Saturday, October 31, 2009


Most every Saturday I read my hometown newspaper on-line. I check the obituaries, but my favorite thing to read is what the local churches are doing. Growing up, the town (population 87) nearest to our farm had two churches in it: the Presbyterian Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We were rivals, we were friends. Each week when I read the religion section I look to see what the Presbyterians are doing. There’s a comfortable feeling seeing the names of people I admired and remember well (Donna, Corny, Rhea, Bob, Mildred, John, Ilona, Dorothy) still conducting business, parties and Dutch-oven dinners, Sunday school worship and coffee hours forty years later.

I also enjoy seeing what the churches in the larger valley are doing. For example this week:
  • The Lutherans are holding their Community Harvest Festival and serving hot dogs and chips with candy and prizes given away. (They ask that you to bring a can of food for the community Christmas baskets.)

  • The Methodists are having a potato bar in one congregation while another is serving turkey stuffed with sauerkraut, roasted turkey, turkey dressing, mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, fruit and tossed salads, green beans, rolls, cakes and cookies. (Have you ever stuffed a turkey with sauerkraut?)

  • The Congregational Church’s harvest dinner is having turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry salad, homemade noodles, and homemade pies. (They’re serving it family style and homemade noodles are available for purchase. Have you ever served noodles with turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes?)

  • The Catholic Church is having a festival that includes bingo, a carnival and a turkey dinner.

  • The Episcopal Church is holding its bazaar and soup and pie will be served. Another congregation is selling plum and carrot puddings for $7 each. (They borrowed a "closely guarded plum pudding recipe, recorded in a 1951 cookbook, from a congregation 150 miles away and were only given permission to use the recipe if they promised they would keep it a secret.” This is my favorite piece of news because I can imagine these women trying to decide who of the parishioners actually gets to read the whole recipe and then when the recipe does leak how they will decide who did it.)

One thing I love about America—be it rural, inner-city, or urban—is her churches and synagogues. Long live freedom of religion.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Life in My World—Gift Ideas

This week I had a bunch of gifts to deliver. Here are some inexpensive, tried-and-true ideas that maybe you can use someday.

Three friends' parents died in the last three weeks. To a package of flower bulbs I added a bag topper and attached one of Michelle’s tags:

“These are to remind you of your dad next spring, and the spring after that, and the spring after that, because families are eternal.”

My friend’s mother who died reminded me of pink hyacinths while “Happy Generation” tulip bulbs were fitting for another friend's dad.


I love sending mailing packets because they're so colorful and little kids love them. If you want to make a kid happy, send a candy packet. If you want to make 24-year-olds happy, send them a packet. You mail them just like this so that when they open their mailbox they instantly see the colors and candy. Two year old Hydn loved his. Rachel wrote:

Dear Jane,

You saved us yesterday. Were you aware of that? Hydn got your present in the mail. We weren't going to give it to him because it was just too pretty and we wanted to save it. But then he saw it. So, we opened the sucker to give to him. We made him eat it outside, alone, in the rain. When he was done he came back in and I thought he would go straight for the other candy, but he didn't. He wanted those gloves!! NOW. We put them on him and he kept saying, “Ball. Ball.” (They have that basketball on them) He would stretch his hand out really wide, admire it, then clasp them together and just sit looking at them. He wore those stinking things from 3p.m. until night. And they kept him enthralled. I've never really seen anything like it. He couldn't wait when Bert came home for Bert to admire them. Truly, one had to sit and stare with him for five minutes before he would let you alone. He also grabbed a car and with his little car and his gloves he played happily all the rest of the afternoon. When it was night time I changed him for bed and tried to take his gloves and socks off. He let his socks go, but no way, no how were those gloves leaving his hands. So, there he lies. Still in bed this morning with his gloves on all night. It's very cute. So cute, I'd take a picture if I had my camera. I'm wondering if he'll let me bathe him.



I also had some wedding gifts to deliver and relied on the cookie jar idea with a tag saying,

A full cookie jar is the most magical appliance in the kitchen. If the cookie jar is full no one complains that dinner isn’t ready or that dinner is bad. If the cookie jar is full company feels like you were expecting them. Here is your first full cookie jar to congratulate you on your marriage. Best wishes!


Finally I needed a few baby gifts, so I made hooded towels. These are still missing the rubber ducks and baby wash.

In the way of other news, Stacy is right. Sprinkles do make a difference. They magically turned our salad into a dessert.

So I took another suggestion of hers and rented the movie, "Gifted Hands" for us to watch tonight. (**Updated. It is really good. Calvin and I both enjoyed it.)

