Saturday, January 30, 2010

Devils Food Cake!

Josi Kilpack's new book Devil's Food Cake has just hit the shelves. (You can read portions of it here, and purchase it here. )

I became aware of the series when my sis was asked to be part of her test kitchen. The books are fun, light-hearted mysteries and the "who-done-it" is enough of a twist to be a surprise. Sadie is an amateur sleuth, and fabulous cook who turns to cooking when faced with problems. I enjoy her tenacity and quirkiness.

The recipes are also well worth trying. The High Tea Lemon Cookies (from English Trifle ) are so moorish that it's downright dangerous to make them 'cause I'm gonna eat 'em all!

Yes, this post is a shameless attempt to win a copy of Devil's Food Cake, but since the book is worth reading, think of it as a great tip!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Worth it.

Pregnancy is on the brain. My sis delivered a beautiful baby girl on Monday and it seems that most of the blogs I follow are written by a gestating women. They write of growing larger (funny post!) and being anemic, exhausted, and overwhelmed (seriously, check out their blogs, you won't regret it); of dealing with pregnancy while doing the mom thing and all that it entails. Reading their well crafted pregnancy posts takes me back. It's been over six years since I experienced it, but I remember. I remember it all.

All women love to whine about their pregnancies share their pregnancy stories and I'm no different even though it's been awhile. So settle in, here's mine.

My first three were text book. The normal annoyances, that's all. But #'s four through six were a different story. None of it was life threathening, or even comparable to what many women have gone through, but it pushed me right to the limit.

I developed prenatal tachychardia which is a fancy way of saying that my heart raced. It didn't matter whether I was in great shape or not (and I did the pregnant thing both ways); simply walking across the family room sent my heart rate up to 140. And stairs? The doctor said if they were unavoidable, I was to do half the flight, sit down and rest for five minutes, and then continue on up. (Yeah, like a mom can do that!)

When my heart raced, which it did every time I did something really strenuous like move forward more than three steps, I was not only short of breath (similar to running five laps), but it also zapped all energy, on a molecular level from every cell in my body. The exhaustion was immediate and overwhelming. The doctor put me on some pills that helped (and put me through withdrawal when I quit taking them after delivery--which is another story, but can I just mention that a doctor should TELL you if that's a possibility). But the pills didn't fix the problem, just made it more manageable.

And so, a significant portion of my last three pregnancies were spent as a world class wimp. My husband says I have a can do attitude. When there are things to be done, I roll up my sleeves and git her done. But that 'me' was gone and the new me was something that was, in my opinion, just plain depressing. A shower took a fifteen minute rest to recover from. Blow drying my hair was just about impossible (something about raising my arms above my heart). I could do the grocery shopping if I walked slowly, but someone had better be there to put it all away when I got home. Every single thing I did was difficult and exhausting....for months.

My last pregnancy was the hardest. I was almost fourty. I had three teenagers, and they were a great help, but they were also very involved in things which means Mom is busy too. (Side note: Does anyone else just love that Elder Packer teaches that when you schedule the youth, you schedule their mom. Everyone should understand that!!)

Now, I love being a mom. There is no more sacred moment in life than when they place that baby in your arms. The innocence of children is one of the most beautiful things on the planet. Helping them grow into responsible adults is the hardest and most rewarding challenge there is. I know ALL that stuff, and believe it, deeply. And yet, as I slogged through the final months of that last pregnancy, I could not help wondering: Is it really worth THIS?? I felt guilty that I wondered, but I just couldn't help it.

I remember my feelings as they handed Girlie-Whirl to me in the Hospital. The pregnancy was OVER!!!!! Angels sang, bands played, fireworks, the whole sha-bang. As they put her in my arms, the feeling was instantaneous and overwhelming. It was, without a doubt,

Monday, January 25, 2010

When a Rabbi comes to dine.

Our home had the rare opportunity of having a Rabbi as a dinner guest yesterday. The mere thought of it so fired the imagination of Girlie-Whirl that she spoke of nothing else all morning. Her dolls became part of a Jewish themed playtime, she made a card to welcome the Rabbi, and she continually asked me how much longer until he would come.

This opportunity came to us as a result of a two-day Jewish/Mormon Conference held this weekend in our neck of the woods. Hubders had been asked to be the local LDS representative for the question/answer session, and since the Rabbi (from L.A.) wanted to speak in an LDS congregation it was arranged for the two of them to speak at a combined Priesthood/Relief Society in our ward.

