In honor of the FINA competition going on right now, I posted this gem! I love watching this! Competition at it's zenith!!


Linking to Lovely Lady Lessy

I loved this.
When you read it, you will see why. Basically it's because the lovely lady lessy is so adorable. And because she writes about my chillins. And because she is my favorite adopted daughter.

Coming August 7th to a Theatre Near You

I can't wait, can't wait, can't wait for this movie! I have two words for you: Meryl Streep and food! Okay, that's four words. But those'er temptation words. I already love this movie and I haven't even seen it!

I'm currently in the middle of reading all seven Harry Potter books. But I'm sorely tempted to take a break and read this. Hello!! It has recipes in it!

Or I could just read the blog here.



and DROOL!!
I want one of these cars.

-0-60 mph in 3.9 sec
-244 miles per charge
-carbon fiber body
-pennies per mile

I'm setting up a fund and accepting donations. If you want to donate to my car, please contact me at 1-888-giv2jen. Because I want to give back to Mother Earth :)



Eclairs Baby!

I made Natalie's cream puffs. She INSPIRED me!!
Easy breezy! And nummy yummy!

Hardest thing about the whole project was heating up my oven in our 109 degree heat wave.

Virginia - The Conclusion: Part IV

The last leg of our vacation was spent hanging out with Kristi, Jorda, Janna, their kids (Lucy, Anna, Oliver and Imogen).

On July 4, we went to Monticello and watched a naturalization ceremony (highly recommended independence day activity…so cool!).

We returned home to a barbecue feast prepared by Janna & Jordan consisting of grilled zucchini and corn, grilled meat, and mashed potatoes. We finished with a patriotric cream cheese and crème fraiche tart that would have made Betsy Ross weep.

And the fireworks show was the best I’ve seen.

Sunday, we attended a southern Baptist church (“if you are wearing a skirt and feel a breeze and there ain’t no wind a’blowin’, your skirt is too short.” “If your pretty girlfriend doesn’t want to come to church wi’you, then you find yourself an ugly girl and come to Jesus.”).

We toured the campus of University of Virginia (started by Thomas Jefferson), went swimming, ate at some great places downtown, and enjoyed the uncharacteristically pleasant summer Virginian air with gelato.

I end this long report right back where we started: RUNNING. When our plane landed in Vegas, we had 10 minutes to find the last shuttle of the night going to St. George. We hurried. We weaved in and out of people at a full gallop.

We made it, preventing us from having to spend the night in the airport.

And after one week of fabulous family, food and fun, I collapsed into my own bed and smiled. And that can only mean one thing. It was good.


Virginia - The Nation's Capitol: PART III

The next couple of days were spent in Washington DC and had two resounding themes: RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED and IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME.

It doesn't sound funny reading it in black and white, but let me tell you those themes are laugh out loud hilarious!!

Thursday, July 2 (after Kristi’s half-day class on anesthetics), my mom, Kristi and I drove the purple pickle (a well-loved Suburu) to Washington DC. Arriving after the town had rolled up for the evening, we walked and walked and walked along the National Mall. To be honest, this had very little to do with seeing the sights. It had to do with finding food for the fiercely famished family.

We were searching for a hamburger joint Jordan insisted was better than Five Guys Burgers & Fries. This was a direct threat to my Five Guys loyalty. So this I HAD to experience! We searched with a diligence that would make William J. Bennett proud. (And please, don't blurt out here...why not use your iPhone for directions?? This has already been pointed out more than...say...five or twenty times!)

As we walked back and forth in our search, we really became familiar with the Navy Memorial. And with each walk-by, we laughed. “Right back where we started,” we would quip.

We took a picture here in honor of my brother, Jeremy, is who being deployed as a Navy physician to Afghanistan this month. (I'm praying for you, bro!)

The wording on the steps is from a 1963 speech by President John F. Kennedy: Any man who may be asked what he did to make his life worthwhile can respond with a good deal of pride, "I served in the United States Navy."

