Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2007 book group titles

Here are the books we are reading in our Relief Society book group this coming year:

January: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
February: Mother Teresa by Kathryn Spink (authorized biography)
March: The Awakening by Kate Chopin
April: The Road From Corrain by Jill Kerr Conway
May: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
June: Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza
July: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
August: Travel book--not yet selected.
September: Austenland by Shannon Hale
October: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
November: Not yet decided. Potential categories: Fantasy, historical fiction, mormon studies
December: Meet to decide 2008 list of books

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

fear not

is my New Year's resolution, if you want to call it that. It's my motto for the year. As in, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." I do not need to fear, because He lived. He atoned for my sins; I only need to follow Him. He wants me to live in faith, not fear.

He wants me to not be afraid to show people who I am. He wants me to be more honest and open. He wants me to open my mouth and open my arms. I think my heart is already open, it has only been inaccessible because of fear. I fear to offend. I fear to form new friendships because someone might (horror of horrors) expect something of me.

A few days ago I gave the baker at our neighborhood grocery store a huge, disarming smile. O.k., because I have resolved to be honest, I must admit that I did it because I wanted him to make me some sugar cookies for Marcus' class party right that minute even though I should have ordered them the day before. He smiled back at me, and sure enough, agreed to make the cookies. He also gave me a tremendous smile that shone from his heart when I went to pick them up. So much so that I felt guilty for smiling at him in the first place because I was trying to get something out of him. It made me think about what a solemn visage I usually present to the public. Why am I so closed, so serious? I should be rejoicing like the Three Kings of Lidia's picture. I mean, you don't need to wear a gold tie and bell bottoms to celebrate. I want carry a little piece of celebration inside me that I can smile out at people for no other reason than that He lived.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

rejoice!


I always seek this picture, framed and hanging year-round in our home, when I'm having a blue day. Lidia did this when she was a month shy of five. In case you don't recognize them, these are the three kings with Mary and Baby Jesus. Mary is very pretty in pink but takes a place backstage to watch the three kings swing and groove, decked out in their fabulous gold ties. Baby Jesus remains fairly serene in his yellow bassinet, but we know He also must be enjoying the show.

merry christmas!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

reading

I have not posted on my reading for awhile, and though I have much to do I want to jot down a few quick notes. Sometimes I keep putting it off and then I forget.

For audiobooks we listened to James Herriot's For Every Living Thing. Georgie and I especially liked it. This is from the For All Creatures Great and Small series about the country vets in Yorkshire, England. (One little caution: some parts are quite liberally sprinkled with "hell," "damn," and "bloody." We didn't really mind but I thought I'd better mention it.) Christopher Timothy, the actor who portrayed Herriot in the BBC series, narrates. He does a wonderful job. The kids really liked his variety of British accents.

We also listened to The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright and are now on The Four Story Mistake. These are about a family of four children in New York city during WWII. Very entertaining.

I started The Awakening by Kate Chopin, a book we're reading for our Relief Society book group. It's interesting. I guess I'd like to finish it before I comment more.

I read A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott. I'll tell you right away it's nothing like Little Women! This is not the type of book (cliffhanging gothicky romance) I usually read, so my expectations were fairly low. I really enjoyed it. I couldn't put it down. I think I'm learning to accept books (like people) for what they are, and not put too many demands on them. I find I enjoy them more that way.

I'm also reading Never Too Late by John Holt. Some of you may have read his more famous books, How Children Fail and How Children Learn. I have read one of these but can't for the life of me remember which! Here's what it says on the back cover of Never Too Late, "At the age of forty, with no particular musical background, he took up the cello. His touching and hilarious accout of his passionate second career demolished the myth that one must start an instrument (or sport, or a language) in early childhood, and will inspire any reader who dreams of taking up a new skill." Here is what I find with Holt. Calling him "passionate" is grave understatement. Also, he has amazing insights into learning, self-discovery, and motivation. Also, you sometimes have to wade through a lot of, what to call it? Something. You have to wade through a lot of something to get to those gems of insight. There are entire chapters that I've skipped.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

russian teacakes


1 Cup butter,
1/2 cup powdered sugar,
1 teaspoon vanila,
2 1/2 cups flour,
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts,
1/4 teasp. salt.
Oven at 400. Mix everything together make 1 inch balls and place them on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 10 minutes. While they are still warm roll in powder sugar.

