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


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!

Monday, November 24, 2008

ayn rand cultists hijack mama ava's blog

Top news story of the day: Mama Ava's blog has been taken over by members of an Ayn Rand cult. At least that's what I think they must be. They all seem to know each other and they are obviously worshippers of Ayn Rand. So I'm exaggerating a little, but it's still worth reading. Go check them out.

In other news, remember that civic literacy test? Check out how elected officials did on a civic literacy test (a different one, I think?) put out by the same group.

Friday, November 21, 2008

it's quite shocking

That's what J just said. About my hair.

This summer when we were in Maine, Ave flat-ironed my hair because the dampness was making it wild. I love it straight, but J does not. He was much relieved when within an hour of Ave's flat-iron job, my hair was flipping and kinking and fuzzing up all over. The photo above is a good example of how J likes my hair. It was taken on a particularly damp day (as you can see) on top of Borestone.

Just now J and I were talking about how British I am (another post) and he said, "Your hair is getting so flat. It's quite shocking. Is that because of the dry weather now?"

I confirmed that it was and said some additional things that I will not put into print, because this is all about what he said, not me.

So, J has resolved to take me somewhere this winter where my hair can get more "lively," like the hair of the girl he married, he says.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

my religion can beat up your religion

As I reread my post from yesterday, it seemed more than a little self-congratulatory. One time a friend and I were laughing a little about a talk this Mormon woman gave describing how incredible her pioneer ancestors were. And then going on to give them credit for contributing to her own awesomeness. (Snarky, I know. Not sure why I found her talk so worthy of comment when I've been known to let it drop that I'm descended from Roger Williams.) Anyway, my friend called these stories that pioneer descendants tell "my family can beat up your family" stories.

I know that there are more people who read this blog who are members of other Faiths than Mormons readers. You were probably rolling your eyes at that post and some of our comments about the greatness of Mormon culture. Or maybe not, but I wanted to give a couple reasons for why I posted that and why I find this topic so worthy of discussion.

It bothers me when the media or other groups define Mormons. Many times they take one aspect of our history, culture, or political involvement and blow it out of proportion. I've seen some of that lately, and I feel compelled to be another voice. A Mormon voice. We will define ourselves.

And that leads to the troublesome question, "Who are we?" We are such a young Church. We haven't had much time to develop a culture, and yet I think there is one that the world at large has yet to recognize.

There are now more members of our Church living outside the U.S. than within. Saturday night I had the opportunity to see a broadcast of a large-scale cultural event put on by the members in Mexico City, preceding the rededication of the Mexico City temple on Sunday. It was held in the Estadio Azteca, which holds 100,000 people. It was full. The event told the history of the Mexican nation in some video clips, massive dance numbers, and choreographed enactments. It was so impressive! The message to me and also, I imagine, to the many non-Mormon dignitaries attending, was, "We embrace the good and we are proud of what is good in our Mexican heritage."

In the other post, I think we were focusing more on U.S. middle class Mormon culture. The culture you may find in suburban wards of large U.S. cities--the large, conservative families where high-paying professions are encouraged for men, children take lots of music lessons and generally do quite well in school.

In our worldwide Mormon culture, though it is still very young and new, I think there are some prevailing strains. We embrace the good wherever we may find it. Mormons all over the world seem to love dance. There are some great Mormon writers and performers who are very well known. There are scientists and intellectuals of note, and I would be surprised if there are fewer than in other religious groups, besides the Jews. However, we don't need knowledge and creativity to exclusively mean getting a PhD or writing the next great work of literature. Our definition is much broader, and it includes the creativity and knowledge necessary to make a nurturing home, to live within our means, to find joy in simple pursuits, to make the world a better place in ways both large and small, and even to deal with the aftermath of large-scale disasters. We do not disdain such knowledge and creativity as unfashionable like much of the world does. We value it.

As far as there being an anti-intellectual strain in U.S. Mormons, I don't know that I agree. I don't know that Mormons are any more anti-intellectual than Americans are generally. A look at the resumes of our highest leaders might indicate, in fact, that we value intellectualism more than Americans generally or other religious groups in the U.S. Among the twelve apostles and three First Presidency, there are only a three or four who don't have doctorate degrees. Also, I came across this interesting statistic yesterday: "41 percent of Mormons with only elementary school education attend Church regularly. By contrast, 76 percent of LDS college graduates attend Church regularly and 78 percent of LDS who went beyond their college degrees to do graduate study attend Church regularly."

speaking of famous mormons...

I want to post more about Mormon culture, Mormons and culture, etc., but first I need to point you to Leslie's suggestion for the gay rights groups targeting Mormon businesses and events for boycott. So funny!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

who we are

Last night J and I were talking about the disproportionate amount of cultural contributions that the Jewish people have made throughout history. (I know, odd topic. If you only knew the strange things we think are fun to talk about.) I was wondering if people of our Faith could ever have that kind of effect on society, and then I remembered this quote from a New York Times article by Noah Feldman: "In the elite East Coast worlds where Romney has made his career, Mormonism signifies personal rectitude, professional competence and an idiosyncratic-but-impressive rejection of alcohol and caffeine. If anything, the systematic over representation of Mormons among top businesspeople and lawyers affords LDS affiliation a certain cachet — rather like being Jewish, but taller."

