Thursday, January 31, 2008

to judge it's ripeness

Somebody and I agree on many things, but the perfect ripeness of a banana is not one of them. While we both appreciate the health benefits of a good banana, we have very different ideas about when a banana is good and ready to be eaten.

I say it should be eaten as soon as possible, preferably while it is still a little green. I appreciate the firmness because, well, I’m not all that fond of the texture of bananas, and get a little creeped out when they get mushy, and have even asked my four-year-old nephew to peel them for me because I can’t stand the thought of putting pressure on the any part of the banana for fear brownish mush patches will touch my hands. Not crazy. Somebody thinks they are perfect just shy of bread-worthy, and reminds me often that all the best nutrients of bananas are in their brownness. Sometimes I take an overripe banana just to please him. Hence, the banana of today. He thinks it isn’t quite ripe enough. I think it’s so ripe that I kind of want to throw it away and not tell him. But I shall eat it. But someone else is going to have to peel it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

i'll always be irish

I have this plant that I bought in, oh, 1999. His name is Spidey. He’s a spider plant, and joined the family when we lived in the soap opera house and had a gorgeous corner kitchen window. He loved that window, and grew and thrived there. He survived the move north, to the tiny apartment of unemployment, and then the duplex of contention, and then the condo of the committee. It was in the condo that I decided that what he maybe really wanted was a day in the sun. Have you ever put your indoor plants out on the deck for the day? Yeah. They don’t like it. He got a horrible sunburn and I ended up having to trim his leaves back to only an inch long. No one thought he would survive. And yet, somehow, like we all do, he made it back from the lowest low. I took him with me to the last roommate, and then he was my companion in the lonely basement until I got married. Now he has an honored place in the Kansas basement, and I just can’t picture an apartment or home without him. I know it’s just a plant, but for some reason I find a lot of comfort in knowing that something else has been there all along—that something else has had rough times and made it through and that we are still alive and well together. I love this plant. At some point in his life, I think maybe in the condo of unemployment, he got a pot companion. We call him the Pot Luck of the Irish. It’s a long name, I know, but he’s a pretty handsome little leprechaun. And the two have never been parted.

And there you have it. One of the five things I would save in a fire. My laptop, my wedding blanket, my purse, my baby scrapbook, and Spidey.

Update: To clarify that last sentence: In church a few weeks ago we had to fill out a survey (to be used in Relief Society Feud? I don’t know.) and the last question was “If your house was on fire, what five things would you go back in to save?” I spent most of the meeting silently pondering that question and not only missed the connection between the lesson on Jesus Christ in the manual and the lesson on past general RS presidents that was presented, but also had the hardest time coming up with five things. First, I reasoned, in a fire all people will already be out. Obviously. Because otherwise there go four of my options. Second, it’s just a fire. I’m not picking the only five things I’ll ever have for the rest of my life. Most of the things I own are replaceable. Scriptures? Books? Clothes? Furniture? Toilet Paper? All completely replaceable. Third, I figured that, no matter when the fire happened, I would be wearing my wedding ring and my watch, so I wouldn’t need to go back for those things. And my purse would have my credit cards, SS card, passport, and camera, so those things are all taken care of, too. You see, I really did think long and hard about this very important, life altering question. And that’s how Spidey made the list.

Monday, January 28, 2008

to guide us in these latter days

I received the news via text message and then raced to the computer to find additional details. Of course the Utah media pages were swamped so it was difficult to connect. We were finally able to get one page to load. (Channel 2 news, are you not as popular as the rest? Weird, because you were always my news channel of choice.) It just doesn’t seem real. And I’m a little surprised at how emotional my response has been. As we went to bed last night, teary and somber, I realized that my thoughts were almost entirely on how happy he must be to be with his beloved wife again, and I found my comfort in the strength of my testimony of eternal families and that our dearest relationships in this life will continue in the next. So today, a moment of silence. For a life well lived. For a conviction that was steadfast and immovable. For a sense of humor and optimism that inspired. For a love that 13 million people felt and savored. For a voice that guided and reassured. For a prophet who lived what he believed and made it a little easier for us to live our beliefs as well.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

the benefits of an interracial marriage

Say what you will, because I sure did before I tried it, but there aren’t many things more creamy and refreshing than a good, old-fashioned, musk melon ice bar. It’s like taffy and cream got married in your mouth, and honeydew was the best man but made out with the bride so had to change his name to musk melon and has been frowned upon ever since, but that didn’t make the wedding any less lovely. Yeah. That good.

