Tuesday, December 30, 2008

childhood dreams

Ave posted about her pre-marriage dream of becoming a soccer mom, complete with white Land Rover with heated seats. My mom's dream was to have a self-sustainable farm with "orchards and berry bushes, chickens, and all of her family actively and happily participating." Seems Mom wanted her dream to be her children's dream, too. :)

All this dream talk made me hearken back to my pre-married life (in my case, that was my childhood) and the dreams of yore. I don't think suburban soccer mom or farming earth mother occurred to me, as far as I remember. My dreams always seemed to involve large cities, preferrably in foreign countries. And a life of the mind. I think in these dreams I saw myself as a sort of intellectual jet-setter. Maybe a highly-sought-after expert on something. Jane Austen, perhaps? Because you know those Jane Austen experts are flown all over the globe and paid unseemly amounts for their Austen speeches and seminars. As far as a husband and children, I'm not sure they figured much in the dream, except that my husband would be hunky and my children mostly taken care of by the nanny. Yikes, maybe the hunky husband should come along on these trips, lest HE be taken care of by the nanny, too.

Monday, December 29, 2008

hair do





Saturday, December 27, 2008

traditions

We had planned to have J's family join us for Christmas and New Year's this year, but it didn't work out. On Saturday night we found out they couldn't come. Sunday, the mission president, his wife, and daughter came by and invited us to spend Christmas Eve with them. I was hesitant at first because I didn't want to intrude on their family celebration, but we decided in the end to accept their invitation. I'm so glad we did!

This family is exceptional in many ways--too many to go into here. They have eight children, all grown now except their youngest daughter, who is thirteen and has Down Syndrome. Georgie has become friends with her and she is an absolute delight. She follows an impressive and inspiring physical regimen every day, including a three-mile run and LOTS of monkey bars. She sings and dances. She can read. Most impressive, however, is her loving spirit. She is a joy to be around.

The mission family had a married son, his wife, and their baby there, plus two college-age children, a son and daughter. Four missionaries and two other people were there too. I kicked myself all night for not having brought my camera. When we first got there they did a funny skit--something about the Grinch and missionary work. The mission president's wife is a wonderful actress! Then Santa Claus came out and gave gifts. I would have loved to have the camera when J sat on Santa's lap. Darn!

Dinner was delicious. I had never tasted turducken, and now I'm a convert.

After dinner Georgie and Lidia played some duets together and were much celebrated. After that the mission president's children and our children acted out the nativity story. It was so sweet! Bernie was Mary, and she took her role very seriously. I saw someone taking photos of that, so maybe I can get some copies.

Next we participated in one of their family traditions. For each birthday, everyone in the family pays a compliment to the person whose birthday it is. For Christmas Eve, they all compliment the Savior, so that is what we did. It was a beautiful way to end the evening.

I was so glad to have the opportunity to get to know this family a little better. They seem to be such an interesting mix of serious and fun. The children seem to be very accomplished in a variety of ways and they are very serious about the Gospel. But they are certainly not wet blankets! They seemed to be on good behavior while we were there but I saw some glimpses of potential rowdiness. I talked at length with the college-age daughter and she gave her mom the credit for always making their family traditions fun and exciting. I think I have some improvement to make in that area. I'm always saying that I'm a boring person. Really, I am. Most people would find me boring, and that doesn't bother me in the slightest. However, I don't want my family to think I'm boring. I want us to have fun together, and not just my kind of nerdy "fun."

Today I saw photos some friends took of their Christmas Eve celebration. This happens to be another family with eight children, all over eighteen except the youngest, though it looked like they had six of the eight there. They moved to London in August and they rented a cottage in the Lake District for Christmas. Of course they had all kinds of incredible photos of the scenery, but they also had a few pictures taken of their "British murder mystery"-themed Christmas Eve. It doesn't seem likely that this particular activity is a tradition of years. But after years of knowing this family, I know that fun is a tradition. I can see myself aspiring and in some way accomplishing something like that--maybe we won't do the same things every single year, but we can make sure we do something fun Christmas Eve. Something memorable. Maybe we can manage a few skits. Though I haven't done much of that with my kids and didn't do it in my home growing up, it was an ancestral tradition. Here is a photo of the Haseltines all ready to put on a play for the grange. (What grange hall was that, anyone know?) As you can see, this wasn't the most politically correct of plays, but cut them some slack. It must have been the early 50s. My grandmother is the one seated on the far right, holding a baby (my mother, I think?) in her arms.

