Perpetual Plan B

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Never a Dull Moment, Even When Reading Scriptures...

Yes, we are an entertaining family, even if I do say so myself.

Poor Ally, she is a LOT like me when I was younger. I'd like to say I turned out okay, so it will be fine, but there are some who may beg to differ.

Unfortunately, Hal does not always appreciate my (or Ally's) type of humor. This is what you get when you marry someone so totally opposite from yourself.

Anyway, we were reading scriptures tonight, as we try to every night. We were reading in Jacob (in The Book of Mormon), the part about Sherem. It would have been just fine, except for the fact that every time Hal, or whoever happened to be reading at the time, would say "Sherem", Ally would call out in her best Ozzy Osbourne voice, "Sherem!"

That kid is a crack-up, I tell you. At least SOME of us were cracking up. Some were not so amused.

Broadway and Other Venues

Yesterday the girls and I went with my mom to the play Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is not always the case for me.

Let me back up a little and say that my mom LOVES plays. She loves going to them, watching them and also being in them. She just loves the whole theater environment. Me, not so much. Another area I am a total disappointment in. My mom and I are quite opposite in many ways and since I'm the only daughter, with five sons, it puts a lot of pressure on me to be a good companion, as far as my mom is concerned.

I do NOT enjoy performing. At all. Singing? Nope. (Well, I enjoy singing, I'm just not very good at it. Just ask my kids. Yesterday as we were driving home from the play, Ally, Morgan and I did a rousing rendition of "Low" in the car, much like the Bohemian Rhapsody scene in Wayne's World. It was a little embarrassing when I looked over and saw the people in the truck next to us gawking. Oh well.) Dancing? Nope, no rhythm. Speaking parts? I'd rather die than stand up and do ANYTHING in front of a group of strangers. So, you will not be seeing me in a theater near you anytime soon. My talents lie more in the spelling and baking arenas, neither of which would earn me a Tony Award, though I do have some nice Spelling Champ shirts from elementary school.

Anyway, my mom and I went to New York City about six years ago. Little did I know that she went with the intention of seeing as many Broadway plays as possible. We started off with a matinee of Chicago about two hours after we walked off the plane. I have to admit, I dozed through a lot of that. It was starring Melanie Griffith, not really my favorite. We also saw Aida (the musical, not the opera), starring Toni Braxton, which I loved. We actually saw it twice. The first night we had tickets Toni was sick so there were understudies but I really did love it enough to buy tickets again when she was back a couple nights later. The other play we saw that time was Nine, starring Antonio Banderas. Now he is an amazing performer. I didn't love the play itself, but the acting was great and it is totally what I pictured a "Broadway" play to be. I'm curious to see the movie to see how it compares.

I have seen Phantom of the Opera a couple of times, once in California where I also dozed because I was still working swing shift plus overtime so I got home at 2:30 a.m., left my house around 6 or 7 a.m., flew to California, was the designated driver, got us to the play around 7:00 and fell asleep about halfway through for about 45 minutes. I saw it again a few years later and decided once it came out as a movie that that might be the best option for me for that particular play. (And besides, it has Gerard Butler, what more could you ask for?)

Last year my mom and I took the girls to NYC for spring break. We saw Wicked and Mamma Mia. It's funny because I had no expectations for Wicked so I really loved it but was a little disappointed by Mamma Mia because I had such high hopes. I am a huge ABBA fan from back in the jr. high days.

I've seen Les Mis once about 18 years ago and I didn't get it. I think I was so shocked by the scene with the prostitutes, which I wasn't expecting, that I couldn't concentrate on the message or the story. I think I'm ready to give it a try again one of these days to see what everyone else sees in it that I missed.

My mom and kids have been in several stake plays over the years, both in her stake and in ours. They've been in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Joseph (twice, her stake and ours), Cinderella, Brigadoon, etc. Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. The one play I flat out refuse to go to ever again is Oklahoma. My mom was in it a few times and I'm just done with that one. She has also been in several community plays like Camelot (twice, I really do like that one), Kismet, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Little Women, etc., etc. The list could go on and on.

