Wednesday, January 31, 2007

1950s women

I am not a big fan of LDS Living, mostly because it is such a Utah-centric magazine. However, I did find this interesting tidbit as I was perusing it today.

"A 2002 BBC report showed some interesting facts when comparing modern women to their counterparts in the 1950s. They found that fifty years ago, women burned three times more calories than women today. This took into consideration that five decades ago, women did an average of three hours of physical housework and walked approximately one hour to stores and back....

Of the 2100 calories that the average woman consumes today, only one fourth of that is burned off by daily activity. Compare that to those by gone days where women consumed only 1800 calories on average and burned off 1500 calories in their daily routines!"

That is very dramatic. I tried to find more by doing a web search but couldn't turn up said BBC report. What I'm wondering is how they arrived at those statistics for 1950s women. Were they really, on average, walking "approximately one hour to stores and back?" Did they just make a guess at the calories consumed and burned by 1950s women?

what's a mormon to do?

Last night when J got home from work he said words to the effect that if he were not Mormon, this would have been the night for him to toss down a few potent alchoholic concontions. After cutting my fingers (through the nail) while making dinner and going upstairs to find that M and B had destroyed much of Lidia's birthday yarn (and dealing with the ensuing eruption of Mt. Lidia) I was inclined to feel the same.

Instead, J got everyone down for bed relatively early while I thumbed through a magazine. That was so incredibly nice of him. I love that man. I sat in my comfy yet stylish red chair, and J sat in the rocker. I read the Book of Mormon and he read the Ensign, because that, I guess, is what Mormons do on day's like that.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


I haven't posted much lately about what the whippersnappers are up to.
The current obsession is Star Wars. They got the Lego Star Wars Nintendo game for Christmas and now they dress up and act out Star Wars, watch the movies (except for the third one) and Marcus even dreams about Star Wars.
Georgie is still interested in archery and is still making bows and arrows. She can shoot one of her own arrows pretty far now. She'll take some archery lessons in the summer.

Bernie has known the letter sounds for over a year, but had not shown interest in sounding out words. This seemed to bother her siblings more than it did me or her, as they were all early readers and were determined that their little sister would be also. I have never pushed my kids to read, and certainly wasn't interested in pushing She Who Knows Her Mind. However, on Friday she decided she wanted to try her Bob books again, so we did. She found that sounding out words was a piece of cake! (Of course, we tried again today, and it's "too hard" again. Whatever.)

Lidia loves to knit with her Knifty Knitter. She got some very cool yarn from Nana for her birthday and did this hat. She has also written lots and lots of stories. I'm trying to convince her to create a blog and post a few of them.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


My sister, among others, has been asking for my tamales recipe. I don't ever use a recipe, I just throw it together like any self-respecting Mexican cook! But o.k., so I'm not Mexican, you say. True. I recently made some tamales and had some time to actually pay attention to what I was doing, so here is my recipe.

1 rotisserie chicken
4 oz. chiles guajillo
2 T minced garlic
2 tsp. cumin
1 large, white onion
1 jar chopped green olives (optional)
tamale dough (I double the recipe on the bag. I decrease lard from 2/3 cup to 1/2 cup or less.)
corn husks
canola oil

Take stems off peppers and tear them into smaller pieces. (Caution: I never use plastic gloves when I do this, but you might wanna. DO NOT touch your face after handling chile peppers until you've washed your hands with hot, soapy water.)
Put peppers in a bowl with hottest tap water. Submerge them by weighing them down with a plate. Leave about 2 hrs. or more.

Rinse peppers and put into blender with onion, garlic, and cumin. Add enough water so mixture can be liquefied. It may take a while to get it right. I've never seen a Mexican strain this mixture, but fastidious Americans may choose to do so. There will be tiny flecks of dried chile no matter how long you liquefy.

Remove meat from chicken and shred (I've usually do this the day before). Put about 2 T of canola oil in a hot skillet and add chicken. Brown chicken for a few minutes. Add chile pepper mixture, reserving one cup. Add black pepper and simmer about 5 minutes. Add olives, if desired. (If you are not using a rotisserie chicken, which is already salty, you'll need to add salt.)

Add the remaining 1 cup of chile pepper mixture to tamale dough. Blend it together with a hand mixer, or a Kitchen Aide stand mixer if you happen to have one of those outrageously expensive things around.

Fill sink (or basin) with lukewarm water and submerge corn husks. Let soak for about 15 minutes, separating them as necessary and weighing them down with a plate to submerge. Remove husks from water and squeeze out extra water.

