Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Homemaking Tip--The Parfait

These little plastic cups are from the $tore and have come in quite handy for quick desserts and salads--especially when taking a meal to someone. A plus is they're single serving size and eliminate leftovers. Tonight I filled them with pudding, cool whip and heath bits, a few weeks ago with a no-bake cheescake recipe, another time with waldorf salad. At 8 for $1, they're a bargain . . . and cute to boot. What would you put in them?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SPT—Tree of Life


Last weekend we spent the night at a friend’s cabin in Northern Idaho. We went on an early morning hike and ended it by picking apples from the lone fruit tree. Even though it is late in the season for them, I'll bet they are translucent apples—crisp, sour, sweet. I’m not an organic girl, I like the bugs dead from pesticides and the food fleshy from fertilizer, but these dwarfed apples didn’t have one worm in them and so for the day, I was happily organic.


This photo of that lone apple tree reminds me of the Tree of Life. Many cultures and religions celebrate a tree of life, but the specific tree I’m referring to is found in The Book of Mormon.

Lehi dreamed he saw “a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.” (1 Nephi 8:10) A few verses later we read that the fruit of the tree represents the love of God. Literally and figuratively, I love the fruit of this tree.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Memories--Forts

There was a row of cottonwood and poplar trees not far from the house. They were close enough to walk or ride our bikes to, even when we were really young with little legs. A ditch ran right in front of the trees, making it a perfect place to build forts. We made ourselves homes using burnt cans from the trash barrels as pots and pans, and a piece of tin that blew off the barn and fallen limbs for walls. We drew our water from the ditch to make mud pies and then pretended to fish in that same water when we’d finished our baking. One fort even had a tree we could climb so it had an upstairs bedroom (if you didn’t mind sleeping standing up), a kitchen with a shelf that overlooked the river (ditch) or a bathroom, depending on who owned the fort for the day. Sometimes we built our forts together, but usually we built our own, ten feet a part, and then visited each other like neighbors. Fort building was one of my funnest pastimes.

Not surprisingly, one of my first chapter books was The Littles. It’s a story about the Littles’ family. “The Littles were tiny people. They weren’t just small, they were tiny, about as long as a pencil . . . Baby Betsy was no bigger than a thimble. The Littles looked like ordinary people except for one thing: they had tails. They weren’t useful tails. But they did look pretty, the Littles thought.”

The Littles lived in the walls of the Biggs’ house and once, when they needed to go to Cousin Dinky’s wedding, some of them climbed into a green, plastic, strawberry basket with a balloon tied to it and floated to the party. Fun as their adventures were however, it wasn’t the stories that caught my attention but the drawings of the Littles’ home.

They made an ottoman from a tuna fish can, a plant pot out of a thimble, a dresser from a band-aid box, a mantel from spools and end tables from pill bottles. They hung a postage stamp as we would a framed picture and a pocket watch for their mantel clock. In short, the Littles were ardent fort builders. They could make a home from scraps.

Fort-building came in handy when we were first married. It seemed everything in our home had a dual purpose or was a cast-off from someone or something else. Yet today I see that we are down to only one thing that would still qualify us as fort-builders—the antique, wooden kitchen table that we painted red and use as an entertainment center.

Long live the antique, wooden kitchen table.

Were you a fort-builder? Do you still have anything to prove it?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

52 Blessings--Ray

In continuing on with the comments to 52 Blessings—Ande, it's Ray’s turn . . .


A month or two ago as we were doing dishes, Ande was telling me about two of her friends. She said, “Did you know that ________ isn’t his mom’s favorite and she’s told him so?”

Me: “Hmmm. That’s odd. One, that he doesn’t feel the favorite and two, that the mom would even say she has favorites. Who are the favorites?”

Ande: “______ and ______ and the mom said so.”

Me: “Hmmmm” again.

Ande: “And did you know that _______ is the favorite in their family?”

Me: “Yup. That one is obvious.”

Me: “And who did you say was our favorite?”

