Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Week

For Thanksgiving last week we drove many hours to arrive hereSo that we could spend time with Russ's brotherAnd his wife.They are some of the coolest people we know, and spending 4 whole days with them in such a beautiful (though chilly) place made us all happy.

I'll post more fun trip pictures later, when I have recovered from the 14 hr trip home!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

11/26: I'm Grateful

I'm sitting here feeling a really wide range of emotions.

Fatigue, because I stayed up way too late watching Gilmore Girls. (That's the problem with a tv show on dvd--you can keep pressing the forward button and keep watching almost endlessly!) Pain because I ran into something in the dark last night and now I have a huge purple bruise on my thigh. Frustration because of a really bad mommy moment. Tearfulness because I just (this very moment) rubbed lotion into my eye.

But also enormous gratitude. As I've watched this month for less common things to be grateful for, I think I've had just a glimpse of the scope of the blessings that I enjoy every day.

I know you never thought you'd hear this from my mouth, but it's true.

Words fail me, and I am simply

Grateful

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

11/25: Walking Without Pain

This fall I've been unable to walk much, thanks to some ongoing aggressive treatment of a lovely wart on the ball of one foot. At one point it hurt to walk for three weeks straight, and several days were excruciating.

It was the perfect example of the quote that I used as my inspiration for this month's blog posts:
"If God were to take from me all those persons and things for which I have not given thanks, who or what would be left of me?"
When do I ever think to give thanks for the ability to walk? How often am I grateful that it doesn't hurt to stand on my feet? Almost never; but I have seen (and felt) repeatedly this fall what a blessing feet that work are.

This morning I walked for an hour and a half. It felt wonderful to feel my body working as it should.

Thank heavens for feet (and other body parts) that work without pain...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

11/23: Blissful Ignorance


We've left the door to the screened in porch open the last few days because the cat has figured out how to get in, but then can't get herself back out. I was out there the other day talking on the phone and saw this lovely bug on the side of a chair.

I can't tell you how grateful I am that I've never seen a bug like this before, and how much I'm hoping to never see one again!

Monday, November 23, 2009

11/23: He Doesn't Have to Live at Home Forever!


Jason got a happy letter in the mail the other day from Utah State, telling him that he'd been accepted there.

Utah State definitely gets my vote for clever PR. His acceptance letter came with this banner.

It had dotted lines showing him where to hold it,

And small print at the bottom telling him how to use it!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Neither Are Your Ways My Ways

Several weeks ago friend Ken told me that he had a speaking assignment in the small branch in our stake, and asked if I would like to come and speak with him.

After I enthusiastically said yes, he told me that he also was going to sing a duet with his lovely daughter Elise, and asked if I would play the piano for that.

I was somewhat less enthusiastic, but agreed that I could accompany them.

Then I looked at the music that he had picked.

And started panicking.

I am a moderate pianist at best. I can play some hymns, but not particularly well. I can play many of the primary songs, but not all of them.

The arrangement of this song was by Sally DeFord, who must either be a gifted pianist or a real sadist. Or perhaps both. After the relatively simple first page the last few pages are filled (it's the classic bait and switch) with chords and multi-octive arpeggios, all in a difficult key.

I don't want you to think I'm just being whiny about this, though I have whined plenty. Ken's wife is a plays the piano brilliantly and she thinks this piece is challenging to play. Here's a bit of it.

As soon as I got the music I started practicing. Practicing, practicing, practicing. And then practicing, praying, praying, praying, practicing, praying, etc. I even cross-crawled to try to help my coordination. And then prayed and practiced some more.

I still couldn't do it.

Saturday I was still having problems. I practiced again late Saturday night and prayed some more. I told the Lord that I wasn't trying to play well so that I could get lots of compliments or glory; I wanted to play well so that I could help Ken & Elise have a good experience singing, and so that the people in the congregation would be more able to feel the spirit through the music.

I got up this morning and practiced some more, and it was a little smoother. Ken and Elise came to pick me up and we went through the song a few times. I still had some problem places.

