Monday, January 31, 2011

SOCKS? Oh, the Horror...

Just a quick note to say hello. I AM alive, but it's been a week full of writing work and visions of pizzas. I'll explain more about that tomorrow.

On Tuesday, a friend from our congregation kindly came over to diagnose the problem with our gas fireplace. The pilot light had suddenly been snuffed out last year during a major snowfall, and Husband could never figure out how to start it again, though he read the manual, fiddled around for hours, and went online to see if there was any information there. Our friend pointed out the shorted wire and then got the pilot lit again. After he left, we all sat around the toasty fireplace singing Kumbaya and hugging each other in our joy.

The reason we were so ecstatic is that our furnace has been acting up. Sometimes we'll wake up and the house is 57 degrees, which is toe-chilling at best, and I've had to wear socks during the day to keep working at the computer without turning into a web text-writing popsicle. SOCKS, people! I hate socks! Husband has made repairs as he could, and he actually had it going pretty well for a long time, but our friend (who is an expert at these gas appliances) told him we'd need a new part. With the gas fireplace on now, we keep plenty warm. The upside to the dodgy furnace performance is that our gas bill has been very reasonable for a winter month. Also, our hoodies, sweaters, and SOCKS (yuck!) have been put to good use.

I'm going to bed. Well, let me clarify: I'm going to bed under my heated blanket to read the rest of Love During the Time of Cholera, another of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's strangely compelling little tales of people going through life. I also read Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and half of a book by Erma Bombeck just to keep my sanity intact due to the potential for Serious Matter Overload, or SMO.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

All About Hair

If, like Kimara, you're interested in making brown sugar fudge here's the recipe Husband used. Happy confectioning! Make a double batch and share with the neighbors. They'll think you're amazing.

For those of you who breathlessly follow my Facebook statuses, you already know that yesterday I tried out a homemade hot oil hair treatment designed to bring silky softness and shine back to heat-damaged hair. It worked like a charm, too. Here is the recipe and directions.

Fresh From Your Kitchen Hot Oil Hair Treatment:

1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp cream conditioner (not the leave-in kind)

Mix the oil and conditioner in a saucepan until it's mixed together and warmed. You don't want to dump incredibly hot oil all over your scalp unless you have serious, therapy-worthy issues, so make sure the oil is cool enough for comfort. Then, when it's the perfect temperature (which is a completely relative measurement), somehow get the oil mixture into your dry hair. I just dumped it over my head from a measuring cup, but a less messy solution might be to put the mix into a small squirt bottle.

Once the oil mixture is in your hair, wrap a towel around your shoulders and comb it in for even coverage. My hair only goes to my shoulders and I don't dye it, so I didn't wrap my hair up in plastic wrap; but if you have long or really damaged hair, you can wrap it up for 30 minutes or so. I think it nearly goes without saying that you should avoid plastic-wrapping your entire head. There are dire consequences to that.

I left the oil mixture in my hair for about 10 minutes, after which I hopped into the shower and shampoo-ed twice to get it completely out. I might leave it in for longer next time just because I got to sit around feeling pampered and a little like I was in a spa, except this spa needs constant maintenance and there seem to be a large number of kids who live in it who frequently get hungry...

This morning before church, I cut the boys' hair.

No, I didn't touch the girls' hair. I don't do girl haircuts unless they want to look like well-shorn missionaries, which is seldom (read: never) the case. Besides, who wants this little gymnast to look like Sinead O'Connor?

For the next two weeks, Husband is off-track, meaning that his class has a two week break. Husband does enjoy that part of the job -- especially when his off-track time coincides with our kids still being in school, which means he can write during the day without a lot of interruptions. Believe me, when they're home, he hangs out with them and they love it, but he does take advantage of their absence, as well. His heart grows fonder by the minute.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blood Sugar Spike

For the last year, Husband has been on a quest to make the perfect brown sugar fudge. He got it right once, and then suffered failure after failure as his fudges turned out crystallized and crumbly.

Today, I am happy to report, has been a red-letter day in his quest. Today he has found the perfect recipe and created the perfect brown sugar fudge. Right now, I'm just a wee bit sick of brown sugar after sampling his fudge and then sampling some more just to make sure it was still perfect.