I hope these ideas can help you out sometime. I do appreciate all you bloggers out there who are so willing to share your ideas with me. Thank you.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Thinking--Black Thursday

Grandpa Hoops
(first generation American)

I’ve been thinking about how today is the 80th anniversary of the infamous stock market crash of 1929 which plunged America into the Great Depression.

Society rode high through the roaring 20’s even though there had been a humbling world war and deadly world-wide flu epidemic (killing between 50-100 million people) ten years earlier. The decade of the ‘20’s was one of excessive spending, speculation and waste. Arrrrghhhhh. It all just sounds so familiar. I recognize those things now . . .

When I was younger I suppose I felt like most—invincible. It’s a merciful thing really for youth to have that kind of confidence to launch them into adulthood, but it can also deafen them to danger warnings. First the Revolutionary War, then eighty years later the Civil War, then eighty years later the Great Depression and World War II—those were all things that had happened long before in areas far away from me, so I had no fear of them repeating themselves in my early adulthood. I was invincible and so was my country. History had taught us powerful lessons in those events; we wouldn’t be repeating them I thought. That’s why I couldn’t understand why my grandfather (born in 1899) was so adamant that his grandchildren write a paper on The Free Enterprise System when we were 29 years old. The communist countries in Eastern Europe were going through revolutionary changes when I was 29, no one would be foolish enough to sell out capitalism for socialism or communism after seeing what those countries had endured. But Grandpa offered $1,000 for the essay and so I wrote it.

Grandpa had lived long enough to know that history is cyclical. It was his job to warn his invincible-feeling generations beneath him that “each time history repeats itself, the price goes up” for someday we would realize we were vulnerable like everyone else.

A fascinating book on the history of America, The Fourth Turning, points out very clearly that every eighty years or so America goes through major turmoil to get her footing. We’re eighty years since our last big national crises. After listening to the news, reading the newspapers and reports, and hearing the cries against freedom, capitalism and the free enterprise system . . . I understand Grandpa perfectly now. And that’s what I’ve been thinking . . . well, that and what I need to do about what I've been thinking.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Homemaking Tip—Soap & Germs

I finally followed Cali’s tip and bought an olive oil dispenser for dish soap. It’s a little accent (less than $3), but adds such a nice touch. It feels fancy.

We’ve gotten the e-mails that tell us not to put our purse on the floor of public restroom stalls, but what do we do about our pant legs now that short/capri season is behind us? I roll mine up. Calvin laughed when he saw me do it at a rest stop, but it keeps the hems off the floor so that later when I criss-cross my legs or tie my shoes I don’t get stall germs on my hands. Sidewalk germs or grocery store germs, yes, but somehow they seem cleaner than stall germs.

Have you got a tip for today?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

52 Blessings—Trent

Crisa, Trent, Kiara

Trent is the family memory bank for the little details . . .

When he was four or five we were hiking in the Arizona dessert. After we’d seen scorpions and rattlesnakes, Trent suggested we pray. Important detail. I rode the coattails of his faith the rest of the day and never got more than a foot away from him.

One day when Trent was nine or ten someone assigned the kids Indian names while they were playing. I had forgotten all about those funny names until recently when Trent addressed Cali by her’s. Out of nowhere, 20 years later. I have no doubt he remembers the other kids’ names too.

About that same time the kids decided to throw me a birthday party. It was taking them too long to string popcorn for decorations so Trent suggested they stretch a piece of tape across the living room and stick the popcorn to it. I walked into a living room clear full of criss-crossed popcorn tape stretched from one side to the other. He didn’t forget the minor detail of homemade confetti to throw over Calvin and me when we walked through the door, either.

Now years later as a dad, Trent still pays attention to the little details: he can braid little girls’ hair with the best of them, insists his kids use good manners and lotions the baby so she smells nice.

One of the best details in Trent’s world now is his new wife, Crisa, and baby Kiara. I love Trent and Crisa and their new combined family (Elexus, Ethan, Breña and Kiara) and the new details they add to each others' and our lives.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Life in My World--Five Fun Things for Friday

1. I got this in the mail from Julie. Julie was Ty’s host mom the first two years he went to the Air Force Academy before she and her family moved to Norway on assignment. Julie is an incredibly talented individual. It doesn’t matter whether she is organizing the masses, catering a meal, or decorating a home, Julie does it all with extraordinary flair. Julie also collects Polish pottery. After reading this post, Julie knew I wanted a fun pitcher for serving syrup, so when she went to Poland she bought me not only this darling pitcher but the matching saucer. I am simply delighted and happy and grateful she would do this.

