Friday, December 31, 2010

The Quintessential Oregon Winter Day

First of all, Mark and I took the grandkids snowshoeing at Lolo Pass, on the slopes of Mount Hood.

Josh, Sarah, Kat

Making snow angels in the fresh powder.

Fixing the snowshoes again. This outing had lots of stops and starts.

Happy New Year!

Mt. Hood in the background. It was 22 degrees out with a wind and we were cold, so we turned back to the car after about an hour of playing in the snow.

Then we went to Powell's Bookstore so the kids could spend their Christmas book money.
Powell's is a Portland tradition, and an amazing book store. Four stories and an entire city block - the largest new-and-used bookstore in the world! The kids found their books and read them all the way home in the van with their mom.

Meanwhile, Mark and I ended up at REI, where Mark had ordered some beautiful slippers for me for Christmas.
I love them - they are warm and cozy, the nicest slippers I have ever owned. They're going to turn me into a homebody, I think.

It was a perfect Oregon winter day.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hanging Out at Grandma and Grandpa's House

Too many family members live far away these days. More will be on the move soon. Which makes moments like these all the more precious...

Ender is my jolly Christmas elf. Does this guy ever get cranky?

Becca enjoying some grandpa time. Grandpa enjoying some Becca time.

Sarah, Julia, Kat, and Josh skyping with Maddy in New Jersey.

This cracks me up. I'm cutting some fabric for sewing. Arora has the same pose.

Katie and Arora reading with Auntie Holly. 
Katie (5) was surprised that Arora (3 on Jan 1) could read so well!

Seth and Katie hanging out in Grandma's kitchen, going for the munchies.

Polly helping Becca and Ender get acquainted. 

I love those eyes! I think Ender likes the way I fixed his swaddle blanket. 
(He had outgrown it, so I added a couple of inches here and there.)

Oh, how I miss my family members who are so far away! Sending Grandma hugs to Maddy, Abbi, Charlie, Olivia, Ethan, Audrey, Sam, JJ, Blake, Kenadi, Christina, and Kaitlyn!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Hike

There were many sweet Christmas moments yesterday, but one of the best was the quick hike Mark and I managed to squeeze in before the early December sunset.

We drove 45 minutes to the Fish Creek trailhead of the Clackamas River Trail. The trailhead is only 900 feet elevation, so it was snow-free. The trail provides river vistas of the rushing green upper Clackamas, and enough little ups and downs to make the way interesting.

A quick stop to check out the upper end of a rapid.

My hunk - playing on a mossy log.

We hiked in about a mile and turned around to get back to the car in the remaining daylight. We want to go back and explore more of this trail! The website I linked above says there is a good waterfall at 3.5 miles in, and it also suggests hiking the entire 8-mile trail, and then shuttling back to the car by bike, using Hwy 224 on the other side of the river. Sounds fun! I'd like to try that when the weather gets a little warmer.

I am so thankful for this beautiful earth that Christ created!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sweet moments

We have had some sweet, dear moments with grandchildren this week.

On Monday and Tuesday we visited Polly and Eric and their family in central Washington.
It was so fun to spend time with Seth, Rebecca, and Katie. And you know how I feel about sweet baby toes. Becca loved to have me play "This little piggie went to market" with her.

I never made snow angels when I was a snow where I grew up in California! But Katie demonstrated a great technique--flopped into the snow several times to show us how to do it.

Polly led the family in a service project--shoveling snow off the front porch of a neighbor who was out of town.

Bedtime stories are the best! For a wonderful Christmas tradition with the "Jesus" stocking in the background, check out Polly's blog.

Last night we had some time with Julia and David & Holly and their families. Sarah helped Ender open a gift.

Arora concentrated carefully (note the tongue involvement) on opening a gift.

Ender and Josh enjoyed some "boy cousin" moments - they have so many sisters!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What happened today

December 23, 2010, was a good day to add to the journal.

Today I...
...went with my honey to worship in the Portland Temple early this morning.
...jogged 1 mile. a new cell phone upgrade. (Merry Christmas to me!)
...delivered Christmas gifts to family members...all the gifts are finished, wrapped, delivered.
...did some grocery shopping.
...spent time with a son and a daughter and their families.
...went caroling with my grandchildren.

