Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thirty Two

The year 1977 gave this world a great number of things. Here are some of the things I was thinking about that turned 32 this year...

Apple II Computer:

The Clash:

Star Wars:

Boo Berry Cereal:

Annie Hall..."I'm into leather."

Orlando Bloom:


the MRI Scanner:

Space Mountain!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dear Santa

I'm a little sad that I don't remember believing in Santa. It was never a topic of discussion in grade school. I don't remember classmates arguing whether Santa was real or not. Maybe it happened, I just don't remember it. I remember asking Santa for presents when I was little. I remember Mom told us to put a list of three things we wanted in our stocking and he would bring them to us. But I don't remember that feeling of believing in Santa and then not believing.

I guess I'm glad I didn't have a traumatic "What?! Santa isn't real?" moment. In fact, even when I knew my parents were the ones that bought my presents I still chose to believe in Santa and I still called "it" Santa. I guess I just like to believe in things.

Recently I took little movies of my nieces. I told them I'd send these video messages to Santa. So Santa, I hope you have land of lauralot on your Google Reader.




I took video of Sadie first. It wasn't until I talked to Piper who speaks more clearly that Sadie also wants a toy puppy and not a "striped" puppy. Makes more sense.

Lately I've heard a lot of podcasts with people talking about Christmas disappointments and when they didn't get what they asked for. I don't remember ever not getting what I asked for. I must have been a pretty practical kid. Or I was a very nice girl.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Banana Fanna fo Faura

This is going to be a challenge, because this message is best communicated through speech. Unless you and I have already had this conversation in person, you're not going to know how to pronounce the various spellings of my name the way I mean you to when you read it below.

To assist you, I'm going to provide a pronunciation guide to this post. Whenever you read these words, you should pronounce them accordingly in your head:

The vowel in Laura rhymes with fauna as in flora and fauna.
Lora rhymes with Dora as in the Explorer.
Lara rhymes with Sarah -- take your pick of reference.

I was introduced to another Laura this past weekend. Every time I meet a Laura, we have the same conversation:

Laura: "How do you spell it?"
Me: "L A U R A"
Laura: and do you pronounce it "Laura" or "Lora"
Me: I say "Laura"
Laura: Me too! People seem to have a hard time with it.

She told me about her struggles in getting people to pronounce it right. She asks people to say “Laura” and they always look at her with a focused face and say “Lora”.

Here’s another conversation I have often when I first meet someone:

New person: Hi, what's your name?
Me: Laura
New person: and how do you pronounce it...

This is where I stare at them for a few seconds to see if they can figure out that they just heard me say my name two seconds earlier.

You'll never hear me correct people when they call me Lora. If they ask, I'll tell them how I prefer it. But there are people who've been calling me Lora for years and I don't mind.

OK, so if you've been calling me Lora and you do something to tick me off, I might say, "It's Laura" when you say my name just because it might be all I have to express my displeasure with you at that moment.

I'll tell you what though, if you call me Laura, whether it's because you once asked me how I pronounce it or you've picked up on how I pronounce it when I refer to myself, I might hold you in a little higher regard because that tells me you pay attention.
But if you've been calling me Laura (the correct pronunciation) for years and "Lora" finds its way out of your mouth in reference to me, I'll flash you a confused glance.

I decided I was going to write about this a long time ago when I was in Cancun at a little grill on our resort. I ordered a burger and the cashier asked,

“What is your name?”
“No, LAH-ra”

I sat down and several minutes later I heard,

“Sarah? Your burger’s ready.”

Had I not been the only person there waiting for her food, I would have had no idea he was referring to me.

I was at Rubio’s recently and I ordered my meal to go. They asked for my name. When I picked up my food, they gave me my receipt:

For awhile, my sister tried to campaign to get me to change the spelling of my name to “LARA” so people would pronounce it right. I don’t think she will, but if she does deny it, I can show you a manila folder with pictures of me down in my parents’ basement with her handwriting that spells: “Lara.” I never really jumped on that band wagon. I’ve always been fine with the spelling of my name.

The fact that my name was difficult for people to pronounce was made even more clear whenl I tried to get a robot to say it. Apparently robots have a hard time pronouncing my name the way I do. Awhile ago I was sending a Monk-E-Mail to my niece. I tried to get the monkey to say my name right with the following spellings (in this order of trial):


And the winner is...Laara. At least I figured it out.

Yesterday I was surfing around for online name pronunciation guides. I felt vindicated when I looked up “Laura” and found this:

I wish I thought of that phonetic spelling when I was trying to get the monkey to say my name. But click on the “listen” link.

Right? The voice even sounds like me doesn’t it? I swear it isn’t.

I immediately looked up “Lara”. There was no audio file but it did say “rhymes with Sarah” – THANK YOU!

Then I looked up “Lauren” – another name similar to “Laura” that people seem to pronounce differently. This time there were two pronunciations available:

In conclusion, I would like to say that there is no general right or wrong – there’s simply the way the person who possesses the name prefers it.

I know there are Lauras out there who prefer to be called Lora. That’s OK too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm thankful for the Bonnie Rogers Rule

Every year, the Utah Historical Society director sponsors a paper plane contest the day before Thanksgiving at the Rio Grande Depot (where I work).
He makes a big deal out of it, spends a ton of money on the prizes (and repeatedly tells us how much he spends on them) and sends out an email with detailed rules and guidelines about paper weight, size, extraneous objects on the plane, etc. The ironic thing is, each year, everyone breaks the rules. And we all expect it. It's actually a contest to see who can cheat the best.

The prize? a box of Cummings chocolates.

The categories? duration, distance and artistic quality (that is a new category since the "arts folks" moved in -- that's us).

