Saturday, February 28, 2009

More baking

This seems to be turning into a food blog lately just because I've been on a bit of a roll in the kitchen. I noticed the pictures are all rather brownish, but that's probably because most things have whole wheat in them and, well, they're BAKED.

This morning I had five apple halves that needed to be used up so I looked for an apple coffee cake recipe. The only one I found in the cookbook used Bisquick which I don't generally keep on hand so I had to get creative.

Here is the recipe I used this morning along with what I actually used:

Sour Cream Coffee Cake (Betty Crocker Cookbook 2001 edition)

3 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour (half white, half whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar (1 cup)
3/4 cup butter or stick margarine, softened (1/2 cup canola oil)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream (didn't have any sour cream so I used 3/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt and 3/4 cup vinegar-clabbered milk)

Brown sugar filling:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (medium chopped walnuts from KLM Farms--Butte City, California)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Added to the layers: a total of 2 1/2 sliced apples fanned out around the ring

Beat sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat about one-fourth of the flour mixture and sour cream at a time alternately into sugar mixture on low speed until blended.

For Bundt cake pan, spread 1/3 of the batter in pan, spread 1/3 of the filling; repeat twice.

Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cool 10 minutes in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan to wire rack. Cool 20 minutes.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Grandpa dh and baby Zachariah

Holly stopped by with the baby last night and I got a picture of dh with Zachariah. Aren't they cute?

The "A" Family Bakery

Last night I had my Messiah choir practice so dh stayed home with the girls and made chocolate chip cookies. They are slightly caramalized and have crunchy edges. Absolutely delicious. Not that I'm eating near the number I'd like, of course--gotta keep to my diet. :-)

Today I made bread for general use--sandwiches, snacks, toast for breakfast, etc. This batch made two large loaves and they are 30% white, 60% whole wheat, and a 10% mix of oats, ground flaxseed, and sunflower seeds. I don't know if I've ever made better. As I was getting ready to close up the cookbook my eyes fell on a recipe for rye bread. Quite some time ago my mom brought me enough rye flour to make a loaf of bread but I never did anything with it. Miracle of miracles, the flour was right where I thought it was and it was just enough for the recipe. The dark brown color comes from molasses, coffee powder (we don't drink coffee so I used some coffee substitute powder), and cocoa powder. It called for optional caraway seeds and I knew I didn't have any, but I thought I had some dill seed which is similar. I'm sure I had some at one time, but I must have used it up, so I made the bread without any seeds. It is good but doesn't have the characteristic flavor I think of when I think of rye.

We are set for bread and cookies for a few days. I love it when we have the energy to bake like this. It's only been about 2 months since the last time I baked bread but it seems like a long time. After having the first bite of the crunchy heel of fresh bread dripping with honey, I have no idea why I waited so long.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I can get used to this!

I had breakfast delivered to my office this morning! Luckily my office is only about nine steps from the kitchen. ;-) C told me last night she was going to make breakfast for me again and this is the delicious breakfast she delivered:

  • Peanut butter toast
  • Dried apricots
  • Hot orange-chocolate

The apricots made me laugh because we don't usually have them for breakfast, but she knows when I'm looking for something "extra" to add to their school bag lunches, I often reach into the supply of dried fruit. I assume she thought the plate looked a little bare so she did what I do--added the apricots. It was all delicious.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The doll quilt--FINISHED!

Yesterday I finished my little doll quilt. The binding turned out to be narrower than I expected--I thought it would be about 1/4" and it is less than that--but given the diminuative size of the overall quilt, it is perfect. I used a tutorial for the binding and it was very easy to do. I didn't quite start at the leading edge of each successive side because I didn't realize I was supposed to, so I think the front corners aren't quite as crisp as they should be, but I was very happy with the way my corners turned out. I guess I'll have to make another one and try it again, right?

Five tips for a strong marriage

I subscribe to a blog called The Simple Dollar. Every week or so the author takes readers' questions on any subject. I really liked his answer to this question as I think his ideas are key ingredients to my own happy marriage.