Let's not even get into how much money I've spent on plays I didn't really even want to go to.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is one play I have enjoyed seeing off and on through the years at different venues. It's fun to see how each cast portrays the script. I've probably seen it five or six times now, plus a lot of times on video with Donny Osmond. I could really do without Potiphar's wife's costume and also those of her ladies-in-waiting (or whatever they are called). Joseph and Aida are my two all-time favorite plays. Ones I could see every year. Secret Garden would be a close second. I've seen that a few times but the last time I saw it, it was not a very good production. I also quite liked Wicked, but my mom pushed it and we saw it the second time too soon, so I think I'm done for a while. Mamma Mia is okay, but I'm kind of a prude and I think the movie kind of ruined it for me, though I usually like the movie versions better. I REALLY liked the movie better of Phantom of the Opera. (Did I mention it had Gerard Butler in it?)

Yes, after thinking it through, I think I'm more of a movie/video type person. You can buy the video for less than the cost of a play ticket, watch in on your own time - taking breaks when necessary, wear your comfy clothes and eat great snacks, all in the privacy of your own home.

A few years ago it was mentioned someone might be making a movie of Aida. That would be a dream come true. Then I'd hardly ever have to leave the house for another play ever again.

Mom will not be pleased.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More Vegas: The Photos

Oops, in my obsessiveness over what I hope to be able to talk about soon, I forgot to post the photos from our trip to Vegas with the kids.

I haven't been able to wrestle Hal's phone away from him long enough to download the photos he took so here's what we have so far:

(Most are pretty self-explanatory so I'll leave the commentary to a minimum. I'll try anyway. You know me.)

At the beginning of the day, all happy and smiling. Little do they know how much walking we will be doing on this trip.

Here is Austin, dreaming after he threw his coin in the fountain at Mandalay Bay and made his wish.

Waiting for the tram at the Luxor.

Walking across the street.

Loved the floors in the lobby of the Bellaggio. Could have done without the go-go dancers who were also in the lobby. If we ever do build a house, or I do a bathroom from scratch I'd LOVE to have a floor like this.

Austin made another wish in another fountain. Las Vegas is full of fountains, so it about broke me. A lady here insisted on taking our photo together. She kept hitting the off button instead of the one that takes the photo. I am actually holding Austin so every time the camera would shut off I'd put Austin down because it was the end of the day and I was TIRED. He is one heavy little boy.

Walking BACK across the street.

Caesar's Palace had this really cool fish tank in the Forum Shops. They had big manta rays and all sorts of tropical fish.

Here's a funny story. We walked past this display and I made some offhand comment to Morgan about the "insolent" models. Later, Ally said, "Did you see the girl who plays Hermione in that store window? We didn't notice her, but when we walked back we noticed that SHE was one of the insolent models. Here are my children doing their best insolent model poses:

The next day was Sunday and Hal's birthday. Here we are outside the Las Vegas LDS temple. The grounds were really beautiful.

(Notice how Ally is taller than Morgan)

Hangin' with the Blue Man Group, right after our big impulse purchase. The kids are happy because they finally got to eat again. It had been a long two hours since breakfast.

Austin was thrilled to finally get to see the ship at Treasure Island close-up.

A couple more insolent faces. (Morgan couldn't keep a straight face.)

The Wynn:

Loved the floors here too. This would work quite nicely in a bathroom for my girls.

I loved catching this moment with Hal and Ally while we were resting our legs outside the lobby by the waterfall. They were looking at something on his phone.

Morgan and Austin?


On our way through the Encore, we passed this picture of Garth. For a guy who has raked in the bucks he looks pretty insolent too.

We had probably walked two miles straight, just trying to find our way out of the Wynn/Encore. We happened upon a pretty quiet conference room area, so SOME of us took full advantage of it. I kept hoping nobody would show up and kick us out.

It had been another two hours, so we headed to the kids' favorite, Rain Forest Cafe' for Hal's birthday dinner. They had a magician that went from table to table working for tips and he was pretty phenomenal. That's probably the best value for anything we paid for in Vegas. Hal was not thrilled when they charged us $15.00 for his "surprise birthday dessert", a volcano. It was pretty tasty though.

Watch out Austin, insolent girls with snakes ahead.

I think this is inside the Venetian. After a while it all kind of starts to look the same.

I forgot one last thing. Look who stowed away inside my suitcase; David Archuleta! That guy just can not leave me alone. I might have to look into taking out a restraining order. So far he has only sat and grinned at me so I haven't felt too threatened.

