Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homemaking Tip—Codes

Calvin called late this afternoon and asked, “Have you thought about supper yet?”

We’ve been married long enough that he knows I’ve thought about supper by late afternoon, even if I haven’t done anything about it. But then we’ve been married long enough for me to know that “Have you thought about supper yet?” is really code for “Please don’t tell me that we’re having potato soup for supper. Pleeease, don’t let it be potato soup night.”

I responded, “I’ve got a couple of ideas, but what were you thinking?” Potato soup really was one of my ideas. I know better, but once or twice a year I try to sneak it past him. He must have caught a whiff of my intentions.

He suggested, “How about tamales?”

Tamales are a grand idea for any supper, but they also take three or four hours to make.

He finished, “I’ve already picked some up.” I love it when Calvin does that.

Somewhere about 40 miles from here, someone makes great tamales and Calvin was near the little store that sells them when he called - $1.25 for great big ones.

I went out to the garden, picked some tomatoes and peppers, and made a batch of salsa for the tamales. And while I love potato soup, it's hard to top salsa and tamales.


I shared this tip with Grace the other night as she set the table: If you set the table first thing it buys you a lot more time while you fix supper. A set table is code for "supper is soon" and everybody is more patient knowing it’s coming.

What are the codes at your house?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Terrific Tuesday

Last night we had a wiener roast, probably the last of the year, for family night. After we roasted coconut marshmallows for s’mores, Grace taught us a lesson on the angel Moroni. It was a perfect evening.

I put the witch on the windowsill. Ande made her a long time ago and she still makes me smile.

We didn’t even need forks for supper tonight . . . just degreaser. Nothing quite like homemade fries and finger steaks in the fall, unless it’s homemade fries, finger steaks, and corn on the cob.


I pulled my iPod from the tub of rice and pushed the button. Nothing. One hour and seventeen minutes in the washer, and seventy-two hours resting in rice was just too much for it . . . until it was recharged. Then it started up again! I have no idea how well it works yet (the ear phones didn’t fare so well), but there is hope.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

52 Blessings - iPod

It was a great blessing, and like many blessings, one I didn’t appreciate at first. Calvin and the kids gave it to me for my birthday many years ago, but I thought it was too expensive and tried to take it back. The store didn’t want it either. I brought it back home and learned to love it.

It read The Book of Mormon, Einstein and Team of Rivals to me. It repeated phrases that bore repeating and was quiet when I tired of listening. It was a poet in my pocket.

It sang all kinds of songs – theme songs, anthems, ballads, quiet songs, rousing songs. I could sing along or just listen. It didn’t really care. It was a piano in my pocket.

But yesterday when it was still in my pocket it went through the wash. It’s now resting in a tub of rice. If ever a home remedy works I hope it’s this one, because I shall really, really miss it if it doesn’t. I wish I'd have appreciated it from the very beginning, it really was a great blessing.

Have you ever had a blessing you didn't really appreciate at first?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday Thinking—The Missing Piece

The other day I was thinking about arrowhead hunting. Calvin loves to hunt for arrowheads and so do some of my brothers and sisters. I never much cared for it. While others walked among the sagebrush and along the creek beds looking for a piece of carved flint, I sat in the pickup or on a clump of grass and read a book. The idea of looking for something that might be there, but also just as well might not, seemed too discouraging. I don’t have a scraper or arrowhead to my name.

I drifted from thinking about arrowhead hunting to puzzles. I’ve never been a puzzler, either. I tried for awhile, but the idea that the piece I was looking for might not even be there soon left me feeling arrowhead-hunting overwhelmed. So even though the kids enjoy puzzles, I often sat on the couch near them and . . . read a book.

Two days after thinking about puzzles and arrowhead hunting, I saw this Mormon Message.

I may not be a great puzzler, but I like the idea that all the pieces are there and the Savior can help us put them together. The best is yet to come. (What do you want to bet the next time the kids do a puzzle I try and help? Arrowhead hunting? I think I'll still stick with the book.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Homemaking Tip—September is National Potato Month

I’m not bloviating when I say that I could (and often do) eat potatoes daily. Whether mashed, tater-ed, frenched, hashed, scalloped, fried, boiled, or baked, it does not really matter. I will eat them plain, buttered, gravied, dipped, or onioned. I will eat them here or there. I will eat them anywhere. I do like them Sam-I-Am.