Assemble tamales as shown in photos. Fold over the larger end. Steam tamales for 2-3 hrs. Remember to keep adding water to steamer.

this came in the mail

"I spent four[teen] years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper
And I was free."
~Indigo Girls

Monday, January 22, 2007

teens again

J thinks I could have given the impression that teenagers in Mexico do not rebel or misbehave. They do, of course. There are gangs in Mexico, drug use, etc. There are those who disrespect their parents, too.

However, this is not expected of Mexican "teens" (for which they do not have a word) as a group. Also, I think the behavior of the average Mexican teen is different than that of his/her U.S. counterpart in the context of family life. They spend a great deal more time with their families rather than holed up in their rooms. They are not likely to feel themselves "misunderstood" by their parents, as U.S. teens (maybe rightfully!) do.


We saw Mad Hot Ballroom a couple nights ago and really enjoyed it. It's a documentary about children in New York City who take ballroom dance classes as part of their public school curriculum and compete. I cried at several parts but just because I'm a big old baby. Most of the kids are Dominicanos. Have you seen it, Amity? How about you, Michelle F.? J thought he wouldn't like it because he hates ballroom but he liked it a lot.

Right away I will say that there is some potty humor in Good Boy and J and I DO NOT CONDONE potty humor. But our kids laughed so hard during this movie we couldn't help but like it. The boy who plays the main character is a good actor, but the dogs take the cake.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


J and I were newly married and newly moved to Minnesota. He was given the calling in our ward to teach a "difficult" Sunday school class full of teenagers. He loved them and they loved him. Other people in the ward, however, thought he must be having a hard time of it with this notorious group and would try to console him with comments about "teenagers."

"What are 'teenagers'?" J asked me one day. I defined the term. J thought it was amusing that we had this word for 13-19 year-olds in English. "But how come people here keep talking bad about them? Like there's something wrong with them just because of their age?"

I laughed, thinking he was being ironic, but soon realized he was actually confused about Americans' negative views of teenagers. He was disgusted and dismayed by what I told him. "Thank heavens we don't have teenagers in Mexico!" I remember him saying. He assured me that in Mexico no one ever made mention of kids becoming surly or disobedient in their teenage years. We began to wonder why this cultural difference existed and if Americans' negative expectations of teenagers led to their consequent behavior.

I recently received an email from a friend telling about the upcoming seminar given by Dr. David Walsh, author of WHY Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen. It made me smile to think of us explaining away adolescent behavior by blaming their brains. So, are the brains of Mexican teenagers wired differently?

This is a diverse group of readers with ties to many different cultures. Do you think the whole "teenage" thing is cultural or biological?

Saturday, January 20, 2007


education comments

Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comments on education, everyone! I didn't reply in the comments section because I figured by now some of you might have given up on checking. :-) Athena and I were talking yesterday about what a awesome group of readers I have on my blog and what great discussions we have. What a diverse bunch we are! And yet respectful, I think, of others' viewpoints.

O.k., so I'll stop praising us.

Athena, I didn't see the articles as negative, though I do think the first and third were lacking in practical suggestions. I think in the second article Murray is just saying that college isn't for everyone, and that there are many other viable options. In the first article, he is challenging the assumption that all children can, if the teachers do a good enough job teaching, reach a high standard of education. I can see how that can appear glum, but in the second article he is suggests that if some children are not cut out for academics, why not direct them to other meaningful, fulfilling study like craftmanship? In the third article on gifted education, I was more or less in agreement that more rigorous study needs to be available for those who can take it, especially at the pre-college level, but as I said before, Murray makes no practical suggestions.

I am so glad that Athena reminded me of those Tvedtnes articles! I had forgotten that I wanted to read those with Georgie. This five-part series is in Meridian magazine, and the first is Making the Grade: Study Pointers for LDS Students. Those are great articles because they are so practical and applicable.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

gifted education

Anyone read the Charles Murray article today? Last of the trilogy. It's about better education for the gifted. He makes some sweeping generalizations that I'm not sure I'm comfortable with. I don't know that IQ is the big determiner he says it is. I liked the following response to the article by Roger Bleier of Houston, "What minimum IQ is required to be an IQ expert, I wonder. And should we really focus on 10% of the population or are many more capable of deriving benefit from a good, broad education. Ironically in this regard Mr. Murray in his insistent and seemingly inflexible espousal of the determinacy of IQ reminds of nothing so much as how a man with a hammer is wont to see everything as a nails."

That was my impression too.

