Monday, May 31, 2010

Disney’s Oceans

When we watched Disney’s Earth last year we were so excited to see that this year they were scheduled to release a movie called Oceans.  Now there is the movie for me, I thought…


Russ and I finally went to see it a couple of Saturdays ago.  What did I think?

Not exactly sure.

Here’s what I liked & didn’t like.


  • beautiful underwater scenes
  • beautiful animals
  • great shots of unusual creatures
  • nice soundtrack


  • Pierce Brosnan as narrator.  Just didn’t work for me.
  • Narration was a bit forced in several segments.  I personally would have been fine if they’d identified the animal and then just been quiet while we were watching it!

I’ll definitely rent it again for a buck from the redbox.  But I almost think I liked the IMAX “Under the Sea” movie better…


After the movie we waited for Josh by the fountain.  I was fascinated by the patterns of water against the beautiful blue sky, and so I grabbed the purse cam and took some pictures.  What I really wanted to do was lay right down on the bench around the fountain to control what I was shooting better, but there were just too many people there.  So I didn’t.  But I still did get some interesting shots.

May 2010 791 May 2010 799 May 2010 827

Did you know that that’s what water looks like in a fountain? 

I surely did not!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

You Never Know

The other morning I put grits & eggs on the table,  each hot pan on a wooden trivet that lives most of the time in a nearby drawer.

May 2010 1423 I use these trivets every day, and rarely think twice about them.  But for some reason this time I thought of where they came from.  My brother Val made these after I was married, as part of a program (I think) called Junior Achievement. 

I’m sure my mom bought more than she needed to support my brother, and I was the lucky recipient of these two.

Here we are, probably 20 years later.  The trivets are still going strong.  They could use a little wood glue in a joint or two, but what can you expect after 20 years?

I’m sure that my brother never expected me to get this kind of mileage out of these trivets.  How could he have known that the trivets would stay with me; from BYU to Idaho, from Idaho to Durham, and from Durham to where we are now? 


In 1979 my family lived in Iowa.  My dad had gone back to college just as the 9th child in our family was born; he graduated as a chiropractor a year or two after the 10th (and last) baby.

We were poor and I was insecure about everything; looks, clothes, social life, everything.  The only thing I felt confident about was my intelligence—and that’s not always the greatest social asset.

Scan058, June 02, 2002

It was roadshow time, and we were practicing a dance number.  I only remember three things about that year’s roadshow.  It had something to do with the Flintstones, we sang a song to the tune of “Down By the Old Millstream,” and Brad Stinocher.

Brad Stinocher was at least four years older than me.  He was a terrific guy and everyone loved him.  And at some point during that roadshow dance practice while I was being silly, he looked at me and said

“You’re going to make someone a great wife.”

I know it sounds overly dramatic, but for just a moment in my little world, time stood still.

Brad Stinocher just said that I am going to make someone a great wife!  Oh. My. Gosh.  Brad Stinocher!  Said that about me!

And then I was caught up again in the craziness of the roadshow practice and I went my way and Brad went his way and nothing like that was ever said again.

But I never forgot it.  Never.

For years and years after that when things were hard and I didn’t feel good about myself, I’d say in my mind,

“Brad Stinocher said that I was going to make someone a great wife.”

And the thought that someone like Brad Stinocher had said that about me would help me through whatever was happening.

How could he have known that comment would stay with me; from middle school to high school, from high school to BYU, through uncertainty and sadness and heartbreak.

I haven’t needed to console myself with that comment for many years now, but it still brings tears to my eyes to sit here and think about what a difference that one moment of kindness made in my life.


I told myself the other morning, as I placed the trivets on the table and then set the hot pots on them, that I need to be more careful with my words and my actions.  And that I need to be more kind and loving to those around me.

Because you never know how long something might last…


P.S.  Thank you, Brad Stinocher, wherever you are.  For the gift you gave me that you probably never even knew about.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rain Refugee

Jason was out power washing the deck just now and had a big surprise when he moved a rug. 

May 2010 1496

I’m sure it crawled under there to get out of the 3+ inches of rain we had last night!

