Monday, July 27, 2009

The One With Thomas Tallis and the NY Times Crossword

Today is my dad’s birthday. He passed away back in October. I honestly don’t sit around feeling sad that he is gone. Sometimes I can’t quite believe that he isn’t just home sitting on his deck throwing things for his golden retriever Roxy to fetch, and that I just haven’t talked to him in awhile. But this week has been a little discouraging for me, and it would have been nice to call him and talk to him about it. He would have told me how great I am, and that it would all work out, and then… it would have. All worked out, that is. It will anyway, but it would have been nice to hear him say it. I wish I could ask him where I should go to fix the broken window in my living room. He would have known. He was an answerer, and a fixer.

When I was a kid, he would occasionally break me out of school (you know, like one breaks out of a prison). He would tell me that he thought I looked sick, and I needed some medicine. The “medicine” always turned out to be a big ice cream cone from Thrifty. Sometimes some good medicine is exactly the cure.

Everyone who knew my dad has stories about him. He loved stories, so he probably would be pretty happy about that. I was thinking to myself, I could tell a story about him. But when I think about Dad, I don’t think about a story. I think about the thousands of times that he showed me that he loved me, and that he thought I was amazing. “Vic, listen to this:” and he would want me to hear a part of a symphony that he thought was particularly beautiful. Or he would want me to just lie down next to him so that he could hold my hand or watch him do a crossword puzzle. Rather than remembering with a story, I think I will listen to Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto” or “Fantasia on a Theme from Thomas Tallis” by Ralph Vaughan Williams. And maybe do a crazy-hard New York Times crossword puzzle. But not definitely not in pen…

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The One With the Wednesday Wedding

This one goes out to Darrel and Janna on their wedding day...

{Note: I have been very disappointed with the mp3 quality of Hipcast, that hosts my mp3s. I am playing around with a couple of options. For now, listen to this song from the playlist at left. You will find the quality MUCH better.}

The Moments Between

In my life
Seems I’m always the one
Who is holding the line
And that’s perfectly fine
I can be the strong one.

But when
Eternity shows in the eyes
Of my children,
I realize there must be
Something more out there for me.

Can be measured in the moments.
A hundred—no, thousands
That flicker like fireflies
And light the dark.

But in between
Those moments
Are minutes
And hours, and days, even years
Of walking alone,
A single set of footprints
In the dust

Until I saw you
And I knew that you were the answer
Just you
The strong one for babes of your own
And I swear,
If it’s the last thing I do I’ll be brave
Find a way to be
Forever with you.
Because there in your eyes
In the touch of your hand
I see you’re the one who can share
All the moments

All the moments
I saw you;
Got caught up in the vision
And realized I knew you
From somewhere or sometime
We used to be.

No sound and no motion
Just looking inside of me
Reminding me I’d just been
Marking time

Until I saw you
You were the answer
Just you
The strong one for babes of your own
And I swear,
If it’s the last thing I do I’ll be brave,
Find a way to be
Forever with you.
Because there in your eyes
In the touch of your hand
In the way that you move
In the song of your voice
I see you’re the one who can share
All the moments

All the moments

All of the moments

The One With the Good, the Bad and Ugly

Today we went to the beach with two of our favorite (ex) missionaries and Elder H’s family. It was beautiful, dirty, perfect… and shocking. Opposition.

I got to take some engagement photos for these two. The big one is Elder H’s brother Clint. The cute one is Natasha. I’ll post all their photos on the photo blog in a couple of days.

We roasted our corn as usual:

The friends were fun, the food yummy.

The water, still pretty cold, even in July.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention, the sunset: Amazing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The One Where She is Slightly Out of Temper; or Whitney & Morgan’s Wedding Reception

Last night was Morgan and Whitney’s wedding reception. They looked amazing and happy... I made some beautiful and delicious food, and it was very fun. This morning I woke up at 6:45, and thought, “I should sleep in… but I hurt too much!” So I got up. Used the leftover blueberries to make a sauce for some homemade pancakes. Because I think this morning is the last time the missionaries will eat breakfast in our home. Yikes!

So anyway, here are some fun pictures from the wedding, and from the prep. Have you ever seen a chocolate tempering machine? When chocolate is “in temper” then hardens quickly and looks beautiful and glossy. Chocolate which is “out of temper” has a white “bloom” and a grainy texture. You know, like when you leave a Hershey bar in the sun, and then cool it down and try to eat it… not good. So this machine takes the guesswork out of tempering chocolate. Of course I have to push its limits… cook with danger. It is what I do.

Berries dipped in chocolate… rolled in toffee…

or mini chips. Or with M’s or W’s for Mo and Whitney.

The prime rib was a huge hit, as were my very attractive helpers for the evening. The twice-baked potatoes went over well. I am still never doing them again. Ever. Don’t ask me.

