Sunday, January 31, 2010

52 Blessings—Games


My niece, Rachel, came to spend the weekend with us and we played a few rounds of Speed Scrabble this morning while we waited for Church to begin. As I was spilling the tiles, I thought of what a great thing games can be—providing conversation and interaction in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. (Granted, sometimes it takes effort to keep the atmosphere relaxed, and that’s why Calvin and I don’t play the marble game Aggravation anymore, and seldom play on separate teams. :0)

My current favorite games are Dominoes and Banana-Grams. I especially like it when we play for milkshakes . . . and I don’t lose. Funny I’d never realized before what a blessing games are in my life until this morning; they have lots of good memories attached and lots of possibilities promised.

What’s your current favorite game?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday Thinking—Einstein

Did you know Einstein was considered incredibly handsome? I didn't.

I’m trying to finish Einstein by Walter Isaacson before another month goes by. I’ve been listening to it on my iPod and a chapter here and a chapter there has turned it into a several months book. Einstein’s life was sprinkled with irony; I do love a good irony, and it was not lost on him. Einstein not only saw the irony in his life, he could laugh about it. One being that he resisted, yea even detested, authority and yet would become one.

Einstein is full of scientific terms—quantum, photons, relativity—and scientific applications. During those paragraphs it is as if I’m hearing a conversation in Spanish with my high-school-Spanish-I-class vocabulary and doing my best to catch a word or two. I feel a bit of achievement every time I recognize something in Einstein, especially if you will remember, because I barely passed Physical Science 100 a year ago. But, after the scientific paragraphs are the people paragraphs, and those don’t need interpreting and are interesting and worth . . . wading . . . for.

I especially enjoy Einstein’s conversations with others. Niels Bohr, the man who helped us understand how the atom is structured, was a friend to Einstein even though (or maybe because) they argued and debated about one of those scientific terms that I don’t recognize. The gist of the matter is that a natural process was evading scientific formula. Einstein could not accept that there was randomness to the process, he was certain that it could be discovered and purportedly told Niels that famous line, “God does not play dice in the universe.”

To which Mr. Bohr supposedly replied, “Einstein, don’t tell God what to do.”

That’s all. That’s all I’ve been thinking about; I don’t have a summary, I don’t have a moral to the story. I don't have an application to my own life, I don’t have another thought on that thought. I’ve just been thinking about these two brilliant men arguing and including God in that argument and whether or not his games include dice.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Tips—More Than You Bargained For

(this is a mega-sized can that looks mini-sized in this picture)

Today I made chocolate-covered nuts and paper-covered nut-containers for gifts.


Tip 1: Spread newsprint over workspace. Newsprint is a great investment and available at your local newspaper office. They are roll ends that are too small for the machine, so the newspaper offices are usually willing to sell them very inexpensively or give them away. We use newsprint for lots of things, but today I used it to cover the counter.


Tip 2: Before there was Mod Podge there was Elmer’s Glue diluted with a little bit of water, before that, well I’m not sure but it probably had something to do with boiled hooves. Both Mod Podge and diluted glue work well for this project, albeit Mod Podge is more expensive. Today I used Mod Podge because I was out of Elmer’s glue.


Tip 3: When working with tissue paper for covering containers, apply the Mod Podge to the container with a brush and then adhere the paper and layer with more Mod Podge. (Better yet, just follow the instructions on the container.) However, when using heavier paper, I have found it is easier to thickly apply the Mod Podge to the back of the paper and then apply the paper to the container. After you have applied the paper to the container let it dry and make the chocolate covered nuts.


Tip 4: Unwrap all of your leftover Christmas and Halloween chocolate and put into a bowl. Make sure your bowl is dry. Microwave just until melted. Make sure you don’t microwave the chocolate too long. Make sure you remember that there is enough wax in the candy that it can hold its shape and markings even when it’s melted.


Tip 5: Add the nuts from the emptied canister to the melted chocolate, stir until well coated and then drop by teaspoon into mini-cups. You can use any kind of nut you like, salted or unsalted, or if you have salted but they’re too salty, rub them in a towel to brush off some of the salt.


Tip 6: After the chocolate covered nuts are cooled and dry, line the canister with paper shreds or tissue paper and stack the nut cups gently inside. Add a ribbon and a few embellishments and your gift is wrapped. Cost for a mega-size can of chocolate covered peanuts (I forgot to look at the ounces before I covered the can) is approximately $2.00 with free chocolate, $3.00 without. (And a whole lot of nuts left over for other things, too . . . like this recipe.)


As long as you’ve got the Mod Podge and fun patterned paper out you might as well cover a few extra canisters and some rolling pins, too. (The rolling pins take several coats of Mod Podge, but the good thing about them is you can roll the pin to get the air bubbles out. I spray these with varathane for durability and protection after they are dry.)


Tip 7: If you happened to take all of your photos in poor light, then just doctor them up with effects and post them like that was the original plan.

Tip 7 1/2: If you have a card embossed by the Cuttlebug I told you about a few weeks ago and it has a small tear in it, Mod Podge it to a nut can and you have a gift. And, if you can still tell there might have been a small tear in the card, then add a ribbon and embellishment.

And there you have Tuesday Tips. Have you got a tip to share with us today?