And yet I had to agree with this, in part: The encouragement of wisdom requires a special kind of education. It requires first of all recognition of one's own intellectual limits and fallibilities--in a word, humility. This is perhaps the most conspicuously missing part of today's education of the gifted. Many high-IQ students, especially those who avoid serious science and math, go from kindergarten through an advanced degree without ever having a teacher who is dissatisfied with their best work and without ever taking a course that forces them to say to themselves, "I can't do this." Humility requires that the gifted learn what it feels like to hit an intellectual wall, just as all of their less talented peers do, and that can come only from a curriculum and pedagogy designed especially for them. That level of demand cannot fairly be imposed on a classroom that includes children who do not have the ability to respond. The gifted need to have some classes with each other not to be coddled, but because that is the only setting in which their feet can be held to the fire.

I think the best way for even the gifted to learn humility is from following the example of the Savior. However, more challenging curriculum would help.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

don't miss

the three-article series on education by Charles Murray in the Wall Street Journal. Interesting and controversial. Not sure what I think yet. Here is yesterday's and today's. Find tomorrow's (tomorrow, of course) here.

From today's:
For a few occupations, a college degree still certifies a qualification. For example, employers appropriately treat a bachelor's degree in engineering as a requirement for hiring engineers. But a bachelor's degree in a field such as sociology, psychology, economics, history or literature certifies nothing. It is a screening device for employers. The college you got into says a lot about your ability, and that you stuck it out for four years says something about your perseverance. But the degree itself does not qualify the graduate for anything. There are better, faster and more efficient ways for young people to acquire credentials to provide to employers.


I know I haven't been posting as regularly in 2007. Because of certain resolutions I made I'm busier now. I'm doing my own housework now, and it's taking me longer than the combined five hours every other week my housekeepers used to put in. Why? Probably because whereas they used to arrange my junk into attractive piles, I am now putting it away or throwing it out. Closets and drawers are getting cleaned out.

I'm exercising. Did power yoga today.

I'm shopping for groceries and cooking from scratch more than I used to. The kids and J are being pretty good about helping with kitchen clean up. J is very grateful for the healthy meals. He says he's noticed a big difference in how he feels, and I already posted that I do too.

I've been stressing a little about the logistics of next school year. I'm worried that I won't be able to get the kids to and from school. They will be in three different school districts. I'll be picking up and dropping off Georgie and Lidia. Those two will be at separate schools next year, about fifteen, twenty minutes from each other. They are dismissed at the same time, and neither school will give me any leeway on pick up time. I assume Marcus and Bernie will take the bus together in the morning, and they will be getting on the bus at the very time Georgie needs to be at school. People have suggested car pooling to me for Georgie, but how can I do that when it seems that I can not drop her off in the morning or pick her up in the afternoon on time? Jorge says I can take all four to school in the morning and then I don't have to worry about the bus. So. I would be leaving the house at 7:40 am and getting back at about 9:15 every morning. Huh? In the afternoon I might be able to pick up Lidia and then pick up Georgie a little late and then be home in time for when Marcus gets off the bus. I just might. But as a friend said about this, "What if a wrench is thrown into this split-second planning? Then you're screwed." Exactly. As everyone knows who does a commute, the traffic can suddenly turn on you. I'm just not the kind of person who can be relaxed about stuff like this.

spicy lentils with shitake mushrooms

Lentils can have a bitter taste. For me to like lentils, I have to overcook them. I made this lentil soup the other day and it turned out so good that even J ate it with the shitake mushroms! He likes lentil soup, but in the past has turned his nose up at the mushrooms. I hope I can remember how I made it. I should have written the recipe down that day.
1 lb. lentils
8 cups water
4 large shitake mushrooms, dried
about 2 cups chopped carrots
1/4 cup dried onion
1 T minced garlic
2 T instant chicken bouillon
1 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 tsp red pepper powder, or to taste
black pepper, to taste
Rinse and pick over lentils. Add to crock pot with 8 cups water. Set to high. Leave mushrooms soaking in hot water with a bowl on top weighting them down to submerge them. Let lentils cook about 3 hrs. Rinse mushroom, remove stems, and dice. Add mushroom, carrots, onion, garlic, red pepper, and chicken bouillon to crock pot. Let cook another 2-3 hrs on high. Add diced tomatoes and pepper. Turn off crockpot and let it set a few minutes.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

practice makes chocolate

Congratulations to Lidia, who won the Christmas practice challenge at her dance school. She practiced over 6 hours during Christmas break. Way to go, Lidia! She won this very cute teddy bear and chocolate house.

Bilingualism delays onset of dementia

By David LjunggrenFri Jan 12, 4:13 PM ET
People who are fully bilingual and speak both languages every day for most of their lives can delay the onset of dementia by up to four years compared with those who only know one language, Canadian scientists said on Friday. more...