Tomorrow I plan to just be here at home. I want to do some cleaning and de-cluttering, to get my home ready for the best guest of all: Baby Jesus!

What will today bring?

I have a journal that lets me write a few lines every year on the same date. I'm on my 4th year now, and it's interesting to look back and see what was happening on the same date in previous years. This morning it made me chuckle to see how December 23 had played out in recent years.

December 23, 2007
[Lots of family members in town for Katie's wedding]
"Such a busy Sunday, but a good spirit and happy. The girls and I puttered on projects--bow ties for baby boys, finishing the sashes, cookie plates / stands for Julia, Chris' gift from Kendra--we chatted throughout--very pleasant.

December 23, 2008
Awful day. I have no control over anything. I can't get anything done. [Shall remain nameless] and [shall remain nameless] were both being brats. Accused me of taking the other's side. I hate this season. I want to go live by myself.

December 23, 2009
[Visiting my parents in Washington]
Ahhh...we are here in Colville and it is so peaceful. Mark and Maleena took turns driving and I finished Mom's Christmas blanket. We had a nice evening with Mom and Dad, just visiting, and then drove over to Dragonfly Cottage--oh, it is perfect. I am so happy to be here.

December 23, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve Eve to everyone!

PS - Happy Birthday to Joseph Smith!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Candlelight Carol

Trying to pin down a feeling...

This evening Mark and I went to a lovely concert of Christmas music at our church. The penultimate song was this one, "Candlelight Carol." Here's a lovely version by the MoTab.

I don't know what it is about this song. I've sung it several times over the years in different Christmas choirs, and it always moves me. Tonight was no exception; I had to use Mark's hankie.

Christmastime prompts so many reflections of the gifts of the gospel, the gifts of the Spirit. I am thankful beyond words for the Atonement, and the promise that I can return with my family to live with God again. But 2010 has been a year of such profound, unspeakable loss in my family, that the emotions of gratitude and grief collide and twist my heart, and while I try to be cheerful and brave, sometimes there is nothing left but to weep for a while.

Sometimes Christmas is just like that. That sweet, innocent baby was born to be crucified. The scriptures tell us that we all shouted for joy when we heard that we, too, would come to earth to be tried, to suffer. At the heart of the tinsel and presents is the truth that Christ didn't come to have a holly-jolly Christmas, he came to work out our salvation through his Atonement.

Sorry, I'm not trying to be moody and depressing. I'm just sitting her next to my little 4-foot fake tree, with the lights turned low, echoes of lovely music in my heart, and reflecting with gratitude on the Savior and his love.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Peaceable Things

I found a great bargain on live trees this year. One of the teachers at my school is selling U-cut Doug firs for $5.00 and Noble firs for $10.00. Wow! $10.00 for a Noble! I've never had one before, because they are so expensive. I made arrangements to go out to their farm and cut one last Friday.

But then life happened. We could have made it to the farm Friday, but doing so would have meant pushing ourselves to the point where it wasn't fun any more. And so we decided to pull out the definitely fake, 4-foot tree, and hang a few ornaments on it. 

And you know what? For this year, that's just fine. I got to reflecting on something Dieter F. Uchtdorf said at the recent Christmas devotional broadcast from Salt Lake City on December 5: "If we notice that planning for parties and scrambling for presents begin to detract from the peaceable message of Jesus Christ and distance us from the gospel He preached, let us take a step back, slow down a little, and reconsider what matters most."

What mattered most to me this week wasn't a fancy tree, it was time with my family. I appreciate President Uchtdorf's counsel to not become a Grinch in my own home, You can read the rest of his talk here

As for me, I'm going to settle in next to my little tree and have a peaceful Sunday morning. I hope you are having one, too!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm putting Christmas on hold this week...

...because we have a new trimester starting tomorrow morning! We are now 1/3 of the way through this school year. Tomorrow morning at 7:40 am I will greet 37 new students for the first time, and we'll launch into the beginning of the "Oregon Literature - Past" course. (I teach "Oregon Literature - Present" in the spring.")

I think I'm ready to go. I have revamped my lesson plans and grading system that I used in the fall. I have a two-week unit ready to go, to get us through until the winter break. I have a shiny new seating chart prepared, and I'm heading to bed a little early.