One night last week we had hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes for supper. And since many recipes are just a rearranging of ingredients, I made another meal while I was making it: sheepherder’s pie.

First I browned the hamburger. Then I put half of the browned hamburger in the bottom of a casserole dish. I continued making the hamburger gravy to the hamburger in the frying pan by adding flour to the hamburger. After the flour was well incorporated with the meat and slightly browning, I added milk, salt, and peppe. While the gravy was bubbling in the frying pan, I added tomato sauce and spices to the hamburger set aside in the casserole dish then layered green beans on top of the hamburger.

Next I mashed the potatoes. I spread a thick layer of potatoes on top of the mixture in the casserole dish and put the rest in a bowl on the supper table to eat with hamburger gravy.

Finally I added some grated cheese to the top of the hamburger, green beans, and mashed potatoes and called it sheepherder’s pie. (Do you call it shepherd’s pie or sheepherder’s pie?) I covered it with a lid and put it in the fridge for supper a night or two later.

I will eat potatoes then or now. I will eat them with some cow. I will eat them here or there. I will eat them e.v.e.r.y.where . . . because I like them Sam-I-Am.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Memories—Family Night

Family Night, Family Home Evening – tomato, tomata – we’ve had all kinds. A very few have been spectacular, most have been just regular, and some have been disasters. But regardless of how good they are, in the words of Tevye, they’re tradition.

For years and years our regular family night line-up was rather simple: someone conducted the meeting, we sang an opening song, someone said an opening prayer, the conductor conducted family business and then opened the time up for parts (similar to the event we had in the motel a week ago), a lesson on Christ-like living was given next followed by a closing song, closing prayer, treats, and a game. That was it. Sometimes it took an hour. Sometimes it took fifteen minutes.

I remember one night we were playing hide-n-go seek in the house for games. I was hiding on top of the chairs that were pushed tightly under the kitchen table. The white lace tablecloth hung down both sides. Quiet and still, I didn’t think anyone would ever find me.  I hoped they'd have to call ollie-ollie-oxen-free.  The phone rang right above the table. I didn’t move. After several rings Ty, who was “it,” answered it.

“Hello. This is the Payne’s. May I help you?”

On the other end was one of my stake young women’s counselors – a very lovely, proper, coiffed woman who calculated her humor. I heard her ask if she could speak to me.

Pause. Looooong pause. And then in his little raspy voice, “Nope, she’s busy.”

“What is she doing?”

“She’s hiding under the kitchen table and she won’t come out.”

She never did believe that we were only playing a game.  I suppose we had a talking-to on how much to share with people on the phone during the next week’s business.

Family night is a little different now. A week ago we decided that Calvin, Grace, and I would each take turns organizing it. Last week Calvin made carne asada tacos for supper and then we went to Dairy Queen.  He always plans something good.

September 20th's evening

Tonight was my turn. Calvin was nervous.  He shouldn't have been.  I shared the scriptures “the glory of God is intelligence. . .” and “. . . seek ye out of the best books . . .” and then asked everyone to think of a subject that we would someday like to teach Clara. We went to the cemetery and shared our topics.

Then we went to the library and chose books on our subjects.  Finally we went across the street to the drugstore and picked out a treat to eat while we read our books.

Here’re the topics. Here’re the treats. Can you match them to Calvin, Grace, and me?

Jordan Almonds                                              Reptiles

Jordan Almonds                                              Military

Tortilla chips and cheese dip                            Founding Fathers

                                                                                    (Calvin had to change his topic to owls)

Family Night, Family Home Evening – it’s a tradition.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

52 Blessings—Mission Calls

My nephew, Justin, received his mission call this week. He’ll be serving in Italy. He couldn’t be more excited.

Mission calls are extended to those young men, young women, older women, and married couples that have a desire to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others in the world. There are all kinds of missions: proselyting, service, leadership, teaching, humanitarian . . . and most missions require that the missionary leaves his home and comfort zone. Young men make up the bulk of our missionary force and are mostly called as proselyting missionaries – missions where they share the doctrines that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches.

