Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I know he's faced more than his share of difficulties, some past and more in the here and now... and that made his poignant words so much more meaningful and eloquent.


We have been taught that words have power. And this is very true. Words can elate, wound, support, undermine, inspire, and demoralize. But sometimes we forget that words can also be without substance. We tell people that we are proud of them, supportive of them, even love them, and think that is all we need. We think we have been a good person and have enhanced the lives of the people we care about.

But at other times, we find ourselves in an uncomfortable position with someone. We see them making choices that we feel are wrong, or even dangerous. We watch them in pain, or lost in their lives. We hear them sharing situations in their lives that we don’t understand, or feel opposed to. At these points, we may not know what to do, so we retreat and hope things get better. We avoid the things that make us uncomfortable and tell ourselves that we care and just don't know how to help.

But, if we truly care, and if we truly are worried about the welfare of someone, why in the world DON'T we say anything? If we see someone headed down what we believe to be a dangerous path, WHY aren't we speaking up, sharing our concerns, seeking understanding, and fighting for that person? Why do we leave them to weather the storm on their own? Is it enough for us to remain silent and feel content that we will be there for them should they return to our perceived correct path?

We say we care, but how much do we care? Enough to actually take action? Sometimes it is amazing how much the simple act of showing up can mean to someone. Sometimes a cup of coffee, a movie, a drive, or even a hug can make a world of difference.

I know I have been guilty of this in the past, but I resolve to watch for those opportunities where I can take meaningful action as well as share the kind and supportive words.

Justin Larson

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dreaming of Mid-Winter

Photo courtesy of A Day in the Life of a Fat
 Facebook Page
I know it's been hot enough to keep us all stuck in fantasies of blizzards and snow encrusted pine trees as we wish for a day of weather that calls for mittens and sledding trips but... are we already starting on Christmas preparations?

When I checked the countdown calculator it said there's still 153 days before the big day.  Shouldn't I be able to procrastinate about 140 of them away yet?

Actually we have some pretty big plans for Christmas 2013!  It will be Derek's and my first Christmas in our own home.  And I know he wants to put up enough lights outside (and in) to make it visible from space.  I admit, I'm pretty excited to get my decorations out so we can see how our stuff works together.  And I think we'll end up with something pretty darned impressive by the time it's all rounded up and out of the boxes.  Just thinking about it makes me smile!

And you know I've been saving ideas on Pinterest since the day after last Christmas.  Even on a "secret" Board so everyone will be surprised by the cute little cards and table decorations I'm going to make and the special recipes that come out only for Christmas dinner.  Some of those come from his family, some from mine and some I'm planning on having as new to both of us.  Which is risky since he's beyond picky about what food he will eat... so there'll be some of the old familiar foods presented in a new way.  Christmas 2013 is my chance to make a unique spot to fit into this new family.

Photo credit:
For all the advance planning that goes into making Christmas such a beloved time of the year, I still think each holiday needs its own time and space to be enjoyed.  Sometimes I complain about the over-commercialization of them overrunning each other and having the Christmas decorations up for sale in stores before Halloween.  So while I may be plotting and planning and collecting ideas and recipes all year long... Christmas stays in the boxes until after the Thanksgiving turkey has had a few hours to digest.

No more snowy scenes until winter!  Summer should be enjoyed for what it is -- the time for playing in the water, s'mores round the firepit and burgers on the outdoor grill!!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hydrangea Progression

It's the first time in my life I've ever lived in a climate where hydrangeas grow so I watched their development with utter delight.  They're very much waned and ready to be cut back now but I thought it would be fun to share how the blossoms progressed from bud through peak.  I love that the particular variety and soil conditions here produced flowers that are my absolute favorite color!

Budding: May 14, 2013
May 30, 2014
June 2, 2013
June 5, 2013
June 10, 2013
June 18, 2013
Their peak: June 27, 2013

Spare The Rod

I stumbled into a discussion amongst mothers the other day.  Some of them were spankers and others were aghast at the thought that anyone would ever think of spanking their child.  Somewhere amongst the back and forth about that, someone quoted the Bible verse we've all heard many times.
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.         Proverbs 13:24
In conversational context that's often shortened to "spare the rod and spoil the child" and used by many Christian parents to justify spanking their kids.  I don't have kids, so in a sense I don't have a right to an opinion one way or the other on how other people choose to discipline theirs.  That doesn't mean I don't have an opinion, just that I'm going to keep it to myself because it isn't important to what I want to say here.  I will agree that seeing it as direction to discipline with spanking is, certainly, a possible interpretation of the verse.

One of the ladies in this discussion offered another idea about it.  Her position was that "rod" may have a whole different meaning here.  Consider these verses:
Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man’s name upon his rod.   Numbers 17:6
And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.   1 Nephi 8:24
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.  Proverbs 29:15
What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse?  Behold, thus saith the Lord: It is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power.  D&C 113:3-4
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Psalms 23:4
And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life...  1 Nephi 11:25
Now I realize there are plenty of examples in the Bible that indicate a rod is an instrument of punishment.  But these verses show us that it is used in other ways, too.  Rod would seem to be a record keeping device, a guide, one who serves Christ...  I especially like the imagery from the last verse.

