Friday, January 30, 2009

Joy and Fear

Sabrina was playing with Elisa’s fuzzy pillows this morning and having so much fun, but she was also afraid of them hitting her so she kept her eyes closed most of the time. I grabbed my camera and took photos, mostly blurry ones though. She kept telling me while I was taking photos that she wants it posted on the blog. So here she is…

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mix it Up! V

Orange Chicken
I found this recipe at Cheap Dinner Date . I know the sauce has a long list of ingredients, but it is very easy. The next time I make it, I will add a little less orange, as requested by my children. I think it's very flavorful.

2 lbs. of chicken, cut up
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 eggs beaten
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 T. orange juice
1/3 c. rice vinegar
2 1/2 T. soy sauce
1 T. finely grated orange peel
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. ginger root
1/2 t. garlic
2 T. finely chopped green onion
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
3 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. water

Combine the flour, salt and pepper. Dip the chicken in the eggs, then in the flour mixture and fry in oil until it's cooked through. In a saucepan, combine the 1 1/2 cups water, lemon juice, orange juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. Stir and cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, orange peel, ginger, garlic and onion. Bring to a boil. In a separate bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup water. Pour into sauce and stir until it thickens a little. Pour over the chicken.

Chicken Broccoli Penne Bake
Quick and easy! I didn't grill my chicken this time, but I have before and it makes it extra special.
8 oz. penne pasta, cooked
4 oz. alfredo sauce
3 oz. steamed broccoli
1 oz. diced tomato
2.5 oz grilled chicken breast
3 oz. mozzarella cheese
Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. Place cooked penne in individual oven baking dish with the penne pasta hot. Pour alfredo sauce evenly over the hot pasta. Place broccoli evenly on top of the alfredo sauce, followed by chicken, diced tomatoes and then mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle a pinch of shredded parmesan cheese over the entire entree. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is completely melted and light brown, about 20 minutes.

Italian-Sauced Pasta Cake
I first made this when I was a newlywed from a cookbook from my parents. Sabrina won't eat pasta except in this and she eats a lot of it. I don't go by these measurements since we have to multiply it for us. My family prefers me to make individual servings on their plate and microwave them separately. Whatever works for you. The photo is before I microwaved it. 1 (7-oz.) pkg. uncooked angel hair pasta
3 T. oil, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. parsley flakes
1 c. spaghetti sauce
1 oz. sliced fully cooked pepperoni
1 c. shredded mozzarella

Prepare pasta as directed on package. Rinse and drain. Place pasta in large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss to coat. Set aside. Heat remaining oil in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, parsley and pasta, pressing into an even layer. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Invert onto 12-inch round serving plate browned side-up. Spread sauce over top of pasta cake to within 1 inch of edge. Arrange pepperoni evenly over sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Microwave at 70% (MEDIUM-HIGH) for 6 to 8 minutes, or until pasta cake is hot and cheese is melted, rotating the plate twice. Serve in wedges.

Potato Spinach Soup
I didn’t make it with the cheese, but it was good without. I think it would be good with some mushrooms thrown in too. Or you could crumble a little bit of bacon on top. I mashed some of the potatoes with a potato masher.
1/4 c. butter
1 lg. onion
2 stalks celery, cut fine
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c. flour
3 c. chicken broth or water
2 c. potatoes, cubed
2 t. salt
1 c. spinach, chopped
1/2 c. cream
Swiss cheese or parmesan cheese, grated

Melt butter in a pan. Add onions and celery. Cover and cook until tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and stir. Blend in flour, and add potatoes, water and salt. Stir constantly until boiling. Simmer 30 minutes. Add spinach cook 2 minutes. Then add cream and mix well. Top with grated cheese.

Raspberry Almond Bars
These are rich.
½ c. butter
1 pkg. white chips, divided
2 eggs
½ c. sugar
1 c. flour
1 t. almond extract
½ c. seedless raspberry jam
¼ c. sliced or chopped toasted almonds

