Well, I've missed several days of blogging and now I have a backlog of events and happenings that I feel compelled to document. Mostly because I am having my blog printed into a book at the end of the year (oh my gosh...that's TODAY!!!!) and I definitely want to include the Soup Extravaganza, family [days-long] party, and the Christmas morning-after when my mom got a KINDLE.
But herein lies the age-old problem: I have New Year's food to cook, house to clean, and I'm in the midst of de-cluttering and re-organizing my house so we can ring in the New Year on a CLEAN note. So the debate rages: clean house or blog, clean house or blog. Arrgggghhhh....The time demon is visiting.
Okay...I'm doing both. I'll clean and blog. So, the blog post must be prioritized. And I readily admit mine is usually FOOD. So, right now, I am simply posting a listing of all the delectable foods my family and I have eaten this holiday season, some of it made by my dear mother who totally outdid herself with meals this year. All of these foods listed are homemade! My tastebuds have had a treasure trove of tantalizing tasties and my thighs a toppling torrent of a triple triglyceride attack.
So here it is....without further adieu. I present (in no particular order) my:
Read it and Re-DROOL: Items Consumed in a Mere Matter of [Holi]days List
Candied Beef Brisket (I'd give away my new red purse for another bite of that right now!)
Oven-Baked Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
Red Hot Pomegranate Salad
Artisan Bread (this is the easiest bread to make...and so delicious)
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (I'm not scared of roasting red peppers any more! It's as easy as clicking your tongue. And makes the kitchen smell like a roasted red pepper store - if there is such a thing??)
Pita Bread (I learned that the caution in the recipe to NOT let the dough dry out should be heeded)
Eggnog Pound Cake with Creme Fraiche
Rich and Frothy Eggnog (with ice-cream in it. Dreamy creamy!)
Danish Kringle (one of Brent's favorite pastries - an old recipe from his mother!)
Christmas Casserole (a Christmas morning tradition!)
Bread Pudding with Caramel Buttermilk Syrup
Homemade Wheat Bread
Spiced Cranberry Relish
Rolls out the yingyang
Bean with Ham Soup
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Some sort of creamy yellow jello with green peppers, celery and cheese. An interesting mix and so good!!
Crustless Pumpkin Pie (made in the crockpot!)
Raspberry Dream Cake
Sweet Pecan Glazed Carrots
Layered Green Salad (one of my favorite simple salads...not complicated in both taste and ease of preparation!)
Lemon Marbled Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust (the only thing I took picture of)
and tacked on to the end, the non-homemade delight of Roasted Starbursts!
Happy New Years and Bon Appetit!!
Our tradition is to have an elegant, formal Christmas Eve Linner. This year's menu was basic and basically Thanksgiving all over again. It is what my children and Mr. Fish love, so I cook to make them happy. Menu included: Turkey, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Green Beans with Bacon and Almonds, Raspberry Salad, Green Layered Salad, Home-made light and fluffy rolls, Spiced Cranberry Relish, Cranberry Jam, and Danish Kringle for dessert.
Over dinner we had a contest to come up with and identify lines from movies. My kids are sharp and have a memory like a hard drive. I relished the moment. We laughed. We drank and savored the food. Pure merriment!
After dinner, we went to a matinee (our holiday tradition which started when the children were young and restless and asked every 10 minutes if it was time to go to bed). We watched Tale of Despereaux: an average movie (I give it 2.5 buttered pieces of popcorn). We then traversed the city to look at the lights and came home to begin our Christmas Eve festivities which were kicked off with Sean (piano), Janessa (violin), Stockton (drums) and Landon (guitar) playing Still, Still, Still for Brent and I. It was beautiful and moving and I can never get enough of my children playing music.
Nothing on earth is better than being with family!
The Ladies Down the Hall (my fabulous co-workers) threw a little parting shindig which consisted of incredible culinary delights and infectious laughter. Each also wrote one or several limericks or poems and read them to me. The food we shared won't last (although the memory of its taste and texture still lingers in my conscience), but the poetic words penned out of love and kindness will last forever. Thank you, thank you to my dear friends for all of it, yea even the omnipresent reminder (that just won't die) about my wandering finger! A story for another day...a day that's really far away!