(Jason says that when he moved the rug the snake was only loosely coiled and it was easier to see how big it was.)

Russ and Jason persuaded the snake into a bucket and then Russ took it out into the woods.  He said it was a least 4 feet long.

May 2010 1497 I actually really like snakes.  But I’m just as happy not to discover one sitting on my chair on the porch sometime!

Note to Self

When planting flowers in a new planter, be really sure that there are holes in the bottom. 

Otherwise after a beautiful rain storm you might end up with potting soil soup!

May 2010 1443 (When Russ punched the holes into the bottom water literally poured out—almost like a faucet!)

Friday, May 28, 2010

3 Down, 1 to Go

May 2010 1442 The worst part is that they’re really imperfect.  And I DON’T EVEN CARE!  I just want them done…

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cutting the Apron Strings…a Little at a Time…

A couple of years ago the little kids wanted to ride their bikes with me on my walk.  It was a stop-and-go affair.  I would tell them that they could ride past the next three or four mailboxes, and then they would need to stop and wait for me. 

The roads in our neighborhood are both winding and hilly, and too many cars drive through more quickly than is prudent.  Because I knew my little bikers weren’t predictable enough I didn’t dare let them go farther than I could see them.

Then came the day when we were about a block away from home and they asked if they could ride the rest of the way home alone. 

In my mind’s eye I can still see them riding away from me.  So sure and confident in their ability to ride safely home.  I could feel those apron strings being cut just a little that day as they rode out of sight…and it was not comfortable.

One day this spring Jared came in and asked if he could go on a bike ride.  The girls excitedly chimed in that they wanted to go too.  In my mind I went over a little checklist of questions.

  • Do I want to go on a walk right now?  No.
  • Is there much traffic in the neighborhood right now?  No.
  • Do I think they are safe and safety conscious on their bikes now?  No  I mean Yes.

And so I let him do it, letting those apron be cut just a little more. They’ve done it many times since, excited to go off on their own in this way.

This morning while they were getting ready to leave I grabbed the camera and snapped a picture.  They were already focused on their bike ride.  Prepared with a camera in case they saw horses, a cell phone for emergencies, and snacks for when they got hungry.

May 2010 1428

How could they know the pang of nostalgia I felt as they left--seeing them set out so confidently by themselves, realizing yet again that these are not my babies anymore…

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tutorial: Strawberry Pie (YUM!!)

Once when Russ and I were almost engaged, we were at his sister in law’s house.  (Which is a whole other story, which involves Russ introducing me as “some girl in my ward!”) His sister in law’s sister made a strawberry pie and it was so beautiful.  I was completely intimidated.  How did she do that?  How did she get the filling stuff to be so clear and smooth?  It was beyond me.

Several years after we were married my neighbor brought me a strawberry pie.  When I confessed to her that I didn’t know how to make one myself, she also brought me her recipe.  It was the beginning of strawberry pie happiness every May for the Ray family.  Moving here made it even better—the berries that you pick yourself in the field are generally so much better and sweeter than those you can buy in the store.

Here are my directions for making a very delicious strawberry pie.

Start with a crust.  You can make or buy a graham cracker crust, or make or buy a traditional pie-dough crust.  I usually make mine because I live so far from the store and it would take longer to go buy a crust than to just make one.  And I only use Crisco in my pie crusts.  (Cause my pie-making aunt told me long ago that it makes a big difference.)

Whatever kind of crust you’re having, follow the directions and bake it.  My directions had me prick the crust all over with a fork and then bake at 375 for 8 minutes.

May 2010 1241

While the crust is baking, make the glaze.  Mash or chop or puree strawberries until you have 1 cup.  Mix 1 cup sugar and 3T cornstarch together in a bowl, and then gradually mix into the strawberries.  Then add 1/2 cup water.  Cook this until it boils for 1 minute.  I do this in my microwave, either in my big glass bowl or in my 4 c. glass measure, stirring once or twice.  If you do it on the stove top you have to stir it a lot, and I’m not a fan of stirring!  After it boils for a minute, set it aside and let it cool.

