Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Several Pictures Accompanied by Long-Winded Explanations

So I got a little busy over Christmas. So sue me. I'm here now, and I'm posting photos, much to your surprise, since I often say I will and then I don't.

Without giving you an entire rundown on the whole holiday weekend, I'll just say it was fun but I didn't feel all that well. Christmas Eve Asian night was a big hit. The only thing that didn't work were the onion bhajis, which are fried onion fritters. I didn't cook them long enough, and the centers were still gooey. Bummer. Otherwise, it was good stuff.

Christmas Day dinner ended up being frozen burritos instead of ham and potatoes and Yorkshire puddings and roasted vegetables and gravy, and we still haven't had time to have the ham dinner yet. The day was great: nothing but lounging after the present opening session in the morning. My parents and brother came over for a couple hours in the later morning, but they left again to go to my sister's house, and they took Gabrielle and Elannah with them for an overnight. Strange how having only four kids in the house seemed so much quieter.

Sunday, or Boxing Day, if you're British like Husband, was when we went to my parents' house and had Mom's spaghetti for dinner, along with about a ton of treats she'd cooked up. Coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate = a merry Christmas for me. I brought my cello and Sian brought her violin, and I, my mother (on violin), Sian, and my dad (on piano) played the Silent Night arrangement I'd made. My sister would have played her flute, but she'd already packed it for the big move to Wyoming the next day. Sophia got it all on her new flip video camera. I may post it, but I warn you that we hadn't warmed up. The first time I put bow to string and played was when it was my turn to come in. In my opinion, it was pretty rough.

We all took turns telling the others what present we had decided to give to Jesus this year, and the kids made paper ornaments with their gifts written on them for the tree. After all, it's HIS birthday party.

Here is the living room, complete with tree that does NOT lean in any fashion. I wonder how long it's been since we had a tree that didn't need to be tied to the ceiling to prevent a gradual decline? Anyway, after more than a year in this house, we are still holding on to the black, white, and red decorating scheme, but now I know what I really want to do. Walls, prepare. Your white days are numbered.

Below, you see the island in the kitchen. Husband found a couple tall chairs, so we finally can have kids sit up there and draw or eat while I cook. The cats also think they're great because now they have easy access to the countertop, where I am sure to be opening a can of tuna or getting some delicious kitty treat for them. That's what I'm there for, after all!

Husband very cleverly created one of the best Christmas presents ever -- at least for Joseph and Little Gary.

He created differently sized rectangles on all the pages so the kids, who are constantly drawing comics (especially in church meetings!) have a way to get really creative with them. Joseph's book is almost nearly filled up already.

The opening of presents commenced at about 8:30am on Christmas Day.

That's it for now. It's late and I'm tired. I have more photos for the next post, though.

I've been writing guest posts for blogs all day today. The idea is to write a posting about a certain subject that goes along with the blog's theme. The owner gives permission, and I write the post, inserting a keyword that will be linked to a client's website. All of these blogs I write for have advertising on them, so they welcome appropriately written postings, but the other day I wrote about axle scales, filling machines, and ways to defeat depression. It gets hard to be creative with my own blog.

P.S. If you read any blog posts about the Top 5 Business Opportunities of 2011 and it happens to be one I wrote, just know that I was coming up with stuff off the top of my head. I'm no expert in business, but that's what I had to write. Husband commented that people read these things and assume it's from some expert, so who knows if people looking for a good business opportunity for the New Year might decide to go into salvage because I said so? Or real estate (which was how I fit in the keyword)? Or reasonably priced services for Baby Boomers? Oh, the POWER! Buahahahahaha!

Friday, December 24, 2010

As Supreme Ruler of the Universe, I Declare There Shall be More Pie!

I had a truly surreal moment the other night. I mean, it was like Escher came and plopped down right into my head, and all it took was a comment from Husband.

See, for years now, I've been puzzled about something. You know how you say something or express an opinion and suddenly you start hearing it everywhere? I keep wondering if I'm just repeating something I heard somewhere else and just managed to get into the middle of some sort of fad. It's hard to imagine I am a true bellwether.