Ande: “We’ve had this conversation before, you know that. We have all come to the conclusion that you and Dad have no favorites.”

Me: “Yeah, but when you’re with your friends sometimes you agree or say something that you don’t say at home. I just wondered what you told your friends on who-is-the-favorite at our house.”

Ande: Repeating herself, “You guys don’t have favorites.” PREGNANT pause, “However, if you do have favorites, I’d say it’s Ray.”

Oh ho, that still makes me laugh. Ray, thanks for being our favorite.

Though I have lots of favorite things about Ray, one of my favorites is his sense of curiosity. He could have written these words by Rudyard Kipling:

I keep six honest serving-men,
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
~Rudyard Kipling~

I first noticed Ray’s curiosity in the questions he asked when we met. They were more than surface questions and he sincerely wanted to hear the answers. Later when riding bikes in the West and seeing history sights in the East, I noticed that Ray read every placard, sign, engraving. If there was a lid, he lifted it. If there was a hole, he looked in it. If there was a ledge, he peered over it. If Ray wants to learn something he studies it. If he wants to know how to do something he practices it. His skills and interests are wide because of that great gift of curiosity that he has.

Ray, Cali, Ande, Ty

Ray is a great blessing to many. His energy and wisdom, fueled by his curiosity, have made my life better and I love him for it. Ray really is a favorite blessing in my life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Homemaking Tip—Better Bakers

Lately I’ve started cutting our potatoes in half before baking them. I still rub them with shortening like before, but then put the cut side down, sprinkle with coarse salt and bake them at 350 degrees for an hour or so. They get a nicely browned crust on the underside and the insides are so soft. Mm-mm, they are good.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SPT—House-itosis Be Gone

my self-portrait is mirrored on the juicer (please note the halo over my head :)

I liked to think in the first home we owned it was because the previous owners had poodles. I liked to think in the second home we owned that it was because a previous owner occasionally kept sick calves in his basement. I liked to think in this home it was because the former owner was on canine patrol and the German Shepherds spent time in the kitchen. Yes, I’d rather think it was them and not us.

But there are a few days every year that house-itosis be gone—Thanksgiving and grape-juice-making-day. No unpleasant odor can overpower the beautiful smell of steaming concord grapes. I do believe they could even conquer the odor of the primate house at the zoo.

Who/what do you blame your house-itosis on?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Memories--Checking

I’ve had a checking account since I was eleven or twelve years old—maybe longer. Quite conceivably I’ve written thousands and thousands of checks. Please don’t gasp, but as of today I now have an activated debit card. Please don’t ask me why it’s taken me so long to get one as there is no sensible answer, just know that check writing at the store is now a memory.

Do I dare feel more stupid by asking how long you've been using a debit card instead of checks?
What kind of backgrounds have you had on your personal checks?
(I used to have mountains when I was in high school and briefly considered Holly Hobby.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

52 Blessings—Calvin

In continuing on with the comments to 52 Blessings—Ande, it's Calvin’s turn . . .

He thinks he's funny. He's trying to tell me he's broke.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I went on an animal science field trip through Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma. It was in the spring and we traveled in a big, blue college van. One day while I was sitting in the middle seat, some of the girls in the back seat were talking about a man named Calvin Payne. The conversation was for all to hear. I heard bits and pieces of it—enough to know that a couple of the girls had a crush on him.

The next fall when college started up again, my roommates and I attended an animal science club meeting. Later that afternoon when I walked into our apartment my two roommates were discussing a man named Calvin Payne that was at the meeting. Since he was the one conducting, they asked me if I had seen him. I said, “Oh. Is that who that was? Well, let me tell you girls, I’ve heard of him. He’s been married, divorced, got two kids and he’s too much for us to handle” and then I headed back out the door to another class.

Not two days later, Calvin called and asked me out on a date. I had two thoughts running through my head while we talked on the phone:

One: “Just because someone says they are in your class doesn’t mean you can trust them.” (That was the sum total of my mother’s advice to me before I left for college.)

