Monday, December 29, 2008


I’m one of those people that can have a list stacked high of things to do, but will sit and read a magazine because I don’t want to throw it out if I haven’t read it, yet I can’t dust if the magazine is in the way.

That’s today. I have a list of things that need to be done:

~We have out of town guests coming (my sister, Rachel, got a ticket from her husband for Christmas! We are so surprised she gets to come. My sister, Chris, and her family are coming, as well as another nephew, Levi, and nieces, Emily and Rachel. Calvin’s mom is also coming and all of Ray’s family from Alaska, Texas and Idaho.)

~A house to clean (oh baby, Christmas can be hard on a home) and air mattresses to inflate. (When the kids come home from college they live out of suitcases . . . and the floor becomes part of their suitcase. It doesn’t stress me because it’s only temporary, but trying to clean house on top of suitcase-living kids without making them feel displaced is a little tricky. Calvin and I were planning things out this morning and he said, “I’ll get Abe to organize his things.” We were looking straight into Calvin’s side of the closet which is always in disarray when he said it. The paradox was amusing.

~Several large meals to prepare (food has got to be one of the best parts of a celebration, don’t you think? Our house is the headquarters for everyone while they’re here. At least I’ve already put twenty pounds of beef to cook in the roaster for bbq’s later in the week so I’ve started.)

~A cultural hall to prepare for a wedding (where oh where does the microphone and sound system and tables and chairs and portable stage go? The same place socks do I suppose. At least no one wanted the screen. Ande is sitting in the middle of our family room floor assembling wedding decorations and chuckling at the TV show she is watching. Her laugh is such a happy sound.)

~We woke up to freezing rain and now it’s dumping snow. It’s beautiful! Early, early this morning Calvin and I had to water the table centerpieces which are under the plant lights at his workplace. We saw three semis and three cars off the road and since Abe has to take the GRE at a college 90 miles from here, Calvin took him because he has 4 wheel drive.

~Find eggplant colored shoes for a wide foot. Not an easy task. I got a dress a few weeks ago, but purple shoes? I’m still looking.

So with a list of minute details that need tended, what do I do? I sit down to blog. It doesn’t make sense. It really doesn’t. I guess I must have already read all the magazines.

Do you get side-tracked when you have a long list?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

52 Blessings—Lotion

I suffer from the winter itch. Back in the day I endured the second-trimester pregnancy itch. And though Ande says this is NOT a good visual, it's true, I’m like a cow looking for a barn door or barb-wire fence to rub on when it hits.

A few years ago I found some lotion that is like shortening that relieves some of the misery. Calvin, thoughtful man that he is, put a bottle of this lotion in my sock.

Lotion. It’s a little thing, kind of like ibuprofen, bleach, toast, and vacuums, and I’m so grateful for it because it makes my life more comfortable.

What little thing makes your life more comfortable?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Life in My World—Christmas Past

Cali and Ande sledding on Christmas Day

Out in the garage in a couple of plastic tubs sits our Christmas . . . and what a Christmas it was. It was such an enjoyable day. My one big goal this month was to enjoy each day and neither wish one away or hang on to one too tightly. I’m feeling very goal-y and like maybe I should set monthly goals from now on instead of yearly ones.

On Christmas Eve while Calvin still worked on projects in the shop, Abe, Ande and I went sledding. We have 10-12 inches of powdered snow and Abe pulled me and Ande around on an inner-tube behind the four wheeler. We froze. As we rode along and the icy snow blew in our faces, I thought:

--“This is so absolutely ridiculous we could get in a car and virtually have the same experience—moving at a pace faster than we can walk—and we’d be warm without the wet or cold, but this? This is freezing fun and riding in a car is not. ”

--“How did the pioneers and early settlers make it through this cold? How?”

--"Almanzo Wilder is a hero for getting people wheat in -40 degree temps."

After we were sufficiently soaked and freezing, Ande and I came in and built the fire bigger to warm up while Calvin and Abe went to the feed store to get a real sled (that looks like a water trough . . . in fact, I think I’ll fill it with pop and ice next summer it’s such a versatile thing). We went back outside for a few more rides and then came in to make turtles—which quickly grew into a half a dozen other recipes, too.

I can see that if I’ve spent three paragraphs on one subject, this will be a thesis or dissertation (without the intelligence) so I’m going to change formats and list a few highlights of the last week instead:

--The gifts. The family gave me such incredibly thoughtful gifts:

Ande drew me a picture of things that I’ve given her (a lamp sits on two books; one is The Great Brain and the other a book of Robert Frost Poems. She said I taught her to love to read and that love and interest has grown and expanded). The picture has several other symbols unique and complimentary to my role as her mother. I just love it. It sits on a shelf in the living room where I can see it several times a day.

Abe gave me iPod attachments. I got an iPod a long time ago but have never used it. It seemed too expensive and I considered returning it. Then Abe downloaded everything on it for me and others needed parts from it so it sat full but unuseable for six months. But now? Now it has parts and is loaded and Abe will teach me to love it.

Cali and Ray gave me a plane ticket to see my sister in Oklahoma during spring break. I cannot wait to go and spend time with her and her family. I will see an armadillo, but hope I don’t see a water moccasin.

Calvin gave me muck boots. Oh, they are so handy and nice. They slip on, are warm and durable. He knows me. Then he and Ande also gave me a 24” Cri-cut. Later, when Calvin and I were alone in the kitchen I whispered to him that I was going to return it because it was too expensive. He got real stern and said, “I have a whole shop full of wood tools to help me do what I do, you need tools to help you.” I will keep it and do my best to get their money’s worth out of it.

We have a tradition as part of our Christmas Eve program to sit in a circle and write three things that we love and appreciate about each other on a sheet of paper. When everyone has had a turn to write, we roll the papers up and tape them closed and put them in the tree to open Christmas evening. We all love this tradition, especially because for the last four Christmases we’ve had a missionary serving and this is one tradition they can participate in being far from home. We e-mail the appreciations expressed for them and they e-mail our appreciations back. Ty sent his list . . . and it was just like he was in the room:

the irony of this picture is not lost on me

Here is what I love about you.


*You are hardworking and love your family.

*You taught me many things. Here are a few. They are similar to President Hinkley's 6 Be's.

#Be Clean. You said, "Were you born in a barn?" and "Your room is a pigsty."
#Be Smart. You said, "I'm know more." (teaching through example) and "You got funetta for brains boy?"
#Be Humble. Know More, See More, Smart More, need I say more?
#Be Grateful. You have been a great father that I can be grateful for.
#Be Prayful. Watching you pray with Mom every morning.
#Be Kind. The way you treat everyone. Especially Mom, Cali, and Ande.

*I love spending time with you. I don't care what it is. You are fun to be with.


*You are selfless. Others always come first in your book. I don't know how you do it. It is a great example to me.

*You have a great ability to teach and write. Once again, I don't know how you do it.

*You are resiliant. You can make it through any challenge. I love you.

*Bonus* You are my Princepessa.


*You like to have fun but don't ever let that deter you from the most important things.

*I think you and I just click and help each other stay sane by driving each other crazy.