We drove through the lovely fall morning up to the little branch in Virginia. We took the convertible, and I let Ken drive. (I'm cool that way.)

When we got to the church I found a piano and got my fingers warmed up and went over the trouble spots again, then went in to sacrament meeting.

My talk felt good and was over quickly, and then it was the moment of musical truth.

It went perfectly.

I think I made 2 small mistakes, and I consider that absolutely perfect. Ken and Elise sounded so lovely, and I know it was a beautiful experience for those who were listening.

But what was so interesting was the way it went perfectly.

I realized that what had happened was not that the Lord made me miraculously a far better pianist than I am, though I have no doubt that he could have done that. Instead over the last few days I became able to play fewer notes; to know which parts to leave out and which notes to leave out,and where I needed to slow down to get everything in. That might sound like a no brainer, but I was simply not able to make those changes on my own.

Instead of making me into more, he made me into enough.

And it was a miracle, even if it wasn't the miracle I thought I was asking for.

11/22: The World's Best Dad

When I got home from book group the other night Russ told me he had a confession to make. He had let the little kids stay up until after 9pm, he said.

They've been reading "Where the Red Fern Grows" together every night before bed. He said that as soon as he started the reading that night he knew they would have to go ahead and finish the whole book — there just was no stopping point before the end.

And then he told me of reading the heart-breaking ending of the story, that all of the little kids were crying, and that he was crying so much that he went through three tissues and had a hard time actually reading out loud, and how he snuggled with them and kept on reading until the end.

Sometimes staying up way past bedtime is the absolutely right thing to do.

I sure picked well for my lucky kids, didn't I!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

11/21: Awesome Kids





In September, the little kids listened to the book of "Hatchet." For those of you who aren't familiar with this terrific book, it tells the story of a teen named Brian, who's plane crashes in the wilderness of Canada. Armed with only a hatchet, Brian is forced to figure out a way to survive for several months until he is rescued.

The kids loved this book, and they were excited to hear that the author wrote a couple of other books about Brian. We just finished reading "Brian's Winter" this week. This book was written in response to the many "Hatchet" fans who wrote to tell the author that they thought he had cheated by having Brian rescued before winter set in. "Brian's Winter" picks up as if Brian was not rescued, and tells of his experience in learning to survive in the Canadian winter.

We learned with Brian how to make his shelter warm enough for the winter, cheered when a neighboring skunk saved him from a bear attack, and wondered if he would be able to make clothing out of animal hides to keep himself warm. The kids were also fascinated by the descriptions of Brian's hunting; especially when he killed (and was almost killed by) a moose, and later killed a deer. I was surprised by the true to life description (very gory) of a pack of wolves killing a moose, but the kids insisted that I read it. (I did leave out 2 sentences that were just too gross to read aloud. One of which included the word anus.)

Given their fascination with the book, and the fact that Jared got a bow & arrows for Christmas last year, I shouldn't have been surprised with the subsequent interest in hunting that began to manifest itself in our home.

Jared started carrying his bow and arrows around, so that he would be ready to run outside and start shooting anytime a squirrel was spotted.

Jenna started stalking squirrels with the camera.

What I was not prepared for was seeing animal lover Rachel run past carrying the bow & arrows to Jared, who was standing watch on the deck keeping an eye on his intended squirrel target. As she ran, she called back to me,
"I hope he gets this one, it has the cutest hide ever!"

Friday, November 20, 2009

11/20: The Tech-Geek/Husband Combo

When I left for book group last night I left a dead computer. It had crashed during the afternoon and wouldn't reboot, no matter how many times I tried it. I wasn't too worried about losing things (though it is a good reminder that it's been too long since I backed up my pictures) but I wasn't happy at the thought of living without my computer, either.

When I got home late last night Russ was working on the problem, and by the time we went to bed in the wee hours of the morning he had completely fixed it.

Russ, in a word, is awesome.

And he keeps my computer running too!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

11/20: Book Group

Greatest. Women. Ever.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

11/19: Perspective

I'm really grateful that when my stove-dyslexia reared it's ugly head tonight, and I noticed that the chicken enchiladas pulled from the freezer for dinner were now residing in a thoroughly shattered pyrex casserole dish, I was able to shrug my shoulders and walk away.