2. I got an e-mail from Hoe Se Sing, my Health 101 partner at BYU-Hawaii. I swear I was a good foot taller than Jimmy (his Christian name) and he was much wiser. Sister Swapp (who repaired her broken eyeglasses with band-aids) taught the class. Jimmy says he remembers jogging at 6:00 am, that I was much taller, and my "distinctive" voice. It was very kind of him not to remember me as the one who always fell asleep in class. Sister Swapp would occasionally take us to the gym for relaxing exercise on the floor mats during class. First she’d have us flex our toes, hold for five seconds, then relax them. Next she’d have us flex the muscles in our feet, then the muscles in our calves, then . . . well, I heard she had us flex all the way up to our brains but I never made it that far because I was sound asleep long before then. One day Jimmy said, “Jane, it’s so embarrassing. We’re not supposed to go to sleep, we’re just supposed to relax.” Then he paused and nicely said, “And, you snore.” Oh ho, Hoe Se Sing, you were a great partner! One time after relaxing exercises I woke up and I was the only one left in the gym and the lights were off. Even Sister Swapp and Jimmy were gone.

Jimmy has since returned to Singapore and is married with a family of his own. It was so fun to hear an update from him.

3. We have a scrapbook retreat coming up in a few weeks. Here is the location:

and here is a sample of one day’s menu:

~Orange Juice, Scrambled Eggs, Breakfast Potatoes, Crisp Bacon, Breakfast Bakeries,
~Penne and Prawn Carbonara, Suncadia House Salad, Rolls and Butter, Assorted Miniature Desserts
~Tossed Green Salad, Grilled Top Sirloin, Garlic Roasted Potatoes, Fresh Seasonal Vegetables, Seasonal Fruit Tart

Fun indeed. We still have a spot or two left if you'd like to join us.

4. Not all at this exact minute, but generally speaking . . . Ande is in Utah wedding dress shopping with her best friend and her best friend’s mother, Ty got tickets to Wicked and is organizing a date (not an easy task at the academy), Cali is making ghost cake-balls for two Halloween parties, Ray is flying home from meetings, Abe is driving Abram’s tanks, Grace is volunteering for the Red Cross, and . . .

Calvin said he's cooking supper tonight for our date (he just called to say what he's cooking and goulash it's not).

5. I've also been in contact with a good friend from high school, Rhonda, this week. We were teammates, biology partners (her petite, skilled hands and smart brain were valuable resources to our dissecting worms and frogs partnership) as well as friends. It's been really fun to be in contact with her again.

What's fun in your world?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday Thinking--Think, Think, Think

I love when Winnie-the-Pooh taps the side of his fluffy head and says, “Think, think, think.” Right now even when I tap hard on the side of my head, nothing shakes loose. It’s all used up.

When I heard that men speak 12,000 words a day and women speak 25,000, I didn’t hesitate to use mine—after all I had a quota to fill. Poor Calvin. I don’t think there was anyone more relieved than he when I got a job that required lots of talking. From then on when we came together in the evenings we could match each other word for word, I didn’t have two for every one of his, or beg him to use more than he had.

Tonight Calvin’s going to get the silent treatment, for not only did I use up 12,000 words on the job, I had to take the final for my World History to 1500 AD class. Do you know how much history that covers? Yes, yes, I’m sure you do since you learned world history when you were supposed to, but well . . . the professor thought we should know everything from the Classical Age to the Hans Dynasty and back to the Sumer and over yonder to Euroasia civilizations. He said something about "ecumene." It was a three-hour, 2 essay-question test and I wrote as many words as I could possibly think of (including that the Chinese invented paper and the compass in a noble effort to fact-drop), for even though I read the entire textbook it all just landed in a heap in my pile of fluff. Tapping into it didn't necessarily mean it came out in the right order.

Between my morning job, the test, and this post, well . . . every last word of mine is

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Homemaking Tip—A Stiff Upper Lip


With all her talents and perfections, Martha Stewart has mastered a stiff upper-lip. She can burn something, look straight into the camera, smack her lips and say, “Delectable.” I’ve watched her do it. One time she pulled a piece of chicken from the frying pan that was positively burnt—the piece that the mother in the family would have gotten. While the rest of us would have secretly tried to scrape the burnt layer into the sink or cover it with a sauce, Martha convinced us that although the recipe was not a “blackened,” “charred,” or “peppered” one, the chicken piece was done to perfection.

Since seeing that episode, whenever I cook something less than appetizing I think, “Delectable!” and serve it with a forced air of confidence. A stiff-upper-cooking-lip is probably "the good"-est thing Martha has ever taught me.

