Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happiness is a tidy coat closet.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We did. First Brother and my sister-in-law couldn't drive down from Idaho, as they were snowed in most of the week. They were sorely missed; but we had just about everybody else here at the house. The exception was my youngest brother, Third Brother. We don't know where he is. We presume he's still somewhere in central Minnesota, but the trail's gone cold. He's not an irresponsible or flighty person, so we're mystified as to why he disappeared without a trace.

M, if you're reading this, call your mother! She's worried sick, as are we all! We've been trying to track you down, but we may need to hire a detective if you don't phone soon. I'm NOT kidding!

Other than that worry, this Christmas was a lot less stressful than usual. My parents and siblings and Husband and I made a pact not to buy gifts for each other, and since Husband bought online the few gifts we allowed for the kids, there was no running around the week before Christmas, fighting the crowds and losing the spirit of joy and thanksgiving this time of year should bring. I'm not knocking gift-giving by any means. Nor am I preaching to anyone. For us, this year, I desired less. I want to simplify, to take stock of what we really need and then be grateful for what we have. I cleaned out the coat closet and was able to donate several very nice coats that no one uses. Plus, I re-taught each child how to hang up her coat (and then nagged them for about a week). Now they hang up their coats and the floor of the coat closet only holds their school bags. Remember that picture of the coat closet a few posts ago? Now it's completely transformed. Best Christmas present ever.

I prepped the walls of the living room for paint on Friday. I'm expecting to get them painted tomorrow or the next day. We also ordered some carpet tiles to make our own area rug from Flor. Husband and I had fun creating our own design on the computer. Soon the living room will be a library. I'll post some pictures.

Another of my sisters-in-law reminded me of the screen play I was writing for Lorna Doone some years ago. I stopped writing it because a very nice movie was made in 2001, and I felt that they had done a very good job. Still, we both want to see a six hour version, like the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. I'm putting that on my list. How about Matthew Goode for the role of John Ridd? Dishy and expressive.

One more thing: I used a new brine/marinade recipe for the turkey and it turned out so juicy, tender and tasty that it would have been a crime to put gravy on it. The pineapple juice has enzymes that tenderize the meat. I put the brine/marinade and the turkey into a clean five-gallon bucket, which hung out in the cold garage overnight. On Christmas day, I cooked the turkey with the breast down to keep it juicy. It's not a good way to cook it if your primary goal is the presentation, but it sure does beat beautifully browned but dry meat. I carved it before bringing it to the table. No one cared. Click here for the recipe, which was recommended by one of my mother's co-workers. I think I will use this recipe forever.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Not too crafty crafting

Sometimes I sit down and write and write, only to delete every single word. That happened yesterday. That has happened every single time on my scripture blog since the first post, although I do have a few drafts I just haven't had time to flesh out.

The kids are home from school for the holidays, and so far today we have avoided any serious fighting. We do that by having all the neighborhood kids over. When there is no boredom, there is less fighting.

I could, I suppose, also arrange for my kids to do lots of crafts.

Ha ha ha hhaaaaaaaaaaa, ha ha! Hee hee! Whoo! Ha ha...

Sorry, about that. I'm not at all cynical about crafts and I like my kids to do them, but there are two factors that I'm always calculating: the clean-up (or, more correctly, the not cleaned-up factor. I just get so very tired of hounding them about cleaning up.); and the cost. Also the organizing factor. Three factors.

There are three factors that I'm always calculating: the clean-up factor, the cost factor, the organizing factor and the glue factor. Four factors.

I'm just kidding. There are just three. That was just a little gratuitous Monty Python reference. Nobody expected that.

There are lots of things the kids can make that cost little or no money. I know this because I have read all the books. My son, Child Five, can take a stick and a broken piece of plastic and create a world of his own for at least 45 minutes or more. He has a boundless imagination. I love that about him. My girls like to do more of the traditional kind of play, which involves heavy amounts of glue. Recently, Child Two created a whole castle out of saved toilet paper rolls and about 2000 feet of duct tape. She entered her castle in the Reflections Contest and it placed. I went to the cupboard for duct tape the other day and remembered where it had all gone.

I buy reams of paper at a time for the kids.

They craft. Oh, they craft. I have taught a couple of them the rudimentery skills of crochet (we have not progressed because they are easily frustrated. The lesson stops after the hook gets thrown the third time.), they love to cook, and we never have any crayons gathered into one place because they get used all over the house. I think the walls and floor actually eat the crayons, they disappear so fast. But as far as me being organized and presenting lovely beading projects or cute little flannel creations, or cards, forget it!

