Monday, December 29, 2008

Read Like the Wind!

Evidently, being stuck in the house for days on end while the snow piled up left me with a little free time. Free time in which I searched book blogs and writer blogs and even Amazon for books to add to my library waiting list.

Fortunately or unfortunately, almost all the books I put on hold were available right away.

And now I have 12 books waiting for me at the library. I still have 3 library books to be read, but I might return a few of those and check them out another time.

I'll have to let you know how the reading goes.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Don't Hate Me But...

I'm ready to take down the tree.

Sorry to be blunt, but I felt it was best to just be out with it. I want to remove all the ornaments, pack them up in our storage bin, unplug the tree and break it down into its three separate parts, put it in its box and stow everything away in the garage.

I floated this idea on my Facebook page and instantly got three messages telling me I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Is it so bad that I'm tired of Christmas? Seems like it's been everywhere for about 2 months now. No other holiday or activity (except baseball season and elections) lasts this long. The music, the decorations, the advertisements the snacks: Enough already.

If that makes me a Scrooge, then turn the heat down and slash the kid's allowances...I'm Scrooge.

I'm ready for something new. Something fresh and original. Something that ends in '9.'

I'm also ready for the kids to go back to school (that, too, has lasted long enough) and I'm ready to get started on some exciting new goals.

I just feel like making a clean sweep and starting fresh.

Doesn't that sound nice to anyone else?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Funny Christmas

Since most of you are probably enjoying time with your family and not checking blogs, I thought I'd post this silly little thing. I found it at Bookshelves of Doom.

Wii had a very merry Christmas. I hope you did too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry PJ's

Here are the boys in their Christmas PJ's that I made last night while Robert and Ethan were at the Blazer game.

Between my ineptitude with my new camera and the boys inability to cooperate, I had to take about 30 pictures to get this one good one. And yes, the was the only one that turned out.

("Please, all mommy wants for Christmas is for you boys to all look nice in a picture.")

Merry Christmas everyone!

These Boots

I love these boots. I bought them my first day as a missionary in Anchorage, Alaska.

I don't remember what prompted me to buy these particular boots. I remember thinking while I was at the MTC in Provo that when the time came I'd buy footwear that was a little more feminine. But when it came right down to it, I went with the Sorel Snowcat in white.

The drawstrings at the top of the boots are useful when walking in deep snow. I appreciated that feature several times on my mission, but mostly left them untied.

Usually I get these boots out of storage once a year for a day or two. This year the boots have been a familiar fixture by my front door for 2 weeks and counting. I am not exaggerating when I say that my feet are always toasty warm when I wear my Snowcats.

If I look goofy walking through the mall in my giant white boots, I really don't care. I love my boots and hope to still be wearing them in another 20 years.

(That's right...I was a missionary 20 years ago. Please. Don't do the math.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice

Things I did today, the shortest day of the year.

I tried to take fancy pictures of the ice encrusted plants in the front and back yards. We got freezing rain on top of our snow last night, so everything has a pretty crust on it.

I stood in a big snow drift in the back yard. We had lots of wind and very dry snow so some places have very deep snow and some places have only an inch or so.

It does appear that the wind blew towards our side of the street because we all have around four to six inches of snow in our driveways while the folks across the street hardly have anything.

I took pictures of Robert shoveling the driveway. It's even deeper down towards where the sidewalk usually is.

This was hard work and Robert only got one side of the driveway shoveled off. I guess if he drives to work tomorrow he'll be taking the 4 wheel drive with the chains on which means I'll probably be stuck at home...again.

I watched from inside the house while Jonah built a snow tunnel in the front yard next to a 3 foot tall azalea that is essentially buried.We also had church in our house today. Because church was canceled for the 2nd week in a row, our Stake President encouraged members to meet in their homes and if they were close to other members, they could gather together and take the sacrament. So we did. It was great.

Every day, from now until June 21, the days will get longer and lighter. Yay!

