Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm a teary-eyed science geek.

Most people who know me well know that I am a cry baby and also that I am a science geek. I cry at movies, stories I read, even thoughts that I have. I love watching educational shows and enjoy cable TV just for the Discovery Channel, Discovery Health (although I think they have way too many baby shows) and National Geographic. As a matter of fact, I am watching NOVA right now. I even read science magazines at the library to relax when I get time. So most of my friends know that, but almost no one knows that I even cry at science. I know you just went, “Huh?”

A couple of years ago I was taking a biology class where we had been learning about the cells in our body and all of the microscopic organelles inside them, DNA, how proteins form, all that fun stuff. Toward the end of the semester, my professor played the following video for us so we could put all of the things we studied together. She turned off the lights (lucky for me) and played this on a screen. It’s an 3-minute computer-animated look at inside the cell. When I watched it, I saw all the things we’ve studied and that I’ve learned in other classes right in front of me and it was beautiful. Yes, I know it is computer animation and not completely accurate, but it is still beautiful and it doesn’t help me to have the great music with it. I sat in the dark with a few tears coming down my cheek. Our bodies are so amazing! We are all such masterpieces! It just astonishes me that we get to know so much about our bodies, even though what we know just scratches the surface.

My professor gave us the link so we could watch it at home, so I went home and showed my kids, explaining what was happening. Throughout my time in school, they had seen me studying and would ask questions about the things in the pictures in my textbook. They were especially interested in the motor proteins which transport things from one part of the cell to another. Then when they saw the motor protein in this video (the little “guy” who looks like he is walking, carrying a ball in the picture above), they were amazed. All three of them liked it. Sabrina asks me to play the video again every once in a while. She calls it the “walking dude video”. As much as I try to explain it, she just thinks there are little people inside of us moving things around.

So feel free to visit it and say, “She cried at this? I don’t get it!” There is something wrong with me. I know.

http://www.studiodaily.com/main/technique/tprojects/6850.html (Click on the Watch Video High or Low button on the left, below the big picture of the “walking dude” and a paragraph explaining the video.)

“Let us train our minds until we delight in that which is good, lovely and holy, seeking continually after that intelligence which will enable us effectually to build up Zion, … seeking to do the will of the Lord all the days of our lives, improving our minds in all scientific and mechanical knowledge, seeking diligently to understand the great design and plan of all created things, that we may know what to do with our lives and how to improve upon the facilities placed within our reach.” Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 247

Monday, December 29, 2008

Whom the Lord Loveth: The Journey of Discipleship by Neal A. Maxwell

I just noticed that I have posted 3 posts in a row with recipes so I think it’s time that I post a book review. Thanks to Alex’s long orthodontist appointment getting his braces put on, I was able to read a whole book.



This is a small book, about the size of my hand, and has very short chapters, all of them only 1 to 3 pages. It may seem kind of like stream of consciousness writing since it has one topic after another and doesn’t exactly connect them, but I think it’s all the things that Elder Maxwell thought was essential (and, of course, still is). Just like the subtitle says, it is a list of important aspects of any true disciple of Christ; faith, endurance, patience, humility…

If you don’t have a lot of time to read, you could read through one chapter a day in just a couple of minutes and get through the book pretty quickly. And yet, those few words that he utilizes make you think about the topic for much longer than it takes to read them. It made my long wait in the orthodontist office seem to fly by. I just wanted to sit and read and ponder. It’s so hard to choose a few good parts to share since it is all so wonderful.

For example, he writes, “Disciples, however, see with the ‘eye of faith’ (Alma 5:15), still perceiving divine design even when personal circumstances are shaken like a kaleidoscope.” p. 4 That’s all he said about the kaleidoscope, but I kept thinking about it. Just when I think that things are “right” in my world and I have a pretty design in my kaleidoscope, something shakes it up and it’s not the same design. I often see that as distressing, even though my life is so full of blessings and I have never had to face struggles that many others have, and I feel like I have to get that old design back on the kaleidoscope or all is not “right”. As Elder Maxwell says, we should see the divine design. That new design has its own beauty and blessings. We are here to progress and keeping everything the same will not make us a better disciple.

“Happily, many of us have already picked and been greatly nourished by the low-hanging fruit from the gospel tree. Yet, on the higher branches, much fruit still remains, unreached for and unplucked. Neglecting to harvest this fruit deprives us of greater joy and of greater capacity to help others.” p. 7

He also quotes President J. Reuben Clark, “I believe that in his justice and mercy he will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose.” (Conference Report, October 1953, 84) Isn’t our God a great and loving God? What an awesome way to explain it!


“Meanwhile, strange, is it not, how we are willing to settle for so much less? We are like an eager child at a candy store who will settle for just ‘one of these and one of those,’ when the Owner desires to give us the whole store (D&C 84:38).” p. 24

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mix it Up! IV

There are 3 different recipes on this plate. All 3 are here.

Angel Hair with Gingered Beef
This tastes like a restaurant dish and is so good. The sesame oil is essential for the best flavor.