Realizing the metro was closing soon, and feeling more and more desperate for sustenance, we finally “tripped” (literally, in my case) into a Mexican place, which turned out to be a Tapas-like menu of delicious flavors. We didn't try the grasshoppers. No travel hangover could make me do that.

The next morning we were fresh and ready to walk some more. But this time we fell into a new theme: IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME.

We started the day taking the purple pickle in for wheel bearing surgery. We happened to find a mechanic minutes from our hotel who could work on it right away (right time). And the shop was in walking distance from the bus station (right place). We whizzed into downtown DC on the clean, comfortable metro. While our car was being tuned up, we also tuned-up our knowledge of American history visiting the Holocaust museum, the Smithsonian American History museum (this is a Lincoln election banner),

the Library of Congress,

and of course the Capitol.

Oh, and we did manage to find the burger place. "Which is more than a simple hamburger joint. It is a rallying cry. It is a whoop. A holler. A hail. And a salaam. It is an aspirational articulation, an inspirational idiom and, quite frankly, the best way...to enjoy handmade burgers, hand-cut fries and handspun ice cream."

I drowned myself in homemade fries with mango ketchup, slurped a toasted marshmallow milkshake and savored the Blazin' Barn Burger (pickled daikon & carrots, mint, cilantro, thai basil, lettuce and spicy mayo on a sweet, buttery soft, freshly baked Pennsylvania Dutch Bun.) Oh lawsa mercy!!

It had been an inspiring, significant and delightful day.

THEN....getting ready to leave the mall, we heard singing. Never being girls to pass up live entertainment, we sauntered in the direction of music.

Now this is what I’m talking about. Again, we were at the right place at the right time. We had happened upon the Capitol Fourth Concert dress rehearsal. Plopping ourselves down on the grass, not far from the stage, we spent the next 3 hours watching the lawn grow more and more congested with people, and argued with the man behind us about snowboarding vs skiing.

Then we spent the next couple of hours watching the show.

We rocked out with Barry Manilow and Natasha Bedingfield and chuckled giddily when Aretha Franklin walked out in levi capri’s, tennis shoes and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt.

It was thrilling. But even more thrilling than seeing the concert was seeing my mother see the concert. I witnessed her fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Wow. Washington DC was my grandparent's old stomping ground. It was great to be there for many reasons and share it with my mom and sis!!


Virginia - Setting Up Home, PART II

After a near miss of our flight at the Las Vegas airport, the rest of our journey was as smooth as worn leather. My sister (Kristi) and her friend, Lou, picked us up at the airport. The two-hour drive to Charlottesville was full of catching up and laughter.

We stayed at my brother Jordan’s house, a beautiful skip and a jump through the dense woods from Kristi’s. To access the woods from Jordan’s side, we walked into his old metal shed and out the 'secret' back door.

Emerging from the shed into the thicket, I half expected Mr. Beaver to appear and take us to Aslan.

Kristi had just moved from NYC to begin anesthesia residency at the University of Virginia. Earlier that day, Lou, a baseball diehard and kindness connoisseur, unloaded the boxes from the moving pod. So while Kristi went to work at her new job, we spent the first day unpacking and setting up Kristi’s house.

Mom organized the kitchen. Janna and I worked on putting away Kristi's clothes. We would finish unpacking a box we were certain was the last, only to find another one. With MORE clothes. She had work clothes, camping clothes, casual clothes, fancy clothes, pants for Peru and pants for Broadway. My sister's wardrobe is like a dreamy investment portfolio: diversified, dependable, uncomplicated, and padded with plenty of surplus. Speaking of excess, I think a good motto to live by is this: Surplus is for Siblings!

Later that evening, we ate the maiden meal in Kristi’s house of roasted red pepper hummus with pita bread, strawberry spinach salad (with bleu cheese and bacon) and fresh bruschetta on a toasted baguette. I repeat. The first meal in her house included bacon!! This has got to be some sort of good omen.

The day ended visiting on the front porch in the Virginia air: our eyes enjoying the magic of fireflies and the conversation lilting with the comfort of familial familiarity.