I am SO grateful that I get to teach teenagers. I am SO grateful that I get to work with Mark every day. I am a lucky, lucky woman. I get to teach!

(Thanks to son-in-law Mike K for finding today's image. When I tried to find google a "trimester" picture to add to this post, I mostly got pregnancy images. Mike had a different idea for a google search, which worked better than mine.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thoughts on Blogging

The other day Mark asked me why I write a blog. Why not just write in a diary, he asked. Why indeed? Here at the end of NaBloPoMo, it seems like a good time to reflect...

I blog because I like the idea that someone out there is reading what I have to say. And I like the format of blogs, which allow for longer, more thoughtful posts than the quick updates I've seen people do on Facebook. (Not that I know much of anything much about Facebook. I don't have an account. More on Facebook in a minute. Maybe.)

Another thing about blogs: it's nice to have an audience. On the other hand, sometimes having an audience can be a pain. My diary is private--I do keep a diary, sporadically, too--until I die and somebody finds it, but by then I'll be dead anyway, so it's no big deal if they don't like what I wrote. But with a blog, I do have an audience, and I have sadly learned that I sometimes offend others. I am not the kind of person who intentionally tries to offend others. You would think that by middle age I would have figured this out how to be tactful, but no; I am still working on it. This becomes painfully obvious sometimes when I write blog posts that I intend to be honest or funny or clever, but instead they hurt or offend someone. I don't have to think about that with my diary.

But still, when I weigh out the pros and cons, I think having readers is a plus. I LOVE YOU, BLOG-READING PEOPLE! I know that all caps is like shouting, and yes, I did want to shout out that I love you. I really do. Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for commenting. I really really really love comments. (That was a shameless hint.)

Here's another thing about blogs versus diaries. This part is really intriguing to me. Diaries read chronologically. The oldest thing comes first, and then you keep reading and reading and the story unfolds. Like a book. You read about what someone says or does or thinks, and you make predictions about what might happen next, or wonder what's coming down the road. You get the cause first, and the reaction later.

Blog writing is backwards from diary writing. You get today. You can go backwards, but you can't go forwards. You get the current situation, and you can read back to look for causes, but you can't read ahead to what happens next. Maybe it's just me, but I think that blogging is setting up a whole new genre for narrative writing, a backwards-looking genre as opposed to the traditional forward-looking genres we have always known until now.

Of course, you have to love that it's so easy to include images with blogs. You can put in things like this:
or this...
or this...

I'm naughty about grabbing images from google and throwing them onto my blog. Do you do this, too? What blog etiquette do you think is important to follow when it comes to images? I really love including images with my writing. I hope I'm not too despicable about it.

More about Facebook and being naughty. I recognize that Facebook and other social media are quick and convenient and they facilitate a lot of nice things. But there are some things that worry me about Facebook, too. I think that the means of communication--social media, texting--is outstripping our social tools to handle the communication. The rules we learned about how to be play nice and get along are not adequate for the speed, transparency, and ability-to-proliferate-communication (is that a phrase?) available at our finger tips, especially with social media. WikiLeaks, anyone? Nothing online is private any more. And none of it goes away. Something to think about.

Why do I blog? It's my way to send my little voice out into the world. A way to say, "here I am, and I have something to say." Since I get a rash around Facebook, it's a way for me to participate in the 21st Century. 

I had an email the other day from a woman in Australia. She asked what my terms would be to allow her to use my fabric ball pattern in a business venture. I wrote back to her that I don't have terms. I gave the pattern as a gift to the world, as it was freely given to me at a Relief Society meeting nearly 30 years ago. Since posting that pattern, my blog has had nearly 10,000 hits from all over the world, and I am certain that well over half of the hits have come from that one posted pattern. How can you put "terms" on something like that? 

It's been fun blogging (almost) every day this month for NaBloPoMo. We bloggers send out our opinions, our recipes, our craft ideas, our stories, our worries, our fears, our dreams. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cute Critters

My first mother-in-law had a "generous" build. After she passed away, her extra-large pink chenille bathrobe made its way to my oldest daughter, who used it during a pregnancy with twins, but since then it has been sitting on a shelf.

No more!

Grandma Eva June's old pink bathrobe is now reincarnated into these cute little critters! I've been able to coax enough fabric from the robe to make 4 or 5 of them...I wonder who will find one of these under their Christmas tree?