Our church starts at 1:00 pm. The Rabbi wanted to meet with Hubders at 11:00 and since he would have to eat somewhere, I had Hubders invite him to dinner, fully expecting him to decline because of kosher issues. But he seemed grateful for the invitation and when asked, said that we could serve anything we wanted; however, since we asked, he didn't eat pork or shell fish and didn't mix meat and dairy. Grateful that I wouldn't have to worry about which bowls I prepared which food in, and that I only had to make minor adjustments (no milk in the mashed potatoes etc), I nevertheless felt the weight of hosting a Rabbi for dinner.

The Rabbi was humble, gracious, personable, and clearly wouldn't have complained regardless what fare we had offered him. He was willing to sit with our family and explain what a Rabbi was and what he did. He consented to offer a blessing on the food (the first motzi ever uttered in our home) and taught us as he did so. He was interested in all our children had to say, even when Girlie-Whirl babbled on about nothing. It wasn't long before my worries over whether the meal was kosher were banished and we simply enjoyed each others company like old friends.

Sunday was one of those huge days for Hubders (you know the kind). He spoke in Sacrament Meeting, it was his week to teach Gospel Doctrine class, he spoke with the Rabbi during priesthood/Relief Society, and then participated in the question/answer discussion at the Jewish/Mormon conference in the evening. He was grateful when it was all over and tried to minimize his roll, but as his wife, I was all sorts of impressed. Gonna have to sew the buttons back on my blouse!!

The sister who introduced Hubders at the conference is a good friend and rather than just read his bio (thank you!--don't you hate it when they just read what's already printed on the program?) she spoke more personally of attending his classes, his depth of scriptural knowledge, his enthusiasm as a teacher, etc and she ended by saying that even after twenty-five years of marriage, he still opens every door for his wife; which he does, but who knew that she'd noticed it! I sat there in the audience and enjoyed hearing someone sing the praises of my man and resolved to take his kindnesses to me less for granted.

The whole weekend was unforgettable. Our family has always had an affinity for Judaism. We own a menorah, shofar, Torah scroll, prayer shawl and yarmulke; and have taught multiple Jewish folk songs to our children. I've loved reading Chaim Potok's The Chosen to my children because I feel it gives them a window into the lives, strugglings and faith of modern Jewry. But our ties to the Jewish community have been enhanced and deepened because of the conference. On Saturday, after the dialogue at the synagogue, I was able to attend the Jewish worship service, which happened to be a Bar Mitzvah. Although much of the service, being mostly in Hebrew, was lost on me, parts of it were deeply moving.

As one who loves the standard works and wants very much to help my children come to understand the power of the word of God, I felt a great kinship there. The Rabbi spoke of their ancestor's love for the Torah. He then took the Torah scrolls out of the ark, handed them to the father, who handed them to the mother, who handed them to the older son, who handed them to Jacob (whose Bar Mitzvah it was), who then held them in his arms and carried them through the aisles of the congregation as members kissed their fingertips and then touched the breastplate of the Torah. Their obvious joy in the scriptures and their desire to pass that joy onto their children is a commonality that transcends dogma.

I hope to continue the dialogue with our Jewish neighbors. I believe it was helpful and interesting to members of both faiths. A Rabbi who sat by Hubders on the stand last night continually asked him questions of clarification as the LDS speaker gave his address. I carried on religious conversations with my daughter-in-law's mother and her grandfather's girl friend (both Jewish), something I never imagined doing. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach said in 2003, "The Mormons are our brothers, the Christians are our kin." After this conference, I feel that familial relationship more than ever and am looking forward to the next family reunion.

I'm still mulling the weekend over in my mind and it will be some time before I feel like I have a handle on all that happened and what it means. The most obvious lesson is that they, like us, truly love God and want to live his law. The differences between our religions which divide us are nothing compared to the similarities which ought to unite us as believers in God and in his word.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Neat as a Paperclip (cuz the pin is outa reach)

January. Good intentions, resolutions, new starts. It's such a good thing. (Except for when it feels depressing, if ya know what I mean.)

I'm not big on new years resolutions, but I am big on trying to do better and improve. My focus right now: overcoming the clutter. It's been a goal of mine for years, but my efforts have never yielded any results that could be termed permanent. I haven't quit trying, but my attitude about the whole things has become one of: you're-never-gonna-get-anywhere-but the struggle-is-important . Needless to say, not a happy feeling.

