Friday, January 25, 2013

Life in Our World - This, That, and the Other

A few weeks ago my friend Melanie apologetically handed me a bag filled with some cute matching bowls and plates. She said, “I was going to get these glued together as cake plates, but I've lost my glue. I’m really sorry. Would you mind finishing your own gift?” We both laughed and I happily brought the plates and bowls home.

Calvin glued them together this week with some of his bow-making glue – I doubt they will ever come apart. I think they are so cute and wanted to take a picture of them, but the only props I had to choose from were two cookies in the cookie jar and a grapefruit in the wire basket. Until I spied Levin. I figured he could sit on a cake stand as well as any cake could.


Ray traveled all week so Levin and Cali came and stayed with us. Oh what fun it is to have the kids come home. We had a great week together.  There is a reason Cali hasn't blogged much since Levin was born.  He runs high-knees wherever he goes.  He's always begging you to hide, chase, or go.


Back when blogging first began and we were all getting to know each other we wrote 100 Things About Me posts. Thing #97 on my list was to someday say something quote worthy.

That day finally came.

I’m taking a class on grammar. Except it’s not called grammar any more it’s called usage (and that makes me chuckle every time I say it because usage sounds like sewage and that hardly sounds more proper than grammar). My instructor wrote on the top of one of my papers: Your answer made me laugh out loud. It was so appro pro. May I quote you on this?

And what would those quotable words be?

I was trying to say how frustrating it is to not write a sentence that ends in a prepositional phrase, and that by trying to write fancier than I speak I end up looking like the Emperor in his new clothes, bare beamed and buck naked with my ignorance showing.

Out of all the carefully constructed sentences in my assignments, that’s the one the professor chooses to remember.


Calvin and I disagree on how to feed the chickens. He thinks they should have free-feed. I think they should eat it all up every day so they don’t waste. If they have free-feed they spill a lot on the ground and don’t bother to scratch and pick it up. Calvin is always getting after me telling me they are hungry and I should feed them more.

The other day when Calvin got home from work he went straight out to do the chores before he came in the house. I had not fed the chickens for the day. Before we sat down to eat supper I asked him, “Do you know how much I love you?”

He looked at me, paused a long time, and obviously practicing self-restraint, said, “Then feed my chickens.”

I laughed and he said, “Ask me again.”

I said, “Calvin, do you know how much I love you?”

He said, enunciating very clearly, “Then feed my hens.”

He has chuckled about it ever since and I've tried harder to get them fed before he gets home.


Any this, that, or the other in your week?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


For supper tonight we had tamale pie. I like tamale pie. It’s not a beauty of a dish, but it tastes good. It’s a nice surprise to have something that looks unappetizing taste good.

However, tonight’s tamale pie was half-baked.

That’s how a lot of my projects seemed this last week – half baked. With a little more planning and better execution they would have been beautiful, but instead they have been half-baked.

For example:

A half-baked Thirteen on Thirteen.

Ty, Michelle, Afton, Abe, Grace, Cali, and Ande all faithfully got their pictures in for 13 pictures on the 13 of January of 2013.  But I didn't.

 Ray - My wife likes to scrub them out.
Cali - I hosted bookclub this week and the book I chose to discuss was Macbeth.
I drew this on the chalkboard above our mantel.

Afton - playing instead of sleeping in my crib

Michelle -  (Ty wrote:  Praying at the end of the day at 8!  She has to go to bed early for Insanity tomorrow.
I took the picture since we didn't have anything else for her and it was the end of the day.)

Ty - A picture I used during a very long text conversation between all of the Payne kids and spouses this afternoon.

Ande - Today all of us kids have been on a texting chain spree.
Our topics have been widely ranged (as has our participation...
we are still waiting for Cali and Ray to join in).
Hope everyone has unlimited texting!

Abe - Best part of my Sunday was the text messages
I had going on during Elders Quorum with Grace, Cali, Ray, Ty, Michelle,
Ande, and Joe (although I was disappointed by the lack of participation
on the part of Cali and Ray).