Note: Somehow I missed taking a picture of Mary. So sorry, Mary. I'll catch you sometime. Don't worry.
Green salad with Raspberry Dressing (jodie)
Chicken Enchiladas (lori)
Coconut Lemongrass Rice Soup (deb)
Homemade Artisan breads: Rosemary and Cinnamon Swirl (deb)
German Chocolate Cheesecake (gail)
Heavenly Butterscotch Bars (karen)
Danish Cookies (judy)
First, a query: how long does something have to be done in order to call it a tradition? I ask because here is how a conversation went the other day at our house:
Jenni: Are we going to go four-wheeling on Thanksgiving?
Brent: I don't think so.
Jenni: Why not? It's a tradition.
Brent: It isn't a tradition. We've only done it once.
Jenni: See. We've done it. So it's a tradition.
Something that is a tradition without question is our annual Christmas Sing-A-Long and Cookie Exchange. We have done it now for five years solidifying its place as one of our favorite holiday activities. This year was our biggest and best year yet. We had over 40 people in attendance. Everyone sang out with cheer and kindly overlooked the crazy lady in brown who danced to her own drum. And there were so many great cookies such as: pumpkin, chocolate chip, sugar, German, Danish, chocolate crinkle, snickerdoodle, and gooey chocolate balls of creamy happiness.
Thank you, thank you to all who came and participated (except for maybe those troublemakers who brought blasphemy to the party and desecrated our home by spontaneously erupting into an obnoxiously loud version of the BYU fight song. Talk about ruining the Holiday Spirit!! All I can say about it is that your names have been noted and I hope you like red paint).
Also, thanks to my dad, who figured out and jazzed up some of the songs on the keyboard! And to my mom who typed some of the lyrics.
Overall, a great evening. Love all our friends! You rock a party!!
Good friends and fun (and nice scalp swirl, Brent)
Folks kept coming....and overflowed into the kitchen.... Notice the happy, happy faces. Does it have anything to do with the close proximity to the cookies?
The Gifford family performed at the end. Ha. No pun intended based on the brilliant picture I took of their backside. Ok. Sorry. The picture isn't good but their song WAS! A definite HIGHLIGHT of the evening. They salvaged the quality of the night after it took a downhill turn with a song from the school who shall not be named.
Cookies and a dirty sink
Hey - Leanne gets into it too!
A women suffragist:
But when sweet Anna got a beau
She was an Anna kissed.
Taken from a collection called Limerick Lyrics.
And one more from one of my favorite authors: Ogden Nash. A fitting poem because:
a) it's cold and flu season
b) I am one of those who have to tell you: "You don't need an antibiotic. Just need to ride this one out!" Yes, the Cold is miserable, but does more harm than good to treat it with an antibiotic!!
Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I'm not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.
By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever's hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!
Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.
Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.
A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!
Editor's Note: For effective cold remedies proven to help alleviate misery, click here.
This recipe is brought to you by my sister-in-law Amy. It's a slam dunk in three things that make a great dish: beautiful presentation, delicious, and chuck full of vital nutrients.
Peppers are a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6, beta carotene, and folic acid and have excellent antioxidant activity. Red bell peppers have significantly higher levels of nutrients than green. Red bell peppers also contain lycopene, which is a carotene that helps to protect against cancer and heart disease.
The vibrant colors of the peppers as well as the beautiful green of the lima bean makes this such a colorful and beautiful salad for the holidays. I pick up the peppers at Costco when the red, yellow, orange peppers are sold in bundles.
Disclaimer: I really have no idea on the proportions of any ingredients. I just size up the guests and guesstimate how many peppers I'll need. So, when I say "4 peppers" in the recipe I use that term loosely, meaning anywhere from 1-20. And, another thing, if you want to serve this salad on say Sunday, start chopping the peppers on Thursday. It will take about 3 days of solid chopping. Just kidding. It isn't that bad. But chopping is the most time consuming part. But so worth it! Did I mention how beautiful this salad is?