Last week, while perusing this blog I came across a short mention of this post on yet another blog and was intrigued enough to click on over. Not only did I find some good ideas and simple to implement strategies (an absolute MUST. Any hopes of following through on anything that is complicated is deluding myself!); as I read I actually found hope in the housekeeping department!!! Wow!

I think one of my problems in the past has been that I've always felt like I needed to make my home immaculate, which is unreasonable for me, and so felt defeated before I even started. Her blog helped me figure out the level of clean that is acceptable to me and then determine the minimum required to maintain it. So much more doable!

I've started implementation. It's been surprisingly easy and pain-free and the house has been orderly (well, orderly for me, others would beg to differ). There's been an extra bounce in my step, a smile on my face, and a feeling of a burden being lifted. I'm diggin this whole thing!!!!

Now to see if I can keep up some semblance of the system for more than a week!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Who can say no to a bargain like this?

For twenty-two year I've had one of these.

It's been great and together we've made mountains of bread and cookies and other such things. It's been the work horse of my kitchen. But the lid is now broken, the blender's destroyed (I melted the pitcher), and although the motor still runs fine, it's just not the mixer it once was.

For a long time now I've been looking at these.

But, I'm cheap and since my mixer still runs I haven't been willing to fork out the required moola to bring one home.

Friday I was here.

I had a "30% off your entire purchase coupon" and my sis and I were cruising the store hitting the clearance section in every department, seeing what kind of bargains we could find.

And I saw it. No box -- I throw those away anyway; no user manual -- I know how to find those on-line; dirt cheap and that coupon in my pocket for an extra bonus! I called Hubders and told him I was considering spending more than I originally planned. He told me to go for it. Sis concurred that I'd be nuts not to snatch it up. I paid significantly less than half the lowest online price I've found for this model.

I enjoy things so much more when I get a bargain!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm Afraid not

I don't have as much patience as I should for my children's irrational fears. The there's-a-monster-under-my-bed kind of fears that have no basis in reality. Oh, I'm patient and understanding and helpful up to a point, and then I'm done and just want them to stop being scared!

This is unfair and hypocritical of me because as a child, I was a mass of fears. My mother truly wondered if I'd grow up to be a functioning member of society, so riddled was I with debilitating phobias. A sick feeling in the pit of my stomach was my almost ever present companion through approximately the third grade. My trepidations were wide and varied.

Here are three of the many.

I was terrified of dogs. There was nothing rational about this fear. I don't believe I've ever been bitten by a dog. But, nevertheless, my fear of them was primal and relentless. No amount of reasoning, coaxing, bribing or teaching on my parents part could make a dent in my insurmountable anxiety over all things canine. Big slobbery dogs, little yappy dogs, the size didn't matter, they all scared me to death. We owned a dog and it was the only fido on the planet that didn't send me screaming in the opposite direction. It took middle school years and the embarrassment of showing obvious fear in front of friends to curb my dog woes. I'll never be a pooch lover, but unless they're ferocious, I'm no longer alarmed by them.

My next fear was the worry of being permanently separated from my parents. Every Wednesday, after school, I watched my bus pull away without me and waited for my mom to pick me up and take me to dance lessons. I vividly remember, week after week, sitting alone on the bench in front of the school drenched in misery, knowing I might never see my parents again and contemplating the wretchedness my life would become. Mom always came, of course, but I still worried every week. Age fixed this one too, but not before years of torment at it's hands.

My third fear, was short lived, but the most debilitating. At age five-ish, I was taught in church that Satan wanted every one of us. What a horrific thought! I was just a little girl. What chance did I have against the devil? If he wanted me, I was doomed! Period. My mom repeatedly spent time trying to reassure me, teach me, and help me cope. But nothing she said made any difference. I spent my days and nights gripped in continual fear that it was only a matter of time before the Devil had me in his impervious grasp. She persisted and eventually got it through my head that obedience to God diminished Satan's power over me. That he could only have power over me as I gave it to him through committing sin. What a relief, and an incredibly useful piece of information! I was empowered! I may have been small and wimpy, but obedience I could DO; and, thankfully, my distress over the Prince of Darkness became thing of the past.

I don't know the reasons behind my abundance of fears as a child. I came from a wonderful home. My mom was the type that played with me, read to me, sang to me, snuggled with me and laughed with me every single day. I have always been absolutely secure in her love for me. Dad was less hands on, but I knew that he loved me and would always protected me from harm. And yet, my life, until I was nine-ish was a mass of phobias.