The one exception to this rule is at birthday parties. I hate sending home goody bags. Goody bags are mostly sugar. I prefer to send home something that the kids made and can play with. For Child Three's tenth birthday party on Saturday, we made ribbon streamers. They are the sticks with wide ribbons that spin and swirl. I even made the kids sand the ends. I would have preferred having them make something with some really cool power tools, but that would translate into a looooong party. Possibly dangerous, as well.

"Okay, kids, it's time to get out the routers for the lid of your hope chest now! And please make sure you don't point your nail guns at anyone. I mean you!"

Other than birthday parties, though, I don't organize crafting. They're on their own, unless I have something I'm doing and can share it with them. I once took a whole day to make some string art. I neglected everything. It turned out really well -- I made sure I chose colors that didn't channel the 70's. But I haven't done it since. Not enough time. My crafting tends to be long-winded, just like my writing about crafting.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Clever Title #5

The Christmas concerts are over for the year. Both Oldest Child and Child Two had concerts with their orchestra and band, respectively. Both did very well. Oldest plays violin and Child Two plays the trumpet. Two had the melody line in "Little Drummer Boy," and as I sat there listening to the cacaphonous sounds of a sixth grade band play, I was secretly pleased that Two was right in tune the whole time. If I pass nothing else on to my children, I hope they have an ear for pitch. There's nothing worse than musicians playing something just a little off and never correcting. That's almost worse than if they had no idea what pitch is entirely and just make up notes. My teeth ache and my stomach hurts when pitches are off. I do allow for age and ability, of course. I bet my parents' teeth were on edge much of the time while I learned to play the cello.

I reconnected with an old friend, R, today. R and I lived in the same apartment complex when our oldest children were still really little squirts. They moved away, we moved away. We still met up once in a while to chat and let the kids play, but then the time between visits got longer and longer. The last time we met at the park, I was pregnant with Child Six, so about 16 or so months ago. Life moves fast, time goes by. It's amazing how much time can pass before you even notice it. Maybe it's a factor of aging. When I was young, it was like time never moved. I remember asking my mother when 1979 was ever going to end. Now a year goes by and I hardly blink.

While we sat and caught up, R knitted a mitten. She's the one who got me into fibers and taught me how to spin wool on a spinning wheel. I can also spin on a spindle. These are very cool, if obscure, skills to have, I think. Although I haven't ever done much with it, I like to know that, given a hunk of carded wool, I could make some yarn. Then I would hand it to R to make something wonderful with it (I can crochet, but I don't knit very well). She also has a loom, on which she has created many beautiful textiles.

Those aren't her only talents, of course. I was just reminded of them while she knitted the blue sparkly mitten for a Christmas present.

That's it for me. I have nothing profound to say, no other news to report, no witty comments (if I ever had a witty comment). 'Bye, now.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Call me a demon slayer; or, at least, a demon butt-kicker.

Yesterday, my personal demon, the one assigned to me by the dark Powers That Be, sat on my shoulder and told me all the failures and weaknesses I've ever had, and probably even invented a few, he was that thorough. He's a fairly small demon, obviously, to be able to fit on my shoulder, but he packs a powerful punch. He has a go at me once in a while, and when he starts talking very insistently, I start to feel like some deformed and hideous excuse for a human being, a thing to be villified and run out of town. Then I get the urge to go sit in a closet, to hide from the world; for who in the world could love such a flawed and ugly worm such as myself?

Fortunately, I also have a shoulder angel. Shoulder Angel waits until I'm ready to have a full-blown pity party, and then he starts telling me how ludicrous Shoulder Demon really is. At first it's hard to believe anything Shoulder Angel is telling me because I'm fully in the power of Shoulder Demon, convinced I'll never stop making mistakes and having weaknesses that render me unloveable, but worthy only of the greatest contempt. But Shoulder Angel is as persistent as Shoulder Demon, and eventually I start listening to reason. Shoulder Angel is much more fun to listen to, in the end.

Yes, I am pretty flawed. I make a lot of mistakes. When I compare myself to others, I compare my weaknesses to their strengths. I am not this incredible perfection of a human being that I wish I could be sometimes, this ideal that I constantly compare myself to and find myself severely lacking.

So what? (That's Shoulder Angel talking)

Where is it written that we must achieve perfection before death? And where is it written that even the most flawed human on earth is not loved by the greatest being in the universe? On the contrary! It IS written that the greatest being in the universe has such a capacity for love that it doesn't matter how weak or small or wormlike you are or feel yourself to be. You are loved. And that makes you worthy of picking yourself up and trying again.