Triple Pepper Salad
4 small orange bell peppers
4 small yellow bell peppers
4 small red bell peppers
1 pkg frozen lima beans
Bottle Brianna's Blush Wine Salad Dressing
Dice peppers into small 1/4 inch cubes. Cook lima beans according to package. Drain. Add to peppers. Toss with enough salad dressing to coat vegetables.
The other good news is that I went to attend something called: Brigham Young University's The Office of First-Year Experience Summer Reading Photo and Essay Contest Recognition Evening. The essay contest drew 41 entries. Sean won first place. So he had the honor (not sure that's what he would call it) of reading his essay. He also had the honor (I'm sure that's what he would call it) of receiving a $500 cash award.
The ceremony was held in the Maeser building on the BYU campus, which is the oldest of all the buildings. It is a beautiful building with solid, heavy wood and thick moldings, marbled staircases and decorative rod iron railings. The ceremony was brief and climactic. A big thank you to Justin, my brother, who attended with us. You're awesome and so supportive, Justin!!!
After all the "hobnobbing" was over with, we went to SubZero and Sean exposed me to liquid nitrogen ice cream. Workers pour some sort of magic cream potion into a bowl, then freeze it with liquid nitrogen before your very eyes. They then chop at it like they are preparing an ice hole for fishing, breaking the ice cream into bite size pieces, all the while it continues to steam like a hot bowl of soup. The ice cream, or ice chunks rather, must be eaten carefully or they freeze to your mucous membranes like a metal flag pole in winter. But quickly, in the heat of your mouth, the chunks turn to creamy goodness. Because of the rapidity of the freeze, the crystals are smaller, rendering it creamier than ice-cream frozen the boring old conventional way. Science experiments coming to life.
The next day, (Wed 12/10) I stole Sean away from his homework and we went to lunch at Pizzeria 712 in Orem. MY NEW FAVORITE LUNCH PLACE. I loved everything about it: the milieu, the menu, the font on the menu, the artwork, the teeny wilted plants in the fired pots on each table. Even the silverware was cool. Sean and I had some sort of brick-oven baked cheesy pizza with arrugula, made with exotic cheeses I couldn't pronounce. But I had no problem savoring them!
I also got to visit with Justin and his darling wife Amy. And captured a little love from their son Miles.
A Perfect Little Getaway!!
Congrats Sean. Thanks for letting me share that moment in the sun with you.
PS: You can read Sean's essay here.
1. Hosting Christmas Sing-A-Long and Cookie Exchange - Involves cleaning my house, which involves work, which involves treating myself to Cashew Almond Roca.
2. Make cookies for the party - But first I have to try a couple different recipes to find one I like. Should I go with traditional Sugar, or Almond Chocolate Nibs, or Cupcakes or.... the decision is killin' me.
3. Pediatrics Final Exam - This takes hours and hours. Especially since I need to listen to hours and hours of lecture FIRST. Can you say procrastination??
4. Paperwork Due for Practicum - Ok. This is all ready. Just need to send it. Send it. Send it already.
5. Teach some teens the Reindeer Rap - This involves choreography which I have no idea how to do, and motivating teen-agers which, come to think of it, I have no idea how to do either.
6. In charge of Ward Christmas Party - Do you think people will mind eating on blankets on the floor - things such as crackers and water. I'm lookin' for simple here.
7. Make soup and rolls for the ward party - This involves dough. Increasing my supply of it. Wish this "rolled" over into increasing dough of another kind.
8. Memorize The Other Wise Man - Why oh why did I volunteer for this? Because I am honoring my grandfather. He used to tell this story every year. I've always wanted to follow in his wise man footsteps. Except that I'm not wise, not a man, and nowhere near as charismatic.
9. Make Caramels - This involves endless stirring and cutting and wrapping and drooling.
10. Go to Stockton's swim meet - Hey, this will be a chance to combine numbers 8 and 10. And celebrate Stockton who swims every morning at 5:00 am which tells you he is some sort of anomaly in our family without any of my blood swimming through his backstroke veins.
11. Attend Community Messiah - Brent says going to this every 5 years is enough. I can't miss it. Hallelujah!
12. Attend Night of Choirs - This happens first, then run to the Messiah, then run home to host our sing-a-long. Sunday will be 4 solid hours of singing. Monday, I won't be talking to anyone. That would be a good day to ask me for advice. You'll finally get a response from me that is worthwhile.