I hope that the little stuffed animals will be a tender reminder of a very loving grandmother, who cared deeply about both her family and her beliefs. It's been fun to make the little animals, and to reminisce about Eva June as I refashioned her cozy robe into toys for the family members she always loved best, the little ones.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Blizzard in Oregon City!

Our house is buried under snowflakes this evening...

Your family could be snowed in, too!

For instructions on how to make these great, easy snowflakes, go here.

Hope your fingers don't get frost bite!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Not Quite Decorating for Christmas...

A friend of mine calls it the "Christmas machine"--those high-energy rituals that officially begin the day after Thanksgiving and wrap up right after New Years. Whew! It's a busy time, for sure.

With last Tuesday turning out to be a snow day, I will have had 6 days off by the time I go back to work Monday morning. You can bet that the Christmas machine was revving up even before Thanksgiving here at this house!

I worked on lots of sewing projects, and did some shopping yesterday morning and again today. (I'll show you one of my favorite projects soon...)

This afternoon Mark and I put up Christmas lights outside the house, but that's the extent of the decorating we've done.

(Hooray for a afternoon without rain to be working out in the yard!)
So far, the only Christmas effects inside the house are the mess of projects! Feels so good to have the floor vacuumed again...

So this evening we tidied up, turned the family room into "Santa's Workshop" complete with "Keep Out" signs for the visiting grandchildren.

We'll get to the tree and the other indoor decorations soon enough, but  the Christmas cactus bloomed today, and that's all the seasonal decorations I need for now.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Tale of Two Turkeys

We had double the Thanksgiving yumminess this year...oh, my!

On Wednesday we cooked a turkey and had all the fixings with Julia, Josh, Sarah, Kat, and friends Diane and Reuel. We were joined at the last minute by David, Holly, Arora, and Ender, so it was a lively party! However, David and Holly and kids had to leave before dessert, as the meal was stretching into little ones' bedtimes. Too bad, because Diane had brought homemade angel food cake to serve with strawberries and whipped cream, along with the pumpkin pie we had on hand.

So on Thursday we had a repeat performance--freshly cooked turkey, more gravy, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, and all the other goodies. Holly brought her amazing apple pie, pumpkin cake, and molasses cookies with pumpkin dip, and this time we were able to relax and enjoy the full meal, including dessert, together.

For both Thanksgiving celebrations, we enjoyed a game together afterwards. On Wednesday we played the kids' favorite, "Hit the Deck" card game, and on Thursday we played "Cranium" with David and Holly.

David and Holly with Arora and Ender.

Happy Thanksgiving 2010!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving (random) Thanks 2010