The End.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oh, So Much To Tell.......

I have a secret.

There is something Hal and I have been working on night and day for the last couple of weeks. (At least I have been up all night, practically every night, thinking about things. He thinks about it when I talk to him about it, which is practically all the time when we get a minute together. I've tried really hard to not call him too much when he is working. Now I see where Ally gets her obsessive personality from.)

It isn't a sure thing yet so I can't give any details, but soon, I hope to let you in on everything. Then we'll have LOTS to talk about.

I am cautiously optimistic.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tell Me The Truth, It Won't Hurt My Feelings.....

Do I look a little bit like that character on The Far Side in these glasses?

No? Maybe? Well how about now:

Do I Have A Deep-Seated Psychological Problem?

Somebody please tell me.

I can handle people being mean to me, or just not-nice in general.

What brings me to tears every time is when people are extra nice. I just can't handle it. I don't know why I am so shocked when people do nice things. There really are a lot of nice people in my life.

One day when the girls were little, around 5 and 2, I was grocery shopping. The kids do usually get along well, but that day they were kind of fighting. A nice lady in line in front of me told me to go ahead of her. I said "No, we're fine." but she insisted. I burst into tears right then and there and cried the whole time they were ringing up my groceries. I was mortified.

Also, at my 20 year class reunion two different boys from my class said very nice things to me or about me to Hal and I broke down in tears both times. I was so embarrassed! What is up with that?

I do have to admit, I cry very often during happy commercials. My kids have learned to expect it, but that doesn't stop me from trying to hide my face during a particularly touching part of a movie or t.v. show.

Is there some sort of behavior modification or a pill I can take to fix this particular problem? If so, please let me know because it causes me great embarrassment.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Favorite Photo Friday

My last year in college I had some fun roommates. We would do all sorts of crazy things.

I can't really remember the point of doing this to our hair, but I do remember we went grocery shopping at about 10:30 p.m. looking like this.

Ah, those were the days.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

That's What We Get For Waking Up In Vegas....

(Photos to come when I get over being too lazy to walk to the garage to get my camera.)

We went to Las Vegas last weekend for Hal's birthday.

We took the kids.

That was our first mistake.

Austin over-used his three favorite phrases, "souvenir", "gift shop" and "hot tub". I hope I never hear any of those words again.

Let me just say this right now, Las Vegas is not really a family friendly environment right now. Not that it was ever going to be mistaken for Disneyland or anything, but it has gotten progressively worse in the last year or two.

Exhibit A: the exotic dancers that now grace the lobby areas of many of the casinos. Even the "nice" ones (meaning casinos, not dancers). Not much is left to the imagination there, let me tell you. I clapped a hand over Austin's eyes as we walked past each one. I think people were more entertained by that than the dancers. It didn't occur to me until later that maybe I should have shielded Hal's eyes from the floor show instead of Austin's.

Exhibit B: The stupid cards they pass out. If you've ever been to Vegas, you know what I mean. Now the women on them are totally topless. The reason I know this is from looking down whenever we'd get to an escalator to make sure Austin's shoelaces were tied so they wouldn't get caught in the escalator and pull him in and mangle his tiny little feet. There always seemed to be a pile of the cards lying on the ground at the top and/or bottom of every single escalator.

We went to Las Vegas on a whim for Hal's birthday. We (meaning I) booked the hotel Thursday night at 10:30 and we left for Vegas on Friday after school.

I don't really fly by the seat of my pants well. I like to know at least two weeks ahead what I will be doing on any given day. I decided to just act spontaneous like other people and all-in-all I think I did okay. I only forgot a few important items, the worst one being eye makeup remover. I tried to take off my mascara with my cleansing gel and OUCH. My eyes immediately turned as red as my lipstick and they burned like the devil. The next morning they were still as red and had some funky stuff coming out of them. My eye doctor brother-in-law would call this "chemical conjunctivitis", I think.

So, the next night I thought I was so smart and tried to use my lip gloss to take off the mascara. It was petroleum based and I swear I used to use Vaseline to take off my mascara back in junior high. Well, maybe they don't make mascara like they used to because the stuff wouldn't budge. It's strange too because this was not waterproof mascara. I mixed a little of the cleansing gel (which, by the way worked very quickly) in with the lip gloss and tried to keep it only at the ends of my eyelashes, away from my eyes but I didn't do as well as I would have liked. Ouch again.