Two: “If you tell him no you’ll never get asked out by another guy in the animal science department. One no will end all your chances.”

So, with severe trepidation I said I’d love to go with him to the animal science activity later in the week.

Now here is where our story differs. Calvin swears he told me he had a meeting and that he might be a few minutes late; I swear he never mentioned it. Regardless of who swears the best, here is how I remember it:

The night came for Calvin to pick me up. I’d overcome most of my initial fears because a bigger one replaced it: What if this was just a joke and he planned to set me up?

He didn’t come at 7:30. He didn’t come at 7:33. At 7:35 I was pretty sure I was the brunt of the joke and at 7:36 asked one of my roommates to drop me off at the activity. We were playing volleyball and I was comfortable playing, so I joined in the game and hoped no one else knew of the set up.

At 7:38 Calvin got to our apartment. My other roommate opened the door and he asked her if I was ready. She told him I wasn’t there. He thought he’d been stood-up. He left as deflated as I’d left three minutes earlier. He also decided to go to the activity anyway.

When I saw Calvin come into the activity I didn’t know what to do. He sat on the sidelines and visited with some of the other guys in the animal science department while I continued to play. But a game can’t last forever. When it had ended, I decided the best thing to do was to hit the situation in the head—if he’d set me up he’d know I didn’t break that easily, if he hadn’t then I’d repair the damage. I waited 'til the other men left and then spoke to him.

He was such a gentleman. I don’t remember what was said, but we both realized it was a misunderstanding and he offered to take me home.

Now that the fear of being stood up was resolved, my earlier fears resurfaced. What if he was too much for me to handle? Once inside the car, I kept my hand on the door handle with the idea that if he turned right to go to the lake (where I’d been warned baaaaad things happened) then I’d jump out. I remembered those girls in the van saying he was older and so I was sure I could outrun him if I needed to. While I was quietly surveying my situation, he just visited and asked me questions. After we’d driven a few blocks he offered to take me to Baskin Robbins. I will always love Baskin Robbins. They could go down to offering only two flavors and I’d still love them because Baskin Robbins can freeze even fear. They were also the opposite direction of the lake and so instead of turning right, he turned left. I could finally take my hand off the door handle.

Calvin and I visited freely. By the end of the evening, I knew I’d found a new friend. In fact, when my roommates asked me how the date went I said, “I don’t know if anything will ever come of it, I don’t know if he’ll ever even ask me out again, but I do know that I just found a great friend.”

He did ask me out again. And again. And again. And to this day, one of the things I most appreciate about him is his friendship. I am deeply thankful for the blessing of Calvin and grateful to our Father in Heaven for helping us in our relationship.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Life in My World--Supper Table Conversation

In today's newsletter I talked about dinner-table conversations and gave seven conversation starters. Tonight I planned to ask Calvin those same questions. Oh ho, I should have known that you just don't spring some of these questions after 27 years of marriage and expect a serious and revealing conversation.

My first question to Calvin was "If you could be an Olympic athlete, what would you be?"

Calvin cocked an eyebrow and said, "Your poor students. Do you do ask them stuff like this every day?"

I assured him that indeed I do and then asked again, "Who would you be?"

"Jim Thorpe or Michael Johnson."

Thrilled to have a sentence to build on that we had never ever discussed before I said, "Jim Thorpe, wasn't he the Native American athlete?"

Calvin agreed.

I said, "Oh yes! I just heard on the country classics radio program last Saturday alllllll about him. Charlie Pride sang a song about him."

Calvin cocked his other eyebrow and said, "A song about Jim Thorpe?"

"Oh yes! And even though the radio announcer said that political activist sentiments don't do well in the music industry, the song about Jim Thorpe was wildly popular."

Calvin said, "I've never heard of a song about Jim Thorpe."