Friday, December 26, 2008

beware of the dog house


Something to keep in mind for next year.


[Edit: Just so you know, J is most certainly NOT in the dog house this year. I got a pearl necklance, bracelet, and earrings. And it looks like my brother-in-law escaped that sorry fate this year, too. Check out the gorgeous jewelry he made for Ave.]

Thursday, December 25, 2008

stockings through the years

2004
20052006
2007
2008

How annoying that I don't have a stocking photo for 2006!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

nibble nibble little mouse

Who's that nibbling on my house?


The girls are all focused on making theirs pretty. Marcus, however, is making up a story about the lady who lives in the house and cooks kids. "Boiled boy and grilled girl!" he shouts. His house is full of booby traps the lady set to catch unsuspecting children.

Monday, December 22, 2008

rejoice!

Every time I visit my blog I see that header, a picture Lidia drew many years ago, and I rejoice. "Rejoice" is what I have named this picture of the three kings with their gold ties and swinging bell bottoms. I look at it and I feel a song swelling up in my heart. With Charles Wesley I say,

Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore;
Mortals give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

I'm still sick, but who cares. Last night I played Christmas carols on my violin and it felt great. Today we're making gingerbread houses. All is well.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

i like

J and I watched a movie Friday night and one last night. The Friday one I loathed. I'm not even going to say what it was. Saturday night's was delightful: Hitchcock's "Stage Fright" from 1950. I saw it referred to in several places as a "lesser" Hitchcock, and I don't know if that means inferior or less well-known than "The Birds," for example, or "Psycho." Though the two leads are most known for who they married, (Jane Wyman was Ronald Reagan's first wife and Michael Wilding was Elizabeth Taylor's second husband) I thought they were great in this film. Marlene Dietrich and Alastair Sim also put in some top-rate performances.

That got me to thinking about the movies I like as well as the ones I don't. It is very rare that I see a movie I don't like because I will usually only choose to see those I think I will like. Here are a few I've seen this past year and loved:


Once

Actually saw it last year but rented it recently to see with J. (I haven't talked about it much on this blog because it's rated R, taboo for Mormons. It's got a lot of F word in it, which I didn't notice until I watched it the second time with subtitles. Ouch! But seriously, what's up with our U.S. rating system? A lovely movie like this is given the big R, while the evil Dark Knight slides by with a PG-13. Don't get me started.) The music is incredibly moving. The performances are perfect. As far as that pesky F word goes, well, that's how they talk in Ireland. It's punctuation.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day


Hilarious, yet touching performances from Amy Adams and Frances McDormand. Frances McDormand has one of the most expressive faces ever. I loved the glamorous 40's setting and the fact that it all takes place in one day. This is the perfect movie to watch if you're feeling a little uptight. A great de-stresser for the holidays!





Caramel

The setting is a Lebanese beauty salon. Five women struggle with typical women's issues: married boyfriend, menopause, family obligations, etc., but this movie seems to give everything a fresh treatment. I loved it.








The Visitor

A widowed professor who lives and works in Connecticut goes back to his NYC apartment to discover an immigrant couple living there. The reviews call it a movie about immigration and while it does touch on some aspects of that, I found it to be more strongly about love, loss, healing, and the power of friendship.

Friday, December 19, 2008

myth prepares us for faith

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend that is always so fun to talk with. I love hanging out with her. On my way back home I started feeling hot and cold, nauseous, joint pain, throat pain, and a whopping headache. So weird! I felt none of that during the lunch, but fifteen minutes later I'm dying. I got home and crashed. I had to get up to drop Bernie at violin and pick up Lili from school. I came home again and crashed. I didn't get up again except to mince around downstairs a bit (walking was so painful) and find the Nyquil flu relief. The Nyquil did zippo for me. All night I tossed and turned alternately boiling and freezing, my entire body aching miserably.

It wasn't so bad this morning. Bearable.

But my sudden, violent illness is not the topic of this post. At least, not anymore. When I had lunch with my friend I told her about Shadowlands and also mentioned the awesome book I just heard on CD, The Sea of Trolls. We talked a bit about C.S. Lewis's idea that myth prepares people for belief in Christianity. Lo and behold, I sat down to read the Wall Street Journal just now and found this: OK, Virginia, There's No Santa Claus. But There Is God. This is was very interesting. Some great G.K. Chesterton quotes. Also mentions a man named Richard Dawkins who is "reportedly writing a book examining the pernicious tendency of fantasy tales to promote 'anti-scientific' thinking among children. He suspects that such stories lay the groundwork for religious faith, the inculcation of which, he claims, is a worse form of child abuse than sexual molestation." Right.