Next, soften about 3 oz. cream cheese.  Mix 1 T. sugar with it and 1-2 T. milk.  (You can use more sugar if you like.)  When the crust is cool, spread this mixture over the bottom of the crust.

May 2010 1255

When I wash my berries I separate them into two or three groups.  The first is the really nice berries, that are going to be just fine being put into the pie.  You don’t want these to be ready to go soft because then you couldn’t have strawberry pie for breakfast the next three mornings, and that would be a tragedy.  I lay these on a (clean) kitchen towel so that they can be drying off.  The next group are the berries that aren’t quite perfect but still are in pretty good shape.   Some of these  I will chop and put sugar on to serve on cheesecake or strawberry shortcake.  The last group are the berries that are only just barely still good.  These go into the bowl to get smushed right away.  These are great to use in the glaze, which is going to be cooked, or in jam.

While my glaze is cooling and after I’ve spread the cream cheese in the pie crust I start putting the berries in.  The berries that go on the bottom 2-3 layers I slice in half, and then lay in the pie cut side up.  This is because it’s easier to eat the pie when the berries are cut, but if you put them cut side down the juice will make the crust soggy, and that’s no good.  So cut side up it is.

May 2010 1256

After a layer of berries I spread on some of the glaze, then put another layer of berries, then another layer of glaze.  If the berries are small I might put 3 layers of cut berries and then finish with a layer of whole berries on top of the last layer of glaze.  If the berries are bigger than I put only 2 layers of cut berries. 

Serve with yummy whipped cream and hide some of it from your family so that you can have it for breakfast tomorrow!

May 2010 736

PS.  We had been married for several years before I confessed my feelings of strawberry pie inadequacy to Russ.  He told me that the beautiful perfectly clear and smooth glaze that had been used on that strawberry pie so long ago was a package from the store.  All those years I’d been feeling so inadequate, and it turned out that she had just opened a package!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sew Miserable

May 2010 1404

This is a sofa cushion.  I just finished sewing a new covering for it. 

Won’t someone shoot me now?

18 months ago I bought a love seat for our bedroom, planning to work my remodeling magic on it and turn from the teal nightmare that it was into something warm and inviting.

12 months ago I finished stripping and sawing and sanding and painting and antiquing the frame.

6 months ago I finally bought upholstery fabric to cover the cushions.

This week I have vowed that I will not touch another sewing project until the darned cushions are done. 

One down, three to go.

This is not the sewing I enjoy.  It’s bulky, it’s tedious, repetitive, and the fabric shreds everywhere every time I touch it.


I told Russ—if I ever (and I mean EVER) suggest that I am going to reupholster another piece of furniture, he is to knock me unconscious.

And then buy a new piece of furniture before I wake up.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Note to Self

The next time you put chocolates in your purse to take to the movie, and don’t eat them all, take them out of your purse before leaving it in the hot sun!!!

May 2010 1188

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Real Love: A Book Review and How I Got to This Place

(I thought I’d tell you a little more about the book I was trying to give Lindsay the other day.)

I’m not sure I would have liked this book if someone had introduced me to it 23 years ago.

When Russ and I were newlyweds, we had a guest speaker one night at homemaking.  She worked with Stephen Covey, and was there to teach us some of the ideas that he was working on.

I only remember one thing that she said. 

"We also can choose to be proactive and not let our situation determine how we will feel.”

I could not comprehend this in my 20 year old brain.  I remember saying to her, “Do you mean that if my husband is mean to me, I can ‘choose’ not to get mad????”

All I could see was that if he was mean and I was mad, it was his fault. (Wasn’t it???)

It was a mystery to me and I am certain she was frustrated by her inability to explain well enough for me to understand.

Several years after that Covey published his book and I read it.  In the book his explanations helped me understand what I had not been able to see before, and when I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to show me the truth of this in my life, he did.

Not that I chose my reactions well much of the time, but I did know that it was possible.


Several years ago one of my friends recommended I read the book “Real Love: The Truth About Finding Unconditional Love & Fulfilling Relationships” by Greg Baer.

The premise of the book is that most of us have not received much unconditional love (called “real love” in the book) in our lives.  Instead, we received conditional love; when we behaved well and were nice our parents were loving to us.  When we behaved poorly or badly they were angry or frustrated with us. 