Life happens. Thank goodness no one got hurt.

Hopefully there will be some good sales on casserole dishes over the holidays. And maybe one day my stove-dyslexia will be cured and I won't turn on the wrong burner anymore. (yeah...like that will happen!)

Excuse Me: Your Numbers Don't Add Up!


We bought tickets weeks ago for Cindy Lynn & Mahon to fly out after Christmas -- we were worried that prices would go up. (And indeed they have.) But I figured we could wait a while to buy the return tickets. Yesterday I realized that I had better get on the ball and buy tickets from NC back to Utah, because if I wait any longer they may just have to stay. (Hmmm...maybe my subconscious is working towards this end goal?)

Anyway, I was just online buying Cindy Lynn's ticket back. I of course chose the lowest price fare for this particular day: $124. (I love her very much, but I am still trying to buy the most plane tickets for my limited shekels.) I went through and put in all of the information, careful this time to make sure this time that her ticketed name is the same as the name on her drivers license.

At the very end it gave me the pricing information.
Ticket price: $115
Price after taxes & fees: $145
Um....doesn't it strike you as odd that $124 isn't even mentioned???

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

11/17: Things That Shut Off Automatically

Yes, I put my curling iron in the sink. I figure there is a much smaller chance it will burn the house down that way. No, I do not run water in the sink while the curling iron is in it. Although sometimes I do run water on the curling iron if I'm traveling and I want it to cool down quickly. But only if it's already unplugged.

Monday, November 16, 2009

11/15: Geography Lessons

first for school,
and then for Family Night!
Thank you Mindy--it was a huge hit!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Messages From God

Reading through the Book of Mormon at such a rapid pace provides different experiences than I normally have while reading the scriptures. One of the consequences of reading so quickly is that I notice and remember different things.

I always love to read this verse in 1 Nephi 9:5
Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.
But it was interesting this time to notice that Nephi talks about this again, and (much) later so does Mormon.

1 Nephi 19:3 says:
And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord.
And in Words of Mormon 1:7 Mormon says:
And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.
Now all of this was only moderately interesting until I factored in the question I try to apply often to my Book of Mormon study.

Why?

I try to remind myself frequently of the difficulty of writing the Book of Mormon. I've written a lot since I started blogging. Some of the posts I write come easily and require little editing. (Mostly those with 10 words or less!) But most of them require real thought and effort and lots of rewriting. I'm always grateful for the ease of writing on the computer. I can type pretty fast and so I am able to keep up with my thoughts pretty well, and then go back and edit and re-work later.

But not Nephi or Mormon. They were engraving characters into metal plates. I have no idea what the process entailed but it can't have been quick/easy/uncomplicated. This makes me think that they were probably not likely to write random or less meaningful things.

It is completely possible and plausible that Nephi could have received the inspiration from the Lord that he needed to make another set of plates and never mentioned it. Or only mentioned that he had been instructed to do it. Instead he tells us about it twice, and both times includes the information that he knows that the Lord has a purpose in doing this. Mormon says the same thing; he doesn't know why the spirit has told him to include the small plates of Nephi with his record, but he knows that the Lord has a reason.

Of course we all know what the effect of the inclusion of these verses is; we are reminded each time that we read of the loss of the first part of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon, and the later substitution of the translation of the small plates of Nephi.

I've been thinking about this over the last couple of weeks. All of that would have still happened the way it did whether or not Nephi or Mormon had recorded their promptings. The manuscript would still have been lost, Joseph would still have needed to translate the small plates to take it's place. So why did they go to the effort of saying this — not once, but three times.

And then it occurred to me. Maybe it's a message to us from God. Maybe they were impressed to record their inspirations in exactly that way so that each time we read those verses we remember the story of the lost manuscript — and then we remember that some 2400 years before Joseph would be translating the manuscript and Martin Harris would want to borrow those first 116 pages, the Lord knew what was going to happen. He knew, and he set in motion a plan to provide what was needed.