Rod = God's word = Holy Scriptures

Reread Proverbs 13:24 and the verse selections above with that in mind.  Could it be possible that sparing the rod might mean neglecting parental duties to teach a child moral values in the home?

“The home is the first and most effective place to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self control, the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home.”   David O. McKay

Children look to their mom and dad not just for basic survival care but to learn how to act as adults.  Parents are the first moral compass for their children and have those early formative years, the most most influential time of a child's life, pretty exclusively to begin laying the foundation for the thoughts, actions and attitudes of the adults they will become.

Now that's a monumental task!  And one that all of society should be interested in seeing parents accomplish successfully because the price of failure is so very high.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kick the Bucket

No, this isn't some pronouncement about my impending death even though 'kick the bucket' is a common euphemism for that.  I have no plans on departing this existence anytime soon!  I was going more for an attention getting play on words to talk about these so-called Bucket Lists that everyone seems to have these days... did it work?  Or was I funny only in my own mind?

Do you have a Bucket List?

I never did until about a year ago.  Someone told me my imagination needed to be bigger so I thought I'd test out just how big I can dream and write a Bucket List of my own.  It's been a really difficult task for me!!  A 'Bucket List' is that list of 100 things you want to do, see, and accomplish before you die.  I've struggled with creating one and have well under 100 things listed STILL.  And since I did manage to accomplish a few of mine in the past year it kind of makes it feel like time to find more dreams to add to the list again and see if my imagination is growing.

None of these seem like the kind of change-the-world things I imagine other people doing, but here's some of what's currently on my bucket list:
  • Write and successfully publish a novel.
  • Write, illustrate and successfully publish a cookbook.
  • Get a passport.
  • Have some reasons to use it!
  • Learn to use a handgun and get my permit.
  • Learn to use the other 3 items in that 4-piece power tool set.
  • Own 5 or more rental homes.
  • Go white water rafting.
  • Go snorkeling.
  • Go to NYC for Christmas.
  • Own a thriving coffee shop/market with reheat and eat at home foods.
  • Earn a Master Gardener designation.
  • Learn to fly fish.
  • Go to New Orleans.
  • Switch some electric appliances to solar-panel-on-the-roof powered.
  • Own a totally tricked-out and restored classic car - something red and convertible!

There's more, but I'm also trying to find a 'filter' and not share EVERY thought that crosses my mind.

What are some things you've got on your Bucket List?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Things That Might Have Been

They say that you walk past a thousand opportunities a day without ever seeing them...  Usually you hear that in respect to financial pursuits, but I think it applies to many things.

Today a friendship died because the opportunity to understand each other and reach out with love and respect was left unseen.  It just degenerated into name calling, insults and misunderstanding.  That's a sad thing.

I take responsibility for the part I had in that happening.  I was bored and I knew in the back of my mind that this person would react negatively, maybe even purposely misunderstand to justify his reaction, because of the topic and yet I brought it up.  On some level I might have baited him looking for an argument to ease the boredom.  That wasn't my conscious intention, at least not in the beginning, and I'm not especially proud of myself for it but one thing I am is honest.  Quite often brutally honest.
Copied from an unattributed Facebook post

Take up the argument he did!

He came out of the corner throwing punches and told me over and over that I only pretend to understand an issue before I pronounce my opinion as a gospel fact... that what I think about current events is a joke... that I will never understand where he's coming from and therefore have no right to speak...  and that anyone who agrees with my point of view is, basically, a sellout.  Insult after insult was hurled at me.  Until I said I didn't want to be friends any longer because he was being such a hurtful jerk and not contributing anything useful to the conversation.

I still don't know where he stands only that in his mind where I stand is wrong, wrong, wrong and WRONG!

What were we fighting about?

Something you'd think would be easy to agree on... the tragedy a family feels when a child is murdered.  I think that is a horrific thing for every family that has to experience it.  He felt it was a different ballgame if the murderer was not punished the way he saw fit and that those times deserved a stronger outrage from all of society.  And if you didn't react just like him... well, then you just are too dumb to 'get it.'

I'm a little sad it's over but I also think it's the best thing that could happen given the situation.  I don't think it's salvageable and even if it was, being so negative, I'm not going to put in the effort to patch it up.  I'd always be wondering when he'd verbally attack me again.  I don't trust him any longer... and can there be a real friendship without trust?

So I'm choosing to just let it go and move on with loving the people around me better.

And for the record... I still say every child that is killed or molested or otherwise abused is a tragedy.  Not just the ones that meet someone's narrow criteria set, but EVERY CHILD.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Peanut Butter Banana Pupsicles

I finally have the concoction figured out for the boys to get their Pupsicles!  For the past several days I've been paying attention to what foods my boys are the worst beggars about and surprisingly it's bananas that they love most for a people food treat.

A piece of banana, the pieces in a sip of my smoothie, banana bread - all of it sets off a look of pure felicity!

Are they weird or do all dogs like bananas?

My only previous experience with a pet and bananas was with my old cat, Lizzie.  She took a sniff of a banana... once.  And she was so disgusted by it that her whole head pulled back in a big wrinkle that would make the 'bitter beer face' of television fame look like a silly grin.  She shook her head vigorously trying to clear the air and then she retched.  No barf, just a super-dramatic gag.  She very graphically showed me that bananas had no place in her world.