1 c. dark stock
1 T. very thinly sliced ginger root
1/2 t. minced garlic
1 T. soy sauce
1 1/2 t. cornstarch
3/4 lb. flank steak, cut long thin strips
1/2 t. ginger powder
1/2 t. salt
1 T. oil, for cooking
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1/4 c. Julienne carrots
2 T. thinly sliced green onions
2 c. cooked angel hair pasta
1 T. sesame oil

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock, ginger, and garlic to a boil. Reduce for 3 minutes. Mix the cornstarch into the soy sauce. As you stir the stock, pour the cornstarch mixture into the stock. It will begin to thicken. Allow to boil for 1 minute, and remove from the heat.

Toss the meat with powdered ginger and salt. Heat the cooking oil in the wok until it is smoking. Add the meat, stirring, and searing it quickly on all sides. Pull the meat up the sides of the wok and add the mushrooms and carrots. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the green onions and toss all together. Drop the pasta by the handful into the fryer to create crazy noodles, fry for 45 seconds, remove and place in a bowl. Drizzle with the sesame oil. Place them on a big service platter. To the stir-fry, add the sauce and completely coat everything. Taste and adjust. Pour this over the noodles.

Fried Rice
You can also add chicken or any meat to this dish to make it a main dish.

1/3 c. green onion, chopped
1/4 c. red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c. carrots, chopped
1 T. oil
3 cooked rice, cooled
1/2 c. thawed baby peas
2 t. teriyaki sauce

Put green onions, bell pepper carrots and oil in a 2-quart casserole dish and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Onions should be tender, but not too soft. Put in skillet. Over medium heat combine rice, peas and teriyaki sauce with it. Stir often until heated thoroughly.

Peppered Broccoli

1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/8 t. crushed red pepper
6 c. broccoli florets
1 c. red bell pepper strips
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in broccoli and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until vegetable are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Lemon Squares
These aren't as lemony as some lemon squares, especially when I don't add the lemon peel when I don't have lemons.

1 c. flour
½ c. margarine, softened
¼ c. powdered sugar
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 t. grated lemon peel
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. flour
½ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix 1 cup flour, margarine and powdered sugar; press into 8-inch ungreased pan, building up sides. Bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix sugar, eggs, lemon peel, lemon juice, flour, baking powder, and salt; beat until light and fluffy, 3 or 4 minutes. Pour over the baked crust and return to oven until no indentations remain, about 25 minutes. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
The Ultimate Chocolate Brownie Muffin
I always make these in the mini muffin pans. If you don't overbake them, they are dense and chocolatey with melty chips.

3/4 cup good quality baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder (heaping)
3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups sugar (or to taste)
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Set oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups or 48-50 mini muffin cups with paper liners. In a medium bowl combine cocoa and baking powder; mix to combine. Add in boiling water; mix well with a wooden spoon to combine. Add in the melted butter and vanilla; mix well.
Add in the sugar, mix well with a wooden spoon. Stir in eggs with a wooden spoon; mix until combined. Mix the flour with salt; add in the the chocolate mixture; mix well to combine (batter will be a bit on the thin side). Add/mix in mini chocolate chips or walnuts or both.

Using an ice cream scoop fill each of the muffin tins almost to the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes for muffins or 10-12 minutes for mini-muffins or until muffins are done, don't over bake!


Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm so spoiled!

On Tuesday, I ordered a new apron and some chocolate transfer sheets online and they arrived today (2 days later). I didn't even pay extra for quick shipping so I didn't expect it so soon, but it was great timing. We had our ward Christmas party tonight which was potluck so I was making food to take. I whipped up the food in my new attire. See?
(You might also notice that I had my hair colored darker. Thanks to Stacy for the cut and color! Thanks to Alex for the silly photo.)

Okay. Are you wondering what chocolate transfer sheets are? I first found out about them by seeing some beautiful candy online and wanted to make it too. It's a sheet of acetate with an edible print on it that you can transfer onto chocolate by spreading the melted chocolate on it. I found out they used transfer sheets and I couldn't find any in Utah and the only ones I found online were $15 a sheet. Then on Tuesday I was looking around again and found them lots cheaper at http://www.fancyflours.com/ so I decided to buy 2 sheets and experiment with them. I also saw the apron and it was so cute that I just "had" to get it too. (It's sold out now so apparently I got the last one. I told you I was spoiled.) Merry Christmas to me!

The instructions that came with the chocolate transfer sheets just explained how to spread melted chocolate on it, but I wanted to actually make candy so I decided to adapt the Chocolate Billionaires recipe (which I was already planning on making for the party) to make bars instead of drops. I spread melted chocolate on the transfer sheet, which was on a cookie sheet. Then I mixed up the filling and spread that on top of the cooled chocolate. Then after that set, I spread more melted chocolate on top. When it was hard, I cut it into pretty little pieces of goodness. I am totally a FAN of these transfer sheets now. And I even looked again online today and found a place in Utah that sells them so I'll be headed up there next week to take a look!!! I found my latest addiction.
Chocolate Billionaires
1 package (14 ounce) caramels
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup coarsely crushed crisp rice cereal
2 c. candy melts


In top of double boiler over low heat or in microwave, melt caramels with water. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and cereal. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto lightly greased waxed paper. Chill until firm. Melt candy melts and dip candies until coated. Place on wax paper and chill until set.