Mistakes will be made. Life will be messy. Weight will be gained; the house will not be perfect; the kids will fight; sometimes you say the wrong things (or don't say the right things); and sometimes others will be less than charitable to you. Sometimes you will be less than charitable to others, or to yourself.

And yet, life is glorious, exciting, and full of lessons to be learned. There are children who love you, true friends who overlook your flaws and shortcomings, love always felt when you ask that greatest being in the universe for a little boost. Then you FLICK that nasty Shoulder Demon off your shoulder and listen with satisfaction to his prolonged "Aaaaaaaaaaah!" fading out of earshot. You realize you don't have time to wallow in self-pity or regret or guilt. These things are unworthy and counterproductive and are tools of the Shoulder Demon. Since he's gone, why should you hang on to his tools? Throw them off, shake them away. They are dark things and burn when you touch them.

Shoulder Angel jumps up and down with glee and happiness, shouting out encouragement. Right the wrongs! Do the right! Learn the lessons! Bask in love! You won't end up perfect, but you'll keep trying. And the next time that Shoulder Demon winds his insidious words of self-hatred into your ear, you know Shoulder Angel will be right there to counteract them. It is his way.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tantalizingly Salient Observations Regarding Onions and Calculus

The other night, the kitchen was redolent with the scent of onions.

Isn't redolent a great word? It's sophisticated and elegant. It just wants to be used more than it is, but, sadly, it's just not all that usable in casual conversation.

"Hey, how are you?"

I accidentally used the word salient during my last Gospel Doctrine lesson. I do not get stage fright speaking in front of large groups of people, but I do get an adrenalin buzz. The odd side effect is that my mind goes curiously blank trying to come up with applicable words, and then some $10 word like salient or corpuscular pops out (ha ha, no. I can't think of the last time I used corpuscular during a Gospel Doctrine lesson). When words like that pop out of your mouth, people start thinking you're intelligent. Hey, I don't mind at all. The truth is that I love words and have always had an easy time with spelling and definitions (the same can not be said, however, for mathematical concepts. During my calculus final in my freshman year of college, I spent most of the time figuring out how low a score I could get and still pass the class. I had a lot of time because I was pretty much clueless about how to solve many of the problems on the test, even though I'd just spent a semester trying to wrap my brain around the concepts. I did pass with a "C," which was much higher than I expected.) and so I'll often unconsciously use a $10 word instead of a 25 cent word that would do just as well.

Still, some words can't be substituted. If I said, "The kitchen was smelly with the scent of onions," it would have an entirely different nuance. You would wrinkle your nose in disgust and wonder at my cooking abilities or even my personal hygiene (yes, you would!). Never mind that people use onions all the time, and usually in the kitchen area. Smelly is just not elegant. Odorific is slang. Permeated might do, but even that word connotes a lingering stink that has become imbued in the very wood of the cabinets.

But why are we arguing about words here when the real question is why there was so much onion activity going on? Is this a normal occurrence in our household?

Well, to be honest, there is just as much garlic activity. Yum. But I digress.

I was experimenting with making onion blooms. For that purpose, I bought three large white, sweet onions and followed the recipe for the Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Onion with two of the onions. The results were less than stellar, to my mind, although the onions tasted pretty good. They kind of reminded me of deep-fried tarantulas, to tell you the truth. I don't know why. The third onion I turned into onion rings, which were fabulous and disappeared very quickly as the kids came in to ask me what I was doing, why the kitchen was redolent with the scent of onions, and could they sample one or two of the onion rings?

My brother found a good use for the onion blooms. He piled the petals on top of his tuna melt, where they added their tantalizingly complex caramelized onion flavor to the tuna and cheese, transforming the lowly tuna melt into a gourmet delight.

Okay, he thought it was pretty good, but no one used the word tantalizing. That's another word that should be used much more often.

"How was work today?"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

10,000 Hours

I just finished devouring the book The Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. That was a fantastic read. I'm not going to give a book review here, as that would be merely boring (as opposed to some of my other posts, ahem.)

One point struck me early on in the book, though, and I've been pondering it ever since. Gladwell talks about the 10,000 Hour Rule. According to those who study this sort of thing, it takes around 10,000 hours for anyone to become proficient at anything, whether it's music, math, a sport, or a skill. All those you see as being experts in an area have devoted 10,000 hours in the study and practice of whatever they are expert in. Bill Gates did. Joe Flom, the lawyer did. Canadian hockey stars do. Even Mozart and Beethoven put in 10,000 hours before they became really good. When we see these young and successful people rise to the top in their chosen profession, we tend to ascribe it to genius, but they were actually really, really dedicated to what they loved. Well, they were smart, too, which helps. But you can be really smart and not actually very good at any on thing; sort of the classic "jack of all trades, master of none" idea. You can be of average intelligence and be an expert with enough work. Those who focus and study will become an expert at 10,000 hours. They can't help it.