Calvin knows more genres and performers of music than anyone I know. Really. He knows all the oldies stuff. I said, "Oh. Well, maybe it was Johnny Cash that sang the song, but I think it was Charlie Pride. Yes, I'm just sure of it. Charlie Pride sings the song about Jim Thorpe."

Calvin just nodded his head and I continued to excitedly babble about what I'd heard and then he slowly said, "Do you mean Ira Hayes? Drunkin' Ira Hayes?"

I didn't miss a beat, "Oh yes! That's it. Ira Hayes not Jim Thorpe."

“Jane, Ira Hayes was a marine at Iwo Jima not an Olympian. And it was Johnny Cash that sang the song.”

Undeterred, "Yes, yes, that was it! Charlie Pride sang Kaw-Liga (the song about the totem pole that can’t love) right before the Ira Hayes song. That must be how I got them mixed up."

Clearly, the question had taken an unexpected turn and I tried to return to it: ask something seriously about Michael Johnson, why Calvin chose who he did, etc. Calvin just shook his head and started to laugh then razzed me for a bit longer about getting the two men mixed up. I decided it was time to move to a new question, but before I even got it all asked Calvin said, "How do you think of these? Do you just sit around and think these things up? Why are you asking all of these questions?"

I rattled something and asked a new question to which he said, "Nuh-uh. I'm not gonna answer that one.”

I think we'd best stick to safe table topics like politics from now on.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Homemaking Tip--Carrot Peel Mess

I just figured out a couple of days ago that it's much easier to take the carrot peeler out to the garden and peel the carrots right then and there--flipping the carrot peels all over the ground--than it is to bring them into the kitchen and flip the peels all over the sink.

Then again, I suppose it's easiest to just buy baby carrots and skip the whole mess altogether . . .

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SPT--My Other Half

Calvin's home; he safely delivered Grace to Abe and flew home late last night.

I missed him. Badly.

I slept on his side of the bed when he was gone to feel braver, but now I'm perfectly content returning to my cowardly self.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Memories--Grandpa & Grandma Hoops

Bill & Julia Hoops

One of the things I liked to see best when the school bus dropped us off at our lane was my grandparents' car in the driveway. When we saw it, we would jump the cattleguards and race for the living room. There sat Grandpa and Grandma. My parents and grandparents had a strained relationship, so mom was usually in some other corner of the house while Grandpa and Grandma sat quietly by themselves waiting for us kids to get home.

Grandpa kept a clip comb in his front pocket and would sit back in the chair while we played barber. It seemed we combed his thick, white hair for hours. When we were small we would run by him and he would reach out, snatch us and tickle us until we couldn't breathe. Then he'd turn us loose, we'd run away, compare red scratches on our ribs and run by him again. Sometimes Grandpa would take the older kids shooting .22 rifles up on the hill and once in awhile he'd take a walk out around the farm. Grandpa's family had owned the land previously to my folks.

Grandma would follow us to our bedrooms to see how our dolls were doing, what our homework was, or ask to see our collections (my sister, Lynn, had a perfume bottle collection). One time she challenged me to learn the counties in Idaho, tested me when she visited and paid me five dollars when I had learned them. Grandma always brought a box of candy bars or a gallon of ice cream. Sometimes she would scoop a handful of the candy bars from the box and walk over and give some to our neighbors--they had ten kids, too.

After we all ate supper together, as we customarily did (and embarrassingly enough, sometimes Dad would tell mother-in-law jokes at it), Grandpa and Grandma would give us a hug, get in their sedan or station wagon and drive the 25 miles back to town. Then, in another month they'd come and visit again.

I have many big memories of Grandpa and Grandma: going camping at Aunt Jean's cabin, going on a trip to Israel with them, going to the Ice Capades and eating scallops for the first time. However, it wasn't until several years later that I fully appreciated the effort that Grandpa and Grandma put into those monthly trips to spend the evening with us. I'm sure glad they made the effort though because those little visits are some of my fondest memories with them.

What is one of your favorite grandparent memories,
being's yesterday was Grandparent's Day and all?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

52 Blessings—Abe

In continuing on with the comments to 52 Blessings—Ande, it's Abe’s turn . . .


