Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Little White Book

Last night we had the ward missionaries over for dinner.  (God bless my sweet husband for always being supportive and welcoming when they come over, even picking them up and driving them home.)  We are lucky to have a really great pair of young men serving in the ward right now, very spiritual, humble, and mature.

Somewhere between the pot roast and the salad, the subject of the rules the missionaries must abide by came up in the conversation.  It started with the music they are allowed to listen to on their missions and led to the little white book of rules that missionaries carry around in their shirt pockets, usually accompanied by a day-timer where they write down their appointments.

We have an elder who is from the Dominican Republic, still learning the language, who the ward has grown to really love.  In his broken English he said how glad he is for the rule book because, if he ever has a question about what he should or shouldn't be doing, all he has to do is take it out and find the answer.  He proceeded to say how much he loves being on his mission and how the rules keep him focused on the work he is supposed to be doing.

There is no doubt that missionary work is hard and comes with a lot of rejection.  But I was so touched at this elder's attitude and lack of discouragement.  He didn't see his rule book as a bunch of restrictions, but helpful guidelines to help him stay on the straight and narrow path while serving the Lord.

Being something of a "rule" person myself, both when I was a teacher and with Life, in general, I think there is a lot to be said for the code of goodness, morality, and compassion we should all live by.  I am far from a perfect person...FAR...but I have set certain standards for myself over the years, most of which have served me well.  Do I slip?  Absolutely?  Not on the big stuff, but plenty of times on the little things.  The things that are supposed to be easy, like not judging others and always being kind aren't as simple as they should be, are they?

It's a shame we can't all have a little white rule book to carry around to help us know what to do in certain situations, isn't it?  I think if I were write my own I would examine my flaws and work from there.  What would be in yours?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Great Macaroons--the Recipe (With Photos)

I've made these twice in the last 3 days, once for a baby shower and another batch for my husband to share with his coworkers, and they are always a hit.  Macaroons are inexpensive, really easy, and fast!  A great treat to bring to an event.

Here's what you will need:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
In a bowl you will mix the following together with a spoon:
  • 1 14oz bag of sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt 
  • 1/2 tsp tsp vanilla extract
(Later you will need 1/2 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips)
I do not recommend eating this. But it sure smells good!
Drop spoonfuls of the mixture on parchment lined baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.  Unlike cookies, the macaroons will not spread while baking, so they can be close together.

I like to get my rows and columns set up first.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until slightly golden (the house will smell SO good!)

Remove and cool slightly, you can transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.  (I skip the wire racks, they seem to cool fine on the baking sheet.)

After cooling on the baking sheet for about 1/2 hour, melt 1/2 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I only use Ghiradelli, but any will do).  Dip the bottom of each macaroon into the chocolate and place on parchment lined plates. Refrigerate until firm. 

Store in an air tight container for up to 7 days (if they last that long!)
Makes approximately 30 cookies.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Super Kid, Super Photo

This little charmer is my nephew in a costume one of this uncles made for him.  My brother took the photo and I added a little editing.  Together we have the best parts of childhood, full of hope, imagination, and potential.  Up, up, and away cute boy!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Art That Becomes a Part of You

I just read a post on Facebook that said "11 Lessons That Jane Eyre Can Teach You."  All of a sudden I had a flashback to the first time I read Jane Eyre, a personal favorite.  It is common knowledge that the book was ahead of its time, and it is one that I believe is not an acquired taste.  You either love it upon your first read, or you don't.

All of us have our favorite pieces of art, music, film, and literature.  All of us remember certain times when we first discovered those favorites.  They become a part of us and stand the test of time without wearing our their welcomes as we get older.

I don't why that article suddenly sparked this thought in me, but it did.  Here are a few favorites and when I discovered them.

Since Jane Eyre was the reason for this post, I'll start with it...

When I was a freshman in college at Brigham Young University, and away from home for the first time, my roommate was a very nice girl from Colorado.  She was amiable and quiet, but rarely home, a year older than me with a boyfriend, and in the ROTC.  She had a best friend who would often come looking for her and waiting until she came home.  One day this friend came to do just that, bursting with enthusiasm over just finishing Jane Eyre and wanting to tell someone about it. As I was the one home at the time, she told me, giving me just enough about the plot to interest me but not enough to spoil the ending.  She must have done well, because I read the book, loved it, and still love it.  As far as the film adaptations, I've seen about 6 of them, and the casting of Mr. Rochester is, in my opinion, almost more crucial than the casting of Jane.  The 1980's BBC version with Timothy Dalton is the one that comes closest to my vision when reading the book, with the 2006 version with Toby Stephens coming in at a very close second.
My freshman year was a year of great exposure to wonderful things.  It was also the year I heard Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera for the first time.  They were both incredibly popoular.  Phantom's story is pretty basic, and easy to follow from just listening to the soundtrack, but Les Miserables is not.  Because my roommate was gone so much, I became especially close to the girls across the hall.  One of them, Gail, who is still a close friend, came over with her cassette (CDs were very, very new.) Over the course of 2-3 hours we listened to the entire thing, pausing between songs for her to tell me the story and preface what I was about to hear.  I was awestruck at the power and beauty of the music.  About a year later we saw it onstage in Salt Lake City.  It remains one of my favorites.

