Friday, October 31, 2008

After Hours of Grueling Labor . . .

Here are our pumpkins. Or rather, since you can't see the actual pumpkins, here is the light shining through the negative space on our pumpkins.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

For Your Viewing Pleasure

I realize that I haven't posted any pictures for a while. I know that some people don't like to read unless it's a picture book, so if that is you, here you go.

I think she looks like a child from the 80's with the side ponytail she's got going on.

Now I'm off to go carve pumpkins.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Primary Program

Today was the Primary Program in my ward. I have the luck of being the Primary Chorister, so I got to help with the madness.

Yesterday was our final practice and pancake party.The children got to put an assortment of toppings on the pancakes before devouring them. Some of their options were mini chocolate chips, Halloween sprinkles, maraschino cherries, whipped cream, syrup, marshmallows, toasted coconut, etc. It sounds disgusting to me, but the kids really enjoyed it.

During the practice I had Brent be my assistant. I gave him a helium balloon with a really long ribbon. I told the children that the balloon would float higher the louder they sang. If they sang too loud, it would hit the ceiling. If they weren't singing loud enough, it would sink. They had so much fun watching that balloon. We have a really high vaulted ceiling in our chapel, so they tried hard to sing it to the top.

On one of our songs the teachers sing a verse by themselves. While they were singing they all had their eyes on their music, rather than on me or the balloon. Brent started pulling the balloon lower and lower. Pretty soon all the children were snickering, and as soon as they joined the adults, the balloon shot right back up.

Today they did as well as I could have hoped. They were adorable of course, and just enough things went wrong to be funny for the congregation and make it not only spiritual, but entertaining as well.

I'm so glad it's over and I get to finally teach some new songs!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Madame Butterfly

Last night Brent took me to the Utah Opera's production of Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. It's always fun to get dressed up, go out to dinner, and then to the opera. Brent really enjoys it too. Usually when I tell people we're going to the opera they make some comment about how I must have guilted, persuaded, or otherwise tricked my husband into going. Actually, it was Brent who suggested that we attend the opera together, that first time we went when we had just met.

Brent took some sort of opera appreciation class in his undergraduate years at the U. He learned four Mozart operas in depth, so he is very familiar with those four, and willing to learn about others. (He is VERY excited about Marriage of Figaro coming up this season.) That doesn't keep him from dozing off now and again during the show, but he enjoys it nonetheless.

I've been rather dissatisfied with the Utah Opera the last few productions I've seen. The worst was a couple years ago when they did The Magic Flute. The woman who sang the Queen of the Night aria was TERRIBLE. She was totally off key on the super high part. I don't know if she was just having an off night, but good grief! She's supposed to be a professional and I paid good money to hear that aria and NOT cringe during it. But I digress. Back to Madame Butterfly.

I won't bother putting in a synopsis here. If you like opera, you likely already know the plot lines of Madame Butterfly, and if you don't I'm sure you'll likely look it up. If you don't like opera, then you've probably stopped reading this post a long time ago, so it doesn't matter anyway.

The production of Madame Butterfly was lovely. The playbill (as pictured here) was stunning. The set perfect. The costumes beautiful. The performers were perfectly adequate. Their acting was good, their singing was good. Their performances left nothing wanting, technically. The soprano who played Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) was very good, but her voice didn't transport me during the famous aria "Un bel di" as I might wish.

However, the adequacy (and one might say mediocrity) of the performers couldn't mar the beauty and near perfection of Puccini's writing. Madame Butterfly is certainly one of the most tragic of all operas, and you feel such pity for the naive Butterfly, even from the very beginning. As she sings of that "one beautiful day" when her beloved husband, B.F. Pinkerton, will return to her after a three year absence, you feel so sad for her. You, as the audience, realize that Pinkerton does not love her and has no intention of returning to her, which makes her faith, love, and devotion all the more moving as you listen to the soaring melody.

Of course the end is tragic, and I usually am crying at the end of tragic operas. Last night, however, I was sobbing for a good part of the last 30 minutes. I won't go into details, because I could never do them justice. Let me just declare that only a woman who passionately loves her husband and desperately loves her child could feel so affected by this opera. After the final heart-wrenching moment I was almost shocked at the amount of grief I felt. The curtain dropped, and suddenly rose again for the applause. It was such a jarring shift of emotion. It took me a couple of minutes to calm down and stem the tide before I could join in the applause. I think the curtain should have stayed down for a full minute or so, just to let the ending sink into the audience a bit.