Up next week is Tuesday Tell-All. If you have a question, please post it in the comments and I’d be glad to look up an answer for you. In the event you are every bit as smart as I think you are and don’t have a question, then it will be Timely Tuesday instead.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Memories—The Secret Ingredient

In Taste of Home magazine there was (is?) a page where readers share the secret ingredient they add to make their recipe “special”—a-tablespoon-or-two-of-grape-jelly-added-to-my-spaghetti-sauce type tips. If Mrs. Duffy turned Ms. Melbourne were alive, she could have written in lots of ideas.

First she was Mrs. Duffy and then about half way through my grade school years she became Ms. Melbourne. She was our school cook. She cooked in the lunch room upstairs of our old brick school building. She made the noodles for chicken and noodles. She also made the bread, cinnamon rolls, hotdog and hamburger buns she served. On bread days she made extra loaves to sell to the teachers and then bought potato chips and ice cream bars for our lunches with the money earned. I thought she was one of the best cooks on earth, and I wasn’t a hungry girl. I grew up around good cooks.

One of my favorite lunches was served on Fridays: tomato soup. At first I thought it was homemade because it didn’t sting my throat like Campbell’s tomato soup, but her recipe didn’t taste a thing like mom’s. I saw industrial sized cans of Campbell’s soup on the lunchroom shelves and that only added to my confusion. For years I wondered what her magic ingredient was. Years, and I do mean years later, I realized all she did was add milk instead of water. Ms. Melbourne’s tomato soup secret was milk.

The same thing happened with her apple crisp. The top was rich, thick, and crusty. Always looking for a recipe that matched hers, I finally found one in the newspaper twenty years later that tasted just like hers:

Apple Crisp

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
10 Tbsp butter (butter tastes best, but margarine may be substituted)
7 cooking apples
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine sugar, flour, and butter in bowl until crumbly, set aside. Peel, core, and slice apples. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to the apples and pour into greased 9” x 9” pan. Cover apples with crumbly sugar, flour, and butter mixture, spreading evenly. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until topping is crisp and apples bubbly. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, dollop of whipped cream, or with half-and-half.

I still think of her every time I make it.

Ms. Melbourne added maple flavoring to her cinnamon roll frosting. Just a tiche, but it transformed them from a regular cinnamon roll into a donut realm. If I’m not frosting our cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting, you can bet they’ll have maple in them.

She also introduced the school to taco burgers. She browned and crumbled hamburger and served it on her fresh baked buns, then added grated cheese and chopped lettuce to it. I don’t know if she was out of taco shells that day, or if she didn’t have enough hamburger to give us each a patty, or didn’t want to make sloppy joes. All I know was they became a regular.

I thought Ms. Melbourne’s son was the luckiest kid alive to get to eat her cooking every night, but one time we went trick or treating at her house and her house didn’t smell anything like the school lunchroom. She confessed she didn’t cook much at home.

I’m certain Ms. Melbourne had no idea how often I would think of her through the years or how often I would imitate her recipes. But more than a little of this or a little of that, the secret that I learned from Ms. Melbourne is to never underestimate that what you’re doing won’t have an impact somehow, somewhere, on someone.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

52 Blessings—The Village


The Green’s are Ty’s host family. They feed him each Sunday, offer him their home every long weekend, play games with him, take him to the movies, and allow him the use of their car, washer, and dryer. They host his guests, set him up on dates, host him and his guests, advise him, keep him company, give him hour long rides to and from the airport, and include him in the things they do. They have invested heavily in Ty and are his family in every sense of the word; he loves them like his family.

The Phipps were Ty’s host family before the Green’s. Like the Green’s, the Phipps’s included him in their family. When Ty had his wisdom teeth pulled, Julie drove up to the Academy, retrieved him, and took him to their home to care for him, even though she was convalescing from foot surgery and couldn’t walk. When Julie knew they wouldn’t be at the academy when Ty returned this fall, she asked the Green’s to take care of Ty.

Other families have done the same for Cali, Abe, and Ande. Each one of our children has more than one adoptive family to call their own—families who watch over, provide opportunity, offer support, love, encouragement, and camaraderie.

I wish I were poetic. I wish I were articulate. I wish I could somehow convey to our Heavenly Father and these families how much I appreciate them in helping Calvin and me take care of our family. It is no small task to make a family and then to include others in that circle is generous indeed. I will forever be indebted to the Greens and all the other families in the village for rallying around and including our kids. What a blessing. What a blessing.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Life in My World

I just came in from the shop. Calvin is putting the finishing touches on the cedar chest he is making for Grace and needed me to help lift it up on the saw horses. (Believe me when I say strong, sturdy gal was on his list of qualifications when we got married.) An old song was playing on the radio when I walked into the shop and he asked me to dance to it right then and there, in front of the fire in the stove, and See-more chewing on his bone. It was the making for a romantic novel, especially because the details of my wet-hair-dried-natural, no make-up, and my paint splattered, baggie clothes could be carefully omitted.

(I borrowed this picture of a used books store in Italy from Ande's blog)

While reviewing life in my world this morning, I discovered that what I read pretty much defined it.

I finished Why Gender Matters by Dr. Leonard Sax and also presented a lecture “Male and Female Created I Them: Moses 2:27” for the LDS institute lecture series held at the college. Interestingly enough my reading also included The Family: A Proclamation to the World, Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, and Julie B. Beck’s talk, Teaching the Doctrine of the Family. It was faith building to see how the reading collaborated without my effort.

After reading a few chapters of Writing & Speaking for Business I have discovered that I am too dependent on spell check. Though I faithfully use a calculator only to “check my work” like my school teachers taught me, I let spell check have free rein in my life. This book is by no means compelling reading, more like taking-your-medicine reading, but I do hope I’m better for it when I’m finished with it.