But my dogs LOVE them!

They also love peanut butter.  I can't find any place where it says either of these things are bad for dogs and the vet didn't react negatively during our last visit when I said they'd had a piece of banana bread for a treat that morning.  Nor has she had any cautions when we've said we give them a fingerful of peanut butter now and then.  I'm using apple juice as a base.  Juice is ok.  Only large quantities of apple seeds are harmful to dogs from minute amounts of cyanide in the skin-like covering of the seed.  See?  I think things through and check this stuff out before just randomly handing them a bite of what I'm eating.

Peanut Butter Banana Pupsicles

Add to blender cup and whirl until fairly smooth:
1 1/4 cups apple juice
6 oz vanilla yogurt (1 small container minus a spoonful or so)
2 Tbl (+/-) creamy peanut butter
1-2 bananas broken into pieces

Pour into ice cube trays, or molds of your choice, and freeze.

Pop out and store in a ziplock bag in the freezer to give your puppy as an occasional treat during the hot summer.  It sure makes my boys think they've got something special!

I'm guessing that you saw right off that mine are round instead of ice cube shaped.  I confess.... I didn't go buy the ice cube trays I talked about a few posts back.  We had some of those appetizer-size frozen quiches we got on our Sam's Club trip and the plastic tray they are in inside the box is near perfect (a little bendy, but 'near' perfect) for both these little dog treats and for freezing cookie dough and I can get it in the freezer.  SCORE!!  I love free stuff!

Yes, you could munch these little disks yourself.  Or give them to your kid.  They would be quite tasty, I think, if I hadn't used Greek yogurt.... man, that tangy aftertaste and barf-o-rama smell that stuff carries are a turnoff!   The dogs don't seem to mind, but I do not like it and will be switching back to the plain old regular yogurt we've always got at the store from here on out.

If you object to giving your dog sweet treats, or you have one of those puppies without a sweet tooth, try chicken broth, unflavored yogurt, shredded chicken and mashed up cooked peas and/or carrots instead.  Next time I have a bit of leftover chicken I plan to make that variation for them.

How about that?

My puppies get treats better than some people give their kids!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Spaghetti & Meatballs... Italian Grandma Style

After we started cooking this morning, Derek turned to me and said "Those little Italian grandmas did it right... no wonder they spent all day in the kitchen!"  All I have to say is holy moly!!!  If this is how real Italians eat, let's all move to Italy and adopt sweet little Italian grandmas!

Pardon the dirty plate!  This is my second helping...

Before you do anything, start some Italian background music.  I highly recommend the soundtrack for The Godfather which you can find on  I swear this is a key step in the recipe!

Cook your meats (except the meatballs which are made later in the instructions) nearly all the way through.  We used 4 boneless pork chops, 4 thin shoulder steaks (pick inexpensive ones as they're going to cook long and low and get fork tender - flank is a good choice, too), 4 mild italian sausages.  Cool and cut into equal sized pieces to be added to the sauce later.

We used my mom's old cold pack canner and it was just a little over half full when we started the simmering to reduce it down.  I say that just to help you choose an appropriate sized pot in your kitchen.  Add just enough olive oil in the bottom to coat it well and then add 3 cloves of very finely chopped fresh garlic and just leave it sit there to infuse flavor into the oil.  (Note:  it's best to chop the garlic yourself with your fingers and a knife instead of using a garlic press so your hands will have that authentic Italian grandmother smell!)

While the garlic is sitting there basking in the oil, chop up 1 large Vidalia onion as finely as you can.  Add it to the pot and turn the heat on to medium to cook, stirring often, just until you see bubbles around the garlic.  DO NOT OVERCOOK THE GARLIC or it will get crunchy and bitter and ruin your whole pot of sauce!

Turn the heat down between low and medium low, add 1 rounded teaspoon of of crushed oregano (use 1 Tbl if fresh), 1/2 tsp basil (1 tsp if fresh), 1 whole bay leaf and a dash each of salt and pepper and simmer for about 5 minutes to sweat the onions down.

Spoon in a 6 oz. can of tomato paste and a can of water that's been stirred around to get the last bits of paste off the sides of the can.  Turn the heat back to medium and stir vigorously until the paste has liquified and become well incorporated with the garlic and onions.  Cook for about 5 minutes stirring constantly.  Now you have what's called an Italian Roux.  Taste it and adjust the spices so that it tastes good to you.

Add 2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes and 1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes (or equivalent fresh).  Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir every couple of minutes. While simmering add 1 tsp Oregano (yes, add more!), 1/2 tsp Basil, 1-1/2 tsp fresh chopped parsley, just a dash of Cajun Seasoning, 1/2 tsp garlic powder and a dash of coarse black pepper.