In no particular order of importance... in our home for Thanksgiving * living in the Northwest * the restored gospel of Jesus Christ * the spirit of peace in my home * clean water * the gift of a turkey * Holly's apple pie * two turkeys this year * good vision all my life, although I am farsighted now * toes that help me balance and hike * fingers that can sew and type and hug a child * my husband's kind patience * singing alto * living in the same home for 30+ years * working with teenagers * the Pacific Crest Trail * the car is paid for * U.S. citizenship * abundant food * the furnace in the basement * going back to college when I was 35 * Julia * Polly * Kendra * David * Katie * Angela * Joshua * Nathan * Maleena * five healthy pregnancies * nursing all my babies * the Snugli * a garage * room to park the car in the garage * good neighbors * the blueberry bushes * cherry trees * scouting volunteer for 30 years * assistant scoutmaster for 5 years * teaching the Gospel Doctrine class now * my hearing is still pretty good * orthotics so my feet don't get worse * yoga class * losing 21 pounds this year * my friendship with my mother * my father's "can-do" attitude * my grandfather's "quality folk" values * my grandmother's sewing machine * Effie May Crawford * climbing Mt. Saint Helens with my husband * hiking 50 miles by myself * love of reading * my current trials * the big yellow sink in my kitchen * the maple tree out back * digital cameras * laptop computers * getting to work with my husband * the Atonement * repentance * quiet hours in the night * telephones * dandelions in my lawn * blackberries along the fence * mowing the lawn * produce from the garden * Dorothy * Sheila * Annemarie * Jill * Mark Kelley * adopted grandchildren * Christina * Andie * Joshua P * Sarah * Kat * Katie C * Audrey * Sam * Abbi * Seth * Charlie * Arora * Caitlyn * Rebecca * Maddy * Blake * Ethan * Olivia * JJ * Kenadi * Ender * Lilly on the way * Baby Burns on the way * a second chance at marriage * a strong heart * remodeling the house with Mark * plumber Dave * growing up in Morro Bay * Rainbow Girls * Camp Natoma * girls camp * goofy camp songs * camp fires * views of Mount Hood * the Clackamas River * walks in the pioneer cemetery * favorite books on my bookshelf * taking classes at PSU * Craigslist * email * fir trees on the horizon * Jack Lundeen * Roxanne Scott * Thermarests * my good mummy bag * backpacking with grandchildren * marching band in high school * pet cats over the years * Goat Mountain Gallop * good roads * city water supply * cheap electricity * automatic deliveries of heating oil * the family's blogs * Skype * my cousins * Mike K * Eric * Chris * Holly * Bryan * Tim * Hillary * Ashley * Max * good in-laws and their extended families for my children * working on my thesis * being a visiting teacher * our home teachers * my visiting teachers * the bishop * the stake president * a prophet on the earth today * the temple * the temple so nearby * spell checker * fleece * recycling * forgiveness * a l-o-n-g weekend * summer vacations * learning Spanish in Central America * books made by Kendra * Polly's quilts * The Skinny with Katie * my bicycle * my backpack * my running shoes * lakes and waterfalls and forests * hymns * singing in the church choir * Joshua's corny jokes * a good lawnmower * Mark's sense of humor * Julia's courage and tender heart * Polly's persistence in all things * Kendra's compassion and yen for travel * David's nonjudgmental attitude * Katie's quick wit, delightful poems, tender heart * Angela's acceptance * Joshua's support of Hillary * Hillary's patience in suffering * Nathan's love for his children * Maleena's yearning for family * good hiking boots * thick hiking socks * snow shoes * snow tires * online shopping * elevators * lunchtime conversations at work * sharing ideas with colleagues * flexibility in my job * democracy * elections * my dad's heart fixed in surgery * my mom putting up with my dad's recuperation * all of my children happily married * health insurance * retirement account * tithing * fast offerings * missionaries * prayer * free agency * sunshine * clouds * rain * the water cycle * photosynthesis * gravity * salmon returning up the river * no self-serve gas in Oregon * time to think and write * men and women who serve in the military * my brother * Aunt Mary Anne * Uncle David * living on a dead-end street * Grandma Jane * tow trucks * double-paned windows * insulation * tenure * faith * hope * charity * holding hands with Mark * Mark's warm feet at night * board games with the children * vacuum cleaners * dishwashers * washing machines and dryers * satellites * talking with Mark in the middle of the night * sleep * hot showers * mapquest * the internet * the Eagle Creek trail * refrigerators * grocery stores * debit cards * a good credit rating * freedom to choose * the foreign exchange students who lived with us * Ms. J * middle age * my great-grandmother's coral pin * getting up every morning and trying again * the assurance that, even when I am alone or afraid, Heavenly Father knows me, loves me, cares for me... are a blessing in my life.

As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Perfect Pan Gravy

Here is my no-fail gravy recipe. I'm bringing it to you from my 1973 Betty Crocker Cookbook, along with some comments on technique from me.

This is Pan Gravy, made from the natural drippings left in the roasting pan by roasts, turkey, etc.

For each cup gravy:
2 tablespoons drippings (fat and juices)
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup liquid (meat juices, broth, water)
(The recipe says that you can also use vegetable cooking water, consomme, tomato or vegetable juice. I have never tried using any of those things. If I don't have enough meat juice or broth, I just stretch it with water.)

Tip: The first thing you have to do is separate the drippings (fat) from the meat juice. I like to pour all the drippings/liquid into my clear Pyrex 4-cup measuring cup and let it sit for 3 or 4 minutes. That lets the fat float to the top. Then I skim off the fat, using a small ladle. I spoon it into my 1-cup clear Pyrex measuring cup.

Tip: Now figure out how much gravy you're going to make. Take a look at how much of the drippings (fat) you have and how much of the liquid you have. Do a little math in your head and decide if you're only going to make 1 cup of gravy, or if you're going to go for the gusto and make 2, 3, or even 4 cups!

