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.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

52 Blessings—Wood

Cali, Ray, Calvin and Ande unloading and stacking wood in the lean-to.
I think Calvin is scolding me for holding up progress.

I thought I was a grateful person but after posting a blessing each week I have come to realize how many things are flying under my radar—like wood. I don’t believe I’ve ever expressed gratitude to the Lord for wood.

Last night as I was walking out to work with Calvin in his shop, I smelled the wood stove burning and was so glad we had a warm, good smelling place to work in. Then I thought of the wooden advent boxes I was making and the gunstock Calvin was carving and realized wood was the common denominator of all these good things. Then I thought about paper . . . and

Toilet paper
Falling leaves
Fruit (we wouldn’t have fruit without trees and trees are wooden, right?!)
Houses (and partitioning in those homes)
D├ęcor (frames, wooden bowls, nativity sets, decorative boxes)
Chicken coops, roosts and nests
Picnic tables
Paper plates
Cardboard boxes
Gift wrapping
Smells of pine
Weenie roasting sticks.

Suddenly I realized wood is something I have taken for granted for a long time. Like the sun, I clearly just expected it to always be there. No more. I am grateful for wood.

What blessing has been flying under your radar lately?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Life in My World—Rollercoaster Day

Calvin, Jane, Abe, Cali, Ty and Ande--1999

Our son, Ty, loves roller coasters and would love to ride the biggest and scariest in the world. It would probably be a toss up as to which Christmas gift he liked best—the year he got the complete edition of Calvin and Hobbes, the year he got the book on how to fold paper airplanes (the girls call that year the Christmas from hell as he threw paper airplanes at them for two weeks straight), or the year he got his 16” x 20” roller coaster book.

I don't share his enthusiasm. I don’t mind a little thrill at the end of a ride—like Splash Mountain at Disneyland, because those cute characters sing and make you so happy that you know the little stomach drop at the end is all in good fun. But roller coasters are one head-banging, stomach-lurching, free-falling experience where you end up right back where you started except with a head throb and sick stomach.

Today was a roller-coaster ride for me. I had lots I wanted to get done. I really enjoy my job but it does zap a lot of creative energy from me. Fridays are nice because no matter how tired I am when I come home, I know that I don’t have to have a fresh new batch of energy for the next day. I planned to spray the fall cobwebs off the outside of the house, spray Outdoor Windex (I do love that stuff) on the windows, vacuum, dust, iron, write a blog post and maybe get a page or two of scrapbooking done. However, I came home to the offer I’m sure most of the e-mail world did: a free photobook from Snapfish.

I’ve always planned to learn how to make a photobook and thought this was a great time to experiment. Up. Since I had never uploaded photos to a massive database and kept deleting my work, it took me four and a half hours to complete my twenty page book. Down. However, there was a glitch in the program and the coupon was not being applied to my order at checkout. Down. I figured the offer was an e-mail gimmick and it was my fault for falling for it--there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Down. I assumed Snapfish figured that any person willing to go to that much work and spend that much time on a project would automatically just pay the $40 bill at the end. Down. Temptation. Down. I called Melanie, one of my friends who sent notice of the offer; she said her coupon was working. Up. I hammered away at the computer keys for another hour trying to get a coupon to work. Nope. Down. Finally, six hours later the photobook was completed and the coupon was properly applied; final cost was $7.54 for shipping/handling/tax. Up. I have a photobook of 2008 SPT’s. Up. I looked around at all I had wanted to do and still needed to do. Down. I felt sluggish and unproductive. Down. Calvin came in and said, “Let’s go out tonight.” Up. After supper, we even went to Baskin Robbins for an ice cream cone. Up. Up. I know what comes after two ups, so I’m quitting and putting this day to bed before it can go down again. I do not like rollercoasters.

Do you like roller coasters and g-forces?

What gift made a Christmas from hell at your house?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gift-Giving Idea— A Good Book Has No Ending

~R.D. Cumming

For the last year I’ve been on the look-out at yard sales and used book stores for hard back books that would make good photo albums. I’ve found two books with a storyline that fit people on my gift list. For Deb, my scrapbook retreat partner, (who promised not to check my blog for a few days), I found a book called “Things to Do.”

The first page says, “Life is not as complicated as some may say . . . here are a few simple things to do to guide you along the way.”

It then gives encouraging advice like “Strive to grow and challenge yourself each day . . .”