**Disclaimer. I probably should mention the time that Cali added 1 cup of mustard to tuna casserole and tried to pull it off with a stiff-upper-lip. When we sat down to supper, the other kids asked her why it was so yellow and smelled funny. She airily waved their skepticism aside with her fork. After the blessing on the food (and it did need one) she took a big bite with an exaggerated, "Yuuummmmmmm." The rest of us took a little bite. I don't remember what we had for supper that night, but it wasn't tuna casserole because a stiff-upper lip can only cover so much, and a cup of mustard is too much.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Memories—Making Gravy

(photo courtesy of google images)

One thing I appreciate about my mother is she expected a lot from us. One time when I was 11 or 12 years old, my folks were gone and my older brother and sisters were bringing home BYU’s rodeo team for a competition in our town. My brother, several of his college friends, and their rodeo coach were coming for supper and my mom expected me to fix it for them. I decided to fix my favorite—mashed potatoes, fried cube steak, white gravy and corn. I knew how to mash the potatoes, I knew how to fry the steaks, but I had never made white gravy. However I had seen it done many times so I figured I could do it, and besides, my mother expected me to fix supper. I set the table and started cooking the potatoes and meat. When it was time to make the gravy, another brother who was just older than me came into the kitchen and asked, “Have you ever made gravy?”


“Do you know how to make white gravy?”

“I think so.”

He stayed in the kitchen to watch the miracle. I began making the gravy as I’d seen mom and my sisters make it. I took the meat out of the pan, added a spoonful of Crisco, got the grease hot, scraped the crusties off the bottom of the pan, and stirred in flour. Lastly, I added the milk. Glob. It was much thicker and chunkier than it should be, but it did have a resemblance to gravy so I suggested to my brother that we strain it; he suggested we beat it. We did both.

It was a proud day when I could finally make gravy that didn't require a strainer or beaters.

Do you like white or brown gravy best?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

52 Blessings—Trevor

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


Trevor, Michelle, Lacie, Niki, Cortney

Yesterday Trevor and I talked on the phone for over an hour about recipes, kids, goats, dogs, jobs and step-parenting. Trevor was six when Calvin and I got married and the courts finally allowed him to live with us when he was fifteen. Trevor and Michelle got married three years ago and he immediately became a parent to Michelle’s three girls. Yesterday on the phone Trevor said, “Oh man, I walked into something so much bigger than me when we got married. I just didn’t know it.” I laughed and said, “I hear you. Remember I was only nineteen when your dad and I got married and suddenly I became your other mom . . . (and then proceeded to remind him of a couple of stupid expectations I'd had and things I'd done)." Trevor and I both agreed that being a stepparent is one of the most difficult things we’ve done. For me it was often awkward, for though Trevor and Trent’s mother remarried long before Calvin did, I filled a place where those sweet little boys wished their mother was. I got to stay with their dad year round when they had to leave him. I brought new babies into their dad’s life that made less lap-time for them. I had more stringent rules than their other home had. I was like an overstuffed animal that was fun some of the time, but in the way most of the time. “The boys” would have loved nothing better than to have had their own mother and father under the same roof with their very own brothers and sisters—and I didn’t blame them, I would have felt the same way. But, that wasn’t the way it was and so I occupied that space as their stepparent. There were many, many fantastic days, but there were many, many exasperating days, too. And it took a lot of patience on both our parts.

Trevor concurred about the awkwardness and the patience required and we talked of some of our bumps and successes. I admire Trevor because he is not only a good dad, he’s a great dad. He loves Lacie, Niki and Cortney and works hard to have a good relationship with each of them. He never imagined so much pink and purple in his life. He had his dad make bows (bow-and-arrow bows) for Michelle and Cortney and paint them pink. (That was painful for Calvin and Trevor to paint beautiful wood, let alone paint it pink.) He paints bedrooms deep purple when he knows the whim might change and he'll have to paint it another color next year.

Trevor is not only a good son, he’s a great son. He doesn’t let a day go by that he doesn’t have contact with his dad. They have several common interests and whether they’re talking about raising game birds, hunting, cooking, animals or the weather they always close each conversation with “I love you.” Trevor also makes great effort to let me know he appreciates and loves me—he's funny when he calls asking for Neighbor Jane about a canning or homemaking tip.

Trevor is a dogged brother. As the oldest child in both of his families, he feels a responsibility to all nine of his siblings. He is fiercely proud of Cali, Abe, Ty and Ande. And protective. I remember when Ande was dating a guy a year or two ago; Trevor took her aside and asked her questions like, “Can he provide for you? Is he a worker? How is he with money?” He wasn’t joking, either. He wanted a plan. He always asks how every child in the family is doing when we see him or talk to him.