The next morning my eyes didn't look as bad, but they didn't clear up during the day like they had the day before. They were red all day. This was also Sunday and Hal's birthday.

This was the day that we made the biggest semi-impulse purchase of our lives.

First of all, we do not usually buy things on Sunday. We just really try to avoid it. We were not planning on buying anything or even looking. All we wanted was to sit in Brookstone and get a free massage to rest our weary bones. The next thing we knew, I was signing on the dotted line. I really didn't believe the sales kid when I told him we were planning on buying one "someday" and he said, "I'm going to give you all the reasons that "someday" is today." Darn, he was good. We got almost 1/2 price off because it was a refurbished model, but with the same warranty, and it looks like a normal leather chair AND free shipping. Honestly, we had talked about getting one someday. So, that was pretty much Hal's birthday present but I'm sure I'll enjoy it too. Come to think of it, I don't think I got anything for my birthday last year, so this can be for my birthday too.

I was a little spooked about the idea of buying it on Sunday so, without Hal's approval, I also sprang for the extended warranty when he took the kids to get something to eat.

I had also really wanted to go to Sephora on this trip but we didn't make it there on Saturday. I didn't even consider it after that because it was Sunday and then Monday we were heading home. Well, after the major purchase I figured one more little thing wasn't going to make things any worse. Ally had to use the bathroom so Hal took her and Austin the the bathroom and Morgan and I went to Sephora at the Venetian. I browsed a little and found what I was looking for and then got a bright idea. I asked them to show me the eye makeup remover. Of course they had a tester out, so I shamelessly took off my mascara there. Ahhhhh, problem solved.

Much later Hal showed up in a panic and asked if Ally was there. They had gotten separated. He left Austin with me and then left.

Austin said "I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first?" Well, I always take the bad news first so I have something to look forward to.

The bad news? "I wet my pants." We never did get to the good news so I have no idea what it was.

Hal finally did show up with Ally, which is good because I was starting to panic too.

That night Austin crawled in bed with us and I let him stay since I knew he had used the bathroom right before he went to bed at 10:00. I woke up feeling an awful sensation. He had wet the bed. I figured it was almost morning so I was just going to stay up but I looked at the clock and it was only 12:30. It was going to be a long night. We got the extra hand towels to put down and slept on top of them. I'm so glad they have mattress protectors on the beds. I left an extra good tip when we left because even though it looked like there was no permanent damage, cleaning hotel rooms would not be a fun job. I cleaned college dorms one summer and that was enough for me to know the value of a good education.

We were all pretty much ready to go home on Monday. Austin insisted on using the hot tub since we hadn't had time yet. Hal and I gamely went with him, which was miserable since it was pouring rain. The hot tub was covered, which was something but it was not fun getting out. Brrrrr.

Right then it was time to check out so we packed up with all Austin's and our wet clothes and headed home. It was a long 7 hours. We got home around 8:30.

When we walked in we could immediately tell there was something wrong. We had been having trouble with our heater all winter (we still are) and it had gone out while we were gone. The lowest reading on our thermostat is 45, so our whole house was at least that cold.

Darn. I knew we shouldn't have bought that chair on Sunday!

Well, that's not all. Hal noticed the light on our extra freezer was off. Something had popped the breaker. The good news was that since it was colder than 45 degrees, the food was still frozen.

When he went downstairs to light the pilot light he found that there was a leak from the kids' bathroom that had dripped down to the furnace room below. It had also soaked a bag of wreaths and baskets that I had stored there. The particle board on the bottom of the kids' vanity was soaked and ruined and boy did it stink! I hope it dries out ok. We'll see. I think it's time to call in a professional for this one.

Oh, I almost forgot the funny coincidence. As we were leaving our room, I had Ally check under all the beds to make sure we hadn't left anything. She did find one thing that she handed to me.

A brand new bottle of eye make up remover.

And it wasn't mine. (Which also leads me to wonder how well they really clean those rooms.)

Seriously though, what are the odds? Oh yeah, we were in Vegas after all. Too bad it was a couple of days too late. (Once again, story of my life.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Freezer Game

We are now starting the latest round of what I like to call "The Freezer Game".