Friday, December 19, 2008

All Candied Out

Peanut Butter Fudge: This is Kimberly Yates' recipe from the Skyline Ward Relief Society cookbook. It was pretty straightforward except I didn't have enough marshmallow cream so I had to run to the store and get more right in the middle of the recipe. Robert says it's a winner and all the kids are hoping there is a lot left over after gifting.

Penuche Fudge: This was by far the most difficult of all the candy I made. I had to beat it by hand with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes until it lost it's "gloss." My arms were killing me! Also, this recipe (which is found in the red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook) only made an 8 x 4 loaf pan's worth of candy. However, it is so tasty, I'm really glad I made it.

Georgia Pralines: Hmmm, where to begin. This is not what I'd pictured my Georgia pralines to look like. I pictured them looking more like this. Anyway, after thinking I'd completely messed these pralines up, then realizing that maybe I didn't, I decided to let the family eat them up instead of giving them away.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Power of Snow

Snow has the power to make kids hurl themselves down a slope, over and over, for 3 hours.

Snow has the power to make people drink hot chocolate.

Snow has the power to make the world pristine, quiet and magical.

And, in Oregon,
Snow has the power to shut down school. For 5 days.

Snow also has the power to cancel day time TV in favor of up to the minute snow reports. ("It was snow, but now it's sleet...or is that rain? No, definitely sleet. Check back at 11 for the latest updates on our Winter Storm Watch!")

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Make Candy

English Toffee: Yum! This is Stephanie Johnson's recipe, found in the Skyline Ward Relief Society Cook Book. I'm not going to list out the recipe, but will report that it is completely delicious and I'm not sure one batch will be enough for gifts. Because I'm snacking on it every chance I get.

Divinity: That's right, this is supposed to be divinity. I guess it's good that most people don't care for this treat. I happen to enjoy it and don't have it more than once a year, so I thought I would try and make it. Well, it didn't work out. Even if these blobs look edible, I could not pry them from the waxed paper. (Sound familiar Erika?) So, I wadded up the whole batch, waxed paper and all, and dumped them in the trash.

Oreo Bark: Ingredients, almond bark and Oreos. Melt a package of almond bark, stir in half a bag of crushed Oreos, turn out onto a pan lined with waxed paper, let cool and break into pieces. The one problem I did have with the Oreo bark is that it didn't quite fit in the air tight container so I had to eat a few pieces to get the lid on. Problem solved.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

That Time of Year

It's that time of year when I beg the family to stand still for 20 seconds for a family picture.

Really, standing still is all I hope for at this point because begging and pleading kids to look at the camera or to "please, for the love of Pete, just smile normally," has just not worked.

This same picture will be in our Christmas newsletter which I promise I will work on right away, after I check out something I just heard about from Senia...

freetetris.org
!

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Just That Easy

These are Pretzel Treats. If you have a copy of the Skyline Ward Relief Society's "Friends In My Kitchen" cookbook, this recipe appears in the "Candy and Cookies" section.

If you don't have a copy of that cookbook, all you need for these treats are pretzels, Rolo candies and pecan halves.

Place a Rolo on each pretzel. Warm in a 200 degree oven for 2 minutes, remove from oven and press a pecan into the soft Rolo. Let cool.

I tasted one to make sure they are gift-worthy and guess what...they are!

(Does my title remind anyone of the Bass-o-Matic?)

Indoor Heat, Will You Marry Me?

OK, I can't marry "indoor heat" but I sure do love it.

It's a little miracle to me that the inside of our house can be 69 or 70 while the outside is seriously frozen. Last night the wind howled, and I don't know about the "wind chill" or anything like that, but the thermometer said temps were in the teens.

Today, the sun is out and the thermometer is reading 20. The wind is blowing and for some reason, my kids are bundled up and playing outside. OUTSIDE!