Add another 6 oz. can of tomato paste, a can of water and 1 cup (+/-) of your favorite red wine.  Make sure it is well incorporated and break up any chunks that form.  And for goodness sakes, settle down about the wine.  All of the alcohol will cook out long before the dish is ready to eat.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  You want it to just simmer but not boil at all.  Stir about every minute so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

Add 5 15 oz cans of tomato sauce or puree (or equivalent fresh).  Mix well.  Fill each can 1/2 full of water and swish around to get the bits of sauce off the sides and add to the pot.  Mix again.  Add 1 tsp of oregano (yes, even more... and here's an important note about the oregano:  pour it into the palm of your hand and roll over it with your other hand to crush it a bit more.  This releases the essential oils and gives just a bit more vibrant flavor.).  Also add 1 tsp fresh parsley, 1 tsp basil and 1/4 tsp garlic powder. Mix well and simmer for 15 minutes.  Check and adjust the spices.  If the tomatoes have made your sauce a little to acidic, add honey or brown sugar 1 Tbl at a time to cut the acid.

Add the cooked meat you did first thing.  Keep at medium heat and cover pan. Be sure the sauce is not at a rapid boil. A little boiling is OK but not too much. Heat should be at medium or lower. You want to keep the medium heat on the sauce while you make the Meatballs.  And while you're making the meatballs, you need to remember to stir the sauce every 3 minutes.  (Warning:  You're whole house is going to smell so good, you'll wish the internet could transmit scent so you could send a whiff to all your Facebook pals and make them insanely jealous of what you get for supper!)

Whew!  That's a lot of steps, huh?  Well... wipe your brow and take a few deep breaths 'cuz you're not done yet.

Now you get to make the meatballs.

Cut a piece of salt pork to yield 2 cups of 1/2-inch cubes and fry in your meat pan to render the fat out.  Mix 2 lbs of 80/20 ground beef with the semi-crisped pieces of salt pork, 2 very finely chopped cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of roughly chopped parsley, a good dash each of salt, pepper, oregano and cajun seasoning.  Add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 2/3 cup italian style bread crumbs, 2 eggs, a nice slosh of red wine and 3 slices of bread you've run under the tap and then squeezed the water from.  Don't be a wuss with the spoon!  Get in there and mix it with your hands!!  Form into meatballs.

Heat the fat you rendered from the salt pork over medium high heat.  It needs to be very very very hot!  Add the meatballs and cook until all sides are well browned.  They should create some smoke in your kitchen while they fry.  When the meatballs are cooked, add directly to the simmering pot of sauce.  Continue simmering, stirring every 15 minutes, for about 3 hours.

Cook spaghetti noodles to serve under the sauce.  Dust with parmesan cheese.  A cheesy garlic bread is a nice (and classic) accompaniment!

Now  you, too, can cook like an Italian grandma... and that's the next best thing to actually having one!!

Edit:  This will easily feed 12-16 people.  Four of us ate heartily, we sent home a big bowl of sauce with Derek's sister and there's still sauce here for several meals.  I'm off to get freezer containers...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

101 Words to Express Good

When I finally watched The Secret for the first time a few nights ago, I was really struck by the part where the presenter said, "there are really only two emotions."  Based on their graphic and my imagination and tools this is how I visualize that statement.

What you feel is a reflection of what is in the process of becoming.  The better you feel, the more you are in alignment with your goals.  I recognize, big secret or no, that using positive words and feeling good about myself and my life have been a struggle lately and I was needing an easy way to shift my thoughts back into the good realm on days when things don't go my way.  So I've decided to consciously try to infuse my thoughts and speaking with good words.

101 words I can use to express GOOD:
good humor
peace of mind
light heartedness

Wow!  Don't you feel good just reading that list?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

In God We Trust

"In God We Trust" are four words that can evoke an ardent and heated political debate in some circles.  If it does in yours, let's just check that self-righteous indignation here and now.  Stop forming a rebuttal until you know what I'm actually saying.  This is not a political post nearly so much as a personal questioning.   It's not about the de-Christianization (or Christianization, depending on what side of that argument you are on) of America nearly so much as the de-Christianization of my own self.  And you worry worts concerned that damnation is the eternal fate of my soul... you can just put that on hold, too.

Image courtesy of
We see the phrase "In God We Trust" many times in our life.   It's on our money, implicit in our pledge of allegiance, part of jokes (aka In God we trust... all others pay cash), in much of our patriotic music, and is the very essence of our personal professions of faith.  The words are easy to say, gliding off the tongue in honeyed tones so familiar that we never even stop to consider what we are saying.

Of course we trust God.  Who even has to think about something so basic?

But do we really?

It's easy to happily trust while things are going along smoothly and just as we like.  Our intelligence and free agency make us want to be in control and have life's events happen according to our timeline and imaginings.  Then when hard times come, we ask "why me?"  We lash out wondering why we've fallen out of favor with God.  We alienate ourselves from what we perceive as His presence.

Does this sound like a relationship of trust?  Would you trust another person who treated you that way?

So... maybe a more relevant question is "Does God trust us?"

Can He?  Should He?  Have we given Him any reason to believe what we say when the words have become so glib?  Do our actions authentically match our stated beliefs?

If I'm honest about answering those questions myself, I have to admit that I stand convicted.  At times, some recent, me and God have had some issues and I've turned away for space to sort out my feelings by myself.  But I've always trusted that He is big enough to handle it when I get angry with Him and weep and wail and gnash my teeth in frustration.