Besides the candy, I made Lomo Saltado for the potluck, a favorite of Elder Paredes from Bolivia who is serving in our ward. We really like it too. I didn't make it with the potatoes this time.

Lomo Saltado

Marinade:
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 lbs beef tenderloin, cut into strips
2 medium red onions, cut into strips
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
Salt & pepper, to taste
1-2 jalapeño pepper, cut into strips
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
4 potatoes, peeled & cut into strips
1/2-1 teaspoon paprika
Canola oil, for frying

Make a paste by combining the garlic & salt. Whisk together the garlic paste, rice vinegar, soy sauce, canola oil, cumin, & ground black pepper.
Place the steak in one bowl & the onions in another. Divide the marinade between the 2 bowls & let set in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Pour a small amount of oil in a wok & turn on medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the steak with marinade & cook until brown. Add the tomato & simmer for a few minutes. Add the jalapeño, cilantro, & onions with marinade to the wok, slowly stirring until well blended. Simmer for 5 more minutes.

As the ingredients are cooking in the wok, sprinkle the potatoes with paprika & fry in a separate pan. Once done add to the other ingredients.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mix it Up! III

Lemon Apple Braid
I didn’t take a photo of the actual braid before I cut it up. I didn’t use almonds, but it’s great with them. I love this filling. It makes a pretty, delicious pastry.


1 (8 -oz.) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1/4 c. sugar
3 T. flour
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. finely grated lemons, rind of
2 medium apples, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2-1 t. grated lemons, rind of
2-3 t. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375º. Unroll crescent roll dough into 2 long rectangles on large ungreased cookie sheet. Overlap long sides to form 13x7" rectangle; firmly press edges and perforations to seat.

In medium bowl, combine sugar, flour, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon lemon peel. Stir in apples until well coated. Spoon apple mixture in 2 inch strip lengthwise down center of dough.
Make cuts 1/2 inch apart on each side of rectangle at an angle. Braid strips over filling.
Bake at 375º for 18-22 minutes.

Cool for 5 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet. In small bowl, combine all glaze ingredients, adding enough lemon juice for desired drizzling consistency. Drizzle over warm braid.

Chicken Scampi with Linguine
Buttery and garlicky!

2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 egg beaten
3/4 c. Italian bread crumbs
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 lb. linguine
1/2 c. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 T. butter
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
Lemon wedges


Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Dip the chicken in the beaten egg, then into the bread crumbs, which have been mixed with the grated cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread the coated chicken pieces on a rack or platter. Heat 1/2 cup oil in a large skillet. Add 1/3 of the chicken pieces; sauté until golden brown. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon, and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces. Discard oil in the skillet, and wipe out.


Cook pasta. While pasta is cooking, melt 1/2 cup butter in the skillet. Add garlic and cook 1 min. Add cooked chicken, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss to coat the chicken with the sauce. Do not allow chicken to cook further. Drain pasta, and toss with the remaining 2 tbsp butter and spoon onto a heated platter. Spoon chicken and sauce over. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with the lemon wedges.

Oreo Truffles
I made these with a migraine so I don’t know if that’s why I didn’t like them, but Elisa didn’t either. So why am I including it here? Because I took them to church and so many people asked me for the recipe. I didn’t take any photos because after I made them and tried one, I decided not to take them. Then at the last minute I took them and was glad I did. This photo is from the internet where I found the recipe.

45 Oreo cookies, divided (1 package)
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 (8-oz.) packages semisweet baking chocolate, melted

Crush 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in a food processor; reserve for later use. (This can also be done in a resealable bag with a rolling pin.). Crush the remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs and place in a medium bowl. Add the cream cheese and mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1" in diameter.

Dip the balls in the melted chocolate and place them on a wax paper covered baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the truffles with the reserved cookie crumbs. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in the refrigerator.
Yield: 3 1/2 dozen


Carne Asada
I knew as soon as I mixed the marinade together(minus the jalapeño) that this was going to be good. It was really cold outside so I didn’t grill it. I just cooked it in a skillet. We all loved it, and even little, picky Sabrina had 4 pieces and suggested that we have it all the time. Meat-lover Robin said, “I agree with that”.


2 pounds flank or skirt steak

Marinade:
4 garlic cloves-minced
1 jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 large handful fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped (great flavor in the stems)Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup olive oil

Lay the flank steak in a large non-reactive bowl or baking dish. Combine marinade ingredients and pour the marinade over the steak. Make sure each piece is well coated. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.

Preheat your grill over medium-high flame (you can also use a cast iron grill pan on high heat for stove-top cooking). Brush the grates with a little oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Remove the steak from the marinade. If you are cooking indoors, you may want to brush off excess marinade as the bits may burn and smoke on the hot pan. Season both sides of the steak pieces with salt and pepper. Grill the pieces for a few minutes only, on each side, depending on how thin they are, until medium rare to well done, to your preference. You may need to work in batches. Remove the steak pieces to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak across the grain on a diagonal.