This taught us that love is conditional, or that we have to buy it with our behavior.  Why is this a problem?

Imagine that every time you pay me fifty dollars, I tell you I love you. We could do that all day, but at the end of the day would you feel loved? No, because you’d know that I “loved” you only because you paid me. We simply can’t feel fulfilled by love we pay for. We can feel loved only when it is freely, unconditionally given to us.

Greg Baer, the author, says that the only kind of love that truly satisfies us and makes us feel loved is unconditional—when someone cares about our happiness without any thought of what they might get for themselves.

This was interesting to me because I could see myself in many of the behaviors he described that we use to “purchase” what he calls “fake” (conditional) love.  For as much of my life as I can remember, I’ve craved affirmation from the people around me.  I even thought that affirmation was probably my primary love language, but as I’ve practiced these principles my need for affirmation has calmed down a lot.

The other reason this book felt important to me was that I recognized myself in the parenting descriptions—I could see how conditional I’ve been in my reactions towards my own children.  Sure—when they’re convenient I am a totally loving mom.  But let me be tired or them be in the slightest bit inconvenient (loud, obnoxious, rude, tired, or heaven forbid childish!!) and I was frustrated, irritated, or angry.

I felt excited to think that there might be something that could really help me to be the mom I want to be—to be the kind of mom who’s kids feel like they are always loved, not just loved when they’re well behaved.

Interestingly enough, my kids would tell you that they knew I loved them, even if I was angry or unkind or yelling.  Just like you would probably tell me about your parents.  I believe that we have to tell our stories that way, because it is unbearable to admit that we feel differently.  So I could certainly keep justifying my actions, telling myself that I’m a “good enough” mother.

But that’s not what I want.  I want to feel better myself, and I want to be a better mom.  And I think this book seems to track pretty well with the scriptural principles like

“charity suffereth long and is kind…”


“though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing…”


I’ve never been able to figure out how to actually get that charity, or pure love like Christ has.  Especially in the midst of a moment of frustration.  But as far as I can tell, the scriptures make no excuse for those moments.  They don’t say

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind, as long as others are kind to her.” 

And they don’t say

“if I have not charity, I am nothing, unless it was a moment where it was just too hard to have charity and I’m sure you all understand about those kind of moments.

They simply say that we are to have charity.

I think this is helping…

Saturday, May 22, 2010

To and From the Strawberry Farm

A friend emailed me yesterday that she had just gone and picked more strawberries.

Apparently the recent rains, while great for the reservoirs and the roses

May 2010 1033

were not so great for the strawberries.  She said that there were still strawberries, but if there was more rain this weekend that would probably be the end of strawberry picking for this year. 

And so I went.

I took Josh & Nathan to a YM cookout on my way, and when we were almost there Josh realized that he was supposed to bring soda.  Happily there was a gas station out in the middle of nowhere near the cookout.

May 2010 1221

Even better than not having to go to town for the soda was the list of other supplies that we could buy at the gas station.

May 2010 1218 (No, this is not Josh, this is Josh’s friend Nathan. Nathan was more than happy to pose by the great sign.  Nathan was less happy several hours later when he was weed wacking in my yard and popped a pebble onto his mom’s van, completely shattering one of the windows…true story!)

After I dropped the boys off I went and picked my berries.  There were lots of berries, but a lot of them were mushy from the rain.

I wondered—if a berry is just starting to look a little soft, might it still taste ok and therefore be ok to pick for jam?

Trust me—it doesn’t.  And now, because I have eaten one, you don’t need to.

I did manage to pick about 15 pounds of berries, enough for a pie and a batch of freezer jam and a few to go on angel food cake tomorrow. 

I was going to show Jenny how to make freezer jam, but after tonight’s massive and awesome thunderstorm I think berry picking might be done for the season.  So in the next day or two I am going to post tutorials for making strawberry pie and strawberry freezer jam.  (So easy, truly!)

I totally enjoyed my drive home from the strawberry farm.  I love looking at the houses along these back country roads, especially the ones that look like this.