Tip: If you need a little more fat to make your proportions come out right, you can substitute melted butter. Too little fat makes the gravy lumpy.

Return the measured drippings to your pan. Blend in flour. (Measure accurately so gravy is not greasy.) Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly. (I like to use a whisk for this step.) Remove from heat. Stir in liquid. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. If desired, add few drops bottled brown bouquet sauce. (That's what it says in the recipe. I've never used it.)

Season with salt and pepper. Yummy, yummy!!

Monday, November 22, 2010


I have sewn many, many patches on Scout uniforms over the years.

My son's uniform, my husband's uniform, my grandson's uniform, my own uniform...

Not too long ago I served (again) as a cub scout den leader for 3 years, and I occasionally even sewed patches on the uniforms of some of my cub scouts, whose moms don't sew.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from one of those moms. Her son had moved onto a different scout group over a year ago, but she had saved my email address, along with a LOT of patches. Would I please, she asked, help her sew the patches on her son's uniform...and her younger son's uniform...and her daughter's uniform for girl scouts...

I agreed to sew patches for her at the rate of 50 cents / patch. She brought the patches and the uniforms over this aftrnoon. By the time she walked out of my house, she had to write a check for $53.00.  That's right, I am not kidding, I have almost finished sewing 103 patches onto 6 different uniforms this evening: 2 cub scout, 1 boy scout, 1 sweatshirt for all not non-official boy scout patches, and 2 girls scout uniforms.

In case you ever need to sew patches on a Scout uniform, here is my secret: use the zigzag stitch on your sewing machine. I used to try to sew them on by hand, and believe, me, the zigzag is much faster, better-looking, and more durable. Do not try those glue things. When they say they work, they lie.

It doesn't matter what color bobbin thread you use. No one ever looks inside the shirt. Change the top thread as needed to match the edge of your different patches. The top thread, when zigzagged, will blend into the border thread of the patch.

Also, sacrifice the pockets. Cub scouts and boy scouts have their rank patches sewn onto the left shirt pocket. If the boy wants his left shirt pocket that badly, he can learn to sew the patch on himself. Do not worry about trying to make it so he can stick something into that particular pocket ever again in the future; just sew right through all the layers and get that patch in place.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


30 degrees this morning, with a thick skim of frost on the windshield.

Heading down to below freezing again tonight, with the possibility of snow on the way.

I'm doing the Snow Day dance!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Today I handled several passports. I was part of a temporary work group, and all of us had to have our ID documents copied to go with our tax documents. The supervisor knows me well, so she made me the copy machine monitor.

I was curious about the passports. Where had they been? What stories could their owners tell? But I knew I shouldn't be nosy, so I just made the copies and handed them back.

There is so much about my U.S. citizenship that I take for granted. Handling those passports today got me to thinking about what it would be like to travel to another country and not be from the U.S. I just assume that I can go somewhere else and still come back here. I know that I can go anywhere within the U.S. without anyone else's permission, can live or work or play where I choose.

Last week I read an article about immigration with one of the reading classes at my school. There are so many people who were born somewhere else, and would like to come here. I have rights as an American citizen, but maybe it would be more accurate to say that I have privileges. When I think of them that way, I am less inclined to take them for granted.

Lately I've been enjoying a blog written by Bridget, an American woman living in the United Arab Emirates. I love Bridget's stories about life in another place. She is so international, but she is so American in her international setting.

Where we are from is ingrained in our identities. When we meet someone new, we ask their name, and we ask where they are from. I have a Canadian friend who has lived and worked in the United States for 15+ years. She and her husband own a home, they pay taxes, and they are raising their daughter with feet firmly planted on U.S. soil. My friend is fascinated by U.S. politics, and would love to be able to participate by voting, but she's not a U.S. citizen. She tells me that when she talks with her husband about pursuing U.S. citizenship, he is reluctant to relinquish the citizenship of his birthplace. They live here, they love being here, but they are from someplace else.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Yu-Gi-Oh! Salad

Three of my grandchildren (10-year-old boy, 8-year-old twin girls) were coming over for dinner tonight. I was in the mood for a green salad with lots of yummy things added, but I knew they would turn their noses up at green salad.

On the spur of the moment, I came up with a recipe for Yu-Gi-Oh! Salad.