Auntie posted the above recipe for Russian teacakes, also called Mexican wedding cakes, in the comments on this post. I make these every year because they are the only cookies, besides oatmeal raisin walnut, that J really likes. I also like to add them to our treat plates to cut the sugar a little.

I am tired. I am on heavy doses of Airborne to combat whatever bug it is trying to bring me down. I am annoyed that several of my packages haven't arrived--things I need to mail off somewhere else before Christmas. I don't have my Christmas letter finished yet. I might possibly have finished my shopping but have a nagging feeling that I'm forgetting something, someone. Haven't made tamales yet.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

heavenly baking


yesterday's conversation as we baked:


Lidia: Mom, I like eating so much. I know that in heaven we won't have to eat, but can we?


Me: Oh, I imagine so.


Bernie (to Lidia): Do you think we'll get to bake cookies, too?


Lidia: Yes, probably cookies and bars.


Bernie: I want to make the bars with Jesus.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

baking


I've been doing Christmas baking yesterday and today. I used almost all new recipes this year, hoping to hit on some winners. From allrecipes.com, I've made Berry Almond Bars, Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies, and Chocolate Caramel Brownies. All good recipes, but all a little on the sweet side for my taste. Believe it or not, it seems I am actually losing my sweet tooth. Does this mean I'm a real grown-up? I don't really crave cookies anymore, or anything sweet for that matter. I mean, sometimes I do think I would like cookies, but then I just eat a couple and I don't want any more.

I just finished making the peanut butter kiss cookies above. I only like them warm with the chocolate all melty. I used to make a bunch of these and put away loads of them myself. I just ate three (they are not big cookies) and then wished I hadn't eaten the third. Who knew? Whoever would have guessed that Calandria could lose her sweet tooth?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

lidia!


I love this picture. I found it while looking through photos of the girls taken by their cousin when they went down to Mexico last April.
This is so Lidia.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

new look and title

You might have noticed my new colors and title. The colors I plan to change on a seasonal basis. The title I changed because always on my stats I notice that my blog gets hits from lots of Spanish-speaking countries. I feel badly that those people are probably checking out my blog because they think it's in Spanish (because of the former title "el nido de calandria") and then they are disappointed, poor things. I chose the title "dwelling in possibility" from one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems. At first I wasn't sure about it, but it's growing on me. I think it expresses a lot about me, both good and bad.

relief society christmas party

It just made me smile to think about some of you wondering why I feel the need to talk on this blog about the Relief Society enrichment meetings I attend. I think part of it is to make a record of the things I like so that if I ever get the dreaded calling of Enrichment leader, I will be able to look back on these posts for ideas. Some of you are nodding your heads because you know exactly what I'm talking about. :-)

Michelle, our highly capable Enrichment leader, and her helpers pulled off another great event. It was a dinner and short program at the home of our Relief Society president. The dinner was very tasty. I helped make the chicken, but I feel stupid even saying the word "helped," because it was the easiest recipe ever. I think Michelle said it was her sister's recipe. I plunked a bunch of chicken breasts in my over-sized crockpot. I don't know, probably 15 or so. I combined French dressing (maybe about 1 bottle?), 2 onion soup packets, and 2 cans of whole cranberry sauce. I let it cook on low for 8 hrs. When I saw the chicken start to look dark and smell slightly burnt I worried. I thought I'd overdone it. However, it tasted really good. It was served with rice pilaf, salad, and rolls. They also used my favorite punch recipe which is not really punch. It's white grape/pear juice concentrate mixed with carbonized water. It looked really pretty with fresh cranberries floating in it.