Grace - enjoying her favorite Christmas present

A half-baked attempt to be helpful: 

I offered some eggs to a friend and said I’d take them to her at church on Sunday. She said she didn’t think she’d be there, but I took them just in case.

Sunday morning Calvin and I walked across the church parking lot with a family and I offered them the eggs I’d brought. They acted so excited I thought they had maybe misunderstood me and thought I was offering something better than eggs.

I walked in the chapel and there was the friend. She’d come to church so that she could pick up the eggs.

I sat there on the pew for an hour hoping one or the other would forget about eggs.

But they didn’t. They both came up after the meeting waiting for eggs. Calvin gave them to the family while I told the other friend that I had forgotten to bring the cookies that went with the eggs (true, I had planned to bring her cookies but didn’t). I told her I’d come back to town later in the day with the eggs and cookies.

When we got home after church I went out to the chicken coop and gathered more eggs (thank heavens the chickens know to completely follow through). I put the eggs in a bucket and the cookies on a tray. The tray looked half-empty. I had eaten too many cookies after church and now didn’t have enough for a good sharing. I made a batch of no-bakes to add to them, and then just for good measure I grabbed some leftover chili to add to the cookies and eggs as I walked out the door.

Argh. It was attempt after attempt to cover over-zealousness and made everything inconvenient for everybody.  And then I wondered why Calvin got cranky as the day wore on.

A half-baked attempt to start a great goal:

I want to keep a little different journal this year. Perhaps it is because I am writing too many essays. Perhaps it is because I write a too-long family letter each week. Perhaps it’s because I blog. Perhaps it is because I have started to keep an on-line scripture journal. All I know is I am sick, sick, sick of so many words with my thoughts behind them. I decided to keep a simple journal this year entitled “See.”  My goal is to be more aware of the little miracles in life, take a picture of them, and then write ONE LINE as the entry - you know, let the pictures do the talking.

I got the photo book, the page protectors, and the paper, but here it is January 15th with nary a page completed. And already I want to bend the rule and include this.  But there's no picture:

Last Wednesday night I stopped at Wal-Mart for some things for Young Women’s. I stood in the check-out line behind a happy, disheveled man. I felt a distinct, “Pay for his groceries.”

I argued, “I think he has enough money. Just because his clothes are way too big and he is kind of messy doesn’t mean he doesn’t have enough money.”

I felt it again, “Pay for his groceries.”

I was still arguing if what I had felt was legitimate when the cashier showed him his total. He was reaching in his pockets and patting his coat trying to find his wallet, money, a card – anything. Finally he told the cashier he would have to go back out to the parking lot to his truck. Again I felt, “Pay for his groceries." But I only had $40 and I wasn’t sure that would cover his total let alone his and mine.

He left and I stepped up to the register. His total was still up: $30.28. I looked at my pile of groceries and quickly added them up. It was going to be about $9.00. There was a chance I was going to have enough for both of us.

I did.

While the man was gone, I paid the cashier for his groceries and mine. I hoped to leave before he got back, but he came in just as the transaction was ending. He was surprised and looked at me and smiled. He had very kind eyes and said, “Thank you. Thank you very much.” I felt good all the way through.  I said, "You are so welcome. I hope you have had a good day.”

As I walked to the car I wondered why that man needed his groceries purchased for him. Was the Lord answering a prayer of his? Was he feeling all alone and needed to feel like someone cared? Was he on his last $40? Was I full of baloney?

I don’t have any idea why I felt so strongly that I should pay for his groceries.  It was more than a now-that-would-be-a-nice-thing-to-do idea. What I do know is that as I walked out of the grocery store the words from Hebrews 13:2 came to my mind: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."  I thought I was doing him the big favor - that was a half-baked thought if I've ever had one.

Back to the half-baked tamale pie:

I put the tamale pie back in the oven after supper.  (I optimistically told Calvin the goo must be melted cheese when we spooned into it.)  It's all cooked now and ready for left-overs tomorrow.  

And that is what would probably be best to do with my other good intentions:  bake them again tomorrow.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday Tried It - The Name Game

I pinned this last night and used it in class today.  It was great.  