Bonnie Rogers, who no longer works here, was infamous for dropping a piece of toilet paper or confetti and always winning in duration, and then she won artistic quality because it was like a piece of performance art. So because of Bonnie Rogers, she has a rule named after her that prevents anyone from winning in more than one category.

Above is a picture of the men (I think they're all architects who work for State History) discussing their designs. The man with the big tube won for distance because he basically blew a small plane out of the tube and it flew clear across the gallery onto the north mezzanine. He's holding his box of chocolates. I think his name is Tim.

Here is a contender. Cute, but not a winner:

Here's Jim being boring and not participating:

My plane didn't stay up very long or go very far.

If we were a rule abiding bunch it would have been disqualified because it exceeded all size and weight limitations. Fletcher (coworker) actually built it for me. He doesn't participate either (lame). But look!

Because all the people that had the best "artistic" planes won in the other two categories, I got the third prize by default. If you like chocolates and you know where I live, you know where to find them. I refuse to eat them all.

This lady won for worst performance. You can't really see much.

Here's my performance. Again, you can't see much. Mostly just my form and how I throw like a girl.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Me and "my" beemer*

I feel like people are watching me.

You see, I'm housesitting for my sister and her husband this weekend. With the house comes the responsibility of two cats and a fish. But it also comes with a brand new BMW she asked me to drive for the weekend so I could pick them up in it -- I guess because it's already equipped with Jack's car seat and such. I tried to propose an alternate transport plan to my sister explaining how I didn't want her car to be my primary mode of transportation for the weekend. She looked at me like I was crazy.

Let me explain: I drive a '98 Chevy Prizm. It's worth maybe $1500 right now. I have little concern about what happens to my car at this point. I just want it to get me from here to there and to keep me warm on the way. The only automatic thing about my car is the transmission. I have to roll down the windows manually, unlock the doors manually...turn a key manually. The BMW does all that for me. There's no key to this car -- It knows when I want to come in. The trunk closes all by itself too. It's like magic. I bet if I was sick of being stopped at a traffic light, all I'd have to do is rub the emblem on the steering wheel and my green light wish would come true.

After my sister gave me a brief tutorial on how to make the thing go, I left the airport. The hypertensive thought of "Be careful, this isn't your car" soon wore off as I sunk into the heated seats and let Coldplay guide me through a surprisingly comfortable transition. It wasn't long before I came to terms with the reality that this car... is... awesome.

What should I do now? I thought. I kind of wanted to pick up friends and see if they needed to run errands or anything. My thoughts quickly shifted to the idea of -- no joke -- antiquing. Yep, I went from zero to yuppie in 0.8 seconds.

I hit this consignment store on 8th South that I always drove by but never stopped to go inside. I parked the car on the street, really nervous to leave it there by itself. I looked back after I reached the end of the street to make sure it was still OK. When I was done shopping I walked back to the car, floated my hand above the handle and the car granted me entrance. I climbed in and thought, "I love you BMW."

My antiquing adventure continued in Sugarhouse. When I locked the car by gently pressing the door handle I turned around only to receive glances from passers by. I wasn't sure what the glances meant, but I knew it had something to do with the car I just got out of. It made me feel uncomfortable and I crossed the street pretending I was unaffected.

The store I walked into was pretty high end. An upholstered stool was like $600. I spotted a small mirror similar to one I saw at IKEA a couple days ago. IKEA's price? $20. This one? $180. I walked around wondering if this is where rich people think they need to shop. The owner walked up to me and asked, "Can I help you?" I told her I was just browsing and then she looked me up and down. No joke. She sized me up. Excuse me for walking into your store! You think my Old Navy wardrobe, half-styled hair and absent makeup isn't good enough to shop here? You wanna see my BMW parked out back?

The car and I have gotten along the past 24 hours. I even reached for the premium gas pump at the Chevron (mostly because I feared the fuel tank would spit the regular unleaded back out at me). I'm at my home right now, and the beemer is parked out front along the curb. I heard some talking outside earlier. I ignored it for several seconds but then I looked out the window and saw three guys examining the car and even looking inside the windows. I opened my front door with focused aggression and they scattered like shrapnel.

That's right. Beat it hooligans! And stay away from my property. I'm going to have to keep close to my window until I return the car safely to it's secured garage. Look who's being watched now!

*I should be clear, now that I am a temporary BMW driver, I did my research and learned the term "beemer" refers to a motorcycle. A BMW car is called a "bimmer" -- but before the urban dictionary I had never heard that term. I could have used "bimmer" throughout this post, but please...I don't want to sound like a snob.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Yorkshire Pudding

Nothing makes me feel more safe and comfortable than the smell of Sunday dinner cooking. If you remember one of my first posts, I talked about the formula Mom used to determine what she made for dinner each day of the week.

One of the Sundayist of Sunday dinners at our house was roast and Yorkshire pudding. (What is it about a traditional "Sunday Dinner" that requires a huge cut of meat?) I don't know if my mom's mom made this or where my mom got the idea of making them. I don't even remember when I first tasted them. If you were to present this dish to me as an adult I would say, "What in the world...? Do I butter this? Put jam on it?"

I was trying to explain to a friend the other day what Yorkshire pudding is. The best I could come up with was a popover. But he didn't know what a popover was either. He asked if it was like a cream puff -- I said that was pretty close. I suppose it could be a denser cream puff drenched in meat juice. Or "sauce" was the word Carter used when he tried convince his girls to eat it (he didn't try very hard because if they didn't eat it, all the more for him). It's actually baked with roast drippings in it too, so I wouldn't try pumping cream into these if you were looking for a cream puff recipe.

