Thursday, September 23, 2010

Around My Neck

I got the funniest compliment yesterday. (No. Not from a guy. Sigh!) But I’ll tell you the compliment later.
Can you see what I’m wearing around my neck?
Yeah, a necklace, but not just any necklace. This one is really special because of what’s in it. Wanna closer look?

That tiny snotty-looking blob (that you can hardly see) floating in the liquid is MY DNA. This was our “experiment” yesterday in biotech class. It was nice to have a simple project instead of the usual lab experiments I do in my labs. We used cells from the inside of our cheeks and followed an easy protocol adding a few solutions, heated it and VOILA. There’s my blob.

To get back to the compliment…I noticed that my DNA wasn’t looking like everyone else’s around me. Theirs were a condensed blog and mine had strings hanging down, looking kinda like a jellyfish. I showed it to the professor to see if I did something wrong. She started saying how cool is was and that mine was the coolest DNA she’d ever seen. (Pretty funny compliment, huh? I’ll take any I can get though!) So of course everyone gathered around and wanted to see it. I’m sure they weren’t impressed. Hehe Sorry no picture. I didn’t take my camera to class. The professor thinks it was because I poured in the alcohol so slowly. The protocol said slowly. Guess I just took longer doing it than others. Then I swirled mine around the end of a pipette and sucked some of it out for this necklace. Now it’s more of a very little blob.

I showed it to my kids and they didn’t think it was that exciting. I guess it’s just me and my fellow science geeks in class that think it’s cool. The girl sitting next to me even said, “This is the funnest thing I’ve done since high school.” (That had to be like a year ago for her!) Cracked me UP!

If you really want one, you can buy a kit and do it at home. You can even have a DNA party with this kit for 32 people for about $46. (It uses Gatorade and we used a different solution, but the reviews all say it works well.) Even elementary-aged kids can do it!

Since this is a short post and just in case there is one other science geek reading this who might appreciate these...

 You send in a cheek swab sample and they run it through a gel electrophoresis (which I have done with my DNA, but didn't get to keep a copy of it) and they print it small or as a large Giclee fine art piece. I love these!!! I am such a nerd!
Then some more jewelry.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Delicious Greek Orzo

When I spotted this recipe at Taste Buds , I knew I wanted to make it. I remembered that I made a delicious orzo salad before, but didn't realize how similar it was. They did have distinct flavors even though many of the ingredients are the same and I like them both. I would have loved to have kalamata olives in it, but they're a bit of a splurge right now since I'm the only one here who likes them. I'm about to eat some of the leftovers for lunch today.
Delicious Greek Orzo
1 c. uncooked orzo
1/2 c. diced cucumber, seeds removed
1/3 c. diced red onion
1/3 c. fresh minced parsley
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 c. diced tomato (optional)
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped, pitted Kalamata (or black) olives

Cook orzo according to package. Drain. Combine orzo, cucumber and onion in a large bowl; toss well. In a separate bowl combine parsley, lemon juice, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir well with a whisk until incorporated. Pour over orzo and add remaining ingredients. Toss gently to coat. Serve with grilled pita bread brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with a little kosher salt and warmed through on grill.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flavor Memory

Wow! This brought back a memory.
The kids and I are enjoying root beer floats and rocky road bars while we watch Race to Witch Mountain on DVD. (We haven't watched it before.) I suddenly remembered to back when I was in 4th grade or so. Our nice home teacher brought his VCR to our house and we had root beer floats and watched one of the Superman movies. I thought the VCR was the coolest invention ever and didn't ever think I'd ever actually own one. : ) Okay, I'm going back to the movie now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Make It To the Top

As part of my Be Postive goal this year, I am going to post quotes that I find so I can come back and read them when I'm feeling down.
"Obstacles are challenges for winners and excuses for losers."
Gentlehands by M.E. Kerr

I haven't read the book. I just saw the quote and started thinking about it. We all know people who use their circumstances (sometimes completely beyond our control) as an excuse to be miserable or to be unable to rise above it. I don't want to be like that. It usually isn't easy to climb up and over the obstacle or it wouldn't be called an obstacle, but it is possible, and can make you a stronger person for the effort.

"Stop pretending you're a book and change your ending."

I guess my mind kinda made this one up. The show Numb3rs was on and one of the characters, Colby, said to David, "Stop pretending you don't give a crap and change the ending." Since I wasn't paying attention, I heard the last part and filled in the beginning myself. (But I found the actual quote online.) I gotta say I like this saying! You ever read a book that was so good until the ending? And when you read it again you wish the ending would have changed, but of course it didn't? Well, we have the chance to do that. There are always things we can control and choices we can make, despite the uncontrollable. Like the song from Carol Lynn Pearson's My Turn on Earth (which I grew up listening to on a record) says, "I'm the one who writes my own story. I decide the person I'll be."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Brownies

Oh, boy. I keep having these days of super-high happiness followed by a crash and burn day where I'm very down. That was yesterday. So I decided that I needed to take a break from studying and do two things that make me happy--bake and eat chocolate.