Creamy Basil Parmesan Chicken & Basil

This is actually a product review, not a recipe. We all ate this up! It is creamy and full of flavor. I never buy Hamburger Helper or anything like that so I usually cruise past that part of the store, but this time, a sale sticker caught my attention. It said “Romano's Macaroni Grill” on the package and it was like half off so I thought I’d give it a try. I have since bought a few more packages to use on those days where I’m too busy to do anything else. Go to the link and get a coupon for $1.00 off a box! YUM!

http://www.restaurantfavoritesathome.com/

Roasted Potatoes with Greens
This was a nice, simple side dish. I didn’t put a cup of spinach in, just what we had left.
You can also drizzle with more olive oil and shredded Parmesan before serving.

6 small red potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup fresh spinach leaves

Preheat the oven to 400º. Place the potatoes in a single layer in a ceramic casserole dish. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook until golden. Stir in the rosemary, and cook just until fragrant. Pour over the potatoes in the dish. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Roast uncovered for about 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the oven, and toss with the spinach leaves. Return to the oven for 1 to 2 minutes, until the spinach has wilted.

Penne Arrabiata
I added a bit too much pasta, but I liked the taste of the sauce. I had a mixture of penne and rigatoni since I didn't have enough penne. I didn’t add the salami this time, but might next time. 1 lb. penne pasta
2 T. olive oil
1 c. red onions, thinly sliced
2 t. garlic, minced
6 oz. Genoa salami, cubed
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 (14 ½-oz.) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 T. tomato paste
1 T. brown sugar, packed
1 T. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/3 c. torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese

While heating the water to cook pasta, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, salami, and red pepper flakes, sauté until salami caramelizes, 5-7 minutes.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar and vinegar. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once the water is boiling for pasta, cook pasta to al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup liquid to thin the sauce, if necessary. Transfer sauce to a larger shallow bowl. Add the drained pasta, torn basil, and Parmesan to the sauce (tearing the basil won't discolor it like cutting does); toss to coat. Serve pasta immediately.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Woo Hoo!!!!

See the Christmas present I chose for myself? Liz Lemon Swindle’s The Worth of a Soul. I know where I am putting it already too-- on the hall wall near the dining room. But I couldn't wait to share it here, so it's still on the floor. Isn’t it beautiful?

My mom and I had the opportunity to go to Women’s Conference in August and attend a couple of classes by Kathy Headlee, the founder of Mothers Without Borders. (I practically cried through the whole class both times as she talked about the orphans in Africa and so many personal experiences.) She spoke about how she invited Liz Lemon Swindle to Africa to paint Christ with orphaned children there. The model for Jesus is Kathy’s husband, who wasn’t a member of the church at the time. Kathy had a copy of this painting in the class and I was just drawn to it as she spoke, even after she went on to other topics. If you’d like to read a little about the artist’s experience or about little Kennedy in the painting, here’s a link.

http://www.motherswithoutborders.org/worth-of-a-soul.php

I just love it and am so excited to have it in our home!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Parenting Link

No matter how much you love your children, parenting is hard work.
(My 3 cuties in 2005)

The article you can read by following this link really made me think about the way that I react when I feel my children need correction (definitely an important part of our parenting role). It talks about the need to love them and teach them even before we need to correct them. They talk about a "parenting pyramid" which can help us focus on essential parts of our parenting that we sometimes don't think of being part of correction.

http://www.arbinger.com/downloads/parenting_pyramid.pdf


Aren't families great? I sure love mine!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shopping Tip



Next time you need to buy spices, skip the spice isle and first check out the ethnic or international isle. You can often find the same spices for much less.
For example, I ran out of cumin and looked for it in the spice isle. This 2 oz. bottle costs around $3.75.

Then I went to the Mexican food area and they had this bag of cumin (1 & 1/16 oz.) for only $ .59 So for $1.18, I bought a little more than double what I could have paid $3.75 for.




In Maceys, the grocery store where I bought them, the Mexican food isle also had sesame seeds, nutmeg, paprika, ground cloves, bay leaves and oregano for $ .59 or $ .69 a package. Another tip: I kept my empty bottle from the cumin I had finished and filled it with the cumin I bought in the bag since it isn’t very convenient to store it in a bag.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My Lovely

When Alex was a baby, I used to call him Lovely all the time. Then the song "Where Did You Go, My Lovely?" by No Mercy came out and I adopted it as my song for him.

Alexander had his first band concert this week. He played piano for almost two years and we went to a few recitals during that time, but this was the first time he played his trombone for an audience. He got all dressed up and we went to the school. Once we got there, I realized I had forgotten my camera. Can you believe that??? Of course, if you know me, you believe it! I have such a bad memory. I have a couple of photos I took with my phone, but I still don't know how to get them from my phone to the computer! So I'm posting some photos I took at home instead. The band sounded really good and I'm looking forward to going to his next one and having a camera!


Besides being in band, he is in art and loves it. He's done some big projects, but those are at school so I took some photos of some of the artwork he has at home. All his other free time is taken up by TV (He loves Discovery Channel, but also watches plenty of Nick), his Nintendo DS, especially Pokémon games, and the computer.

This is his sketchbook, which he dipped in paint to make. Pretty, huh?


