13. Attend Jazz Band Concert - A definite highlight and Stockton's debut as a big drummer boy.
14. Attend Heide's Christmas Party - Combine Heide and her cabin and you have the makings of a fun party. I'm thinking to bring bacon-wrapped appetizers. When you think Christmas, don't you automatically think...bacon.
Okay, I'm trying not to stress. I'm taking deep, cleansing breaths, Deb. Deep, relaxing breaths. Heck, I'm breathing in so much oxygen, I could bottle it and sell it at an oxygen bar!
One year the "advent calendar" was more of an activity calendar. We were given an activity to do each day as a family. Hands down, one of the favorite activities from that year was to make GOO. My kids LOVED that stuff! We made it often. If interested, here is the recipe:
2 Tbls Elmer's Glue-All
1 Tbls Liquid Starch
few drops food coloring (optional)
Mix together. If too sticky, add more starch. If too runny, add more glue.
Editor's note: Do NOT spill the Goo on the carpet or on a brand new leather purse. (Mums the word on whether I am speaking from experience, but just trust me on this one.)
Another of our favorite countdowns, again from mom, is Santa Claus in the chimney. Every day, we pull out one brick as Santa does a shimmy down the chimney.
Last year, my mom did something a little different for our countdown. Each day we read an excerpt from a pioneer journal written in December. It was humbling and amazing to see what little they had and yet what joy and gratitude they expressed. (We are going to re-read those again this year, mom!).
Below is Santa in the chimney. Also seen is a quilted advent calendar made and given to us by my dear friend, Natalie Rawlinson. I treasure it. The project was a labor of love that took many, many hours to make. Notice the detail in each ornament hanging on the tree.
The Tell Tale Heart
TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture -- a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.
Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded -- with what caution -- with what foresight, with what dissimulation, I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night about midnight I turned the latch of his door and opened it oh, so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern all closed, closed so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly, very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this? And then when my head was well in the room I undid the lantern cautiously -- oh, so cautiously -- cautiously (for the hinges creaked), I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights, every night just at midnight, but I found the eye always closed, and so it was impossible to do the work, for it was not the old man who vexed me but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed , to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.
Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers, of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was opening the door little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea, and perhaps he heard me, for he moved on the bed suddenly as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back -- but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness (for the shutters were close fastened through fear of robbers), and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.
I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening , and the old man sprang up in the bed, crying out, "Who's there?"
I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed, listening; just as I have done night after night hearkening to the death watches in the wall.
Presently, I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief -- oh, no! It was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself, "It is nothing but the wind in the chimney, it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or, "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes he has been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions ; but he had found all in vain. ALL IN VAIN, because Death in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel, although he neither saw nor heard, to feel the presence of my head within the room.
When I had waited a long time very patiently without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little -- a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it -- you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily -- until at length a single dim ray like the thread of the spider shot out from the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye.
It was open, wide, wide open, and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness -- all a dull blue with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones, but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person, for I had directed the ray as if by instinct precisely upon the damned spot.
And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses? now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.
But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder, every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! -- do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me -- the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once -- once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But for many minutes the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.
If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence.
I took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly so cunningly, that no human eye -- not even his -- could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out -- no stain of any kind -- no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that.
When I had made an end of these labours, it was four o'clock -- still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, -- for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.
I smiled, -- for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search -- search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.
The officers were satisfied. My MANNER had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears; but still they sat, and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct : I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definitiveness -- until, at length, I found that the noise was NOT within my ears.
No doubt I now grew VERY pale; but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased -- and what could I do? It was A LOW, DULL, QUICK SOUND -- MUCH SUCH A SOUND AS A WATCH MAKES WHEN ENVELOPED IN COTTON. I gasped for breath, and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly, more vehemently but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why WOULD they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men, but the noise steadily increased. O God! what COULD I do? I foamed -- I raved -- I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder -- louder -- louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly , and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! -- no, no? They heard! -- they suspected! -- they KNEW! -- they were making a mockery of my horror! -- this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! -- and now -- again -- hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER! --
"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! -- tear up the planks! -- here, here! -- it is the beating of his hideous heart!"