(Yu-Gi-Oh! is a Japanese manga and cartoon, with lots of cards to buy and trade. These three grandchildren, especially my grandson, are enamored with Yu-Gi-Oh!)

As I explain the recipe below, you might be tempted to think I was just trying to trick my grandchildren into eating green salad.
(Who, me???) Whatever.

All motivations aside, everyone at the table, young and old, liked the salad. Here's the recipe.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Salad

Ingredients: Fairly flexible. Include lots of good salad things, like lettuce, spinach, some fruits, a little chicken, a little cheese. See below for lists and proportions. DO go for lots of color. Yu-Gi-Oh! cards are bright and colorful, and so is this salad.

1/4 greens / vegies

1/4 protein

1/2 fruit / sweet healthy things
mandarin oranges

Prepare the ingredients
All ingredients must be chopped, diced, or torn into small pieces. This is critical for Yu-Gi-Oh! Salad because 8 and 10-year-olds can be quite particular about salad ingredients, and if the pieces are too big they will pick them out.

Assemble the salads:
Use a separate plate for each serving. Layer the different ingredients. Vary the layers between a vegie base like salad greens (remember to tear them into pieces no larger than 1/2" diameter), then some fruit, then some protein, then some more fruit, back to the vegies, etc.

Presentation: everything. We used ranch dressing, and I told the kids that a critical part of the ingredients was the special spiral with the salad dressing. My grandson assured me that yes, there is a spiral card in Yu-Gi-Oh! (Who knew?) I spiraled the salad dressing around the top of the salad before they started eating. Also let the kids add a good shake of parmesan cheese.

Ask the Yu-Gi-Oh! enthusiasts at your table to help you identify what the different ingredients represent. Here is the list our kids came up with:
lettuce = plant monsters
raisins = bug monsters
tomatoes = Imitato
cheese = pyromonster
chicken bits = beastly monsters
spinach = food for Crazy Bunny
blueberries = Blue-Eyed White Dragon with his blue tongue

You get the idea.

Now for the testimonials:

Grandson Josh: This is a delicious wonder of food, and so much excitement and flavor. Definitely a recipe worth repeating.

(Wow - Josh is almost finished with his Yu-Gi-Oh! salad.)

The twins: It's very good! It's just like the Yu-Gi-Oh! monsters and dual monsters. We would like to have it again!

(Sarah has an almond stuck in one of the holes in between her missing teeth, and Kat is showing her blue tongue--like the dragon mentioned above--from the frozen blueberries.)

Letia, adult guest: This is delicious. I would definitely make it again and again.

Julia, the children's mom: It's a great salad, and if calling it a "Yu-Gi-Oh! Salad" makes the kids eat it, it's even better.

Mark, my husband: As a parent who has seen children not eat their vegetables, it was a stroke of genius to call this salad...whatever you called it. To watch the little critters graze on their salads was a sight to behold.

More salad recipes coming soon:
Princess Salad, Jungle Salad, Pokemon Salad...
Oh, wait, these are all the same recipe! You can call it whatever you want! Just say it with conviction ("Guess what kids, I found the most amazing recipe online today...") and have them help you identify the elements of the salad that align with the elements of their favorite they munch away...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Poem

We have a tradition of Thanksgiving Poems in our family. It started years ago, when I told the family that everyone was expected to read an original poem between turkey dinner and pie dessert. Bless their hearts, they've gone along with it ever since. They range from silly to serious, from turkeys to thanks, but they always bring the Thanksgiving spirit to the table.

Of course I can't post this year's poem yet. That would ruin the surprise! Plus I haven't written it yet. Haha!

But here's a poem from a couple of years ago, to get you inspired:


Sheets washed for company
Check the pantry for pecans
Final grades due by Monday
And make a new seating chart
Black olives, basmati rice, whole milk, cranberries, nutmeg, maple syrup.

Meanwhile, great clouds sail overhead—

The world is so wide.

Ten thousand miles or more away
Women cook their meals
Beneath the Southern Cross,
Knowing strange stars, strange names for
Father, mother, feast, friend.

I pat the pie crust into shape,
Hand movements echoed across so many hearths,
Pie crust, tortilla, flat bread,
Feasts for our families
Come, child, grandfather, uncle, cousin,

Come to the table
Hands stretched out in welcome
Come to our home, this place
Of feasting
Of family.

