Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Snow Family Bracker

(Every snowman begins with a single snow flake!)

This morning I heard the front door open and wondered just what in the heck Kevin was doing. He came back in to report it was perfect snowman making weather! Sarah has been waiting two years to make her first snowman! Not only did she get to make her first snowman, but a whole snow family. So we have snow dad Kevin, snow mom Debbi, snow daughter Sarah and snow cat Romeo! She put the pink scarf on "snow dad Kevin" -- glad he's confident enough in his masculinity to wear such a girly scarf!

(Kevin may be wearing a pink scarf, but it balances out with his fishing hat!)

(Snow Debbi having just as bad a hair day as real Debbi!)

(Snow Sarah with Snow Romeo the Cat right by her -- in snow as is life!)

(Sarah didn't want Snow Sarah's head to be cold!)

(We must have HAPPY snow people!)

(Snow Romeo the Cat)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Visiting Friends

Oh my! I was overwhelmed by the number of people who contacted me after my Christmas post (below). It was so wonderful to hear from so many people, many I've never chatted with before and many who befriended me on Facebook. Quite honestly, I wasn't sure if anyone was reading the blog anymore, but I see you are -- THANKS! So I'll try to be better about posting on here.

We just returned a few hours ago from a two day mini trip. One of the girls Sarah grew up with lives a few hours away so we headed there for a visit. The girls had a wonderful time shopping, swimming, chatting and eating REAL Chinese food! There is a small restaurant there owned by people from their hometown in China. The restaurant has two menus -- one mainstream and one "authentic" menu with all the good stuff the girls remember from China. This time we ordered very spicy crunchy chicken, crunchy fried fish (bones and all) in sauce, a mixed eggplant dish, a stuffed fried tofu dish (with gorgeous mushrooms!) and sauteed greens and tofu vinegar soup. The girls loved it all!

This is the second time we've gone to this restaurant and the girls just love it. The man and woman who own the restaurant always come by and chat for a long, long, long (!) time with the girls and are very interested in their lives. As soon as we walked in the woman recognized the girls. There's tons of quick talking in Chinese which Kevin and I cannot understand at all so we just sit and enjoy the food! Watching the girls have so much fun, laughing and giggling, is quite a treat.

Now, it's time to take down all the Christmas decorations and store them away until next year. I'm guessing there's no magic fairy that will pack them all up tonight and store them away before morning!?! Sarah has a few days left before school starts up again on the 4th. If the snow isn't too bad tomorrow we may head to the movies. Otherwise, we just plan to CHILL!!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It's been a LONG time since my last post -- so sorry! We've pretty much moved over to Facebook and if any of you are on there as well, please "friend" me (Debbi Bracker). On Facebook we post photos and tidbits and would love to share in your posts as well.
Here are a few Christmas photos. We had a wonderful holiday. We did not travel back to Iowa this year, but stayed home instead. We had a white Christmas with about 6+ inches of snow -- a HUGE snow for Southern Missouri.

(Yep, she got a Hello Kitty shirt -- silly girl!)

(Romeo, putting up with Sarah wrapping him in her scarf)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 19, 2009

9th Grade School Photo

Sarah's 9th grade school photo

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kevin's Arkansas Fishing Trip

Kevin is on his way home from a fishing trip with his Dad. Rick drove down from Iowa and they met up in Branson. They'd hired a fishing guide but the guide contacted them to say we've had too much rain lately for good fishing in the area. Instead, he wanted to know if they'd care to go down to Arkansas to fish. Kevin has wanted to try fishing in Arkansas but hadn't gotten down there yet, so this worked out perfectly. Except, it's COLD outside!

But, they did have some luck and while they didn't catch many, they caught big sized fish. Actually I think they are probably the biggest they've landed so far. I just love how happy he looks in the photo above.