Husband mostly confines his cooking ventures to the sweet variety. Whenever I make cranberry cake, he makes the cream/butter sauce that goes on top. He is great at mixing up custard, and he once made the best bread pudding I have ever eaten. Unfortunately, despite evidence to the contrary, he continues to be convinced that he is no good at cooking and that since I am better at it than he, I should be the one to make dinner.

Gabrielle is just fine with her daddy cooking up sweet stuff. Husband has passed along his British sweet tooth to all of his children.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Colors and Cunning Plans (Sans Turnips)

In the continuing saga of choosing a paint color for the main floor, we went back to Home Depot and sorted through some more blues. Husband wants something bold that can't be interpreted as white, so the lighter, barely tinted silvery blues were out in favor of these three: bleached denim, French country, and Cayman Bay, from left to right.

As soon as we put them up, we loved the darkest blue, which is deeply pigmented with hints of purple. Husband was so enamored, he decided to paint a bigger swatch to get an idea of how it would look over a large area.

It's dark. But maybe with high-gloss white trim and white sheers on the windows, it would be gorgeous, we thought. We lived with it for a day or so, staring at the wall for long moments while getting a drink or cooking meals. Yesterday at church, Husband nudged me about halfway through the first meeting. The back of the pew in front of us was covered in a material that is very similar to the Cayman Bay blue we liked. We looked at each other and nodded. It's too dark.

So, Southern Breeze it is. That's the green one we first put up. The paint swatch looks a lot grayer in the store and much greener on our wall. It's very soothing, and it will look good in a semi-gloss finish (paint test pots only come in a flat finish, which reminds me of milk paint). All the trim will be high-gloss white, and eventually, we'll replace the current baseboards with a much taller baseboard. I like tall baseboards.

Speaking of boards, are you bored yet? I told you not to get me going on decorating ideas and colors. It's too late now. You didn't stop me in time and now I will tell you about my cunning plan for extra storage (and it does NOT involve a turnip. (That was a reference for you Black Adder fans out there.)) (Are double parentheses even legal? (and do I care?))

Here is the kitchen island as it currently stands. Blah, boring, builder's grade:

My cunning plan is this: At the end of the knee ledge, where the chairs are, I will add a vertical board and a new, higher eating ledge for people sitting at the counter. Not only will this better hide the island mess from people in the living or dining areas, but I will be left with a space under the counter for pull-out shelving units on each side.

If that doesn't make any sense, it's because I didn't explain it very well. Just trust me that it's a very cunning plan.

I'm going to go immerse myself in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. I'm nearly done, and I have found it an incredibly compelling book, even if I have to keep looking at the family tree at the front to keep track of who's who. I may or may not also be involved in cleaning things around the house. I can't promise anything except to fold some laundry because it gives me an excuse to watch a movie.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Flippin' 'Eck! I'm Still Going on About British Stuff!

I waited too long and the light was bad by the time I took this picture, but you can kind of get an idea of the color I plastered all over the kitchen wall. I really like it, but Husband is always more careful with his heart. We'll be trying some other colors before we come to a decision. Fortunately, one of my friends suggested some colors she has used in her house, and since they are in the right color family, I'll be checking those out and painting them on the wall.

I finished 12 pages of web text today. It took hours because I either had so much information it was a huge job to edit and turn into original content or too little information, which means I had to come up with something clever and marketable and related to whatever the website sells. My brain was sweating by the time I was finished. Well, it's a lady's brain, so it only perspired, of course. Delicately, and with ultimate feminine grace.

By the time I finished writing, I realized that the only thing I'd eaten all day was a chocolate chip cookie. No wonder my head was swimming. A quick meal of beans and cheese on toast fixed me right up. Some British things were never meant to be forgotten, and beans on toast is one of them, even if American baked beans are a world apart from British baked beans. I'm not saying one is better than the other, mind you. They're just different.

I remember buying cans of baked beans for 5 pence each and a loaf of bread for 20 pence at the grocery stores in England. When you're a poor missionary, that's a good, cheap meal. I ate a lot of beans on toast and rice with soy sauce during those months. I didn't know how to cook then. I also ate a lot of ramen noodles, but never the tomato flavored ones. I don't understand tomato-flavored ramen noodles. I may be judging an entire culture unfairly, but tomato-flavored ramen noodles are just wrong.