*You make things happen. You are the Straw that Stirs the Drink. Sometimes you are even the Disturber of the Peace.

Ray...I don't know you (yet), but...

*You must be quite a people's person. It sounds like you can work and play and anything else with anyone. There are a lot of different personalities in our family and you fit right in the middle of it all.

*You are great to Cali.

*You have done some very interesting and cool things.


*You are loyal and a true friend.

*You have paved the way for me in everything in life. I always wanted to be like you.

*You are firm and unchanging despite what others around you think.


*You brighten any room you walk into. Some people really just seem to radiate light, and you are one of them.

*You are fun. It doesn't matter what we do together. I especially liked reading out loud to each other.

*You are great at anything inside a house. (Except cleaning a bedroom to Cali Standards....and who is good at that besides Cali?...)

I love you all so much. Happy New Year.

Love Elder Payne 潘長老

Okay, I can see list format isn’t going to work, either. I’m just too darn wordy this Christmas. Sufficeth me to say we had a wonderful Christmas. I’m so glad we have a holiday that focuses on Christ, giving and family. Christmas Past. Success. Here’s to Christmas future . . . and a wedding next week.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


“ . . . peace on earth, good will to men . . . ”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday Memories—Alvin & the Snow

My sister tells this memory better than I do, but she doesn’t have a blog so you get second choice.

Sometimes we left the horses up in the hills on the summer range until after Christmas. One Christmas Eve afternoon, dad said he was running up to the hills to give them some hay and invited me along. We drove for an hour up the rutted and drifted roads to the pasture, and when the horses saw the pick-up loaded with hay, they came running. Shorty (our horse that was born on a wintry day and whose ears were frozen “short”), led the pack snorting with his proud nubbin-eared head held high. The horses stamped and circled waiting for the first fork-full of hay to be thrown over the fence. They were real glad to see us.

After we’d fed them, we climbed back in the pickup and dad said he thought we’d stop by Wally and Alvin’s to wish them a Merry Christmas, too. Mom had sent something to give them, probably a loaf of Christmas bread and a bowl of caramels—two of her Christmas trademarks.

Wally and Alvin were two old ranchers that lived at the base of the hills. Wally, the father, and Alvin, his son, had a three-legged, hairless dog named Happy. Wally was ancient and Alvin was half-ancient. Their home was a squared-log home with white chinking which got its electricity from the backyard generator. Wally, Alvin and Happy were glad whenever our family dropped by and the routine was always the same. They greeted us at the backdoor and Wally yelled at Happy to shut-up as we entered. We’d follow them through the trail on the back porch (walking around any sick baby calves), past the old stove in the kitchen with a cast-iron frying pan of cold bacon grease, and into the sitting room. The sitting room had a pull-string light with a foil pie pan underneath the bulb. Candy orange slices, orange circus peanuts, chocolate covered cherries, or toasted coconut marshmallows sat on the oilcloth covered table—along with newspapers, magazines, and a tin of Wally’s stinky asthma medicine.

Wally always took his seat in a green rocking chair while Alvin sat in a straight-backed chair at the table. Dad would draw a chair up to Wally and visit with him about cows and cattle prices. We kids sat near Alvin, who never said a word. Occasionally he’d bashfully nod when Wally said something to him, and sometimes he even smiled, but most of the time he just sat there, painfully shy—almost like he expected Wally to throw a shoe at him to tell him to shut-up like he did Happy. We kids sat equally as quiet. At some point in the visit Wally would remind Alvin to give us candy so he would carefully pass around the candy of the day. Nothing out of the ordinary happened on this Christmas Eve visit, it was pretty much like the many other visits we made to them. Dad and I visited for an hour and then went home to a warm house with a cooked turkey and my grandparents and cousins.

One winter we went sledding and since there were a few big hills by Wally and Alvin’s we drove up to their place. We kids piled out of the 1972 green suburban and slid down the slick road on inner-tubes a time or two. Alvin just stood at the top of the hill and watched us, silently. Skinny, old Wally sat in the vehicle trying to stay warm until . . . . until . . . Alvin cautiously and without a word took one of the inner-tubes and got on it. As he started sliding down the hill, Wally came alive and hollered shut-up-Happy style at Alvin to “Come here and get off that blasted tube.” Alvin sat primly and straight-backed all the way down the hill. I don’t think he even smiled, I know he didn’t yell “Wheeee” and that he got a good tongue-lashing from Wally when he reached the bottom.

Wally and Alvin, Christmas, hungry horses, snow and inner-tubes—a fond Monday Memory.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

52 Blessings—Traditions

I remember giving a Relief Society lesson on traditions while I was in college. I knew I wanted a colorful visual aid so the subject could better stick in people’s minds, but I’m no artist. I tried to think of something that traditions were like that I could draw. I had the skills to cut a hot dog and a bun out of paper and add a splash of bright yellow, so I said that a family without traditions is like a hot dog without mustard. Oh ho. What a crummy analogy. And yet, I cannot forget that bright red hotdog with mustard on it. Regardless of my poor object lesson, I’m grateful for traditions and I don’t think it’s the picture of the hotdog that has stayed with me as much as it was that then I began to realize the powerful hold that traditions have on families. My week has been full of traditions:

Tradition: Preserving Memories and Friends serving friends.

For several years, my friend, Deb, and I have put on scrapbooking retreats. I wasn’t a scrapbooker when we started, I was an organizer. Slowly but surely, I started to see the value of capturing valuable memories with pictures. Having no decent camera when the kids were young or the finances to develop rolls of film or have professional portraits taken, I have very few pictures of our kids comparatively. Some years, there are none. Nada. Zilch. I wrote detailed journals and hoped that would suffice, but you know “a picture is worth a thousand words” and that means my kids had some awful bulky reading if they want to “see” themselves. Regardless of our few picture dilemma there is one thing I want and that is for our children to know how incredibly important they are to us and as children of God. Deb gave me the idea of doing A-Z books by thinking of 26 adjectives, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet, to describe each child. Then I could take what pictures I had and use them to illustrate the words describing the kids.

I did Ty’s book the first year, then Cali’s, followed by Ande’s (interspersed with smaller albums for Trevor and Trent, our oldest sons from Calvin’s first marriage who I had even less pictures of). I only had Abe’s left to do and wanted to give it to him for Christmas this year, but these albums take me days and days and days to do. When Cali and Ray announced they were getting married in five weeks, I thought I’d have to bag Abe’s book because it was only half done. I really wanted to give it to him this year because he has waited patiently each year while the others received theirs and with him graduating from college next spring and beginning his military service, well, I just wanted him to have his childhood preserved before his childhood was completely gone.

Enter Deb. She called and said, “Can you skip the singles’ ward family home evening and have it with me and Darla and Heather on Monday? Before you say, ‘No’ think about it. We want to come help you finish Abe’s book.” It was so very humbling to have three women with busy, busy, busy lives set aside their whole evening and show up on my doorstep with adhesive guns and paper-trimmers ready to go to work. They helped me make major in-roads on the book and Friday afternoon, I closed it. Done. Complete. Memories sufficiently captured. Abe now has a gift under the tree.