Friday, January 25, 2008

this time last year

This time last year we were getting ready to spend two and a half weeks in China and Taiwan. This time last year I was all busy being nervous about meeting my in-laws and not having anything to say to them. This time last year we were compiling photos and other evidence to prove our relationship. This time last year I did not own this cool bracelet you see in this photo. It was one of the few items we purchased in China, and it is something falls in to the category of "I love it but never have anything to wear it with."

Thursday, January 24, 2008


We went back to the Chinese place, but this time it was because at some point during the day I got a craving for egg rolls. Weird. I don't even like egg rolls. But I had one, you know, because of the craving. When we pulled into the parking lot it was almost completely packed and we were a little worried that the restaurant would be packed, too. Had everyone heard about their great donuts? Their fantastic steamed buns? Their delicious peanut chicken, which, I'm sorry, is just the most delicious poultry ever? Stealing ourselves for a crowd, we walked in only to find the place, once again, completely empty. "Would you like this table?" the waitress asked. "Same one as last time?" What the? She remembered us? They must not get that much business. People are so missing out.
Later we realized that the crowd in the parking lot was for the bar next door. Huh. All you can eat buffet, or $4/glass beverages? Kansas is so different from Utah.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

the beauty behind us

I am lucky in that my commute takes me away from the rising sun and away from the setting sun. I am glad that not only do I not have to drive into the brightness, but also that I have views like this in my mirrors each day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


My coworker has the coolest earrings. At first glace, indoors, I could hardly see the green part, but as soon as we walked outside and the sun shone through the earrings, they were just gorgeous. How could I NOT take a picture?

Monday, January 21, 2008

my human right to fake travel

Somehow we talked my parents into a rousing game of Journey Through Europe for family home evening. I remember playing this a lot as a kid, and I remember really enjoying it but never winning, and also that one of my siblings later admitted to cheating so that he could win. Maybe I made that last part up, but it seems like a real memory. Anyway, this game is like the first edition of Ticket to Ride, and has more complicated rules and also countries and cities that existed in 1987 but don't exist anymore. And you don't build a train route, you just travel around to all your different cities. So, it's the same, but also different. Good times.
After this game we tried "Likes and Gripes," which wasn't nearly as fun, but there was one point where we were laughing so hard that some of us might have been crying. And now I can't even remember what was so funny, but, man, was it funny. That was about as interesting as me telling you about my dreams, wasn't it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

how you know you're a couple

From the party last night...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

wonderful girl and boy land

We volunteered to host a little going-away party for a family in our ward (who, sadly, are returning to their home in Argentina after unsuccessfully trying to achieve the "American Dream" for five years) and so I was allowed to make desserts on a non-Sunday. It was better then Christmas. I went with a favorite cookie, and after trying it, you shall declare it one of your favorites, too. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups rolled oats (grind at least half in a food processor)

Combine eggs, vanilla & almond extract, and raisins in a small bowl; cover and let stand for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, and baking soda; stir into the creamed mixture. Then stir in the raisin mixture, rolled oats, and nuts.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an unprepared cookie sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Makes about 6 dozen

A word of warning. I love these cookies the day they are made. I enjoy them the next day. I can't bring myself to eat them past day three. I'm not sure what it is, but for me they go all dry and crumbly and inedible. But, I'm a cookie snob. My point: I wouldn't recommend making them in advance of an event--they are definitely "day of" baking.

In related cooking news, I was finally able to make some Cincinnati* Chili, which I have been wanted to make for dinner for about a month, but the whole "simmer for three hours" thing makes it pretty impossible to achieve on a work night. I swapped dinner nights with Somebody and took advantage of the Saturday to cook. Anything that produces a sauce the same bright orange color as my favorite spoon is bound to be delicious.

Cincinnati Chili
4 cups water
2 lbs hamburger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
2 lg. chopped onions
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 garlic cloves (spear with toothpick)
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp red chili pepper (optional)
1 Tbsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground allspice
1 can kidney beans
6 oz can tomato paste
1 ½ Tbsp cider vinegar
3 lg whole bay leaves

Crumble raw hamburger into water, add all ingredients. Bring to boil, simmer 3 hrs. Remove garlic cloves and bay leaves.
Pile on plate: angel hair pasta noodles, grated cheese, chili, oyster crackers

Notes: I think next time I will just mince the garlic instead of trying to fish it out. I enjoy the garlic flavor and it pretty much melts away anyway. This time I also cooked the ground beef for a little while before adding the water, just to get more of the "browned beef" texture. I think that I would do that again, but add less water because for some reason it ended up very liquidy. Also, don't think that the three hours of simmering is a joke. We tried to get away with 20 minutes of simmering one time and it was just yucky. It really needs that whole time for the flavors to blend. We have found that the flavor is even better the next day and the next day, and this has really become a good recipe to use when you are planning ahead for leftover night.