I don't make them very often because it's kind of pointless to make Yorkshire pudding if you're not making roast and I don't really like to make roast. And they always stick to the stupid cupcake tin no matter how much I grease it. But I love them. I can eat a lot of them. I had about 8 leftover from dinner last weekend so I ate them all week.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Swedish Pancakes

What we have here is a very poor picture of a very yummy food.

Explanation: I took this with my phone at a friend’s crepe party last month because I knew I wouldn't get around to making them myself, but it is an important food of Durham past. Only we called them Swedish pancakes because that’s what Dad called them.

It’s not like I’ve never made them before, but they never live up to Dad’s. Why? Because I don’t have the big cast iron skillet – I have a cheapo non-stick pan that does the job, but they aren’t nearly as good as Dad's (I need my Sur la Table employee discount back so I can get me a skillet).

This really was Dad’s signature dish and it was a big deal every time he decided to make them – usually on Saturday mornings. He had to have the kitchen spotless, the apron would come on and there could be no distractions. Mom can prepare a meal in a cluttered kitchen, talk on the phone, watch television and teach a piano student, while Dad can have zero visual and audible distractions because he’s trying to flip a pancake for crying out loud. I could say it’s a Mom/Dad thing, but I really think it’s a male/female thing. Women are just better at multitasking.

Crepe parties are pretty popular and guests are typically asked to bring a “topping”. You get bananas, berries, Nutella, whipped cream, syrup, etc. But crepes at the Durham house were traditionally served with melted butter, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar and squirted with fresh lemon juice and then rolled up.

My mouth is watering.

So at this crepe party I decided to bring butter, cinnamon powdered sugar and lemons. People didn’t try it at first, but after they got their familiar crepe with sliced fruit and whipped cream out of the way they gave my toppings a go, and they were surprised at how good it was.

This is how things typically went at the Durham home: Dad required that we tell him up front how many we could eat (I got better at gauging this as I got older. I’m not sure what my record is – maybe 5 or 6). The first pancake would either break into pieces or it would be mediocre. Dad would eat it or someone would settle for it. In fact, selfish little kids usually want their food first, but we knew the second pancake was always better than the first, so we all fought for the second pancake slot. Carter liked his “light” and I liked mine “medium” – meaning, a little darker. When we were really little Dad would put the butter, sugar and lemon on for us, and then ask if we wanted them cut in “big ones”, “little ones” or “triangles.”

We’d take turns eating them one at a time. So after everyone got one, you were back in the loop for seconds, thirds, and so on. Sometimes right before your turn, after Dad flipped your pancake, his face would light up with convincing anticipation as he declared the next pancake was most likely the best Swedish pancake he has ever made.

Would I eat them again? You better believe it.
Would I make them again? So I cheated and didn't make these myself. But it's been over a week and I needed a post. But yes, I will.
Would I feed them to friends? If they're nice.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Pigs in a Blanket

I can't believe this was my dinner.

I had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch so I had to make a salad to complement my fat wrapped in butter in order to get some sort of vegetable in my diet today.

I'm not saying these aren't tasty. They are. Meat? Good. Cheese? Good. Rolls? Good. Just a lot of fat and cholesterol. But a perfectly acceptable lunch for kids.

This post is for my cousin Liz, who requested it a long time ago. Mom did make these a lot when we were little. I was lazy though, and just threw the cheese in the "blanket" and rolled them up, whereas Mom would slice each individual hot dog and wedge a piece of cheddar in there.

Because I'm me, I had to fancy them up a bit and use lil smokies and crescent rolls instead of regular hot dogs and Rhodes rolls like Mom used to use. Lisa gave me that idea a couple years ago when I called her not knowing exactly how to approach this hors d'oeuvre when I threw my Pictures and Pitchers of Water party. Of course, the pigs in a blanket went really fast. As did the Jell-O Jigglers. Mmmm...I should make those again too.

Eat again? Yes.
Make again? I have to because I have tons of lil smokies left.
Feed to friends? Will you eat them? Please?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Latkes

Much like pumpkin seeds, latkes are somewhat of a family tradition at the Durham home on Halloween. I remember the first time Mom made them when we were in Sandy. I liked to watch her make new things. Little did I know, these weren't new.

As Mom just informed me in her comment on my previous post, latkes were a Halloween tradition way back when we lived in Orem. Apparently they were a bribe to get my dad to take us little kiddies trick or treating. I guess he really liked them, and she didn't like to make them enough to make them often enough for him. So they were a good bribe. So the bribe continued for several years while we were in Sandy.

(Random memory: I remember these frying while we prepared to go trick or treating. We were watching a repeat of Highway to Heaven (what was that show about?) And then Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was on later. That's all).

So what are latkes? They're a Jewish potato pancake. What makes them different than hashbrowns? Well, the shredded potatoes are mixed with eggs and minced onion. They are served with sour cream and applesauce. I love them. I made them last year for a Halloween party we had here at our house on Apricot. Maybe you came. Maybe you didn't. Maybe you remember. Maybe you don't. That's OK. I guess.

I would eat them again, I will make them again (wish I could use these as a bribe for something) and I will feed them to friends.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Each year when Halloween came around and it was pumpkin carving time, my mom made sure we kept all the seeds so she could roast them. These are very tasty, and kind of addicting. It's important that you keep some of the "goop" to roast with the seeds. It makes them better.

I actually roasted these for a pumpkin soup recipe I made for some friends last night. I've never used a fresh pumpkin for cooking before and I wasn't sure whether there are certain pumpkins that are better for cooking, or baking or whatever. One recipe specified small pumpkins. I began to wonder if small pumpkins have a better taste -- kind of like zucchini starts to taste bland and bitter if it gets too big. Anyone? I never found out. I just made soup with a big pumpkin. It tasted OK.