That makes me feel better. Why? Because I always figured I was just not quite smart enough to become an expert at anything. I'm not dumb (usually. Okay, sometimes.), but I am lazy. Laziness I can change, given enough incentive.

10,000 hours will take nearly 10 years of steady and disciplined work. Have you put in 10 years of study on something? If so, what? And why did you pick that thing? I would assume if you have the discipline to focus that long and hard you both love what you're doing and have a lot of encouragement to keep going. If you haven't put in 10,000 hours on any one thing, which area would you choose?

I figure I've put in 10,000 hours on some things merely by reason of being thrown into a role. I've certainly put in 10,000 hours of studying and applying cooking techniques, though it's never been in a classy restaurant setting. I've been cooking in Chez Casa, which is not your classy joint (I laugh at garnishes, and when have I ever, ever worried about good china?), but I get plenty of feedback from the patrons. Who have their elbows on the table. Occasionally they have used the chair fabric as a napkin, despite my protests.

I've put in 10,000 hours (maybe even 20,000) being a mom. Why don't I feel like an expert even with all that time put in? Maybe I've become an expert in some smaller aspects of mothering, like how to logically and confidently explain why monsters can not possibly be in the room at night (the answer, of course, is that the monsters' mommies won't allow them out of the house at night, as they need their sleep. Since monsters can't frighten you in the daytime, monsters are just not all that scary. Witches find small children so smelly that they wouldn't be caught dead in a child's room. They'd rather put their faces in a toilet bowl full of number 2s than go into a child's room. Poop is always good for a laugh.). I also multi-task pretty well.

I've definitely put in 10,000 hours reading, but I haven't focused on any one thing. I'm pretty good at reading. I know what is good and what is bad in literature and writing, and I even know why a lot of times, but I wouldn't call myself an expert at, say, Russian literature or French poetry, or even American novels. Maybe I'm getting closer to being an expert at science fiction. I don't mind working on that some more.

I think I will become an expert in the scriptures. They fascinate me, they're available, and I'm also following the commandments when I read them a lot. Multi-tasking! I would love to be a scriptorian. I will also have to do some major work on my memory so I can recall where scriptures are. I can recite them, but I usually can't remember their references.

Tell me what you are an expert in, if you are one already, or what you want to devote your 10,000 hours to. I'd love to know!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Eggsactly what were you thinking I would write about?

I'm not posting political solutions today. Mainly it's because I can't be bothered. Also, it's because I heard your sigh of relief. Don't think I didn't, and that I don't know you would have just clicked away had you seen something political. Still, I may, unexpectedly, solve the country's problems with little or no warning. I'm just saying...

A six month experiment I was running culminated today in a 67% success rate. That's pretty good for what I was doing. Six months ago I took 6 large eggs, covered them with a thin film of petroleum jelly, stored them large-end-up in their egg crate package, and put them in our basement food storage room to sit. Today, I horrified the children by getting them out to see how many were good and could be used for breakfast. Had I been thinking, I would have taken pictures. I'm not usually thinking in the morning, however.

The eggs looked pretty nasty. The petroleum jelly had molded a bit in places, and some of it had turned hard and yellow on two of the eggs. When I put the eggs in a bowl of water to see which ones were still good, the two with hard yellow jelly both floated and were subsequently tossed. The other four sank like troopers and were subsequently scrambled. On the good eggs, the whites were pretty soupy and the yolks were very flat, as one would expect from old eggs; but even though I opened them outside (just in case!), they smelled fine. Also, I washed the eggs with soap to get rid of the slimy petroleum jelly.

If we're ever in a situation where we can't get hold of fresh eggs, I will have some in my food storage for special occasions. Powdered eggs are great for baking, but not as fun to eat as you would a fresh scrambled or fried egg. Yech. And, lo and behold, Smith's is selling eggs today for 99 cents a dozen. I see a bunch of stored eggs in my near future.

Next experiment: preserving cheese with paraffin and cheesecloth. I'll let you know how that goes.

Monday, December 1, 2008


We had a lovely, lovely Thanksgiving Day. Family came, the kids laughed and played, and the adults talked and joked. I love Thanksgiving. It's like Christmas without the stress.