I decided to try a new recipe for even more fun and I chose this one from Brown Eyed Baker. You might remember that this blog is where I found the Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake recipe. I was good and only had a sliver, but Alex and Elisa had one of these large pieces and gobbled them up. They are even yummier than I expected--fudgy chocolate with the sweet cream cheese layer and bits of cookie! The recipe is now on our "repeat list" and we might mix it up by throwing in chopped up candy or other cookies sometimes. Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Brownies

For the brownies:
½ c. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
½ c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa
¼ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
For the cheesecake swirl:8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 c. sugar
6 Oreo cookies, chopped

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

Stir together the cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar with a spoon until smooth and well blended. Gently stir in in the chopped Oreo cookies. Using a spoon, spoon the cream cheese/Oreo mixture in nine evenly-spaced dollops on top of the brownie batter. Using a dull knife or icing spatula, gently swirl the cream cheese mixture with the brownie batter--not too much.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan and the batter in the center of the pan feels just set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I Am Determined

Just like I knew it would be, stake conference was so uplifting and full of the Spirit. I can actually say that I came away from it changed. I was able to go to the stake temple session, the Saturday night adult session, the youth morningside along with my two oldest children, and the general session which was a regional conference by satellite. They were all great. Since my children are at their father’s this weekend, except for the two sessions today that Alex and Elisa attended with me, I have been able to ponder and be still. There are many things I would love to share, but today I will concentrate on one.

I was so glad to have the excuse of my children to get to attend the morningside and hear the speakers. The first speaker was Stephanie from our ward. She did a great job with the topic that all 3 speakers had—How to make this the best year of your life by using President Hinckley’s 9 Bs. (Originally, there were 6 from his talk , but in his book Way to Be!, Pres. Hinckley added 3 more.) As Stephanie spoke about what she will do this year at school in her teenage life, I was thinking of things I could talk to my children about for their school year. Then as the second youth speaker addressed the same topic, I still was thinking the same thing. Then President Hiskey, a very new counselor in the stake presidency, spoke. Of course, he directed his remarks to the youth, but suddenly I felt that this message was also for me. I can make this year the best year of my life.

Okay, you may be thinking I’m going a bit crazy now to choose the year I get a divorce to be the best year of my life. I can tell you that so far, it has been the worst without a doubt and I have just been hoping to get through it. I have felt out of control over many of the things that have been happening to me. I have seen my eternal hopes and dreams crumble. But even through this, I know that “the atonement makes all things that are wrong, right” (quote from Pres. Wright, first counselor in our stake) if we use the atonement. While I can’t take away agency from others, I can choose how I will act and think. I can find a way to be happy in my circumstances. How? As the talks said, we can use the 9 Bs. It’s not just a trite collection of Bs, but a way to become closer to our Father in Heaven and be more like our Savior. I have a long way to go, but I want to be going in the right direction.

1. Be grateful. I really do have so much to be grateful for. Even through this trial, I have seen miracles and blessings which have left me again in awe at the love and mercy of my Father. I have been even more grateful for my children and my bond with them, as well as my other family members. I am so grateful for my wonderful friends who have also helped me. I am grateful to be able to go to school and study something I enjoy to someday be able to get a job that pays well enough to support my children. Of course, I am more grateful than at any other time in my life for Jesus Christ, for his willingness to suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane that he can succor me, sustain me, lift me and each of us, and for his sacrifice and atonement that we can repent and change. As one of my recent posts mentioned, I can even be grateful for the adversity I have and for how I can progress because of it if I chose to walk in the light during the trials. 2. Be smart. I have a lot of ways to work on this one. I get to be smart with my budget and with my time. I need to learn as much as possible at school, not only to get through a class, but to help me in my profession for the rest of my life. I need to be smart with how I teach my children about the gospel and life.

3. Be clean. This is not a B that is solely for the youth. Unfortunately, there are many adults that are not clean with what they watch or listen to, how they dress, what they think or their actions. I have heard several single people recently say that they didn’t stay clean because they finally had someone meeting their need to be loved and appreciated who didn’t have it as a priority to be clean. So how do you stay clean? We’ve learned it from a young age, decide now what you will do. Don’t wait until that time comes.
4. Be true. “Be true to your own convictions. You know what is right, and you know what is wrong. You know when you are doing the proper thing. You know when you are giving strength to the right cause. Be loyal. Be faithful. Be true, my beloved associates in this great kingdom.”
I need to be a disciple of Christ in everything I do. I do not have to lower my standards in order to make friends or (someday) get a date. But also, I need to be true to my personality. I can reach outside of my comfort zone and try new things, but I don’t have to try to be someone I am not. I found a connection with Sis. Patricia Holland in a quote I read from her before:

“Our Father in Heaven needs us as we are, as we are growing to become. He has intentionally made us different from one another so that even with our imperfections we can fulfill his purposes. My greatest misery comes when I feel I have to fit what others are doing, or what I think others expect of me. I am most happy when I am comfortable being me and trying to do what my Father in Heaven and I expect me to be.