In Hebrews 11,  Paul teaches about faith.  He recounts faithful examples of many Old Testament characters to do so.  I used the names of those people Paul refers to as well as students' names, and a few fun names that were suggested in the instructions (click on link for instructions).  I have nearly 30 students, too large for a circle, so we alternated seats and the students came to the front of the room to participate.  We followed the instructions as written, but after round 2 spent some time studying before coming back to play the final round.  It was really fun.  And . . . the teams tied!  It was time to go (they played down to the last second) so we'll have a tie-breaker first thing tomorrow.

I'll definitely use this game again as it easily involves the whole class and can be an effective method for teaching content as well.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday Memories - Jump Rope, Hopscotch, Rotten Egg, and the Like

thank you google images

Recently our school district had another shooting threat.  Our town went through its own school shooting in 1996 and every now and then we get warnings.  Sadly, it’s today’s new normal.  On this last call the middle school decided to keep all the kids indoors for the day.   I would think the kids had a better chance at not being hit on a playground running to and fro then in a crowded hall or lunchroom of wall to wall kids, but it’s a tough call.  No matter what an administrator decides it will be second-guessed if someone is hurt. 

School playgrounds and playground rules are definitely not what they used to be and that is a sad reflection on us. 

I have great memories of playground games.  Here are ten of my childhood favorites:

·         tag (in many forms – regular, freeze, TV, etc.)
·         pom-pom-pull-away
·         baseball (work up)
·         jump rope
·         hopscotch
·         rollerskating
·         blister bars
·         merry-go-round
·         Helen Keller
·         Rotten Egg

I imagine every school had versions of Helen Keller and Rotten Egg:

We played Helen Keller in a small foyer.  “Helen Keller” put a coat over her head (if she couldn’t be trusted to keep her eyes closed) and was twirled around while everyone counted to ten.  Then she groped her way around the little room until she caught someone and felt who she was.  If she guessed correctly Helen Keller joined the game and the one that was caught became the new Helen Keller.   (A game like that would never fly today what with political correctness and students touching each other.  The real Helen Keller was a favorite heroine for many of us and we thought we were honoring her to play a game in her name.) 

We played Rotten Egg on the big cement steps.   Eight or ten of us sat quietly thinking of a color.  Whoever was “it” called out a color (any color) and then one by one rapped her knuckles on our heads.  If the color was the color we’d chosen we chirped, “peep, peep, peep.”  “It” and a friend swung us back and forth between their arms.  If we smiled or laughed everyone chimed “Ewwwww, you’re a rotten egg” and we were out.  If you didn’t smile or laugh you went into the good egg pile.  The game continued until there were no more rotten eggs.   The last (or first depending on the day) good egg got to be “it” the next game.

Two of the jump rope rhymes we used were:

Spanish Dancer touch the ground
Spanish Dancer turn around
Spanish Dancer do the high kick
Spanish Dancer do the splits
Spanish Dancer go upstairs
Spanish Dancer say your prayers
Spanish Dancer turn around
Spanish Dancer get out of town

Cinderella dressed in yella
Went upstairs to kiss her fella
Made a mistake and kissed a snake
How many doctors will it take

We also sang these nonsensical songs:

So-and-so stole a cookie from the cookie jar.
(So-and-so would say) “Who me?”
(Everyone would reply) “Yes you.”
(So-and-so would say) “Couldn’t be.”
(Everyone would respond) Then who?”
(Then so-and-so would call out another name and the rhyme would start again.)

Miss Lucy had a baby
She named him tiny Tim
She put him in the bathtub
To see if he could swim
He drank up all the water
He ate up all the soap
He tried to eat the bathtub          
But it wouldn’t go down his throat

(I hated it when kids taunted with this next song.  It was embarrassing.)

Two little lovers sitting in a tree
First comes love
Second comes marriage
Third comes (names two people) pushing a baby carriage

(I guess I shouldn’t have disliked that jingle.  It did teach us the proper order of things:  love, marriage, and then children which is much better than how some play today:  children, marriage, and maybe love thrown in there somewhere.  Maybe it had its purpose afterall.)

