Monday, April 28, 2008

Reminder/Soap Boxing/Venting--whatever.

OK girls, now that it is getting to be warmer weather, we still are expected to do dress modestly and covenanted to wear certain items--even if it adds another layer to our summer wardrobes. You all know what I am talking about and yes, I am bugged because I have recently seen several examples of "bad behavior" from people I know. Many of us are raising daughters and they look to us to be examples. Just a friendly (OK, maybe not so friendly), reminder/soapbox.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

On-Line Book Club--Peace Like a River

Tiffany hosted an on-line book club this past month and the book she chose was "Peace Like a River" by Leif Enger. If you click over to her blog, there is her review as well as others. If want to add your own review, let her know.

I really wanted to like this book. I don't know why I felt compelled to want to like it but in the end, it left me unsatisfied, so I have to say the book did nothing for me. It started slow for me but encouraged by several of my other friends who have read it and liked it, I pressed on. I kept on thinking, "This will get better and I won't be so annoyed by all of the characters." But, truth be known, by the end of the book, they all bothered me the same as when I started it and it didn't wrap up in a good way for me. I kept waiting for some obvious redemption that never came.

A small point but one that bothered me almost from the beginning was the father's job. Maybe because I have witnessed this in the lives of many of my friends when we attended a graduate student ward when my husband was in dental school, but when we learned the father dropped out of medical school to become a janitor, I about lost it. I have seen so many of my friends struggle with their spouses through school only to have their husband's choose a different path--changing the plan entirely on them. Almost as if saying, "Yes, I told you one thing but now that you are married to me and we have a child or two, and you are full invested in this relationship, I am going to completely change the plan." The mother shouldn't have abandoned her children, but I understood her pain and actions in leaving.

If Davy hadn't callously shot Tommy with the 3rd shot, I might have had more empathy for him but that third shot showed his blood thirst, not a protective older brother. And, later when he brings Reuben to his hideout to be exposed to Jape Waltzer's cruelty, there was no protective older brother behavior. Davy seemed to be brain stem driven. His decision to kill those too boys was not a moral, protective one but a "I do what I want to do" decision.

On a positive note, I will say the writing was beautiful and I loved the poetry laced through out the book written by Swede. But beautiful writing can only carry a book so far. Sorry, Tiffany, not a fan of this book.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Snow on Thursday and Planting Trees and bushes on Saturday

Wild weird Spring weather is upon us. As I complained about in my last post, it snowed on Thursday (in April,not May, yes I know) and today I spent a good hour planting. Here are some pictures of the event. I should acknowledge that toothsome #1 did most of the digging. Toothsome #2 was on an "adventure" with Daddy and so she was absent from all of this. That is a Blushing Bride Althea tree.

Here is a Carol Mackie Daphne. I love how they smell in the Spring. I hope I got it in soon enough for it to bloom be fragrant this year. If not, my neighbor has one and I will enjoy hers.
Notice my completely covered body--a pair of my husband's dental school scrubs and an old t-shirt I purchased in Israel back in 1993. That is my work in the yard outfit. I usually have a bigger hat with a wider brim but toothsome #3 really wanted me to wear my baseball hat. I also have a new shorter haircut, which is not obvious in the picture. Oh , and my newest favorite quote, "I supposed you could worry about it, but you are not obligated to." Happy Spring and Happy 70th (yes 70th birthday to my mom on the 25th). She doesn't blog but I wanted to give a shout out to her anyway.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wheeler Farm in the Snow

All of my kids have attended the same pre-school. I have had one child in this preschool for four years straight. It is run by a wonderful lady in our neighborhood and all of my kids have excelled under her kind and thoughtful approach to being around pre-schoolers. However, my one and only complaint and it really isn't her fault is that every year, during the field trip to Wheeler Farm (a local area farm), the weather is AWFUL!

Today, it snowed. Not just a little but a TON of snow for May. I always agree to chaperon because I am obsessive about my children and there is a river that runs through the property and once again, we all shivered as we walked through the mud from one animal area to the next. The carriage ride was so miserably freezing and all I could think about was getting home and into a nice hot shower.

Only three more years of kids in pre-school and only three more years of freezing, muddy Wheeler Farm.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Hometown Does It Again

Check out this article in my hometown's paper. Is there any wonder why I am so conservative?

I purchased this "essential sweater" from Lands End in pink about a month ago. After getting many ccompliments from friends, family and neighbors, I ordered another one in blue and v-necked. Again, I have had it on for about 2 hours today and already received many compliments. I even ordered one for my mom for Mother's Day. The thickness of the sweater is perfect. If you want one, here is the link.