I've got a crock pot of hot chocolate warming and ready for them when the come in. I'll hang their snow suits, mittens, hats and scarves on a drying rack so that they will be ready for them when they go out again.

I, on the other hand, will not be going outside if I can possibly help it. And trust me, I'll help it.

I'm out of hot chocolate, but will find an on line recipe to make some from scratch if I have to. I'm not going outside.

I've got a 500 page book that will surely get me through the day. And if I finish that, I've got 4 more I can choose from after that.

As for food, we might run out of milk and eggs, but we should be able to eat for weeks with out having to go to the store. As long as the power doesn't go out.

It's days like this that make me wonder how I ever survived living in Alaska or Utah.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Caramels

I did it!

I made home made caramels.

It was easy and I read "Chains" by Laurie Halse Anderson while I stirred for about 45 minutes.

Here's the recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook if you'd like to make them too. You will definitely need a candy thermometer to make these caramels.

1 cup butter or margarine
16 ounces light brown sugar
2 cups light cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a 9x9 or 8x11 inch pan with foil and spray foil with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a 3 quart saucepan over low heat then add brown sugar, cream and corn syrup and increase heat to medium high. Stir mixture until it boils, then clip candy thermometer to the side of the pan and reduce heat to medium. Continue to stir for about 45 to 60 minutes until mixture reaches 248 F.

Remove caramel from heat and immediately add and stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Pour caramel into prepared pan and let cool completely.

After about 4-6 hours, lift caramels out using the foil and turn onto a piece of waxed paper. Carefully remove the foil and then cut caramels into 1 inch squares and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap.

I found it was easiest to cut the caramels with a pizza cutter. I sliced a 1 inch strip off the block of caramel and then cut little pieces off and wrapped them before slicing off another 1 inch strip.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Making Candy With Nuts

I should start by saying that I'm all for making things simple. My mantra is "need to do, nice to do, nuts to do" and most of the time I'm very sensible about maintaining that. I try to stick with the "need to" and occasionally will throw in a "nice to." But the "nuts to" is right out!

So, call it what you will--temporary insanity or a Christmas miracle--but I'm going to go a little nuts for Christmas.

I've decided to make an assortment of 8 different kinds of candy for holiday goody giving. I'm going to start with home made caramels because I tried some at a friends house last year and they were delicious. She said they were easy to make, but very time consuming.

Sign me up!

Here is the full list of what I will be attempting in the coming weeks.

Caramels
Penuche
Divinity (is everyone giving a collective "ewww?")
English toffee
Peanut butter fudge
Pretzel treats (you will just have to wait and see.)
Oreo cookie bark
Georgia pralines

I will blog about my successes and failures (I'm not an idiot...I fully anticipate a few flops) and include pictures so you can admire my skill or laugh at my folly.

(There doesn't seem to be enough chocolate on the list.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mrs. Bennet Became a Fan of Charles Bingley

Have you wanted to read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice but just don't seem to have the time?

Do you speak "Twitter?"

Is Facebook your favorite form of communication?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I think I've found something you will enjoy...

It's Pride and Prejudice a la Facebook!

And if you have plenty of time to read Pride and Prejudice and prefer long, archaically worded sentences to concise blips, and if you need your Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy fix, you will still get a kick out of Austenbook.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Because I Promised Never to Bring it Up Again...

...I have no comment.

Monday, December 8, 2008

What I Want For Christmas

Oh, I know what you are thinking..."she just wrote a long missive about how there was too much stuff out there and she wanted to get off the 'consumerism grid' and now she says she wants a Lexus?"

No, I don't want the Lexus...I want the giant bow.

How fun would it be to take our old 1994 Honda Accord, park it in the driveway on Christmas Eve and slap that massive red car bow on top of it? I can just imagine the reactions from our neighbors when they saw it Christmas morning.

Would they even notice the 14 year old car or just the $200 bow and assume the car was new?