I finished all but 30 pages of Bell Canto by Anne Patchett. It’s a good thing a friend recommended it, and also taught me the symbolism I missed in it, or it would have just been a novel about an opera singer. I am ignorant in matters pertaining to opera. Can’t say I’d recommend the book, can’t say I loved it, but can say I learned something from it and appreciated my friend’s views.

The Proper Role of Government by Ezra Taft Benson was a great 28 page read. Can say I recommend it, can say it was inspiring, and can say I learned a great deal from it.

The Book of Mormon, in particular the book of Ether and the book of Moroni, was also on the circuit this week. Hands down I’ve read this book from cover to cover more than any other book (even counting the Little House series :). It changes me every single time. It changes others. Watching and feeling the miracle of that change has been an exciting part of my week.

I just started The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani last night and am only on page seven. She wrote, “Our farm will never be as beautiful as the houses and gardens in town. Anything that’s pretty on the farm is wild. The fields covered in bright yellow dandelions, low thickets of tiny red beach roses by the road, and stalks of black-eyed Susans by the barn are all accidents.” I think we’re going to get along just fine in this book.

And on that note, getting along fine, I made Jill’s-Michelle’s-Hannah’s Miracle Bread this morning. Usually bread takes me several hours on Saturday, but not today. It is true; the recipe really does only take an hour. I followed the all-white directions but added half wheat-half white flour and the loaves are beautiful and taste good, too. Thank you Jill, Michelle, and Hannah. Now I need to go and finish the batch of rolls that are rising and do the laundry and ironing. And maybe, just maybe, read.

What have you been reading? Does reading define you some weeks?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday Thinking—God Bless Massachusetts

Do you remember in The Sound of Music when Frauline Maria is saying her prayers that first night before she goes to bed? She blesses all the children, but for the life of her can’t remember the name of child number five. Finally, after the thunder storm scares all the children out of their beds and into her bedroom, she realizes it is Kurt who she forgot so she looks heavenward and says, “Kurt. God bless Kurt.”

I use that line a lot in my head, substituting of-course because I don’t know Kurt.

Massachusetts. God bless Massachusetts. I watched the senatorial election this week in Massachusetts with great interest. All fall/winter I have wondered where our government leaders’ choices would take us forgetting all about Massachusetts’ emergency election and how that could change senate voting. This week I’ve been thinking about senator-elect Scott Brown’s comment when questioned by a debate moderator about filling “Teddy Kennedy’s seat.” Mr. Brown said, “With all due respect, it’s not the Kennedy’s seat, it’s not the Democrat’s seat, it’s the people’s seat.” I do believe he did his fellow Massachusetts’ans', Samuel Adams and cousin-in-law, Abigail Adams, proud in that sentence. Self-importance is such a shaky platform; I’m glad he feels a responsibility to represent his people not his own agenda.

I’ve also been thinking about green salads and what makes them good. We have a birthday dinner to attend tonight and I’m to bring the salad. Why is it that green salads prepared by others are always better than the ones I fix, even if I add the same ingredients? A mystery. Do you have that problem? I think I'll make a pistachio pudding salad instead. That's green.

What have you been thinking?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Homemaking Tip—Rinse, Spit, Repeat

(thank you Google images)

Got canker sores? Several years ago a dental hygienist recommended Chlorhexidine Gluconate Oral Rinse 0.12% to swab on them (except I full-out rinse with it). It's been my friend ever since (especially the last few days). It doesn’t cure my mouth from cankering, but it certainly helps them heal faster. You can get it from your dentist. (*Remember this is neighborly advice not professional.)

The list of foods (and toothpastes) that give me canker sores is growing: walnuts, pecans, oranges, grapefruits, pineapple, Crest, and I suspect bananas, too. Do you get canker sores? What gives them to you?

(Do parenthesis ever run away with you in a post?)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday Topic

(thank you Google Images)

Thank you, thank you for your comments and ideas last week when I asked for your help in choosing a new Tuesday Topic. It was like I’d received a fresh box of hand-me-over clothes from my sister Marcia or friend Brenda. Here are your ideas:

  • Tuesday Tips (which opens Wednesday up for Wordless Wednesday)

  • Tuesday Tell-All (answer questions)

  • Timely Tuesdays (whatever doesn’t fit into other posts during the week)

  • Tuesday Tidbits (miscellany)

  • Shoes-Day

  • Take a Break Tuesday (telling what I chose not to do this week)

  • Tacky Tuesday (political views)

  • Tuesday Treats (recipe)

  • Tricky Tuesday (life’s funnies or a joke)

  • Traveling Tuesday (spotlighting something from a friend’s house or blog)

  • Tuesday Treasure (post about family, friends, food, an experience, photo, craft)

  • Thoughtful Tuesday (a spiritual though or an experience others can learn from)

  • Terrific Tuesday (all those things in life that are terrific.)

  • Taco Tuesdays

  • Tuesdays with Ande

  • SPT (taking a picture of whatever I’m doing that day)

  • Tuesday Quotes (of famous and not so famous people)

  • exoTic Tuesday (doing something I’ve never done before, i.e., eat something exotic, ride along in a fire truck, go to a local diner I’ve never been to, etc.)