Friday, January 12, 2007

new year's resolution salad

This is one of my favorite lunches right now. I got the recipe from Health magazine, but can't seem to find it on their website.
1 cup whole-wheat couscous, cooked (my grocery didn't carry whole wheat, so I used regular)
1 T chopped black olives
1/2 cup grape tomates, halved
1/2 cup cucumber, diced
1/2 cup canned chick peas, drained
1/4 cup feta cheese (I used less)
2 T light vinaigrette
Combine all salad ingredients and drizzle with dresing.
I really like Health magazine. I get Shape too, which is o.k., but definitely more oriented to obtaining a gym body.
I have been feeling so much better in the past few weeks that I've been eating healthier. I have a good deal more energy. I've lost a few pounds. O.k., I admit it, I would like to fit into my skinny jeans from two years ago. Is that so bad? I need to lose at least another five to do that.
Since it's -13 wind chill right now I won't be going out for a walk, but Yoga Booty Ballet awaits.
My kitchen is still a mess from last night because right after I made dinner I took Lidia to dance. I dropped her off back at home and went directly to book group. It was past 11 when I got home. J had made some attempts at putting dishes in the dishwasher, but the pots and pans were left out. He was still working on a Romania thing when I got home.
I'm trying to be o.k. with my kitchen being untidy sometimes. In the past I've ordered take-out or whisked everyone off to a restaurant only because I know that I won't have time to clean my kitchen the way I like if I make a meal. I want our family to eat more healthy, home-cooked meals. So I need to relax about sometimes leaving dishes.
Also, this is the first Friday that, normally, my cleaning ladies would be here but now they're not. For years I've had cleaning ladies come every other Friday. For some reason I feel embarrassed to admit this on my blog, like I'm revealing some dark secret from my past. Like I'm some kind of traitor to my immaculate New Englander house wife forbears. Like all of you upon reading this will widen your eyes, cover your mouths, and draw in a quick breath.
When Marcus was born I really needed some occasional help with my house, and a friend needed some work. "Occasional" turned into every other week. It was a good arrangement for both of us. She is an incredibly hardworking woman, and has a great sense of order. I have learned a lot from her. However, for the past couple of years I've had a nagging feeling that I really should do my own cleaning with help from the ones who make the messes. Not that I haven't been cleaning; after all, my friend and her sister-in-law only came to clean every other week for 2-3 hrs.
Anyway, two weeks ago was the last time they came. Monday we went over a new set of daily and weekly chores for the kids. So far there hasn't been too much complaining. I read a quote to them from this article, and we discussed it:
Using measures of the individual's success (such as completing education, starting a career path, IQ scores, relationships with family and friends, and not using drugs) and examining a child's involvement in household tasks at all three earlier times, Marty Rossmann, U of M associate professor of family education, determined that the best predictor of young adults' success in their mid-20s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four. However, if they did not begin participating until they were 15 or 16, the participation backfired and those subjects were less "successful." The assumption is that responsibility learned via household tasks is best when learned young.

Monday, January 08, 2007

spanish? maineish?

"Como se dice 'shirt' en espanol?"

Bernie: "Sweat-ah!"


The guys look tired.
The girls are wild.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

J's big news

J felt some special excitement as he prepared to go to back to work last week. Last Thursday, December 28th, he and his partners purchased a new product line and set up a new company.

In June he found out that his biggest customer was selling the product line for which J's company provides part of the solution. This potentially put in jeopardy J's company if that product line were sold to a competitor. We offered many prayers about this. J and his two partners decided they wanted to buy it. There were other interested parties. After what seemed like interminable (and anxiety-producing, at least for me) negotiations, the deal was closed last week.

This new company is three times larger than the one J and his partners bought four years ago. They have customers all over the world, including Australia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and many places in Europe and Latin America. This will mean a big change for our family, as J will begin to travel much more than he has in the past.

If we didn't have any money before, now we really don't have any money. As one of J's partners said, "Everything is leveraged!" Obviously we hope for success. :-) J is very excited about the possibilities he sees to grow the business. This past week has been crazy at their office. On top of dealing with the multitude of calls they've had from suppliers, they were finishing a move within the same building to better office space. Friday one of the two semi trucks they hired to move the inventory here arrived, the other will arrive this week.

I limit the amount of personal identifying information I post on this public blog, so if you'd like the links to the press release announcing the acquisition as well as the link to J's new company web site (though J says it is not finished and still needs sprucing up), email me at

Saturday, January 06, 2007

more book talk

It's been a long time since I let so many days go by without posting. I did actually write a post a few days ago, but then was called out of the room and Bernie deleted it. That was very frustrating and turned me off to posting for a few days.