Tradition: Christmas gift-giving

Our friend, Cynthia Milligan, died this summer leaving behind her husband, Matt and six children. Matt is our doctor, so it’s easy to admire and appreciate his medical abilities, but the thing I first noticed about him when they moved here was his parenting skills. He was a natural at caring for their children and the kids always snuggled up close to him on the church pew or in the lawn chair. I well remember their son Ty whimpering and pleading to the congregation to save him as Matt took him out of the chapel and then Ty clinging to Matt when he carried him back in several minutes later.

The Milligans always deliver a Christmas gift. The first year it was wassail and another year it was a take-out box of fortune cookies. Since Cynthia died, Matt has made the transition to single parenting look easy (I’m not minimizing his challenge, loss or pain; it’s just that he has done an incredible job of tending both roles). However, I didn’t expect Matt to deliver gifts this year. Thursday evening I heard kids shouting and giggling on the sidewalk and then the doorbell ring. I opened the door and there stood the youngest three Milligan children. I opened the door and the three charged in, Ty tackled my leg and the two girls gave me a big, tight hug. But that wasn’t all. They had made popcorn balls and wrapped them in colored cellophane, too. Every time I take a bite of one of those balls I think of Matt spearheading the popcorn ball gift team—popping popcorn, stirring the sauce, packing them into balls and then driving the kids around to deliver gifts for the sake of tradition—for the sake of keeping a family strong. I wish I could dry one and hang it on the tree as an ornament for years to come . . . now that would make a good object lesson.

Tradition: Bridal showers

My friend, Shelly, called and offered to host a bridal shower for Cali with her daughter, Michelle. When I started to resist (this is a busy time of year) she explained that bridal showers are an important time of a young woman’s life because it helps her to make the friend transition into a group of women who used to be her teachers and mother’s friends. (And if you’ve ever had Shelly explain a reason behind something, you know why you often agree with her when she’s done—she sees things from an angle that sheds a lot more light than other angles.) So yesterday we went to Cali’s bridal shower. I looked around the room at the friends who took the time and energy and resources to come to say, “We’re celebrating this next step of your life with you, girl” and I was humbled by them and very grateful for the opportunity for Cali to first be mentored and strengthened by such good women and then to be in an intimate setting where she could tell people her love story.

Tradition: Birthdays

Today is Ande’s 20th birthday. Calvin and I no longer have teenagers. Whoa. I didn’t see that one coming twenty years ago. Our birthday traditions are simple, the birthday girl picks out the meal and the cake and opens her gifts. We’re having fried chicken, mashed potatoes and white gravy, corn, jello and Gwen’s cake.

Another tradition that started quite by accident but that has continued to grow is the sharing of memories matching their years. Ty’s letters to Calvin and Ande arrived this week, 58 memories for Calvin ("making Cali's cedar chest with you and Grandpa") and 20 ("walking home from the bust stop, especially when there was that really mean dog") for Ande. My goodness. I’ve been happy all week remembering.

Thank goodness having children was a tradition in our family, too.

Tradition: The Boys’ Club

Calvin is a master with his hands; he can make anything. For several weeks before Christmas he is especially busy in his shop. There’s a wood stove to warm it, a mini-fridge for pop, an old stereo, a chair to sit by the fire and lots of wood tools. Friends, the kids, me . . . we all enjoy joining him in his shop and not just because he keeps jerky, cashews or a tin of cookies there. Someone coined it The Boys’ Club and it has stuck.

This Christmas Calvin has several projects to finish, including a special order of two bows. He finished the first bow and as he was putting the finishing touches on the second bow it snapped in two. He brought it in the house to show me, shook his head and quietly started another project. Not even discouragement deters this tradition.

Traditions are like hot dogs. . .

Sunday, December 14, 2008

52 Blessings—Ta Dah!

Ray, Cali’s fiancé, says a quick and simple "ta-dah" when he succeeds. Considering his abilities, ta-dah is such an understatement and yet . . . it says it all.

We had a ta-dah weekend dress shopping. Due to a shortage of dresses with sleeves or bodices in our state, we flew to Salt Lake City, Utah to shop. Thanks to Ray’s planning, our flights landed close to each other and we were able to get to the first dress shop before it even opened. First shop, first dress—perfect fit in body and personality. Ta-dah. Though we went to more shops and Cali tried on more dresses, the first was the choice and that relief made the rest of the shopping very carefree. Helping Cali try on wedding dresses reminded me of playing Barbies with my sister, Janet. My doll had bobbed, brown hair and wore a blue P.E. suit with white keds. Janet’s doll had long, blonde hair and a tight pink dress that flared at the knees. Janet didn’t share her doll much and my doll’s hips couldn’t fit in Janet’s doll’s dress. As I helped Cali try on dress after dress that fit her perfectly, I kept thinking of Janet’s Barbie and was so glad to finally have a doll that could fit into any dress.

an old roommate of Cali’s drove several hours to come and spend the day with us

I bid a room on Priceline and was a bit disappointed when they didn’t assign us the motel they usually do. I wanted it to be a special weekend for Cali and didn’t know anything about the hotel in which we’d be staying. However, after being met by five valet attendants and walking through the luxurious lobby I told Cali, “Ooops. I don't think this is where we're staying. Let me check the reservations again.” But no, it was our hotel and it did make the weekend that much more fun.

In fact, after Cali sniffed the towels she said, “Nothing makes you feel safer than a public towel that smells of Clorox.” Ta-dah.

The full moon was spectacular and like a spotlight on the temple. The beautifully lit temple grounds, the large nativity and the street musicians created a spirit of merriment and celebration that stretched for blocks. Cali and I just walked around arm in arm and soaked it all in. Ta-dah.

having awakened before 3:00 am to catch our flights, things were a bit blurry by the evening

We went out to dinner and as we stood visiting and waiting for our table, Cali stuttered excitedly. “It’s . . . Ch . . . it’s Ch . . .”. Finally she exclaimed, “It’s Cherise!” Old friends from Idaho, Cherise was in Cali’s grade. Cherise had a severe brain injury as a result of a horse accident and we had moved shortly after the accident. It was fun to see Cherise and her family and to watch Cali reacquaint Cherise with who she was. Ta-dah.

The next morning we awoke to beautiful snow. Here, as we’re waiting for the light to turn green, Cali noticed all the pigeons huddling under the ledge trying to stay dry. The snow stayed long enough to be beautiful, but not too long to be a travel nuisance. Ta-dah.

Another ta-dah moment included finding the wedding ring Cali wanted for Ray. With only a five week engagement, there isn’t a lot of room for indecisiveness or empty shelves. Thankfully Cali is decisive and the stores had what she was looking for so not only did she get Ray’s ring, but she found shoes for her dress, flowers in perfect hues and shapes, attendant gifts and even squeezed in some of her Christmas shopping.

It was one ta-dah after another for both days, but the biggest ta-dah was the wonderful time that we had and the special memories made.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Life in My World--Dress Magic

I’ll be back in a few days. It’s time to find the wedding dress. Wish us luck and if you’re fairy godmother is driving you nuts I'd be happy to babysit her.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gift Idea--Bowled over by the Gift of Friendship

In the last 48 hours:

A friend e-mailed and said, “Hey, it’s time to do your hair. What day works for you?”