I got excited pulling each idea out of my in-box and an idea came to mind with most every one. I have finally decided the only way we’ll know if they fit or not is to try them on—just like with a box of hand-me-overs. Each week I’ll post on a different topic that you suggested until I’ve tried them all. Did I say thank you? Up next week: Tuesday Tips. Until then, here's a movie trailer I saw on Robyn's blog that I enjoyed and I thought you might, too. Babies speak all languages don't they? Thank you, Robyn.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Memories—A Heavy Hand

During the Christmas break I was the impromptu pianist for a baptismal service. After the service, Ty said, “Did you see that even the flower arrangement danced while you played? You played so loud I thought they were going to bounce off the piano.” It’s not the first time he’s brought the volume to my attention.

Hear. Hear. I play the piano with a heavy hand because of the Boogie Man. I learned to play our old upright, saloon-style piano with the squeaky, swivel stool in the basement. (I don’t have any idea how the piano got down there, my folks probably built the house around it.) My practice slot was 6:00 am and the only way to practice the piano was with my back to the deep, dark fruit-room and furnace room (with the big black coal box that took half of the room and the noisy furnace hopper that fed the coal into the furnace). Certain the Boogie Man would eventually creep out of one of those rooms and snatch me while I was counting out notes, I created a safety plan that included playing very, very loudly so that my family would know that if the music stopped something was dreadfully wrong and come searching for me. Though I tested my theory twice and no one came looking for me, I still played the piano with a thunder hoping that if it were a real emergency they wouldn’t let me down.

For better or worse, mankind and floral arrangements are the beneficiaries of this memory.

Does one of your childhood fears still affect you?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

52 Blessings—So Let It Be Written

Calvin often says, “So let it be written. So let it be done.” It sounds scriptural. Today I am indeed grateful for the scriptures—my particular set of scriptures as well as all written scriptures.

My set of scriptures wasn’t always blue. They used to be teal green. Cali was only about ten or twelve years old when she learned I wanted a new set of scriptures; my old ones being the victim of kids and time. She went to her dad before Christmas and said, “I want to give mom scriptures for Christmas, but I don’t have enough money. Will you put half in, too?” Having asked me weeks earlier what kind of scriptures I wanted, and knowing they were definitely out of her reach, I didn't hesitate to be specific. Cali told her dad, “Mom wants the teal green ones and she wants a quadruple combination (all scriptures bound in one cover).” Then she handed Calvin a ten dollar bill and said, “Here’s my half.”

Knowing all Christmas money was already budgeted and spent, and knowing that for several years Calvin and I didn’t have enough money to include gifting each other in that budget, he came to me and shared the dilemma. The particular set of scriptures Cali thought she was buying half of cost over $100. Calvin said, “Jane, I’ve got to buy them. She’s really counting on it and it’s important to her.” So, somehow, somewhere we came up with the money and I got a Christmas gift that year while Calvin still didn’t. I often think, “Here’s my half” when I look at my scriptures and think of a little girl giving her all. How could I not appreciate them when it took her so much to give them? Likewise, when I think of the cost to the writers in the scriptures--blood and body in many cases--so that we could have them, well, it only makes sense to appreciate and love them.

As you can see, my set is no longer teal green. Several years ago, a student, seeing that my scriptures kept falling out of their teal leather cover asked me if I wanted to know of someone who could rebind them. I did. I did. I did. He put me in contact with a man that said he had the tools and ability to rebind them. I asked him if he could break them into two sets (for easier use) and he agreed that he could. They’re the same scriptures, just a different cover.

Though my scriptures have great sentimental value to me, I appreciate what is written within them even more. For many, many years I have daily read from them. Times too numerous to count, the words that I have read for that day have given me specific counsel, comfort, or direction. I remember one time when the kids were little and I was so very tired of them by the time bedtime came. I had great empathy for the old woman in the shoe that night and couldn’t get them to bed fast enough. After they were in bed, I realized I hadn’t read my scriptures for the day and pulled them out to read them. Wouldn’t you know one of the first verses I read was, “ye must repent . . . and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” I needed to be a better mother. That day wasn’t an isolated one. God knew it and then I knew it. It was a gentle enough correction, but it made a necessary difference. Time after time I’ve been not only corrected, but encouraged and directed by their words; likewise, the Spirit that attends while reading has blessed me with encouragement, understanding, and peace.

My first semester of college was at BYU-Hawaii. It was a very long way from home and I was homesick. My older sister Chris wrote me a letter that said, “I hear you’re homesick. Don’t be. Mom’s sick in bed. Dad’s cross. The little kids are fighting. There are weeds in the garden. I’m canning peaches. That is what you would be missing. DON’T BE HOMESICK.” You know after I read that letter from Chris, I wasn’t nearly as homesick, and enjoyed the new opportunities given to me. I think of the scriptures as letters from home. Letters from Heavenly Father reminding me of where and what I need to be doing and enjoying while I’m on earth. I am so very grateful for the scriptures. So let it be written. So let it be done.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Life in My World

(It was foggy this week, so the light was especially helpful in finding their driveway.)
  • Once a week I take supper to our neighbors. They’re both close to ninety. They’ve tried to talk me out of coming each week, but after I explained that it is the only night of the week that we are assured a main dish, salad, and dessert, they acquiesced. Every time I deliver, I am greeted by this lit lamp post that is dark other nights. I always think, “I’m Tom Bodett and we’ll leave the light on for you” when I pull into their drive way. It's heartwarming being expected. Taking them supper is one of my favorite things to do each week, especially since they don’t get out much and enjoy company.