Trevor is a good and attentive husband. He loves nothing more than to have Michelle with him. She in turn, is a terrific sport. Oh my goodness, she tramps through swamps, mountains, muck and dale to support him. They are a strong team together. I love and admire her as much as I do Trevor.

Step-parenting has been a huge blessing in my life as it has taught me many important things, but undoubtedly the biggest blessing of all is Trevor, Michelle, Lacie, Niki and Cortney. I love and appreciate each one of them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Life in My World—Four for Friday


Cali, Trent, Abe, Grace, Ty, Ande, Trevor

1. I mentioned last week that Calvin and I went to Utah and Idaho. We went down to see three of the kids (Trent, Trevor and Ande) in three days. Trent and Crisa had a new baby a few weeks ago so we went to see them first.


The baby, Kiara, smelled oh so good and I swear I don’t remember hands and feet that perfect or miniature. It was fun to spend time with them and make plans to spend more.

2. I made a list of things I want to get done before the year ends. One of them was to go to the dentist because I haven’t been in five years. I got that done today . . . and NO cavities. I didn’t even care they didn’t give me an expandable ring when I left.


3. Ray is coming tonight so that he and Calvin can finish building the butcher block table. It’s going to be absolutely beautiful.

Since Ray doesn’t care for chocolate, it’s all about caramel when he’s here. Except tonight and it’s about orange popcorn balls.

4. One of our friends is having a birthday party tomorrow night. Number 90. We’ve been looking forward to it for two weeks. He is our friend that still wears his WWII officer uniform pants to Church suppers (and they look very smart on him). I just discovered yesterday that he still wears the belt he made when he was 15 and in high school. Can you imagine still being the same size you were 75 years ago? Unbelievable.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday Thinking—World Peace

I’m serious. That is what I’ve been thinking about even though I don't have a platform or wear high heels.

This week I had to write a term paper for my World History Class. Whoa. Before two days ago, I had not written a term paper since 12th grade with Miss Popplewell, but I quickly learned it is much easier writing a term paper using Microsoft Word than using a manual typewriter. Microsoft Word doesn’t require organized note cards or care if you forget a quote or footnote and want to add it into the first paragraph after the last paragraph is written. Typewriters do. Typewriters make you start all over, but Microsoft Word just scoots everything down and then politely reminds you to save your work when you’re finished. Typewriters also don’t count words, but do require carbon paper and correction fluid. All in all, term paper 2009 was a much more pleasant experience than term paper 1980.

Of all the term paper topics I read about in that very thick World History textbook, this sentence (found in the middle of the book) was the one I kept thinking about:

“Just as Christians have a missionary duty to spread their faith, so Muslims have the obligation, as individuals and as a community, to extend the power of Islam.”

I knew the two religions were at odds over Abraham’s birthright, but I thought that grudge could be resolved somehow. What I didn’t realize was that their ministry purposes were at complete odds. How will the world’s two largest religions ever come to peace pulling in opposite directions? I don’t know. I just wrote the term paper. I didn’t find a quote that gave an answer. (However rest assured, when it is found it can be added in with ease with Microsoft Word.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Homemaking Tip—to ‘ween or not to ‘ween

I’ve gone from one end of the pendulum to the other with Halloween. I loved it as a kid. I can still remember what it smelled like to open a tightly closed trick-or-treat bag and be hit by the apple, chocolate, popcorn ball combination smell. I wasn’t crazy about trying to find a costume out of the costume drawer (you can only be an Indian, clown, or dog so many times), but I did like fall and pumpkins and candy and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and trick-or-treating.

Then, I was mom of middle-aged kids and it bugged me that we could celebrate witches and devils at school but we couldn’t baby Jesus. It just didn’t seem right. The more I thought about it the more Halloween bugged me. In fact, that was back when I sold crafts to supplement our income and in my boldest Halloween protest, I took the dozen wooden/fabric ghosts I had made and ready to deliver to the store to a dumpster and said, “Be gone.” (Pretty big move for me. It was $120 worth of profit. But I had newfound Halloween principles, don't you see.) Since we seldom (meaning almost never) went to the movies or dinner in restaurants, I suggested to Calvin and the kids that instead of spending money on Halloween we went to a movie and supper instead (Mighty Ducks and Pure Country were the options that first year). The kids were game, so we celebrated Halloween at the movies for a few years.

When my friend heard our Halloween plan she suggested that instead of going to town we come to their home. Since they lived where no trick-or-treaters dare go it was so far off the beaten track, we went to their home for a video and baked potato bar (that is where Jurassic Park made its debut). We enjoyed doing that for a few years, too.