Mormons are over-represented among leaders in business and politics, and let's not forget "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars." But what causes me to mourn is that I don't think we will ever be humorists. We are so earnest. It would surely take centuries of persecution for us to develop anything approaching the awesome Jewish sense of humor. Should we, then, thank the current crop of idiots for their blatant abuses? Maybe they are making us stronger and funnier. Something to think about.

At church today we were studying from the Joseph Smith book in the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series. The topic was knowledge, and it reminded me of these words by an anti-Mormon from Smith's time. I know I've posted this before, but I love it: "The Mormons appear to be very eager to acquire education. Men, women, and children lately attended school, and they are now employing [a] Hebrew teacher...and about seventy men in middle life, from twenty to forty years of age, are most eagerly engaged in the study. They pursue their studies alone until twelve o'clock at night, and attend to nothing else...They are by no means, as a class, men of weak minds."

Here are a couple things that grabbed me today in class. Joseph Smith said:

“… Mormonism is truth, in other words the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, is truth. … The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the domination of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.”

“Knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is. … In knowledge there is power.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

cancion de la calandria

She used to wonder at her own inactivity. She could lie there hour after hour in the sun and listen to the strident whir of the big locusts, and to the light, ironical laughter of the quaking asps. All her life she had been hurrying and sputtering, as if she had been born behind time and had been trying to catch up. Now, she reflected, as she drew herself out long upon the rugs, it was as if she were waiting for something to catch up with her. She had got to a place where she was out of the stream of meaningless activity and undirected effort.

This is from Song of the Lark, when Thea goes to the cliff dwellings and renews her spirit and creative passion. It reminded me of when J and I were down in the Yucatan. I had this same feeling of timelessness. I reveled in doing nothing. I want to go back, please.

This early work of Willa Cather, her most autobiographical novel, was our book group pick for this month and we met to discuss it Tuesday. We talked about the characters, their choices and struggles. We talked a lot about the personal sacrifices artists make. Is it really necessary to give up family to be a great artist? There was a little discussion about how we can foster creativity in our own lives, referring to Elder Dieter Uchtdorf's conference address. We brought up Elder Tom Perry's address too about following the example of Thoreau and simplifying life. This time of year, right as the mad holiday rush is starting, I try to remember these things.
(Hey, you two book group ladies who moved to fancy-pants England: We miss you!!! Rachelle, I picked Song of the Lark partly for the pleasure of hearing you rant about it.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

christmas mix meme

I am so, so happy the election is over. I stopped posting about the presidential campaign because I became so wearied of it all. I have to say it did provide some lively, interesting discussion at our dinner table. We were divided 3-3 between the two candidates. Marcus had a hard time deciding for awhile. One time he said to me with a frustrated tone, "Mom, Obama wants to raise our taxes and McCain wants to keep us in war. I don't know who to vote for." After considering a Green party vote, he finally decided on McCain and was really bummed that his candidate didn't win. For the entire past week we've heard, "I can't believe Obama won." Last night he said, "The only reason people voted for Obama is because how he talks and his lookingness."

Lidia eventually went with Obama, but was initially for McCain. When she told kids at school this, she got to hear the following responses:


"McCain has seven kids and Palin has five. That makes them big freaks!"

Anyway. I am so, so happy that's over.

Saturday morning we awoke to a winter wonderland. The kids were thrilled. I started shopping for Christmas music on iTunes, and I felt peace and contentment.

Here are the songs I downloaded:

1. "Go Tell It On the Mountain" by The Golden Gospel Singers, A Capella Praise

2. "Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle" by Loreena McKennitt, A Midwinter Night's Dream

3. "Good King Wenceslas" by Loreena McKennitt, A Midwinter Night's Dream

4. "Santa Claus in Comin to Town" by Rockapella, Christmas

5. "Silver Bells" by Rockapella, Christmas

6. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Barenaked Ladies, A Winter's Night

7. "Rudoph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" by The Gypsy Hombres, Django Bells

8. "Brazilian Sleigh Bells" by Percy Faith and his orchestra, The Golden Age of Light Music

9. "Joy to the World" by Cody McCoury, Christmas Grass: A Celebration of Christmas, Bluegrass Style

10. "Mary, Did You Know" by "Various Artists" (though I think it's Reba McIntire), Christmas Grass Too

11. "The Gifts They Gave" by Harry Belafonte, Harry Belafonte Christmas

12. "Winter Wonderland" by Harry Connick, Jr., When Harry Met Sally soundtrack

13. "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room" by Sissel and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Spirit of the Season

My kids LOVE this mix. They especially like the Rudolph version by The Gypsy Hombres and the folk Good King Wenceslas by Loreen McKennitt.