Now, if we can just get him home to thaw him out. And, no, we won't be having fish for dinner as they practice the "catch and release" method so the fish can go on to live another day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pillsbury Bake-Off

It's going to be a long wait, but in April of 2010 I'll be headed off to Orlando to compete in the 44th Pillsbury Million Dollar Bake-Off. Yep, that means I have a 1 out of 100 shot at winning a million dollars!

At the Bake-Off there are four categories: Breakfast & Brunches, Entertaining Appetizers, Dinner Made Easy and Sweet Treats. I'll be competing in the "Sweet Treats" category. My recipe is "Mile-High Peanut Butter-Brownie Pie". Let's hope it "Wows" the judges!!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Homecoming Parade

It's Homecoming weekend in Carl Junction. I'm happy to report that last night the football team routed East Newton with a final score of 52 to 7. Friday afternoon Sarah was part of the school's Homecoming Parade and she rode on the Drama Club float (above) with about 15 other students (who you can't see because my camera work was sub par).

And for those who wonder, yes we do live in a very small town. The photo above shows you one side of "Main Street" in Carl Junction. The side you cannot see has our bank, post office and funeral home. We still do not have a stop light anywhere in town.

As with many small towns, we take our school pride very seriously. The parade wound through town with everyone from the very young to the very old lining the streets. The high school football team rode on the town's fire trucks (old and new), the junior high and high school bands played, the various clubs, organizations and other sports were represented and even the "little guys" such as the first grade football team had their moment to shine.

The weather has started to turn crisp and soon we'll be heading out to find the perfect pumpkin. Hard to believe fall is really here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

National Beef Cook-Off 2009

What a great time we all had in Sonoma!!!! Sarah was a PRO cook and every part of her recipe preparation turned out AWESOME!!!! She worked so well under pressure -- even when the cameras were all around .....

Even with the heat reaching 100 degrees, she kept her cool! She was grilling outside and preparing her recipe "Beef 'California Roll' Salad".

When it came time for the big gala dinner and awards show, she was so cute in her sparkly purple cocktail dress! We had a delightful dinner of the best steak I believe I've ever tasted. Then came the awards. Unfortunately, Sarah did not receive one of the monetary awards, but the memories she has and the love of cooking are more precious than anything in the bank! She's already come up with new ideas for the next contest!

Here are all 15 contestants at the 2009 National Beef Cooking Contest held in Sonoma, CA on September 23. Information about the contest can be found at .

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sonoma, Monday -- Who Stole the Airport!?!?

So, our day started at 3:15 am. We were flying out of Springfield which is about an hour drive, so we were driving before the sun came up. As we neared the exit, we saw a different sign with different directions to "the airport". We thought perhaps it was a private air field. Well, apparently not! When we got to where we had "left the airport" last time we used it (!) -- it was a total ghost town! Apparently there is a new airport which has replaced the airport we were used to using. After a few minutes of nervous looking we found the new airport and things seemed good until they couldn't find our names on the computer. Apparently our last name was spelled wrong in the database, but soon all was well and we were on our way to California (by way of Dallas!).

Both flights were actually on-time and a wee bit early! We arrived in San Fran, took a shuttle to Sonoma and checked into one of the most wonderful and beautiful hotel/resorts I have seen. The Lodge at Sonoma is just gorgeous. The grounds are covered in various plants including pomegranate trees, lime trees, Asian pear trees, and so much more. We are in a villa style room with a leather couch, fireplace, vaulted ceilings and patio area. We are being totally spoiled! The lobby even has cucumber and lemon water which Sarah thinks is so cool.

Uncle Chuck picked us up at the hotel and took us on a great tour of Sonoma. We saw the vineyards and several of the quaint housing areas. And we LOVED seeing Uncle Chuck's house. He has the most gorgeous yard where he is growing table grapes which are undescribably delicious (last photo below), kiwi (photo below), black walnuts, oranges and tons of flowers and trees. Just stunning! Then we had a delicious dinner on the Sonoma Square followed up by a walk completely around the square including a little bit of window shopping. Thanks Uncle Chuck!