There are fantasy writers who are anti-Christian. I wonder what Dawkins thinks of them?

Just today I was reading about the Jaredite prophet Ether: "And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not." And Moroni's thoughts: "Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:5-6)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

holiday brain

Yesterday afternoon I spent about three and a half hours stuck in nasty traffic. It was very stupid of me to attempt to take Bernie to her dance class. I should have known! This morning it took us 45 minutes to get to a place it should have taken 15. I don't want to talk about it anymore except to say that I am very down on Minnesota right now. I know that some of you in the northeast have experienced worse lately with the ice storms. So I'm down all all northern states right now.

And I'm suffering from serious holiday brain. Part of this is forgetting things or doing things with half a mind so they turn out wrong. Like the other night when I mindlessly stuffed envelopes with our Christmas card and letter. Forgetting that I wanted to at least sign them personally or jot a few words of holiday cheer to the friends and family I send them to. The other part of my holiday brain wakes me up abruptly in the middle of the night and makes me think I've left the dog out in the 20 below windchill or that one of the kids screamed. It takes such a long time to calm down again and fall back asleep.

Forgive me for really disliking the holidays right now. Forgive me for Scroogishness, which is what J and I are up to as we try to squelch holiday spending. "A Christmas Carol" is such a spendthrift kind of tale when you think of it. The message is that buying stuff equals Merry Christmas.

Last night when I got home from the dance class traffic nightmare, it was time for J and I to go out on the road again for my surprise Christmas present to J. I did not want to go. I felt bad hauling J out of the house when he'd just got there after a grueling work day. But we went. Yes, the traffic was nuts. It took us an hour to get to the Guthrie, but I didn't mind. J and I got to talk much more than we usually do at home. They held the show a few minutes because there were many arriving late. We saw "Shadowlands," a play about C.S. Lewis and his wife, Joy. I am so glad we went. "Christmas Carol" is also playing now at the Guthrie as it does every year and while that's a marvelous show, I'm glad we saw "Shadowlands" instead this time. It reminded me why we're really here and what our mission is. It reminded me of the Savior. It gave me peace. Last night holiday brain did not wake me up, not once.

I read "Shadowlands" for a class once, but I'd forgotten most of it. It's the story of how Lewis and Grisham develop a deep friendship that eventually becomes romantic love. The play asks, if God loves us, why does he let us suffer?

I loved the play and the Guthrie production was wonderful. The two leads were very good and the sets were stunning. I forget how novel the Proscenium is with its sliding, dropping sets. So cool! I felt like applauding for each new set.

Getting tickets for this play was presumably my gift to J, but I told him he could count if for his to me, too. Aren't I generous?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

sea of trolls


I should probably be posting something Christmasy but I'm simply not in the mood right now. Don't worry, I'll get my Christmas spirit back. I just need to think of something else this afternoon.


Lidia and I are listening to The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer during our school commute. We are almost finished--this is a long one that's taken us several weeks. But so, so good. You know how I said Eva Ibottson was my new favorite after reading The Star of Kazan? Well, move over, Eva. Just kidding--two very different authors and they'll have to exist for awhile as my dual favorites.


I'd already read one of Farmer's prize-winning books, The House of Scorpion, loved it, and posted about it. The Sea of Trolls is entirely different. It's a blend of real and mythical historical fiction. It's what I think of as a "grounded fantasy." I think that may become my favorite genre. The story takes place in Anglo-Saxon England and Viking Europe in 793, where Christianity and pagan beliefs exist side-by-side, often within the same person. I've learned a lot about the time period and especially about Vikings. The characters are complex and the mythical elements captivating. As I've listened to this audiobook (excellent narrator in Gerard Doyle--perhaps the best I've heard!) I've repeatedly thought, this book must have been written by someone of tremendous depth and intelligence. Well, a couple days ago I discovered Nancy Famer's bio on her website. It turns out that I was right. She is both intelligent and profound, and on top of that, had a very bizarre childhood. If you have any interest in writing or children's literature I highly recommend you read this bio! (Mama Ava, I first thought of you and was going to email you about it but didn't get the chance. Now you know. ;-)) There are many of you who read this blog who would find Farmer's childhood experiences and thoughts on writing fascinating.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

what do you think?


I recently ran into this concept of motherhood:


"I had to realize that my roll as a mother is like Carol Burnett in the skit at the end of the Carol Burnett show. I clean up the stage and get it ready for the next performer. Once I made peace with that, I could be a happy mother."