Each saying is on a separate page and accompanied by a primitive illustration. To personalize the book I covered the illustrations with Deb’s photography. (I had Alyson, her daughter, sneak me twenty photographs from Deb’s collection.) I bordered the photos with coordinating paper and lightly embellished each page with a paper flower, curly-q and a small pearl. For the book cover, I mod-podged cardstock, added another photo and light embellishments and then spelled the title of the book in black stickers. I added rickrack to the spine for accent.

I worked on this project at the retreat last week, but came home with it unfinished and fairly disappointed in it; however, I learned back in my craft-booth days not to judge a project until it’s finished. I’m so glad I gave this one a second chance because by the time I finished it this afternoon, I was happy with it—it’s personal and so Deb. (And though it's tacky to talk price and friendship in the same sentence, one of the selling points of this gift idea is it's inexpensive--a couple of dollars inexpensive.)

Today’s tip is

  • keep your eye out for good used books (can you imagine how excited I am for the annual city library book sale next week?) that could be easily adapted to photo albums


  • don’t give up on a project until you have finished it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Homemaking Tip—Apple Dumplings from Pie Scraps

Yesterday morning I made a few apple pies for a couple of veterans and a sick neighbor. Because Calvin is more of a crust man than a filling man, I made him apple dumplings instead. Apple Dumplings are great because

a) you can make individual servings so a half a pie isn't wasted
b) they can be made from pie scraps and
c) they’re heavy on crust.

To make apple dumplings, I used the 1979 Better Homes & Garden Cookbook pastry and pie filling recipes:

Plain Pastry

6 cups flour
3 tsp salt
2 cups shortening
18-21 Tbsp ice cold water

Sift flour and salt together and cut in shortening until the pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle water over mixture and mix until dough sticks together. Divide dough into 6 lumps. Roll into large circles on a well floured counter. Makes enough dough for 3 double crust pies and 3 dumplings.

Apple Pie Filling

18-20 tart apples, pared, cored and thinly sliced
2 ½ cups sugar
6 Tbsp flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp nutmeg
Pastry for pie
6 Tbsp butter

Combine sugar, flour, spices and salt; mix with apples. Line 9” pie plate with pastry. Fill with apple mixture; dot with butter. Adjust top crust, cutting slits for escape of steam; seal. Wash with egg whites and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then lower heat to 350 degrees and cook for 35-45 minutes or until done. Makes enough filling for 3 pies and 3 dumplings.

To make apple dumpling, roll out left over pie scraps into a small tortilla size

Put apple pie filling in the center of dough

Put a pat of butter on top then gather the edges of the dough to the center.
Place in a ramekin or on a cookie sheet.

Brush egg wash over dough and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake just as if it was a pie (in a clean or dirty oven)
then serve warm with ice cream.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Memories—Gas Stations

Look at the price of gas today: $1.89! After complaining at $4.50 a gallon, it’s only right I publicly post a sigh of relief that the price has dropped drastically. When I gassed the car this morning I saw the self-serve sign and it reminded me of how gas stations have changed through the years. Growing up there was no such thing as serve-yourself gas stations, they were called service stations. As soon as you pulled up to the pump an attendant checked your oil, tires, washed your windows and filled your tank—all for the price of a gallon of gas.

We had two service stations close to where we lived. Hollister, Idaho, population 87, supported Dude’s and Monte’s. Dude’s was on one side of the highway and Monte’s was on the other. Our family shopped at Dude’s. I don’t ever remember my parents stepping foot on Monte’s gravel. However, one summer when my grandmother and aunt came to visit I went with them to gas up Aunt Cleo’s car. They pulled into Monte’s because the gas was cheaper by one penny—I think it was 32 cents a gallon. I felt like a traitor being on the other side of the road and hoped Dude didn’t see me and tell my dad.

I went to Monte’s one other time. Every Tuesday morning in the summer we went to Primary (a church program for children). Each child took a few pennies to Primary and put them in a box for the Primary Children’s Hospital in SLC, Utah. We had a Primary rule that you could not leave the church grounds, but the church didn’t have penny candy and pop, Dude’s and Monte’s did. However, they were down the road from the church and therefore off limits . . . and a sore temptation.