Attending the Hurricane High vs Juan Diego State Football Championship Nov. 21, 2008
Rice Eccles Stadium, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
Every year Christmas trees become more and more weighted with worldly trinkets and embellishments. Trees, such as the ones seen in designer stores, barely resemble a tree anymore, but rather have become a pyramid of baubles and ribbon. This is reflective of society as a whole. The simple beauty of the pine tree, and likewise, the simple beauty of the Christmas story, has become obscured by bigger, bigger, more, more.
Speaking of decorated trees, here is the tree that Spendloves, Copelands, Anderton's and Fishers decorated for the big Hurricane City Festival of Trees. The entry is called: The Holy War and depicts what some would consider true religion. It was voted the People's Choice Award.... (by the four families that put it up! haha).
Over the last week I have worked to turn our house into something that resembles holiday spirit (actually, it resembles more of a candy store). Initially, I put up a few decorations and sat back and basked in the glow of simplicity. I loved the look and feel of the house. My delight didn't last long. The next morning Brent and the kids said, "Our house looks too bare. Where are the rest of the decorations?"
They want our house to look like Tai Pan Trading. I want our house to look like we are moving. So, the decorating dilemna begins. It is a struggle every year for two main reasons: my tastes change from year to year. And my taste, ever-changing and unpredictable, often differs from some of my family.
"Mom, that is not where the nativity scene goes. Last year it was on the fireplace."
"Yes, but I thought this year we could try it someplace different." I said hope-ingly (I just made that word up).
"Mom, it goes on the fireplace. And where are all the pine trees?"
"Well, this year, I thought we would move away from the outdoorsy, woodsy theme." I sense that I am weakening now.
"But mom, we love those trees and the garland."
Well, who can argue with kids who actually use the term "garland."
And so it goes. Tradition. Dependability. These are the things that my children want. And who can blame them? There IS comfort in continuity.
Then there is the issue of THE tree. For many years, I pushed for either a plain tree with simply pinecones and lights or a "designer tree." Something with ornaments that actually COORDINATED. And consisted of materials other than pipe cleaners, glitter and popsicle sticks, although we did have some purchased ornaments: a heterogenous mix from parents, wedding gifts and travels. But Brent insisted we use what we have and make do. And he definitely didn't want a plain tree.
Many years later, I had a change of heart, and have come to love our haphazard decorations. Every ornament has a story: A soccer ball for the year Stockton and Landon won the gold medal at the Summer Games. A little baby crib for the year our darling daughter was born. A frozen burrito for the year my kids say I threw one at the windshield (JK. BTW, I didn't do it! For the full story, read here.). Also, we have a tradition that we purchase an ornament wherever we go on vacation. So each year, as we unwrap the ornaments, we take a walk down memory lane. For me, this has become one of the most cherished events of the year. Yes, after fighting for years against our humble, eclectic tree, I changed my attitude and have now embraced it. I love our tree and can't wait to get out our funky collection of ornaments.
And then wouldn't you know....This year, after the tree was erected, but not yet decorated, Janessa (age 16) said, "I love the tree just like this. I think we should just have the pinecones and lights."
Last Friday, I became part of the 70 million+ juggernaut and went to see Twilight with my family. Unlike most movies, I thought the movie followed the book fairly well. My thoughts are set forth in numbered format.
1. First of all, I want to say that I don't live in the Northwest for a reason. I was so tired of the darkness in the movie. The constant grayness was smothering, although I realize the monochromatic colors are necessary to symbolize the monotonous life in which both Edward and Bella find themselves. But for most of the movie, it felt as though we were underwater and I just could not wait to come up for air. We were teased with one or two peeks of sunshine, but for my taste, it wasn't enough. I guess that is the whole point of the movie: an unfulfilled yearning for more.
2. Bella was blah in both the book and movie. She has no personality and in the movie had limited range of emotion, voice inflection or facial expression. When she cracked a joke, she didn't crack a smile. Even when Bella was whisked away to treetops, she showed little thrill. I want a main character that is compelling and interesting. Bella has the character of uncooked spaghetti.