(Are the details derailing you in this story?)

A few years later the Church started a trunk-or-treat on Halloween evening so we participated in that and then went to our off-the-beaten-track-friends’ home for a movie and supper. The Halloween pendulum began its swing back.

Today the ball is dead center. Stuck. It isn’t on one side or the other. I neither detest nor embrace Halloween--it's like a cartoon and Frosty, the Snowman.


This past weekend Calvin and I went to Utah and Idaho to see Trevor and Trent, our two oldest boys from Calvin’s first marriage. When we got to Trevor’s home, Lacie (Trevor’s oldest daughter) was making this mummy for me. It has electrical tape around the neck of the bottle for a black rim, two squiggly eyes stuck to the middle and gauze wrapped around the rest and slightly tacked with glue. It’s so cute. She said she got the idea from a daycare that she cleans for. She filled it with orange and black jelly beans and pumpkins and candy corn.

While Trevor and Calvin went to try the sight that Calvin had made for Trevor’s gun, Michelle and the girls and I went to the scrapbook outlet. They had darling vinyl Halloween paper and a pattern for making Halloween sacks so we got the supplies to make some. We came home and while Trevor and Calvin grilled buffalo burgers, we made the sacks. In theory, they’re a ten minute project and they’re easy and cute. I filled one sack with candy and took it to Ande when we saw her the next day.

I left the sack-making directions at Trevor and Michelle’s and my technical writing skills are poor at best, but in story problem fashion this is what you do to make a sack:

Take two 12” x 12” pieces of paper. Cut two inch squares out of both sides of the bottom of the paper. Crease and fold the paper to make the sack sides and bottom (two inches in from both sides and two inches up from the bottom). Glue the flaps together with a glue-stick. Ta-da. Paper sack. Embellish with ribbon handles. I'm excited to make a few from Thanksgiving and Christmas paper and fill them with popcorn balls.

Where does your Halloween pendulum swing?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SPT—Next Year


I tend to think of gardens in pairs—strawberries and spinach, followed by beans and zucchini, followed by tomatoes and peppers, ending with squash and apples. I enjoy each thing while it’s producing but also look forward to the next thing. Except for winter squash. I look forward to it from the very beginning.

This summer I planted the squash too close to everything. When they started to take over the raspberries I ignored them. When they started to take over the beans I ignored them. When they started to take over the peppers and tomatoes I tried to contain them. They out-willed me and I gave in. Since we haven’t had a good crop of squash for a few years, like an indulging mother, I let them go and go and go and trample everything. I’ve been waiting for the first frost to nip and set their sugars. Last weekend while we were gone the first frost came. It wasn’t mild, it was a killer below 20. All those squash that I let have complete run of the garden were ruined.


Not to be completely outdone by a frost, we bought a few at a vegetable stand. They were pretty. They were lovely. They were colorful. They rode safely in the back of the pickup through Idaho and Utah and back through Idaho. But, they did not ride safely through Montana. It was near zero temperatures and those squash froze as badly in the back of the pick up as the ones did in the garden.

Next year I won’t pamper the squash and let it run the garden. Next year I’ll put the squash in the front of the pick-up. Next year . . .

Sunday, October 11, 2009

52 Blessings—Ty

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


Ty told me on the phone today that he knew he wasn’t loved as much as the other kids in our family because he’s the last one to be a 52 Blessing. He didn’t buy it when I said I was saving the best for last, he just reminded me that I am a tough bird where he is concerned and then reminded me of what he told our German neighbor Emilie. Emilie was a surrogate grandmother for our kids and was tending Abe and Ty one day when they were little. The boys had been fighting so she separated them, putting Ty on a stool in the middle of her living room. As she lifted him to the seat he said in his gruff stutter, “Wwwwwwwwwelll . . . my mom is mmmmmeaner than youuuuuuuuu.” (Certainly a proud moment for any mother. Almost as much as when they brag to their friends on the playground, “My mom is bigger than yours.”)

Ty, you’re so right, I was meaner than Emilie and your honesty and integrity is but one thing I appreciate about you.

A couple of other things I appreciate about Ty are his talents of exactness and resourcefulness. One example happened last fall while he was serving an LDS mission in Taiwan. Missionaries are supposed to be in bed by a certain time and wake up at a certain time. Ty struggled utilizing that much sleep, especially after attending the United States Air Force Academy where their sleep is severely limited. However he wanted to obey the rules with exactness, so he rigged himself a night light by tying a pair of socks together and sticking a flashlight in the knot so that he could read without waking his companion while he waited for the time to pass.