This particular Tuesday morning, (I must have been about five years old) I decided to save my penny and not put it in the sick children’s box, but go to the store and buy a little black licorice candy instead. When our leaders dismissed us for classes, I sneaked out the door and headed for Monte’s. Even though our family always shopped at Dude’s, Dude’s was on the other side of the highway from the church and since I knew I wasn’t supposed to cross the road by myself (and I figured breaking one rule was enough for the day), I took my penny to Monte’s. I panicked, however, when I got in his unfamiliar store because no one was inside. Monte must have been out back doing his chores so the store was silent, except for me helping myself to the jar on the counter. I waited with my candy, but no one came. I feared they would miss me at Primary if I didn’t hurry back, but still no one came to take my penny and I was not going to leave without my piece of candy—it had taken too much thought to get it. I waited a few more moments and then finally put my penny on the counter and started to leave. When I got to the door, I realized someone might take my penny then it would be like I stole the licorice baby, so I turned around and picked up the penny and got more frightened and confused on what I should do. Then, I had a great idea: I would put the coin in the bottom of the Reeses’ candy bar box. When the last Reeses was gone and Monte was ready to throw the box away, he’d find my penny. I dropped the coin in the box and covered it under a candy bar and hurried outside. The minute I hit the bright sunshine I wanted to melt and hide. I knew I’d done wrong.

I hurried through the crested-wheat borrow-pit back to the church and was met at the door by Elsie and Vera, two of our Primary leaders. They asked me if I’d been to the store and I said that I had. They asked me why, and I blurted, “I had to buy mustard for my mom.” They told me to run along and play baseball with the other children, but I didn’t feel like it. I felt so ashamed I went straight to the car, hid behind the seat and pulled my sweater over my head and waited till Primary was over. I didn’t play outside at home for the rest of the day, either.

That incident haunted me for years. Many times when we drove by the weigh station (which my brother told me had a holding cell in it for criminals and thieves) I worried they’d sense a thief in the car and chase us down so they could lock me up. I worried I’d get to heaven and Jesus would be ashamed of me and say He never knew me. Sometimes I could forget about the penny and candy, but then when our Sunday school teacher would recite some dreadfully, scary poem like the “Jabberwocky” I’d remember it all over again and wonder what hell would feel like. I never told a soul about my stolen licorice candy.

Finally, when I was seventeen I went to Monte with a dime for inflation and apologized and told him what had happened. It was a huge relief to let the air out of that secret. Somehow when I was holding it by myself it kept expanding, but the minute I told Monte it went back down to a size I could carry.

Last fall Calvin and I stopped at an old fashioned candy store in Montana. They had barrels and barrels of obsolete candy and I found licorice babies. I quickly bought a little bag, wondering if they were as good as I remembered. Ugh. Nope. Not only did I carry guilt for a penny for a dozen years, I spent a sin on bad tasting candy.

What’s the price of gas in your part of the world?
Did the Jabberwocky scare you?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

52 Blessings: Creativity

Thursday through Saturday I was at our Fall Scrapbook Retreat. Scrapbook retreats are magical times. Dozens of women who remain happy while scrapbooking for hours—days, really—and yet functioning on very little sleep. Deb, my retreat organizing partner, and I have yet to go to a bad retreat, even when the cook backs out at the last minute and we cook and wash dishes in a bathtub, the retreats are still good. After each retreat, I marvel at the experience. I think there are two big contributing factors that make these scrapbooking retreats so great:

One, the connecting of fathers to children and children to fathers, otherwise known as the Spirit of Elijah (Malachi 3:5-6): As these women (as of 2008 we haven’t had a man join us) work tirelessly to preserve memories for their families, there is a euphoric and cheerful feeling. For all the jesting of scrapbooking, it can’t diminish the reality of miracles as people connect generations through pages of pictures and memories, sprinkled with memorabilia. Hearts of fathers do turn to children and the children’s hearts do turn to their fathers. Miraculous.

Two, the opportunity to create: As Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul . . . Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. . . As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.” At these retreats, we have as many styles of scrapbooking as we have women and each style is so incredible . . . and personal. It doesn’t matter how new or seasoned a scrapbooker is, the creativity expressed is amazing as women make beauty of paper, photographs and memories. Amazing.