But the seeds...the seeds are awesome. These have olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt and then I roasted them for about 40 minutes in a 300 degree oven. I can't believe this is the first time I've ever made them on my own.

Would I eat them again? I wish I had more. I'm eating them sparingly.
Would I make them again? Anytime I have a pumpkin I will.
Would I feed them to friends? I did last night and they seemed to like them too.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Chocolate Oatmeal Cake

I know, it looks like a I took a picture of a crumb doesn't it? This teensy portion pictured here is Carri's from last night when I got home. I wouldn't let her eat it until I got a good photograph for the blog. She kept asking "Can I eat my cake yet?" So I thank her for her patience.

My mom asked me to make this cake for dessert last night (she had guests over for dinner). I'm going to give the same speech that I gave to my dad and brother. Here is what I think makes this cake so good: it's not too sweet. Granted, I usually cut out some of the sugar in most cakes and desserts these days, but even before I started making that adjustment, it wasn't too sweet. Carter loved it and was asking what I did different because it didn't taste the same as when Mom made it. He thought I added less oatmeal. Nope. Less sugar. And I used dark chocolate Hershey's cocoa instead of regular (I was so happy when I discovered there was such a thing).

I like tasting the flavor of my dessert, rather than simply tasting sweetness. Some things I can't enjoy because it just tastes like sugar to me: napoleons, white frosting, pixie sticks, most hard candy.

Anyway, this dessert has a great flavor and texture. There's no need for frosting because you get richness from the tons of giant chocolate chips you put in it (actually, I bought "giant" chocolate chips for the first time and I think it really worked for this recipe).

I had a piece for breakfast. And after my lunch. And after work.

This recipe will be around for a long time. And I recommend the dark chocolate cocoa powder (if you like dark chocolate). First time I used it. I'll send you the recipe if you want it.

I'm not even going to answer the 3 standard questions because I think it's fairly obvious.

This was going to be one of my last Durham Food posts, but I've had a couple requests so I'll do a few more. Carter can't believe that I haven't made chocolate eclair cake yet. It was a favorite growing up, but ever since I became a grown up, I can't do it. It's too sweet. So if I'm going to make that I'm going to need 8-12 people to come eat it for me. You're welcome to volunteer.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

If you were lucky to have a mom like mine, you had freshly baked cookies a lot. These weren't my favorite (I'd probably rather have chocolate chip) but I think my mom loved these because she made them whenever she had a chocolate craving -- well, these or brownies. But these are practically brownies. In fact, I remember my mom making brownies and sifting powdered sugar over them. So, pretty much the same thing in cute, pretty roundish forms.

I don't think this is the recipe my mom used though. Hers were more flat and fudgy. These are more puffy and cakey, but still, "crinkly".

Aren't they pretty? I got this recipe from the Joy of Baking. And yes, I totally ripped off their photo idea by photographing mine on the cooling rack too.

Would I eat them again? Yes.
Would I make them again? Yes.
Would I feed them to friends? Absolutely.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Chicken, Rice and Broccoli Casserole

It's about time I throw a casserole out there. Casseroles are a staple in family dining and they make great leftovers.

I decided to feed my brother's family last night while he was out of town. I came into this under no illusion that my nieces would actually eat it. My sister in law had their default dinner of Macaroni and Cheese all ready to go. The oldest, Chloe, takes after her dad in that she doesn't eat vegetables. In fact, Carter came home towards the end of dinner time. I told him I brought dinner and he headed for the pot of macaroni and cheese.

Anyway, I always loved this casserole. It's simple: chicken, rice, broccoli, cheddar cheese, cream of chicken, sour cream and some curry. I also put some yellow onion in there.

So...I didn't check the recipe before I went to the store and ended up getting just one can of cream of chicken soup. So it didn't turn out exactly as mom made it (the recipe calls for 3 cans). But if I were to make it again, I would probably only add 2 cans instead of 3 anyway. I guess you could call this the low fat version. I also used "light" sour cream which is a cardinal sin at my mother's house. She would get a little upset whenever I went to the store for her and came back with a jar that said "light" on it.

My favorite part was when Piper blessed the food. She said, "Please bless the food that it will taste good." She also asked a special blessing on their newest sister Tessa that she would "get bigger", which I think is funny considering the current size of this girl's healthy belly.

Kelly told me that Chloe (the oldest) pretty much sets the stage for what the others will eat. I thought they would all like the rolls, because, c'mon, who doesn't like a roll? They were excited about helping me preapre the rolls, and Chloe loved hers, but Piper's was "too hot" she said.

Sadie is the third child and probably the best eater. Chloe once told me, "Sadie eats everything. She always gets dessert."

Despite the look on her face in this picture, Sadie actually thought the casserole was tasty and had a couple of bites.

All in all, it was a successful dinner. And I have leftovers to feed me for a couple days.

Would I eat it again? I'll be eating it for lunch.
Would I make it again? Yes.
Would I feed it to friends? Yes. Kelly really liked it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Peaches and

A reader told me yesterday that she was sick of the pork chop. So was I. I attempted two other recipes this past week, but when I started a dessert, my mom told me it had the potential of going horribly wrong due to my ingredient improvising. And then before I started the second one, I stopped myself after realizing the ingredients I had on hand expired in 2006.

On to something simpler.

I learn from observation. I observed my dad eating this for breakfast on occasion. Peaches and milk. I watched him many times before trying it myself. It wasn't something that I LOVED enough to make repeatedly, but it was tasty.