There are a few reasons that make me decide it's time to play.

One is when I look in the freezer and decide that it's way too full of stuff that needs to be eaten up and rotated out. Another reason to play would be that money is tight that month and we need to save on groceries for a while.

This time we are playing because we thought the price of orange juice would go way up so we bought two full cases on sale last week. When we got home we realized that it was not going to be easy to fit it all in the freezer. We need to free up a lot of space so we can actually see what we have in the freezer.

Here's how to play the game:

You look in your freezer and see what you have to work with. If you find anything too old, freezer burned, or that you don't know what it is, ideally you would throw it away. Sometimes I do this. Sometimes I also throw away fish that my brother-in-law has caught and given to us because if it's been in the freezer too long it is not very pleasant to smell, especially as it cooks. I don't even like trout on a good day. I make Hal cook it for the kids if I'm not going to be home.

Next you make a note of what is good that is in the freezer that you have to work with. I used to be able to make a mental note. These days that is not a good idea.

Then I try and figure out how to make meals out of what we already have without buying too much else, mainly just fresh fruits and vegetables. I usually have frozen vegetables that need to be used up so that works too.

One rule I have is that every meal needs to have at least one thing from the freezer in it. At desperate times like this one I try to make everything with items the freezer (or food storage) except for one thing that can be fresh or bought. We have some big financial obligations coming up fairly soon so I am trying not to spend any money unnecessarily for the next little while.

It's a good idea to get the kids involved in the game because then they are more likely to actually eat what I come up with. Again, as with husbands, it's always nice if you can make anything you do (or cook) seem like their idea.

If we are lucky, sometimes we find good food that we forgot about, like steaks or frozen convenience food from Sam's Club, like potstickers.

Right now the most exotic thing we have in the freezer that must go ASAP is some frozen whole (I think they're dungeness) crabs that Hal's friend gave him from the week he borrowed Hal's truck for "the weekend" and returned it well over a week later. He was going to Alaska fishing and forgot to mention that fact. I guess the crabs were a sort of a consolation prize. Every time I open the freezer I think "What is that rotten smell?" and then I remember it's the crabs. We have some friends we have invited over to eat them with us but we can't find a date that will work for all of us yet.

Maybe if they're lucky they'll get some potstickers too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You Want to Know What Makes My Husband Scared?

It's when he comes home and finds the hammer sitting out.

That way he knows I've been up to something.

And believe me, these days I have been very busy. (Mostly making plans in my head.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Favorite Photo Friday

Here is a photo with one of my favorite families.

This is Hal's sister Jayne and her family. Jayne is the one with the big hair on the left, not to be confused with the one with the big hair on the right, which is me. Jayne's husband Paul is the guy in the back with the moustache and those are three of their four children. (Justin was born a few years later.) Hal's parents are in the middle. I especially love the look on Clayton's face. I don't think I was choking him but he doesn't really look too thrilled, does he?

I can't remember if this is before or after Hal and I moved to Texas but judging from the size of the kids, it is most likely before we moved. So, I think this was taken in either 1989 or 1990.

We've had a lot of fun with this family, including our rousing games of Trivial Pursuit with Jayne and Paul, which we have recently picked up again with a new player, my daughter Morgan.

I love this family a lot because they have one great quality that I like. They seem to actually like me.

Either that or they are really good at pretending.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Terrorists Have Won Again

That's it. They've really done it this time. Now they've hit close enough to home to really tick me off.

It has all recently trickled down to the Drivers' License Division and it is not pretty.

Today my daughter and I spent over two long, excruciating hours at the DLD, mostly just waiting in line. Unfortunately for us, we couldn't get it right so we had to wait in the first line multiple times. Because of the new, tighter security (thank you, terrorists) the list in the pamphlet they gave us last month of the documentation we needed to bring with us was no longer accurate.

Here's a brief rundown of what happened (which I'm sure will still be too long):

First we get in the first line. We tell them what we are there for. We show up (unlike a lot of other unfortunate people) with Morgan's original birth certificate AND Social Security card. I just happened to grab them both at the last minute because I couldn't remember which one you needed. We were lucky because now you need both and they both have to be the originals. They then needed two extra forms of i.d. for me (as the supposedly responsible adult) with my current address. I had my drivers' license, but didn't have anything else on me that they would accept. The guy said to go look in my car for a bill or something. I knew there wouldn't be a bill, just lots of expired coupons floating around, but I went and looked anyway while Morgan was filling out the form. I found my car registration so I was feeling pretty good about things.