Maybe he wants us to know that he also knows about us; about our lives and our challenges. And that he has already set in motion his plans to provide us what we need.

Thank you, Nephi and Mormon. Because I don't know about the rest of you, but I really need that reminder.

11/15: Blue Skies After Rain


Saturday, November 14, 2009

11/14: More Reasons to Drink Chocolate Milk


From the NYT this week:
Chocolate Milk May Reduce Inflammation .
(raises good cholesterol too!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

11/13: I Heard it Right

Tonight when the baptism started I had a moment of panic. Right about when the man conducting the meeting announced that I would be giving a talk on baptism.

You see, I had prepared a talk on the Holy Ghost.

I had thought about it a lot. I prayed all week to be able to do a good job. I had props to help make the intangible idea of the Holy Ghost more understandable to an 8 year old boy.

I looked at the printed program, and sure enough, my name was beside the words "Talk on Baptism." And farther down the page there was a different name after the words "Talk on the Holy Ghost." All I could think was "Did two people prepare talks on the Holy Ghost?"

But then the young man in front of me turned around. "Did they ask you to speak about the Holy Ghost?" As I nodded yes he continued, "Because they asked me to speak on baptism."

What a relief!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

11/12: Those Who've Gone Before

I mentioned last week my feelings of gratitude for the patriots who had the clarity of vision to imagine the United States as a free country, and the courage to fight the war for freedom.

Earlier this week I read a wonderful book (review to follow soon) telling of the struggles in the deep south in the 60's for racial equality. As I read of the horrible things done to black people I was amazed at the courage of a woman like Rosa Parks, who's refusal to give up her seat on the bus became the symbol for the civil rights movement. I also cannot imagine the courage that it took for Ruby Bridge's parents to send their 6 year old daughter to an all-white school.

Today I picked up a book that has been sitting around for a couple of days, called "I Sailed to Zion," and read the first few chapters as I was eating lunch. It tells the stories of children who joined the church in Europe and traveled across the ocean to Utah, many without their families. What an incredible sacrifice these new converts made to gather with the rest of the saints, and how grateful I am for the strength they brought to the early church.

Everywhere I look, someone has gone before to make possible the blessings that I enjoy today. And I am humbled to be the beneficiary of so many sacrifices...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11/11: Rain, Beautiful Rain

I wish I had a picture from today. Fall leaves seen through the mist of rain against a gray sky. It was lovely.

Or a picture of the car after last night's windy rain--completely covered with wet brown leaves and pine needles. It was a mess. It looked like it had some kind of leprous disease.

Good rain = full well = happy me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

11/10: Books

that are so good, you can't put them down long enough to blog!

Chicken Pot Pie

(Sorry for the truly mediocre picture. All of the camera batteries in the house were dead at the same time, and by the time they were charged the food was just about gone...)

Last night's dinner was Chicken Pot Pie. I love chicken pot pie because it's total comfort food, very flexible, and everyone in the family loves it. (Although Rachel won't eat the biscuit part.) When considering this for one of my food storage meals I compared the price of canned chicken (which I never buy because it seems so expensive) and freeze dried chicken. I do have a couple of #10 cans of freeze dried chicken, but I think I will include canned chicken too. I did the math and you'd have to get great sale on freeze dried chicken to make it the same price as the canned chicken.

Chicken Pot Pie

2 c. chopped cooked chicken, lightly salted
3 c. cubed potatoes
1 c. chopped carrots
1 c. frozen peas
2 cans cr. of chicken soup
2 1/2 c. milk
biscuits

Boil the carrots for a few minutes, then add the potatoes and some salt and boil until tender. Stir the peas in for the last minute, then drain out the water. Mix with the chicken. In a separate bowl mix the soup and milk and then add to the veggie/chicken mix. Mix together carefully; you don't want to smash your little potato cubes. Put all of this in your casserole dish.

Obviously, since this is called "Chicken Pot Pie," you can encase all of this in a pie crust. Sometimes we do that. But more often we eat it with biscuits instead because they're a lot quicker. If we have bisquick I use that, but last night I just made the basic Betty Crocker recipe. I always roll the biscuits out thinner than you would for a normal biscuit because they take quite a while to bake on top of a pot pie, and there's really nothing grosser than an unexpected bite of doughy biscuit!