I love the scrapbook retreats for other reasons as well:

-new friendships

-old friendships

-laughter (it never runs out)

-sharing (licorice, fiber, ideas, encouragement, tears, shampoo, blow dryers, talents, conversation, popcorn, equipment, supplies, circle journals)

-good food (lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, salads, grilled chicken, hot chocolate machine, warm rolls)

-happy chatter (I overheard two sister-in-laws telling each other how lucky they felt to be married to their husbands and how glad they were to be chosen by their husbands. I also heard mothers talking about children who made decisions they didn’t agree with and how they found hope and solace anyway. I heard memories relived and new plans made.)

-beautiful location (mountains, pine trees, snows, warm lodge, fireplace)

-bonding time spent with family (at least one of my family member usually attends--Cali, Ande, my sister, Rachel, as well as nieces, Jesse, Maddie, Jenny--have all attended)

-teaching skills (others show me how to do new things or teach me how to unplug my laptop so that I can have internet connection again)

-Calvin always has a hot supper waiting for me when I return (last night was steak and shrimp no less)

and . . .

-uninterrupted hours to create

Even though I slept less than seven hours, I feel so recharged and refreshed—grateful for the energy that comes from creativity.

Where do you use your creative talents?
What do you like to create?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Teaching Idea—Don’t Eat Pete!

How to play:

1. Make a grid. Fill in the table with symbols of whatever you are studying. (For example, if you’re studying the life of Peter in the Bible you can put various symbols representing his life: a fish because he was a fisherman, a sword and an ear because he cut off the soldier’s ear, a rock because his name means rock, keys because he was given the keys of the kingdom, etc. . .)

2. Put one small piece of candy in each square (m&m, runt, skittle, etc.)

3. Send one person out of the room.

4. Pick a square on the grid to be “Pete.”

5. Call the person back in the room but don’t tell him/her where “Pete” is.

6. The “it” person picks up candy one piece at a time. If the candy is not “Pete,” the person is allowed to eat it. If the candy is “Pete,” everyone yells “DON’T EAT PETE!” and that person’s turn is over.

The whole point is to put off finding Pete as long as possible so you can eat more candy. This game is great fun for people of all ages and gives repeated exposure and reinforcement to the subject matter you are attempting to teach.

The variations for this game are endless: multiplication tables or add/subtraction facts, spelling words, states and capitals, animals, colors, plants, history facts, presidents.

Where could you use this game?
Any other subject ideas?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thank You, Mr. Bush

I voted for George W. proudly in 2000 and 2004. I’m not ashamed and still think the people of Iraq deserved freedom from tyranny. I’m glad we didn’t turn and look the other way. Every time I read a history book which outlines Hitler’s rise to power and the indifference of those not affected which allowed such atrocious treatment of mankind, I am glad we went in to help Hussein’s people. I strongly feel where much is given, much is required. America is given much. I’m glad we have been in Iraq and am proud of what we’ve helped Iraqis accomplish. I’m not speaking flippantly; I have studied this issue extensively for I have two soldier sons who are directly affected by our Commander in Chief’s decisions. I am confident and at peace that there is purpose that is not necessarily now seen in this conflict.

I appreciate President Bush's conviction to moral values and his ability to protect us.

I had planned to post my thanks to George W. Bush for his public service on January 21, 2009, but today the Wall Street Journal wrote this article, so I’ll just stamp AGREED and "Thank you, Mr. Bush" today instead.

What do you appreciate about President Bush?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

SPT—Pins & Needles

Pins and Needles:

Plural Noun: A tingling sensation felt in a part of the body numbed from lack of circulation.
Idiom: In a state of tense anticipation.

(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.)

I saw the Christmas candy on the store shelf before Halloween was over. I saw Halloween costumes on the store shelf when it was still summer. I saw school supplies on the store shelf three weeks after school had recessed for the summer. Elections, like Christmas, Halloween and school supply sales, last much longer than they used to. In fact, if the stakes weren’t so high in this election I would say that I feel pins and needles—numb from the over-circulation of election diatribe. However, because the stakes are so high, I have felt a state of tense anticipation for the past few months.

Today, however, I feel happy and peaceful (they say acupuncture does that to you). Though I don’t know what tonight’s voting outcome will be and I have valid concerns for the future, after much prayer and concern I feel at peace that Someone larger than me is aware of America. I'm glad our votes have been counted in this historic election:

Calvin and Jane on Election Day 2008

(Edited to add: Ooops. I didn't read the SPT directions clearly this week. Sorry, Lelly, next week I'll be wordless. I promise!)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday Memories—Hair Dressers

your guess is good as mine . . . 9? 10? 11?