Marcus and Bernie were back at school this week but Georgie and Lidia aren't back until Monday. I'm ready for everyone to be back now. This has felt like a very long week for some reason. Monday, when I posted about The Song of the Lark, was the high point.

I read The Song of the Lark in high school but decided to reread it because Fauna read it and told me how much she liked it. (Fauna is Lidia's idolized Irish step teacher, in her early twenties and quite a fascinating person.) After I read it I felt like I really needed to talk to someone about it so I emailed Fauna. I mentioned that I saw different things in the book reading it fifteen years later. She had this to say about rereading: “I think that everyone reads a book and makes a general judgment of it's worth based upon their value system, but also that most people react to a book emotionally based on what they are experiencing personally at that stage in their life. Maybe that's why we can recognize and appreciate a good book at any time in life, but take something different away from it each time we read it?"

I think that is so true. Fauna reads a great deal, and often when finishing a book she likes immediately begins reading it again! She says that gives her the opportunity to notice a lot of things she missed the first time. It seems like a great way to really absorb a book.

I like what Fauna says about our judgment of a book being a combination of our value system and what we are experiencing personally at the time. For me, my expectations of the book have often greatly influenced my reaction to it. I'm trying to mitigate that because I think I often unfairly judge books because I try to compare apples to oranges. I have unfair expectations. Now I am trying to approach books with a more open attitude.

I recently read The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Karen mentioned in a comment that she also read it and liked it, and expected our opinions to vary as they did for A Woman of Independent Means. (Go here and here to read some spirited discussion Karen and I had about that book.) So maybe Karen expected me to dislike the book. I did not, in fact, dislike it. It was an interesting read in many ways. I loved the Creole Louisiana setting. (spoiler alert: If you haven't read the book and want to, you may want to stop reading at this point because I will reveal plot details.) The setting was beautiful and sensual. There is a lot of sensual description of landscapes, food, and clothing. These descriptions contributed a lot to the theme of sensual awakening (not just sexual) of the main character, Edna, a twenty-eight year old woman who has been married for several years and has two boys. Edna's husband in a wealthy Creole she married for security rather than love. All that is really expected of Edna is that she be an adornment to her home and that she have sex with her husband. As you might imagine, this is not a very fulfilling existence for her. She doesn't take much interest in her children. Edna's best friend, Adele, is extremely devoted to her husband and many children and always dresses in white. She is the Victorian ideal, the "angel in the house," and Edna's foil.

Edna is bored and seeking more from life. She falls in love with another man. She sketches and paints. The man she loves goes to Mexico to escape her and so she has an affair with another man. She moves out of her house, leaving her husband and children.

This was, of course, all very shocking when the book was written at the end of the nineteenth century. Now it is the trite fare of soap operas. Because I liked the setting so much and lovely descriptions, I did enjoy reading the book. However, I did not find Edna to be an especially interesting or original character. I understand her "awakening," but I was a little bored by what she did with it. Selfishness is boring and also predictable. I did find it very interesting (and this is probably not what the author intended) that instead of freeing her from her confining life, Edna's choices only further enslave her.

I've just started reading Mother Teresa, who I'm sure will be a better foil to Edna than Adele!

Monday, January 01, 2007

shiny and new

But in that same room there was a picture--oh, that was the thing she ran upstairs so fast to see! That was her picture. She imagined that nobody cared for it but herself, and that it waited for her. That was a picture indeed. She liked even the name of it, 'The Song of the Lark.' The flat country, the early morning light, the wet fields, the look in the girl's heavy face--well, they were all hers, anyhow, whatever was there. She told herself that that picture was 'right.' Just what she meant by this, it would take a clever person to explain. But to her the word covered the almost boundless satisfaction she felt when she looked at the picture.

Instead of getting out of bed this morning I finished reading The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. I always feel invigorated after reading Cather. My favorites of her protagonists are always spirited, strong women. Her books also bring out the patriot in me. I think she portrays the very best of our national character; our naturalness, exuberant vitality, strength, and work ethic. Our compelling desire to succeed. Our love of a good challenge. Not a lot of great things are said about Americans now. I'm not saying that we don't deserve some of the criticism. (I find it interesting that the protagonist in The Song of the Lark has a fairly coarse and mercenary nature.) I'm not saying we are superior. What I'm saying is that we have such enormous good in this country, such potential. Cather peoples her books with a good many losers, but the heroes and heroines, though flawed, shine forth and triumph. Oh, I can never resist a story of triumph!

So after reading this book I feel ready to confront whatever the new year brings me. I say, "Bring it on!"