A coworker brought me some peaches from his orchard yesterday. He said he's allergic to the fuzz. I asked, "Why don't you just peel off the fuzz?" He told me it wasn't worth the trouble.

Not worth the trouble? Any good piece of fruit is worth any kind of trouble you want to create for yourself. This peach was good too. There is something so completely wholesome and satisfying about a piece of really good fruit. In fact, being the purist that I am, I was kind of planning on draining the milk and just eating the peach, but when I tried it, I forgot how tasty this is. Double dosing the sweetness by adding brown sugar has a lot to do with it.

Dad would add much more milk to his bowl, but I'm a milk conservator and didn't want to waste too much.

Would I eat it again? Why not.
Would I make it again? I guess I would have to if I was going to eat it again.
Would I feed it to friends? Possibly.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Pork Chops with Peaches

I loved helping with dinner when we had pork chops. My job was fun and simple: put the pork chops in the Shake 'n Bake baggie and "shake" to coat the meat with the yummy crumbs. And then Mom usually had me pour some of the remaining crumbs on top of the pork chops.

After I left my parents house, I learned that some people (even non-Jewish people) are weird about pork. I don't know whether it was unfamiliar to them or what, but for some reason I got the impression that it was a "bad" food for them. Maybe they were afraid of the way it was cooked, I don't know. Mom made pork pretty often. On Sundays, she would sometimes roast a big pork loin, but mostly I remember the Shake 'n Bake pork chops.

The Shake 'n Bake pork chops were more kid friendly I think. Anything that's breaded more closely resembles a chicken nugget, therefore, a kid is more likely to be comfortable with it. The peach portion here was the grown up part. I don't think I ever had a peach atop my pork, nor did Carter or Lisa. I distinctly remember watching these through the oven door, wondering what would happen to that peach during baking time. Not much, really.

What did happen during baking time was the crumbs that fell off the pork chops got all burnt and crispy. That was my dad's favorite part. After dinner he would walk over to the stovetop where the baking sheet was and scrape up all the remaining burnt bits with his fork and eat it, right there in the kitchen. Sometimes he would preemptively scrape them off the sheet and onto his plate in a big, burnt crumb pile as part of his dinner.

I should thank Lisa for giving me the box of Shake 'n Bake which not only inspired, but partly funded this post.

Would I eat it again? Sure. I'd probably scrape the peach off and eat it separately though.
Would I make it again? Yeah, but only for kids, my grown up tastes prefer the pork roast.
Would I feed it to friends? My little kid friends.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Peek-a-Boo Eggs

Like a lot of dads, mine had certain things he made all the time, and he made them really well. When Dad was in the kitchen, he made English Toffee (not often enough), lime lemon ice cream, custard, Swedish pancakes, oatmeal (although I really think mine is better -- sorry Dad) and, of course, "peek-a-boo" eggs.

A lot of parents try to make food fun for their kids by making it into animal shapes or putting faces on it. I guess this dish brings the classic game of peek-a-boo to the breakfast table.

I was just thinking, I have this memory of being at my great-grandma's house in Payson when I was seven or eight years old. We were eating breakfast and I watched her dip toast in her eggs and thought that was the strangest thing in the world. I guess it only made sense to me if the egg was fried directly into the center of the toast.

Anyway, I loved it when Dad made these. Asking Dad to make something for you was often not worth the trouble because the favor usually came with a list of conditions that involved making sure the kitchen was spotless, the garbage was taken out and any other earmarked items he could throw in.

BUT, if I was lucky, I would be up in my bed in the morning, still waking up and I would hear my dad come out of the kitchen and yell, "Laur? Do you want a peek-a-boo egg?" And I did.

Try it. They're fun.

Would I eat it again? Sure.
Would I make it again? Yes.
Would I feed it to friends? Only special ones.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Frozen Lemon Dessert

Desserts might be my favorite thing to make. Many of my dessert recipes are from my mom's cookbooks. I'm not sure where she got this one and I don't even remember the first time she made it, but it is light, lemony and oh so refreshing. Even though its name is super boring.

When I was little, I would slice myself a square and then go back in the freezer with a knife and slice myself some more. And then some more. It's one of those desserts where you could eat the whole pan before realizing what you've done.

It wasn't until recent years that I realized it's basically homemade lemon ice cream sandwiched between graham crackers. The recipe calls for a double boiler to heat the eggs, sugar and lemon juice, but we never had one so Mom always improvised with two pots. I don't have a double boiler either so I also use two pots. After the heated mixture thickens (and then cools), you whip a pint of heavy cream and then fold it into the lemon/sugar/egg mixture.

I've changed the way Mom used to make it a little bit. Instead of lining the pan with graham crackers, I crush them, add some butter and make more of a crust. The recipe also tells you to put it in a 9 x 13 cake pan, but I put it in a smaller one so the squares come out taller (or double the recipe). It doesn't change the taste, but now I can cut the same size piece (area wise) and have more dessert without having to put a giant square on my plate.

Last Sunday I made this recipe for my dinner guests and barely a graham cracker crumb remained on their plates. I don't think I've made this for anyone who hasn't loved it. Except for one friend of mine who doesn't like lemon. Can't really help that.

Would I eat it again? Oh yes.
Would I make it again? Oh I will.
Would I feed it to friends? If they ask nicely.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Scones

When I told my mom I was writing a series about some of the food she made when I was little, she said, “Are you going to talk about my formula?”