Happy Pioneer Day

You can't properly honor the pioneers without including music in your celebration. Music and pioneer life were inseparable.

Music was always mentioned in pioneer journals. It was such a re-occuring theme that one might think an audition was required before joining the church. Why did the church seem to attract so many musicians? Perhaps people sensitive to the beauty of music were the type that were also spiritually sensitive and receptive to the gospel message. Perhaps there are other explanations.

Why was music so important to the pioneers? One author quipped, “every time those Mormons dig an irrigation ditch they write a song about it.”

Another person who encountered many Mormon pioneers recorded, “In every Mormon train there are usually some musicians, for they seem to be very fond of song and dance, and as soon as the camp work is done the younger element gather in groups and 'trip the light fantastic toe' (hmmm, interesting vernacular!) with as much vim as if they had not had a twenty mile march that day.”

For the pioneers, it provided the blessing of entertainment and simply a way to pass the time. It was therapy and a coping mechanism. For many, music was their refuge and often marched away their woes. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it perfectly:

And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares that infest the day

Shall fold their tents like the Arabs

And as silently steal away

Another of the blessings of music was comfort. Still another was protection. In many respects, you might say music figuratively saved lives. But in a few instances, music literally saved lives:

A group of Latter-day Saint pioneers, led by Brigham Young, were near the Rocky Mountains. One night they camped in a small valley. After supper they built a big bonfire. They sang and danced around the bonfire to help them forget their fears and worries.

Before they went to bed in their wagons, leaving a single guard on duty, they sang “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” a song they used to encourage each other and show their dedication to the Lord.

That night there were a thousand unfriendly Indians hiding around the camp, ready to attack the pioneers. But after the Indians heard the pioneers sing “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” they were unable to attack. They knew the Great Spirit (their name for Heavenly Father) was watching over the pioneers, so they got on their horses and rode away, leaving the pioneers alone.

Some time later, the man who had been chief over the group of Indians told this story to some Latter-day Saint missionaries. When he finished the story, he took out a violin and began to play “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” He explained to the missionaries, “This is your song, but it is my song, too. I play it every night before I go to bed. It brings the Great Spirit here to me and makes me and my people calm and happy.” (See Lucile C. Reading, “Song of the Pioneers,” Children’s Friend, July 1965, p. 37.)

A fourth blessing was that it served as a means of spiritual worship and became a mediator between their spiritual and secular life. Lucy Mack Smith, mother of prophet Joseph led a group of Saints from NYC to Ohio. Part of journey included a boat voyage along the Erie Canal. Lucy writes:

"At evening we seated ourselves and sang a hymn, and the solemn music rose in such sweet melancholy on the clear air and died away so beautifully upon the water, that it melted every heart that heard it. And when we bowed down before the Lord in prayer, our souls burned within us with love.”

Have you ever had that experience? Where music burned your soul with love? Music softens hearts. Certain songs can pull an inner curtain aside, and bring people closer to God than almost any other medium.

There are few original pioneers songs. Come, Come Ye Saints is one of the them. It was written during a particularly difficult time on the pioneer trail in a company led by Brigham Young. William Clayton, a great singer and member of that company, was concerned about his wife back home giving birth. Born out of Clayton’s desire to bouy up himself and the Saints, he wrote the great ballad Come, Come Ye Saints, which became the iconic pioneer prayer. In my opinion, that song is THE Latter Day Saint anthem, as meaningful to the history of the Church of Latter Day Saints as the national Anthem is to America. It was such a beacon of strength to the pioneers. And can be to us as well.

But with joy, wend your way. This is my song!

Enjoy the 24th with your family.

And hopefully enjoy some good food! As for me and my house, we are making ice cream.


Virginia - Getting There: Part I

Hearing your name announced over the intercom in the airport usually means one of two things. And neither is good.

So when I heard our names on the loudspeaker at the Las Vegas McCarron airport, my heart did a flipturn. Although I had a good idea of the message, I couldn’t make it out exactly due to my heavy breathing (heavy breathing in the airport usually means one of two things. And neither is good).