How about you?  What did you do on the playground?  What were your jump rope rhymes?  What games do your kids play on the playground now?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Life in Our World - Good Thing We Have Cupcakes

Marie and Me

Early Thursday morning I received an e-mail from Marie saying that she and her husband Dirk were driving through our area later in the day and wondered about meeting.  Of couuuurse!  Marie is a long time blog friend who lives in Canada, I was so glad to finally talk in real time.  She is just as enthusiastic and genuine as she is on her blog.  It was such a privilege to meet her and her husband Dirk.  (Her blog is private or I'd link to it.)

Truly.  Marie is exuberant and a joy to be around.  I was so impressed Dirk would humor her and bring her to visit and then sit and listen and even contribute to the conversation.  I shouldn't have been surprised, Dirk helps Marie pull off a lot of her incredibly creative ideas -- he delivered their kids' presents in a very realistic Santa suit Christmas Eve so it could be caught on video while the kids slept, and he dressed up as King Pig without even being asked [green face, green wig, and all] for their son's Angry Birds birthday party.

Someone once asked me if it's awkward meeting blog friends for the first time and I said, "Heavens no!  It's so nice because you know them and can ask all those questions the blog doesn't tell."

Dirk and Marie, thank you for taking the time to stop.

A little later friend Melanie came by and I got to take care of Owen for a couple of hours.  Melanie is one of those people that finds the funny no matter what the situation is.  I wish everyone had a Melanie.  I'm glad I have one.

A little later friend Casey stopped by with 50#'s of popcorn.  Several years ago Mitch, one of my seminary students gave me 50#'s of popcorn -- just because.  I saw him at the movies the other night and thanked him again, especially because I had just used the last of it a month or so ago.  Casey helps Mitch out at the popcorn plant and so he delivered another bag a couple of nights later.

I'm telling you we have the nicest friends.

Good thing we had cupcakes so there was something to share with all those who gave so much to us.  I've been wanting to try this recipe for a long time and it did not disappoint . . . not even a little.  If you like chocolate, and coconut, and cream cheese, and almonds, and truffles I don't think you'll be disappointed either.

Good Thing We Have Cupcakes


1 box devils food cake mix
1 box instant vanilla pudding (small box)
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup sour cream
Milk chocolate Lindor truffles by Lindt ~ approximately 30

Coconut Frosting

1/4 cup softened butter
1 8 oz package of cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
dash of salt
1 1/2 cups coconut
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped almonds

2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped almonds

  1. Unwrap milk chocolate Lindt truffles and place in a bowl for use later.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 30 muffins tins.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, oil, and water.
  4. Sift in cake mix and pudding and mix well.
  5. Stir in sour cream.
  6. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full.
  7. Bake at 350 for five minutes. After five minutes, lightly press a Lindt truffle into each partially baked cupcake.
  8. Bake the cupcakes an additional 13 minutes (total of 18 minutes).
  9. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and place hot cupcakes directly into airtight containers so as to seal in the moisture.
  10. While cupcakes are baking or sweating, mix frosting.
  11. Cream butter, cream cheese, salt, and vanilla in mixing bowl.  
  12. Add powdered sugar and mix well.
  13. Add chopped almonds and coconut and mix.
  14. Frost cupcakes with heavy layer of coconut frosting.
  15. Melt 2 cups milk chocolate chips in microwave (don't over cook)
  16. Dip tips of coconut frosted cupcakes into first melted chocolate and then chopped almonds.
  17. Let the chocolate set up.
  18. These cupcakes are even better on day two and three.

Tonight some friends are coming over for supper.  Calvin has perfected a new way of cooking steaks.  

Good thing we still have some cupcakes.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thursday Thinking - When You're the Only One That Doesn't Know

Ty and Michelle gave us Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute for Christmas.

The book helps you to see where you're fooling yourself.  It helps you to see where your perceptions are warped and what you're missing.  I started reading the book last Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon I had this experience:     

I was in the foyer after church waiting for Calvin.  I sat down on the couch next to a little boy and asked him and a little girl standing next to him how their Christmases were.  They were both 11 years old.    The little girl said hers was wonderful and, obviously pleased. showed me a brand new iPod with a blue cover.