*For me, one of the side effects of making Cincinnati Chili is that all day I'm singing the Cincinnati song in my head. You know, from the old Babes in Toyland movie with Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves? You know that one, right? Where they live in Cincinnati? And they sing, "C-I-N-C-I-N-N-A-T-I Cincinnati. The best town in O-H-I-O, Ohio USA. At first they called it Cinci, but since Cinci is so nati, they named it Cincinnati, so they say?" Everybody sing along with me now! Sadly, IMDB has no photo for this movie. Because it had some great lines, like "He's got trolls! Hundreds of trolls, who ate all the cookies!" Luckily, I own this gem, so if you come to visit we can watch together and sing about Cincinnati.

Oh, I found a picture! The Internet never lets me down.

Friday, January 18, 2008

another tale

I thought I was the first. I thought I had found a gem, and that, for the first time, I was going to be able to tell people about something they hadn’t heard of before. Boy, was I wrong. Before I even had a chance to write my comments and review, Chloe mentions that she already knew and that she was gathering with women that night to talk about it. What? How? And then Housewife tells me that she knows, too! And that Janssen is the one that told her! Why, that little… So I do a little checking, and not only did Janssen know first, she knew all the way back in October 2007. How did I miss that? Man, do I feel like a fool.

Anyway, I thought I had picked The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, at random. I thought it was “some secret treasure.” And for me, it really was. It got off to a little bit of a rocky start for me, and I wasn’t sure if I thought it was the strangest, well-written story ever, or if I just enjoyed it. In the end I just enjoyed it. The story was engaging and the writing was superb.

One of my favorite passages from this book came near the end, as the main character, Margaret Lea, speaks of breaking down and loosing herself in her grief.

When I came to myself Dr. Clifton was there. He put an arm around me. "I know," he said. "I know."

He didn't know, of course. Not really. And yet that was what he said, and I was soothed to hear it. For I knew what he meant. We all have our sorrows, and although the exact delineaments, weight and dimensions of grief are different for everyone, the color of grief is common to us all. "I know," he said, because he was human, and therefore, in a way, he did.
This book was the most enjoyable I’ve read in a long time. I’m kicking myself for not picking it up when Janssen originally reviewed it, but I tell you this cautionary tale so you don’t make the same mistake.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

cake with the pineapples

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 (15 ounce) can sliced pineapple (reserve the juice)
1 (15 ounce) can crushed pineapple (reserve the juice)
10 (ish) maraschino cherries
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix

Preheat oven as directed on cake mix package. Melt the butter in a 13x9 pan while the oven is preheating. Remove from oven and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly to cover the butter. Next, arrange pineapple rings around the bottom of the pan, one layer deep. Use the crushed pineapple to cover the rest of the pan. Place a maraschino cherry into the center of each pineapple ring, and then scattered around as you please. The more you like the cherries, the more you should use. Prepare the cake mix as directed by the manufacturer, but substitute pineapple juice for all of the liquid in the directions. Pour the batter over the pineapple layer.
Bake as directed by the cake mix directions. Cool for five minutes, then carefully turn out onto a plate. Do not let the cake cool too much or it will be stuck to the pan. Yum. You should make this after you finish the waffles.

waffles with the sugar

Oh, you want to make them, too, do you? Well, you should! Right now.

You have to start with Belgium waffle batter. You can either use a mix or use the recipe below.

Belgium Waffle Recipe
2 egg yolks
5 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups flour
2 3/4 tsp baking powder (combine with flour)
2 cups warm milk
2 egg whites

1 cup sugar cubes, crushed into smallish chunks (don't obliterate them or make them all powder--you definitely want chunks of sugar)

In a large bowl, beat together egg yolks and sugar. Beat in vanilla extract, butter and salt. Alternately mix in flour (with baking powder) and milk until blended well.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they have formed soft peaks. Fold egg whites into batter and let stand for 40 minutes.
Mix in the chunks of sugar.

Generously spray preheated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray. Pour mix onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown and fluffy. Be sure to spray the waffle iron between each waffle, because the sugar will stick and burn.