Prospective missionaries send their applications to Salt Lake City where their information is observed and they are assigned a place to serve. It takes a lot of faith to offer the years, money, and effort to serve a mission. It takes a lot of faith to say “I’ll go where you want me to go. I’ll do what you want me do. I’ll say what you want me to say.” But they do it. They do it.

When Justin received his mission call, my sister Rachel wrote, “He's thrilled. It didn't even enter my radar that Italy was a possibility, I mean not even remotely. But looking back I find a lot of little thinks that make me say, "Hmm..., why didn't I think of that?"

1. We studied Latin for two years and he absolutely loved it. I always thought it would be a good jump off for Spanish, but Justin always said, "No, Italian." I just rolled my eyes.

2. When he found out he was going to get to go to Europe (for educational purposes) he chose all the books on Italy to study. I always said, "Justin! You're only going to be there for two days. Why don't you study France and French or Spain and Spanish where you'll be staying longer? He would just smile and shrug his shoulders. "I dunno. I just like it."

3. Out of all the European books we kept, like the 'travel for dummies', Italy is the only one we still currently own. Because Justin wouldn't let us part with it.

So yes. He's very, very excited. I'm excited for him. He already loves the people and the place.

I thought about Calvin, Abe, Ray, Ty, and Michelle’s calls. Calvin served in the Northwest mission (fancy that, we live here now). Abe served in the Philippines. Ray served in Thailand. Ty served in Taiwan. Michelle served in Arkansas. There was something unique in each of those missions for the one who served there.

And it is as Calvin says, “The important thing is that you serve. It doesn’t matter where you serve. It matters that you serve.” But I still can’t help but find comfort and satisfaction that the Lord has a hand in where you’re going and that He attends to details that only He could have known.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Life in My World—Keep a Goin’, Just Keep a Goin’

Some stories you just keep reliving. It never ends. Like the tortoise and the hare. What with the whizzing of the past two weeks with school start-up, a trip to Colorado, and fall cleaning, I pretty much sat this week out. I read a book, went out to eat three times, and let the ironing basket bulge.

And then this morning I woke up and realized how far behind I was and tried to run to catch up. I dove-tailed and hurried all day — I listened to the scriptures while I ironed and jogged, prayed while I walked, went to the Primary program practice and practiced the organ afterwards, made eight loaves of bread while I deep-cleaned the kitchen, did laundry and cheered when Army won their football game, took a load to Goodwill and then ironed for another couple of hours. And all I can think about now is going to sleep . . . the cycle continues. But next week. Next week will be different.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Homemaking Tip—Menagerie

The first tip is from a cadet: . . .

Poor Dr. Pepper or Coke over raw hamburger patties on the grill. Flip the burgers when they are brown and pour Dr. Pepper over them again. The final product is one juicy burger. The cadet said the secret is in the soda's sodium solution. I believe him. He’s grilled hundreds of burgers and a cadet does not lie, steal, or cheat or tolerate those who do.

The second tip is from a 90 year old farmer’s market shopper . . .

Don’t peel your pears before you bottle them. Really.  That’s what she said. She said after 35 years she got tired of peeling them and left them on. I must not have looked entirely convinced because she said, “Try it on a bottle or two honey, and then you’ll know for yourself.”

The third tip is from me:

After caulking around the baseboards, screw a screw into the tip of the caulk tube to keep it from drying out. Also, old flannel-backed, oil-cloth tablecloths make the best drop cloths. This leaf one has made it through several projects - it has a tiche of black, brown, green, and yellow on it.

And this last thing is just a tidbit, not a tip.

Saturday Calvin saw a hurt bird on the road. He stopped and brought it home for Cali to nurse. They put it in a quail cage and waited for it to get better. After a few hours of water, feed, rest, and sunshine the little finch looked stronger so they turned him loose and he hopped away.

Dan found him. Dan ate him in one gulp.

Some days are like that I guess.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Memories -- the little house

I love children’s literature, The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder being one of my favorites in that genre. Mrs. Elizabeth Roberts, my third grade school teacher read the series aloud to us. And then, because third and fourth grades were combined in our country school, she reread them to us my fourth grade year, too. I have read and reread them several times since (the last time being two summers ago).