Today I went to get my hair cut. Judy was the first hairdresser I remember. She cut hair at the second station in Mr. Juan’s shop. She had a short, gray bob and always gave me a pixie cut. While Judy cut mom’s hair, I took care of Lee, my little brother. We walked to Arctic Circle and bought a hamburger with fries and dip and then to King’s and looked at the toy department in the basement. By the time we’d done those two things, my mom’s hair was done. I named my doll with short hair, Judy.

Second was Jeanette at Jeanette’s Country Curl. She had her shop in a trailer next to her house. She had thin, shapely, tan legs and wore shorts and clogs year round. She cut my hair in a shag. She had an oh-so-nice-looking son two years older than me. Jeanette cut my hair around 6:30 am and then her son drove me to school. I looked forward to getting my hair cut at Jeanette’s.

For the next several years I mostly used cut-and-go shops. I only remember one stylist clearly. Though she cut my hair only once, she was memorable. She was 54 and met her husband through an ad in the newspaper. Two weeks after she met him, he gave his life to God so she knew he was the one for her. After she talked a bit, she referred to her ex-husband, so I said, “Oh, you’ve been married before then, I see” and she said, “Heavens, yes. This is my fifth husband.” Then she told me each husband’s story. There was Alan who was a schizophrenic, Darrel who was an alcoholic, gambler and ex-con; hmmm….I’ve forgotten the names of the middle two now….and then there was Gary. She told me of a past Thanksgiving where she’d spent it with her oldest daughter’s family. Husband #2, the gambler and alcoholic, lived with her daughter, so while the hairdresser gave her daughter and grandchildren perms, husband #3 and husband #5 went to the bar and played pool together for four hours. The hairdresser said her life was grand because she just turned everything over to God. She has a step-son that she doesn’t like so she turned him over to God, too. I believe God can do anything, but she made God sound like a garbage disposal where she threw everything she didn’t like or know what to do with.

But for the past number of years I have gone to Melanie. I love Melanie. I owe Melanie. It started even before my comb-over.

Remember when our friends or siblings said we shouldn’t stare with our eyes crossed because they might get stuck that way? I took that warning seriously. There are just some things you don’t mess with. So, with a healthy dose of jinx-caution, I don’t know how I got cursed hair. I’ve never been obsessed with my hair, but I’ve never taken it for granted, either. “Be and let be” has been my motto, with one exception: I do remember staring at comb-overs. Here is a caution and warning to my blog-readers: Don’t stare at comb-overs, your hair may get stuck that way if you do.

A couple of years ago my hair was suddenly short—really short—in one spot, a silver dollar patch of short hair. I had noticed extra hair on the brush that same morning, but didn’t link the two. I told Ande (who had a long, beautiful, curly mane that sheds) that she really needed to do something about how much hair she was leaving in the brush and on the bathroom sink. But, always having animals and knowing that spring is the time for shedding and molting, I didn’t worry about my patch or the pile I assumed was Ande’s hair. However, I did become more alarmed a few days later when the patch on the top of my head seemed to be getting larger—with lots of different hair lengths (short to really short). I wondered if maybe I had a disease that attacks hair follicles for no good reason and eats them off at varying lengths.

A few days later, Ande showed me that the diffuser attachment to the blow-dryer had melted to the blow-dryer nozzle. I finally put two and two together (fuzzy patch, short hair + very hot hair dryer, melted attachment = singed hair of varying lengths). I called Melanie and said, “Help! I think I’ve got a problem.”

Melanie squeezed me into her schedule and when she saw my hair she said, “Oh my gosh!” and gave me a pitiful look, “I won’t try to sugarcoat this. It’s bad.” She spread her hands out the size of a small cereal bowl and said, “You’ve burned your hair off and the spot is this big.” She ran her fingers through my hair a few times, then ran a pick through the stubble and separated the surviving long strands and finally said, “I can’t do a thing with it, Jane.” She rummaged through her stock of supplies looking for some kind of hope. Finding nothing, she said, “Let it grow for a couple of weeks and then I’ll trim the bottom layer—the least I can do for you is prevent a mullet. But, for now, you can . . .” and we chimed together, “do a comb-over” and began laughing. Then she rummaged through her supplies again, but this time looked for something that would glue my remaining hair across the bad spot. A comb-over was the only answer.

So, yes, I owe Melanie because she can make me laugh at anything, even my own comb-over, and she introduced me to so many bloggers.