Preheat oven to 325º. Grease a 9-inch-square baking pan (or a 7 x 11-inch pan).Melt butter in medium, microwave-safe bowl for 1 minute; stir. Add 1 cup white morsels. Do not stir. Beat eggs in large mixer bowl until foamy. Add sugar, beat until light lemon colored, about 5 minutes. Stir in morsel-butter mixture. Add flour, salt and almond extract; mix at low speed until combined. Spread 2/3 of batter (about 1 cup) into prepared pan. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until light golden brown around edges. Remove from oven to wire rack. Heat jam in small, microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds, stir. Spread jam over warm crust. Stir remaining morsels into remaining batter. Drop spoonfuls of batter over jam. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until edges are browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Drop Brownies
These are super easy and fudgy. Just be careful not to overbake them. They don’t really look done at first, but they are. They often stick for me, so I use my silicone baking mat or I grease the cookie sheets very lightly even though the original recipe said to use ungreased cookie sheets.2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
½ c. butter
1 c. flour

Preheat oven to 350º. Combine first 3 ingredients in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes, stopping half-way through to stir. Then stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in flour.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2-inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake for 7 minutes. Cookies will be soft. Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I couldn’t find the extra serving size crust at the store so I made it with a regular one and had quite a bit of extra filling. I have since found the right crust so I’ll try it again the right way, but it was still very good and simple. I ran out of time to try it with the chocolate topping, but that can only make it better, right? I used fat-free cream cheese and no one seemed to notice or complain while they were inhaling their dessert. I found the recipe at Blogger Buffet , where it looks like you can contribute recipes if you’d like.
3 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. mini semisweet chips
1 extra serving size (9 oz.) graham cracker crust
2 T. whipping cream

Preheat oven to 450º. Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Stir in 1 2/3 c. chocolate chips; pour into crust. Bake 10 minutes. Without opening oven door, reduce temperature to 250; continue baking 30 minutes or just until set. Remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Place remaining 1/3 c. chocolate chips and whipping cream in small bowl. Microwave on high 20 to 30 seconds or just until melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Cool slightly and spread over top of cheesecake. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until topping is set.

Fudgy Raspberry Brownies
Wow!!!! These are so good I couldn’t stop eating them so I had to give the rest away quickly.
1 c. butter
4 (1-oz.) unsweetened chocolate squares or 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. seedless raspberry jam
1/4 c. heavy whipping cream
4 (1-oz.) semisweet chocolate baking squares

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 9x13-inch baking pan. Place butter and chocolate in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) for 1 minute; stir. Microwave 30 seconds; stir until smooth; set aside.

Combine sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, until well mixed. Add melted chocolate mixture; continue beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour and salt. Beat just until mixed. Spread batter into greased pan.

Stir jam until smooth. Drop tablespoonfuls of jam evenly over batter. Swirl jam through batter using knife. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until set and brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. (DO NOT OVERBAKE.) Cool completely.

Place whipping cream in 1-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat just until cream begins to boil (1 to 2 minutes). Add semisweet chocolate; remove from heat. Stir with wire whisk until smooth. Spread over brownies.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"The Holy Ghost Sanctifies and Refines our Souls as if by Fire"

Have you ever read something that made you do a double-take because it was something you had heard before, but never really noticed or understood? That happened to me this past week as I was studying for my Sunday school lesson. It isn’t that unusual for me to learn something new about the gospel, but this time it was something that seems so basic that I’m embarrassed to say that I never thought about it before or if I did, I don’t remember thinking about it. (Yet, here I am telling you all about it.)

This was the quote I read from an article by Elder Bednar:

The gate of baptism leads to the strait and narrow path and to the destination of putting off the natural man and becoming a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord (see Mosiah 3:19). The purpose of our mortal journey is not merely to see the sights on earth or to expend our allotment of time on self-centered pursuits; rather, we are to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), to become sanctified by yielding our hearts unto God (see Helaman 3:35), and to obtain “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

We are commanded and instructed to so live that our fallen nature is changed through the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. President Marion G. Romney taught that the baptism of fire by the Holy Ghost “converts [us] from carnality to spirituality. It cleanses, heals, and purifies the soul. … Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and water baptism are all preliminary and prerequisite to it, but [the baptism of fire] is the consummation. To receive [this baptism of fire] is to have one’s garments washed in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ” (Learning for the Eternities, comp. George J. Romney [1977], 133.

Hence, as we are born again and strive to always have His Spirit to be with us, the Holy Ghost sanctifies and refines our souls as if by fire (see
2 Nephi 31:13–14, 17). Ultimately, we are to stand spotless before God. David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Liahona, Nov 2007, 80–83

So you are wondering what new treasure I gleaned from that all seems straight-forward, right? I have been a member all my life and I knew that the Holy Ghost’s purpose was to teach us, testify, strengthen and guide us. When I thought of baptism of fire, I just thought it was another way to say that someone has received the Holy Ghost, but thought the Holy Ghost testified to us of Christ and helped us to know when Heavenly Father has forgiven us, thanks to the atonement of Christ. I never understood that an important purpose of the Holy Ghost is to SANCTIFY us. How have I missed that all these years??? You can all say a collective, “You didn’t know that?” now!