Also, check out this creation: I made chocolate meringues the night before, and then the morning of the wedding I whipped up some Callebaut (good brand of Belgian chocolate) mousse, and piped it onto the meringues. They were pretty tasty. I know, because that is what I ate for breakfast. (The breakfast of champions?)

Another fun thing was the mint lemonade. Whitney fell in love with mint lemonade during her summer nursing internship to Amman, Jordan. While I realize it would have been much tastier using fresh-squeezed lemons, this was very good even made with Minute Maid concentrate. I made a simple syrup the night before, using a couple of huge bunches of fresh mint, chopped. After they had steeped in the syrup for an hour, I strained out the mint, and we used the syrup in the lemonade, along with another huge bunch of fresh mint leaves in the jar. Very tasty.

If you want any of the recipes, let me know. Just don’t ask me for the recipe for the chocolate moussecake, strawberry cheesecake or key lime pie… you will have to ask Costco for those.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The One With the Dream House

What a lot of great guesses I got about my secret ingredient. Most of those things go in most of my food. Cherie was maybe closest. DK and Cambria gave clues, but as they know the real answer, they were nice enough not to give it away. The real secret ingredient is DANGER. A little too much of everything. Pieces of finger cut off with my razor-sharp Cutco knives… batter spilling (or spraying) out of bowls. It gives everything a little zing. That, and Cholula. Thank you for playing. Now I have to get down to the business at hand, which is some very dangerous cooking for 400 guests tomorrow night. Have you ever even seen a 22-pound beef roast? It is not pretty, in its uncooked state. But I need to put that all out of my mind for a minute, and tell you about the dream house.

Skippy and I had an important brainstorming session today. It actually started when we were driving the other day, and Skippy asked me: “Mama, do you love me more than you love Dillon?” So I said, “Why, of course I do, buddy. I love you more than anything.” (Dillon was a little insulted by that—haha!). So today I told Skippy that even if someone offered me a million… no, $50 million dollars, that I would still not trade him.

His reply was, “What if they offered $50 million plus a house and car that was just for you?” Now you’re talking, Skip… Well, long story short we started escalating this imaginary offer, and in the process, came up with a fairly amazing dream house package. We actually never got around to the car. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t care less about cars. This is the dream house: First of all, it overlooks the ocean, with a nice little trail that leads down to a pristine private beach. But the real prize is the house itself, because it has been custom-designed with special rooms for many different tastes and purposes. Among those? There is a music room, of course. But this music room houses a rock band and a symphony orchestra, who are all on-call 24/7. There is an M&M room. It is obviously filled, hip-deep, with M&Ms candies.

There is a Mariachi room. Open the door, and you are greeted by a private mariachi band, every imaginable kind of taco, and virgin margaritas. There is a Missionary Room. This one has a foosball table, ping pong, laundry service, and a living room set up in which there is always a family waiting to hear more lessons. I thought this was funny: I asked Skippy, “How about a movie theater?” He laughed, and said, “You can’t put a movie theater in a house!” I found it interesting that he thought a Mariachi room made sense, but not a movie theater... especially since we live a quarter mile from Coto de Caza, where half the houses have something resembling a movie theater. In our dream house there is also a full basketball court, and on the roof, a swimming pool. Skippy says there is good news and bad news about that. First the bad news: you could fall off. The good news? There is a swimming pool on your roof! And my personal favorite… the maid’s quarters…

So what room would be in your dream house?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The One With the Secret Ingredient

I have bangs today. Random, right? I just thought I would share.

So on to the real subject of the post. I have read on Carolyn’s blog that duck eggs make practically anything you cook with them magic. But yesterday I found out firsthand, when a package arrived from Virginia. Did I mention how much I adore receiving letters or packages addressed to me? Inside were a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies. I bit into the first one, expecting that, having traversed the continental U.S., it might be a little crumbly or crisp. No. Perfectly soft, melt-in-my-mouth, and tasting as though it was still slightly warm from the oven, as the box had been sitting on my front porch for a few minutes.

Carolyn is one of my close friends. No, I have never met her. In fact, lately I have noticed that many of my friends are people I have never met in person. I could give you a list. (Sounds pathetic, doesn’t it? Like, “No... really, I swear I have friends...”) But maybe my list of friends I have never met begs the question… is it easier to like me if we haven’t met? I hope that is not true. I am working on the skill of sugar-coating things a little better. But really, isn’t it fascinating how one can reach out across thousands of miles and find a kindred spirit?