Q: You and your wife seem to have a very strong marriage. Can you give me some tips on how to keep my marriage strong? What do you do to keep it that way?- Sally

Here are five things I make a conscious effort to do that seem to help our marriage stay strong.
  • I tell my wife I love her every single day. I usually do it in the morning before she leaves the bedroom, and on weekdays I’ll also tell her when I see her in the evening for the first time. I usually couple it with a kiss. It’s so simple, but it’s a constant reminder of the fact that I do love her, no matter what.
  • I ask about her day, listen, and ask follow up questions. I do this not only so I can keep tabs on her professional life, but also to give her a great chance to vent about her situation. Everyone needs to talk about themselves sometimes to someone who is interested - I try to provide that for her as often as I can.
  • I try to surprise her on a regular basis. I’ll spend an hour preparing a really excellent supper when she doesn’t expect it. I’ll spontaneously give the kids a bath when she’s comfortable on the couch under a blanket, even if it’s her turn. Doing these little unexpected things not only shows her I care, but also often compels her to do similar things for me.
  • I hold her hand. I do this all the time, whenever it crosses my mind and seems appropriate. I’ll just hold her hand gently while we’re talking or we’re riding in the car or we’re waiting for an appointment or we’re sitting on the couch in the evenings.
  • I talk about EVERYTHING with her and let her determine what’s interesting. If something is concerning me, I don’t hide it from her. I tell her about it. Most of the time she’s interested and we’ll discuss it - sometimes she’s not and I let it drop (this is key - if she’s not into the topic, I don’t push it). Either way, though, she gets the message that I’m making an effort to share and be open.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sweet breakfast made by a six year old

Last night C told me she was going to make breakfast for me but I thought she'd forget. She didn't. I was finishing up some business in the office this morning and she kept popping it to ask me breakfast-related questions. Finally she came in grinning from ear to ear and told me my breakfast was ready. This is what was waiting for me. Sweet, isn't it?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A neat visit to another LDS Church meeting

In my area we have three large church congregations (called wards) and six small congregations (called branches). Because the members in the branches get tired of hearing the same people speak in church over and over, once a month the speaker is a guest from one of the wards. Today dh spoke in a small branch about 23 miles from here and the girls and I decided to go with him.

The church building in this town burned down about three years ago and had to be replaced from the ground up. I had heard the new church building was a double wide trailer and wondered what that would look like. It was beautiful! It may have come in on two trucks, but it was manufactured to be an LDS Church. It looked nothing like a "home trailer." I think it was two sections 16' x 80' each, so the square footage was about 2,580 square feet. One end had a small chapel with 48 chairs for the congregation and about 10 in front for the branch presidency, etc. I was impressed with the excellent organist until I saw her put both her hands up briefly during the song. She wasn't playing! It was some kind of electronic organ with a small screen that was used to select the hymn, then it played automatically OR it could be played manually. I've never seen such a thing before. Down one side of the building there were several small classrooms and on the other was a small lobby and offices and bathrooms. It was such a pretty, functional building that I'm sure the local church members there are very proud of their church.

We had obligations back in our town so we couldn't stay past the end of sacrament meeting, but we would have enjoyed staying and visiting. I think they were disappointed we couldn't stay because we increased their attendance by about 25%. :-)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Baby pic

I've had a few requests for grandson updates. Zachariah is 3 1/2 weeks old and starting to fill out. He has a little double chin that is really cute. Dd says he is staying awake more now, but I think he still sleeps a lot. Newborns are kinda like that. ;-)

Advice cookies?

When did fortune cookies become advice cookies? I'd say it was at least fifteen years ago and I don't like it. When I break open a fortune cookie I want to know what wonderful events will come into my life. In 1997 I opened a cookie in a Chinese restaurant in Bountiful, Utah while dining with my friend Bonnie and my fortune predicted a wonderful romance. I put that strip of paper on my mirror and sure enough, within six months I'd met my divine dh. See?