That made me curious to learn more so I spent a few hours looking online (Don’t you LOVE the internet?) at other scriptures and talks that talk about the Holy Ghost as a sanctifier. How important it is that we learn all we can about the Godhead. The most important thing I think I understand of it is that all three members of the Godhead are so inextricably linked to our individual conversion and repentance, when we are baptized and each time we participate in the Atonement by repenting and trying to be better. Of course, I did know that all three were involved and necessary (they are all three mentioned in the sacrament prayer and in the words used in the baptismal ordinance), but I was missing part of the picture. I still want to learn more, but will share a few other quotes that I found while reading.

More powerful than that which is available before baptism, it acts as a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin. Thus it is often spoken of as “fire” (Matt. 3: 11; 2 Ne. 31: 17; D&C 19: 31). Bible Dictionary: Holy Ghost

Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit by which he who is justified is enabled to keep the Commandments of God and grow in holiness (see Hel. 3:35). Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975, p. 104.

Sanctification comes from heaven and only comes as the Holy Ghost begins to work within a person. In some instances, people seem to grow into these blessings. Sometimes the glimmer of the Spirit is enough to lead people to baptism, but they can falter if they do not cultivate the gift and fire of the Spirit that has been bestowed upon them. Loren C. Dunn, “Fire and the Holy Ghost,” Ensign, Jun 1995, 22–26

The special office of the Holy Ghost is to enlighten and ennoble the mind, to purify and sanctify the soul, to incite to good works, and to reveal the things of God. James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith, p. 167

The Lord told Alma that those who are born of God are “changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, … and thus they become new creatures.” (Mosiah 27:25–26.) This mighty change involves a cleansing and purging, “as if with fire” (Hel. 5:45), of the evil desires of the heart. Thereafter, one so changed begins to walk, as Paul described it to the Romans, “in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4.) There is a burning desire within the soul to be “zealous for keeping the commandments of God” (Alma 21:23) and to serve the Lord with all your body, mind, and spirit.

If we are thus born of the Spirit, “we are made alive in Christ. … We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ.” (2 Ne. 25:25–26.) We are willing to obey God’s commandments “in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days.” (Mosiah 5:5.) In short, our conduct is characterized by obedience, service, and sacrifice. David W. Hellem, “Putting Off the Natural Man: How to Be ‘Spiritually Born of God’,” Ensign, Jun 1992, 10–13

As symbols for baptism, both water (used for washing) and fire (used in the smelting of metals, hence a "refiner's fire," Mal. 3:2-3) represent agents that cleanse and purify, the former externally, the latter internally, leading to sanctification (Alma 13:12; Moro. 6:4). In addition, fire suggests warmth and light, realized in tangible sensations such as a burning in the bosom and an awareness of enlightenment accompanying the reception of the divine spirit (D&C 9:8; 88:49). William S. Bradshaw, Encyclopedia of Mormonism , Vol. 1, Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost

May we who know the sacred Name
From every sin depart.
Then will the Spirit’s constant flame
Preserve us pure in heart.
“Sweet Is the Peace the Gospel Brings,” Hymns, 1985, no. 14

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What Amazing News!

When Robin and I were married, he was the only one in his family who was a member of the church. After being married for a couple of years, he and I went to Ecuador to visit his family. At that time they all lived there. (Now his sister Rocio, her new husband and two of her children moved to Spain. Two little ones were born there and aren’t so little anymore. We also have a nephew in New York who we still haven’t been able to visit since he moved to America.)

When we went to church in El Triunfo, the city where Robin is from, we attended the meetings on the third floor of a building that had a business on the bottom. There was one pair on elders (who acted as the branch president and a counselor, from what I remember) and a pair of sister missionaries and a small group of local members. The only ones singing the hymns who had ever heard them sung correctly were the missionaries and Robin and me. Not a note seemed on key, but it was beautiful to me because it was my first experience being in a setting like that, seeing a group of people doing what they felt guided to do by the Spirit even though everyone around them was against it. It was not and still is not easy to be a member, carry your scriptures to church, not drink, not look at pornography, and many other things that are not only acceptable, but actually considered normal to do and abnormal not to do.