One of the things I have most enjoyed about Abe is discussing things with him. From the time he was a little boy he liked to discuss ideas, things he’d read, what was going on at recess. I remember one time when he told me, “You are like a Democrat, Mom. You want to fix everything and you don’t think people can take care of themselves.” (Little did he know that I vote both sides of the aisle and for the ones in the rafters, too.) Abe continues to be well-read and has definite views on different matters. Because of his love of history, his ability to see two sides to a problem and his loyalty to country and people, I suggested he become a judge for his career. He had a definite opinion on that idea, “No” and became an engineer instead.

Abe is a champion of the underdog and fiercely loyal to those he loves. He feels a great responsibility to provide freedom and protect the people of America. He reminds me of the line in America the Beautiful that says, “Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life . . . .” I appreciate that about Abe, I appreciate that he is willing to inconvenience and even sacrifice himself for the well-being of those he loves and even those he doesn’t know.

Yes, Abe is one of my blessings and I am deeply grateful to our Heavenly Father for letting us be family.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Life in My World--Four for Friday

1. Yesterday I went down to the temple in bigger town and also stopped in at the craft store for a very specific thing—wooden, four-drawered boxes. Last year Calvin helped me glue and clamp 24 of them together to make 4 Christmas advents. Yesterday was my lucky day. The store was clearing them all out for $1.50 each. I got enough to make two more advents.

2. I have a friend whose eight year old daughter died of brain cancer on Super Bowl Sunday. There isn’t a Super Bowl that I don’t think of them. Even though it’s been nearly twenty years ago, sometimes I still send a card telling her that I haven’t forgotten her daughter or the challenge their family went through together.

This morning I was thinking about the corner-stand, hot-dog vender we met several years ago in New York and wondered what his day is like today. If I could write him a letter, here is what I would say:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for serving us, we really appreciated how clean your cart was and how cold your drinks were. You took good care of us, but I still remember how empty your eyes were and how sad your face was when you told us about your customers, friends and fellow New Yorkers that you watched perish in the World Trade Center attacks. I remember your details of the sights, sounds and smells you experienced. I’m sure sorry for what you went through.

On September 11th, 2001 I turned on the news right after the first plane struck the North Tower, just in time to see the second plane fly into the South Tower. It was unreal—until I talked to you. Then I realized how very real it was to you and thousands and thousands like you.

America is busy again and has moved on, but I want you to know that I’m thinking of you today . . . and the thousands of others who hurt . . . and hope you feel hope and peace.

With warmest regards—

3. Today my goal is to clean house, make raspberry jam and can a batch of Grandma Ellingford’s Chili Sauce. It is made from tomatoes, cloves, peppers, onions, etc. I really like it on roast. In a pinch you can add a couple of Tablespoons of chili sauce to mayonnaise and a dab of ketchup and make a pretty good Thousand Island dressing, too. I think Grandma’s chili sauce is something you have to grow up with to appreciate it. At least my siblings and I are the only ones on Earth I know who like it.

4. Calvin and Grace call every few hours and update me where they are. It kind of reminds me of the Santa tracker on Christmas Eve. They spent last night with Ty and he called after they left thanking me for his scrapbook. It was so worth doing. Things like that always are.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday Thinking--Sticks and stones will break my bones . . .

It's all over the news that a congressional representative from South Carolina called the President a liar during the presidential speech last night. It sounds as if the outburst has doomed the representative's future. When I read the story I thought, "Whoa. If they think that makes him a criminal, they should have been in congressional meetings back during Lincoln's tenure. The congressmen wore revolvers (and pulled them) and beat each other senseless with canes when they didn't agree." While I don't endorse disrespect, name-calling, revolver brandishing or caning, I did think it interesting that after a campaign of two-sided name-calling and half-truths this incident would receive such national attention as if propriety is the first thing on politicians' minds. The incessant applause and ovation after each sentence during a presidential speech has got to be worse on the ego than a name call. Responding to each phrase as if it is poetry or a stroke of genius can't be good for anybody's psyche, president or no. And that is what I've been thinking about this morning. What have you been thinking about?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Homemaking Tip—Join the Relief Society