A friend called and offered to host a bridal shower for Cali and then kindly stepped me through wedding wonders.

A friend called and is coming over Monday night with a friend-force to help me finish a mega Christmas scrapbook project.

A friend sent me a plate of mint brownies with a big red bow.

A friend quilted me a b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l tree skirt as a complete surprise.

A friend was willing to substitute teach for me.

A friend sent a card congratulating Cali’s engagement with kind and complimentary words tucked in for me.

A friend offered to let us borrow a movie.

A friend called to check up on me.

I am bowled over at the power of friendship.

What out-of-the-ordinary friendly acts have been shown to you in the last 48 hours?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Homemaking—Tips from Amish Country

Last week-end while we were in Pennsylvania we visited some Amish communities. If I had ten lives I’d want to live half of one of them with the Amish. At Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania (that name just hollers self-reliance doesn’t it? But I suppose A-Bird-in-the-Hand-is-Worth-Two-in-the-Bush is just too much to ask any postal patron to write. Anyway, back to what we saw at Bird-in-Hand . . .)

. . . we saw ten buggies hitched outside of a General Store and only a couple of cars in the parking lot. We knew we’d found something off the beaten tourist track, so I went inside and was one of only two non-Amish. The store had no electrical lights, but rows of shovels, hammers, rakes, nails, bolts and what have you items to tame the earth. However, what fascinated me most were the groceries—only two shelves worth. They held crackers, a few cold cereals, creamed soups, rolls of loose, rough toilet paper for 30 cents each and Easter egg candy from last season. There was a wooden bin of apples in the corner and some cheeses in a dairy case. I’m supposing because of full Amish pantries and lives of self-sufficiency there was no need to carry bottles of fruit, a shelf of donuts, cans of vegetables, eggs, milk or light bulbs. A whole family could walk out of that store with only a small box and have done their grocery shopping for a month.

I needed to buy something, so I bought a box of cereal for $1.40, a little pan of fudge for $1.50 and a bag of Dove eggs for $1.05. Not only were the items inexpensive, but I got a free pen at the checkout counter and the opportunity to visit and observe the people in line. It was the best $3.95 I spent all day. (Ooops. Nope. I take that back. I got two 10” hand-crocheted doilies for $3.50, so it was the next best $3.95.)

We also went into a butcher shop. Calvin can look at meats as long as most women can look at shoes. He called me over several times from the shoo-fly and Whoopi pies corner to see different meats. He remarked several times about the thickness, amount of lean verses fat and the coloring of the bacon. During college I worked in the BYU meat lab packaging hundreds of pounds of bacon, so his thrill was not lost on me; the Amish bacon was exceptionally fine. In fact, we saw something in the meat case that I think will make a perfect Christmas dinner for us because it can be done ahead. Here’s my rough recipe version of what we saw:

Stuffed-Rolled Pork Roast

1 boneless pork roast (about 1” x 10” x 6”)
stuffing made from your favorite recipe
several strips of bacon

Unroll pork roast and spread stuffing on it. Roll pork roast back up. Line strips of bacon (like a picket fence) around the outside of the roast. Tie with string. Bake until done.

A perfect side-dish for the rolled pork roast would be Trice Tres Potatoes (I just made that little name up ; ) and here is a picture that I just happened to snap at the Bird-in-Hand market of red, sweet and white potatoes

Trice Tres Potatoes

4 large baking potatoes (peeled)
4 small sweet potatoes (peeled)
4 medium red potatoes (unpeeled)

Parboil potatoes and drain. Layer potatoes in a greased 9” x 13” pan. Season between layers with salt, pepper, seasoned salt, garlic, onions . . . whatever you consider good potato seasoning. Pour one cup of heavy cream over top. Cover and bake for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. These can be made in advance and refrigerated until time to bake. (I just made these a few weeks ago for the first time and they are really, really good.)

Another little homemaking tidbit that I gained from the Amish community came from the furniture shops. In the first furniture shop we visited there were no electrical lights, in keeping with the avoidance of electricity, and the show room was obviously only going to be open as long as the sun was up. However, in the second furniture shop there were electrical lights because it was a Mennonite/Amish furniture shop and the Mennonites, though similar in beliefs, don’t shun electricity. Because of the lights the show room could obviously stay open longer hours and host a deeper showroom. Now you can argue that the Amish who had their wares in the second shop were fudging on principle or you can say that by combining their efforts with the Mennonites they were able to showcase their talents more effectively. For today I’ll go with the showcase-their-talents theory.

It’s been a long time since I’ve participated in a cookie, soup or casserole swap, but this is the time of year when they make the most sense. For one, people are cooking more and using their best recipes and secondly with the added time pressures of the holidays who wouldn't like some kitchen help. So, make a triple or quadruple batch of whatever you like to make and call a friend or two and make a swap. If you organize it simply enough it should add more hours to your day which is like joining the Mennonites and adding more lights to your showroom.

One of my favorite things was the clothes hanging on the lines. The wires were connected between the barns and farmhouses and lined with dozens of black, purple and green clothes and white linens and socks. It was cold and the wind was whipping the wrinkles right out of them.

My other favorite thing to see was the children running and playing in the schoolyards. I wanted to run and play with them, or at least be the one scolding them from the sidelines.

If only I had ten lives . . .

If you had ten lives, where would you spend half of one?

Do you make Christmas dinner ahead? What do you serve?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Self Portrait Tuesday--JOY

West Point is steeped in rich traditions—including the uniforms. The gray revolutionary frock coats are my favorite; they weigh several pounds and are made of fine wool (but not a dart in them, they’re stretched to go around the elbows and over the chest) and ornamented with brass buttons.

It would be easier to get Abe to sleep in a nightgown than to get him to wear his frock coat without orders; hence, I have never seen him in it until this weekend. And then, I not only saw him, I saw 4,000 other West Point cadets march on the football field in perfect unison wearing their frock coats. The sight inspired even the most ardent Navy fan as the mink-coated, diamond-studded woman told Calvin, “I’m a Navy fan through and through, but no one marches like a West Point cadet.” She’s right; those cadets take pride in their precision, rhythm and stature. They don’t even smile for the President of the United States when they are in formation. I found great JOY in watching every single soldier march in their seemingly JOYless parade of the long grey coats.

What has brought you JOY in the last day or two?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Memories—Philadelphia

When I was fourteen I went to Philadelphia on an American History tour. I remember the building where the Continental Congress met and that even though there were two doors at the front of the signing-of-the-declaration room, only one opened because the other was strictly ornamental. I remember the street venders and my first exposure to mustard on pretzels. I remember the Liberty Bell. I remember the litter in the streets.

This past weekend we added some more memories to Philadelphia:

the downtown streets were lined with Army-Navy Game banners

We attended the Army/Navy game and were informed the morning of the game that President Bush would be in attendance. The long line to get through the metal detectors and security gates was more than worth the honor of having the Commander in Chief at the game in front of some of his soldiers.

