown to love, is to continue waving out the window until the house and its’ occupants are no longer in view. Since I love to tease Rob about this, I will not ever admit that I feel fondness when performing this ritual! (hey, he’s welcome to have a read on “our” blog! J.)

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what was in that “pack it up, Val” box: we are missing grilling utensils, a good number of large cooking utensils, those nifty George Foreman grease trays, a couple etched glass cubes that sit on a lighted pedestal to illuminate the picture in it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007



…day of school

Here is a picture of Ben’s very first day of school. He loves his teachers Miss Willie and Miss Pat. He loves the fact that he is a big boy. It is truly a mom’s joy to be able to share my “pride and joy” with others. While we always receive very good reports, I am sure to ask where he lacks. He tends to climb on tables?! What? He never does that at home. Seriously. It boggles me that he can think to do something completely atypical somewhere else. I love reading his daily reports. And some of it never surprises me. It doesn’t surprise me that both colors purple and pink are purple to him. We’re still working on that one. It doesn’t surprise me that he also thinks that the letter M is also a W.


I am. While I am somewhat bragging in this here space, (that’s Southern talk for “you guys” – don’t worry, I still feel like y’all is weird. I much prefer to say “you guys” in that nasal Northern tone) I am kind of proud that I came in 2nd place for Women – or as a No Fear slogan might say, “Second place is the first loser”. I, along with some friends, ran a base 10K in honor of the Air Force’s 60th Anniversary, and I finished at 46:20. The few people that I managed to pass along the way were men, and I kept jokingly asking them, “how many girls are up there?” thinking I might have a chance at finishing. Plus, I didn’t want to be so rude to pass them without being friendly. I am very proud of my time, and feel like it is such an improvement for me in the last year of running. My last 10K was 54:55 back in March that Rob and I ran together.

…time in Las Vegas
The three of us just got home from a very much needed trip to my parents’ house in Phoenix and a couple day getaway to Las Vegas, while Ben stayed with his Lolo and Lola. We hadn’t been back to Phoenix since Ben was 7 months old! Long overdue for a visit. While a week goes by so fast, we had such a great time visiting old friends and taking in time with the parents. It seemed we got in a little of everything. My mom couldn’t get enough of Ben, and Ben was so good with the both of them. When Rob and I got home from our mini-trip to Vegas, my mom (who is almost never speechless) said very slowly and thoughtfully, “Umm…yes, Ben was good, but he’s….ummm…he really is a boy. You were never like this, Jenny. He just wants to play all the time. He never quits.” Yes, that sounds like Ben alright. Bellagio


Before leaving for Tony and Tina's wedding, where we were part of the production, attending as wedding guests, and you witness all the wedding drama and chaos of an Italian American New York wedding.

photo with Steve Wyrick, a magician, that we saw the night before Tony and Tina. His headlining act is making a Lear jet appear magically on stage. It was a really neat show, and we had 3rd row seats!

waiting for a shuttle to get our car on our return trip home - in Memphis

Bellagio's fountain show.

the first day in Vegas after a trip to Nellis AFB and In-n-Out Burger. If you've never been, you must.

Saying goodbye to Lolo and Lola at the Sky Harbor airport in PHX.

dinner with some friends at Red Robin. This is part of the group where Rob and I first met. aww, shucks.

Kels and me. Kels is one of the best friends there is. She was also my Maid of Honor.

Our fabulous King suite at the Signature Hotel at MGM. It's a pretty new hotel, and it sits off the strip a bit and isn't a gaming hotel. So it's kind of nice to get away from the constant "ding, ding, ding, ding".

…baptism baby blanket.
It turned out very pretty…and I didn’t want to part with it just yet. I did manage to get paid for this gig – thanks Felicia! – so maybe my husband won’t get so mad at yarn for a while. Joking aside, there are times where Rob wishes I would just watch TV with him, and not just “listen to TV”.

Here is a shot of a fly by Rob was in for the US Open. I need to brag on him more. Rob is number 4 – which is the bottom left.