Lately there's a prayer that's been forming in the back of my mind.  And yes, I am blunt when I talk to God.  I don't really believe in pulling punches.  And really, what would be the point of holding back on a being who's supposed to be all knowing?

Dear God,

Hey... it's me, again.  You do remember I'm not Jonah, right?  I'm starting to think You got confused about who was who because I don't think my faith is strong enough to survive any more time in this proverbial 'fish belly.'  Kudos to him on that all faith and patience, but those are not the gifts You gave me.  If there's some important lesson that I was supposed to learn will You just consider me too dumb to cipher it out on my own and tell me?  I want out of the misery You've seen fit to let me thus far endure.  I'm not ashamed to tell You I don't do misery and destitution well and I don't understand why You're leaving me dangling here.  Pretty often it feels like Your answer to my prayer is You flipping me the bird.  And that makes me kind of angry.  Ok, not kind of...  It makes me angry.  It makes me very angry with You.

We both know, don't we God, that You're going to do whatever it is that gives You pleasure whenever You decide the time is right?  My only choice is whether to fight it or accept it - to embrace Your will or turn my back and walk away.  You do know how tempting it is to walk away in anger right now, don't You?  I really need that little glimpse into Your plans to pull me back from the edge and help me believe that my needs are really going to be met in Your hands.  I need to know that You're not going to leave me doubting forever.  I want that little pat on the head to remind me that You're there, that You really do care and that I am important in Your eternal plan.  I hope that's not too much to ask for...

God, I want to trust You again.  And I want You to trust me.  And maybe I'm being a spoiled brat about it but I can't do that while my heart is raging and miserable and filled with fear for the future.  Please show me Your way out!


Livin' The Dream

I woke up early this morning from a bad dream.

In this dream, it was Christmas and we were at some wealthy person's home as overnight guests along with a variety of other people.  Some of the other people I know, some I didn't and they have no real life connection to one another but we are all really tight friends in my dream.  It was early morning and everyone was either just getting up or arriving and we were all bustling around unloading cars and bringing in food and extra tables and chairs and presents.  Oh the presents!  They were so pretty with the glittery wrapping and the big fluffy bows!!

When I stepped out of the bedroom my foot landed right in the middle of a big cold puddle.  I cursed under my breath and hobbled off toward the kitchen for paper towels to clean up.  That done, I went in the bathroom.  And there was another puddle.  Everywhere I went in this house, there was a little puddle.

And it was irritating me no end to keep stepping in them!!

Finally, there was one at the base of the grand staircase in the entryway and I realized the puddles were pet urine.  I asked some of the other people coming in, if our hosts had pets and learned they had small dogs.  The guy answering said the dogs were afraid of people and probably hiding up in the owner's bedroom because of everyone coming and going.  I was thinking it was awfully strange... considering the number of puddles I'd found unattended to, the house should stink like a giant litter box and it didn't.  My friend, glancing over the top of the table he was moving inside, saw the puddle by the stairs and rolled his eyes and said "Usually the maid takes care of it pretty quick, but she's off for a few weeks to spend the holiday with her family in Bolivia."

Not because the maid had some time off, but that the pet owners themselves didn't step up and get the messes taken care of was frustrating me.  And I wanted to yell at them!

I woke up then, with my heart pounding and breathing hard and feeling that frustration come through pretty strong.  And then there was that deflating moment where I lay there looking around the room trying to sort out what was real and what was dream that I realized, "Oh yeah... I'm livin' the dream."

And so I got up and put my boys out for their first morning potty trip.

50-lb Thunder (looking straight at the camera) and 48.5-lb Lightning
(down with his head thrown back) wrestling in front of one of our fans.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Corner of Park & Locust

Recently I was contacted by a sweet young mother regarding a post I'd made back in August 2011 about the history of my hometown, Shelley ID.

I'd posted a picture from the North Bingham County District Library of a home on the corner of Park and Locust Streets where I'd lived for a time as a child.  And though it's changed drastically since then, she recognized it as the home she and her husband had just purchased to begin raising their family.

Photo credit:  North Bingham County District Library
This is how the home looked when I lived there around 1969.  I've written a couple of times that it was divided into two apartments and that I lived with my parents on the main floor while my Grandma Clarke was upstairs.

Sometime after we moved, it was remodeled into a single family home and the outside entrance to upstairs was removed.  But otherwise, the house's appearance remained much the same.

Time marches on...

And so do ideas about remodeling a home and keeping it in good repair and current for today's lifestyles.  This is how the same home looks today!

Photo credit:  Chrissy Hill-Secrist
Isn't that an amazing transformation?

I hope her family has a wonderful experience living there!  I sure have good memories of adventures with many of the neighbor kids.  It seems that we were surrounded by families with kids my age so I always had a playmate.

So glad that I could share some of the history with its newest family!

Welcome home Secrists!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Time-Out for Adventure!!

I have this adorable cousin who I've never met... well, actually we're not even really related.  She is married to one of my cousin's sons.  I couldn't tell you quite where in the family Dan falls as he has a 'few' siblings.  And due to that whole weird generational thing where I fell smack in the middle age-wise between my cousins and their kids, I don't really know him either.  Mostly from Facebook pictures and posts he seems to be a really great guy and he had the amazing intelligence, good fortune and foresight to marry Meghan.