Years later, the church had grown in the area, and they built a chapel in the city and it just happened to be a few blocks from my in-laws’ home. My sister-in-law Jaqueline and her family live in a different city in Ecuador. They were the first to be baptized. We were so happy for them. Then recently my brother-in-law Yito was baptized and just this month he got to baptize my mother-in-law! It is so exciting for us and it was a bit of a surprise when Robin found out on the phone that she was going to be baptized. For the month that my mother-in-law was visiting us here, the missionaries came and taught her many times. She was very polite to them, but when they left she said that there were things she didn't believe. I can't wait to hear her budding, but real, testimony.
I hope that there are strong members there who can befriend them and teach them little by little so that they learn to love the gospel as much as we do and to be close to our Heavenly Father. I just imagine someday being in a temple with them. That will be such a great day!

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Newest Obsession

I cook and/or bake nearly every single day so I don't know what took me so long to get bored of only one or two aprons. Obviously, this is not a need and I probably won't be buying them (or most of them) since I just got a new apron not long ago (remember that post?). Still, I keep finding more cute ones online. Here are a few of my favorites.

Yep, it's an apron.

I'm not sure what is up with these ladies who cook with almost nothing on but the aprons.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quick, pass me the chocolate!

Any other chocoholics out there? Sometimes I get in the mood for chocolate and I don’t want to wait long. I have found a few very quick and easy recipes in my search. If you’ve never baked a dessert in the microwave before, you might hesitate as I did, but these come out so great. The tops of them don’t look beautiful when they come out, but I almost always sprinkle with powdered sugar or put icing on top so it doesn’t matter.


My children love to make these because they don’t have to wait for long before they can eat. (Okay, me too!) It is very fudgy and a bit messy to get the individual pieces out, but it tastes so good that we don’t mind.

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa
½ c. chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, optional

Grease a glass pie plate; coat with sugar. Cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir flour and cocoa together, then add into egg mixture and mix well.
Pour brownie mixture into sugared pie pan. Microwave 4 ½ - 5 minutes. Do not overcook.


I found this recipe one day while my children were at school and decided to try it out with pecans since they don’t eat nuts and it seemed like it would make one small, individual portion because it’s baked in a mug. It actually makes a small cake that could be shared. I noticed
that the cake rose straight up like a tower out of the mug while baking, but it went back down when it was finished. Then when my children got home, we made another one together without pecans so they could see the rising cake too and have some of their own. It was a fun experiment, but I don’t know that we’ll be having it again. It is a bit dry for our taste, but if you haven’t made it, you should try it!

4 T. flour
4 T. sugar
2 T. baking cocoa
1 egg
3 T. milk
3 T. oil
Splash of vanilla
3 T. chocolate chips
Few walnuts or pecans

Add dry ingredients to a mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil; mix well. Add the vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts, if using, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes on high. Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

This was the first dessert I made in the microwave and I have made it many times when I find out I will have guests coming and I don’t have time for other desserts (when I have a ripe banana, which I often do). It is moist, tall and the icing is very chocolatey.

2 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/3 c. margarine
1 1/4 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 large ripe banana, mashed
¾ c. water
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
Icing (recipe follows)
Banana slices, optional

Microwave chocolate and margarine in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1 to 2 minutes or until margarine is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Beat in flour, sugar, banana, water, egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt until smooth. Pour into greased 8-inch square microwaveable dish. Microwave on HIGH 8 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, rotating dish ¼ turn every 2 minutes if it does not rotate. Cool in dish on counter top. Frost cake with glaze. Garnish with banana slices if desired.

3 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 c. powdered sugar
3 T. water
1/2 t. vanilla
1 T. margarine

Microwave chocolate, water and margarine in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 to 2 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring once. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar and vanilla until smooth. For thinner glaze, add ½ to 1 teaspoon additional water.

This isn’t really a recipe, just an idea, since I don’t have exact amounts. I melt a bag of chocolate chips or some chocolate candy melts and throw in some slightly crushed chow mein noodles and mix. Then drop on waxed paper in small mounds. You can throw anything into the bowl—nuts, raisins, craisins, mini marshmallows, coconut… You can also add butterscotch chips or peanut butter to the chocolate and melt before adding chow mein noodles.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

When Ye Are Swallowed Up in the Depths of the Sea

Since I taught the lesson on the brother of Jared a while ago in Sunday school, I have been thinking of one specific verse in that great record.

