Thursday, January 31, 2013


When I was a young, twenty-something newlywed, I went to a weekly Relief Society activity. I can't remember what we did, but I do remember overhearing a woman talking to her friends. This is what she said:

"I was putting on my make-up and noticed a little wrinkle in my chin. I was so depressed about this new wrinkle and about how I'm getting old. And as I was obsessing in the mirror over this wrinkle, I got a little closer and realized it wasn't a wrinkle, it was a whisker!"

She couldn't figure out what was worse: her failing eyesight or the fact that she had a whisker.

Meanwhile, I was shocked and disgusted. It was like finding out who Santa was and how babies are made all in the same fell swoop. Still, it couldn't be true. This scenario would surely never play out in my own life. Would it?

Last week I turned 44. With each advancing year, I feel more and more connected to this woman from my past. The body is an amazing thing even when it starts to betray us. However, with the right lighting, I am proud to say, I have yet to mistake a whisker for a wrinkle.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cleaning The Whole House: 31 Easy Steps

Just like a two-year old, I crave routine. Unlike a two-year old, I also have a fondness for order. To fulfill my needs for routine and order, I clean the house, top to bottom, once a week. After I clean, it's easy to do a quick pick up or wipe down here and there to maintain routine and order until Sunday night, when everything returns to chaos.

Monday has been my regular house cleaning day but this week, there was a holiday on Monday and the kids were home from school. Cleaning the house while the kids are home is a stupid, frustrating, and redundant task, so I usually wait for everyone to be gone to get my effective cleaning done.

My goal is to have the house in perfect order and be completely done by the time the kids get home from school. This rarely happens, but I get pretty close and then I can finish the rest after dinner.

Here's how I clean house:

1. Everything has a place. If there are not enough places for the stuff, I get rid of some of the stuff.
2. The iPod needs to be updated with all of my favorite, current podcasts and I listen to them in this order throughout the day as I clean:
     a. Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me
     b. Stuff Mom Never Told You (usually 2 episodes)
     c. Stuff You Should Know (usually 2 episodes)
     d. This American Life
     e. The Moth
     f. Freakonomics
     g. Stuff You Missed in History Class
2a. Completely shut down computer
3. Start a load of laundry and put in ear buds. (Some laundry is started the night before)
4. I take a giant Ikea reusable bag and collect everything down stairs that belongs upstairs, including any towels or other laundry that needs to be done. Then I take the bag upstairs and leave it.
5. I dust/polish the dining room table, piano, buffet, computer desk shelves, etc. Empty garbage under desk, file any papers and put everything in its place.
6. I clean the kitchen counters, empty/load dishwasher, clean fish bowl water, Comet the sink, wash windows behind sink, clean and polish kitchen table (stack chairs on top of table), wipe down my laptop, sweep floor and mop floor.
7. Change laundry
8. Clean downstairs bathroom, toilet, sink, mirror, mop floor, replace towels with laundered ones.
9. Replace decorative couch pillows, dust table in TV room. Dust as needed
10. Tidy Robert's office if possible
11. Vacuum entire downstairs (downstairs is now complete!)
12. Upstairs, empty Ikea bag and toss contents into correct rooms.
13. Change laundry
14. Clean playroom: put all toys away, throw away garbage, return Wii stuff to proper place, dust as needed.
15. Vacuum playroom
16. Clean kids bathroom, tub, sink, counter, toilet, mirror, replace towels and empty trash and mop floor. (I can do this in about 10 minutes)
17. Change laundry (clean laundry gets dumped on my bed. The pile is growing)
18. Clean Isaac and Jonah's room, pick up floor, return everything to its place, make beds with fresh sheets if necessary (about every 4 weeks--they actually sleep on top of their bedspreads most nights) dust.
19. Go to Taco Bell drive through, order burrito supreme and Dr. Pepper. Return home and eat for 30 minutes. Then back to work!
20. Clean Ethan's room, pick up floor, return everything to its place, make bed with fresh sheets, dust
21. Change laundry
22. Fold all laundry
23. Put all folded laundry away
24. Mop laundry room floor (about this time, laundry should be all done, or the last load in the dryer)
25. Vacuum boys bedrooms and hall way (about this time, kids start getting home from school)
26. Make my bed, dust/polish all wood, pick up floor, throw garbage away, general tidying
27. Clean master bathroom, sinks, counter, mirrors, shower, toilet, replace towels, mop floor, return laundry baskets to closet.
28. Vacuum my bathroom (that's right, my stupid bathroom has carpet!), bedroom, hallway, stairs and landing.
29. Put vacuum cleaner away.
30. Take a bath, read book, use one of those fizzing bath bombs, relax.
31. Go to bed.

If all goes well, the next day I wake up to a perfectly clean house and every laundry basket is empty and all the clothes are put away. Everything is put away in fact. Maintenance is easy for the next 4 days. Routine and order abound.