Tomorrow starts all the cook-off fun!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Off to Sonoma!

The bags are packed and the mini powdered sugar donuts are ready for the morning. Yep, that means we are heading off to Sonoma! We've packed the laptop, movie camera and digital camera. We'll be posting updates along the way.

Sarah prepares her marinade and beef on Tuesday night. Wednesday morning is the actual cook-off where she'll grill the beef and prepare her other items. The awards ceremony is Wednesday night and we probably won't know the outcome until 9 pm Pacific time, but we'll be sure to post. I know most of our Midwestern family and friends will be asleep then. But should Sarah win a cash prize, no matter where you are on the globe I'm sure you'll hear her screaming with joy!

Thanks so much for all the good wishes you've sent to Sarah! It means SO MUCH!!!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Two Weeks Until Sonoma!

Whew! Two weeks until we're in Sonoma!! Watch out National Beef Cooking Contest! Sarah did her recipe as a timed practice run yesterday and was very pleased with the results. The contest folks have her preparing the marinade and marinading the beef the night before the contest (20 minute time limit for this portion) and then she has 50 minutes on the actual cook-off day to prepare the vegetable components, grill the beef, assemble the final dish and have it to the judges.

We ran to the store today to pick up several cucumbers so she can practice using the mandolin slicer. Previously she was hand slicing the cucumbers but she's worried she may not be cutting them even enough so we're trying a mandolin slicer which takes a bit of practice. So if anyone is in the mood for a bag filled with sliced fresh cucumbers, you know where to find us!

On Saturday, we spent several hours bouncing around the mall. Sarah tried on more dresses than I care to think about and finally settled on a really pretty black and purple one that she'll wear to the awards dinner after the cook-off. It has sparkly "bling" and therefore it's right up her alley! And, being Sarah, she picked out matching earrings, a bracelet and over sized floral cocktail ring which is just adorable on her.

As the time gets closer she's getting more and more excited ... and nervous ... but I think the excited will win out in the end.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Family Day!

Sorry to have not posted in a awhile! It's been a whirlwind around here! Sarah started high school and Kevin is back to school as well. I'm happy to report that Sarah is loving high school.

So, you may be asking what those crazy folks in the photo above are doing? Well, that would be Sarah and Kevin dancing in the basement ...... in celebration of "Family Day"! Today is the 2 year anniversary of the day Kevin, Sarah and I became a family! YEAH!!! We'll actually be celebrating tomorrow with dinner out as tonight if busy with homework and preparing for a graphic design test tomorrow. But rest assured there will be merriment and fun tomorrow!

Hope everyone is doing well and I'll try to be better about blogging in the more timely manner!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cool as a Cucumber

This morning the local newspaper sent a reporter and a photographer to our home to interview Sarah about her upcoming cooking contest. She had a blast! She was quite the pro, answering the reporter's questions and going through some steps of her recipe so photos could be taken. I think she has such a great time that she's "got the bug" to be on camera more often!!!

Her recipe is titled "Beef California Roll Salad" and combines three of Sarah's favorites -- beef, pomegranates and sushi! Yes, I said sushi. The girl loves sushi! So her recipe has the flavors from a "California Roll" sushi which are avocado, cucumber, carrots, sesame and wasabi. The beef is marinated in a Chinese-inspired blend (garlic, ginger, hoisin sauce, toasted sesame oil, pomegranate juice, pepper) and grilled.

Missing from the photo above are pomegranate arils which are sprinkled over the dish. When she was creating the recipe after Christmas we could easily find fresh pomegranates, but now they are no where to be found in our area. But when she sets foot in Sonoma for the cook-off there will be pomegranates galore! I think she's ready to head to California right now!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Colorado or Bust!