  • Calvin and I went to a viewing at the mortuary tonight for our neighbors’ 85 year old father. Every time we go to a viewing I think of what a grown up thing it is we’re doing. Funny how after 26 years in the adult world I still don’t always see myself as a grown-up. After the viewing we reverted back to not-so-grown-up and grabbed food at Jack-in-the-Box and went to see Sherlock Holmes. What a funny movie; albeit we could have used subtitles, which again put us in the grown-up crowd.

  • Though I love my classes, I am looking forward to a long weekend. I plan to organize my journals, prepare a speaking assignment, read a book, and make great headway on a home study communications class.

  • We flipped our mattress this week, which means it’s my turn to have the dip in the bed.


(our neighbor's new pivot waiting to be linked together)

  • We’ve had a lot of rain lately and our road is submerged in a couple of places. It’s nice to have warm weather.


  • I bagged homemade cracker jacks in little white bags--complete with a prize and little white label. The bags/labels could have used a little more color, but they were still pretty cute lined up on the cupboard and fun to give to people. I feel a bit of victory every time I successfully mimic a product.

What product do you successfully mimic?
What is one of your favorite things to do each week?
Any plans for the long weekend?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday Thinking—Boy or Girl?

I clearly remember asking my mom how people could tell boys and girls apart. Mind you, I’d been thinking about it for days before I asked her. She mumbled and then said, “Why don’t you ask your dad?”

Being the seventh child, I imagine Mom felt she’d taught the lesson her share and then some by the time I asked, so I let it drop and did as she suggested. That night at the supper table I asked Dad how people told boys and girls apart. He said, “If they’re wearing a bow or not.”

I asked, “But how do they know whether or not to put a bow in their hair?

He responded, “By the color of blanket they’re in.”

I asked, “But how do they know which color of blanket to put them in?”

He replied, “Because the doctor told them.”

“But how does the doctor know?”

“The nurse told him.”

“But how did the nurse know?”

I remember this event very clearly, when you are the target of people’s laughter, you don’t forget easily. Dad paused and then finally said, “Because boys have handles and girls don’t.”

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” I’m a quick learner, I am. And all the kids at the table laughed.

I’ve been reading a fascinating and informative book that Ty got for Christmas entitled “Why Gender Matters.” My sister, Marcia, who teaches educational psychology, sent it to him. Ande had taken my sister’s class and had already shared some of the book with me: “Did you know that most road-kill animals are male? It’s because males are much bigger risk-takers than females.” “Did you know that boys draw verbs and girls draw nouns?” Having heard these bits from Ande, I immediately began reading the book when Ty opened it, then asked him if I could finish it and send it to him. (I don’t normally commandeer the kids’ presents, but . . .)

The book is very telling and informative. It discusses the brain structure of males and females and notes the differences. It emphasizes that teaching for the gender is imperative if you want to be able to help children successfully process information. For instance, the author, Dr. Leonard Sax, explains the difference in male-female eye structure. Teaching us about rods and cones, M cells and P cells, Dr. Sax, writes that the P cells and M cells have very different jobs. The M cells are motion detectors and the P cells explain what it is the eye sees.” Males have more M cells while females have more P cells, meaning we literally see the world differently. It explains why boys prefer to draw motion in their pictures (verbs) and choose colors like black, gray, and blue; while little girls are more perceptive of objects (nouns) and choose bright colors. One study gave babies a choice between looking at a simple mobile or the face of a live young woman. The female babies were interested in the face of the woman while the boy babies preferred the mobile.

The inner ears are also different in males and females, as well as where feelings are stored in the brain and the brains ability to access them. In short, there is so much more than handles to distinguish boys from girls and this book teaches them. I have learned a great deal reading it and recommend it to anyone that is raising or teaching a male or female. In fact, I sent an e-mail to the kids after one chapter saying that I thought we should all read it and then discuss it. I admitted, “We goofed in some ways raising you and by the grace of God were brilliant in others according to this author.” I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking about this information . . . I'm still sorting it, but have begun to implement some of it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Homemaking Tip—A Gizmo Worth Having

I have very few gizmos and gadgets. Mainly because then I would have to find a place to store them and I would have to read the instruction manuals.

(Case in point: Nearly every night for the past week Calvin has asked me, “Have you read the instructions on the new washer yet?”

Me, “Nope.”

Calvin, “How are you washing the clothes?”

Me, “I just keep using the same cycle you first showed me.”

He shakes his head.

I promise to read the manual tomorrow.

This is not a unique scenario.)

However, there is one gizmo that I finally purchased last month. Heretofore I had borrowed my friend Deb’s and it had saved me hundreds of dollars, so it was worth finding space for. The gizmo is a Cuttlebug embosser. With the embosser I have made hundreds and hundreds of cards and invitations. There are other embossers on the market and I’m sure they work equally as well, but I was familiar with the Cuttlebug so purchased it. You can buy Cuttlebugs (and embosser templates) at your local craft store or order them online.

As with anything, the cards can be as elaborate or simple as you desire. Mine run on the simple side, very simple side. To make the embossed cards unique I add a small embellishment such as a flower, faux pearl, sequin, or brad to the front of the card. I add a little bag of sprinkles to the inside of a birthday card. Recently I also started embossing half of the envelope to match or compliment the embossing on the card. Sympathy, Get Well, Happy Birthday, Happy Winter, Happy Autumn, Congratulations (on your wedding, baby, new home, new dog, passed blood test, graduation, what-have-you), —you can make a card for anything with a Cuttle Bug. It’s been a gizmo worth having.