Formula? I didn’t know she had a formula. She explained how she served the same kind of food on every given day of the week. I don’t know how I never noticed this. I’m a bright person; I find patterns and themes in everything – apparently not when it comes to dinner though. Here is the formula she followed:

Monday: soup
Tuesday: chicken
Wednesday: ground beef something or other
Thursday: breakfast
Friday: foreign food
Saturday: sandwiches or pizza
Sunday: “Sunday dinner”

I love how vague “Sunday dinner” is. I think what she meant was we would have a ham or a roast or something like that. I called my sister shortly after talking to my mom and said, “Did you know that Mom had a formula for our dinners?” to which she replied, “Oh you mean how Wednesday was ground beef night?”

Once I thought about it, I remembered we did have breakfast for dinner a lot. I just never noticed it was always on Thursdays.

I love breakfast for dinner. I almost like it more for dinner than I do for breakfast. Mom would make waffles, pancakes, scrambled eggs, French toast and one of my favorites: scones.

From the picture, you probably noticed these aren’t scones in the British sense (my sister actually refuses to call those scones because she’s devoted to identifying the name “scone” with what she was raised on, and that is the fry bread scone).

I have a clear image in my head of sitting up at the bar watching my mom turn scones in the frying pan as my mouth watered.

I honestly don’t remember if anything accompanied the scones, like fruit or bacon. But back then I didn’t think to balance my fried sugar with fruit, dairy and protein. My idea of balance was spreading honey on one scone and jam on the other.

The scone I photographed has honey butter. I don’t think my mom ever served us honey butter. I confess the only reason I used it is because the guy selling honey butter at Farmer’s Market was cuter than the guy selling the regular honey.

Would I eat them again? I just had two more for breakfast.
Would I make them again? Yes.
Would I feed them to friends? Sure, maybe not for dinner though.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Pears with Miracle Whip and Cheddar Cheese

I’ve read how parents are supposed to introduce new foods to their children when they’re young and how it usually takes 6 or 7 attempts before the kid will actually try it.

I remember the very moment I tried tomatoes and lettuce on my tacos. When I helped Mom set the table I put out tomatoes and lettuce assuming it was for grown ups because the kids just had ground beef and cheese on their tacos (of course I was following my older brother's lead, Carter, who didn't willingly eat a fruit or vegetable until after high school). But one day, I tried the tomatoes and lettuce and really liked it.

This side dish wasn't any different. Except for when I did try it, I didn't like it. Every time these showed up at the table I thought, “Is this what grown-ups eat?"

Even though it didn’t taste good I felt very proud and grown up. Little did I know, just because something looks weird and doesn’t make sense doesn’t necessarily mean it's for grown ups. Some things are just weird.

I remember helping Mom by dalloping Miracle Whip on those pear halves (that's right folks, it's not cottage cheese) and sprinkling grated cheddar over the top. I took pride in how well I made them look, but the pear on my plate remained un-Miracle Whipped and un-cheddared.

I understand the cheese. Fruit and cheese traditionally go together, but this dish, whatever it derives from, is definitely the poor man's version. We’re talking canned pears and mild cheddar cheese – not exactly something out of Gourmet Magazine is it? And, much like with English muffin pizzas, the Miracle Whip/Mayo makes an arbitrary appearance at the dinner table once again.

Would I eat them again? I couldn’t get myself to eat the one I photographed.
Would I make them again? No.
Would I feed them to friends? No, and I don’t think Mom would either.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: Frosted Graham Crackers

Did you know some people actually buy pre-made frosting from the store? This is something I didn’t learn until after I left the nest.
I remember going to the store with a friend a long time ago to buy a cake mix. What happened next was very odd and unexpected: she picked up a little tub of frosting to go with it. I must have given her the strangest look. I don’t remember if my first thought was “Stores sell frosting?” or “What do you think you’re doing?”

When I tried the packaged frosting I was grossly disappointed. I’ll admit, some of it isn’t bad. It’s not like I won’t eat it, but once you’ve had homemade frosting, you don’t want to go back (unless your taste buds have no regard for you, natural ingredients or the finer things in life).

My mom made chocolate cake a lot. She usually made it from a box, but the frosting? Oh, you better believe the frosting was made from scratch. Real butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar…mmmm…I’ve actually taken Mom’s homemade frosting cue and created variations on the recipe in an effort to be more gourmet. I’ll stir in sour cream and sometimes yogurt. I’ll add cinnamon, vanilla bean or lemon zest. My favorite? zesting an orange with a microplane and squeezing a bit of juice to make chocolate orange frosting. SO good.

Anyway, Mom totally spoiled me with the homemade frosting. One thing I remember her doing after she frosted the cake was using the leftovers to make these tasty treats. Maybe your mom made the same thing: Frosted Graham Crackers.

She would frost them and then wrap a stack in foil so they wouldn’t get stale I guess. They’re good right after they’re frosted, but if you let them sit for awhile, the frosting softens the graham crackers making them easier to eat. It’s the simplest idea to utilize leftover frosting – and a happier way to eat graham crackers.

Would I eat them again? I just did.
Would I make them again? Absolutely.
Would I feed them to friends? Already have.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Foods of Durham Past: English Muffin Pizzas

Back in college, my three roommates and I each took a night to cook dinner for the apartment. It was a great way to save money, and eat somewhat healthier than we would if we were picking up dinner on campus. Dinners were usually tasty and none of us were picky eaters -- except on tuna burger night.

One of my roommates introduced tuna burgers to us during our junior year. Apparently it was something her mother made when she was younger. I don't remember much about the tuna burgers, but I do remember tuna fish plopped on burger buns, wrapped in foil and tossed in the oven. I don't recall ever eating one. What I do recall is my roommate Ilene warning me that something called tuna burgers was on the menu. She said she was going to the library to study and if I wanted to join her and maybe pick up something to eat elsewhere, I was welcome. I think tuna burgers revisited our dinner menu at least once more before the end of the school year.