If you know me well, then you know the name of my favorite film.  Singin' in the Rain put itself in the top spot as soon as I saw it. I was in grade school when I watched it on TV at my grandparents' house.  I'm guessing it dethroned The Sound of Music because of my age, but it remains at the top, just as Gene Kelly remains my favorite actor.  (One of my greatest regrets is missing an opportunity to meet him in person because of a wedding my family had to attend.)  Although Singin' in the Rain is not a complex story, like some of my other favorite films, I love it for its seamless and unfailing buoyancy.  It is my permanent remedy for a really bad day (fortunately I haven't had one of those in a very long time) and it succeeds upon every single viewing.  And, there is something about this film that makes it feel like its mine, maybe because it has been a favorite for so long.

When I decided to switch my major to Humanities halfway through my sophomore year of college, there was a great need within me to attach myself to the beautiful creations I learned about.  That is the reason I could not be just an English major or just an Art History major.  I needed all of it, and I still do.  I am always on a quest for beautiful, clever, impressive creations in all mediums.  It is a strange thing that drives me to find a great book, a great film, a musician, or an artist I've never heard of.  But at the beginning there was Renoir.  Like with my favorite film, my favorite artist is also "mine."  I love his work, his treatment of women on the canvas, and every time I think of him painting in his 80's with brushes strapped to his arthritic hands, it breaks my heart.  That many of his paintings reside in The Norton Simon Museum, minutes from where I grew up, means I can visit them in person several times a year.

I try not to get more cynical as I get older, but the world can be a horrendous place.  One way I balance my own sanity with the garbage the media throws at us is to hold on to the fact that beautiful things do exist if we look for them.  They aren't the mainstream or the most popular, but they are much more enduring and uplifting.  They're out there. Go find them.


Friday, October 4, 2013

The Bletchley Circle

More and more I find myself departing from American TV and transitioning to British TV.  Not an easy task considering that we canceled all of our channels about 2 months ago because we simply weren't using them.  But thanks to the Roku, and therefore Netflix and Amazon streaming, I'm constantly on the hunt for high-quality shows.

Now that I'm done with Lark Rise to Candleford and Cranford, the hubby and I have begun 2 others.  There's Titanic the series--not bad, kind of a backstory to the Harland & Wolff shipyard and its happenings, and The Bletchley Circle.

I've been wanting to see The Bletchley Circle for ages and could never find it.  And, like so many British series, it's more of a mini-series, with only 3 episodes in season one.  Still, it is so good that I even started it from the beginning to include my husband.  I still haven't seen the 3rd episode.

Factually, it addresses Bletchley Park, an estate that was used during WWII as a home base for code-breaking and deciphering.  Many of these brilliant code-breakers were women, like the 4 fictional characters around which the series is based.  The estate still exists today as a museum.

After the war, these women were expected to sign a confidentiality agreement so that no one would think they did more than "clerical work," go back into their traditional roles and become wives and mothers.

The series shows a small blip of their work during the war and then fast-forwards nine years, when a serial killer is terrorizing London and one of the Bletchley women begins to see a pattern in his movements.  At the risk of exposing her wartime secret and alienating her husband, she rounds up 3 of her colleagues from a decade before and attempts to put together clues being overlooked by Scotland Yard.

As soon as I saw the trailer, I knew it would be good, and I was right.  I highly recommend it.  It's available on Amazon streaming, and you may have to pay around $1.99 per episode, but it is worth it. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My House is My Castle

It's been 3 days and I can still hardly believe it.  We closed escrow on my house in California. I am not one of those people who dismisses the space they live in.  I get very attached.  I know it is just a house, but when you make the efforts I make to turn a house into a home and sanctuary, letting go is difficult.

This is a house on the street I grew up on, across the street from the house I grew up in.  I thought I would live the rest of my days there.

I grew up not giving much thought to the house.  Until I had it painted and bricked it was always a light salmon pink with white shutters.  I never went into it until I considered buying it.  For most of my childhood it belonged to an older woman who lived there alone and didn't associate much with the neighbors.  It was a "kids' street" during the 70's and 80's, so an older neighbor and her house didn't hold much interest for me.

Eventually she passed away and her relatives turned the house into a rental.  Tenants came and went over the years until the owners sold it to a family.  When the husband and wife got divorced, I bought it.

There is more to the story that some people know, but I won't go into that now.  Suffice it to say, this house was my dream home, even though it isn't that big.  The inside is full of light and charm and windows letting in cheery sunshine.  Shortly after my purchase my mom and I scoured the area for moving and estate sales.  Most of the house was furnished from amazing finds that I have never seen before or since.

From 2005 until 2010 this house was my castle.  I hosted my family there many times, always taking pride in decorating it for the holidays.  When my grandparents both passed away in 2008, this was going to become the new "Christmas Eve" house.  Little did I know that I would host the holiday only once.

There are dream houses, but there are other dreams too.  And let's face it, a house, no matter how much you love it, cannot love you back.  So when I met and married my husband in 2010, a choice had to be made.  It was an easy choice, because my husband is most definitely first in my heart, but a tiny part of me stayed attached to the house, which we kept rented for 3 years.

In retrospect, everything turned out exactly the way it should.  I'm glad we held onto it for a while.  It has allowed me to distance myself emotionally from it and to accept that we have no plans to return.  Time has made me feel more at home in our house in Washington, which I really do love, with all of its quirkiness, because it is the home my husband and I found together.

Goodbye my little castle.  Thank you for those 5 years.