Friday, August 19, 2011

Extended Vacation Month of August- Blog 3: Letters from Mom & Mimi

Well My Gorgeous Girl,

Our summer full of vacations is now over!  Aunt Samantha was here visiting us for work and that was our last hooray before school starts.  You love your Aunt Sammy a lot, especially because she was on the floor playing with you non-stop.  I think she is destined to have at least five children!  So let me tell you about our time with her.

Your Aunt Samantha came for three days and we did so much with her.   

We took her to the rec center to show her how much you love the pool, she read you books, and she cooked us an amazing dinner on her last night here (she is the best cook ever, she knows which foods and seasonings go together and experiments as she goes). 

I think you need her recipe that she made us because it was fabulous (even your Dad loved it):

Samantha’s Flank Steak with Mango-Avocado Salsa

For the Salsa:
1 Mango, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 cucumber (inside seeds and pulp scraped out), diced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped (should be about 1-2 tablespoons after chopping)
1 clove garlic
1-2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together, chill until ready to use.

For the Steak:
 1 Flank steak or 3-4 lean, thin-cut strip steaks
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 2 limes
2 Tablespoons pre-chopped garlic
½ Tablespoon Chile powder
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp Ground Cumin
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
2 -3 Tablespoons brown sugar

Marinate steaks in all of the above ingredients (except for brown sugar) at room temperature for 1 hour.  When ready to grill, discard marinade and pat steaks dry. Rub steaks with brown sugar and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Grill to desired doneness. Top with Salsa and serve. 

I think we can add Aunt Samantha to the short list of people that you will freely go to.  When we went to Red Robin, you reached out to be held by her (which if you haven’t gotten from these blogs is a rare thing for you Ellie, as you are so cautious that it borders on snobbery!).  I think you want to be like your Aunt Samantha.

One of the night’s she was here, you dug into her suitcase and found her bikini top and high heels and tried to wear them (along with her brush and deodorant, which crazily you know how to use both!).   

Your Aunt Samantha is strong, friendly, and confident and I hope she teaches you those qualities as you get older.

I put you in daycare for one day while she was here, so she and I could have some grown-up time (after her morning work meeting and after I had time to set up my classroom for my students.)  We went to my favorite restaurant (and your Mimi’s favorite here in Denver too), the California Café, and I think Aunt Samantha loved it as much as we do (although sometimes restaurants aren’t just about the food, it’s the company also).  We got to get excited together about her upcoming wedding to Uncle Ryan (I think it’s about 8 weeks away!!!).  First we searched around for shoes to match Samantha’s wedding dress.  Once she found them she showed me the hairstyles she is considering, and how she is going to do her own make-up.  Aunt Samantha is going to be the most beautiful bride!  I showed her the bridesmaid dress that was shipped to me and I think it made her even more eager about the big day (and reminded me that I need to get the dress altered soon).  Can you feel our anticipation?  We also talked about how to get you (as the flower girl) down the aisle and actually considered a trail of M&M’s (I think Colin, the ring bearer would go for that too!). 

Your Aunt Samantha is so easy-going and she didn’t mind that I had a lot of errands to run since I just got back from my month of traveling back east.  She is so effortless to talk to and so very sweet (and she only has the kindest things to say about you Ellie- she sure does love you!).  I am really glad that she is going to be officially part of our family in October. 

I noticed while she was here how grown up you are.  

Being gone for three and half weeks and coming back to your toys, you are like a new child… you can pull yourself up on the couch by yourself, you can tease people (you hand me your Mickey Mouse and say here but when I go to grab it, you pull away and giggle), you understand that making people laugh is a good quality (my favorite is when you are thinking and you put your finger up to your chin, tap it, and say hmmmmm…), and you are talking soooo much (Blues Clues is the newest but short phrases are starting too!).

Just like I wish for your Mimi, I want Samantha to be our next door neighbor too.  Girl time is so much fun with her and you light up when you see her.  I hope she comes back to visit soon and brings my brother next time.  We do have the best time together. 

Alright Mimi, tell us about one of your last vacations.  How was the Russell weekend???  Another reason why being so far away is hard… I miss so many family events so please full us in to make us feel like we were a part of the fun!