As for the duck eggs, I have never tasted one before now. Carolyn rescues them from menacing ravens, and then bakes them into cookies, with love as her secret, magical ingredient. I know, because I read the post where she made them. Love as a secret ingredient is a powerful thing. Carolyn clearly has it down. I throw a little love into my food as well, but it is not my secret ingredient in everything I make. Have I ever told you what is? You have to guess. If you guess correctly, then you can come over to my house, have a seat in my kitchen, and I will make you something. If you live too far away, then you will have to use your imagination. Or maybe you will ask some other favor… the answer to some obscure question… a handwritten letter… whatever. So, secret ingredient. Hmm... what could it be?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The One With the Surprise

Happy 4th of July! Skippy and Cambria got to use some sparklers that a nice lady gave DK at work (they aren’t strictly legal here, but we didn’t start any fires...) So we actually thought we would skip the fireworks show at the lake tonight. Until we saw how devastated Skippy was at that news. So we jumped in the car… a little late, since a couple thousand people crowd around the small lake for the show. We found a parking place next to Trabuco Mesa Park, and thought, hmm… there are a couple hundred people here to watch the fireworks. We are so late there won’t even be standing room at the lake. So we set up our beach chairs on the gentle slope at the upper edge of the ball field, and waited for the show to begin. About five minutes into the fireworks, with absolutely no sound or warning, a commercial-grade sprinkler started up three feet in front of me, completely drenching me. We jumped up and ran about 20 feet until the sprinkler couldn’t reach us, and set our chairs up again. We were all laughing except for Skippy, who had been sitting in my lap. He and I had really gotten a face full of water, and he was not happy about it.

Thirty seconds later, the sprinkler came back, except that this time it reached about six feet further than it had on the first sweep, and I totally got nailed by it again! By this time we were pretty much cowering on the sidewalk with our backs against the cars parked there at the curb. I was dripping and shivering, and thinking that some hot chocolate would have been a good idea. But at least I couldn’t get any wetter. That is something you should never say out loud. It is like that Grizzly Rapids ride at California Adventure. Just when you think you can’t get any wetter… well, you know. So all of a sudden, in the middle of the fireworks finale, this renegade sprinkler with no head shoots off right at the grass line about ten feet away. It was like a fireman was standing there with a high pressure hose… aiming it at me! DK used me as a human shield, and managed to remain entirely dry. I, on the other hand, look like I went for a swim. For whatever random reason, tonight we provided a little side show for the enjoyment of all the other patrons at the park.

Skippy was telling us in the car on the way home, how next time we have to go to the lake, because he didn’t appreciate our choice of location. I tried to explain to him that it was an adventure, and that in a few days, he won’t remember the fireworks… but the sprinklers going off… that he will remember. I don’t think he believes me.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The One For the Fourth

This isn’t exactly for Independence Day. But I was thinking about soldiers... and why we care about independence in the first place. This is one of my latest. I hope you like it.

Right Here Where I Stand

Once the Lord of all the earth
Descended lower than us all.
His power spent to purchase grace
No one left to heed his call.
At the last, he stood there, left alone
With only love that has no end.
But as long as I can draw a breath,
He’ll never stand alone again.

I will stand
And I will wait for him.
I will never be ashamed.
I will stand and wait for him
And bear his holy name.
My heart is not troubled
I am not afraid.
I know he will find me
Right here where I stand.

You know it is not easy
This war we fight each day.
We are strangers in this foreign land
Soldiers caught up in the fray.
And some days I grow weary
Until I think I cannot fight
But then I see him suffering there for me
And struggle on with all my might.

In the fiery wind of battle
I can hear the desperate cries
Of wounded men who wander, blind
From smoke that clouds their eyes.
If they can only hold on
And hear the Savior’s call
I will find my brothers and carry them.
I may bleed, but I will never fall.

I will stand
And I will wait for him.
I will never be ashamed.
I will stand and wait for him
And bear his holy name.
My heart is not troubled
I am not afraid.
I know he will find me,
He’ll come again in all his glory
And when he comes that day, he’ll find me
Right here where I stand.
Murray Felkner

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The One With the Sweet and Sour

Today was not a bad day. What’s the expression? Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing? Yeah, it was that kind of day. But there were some good points.

Sweet: Moroni Chapter 10 in our family scripture reading. What does that even mean? It means we finished the Book of Mormon again today, as a family! That is pretty sweet.

Sour: I made 280 twice-baked potatoes. Ew, ew, ew. That is all I have to say about that. Well, and thank you to Cambria for scooping them all. But I still don’t want to look at another russet for a very long time.

Sweet: I don’t have to look at another russet for a very long time, because my friend Janis came over and picked up the last 40 pounds, and she is going to make the other 150.

Sour: Did you hear that Michael Jackson died? Oh no! (jk… first of all, I am not quite that behind the times, and secondly, sorry Michael, but it is probably a mercy).

Sweet: I finished one more song.

Sour: I am stuck on the next one. And I seem to undergo a crisis of faith (in myself, mostly) about every other day. I should really get over that.

Sweet: One of my fav returned missionaries called. He is awesome.

I will end on that sweet one, but I should reiterate what a bad idea it is to make 280 twice-baked potatoes at one time. It is right up there with buying sushi from a strip mall. Or letting your toddler crawl into bed with you without a diaper on. Answering the phone on Sunday morning. Need I continue?