Ma’s mantra, “All’s well that end’s well,” pops in my head occasionally as well as Pa saying it’s all fair in the end, the rich get their ice in the summer and the poor get their ice in the winter. “Details. Details. Details.” I often say to our kids, remembering when Ma told Laura that she must be Mary’s eyes when Mary went blind. Mrs. Roberts said that is why Laura was such a good writer; she learned to describe details to Mary.

The self-sufficient way the Ingalls’ lived inspired me to bottle and preserve more than jam and fruit. Once when I needed to make hard tack I knew I could because Ma did. Ma made Pa a mock apple pie with slices of green pumpkin sprinkled heavy with cinnamon. And I think it was Ma that taught me to substitute winter squash for pumpkin in pie. We serve creamed potatoes and peas for the 4th of July, because that is what Ma did. The sheer enormity of food served in Farmer Boy makes me look like a nibbler and a stingy cook.

And then there was the house cleaning. Remember airing out the mattresses and filling them with fresh dry grass? Remember how good it felt to wash all the bedding after The Long Winter? Remember when Father and Mother Wilder went on a trip and left the kids home alone for a week? Eliza organized Alice, Royal, and Almanzo into doing the spring cleaning. They beat the rugs, washed the walls, and polished the parlor stove. That was when Almanzo got mad at Eliza for being bossy and threw the brush with black polish at her. Eliza ducked and it splat on the wall. Almanzo was certain a whipping was in his future, but Eliza proved she was a good sister by replacing the soiled wallpaper.  Mother Wilder was never the wiser.

The Little House illustrations by Garth Williams:

Several times last week I thought about the deep-cleaning that went on in The Little House books because we had some cleaning going on in our little house.

A few weeks ago Cali called saying, “Ray’s going to be hunting in Alaska in a few weeks. How about if I come over and help you do all those little things you haven’t been able to get done – things like touch-up painting and fall housecleaning.”

Last Tuesday when I came home from school Cali was ready to begin. She is a workhorse. No project intimidates her. What started as a little touch-up painting soon ended with the room changing from red and tan to a bright, cheery yellow – complete with some new baseboards and a painted closet. What started as a little spot cleaning turned into shampooing all the carpets. While I thought a few bags to Goodwill would be enough, we filled the back of the pick-up. Wall-washing was the smallest of the chores and taking apart and moving the bed the next smallest. What we didn’t get done (there are only so many hours in a week after all) is carefully itemized on a list that Cali drafted. She promised that she will be checking up on me to make sure I finish it.

I like Cali being the ma and me being the Laura. I think we should play this game more often.  I would never have tackled in one week what she did.  She gave me courage and determination.  Cali is thorough, efficient, willing to serve . . . and I only wanted to throw a brush at her once and that was when she said I couldn’t go to bed until the room was finished.

The Payne House illustrations:

Cali and Grace painting Ande's-now-turned-Grace's bedroom

Our living room with nary a spot on the walls or carpet

the dining room without a cobweb or flyspeck

"Can I pleeeeease go to bed now?"

I love our clean little house.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

52 Blessings—Fun Weekend

I could have called it laughing, I could have called it family, I could have called it generosity, I could have called today's blessing a thousand things. Instead, I’ll sum it up with fun weekend.

A week ago we went to see Ty for parents’ weekend at the United States Air Force Academy. It was an incredible weekend.

Ty picked us up at the Denver airport on Thursday night (Cali flew in a few minutes before we did and helped him craft a paper towel banner). We hurried to the Academy for a squadron Knowledge Bowl. While we drove he had me read aloud an assignment due the next day. It was not your typical Mrs. Pigglewiggle read aloud.

Ty's friend from Sri Lanka

On Friday we ate breakfast at the mess hall and then went to classes with Ty. One of the things I have loved about the boys attending the armed forces academies is the cross section of America represented. Each state senator and representative has a certain number of academy slots to fill so all states are fairly represented. Even other countries send cadets to our academies. All social, economical, race, and religious classes are represented. The common denominator is that they have all met the same stringent requirements and have a desire to protect and serve fellow Americans. On parents’ weekend when the families join their cadets it’s revitalizing to be among so many people with various experiences and backgrounds that are united in purpose.