Friday, January 18, 2013


"You probably got it all figured out, Corey. If you start out depressed everything's kind of a pleasant surprise."
Lloyd Dobler

This morning I was watching a news story about a woman who's destination wedding went horribly, HORRIBLY wrong. 
First of all, when she arrived to her New Orleans hotel, the grounds didn't look anything like they did in the online picture. There was NO GRASS. The hotel offered to lay down green carpet for her. Can you imagine? Green carpet. As if!
Second, her flowers arrived and some of them were dead! Newsflash: they were all dead. Admittedly, some did not look as if they were freshly cut.
Third, her fiancé's rented three-piece suit arrived and it was the wrong size.
Fourth, on the day of her wedding, while they were taking pictures, it was really humid and after several photos, they had to unzip the back of her dress and put ice packs on her back. She thought she was going to faint.
There were a couple things running through my head as I watched this little story, but the big thought was this:
If that bride would have kept things simple she would have had a much better day. It's my firm belief that the more epic your plans, the more epic your potential for disappointment. I admit, the pendulum swings both ways and epic delight is also possible with ones epic plans. However, it's been obvious to me since I was 15 years old that the more worked up I got about something, the more I tried to control the world around me, the more disappointed I would become.
Much better to roll with the punches, go with the flow, and keep it simple stupid.

  • A dance where I spent four hours getting ready was always more disappointing than a dance where I threw an outfit together last minute.
  • The 16th birthday where I'd pictured the car in the driveway, complete with giant bow became hugely disappointing when what I actually got was a volleyball.
  • Slaving over a time consuming breakfast of blueberry-orange french toast served to a bunch of eat-to-live boys becomes nothing more than self-torment. 
Except when it comes to personal integrity and virtue, I don't think there is anything wrong with low expectations.  Figure out the one or two things that are most important to you and focus on those. Then let everything else go. 

I'm much happier when I think about how dry and warm I am in my house rather than how nasty my carpets and floors are. 

I'm thrilled that my kids don't complain when I have grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner that their lack of appreciation for a fancy meal doesn't bother me. Much. Anymore.

When I attend church events with absolutely no expectations, I have a blast!

For me, a big part about keeping it simple is not looking out, but looking in. Stop paying attention to what everyone else has that I don't, and focus on all that I have. 

I have a lot. I have enough. I have everything I need. I am happy.

Keep it simple stupid.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Jell-o Project: Not as Bad as it Looks

The comeback Jell-o had to be a Statement Jell-o, and nothing makes a statement like Red Hots, celery, nuts and mayonnaise. Oh yes. This Jell-o contains all four of these delightfully mismatched ingredients, and more.

It should be noted that Jell-o salads with creamy middle layers should never be attempted in a mold. I've made this mistake once before and will not make it again. It makes for a perfectly ugly turn out.

Also, the next time I make a Jell-o with nuts, and a darkish piece of walnut is front and center for the photo shoot, I will remove said walnut or turn said Jell-o. (I swear. It's just a walnut.)

The final lesson learned is that whenever one feels sad about the feedback she received on her Jell-o salad, one should drive the bulk of the left-overs to Mrs. Andrea Bell's house where all bad feelings will suddenly disappear as Mrs. Bell gushes over and gulps down convincing amounts of Jell-o.

Here's the recipe:
2/3 cup red hots
2 cups boiling water
6 oz. Lemon Jello
1 1/2 cups applesauce
8 oz. cream chese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chopped celery

Dissolve red hots in water, then dissolve Jell-o in water then mix in apple sauce. Pour half into a casserole or glass bowl. Mix cream cheese and mayo together until smooth. Add in celery and nuts and combine. Spread mixture over the first half after Jell-o is set. Then add the remaining Jell-o and return to fridge to set completely.

And now for the feedback:

Me: I thought it was delicious. The cinnamon smell was delightfully obvious and the texture of the apple sauce, red layer was perfect. The middle layer was a bit much to take on its own, but together with the cinnamon-apple layer, it made a surprisingly good combination.

Jonah: Really didn't have any words for the Jell-o as he was eating it pretty quickly. He said he liked it al lot, although he did not request seconds. As a result, my findings on this subject were not conclusive.

Robert: Ate it. Kindly encouraged others in the family to eat it as well. Said it was "not bad." I suspect he is remaining vague in order to decrease his presence in these blog posts.

Ethan: Ate one bite, nearly threw up. (Or maybe he's just getting really, really good at pretending like he's going to throw up.)

Isaac: whiffed the Jell-o. Looked at the Jell-o. Refused to even go near the Jell-o. As a side note, he also refused to eat his beef stroganoff and his broccoli.