Anyway, the idea had been working itself into my subconscious that I am in this world in a sort of Matrix-style way. Alien intruders aside, I keep feeling like I am creating my reality, to the point that I can make anything happen that I choose to. Husband said something without even meaning to (and really, it would take way too long to tell you what it was and why it triggered this surreal event) and for the next couple hours I could not shake the feeling that I am creating reality like a candy maker creates taffy by stretching and pulling it.

I know this sounds extremely strange. I promise, I'm not certifiable. The feeling went away after a night's sleep, and it might all have been due to some MSG in my take-out and one too many late nights. I'm mostly back down to earth now, but it was such a heady feeling I'm not sure I don't miss it.

My other reality-creation happened today when all the kids pitched in to get their chores done and the house nice and tidy for when family comes over to dinner tonight. Mostly, things went smoothly, and the bathrooms are no longer war zones. Also, I have a few of the dishes for tonight's Asian-inspired Christmas Eve meal in preparation mode, so the cooking load will be a little lighter later on. I even remembered to refrigerate the onions for the onion bhajis. I always cry when I cut onions. I've become pretty good at chopping them with my eyes closed, but I'll have a LOT of onions to chop and I'd like to keep all my fingers, thank you. Refrigerating the onions makes them less tear-inducing.

I have taken tons of pictures already. Tomorrow, I will post some of them. Right now I'm ready for a nap.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Samosas, and Naan Bread, and Curry! Oh My!

For the love of Pete! I'm sick of writing.

And no, I'm not ancient and wrinkly, but sometimes I like to say "for the love of Pete!" just for fun. I never get to insert that particular phrase into any of the things I write -- any that pay, I mean. But wouldn't it be fun to get to write "For the love of Pete! When you plan your honeymoon trip to Florida, just promise me you won't get eaten by an alligator!" and have the client just rave about it? That would open up whole vistas I could explore.

It would never fly.

Since I am sick of working, I will attempt to accomplish something in the domestic arts area of my life. Today, that means cooking. More specifically, that means cooking Indian food.

During my last trip to The Big City, when Gabrielle kicked me and the kids out of the house in order to perform her science fair experiment on several unsuspecting friends (she said, "I don't need any extra variables," meaning me and her siblings. Aren't they cute when they talk all science-y like that, even when they're being snotty?), I dropped by my favorite Indian spice store to stock up on some things. I left the kids in the car with the car running and tried to hurry, but the proprietor of the shop regaled me for about 15 minutes with easy Indian recipes for curry, korma, and naan bread. I told him I should have written them all down, since they sounded so good, and he handed me his card so I can call him at any time to ask any questions. I might just do that, but me and Bal Arneson, the Spice Goddess on the Cooking Channel, have been getting along pretty well lately, and she's also good at explaining things.

When I got back into the car, I smelled very strongly of incense, but I still remember that I can either cook a korma dry or add coconut milk to make the sauce. I'm pleased that my short-term memory sometimes kicks in when it's important.

The reason I'm putting together sweet potato cakes, Indian style, is because I'm gearing up for Christmas Eve. My brother, Aaron, recently listed as his favorite Christmas tradition the following: "My sister cooks Chinese food on Christmas Eve." I know he loves that, so on Sunday, when he and my parents and my sister and my nephew all came over to celebrate Sophia's 12th birthday (happy birthday, sweet, deep-thinking, hilarious, artistic, tender, and beautiful daughter!), I consulted with him. "Aaron," I said, "how would you feel about me including Indian food with the Chinese?"

Happily, he's all for it. The menu is now thus: Bulgogi (which is Korean, but who cares? It's delicious and it's Asian), chow mein, orange chicken, sweet potato cakes, naan bread, samosas, and some sort of curry. If I can find the mango chutney for the sweet potato cakes (which are, technically, yam cakes, since they're orange and not white), so much the better. I can't wait!

For the love of Pete! How did HE get in here?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Time Travel in the Form of a Brown Paper Accordian File

My mother found my accordian file. When she told me she had it and asked if I wanted it, I practically yelled, "YES, PLEASE!"
As you can see, it's stuffed full. I have to keep it in a box. What it holds are all the letters that were written to me from my late high school years until I finished my mission -- six years of correspondence from my friends and family. The manila envelope you see next to the file contains a packet of copies of letters that my dear friend and old college roommate put together for me. It contains all the letters we wrote to each other, from the time we found out we were to be freshman college roomies until 1995, when she was serving a mission and I was married and had my first baby. It's a good three inches thick.