We loved attending classes with Ty. My favorite two classes were military strategy and English. In the military class we learned about alliances and coalitions. We were briefed on a world crisis, assigned a country and told to make an alliance with the US in order to meet the emergency. Each country had limitations so the US didn’t necessarily want us in their coalition forces. I learned a lot in that class, including where Turkmenistan is.

English was a wonderful experience. The instructor began class by telling us he had the most important job at the academy. I thought his enthusiasm perhaps a bit bloated until he explained that each soldier would be forced into situations that would try his soul. The instructor stated that it was his job to prepare those cadets to be prepared to not only pull the trigger or drop the bomb but to deal with the consequences after it. He had each cadet recite a poem that dealt with war and then write a personal essay putting himself in the poem. My goodness, the essays were moving and the cadets were good. Calvin had tears in his eyes during each recitation. I choked a couple of times myself. I came away convinced that the English teacher did indeed have the most important job at the academy for he made those cadets feel.

the first 600 and counting

Friday was also the military parade. I never get tired of a soldier marching to the beat of a drum. I’m always a bit amazed that 4,000 people can move in unison with such precision and order.

A parade at the Air Force Academy also means a good portion of the time your head is looking skyward to see the paratroopers, bombers, jets, air acrobatics and . . . the falcon (which got sidetracked and went after a mouse and didn’t come back to his trainer. Calvin whispered, Birds—1, People—0 when he flew off. And when the second falcon goofed up on his maneuver the birds were up by two).

me, Calvin, Ty, Michelle

Saturday we went to one half of Michelle’s brother’s football game and then to the squadron tailgate party and Air Force football game. It was a great day.

And even though the Air Force game was plagued with lots of injuries, a lopsided score, and heat (the crowd cheered loudest when the sun went behind the clouds), we had a good time.

Matt thinking about what his is like

We stopped and ate at Chipotle’s on the way home and then played a fun game back in our motel room: What’s yours like? Oh ho. It’s a quick way to laugh and get up close and personal. After What’s yours like? we had a family talentless show. I don’t know who started it; all I know is peer pressure made each of us perform.

Cali sang Silent Night. Cali has taken one of the most reverent, sweetest songs in Christendom and made it so . . . so . . . well, so funny. Her sincerity has something to do with that, along with her ability to laugh at herself, and her having a hard time making her voice do what her brain hears.

Calvin told some jingles for his part.

Michelle did a trick with her stomach which is only matched by her tricks with her nose. We made her do them again and again and again. She reminded me of a performing seal at Sea World for each trick required a piece of candy.

I did a cheer. I wish, I wish, I wish I had never told the kids I was a cheerleader. Once. One year was all it took to get a cheer stuck in my muscle memory and then in a moment of foolishness I showed it to the kids when they were little. Now they request that stupid cheer whenever they want me to make a fool of myself in front of their friends. They insist they’re laughing with me, but I know what feeling laughed at feels like and that toe-touch attempt at the end of the cheer is an at-me laugh. This time I jumped off the hotel bed to get some air and as I climbed up to jump off, Ty begged me not to, “You might break a hip, Mom. Please don’t.” What? When did I get to be jump-off-the-bed-hip-breaking age? I jumped off twice just to prove I wasn’t.

Gace did a cheer, too. She won the award for the funniest part. For starters, her cheer begins with “Hip-hop lollipop” and it just gets better from there. Seeing Grace perform that cheer is so funny that the next day in church (during a very quiet and peaceful time of worship) I started to shoulder-shake laugh when I thought of it. I suggested to Grace, Cali, and Michelle that all the girls in our family should learn that cheer. Grace agreed as long as she could be the head-cheerleader.

Ty ended the evening by solemnly reciting the poem he did for his English class. My. Like salt after sweet, it was the perfect touch to a wonderful evening.