The little boy said, "Mine was boring," and I thought, Oh, you must be one of those spoiled kids who gets something every time your folks go to the grocery store.  That'll ruin Christmas for you alright.  I just saw a whole new batch of iPhones in kids' hands a minute ago (whose families really struggle financially) and you must have wanted more than just an iPhone.

I said, "Boring?  How can Christmas be boring?"

He said, "I only got one present."

Me, still thinking his present was probably an iPhone (and I guess I find all wonder and amazement in an iPhone because I don't have one), said, "One present?  Well, what was it?"

He:  "A car."

Me:  "Oh.  A car.  A special kind of car?"

He:  "A motor one."

Me:  "A remote control car?"

He wasn't pleased with it and I wondered if it still worked, but he interrupted . . .

He:  "Yes.  But I'm luckier than my sister.  She's 13 and she didn't even get one present.  The new church we found (they must be church shopping as I'd never seen him before) only gives presents to kids and they said she was too old."

Me:  Wondering what to say to that.  "Oh . . . well . . . that certainly is a bummer.  I can see why Christmas wasn't very fun for you.  (Pause.)  Did you get to eat tamales?"  As if tamales was a suitable consolation prize for no gifts.

He:  "Yes.  But I had to go to my cousin's cousins and she's mean.  She hits my little brother.  She doesn't like him."

The little girl chimed in at this point and said, "Yeah, but sometimes your brother is bad," and he said, "But she doesn't need to hit him so much."

And that was the end of the conversation.  Others came and interrupted us and the kids got ready to go.  As I walked to the car I thought of Leadership and Self-Deception and how my perception of the boy was established after he said one word.  Boring.  How in the world did I come to think I had a corner on the market of human behavior and could pen him so quickly as I did?

My experience reminded me of this video.  This lady and I be mates.  We thought we saw ourselves so clearly and then walked in front of a virtual mirror and realized we're not nearly as fit and trim as we told ourselves we were.  

I finished Leadership and Self-Deception yesterday and highly recommend it.  It appears to have been very successful in the business world, I think it would make a great family discussion book, and I know it will be a help to me in my personal life.  I both appreciated and enjoyed it.  Thanks Ty and Michelle.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Homemaking Tip - Hero Wall

Calvin and I have gone to two movies in the last week.  Not unprecedented, but not normal.  As we watched superhero preview after superhero preview, I thought No wonder kids are confused and feel helpless today . . . our heroes are superheros and if you can't spit webs, conduct electricity, or fly you can't solve the world's problems.

Now I don't know if that really is the case, but I do wish that we put more real life heroes in front of kids than imaginary ones.

My sister Rachel has what her family calls a Hero Wall.  Each person in the family has chosen someone that has qualities they admire and want to emulate.  Rachel's hero is Ulysses S. Grant and she can give you a passionate and heartfelt lesson on him and leave you feeling a kinship to him as well.

As you can see, the Ellsworth hero wall is as varied as its family members.  It is an effective way to teach with the eyes.

I like this simple definition of hero:  "A hero is a kind of person that others want to be like.  He helps them become better people.  They aren't always famous, sometimes they are just regular people, they don't have to brag or boast about themselves they just quietly do the things they should.  They follow Jesus."

Who would you hang on your hero wall?  I'd put Joan of Arc and Calvin's dad and Peter for starters.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tuesday Tried It - Salsa

We make lots of salsa around here . . .

. . . and this recipe is a keeper.  (However, don't be surprised if you get up in the middle of the night and brush your teeth again.)

While we were eating at Ray and Cali's house someone mentioned I don't like garlic.  I said, "I know.  It's a burden.  People don't look kindly on you when you say you don't like garlic.  People who like garlic really like garlic and they feel strongly about those who don't."

Ray was eating his breakfast two stools down from me and said, "That's okay.  Some people don't like kittens either," and then he looked over at me and quietly said, "Kitten killer."

Any fellow don't-care-for-garlic-fans out there?