(Thanksgiving 2008)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Scout is Friendly

Many years ago I was the assistant scoutmaster over the 11-year-old patrol that was part of my church's scout troop. I herded 11-year-olds for five years. They were some of the best five years of my life.

Every week I helped the boys memorize the Scout Law:

A scout is...
clean and

During my scouting era, I enrolled in college, in the fall of 1990. I had been a full-time mom for 15 years, and I felt intimidated about my abilities to be a college student. Here's a little excerpt from the thesis writing project I started last summer, about how the Scout Law helped me when I started back to college:

"The only class I remember taking that term was an Introduction to Literature course. Mike Keppler was the teacher, but I hadn’t yet become comfortable with the college-level practice of calling professors by their first name; I called him “Mr. Keppler” all term. I was shocked by some of the stories; I had never been exposed to realistic fiction before, nor to women’s studies, nor to African American literature.
            I was nervous in that class for the first four or five weeks, constantly anxious to know if I had completed the homework correctly, had understood the story properly. The younger students, accustomed to the routine of school, seemed so much more competent than I felt. I was shy to sit near other students, shy to make eye contact in the class, shy to raise my hand and answer questions.
            It is interesting to me now, to look back and remember how intimidated I felt when I entered the classroom. I had earned nearly straight As in high school (one B in chemistry), and had earned top honors in the science department. My one year of college after high school had been spent studying Biochemistry at a university in California, where I had again earned top honors. Why did I feel so unprepared for course work 16 years later?
            I could rattle off the Scout Law without even thinking about it. My 11-year-olds had to memorize it to advance in rank, and we practiced at every meeting. That fall, I walked across the campus at Clackamas Community College, forcing myself to smile at other people, muttering under my breath, “A scout is friendly, a scout is friendly, a scout is friendly…”
            About half way through the term I began to relax. Not about the school work—I was always programmed to be a “good” student—but about my capacity to understand and do what was required. Once I relaxed, I began to have fun. I stopped staring only at the book in front of me during class, and looked around and took stock of my classmates. Based on their responses to Mr. Keppler’s questions on the readings, I figured out that they were no smarter than I, and in some cases, they were either really struggling or lazy. Critically reading the texts began to be as thrilling as the chemistry and math classes had been to me in high school, and wrestling with a thesis paper was a worthy task."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tutorial: Reusable snack bag

Besides a sandwich I also like to carry some carrot sticks or almonds to munch on. Here's a simple drawstring bag that eliminates those throw-away baggies! I like this design because it stores flat, without any little corners to catch food nasties.

Reusable Snack Bag
This one is filled with carrot stick goodness!

Two pieces of fabric, at least 9" or 10" square.
Two pieces of ribbon, about 30" long (each)

Cut out two circles of fabric. I traced around a bowl that is 8" in diameter.
Sew a small buttonhole, about 1/2" long next to the edge of one piece of fabric. It should be about 1/4" away from the edge. 

Fold the circle in half at the buttonhole, to mark the point on the circle directly across from the first buttonhole, and sew a second buttonhole on the other side of the circle.

Right sides together, sew the two circles together with a 1/4" seam allowance. The seam goes around the OUTSIDE edge of the two buttonholes. Leave a small opening to turn the circles right side out.

Turn the circles right side out, and press flat. 

Press the edges of the small opening in.
Top-stitch, close to the edge, around the entire circle. Sew around the circle a second time, this time INSIDE the edge of the buttonholes. You have just sewn the opening shut AND made a casing for the drawstrings (the ribbons).
Using a small safety pin attached to one end of one of the ribbon pieces, pull the ribbon through the entire circle. You will begin at one of the buttonholes, and come back out at the SAME buttonhole.
Tie the ribbon ends together with an overhand knot. Repeat on the other buttonhole. You want to have two ribbon drawstrings. Each one will go around the entire circle, and come out at the same place where it started.

Now you are ready to load some carrot sticks, crackers, almonds, or other snacky yumminess into your reusable snack bag, and pull on the two strings:

And there you go - a healthy snack for you, and a healthy, reusable snack bag for the planet!
The snack bag will reverse can still pull the drawstrings shut, even if the bag is "inside out."