I love you Ellie Girl,

And now from your Mimi…

Hi Ellie-bean,

What a week it has been.  As soon as your Poppy and I got home this afternoon from Cape May N.J. I am sure you can guess what the very first thing I did was (even before I emptied my suitcase.)  Yep…. I put the teakettle on to boil!  Oh how I love a great cup of tea, especially after a long car ride!    

The weekend was lots of fun Ellie, but then again we were with our best friends so how could it not be!  Poppy and I left Friday morning to begin our travels towards the Jersey shore.  For Poppy it is all about beating every other driver on the road that is heading for a beach vacation… I don’t blame him though, because if you wait too late in the day, driving becomes bumper to bumper traffic and an extra hour or two gets tacked on to your drive time!  For me though, it gives us a chance to visit relatives who are on our route.  This time we were able to stop in Ocean City NJ while on our way to Cape May.  There we were able to visit with Donna and Wes, Aunt Gerry and Tom, and Jimmy and Andrew.  Oh, and your cousins GraceAnn and Tess from Philly were there visiting too!  The house is awesome…. as it is practically on the beach, (only two houses in) and filled with lots of love and laughter.  Here, everyone takes care of each other Ellie.  It is very comforting to witness and a good quality to learn and apply in ones own family!

From there we traveled another 20 minutes or so to Steve and Jackie’s house.  We had just enough time to freshen up before leaving for Steve’s Fundraising Event that evening.  You see Ellie; he is running for Middle Township Committee, a position he feels he can effectively make a difference in improving their community.  We are quite proud of him and give him a lot of credit for taking his voice a step further than the typical “talk the talk” that most people do.  Steve is actually going to “walk the walk.”  His campaign manager says it may be a close political race as well as a very interesting one.  Your Poppy and I not only fully support him but also wish him the best of luck in this endeavor Ellie.   

I will keep you updated as the election draws nearer.  Oh, and there is a lesson to be learned here.  It is: Don’t wear hairspray or eat bananas on the day you might be in a wooded area (as we were for the fund raiser), because the mosquitoes were horrendous!  You know that buzzing sound they do near your ear?  Well, I think it is “code” for them to call in the troops, meaning their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, second cousins and possibly even thirds cousins!  I really think at least 7 generations of mosquitoes swarmed me like bees do to a hive that night!  I have too many bug bites, mostly on my head, to count!  The reason I said to stay away from bananas when outdoors is because I think I read somewhere at one time that there is something in the scent of banana’s (I think the oil) that slowly oozes out of our pores, which mosquitoes can sniff out, quicker than you can slap them!  So my advice to you is map out your day before you eat that elongated yellow skinned fruit, or else suffer the itching!   OK, that was Friday evening.  On Saturday we played all morning with your little cousin Colin and his mommy Amber.  After lunch the four of us, Jackie, Steve, Poppy and I took a ride over to visit with Aunt Nancy and enjoy a refreshing dip in her just right in-ground pool.  Ooooops.  I almost forgot to tell you that during lunch we toasted Amber with a bottle of Champagne since she will be entering the classroom again as a kindergarten teacher.  The reason why I remembered it now was because after leaving Aunt Nancy’s, we went back to Steve and Jackie’s house to enjoy another glass of “bubbly” while relaxing out back in their Cracker Barrel rocking chairs.  Oh Ellie, their backyard is so beautiful and so peaceful.  You feel as though you are quietly sitting in a small clearing deep within a lush forest.  There are deer, turkey, squirrels, hummingbirds and butterflies all around!  As soon as the first butterfly came into sight, my immediate thought was “Kyle” and also Jackie’s sister “Jennifer” who passed away a few months ago.  

Ellie, the butterfly was a beautiful yellow and black Monarch and it seemed to be teasing us as though it knew us.  This butterfly would flit around the flowered bushes near where we were sitting, allow me to take a picture or two, travel on and then return for me to take more pictures!  It was bringing us great delight… just like you do when we are together!  Later that evening we went out to dinner and then to DQ for some yummy ice cream!   

It was a perfect way to end the evening!  Sunday of course we were on the road home, early.  It has become a race as to who rises first, your Poppy or the Sun!  So far the Sun has been winning but Poppy is narrowing the playing time!