You see, when we arrived at the check-in gate, the lady at the counter looked up and said rather drolly: “Your plane leaves in six minutes. Are you sure you want to try to make it?”

“Of course!” I sang enthusiastically with my St. George airport mentality.

The lady at the ticket counter just shook her head and stared at us like we were Neanderthals. We didn’t know what she knew: that our departure gate was as far away as the next town.

We were quite a sight, my mom and I. Two middle-aged women in flip flops and birks, zigzagging our luggage behind us, purses bobbing against our backs, in a dead run. People parted as we approached, which usually means one of two things. And in this case, it wasn’t good.

Since our flight was at 7 am the airport was fairly barren. We breezed through security, timed the tram perfectly, and despite great opposition from our bladders (remember, middle-age), we continued to move as briskly as we could in our “condition.”

Boarding the plane chockablock full of people, we concentrated on maneuvering our luggage down the aisle barely big enough for a bowling ball. We sensed a palpable annoyance by the glaring passengers. Finally turning to one man, I blurted, “what’s the matter? Haven’t you seen anyone topless before?”

Just kidding. I didn't say that. And as far as I remember, we weren't topless.

Literally seconds after we boarded, the plane door clunked shut behind us and within minutes we were taxiing on the runway. Whew! We made our flight. In pure movie drama fashion. I plopped down into the seat and took a deep breath. My lips upturned into a parabola and I imagined God winking at us.

My mom and I were on our way to Virginia. That could only mean one thing. And it was good.


While You are Away, Let the Blog Play

So...I took a vacation. In honor of America's birthday, I traversed across her entire landmass. And although my blog deserved to experience the sticky heat in Virginia, it had to wait for my return. Because I left my precious MAC behind.

But that didn't stop me from blogging.

All you savvy super cool bloggers probably already know how to set up automatic posts. But just in case you don't, here is a cool little trick enabling you to schedule a posting sometime in the future (if you use Blogger).

Step One: (To be completed after you write the post)

Step Two:

Step Three: Click PUBLISH POST
Step Four: Check under the EDIT POST tab. You should see the name of the blog entry and the date it is scheduled to post.

Voilah! Simple huh? It's as easy as being in Washington DC on the Fourth of July!!

**Postnote: There has been a recently recognized problem with Blogger and scheduled posts. They are working on it as quickly as possible to remedy the problem. If your scheduled post doesn't work, don't give up. And don't swear at me. Just keep trying.


Cutting Edge Designs

If you live in a kitchen the size of a portapotty and space is precious, then you might appreciate this. I love the sleek design and clever use of space.
Photo credit

Have you ever been so hungry that you think to yourself: "gee...I am going to bite into a picture frame if I don't get a chicken sandwich this instant!" Here is a solution. And you won't get slivers. This tasty frame can be hung on your kitchen wall or laid on the counter. You can grow aromatic plants such as basil, chive, coriander and mint.

Perfect for framing a photo of that certain someone who deserves to be encircled with weedy aromatic stalks of edible growths.

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Are you upset about having to bathe indoors and just can't get over having to step out onto a clean floor? Then lookie here. Why not try to recreate an outdoor earthy feel in the privacy of your own domicile?

Introducing a revolutionary MOSS mat made of imputrescible foam called plastazote. Each cell grows one of three different moss varieties (ball, island, and forest moss). Growth is sustained by the bathroom humidity and water dripping from your swamp-lovin' body.

BTW: Imputrescible means not able to decompose.

Photo credit


The Quinceanera is a coming of age ceremony held on a girl's fifteenth birthday, recognizing her journey from childhood to maturity. Roots have been traced back to 500 BC from the Aztec culture where the age of 15 was considered apt for motherhood. The celebration embraces family and social virtues. Customs are incorporated into the ceremony which highlight faith, family, friends, music, food and dance.