O.k., enough about the food. The program was excellent. I liked it that it was short. How many of you have been to a Relief Society party where the program dragged on and on and what you actually wanted to do was chat and get a second helping of dessert? This program left you wanting more because it was very high quality but not too long. First there was a beautiful instrumental version of "What Child is This?" with two violins and two flutes. (When I heard my friend S. start to play violin I resisted the urge to feel jealous of her masterful playing and contemptuous of my lousy playing. I can play "What Child is This," but I do a version that makes my children dive under any available furniture and cover their ears. I reminded myself that S. has been playing twenty-five years or so longer than I have plus played professionally in an orchestra, so how fair would it be for me to sound like her? I need to be patient. Not one of my strengths.) We sang all together "Far, Far Away on Judea's Plain." The next musical number was "Beautiful Savior" sung by a trio. I don't know why I have to cry every time I hear that song. It was lovely. I don't know who picked the songs but those are three of my very favorites. The last song we sang all together was "Joy to the World." Between the musical numbers several women had been invited to share some of their thoughts about the Savior. I liked it that they spoke simply and from the heart instead of trying to come up with a fancy speech. It was powerful and I think we all felt the Spirit.

I felt uplifted and strengthened after this party. Maybe that's another reason I wanted to post about it here. I always feel this way after I've had the opportunity to spend time with my fellow Relief Society sisters. I've been on the Enrichment board before and I know what a headache it is to plan and carry out one of these functions, but I hope that those who do this know what a blessing it is to us. I have lots of treasured friends who are members of other faiths and I am just as grateful for their influences in my life. I think what makes Relief Society special is that we are all so, so different in almost every possible way, and yet we have the common bond of our belief in the Savior and desire to follow Him.

hansel and gretel

Saturday afternoon we took Georgie and Lidia to see "Hansel and Gretel" with the Minnesota Orchestra. It's an opera by Engelbert Humperdink. Last year J and I saw it and felt guilty the whole time for not having brought the girls. We wanted to check it out ourselves before bringing them. It was absolutely enchanting, and I think they did even better this year, the second time around. Two sisters play the soprano and mezzosoprano parts of Gretel and Hansel, and they are wonderful. Thanks to our generous french horn-playing friend who can sometimes get free tickets, we had first row seats, which made it especially exciting. One of my favorite parts is the dream sequence when these huge puppet-like angels from the Heart of the Beast Theatre come out and do a graceful dance as they watch over Hansel and Gretel sleeping in the forest at night. That is mesmerizing. The music is very tender and sweet. My other favorite part is the end when the Minnesota Boychoir sings. Georgie said she liked the ending best. Lidia liked the witch (of course).

I cannot recommend this opera enough! We went to the afternoon performance, so there were lots of children, some very young, maybe too young in fact. Some were crying. I'm thinking of taking Bernie and Marcus next year.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

gingerbread




This is the first time we do a gingerbread anything from scratch. In the past we've used kits. We had a lot of fun making this train, though it was a little more labor intensive than I expected. I recommend making the gingerbread the day before. It seemed like I was in the kitchen all day with this thing! We did it last Wednesday when my parents were still here, so my mother helped a lot. (Thanks, Mum!) Mum and Lidia made the engine. I thought Lidia did a great job on the bow for the wreath. She has such natural artistic ability, much like her Nana.

Yesterday we went to see the Minnesota Orchestra's Hansel and Gretel (more on that later) and they had four different gingerbread houses in the lobby made by professional bakeries. We got to look at them all and then vote on the best one. My favorite was the castle. It was hard to choose a best because they were all so beautiful, intricate, and imaginative. I got some great ideas for next year.

Here are the recipes, directions, and templates for our gingerbread train at FamilyFun.com.