Do you like or avoid gizmos and gadgets?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Think I Need Your Help

As you may have noticed I have a blog topic for each day of the week. I’ve been trying to think of a new topic of discussion for Tuesday’s blog posts. Self-Portrait Tuesdays was a great experience and I learned quite a few things about myself (things like my wedding dress still fits [for the most part] and my double chin will always be part of me). A big thanks to Lelly for hosting Self-Portrait Tuesday all those months. But Lelly no longer hosts SPT and . . . well, you can only play hide-n-go-seek for so long by yourself before you feel kind of silly.

So…..have you got any ideas for a Tuesday topic? I have hesitated to ask for your help for a couple of reasons: One, what if no one responds. It’s always a bit embarrassing to say something loud and bold and then only hear silence (no “hmmm”or “I’ll think about that,” but s.i.l.e.n.c.e.). And, two, what if by chance I get two ideas and I hurt one of your feelings by not taking your suggestion? I don’t like that idea either. NOTWITHSTANDING those dilemmas, I’m bravely asking for suggestions because I’m stumped. I’ve been thinking for three months and haven’t come up with a solution.

Ideas for a Tuesday topic?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Memories—Grandma Erma and Grandma Hoops


Grandma Erma
me and Judy (named after my mother's hairdresser)
Grandma Hoops

(I have no idea why we called one grandma by her first name and the other grandma by her last name.)

Both grandmas wrote letters: Grandma Erma wrote epistles, Grandma Hoops wrote postcards. Both grandmas loved their grandchildren. Both grandmas were not the same.

Grandma Erma had swollen, thick ankles that she covered with heavy support hose. I mention it because she always mentioned them. When stockings were rationed during WW II, Grandma wrote the stocking company and begged for a new pair to replace her damaged ones. She told them it was their civic duty to protect the public from the sight of her heavily varicosed veins. The company sent her six pairs. Grandma Erma was a former teacher and corrected our grammar when she came to visit. From her I learned there is no “r” in wash and that some people say “root” instead of rut, “creek” instead of crik, and “roof” instead of ruf. Grandma Erma was a storyteller, letter-writer, organizer, scrap-quilter and debater. She liked to play Scrabble. She not only recycled pants and dresses into quilts, she made disco balls from Christmas cards and glitter. Her preferred mode of transportation was the Greyhound bus. Grandma was a Democrat in a Republican state. Grandma Erma had white hair.

Grandma Hoops was compact. Her dresses were fitted, made of paisley cloth and expensive. Grandma Hoops loved dolls, diamonds, and luxury cars. She, like Grandma Erma, was a former teacher, but she corrected our table manners instead of our English. Every morning she fixed Grandpa Cream of Wheat cereal with wheat germ for breakfast and in the evenings she trimmed the fat from his steaks. Grandma liked burnt toast, roses, and peonies. Grandma and Grandpa took their grandchildren to a cabin every summer. Grandma Hoops often took us with her to visit her friends; we sat on the couch very still for hours while they talked. Grandma liked to give rides and food to the widows and homebound. She used both feet on the brakes. Grandma used to take us to the hotel for lunch and then bought us a little ceramic mouse from the hotel’s curio cabinet afterward. There were baby mice with rattles, mother mice, all kinds of mice. Grandma Hoops had silver hair.

Are my grandmas at all like your grandmas?
What little-girl/boy memory do you have of your grandma?
Did/Do you use her first name or last name when referring to her?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

52 Blessings—Gas

(thanks to google images)

I suppose I could have included in today’s blessing decomposing forest foliage, crude oil, refineries, pipelines, distributors, gas stations, and cashiers, but I’ll just sum it up with gas. By my rough calculations it saved my feet at least 410, 216 steps this week. I’m very grateful for the blessings that come from gasoline.

How many miles of walking do you figure gas saved you this week?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Life in My World—January

January is usually known as the fearful month of diets, budgets, organizing, and resolutions. Not so in my world—January is for relaxing and enjoying. January is the month of low-expectations. Cars, garages, and windows are supposed to be dirty. There are no yard or garden duties, tax-deadlines, gift-giving holidays, or flies in January. January is made for frugal luxuries like wearing sweaters, reading books, taking naps, cooking stew, taking an institute class, and fun projects. Here is what is up this week:


1. Grinding wheat. We have a few dinosaurs in our kitchen. One of them is Grandma’s wheat grinder and the other is a 1970-something-microwave (that pancake turner on top of the microwave is part of it. The door won’t close without it). I like clear cupboards, so the wheat grinder stays a few months and then when it drives me nuts, I put it away and buy wheat flour for awhile. Then I pull it back out and use it again. It’s out this week. Usually I make white bread for Calvin and wheat bread for me. We compromised a few weeks ago and are eating half and half until he’s fully converted.



This morning I made five loaves of bread, a batch of cracker jacks, and pigs in a blanket.


2. Dusting. Someone missed.


3. Listening. Ande gave me this Susan Boyle CD for Christmas. I love the way Miss Boyle sings from so many genres. “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Daydream Believer,” "I Dreamed a Dream"--they're all beautiful.

4. Going. Tonight Jon Schmidt is giving a concert. I took Calvin and the kids to a piano concert a loooong time ago and none of them have forgotten it. It really was bad. Really bad. So when I asked Calvin if he wanted to go to this concert with me he said, “Not only no, but h- - - - no.” I promised him Jon Schmidt is completely different from the other pianist we went to and even played this for him:

I waited a few more days and asked him again. Same answer. I called my friend, Lynn, and she is going with me. I’m excited and am even taking a nap this afternoon so I won’t miss any of it.