Oh and the relish for the steak was to die for. The cake not so much.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sometimes I am a Genius in the Kitchen

Everyone who knows me knows that cooking is one of my least favorite activities. But sometimes, when the urge strikes, I become a genius in the kitchen. And, tomorrow will be one of those days. Tonight, I am making the Rachael Ray cake mentioned in the previous post and then tomorrow it is grilled steak with the following relish. It is from my favorite cooking magazine, Cooks Illustrated. Yes, you all are going to be wishing you could have Sunday dinner at my house.

Grilled Onion Relish with Roquefort and Walnuts
Makes 4 cups

Whisk together 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Set aside. Grill onions, chopped into 1/2 inches pieces and add 6 ounces Roquefort cheese, 3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts and 1/4 cup chopped chives. Stir in dressing and serve immediately.

Ohh, my mouth is watering already.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Recipe--From the Rachael Ray Show

I don't watch the Rachael Ray Show that often but a few days ago, she had Trisha Yearwood on and they made her German Chocolate cake recipe from a cookbook that she is putting out. Anyway, it looked SOOOO good and while no one else in my family likes coconut, I can't help but want to try this recipe. I haven't made it yet, but I am going to this weekend. And, ever since the show was on, I have Trisha Yearwood's song, "She's In Love With the Boy" stuck in my head. Maybe once I make the cake, it will go away. I got the recipe from the Rachael Ray web-site.

4 ounces sweet dark chocolate (see Shopping Hint below)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup warm milk
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 medium egg whites
2 cups sugar
5 medium egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk, well shaken
For the coconut frosting:
1 cup sugar
4 medium egg yolks
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ounces fresh or frozen and thawed grated coconut
1 1/2 cups finely ground pecans, walnuts, or almonds

Yields: 12 servings
Prepare the chocolate by melting it in the top of a double boiler, stirring until it is smooth. Add 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of the butter and stir until it is melted and blended. Add 1/4 cup of warm milk and stir until smooth. Set the chocolate aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Line the bottoms only of three 9-inch cake pans with circles of parchment paper, or grease each pan bottom only with solid shortening and dust lightly with flour. Sift together the sifted and measured flour, baking soda, and salt.
Whip the egg whites until stiff using the wire beater of the mixer. Transfer the beaten whites to a separate bowl and set aside.
In the mixer bowl, cream the remaining 1 1/2 sticks of butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted, cooled chocolate and the vanilla. Mix well.
With the mixer on very low, stir in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Do this by adding about a third of the flour and slowly stirring it in completely. Then add about half the buttermilk and stir it in. Continue adding flour and buttermilk in this manner, ending with flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir again. With a long-handled spoon or spatula, fold and stir the beaten egg whites into the batter until the batter is smooth with no visible clumps of whites.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes. Bake on the middle rack of the oven, allowing at least 1/4-inch clearance between the pans and the oven walls. The cake will rise above the pan edges as it bakes but will not spill over and will settle back down as it continues to bake. The cake is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pans and springs back to a light touch. Cool layers in the pans for about 8 minutes.
Run a knife around the edges of each pan and turn the layers out onto wire racks that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Cool layers completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, combine the sugar, egg yolks, and evaporated milk in the top of a double boiler. Stir with a wire whisk until the yolks are fully incorporated. Add the butter. Place over simmering water and bring to a boil (see Note below). Simmer for 12-15 minutes longer, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Add the vanilla, coconut, and nuts. Cool.
To assemble the cake, place one layer on a cake stand and spread with frosting. Frost each layer completely, top and sides, as it is added to the cake.
Note: You can also make the frosting in a regular saucepan, but be sure to stir it constantly, as it scorches quite easily. Also, you must use the finely grated fresh or frozen coconut, not canned or shredded, to be able to spread the frosting on the sides of the cake easily.
Shopping Hint: For those cooks who use a lot of sweet baking chocolate, the chocolate used in this recipe can be purchased in bulk online at Choose La Equatoriale – Dark Chocolate Coverture. The cost, including postage, is half what you would probably pay in grocery stores. Share the large bar with your friends who bake.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Personal History Group at church

With the change from a monthly Enrichment Meeting to quarterly Enrichment meetings and optional "groups", I think a lot of Relief Societies have struggled to figure out how to best go about doing things. Our ward recently revamped our "groups" and one that was created was a "Personal History Group". Once a month, we are given a topic to write about and then we meet and take turns reading out loud what we have written. Last night, I attended the first one where we all took turns reading out loud. It was very fun to hear what people have written and I feel so much closer to these wonderful ladies. Anyway, our Relief Society President said something about the importance of being more open about our beliefs. In the spirit of what she said, I am posting what I wrote for last night's meeting. The theme for this month was "testimony." So, here it is.