May 2010 1222 (This is the kind of house I love to look at, but KNOW I could never live in!)

I only stopped by this house because of what was in the field on the other side of the street.

May 2010 1231

No, I do not know what it is—but it was sure odd looking!

May 2010 1227

The goats were much more friendly than the mystery creature (Russ thinks it’s a shorn llama or alpaca) and came over to investigate me.  Nothing quite like being nibbled by a goat!

May 2010 1224

I detoured a bit on my way home to go through a remote neighborhood.  Last year the kids and I used to drive through this neighborhood to pick up someone in our art carpool.  We loved driving past this ginormous house, and because of it’s awesome gates and the lion statues inside on the driveway we started calling it Narnia.

So now we have a picture of Narnia…or at least the gates.

May 2010 1237

Yummy berries and lovely drive.  Gotta love the purse cam!

Friday, May 21, 2010


There is a book that I really like, that I think has helped me work towards being the wife and mother I want to be.  I decided that I would buy a few used copies to give to some of my friends so that I would have more people to talk to about it.

baer2 Yesterday as I was leaving for an appointment I checked the mailbox.  Along with some junk mail there were two book sized packages.  I threw them into the front seat of the car, thinking that I would drop one off at Lindsay’s house on my way home.

Accordingly, I stopped at her house and grabbed the top still-packaged book and knocked on her door.  She was surprised to see me but looked interested as I explained that I’d gotten her this book because I like it so much, and I thought she might find it helpful.

As I was standing there talking to her, ready to hand over the packaged book, I started thinking that it really felt a little skinnier than it ought to be.

It occurred to me that I should check, and make sure I was really asking my friend to read the right book.

Good thing, cause this is what was in that package…

wrong book


Here…read this…I think it might be really helpful…”


PS.  No disrespect intended towards those who have had to deal with this heartbreaking issue. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Feathered (and other) Friends

We’ve really been enjoying watching the birds come to the birdfeeder.  No hummingbirds yet, so we’re going to move that feeder up a little higher and replace the balls with something that hopefully won’t leak.

The little kids keep grabbing my camera whenever they see birds, and among the out-of-focus shots there have been some good ones. 

May 2010 957 May 2010 980

May 2010 1000 May 2010 997

We’re a little concerned, though, that Tiger has definitely discovered the bird feeder.

May 2010 979
And today we had a different visitor.

May 2010 1013 May 2010 1014 May 2010 1015
Once he realized that we were watching him, he couldn’t leave fast enough!

May 2010 1016_picnik

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Mother I’ve Become

Yesterday afternoon I asked Jason if he could go up in the attic to get some boxes down for me.  He was busy and reluctant, and immediately I had three nine-year-old volunteers. 

“Sure,” I said, “you can go up in the attic and get the boxes.”

“Just make sure you step on the boards so you won’t fall through the ceiling.”

And I sent them up.

While they were up there they poked around, looking for the bunk bed connectors.  They didn’t find them, but they did find another treasure.  The chandelier.

Let me back up for a moment.  When we moved into this house, the dining room was very fancy.  I just spent 30 minutes looking, and I’m sorry—we seem to have lost the pictures we took before we moved in.  Which is a real pity.  Anyway, the dining room was wallpapered in dark brown brocade wallpaper, covered in roses.  It was shiny and obviously very elegant.  When the old owners lived here the dining room had lovely curtains that puddled on the floor, a beautiful dining room table, and a china cabinet.  And a fancy chandelier. 

We knew from the moment that we looked at the house that we would use the dining room as a home school room.  I didn’t mind the brown wallpaper, because it meant that I didn’t have to worry about what we did to the walls.  But the chandelier, which hung down to our heads and didn’t give off much light, was switched out pretty quickly for a functional ceiling fan/light.  We put the chandelier in the attic, thinking that if we ever sold the house we would need to put it back into the dining room.

Yesterday the kids discovered the chandelier where it had been sitting in the attic for the last 8.5 years.  And of course they called pleadingly down the attic stairs. 

“Please, mom, please can we have one of the jewels???”

And without a moment’s hesitation I said yes.

Why on earth not?  They’re not doing anyone any good up there, for heavens sake.  Why shouldn’t they be enjoyed?