Soon after we got seated in the stands, Air Force One did a fly-over down the middle of the stadium showing President Bush’s support to the troops. When he entered the stadium the crowd stood and he walked along the stands and shook the hands of the cadets, midshipmen, generals, admirals and referees as well as conducted the coin toss. He sat on the Army side and cheered for the mules the first half of the game and then moved to the Navy side and cheered for the goats the second half. He sat in the freezing cold on regular bleacher seats just like the rest of us instead of the warm, catered press boxes. And while The Star-Spangled Banner was sung beautifully, my throat choked closed when 8,000 cadets and midshipmen, tens of thousands of American’s and President Bush sang “God Bless America” together.

Army got thumped by the Navy—a 34-0 shut-out. But if our new uniforms of camouflaged helmets and pants had counted for points, we’d have won. They were very cool with “Boots on the ground” printed on the pant legs and “Duty, Honor, Country” printed instead of names on the back of the jerseys.

Another bonus of the game was running into friends. Gary and Laurie Clark have three sons who attend West Point and six years ago we became friends through our academy association. Low and behold, out of a hundred thousand seats theirs were right in front of ours. As a cancer survivor and vibrant mother of five boys, Laurie is more than a friend she is an inspiration. After the game we caught the subway back to the hotel and waited for the Clarks to join us for dinner. We went to four different restaurants and each one had a 3-4 hour wait. Gary suggested we try Chinatown. Figuring a thug would be a fool to attack eight of us, we headed to the shady district. It was bitter cold, snowing and beautiful. We found a little place and though it was empty, we didn’t let that scare us. Ty’s standard of never trusting a place that has lights missing in their neon sign or that has Golden Dragon in the title was met, so we chanced it. I’m glad we did because the food was good, the place was quiet so we could easily visit, it was ridiculously inexpensive and my fortune was a good one.

Independence Hall

Sunday we walked to some of the historical sites. It was f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g, literally since it was -4º below zero with the wind chill, and it just bit all the way through our five layers of clothes. Every time we went out in it I thought of Washington with his troops in Valley Forge or the homeless people sleeping on top of the steaming manhole vents. I never cease to marvel at the miracle of the birth of this country or at the prosperity and comfort I have enjoyed in my life. Sunday was chock full of humbling experiences as we also attended church in an inner-city ward. The first Sunday of the month we have what is called Testimony meeting where several members of the congregation stand and share their testimonies of the Gospel. This particular meeting a man from Ghana and a woman from Honduras stood and shared their testimonies of the love of the Savior. I felt particularly blessed to be in attendance and hear their words. Singing with the congregation was also a great experience; the chorister was so happy, upbeat and animated I felt like I was singing in a Sister Act chorus. While singing "Joy to the World", for the second time in two days, my throat swelled closed with emotion at the spirit which I felt.

Sunday, after Grace and Abe returned to New York, Calvin and I walked to the old City Tavern for supper. Founded in 1773, it was rebuilt by the National Parks Service in 1985 to commemorate its significance during Revolutionary times. During the Continental Congress, the men would hash the details in Independence Hall and then go to the tavern to eat, drink and lobby their positions. Supposedly it’s here that Ben Franklin convinced John Adams to use diplomacy instead of argument to get something passed. We drank from pewter goblets and were served by men in knickers and women in white caps. I had Martha Washington pot pie and Calvin had three types of German sausages, apple wood ham and sauerkraut. The tavern also served Thomas Jefferson Sweet Potato Biscuits (they say it’s the original recipe and I don’t doubt it because they're hard as little rocks and not very sweet, but good).

Abe and Grace in front of Independence Hall

Calvin and me at the game

I am glad to add these things to my Philadelphia memories and they were made great because I spent the time with Calvin, Abe and Abe’s girlfriend, Grace. It didn’t matter what we did—eating good food, riding the subway, walking the streets, playing a game of cards, going to church, visiting in our room, seeing the lighted trees, eating pretzels, watching the game or sipping hot cider in the hotel lobby—this trip to Philadelphia was much richer than the first because I had people I love to share it with. Tonight I feel like Rocky when he ran up the stairs and punched the air at the top because he had finally arrived.

Thank you Philly for your hospitality and memories.

Do you have a fond memory in Philadelphia or other Revolutionary site?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Life in My World--To the City of Brotherly Love

We're off to Philadephia for a week-end of Army/Navy rivalry in the highly-anticipated, annual football game. The high is supposed to be in the 30's with snow flurries so Calvin bought us each a pair of battery operated socks to keep our feet warm. I'm hoping there will be cause for lots of clapping to keep our hands warm.

Go Army. Beat Navy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gift Idea--Gag Tag & Favor

Last week I saw two cute ideas at a craft bazaar using plastic, recloseable bead bags (available at WalMart, Staples, etc):

1. Gag Tag. A single battery in the bag with a cute tag attached that said, "Gift not included".

2. Favor. This story-verse was printed on a cute tag and attached to the bag of M&M's.

The Christmas Story on M&M’s

As you hold these candies in your hand and turn them, you will see the M becomes a W, an E and then a 3. They tell the Christmas story; it’s one I’m sure you know, it took place in a stable a long, long time ago. The E is for the East, where the star shone so bright. The M is for the manger, where baby Jesus slept that night. The 3 is for the wise men, to bear gifts they say they came. W is for Worship, Hallelujah, Praise His Name. So as you eat these candies or share them with a friend, remember the meaning of Christmas, it’s a love story that never ends.

It's been awhile since I've been to a bazaar, are these old ideas?
I'm wondering where (or to whom) would you give these gifts?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Homemaking Tip—One Way to Cure a Picky Eater

Ty and new friend

He only liked rice and potatoes. Pray tell what baby doesn’t like applesauce, pureed pears or peaches? Ty.

If the kids threw up after eating a vegetable they didn’t have to eat it again. Ty was exempt from many vegetables; his druthers were meat and potatoes.

Make no mistake, Ty grew—and was even chunky for a few toddler years—but he has never been fond of many fruits or vegetables.

We never gave him special treatment, he had to eat as many bites as he was old just like everyone else, but without a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle next door to cure his picky eating we just endured it.

So how do I know a cure? Well, this letter came from him yesterday: (Remember Ty is serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Taiwan—a place that loves fresh vegetables and fruits.)

Today a member of the Church, Sister Chen, took our whole district to eat on the 85th floor of Taipei 101. The elevators are really fast and that wasn't even the one to the observation deck that is the fastest in the world. It was a very expensive fancy restaurant. Here is what I ate.

Italian Antipato (a little fry bread with a clam dipping sauce)

A little pallet clearer. The best part on it was the smoked salmon on a cracker.

Veal Carparccio (served with Parmagiano-Reggiano [eat uncooked]) This was my favorite part. It was raw veal with a salad on top. The veal was sliced really thin and covered the bottom of the plate and then the salad with olives, lettuce, thin lemon slices, parmesan cheese, and a few other things. It was amazing. I figured if Nephi could eat raw meat so could I.

