Ever After
  • Bryan
  • January2nd


    To put it mildly, we are OBSESSED with Chopped, the Food Network show where contestants are given random (and often weird) baskets of ingredients and are expected to create culinary masterpieces in a ridiculously short amount of time. Each round, one contestant gets “chopped,” and in the final dessert round, the two remaining chefs compete head-to-head for a $10k prize.

    A few nights a week, you can find us all huddled around the television watching DVR’ed episodes. We each guess at who will be chopped and who will win. We gag at some of the ingredients–from testicles to brain, rattlesnake to rabbit–that the chefs not only have to cook with but that the judges also have to eat. We laugh at some of the crazy things they come up with. We even occasionally cry with the judges (yes, literally) when a favorite underdog defies all odds and beats his or her cocky counterparts.

    When we’re not watching the show, Vivi and Tad will sometimes play “Chopped” with our fake food assortment. Tad even presented us a crayon-sketched creation of “ganache” yesterday before church, and he often randomly mixes words like “creme fraiche” and “panzanella” into his sentences.

    But the biggest chopped fanatics are Ari and BT. During the Christmas break, they enjoyed staying up late and watching episodes together long after the rest of us had gone to bed. Ari loves the cooking, BT loves the competition and Ari’s companionship. He also loves giving her a mystery basket of ingredients, 20 minutes, and watching her whisk around the kitchen as she crafts her own concoctions.

    Yesterday for a pre-dinner appetizer, she successfully used the new panini press we got from Grandma and Grandpa Hess to create a crostini of toasted garlic bread topped with melted mozzarella cheese, pan roasted fresh tomato, Parmesan cheese and dried basil.

    The rest of us then act as the judges and give feedback. Tad especially got into it. He normally starts his prayer by saying, “Dear Heavenly Father, this is Buck.” Yesterday, he said, “Dear Heavenly Father, this is a judge.” Hilarious!

    As good as the food is, watching BT and Ari bond in this fun exercise of creativity is priceless.

    And just in case one of the execs from Food Network ever happens to read this–if the contestants on the show could just embrace the 3rd commandment–“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” or, more likely, if the producers would at least bleep out this offensive language, the show would be perfect.

  • December26th

    1 Comment

    The weeks leading up to Christmas this year were full of fun visits from grandmas and the usual frenzy of holiday preparations.

    And as routine as some of the activities were, I really can’t remember a more magical holiday; Vivi and Tad are at the PERFECT age for all the wonderment of the season, and Ariana is at the PERFECT age to embrace the true meaning of the traditions.

    Each year during the week leading up to winter break, the kindergarteners at Vivi’s school are immersed in a gingerbread theme. The curriculum unit is made especially fun because the kids receive random, secret visits from a mischievous gingerbread man named “Max.” However, leaving a trail of candy and chos in his wake, Max ultimately runs away on the last day of school before vacation . . . “You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” Vivi was OBSESSED with poor Max. She couldn’t understand why he would run away and not come back, and even after Max left a note at our house assuring Vivi that he was safe and sound at the North Pole and that he would deliver word to Santa that Vivi should definitely be on the “Nice List,” she worried about his well being.

    Christmas Eve, Max accompanied Santa back to our house and continued his impish ways–he hid our Christmas tree and stockings. We awoke on Christmas morning and headed downstairs to open presents. The kids were distraught to discover that everything was missing. But Max left a note on the hearth: “When Santa and I delivered your stockings, Santa let me hide them. Good luck finding them. Ha! Ha! Max”

    Thankfully, we didn’t have any major meltdowns before discovering the tree, stockings and presents up in the playroom. Oh, that crazy Max!

    As a kid, some of my favorite Christmases were the years that we made presents for each other. I’ve always wanted to continue this tradition with my own kids, and this year I actually mustered the umph to do it.

    With my help, Vivi made snap bags for everyone–one for Ariana to keep her glasses in, and matching wallets for Dad and Tad to put their credit cards and other treasures. She sat on my lap and raised and lowered the presser foot, pressed the backstitch button, and helped clip threads. Everything came from the stash, and the boys’ bags were actually made from Ari’s old jeans and BT’s old dress shirts.

    Tad (aka “Buck”) made his sisters some barrettes for their hair–he helped glue the flowers down on the felt backing.

    He also made BT a “Buck Book”–a coupon book of fun things that he promises to do with Dad. It reduced BT to tears because it documented the fun little things that Buck and BT do together at this stage in Tad’s life.