(flipping off a wall by running up the side of it and flipping in the air)

Ty is a happy blessing. He loves life. He loves people. He loves to tease. He loves fun. He loves work. He loves new things. He loves me. Ty is a terrific blessing--first, last and in-between--and I love him deeply.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Life in My World--Not Wondering What to Pack Here

Do you know the song, "I'm going on a trip with my Auntie Nell"?

The first verse begins: "I'm going on a trip with my Auntie Nell and I'm wondering what to pack. We plan to climb Mount Everest with a team of twenty yak. If they stampede I'm sure to need a warm, woolly hat. So I will pack a warm woolly hat."

Each verse adds something more to the trip (after all there is the Serengeti Plain to cross after Mount Everest is conquered): fuzzy dice to hang from the mirror, rubber boots, etc.

I am a light packer until it comes to my "projects to do, books to read" bag. Then? Well, then it's like I'm going on a trip with Auntie Nell and I way over pack. But not this time. I cut waaaayyyy back. I didn't even pack carrot sticks.

Calvin and I left early, early, early this morning for a road trip. Six things I look forward to on the road:

~audio books (we're listening to one on constitutional law that's pretty interesting)

~the food (grape propel drink, corn nuts, m&m's, sausage mcmuffins, restaurant suppers)

~stopping at Purdum's Fruit and Vegetable stand (it's got a beautiful squash, pumpkin line-up)

~visiting with Calvin about random or important things (or not. even the silence is good)

~wondering where all the other drivers are going and why

~having plenty of foot room because my bag is so empty

On a side note: I've been out of perfume for a couple of months. I got some yesterday (deep breath and sigh). I have missed my signature smell and am glad I don't have to leave home without it. Red Door is my smell, what's yours?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday Thinking--Reruns

Experts suggest that we have 50,000-70,000 thoughts running through our head per day. That’s a lot of thinking. They say that ninety-five percent of those thoughts are the same ones from yesterday. Now that’s some serious rerunning--round and round and round they go. I guess we really are about as happy as we make up our minds to be. Just think how much mileage you can get out of one happy thought . . . and conversely how much play-time a negative one gets.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Homemaking Tip—Belly Up to the Bar

It was one of those immortal sentences that the family never lets die. We were eating a routine supper when one of our kids said, “I’m not going to eat this crap any more.” The other kids jumped her trying to protect my feelings. She had a point. Though it wasn’t crap, I had worn the menu thin. We had purchased nearly 200 pounds of 99 cents/lb round steak. The easiest and most inexpensive supper in the world was to plunk a hunk of round steak into a pan, add peeled potatoes and a handful of carrots, season with salt, pepper and a little Kitchen Bouquet® and slide it into the oven for a few hours. Evidently, I’d served the Round Steak Special once too often that week.

I’m not alone, complaints about cooking have even caused prison revolts. Spaghetti was the culprit in an uprising at Alcatraz, and meals were a big factor in the deadliest prison riot of all times at Attica Prison, New York. Wardens have long known that food is a way to chaos or a means to maintain controlled cells, so many institutions serve high calorie meals to keep the inmates full and quiet. On the other hand, disciplinary loafs, a whole meal molded and baked into a log (nutritious and terribly unappetizing) are made for the most unruly prisoners.

If dull meals and long evenings are around your corner here are a couple of new ideas:

Spaghetti Bar—

Once when my cousins, Larry and Sally, invited our family to supper, Sally had prepared a spaghetti bar. On the counter were dishes of toppings—peppers, mushrooms, shrimp, cooked and cubed chicken, browned hamburger, green onions, chopped celery, grated carrots, sliced olives . . . (Sally said the list is endless.)

On another part of the counter was a large bowl of torn lettuce, several containers of salad dressing, a basket of rolls, and several bowls of grated cheeses.

On the counter by the stove was a crock pot of spaghetti sauce, a container of olive oil, and a huge platter of individual piles of cooked noodles—thin noodles, wide spinach noodles, and curly noodles.

On the stove top were four frying pans.

Sally encouraged us to pick our plates up from the table and either make a salad, or prepare a plate of spaghetti. Those who started with salads were busy visiting and eating while those who started with spaghetti filled their plates with the toppings of their choice and went to the frying pans on the stove. Spaghetti makers added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet and browned the toppings they had chosen. When the ingredients were nearly finished they added a tong-full of spaghetti noodles. After everything was warmed through, they slid the ingredients back onto their large plates and ladled spaghetti sauce on top and sprinkled with the cheeses of choice.