Of course if I had an extra $200 for Christmas, I would not spend it on a giant red bow. But you have to admit, the giant bow could be a lot of fun.

I know. I'm a nerd.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stuff

I'm having an issue with stuff. This time of year I'm reminded of how, generally, we have too much stuff.

I'm not saying it's just me...it's you too. We all have too much stuff. Do you know how I know this? Because of commercials for these...

Come on! You know there is not a single person in the world who needs one of these? What could possibly be the purpose? Yet Fred Meyer has a pallet of these things in every store. And people are buying them!

And why do we only see commercials for these things around Christmas? Because we all have so much stuff and people, who for some reason feel compelled to buy us gifts, can't think of a single thing we NEED so they get something we don't need...The Chia Pet.

The Clapper falls into the same category. OK, I admit The Clapper might actually be a product that someone needs. Maybe about .01% of the population really, really NEEDS The Clapper.

But the clapper now comes with a remote control so that if you don't want to clap to turn on your lights, you can simply push a button. (Wait...there's something familiar about this.)

You can even mount the clapper remote on the wall, so you always know where it is and can easily switch on a light when you come in a room. Just like a light switch, except $24.95.

I spent some time this morning listening to George Carlin's take on "stuff" but will not post the video here because this blog is rated PG.

To paraphrase, George says the meaning of life is to find a place to keep all our stuff and that our houses are really just places for us to keep our stuff. A house is like a pile of stuff with a cover on it. And when we leave the house, we lock it up to keep our stuff safe while we go out to get more stuff. (OK, it does sound a bit funnier when he says it...)

I've been thinking about all the stuff out there for us to buy. Most of us have what we need, but still want to acquire more stuff. Then when the stuff goes out of style, we throw the stuff out and it goes into a land fill. The stuff had to be manufactured and transported, which takes up energy and causes pollution.

But stuff also creates jobs. If we got rid of all the stuff, there would not be enough jobs for people, and then they wouldn't have enough money to buy their stuff.

I think we need less stuff, even if it does create unemployment and other problems with the economy. We can overcome those issues and reduce waste and pollution and debt.

I've been thinking about getting off the consumerism grid. I was inspired by this article I read several years ago and have been thinking about it ever since. I wanted to try it for 2009 but feel the second hand clothing issue would be an obstacle too hard for me to overcome.

So, instead, I'm going to more fully embrace and live by these words:

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do with out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Holiday Reading Guide

Did you read "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins? If you did, check out this round table book discussion by the Longstockings. It's like going to a book club discussion in the comfort of your very own home!

If you have not read the book, do not click on the above link because the discussion contains spoilers and trust me, you do NOT want this book to be spoiled. Request it at the library or go to your nearest book store and buy it. It's great.

"What I Saw and How I Lied" by Judy Blundell just won the National Book Award for YA fiction and is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Set in the 1940's just after World War II with descriptive writing and clever wording that will make you feel like you are right there.

This is a coming of age story with a little mystery and some very interesting moral dilemmas to consider.

"Airborn" by Kenneth Oppel was a great discovery thanks to Beth who recommended it on Good Reads. This would actually be a great book to read aloud to boys and girls, but especially boys.

Matt Cruse is a 15 year old cabin boy aboard a luxury air ship. Think: the Titanic of blimps. It is his home and he has high hopes of advancing and one day becoming captain. The story contains pirates, a shipwreck, fierce fighting and scientific discoveries. Oh yeah, there is also a cute girl.

Check out this great website that goes along with the series.

And finally, if you haven't read Diana Raybourne's "Slient" series of mysteries, what are you waiting for? I already told you they were great fun and very addictive. What more do you want? Romance? OK, fine, there is a little of that too.

"Silent in the Grave" and "Silent in the Sanctuary" are both available at your library or bookstore and "Silent on the Moor" will be out in March. Of course that one will surely leave you wanting more and you will have to wait for the 4th book to come out who-knows-when, so maybe you shouldn't read these afterall.