What do you think of this? Is that how you see your/your wife's roll as a mother?


Do you think this concept applies equally to both fathers and mothers?

saturday at the guthrie

We didn't get to see a show, but we did get to hear Georgie play some Christmas tunes with her chamber orchestra. They played in the lobby of the theater.

These photos were taken at the end of the Guthrie's cantilevered bridge.

Here's the new bridge (in the background) that replaces the one that collapsed.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

galicia

As Ave noted, I failed to mention the name of my new fantasy destination in the previous post. It's Galicia in northwestern Spain. Have I been there? No. I only got as far west as Bilbao, which is a bit west of San Sebastian on the map above, but in the same province.

Galicia is part of "Green Spain," the northern strip of Spain that gets lots of rainfall. It's a lot like Ireland, but warmer. In fact, the people claim a Celtic heritage and say they have more in common with the people of Ireland and Cornwall than the Spaniards of the south. Though Spanish is widely spoken and is one of the official languages, the other is Gallego, described as a mix of Portuguese and Spanish. I've found that I can read it but can't understand it when spoken. From what I've read it seems that the Gallegos, though proud of their language and heritage, are not as interested in separating from the rest of Spain as their fellow northern provinces, Basque Country and Catalonia.

Santiago de Compostela is reportedly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, a UNESCO site and all that. It was (and still is to a lesser extent) a pilgrimage site as it is supposedly the final resting place of St. James.

Why do I want to live there?

Incredible natural beauty. I think Basque Country is the most beautiful place I've ever been. I did prefer it to all I saw of France, Italy, Switzerland, and Ireland. People have told me that Galicia is even more beautiful.

Out-of-this-world food. Seafood. It's known for having the best food in Spain. And Spain has FOOD to die for.

Low cost of living. We could actually afford the rent on a house here with more than three bedrooms! The food is relatively inexpensive, too. I don't know yet about school tuition.

Castles. There are lots! And who doesn't want castles?

Proximity to Portugal. I loved our visit to Portugal. It was enchanting and the whole time we were there we talked about how much we'd like to bring the kids.

blissful geography

It seems I've started my moving madness a little early this year. Maybe because it never really hit last year? This is the place!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

geography of bliss

This is the best non-fiction book I've read in a long, long time. It is tremendously funny. I laughed out loud through the entire book. As Daniel Gilbert of the Washington Post said, "If you want to wag a politically correct finger in his direction, you'll have to stop laughing first." And while entertaining, it is in no way superficial. Another reviewer called it "by turns hilarious and profound, this is the kind of book that could change your life." Maybe it has changed my life. It has definitely changed the way I think about happiness.


It is not, thank merciful heavens, a self-help book. (This is the book that made me realize how British I am, and one of my British traits is an utter loathing of self-help books.) Eric Weiner, a former NPR correspondent and self-described grump, sets off in search of the happiest places in the world according to "happiness research." He hangs out, talks to the people, and tries to figure out what makes them so happy. What he finds is sometimes surprising and always interesting. Did you know that in Switzerland it's against the law to flush your toilet after 10 pm? Or that in Thailand thinking too much is firmly discouraged? No, this book is not politically correct. Thank merciful heavens.
I wish that I'd had the chance to post about this book right after I read it a few weeks ago or as I was reading it. I should have made the time. Now I've forgotten so much and I had to return my copy to the library. The paperback comes out in January and I'm buying a copy.
I'm trying to remember all the British tendencies that resonated with me. I know there were more, but here are a few:
Concerned more about the benefit of the group rather than benefit of the individual. (Collectivist rather than individualist.) Check.
Social interaction. Though I do it because it's the polite-in-an-outgoing-way thing here in the U.S., I hate immediately introducing myself to people. I'd rather just fall into conversation and give more personal information, like my name, in a natural way and if it's asked for.
Privacy. My blog may seem to contradict this, but I do not like sharing personal information about myself with strangers and occasionally not even with close friends. Again, I actively work against this tendency because I don't want people to think I'm cold. I feel very formal with people I don't know well, though I try to pretend otherwise. The example Weiner gave of the difference between Americans and British in this regard was hilarious. I wish I had the book so I could quote it here. It was something along the lines of, when you're in the States, you know within five minutes of meeting a woman if she still has her uterus or not.
Antipathy to giving offense. Now this is a tough one, because I always feel more comfortable when I'm open about my (often passionate) opinions. However, I usually try to word things in such a way that there is no way others can take offense. Weiner says something like, "British people would rather cut off an arm than give offense." (Except he said if funnier.) I am never more grieved than when I offend someone with a careless word. But here's the thing: I have to admit it's not about them, it's about me. It's not that I can't bear to offend someone because I hate the thought of trampling their tender feelings. It's that I could never stand to see myself as one of "those people." It's pride.