If you wrote to me during that time, I have your letter. In fact, I took the letter out of the envelope and then stapled the letter and envelope together, filing both under the the first letter of your last name. I liked keeping both the envelopes and letters, and over the years, I have pulled out various wads of paper and felt a pang of nostalgia as I recognized the handwriting of one friend or another. They were written before the internet, before email and Facebook, before you could dash off a hurried digital message to someone halfway around the world and know they would receive it in seconds. These letters were highly anticipated, eagerly read, and joyfully responded to (hopefully they were responded to. If I didn't write you back, I apologize 1000 times!).

When I look at that file, I realize how many friends I have lost contact with. On the other hand, I am in contact with many of them, in that casual, "I don't know what you're doing every second of your life, but I'm sure glad I can ask any time" sort of Facebook way. Even if I don't get or send actual paper missives through the post anymore, I love knowing these people are still in my life, if only as a picture and a few status reports.

When I got the file from Mom, Husband laughed. "You're not going to descend into another letter-reading binge, are you?" The last binge I went on took two days and resulted in me getting really quiet and thoughtful as I relived those times. I don't believe I even felt like cooking (although that could also be due to the fact that I haven't felt like cooking for a few years now). I've been careful not to get too sucked in this time. I think, however, it's only a matter of when, not if.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Santa's Reindeer are Actually Named UPS, FedEx, and USPS

Update on Husband: Fortunately, there's nothing to say here. Husband's blood levels are still steadily increasing, he feels great, and he's getting 1 1/2 weeks off for Christmas vacation.


That's it! I'm revamping my blog. One does get so very tired of the same colors all the time, and I am nothing if not a woman who enjoys safe changes.

Tonight is the second-to-last of the Christmas performances my family is involved in. Sian is playing in The Big City with her chamber orchestra, so I will be taking her and Gabrielle out of school a little early in order to get Sian to her venue in time. Gabrielle will be babysitting the boys (Joseph is home with asthma problems today), and I told Sophia and Elannah to prepare to walk home.

GASP! Walk HOME? All 3/4 of a mile? Yes. Take your boots and a coat, for goodness' sake. The snow is deep and you have to walk through the field because I don't want you on the side of the road waiting to get hit by inattentive car drivers.

Anyway, Sian was busy working on her page for the school paper one day and did not hear the announcement that all chamber orchestra players would need to submit their $10 for dinner at one of the nicer Big City downtown restaurants, so the only options she would have had would have been to either sit and watch everyone else eat or wander off looking for her own grub. Or, I guess she could have shelled out the $30 undiscounted price for her meal, but she simply does not have as many babysitting jobs as she used to and couldn't afford it. Instead, I will drive her there and then she and I will go out to dinner -- just the two of us -- before heading back at a steady pace of exactly 63 mph (the van is desperate for a tune-up and simply refuses to go any faster). While we bonded a couple days ago when I drove in a bunch of young men and young women to visit Temple Square and then got separated and lost from them for a good 90 minutes, I was so busy grumbling about how I didn't have a cell phone with me and even if I did, I didn't have anyone's numbers, that it was not as relaxed and congenial a bonding moment as it could have been. Temple Square was pretty with all the lit trees, and we got to talk to a couple pairs of sister missionaries in the South Visitor's Center, but it was still stressful to have no idea where everyone else had scarpered off to. At least I was comforted by the fact that no one was going home without me.

Tonight should be much more relaxed. Sian is growing up into such a wonderful young lady, so I am happy to get a chance to sit and talk to her without being distracted.

Our last Christmas performance of the year will be on Sunday at church. I will be singing with the ward choir, and Sian and I and three other musicians in our congregation will be playing the Silent Night arrangement. Is it bad to be relieved that there will be no more rehearsals for anything for a while?

Husband, who is the absolute best gift shopper in the universe, has relieved me of any burden in finding Christmas presents for the kids. One by one, boxes have arrived at our door bearing gifts ordered from all over the country. Husband doesn't even need to step foot into a store, which is one of the greatest perks of all, and, yet, the gifts he chooses are so perfect for each child. I can't wait to see their expressions when they unwrap them.