5. Laundry. Our washer died. Completely. I feel so blessed, however. We knew it was going and, acknowledging that it might be a bit selfish, prayed that the washer would keep working while everyone was here. No lie. It died on THE LAST LOAD of the vacation. It was Ande’s. She had to hand wring her Levis, but everyone else’s laundry was done. We got a new one this week. Calvin had to lay a new floor for it and it looks/works so nice. Our dishwasher also broke, but with just Calvin and me I don’t mind washing the dishes. A leg broke off our table, too. For now we've propped it up with a stool.

Do you enjoy January?
Any appliances die at your house recently?
Would you have liked to go to the concert?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thursday Thinking—Weighing In

(the outfits on this cover !. . . I just couldn't throw this manual away.)

Weighing In: I cleaned out our file cabinet this week. No. A better word would be I purged our file cabinet. There were files filled with articles on Christmas tips, parenting advice, dating ideas (as well as ideas for date invitations and ideas for accepting dates), articles on organizing and a pamphlet on grieving. There was a 1974 girls’ camp manual, a 2003 West Point manual, a 2005 Air Force Academy manual and a 1980 calligraphy manual. There were also receipts from dead appliances and expired insurance policies. Everything was in its organized file, much of it was useless. They were nothing but dead weight and it felt good to be rid of them.


Weighing In: I also found this poster that I drew (copied?) several years ago for a lesson that included Isaiah 5:28, “Woe unto them that draw . . . sin as it were with a cart rope.” Isaiah can be a bit tricky for me to understand so when I found a verse that made sense and gave me a visual, I clung to it. I could envision “drawing sin with a cart rope.” It reminded me of a little man (because they’re easier to draw than women) that threw all of his garbage in a cart—dead fish, rotten squash, frozen pumpkins, meat scraps, dog manure—and hauled it around by a rope. If he would have just emptied it—buried it properly—he wouldn’t have had to endure the stench or the weight, but he would rather have pulled it around. Woe. Woe. Woe. My sins are the same. They stink. They’re heavy. They’re dead weight. It makes so much more sense for me to get rid of them and bury them properly. Go. Go. Go.

Weighing In: In second grade we used to chart our vitals (weight/height) on the back wall each month. One month I proudly showed a classmate that my numbers were some of the highest. She told me I wasn’t supposed to be proud of that. I didn’t know that. I thought bigger was better. I was a dozen years ahead of my time. Twelve years later I met my Tongan friend, Seine. Seine used to come to my dorm room to weigh. One night she nervously slid the scales out of the closet and stepped on them. When the dial settled, she cried, “Oh no! My mother will be so angry with me because I have lost one. I only have 167 of them left.”

Do you have any weigh-ins?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Memories—Our Shooting Range

Calvin said, “You’re going to blog about this aren’t you?”

I said, “Nope. This is Jeff Foxworthy fodder.”

But then we got our family pictures back from Alyson, and well . . . it is our memory, Jeff Foxworthy-worthy or no, and . . . they are pretty guns.

Abe thinks I don't know how to hold a gun

Over the past several years, Calvin made each gun in this picture from hunks of wood (one for Ray, Cali, Abe, and Ty. Ande is holding out for a grandfather's clock). Each gun has about 300 hours in it. He is incredibly talented.

Because it was too cold to have an outside shoot-off this Christmas, Calvin made an inside-the-house target for the pellet gun. The target trap is a box made out of plywood and lined with plumber’s putty so as to stop the bullets. The front of the box holds a clip board with the center cut out so the pellets can go through the target before hitting the putty. The box sits on a stool at the end of the hall against the bookcase and in between the two bedrooms. Not only did Calvin make a target trap, he also mounted a big sight on the pellet gun (and the rhino-sized scope looks pretty ridiculous on the itty-bitty gun, but I suppose one shouldn’t complain when it is your books that are at risk).

The boys all pushed the piano into the center of the living room so that they had a clear shot across the living room and down the hall to the target. If you looked down the hall over the head of the shooter you saw the target and then a hand resting on the carpet or an elbow sticking out of the bedroom doors. After the shot went off you saw two heads pop out to verify where the pellet hit the target. And then you heard “NICE shot” or a whole lot of razzing and arguing. Then they switched and the two heads popped back into the bedroom and the next one took aim. Another thing you heard quite often was, “DON’T COME OUT OF THE BATHROOM YET. We’ll tell you when it’s clear.” This left me a bit skittish. Target practice kept the guys entertained for hours, especially once Calvin discovered he could sit in the chair and put his feet up on the ottoman and still be in the running.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

52 Blessings—Sleep

I love that the body shuts down and sleeps. I think it is marvelous that it knows how far it can turn down the lights, but still stay alive. I think it incredible that the body heals and rejuvenates while it is sleeping. I’m grateful we don’t have to stay alert and awake 24-7. I am very grateful for the rest of sleep.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Life in My World—The End

What a great Christmas vacation we have had. We ended our vacation with a trip to Seattle.

We went downtown and ate on the wharf.


Some of us like seafood

Grace and Abe
and some of us don’t. The wharf has both.

Then we went to the market to watch them throw fish, listen to the street musicians (the piano player was my favorite), people watch, and add to the disgusting gum wall.