Ty and Justin

Ty has a friend named Justin in his ward. He is Justin’s hometeacher, too. Justin is convinced that Ty is his brother and therefore Cali is his sister (unless of course Ray dies, in that case Cali will be his girlfriend). The LDS cadet choir sang for Sacrament meeting and Ty invited Justin to join them and be an honorary member. After the meeting I mentioned to Ty how much I enjoyed watching him include and take care of Justin during the songs and he said, “Well, it’s not that great of a thing. Justin has been bugging me to sing a musical number in church with him. I suggested he sing with us so we wouldn’t have to sing a duet.” That confession doesn’t change my opinion of Ty and Justin’s friendship one bit, especially when after the meeting Ty pulled out a sheet of stickers from his pocket for Justin to use to mark off his goals.  Justin is but one more blessing of Ty's experience at the Academy for which I am grateful.

It was fast and testimony meeting and different cadets stood and bore their testimony of the spiritual truths they know to be true. At one point during the church service, Calvin whispered to me, “Remember five years ago when we first came to parents’ weekend and Ty was a fourth-class cadet and we heard all of those first-class cadets stand and speak? Remember how mature they were? They were home from their missions and they were so confident, focused, and impressive? Remember when they all had their fiancĂ©es with them? Hard to believe Ty’s in that spot now, isn’t it?” It felt good to see the circle completed and to know Ty was helping future cadets like those former cadets had done for him.

Kathy Page, Grace, Eliza Green, Jayna Page

Sunday afternoon we went over to the Pages (Michelle’s family) for a barbecue. The Greens, Ty’s sponsor family (and the one who set Ty and Michelle up), came also. Have I mentioned yet that the weekend was incredible? We had such a great time with the Pages and Greens. What fun families. What kind families. What a blessing those families have been to Ty and consequently to us. In the evening we gathered around the piano and Michelle’s brother, Josh, played song after song after song that he composed. Michelle and Grace sang a few duets for us, too. It was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful in the words of Lawrence Welk. When we went back to the motel Ty, Cali, Grace, Calvin, and I stayed up and visited until well past midnight. Family truly is heaven on earth. Even though several of us were missing, it felt good to be together.

Michelle, Cali, Ty, Grace

Dallin and Josh Page

Jayna, Grace, Brian, and Kathy

Monday morning we got up early to attend the balloon festival with the Page family and then went on a hike to Seven Bridges. The Pages are warm, engaging, welcoming, and fun.

There’s a perfect dose of yellow personality sprinkled in the family and you can’t help but have a good time with them. It’s also fun to see Michelle and Ty so much in love.

chess players on 16th Street

After we dropped Cali off at the airport, we went down to 16th Street in Denver to pass the time till Grace, Calvin, Michelle, and I had to fly out. Words that came to mind while we were there: Disturbing. Interesting. Cold. Sad. Affluenza. A homeless man sat next to me on a park bench and after he sold his cigarette to another man for 46 cents we began to visit. He said, “Denver is having an identity crisis. They can’t decide what kind of a city they are.” 16th Street does feel like a seaboard city street, albeit dry-locked at 5,280 feet in the middle of the country.

One thing about 16th Street that I loved was the street pianos. Michelle sang and played for us. We also loved the Maggiano’s Italian restaurant and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Sometimes my faith wanes and I worry my happiest days might be behind me. Because my vision is limited (and because I have already had some pretty incredible days thus far in life) I worry I’ve used up my happy day allotment. That is claptrap – a ploy to keep me fearful and disheartened .  This fun weekend dispelled that bunk once again, there are lots of happy days ahead.  For that blessing, as well as the rejuvinating fun, family, and friends, I am grateful.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Homemaking Tip—The Fruits

Ande helped me pick the blackberries in the garden this afternoon. This bowl full is going to jam.

After we picked the blackberries we picked the ripe cherry tomatoes. I don’t know what the little red scooper is called, all I know is it makes hulling strawberries and tomatoes quick and easy. If you ever see a huller, grab it because they aren’t everywhere.

Calvin loves these little cherry tomatoes filled with equal parts of cream cheese and sour cream, along with some bacon bits and chives thrown in for flavor.

I thought you’d like this idea of Susan’s. First thing this morning, her girls brought me a basket of apples with a jar of caramel.  Nothing like enthusiasm, a red gingham bow, and caramel apples slices to make a happy start for a new school year.