Last night we had take out from the teriyaki place down the hill from us. I guess Japanese places are into fortune cookies now too. Or maybe in my backward town folks don't realize fortune cookies are Chinese and teriyaki is Japanese and China and Japan are two different countries. Or they don't realize fortune cookies originated in California and only recently began to be made in China anyway.

Regardless, please determine which of these are fortunes and which are advice:
  • Do not dwell on differences with a loved one, try to compromise.
  • Your respect for others will be your ticket to success.
  • Your talents will prove to be especially useful this week.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

'Parenting Wisely in a Too-Much-of-Everything World'

I read an article reporting on parenting in today's world. These are the parts I especially agreed with:
  • Today's society faces "ratcheted up," excessive cultures geared toward individuality, competition, super-sized consumerism and "kids-are-fragile" therapeutic thinking, he said.
    "I think we think we need a lot to make us happy," said Dr. Doherty, adding "there's so much to offer our children that wisdom and balance is difficult -- and in the process, children grow up too fast."
  • . . . children and teens are failing to benefit from social skills developed in unstructured, unsupervised, unofficiated experiences with siblings or peers -- "we used to call it 'going out to play,' " he said -- where a child has to find someone to be with, convince them to play, negotiate what to play, teach others how to play, help enforce the rules and decide when to stop.
  • He also cited national and multi-national studies that show family meal time is a strong predictor of academic and psychological adjustment in children and teens -- better than time in school, sports or cultural arts and helping to decrease future involvement in alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, depression and eating disorders.
  • Parents work to limit scheduling and eliminate overloads, training and teaching children with an end result in mind. "I think we as parents should determine our success [when they are] at age 25 -- and not by how much they like us along the way."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A new haircut

The first picture is the finished product and the last picture is the "before" picture. Not sure why they uploaded in that order. Anyway, today dd finally got a haircut. It doesn't look like a big difference, but it is. She likes to twirl her hair with one hand and so that area was shorter due to having to cut out knots and tangles. She also got busy with some scissors a number of months ago and cut some hair near the top and there were various other lengths as well. Other than a couple of trims in the back, it's been about two years since she had her hair cut. It is just a lot more even now and the back is full of curls. Lucky girl.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The guardian problem

This article about choosing a guardian for one's children has me thinking about that problem for my own children. Dh and I have not chosen a guardian for them. Like the author of that article, dh and I have several options, but none of them are perfect. Here is what we have right now:

A: a couple with children slightly older than ours who would raise our daughters well, but not completely with the same religious background. Enough money and reasonably close ties to family.

B: a couple who are empty-nesters with enough money, identical religious values, and close ties to family.

C: A very young couple with no children and limited income. Identical religious values and close ties to family. This option would probably improve over time.

In addition to all this, I know we are tagged as the guardians of some children in another family and we welcome that.

It's hard to think about who we would want to raise our children if something happened to us. Dh has a family member who was poorly raised by a relative (who didn't really want to raise more children) after her parents died when she was a teenager, so we know it is possible such a thing could happen. The relative turned out to be a fantastic person, but it was despite her upbringing, not because of it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Piece of junk tights

Little L'eggs. I bought a bunch of these for 50 cents a pair at a scratch-n-dent store and thought for 50 cents they'd be okay. Uh uh. I wasted almost 50 cents on each because almost every pair tore or developed a hole of some sort during the first wearing. If the hole isn't too egregious I sew it up, as I'm doing with this pair here, but I got to looking at the tag. Maybe it doesn't say "Little L'eggs" but perhaps it says "Little L'eggr." It does say Made in China. Perhaps they are really bad knock-offs of not-so-great-anyway tights?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Here is the picture of the quilt described below

Doll quilt, step 3

Here is the third installment of the doll quilt I'm making. It's the quilting step and I did a technique called "stippling." I've never done it before but I've seen it on other people's quilts and I really like it. I bought a special foot that has a loop instead of a normal sewing machine foot shape and it has a little spring that lifts it slightly when the needle goes up to allow better free-motion. What's most amazing is I was able to find not only the 1979 Kenmore sewing machine manual but also the plate that covers the feed dogs!