This gum wall is like head lice. You can’t help but feel ick just talking about it. Unlike lice, it is quite fascinating. I don’t know how some of the people get their gum up so high on the wall and it is quite amazing that the gum doesn’t disintegrate in the rain. If looked at individually, the gum colors are really quite beautiful.

Then we walked around Seattle in the rain. Everything we had planned kept falling through (the Science Center, the Underground Tour), but it didn’t seem to matter. We just got wetter and wetter as we walked and improvised with other things. We took the shuttle and made two friends. Ty heard a couple talking in Mandarin and began having a conversation with them and discovered they were from Taipei; the shuttle operator’s name was Abraham so Abe struck up a conversation with him. Oh ho. And the kids used to think I was the friendly one.

Ande, Cali, Angie, Grace, Abe, Ty, Ray

We went out to the great little burger and shake place for supper, where Cali met us before she had to go to work. Ray and Cali knew one of the families that was there eating. They had two little boys between 7-10 years old. The parents brought chess for the little boys to play while they waited for their supper. (It was fun to overhear the boys’ conversation, “Are you SURE you want to make that move?”) They also brought a 25 piece puzzle for the child that was 4 or 5. The shake place is good but a bit slow, and those little kids were so quiet and well-mannered during the wait. I thought chess and a puzzle were brilliant ideas and much more engaging than coloring placemats.

While we were eating Cali got a call saying she could come in to work a few hours later. Wahoo. We went back to Ray and Cali’s home and played a few games. I just sat and observed as they played “Sets” and “Bananagrams”. Pachelbel’s Canon in D was playing in the background, the kids were all huddled on the floor around the games, Calvin was stretched out asleep on the couch with his feet in my lap and I thought, “It just doesn’t get any better than this.” And it doesn’t.

The kids also worked on a puzzle and watched old Little Rascal reruns on the wall downstairs that evening. But come 12:00, Cali rang in the New Year at work, Ande rang it in at a dance, Calvin rang it in his head, while Ray loaded up Grace, Abe, Ty, Angie and me along with a bottle of sparkling cider and paper cups and we went down to the waters’ edge to ring in the New Year. We were straight across the sound from the Space Needle where the firework display was. It was fun to stand there together in the light Seattle mist cheering in the New Year.

Then we went back home and Calvin and I went to bed in our clothes because we had to wake up at 3:00 am to take Abe and Grace to the airport.

Sending Abe and Grace off was sad. It was so good to be with them and have everyone together for two weeks and it’s never fun to break up the party. However, it wasn’t as painful as it could have been because we will go to Colorado to see him off when he deploys in a few months. As long as I know when “next time” is, partings are much easier.

We slept in Friday and then sat, walked, ran, and drove the day away. The visiting was my favorite part of the daytime. Ray kept the conversation going with a multitude of topics. That night we got ready to go to the military ball.


Navy was the host this year hence the gold and blue colors. See those little gold almond shaped things on the table? They are edible. But you have to suck the gold off first. If you tried to bite down on them with your molars before all the gold was gone it was like chewing on tin foil. And the best part? It seemed like only Angie and I liked them so there were plenty; they were good. And for reputation’s sake, the goblets were filled with sparkling cider for the traditional toasts.

Military functions bring out deep feelings for Calvin and me. It's like history collides with the present and creates a tide of emotions. This ball was no different. Sometimes I looked over at Calvin and his eyes were full of tears, other times he was laughing heartily. I felt the same. The evening began when everyone walked through the receiving line and then at the appointed hour entered the doors to the banquet hall and found our reserved seats. After everyone was seated then the attending cadets and midshipmen from the state of Washington marched in to their respective service song/march and introduced themselves and their intended service (military intelligence, special operations, armor, infantry, aviation, etc). They were in their mess dress uniforms and stood tall and proud. You couldn’t help but feel grateful to them and others for the service they give. Then before the meal was eaten, the chaplain offered a heartfelt prayer, blessing the food, the soldiers and sailors who are in harm’s way, those away from home and loved ones, and the families. The traditional lone table that sat in the front of the room was recognized, reminding us of the sacrifice of others that allowed us to celebrate. The table had four place settings representing the branches of the military, the goblets were down-turned as they would not be toasting as they were either fighting or had already given their lives in our service. The lemon on the plate represented the bitter battle they wage for freedom while the salt on the plate represented their tears and the tears of loved ones. After the lone table was appropriately acknowledged, then our food was served. Half of us had salmon and the other half had steak.

We had two speakers after the meal. One was a naval fighter pilot and the other a rear admiral who commands a submarine. They both offered interesting insights and charged the people in the room, especially the cadets and midshipmen, to prepare for the challenges ahead of our country. And then came the ball. The first dance was reserved for the cadets/midshipmen and their parent and then it was open to everyone. Cali and Ray and Ty and Angie danced and danced and danced until they had completely run out of air. Truly, these are fun dances watching the old and young dance together. Calvin and I danced a few, and watching him teach Cali how to swing was really fun, but mostly we just enjoyed visiting and watching the kids enjoy themselves.

Ty and Angie

It was a great night.

old-man strength vs. young muscle

Saturday started with a familiar contest of young muscle vs. old man strength. Young muscle finally won. This is a big achievement. Calvin still does not acknowledge it. Then we ate pomegranates on our oatmeal (very, very good), packed up and all drove to the mall to watch a movie before Ty and Angie had to catch their flights home. And then, just like that, the vacation was over. After Ande leaves tomorrow morning then not only is the vacation over but reality will be back. The end of a wonderful vacation and year, the beginning of new ideas, challenges and growth.