Alex has a really good sense of humor and laughs at loud at movies or commercials. He got that from his Dad. But when the camera comes out, his smile disappears. He got that from his dad too. It's very difficult to get a good photo of Alex smiling since if I tell him to smile, he gives me a geeky, fake smile. I was lucky to get him looking this happy. You can see he's trying to suppress his smile.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Finding Inward Stillness

I finally finished this book after checking it out from the library twice. (Sad, I know. I kept the book in my car and only read a few minutes a day while I was waiting for my daughters to come out of school.) I copied so many quotes from it. I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “Be still” as we are commanded in Psalms 46:10. In our culture of multi-tasking and over-booking our schedules, being still is pretty rare, for me included. I hope to write some things I’ve learned about being still in a different post. For now, I’ll stick with the wonderful insights from Wendy and Brent Top. Both the title and the author drew me to this book. I had Brother Top for a professor at BYU and have since heard several of his talks and enjoyed them.

It was interesting reading a book authored by two people. They have different experiences and different personalities so they share their different perspectives as well as using many quotes from others. They talk about how we can use the commandment to be perfect to pull us down (like quicksand) instead of using it to help buoy us up and give strength. All quotes are from Wendy and Brent Top if a different author isn’t given. All are used in this book.

“Each time you fall He will pick you up again. And He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection. On the other hand, you must realize from the outset that the goal toward which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself can prevent Him from taking you to that goal…

“…The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly…His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 172, 174-175

They also address how fear and being judgmental hurt our personal peace, as well as how submitting to God’s will and having charity help increase the peace we feel. I liked their discussion of the importance of balance in our lives and the difference between the Lord’s expectations of us and our own or others’ expectations.

“Teaching our children to live a quiet, sane, and balanced life is one of the most important parental tasks of our day.”

“As we seek to balance the demands for our time and attention, as we are forced to make hard decisions or sacrifice activities or service that may be important but not imperative we will come to recognize that we have lost nothing essential but rather have gained in terms of rediscovering inner peace.”

“Making unrighteous and unmerciful judgments, we may make living the gospel more difficult and less rewarding than it should be by creating a standard that no one can measure up to.”

“[Fear] stifles initiative, saps strength, and reduces efficiency. It weakens faith, brings doubts, and begets mistrust. Indeed, it tends to impede the very business of being. How negative, frustrating and futile is fear.” Elder Derek H. Cuthbert, “The Futility of Fear,” BYU 1983-1984 Fireside and Devotional Speeches, p. 105

“The Spirit never makes us uptight or stilted; rather it fills us with joy and good humor.”

“God does not require complete compliance and oneness with his will because he is a tyrannical taskmaster and receives sadistic pleasure in our subservience, but rather because he seeks lovingly to lift us up to his level—godhood. Godhood is a perfect power over all things, attained by a perfect submission to all righteousness and eternal truth. We can only acquire this power as we surrender ourselves to him and allow him to remake us.”
Probably my favorite one about the problem with us being too busy is this one:

“God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full—there’s nowhere for Him to put it.” C.S. Lewis, The Problem with Pain, p. 96, paraphrasing St. Augustine

I have 6 pages of quotes that I copied from the book for my files so I can’t include all of them. I encourage everyone to read this book since I’m sure you will find many of your own favorites. It’s only 100 pages, which makes it even sadder that I took so long to read it, but should be a quick read for most of you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Come what may, and love it

We’ve had a good fall so far. We never made it to a pumpkin patch though. I love the photos of the kids with all that orange and brown. Maybe next year. Getting ready for Thanksgiving, we talked a lot about being grateful, which is good for any time of year. Both the girls’ elementary school and Alex’s junior high had food drives and the kids wanted to participate. I was glad they wanted to help, but I told them they would need to work for the money to buy food. Alex said, “Why? I can just get it out of food storage?” That’s what I usually let them do. I decided that they would be able to be more a part of the giving if they actually worked for it. I think Alex thought I’d cave and give him food because he waited until the last day of the drive and then decided to work. The girls didn’t want to be left out so they worked around the house, sweeping and dusting, vacuuming and folding clothes. Then we went to the store to buy the food. I let them choose what food they wanted to buy. Alex knew exactly what he wanted, ramen and tons of it. That’s all he got. They were having a competition among the classes to see who could bring in the most items and ramen is cheap. Elisa decided that she would get fewer items, but maybe what other people might not be buying, so she bought beef stew and chili and a box of stuffing. Sabrina loved the pretty pink ramen packages (shrimp flavor—who doesn’t want that for Thanksgiving?) so she bought some of those, some juice and some cute kids’ soup. I meant to take a photo of them with their food before they took it to school the next day, but I forgot. They were all so proud to take their food.
The day before Thanksgiving, we babysat two cute little girls in our ward. We made little turkey hats for them and cards for their mom. Elisa helped me with the girls’ hats and Sabrina made her own. Alex didn’t want to have anything to do with a turkey hat for some reason. It’s hard to find an activity that all three of my cuties (Alex hates that too) will enjoy. But they all liked going to Grandma and Grandpa’s for Thanksgiving! Lots of good food and my parents and all my brothers and sisters and their spouses were there, my sister’s 3 dogs and my two little nephews who we don’t get to see often enough. Even my sister’s husband’s brother and sister (follow that?) were able to come. They aren’t technically related to me, but they are part of the family so it was nice they could be there.