Until we were almost to the front of the line again and I looked closer on the registration and noticed that only my husband's name was on it. Morgan pointed out how ironic this was because it was MY car. I then noticed my name and address on her birth certificate. We got to the front of the line and I pointed out the potential problem. Yes, it was a problem. No, they could not accept the birth certificate for that because it was for Morgan's i.d. No, they could not accept my checkbook, even though it had my address on it. (Funny, they'll take your check, they just won't let you use it for actual identification.) They told me once again to go look in the car.

Morgan and I went back and rifled around a little more in the glove box and came up with the proof of insurance which, thankfully, did have my name on it. We got in line once again and waited a third time.

I'm glad the guy who kept helping us seemed pretty patient. He assured us we did not win the prize for most times standing in his line that day. After much scrutiny, we passed the documentation portion (I'm surprised they didn't pat us both down too) and were sent over to the next line to get her photo taken and then, I thought, go take her test and be on our merry little way.

Actually no, it's like Disneyland in that place. They lull you into a false sense of security by making you think that that is the only line and you're almost finished by then. Nope, your wait is just beginning. You are then given a number and ushered into the "waiting area" which consists of a LOT of chairs, most of them occupied. I looked at the most recent number that had been called and it was 12 before ours. There were 3 lines open so I hoped it would move pretty fast. No again. We had a nice view of the clock and the people who were already being helped took over 15 minutes each to finish. I started calculating in my head and the estimate was not good.

I can't believe after the tough screening in the first line how many problems people still had in the second round. More people were still being turned away and told to come back with more (or more accurate) documentation. Things were not looking good.

I was supposed to be watching my nephews that night so I knew by then it would be cutting it close. Even if everyone else moved faster than 15 minutes (which they didn't) it would barely get us there in time. Morgan was starting to worry too so I told her I'd figure something out and to just concentrate on her test because I did NOT want to come back and do this whole thing over again.

Well, long story longer, we finally, after an hour of waiting, made it up to a booth to be helped. Morgan went to take her test and then I got back in the first line to ask if there was a phone I could use because I still don't remember to take my cell phone with me everywhere I go. It would be nice if I would remember to take it at times when it might come in handy, like that day.

The nice young man at the front let me use his phone and after dialing for me started to joke about how he was going to charge me for the call. At that second, Ally picked up the phone so I accidentally gave him "the finger". No, not THAT finger, the one (I believe it's called the index finger) that I hold up and shake at the kids when I'm on the phone with an adult and one of the kids tries to interrupt me. It was at that point that I realized how stressed out I really was. After telling Ally she might be in charge of the boys (one is just a year younger than her) I hung up and apologized profusely to the nice young man. How embarrassing!

Well, Morgan finished her test in good time and passed. Whew! The poor boy ahead of her (so maybe I'm glad we were not up in line earlier) had a problem with his computer and was given the wrong test so he had to take it twice. Manually the second time. While we were waiting for our kids I realized I knew the boy's mom from high school so I started chatting with her. (Morgan later asked me, "Did you actually know her?" That's funny because I generally don't strike up conversations with people I don't know. But I might now that I know it's yet another way I can embarrass my children.)

We then had to wait in line again for her to get her permit finalized and printed out. As soon as we were finished we headed home as quickly as we could. I have to set a good example now that there is a driver-in-training in the vehicle. Plus she probably knows all the laws better than I do at this point. We made it home just in time for my nephews to show up. Luckily they were a little late so we were home in time.

Morgan and I haven't actually had a lesson in the vehicle yet, but I'm sure when we do there will be more stories to tell. You know I'll keep you posted.

My Favorite Christmas Cookies

Since I was really sick around Christmastime and the thought of looking at photos of food, much less eating any was not a good thing, I never did get around to posting this. (Notice I was good and avoided any offensive references to "tossing my cookies".)