My stippling ability has far to go, but I like the way this turned out and will do it again for sure.

Electric bill

Our electricity bill was eye-popping this past month. All I could attribute the excess to was my use of a small heater in my office in the mornings. I've heard it is cheaper to use a small heater to heat one room than to use the furnace to heat the whole house if all you need is one room. Now I'm not so sure. I get up early, about 2+ hours before anyone else and the house is downright cold. I went a couple of mornings with no heater and was . . . cold. Today I'm trying it with the heater, but with the thermostat turned down. I can't say it's much better. Where is the balance between comfort and affordability?

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Every Christmas for the past four years I have sung in a community choir. The first two years we sang the Christmas parts of the Messiah, which I love. The next year was John Rutter's Magnificat and last year was a selection of Christmas music from the 1400s to the present day. The Magnificat was really hard because it was almost all in Latin with which I am unfamiliar. I really liked last year's selections although one was in French and was a doozy to learn as, well, I don't speak French either. It turned out to be my favorite piece though.

Each year the wonderful director has mentioned doing a concert for Easter but it has never actually happened. Until this year! Since we haven't done any Messiah for two years and the Easter part hasn't been done in our town for seven years, that's what she decided to do. I hadn't sung all the choruses in that section previously, but all are very, very familiar to me as I've listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing it dozens of times on their 1958 album.

Thursday night rehearsals are my favorite look-forward-to event of the week and I'm glad it's Thursday late afternoon now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Second step on the doll quilt

The next installment insisted I embellish this quilt and I am really not into embellishment but then it suggested some buttons. Buttons I can do. I have lots of buttons although I don't usually put them on children's playthings. However, my youngest is nearly five so I figured it was okay. Camera battery died, so I used the scanner. You can see the four buttons I sewed on the one square. The yellow dots are the pins for basting. I ended up using a piece of a sheet I found in my fabric drawer as the backing. It's blindingly white.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Conferences, pot luck dinner, weight loss

Today are Parent Teacher Conferences at the girls' school. It's going to be a love/hate situation, I know. One of my girls will get glowing compliments about her academic work, but a few words about her behavior as well. In the other classroom I'll be told how far behind my daugher is in reading and other subjects and be told (again) they are thinking about holding her back this year. Mark my words.

We had a pot luck dinner at church last Saturday. Other than its starting at 7 pm which is really late for a dinner with lots of children in attendance, it was a nice event. I like pot luck dinners because you never know what will show up. There were loose assignments to make sure everyone didn't bring a salad, but nothing past that. I found that in New Mexico if you are assigned to bring a main dish, you'll probably bring either lasagne or enchiladas/enchilada casserole. I brought enchilada casserole. I was surprised to find out that if your husband is assigned to bring a dessert not EVERYone will bring brownies. I really thought they would. Maybe some of the wives stepped in? Because of taking Alli I couldn't enjoy the dessert table like I really wanted to, but I probably avoided 1,000 calories that way. I guess that's the point, right?

And speaking of weight, I've been on a plateau for a week. I need to do something to get the scale moving again. Maybe some actual exercise? I put an audio book on my MP3 player so I ought to get out and walk around town while I listen to it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Doll quilt

After making a twin bed sized quilt last month, I'm making a doll quilt this month. I kind of went the wrong direction, didn't I?

I found this tutorial that will guide me to make it over two weeks' time. I'll admit I already know how to finish this thing off, but decided to do it at the pace the writer of the tutorial is going to put her blog up. The girls are suddenly very interested in dolls and wrapping them up, so this is a good time to make it.