For many years I tried to measure the oft times quiet, reflective, thoughtful Pat Holland against the robust, bubbly, talkative, and energetic Jeff Holland and others with like qualities. I have learned through several fatiguing failures that you can’t have joy in being bubbly if you are not a bubbly person. It is a contradiction in terms. I have given up seeing myself as a flawed person because my energy level is lower than Jeff’s, and I don’t talk as much as he does, nor as fast. Giving this up has freed me to embrace and rejoice in my own manner and personality in the measure of my creation. Ironically, that has allowed me to admire and enjoy Jeff’s ebullience even more.

Somewhere, somehow the Lord 'blipped the message onto my screen' that my personality was created to fit precisely the mission and talents he gave me. For example, the quieter, calmer talent of playing the piano reveals much about the real Pat Holland. I would never have learned to play the piano if I hadn’t enjoyed the long hours of solitude required for its development. This same principle applies to my love of writing, reading, meditation, and especially teaching and talking with my children. Miraculously, I have found that I have untold abundant sources of energy to be myself. But the moment I indulge in imitation of my neighbor, I feel fractured and fatigued and find myself forever swimming upstream. When we frustrate God’s plan for us, we deprive this world and God’s kingdom of our unique contributions and a serious schism settles in our soul. God never gave us any task beyond our ability to accomplish it. We just have to be willing to do it our own way. We will always have enough resources for being who we are and what we can become.”
(Portraits of Eve: God’s Promises of Personal Identity, Patricia T. Holland, LDS Women’s Treasury: Insights and Inspiration for Today’s Woman {Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997}, 97-98.)

I often wish to be bubbly and outgoing like many other people. I can work to improve myself and be my best self, but I don’t have to feel bad that I am not like others.

5. Be humble. In order to learn what Heavenly Father wants me to learn from my afflictions and my blessings, I must be humble and admit that I have so much to learn and so far to go. I think that part of being humble is something I’ve been working on and still need to work on probably the rest of my life—being patient . We must trust the Lord and his timing. He knows everything and we know so very little. If we don’t get what we ask for and think would be good for us, there might be a very good reason.

6. Be prayerful. I am grateful to my parents for teaching me to pray at a young age. Prayer has always been a part of my life, with big decisions, problems, gratitude and even seemingly small things. But even with so many years of practice, I am still learning about how to use prayer better in my life. I will continue pouring my heart out to my Heavenly Father with my pleadings and my gratitude. I will linger longer after the prayer to listen and wait and listen and learn.

7. Be positive. This is not one that has been easy for me the last few months. “I’m never going to be able to trust someone else.” “There is no way I can get through this major because it’s too hard for me.” “I know I won’t be able to find a companion to love me.” “How am I going to be a good mom when I have to spend so much time and energy outside the home?” Just changing the way that I think has helped me to feel more peace and to be happier. Saying that I will find a way to be a good mom has helped me to feel like a better mom. Knowing with all my heart that with God all things are possible has given me strength I don’t have on my own. I have so many quotes that have helped me with this recently, but I’ll just share this one that I repeat to myself when I feel down.

"Every reversal can be turned to our benefit and blessing and can make us stronger, more corageous, more Godlike."
President Ezra Taft Benson

The way that we see things really can change how they turn out. We are never alone so there is no reason to feel negative about anything in our lives.

8. Be still. This is something I’ve been working on for a couple of years now. See? I’m not a fast learner! I do take time occasionally to sit in quiet and listen, to be still and enjoy nature, to try to be open to any promptings or messages. It will be a bigger challenge for me now that I am studying and want to spend all the time I don’t study with my children so they don’t feel neglected, but it’s better for all of us if I spend time being still. And how can I teach them to do it if I don’t? Peace always comes to me when I am still---at home, at the temple, sitting in the car looking at a beautiful view, sitting on a bench in a quiet park. There are some things that we will not be taught if we do not take the time to be still and unplug from the world.9. Be involved. Of course, this means different things to us in different times of our lives. It always means be involved in service and caring and be involved in your calling at church. I joined a club at school (even though I’ll be the mom of the group) and hope to learn and have fun with that. I have from time to time invited groups of women to my house for lunch or to teach each other how to cook something. I have started getting together with other single sisters for ladies’ nights out. I can have fun and still be a good student and do my most important work, be a good mother.