On their way down to Utah from Boise, the brakes went out on Tiffany and Adam’s car (my sister and brother-in-law). So Adam spent the day trying to fix the car so they could get back home in time for him to start work. He was able to figure something out so they headed back home the day after Thanksgiving. We prayed a lot that they would make it okay and they did. Another reason we had a lot to be thankful for this year.

I want to share a story about being grateful that many of you have probably heard, but it’s good for me to be reminded of it often. It is from Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place. I haven’t read it yet, but have heard parts of it which have made a big impact on me.

Corrie and her sister Betsie were Christians in Holland who became prisoners in a concentration camp. Can you imagine what that would be like? As much as I try, I know that I cannot. Somehow when they were first put in the camp, they were able to smuggle a Bible in with them. Here is a small part of what Corrie remembers from her time in the camp.

Betsie said, “We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about his new barracks"
I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul aired room. "Such as?" I said.
"Such as being assigned here together."
I bit my lip, "Oh, yes, Lord Jesus!"
"Such as what you're holding in your hands."
I looked down at the Bible. "Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all the women here in this room who will meet You in these pages."
"Yes," said Betsie. "Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear. She looked at me expectantly, "Corrie!" she prodded.
"Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds."
"Thank you," Betsie went on serenely, "for the fleas and for--"
The FLEAS!! This was too much. “Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea."
"'Give thanks in all circumstances,'" she quoted. "It doesn't say in pleasant circumstances. Fleas are part of this place where God has put us."
And so we stood between piers to bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

The women in Corrie’s dormitory room were able to have a bit of freedom while in the room since no guards would ever come into the room. They were able to read from the Bible and even have discussions with others and teach many. They didn’t understand why the strict guards never came into the room for surprise inspections like they did in other rooms. Then one day they found out that they didn’t come in because of the fleas and as Corrie writes, "My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie's bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for."

We never know what use our trials serve us. Only Heavenly Father knows and we just need to trust him and be grateful. What a wonderful example for us!

Along with this, let me leave Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s last lines in his final general conference address in October 2008, that I’m sure many people have reviewed since hearing of his passing. I will miss his wise, loving words.


“Although my mother has long since passed to her eternal reward, her words are always with me. I still remember her advice to me given on that day long ago when my team lost a football game: ‘Come what may, and love it.’I know why there must be opposition in all things. Adversity, if handled correctly, can be a blessing in our lives. We can learn to love it.

"As we look for humor, seek for the eternal perspective, understand the principle of compensation, and draw near to our Heavenly Father, we can endure hardship and trial. We can say, as did my mother, ‘Come what may, and love it’.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Boy and the Pig in Mud

Sabrina made a book for her kindergarten teacher and wanted to share it with all of you here. I didn't take photos of every page, but here is her story.
The boy met the pig. The pig met the boy. They became friends. They played a lot. They had fun together.

They played at the park with each other. They had fun together.

Next, they went to the pool. Some people were already there. They did not swim. They were sad.
Upstairs, there was a jacuzzi with bubbles. The pig and the boy had fun together. No one was there. Then they swimmed together.

They went home. They said goodbye to each other. "Goodbye," they said.

This was the pig's home. This was the boy's home.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Finding a Safe Harbor


"Many today feel troubled and distressed; many feel that, at any moment, the ships of their lives could capsize or sink. It is to you who are looking for a safe harbor that I wish to speak today, you whose hearts are breaking, you who are worried or afraid, you who bear grief or the burdens of sin, you who feel no one is listening to your cries, you whose hearts are pleading, 'Master, carest thou not that I perish?' To you I offer a few words of comfort and of counsel.

"Be assured that there is a safe harbor. You can find peace amidst the storms that threaten you. Your Heavenly Father--who knows when even a sparrow falls--knows of your heartache and suffering. He loves you and wants the best for you. Never doubt this. While He allows all of us to make choices that may not always be for our own or even others' well-being, and while He does not always intervene in the course of events, He has promised the faithful peace even in their trials and tribulations." Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Finding a Safe Harbor," Ensign, May 2000, 59

Yes, I'm posting about peace again. It just seems to be what I keep finding and what is needed right now in these uncertain economic times---a certain truth. If you've read my blog before, you know I'll tell you that you should read this talk so here is the link.

http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-4-23,00.html

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mix it Up! II

Rocky Road Bars
I didn't get to add the nuts because of kids' allergies so they weren't rocky, but they were still really good...lots better than I was expecting when Elisa begged me to make them with her.

1 2/3 c. flour
1/3 c. Dutch processed cocoa
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
3 c. semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 c. walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 - 2 c. miniature marshmallows (to taste)
Optional drizzle: 1-2 ounces chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan.
Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, cream butter and sugars until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, 2 cups chocolate chips and walnuts.
Pat the dough into your prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes until the edges are set but still soft in the center. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chocolate chips and then marshmallows. Bake about 3-5 minutes more. Drizzle with melted chocolate if desired. Allow bars to cool completely before cutting.




Lentil Tacos
This is my favorite new recipe! We use corn tortillas, warmed in a skillet with just a little oil instead of taco shells. These are so good that I crave them. I eat them with just lettuce and tomato, but included the recipe as I found it.