Each one came carefully down the stairs, clutching their “jewels.”  Jared had a big round crystal, and is currently trying to make it into a disco ball for his zhu-zhu pet.  The girls had different plans for their jewels.

May 2010 872 May 2010 874

And so today I want to say…Cindy Lynn, I am so sorry.  If I could go back in time I would relax a little more.  I would let you roller skate in the kitchen.  And I would let you take apart and wear the chandelier too. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Proud Mama Moments

I know that Jason is going off to college in the fall.  I waited with him to hear about college acceptances and scholarships; I’ve bought the tickets to take him, and I hear regular comments from the 4 younger kids about how the rooms will be re-divided when Jason leaves.

But last week we had two events that were bittersweet reminders that our family life is moving inexorably towards a new phase.

May 2010 748 (yes—it was a bad hair day!)

First, on Wednesday Jason had his Eagle court of honor.  The scout master and Russ both emphasized the fact that Jason really deserved this Eagle award because he earned his Eagle on his own.  We provided logistical support (rides) but he did everything else himself.  (Russ already has an Eagle, I don’t need one.)

May 2010 761

Great job Jason!!

May 2010 764

Then on Sunday night we went to Seminary graduation.  Cindy Lynn’s last couple of years of seminary were complicated by her health problems, so this was our first experience with 4 years of regular early-morning seminary and seminary graduation.  I was unprepared for the lump I felt in my throat as I watched my son walk in with the line of seminary graduates.

I myself am a graduate of early morning seminary, but our seminary class was held in homes that were near my own.  I’m so proud of Jason’s commitment to seminary that hasn’t wavered, even though it meant that he had to get up at 5AM and drive 20 minutes to get there. 

May 2010 848 (I’m not sure if it was a proud moment when I walked into the room where they were trying to take a picture of all the seminary graduates and this is what I saw…)


The last proud mama moment won’t be for a while yet—Jason’s graduation ceremony will be on the beach in August.  But I know I am already feeling the change that is coming in our family. 

Another ending, and another beginning. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Organic Dessert

Last night we were invited to dinner with several other families.  Seminary graduation was happening at the same time, so we showed up just in time for dessert.  Fortunately we didn’t miss the highlight of the evening.

Which was when Eric ate a cricket.

Now let me back up for a minute.  For those of you not lucky enough to know our friend Eric, he is a one of a kind guy.  He is a back to the basics maverick who likes to make his own hot chocolate (from the cacao plant), ride a single speed bike (I think that’s what it’s called—it doesn’t have any gears to make things easier) and runs marathons barefoot.

And apparently, eats crickets.

One of the kids had found a cricket on the lawn, and one of the other men bet Eric $10 he wouldn’t eat it. 

He lost.

And, thanks to the purse cam, I have proof.

May 2010 851

May 2010 852

May 2010 854


May 2010 855



PS—If you’re lucky Katie or Lindsay will post the video of the whole experience.  And you will get to hear me laughing like a hyena in the background.  Cause I was.

PPS—All I’m saying is, Katie, I hope you make him brush his teeth a TON before you kiss him!!

PPPS—Russ suggests Listerene…..

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Without Love…

Love3 copyright

(I heard this quote last week and it’s just stayed in my mind…so I decided to try my hand at some word art!)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Healthy Choices

May 2010 736

Don’t you think it’s a healthy choice for me to have strawberry pie for breakfast this morning? 

I’m sure it is.

After all, what is in a strawberry pie?

Fresh, healthy berries,



a bit of shortening and cream cheese

and sugar

topped with whipped cream.

What could be wrong with that???

Friday, May 14, 2010

Glorious Gerbers

I haven’t planted my gerbers yet—I need to get some new pots to hold them.  Yesterday I set them in a nice row along my deck railing so that I could enjoy their beauty. 

May 2010 648

I read somewhere that to keep gerbers blooming you have to trim the dying flowers as close to the plant as possible.  I decided—why wait until the flowers are dying to encourage blooming??

And so I cut one flower from each pot.

Now I just need to learn how to arrange them!

May 2010 611

May 2010 715