In April, Otto was asked to be in "the court" for Jessica Tracy and participate in her Quinceanera. The teenagers in the court practiced for three months to prepare. They performed a traditional Punta dance, a Waltz, as well as a medley of other dances.

On June 26, 2009, their hard work and practice culminated at the big party. This was our first Quinceanera, and hopefully not our last. What a significant, memorable evening.



Yesterday was Sean's 19th birthday. The day came and went and I didn't take one picture. What kind of mother does that?
Lame, lame, lame!


God Bless America Today and Always

I'm so glad the 4th of July is during the summer.

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There is nothing quite like watching fireworks on a sultry summer evening!

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Our flag is so beautiful. And so is our country.

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God Bless America. And all our soldiers serving to defend her.

Happy Birthday America. I love YOU!!


John Adams Burger

I have it on good authority that the founding fathers would like you to eat a burger for the Fourth of July celebration. It's like eating a burritotacoenchilada for Cinco de Mayo. It is the American thing to do!

Oh say, can you see? THIS burger will cause [tastebud] bombs bursting in air. It will give proof through the night that your esophagus is still there.

Wait a minute...hold the song! That doesn't sound like a good endorsement.

My homemade burger thee
Heinz ketchup liberty
Of thee I sing.
Lands, may my belly thrill
With onion rings until
I can no longer see my heels
Let freedom ring!

Ok. Enough. Can you see why I wasn't asked to write the National Anthem?

Now on to the business at hand. Do you want to make a burger that will spark fireworks and carry you away into burgergasmic heaven?

Although you must forewarned: Once you serve it to your family and friends, you will never again be free on the Fourth of July. How ironic is that? You will not be free because you will be demanded, yea even held at gunpoint if necessary, to make these burgers every year from now on. So serve at your own risk, and know that I warned you.

The stars of this burger are the tender homemade bun, the spicy chipotle ketchup and the crispy onion straws. Then throw in some iceburg lettuce, a crisp quality pickle, a creamy slice of Gouda or Gruyere cheese, a piece of smoky bacon cooked just short of crispness so it doesn't shatter in your mouth and....

Sorry. I had to leave for a minute. I drooled over my keyboard and had to stop to clean it up.

Without further adieu, my fellow Americans: may I introduce you to the classical All-American John Adams hamburger. So aptly named because it is about the same height as President Adams and just as spicy!


Beef (since it is a holiday, ask the butcher to grind 2 3/4 pounds of prime chuck (10% to 15% fat) with 4 to 6 ounces of prime sirloin fat (the combination should have 20% to 28% fat total). Mash broken pieces of quality white bread (crusts removed) with some milk. Mix that into meat. This will help hold the meat together and allow you to cook it well-done without drying out. For flavor, mix A-1 steak sauce also into the meat. 

Cemita roll (standing in today as a hamburger bun)
From the Homesick Texan
Makes 8 small buns

2 cups (9 oz.) flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of yeast
2 eggs at room temperature
½ cup of buttermilk
¼ cup of canola oil
1 tablespoon of milk
1 tablespoon of water
¼ cup of sesame seeds

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Whisk the eggs together with the oil.Heat the buttermilk on low until it’s warm (110 degrees if you want to use a thermometer). Do not let it come to a boil!

Stir into the dry ingredients the warm buttermilk, eggs and oil. Mix until the liquid is incorporated and then let it rest for 15 minutes.

After it’s rested, knead the dough on a floured-surface until it’s smooth, though note that it will still be a bit sticky. That’s OK.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it and let it rise until it’s doubled in size, about an hour and a half.

Depending on how large you want your rolls to be, divide the dough into eight or four balls and let them rest, covered for 15 minutes.

To shape the rolls, take each ball and then flatten it so it looks like a disc.

Place each roll a few inches apart on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet and let the rolls rise for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

When rolls have risen, mix the milk and water and brush the top of each roll with the wash. then sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Note: Bread only lasts a day, but freezes well.