This whole recipe is very flexible. Most people don't put potatoes in their pot pie but I like potatoes and they definitely stretch the meal. My sister in law uses a bag of frozen veggies. I love to add broccoli (to many recipes) but sadly the broccoli left in the fridge last night was nasty. You can also make your own white sauce, although that adds quite a bit to the prep time.

Bake at 425 for 35 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown and all the way cooked underneath!

Monday, November 9, 2009

11/9: The Colors of Fall




Especially when they're all together in the same tree!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Man's Way vs. God's Way

Every time I read Mosiah in the Book of Mormon I relearn an important lesson: how much better it is to just do things God's way rather than trying it Man's way.

In Mosiah 19-22 we read about Lemhi's group living in bondage to the Lamanites. The Lamanites had begun to treat Limhi's people badly; smiting them, bossing them around (I assume that's a reasonable translation of "exercising authority over them"), putting heavy burdens on them and driving them like animals.

The people, of course, were not happy with this treatment. They began tell the king that they wanted to go to battle against the Lamanites and eventually he allowed it.

Here is what happened, from Mosiah 21:
And they gathered themselves together again, and put on their armor, and went forth against the Lamanites to drive them out of their land. And it came to pass that the Lamanites did beat them, and drove them back, and slew many of them. And now there was a great mourning and lamentation among the people of Limhi, the widow mourning for her husband, the son and the daughter mourning for their father, and the brothers for their brethren. Now there were a great many widows in the land, and they did cry mightily from day to day, for a great fear of the Lamanites had come upon them. And it came to pass that their continual cries did stir up the remainder of the people of Limhi to anger against the Lamanites; and they went again to battle, but they were driven back again, suffering much loss. Yea, they went again even the third time, and suffered in the like manner; and those that were not slain returned again to the city of Nephi.
And they did humble themselves even to the dust, subjecting themselves to the yoke of bondage, submitting themselves to be smitten, and to be driven to and fro, and burdened, according to the desires of their enemies. And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions.

And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens...

This story always breaks my heart as I read it. It is understandable that they wanted to go to war against the Lamanites--they were being treated terribly. So they went to war, and were beaten badly and there was great mourning in the land. They went to war a second time, and again a third time. At that point they were defeated so badly that they had no choice but to submit to the Lamanites.

Only then did they remember to ask the Lord for help.

--------

Contrast that narrative with the account in Chapters 23 & 24, which tells of Alma and his people.

Alma and his group of followers established a city called Helam which was prospering peacefully when they were discovered by the Lamanites. The Lamanites set guards around Helam and give an old acquaintance, Amulon, power over Alma and his people.

In chapter 24 it says:
Amulon began to exercise authority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children....and put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them.
Their afflictions were so great that they began to pray to God for help. When Amulon made it illegal to pray and told them that anyone who prayed would be put to death, Alma and his people stopped praying vocally, instead they
did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
The Lord's response to prayers of these faithful followers was an amazing promise.
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
And then the really beautiful fulfillment to that promise:
And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

---------

It is so easy to respond to any situation like Limhi's people did — relying on my own plans and the arm of flesh. Fortunately the results in my own life don't usually involve brutal wars and lots of widows, but they usually are ineffective and leave me frustrated.

Time and time again, it is only after I turn to the Lord for ideas, help, and strength that I find myself able to either live with a problem or see a solution to the problem.

I'm trying to learn this lesson better; hoping that maybe one day my first response will be praying instead of pulling out my weapons and going to war.

It's definitely a work in progress — but at least there is progress...

That Which Was Lost Is Found

proving that if you're cleaning off the island while looking, it's best not to leave that stack of bills and paper in the center!

P.S. They were gone for 5 whole days!