I hated early morning seminary. Being raised in Boulder, Colorado, all we had was early morning seminary and it started every weekday morning at 6:15 am. I tried every excuse with my mother about why I should not have to go. "Teenagers need their sleep." "The teacher teaches false doctrine." "My life is too busy to attend." "I am too tired to pay attention, so I don’t get anything out of it." But, nothing worked. Every morning around 5:45 am, my mom would wake me, push me in the direction of the shower, and get me out the door for Seminary.

This was the pattern all four years I attended until something happened in the late fall of my senior year of high school and my last year of Seminary. The Seminary teacher that year was a law student at the University of Colorado. He was married, had a little boy and worked a night shift at a hotel to make ends meet. He was a super nice man but I know it was very hard for him to get up early and teach a group of relatively apathetic high school students.

One day, in late fall, I showed up at Seminary and the teacher had not shown up. A good friend of mine, Jeff Jones, stood up in front of the class and said, "Since the teacher isn’t here, I think we should just take turns reading out loud the assigned reading." We were studing the Book of Mormon that year and were at the end of 2 Nephi. Someone started reading 2 Nephi 33: 10-11. It reads, "And now, my beloved brethren and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye–for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness."

As I listened to those words, I thought, "I believe in Christ. If I believe in Him, then these words are true." As that thought completed, the Spirit touched me more profoundly than it ever had before in my life. I was so struck by it, that I remember looking around the room at the other students to see if they were feeling the same thing. They didn’t seem changed or to appear as if they were feeling something different. For some reason, this was a lesson that I was learning privately, just for me. The feeling didn’t go away. I carried it with me for the rest of class and the rest of the day at school. And, it was the first time that I could honestly recall a profound, life-changing spiritual event and it was the beginning of a strong testimony for me.

I have often since reflected on that event and contemplated the act of diligence. I had been attending Seminary for almost four years. It was often dull and unfullfilling. But because I was diligent (or my mom was diligent in making me go), and being where I was supposed to be, I was taught by the Spirit. If I had been at home in bed sleeping, I would have missed that opportunity. Many times since, as I have sat through Sunday after Sunday at church without feeling much of anything, I am struck by the need for diligence in doing the right thing and being where I am supposed to be and where the Lord expects me to be. It is often when I least expect it, when I have been being diligent day after day, month after month, year after year, about doing a spiritual activity (reading the scriptures, visiting teaching, attending the temple, praying, etc.) that the spirit whispers to me and confirms the truth of the gospel. I am glad I learned that lesson at a relatively young age of 17 attending early morning Seminary.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why I Won't be Made Mother of the Year

Toothsome #4 is a wild baby. We love her and her wildness and are thrilled that she is so precocious but sometimes, it has its drawbacks. Every morning, she takes a shower with me so I can keep an eye on her. However, she recently has figured out how to climb out of the shower by herself, always waiting until I am rinsing my hair and my eyes are closed to make her escape. Today was no exception, and when I got out of the shower, I noticed a very distinctive smell. Poo smell. She obviously had let one drop somewhere in the house and I needed to find it.

After walking down the hall, down the stairs, into the kitchen and then my great room, I still couldn't find it. Then, I saw toothsome #4 with her back turned to me. She turned around and guess what should I see? A face, hands and mouth covered in baby feces. And yes, she had some in her mouth as well. She has always been a great eater and I guess her tastes just aren't that discriminating. No, I won't be Mother of the Year any time soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Great Pinto Bean Plumbing Incident

Well, the last 24 hours have now been labeled, "The Great Pinto Bean Plumbing Incident of 2008" in our family. Let me explain:

Two days ago, I was boiling pinto beans for "Chip Dinner" in our house. Chip dinner is homemade beans, guacamole and salsa. If you can eat it with a corn chip, it is in the center of our table. No utensils are used.

Anyway, after boiling them for a few minutes, I looked on the back of the bag and noticed that they were VERY old pinto beans. Old enough, that I got a little freaked out and since a bag of pinto beans are only about 88 cents, I decided to dump the whole pot into my garbage disposal. Now for the record, I am no idiot. I don't put anything fibrous, any citrus or its peels, carrot or potato peels, etc. down the disposal. But, honestly, I did not think pinto beans would be a problem and they went down the disposal just fine--no weird noises, no resistance, etc.

After dinner, I had to run to take my son to a soccer practice and immediately after that to a Stake woman's choir practice. I got home late and tired and so the dishes were not cleared from the table until the next morning around 10:00 am. (For you neat freaks, sorry if the thought of a dirty kitchen bugs you.)