1 c. finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 t. canola oil
1 c. dried lentils, rinsed
1 T. chili powder
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried oregano
2 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1 c. salsa
12 taco shells
1 1/2 c. shredded lettuce
1 c. chopped fresh tomato
1 1/2 c. Cheddar cheese
6 T. sour cream

In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the lentils, chili powder, cumin and oregano; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Uncover; cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Mash lentils slightly. Stir in salsa. Spoon about 1/4 cup lentil mixture into each taco shell. Top with lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Where can I turn for Peace?

The more I learn and the closer I come to my Heavenly Father, the more clearly I can see how short-sighted and selfish my fear and lack of faith is. I don’t ever doubt that Heavenly Father is there or that Jesus really did live and die for me and for each of us. Sometimes, though, I seem to be afraid to pass through hard times or see my family suffer. I wonder if a wrong decision has lead to difficulties instead of trusting that Heavenly Father is letting me learn and progress. I still find it hard to be calm and know that eternally everything will be during occasional trials. Am I the only one? Right now I am feeling peaceful and hopeful even with the economic problems that are affecting the world, my friends and my family. But how long will I remain optimistic if things get worse? What can I do to continue to feel Heavenly Father’s peace?

I just read the BEST talk. You have got to read it. I included the link at the end of my post. There is no way for me to include all the good parts here without just copying and pasting the whole thing. I will talk about a few parts, but read it! It is from a CES fireside from Elder Holland, but adapted for the Ensign. After reading this, I am anxious to read two of his books that I’ve seen—Broken Things to Mend and Trusting Jesus.

The very first sentence in the article says so much and is just a classic to me. “The soul that comes unto Christ dwells within a personal fortress, a veritable palace of perfect peace.” If we want that peace, we need to know Christ and make Him a part of our life. We need to follow Him and do as He did.

“The Lord has probably spoken enough such comforting words to supply the whole universe, it would seem, and yet we see all around us unhappy Latter-day Saints, worried Latter-day Saints, and gloomy Latter-day Saints into whose troubled hearts not one of these innumerable consoling words seems to be allowed to enter.”

How much we have to learn! We have the fullness of the gospel, but we don’t all always seem to let that fullness seep into our souls completely. We believe parts of it, but misunderstand or only have partial faith in other important aspects. Otherwise, why would there be so many of us that are unhappy and discouraged? Trials are part of this life and we all have them, but Heavenly Father never leaves us alone in those trials. It is up to us if we are to come unto Christ and allow his love and peace to fill us even in difficult times.

“Consider, for example, the Savior's benediction upon his disciples even as he moved toward the pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary. On that very night, the night of the greatest suffering the world has ever known or ever will know, he said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).

“I submit to you that may be one of the Savior's commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord's merciful heart. I can tell you this as a parent: As concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help, or should feel his or her interest were unimportant to me or unsafe in my care. In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands or trust in his commandments.”

This thought made me so sad. When I am troubled by my trials or fear the unknown future, I am actually saying to my loving Heavenly Father, “I don’t trust You. I don’t believe that You are taking care of me. I don’t believe that this will be for my benefit and that You would rescue me from this if it wouldn’t help me eternally.” Just as Elder Holland mentions his feelings of being a parent and wanting his children to trust him, I know that I would feel hurt if one of my children didn’t trust me enough to know that everything I do for them is because I think it is for their good. Of course, I am not perfect and too often make mistakes as a mother, but our Heavenly Father does not make mistakes. He loves us and Elder Holland speaks of that perfect love.

Elder Holland also speaks of Jesus healing so many people during His ministry as the scriptures give testimony to.

“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:36–38).

I don’t think I have ever paid attention to this phrase. Jesus knows of our sickness, our pain, our emotional sufferings. He wants to help us feel better, but instead of doing it alone, He wishes for more people to help Him heal, teach and succor His people, not because He can’t do it alone, but because of how we progress when we serve others. Are we being His labourers in the harvest? It takes time and energy, but how can we become more like Him if we do not act more like Him and do what He did?

Elder Holland’s talk is wonderful for anyone in any situation. I hope you will take the time to read it and leave your comments here. There are so many powerful quotes!

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘Come unto Me’,” Ensign, Apr 1998, 16

http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=c468605ff590c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Smart & Cute!




Halloween is over and the kids have tons of candy. They never eat it all. They found some candy in their bags from last year. Sad! The girls had a parade at school so I went and saw them there. Alexander can't wear a costume to school in junior high and they didn't have parties. He said the teachers weren't even allowed to give them candy. The pains of growing up!
In the evening, we went trick-or-treating and then to a party at the church.
Ninja Alex's friend (the BYU fan) came trick-or-treating with us and Elisa left to go with her friends. Then we met up at the church. Sabrina changed into an old costume after school. Can you tell she put on her own lipstick???
My 3 cuties all got their report cards and they all got a 4.0! Well, they don't really call it that in elementary, but they all got the best grades they could in their classes. Elementary doesn't use A's so I can't say straight A's either. I guess they deserve a reward of some kind. I better think of something.
Since I'm their mommy (Sabrina still calls me mommy at least, instead of mom), I think they are so smart and talented that they could do anything they wanted to. Unfortunately, Alexander went from wanting to be an engineer at Boeing to wanting to be a video game tester. Hopefully he has a few years to outgrow that one!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mix it Up!