This got me to thinking of all the strange things our parents might have made when we were younger that we were conditioned to like, either because they actually tasted good, or they were just...familiar. And what might seem conventional to us, isn't necessarily welcomed by others.

I have moments in my memory of dinner time growing up. I usually helped with dinner. I had particular dinner prep tasks, even when I was very little: setting the table, filling cups with ice, grating cheese, washing lettuce, etc. I remember we each had our own designated place at the table. Dad always had a glass of milk at his plate while we had water or maybe some other drink.

This 200th blog post of mine will mark the beginning of a series called "Foods of Durham Past." I got this idea as I sat in a restaurant in Durham, England with my parents. We talked about the dinners Mom used to make and what we liked most. Until I run out of ideas, I will be making all these dishes, photographing them, eating them, and reevaluating them with my revised, grown-up taste.

Our first dish: English Muffin Pizzas (pictured)

If I was bold enough to make these for my college roommates, they would probably place in the tuna burger category. The word "pizza" is used in the loosest sense of the word. In fact, it's pretty much a perversion of the word. The "toppings" are stirred together in a bowl and then spread on an English muffin. I absolutely LOVED these.

The most bizarre thing about this recipe is that along with the cheddar cheese, chopped olives, dried, minced onion and chili powder is the inexplicable need to hold it all together with mayonnaise. I was thinking about this as I recreated it. It would make much more sense sans mayo. I'm not sure if my mom put garlic powder in there, but I did because I found the garlic powder in the cupboard before the chili powder and it sounded like a good idea.

I haven't eaten these for over a decade, but they tasted pretty much as I remembered them. I'm sure nostalgia plays a big role in my rating, but they weren't gross and like a good girl, I ate all my dinner.

Would I eat them again? Probably.
Will I make them again? Probably not.
Would I feed them to friends? NO.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nothing’s Wrong.

When I was younger, I hated watching people cry. Sometimes my mom would cry when she got real frustrated with her children’s behavior and all three of us would sit there feeling completely awkward, not knowing what to say. It was probably her best tactic.

I also hated testimony meetings at church and girl’s camp because someone was bound to cry. I knew who the criers were and when they stood up I would get a little tense because I knew what was coming.

For awhile I stayed away from movies that made people cry and music that made people cry. I stuck to the stuff that was void of any kind of sentiment – partly because I thought a lot of the sentimental stuff was phony and manipulated, but also because I didn’t exactly know how to respond. I understood crying if your brother pushed you or you fell off your bike, but if your tears were a result of something touchy-feely, I felt a little helpless.

As I got older sentiment didn’t bother me so much. I started to allow myself to cry more. I didn’t mind books that made me cry or music that made me cry. Maybe you get to a point where you need an outlet of some sort, and if it’s misdirected, so what? I could cry over the stupidest things even though the worst thing that happened to me that day was I got a B on a math test. I will never join the ranks of those people who get up every month for Fast and Testimony meeting and start to cry before they get a word out, but I suppose I became somewhat of a “crier.”

A couple years ago I was home all by myself and I popped in the movie “Once.” When it was over I sat there and cried for a good 10 minutes. Not just tears, SOBS. It was ridiculous. I don’t think I identified directly with any of the characters, I just felt like crying, and so I did – all through the credits.

There’s an Everybody Loves Raymond episode (of course there is, there’s one for everything – it’s almost like Seinfeld that way) where Deborah gets the house to herself for the morning. Ray decides to spy on her because he’s curious as to what she plans to do. He peeks through the window at one point and sees her sitting on the couch, crying with a box of Kleenex and she’s not even watching TV or anything. Of course he gets all worried.

Sometimes it takes awhile for me to cry about something because I’m just so busy that I don’t have time. Last week I stopped by Albertsons after work. As is often the case, I chose the wrong check out line and ended up waiting for a long time. Because I had nothing else to do I thought about a conversation I had with a friend the night before. He told me a lot of things, some of which kind of made me feel bad. It was actually a good conversation and I bore it like a champ, but hadn’t really had time to think about it until that moment in the check out line. So I stood there, holding my chocolate milk and all-purpose flour, on the verge of tears. I looked up and saw the bagger kind of lean to the side so he could get a better glimpse of me as he tried to figure out what was wrong. Poor guy – he looked so concerned. Nothing’s wrong, really. Seriously, don’t worry about it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dark, Curly Hair

Grandma Durham told me many stories yesterday, but there’s only one I'm allowed to share.

She typically tries to avoid the topic of dating (not really), but she insisted I sit with her on the porch swing as she gave me advice. I was told many things, one of them was to take up golf because I can meet a lot of people that way. I'm hesitant to take dating advice from someone who hasn't dated since she was a child.

And then she asked me what kind of boys I like. I told her I’m first and foremost drawn to intelligence and good conversationalists, but then I told her I tend to like curly hair for some reason.

“Oh,” she began, “I love dark curly hair. Can I tell you a story that is true?”

How I wish I had my digital voice recorder at this point. I will now paraphrase to the best of my memory (my interjections are in red).

When I was a young girl in high school, I was looking through my yearbook before school started and I saw a picture of this boy with dark, curly hair and I decided I was going to find him and meet him.

What was his name?

Lynn Sorensen. Oh, he was so good looking. Isn’t that silly? I was in love with a boy I haven’t even met.

Juvenile, but not silly.

Anyway, so school started, and I found him. We started to date.

Wow. That was easy.

I was very beautiful. So we went out and we went dancing every weekend.

Where did you go dancing?

The Old Mill. They had an orchestra and you would dance inside or outside under the stars. Oh it was wonderful. And I had this electric blue velvet dress that my mother bought me.