I'm excited about this little project because I finally get to use some fabric that was not bought new, but was part of clothes the girls wore. The border fabric is from a dress my mom bought Holly from Lands' End when she was a size 4. After going through all four of my girls as well as my stepdaughter, the dress was finally ready for the rag bag. The blue-purple floral was from dresses my mom and I made for my twins when they turned two. We made two of them, but one of them met an untimely demise during the time they fit my youngest. I cut the pieces from the hem area so you can see the wear lines on them. The other fabrics are from dresses I made for the twins when they turned three and the cream is from the backing of the quilt I just finished.

Stay tuned for more exciting news about this quilt. Hehe.

Taking advantage of lovely weather

Even though I live in the Southwest United States, that doesn't mean my weather is like that of Phoenix or Las Vegas. Those two locations are considered low desert and the weather there is searingly hot in the summer, hot at night, and very pleasant in the winter. I live in a high desert location at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level. The summers are hot and pleasant with cool nights and the winters bring snow and always subfreezing temps at night. So when we have a few days in the 50s (10+ for you Celsius users) I take advantage by hanging my laundry out to dry. This is the view out my laundry room window. In this load I bleached everything I could find that could take bleaching.

Using bleach always reminds me of my grandmother. My mom wasn't/isn't a big bleach user (probably why our clothes lasted a long time!), but my grandmother was. Until I was a young adult she had a wringer washer on her back porch, no dryer. She was on a country well and water was precious and she liked the wringer washer because she could make a load's worth of water go for several loads. The water in her kitchen sink came from two spigots in the wall under the window--a regular one for cold water and one that looked like a garden hose connection for the hot water. That was because she used a garden hose to snake across the kitchen floor and out the door to her washer when she wanted to wash whites. She'd glug in the bleach while the washer filled, shake in some detergent and set to it. When she was done with her wash, she'd pin it out on wire lines that zigzagged across her backyard. I remember the nice bleachy smell on the back porch and the white kitchen towels flapping in the breeze.

My clothes got the bleach and cold water treatment in a high-tech Kenmore Elite washing machine. But the line drying--it still works the same as it did for my grandmother.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The $100 car

In my post below I alluded to dh's $100 car. When I met him 11 years ago, he was driving a Chevy Corsica missing all its hubcaps. He'd purchased it from a junk yard, swapped out a few parts and had a running car he could afford. His finances were very, very tight in those days. A few months after we married, something went wrong with the car and he gathered his resources and had it fixed. Literally on the way home from the repair shop, the car threw a rod. I don't actually know what that means, but I do know it is a catastrophic problem and the engine was toast. What to do? Work was over ten miles away and he had no car. I had $100 and told him he could have it if he could get a car for that. He was pretty determined because he had to have transportation, so we went into Twin Falls to look. After a bit of looking at a couple of places, he came around to the passenger side window and asked me if I really did have the $100 on me because he had found a $100 car.

And what a car it was! It was a dented 1988 Pontiac J100, a big four-door sedan with an overflowing ashtray. It smelled like death with all those cigarette butts spilling out of the tray. It needed a water pump and all the tires were flat. He ended up paying $114 with the tax and whatever else the dealer tacked on, then we took my car over to Napa Auto to get the water pump. Dh changed out the water pump right there in the used car dealer's parking lot, then took the tires off the car, put them in my van and took them down to a gas station to pump them up. He reinstalled them and drove his "new" car home.

In a few months finances were a tad better and he found another car and sold the $100 car for $500. My grandmother always liked this story because it told her just how resourceful my dh was and is.

By the way, my brother is still driving my grandmother's '83 Buick she left him when she died seven years ago.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I had my car detailed this week and picked it up today. I've never had that done professionally before, but it was a bonus that came with something, so why not? It's amazing how having the car sparkling clean changed my impression of it. It's a nine year old basic Ford Windstar. Very, very low on the excitement scale. Oh, the two carseats and the booster don't add to the sexiness of it either. :-) Wouldn't trade those for anything though. I'm proud to have them strapped into my car.