One day, a couple of years ago, while Melanie was cutting my hair we were talking about blogs. Melanie told me about Kristi’s blog and in turn, Kristi introduced me to Pink Christmas which led to Michelle’s and Jenny’s blogs, which led to . . . well, you know how blogs-leading-to-blogs works. Melanie also introduced me to SPT’s and Lelly, which leads to this self portrait of Melanie, Reed and me.

Melanie really is normal sized and I’m really not giant-ish, I just didn’t pose us well.

I enjoy getting my hair cut, really much. I enjoy Melanie's company. I enjoy her skill. I enjoy her laugh. I enjoy her kids. I enjoy her conversation. I suppose that partly explains why I'll always have short hair.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

52 Blessings—Political Power

I always wondered where I would stand on a battlefield. I sadly determined I would not be on the front line, but back at the kitchen preparing kool-aid and cookies for the brave. I’m certain I would encourage them to fight fearlessly with the promise I’d be right behind them. I was woefully sharing this with Calvin one evening and he slowly nodded, “Yes. I can see you." Then he mimicked me with both hands over his ears, his eyes scrunched closed, shaking his head back and forth saying, "Oh no. Oh no. I can tell. There’s going to be a fight.”

I wish to be a calmer, but I dream to be a patriot. Can I be both?

Polly Cooper was a calmer. In the winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge, George Washington’s troops lay sick and starving. Chief Skenandoah relieved the suffering of the soldiers by giving them corn. Polly, a woman from the Oneida tribe, stayed behind with the Chief’s gift to nurse the soldiers and prepare nutritional and medicinal food. She wouldn’t take money for payment; put she did accept a black shawl in token of Washington’s gratitude. I want to be like her, what she did was significant.

Margaret Corbin was a patriot. Wives of the soldiers routinely cooked meals, laundered clothes, and nursed wounds, but they also watched the men do their drills and learned them also. Margaret fought in the Revolutionary War next to her husband, John. In November 1776 they were stationed in New York fighting British troops. John was assisting a gunner until the gunner was killed, then he took charge of the canon and Margaret became his assistant. Later, John was killed too, so Margaret continued loading and firing the cannon. Can you imagine fighting in the aftermath of seeing your husband killed? Can you imagine manning the spot where two men were killed before you? Margaret was wounded by grapeshot—it tore her shoulder, mangled her chest, and cut her jaw. She was carried to the rear of the company where she received medical treatment, but she never regained the use of her arm. Today, near the place of the battle, a bronze plaque honors "the first American woman to take a soldier's part in the War for Liberty". I want to be like her, what she did was strong.

Can a peacemaker by birth become a patriot by life? Is it doable to be a Polly and a Margaret? Perchance I found the answer in the quote, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

I do feel more comfortable baking cookies to blowing cannons, but this Tuesday I can fight on the election battlefield, wield a pen, and cast votes for candidates that will uphold the Constitution, defend moral values and protect America. Yes. That’s what I can do. Where is the drum roll?

Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

M. Russell Ballard said, “It may not always be easy, convenient, or politically correct to stand for truth and right, but it is the right thing to do. Always.”

I feel more courageous and valiant just thinking of it—maybe my backbone is straighter than I thought. I can do my patriot duty and vote. I wish I could vote on Proposition 8 in California. I wish I could vote to protect marriage and the family. A marriage between a man and woman is the only kind of marriage God has sanctioned today and children deserve to be raised in a home with a father and mother—the same way they were created. I know that some say that government should stay out of matters of morality, but all of our laws are based on morality. Stealing, cheating, lying, killing, disrespecting property—all are immoral actions, but we have laws which govern against them. Hence, they are moral laws and a republic and democracy only work for a moral people. I wish we didn’t need governed as far as a family is concerned, but I also wish we didn’t need governed as far as thievery or murder is concerned either. Society, however, dictates a need for governance because anarchy is no option. Since the family is the basic unity of society, if it fails society fails. We think nothing of protecting our soil and investments from foreign invaders, yet to allow society to destroy from within our most valuable asset, the family, by refusing to protect it makes no sense. I wish my vote could be counted in that decision, instead I will hope and pray the people in California protect the family.

Yes. That is what I will do, I will vote and encourage others to and I’ll mail a box of cookies to a soldier while I’m at it. I’m grateful we have a choice in our laws and leaders.