11/8: Mommy Moments

Today in sacrament meeting was one of those moments where it is all worthwhile. Rachel and Jenna sang the first two verses of "Beautiful Savior" together and my heart was just about full enough to burst. We recorded it so that Cindy Lynn can see it too...

video

P.S. I'm convinced that Heavenly Father sent me these cute kids to remind me for the rest of my life that He is smarter than me, and that His ideas are better than mine.

Book Review: The Dragonfly Pool

A couple of years ago Cindy Lynn introduced me to Eva Ibbotson. I have no idea where Ibbotson came from or why we had never heard of her before, but we love her now. So when Jason told me he had a new Ibbotson book I was excited to read it.

Eva Ibbotson's books all have common elements. They are all beautifully written. She writes of places that she obviously loves (Vienna, England, Brazil) with lyrical beauty. Ibbotson's heroines are all similar--they are all far too good to be true. You want to dislike them because they are too perfect, but you can't resist and before too long you love them too.

The particulars of the individual books are almost unimportant. What is important is that, once again, you're left sighing with satisfaction at the end of the book, happy to have spent a couple of hours in her world.


(Ibbotson has written some books that are appropriate for children, and some that contain more adult relationships. Nothing explicit, just probably also nothing you want your 8 year old to read!)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

11/7: Freedom

For the last few weeks I've been reading "1776" for our ward book club. Now I'm not much of a war strategist, but it seems to me like at least in the summer of 1776 the colonial army was a long shot to win the Revolutionary War. I'm not sure I can even fathom how many things in my life would be different or even not exist at all if the colonists had not won the war...

Memorable Movies: The Dish

When Russ asked me if I wanted to watch this movie I was very confused by his description and not really enthusiastic. But a movie is a chance to snuggle up beside him for several hours, and it had been a long week, so I said go for it. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie.

When I was a small child my parents watched on their small black and white tv as Neil Armstrong descended from the lunar landing module and stepped onto the surface of the moon. My dad loves to tell the story that after we had watched it on the tv, he took 2 1/2 year old me outside and pointed to the moon, telling me that that man was up there on the moon.

I confidently pointed back into the apartment towards the tv and said "oh no, daddy, he's in there!"

Because of this family legend I've always known that the moon landing was televised. What I didn't know before watching this movie was how difficult of an accomplishment that was. "The Dish" tells the story of the satellite station in Australia that was chosen by NASA to broadcast the moon landing, and of the difficulties that they ended up having. It was definitely a feel-good movie with nothing to object to, and it was also really interesting to see some of the science involved with such an undertaking.

Definitely worth watching if you're looking for an excuse to snuggle with your significant other some night!



Friday, November 6, 2009

11/6: Vision


I'm grateful to be able to see. I'm grateful to have glasses to enable me to see more clearly .

I'd be even more grateful if I could find said glasses.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

11/5: Tricking or Treating

Tonight I am grateful for two things. For the abundance of chocolate treats my kids scored at the ward "Trunk or Treat" and later at the neighborhood "Greet and Treat." And for the fact that said chocolate is almost gone!

Here are some pictures of our Halloween festivities this year.

I started things out by making some cupcakes. Cupcakes are all the rage now, you know, and no longer bear any resemblance to the cupcakes we made with our kids in times gone by. Now they are very fancy and often have ornate decorations on them. I didn't go to those lengths, but I did pull out the cake decorating equipment and put on the frosting that way. I learned several valuable lessons which I pass on for your benefit:
  • Fancy cupcakes take much more frosting than doing it the regular way with a knife. I used two whole containers and didn't even finish frosting 1 batch!
  • If you make your own frosting and your frosting isn't stiff enough the little lines from the frosting tip will disappear.
  • If you make your own frosting for your fancy cupcakes and it's too stiff, you can give yourself carpel tunnel syndrome trying to squeeze that frosting out of the bag!
Rachel decided several months ago that she was going to be a black cat. She was adamant that Jenna could not also be a black cat, and Jenna was crushed. For a while she considered being a brown cat, but at the last minute Rachel relented. They were adorable. I thought the pink boots were an excellent touch.