happy birthday dad




We're so glad you didn't meet that untimely and unsavory demise.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

busy sunday


Provence


Mexico
Checkoslovakia
Mongolia

On Sunday Bernie had a dance recital after church. They were "Suzie Snowflakes." So cute. I didn't get many good photos, but I got video at least. After the recital we hurried over to a carol sing-along event in a neighboring stake. Our friend who plays french horn in the Minnesota Orchestra invited Georgie and another girl from our ward to play with him in a trio for this biannual nativity event in a neighboring stake. They did great! There were some other very accomplished musicians from our area who played too. I'm so glad we got to go. The music was beautiful and the nativities too.

Monday, December 08, 2008

holiday decadence


I made this chocolate gingerbread for book group that turned out to be one of the most moist, gooey, absolutely sinful chocolate concotions I've ever made. And that's saying something, folks.


I did not take this photo--it's one I found online.


Outrageously Moist Frosted Chocolate Gingerbread

2 Tbs. warm water
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1 cup + 2 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup light corn syrup
¾ cup molasses
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. group ginger
1 tsp. group cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line 13 x 9 baking pan with foil. Coat with cooking spray.

Stir water into soda until dissolved; reserve. In pot, combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves; over medium heat, cook, stirring, until melted and combined. Remove from heat.

Stir in milk, eggs, and reserved soda mixture. Mix in flour and cocoa until blended. Stir in chips. Spread in pan.

Bake 45 minutes or until set. Cool in pan on rack.

Frosting:
On high speed, beat 1 cup butter until smooth. Beat in 1 cup white chocolate chips (melted, cooled) until combined. Gradually beat in 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and 3 Tbs. milk until fluffy. Spread over gingerbread.

Friday, December 05, 2008

book group picks for 2009

Our book group met Tuesday night, as we do every December, to decide what books we will read for next year. Everyone suggests 1-3 titles, and we vote.

Our picks for 2009:


The Age of Innocence
by Edith Wharton

A Passage to India
by E.M. Forster

The Historian
by Elizabeth Kostova

The Hundred Secret Senses
by Amy Tan

Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston

North and South
by Elizabeth Gaskell

Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford
by Julia Fox

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World
by Eric Weiner

Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
by Mildred Armstrong Kalish

All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
by Stephen Kinzer

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
by Steven Johnson

...and the also-rans:

Animal Farm
by George Orwell

Crossing to Safety
by Wallace Stegner

A Thousand Splendid Suns
by Khaled Hosseini

The Mayor of Casterbridge
by Thomas Hardy

Wives and Daughters
by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Chosen
by Chaim Potok

Yearning for the Living God: Reflections from the Life of F. Enzio Busche
by F. Enzio Busche

Dancing at Lughnasa: A Play
by Brian Friel

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
by Dan Ariely

102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers
by Kevin Flynn, Jim Dwyer

Thursday, December 04, 2008

lively?




I got it chopped this morning. I couldn't stand it anymore. And the color was six months old so I got that done too. The question is, will J like it? He gets home from Miami tonight.

mum and dad



My parents left this morning. It was so great to have them here! The kids got a nice big dose of grandparent love--focused, accepting, and indulgent.
Mum did my laundry and dishes all week and even helped prepare refreshments for my book group Tuesday night when I wasn't feeling well. Dad had Wii bowling tournaments with J and the kids and sharpened my knives. And they are sharp.
Last night Mum and I saw Wicked. Though my enjoyment was diminished by this head cold, I'm so glad we got to go! It was a stupendous show.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

chocolate cinnamon pie


Here's the recipe at Epicurious for the chocolate cinnamon cream pie I made for Thanksgiving. It was very tasty, but I expected more cinnamon flavor. I think next time I'll add some cinnamon to the filling, too.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

two strange men







thanksgiving









I wish I'd thought to take photos of the pies earlier in the day when there was good lighting. I made coconut cream, chocolate cinnamon cream (the one I'm holding), and cranberry apple walnut. Lidia and Bernie made a banana cream. We loved the beautiful colors of our table this year.
We're enjoying Nana and Grampie!