So what is that ideal Christmas mix that is going to help you put election '08 far behind? I am tagging all the folks on my sidebar!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

perils of 'populist chic'

Back in September on MPR I heard a conservative talking about what reform was necessary within the Republican party to make it a winning party. He said that in the 70s, the greatest indicator of affiliation with the Republican party was a college degree. Not so now.

I tried to find a link to this WSJ article by Mark Lilla online but I guess they only have it available for subscribers. But here are a few quotes from the article:

"Over the next 25 years there grew up a new generation of conservative writers who cultivated none of their elders' intellectual virtues--indeed, who saw themselves as counter-intellectuals. Most are well-educated and many have attended Ivy League universities [...] But their function within the conservative movement is no longer to educate and ennoble a populist political tendency, it is to defend that tendency against the supposedly monolithic and uniformly hostile educated classes [...] And with the rise of shock radio and television, they have found a large, popular audience that eagerly absorbs their contempt for intellectual elites. They hoped to shape that audience, but the truth is that their audience has now shaped them." [...]

"What matters in democracy is that those elites acquire their positions through talent and experience and that they be educated to serve the public good. But it also matters that they own up to their elite status and defend the need for elites. They must be friends of democracy while protecting it, and themselves, from the leveling and vulgarization all democracy tends toward."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

a series of fortunate events

Tomorrow the kids have school off. I mentioned a possible trip to The Wild Rumpus book store, and Marcus yelled, "Yes!" I expected him to then talk about the chickens, ferrets, rats, and other animals at this book store, but he didn't. Instead he said, a bit shyly, "Yeah, because, you know, I'm pretty into reading now."
He has always been interested in a certain kind of reading. He taught himself to read when he'd just turned four, mostly, I suspect, so he could read signs and nutritional labels. He has always spent a good part of each evening before bed "reading." For about four years this has meant selecting a book from his extensive science library and paging through it while occasionally reading a caption. Marcus has been exclusively interested in science book. True, he has been open to any possible science subject, from the digestive system to the atmosphere of Venus. However, other non-fiction books have not particularly interested him, unless they contain a bit of science. In a book about Greek civilization, he goes straight to Archimedes. He has only read fiction books, even those with extensive scientific references, under parental command. I even heard him once utter the words, "I hate fiction." The memory makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Marcus has been a smart, happy kid who does very well in school, and I could have left him alone. But yes, it bothered me that he didn't like fiction. I couldn't let it be. I decided to take action.
I looked high and low for books that I thought may appeal to him. A to Z Mystery? He didn't like it. Time Warp Trio? Nope. Star Wars novels based on the movies? Meh. And then a friend at Irish dance (thank you, Andrea!) told me about Hank the Cowdog. Marcus was going through a phase where he constantly made up stories or jokes about barnyard animals. He loved Hank the Cowdog. We set aside 30 minutes per day for fiction reading. He never complained about reading Hank. He sometimes had to set the book down because it made him laugh so hard. Marcus's sense of humor always reminds me of Link and Dtv.
I was very happy to have found these books. However, though Marcus obviously enjoyed the series, he still needed to be reminded to read. He didn't usually pick the books up on his own. I remembered something that had done wonders for Lidia: audio books. Hank the Cowdog wasn't available on online audio download from our library, but there were pages and pages of other titles. I decided to try the first book from Lemony Snicket's The Series of Unfortunate Events. Since Lidia had read it and liked it, I figured that what worked for one of my warped children might work for another. I downloaded the audio book and got a paper copy from the library. I told Marcus to read along as he listened. Well, that was about a month ago, and he hasn't stopped since! He's on book seven, The Vile Village. Once he sat and listened/read for two hours. When school started this year it was like pulling teeth to get him to read fiction!
I timed Marcus reading one page of Hank the Cowdog about six weeks ago, and it took him nearly four minutes. I read somewhere that if a book is the correct reading level for the child, they should be able to read one page in less than two minutes (and have good comprehension, of course). The other night something went wrong with The Ersatz Elevator audio book and Marcus was very put out. He decided to read the rest on his own. He read the last fourth of the book in about half an hour. Tonight I'll time him reading one page and see how he does.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

hits from google searches

It strikes in October of every year and lasts a couple months. The "Relief Society Christmas Party" hits. Ugh. A few years ago I made the mistake of posting on a R.S. Christmas party I enjoyed, and now every year I get hundreds (if not thousands) of hits to my blog by desperate Enrichment leaders looking for the perfect party plans. Not on this blog, ladies! Unless you want something tasteful and low-key.

Other recent google searches that led people to my blog:
does socialism work norway
socialism and satan
should we pay for lazy people

thank you

Monday, November 03, 2008

civic literacy

On MPR's Midmorning today they discussed the role of civic literacy in voting. Should it be a prerequisite that those who vote demonstrate a certain level of civic literacy? What do you think?

Here is a civic literacy test given to college Seniors around the country. Take the quiz and find out how civically literate you are. I was disappointed with my score until I saw that I did o.k. compared to the average college senior at Harvard.