On the other hand, pickled onion-flavored potato crisps are so, so right!

In one of the areas I lived in, we used to pick blackberries from the wild bushes along the roadsides and apples from the tree in the backyard, which belonged to the people we lived with. We made pie with them. Doused in custard (another British culinary star), it was delicious.

I still use my knife and fork British style. It's so much more logical than the American style, which involves a lot of picking up and setting down of the knife. That's time wasted when you could be eating.

Well, let me get my old bones out of this rocking chair. I've been settin' a spell, and my fingers are just a-ramblin' on with all these memories.

P.S. When you say "tuna" in England, it always sounds like "chuna." Whenever I cook with tuna, I always see the face of the British missionary who pointed that out to me. I also see his face whenever I hear Prince on the radio. He really, really liked Prince.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Alter Ego

I know, I know. I'm lacking in the picture department again. I do plan to remedy that with an entire blog post dedicated to me making faces. Or not. I was thinking about doing a sort of "My Day in Pictures" idea, but you'd all be very bored to see 100 photos of me sitting at my computer cranking out web text. I might still do it but just pretend that my life is crazy and adventurous -- even a little dangerous! (cue Mission:Impossible theme music. Doom, doom, DOOM DOOM, doom, doom, DOOM DOOM, BAH dah yah! BAH da ya...)I'll be sure to add the pictures of me cooking against all odds in the kitchen and making my bed on the very cusp of danger.

I should be careful. Being flippant about my fairly calm and mundane daily tasks might just jinx me with some horrible surprise or other. Goodness knows we don't need another one of those weeks like the one when we found out Husband had leukemia. Calm is good. Though I wouldn't mind the sudden announcement that we were going on vacation to somewhere lovely and completely catered, I like the ability to easily predict what will happen in my day.

Don't believe a word of it! She has the wanderlust so bad she has to make a conscious decision NOT to drive to Las Vegas every time she gets near the freeway.

Husband and I went to Home Depot and bought a test pot of paint. When we got home, I put a whole bunch onto the wall in the kitchen that isn't visible to anyone unless you walk all the way into the room. It's a gray green/blue, and I love it. It's so soothing.

She wants to paint the floors black, but Husband won't let her.

I had the remains of a roasted chicken in the fridge, so I made a homemade chicken-vegetable soup with whole wheat spiral noodles. It was pretty good because I put enough pepper in it to give it a kick. A buttered slice of sourdough bread made it a treat.

She fooled herself into thinking the kids would like it, but she found a bowl full of someone's rejected soup sitting on the floor for the cats, who didn't like it, either. She should have gone for pizza and blown every last cent in her checking account. C'mon! Throw caution to the wind!

All right. I guess an introduction is in order. Meet my alter ego, Aggressa.

That is the stupidest name I have ever heard. I prefer Isis. I call you Molly. And if you let me out more, we wouldn't have separate names. Remember when we were one and the same? Good times.

Anyway, I'll end this now before we have an argument and people think I've got a split personality.

Let's go to Las Vegas. Then we'll just keep driving until we hit the ocean.

Good night.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Quick Update for the Curious

Update on Husband: All is, thankfully, well. You never think you're going to be happy for a virus, but I'm very grateful that that's what it seems to be. Blood test results came back with a continuing uptick in numbers, some beginning to border the normal range. Husband avoided the dreaded bone marrow biopsy, and even scored a two month wait between doctor's visits!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Little Worried

I can't think that I have anything remotely interesting to say today. I spent the morning cleaning the kitchen the way the kids never do, so now it's well and truly clean. That should last for about...5 minutes..., and that might be an overestimation.

Husband has been feeling pretty ill this past week. He's run down and doesn't feel well. I try my best not to get hysterical every time he has a sniffle or feels tired, but I have to admit that I'm quite worried by now. I will probably never get over that.

Fortunately, he has his check-up on Monday, so we'll see if it's just a virus or if his blood results come back saying something more sinister is going on.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The British Are Coming!