3. The constant tight screen shots of Edward and Bella were taxing. Initially, I enjoyed them. Edward's lusty thirst for Bella was almost palpable. And his unsettled restraint was well-played. His inner conflict and turmoil at wanting something so badly, yet mustering the fortitude to resist is the strength of the movie. But after awhile, I grew weary of Bellward's constant close-ups. I wanted more....not more physically, but intellectually.
4. Edward was undeniably seductive. He was clearly The Highlight of Twilight.
Twilight is a great concept/story with such a great premise. It just lacks engaging character development. Overall, I give the movie 3 out of 5 pieces of buttered popcorn, heavily salted of course.
Stay tuned for my next review: The Namesake.
I love the Zuppa Toscana soup at Olive Garden. Sunday, I made my own version. It's very close to the Garden's. And just to get you salivating and in the Italian mood, I have included pictures of Italy's Amalfi Coast.
Play this song and buon appetito!
Photo Credit: Wayfaring Travel
Photo Credit: Lonely Planet Publications
Do you ever feel invisible?
One day, it all began to make sense: the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.
Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?"
No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one seems to see me at all.
I'm invisible. The Invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?
Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."
It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:
"To My Dear Friend, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."
In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:
1. No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.
2. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
3. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
4. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.
It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centerdness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.
The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table."
That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he could add, "you're going to love it there."
And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.
Written by an invisible woman. I wish I knew her name.
Photo: St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow Russia
I mentioned awhile ago that in November my plan was to focus on gratitude. My plan for December is to focus on giving. So in December I am going to give a little gift to my blog (Merry Christmas Ms. Fish) by posting about things that I enjoy or find helpful or would make great gifts. Hopefully this will bring a little happiness, a little spread of cheery winter sunshine and Christmas Joy to myself and the two others that read this.
Happy December...hope we can enjoy the spirit of the season all month long.
One day a few years ago, Sean walked into the kitchen wearing a cranberry red pair of shorts and a navy blue shirt. I said, "Sean...that doesn't match." Without hesitation, Sean replied, "Well you'll have to take that up with Betsy Ross." Sean pops up with funny one-liners often. I love that about Sean. He makes me laugh and brightens my days. He brightens others as well. In fact, some friends at college started a group on Facebook called Sean Jokes to document some of his funnies.
I will never forget when I decided to go to graduate school, but was worried about the dreaded GRE entrance requirement. This test included Alegbra, which I had not taken for 20 years and Geometry, which I had never taken. Sean, about 13 or 14 years old at the time, sat by my side for 3 solid days and tutored me in problem after problem. I only passed that test because of Sean. The child tutoring the mother for graduate school. How about that?
I am so thankful for Sean. He is:
Courteous, polite and helpful to his parents. Supportive and encouraging to his siblings. Happy and even-tempered. Thoughtful and thought-provoking. Forward thinking and questioning. Strives to improve. Uses his time wisely. Makes time for fun. Talented. Handsome. Creative. Friendly to all. Magnetic. Tolerant. Progressive. Helpful. Patient. Adventurous. Adaptable. Really, really funny. And definitely the peacemaker of our family.
I love you dear son. You make parenting easy and joyful.
It was deathly silent inside the Chevette. My three friends and I were lost in thought and frozen in fear as thoughts of mortality settled in around us as thick as a roux. Creeping toward the railing, I glanced into the rear-view mirror to assess the chance of a collision from behind. “Let death come,” I concluded with a peaceful dread.
The encounter with the guardrail came soon enough and interrupted the silence with the tintinnabulation of broken glass. To my surprise, the guardrail held firm and asked no more from us than the sacrifice of taillights and twisted metal. After sputtering to a stop, I re-started the engine and drove home. Shaken and shaking, my thoughts now turned to how I was going to break the news to my father about his car.
“Mom, do you remember when you threw a frozen burrito at the window?”
“I did not throw a burrito,” I said resolutely.
“Yes, you did. You were so mad at something that you threw a burrito at the car windshield.”