Dan, Meghan and Jace in lovely Logan, UT
Meghan is gorgeous, blond, funny and she wants to be a writer.  Basically, she's everything I'm not except for the part about wanting to be a writer.  I want that, too.  She has a blog, Me & Mine where, amongst hair and make-up tips and pictures of their little J-man, she often writes about ideas that I completely identify with in that same way that you can look at your best friend across the room and understand all 500 layers of meaning in the single word they do give voice.  I'm talking about that Anne of Green Gables kindred spirits kind of connection.

Hopefully that doesn't make me sound like some sort of freaky stalker...  I really don't want to scare her into never wanting to meet me should ever find ourselves in the same state again.

Today she wrote about taking a time out from stress.  I think a little break from worry and over thinking everything sounds like a fabulous idea!

Meghan said, "I got fed up with it all and decided to ground myself from stress, which turned out to be the best decision. I decided that even those really hard, really serious things could wait to be stressed about. I put on my party pants and I let go."

I wish I would have coined that phrase about party pants!

Actually, I want some party pants!!

I just can't seem to climb out of the funk I'm feeling.  And all the problems in life seem especially heavy.  I've tried giving myself a metaphorical kick in the backside.  I've tried to change that internal dialogue stemming from repeated rejection.  I've even tried just simply distracting myself and visualizing all the positive things already happening.   And still the misery persists.  I hate feeling this way and I hate that it's permeating the rest of my life and causing friction there, too.  But I just can't seem to shake it.

So I'm going to try Meghan's trick and call a time-out from all my worries and stress.  And I'm going to look for ways to infuse a little bit of adventure and time away from the house into each day.  Even if all I can do is find the local dive and develop a coffee habit to give me someone to talk to, I'm doing it.  I know part of the funk is boredom from being STILL unemployed and therefore trapped in a near empty house with the dogs (and their naughty puppy behavior) 24/7.

Time-out for adventure has officially begun!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Clover Club Potato Chips

Everybody knows that potato chips have earned a spot on that list of foods we should all avoid because they are so very unhealthy for us but we all eat them anyway.

How can you not?  They just taste so good!

As a kid growing up in Southeast Idaho, Clover Club was the brand of potato chips that we bought for an occasional snack.  Besides being a wonderful salty snack, I loved the story about how the company came to be that was printed on the back of every bag alongside little caricatures of the founders, Hod and Clover Sanders.  The company was located in Kaysville, Utah so it was practically a tale of a local family done good.

Photo credit:
And I lived in the land of potatoes.  I'd be willing to put money down on a bet some of the potatoes grown around Shelley ended up in Clover Club bags.  It's important to support the local economy and so we did buy potato chips from time to time.

The story from the chip bag, courtesy of The Deseret News, goes like this:  "We live in a quiet little country town of Kaysville, Utah, about 17 miles north of Salt Lake City. Almost all the folks here have some cooking specialty like homemade chili sauce, apple pie and chokecherry jelly. Clover always made the best potato chips in town - or in the world, for that matter..."  The D-News article says they took this off a 1973 vintage bag that sold for 37 cents so it was a little more recent than the one pictured.  But still, it is really indicative of the small town rural Idaho experience I had as a child.  The women in town did have specialty foods they made.  They proudly brought their signature dish to every community event and heaven help anyone who tried to challenge them by making the same dish!

I'm not exactly sure why it's been on my mind lately but this old brand of chips has made it to the forefront of my consciousness a few times in recent days so that's what I'm sharing tonight.  I have two very specific memories involving these chips.

One is my Grandma Clarke's Potato Chip Casserole.  Yes, you read that right.  She made a casserole from potato chips.  Ok, so it was really a tuna casserole with crushed potato chips stirred in AND as a topping.  Don't judge - to my childish taste buds it was the food of the gods!  Sadly, it's a recipe she didn't leave written record of though I did come up with a pretty reasonable facsimile a few years ago.  Some night when I'm home alone I'll have to think to make it again.  Me and the boys would love it, Derek not so much.  So I'll just make it on a night that he's working and avoid the yucky faces at the thought of actually eating tuna.


1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
1 can water-packed tuna, drained
1 1/4 cups frozen peas
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 - 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups coarsely crushed plain potato chips (divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup measures)

Gently mix all but the last 1/2 cup potato chips in a casserole dish.  Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes.  Top with remaining chips and bake 5 minutes longer until they start to brown slightly.

My other memory is probably even a little more on the weird side.  I had a bit of a food obsession when I was a kid... anyway that's the simplest way to explain that I can think of.  Not that I was allowed to over-indulge in it but there was something that I was just focused on and constantly craving.  And that was Clover Club's Green Goddess Chip Dip.  It came in a small foil packet from a display hooked right to the front of the rack holding all the chips and you just mixed it into a carton of sour cream.

The whole rest of my life, the passing thought of this chip dip would make me involuntarily start to drool even though I was never able to replicate the taste with any other product I tried.  And I tried just about everything that carried the moniker 'Green Goddess' on its label.  Most of it was gross and disgusting, getting its color and flavor from green bell peppers...  And then, in a moment of what I like to flatter myself was sheer genius, I got the right combination of ingredients in my chip dip and sent my taste buds soaring with happiness and delight!