Every year the girls and I (but mostly me) bake one of our favorite Christmas cookies, which my sister-in-law Kim (married to my brother Todd, not to be confused with my other sister-in-law Kim, who is married to my brother Kendall) brought one year to our family Christmas party. Kim is a fabulous baker so we know anything she brings will be wonderful and these little babies really are.

(For some reason, they still don't look all that appetizing here. Just know, they taste better than this photo depicts. Maybe the plate is too busy, I'm not sure. I guess any hopes I had of ever becoming a food stylist are pretty much shot because these really are pretty cookies and I've already managed to make them look bad.)

Here is the recipe for anyone who is interested (of course with my own non-professional, corner cutting tweaks). They are a little bit of work, but so worth it!

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. melted margarine
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. peppermint extract
5 c. powdered sugar
3-4 drops red food coloring (or more)

1/2 c. crushed peppermint candy canes or hard peppermint candies (about 4 ounces)

For cookies:
Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs. Add dry ingredients and beat until blended. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. (I use 2 pieces of parchment and 3 cookie sheets and rotate the hot pans.) Scoop out dough by level tablespoons. (A 1 1/4" diameter scoop makes about 75 cookies.) Place on baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Using bottom of glass or hand, flatten each ball to 2 inches round (edges will crack). Bake 10 minutes, or until cookies no longer look wet and small indentation appears when tops of cookies are lightly touched with fingers, (do not overbake or cookies will become too crisp). Cool on sheet 5 minutes. Transfer chocolate cookies to racks and cool completely.

For frosting:
Combine melted margarine, milk, vanilla and peppermint extract. Beat in powdered sugar. Add food coloring to make desired pink shade.

Spread each cookie with frosting. Sprinkle with candy pieces while frosting is still moist. Enjoy!

These also make really festive looking sandwich cookies. (I make 1 and 1/2 times the dough, same amount of frosting.) Spread frosting generously over the flat side of one cookie. Top with another cookie, flat side down, pressing gently. Roll edges of cookie sandwiches in crushed candies.

(Once again, not a great shot of the cookies. Sorry.)

These freeze pretty well. I always keep a few extra in the freezer just for me!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Question of the Day:

Is there any accurate way to know for yourself if you're humble?

Because, usually if you think you are, you're not. (Right?)

I don't really think I'm that great at anything. So, does that make me humble.......

or just unskilled?

(But then again, I do make a pretty mean chocolate chip cookie, so maybe I'm not so humble after all!)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to Basics

Whenever life seems to spin out of control - as it has this last month or so, I start to think about what has to go. I just can't, and frankly don't want to, keep up with it all.

It's time once again to strip down to the bare bones of life and go from there. If it doesn't have anything to do with something healthy to eat, something clean to wear or the cleanliness and comfort of our home, it's going to have to go on the back burner. There are things I need to teach my children before it's too late.

Last year I tried to focus on the word "joy" and I failed miserably. This year I'm going to zero in on "peace", both inner and outer. I've been very reflective for the last week or so and feel like it's time to consciously lose some clutter in a few areas of my life, namely mental and physical and emotional (and any other kind of clutter that I can't think of right now because my brain is so cluttered).

I want to take some time in the next little while to work more on spiritual matters. I've always had a plan for my life and so far it hasn't worked out so well. It's true, "Man (or woman) makes plans, God laughs." This year I've vowed to release my expectations and leave it all up to the Lord and his plan for me and my family. This is a huge step for me. I may be a bit of a control freak. I think it comes from life feeling so out of control so much of the time.

I've been feeling a little resentful, to be honest, the last few months at some tasks that feel like they've been foisted on me. It seems like I've been kept so busy doing things that other people have asked - and almost expected me to do, either for themselves or others, that I haven't had a chance to pick my own service opportunities so it doesn't feel as sincere.

There are some specific things that I really want to do to help other people that I know really need the help but I haven't had or taken the time. I want to help someone this week that I know has a need but isn't asking anyone else to fill it, mostly because they don't want to "bother" anyone else. This may not sound nice, but I think some other people I know find it very easy to ask for help, even when they really could do things for themselves a little more. Why do some people find it so difficult to ask for the help they really need and others almost feel entitled to what they want, and then some?

Until I get my mood a little more in line with what I know I should be doing, I need to just hole up a little and get my head and my life together, maybe just detox from the general population for a while.

Thank goodness, once again, for caller i.d.