Our family vacation this summer was a week in Colorado. We spent the first few days in Estes Park, then headed down to visit Celestial Seasonings Teas in Boulder and then on to Denver. In Denver we enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of a family we met during our trip to China. They have seven children and three of their children were adopted from China as older children. Sarah had so much fun she was completely asleep in the car on the way home -- or "fun overload" you might say!

In Estes Park we had a great time walking in the downtown shopping area as well as going through Rocky Mountain National Park. We saw several kinds of animals, but Sarah enjoyed feeding the chipmunks the most! We made two trips up the tram so she could buy scoops of peanuts and sit and feed them to the many hungry chipmunks. And we didn't need to further than the parking spot in front of our hotel to see wildlife -- deer!

Then we headed down to Boulder to tour Celestial Seasonings Teas. Quite interesting indeed. The "mint" room where they store the mint leaves before making them into tea had such a strong smell that Sarah asked to walk outside. The guide said that if they were to leave the door open on the extra reinforced walled mint room for one day that the mint could be smelled for a mile away.

In Denver we toured Hammond's Candies which has been around for a long time. The kids liked getting the free candy samples (ok, I did too!). Then we wanted to have Chipotle for lunch because it's one of our favorites but the closest Chipotle we have is in Springfield and we don't get there much. The family we were with used their GPS to find the closest on and, low and behold, it wound up being the original, very first-ever Chipotle. Pretty cool.

The best part about Denver was having time to visit with our friends. The kids went swimming and then we all went walking so the kiddos could climb rocks and splash in streams. A GREAT time was had by all!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy Belated June & July

Ok. I admit it. I've become a BAD blogger! Basically our lives have settled into a routine which most often doesn't warrant a lengthy blog entry. So most things are done through Facebook. So if we haven't connected already on Facebook, I'd love to!

Over the past month Sarah and Kevin have had summer school. Sarah took Driver's Ed and Computer Applications. She's a bit hesitant to try for her driving permit, but I'm sure that will come sometime soon. Kevin's building was under renovation during the month of summer school so he was "relocated" to a temporary office which kind of threw him out of his routine!

Our friend Diane visited from Iowa. She was not here long but we had a fun time together! We went to a local blueberry farm and picked two buckets full of blueberries. Unfortunately my camera had condensation and the photos have a bit of a "haze" to them -- but trust me we had fun!

The 4th of July found us out in the yard with sparklers, bees and glowing worms (which didn't glow). Our whole neighborhood was lit up as we live in the "anything can go BOOM" state so we had quite a show all from the comfort of our driveway.

Lately Sarah has been really into watching cake decorating shows on tv. Her favorite show is "Ace of Cakes" and I think we've watched every episode. Plus, we're up-to-date on all cake "Challenge" shows on Food TV. So we thought we'd try our own little decorating challenge. I made homemade cake, homemade frosting and homemade fondant. I assembled the cake and Sarah did all the decorating including the fondant work (the pink and all the white shapes are rolled fondant). It was really fun trying fondant for the first time and there definitely is a learning curve to it. But for a first try I think Sarah did an awesome job decorating!

We've also started saving a bit of money on Kevin's hair. Sarah wanted to try cutting it and she does an awesome job. And, yes, she wrapped him in a large garbage bag! Romeo the cat seemed jealous so he jumped up on the chair and was perfectly content having Sarah "pretend" to cut his hair -- complete with being wrapped in a towel and her "snapping" the scissors around without really cutting anything! He sat there until she was done and told him to leave!!!

And no day is complete without about 1-1/2 hours of "cat time". Seriously. Sarah and Romeo play together all the time. I have to say he's the most patient cat there is as he'll let her pretty much her do whatever she wants. One of their favorite games is for her to lay on top the stairs and for him to "stalk" her from the bottom. He lays his ears very flat so she can't see him and then he quietly moves from step to step. If she peeks her head up at the top he'll freeze in his tracks! It's very funny to watch.

Hope everyone is having a GREAT summer!!