I can say hello to my mother-in-law! Hello, Mum! Welcome to my blog!

We call her "Mum" because she's British, and that's how they talk to their mothers over there. I would call her "Mumsie," but I have never heard Husband say that, ever, and I wouldn't want to inadvertently offend. (The only people I've ever heard say "Mumsie" were the little boarding school brats on television shows, and they say it with that special English lilt to their words, like the one I acquired while serving a mission there and the one Madonna was mocked for picking up. In her defense, it's hard NOT to start talking that way.) Our children call her "Nanna" to distinguish from my mother, who is "Grandma." See how nicely that all works out? Now, we just need slightly different names for fathers and I'd never have to say to Husband, "Which dad? Mine or yours?" I don't think it would be appropriate to follow the pattern of putting a "u" in "Dad" like "Mom" becomes "Mum."

Now my Mom and my Mum are reading this blog. Husband talked up my blog to his mother during a recent phone conversation, so it's just as well I've been including more pictures of the kids and pretending that what I write is somewhat about them and not just about me. She'll find out soon enough, though. Sorry, Mum. Mom already knows the sad, sad truth.

I'm really blessed to have such great parents and great in-laws. My parents and my in-laws are also very good friends with each other, so a visit from my in-laws is a happy time all around.

I first met my future mother- and father-in-law and nearly all my future brothers- and sister-in-law during my mission. My mission president arranged to have them all over to his house a little while before the farewell meeting for the month's departing missionaries, of which Husband was one. (For any returned missionaries reading this who don't know our story, that just elicited a gasp.) Prez walked me over to his house where they were waiting to meet me and size me up, and I nearly died of nervousness.

"Are you nervous?" he laughed, and held my hand comfortingly for a moment.
"I'm going to throw up," I responded.

But they were lovely (see how easily I slip back into British-speak?), and I felt nothing but love and acceptance from them. My father-in-law likes to tell the story of how he asked me what I was planning to do after I got home from my mission and I answered, "Marry your son, of course!" as if it was so obvious and he was just a little dense. He's not at all dense, of course. I just want to clarify that.

Right-o, I'm off to exercise, what what. Ta, me ducks, and be sure to check back for more about me.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Apparently, I am weak on my endings. This is what I've determined after having several of my guest blog posts returned in order for me to spruce up the endings. I can see it now that it's been pointed out, but I can also see how that applies to a lot of areas of my life. I'm usually pretty good at beginnings. When I finally begin something, I begin in a big way; I even last until I'm past the middle part. But when it comes to the end, whether it's my articles or guest posts or a project, I stumble. Either I lose interest or I fizzle out and leave things a little undone.

It's a lesson to myself. I have a goal to change that. And today, in the four blog posts I have to write, I will concentrate on making the endings strong and vibrant so the readers (reader? Do any people actually read those things or am I writing completely into a void?) finish with a sense of completion and satisfaction -- or, as satisfied as one can feel about a post written on the different types of filling machines.

I'm kidding. I do get to write about other things, most of which I have never contemplated at much length before: jobs of the future, mistakes people make when trying to sell stuff on the internet, honeymoons in Florida, etc. The greatest advantage to what I do is that I learn a lot of new things, if only in big enough chunks to write something that can imitate expertise. While this might make me dangerous, I do have some great ideas about honeymooning in Florida, if anyone cares to ask.

The End.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Quietly Understated? Phhht. Who Needs That?

I've had so many comments about the new background on my blog. Sooo many! People keep coming up to me and saying, "I LOVE the colors and the pattern. It's so you because I know you love bold colors and patterns, even if you never wear them. You mostly wear black, blue, and green solids, so I love that you've branched out and put something up there that is as daring as the patterns you'd love to scatter throughout your home. But never wear."

All right, I lie. I've had two comments, and only because I asked Husband and one of the girls what they thought. Both of them diplomatically said, "It's very colorful!" Husband added, "It looks Indian."