I really shouldn't be writing this. I have a gazillion pages of web text to finish before leaving this afternoon, and my three-year-old has run out of diapers, necessitating a trip to the store. Either that or I drop everything and potty train him at last. Hmmm. Maybe next weekend would be a good time to get him off the diaper habit. That would be a great gift. Merry Christmas to me!

Monday, December 13, 2010

When the Battery Charger Arrives from Hong Kong, YOU Get to See Pictures

I've got some pictures.

I know. Try to contain yourselves. Please. It's embarrassing how you're carrying on about this. It's just a few pictures.

Way back on Thanksgiving Day, I took a test shot of the kitchen island covered in our traditional all-day goodies. We don't eat Thanksgiving dinner until nighttime, and during the day, we just have a spread of fatty, sugary, and completely bad-for-you foods for snacking. After this picture was taken, Husband became disgusted with the distinct lack of sweet snacks and ran to the store for cookies, candy, and other tooth rotting material. Some of it was put into a spare jar I had in the cupboard, which was the inspiration for Joseph's little container in his previous drawing (see last post).

This is Joseph, age 6. He's got a lot of my side of the family in him.

And this is Little Gary, age 3. He looks a lot like his daddy, and he's just as much of a character.

Saturday morning, our church held a Breakfast with Santa in the gym. Gabrielle, left, wore her pajamas not because it was so early but because her cat, Lincoln, pee-ed all over her other pairs of jeans while we were taking an emergency trip to the vet's the night before. Lincoln had some battle wounds, which were infected and causing a high fever, and I told the vet to just go ahead and neuter him while he was under anesthetic. Poor cat. Anyway, Gabrielle, Joseph, Little Gary, and Elannah wanted to go see Santa and have breakfast at the church. Sophia and Sian elected to stay home, but Husband grabbed a couple extra candy canes for them, too.

Everything is better when there's bacon.

That night was my last choir concert of the season.

 Husband in the front at the microphone. He was the announcer for both the Friday and Saturday concerts, and both nights he made us all laugh hard. On Friday, Husband was cracking everyone up and one of the basses looked at me and said, "Where did you find this guy?"

I wore my heels the second night, though they made my feet numb, because I was always stuck at the back and couldn't see the director very well. I figured with heels, I would add a couple inches to my height and maybe have a better view. It worked pretty well. You'll also be happy to learn that I didn't mess up too badly on my small duet.

Our last song was "The Twelve Days of Christmas," which is kind of like the "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" type of song for the holidays. It just keeps going, and going, and going...

Our version lasted 10 whole minutes. Husband told the audience that the concert was now half over and we would be singing our final song, which took a minute for some people to get but made the choir start laughing immediately. Unfortunately, it was a terrible song for the autistic child in the audience. His mom was telling me that he, as many autistics do, like to know what's going to be happening, so when it was announced that Twelve Days was the last song and then kept going, and going, and going, he got quite upset.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Must They Grow Up?

I was tidying my room the other day when I found this:

Joseph obviously drew this one day while crouching on the floor of my room, where I later found it while tidying up.  I laughed so hard I couldn't see. The caption says: "I told you to eat dinner frst!" (Joseph's spelling).

A happy little guy FINALLY gets hold of the candy jar, and triumph is his. Make note of the smear of chocolate around his ecstatically smiling mouth.

Angry eyebrows, hands on hips, hair all on one side of the head. Yup, it's me. Now you know for sure I don't use Botox.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I started a Twitter account, but I know I will not have the same addiction that I did with Facebook. Really, it's just too much, and I'm only following about seven things? groups? Twitterers? (I have yet to learn the terminology. Where's some of those young, hip folks when I need them?) I've only tweeted twice, and both of them sound like Facebook statuses. Statusi?

There are five big yams roasting in the oven downstairs. Who wants to come over and smell my house?

I've lost 13 pounds on the HCG diet, and the only reason I didn't lose more was because I started the diet right before Thanksgiving and succumbed to temptation. Don't ask me what I was thinking, because I couldn't tell you. Still, 13 pounds is a good start, and now I've got incentive to continue the healthful and slimming benefits of not stuffing my face with delicious but oh, so calorific junk. Thus, roasted yams, which are nature's candy. PLEASE, people, if you are going to be merrily generous and bring over plates of goodies for Christmas, either give them to my kids (which guarantees I won't get any) or make them appear much less gooey, sinfully rich, and festively tasty than they currently look. My slimmer self thanks you. But maybe I can just take a nibble of that fudge...