Seasonal Fish sauteed with white wine, seasoned of mushroom braised with Olive Oil. Also very good. The fish was something that I didn't understand in Chinese but is similar to 比目魚 (Bi-mu-yu) Halibut. It was also amazing. It had sauteed mushrooms with it.

Lastly I had Veal Osso Buco braised with Tomato Sauce. Also amazing.

The bathrooms in the restaurant were so cool. They were very open and if they weren't on the 85th floor would be very inappropriate. I guess if people are up there in a helicopter it would also be a little inappropriate. The walls were all just glass so you could see down a long ways.

A cure? Send your picky eater on a mission.

The new problem? What if he wants to serve veal carparceio when he comes home?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

SPT--Love . . . is a Verb

(Thanks, Lelly, for the SPT Love challenge.)

two of the eight handlings

Cali wanted to make her wedding announcements. Even when I reminded her there was only four weeks until the wedding. Even when I reminded her she works full-time. Even when I reminded her that each announcement would be handled at least eight times through production. Even when I reminded her we were talking hundreds not ten. Good for Cali for holding tight to what she wanted, because the last two days have been spent handling those invitations with her—from shopping for the paper to watching her design them to helping her put them together. She only called me her slave once and asked if she was bride-zilla twice. What a great time spent laughing and visiting with her and if she ever doubts my love for her I will remind her of the time she decided to make her wedding announcements.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Memories—In Which a Surprise Finally Exceeded Her Expectations

One day, shortly before Cali turned eight years old, we were discussing her birthday. I explained that she would receive a really special birthday present from Grandpa and Grandma Payne—which was true, they always give the grandchildren a set of scriptures on their eighth birthday. Cali was excited to not only be getting presents, but a special one. Her birthday came and went and I forgot about our conversation until years later when I told her I had a surprise for her. She said, “No surprises, mom. Just tell me what it is; my imagination always delivers better than your surprises.” She continued, “Remember when I turned eight and you told me I was going to get a special surprise from Grandpa and Grandma. I was so excited. I thought and thought of what could be really special and I decided they must be getting me a swimming pool (Olympic-size of course, because that one, she doesn’t dream small). I knew a swimming pool would be a really special surprise. Can you imagine my disappointment when I opened a box of scriptures instead? VERY. No surprises for me mom, your surprises just can’t match my imagination.”

Ho. Ho. Surprising her has been a challenge ever since, but someone VERY special did. Read all about it here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm headed to Idaho to play dominoes, sleep in my sister's loft with lots of family and celebrate one of my favorite holidays. Life doesn't get much better. Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Memories—Cats

The other night I was flipping through a journal and read this entry:

Ande and I were coming home from a meeting and she was singing this to herself in the backseat

The 3 little kittens lost their mittens
And they began to cry . . .
Their mother said, “You naughty little kittens, no pie and you are grounded for a whole year.”

The 3 little kittens, they washed their mittens and they began to sigh,
“See mother, we washed our mittens.”
“Oh, you are such good little kittens, but . . . (in a real sweet tone) you’re still grounded for a whole year.”

Since children mirror what they see, I had three guesses as to what Ande was echoing:

1. A mother who believes in excessive grounding
2. A mother who is consistent and sticks to her word
3. A general dislike of cats

Since Calvin and I don’t ground it wasn’t #1.

I’d like to think the correct answer was #2, but since I found lots of reasons to change my mind in parenting, I'm not thinking it was.

So, that leaves #3 a general dislike of cats. Maybe that aversion stemmed from these postcards my grandma always sent . . .

. . . and since most of the cats look like they were raised by the Herdsmen’s in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and wouldn’t hesitate to scratch your eyes out, maybe Ande just couldn't seem to trust a cat. Add to the fact that this poem by Ogden Nash was recited every week in Family Night by one of the kids . . .

The trouble with a kitten is that
Eventually it becomes a cat

. . . and it is not surprising that we have only one, fond, real-life cat memory in the Payne annals.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

52 Blessings—Infinity

If there is one thing for which I have a knack, it is repeating myself. Some call it being redundant, but I prefer to think of it as placing renewed emphasis. And, since I don’t take myself very seriously, I know few people remember what I may have said at one time anyway. With that introduction, I’d like to place renewed emphasis on a newsletter I wrote a few years ago because I’m still quite simply amazed at what I learned when I wrote it . . . and it says what I want to say about 52 Blessings this week of Thanksgiving:

I think we learned about infinity in the third grade. It felt so Newton- or Einstein-like to use the word that could not be counted. Infinity held such power and from then on many childhood conversations were trumped with it; “I hate spinach infinity,” “I love arithmetic infinity.” However, when “powers” were introduced in seventh grade, infinity nearly came into reach. Ten times ten to the power of ten equals 100,000,000,000—and why, that’s just a short skip to infinity.

Using “powers” is a manageable way to count an infinite number of blessings: blessings that quickly multiply and are forever ongoing. You see, if blessings are broken down into the powers of ten, then one by one the blessings are countable and comprehendible while quickly adding back up to infinity.

For example, if we take ten blessing topics and then list ten specific blessings related to that topic under them we have one hundred blessings in no time. If we break each of those ten blessings down and list ten specific blessings then we have a thousand blessings. Down, down, down it goes while up, up, up go the number of our blessings. Since this time of year is a great time to audit our inventory of blessings, here’s an example. The ten blessing topics are italicized and the specific blessings related to the topic are numbered below.

Ten favorite foods:
1. I’d start my list with potatoes, but quickly add
2. corn
3. squash
4. lettuce
5. bread
6. soup
7. steak
8. broccoli
9. popcorn
10. crisp apples.

Then if I broke down potatoes ten times, I would say I’m grateful for
1. mashed potatoes
2. tater tots
3. french fries
4. hashbrowns
5. funeral potatoes
6. fried potatoes and onions
7. baked potatoes
8. potato harvest
9. dutch oven potatoes
10. Mr. Potato Head

Then if I broke down mashed potatoes, I would say I’m grateful for
a. the Thanksgiving holiday where mashed potatoes are a staple
b. for the days when I held our babies on my lap and fed them mashed potatoes from my plate
c. for glazed spud-nuts (made from mashed potatoes) air-drying on the cupboard
d. for the lessons in hard-work that potato harvest taught me—cleaning the smashed, rotten potatoes from the good ones
e. the fact that mashed potatoes have provided an inexpensive staple in our diet because of either growing them or generous neighbors giving them to us
f. comfort--mashed potatoes and gravy
g. memories of nightly family suppers
h. mashed potatoes make bread dough softer
i. left-over mashed potatoes browned in butter for breakfast
j. Shepherder's Pie (yes, we know everyone else calls it shepherd's pie, but we had sheepherders where I grew up, not shepherds)

and on and on and on . . .