To a 16 oz container of regular sour cream add 1/2 packet of Ranch Dressing/Dip Mix (I used Hidden Valley brand) and 3 Tbl of Bertolli Pesto (you could use your own just as well).  It's best if you can let it sit for the flavors to marry for several hours in your refrigerator.  Stir well before serving with plain crinkle cut potato chips.

Yup, all those years I wondered what made it so good...  It was basil.  Basil is the green in green goddess and the mystery flavor that I couldn't identify as a child.

Seriously!  Just the addition of the pesto ratchets the dip's taste up about 20 notches on the flavor scale!!

And I already LOVED ranch!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cow Shoes and Booze

Photo courtesy of Homesteading Self Sufficiency Survival
"Cow shoes" were used by Moonshiners in the Prohibition days to disguise their footprints.  This picture dates from about 1922.  The attached pieces, shaped like a cow's hoof, would disguise the fact of human presence at a still site and drop off points in secluded areas where animal prints would not seem out of place.  These were either permanently affixed to the chosen shoes or a crampon of sorts was created bearing the specific animal print."

(Maybe I'm being more immature than usual tonight, but I just totally giggled at the word "crampon" in that last sentence!)

It may seem funny to us today, but these were real concerns for people who lived back in the day and depended on making 'shine for their livelihood.

My mom was born in this era and often told stories of her dad home-brewing beer in big ceramic crocks in the backyard.  I guess it was widely known in their small town and he had a steady stream of customers but every so often the Sheriff would show up, saying there'd been complaints from the neighbors, and make him dump it out.  But the law never took the crockery so within hours he had a new batch brewing.  It seems that a few times that story included something about the Sheriff admitting that it was painful to see it running down the hill and that always made me wonder if, in his off-duty hours, he was a customer.

I never really knew much about either of my grandfathers... One, my dad's father, I have a couple of faint hazy memories of meeting him when I was 7 or 8 and there's a prolific amount of genealogical information already collected, but this particular grandpa, my mother's father, I knew only from random facts picked up during visits with older relatives.  He died more than 20 years before I was born from a disease much like one I suffered.  I guess that gave me a unique connection to him...  And the stories of his life, even though not always grounded in truth, grew into grand adventures embellished even more by my imagination.

I also wondered about the things that he passed down like the beaded silk purse he brought home from his (underage) stint with the Army in France during WWI.  Even though it was burned in a house fire at my uncle's place many years ago, I was always curious about the French lady where he might have obtained it... but, since he came home and gave it to his wife he'd have to be a complete jerk if there was such a French lady.  I don't know.  Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't.  Maybe someday, if my views on our coming afterlife are correct, I'll get to meet him and decide that for myself.  But for now all I have are a few stories and the obscure facts about his life that are recorded in public documents like censuses and birth, marriage and death records.

He was already a bit of a history buff and looking through my mishmash collection of family history worksheets, old photographs and funeral programs with Derek has ignited a curiosity in him to find out more about his origins.  We've started collecting those random facts, family stories and old photographs for him, too.  And he's got a bootlegging heritage all his own... including some currently engaged in the avocation.  I'm kind of looking forward to the day I get to meet them!

I wonder if they have any cow shoes?

Friday, July 5, 2013

A World Without Bees a world without food.

Since time began, or at least since it was first recorded, honey and bees have played an extraordinary part in the great myths of humanity.  It's said that bees accompanied Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  And in the mythical Golden Ages honey dripped from trees like falling rain.  In many ancient Near East cultures bees were believed to be the sacred insect that bridged the natural world to the underworld.  Honey was prized as the food of the gods in Mayan cultures and bee and beehive motifs can be found amongst the ruins of honey producing cities.  Even the original name the Mormon Pioneers gave to Utah, Deseret, means honey bee and is symbolic of the quest to create a place of abundance, a land 'flowing with milk and honey.'

Cox Honey Farms of Shelley, ID - my go to source for all things honey - says, "In ancient times, Egyptians sacrificed honey by the tons to their river gods, Roman legions slathered honey on the wounds as a natural cure to promote healing, and medieval lords reserved honey for their private use. It’s told that the body of Alexander the Great was preserved and embalmed with honey."

Honey, and by extension the bees who produce it and in the process pollinate much of our plant-based food sources, have been important to human well-being for centuries.  Intentional beekeeping dates back as far as 700 BC.  Obviously we humans know our lives are better with bees in it.

So why are we participating in the very activities that kill them off?

Recently Whole Foods Market participated in a study, as reported by the Huffington Post, where all the produce that is dependent on bees for pollination was pulled from the floor in their University Heights store in Rhode Island.  This amounted to 52% of the normal product mix!  That should get our attention!!!

Both of the photos, left, are from the folks at

Is this not truly frightening?

In light to the unprecedented collapse of beehives all over the world we should all be terrified about the future of our food supply.  It seems like every week lately we hear about hundreds of thousands of bees found dead somewhere in the world.  The reasons are complex, frustrating and laced with issues that should challenge our personal code of ethics.