Jared decided last year that he was going to be Wall-E, and he figured out his costume on his own. At the trunk or treat at church he also wore his roller blades and he looked pretty cool. (We put the name on his box with duct tape at the last minute at church. That's why it looks like we made the name with duct tape at the last minute.)

Jason & some of his friends decided to be characters from a video game—he got to be Yoshi. Jason was very persistent in his efforts to find parts for his costume. I still can't believe he really found a pair of green pants at goodwill, but he did!

Josh took a package of tp to the trunk or treat planning to be a mummy, but he found out what we already knew; the tp came apart too easily. Maybe he should have gotten some cheap tp and not used our good stuff.

As you can see, various costume pieces provided a lot of entertainment even when it wasn't trick or treating time.

Our neighborhood tried something different this year instead of regular trick or treating. The houses are spaced so far apart that the homeowners board decided to have everyone come set up a station in the area by the pool & clubhouse.

Some people went all out with their stations. Not us.

Some people dressed up. Not us.

(and really, as I watched the sweat drip off this guy's face onto his shirt I was pretty happy not to be wearing a mask!)

Some people spent the day dolling up their horses for the horse parade. Not us.

We did, however, carve our 5 pumpkins and take them as decorations. I was so sad because I couldn't find our pumpkin carving stuff anywhere, so we had to use paring knives, which really limited our design options. But we still had fun. Oh, the pumpkins have glow sticks in them because we weren't supposed to have flames. But the guy next to us (with the mask) had candles, and I was wishing we had ignored that rule too. Of course I might have felt differently if we had caught the borrowed hay bales on fire...

So there you have it. We survived another year of figuring out costumes, I managed to leave the candy alone before the big day but haven't been able to stay away from it since, and our floors are covered with stacks of candy. At least the kids are old enough and smart enough now to stay nice even when they eat a lot of candy. If only I were so smart...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

11/4: Safety

Today there was an explosion at an oil refinery just north of Salt Lake City, about a mile from my sister's home. As soon as we heard about it I called her to see if she & her family were ok. She said that the explosion was strong enough that she thought that something in her house had exploded. Thankfully neither they nor their house were damaged.

I had a scary moment in the car with Jason recently. It made me remember why having teenage drivers makes me nervous. Since then I've been wondering how often we receive heavenly protection without ever being aware.

So today I'm thankful for that protection. For all of the times when something bad could have happened, but didn't. And that my sister's house is still sitting firmly on it's foundation.

Cheesy Potato Soup

This is a recipe that Russ's wonderful sister Marilyn gave to us years ago and I recently rediscovered. It is a hit with every member of our family, which is saying a lot! I like that the ingredients are pretty flexible — we didn't have any celery and it was just fine. I added some broccoli and it was delicious. I made a double batch the other night and we had a nice amount left. Yum!

Cheesy Potato Soup
(makes 8 cups)
2 c. cubed potatoes
1/2 c. celery chopped
1/2 c. chopped carrots
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
4 c. boiling water
Put in large pot and simmer for about 10 min. or until carrots and potatoes are soft.
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. flour
2 c. milk
10 oz. grated cheddar cheese
Make white sauce. I always make mine in the microwave because I don't have to worry about anything scorching. Melt the butter, then add the flour and cook again until bubbly. Add half of the milk, wisk until smooth. Add the rest of the milk. Cook until it bubbles and thickens. (I know--I'm such a precise cook!) Stir in cheddar cheese, and add to veggie mix in pot.
2 cans corn
Add to everything else, heat through.
If you want a stronger corn flavor, like a corn chowder, add cream style corn. If you use regular corn it's more of a potato soup with veggies.




Tuesday, November 3, 2009

11/3: Rose Colored Glasses


I know you're wondering what on earth my "rose colored glasses" are, and why I'm thankful for them today.

Shortly before our big trip this summer my old sunglasses lost a lens somewhere and I had to get a new pair so that my eyes would survive the drive across the country.

I don't love my new sunglasses. While they don't pull my hair out anymore (a definite benefit), they also don't stay on the top of my head well at all. And you know how important that is in a pair of sunglasses!