Ten meaningful memories:
1. Checking beaver traps with Calvin and the kids
2. Playing shuffleboard in the autumn leaves of New York
3. Finding hand drawn pictures with chocolate chips and crackers on my pillow
4. Flying down to California to stay with Rachel, my sister, when her baby was born
5. Caring for Charlie Boss, an ailing friend
6. Babysitting my little brother in the toy store whenever mom had her hair done
7. Sitting on bleachers watching cold football games or long wrestling matches
8. Going on Sunday afternoon drives to check the cows with Calvin and the kids
9. Rocking sick babies to sleep
10. Picking and podding peas with the kids

Ten great relatives:
Well, this is an easy one—I have nine siblings:
1. Lila
2. David
3. Christine
4. Marcia
5. Lynn
6. Tim
7. Janet
8. Lee
9. Rachel

Add their spouses and I’m nearly to twenty. Add their children and grandchildren and suddenly I’m nearing seventy great relatives without even thinking.

Ten handy tools or technologies:
1. Paper
2. Sewing machine
3. Camera
4. Computer
5. Internet
6. Washing machine
7. CD player
8. Telephone
9. Mattress
10. Scissors
Ten favorite places:
1. Our home
2. The yard when it is green
3. Church
4. The bench at the top on Main Street at Disneyland (just outside of Frontierland)
5. Mountain meadows of Idaho
6. Hukilau Beach
7. Yellowstone
8. Temple Square in Salt Lake City
9. Movie theatres with a good movie
10. Restaurants that are cheap and good.

Ten teachers who aided me in school
1. Mr. Kinsfather let us have current event discussions.
2. Mr. Wilson made history come alive.
3. Mrs. Leonard taught with enthusiasm.
4. Mrs. Roberts read aloud to us hours on end.
5. Dr. Orme taught me how to grade livestock.
6. Mr. Dykes thought I was smart.
7. Mr. Larsen opened the mysteries of Algebra.
8. Brother Jorgensen helped me to slash unhealthy numbers of prepositional phrases from my writing.
9. Dr. Price taught me about child psychology.
10. Sister Swapp taught me the structure of a balanced life.

Ten medical miracles:
1. Blood transfusions
2. Vaccinations
3. Open heart surgery
4. X-ray machine
5. IV’s
6. Root canals
7. Insulin
8. Bone-marrow transplants
9. Cesarean sections
10. Advil
Ten great moments in life:
1. Marrying Calvin
2. The birth of Cali
3. The birth of Abe
4. The birth of Ty
5. The birth of Ande
6. Spending lots of one on one time with Ande when the others had gone to college
7. Crawling safely back on the boat after a scary scuba dive
8. Watching Abe and Ty take the oath of preserving the constitution
9. Watching Cali graduate from college
10. Turning Abe and Ty over to the Lord to serve missions

Ten lessons taught to me by God:
1. What it feels like to be humble
2. How to have faith when life is hard
3. How to forgive others
4. The relief of being forgiven
5. What it feels like to be loved unconditionally
6. What it feels like to love others unconditionally
7. The strength that a peaceful heart brings
8. How to build a talent
9. How good it feels to serve and help others
10. The power of prayer

Ten people who taught me something worthwhile:
1. Emma Henstock taught me how to listen and talk to my elders.
2. Anita Young taught me how to laugh really hard.
3. Deb Keeley taught me how to preserve photo legacies.
4. My mom taught me how to bake bread and clean house.
5. Marcia McManus taught me to see two sides to every story.
6. Marge Coleman taught me how to sew.
7. Calvin taught me how to dance.
8. Patty Gonzales taught me how to make tamales.
9. Shirley Nelson taught me how to swim.
10. Rachel Christensen taught me how to play the piano.

Ten more topics to help you count your blessings:

Ten friends who helped you in a difficult time
Ten heroes you admire
Ten people who have made you feel appreciated and special
Ten teachers who aided you through school
Ten people you enjoy spending time with
Ten times you were glad you could walk
Ten times you were glad you didn’t have to walk
Ten dreams that came true
Ten outfits or pairs of shoes you loved
Ten talents you have

As you can see, blessings quickly add up and before you know it you have more blessings than you can count. Infinity.

Count your many blessings;
Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you
What the Lord has done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.
—Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922)

Thank you for adding so many blessings to my inventory this past year—blogging friends have certainly given me blessings that I had no idea I would have five years ago.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Life in My World—What a Deal

Tonight I ran into the grocery store for a couple of things. While debating between Caramel Caribou and Moose Tracks a student from my first year of teaching came down the aisle. He looked at me, smiled real wide and gave me a big, tight hug. It was by far the best deal in the ice cream aisle. With a family of his own now, it was fun to hear how he’s doing. Then, while the checker was tallying my bill her phone rang. She answered it and looked straight at me while nodding her head and said, “I’m supposed to tell you to look down at station 4.” I did and there was my friend, Beka, waving at me. Beka’s smile and wave made me feel like I’d just received the 30-cents-off-a-gallon-of-gas coupon the store randomly gives. Funny how people going out of their way to say hello can make you feel so good. Two great deals in one grocery store. (And, lest I forget, Lay’s chips are $1.99.)

Yesterday was the library book sale. Remember last week I told you about The Tightwad Gazette? I got the complete edition for 25 cents. And remember I mentioned Marie Antoinette by Victoria Holt? I got the hard back edition for 50 cents. But the real steal was a book that sales for $50 retail in pristine condition for 50 cents, and it doesn’t even smell like mildew or smoke. On top of that I got Louisa May Alcott’s Thanksgiving short-story book, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, a hard-back Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, two old primer-style books that will make darling journals/photo albums, as well as an Orson Scott Card and Lloyd Alexander book. Are you ready for the total? $4.50. What a deal. I also ran into several friends in the basement and it felt good to browse and laugh with them . . . and we didn’t even have to whisper.

Ande, Cali and Ray are coming home tonight. The house is clean. The fridge is full. There are still a few brownies left in the cookie jar. Calvin made a fire in the fireplace. The beds are made and fixed (the old antique bed broke in the middle of the night last time they were home . . . it did that once before when we had company and so they just turned their heads around so they could sleep uphill the rest of the night—Argh, embarrassing). We’re having Thanksgiving this weekend and next weekend. What a deal.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gift Idea—Christmas Advent Boxes

Aunt Ethel made us an advent tree one year. It was a wall hanging in the shape of a tree with little gifts tied to it. Each morning one of us kids got to open one gift from the tree, counting down the days until Christmas. The gift I remember most was an ever-sharp pencil—the kind with ten little lead cartridges where you sharpened the pencil by pulling an old cartridge out and putting it in the top of the pencil which pushed a new little cartridge down into the tip.

Ever since Great-Aunt Ethel’s gift I’ve been replicating the advent. Some years I’ve filled a basket with 24 small wrapped gifts (a pencil, pen, magnet, lip salve, sucker, gum, key chain, bouncing ball, silly putty, frame, earrings, money clip, necklace, etc). Another year I tied little gifts to a table top tree. Several years ago I sewed a tree wall hanging (similar to Aunt Ethel’s) for my sister’s family and each year I send her little gifts to retie to the tree. While my in-laws were serving a mission in Australia I used envelopes and photographs to count the days down until Christmas. For missionaries, I’ve used a sock filled with count-down gifts. As you can see, there is no end to the variations of an advent.