In fact, we told the kids that this year we aren't doing a load of presents. Yes, money is tight this year, but that isn't the real problem, in my view. We said this before the Walmart employee was trampled by crazy Black Friday shoppers. Need I say more? When our society gets to the point where things and stuff are more important than decency and goodness, Christmas as we know it has disappeared. It's time to take it back. This year will be about family and service, and, of course, the most important thing of all: the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The kids are a little unhappy and it will take a while to adjust, but I hope that we can set some new traditions around here, traditions that keep us looking outside ourselves and what we want. I want my kids to look at how they can be of service to others, and how when that service is multiplied by others many times over, real joy and happiness are the result. What else did Christ come into this world for but to bring true joy? And, no, joy isn't really found in a new game system or remote control helicopter.

And now, I just can't help it. I hate to be all despair and gloom and doom, but I am alarmed. In fact, my mind's alarm bells are ringing so loud and frequently that I'm finding it difficult to sleep at night -- not because I'm scared (which I am, just a little, as anyone is kind of scared of an unknown change) -- but because I'm awake. Does anyone else see this? Are you putting some pieces together that create a very upsetting puzzle picture? I know I'm not the only one, as I run into people all the time who have similar thoughts, but I still think that, as a nation, we are asleep. At best, we are uneducated. At worst, we are willfully ignorant and indifferent.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about a conspiracy to crush our free nation. Don't even tell me I'm crazy. If you can't see it yet or haven't become a little suspicious that something is going on, you're crazy. Click here to see the latest puzzle piece fall into place. When you've read that, here is a comment from AJAX2 that I thought was well-written and thought out.

THE PLANNED DEMISE OF THE U.S.A.Thomas Jefferson and the other founders of this once-great country believed there was a controlling cabal that was crafting America's servitude. With the assistance of Heaven, they decided to fight those forces. Pastors fought with fiery sermons from the pulpit; newsmen fought with the power of the pen; statesmen fought in the halls of Congress; and merchants fought with the sacrifice of their material gain. Together, they lifted Lady Liberty to her feet and defeated the powers of darkness.

It took the global elite a long time to recover, but they have reemerged with a vengeance. They are now on the precipice of accomplishing what their great granddaddies failed to do: bring the "Liberty or Death" colonists under their power and control. Sadly, we no longer have the will to resist servitude. Our pulpits are too busy preaching a prosperity gospel; newsmen are in bed with the forces they once disdained; statesmen have been replaced with opportunistic, self-serving politicians; and merchants know no god but money. Hence, it is left to a small--and I mean very small--remnant to sound the clarion call for freedom and independence. Unfortunately, few seem to be listening to their cries.

2010 seems to be a banner year for these designers of despotism. That is the target year for the implementation of the North American Community, which will commercially unite the United States with Canada and Mexico. The global elite suffered a minor setback when the U.S. Senate failed to pass the Bush/McCain/Kennedy/Graham amnesty-for-illegal-aliens bill. But if you think that John Mccain is going to let that bill lie on the floor of defeat, you don't understand these people. Barack Obama will do everything he can to implement some kind of amnesty law. The reason? It is essential to the designers of despotism that our borders be eliminated. Yes, I am saying it: George W. Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain and many other 'elected' officials are part of the global elite that seeks America's entrance into an international New World Order. In fact, the President-elect will not offer any resistance to this obstinate and oppressive oligarchy.

Perhaps one day the American people will wake up and realize that they are being led as sheep to the slaughter. I'm just not sure that it will be soon enough, however. 2010 is just around the corner. There seems to be only one obstacle standing in the way of the globalists: America's citizens are the most heavily armed people in the world. That fact must surely stick in the throats of the globalists like a chicken bone. Thank God that America's founders put the Second Amendment in the Constitution. Without America's deep-rooted commitment to the right of the people to keep and bear arms, we would have been sold into slavery decades ago.

Without the intellectual understanding of the principles of freedom and the moral resolve to maintain those principles, however, guns, by themselves, will only protect us for so long. In the end, our strength and protection come from God, and not too many people these days seem to be interested in His opinion. Lady Liberty is walking very gingerly these days, and the path she treads is laden with traps and quicksand. The globalists have their handpicked puppets positioned to take up where The Three Amigos (George Bush I, Bill Clinton, and George Bush II) have left off. The pieces of the puzzle are almost all in place. 2010 just might be the year that Lady Liberty lowers her torch, folds her arms, and falls fast asleep. For what it is worth, however, I pledge no loyalty to this emerging New World Order. Neither will I let my country die without a fight. I will say it again: the battle today is not between conservatives and liberals or Republicans and Democrats. It is a battle between American citizens and globalists.

Amen. I couldn't have said it better myself. Next post I will consider some solutions. Maybe all can be solved by joining hands and singing. That would be nice.