Thursday, December 07, 2006

sunstripe



This little guy (girl?) is Nana and Grampy's Christmas gift to Marcus this year. A leopard gecko. When Mum warned me they were going to do this, I admit I thought to myself, "That sounds like a big headache!" And as we gathered the materials for the little bugger, I thought, "This is a big headache! I don't know if I'm responsible enough for a pet like this, say nothing about my kids!" But he (we'll call him that because Marcus wants it to be a boy) is not much trouble at all now that he's all set up. And it's so fun watching him come out at night to eat his crickets!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

bedtime stories


My parents leave tomorrow morning. We are so sad to see them go! (Especially me! Who will do my laundry and wash my dishes now? Who will make me clam chowder?)


My children's all time favorite activity with Nana is cuddling up with her before bed for stories. I just snapped this picture of them. Mum used to tell them stories of me when I was a little girl, but then they demanded more and more new stories over the years, so now she's had to branch out to tell stories of my siblings, her siblings, and our pets.


I really miss my family, and it's wonderful to have my parents here. The only thing that comforts me about them leaving is that I will see them again in April when they're on their return trip from New Mexico, where they spend winters, to Maine.


Tonight we went out to dinner to celebrate my final final taken on Tuesday. And may I never set eyes on one again!


People keep asking me what I'm going to do now that I'm graduating. They ask if I plan to get a job or continue with school. I tell them I'm going to sit on my duff and eat bon bons.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

merry christmas


Here is the photo you won't see of us on our Christmas cards this year because J says it's terrible. Well, all the others were terribler. He wants to put us through the torture again this afternoon.

Friday, December 01, 2006

5 things most people don't know about me

1. When I was in high school I thought it would be wonderful to name my children virtue names like "Patience" and "Honor."

2. I am taking violin lessons.

3. I am currently obsessed with the Basque people.

4. I have seasonal depression.

5. I was a colicky baby and temper tantrum-prone child. (Yes, I know you in my family know this, but you are not "most people," are you?)

Here are Amity's five. If interested, consider yourself tagged.

body worlds

I've been awake since four so I thought I might as well get up and post on my neglected blog. Have you ever got into the habit of waking up at 4 am? My two youngest children, who are not newborns and therefore have no good excuse, think they need to take turns waking us up almost every morning at 4 am. Bernie tries to get into our bed in order to kick us, smack us, and snore loudly in our faces for the rest of the morning. If it's not her, it's Marcus doing his "morning dance," a viscious stomping and hopping to the children's bathroom which is next-door to our room, accompanied by a tremendous *BANG* of the toilet seat which reverberates through the house and possibly wakes the neighbors.

I sometimes get back to sleep again but often not, especially this time of year when 'tis the season to have one million and five things to do. My to-do list hijacked my would-be sleepy brain this morning and revved it up into wide-awake mode.

My parents arrived Monday and we are enjoying their visit very much. Last night we went to the Body Worlds exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum. It was amazing and unsettling. I could have stayed for hours but we didn't, because it was very crowded and two of our children were not very enthusiastic participants. (Lidia, with a wrinkled nose: "Why do they have to show people's private parts?") It's an exhibit of real human bodies, plastinated. According to the website, "plastination, invented by German anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977, is a process whereby all bodily fluids and soluble fats are replaced with reactive plastics that harden after curing with light, heat or gas. All tissue structures are retained."

It was both riveting and disturbing. Sometimes I felt removed enough to focus on this amazing and unique look at what's inside us. But then it would suddenly occur to me that this was someone's neighbor, or brother, or husband. Some of the plastinates are posed very whimsically and I wondered a little at the appropriateness. Or, maybe that isn't exactly what I mean. Some of the plastinates made me uncomfortable.

I would have liked to return without children and do the audio guide, but the exhibit ends Sunday. It has been the most highly-attended science exhibit in the history of Minnesota.