Onion Straws
chipotle ketchup (recipe below)
ripe avocados
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large, ripe heirloom tomato
Gruyere, Cheddar or Gouda cheese
Iceberg lettuce leaves, each about 5 inches wide
Dijon mustard, smooth and coarse-grained

Chipotle Ketchup

Adapted from the Homesick Texan

1 medium-sized sweet onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
28-ounce can of diced tomatoes (the fire-roasted ones are great!)
½ cup of apple cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon molasses
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 chipotle pepper in adobo
Salt to taste

On medium low heat, cook the diced onion in the olive oil in a medium-sized pot just until the onions start to brown a bit on the ends.

Add the tomatoes and their juice to the pot, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.

After an hour, puree the mixture, and then continue to cook on low heat until it reaches your desired thickness.


Freedom is Over-rated

The price we pay for freedom is too high.

And the benefits of democracy are too small. America’s old-fashioned ideal of freedom is too hard, too expensive, too time-consuming and too stressful. May I suggest a paradigm shift in our thinking.

Cambodia showed us how to deal with the problems of freedom. From 1975-1979, the people of Cambodia were ruled by the communist party known as the Khmer Rouge, under the leadership of Pol Pot. Under this regime, all of the population was taken care of by the government. Food was provided and rationed daily. Think of the time it would save if we didn’t have to prepare food. We wouldn’t have to drive five flippin’ miles to the grocery store or face the dizzying array of fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market. Too many choices are paralyzing.

And another thing. Getting a small bowl of rice everyday would eliminate the burden of menu planning. And it would bring household peace. No more children complaining about having to eat onions or tomatoes. And glory hallelujah! No longer would we need “The Chart” on the fridge to settle the dispute about whose night it is to fix dinner.

Under the Khmer Rouge, everyone was issued the same black clothing. We wouldn’t have to waste time at a mall ever again! Have you ever had this frustrating experience: standing in your walk-in closet the size of New Hampshire bulging with clothing and thinking “I have nothing to wear.” Don’t you just hate that? Again, the burden of choice would be completely lifted.

In Cambodia during this time, permission had to be granted to leave your town or have visitors. Luckily, you would have the legitimate excuse you've always wanted to avoid entertaining your annoying relatives. "Sorry, you can't come visit. It wasn't approved."

Don’t even get me started on healthcare. Oh if we could just have socialism. No more high premiums. And the best part is that there will be a 6-12 month waiting list to have procedures and tests done, so if you need something major done urgently, you could go to Mexico. How lucky to get to travel. A vacation AND healthcare all in one!

America's role of being an ensign to the world is too much pressure.

Pastor William J. Cameron, once said, “God’s grading is always upward. If He raises up a nation, it is that other nations may be raised up through its ministry. If he exalts a great man or woman, an apostle of liberty or science or faith, it is that he might raise a degraded people to a better condition. This divine selection is not a prize, a complement paid to a man or a nation – it is a burden imposed. It is not a pandering to the vanity of a person or people; it is a yolk bound upon the necks of those who are chosen for a special service.”

Since cutting the tether in 1776, America has been viewed as the golden child. But having to uphold such a reputation can be destructive. High expectations create a fantasy world resulting in a perpetual state of frustration, accompanied by intolerance and calcified opinions. Those with high acumen can observe that over time, this huge responsibility of exemplification has weighted down our nation into social, economic, political, educational, moral and spiritual decline.

Finally, our leaders are realizing that it would be better to let other nations share in the siren’s song of glory. Becoming purchased by China will absolve us of the difficulties in being the world’s superpower. We can turn over the fiscal mess to them. Thank heavens they are willing to be our savior. Eventually as China becomes owners of America, they can take over the political climate as well. Maybe, we can even reach the point that we won’t have to deal with elections. No more mud slinging and streets polluted with campaign signs. No more factions. No more dissent. That is just too painful to put up with in exchange for being able to elect our leaders.

Helen Keller once said, "The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision." Our founding father's vision was so short-sighted. They simply had too much integrity and were too idealistic. Freedom just isn't all it was cracked up to be.

It is no wonder that people don’t stand and salute the flag anymore as it marches by in parades.


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