But there is one area where my sunglasses shine. They make the world around me truly beautiful. I have noticed that even more in the last couple of weeks; my sunglasses take what is already beautiful and kick it up a notch.

The tree that is lovely yellow appears to be almost on fire once I don my glasses. Earlier today I passed a large tree with orange leaves; my glasses turned the leaves to neon. Even the marginal leaves are lovely when seen through my new eyes.

At first I felt a bit guilty about this — like I was somehow cheating by augmenting the natural colors of fall.

But I finally decided that I'm just going to go with it, and enjoy it. I'm just sorry the rest of you can't see the world through my rose colored glasses...

In Search of the Provident Pantry

I'm not sure where I was when the church announced the shift from accumulating a year's food storage to "a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet...gradually increasing your supply until it is sufficient for three months." Somehow I missed it, though, and this fall one of my goals is to make a 2 week (and eventually a 4 week) menu that can be used to figure out what exactly I would need to buy to achieve this.

One of the first things I realized as I started thinking about this last spring is that most of the food we eat is fresh or frozen--and storing three months of that is impossible. So I started looking for recipes that we already like that could be adapted by using canned or freeze-dried foods instead of fresh or frozen.

I'm going to keep track of my recipes here on my blog, where the rest of my brain already resides. At some point I'll also embed a spreadsheet to tell me what I will need to buy to have this 3 month's supply. All of this is of course for my benefit. But maybe you'll see some good, storage-able recipes that your family would like too!

Monday, November 2, 2009

11/2: Answered Prayers

Anyone who's been around me recently has probably been able to tell that I have been almost frantically worried about Cindy Lynn. Her lung problems have been increasing for the last two months, culminating in days of terrible pain last week.

Even while she made plans to travel down to Salt Lake to try to get admitted to the hospital through the ER so that she could get the IV antibiotics that she must have to get rid of the lung infection, I still didn't have a lot of hope.

Cindy Lynn was in the hospital last Christmas, last Easter, and again in July. Each time for exactly 14 days. Never before has she been treated with IV antibiotics for only 2 weeks; at UNC or Duke it was always at least 3 weeks and sometimes closer to 4. But the Cystic Fibrosis center in Salt Lake (the only one in the Utah/Idaho/Montana/Wyoming area) does IV antibiotics for only two weeks. It is their firm policy.

And, as evidenced by the frequency of her visits, it is not working for her.

Last week I felt an almost desperate fear that she would never be able to get the medical care that she needed until her husband graduates and they are able to move away from the area. I worried about how much lung function she would lose before then.

I prayed and prayed all week and then fasted this weekend, praying that Cindy Lynn would be able to get the care that she needs. That her body needs.

And then this morning a miracle happened. The doctor came into her room and really listened to her; listened to Cindy Lynn explain that she had always needed a longer course of antibiotics, and that she felt like the recent hospitalizations hadn't been long enough to clear up the infection in her lungs. Much to her surprise the doctor agreed that she might need three weeks instead of two, and even suggested that the third week could be done at home in Rexburg. (Home IVs are also not a part of the Salt Lake CF center protocol, so this was an astonishing and very happy development.)

I am astonished, and grateful beyond words.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

11/1: November's Plan

Last year I blogged for a week before Thanksgiving about things that I am thankful. I blogged about our ward's wonderful book group (still wonderful), my house, my tub, and my husband, (the house is a mess but the tub and the husband are still great), for my calling (I miss that calling!), the beach, my kids, and friends. (All still amazing.)

This year I'm taking a slightly different angle. Reading "Home to Holly Springs" recently reminded me of a quote from one of the earlier Mitford books that was very meaningful to me. Thanks to the wonder that is Google I was able to find it the other day.
"Suppose for a moment that God began taking from us the many things for which we have failed to give thanks. Which of our limbs and faculties would be left? Would I still have my hands and my mind? And what about loved ones? If God were to take from me all those persons and things for which I have not given thanks, who or what would be left of me?"
Patrick Henry Reardon

So this November I'm going to be looking for the things that I often forget to be grateful for, but would be unhappy or even unable to live without. I think it's good timing for me to spend a month living in thanksgiving...