So, at 10:00 am, I discover the kitchen sink is plugged. I am a kitchen sink plumbing wizard. My dad taught me how to take apart a kitchen sink when I was in college and I can proudly say, I have unplugged many people's backed up sinks. So, at first I got out the plunger and tried that. After about 20 minutes, I resorted to taking apart the plumbing underneath the sink. After rinsing all of that out and put back together, it was still plugged and I had to get about 10 other things done, so I left it to work on later. When I came back, all of the water had drained and I foolishly thought I had somehow solved the problem.

So, last night around 7:00 pm, I notice the sink is not draining. I tell Dentist husband (who was filled in about what I did earlier) and so he tried the plunger--many times. The final time was when he built up enough pressure that it popped the trap under the sink off and water came spilling out all over the kitchen floor. Agggghhhh!

Then began a long night of trying many things to unplug the sink. We figured out the plug was farther down the line (somewhere between the kitchen floor and the basement) and after snaking the line about 10 times (all the while pulling up more and more pinto beans that had soaked in water and expanded, thus causing the very tightly sealed plug) it was still was not draining. Finally at 1:00 am, we were tired, exhausted and really mad at each other. So, we went to bed.

The next morning, after taking the kids to McDonalds for breakfast and explaining to them that it is normal for Moms and Dads to fight and we forgave each other for the mean things we said to each other the night before, we went into the Home Depot and found some really neat thing that fills with water, creats a seal and forces the plug loose. So, after taking off a screen from a side window and dragging the hose from outside through it to the kitchen sink, we got the sink unplugged! Alleluia! Praise the sink gods!

So, now I have a really clean kitchen floor, courtesy of the popped off trap. The area under the sink has been really well cleaned as well. All of the towels we used to clean up the mess got a fresh bleaching and I now know a lot more about kitchen plumbing. And, I have learned to NEVER put pinto beans (cooked or not) down the garbage disposal.

Oh and Liz tagged me.
Here are the rules:1. Pick up the nearest book (at least 123 pages) 2. Turn to page 123. 3. Find the 5th sentence 4. Post the 5th sentence on your blog 5. Tag 5 people

The book I am currently reading Empire Falls by Richard Russo (a Michelle recommendation). "I could use some company." I tag Lisa, Melinda, Paige, Diane, Cassy.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm Trying Not to Take this personally but . . .

Three years ago, this month, I was diagnosed with Stage 1A melanoma (In layman's term, aggressive skin cancer caught in it's earliest stage.) At first, we didn't know it was stage 1A and for about a week, I lived with the stress of not knowing what my future was going to be. I am not talking about future in the "quality of life" type of future but "if I even was going to be alive in the future" sense.

Fortunately, my skin cancer was caught early and all that was required was a 2nd preventative surgery and many follow up visits. (My dermatologist knows my body almost as well as my husband.) My 5 year survival prognosis (including dying of anything--car crash, some other cancer, major heart attack due to my excessive love of fast food) is a very high 95-97%. I am lucky, blessed and grateful.

Now that it is sunny weather again, a lot people are looking forward to lazy days by the pool, water skiing, outdoor tennis, going to the beach or any of the other many wonderful outside activities available. I too think of those things but with the perspective of how can I enjoy those activities while still hiding from the the sun?"

So the other day I am outside with a few good friends of mine who are standing in the sun, pulling up their shirt sleeves, trying to get the most sun exposure possible. They are talking about how excited they are for sunny days and how much they are looking forward to laying out in the sun and trying to get great tans all summer. The phrase, "Work on my tan" was said probably about 20 times.

Let me remind everyone, I don't get offended. Anyone who knows me, knows that I think life is way too short to be offended by casual actions and statements that people make. However, this situation struck me as a little insensitive and not in the least casual. Most of these woman are people who lived my skin cancer hell with me. Many saw the fear I had when I got diagnosed and my worry that I might not be alive to raise my little ones. Several more of these friends, saw the panic I was in when, 8 months pregnant with my last child the doctors (yes, I have doctorS--plural who look at my skin) found a mole that looked suspicious and they wanted it removed immediately. These friends got the phone calls from me elated when I was told it was benign and not cancerous. (For the record, I wasn't being careless about having another child. I spoke to MANY specialists if I should have another child and they all concluded I could and should.)

These same friends saw my tears when my sister was diagnosed with melanoma and her prognosis was not good. They listened and heard me describe her HELLACIOUS chemo regimen and how horrendous the side effects were. Recently, they heard me talk about the miracle it is she is alive and daily I consider it a blessing to be able to talk to her on the phone. They saw my many tears as I discussed how awful skin cancer can be and now needless it is, when we know that limiting sun exposure is the number one way to prevent getting it.