And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea? Ether 2:25

How many of us haven’t found ourselves “swallowed up in the depths” of sorrow, sickness, pain, or other circumstances at one time in our lives? Although we aren’t trying to cross the seas, we are trying to endure our trials faithfully and that isn’t always easy.

The brother of Jared went to Heavenly Father with three questions: How will we steer these boats? How will we breathe? How will we see in this darkness? Heavenly Father answered the first two himself, but asked the brother of Jared to come up with his own solution to the third. The first thing I understand from this scripture is that Heavenly Father expects us to think and ponder solutions to our problems then going to Him with the solutions, not just bring our problems to Him and drop them at His feet, thinking He will rescue us from the trials if we but ask. I know that He helps us even while we are using our own efforts to come up with a solution by enlightenment from the Spirit.

Here is part of an article from Robert D. Hales entitled “Channeling Your Creativity” in New Era, Feb 2004. (Read it all Here)

I’m sure there could have been other acceptable solutions to the same need for light. Once, at home evening, my son suggested that the brother of Jared should have had the Lord put his finger in a can of paint. Then the glowing paint could have been applied to the boat’s interior. But the brother of Jared decided to use rocks, and the Lord accepted his solution.

We are thinking, reasoning human beings. We have the ability to identify our needs, to plan, to set goals, and to solve our problems. The characteristics of a creative person can be used to develop solutions for seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We can use originality to overcome opposition. We can develop new ways to help others resolve difficult situations in their lives.

The creative approach is a disciplined approach to meet life’s needs. Creative thinking is not a substitute for education, integrity, or living the commandments. Nor is it a shortcut around the challenges of life. Creative thinking can become a process of inspiration that leads us to decisions.

Creative people must have a constant curiosity. They should be constantly observing and listening to new ideas. They should be willing to admit that someone else’s solution might be better. And they should learn the lessons provided by previous experience—both their own and others’.

May each of us use our creative reasoning to do all in our power to solve our problems and then look to the Lord for the reassuring, peaceful confirmation that we have made the right decision. Surely then our harvest will be plentiful.
(End of Elder Hale's aricle)

The second thing I learn from the scripture is that Heavenly Father never, ever leaves us alone in our trials. He won’t take away our trials, but He wants to provide a light for us--like the saying, “Sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes he calms the child.” Heavenly Father is there, waiting for us to come to Him with faith and with possible solutions. He says, “I will prepare you against the waves of the sea”, not that He will take away the waves. He knows that our trials really will help us to learn and grow and become more like Christ. He has the power to take away the waves, but leaves them because He loves us and wants the best for us, like a parent who allows a baby to fall when learning how to walk.

I’m so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who loves me enough to let me fall (over and over again)and who expects me to help myself as much as possible, without leaving me alone. I love the scriptures and all that we can learn from them. I know I’ll be learning from them for the rest of my life.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Elisa's Favorite Books...for this month

I thought it would be fun if I posted a few of my children's favorite books. They change pretty often so it will be fun to look back at this some time in the future and remember this. I'll just do Elisa's faves in this post.

She loves mystery and suspense books, just like me (even though I haven't read any for a while) and fantasy books. This Little Secrets series by Emily Blake has kept her interest and she has liked the first two and wants to read the others, like Book #4 that is pictured here. It all starts in Book 1: Playing with Fire with a twisted family with secrets (obviously) that we aren't going to give away.

Then The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn. It tells a story from the point of few of two different girls, one narrating the book and the other writing in her journal. It's a mystery, ghost story and a story about friendship.

Next is Breathe: A Ghost Story by Cliff McNish. You can read an excerpt Here . Elisa liked the "scary" chapter titles like "The Drop of Blood" and "The Death Room". It's about a boy who moves into an old farmhouse and finds out that he can communicate with ghosts, even ones who want to harm him. A few of Elisa's friends said it scared them, but Elisa didn't get scared, just absorbed into the story.

Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi is set in 1864 and is about Eulinda, a 13-year old slave in Kentucky. She is half-white, half-black and doesn't feel accepted in either world. Elisa learned a lot about US history and slavery while reading it and was drawn into the story.

Sharon Creech wrote Bloomability, another story about a 13-year old girl. Dinnie is taken from New Mexico to Switzerland and doesn't think she can adjust. Elisa's favorite part is when Dinnie's friends are caught in an avalanche and she tries to help rescue them.