the first Relief Society in 1842

Today Calvin is taking Grace to meet Abe in Georgia—via Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. They are also stopping to see Ty in Colorado Springs along the way. In the worst way I wanted to finish Ty’s mission scrapbook to send to him as a surprise (please don’t envision a grandiose scrapbook; you can imagine lots and lots and lots and lots of photos if you’d like, but that is all the further your imagination should take you).

I realized Monday evening that there was no way I could finish Ty’s scrapbook in time because I was going to run out of page protectors and album extender rods for all of those lots and lots and lots of pictures. The closest store having those specific supplies is over 70 miles away—too far to get there and back, still go to work and finish the book. However, I remembered that Sunday while we were sitting in Relief Society they announced that several sisters (as we call each other) were going to the temple on Tuesday. The temple is real close to the scrapbook store so early Tuesday morning I called one of the women who said she was going and told her my dilemma. I asked if she would pick up the supplies for me. She not only said yes, she said heaven’s yes!

After I hung up the phone Calvin said, “There is no way I would have asked someone to do that.”

I said, “I know. But if you were part of Relief Society you would . . .”

You see, Relief Society is a women's organization all about helping each other, whether you need scrapbooking supplies or advice. We clean each other’s ovens and tend each other’s children. We listen to each others stories and cry or laugh (and sometimes we even roll our eyes) together. We teach each other lessons about faith, tomatoes, Alzheimer’s, sacrifice, writing resumes and building stronger families. We sew quilts and hats, crochet leper bandages and gather school supplies for those in need. We watch movies and go to meetings together. We share Christmas gift ideas and Thanksgiving recipes. We eat together (we looooove to eat together). We discuss books and world conditions. Unitedly we aim to live the Savior’s motto that charity never faileth.

Truly, joining Relief Society is the best homemaking tip I’ve ever suggested; it is an army of women willing to help, teach, encourage and befriend you all while giving you the opportunity to do the same for someone else.

Just think what Calvin is missing.

SPT—How I Spent My Summer Vacation

We had a merry-go-round on our school playground. It was a fast one and when a sixth grade boy pushed, it was downright thrilling. The toes of your shoes would get holes in just a couple of days if you dragged your feet to slow it down. It didn’t take long to learn to keep your feet up.

There are no merry go rounds in this town, but if there were that is where I would have taken today’s Self Portrait Challenge: “How I spent my summer vacation.” For me, this summer was like the big boys were pushing—it was fast and exciting. It included:

a trip to Washington D.C.—going to West Point graduation—having Ande home from college—taking Grace to the temple—welcoming Ty home from his mission—celebrating Abe and Grace’s wedding—sending Ty back to the Academy—spending a week in Seattle with Cali and Ray— serving jury duty—attending Laurie’s funeral—taking two online classes—gardening the garden—having family visit (nieces, nephews, brother, sisters, sister-in-law, brother-in-law)—and living regular life . . . with the added bonus of the kids being home more often.

A time or two I wanted to slow it all down, but that wouldn’t have done any good; there was so much momentum it was just smarter to run faster and try to keep up. What a great vacation—very little rest, but very rejuvenating.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Memories--Rachel's Blog

Calvin and our kids love her as much as I do

I was almost nine when our little sister, Rachel, was born. I was out on the playground when Mrs. Ryan, the school secretary, came and told me I was wanted on the telephone. Dad told me we had a new baby girl in our family. I still remember the relief that went from my ears to my head to my feet. Dad and Mom had said that if the baby was a boy his name would be Fred, but if it was a girl she would be named Rachel. Fred is a fine, respectable name, but when the main Fred you know is Fred Flinstone, well you hope for something pretty and smart like Rachel.