I'd recommend going, but it has sold out. So sorry if you wanted to see it. "No soup for you."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Make-Believe Words

I was just leaving a comment on someone else's blog, and the word verification to input before submitting my post was "jwidgyy".



It feels like a real word to me, albeit a strange one. I love it! Can it be my new catch-phrase?

"That's so jwidgyy."
"Jwidgyy THAT!"
"You're such a jwidgyy."
"Jwidgyy THIS!"
"Let's go jwidgyy."
"I feel jwidgyy."

Can't you imagine all sorts of definitions for it?

Here are other words that are not words that I use:

Floopy: To feel slightly incoherent with accompanying dizziness, a sense of drunkenness, and general fuzziness of the brain and other faculties.

Gurgly-wurgly: To feel rumblings in you tummy and other general digestive upset.

Schmanki-han: What's up? How's it going? What are you up to? How are you? A general term for inquiring about someone's wellbeing.*

Schmanki: An abbreviation of "Schmanki-han." Kind of like "s'up" for "What's up?"*

Schmank: A derivation from "schmanki-han" that is used as a noun to greet the other person. Rather than asking "Schmanki-han?" (How are you?) you say "Hey Schmank" as a term of endearment. Only to be used with sisters or good friends with whom you have a close and joking relationship.*

Paduwan: I'm not certain of the spellings of this word, but it indicates a young Jedi in training. I refer to my baby as Paduwan, although when I began using this word I thought I had made it up as a random nickname. I don't remember who clarified the origins of this non-word for me, but I thought that the official definition is quite fitting for my wee one.

Do you have any non-words that are part of your vernacular? (And please, no words made up by the author J.K. Rowling, such as muggle, quidditch, snargaluff pod, etc. These I consider to be real words, although they are newly added to the lexicon.)

* Spellings and definitions are open for further clarification by the inventor of these words, a Ms. Emily Bailey. See for further illumination into the workings of her mind.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Love Flylady

Maybe you know who Flylady is, and if so, feel free to stop reading now because I won't write anything you don't already know about. In case you have never heard of her, let me enlighten you. My dear sister Shelley told me about Flylady, and she has changed my life, so I'm just passing along the favor.

Flylady is a woman named Marla who lives in NC. She started a yahoo group that was for women who wanted help with organizing and cleaning their homes. She sort of picked up the torch from "The Slob Sisters" and has added to and adapted their methods for us "SHEs" (Sidetracked Home Executives). She went from a little group of a handful of members, to her own website, an online radio show, and 500,000 members. She tours all around the country having "Fly-fests" visiting her flybabies (members, apprentices, what have you) in her efforts to bring help, motivation, and peace to everyone and anyone who cares for their home.

Her system is all based on routines. You build routines, make them habitual, and soon you'll find that your house seems to clean itself. She is all about babysteps. Here are some of my favourite flyladyisms:

"You can do anything for 15 minutes."
"You can't organize clutter. You can only get rid of it."
"Housework done imperfectly still blesses your family."
"Your house did not get dirty in a day, and it's not going to get clean in a day."
"You are not behind. Just jump in where you are."

Reading Flylady's daily emails has changed the way I think about housekeeping and the way I do it. I'm far from perfect, and I'm sure I'll never be so. But her system makes sense and helps and inspires me.

So if you suffer from disorganization, excessive clutter, or simply don't know how or where to start, check her out.

Thanks to her, my bathroom is almost always clean, my dishes are almost always done, my floors are often vacuumed, my bed is nearly always made, and my front room is never more than 15 minutes from being "company ready". Oh yeah, and I always stay on top of my laundry and never have to search for clean underwear. May you know the same blessings.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Favourite First Lines

Here is a short list of my favourite first lines from some classic novels. (And yes, I've read them and personally selected them, rather than just copied a few from some list I googled.) Can you name the references?

1. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

This line is a favourite not just because it is from one of the best books ever written, but I found it so applicable to my own life when I was single, in search of a husband, and thinking "Doesn't anyone get it? I'm the total package here! Are all men blind?"

2. All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

I like this line because it is so true. There is one way that leads to happiness, but many diverse ways to unhappiness. It reminds me of King Benjamin teaching his people in Mosiah 4:29 "And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them." How cheerful. Now that may be a discouraging thought, but as I contemplate the one right way to happiness, I feel peace in the simplicity of the course I should follow.

3. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

I love taking long walks. My favourite time of year to take walks is in Autumn when there are leaves on the ground that I can crunch beneath my feet. It is so satisfying. After that would probably rank summer nights, after dark, when it's still warm. It's so peaceful and restful and solitary. Delightful. I dislike the winter because it's too cold to walk outside comfortably for any length of time, and I miss my meanderings.

4. Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.

I love the concept of afternoon tea. I unfortunately come from a time and place that doesn't participate in that custom. I occasionally have little tea parties just for myself. When I was a girl I would have tea parties where I would serve water and cinnamon toast cut into strips. Cinnamon toast may be delicious, but it is a bit prosaic. However, if you cut it into long strips it becomes a delicacy proper to afternoon tea served by a seven year old girl.

5. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

This is an excellent quote as it makes me think of my own father and his inestimable wisdom. He taught me many things in my youth, and continues to. If I'm ever in need of advice, he is the one to whom I turn. He is the one that taught me how to find solutions, how to look objectively at a problem, how to think through all factors of an equation.

The next line of the quote is just as excellent: "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

One of my many advantages in life is having the father that I do.

6. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

This line is great just because it's so evocative. It paints a vivid picture that I quite like.

That's my list for now. I can personally recommend every book it references. If you don't know them, feel free to ask or make use of your favourite search engine.

Anyone have any other lines they'd like to add?

You Know You Have Fibromyalgia When . . .

you have a multiplicity of odd and/or painful symptoms that cannot be explained. Such as:

  • Muscle aches everywhere, always.
  • Shaky leg syndrome.
  • You're tired. Really tired. All the time. Simply blowdrying your hair wipes you out.
  • You can't sleep.
  • Unexplained pain. Today it's in your shoulders. Next day it's in your calves. Who knows where it will be the day after that.
  • Headaches. Oh, the headaches.
  • Tender pressure points. Not just tender, but like "HOW DARE YOU TOUCH ME THERE, YOU INSENSITIVE, HORRIBLE SADIST?"
  • IBS. If you know what that stands for, then you probably have it and I'm sorry. If you don't, well then, lucky you.
  • Various and sundry other symptoms that are strange and not easily catalogued.
I'm not trying to complain here, and usually I don't even like to discuss my health with anyone other than my mother or sister. But I'm now experiencing a new symptom that is rather strange, and I feel the need to share. Strange symptoms are par for the course when you have FMS, but this is something other. Something is going on here. I'm not sure what.

My sister who also has FMS has an uncanny talent for describing our symptoms with almost poetic accuracy. I wish you could hear some of her descriptions. This new development I doubt she has experienced, so I'll do my best to describe it without her assistance. Emma, if you know what I'm talking about, please let me know so I don't think I'm going crazy.

Everything I eat tastes like eucalyptus. Well, I guess it doesn't taste like that, but it feels like it's been infused with a few drops of eucalyptus oil. I still register the regular flavor of my meal, but mixed with it is an aromatic, methol-like freshness. Normally I really like eucalyptus and menthol, but not when I'm eating salmon and quinoa pilaf. The refreshing tingling sensation should be reserved for brushing your teeth and chewing mint gum.

Actually, these vapors seem present in my mouth and sinuses all the time, but at first I just thought it was my lip balm. It's pretty normal to feel that after applying, but it feels like it's on my tongue too. And it doesn't go away. Not when the balm rubs off during the course of the day. Not when I eat. Not when I chew the skin off my lips because they are leperous. (Anyone ever felt like they had leperous lips before, or is it just me?)

It's not exactly unpleasant, but it is odd. Just one more thing to add to the list, I suppose.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I hereby request that you post something on your blog other than a picture of your pretty face and a delightful poll.

I want a feast. I want a bean feast. Oh, one of those.