    Ariana went all out for her siblings and helped create fabulous stick horses. Vivi has been asking for one of these ever since she could say her first words, and Buck runs around the house with a shoestring between his legs pretending that he’s riding a horse, so Ari and I figured this would be the perfect gift for them this year. The horses took quite a bit of time, but the outbursts of joy from Vivi and Tad when they saw their gifts made everything worth it.

    Ariana also continued her tradition of documenting the special things she and her dad enjoyed during the year in a sketch book. She started it back in 2006 as a five year old when she celebrated her first Christmas with Bryan as her dad, and it’s priceless to see the drawings from each year.

    I was able to convince BT that the Tolberts needed to join the 21st century and get our first video game system. The Wii has been lots of fun thus far, and BT has even stayed up after the rest of us have gone to bed so that he can bowl, pitch and slam backhands without fear of interruption orĀ embarrassment. I’m surprised that he’d admit it, but he complained of being sore the next morning from all the sports he had played. I guess it is a little more strenuous than the late night family history work he’s accustomed to.

    Tad pronounced that chips were his favorite gift as he pounded down a one-and-a-half-inch stack of Pringles. I was touched that he at least put his can in a larger lid to try and catch the crumbs.

    But he’s also had a ton of fun with the tools that we got him. I’m determined to train that boy to take over all the household fix-it responsibilities so that I can eventually retire from this thankless, frustrating task.

    Vivi gently tends to the needs of her new cats–stuffed “Furreal” cats, but she doesn’t seem to mind that they don’t need a litter box.

    Ari needs to enter an addiction recovery program for a wii obsession, and she also loves her Alton Brown, The Early Years book.

    Despite its challenges, we were truly blessed in 2011, and we look forward to the adventures 2012 will bring.


  • February14th


    True Love

    Posted in: Bryan, Lori

    Love is . . .

    • patient and love is kind (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
    • putting out the trash cans.
    • putting down the toilet seat.
    • carrying down the heavy baskets of dirty laundry on Monday morning.
    • holding your tongue when, for the umpteenth time, your wife questions your love for her because you agonized so long over the decision to marry her.
    • holding your wife’s hair back when she is suffering from morning sickness or the stomach flu.
    • cleaning up from the stomach flu.
    • holding hands.
    • changing dirty diapers.
    • giving a hug even when you’re mad.
    • daily phone calls.
    • emptying the trashcan even when you think your wife should be able to stomp on the trash and fit a little more in.
    • putting a new liner in the trashcan.
    • an evening of American Pickers and Blue Diamond Almonds.
    • sleeping in the guest room so that The Littles can have cuddle time with mom.
    • scrubbing the shower.
    • putting your dirty clothes in the hamper instead of the floor.
    • buying a wedding ring for your wife even though you didn’t want to.
    • shaving your head before it looks scruffy.
    • using deodorant daily.
    • brushing your teeth more than you think you need to because your wife likes minty breath.
    • going to estate sales and patiently watching the kids so your wife can browse at her leisure.
    • not complaining when your wife buys things at estate sales.
    • bravely breaking out of “holding patterns.”
    • Quiddler.
    • Mother’s Night Out.
    • not chomping ice in your wife’s ear.
    • Cristina’s when you’d rather have Market Street.
    • overlooking the dirty dishes in the sink.
    • washing the dirty dishes in the sink.
    • putting up with an elderly cat.
    • comforting your wife when her elderly cat died.
    • trips to the ER with your wife after Tad was born.
    • eating mediocre beef stew.
    • never giving your wife a reason to doubt your fidelity.
    • Text Twist.
    • doing yard work.
    • hiring Mario to do the yard work.
    • learning how to grow a garden.
    • being frugal.
    • knowing when not to be frugal.
    • Half-Price Books.
    • helping with Math homework.
    • giving an opinion.
    • knowing when to stay silent.
    • hanging doors together.
    • supporting our family even when the job is stressful.
    • letting your wife pluck your old man eyebrows.
    • taking family pictures.
    • smiling when taking family pictures.
    • late-night surprise stops for frozen yogurt.
    • letting your wife wear your sweats and gym socks.
    • BLT.
    • writing notes to your wife and leaving them in unexpected places.
    • using the yellow towel and not the blue one.
    • cleaning the top of the ceiling fans without being asked.
    • not answering the phone at the dinner table.
    • knowing when to set the family history work aside and pay attention to your wife.
    • eternal.