12-year old Meggie finds out that her father has the power to make characters in books come to life in the real world in Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. I wouldn't have included that information, but the previews for the movie show it so it won't be a surprise for most people. Elisa doesn't want to see the movie made from the book that is coming out January 23rd because it doesn't look like how she imagined it when she read it and she thinks they probably took out some of the good parts.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes it feels like being a mother is the most unappreciated job there is and that my children don’t listen to anything I teach them (say please, keep your room clean, you know all the mom rants). I often wish I could go back in time to my childhood and see things with my new eyes. I know I would find reasons to thank my mother many times every day and, sadly, I don’t remember doing it much. But I do want to say it now…Thank you, Mom, for all you did and still do. I know that you sacrificed so much for us. You taught us and loved us. Thank you.

I had a few reasons to smile during the week. Alexander answered me a few times with “Yes, please”. Amazing how nice “please” sounds. He was so good at saying it when he was little, but it has slipped away for some reason, only to return occasionally. But this week he did really well without any nagging from me at all. I was making dinner one day and Elisa came up and said, “What can I help you with?” I’ve told the kids before that that one simple phrase makes me so happy, but she is the only one who has picked up on it and asked me on her own. She’ll help me with dinner or whatever I ask. How nice! I’ve tried telling Alex that he needs to practice now so that he can be in the habit of saying that and meaning it for when he has a girlfriend later (much later!). Maybe one day he’ll say it. The third smile came when Sabrina saw her pajamas were washed, dried and put on her bed. She came to me and said, “Thank you for washing my pajamas, Mommy”. One last reason to smile…it’s after noon today and there have been no fights at all on their day off of school.
(I like her snow-covered Christmas tree she made out of jelly ring candy.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Learning Not to Vacillate (Part 1)

Have you ever felt prompted by the Holy Ghost to do something and you were certain and grateful that our Heavenly Father communicated that with you, only to doubt your feelings later? There have been times that I have done that. I start to think that it was just my emotions or what I wanted and then I hesitate to act on the prompting. The times when I follow the Spirit’s proddings more consistently, I do seem to become more sensitive to the Spirit when another prompting comes and I feel closer to my Heavenly Father. So why do I ever hesitate or vacillate???

I read this wonderful talk by Elder Holland entitled Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence . It is an impressive title taken from Hebrews 10:35. I will post bits of it here (all of the following in this post is from his talk), but you should go and read the whole talk.

I wish to encourage every one of you today regarding opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelation and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose.

Every one of us runs the risk of fear. You do, and I do. Did you catch the line I tried to emphasize as I read the account from the Pearl of Great Price? For a moment in that confrontation, "Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell" (Moses 1:20). That's when you see it--when you are afraid.

That is exactly the problem that beset the children of Israel at the edge of the Red Sea. That is lesson number two. It has everything to do with holding fast to earlier illumination. The record says, "And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid."

Some, just like those Paul had described earlier, said, "Let's go back. This isn't worth it. We must have been wrong. That probably wasn't the right spirit telling us to leave Egypt." What they actually said to Moses was, "Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? . . . It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness" (Exodus 14:10–12).
How soon we forget. It would not have been better to stay and serve the Egyptians, and it is not better to remain outside the Church nor to reject a mission call nor to put off marriage and so on and so on forever. Of course our faith will be tested as we fight through these self-doubts and second thoughts. Some days we will be miraculously led out of Egypt--seemingly free, seemingly on our way--only to come to yet another confrontation, like all that water lying before us. At those times we must resist the temptation to panic and to give up. At those times fear will be the strongest of the adversary's weapons against us.

After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel his love and hear the word of the Lord, "go forward." Don't fear, don't vacillate, don't quibble, don't whine.

We may not see it as fully as Moses or Nephi or the brother of Jared did, but we see as much as we need to see in order to know the Lord's will for us and to know that he loves us beyond mortal comprehension. I also believe that the adversary and his pinched, calculating little minions try to oppose such experiences and then try to darken them after the fact.

If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don't give up when the pressure mounts. … Don't give in. Certainly don't give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. He wants everyone to be miserable like unto himself. Face your doubts. Master your fears. "Cast not away therefore your confidence." Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.

Japanese Cheesecake

My son Alex, who was in Japan for 2 years, has asked me a couple of times to make Japanese cheesecake. I've never had it before, so I di...