Rachel was a little girl's dream come true. I had a live doll and she was happy to oblige. As a toddler, she'd sit on the cupboard and help me cook. One afternoon I was making brownies and she kept begging for a lick of the chocolate. It was melted, bitter-sweet Baker's chocolate and I kept telling her that it was nasty and she wouldn't like it. She continued to beg so I let experience teach her and gave her a big spoonful. She shuddered and sputtered and made me laugh. Another afternoon I was peeling onions and remembered her funny bitter-chocolate expression. Like Snow White's stepmother, I offered her a big bite of the onion telling her it was an apple. She believed me.

She's never much cared for cooking since.

Nearly each week for five years Rachel has allowed to share one of her e-mails in the newsletter. She's the mother of seven incredibly well-behaved children, homeschools, has a funny wit, dresses up for her husband, reads the hardest books ever written for fun, and sees irony in everyday situations. She's also a private person so it is a generous leap for her to trust me (considering the onion and chocolate experience) to share her personal e-mails.

Last spring when I went to see Rachel and her family, we set up a blog for her. After much begging, she finally made it public. (However, my cries to allow comments still falls on deaf ears though her hearing is just fine.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

52 Blessings--Grace

In continuing on with the comments to 52 Blessings—Ande, it's Grace's turn . . .


I knew I would enjoy Grace after I listened to how Abe talked of her. He talked about her with such animation, hope, respect. And then we met her and discovered how adaptable she is too . . .

Last spring Calvin and I went back to Abe’s graduation a week early to be a part of all the ceremonies. Grace had just finished her job and was free to go everywhere with us. Calvin, Grace and I spent the week joined at the hip; you become very attached to your hips. You want them to do everything you want to do. Our motel one night had a warm, clean pool. Grace and I wanted to go swimming but she didn’t have a swimming suit. She didn’t bat an eye when I suggested that a pair of pink underwear would match her pink-striped camisole and make a cute tankini. She responded enthusiastically and the two of us went swimming. The man in the pool was none the wiser either. When Cali and Ande, recipients of many of my ideas, found out I suggested underwear to Grace they both yelled in a falling-off-the-cliff-echo, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooo! You DIDN’T suggest that to her. Oh mom, how could you.” I smiled and Grace said, “Really, it was just fine and it even matched. We had a good time.” How can you not love a girl that will swim in a make-do swimming suit?

Another night during that trip, Calvin, Grace and I stayed alone in an old home that “may or may not be haunted.” It had several rooms and three floors. As we got ready to go to bed, I asked Grace what room she would like, thinking she would welcome privacy after sleeping head to head for many nights. She looked at me carefully and said, “How about that room that has two beds in it? You and Calvin can have the big one and I’ll take the little one.” Later, after we’d climbed into bed and said good-night Calvin asked, “Hey, who left the light on out at the shed?” The property was surrounded by thick forests and there was a shed about 50 yards from the house near the trees.

I told him I had checked it before we went to bed and it was off. He said he had, too. And then . . . and then . . . he suggested that perhaps there were more than us in the house. Grace whimpered from the other bed, “Please don’t say that.”

Calvin got up out of the bed and went down the creaking, wooden steps to turn off the light. The minute he turned the light out the house was licorice black and silent. Nothing. After a minute or two Grace called out, “Calvin? Where are you, Calvin?” Nothing. Pretty soon we heard light scratching on the walls and then more silence. Then we heard soft noises followed by silence. Grace kept calling Calvin, but there was no answer. Finally I hollered, “Calvin, you better cut it out. You’re starting to scare Grace.” Still nothing.

After several minutes Calvin quietly crept back into the room and when he made his presence known in a loud way, Grace shrieked. Calvin laughed. Jane scolded.

Calvin crawled back in bed and we lay in silence for a bit and then from Grace’s corner we heard a timid, “Could I come sleep with you?” In less than two seconds she was across the floor and under our covers where she slept next to me the rest of the night. How can you not love a girl like that?