The food was delicious. Never before had I had celery, chicken, grated carrots, or shrimp on my spaghetti and it was wonderful. Sally said she likes to use the Spaghetti Bar for parties because it is a great “Get-Acquainted” meal and allows everyone an opportunity to interact and stay busy preparing their meal. She also said there are no complaints because everyone gets to choose what they eat.

Soup Bar—

Foreigners insist Americans ruin soups by boiling the vegetables and meats in water. They insist soup ingredients should be sautéed. A soup bar is a healthy compromise.

Make a basic soup broth by combining 2 gallons of water and 10 pounds of chicken or beef bones. Grate two cups of onions, two cups of celery, and two cups of carrots in the blender. Add finely grated vegetables to water and bones. Bring to boil and simmer 1½ hours. Pull bones from broth and season to taste.

Fill serving bowls with hot ingredients—

Blanched vegetables: potatoes, carrots, celery, peas, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, squash, etc.
Cooked grains: barley, rice, noodles, tortellini, etc.
Cooked meat: chicken, beef, lamb, pork, shrimp, clams, etc.
Fresh garnishes: chopped parsley, chives, sour cream, etc.

Everyone makes their own bowl of soup by adding the ingredients of their choice to a steaming bowl of hot broth. Serve with a variety of crackers.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Memories—General Conference Weekend

I love General Conference Weekend (two-day, semi-annual meetings for all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where we are instructed, taught, encouraged and hear business conducted. The meetings are televised from Salt Lake City, Utah and we can watch it from home via TV or the Internet, or from local meetinghouses). General Conference is rejuvenating.

When I was young I was relieved when the last session of conference ended because it was finally over (eight hours is a looooong time, don’t you know), but now I wish it would last just a little longer (eight hours isn't a very long time, don't you know). It’s like opening the last Christmas present and though you really have been given more than enough, you hate to lose the moment.

When the kids were little (who am I fooling, they used them 'til they left home), the tub of Legos was allowed in the living room during General Conference. For hours the kids sat there putting pieces together, fairly quietly, because quiet Legos are better than no Legos and having to sit on the couch. I don't know which is my favorite memory, little kids quietly playing on the floor at our feet, or big kids pawing through the pile to find just the right piece. They are both quite sweet.

Our 2009 General Conference Weekend looked like this:

I’ve been crocheting a leper bandage for the LDS Humanitarian Center during General Conferences. Leper bandages are made from cotton thread and a teeny, tiny crochet hook. They are about 4 inches wide and 5 feet long and require only primitive crochet skills and time. Lots of time. I thought crocheting while listening to General Conference would serve two purposes, keep me alert and help someone in need in a small way. Though I often wondered if a strip of old sheets wouldn’t work just as well or even if donated gauze wouldn’t be more sterile and appreciated, I kept crocheting because . . .

“One of the most healing things we do with the leprosy-affected people of India is simply to touch them: to give them "high-fives", hugs, handshakes, and kisses. Greater than the suffering caused by their disease, is the suffering caused by society's declaring them to be untouchables. The bandages are one way we can begin to heal their social wounds. That is the secret of the healing power of the bandages that are so lovingly made by so many. The very fact that they take dozens and dozens of hours, testifies of the love another person has for the leprosy-affected. Instead of pushing the leprosy patient aside, the bandage-makers make a personal sacrifice of time to serve.”

Yesterday I finally finished that leper bandage after three years of General Conference crocheting. I called the Humanitarian Center this morning and they said they quit asking for them two years ago. Oh ho. I guess they don’t expect it to take someone three years to make one. The assistant told me to send it to them anyway and they would use it somewhere. Regardless of how needed it is, it still felt good to make it and if nothing else it will make a fairly cute mummy costume for someone.

Borrowing tradition, Cali, my niece Rachel (who joined us for the weekend), and I made donuts while Ray and Calvin attended the Priesthood Session of General Conference on Saturday evening. Cali also made quiche and a few extra pie shells for Sunday dinner pumpkin pies. I called Grace while we were making donuts and she was making sugar cookies for Abe. When Ray and Calvin came home we sat around the table visiting about their meeting and eating warm donuts and quiche. It was a great tradition to borrow and begin and share from one state to another.

Calvin and Ray spent a lot of the weekend out in the shop building a butcher block table for Ray and Cali’s home. It is going to be beautiful. Ray found this heart shape in a piece of maple wood and made it into a block for me to set on the kitchen window sill. Do you see Australia or a heart in it?

While we were here having fun, Ande and Ty met in Salt Lake City to attend conference in person and make new memories. They had a great time. (While attending the temple they ran into an old friend and mission buddy of Calvin's. He saw their last name and asked if by chance they knew Calvin. I love "coincidences".)

Did I mention I love General Conference Weekend?