I decided not to call my posts that have recipes "New Recipes" anymore because I want to be able to share my favorites that aren't new to me also. I know that my family and only a few friends read this blog and I've probably sent you all or most of these, but it's fun for me to post. Maybe you'll find one I didn't fill up your inbox with.

Caramel Tarts *****
I love these! As you can se by the photo, I didn't make the frosting. It was just faster to drizzle it with chocolate, but I will make them with the frosting soon. I really like little bite-size desserts.

Tart Shells:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut cream cheese and butter into flour, as for pie crust. Pinch off 48 equal pieces of dough. Press into ungreased mini tart pans, pressing dough up to rim to form a shell. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until slightly brown. Carefully remove shells to wire rack to cool.

Filling:
14-16 oz. bag of light caramels
1/2 c. evaporated milk

Melt together in double boiler, stirring occasionally. Fill shells while mixture is still warm. Let cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 lb. powdered sugar (approx. 2 1/4 c.)
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat cream cheese and butter. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add vanilla. Beat well. Spread on top of tarts after filling has cooled (or use a pastry bag).


UTAH OPERA CAKE
I found this recipe in a cookbook some years ago and it has become my favorite chocolate cake. It looks like just another chocolate cake, but it’s so good. It’s almost like brownies. My whole family started using it as the traditional birthday cake since we all love it so much. I usually make it in a 9x13-inch pan as it states in the recipe, but for a special touch, I divide the batter into two round cake pans and put the cream (recipe below) with or without the toffee between the two and just frost with the same frosting. I usually leave the nuts out because of my children's allergies.

Cake:
1 c. margarine
2 c. sugar
4 T. cocoa
2 eggs
1 c. water
½ c. milk
2 c. flour
1 t. vanilla
½ t. salt
½ t. baking soda

Frosting:
½ c. margarine
Dash salt
4 T. cocoa
4 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped nuts
½ c. milk

Preheat oven to 375º. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch pan.
In a saucepan, bring to a boil the margarine, cocoa, and water. Stir constantly until margarine is melted and the cocoa mixed in. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt and sugar. Pour the hot margarine mixture into the flour mixture with the beaters going. Add the eggs, milk, soda, and vanilla extract and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool at least 5 minutes.
In a saucepan, melt the margarine, and add the cocoa, vanilla, milk and a dash of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Place the powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Pour in the hot cocoa mixture with the beaters going and blend well. Gently fold in the chopped nuts. Spread the frosting over the cake.


TOFFEE CREAM FILLING
1 c. heavy cream, chilled
2 1/2 T. sifted powdered sugar
1/2 t. almond extract
1/2 t. vanilla extract
3 crushed Skor or Heath Bars


Using a chilled bowl and beaters, whip the cream for a few seconds, then sprinkle on the sugar while continuing to whip until cream forms soft peaks. Add extracts and whip until almost stiff. Don't overbeat. Fold in candy bar pieces. Refrigerate until using. Use as filling between cake layers or as icing.








Strawberry Cake ***1/2

I just made this last night for the first time. The girls and I made it while the guys were out. The only thing we changed was to add almond extract. I had just a tiny taste of the batter after pouring it into the pans and it tasted so good. Elisa had a taste and actually ran out of the room with the bowl. She said it was really good too. So we were expecting something wonderful to come of the oven. I tried not to add too much crushed strawberries to the glaze, but it looks like I may have. Instead of being a glaze, it was almost juice. Elisa and I tried a piece not long after we glazed it. (Sabrina stuck with fresh strawberries.) We both thought the cake was too dry. The guys came home a little later and had some. They both really like it. So I gave it another try today, thinking maybe it gets better overnight. The glaze soaked through and it did make it better. It still isn't exactly what I was hoping for though.

2 1/4 c. sifted cake flour
1/4 t. salt
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. fresh crushed strawberries, unsweetened

Strawberry Glaze:
1/2 - 3/4 c. crushed strawberries
1 c. powdered sugar
2 T. butter, melted
1/2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 2 8-inch round cake pans.
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat for 3 minutes. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, alternating with strawberries. Beat for two minutes. Pour batter into pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn out onto wire cooling racks to cool.
While cooling, make Strawberry Glaze by mixing all glaze ingredients together, using only as much strawberry as needed to make thin mixture. When cake is cool, top with Strawberry Glaze.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feel like playing a game?

I found a nice site while looking around on the internet with Alex. It is called LDS Youth Site (not an official church website), but it's not just for Youth. It has good information for adults too. There are two games on there. One is a scripture mastery game and one is the Articles of Faith game. You can choose either to do a fill-in-the blank type question or a "chase" type question where it gives you the whole Article of Faith or scripture and you choose which scripture it is. I think it is great for kids and youth, but I have been playing it myself. I wish I still remembered all those scripture mastery scriptures the way I used to. I have made it a goal to re-learn the ones I've forgotten. I plan on doing scripture chases with Alex and Elisa since competition always helps push me.