If dessert waffles laced with chunks of sugar aren't sweet enough for you, feel free to top them with whipped cream and strawberries. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

reality tv at it's finest

I have many weaknesses, and The Amazing Race is one of them. This, hands down, was my favorite moment from the current season (which, to be honest, has kind of stunk just as much as the last three season. Huh. Pattern?). I am totally rooting for TK and Rachel, and knew I had made the right choice when they caught up to the other teams in the customs line in Taiwan. Side note: I have gone through that customs station in Taipei and I can relate to how long that line is. Also, was this the first customs line the race has shown? Back to the story. Rachel does a high kick. TK makes that funny face. I laughed and laughed and rewound and watched and laughed. Loved it.

in which i try to make up for never telling stories

I keep telling Somebody that I’m going to update the blog with holiday stories tomorrow. And then the next day I would talk about how it was going to get done tomorrow. And then tomorrow turned into January. What the? I wasn’t prepared for Christmas, so imagine my surprise when I woke up to 2008. Oh, to be a child and have time drag like the express line when you have one item and the three people in front of you have 357. Anyway. So, here it is. The shortest two month recap ever.

1. I was in charge of my ward’s Christmas dinner/party, and it was successful even though it was held in the middle of an ice storm; and even though I had planned one menu and then, the Sunday before the party, the bishopric announces and different menu in Elder’s Quorum and gets volunteers to make that food, and then tells me about it after church because “people were worried I wasn’t going to have enough of the right kind of food”; and even though I had no committee so everything was left to me, Somebody, my parents, and the nicest family in the ward who drove through the storm to help decorate; and even though the family who were the entire program decided not to attend because of the horrible road conditions. Even through all of that, it was still hailed as the greatest Christmas party/dinner this ward has ever known. Last year’s must have truly sucked.

2. In a moment of, um, Christmas spirit? we decided to do the Twelve Days of Christmas for a family in our ward. Never have I exhibited less charity and compassion as I did putting those gifts together and dropping them off. I was at the height of my grouchiness and surely received no blessings at all. Hopefully I did receive blessings for the clever poems and pretty cards, though.

3. Every year I make a family picture calendar for my family, and every year I tell myself that next year I’m going to start earlier, and work smarter, and get it done in November. Never, ever, do I follow my advice. Once again, I spent an entire Saturday putting the calendar together, and that deadline hit only because it was the Saturday the week before Christmas (I’m awesome!) and midnight was the shipping deadline. As a stroke of luck, though, that day was also a calendar sale, so my procrastination saved us, like, $40. Again, I’m awesome. How long did it take me to do all the pages? I had Lord of the Rings playing in the background. And watched all three. Extended versions. And was still working. Samples of my awesomeness? Okay.

4. My sister got me a hair pick for Christmas. Apparently she had noticed that the one I use looked a little old. Like maybe I got it, already looking very used, from a friend. When I was a freshman in high school. Nigh unto 15 years ago. Gross. Sadly, I loved that pick. I had to throw it in the garbage, and then dump other garbage on top, and then run away quickly in order to part with that dear friend.

5. I had the hardest time this year choosing a Christmas present for Somebody. Usually I can think of a handful of things that he would love to have, but this year we were trying to save money, and while we weren’t banning gifts we were definitely trying to not break the bank. I thought, and I thought, and I puzzled some more. And I puzzled three hours, till my puzzler was sore. Still, though, I could only come up with a few very small items. Genius struck when I decided to make the small gift bigger by sending him on a scavenger hunt for his presents. A word to the wise: some games are more fun when everyone is playing. But I had to do something to make up for the fact that half his presents were library books and videos that we have already returned. I know. Again, I’m awesome. I “give” library books as presents. Overall I think he had a good experience, and I had enough fun making the clues that this plan might show up again next year.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

to celebrate the chard's engagement

I'm only allowed to make dessert on Sundays. Apparently I make too many cakes and stuff? So they banned me from the sugar. I think it's crazy, but, whatever. Anyway, today was my baking day and I went with my mom's suggestion for the easiest cake ever--a pineapple upside down. I have been wanting to make this for, oh, a year or so, but it never came up as the top choice on any given baking day. Today it was a winner. And I passed it off as fruit for, like, three seconds. Happy Sunday. Also, a big congratulations to Richard and Bre.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

the things i do for love

When I want Somebody to know how much I love him, I agree to go to a Chinese buffet for dinner. But I think we both know I only go because they make donuts.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

seeing is believing

Who has the healthiest eyes in this house? That's right. I do. Man, I'm glad I don't wear these anymore.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

enough with the change

We have been paying more attention to the election this year than I normally do. Maybe it’s because we listen to NPR on our way to and from work. Or maybe because we have friends who are very politically active (and actually went to Iowa to campaign for their favorite candidate) and like to talk about what is going on. Or maybe because it’s just about the only news currently and so everyone is talking about it. Or maybe because we aren’t in Utah, where there is only one opinion that can be right so you don’t really hear supporters of all the candidates, both Democrat and Republican, argue the merits of their party and their candidate. Or maybe because we just don’t have anything else to do.