In conclusion, they can run, they can hide, they can fake vomit but it doesn't change a thing. Jell-o is back.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Confession (Shh . . . Don't Tell)

I don't care for Girl Scout cookies. I don't dislike them, but I'm definitely not ga-ga for them either. And they're pricey. I'd rather not purchase them.

However, it kills me to walk by those sweet little girls standing outside the grocery store, or to turn away the cuties at my door. The only way I can do it is if I have a good reason. A reason like, "I already bought some."

So, this year I'm buying Girl Scout Cookies so I don't have to buy Girl Scout Cookies.

A box of Thin Mints and a box of Samoas, to be exact.

Now, if your darling child is selling Girl Scout Cookies and wants to sell some to me I will say to her with my most sincere frown-smile , "Sorry, I already bought some."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Not the Last Straw, But Definitely a Straw

This evening I read a Yahoo News article about a woman who went a whole year without wearing makeup. Imagine! A whole year. No make up. But that's not all. She also didn't wear jewelry and didn't use hardly any hair product.

The result: A book deal.

I, on the other hand, almost never wear makeup and jewelry. To wit, my ear piercings are practically closed up so that if I wanted to wear earrings, I would have to perform very minor home surgery before doing so. (Notice, I'm leaving out any mention of hair product here.)

The result: The only book deal I've gotten was when I purchased Is That a Word: The Weird and Wonderful Language of Scrabble for 35% off the cover price.

The worst part is I can't help but think that the "doing something for a year and then writing about it" boat has sailed. And I missed it.

Just like I missed the "monetize your blog" boat and the "make money selling crap on Ebay" boat.

I made Jell-o every week for a long time and blogged about it, but I don't have a book deal for that. I also wrote some very helpful instructions on how to be a boy which I have on good authority would make a wonderful book. Almost as good as I could Pee on This and Other Cat Poems, I have in fact been assured.

(Yes. Someone actually pretended they were a cat writing poems about peeing on stuff and got a book deal.)

However, I am nothing if not introspective. I know, deep down, what the problem is. I've always known what the problem is. It's that I don't flirt. I refuse to flirt. I want to be recognized for my own merits and personality. Not because I degraded myself (read: make eye contact with, speak to, or in any way acknowledge another person) to get someone's attention.

This has been, in fact, more than just an idea. It's been my personal life policy: I will stand over here, against this wall, where I blend in almost perfectly, and not say a word. And the right person will notice me from across the room and somehow be able to see my talent and ability coming off me in waves of pure light without me having to say anything at all. And I will get a book deal and be the next JK Rowling.

No begging, no rejection, no humiliation.

(And here, I can hear the voice of  Dr. Phil saying: How's that workin' for ya?)

No book deal, Dr. Phil.

And so, to the woman who didn't wear make up for a year and wrote a book about it I have this to say: Your stupid experiment is a straw--not the last straw--but a substantial, longish straw that will motivate me to take a risk or two. To at least get myself closer to that dock from where all the boats are leaving.

(Seriously? No makeup gets you a book deal?)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Life Imitates Biscuit

I didn't write one single thing on this blog in December 2012. I will blame it on the fact that for Christmas I made my boys three sets of pajamas, three robes and three quilts which incorporated scraps of fabric from the Christmas pajamas I produced for them over the last 7 years. It was a lot of work. I started in September and finished the two days before Christmas.

I wanted to blog in November about how I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time ever. The turkey was a miracle of moistness and was the best tasting turkey I ever had. It was a miracle because it was the second turkey I'd ever attempted. I credit our digital thermometer, Alton Brown's brine recipe, and Robert's superior graphing skills (see graph below) for my wild success.

Robert accurately predicts the time the turkey will be done.

Another thing that happened: I was called to teach Gospel Doctrine class at church. It was a little overwhelming and time consuming. Ultimately, however, I've found preparing and teaching to be very rewarding. It's just a lot of work and a little bit of worry. But, my begging and pleading paid off and the bishop has called a second gospel doctrine teacher for the class. So I only have to teach every two weeks. I'm beyond thrilled! 

We had a lovely Christmas and everyone was happy. So, mission accomplished. 

Robert purchased and returned both a Kindle Fire and an iPad 3 or 4 between Black Friday and the day after Christmas. So he essentially got nothing for his birthday or Christmas. Nothing except two boxes of Panda Licorice. 

Last night we watched the Oregon Ducks beat the Kansas State Wildcats in the Fiesta Bowl. Jonah asked if he could eat a biscuit I'd just baked and in the style of a true artist, noticed a "face" burned into the bottom of his biscuit. I had to take a picture.

Now it is January. The days are getting lighter and longer. All the holiday stuff is down and I've been throwing out all kinds of junk we don't need anymore. Life is good.

Everyone is healthy (knock on wood) and we are all safe and happy. We have plenty to eat and forced air heat to keep us warm and sweaters and coats to wear when we go outside. What more could I want?