(You're hearing the music in your head now, aren't you, little sister?)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

To Playlist, or Not to Playlist

I'm just going to say it. I HATE the playlists that have become so trendy to put on people's personal blogs. Now don't get all offended if you have one, please. I wasn't even going to write about this (though I have been contemplating it for some time,) for fear that I would offend one of my friends.

Then I checked my sister's blog and she had a poll about how people feel about these playlists. It felt so liberating to click the "Excessively Irritating" option, that I decided I'd just write what I've been aching to get off my chest ever since these things showed up.

I agree, that it's fun to see what kind of music people like. If you are my friend and you have a blog with a playlist, I have to say I have been generally pleased with your taste in music. There's a lot of good stuff out there. However, when I'm jumping around my friends' blogs or checking my email or whatever else online, enjoying the quietness of my house as Jenny naps, and suddenly I'm audio-slapped with raucous music that isn't fitting to my current mood or state of mind, I find it jarring. (I always pick my tunes based upon my mood, don't you?) I can usually get into whatever song is playing if I change my attitude of initial irritation to playfulness, but then I'm not usually on a blog long enough to hear a whole song, and I hate starting something and not finishing it.

Now, if you have a playlist on your blog, please still be my friend. I just needed to vent a bit. Please forgive me. I really do like music. I promise. I even like the over-processed-ear-candy that most people think is music.

While I was in college I studied music every day. I picked it apart. I critiqued it. I analyzed it. I studied form & part-writing. I learned to write 12 tone rows. I learned about pandiatonicism. I went through ear training. I practiced and practiced. I performed it. I went to mediocre recital after mediocre recital, listening to beautiful arias being desecrated by sub-standard singers, including myself. I learned to play (very ill, I might add) the french horn, clarinet, flute, trumpet, saxophone, recorder, snare drum, and various other instruments. I studied music history and 20th century composition techniques. I learned about throat singers in Bulgaria. I learned the difference between opera seria and opera buffa. I learned how to conduct a choir and how to manage behavior in a classroom. I wrote papers advocating for music education in public schools and analyzing Monteverdi's motets. Shall I go on?

After all of that and more, I learned to stay away from music during my personal time. Who likes to take their work home with them? For a while, just putting on a popular radio station was enough of a break for me, since it was such a different kind of music. But even then, I couldn't turn off the music critic inside my brain, and I found the simplistic harmonic progressions in pop music stultifyingly dull, not to mention the completely unmelodious melodies these songs have, or the complete lack of singing technique in the performers.

I've mostly gotten over that. I still don't play music in my car (NPR anyone?) unless you count the occasional cd of The Beatles or Baby Signing Time when Jenny is whining. Brent calls it auditory opium; it always settles her right down. Anyway, I find I can enjoy concerts and the radio again, but I still struggle with those ubiquitous playlists.

Rant over.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ode to Emma

She brought me chocolates when I was sick.

All my favourites did she pick.

Truffles: chocolate mint and key lime,

My savoring of them - sublime.

See's Candies are so delightful,

And make
all others seem just frightful.

A sister kind, thoughtful, and fun.

I praise her name! And now I'm done.

Seriously, though, I want to give a shout-out to my fantastic and stunning sister, Emma.

Emma and I are partners in pain. She gets it and can empathize with me better than anyone I know. Unfortunately, that ability comes from her own suffering. She understands that usually nothing can make me feel better physically, but the power of something to lift the spirit in the midst of illness is invaluable. I was sick a month or two ago, and she came to visit me bringing an offering of my favourite chocolates. What a sweetie!

She announced recently that she's expecting her first baby - yea!! She is going to make such a good mommy. Not only is she loving and thoughtful and kind and sweet and empathetic, she is also creative and hilarious and interesting. I wish I was like her.

Here she is as Super Auntie with her cute husband and my Baby Jenny. Doesn't she look like a natural? Soon she will be Super Mommy.
Love you Emma!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Jonah and Caroline Leave a Message

I babysat my nephew and niece tonight and told them about my blog. They wanted to leave a message to my friends and family.