Although President Hinckley was talking to the youth during the talk, I hope that his prayer at the end is even for me since I need all of the same things:

“Please smile with favor upon them. Please listen to them as they lift their voices in prayer unto Thee. Please lead them gently by the hand in the direction they should follow.

“Please help them to walk in paths of truth and righteousness and keep them from the evils of the world. Bless them that they shall be happy at times and serious at times, that they may enjoy life and drink of its fulness. Bless them that they may walk acceptably before Thee as Thy cherished sons and daughters. Each is Thy child with capacity to do great and noble things. Keep them on the high road that leads to achievement. Save them from the mistakes that could destroy them. If they have erred, forgive their trespasses and lead them back to ways of peace and progress. For these blessings I humbly pray with gratitude for them and invoke Thy blessings upon them with love and affection, in the name of Him who carries the burdens of our sins, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.”

I am grateful for the talks this morning which helped me to see that I can make this an amazing year. I want to “enjoy life and drink of its fulness”. I want to be happy and grow and learn and progress and serve. I’m glad to have this list of 9 things that I can use to keep me pointed in the right direction and use as a guide to see how I’m doing. I’m starting today. This will be (at least in ways that are under my control) the best year of my life!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Keeping Busy!

Since school has started, the kids and I have been busy, busy, busy with homework, but we try to have some fun too when we can.

My brother-in-law Adam was in Utah for a family reunion (that sounded fun) and dropped by my parents' house so we could all get together for a few hours. (Sorry we didn't get to visit longer, Adam.) His wife, my sister Tiffany, was still in Georgia holding down the fort. They have four dogs who need to be taken care of.
Sabrina asked if she could make the salad for dinner one night, but wouldn't let me see it until she was done. She cut all these vegetables by herself and carefully placed them where she wanted them in the bowl. Then she proudly unveiled her creation. After I told her how beautiful it was and what a good job she had done, she wanted to take a picture, just like her mom always does to her food. It won't be long now before she has her own cooking blog.
Elisa had to plan a family activity for a class assignment so she planned a picnic. She made the menu and then made sandwiches and got all of the food together in a basket. We went to the park to eat and play frisbee. It was very fun and nice not to be the one to plan everything.

Then after the picnic, we went home and made treats and took some to my brother Jared at the hospital where he works as an EKG technician. Sabrina had fun in the wheelchair.
Another day, Sabrina had her big butterfly release. She had seen a commercial on TV to buy a kit to raise caterpillars which would turn into butterflies. She was so motivated to buy it that she worked until she had enough money. She would watch those little caterpillars move, and every day getting bigger. Then after they turned into butterflies, she didn't want to let them go, but I convinced her after more than a week that they needed to fly free. The release was a bit anti-climatic for her.
She opened the habitat and expected them to fly out, but she had to actually take each one out and still they didn't fly away.
Then they didn't fly far. I think Sabrina was jealous that one of the butterflies landed on Elisa even though they were her butterflies.
But then she got to hold one too.
The cousins were there for the "excitement" too.
A short while after Adam got back to Georgia, Tiffany (AKA Aunt T) came out for a visit.
We got to spend more time with her than we did with Adam. The kids and I went bowling with her.
Sabrina was afraid of the noise the ball made when she threw it and it thumped on the floor. Then we went to the park for a little while. We were watching these pretty blue birds.

We had fun with Aunt T and look forward to seeing her again when she gets back from her bike tour in Southern Utah.
Then I took the kids to The Moving Wall, a half-sized replica of the Vietnam War Memorial. I have never been to the one in Washington, D.C. The number of names on the wall is unbelievable and sad. I am very grateful for those people who serve our country!

This weekend I'll be doing lots of studying while the kids are with their dad and it's stake conference weekend so I'll get a giant dose of the Spirit. I am looking forward to that, like I always am when it comes time again.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Meet Tribulations with Thanksgiving

I'm afraid that with my busy school schedule, I won't be able to post very often if I only post the kinds of posts that I used to. So I will try to post at least a quote occasionally to let you know something that is on my mind, even if I don't get to elaborate with my thoughts. And I'll throw in a random photo from my files (like this one I took in Oregon) just so it's a little prettier.
“The kind of gratitude that receives even tribulations with thanksgiving requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit, humility to accept that which we cannot change, willingness to turn everything over to the Lord—even when we do not understand, thankfulness for hidden opportunities yet to be revealed. Then comes a sense of peace.

"When was the last time you thanked the Lord for a trial or tribulation? Adversity compels us to go to our knees; does gratitude for adversity do that as well?"
Bonnie D. Parkin, "Gratitude: A Path to Happiness", General Conference, April 2007

Utah Local: Rico Cocina y Tequila Bar

I wanted to find somewhere different to have dinner with my children, but it had to have food that all of them would eat. It's not easy ...