Many blame companies like Monsanto for their attempts to control what crop seeds are available to farmers (and home gardeners) and genetically modify food crop plants for everything from faster growth to pesticide resistance.  Others blame beekeeping industry practices like feeding bees on mixtures of corn syrup instead of their natural diet of honey and say the lack of genetic diversity in existing bee populations leaves them vulnerable to parasites like the Varroa mite.  I think it's a combination of all these factors, and the loss of habitat from rapant development, coming together to cause a global crisis.

It's true that I'm no fan of Monsanto.  I see it as wrong to have intellectual property laws govern a living thing.  I'm also not convinced foods produced this way is safe either ecologically or for consumption.  But, not being a scientist, I'm not completely sure this is enough to kill off the bees in the kind of record numbers we are seeing in the past few years.  That's why I think modern beekeeping practices are also contributing to the problem and need to be changed to protect the health of the bees.

And so are we by demanding new commercial developments for our shopping habits and ever more spacious homes.


As much as I want to write about living in a smaller home and planting a yard full of bee friendly and bio-diverse plant life and the importance of mindfully shopping for local organic produce... I fear that it's not nearly enough.  The problem may already be bigger than individual consumers can effect any change on.  I mean, doing those things can't hurt and they may soothe our individual consciences but I fear it's just not enough.  Not by a long shot.

The real answer is that I don't know how to solve this problem.  And that makes me feel powerless...

I don't like feeling powerless.

I want some sort of solution in my grasp.  Something doable and meaningful.  A list of personal action items, perhaps.

What are you doing to save the bees?

And life as we now know it?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Baked 'Smores

Too often lately I'm finding a recipe for sweets that becomes a temporary addiction around my house...

It's the addiction du jour until the next tempting morsel comes along, anyway!

And this is one of them.

Baked 'Smores

Mix together and press into the bottom of 12 regular or 24 mini cups of a muffin pan:
1 c finely crushed graham cracker crumbs (about 7 whole crackers)
1/4 c powdered sugar
6 Tbl melted butter

Bake at 350F for 4-5 minutes or until edges are bubbling.

Break 2 big (1.55 oz) Hershey Milk Chocolate Bars into rectangles.  Remove muffin pan from oven and place chocolate on top of hot crumbs, dividing evenly.  (That works out to 1 rectangle per cup if you're using the mini muffin pan.)  Cut 12 large marshmallows in half crosswise with scissors that have been dipped in warm water and place on top of chocolate in muffin pan with the cut side down.  (That's half a marshmallow per cup if you're using the mini muffin pan.)  Set pan under broiler and watch closely for 1-2 minutes until marshmallows soften, start to puff and lightly toast on the top.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 15 minutes in the pan before carefully transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Break 1 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars into small pieces and melt in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave.  Dip the top of each marshmallow in the melted chocolate, or drizzle it over the top with a spoon, and return to the rack to cool until set.

You're going to think I'm a 'yes man' as I try to anticipate some questions you might have.

First yes... you could substitute chocolate chips or the small bite-size chocolate bars.  I did.  My grocery store did not have the plain Hershey's Bars and I didn't want the ones with almonds or their special dark blend so I got a bag of the bite-size nuggets.  They're just a little thicker so I put the pan in the oven for 1 minute between the chocolate and marshmallow steps in the recipe.

Second yes... your scissors will get sticky but don't worry... it's just sugar and that comes right off with hot water.

And third yes... this is a lot of directions for something so simple!

Just in case you're a picture person, here's the step-by-step (or blow-by-blow, if you prefer):

Mix crumbs, sugar and butter together then press into the bottom of your muffin cups and bake 4-5 minutes.

Break up chocolate bars, cut marshmallows and place on top of hot crumb mixture.

 Broil 1-2 minutes then allow to cool completely.

Dip or drizzle marshmallow tops in melted chocolate and allow to set.

Eat!  Smile!  Be happy!!
(Leftovers, should there be any, can be stored in an airtight container.)

Proud to Be An American

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

I grew up in a time and place where we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, hand over heart, each school morning.  The uproar you see now and then suggests that isn't the case any longer.  If that's true, it's a shame.  People should be proud of their country and boldly proclaim it every day.  This simple single sentence of fealty was the beginning of my patriotism.  Following are more things that helped shaped my idea of national pride:

Photo credit: Sharla Cunningham

If tomorrow all the things were gone I'd worked for all my life
and I had to start again with just my children and my wife
I'd thank my lucky stars to be living here today
'cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can't take that away.

And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died who gave that right to me.
And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
'cause there ain't no doubt I love this land...
God bless the U.S.A.

From the lakes of Minnesota to the hills of Tennessee,
across the plains of Texas from sea to shining sea.
From Detroit down to Houston and New York to L.A.
there's pride in every American heart and it's time we stand and say:

That I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died who gave that right to me.
And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
'cause there ain't no doubt I love this land...
God bless the U.S.A.

Written and recorded by Lee Greenwood

Picture from:
And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land— 
Moroni's Title of Liberty, Alma 46:12-13

Photo credit:
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

“A love for tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril. ” ― Winston Churchill

"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from sin and set us free. Amen!" ― Billy Graham