When given a choice, I will always pick bold, saturated colors. Even when I (shudder) go clothes shopping, I'll pick the bright colors first; it isn't until I get into the dressing room with the crappy, florescent lighting that makes any person -- even skinny, attractively mopey-looking Kate Moss -- look like they are at death's door, that I decide I'd rather not stand out too much in a crowd. Besides, I just look better in dark, solid colors. (I do have to say that the Old Navy store I visited recently has great lighting in their dressing rooms. I bought a dark gray sweater because I looked so good in it. Also, they size their clothes much larger compared to other stores, so I had to go back out and find a medium instead of a large. I knew it was just because of the sizing, but I still felt illogically elated.)

I do, however, have an extremely difficult time resisting the urge to buy chunky necklaces. I will confidently wear a weird necklace where I won't don highly patterned, brightly colored clothes. Case in point is this one, purchased last week at Rue 21. It was on sale.

Yes, it is composed of real metal strips attached to a chain. I wore it to church yesterday, but I slipped it under a V-neck sweater (black) so that only a small portion of the strips showed through. It kind of looked like I was wearing a metal tank top, but because I tried to move as carefully and gracefully as I could to keep it from clanking, no one asked if I had on chain mail.

It has a certain elegance and industrial sophistication, don't you think? But what it really says is please don't walk near me if you are carrying powerful magnets.

As for my blog background, I beg you to tolerate it at least a little while. Soon enough, I will get bored with it and change it to something else, although I can't promise it will be anything quietly understated.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The EMPTY Cracker Box, an Exploration of Desolation

I have permission to put this video on my blog. Sophia wrote, directed, and filmed The EMPTY Cracker Box. It stars Elannah and a neighborhood friend, and it features Gabrielle and Sian.

Just watch it all the way through. I think you'll find it just a touch European.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


A change is as good as a feast, so they say. In my case, a change gets me so hungry for more change that I start looking around with a speculative eye at every aspect of my life. I've got a whole list of resolutions. It's January, and it's a month ripe for changes. It's too cold to do much else, anyway.

I hung a picture today. Somehow, I had never graduated to knowing how to do that beyond tapping a nail in and watching it slide right back out. Today, Husband called me downstairs, interrupting me from folding laundry while watching a really, really stupid movie, and instructed me in putting in a drywall anchor and screw. How satisfying it is to use power tools. And now, one of our two original Clark Ostergaard paintings is hanging proudly. It's of a New Zealand barn swallow flying past a broken barn window (Clark is a painter of the the natural world). The detail is incredible, and Clark gave it to us when Husband found out he had leukemia. It touched Husband's heart so much, and we love the painting. I need to get a picture light for it, and it will be perfect.

After the picture hanging, Husband and I sat and discussed wall colors. We do that sometimes, but usually it's me with all the excited plans and Husband tolerantly listens to me while wondering how much work and money it would cost. By now, though, he's sick enough of the white walls to get behind the idea of buying paint, moving furniture, spending more than we thought on equipment, prepping the walls, and finally painting.

Before I start boring you with decorating details, however, I will share some more pictures, continuing with the Christmas present opening. In my last post, Elannah was admiring Sian's gift, which was some good skin cream Husband found. Sian also got a shopping spree for clothes, as she is growing out of everything she owns.

Gabrielle desperately wanted a Snuggie in leopard print. She also got a clothing shopping spree, and on Monday, Dec. 27, she and Sian and I went to the Big City and spent hours trolling through the sales looking for great jeans and shirts. We ate lunch at Pier 49 Pizza, and Gabbie declared it "the best day ever!"

Sophia is a movie maker, so Husband found her a reasonably priced digital video camera of her very own. She's made a ton of movies on it already. In fact, she made one that she showed Husband and me today, and I'm still laughing. When I get permission from the parent of one of the kids in it, I'll post it here.

This child is so bendable she can stand on her own head. She loves gymnastics and has taught herself quite a few tricks. She's unbelievably strong. For Christmas, she got her fondest wish: gymnastics lessons at last!

For the little boys, it's mostly about quantity. Little Gary, especially, loves to open presents. In fact, when his sisters want to entertain him, they wrap his toys in tissue and he gets to open them. Little Gary got books and puzzles, and Joseph got a LeapFrog computer with a bunch of learning games.

Happy New Year to all! My folded laundry is still sitting on my bed.