Our friend, the master mechanic, can't figure out the blinker malfunction on the van. If HE can't figure it out, Husband will feel a little better about not being able to fix it, either. Unfortunately, we can't get the vehicle registered until the blinker is fixed, and I'm now driving on very expired tags. Is it the multi-function switch itself? Or will the wiring have to be McGuyvered? Stay tuned!

I got a much larger paycheck than I expected. I must have done my math wrong. I like it when it's wrong in that direction.

These random pieces of information have been brought to you by the letter C (for "crunchy") and the number 4x (for those currently undergoing the rigors of learning algebra), but only because I'm in such a very odd mood.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Tale of Floss

There once was a couple who liked to floss and brush their teeth every night before bed. The husband flossed his teeth before brushing and the wife flossed after. Each of them had their opinion about which was more effective, and one day, they shared those opinions with each other.

Several months later, the couple noticed that they had both switched their flossing patterns. The husband now flossed after brushing and the wife flossed before. When they asked each other why, both of them admitted that the argument of the other had been so persuasive they had changed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's All About the Music. Seriously. The Whole Thing.

Update on Husband: Blood levels up for the fourth week in a row (if I'm counting correctly, which might be asking too much). The only thing that dipped were his platelets. They blamed the chemo, Cladribine, again, but I think Husband is just being lazy.

Ha ha ha.

No, all kidding aside, he's feeling better than he's felt in a year. The doc couldn't find his spleen, despite all the palpating she did (palpating: good word for parties!), so it's nicely tucked up under his rib cage right where it should be.


I've been a singing, musical fool lately. My choir has been performing parts of our Christmas program all over the place. Last week, we sang at Temple Square in Salt Lake City in both the Assembly Hall and the North Visitors' Center. My parents and my brother showed up and were extremely enthusiastic. My parents leaped up at the end of our performance in the Visitors' Center and yelled "Encore!," which prompted the director to have us sing another song. Sure, I may have goaded them into doing it before the performance, but does it really matter?

We also performed for a Santa Parade and during a United Methodist Sunday service. I've never been to a Methodist church service before, so it was both fun and informative. They even invited us to lunch afterward, which was very nice of them, though I couldn't stay.

This week, we sing for some Master Gardeners and then we have our two big performances on Friday and Saturday nights here in my little town. Our entire program of 14 songs will probably take about 45 minutes to an hour. One of the soloists can't be there on Saturday night, so she asked me to take her place in one of the songs. It's a duet of three or four measures during a very ramped-up version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." It's short, but it's still enough to make me sweat;at least it's the last song and my voice will be fully warmed up by then. I have to hit a high E, which for my decidedly alto voice can sometimes sound squeaky.

I did finally get the Silent Night arrangement finished, and my dad performed his magic and got it printed for me. I've been playing my cello a lot lately, both for fun and to get myself in gear for this, and now my left index fingertip is smarting and stinging with overuse. It's okay. It will callus up harder and I'll have my tough fingers back again.

I achieved musical Nirvana two days ago when I played for three solid hours. If any of you musicians have ever achieved musical Nirvana, you know what I'm talking about. Suddenly, your world is only about the notes, the sounds, the phrases, and there is nothing else. The music begins to tell you stories and you are transported out of this world and into another. I used to get that all the time when I would borrow my dad's church keys and go play the grand piano in the church's chapel in the middle of the night for hours. I would only stop when I was so tired I couldn't see straight anymore, but by then, I would have reached that alternate state of consciousness where I forgot everything but the music. You don't think in words anymore. You only think in sounds and sensations. My kids will talk to me and I'll look at them blankly. I can't process language. I have to switch back to my left brain again with a conscious, wrenching effort.

Anyhoo, enough about me and music. In fact, I better quit altogether and go make dinner. Husband and I went grocery shopping at our favorite grocery discount store today, and now I've got lots to play with. Will it be sloppy joes and fries with a veggie? Will it be homemade pizza? Or will it be fried ham slices, honey-mustard carrots, and rolls? And since I'm asking questions, could one of you please come over and make it for me?