Anyway, we’re keeping up to date on the goings on, and we find out vote is still undecided. Well, okay, my vote. Somebody doesn’t have voting privileges, but he still has opinions. He is more open-minded. I’m more biased. I’m more narrow-minded. I have strong feelings of dislike and lack of trust about some, and think that others are kind of a joke, and wish that others were doing a little better. But what can I do, really? Vote, I guess. And I will.

It’s probably going to be a long, political year.

Monday, January 07, 2008

another reason i love sweet potatoes

Did you want to join me for lunch tomorrow? Because this is what we are having. The yummiest soup ever. I found the recipe when I was hunting for ways to use up the tons of baked potatoes and sweet potatoes from our ward Christmas party, and loved it so much that I want to eat it every day. I think I did, there, for a while. I ate leftovers for dinner for several nights in a row, even when something new had been prepared for dinner. It wasn’t what I made for dinner tonight, but it was what I made after dinner so that I could eat it for lunch for the rest of the week. I’ll save you some, though, if you’re coming.Don't the pictures make it look appetizing? I know, I'm no food photographer. But it's yummy, trust me.

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1 ½ Tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 can coconut milk
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and lime zest. Set aside in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend.
Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add sweet potatoes, coconut milk, and chicken stock. Season with cumin, chili flakes and ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
Puree the soup using an immersion blender or regular blender. If using a counter top blender, puree in small batches, filling the blender just a bit past half way to avoid spillage. Whisk peanut butter into the soup, and heat through. Stir in lime juice, and salt.
Ladle into warm bowls, and top with a dollop of the reserved sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro. If you have it, adding diced avocado is also wonderful.

Don't be frightened by "spicy." It is not hot. Just delicious. So come on over. 'Bout noon? Great. I'll see you here.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

dessert waffles

My cousin, the lovely Housewife, introduced us to Sugar Cube Waffles many moons ago. We haven’t had them in months and I’ve been craving them for an embarrassingly long time. I couldn’t make them during the holidays because there was so much other food around to make and eat, but today my chance finally arrive. Oh, yum. My dad kept telling me that his recipe was probably better, and wanting to compare sugar to flour ratio between our recipes, but I just kept saying, “Well, mine are dessert waffles.” “It doesn’t matter because mine are dessert waffles.” “That may be true, but these waffles are for dessert.” “Yes, eating this waffle is like eating a piece of cake.” “Yes, you could get out the strawberries and whipped cream, but you don’t really need it. Why? Because these are dessert waffles.” “Oh, you want another? I know, they are just that good.”

two of my favorite christmas pictures

I missed celebrating Christmas with you. To catch you up, here is a photo of "our" tree--the tree downstairs where we live.And this is from the Christmas Eve nativity--this would be a shepherd who ran off with Baby Jesus. What? That part isn't in your nativity story? Weird.
Wait. Is Baby Jesus a cat? Um, yup.

4th annual christmas hot dog roast

It has been our tradition for, oh, four years now to spend one afternoon of the Christmas holiday out on the farm for a hot dog/marshmallow roast. We usually don't have snow, although one year we did have the roast in the rain. This year, with all the snow we had we were able to do some sledding while we were out. Of course we don't have any hills, so we have to do the good, county kind of sledding, where the sled gets pulled behind a truck. Another addition was the fire building contest. We divided in to teams (pretty much each sibling, plus my dad) and the winner was the first to have his/her fire big enough to burn through the string we had tied across the line of fires. The teams with little stick gatherers did the best, and Somebody and I eventually joined forces (because separately we were so far behind.) We still didn't come in first. Or second. Or third. We probably came in last. But we had a great time.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the day--notice the close-up shot of Jonah falling off the sled. Poor kid.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Thursday, January 03, 2008

what to wear

It’s only day three and I’ve resorted to taking a picture of my outfit. But you love the headband, right? I know. It totally rocks.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

welcoming the new year

I'm a bad blogger. I disappear for weeks at a time. So, to motivate myself, I'm trying out the "post a picture each day" thing. Because then, even if I have nothing to say, you'll know I'm alive. I didn't want to post this. Seriously. It's, like, the worst picture of both of us--we're clearly tired and worn out making all those resolutions. But a photo each day is a photo each day. Whatever.