Anyway, it looks so nice it almost feels new. And new is something I probably won't ever feel again when it comes to cars. My plan is to drive this van until my youngest is eight years old and can probably get out of a carseat/booster. That is a little over three years. Even though I've been driving a minivan for literally 20 years (well, two of them), the thought of trying to put three children into carseats in a sedan leaves me cold. So I'll keep the van until they are out of those seats. In the meantime, I'm saving for a new-to-me car. I want a Honda or Toyota four door sedan. I know, I know, another car low on the excitement scale, but that's what I want. That '79 Corvette will have to wait until I don't need more than two seats. That will be in, oh, about thirteen years, LOL!

Dh drives a Chevy Suburban, 12 years old. It's good for towing, hauling lots of tools, and lots of children as it is a nine-seater. We bought it used last year. The only bad thing about it, other than the awful mileage, is that the former owner had it in Phoenix and put really dark tinting on the windows. It is actually unsafe as it seriously impedes the view out, especially at night. Downright dangerous then. Dh is going to have the tinting removed from the windows this week. It's kind of depressing to sit in the rear of the car because it is so dark there. The kids won't know what hit them when the sun comes a-shinin' in!

I've driven two vehicles in the last twenty years. Dh has driven seven in the ten years we've been married, including the $100 car. But that's a story for another day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I used to think I was pretty technologically savvy, but I'm afraid as I've gotten older I haven't kept up with technological advances. I think MP3 players are a spiffy invention and I use mine almost every time I go out walking. But!!! Loading and unloading it is a pain in the neck for me. The concept is very simple, but either I'm a nut or the software I use is painfully user-unfriendly. Could be either one. I found out the software that came with my MP3 player (Samsung) is woefully inadequate. After trying different players, I have found Windows Media Player to be the best one for me. I have ten CDs I'm trying to download onto my MP3 player. It took me about an hour to download all ten to my computer and now I'm sending them to my device. V-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. I can see I'm going to have to leave my computer on all night so it can work while I sleep. I have only 1 gig, but I hope I can get it all on there. If not I'll put the first six (an audio book), then the second four (another book).

Then I have to get outside and walk my . . . um . . . tootsies off so I can listen to the stories. If I get it all to work I'll list the books I finish in the "Books I've Read" list. Hint: Newbery

Such bad news from a friend

So sad. Every week I volunteer at the local elementary school library. The librarian was tearful today and I asked her if she was sad today. She said yes, and this is the story she told me: a year ago her seven year old granddaughter complained about a hurting leg and had multiple visits to the hospital to check it out. Some minor treatment ensued, but they couldn't see anything really problematic and didn't want to do a CAT scan because it would expose her to more radiation than they wanted to expose a little girl to.

At Christmas 2008 her mom finally convinced the doctors to do a CAT scan and it revealed cancer. Worse, they discovered it has spread to many places in her little body. She started chemo yesterday and is terribly sick. Her name is Kaela and her family would appreciate prayers being sent her way for healing, and comfort for her mother Tanya.

I think this kind of situation strikes fear deep into every parent's heart. ANY parent could have this happen. How do we as parents know when to heal an "owie" with a kiss and a hug and when to rush in for the best medical care available? As a mother this is my worst fear--something serious is wrong with my child and I don't know it until the situation is advanced.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I'm going to be one of "those" grandmas :-)

You know, the ones who are always trying to get you to look at pictures of their fabulous grandchildren, LOL. I like this modern version of the wallet full of pictures because this way anyone can choose to look or not and I'll never know! Although my map does show quite a few visitors from Seoul. (To my Korean friends: that last sentence was a fragment and not a full sentence, but I know you know that ;-) )

Holly came by last night to show the baby to his grandpa and three aunts. They were all properly impressed at his cuteness.

Look at the lovely afghan. My mother crocheted it for Zachariah (that's what Holly is calling him these days) and it is done in my absolute favorite denim blue colors. I wish I had one big enough to wrap myself up in, I like it so much.