From Jonah:
I want to tell you about my favourite princess and games. I went to Noelle's house and I found out they had a new game and I liked it really much. I didn't know the name of it, but it was really fun. You have to save all these princesses: Cinderella, Jasmine, Belle, and Snow White. You do three levels and you help each princess. My favourite of all princesses that I like is Sleeping Beauty and Ariel. They are my favourite because they have the prettiest dresses of all. The one I like the most is Sleeping Beauty's dress. I try to copy it on a piece of paper and draw it, but it's too hard. I can draw picture for all of you if you want one. Ariel is the next one. I like her fin. She can swim and dive in water and I like her red hair.

From Caroline:
Umm. Princess? Princess and Ariel and (giggle giggle) umm . . . Snow White one? Um, yeah. Um, 'cause, um, I don't know. Umm . . . Sleeping Beauty! Sock? Not sock! That's an animal. Everything has to eat seals. Well. White seals. Umm . . . I don't know. Help me. My favourite animal is a giraffe. Jonah likes a giraffe too. It's my favourite 'cause it is. Lion!! (giggle giggle).

From Jonah one more time:
On Planet Earth I saw a great white shark swallow a seal whole. It dived right out of the water, but I don't know how high. It swallowed the seal high and flipped it's tail and went right back down into the water. We saw a crazy part, but the most fun of part of all before I tell you the crazy part. We saw a dead tree and it fell over. We saw all these new sprouts that were beautiful and were starting to grow. We had a race to see who would get there first, but I don't know. And I saw the crazy part was we saw all these crazy mushrooms. One of them came out with a stem and came out a top. But the crazy part it wasn't just a top, it was a white thing that covered it to be guarded.

And one more from Caroline:
I don't know - you! (giggle, giggle)

Jonah is 5 and Caroline is 3. They are quite proud to be online. Here's a picture of them.

Stinky Cheese Party

For Brent's recent birthday we drove up the canyon to a picnic ground and had a cheese tasting party. Brent and I both love blue cheese and we decided to buy several kinds and try to develop our palates a little. We took cheese and crackers, some tasty bubbly, and some fruit. We got rained on, but under the trees we didn't get too wet. It was so fun!

Pretty Pigtails
Mmm . . . stinky cheese.
We had a Danish blue, Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola,
and an Amish Gorgonzola.
What a handsome man!
How did I get so lucky?

Cold Duck: my favourite bubbly.
It's WAY better than Martinelli's Sparkling Cider.
You've got to try it!

Jenny has learned how to say umbrella.
She says "blella" and sticks her tongue way out.
It's so adorable!

Happy Birthday my sweet husband!

A Train to Potevka

A Train to Potevka A Train to Potevka by Mike Ramsdell

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I enjoyed the stories in this book. The author has had some interesting experiences, and I loved learning a little bit more about what life was like for people in Russia during the fall of Communism. What a hard and sad life many people had. It's awful to think what hardships they lived under for so long, and still do to a great degree.

That being said, it's not a very good book. It's not written terribly well. The tangents the author takes to give background on his personal life don't flow well with the rest of the story. It's the kind of thing that would be interesting to hear him talk about, but it doesn't translate well to the page.

In the end, I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone. Although it did inspire me to learn more about the Bolshevik revolution and its aftermath. I want to learn more about the Russian people and culture now, so I'll be on the lookout for a better book than this one.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Food Storage

I feel a renewed and urgent need to work on my food storage. I received a strong impression to work on this last Spring. I have made the token effort here or there, but I haven't really gotten down to it. It's just so much work and so much planning. I have a couple of really good resources, and I know what to do, it's just doing it.

Right now I'm working on my 3 month supply. I'm trying to adapt my usual recipes to use shelf-stable ingredients, but as soon as I do that it no longer sounds appealing to me. I like to eat fresh, seasonal foods. Anyone got any good recipes to share? Anyone got a 3 month menu to share? Anyone interested in doing this with me?

If you are looking for a few good resources on food storage and emergency preparation, here are some I like:

  • "Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook" by Peggy Layton (My favourite resource. Very comprehensive, not just about food.)
  • "Emergency Food in a Nutshell" by Leslie D. Probert & Lisa L. Harkness (This has useful tables and tells you how much you need of what for however many people in your family.)
So let's get to it. Where are you on your food storage? What are you going to do this week to work on it?