Grace loves gumballs. She reminds me of a gumball. She is colorful, sweet and can stretch a million different ways. Grace is a brand new blessing that has truly blessed our whole family not just Abe. I love Grace.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Life in My World--The End of Summer

photo courtesy of Alyson Keeley

One night this week we went to some friends for supper. Linda mixed two packets of Au ju, water and sliced onions in a pan and brought it to a boil, then she added deli-sliced roast beef and served it on toasted buns. It was a quick, easy and good supper. Then they gave Ande the keys to their old blue Chrysler . . . for free. Ande was given a blue, 1987 Oldsmobile a couple of years ago, but twenty-two car years is like one-hundred people years and it died this summer. Knowing Ande was going back to college next week carless, Travis and Linda gave her their old, blue car. Linda kept telling Ande that Ande was doing her the favor by getting it out of the garage, but the truth is it was kind and generous and a great blessing. And, it's only like 85 people-years old.

The night before school I put all the leftovers on the cupboard for supper—shredded beef for burritos, manicotti, chips, mashed potatoes and gravy. It was quite an assortment, but it just wasn't winning Calvin over so in desperation I pulled out eggs. Still no good, even when I promised to scramble them with chilis. I suggested Woody’s (a local landmark drive-in that serves fry sauce) and that offer was immediately taken. So we went to town. We even talked Calvin into eating under the sunbrellas on the picnic tables. It wasn't too hot, it wasn't too cold and the asphalt had that warm summer smell to it. It was a fun way to close out the summer, I think we started a tradition.

One morning Cali, Grace, Ande and I went walking. We hadn't ever had all four of us on the same walk yet. The road is plenty wide and so was the conversation. Everyone shared something new they had learned this year and then Cali and Grace told us what they thought the easiest thing was about marriage and what the hardest thing was. The conversation spawned several topics and it just felt good to walk in the early morning with all of us. We stopped and talked to a neighbor for a few minutes and then walked over to the chocolate factory. (Though we live in the country, two good friends dip their chocolates in a little-house-converted-to-a-candy-kitchen just a mile or so from us.) As we walked I thought, "This is one of those moments you never forget. It is one of those memories that truly can not be improved upon." It. was. perfect. and completely ordinary.

I’m glad it’s Labor Day weekend. I have the goal to make a plan for Labor Day before I die. We always use it as a catch-up day or a do-whatever-we're-supposed-to-do-that-day day (like go to Parent's Weekend at Air Force, Ring Weekend at West Point, etc.), but we've never said, "Hey, it's Labor Day, whaddayasay we celebrate we're good workers and go do __________."

Do you celebrate Labor Day?
Did you have a moment that couldn't be improved upon this week?
If you would have had to pick out of our leftover pile what would you have chosen? (Be honest. I can take it. You'd have chosen Woody's, too, wouldn't you?)
Have you been given or given a gift that really helped this week?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Homemaking Tip--Raspberry Bucket


Our raspberries are ripe. We have the bushes that you mow to the ground in the fall after they've finished producing. The good news is you don't have to thin or cane raspberry bushes, you don't have unsightly branches all winter, and you have late berries. The bad news is you have late berries.

Here is a picture of Grandpa Payne and Ty picking raspberries two summers ago. By tying an ice cream bucket to your waist with a piece of twine or an old tie, you have both hands free to pick. It's a good little tip my neighbor taught me.

And just for good measure. Here's our favorite raspberry pie recipe:


4 cups fresh berries
1 cup sugar
1 (1.5 oz.) package tapioca pudding
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp butter
Dash of salt
Unbaked, double-crust pie shell

Mix 2 cups of berries with sugar, pudding, cornstarch, butter and salt in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. Gently stir in remaining berries and pour into unbaked pie shell. Add the top crust, making sure you vent it with a few slits. If desired, wash the top pie crust with beaten egg and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 40-45 minutes until berry juice bubbles out the slits in the top crust and the crust is golden brown. Let cool and juices will solidify.