I think advents make great gifts for at least three reasons:

1. It creates a family tradition.
2. Since advents must be ready to go by December 1st, shopping is done early and helps me avoid the last minute shopping/mailing chaos.
3. Items can be picked up year round to help spread out the Christmas expense and depending on your budget, you can buy inexpensive trinkets like the ones listed above or more expensive gifts. Advents fit every budget.

For the life of me I can’t get a good shot of this year’s advent creation. I’m so disappointed. It’s like trying to photograph food, the colors and details just aren’t clear so you’ll have to trust my description.

I bought four-drawer wooden boxes at the craft store and had Calvin glue them together. Then we painted and embellished them. We painted one box red and used simple rustic number stickers on the drawers.

We painted another box black and added embellishments like little cookie cutter charms, ribbons, tags and buttons along with the numbers. To add more Christmas color, I mod-podged some scrapbook paper to the outside of the boxes. In short, they are darling! I can’t wait to fill them and give them away at Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Homemaking Tip—Quick and Easy

My grandma always had nut cups at her dinners. The one I remember best was a little ceramic cup filled with jumbo cashews. I liked sitting next to my sister, Janet, at Grandma’s dinners because she hated nuts.

These nut cups aren’t as fancy as Grandma’s were, but they work for a simple Thanksgiving dinner (or roommother treats, just leave out the nuts for all the allergists and fill with Thanksgiving colored candy only).

Cornucopia Nut Cups: Sugar cones filled with fruit colored candy (candy corn, m&m’s, skittles, runts, etc.) and nuts.

And as long as we’re talking easy, here’s the easiest cake on earth to make.

Quick & Easy Pumpkin Cake that tastes like a Pie

1 29 oz can solid pack pumpkin
1 spice cake mix

Mix pumpkin and cake mix well. Pour into greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with a dollop of cool whip and sprinkle with cinnamon for garnish if desired. (Only 2 ww points if you’re counting and so very good.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


What fits nicely together in your world?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Memories--Favorite Books

The girls (Cali and Ande) and I are all doing this post on books. I’m taking scriptures out of the running for my answers. I like to think they’re a part of me not just something I read ;0) I also found that children’s books run heavy in my answers—is that because they have happier storylines or because they are more memorable?

1. If you could host a party with 7 literary characters who would they be and why?

Charlotte, the spider, wouldn’t take much space so I’d put her next to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s rotund figure. I’d put Mr. Darcy next to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle because I think she could finish perfecting him. Next to Mr. Darcy I would put Captain Jack because Cali and Ande would both like to meet him and I think Calvin would actually visit with a guest if Captain Jack was there. I would let Beautiful Joe sit underneath the table and eat whatever scraps he desired and I’d invite Mother Wilder to cook the meal. And last but not least, Amelia Bedilia because she’d just be so thrilled to be included.

Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White)
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald)
Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen)
Captain Jack (These Is My Words by Nancy Turner)
Beautiful Joe (Beautiful Joe: The True Story of a Brave Dog by Quinn Currie, Susan Heinonen)
Mother Wilder (Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Amelia Bedilia (Amelia Bedilia by Peggy Parish)

2. Which literary house would you like most to live in?

The Fitgerald’s in The Great Brain series because they had a water closet before their time or The Swiss Family Robinson tree house.

**wait. wait. Marie reminded me of Anne and Gilbert's house. I need to add one more house to my list: Green Gables. I can't believe I forgot Ann with an e. I'm certain her feelings are hurt.

3. Which literary couple would you like most for parents?

Please, please don’t let my mother be Elizabeth Bennett’s mother. As far as a couple, I think I’d have to hope that Mr. March died in the war and Ma died on the prairie and that Mr. Ingalls and Mrs. March found each other and then gave birth to me.

Elizabeth Bennett’s mother in Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
March's in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Ma and Pa in Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

4. Pick 3 literary characters you would like to have as siblings.

Jenny Weasley. Caddie Woodlawn. J.D. Fitzgerald

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowlings
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald

5. Who is your favorite literary villain?

I’m not fond of bad men; however Lucian Ferrell (Tregaron’s Daughter by Madeline Brent) made an awfully nice hero disguised as a villain.

6. Name a character that most people dislike, but that you do not. Why do you like them?

Marie Antoinette. I think she wasn’t big enough for the situation she was placed in and, given some help, could have done better. (Thank you Victoria Holt for that novel perspective.)

7. Name 3 books that you rarely see on people’s favorite book lists that are on your own.

Little Britches by Ralph Moody
Daddy Longlegs by Jean Webster
The Tightwad Gazette’s by Amy Dacyczyn (I doubt you'll ever see this on another reading list)

8. What is your favorite literary name?

Why, Jane is a lovely name.

9. What is a book that changed your life?

I don’t know that I can say one book changed my life, but many have definitely improved it. I often reflect on advice given in Corrie ten Boom’s books: Be grateful in all things and “Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.”

11. What is a book that you’ve read more than once?

I read lots of books more than once. However, the winner of read-the-most-times would be every book in The Little House series. My third and fourth grade teacher (Mrs. Roberts) read them to us each year as well as having read them myself several times, including this last summer.

12. What is a book that you’d want on a desert island?

A big, thick, detailed, how-to book on gathering and planting seeds, avoiding wild animals and directions for tying knots, starting a fire by friction and building that Swiss Family Robinson tree house.

13. What is a book that made you laugh?

Parts of Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: just picturing the scrambled egg eye, the man wearing the woman’s v-neck sweater and the glasses without lenses still makes me smile

Prize-Winner of Defiance Ohio by Terry Ryan: envisioning the mother standing at the ironing board melting her girdle back together with the iron

Dark Angel by Robert Kirby: from a ten year old’s perspective, “old squash-bottom” was a good visual of a woman you don’t like bending over a wood stove

The Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin: very, very clever . . . just think of Aunt Susan (or whatever her aunt's name was) stuck in the screen

14. What is a book that made you cry?

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. Old Dan, Little Ann . . . how can you not cry in that book?

15. What are you currently reading?

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis ( I know, I know, everybody but me has read it.)
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card

16. What is a book you’ve been meaning to read?

Einstein by Walter Isaacson has been on my nightstand for a month and a half
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang has been in my basket for a year.

17. What is a non-fiction book that you have enjoyed?

I really, really, really liked John Adams by David McCullough

18. What is a book that you don’t enjoy?

I didn’t care for or finish Memoirs of a Geisha or Memory Keeper’s Daughter.

19. What is a book you remember as a real page-turner?

Probably the cheesiest romance novel ever written. It was called “A Chosen Love.” I got it for Christmas (along with some gummy bears) when I was fifteen or sixteen. I stayed up later than ever before eating gummy bears and reading. Truly, it was stupid, but the mother made tuna fish casserole and whole wheat bread and that just appealed to the promising frugal homemaker in me as much as the romance did. I just loved that book as bad as it was—a 2:00 a.m. page-turner.

20. Who is your literary role model?

I thought and thought on this, but it took Ande to point it out to me. Atticus Finch is my male role model and the mother in Man of the Family is my female role model.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Man of the Family by Ralph Moody

Feel free to grab these questions for your own blog if you'd like.