So, pardon me if I walk away from you as you talk about your sun "needs" and your desire for a perfect tan this summer. Forgive me as I wipe away tears, listening to you talk about how you feel so ugly and pasty white and you "have" to get some sun to feel good about yourself. Maybe I was too stoic about my experience. Maybe I didn't express loudly enough my fear and panic about it. Maybe I haven't been vocal enough about my sleepless nights before every skin appointment. But, I'm 100% sure I was plenty clear. My feelings are a little hurt that you think that little of me to not see how one mole removal changed my life forever and how it could change yours forever too. At least around me, don't talk about your "need" for a dark beautiful tan and how you to have to look good in your swimsuit this summer and your worry about having tan lines. Life is too short and vanity is not that important. Trust me.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Added to my New Year's Resolutions

Somehow Conference weekend came and went and I was only able to catch the Sunday morning session. I now have to commit to reading everything when the Conference Ensign comes to my house.

How am I doing on my other resolutions? Let's see:

Make dinner more regularly: While I haven't done a great job of keeping track of myself, it feels like I am doing better. And, looking at our budget, we are spending less, so I MUST be doing better.

Dejunk every room in my house: Not so good there but today, I finally folded EVERYTHING in my laundry pile. So, I must be making some progress. But not enough. Maybe this month . . .

Exercise regularly: This one I can say I have been doing well. I keep track of my success on my calendar and yes, I have been doing it. (My sore legs from jump roping can attest to that as well.)

Regular scripture study: For me personally, no but for the family, yes. For Family Home Evening, we read the Illustrated Book of Mormon together. Once we are done, I am going to copy my friend Paige's idea and take everyone to a Book of Mormon restaurant--The Mayan.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

If you are looking. . .

Shorts weather is upon us and I found these at Lands End.

Friday, April 4, 2008

My Son the Artist and other random pictures

About two weeks ago, the school called to tell me that one of my son's pieces of artwork was selected to be in a local art show. I really know nothing about it but when we went and saw it displayed, it looked like about 10 pieces of artwork from my son's 2nd grade class was on display with art work from other schools in the area. So, here he is by his artwork. Lisa, if you are reading this, you can see your daughter's picture as well.

Here is a close up picture of it.

I am also throwing in one picture of my sister to prove to everyone that she was indeed here. Yes, we are wearing matching outfits. We seem to shop at the same stores!

And finally, I couldn't resist adding this picture of dentist husband with toothsome #4. So cute!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Table Topics and Books I am Reading

I purchased this game at a local store last week. It is called "Table Topics" and I am surprised how fun and great it is for our family. It also looks really neat sitting in the middle of our kitchen table. I know you can buy it at Amazon as well as I am sure many other places on-line.

Anyway, the game just has questions that start conversations. For example, "When are old things, better than new things?" I have played this many times now with just my nuclear family as well as my husband's siblings and with my sister and her family. We have tried it various ways: 1. Have each person draw a question and then they get to pick one person to ask the question to. We also have just drawn one question and had everyone answer it as well as had everyone draw a card they had to answer that question. Regardless, it has been a fun game that everyone can play and I have often been surprised at the answers--especially from my own children. We own the original and family editions.

And, on this same theme, there is a book I keep in the car called, "The Book of Questions." Those questions are more philosophical and my husband and I often have had very heated debates about the topics brought up in that book. I remember in particular one drive down to California . . .

So, here is that latest collection of books I have been reading:

How I Found the Strong by Margaret McMullan: This is a youth historical fiction about the Civil War and it was a fast and good read. When my son is a little older, I will want him to read this.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly: This is also a youth historical fiction novel and the one my friend Tess chose for Book Club this month. It uses the tragedy that inspired Theodore Dreiser's novel "An American Tragedy" (which is a great book that I read last year. I would highly recommend it) as a back drop to tell the heroine's own personal story. I found this a delightful and surprising read. Things did not turn out how I expected and I loved how the author wove past and present together.

Giants In the Earth by Ole Edvart Rolvaag: I actually read this a few years ago and decided to revisit it. I think anyone with Scandinavian heritage needs to read this to be culturally literate. Great read--even a second time.

Strapless by Deborah Davis: I just started this one and so far I am loving it. It is all focused around a painting done by John Singer Sargent entitled "Madame X".

Oh and I just purchased the Garmin Nuvi 360 navigation system for my husband. My sister owns this exact one and her husband did a ton of research on it and it is so intuitive to use! It is a steal of a deal right now and so if you are looking for a navigation system. . .