I don't quite understand how my mother managed to be patient with me and my constant worrying, but she did. And so the next time my six year old is frightened over something unrealistic. I'm gonna follow Mom's example and hang on to understanding a bit longer.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Temple

Hubders and I went to the temple last night. We're lucky enough to live only 20-ish minutes away from one.

I'm at the point where it feels like coming home walking through those doors. I don't go often enough, but I went more last year than I had in a while and I'll up it again this year.

A few of my favorite things about the temple:

The quiet. In a home with multiple children, quiet is a rare luxury that never lasts long during daylight hours. But in the temple, hushed, reverent quiet permeates for the duration of my visit. You can ponder and reflect and be circumspect about where you are and where you're heading without interruption.

The order. I am a cluttered person. I've learned that I can keep an immaculate house (and do when my home is on the market), but cleaning to that level takes over my life and I'm not willing to do that unless I'm in selling mode. I've been working for years to find the happy medium of fairly tidy with enough time for other stuff, but I'm miles away from it. In the temple every thing is white glove clean with nothing out of place. Beauty and order abound everywhere you look.

The fellowship. I never go to the temple without seeing some people that I love, and even the people I don't know seem happy to see me. No one is grumpy or ornery. All of the workers smile and make me feel welcomed. And I never hear a single whine there!

The Spirit. As I ponder and seek and ask in the temple, the joy that comes from above slowly spreads through me seeping into all the crevices and filling me up. I'm always ready to face the world when I walk out the doors and feel happy about my lot in life.

The love. It sounds cliche' but that doesn't make it any less real. In that holy place I feel my Father's love for me and for all his children more abundantly. And both Hubders and I have noticed that we always love each other more after a temple session.

The direction. When I focus on the temple, there is a clarity in my life that it just so helpful! I know what's important and what is not. Little things that tend to sidetrack me are easily dealt with. My husband and children become my all important focus. And as I act on the clarity, I can feel Heavenly Father's approval and know that I can go to Him and he will help me.

All in all going to the temple makes me deep down contented in way that nothing else on earth can.

Now to hang on to that feeling in some measure and replenish all year with frequents visits. That's the goal.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I'm back?

Wow, it's been a LONG time since I posted. It feels like I don't know how to anymore and I admit to a bit of apprehension about the whole thing. I don't have much to say, but figured I'd better jump in, or I'd never start posting again.

Some random thoughts:

Having your dad, who spent his whole life doing manly things: building, hunting, bee keeping, entreprenuering, raising pigs, fixing stuff etc, knit hats for your whole family makes me happy. And nice ones at that--have you ever seen better pom poms?

My only brother, still one of my hero's, his sweet wife and their youngest, a college freshman soon headed for the mission field, came and spent a few days with us. We laughed and played and caught up. They made us two fabulous dinners. My daughters came to passionately adore their uncle again (it's been a while). And they left a wad of cash to say thanks and pay for me to enter the triathlon again this year. When I talked to my big Bro on the phone, he said that the Lord had been very good to his family this year and that we saved them some money by letting them stay so he wanted to say thanks. How sweet is that? So, I'm DEFINITELY doing the triathlon again and I'll be thinking of my family in Texas as I train and compete.

Unlike Denae, I didn't make any fudge the whole Christmas season (however, my mom made some that I partook liberally of). But yesterday, because I had to take something to the chocolate party my sign language class was having, and because my fudge recipe literally only takes three minutes to prepare (and it's the smooooooothest fudge on the planet), I made fudge. Oh, wow! It's a good thing I didn't make it before now! I'm very determined to eat less and exercise more, so I've been able to limit myself to a few well savored pieces. Had I made it during the holidays, when the only rule I had about eating was that I had to keep one foot on the floor at all times, my five pound holiday gain would have been at least double.
Foolproof Fudge recipe: In the microwave, melt one and a half pkgs of chocolate chips with one can sweetened condensed milk (a minute at a time, stirring in between minutes). Stir in a dash of salt and 1 tsp vanilla. Pour into pan lined with wax paper. Cool, cut and binge!
Heavy sigh of contentment because life is good, my husband is even better and the gospel makes me happy!
And now an arrrrgggh moment! It doesn't matter how many times I try to fix it, the post will not keep a blank line between each of the last three paragraphs. What's up with THAT? (Of course, now that I've made it part of my post, I'm sure the blank lines will be there)