Making my way to dad’s office on the 3rd floor of the Ricks College Smith building, I felt the dance of gastric butterflies quicken. My father, upon seeing my somber and ashen face, asked what was wrong. Speaking quickly, before my nerve had the chance to take flight, I told my father about the snowy and icy conditions on the way back from Idaho Falls. And I told him about the accident. Without hesitation and without scorn or vexation, my father gathered me in his arms, caressed my head, and held me as though he were keeping me from falling into the icy river. He expressed his love for me both verbally and non-verbally and spoke of his gratitude that I had escaped unscathed. My father had bespoken his hierarchy of values.
Unlike certain instances in my own life (although I still maintain I never threw a burrito), inflammatory reactions are not my father’s style. Mercy, justice and unconditional love are more his character. And serve as a powerful teacher. Always patient and understanding, my father operates on the premise that people are more important than objects.
“Mom, will you come play basketball with us?”
“I can’t right now sweetie." I lamented. "I have to finish this assignment for school.”
“Kids” my father announced, “tonight, I would like to teach you something. Please come into the kitchen.” As the five of us gathered, dad placed a pot of water on the stove to boil. After it began to bubble, dad held a cookie sheet one foot above the pan to catch the steam. Soon, the moisture turned into a growing army of raindrops, evanescing onto the pot and stove. This was how I first learned about condensation, evaporation and the miraculous genius of the water cycle. After our lesson, we moved into the family room where dad announced that he had made up a new game.
“It is called the Sock Game,” he explained. “Everyone starts out on hands and knees. The object of the game is to remove everyone’s socks while trying to keep your own. The last one with one or more socks still on their feet is the winner.”
That first game was a hit, and led to many, many rounds of the sock game promulgating family fun and beefy bruises. My dad was good at the game and rarely gave up a sock. In exchange, he gave up his laughter and his time.
Assignments come and go. And so does childhood. I am thankful for my father who did not squander away our limited time together on good uses of his time that were not the best use of his time. Our fishing trips, gathering firewood, sitting in the forest listening to conference, swimming at the college, interesting lectures of learning, and family camping are among my treasured memories. And they all include my father.
Time again to change the oil. Steering the car into the shop bay, I carefully tried to avoid driving into the 7 foot deep pit. Two men in solid brown uniforms quickly arrived at my car window and pleasantly asked how they could help. After explaining my request, I returned to answering emails on my iPhone, preoccupied by my own [social] maintenance. Soon, the men asked for payment and waved a cheery good-bye as I drove away smugly excited to check off an item from my do-list.
“Jenni, how long did they take to change the oil?” my husband asked the next morning.
“Oh…I don’t know, about 10 minutes or so.” I absent-mindedly replied. “Why?”
“I don’t think they actually changed the oil. The oil and oil filter are filthy.”
The retaining wall was complete. Strong and secure. A crucial addition to the new house. “What do you think of it?” my dad asked.
“It looks really nice dad,” I confirmed.
The conversation continued about the need for the wall despite more appealing alternatives for precious dollars.
“It cost a lot of money,” mom piped up.
“Maybe you should have tried to get it cheaper,” I said.
Dad replied, “I do not want to cheat someone out of money. I thought his price was fair and I wanted to pay what he deserved.”
As the world yearns to get gain, my father yearns to give goodness.
I am eternally and incredibly thankful for a father who has unwavering integrity, unrivaled wisdom and clever wit. He has so many talents and hobbies and does each well. His garage is organized and immaculate. He is resourceful and frugal. He is a great guitar and piano player, smooth and melodious singer, thought-provoking and engaging writer, creative gardener, and wonderful cook. He finds and appreciates beauty in the earth, music, poetry, people, art and literature. He has an accepting and willing heart. And he has dedicated his life to religion, family and serving others.
Dad, I love you so much. You aren’t allowed to get old or die.
Mom and dad 1977
Mom and Dad in Virginia Nov 2008
Photo credit: Justin Hackworth
Photo credit: Justin Hackworth.com
Dad and grandson, Miles Hackworth
Photo credit: Justin Hackworth
After you are physically satiated....gather around the family and fill your emotional / spiritual cup with this poignant song and video.