On Sunday evening your Aunt Sammy and Uncle Ryan invited us to dinner.  We so enjoy their company Ellie, as there is always laughter around them!  Samantha made a wonderful homemade pizza that is to die for.  (Well, not literally.  But it is delicious!)  I will submit her recipe in this blog.  We also went over the guest list for the wedding and checked over addresses.  Can you believe their big day is now less than 9 weeks away?!  What an exciting time their wedding will bring Ellie.  I know we will have the best and most cherished memories because all the family will be together again!

As for today, Monday, I am basically a prisoner in my own house, as I have to wait for Verizon to come and fix my landline phone.  Apparently they don’t give a “window of time” as to when they may show.  I was told just to be here from 8am to 7pm.  Ughhhhhh…. I now have no excuse not to clean!  Well, once they arrive and then leave, I hopefully can get over to our new school to help unpack boxes.  The school year for me starts in a couple of weeks Ellie.  I think I am almost ready to get back into a routine again.  And I do love the little ones.  After all these years I can still honestly say that I love going to work as I truly love my job!
All right Ellie.  Here is my recipe for this month.

Samantha’s Mushroom and Vegetable Pizza

For the Dough
1 Package “Martha White Pizza Crust, Thin and Crispy”.  Follow instructions on back of package – Preheat oven to 475, and place rack on lowest rung in oven. Place pizza stone on bottom rack to preheat.  Add water to mix, and thoroughly combine with a fork. I then take a large bowl, coat it in good olive oil, and rub the dough around the bowl, coating it with oil. Then cover with plastic wrap and place next to your preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes. When ready to use, roll out on floured board with floured rolling pin until thin and about 12 inches in diameter.  Place dough on preheated pizza stone, and rub all over with more olive oil and garlic and a pinch of salt.
Pre-bake for five minutes, then remove from oven and proceed with recipe below.

For the Mushrooms
½ red onion, sliced thin into half-moons
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (optional)
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 pint (or more, depending on your taste) sliced mushrooms – you can use any variety
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tablespoon pre-chopped garlic from jar)
¼ cup White wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper

Put 1 tablespoon of the butter and ½ tablespoon olive oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat, sauté red onions until they begin to become translucent. Add remaining butter and olive oil to pan, along with Italian seasoning, thyme (if using), and crushed red pepper flakes. Allow to become fragrant (about 30 seconds), then add mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms and onions until mushrooms are soft and have reduced by about half, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, white wine, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook 3-5 more minutes, until wine has reduced down into a thicker sauce and is no longer “watery”.   Remove from heat.

For the Pizza
½ tablespoon olive oil
Cooked mushroom-onion mixture
2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (for this, the kind in the green can is best)
½ cup shredded Fontana cheese
¼ cup low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
1 plum tomato, diced
1-2 cups arugula lettuce, washed and tossed with juice of half of lemon, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 tablespoon good olive oil, salt and pepper.

Add ½ Tablespoon more olive oil to pizza dough, spread around to coat.
Spread mushroom-red onion mixture on top of dough, leaving 1-inch border around perimeter for crust. Top with cheeses (I actually only use about half the amount of all three cheeses when I make this to cut down on fat and calories – if you don’t want to buy Fontana special for this, you can double the shredded mozzarella). Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and crust is crisp and browning on bottom.
Remove from oven, top with diced tomato and arugula. Cut into slices to serve.

Well, I guess the lesson to be learned this week Ellie is to watch your banana intake, relax and enjoy the end of vacations, and get ready to move forward into fall.  We have 1 more blog to write before September is officially upon us.  How about we use the last week of August to show the travels of “Kyle’s Bag” so far!  I think it is a perfect way to end our fun-filled summer escapades!  What do you think Kimberly?

Till next time precious one!

Love Mimi



  1. Kim, I had SO much fun with you and Ellie and Justin in Denver! I can't tell you how happy it makes me that Ellie not only warmed up to me, but cried when i left for work! I just love her so much, and I it was so kind of you to say that you hope she has some of my traits when she grows up - that was the best compliment I have ever recieved! We miss you already so terribly, but I just keep thinking its only a few weeks until the big day and then we will all be together again! I love you girls!

  2. Great job once again Kim and Mickey. I love reading the stories that you both share it makes me feel like I am part of them. Elllie may not remember all the fun times she has had early in her life but she can read about them and know what happiness she has brought to all those around her. I admire your passion and dedication to writing.

  3. Thank you ladies! We love you both so much and feel lucky that you are in our (and Ellie's) life! Have a great day!!!