Oooh…where’s the dress?

Oh, I don’t know. I think my nieces probably stole it. (And then she went off on a tangent about how her nieces stayed at her house and yada yada yada).

Anyway, back to my story. One day Lynn Sorensen came up to me and asked me if I would go steady – do you know what that means?

(quick, get on with the story nod)

and I was thrilled. “Of course I’ll go steady!” I said, after all I was in love with him. But then one day,

Wait…how long did you “go steady”?

A week and a half. He came up to me and said, “My mother told me I can’t go steady with you anymore.


Oh, it gets even better. I was heartbroken.

Wait, so did you still go out on dates, but just not “steady”?

No. And then, in my yearbook, he wrote something about me putting too high a priority on fashion and clothes.

(Exasperated gasp from me)

Can you believe it? I was devastated. He went away to the University of Chicago and for weeks in the summer I cried and cried and my mother tried to console me.

Anyway, the next year I went up to the U.

One day, as I was walking up past the Park Building my husband (she meant, her husband to be) came walking down and said, “Now, didn’t I meet you at a dance the other night? I’ll tell you something. I’m going on a mission. I have 17 girls waiting for me, but if all of them decide not to wait for me I will marry you when I get back.”

Wow, Grandpa.

So he went on his mission and I had many boys ask me to marry them.

(Half look of shock that she would say that/half look of disbelief from me)

I was very beautiful. But I wasn’t in love with any of them. There was this one man who was kind of short who said, “Are you in love with that musician?” (referring to my Grandpa), “because you will never have any money.”

Anyway. Lynn Sorensen became a General Authority. One day, about 60 or 70 years after I last saw him, he called me on the phone and said, “Is this Betty Divers Durham?” and I said, “Yes, it is.” And he said, “This is Lynn Sorensen, I don’t know if you remember me. But I was in the temple earlier this week and a thought occurred to me that I should call and tell you how sorry I am that I left that mean note in your yearbook.”

And then I just laughed and said, “Oh. You poor man.”

End of story.

I really, really wish I had her yearbook so I could see what his picture looked like in there, but instead I have this picture of who I think is Elder Sorensen in his later years (thanks Google).

Of course, she ended up marrying my Grandpa. Who also happened to have -- you guessed it -- dark curly hair.

Here's a picture of Grandpa being a musician, without any money.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I Wanna Be Like Mom

I’ve mentioned before how few people can make me laugh harder than my mom. I don’t remember her being this funny when I was little. Maybe as you grow up you get to know your parents better, and so their humor starts to make more sense once you really understand where they’re coming from.

Sometimes her humor borders on the inappropriate which, of course, adds another level of hilarity. The other night Mom showed me how she was cleaning and rearranging all the shelves in her living room. And then she tried to give me one of those plaster statuettes of Jesus in Gethsemane. When I was sitting at the piano she carried it to me, preciously, with a smile that knew I probably didn’t want it anymore than she did. She told me she made it.

“When did you make that?”

“Long time ago. I can’t believe you’ve never noticed it.”


“It’s been sitting on those shelves for the past 20 years!”

“I’ve never noticed it there.”

“Why do I do anything?”

“Why don’t YOU want it?”

And then she looked down at it, paused for a couple seconds and said, “It has delighted me long enough.”

And then I continued to play the piano but had to stop after about 30 seconds because I couldn’t stop laughing at the implication that Mom has grown out of Jesus.

Today is Mom’s birthday and I wanted to share some of my favorite things about her.

She is very creative and crafty -- hence the plaster Jesus. She probably made that back when she was in that Family Home Evening group where a bunch of mothers got together and planned FHE activities and shared ideas for their families. Mom actually makes a lot of cool things and I know if I want to make something and don't know how, all I have to do is ask her -- and if she doesn't know how to do it, she'll figure it out.

Mom loves to give gifts whether it’s for a special occasion or she just saw something and thought of you. I remember one Christmas, she kept finding stuff after the holiday was over and gave it to me saying, “Santa meant to give this to you earlier.”

Mom is a great travel companion. She loves to explore and learn new things. I was able to spend two weeks with her in Wales, England and Paris last summer and then again for three weeks last May when I went to London to visit her and my dad.

This is a rather recent development, but if Mom notices me looking at something in a store she’ll say, “Do you want me to buy that for you Honey?” I usually tell her she doesn't have to do that, but if you say you don't want what you're looking at she'll buy you something else without you knowing about it. In fact, we were in the Christ Church Cathedral Gift Shop in Oxford and someone noticed my mom doing this and asked, “So, how it works is you point at something and Becky will buy it for you?” Pretty much. About a week later we were at Durham Cathedral. Mom, Dad and I all split up for 30 minutes to explore the cathedral and then met up for show and tell. I told them how much I loved the contemporary stained glass window by the entrance. After that Dad and I climbed the cathedral tower. On the way down I said, “How much you wanna bet Mom went into the gift shop and bought me a postcard of that stained glass window?” Dad didn’t take the bet because he knows Mom all too well. Sure enough, we met Mom at the bottom and she presented me with a postcard and everything she learned about the window from her guidebook.

Mom loves holidays and celebrating everything. She has boxes of decorations for every holiday. Growing up we would have to take apart the entire set up in the family room to make way for all her Christmas stuff. She also decorates for Halloween, Valentines Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Easter. She was always introducing new and interesting ways to dye Easter eggs.

Mom loves to entertain and no one throws a better party. Everyone who came to my 30th birthday party at my parents’ house can attest to this. She went all out for dinner (for 50 of my friends), went to the trouble of mailing invitations and she even planned games. When I was little I loved it when Mom planned parties. I specifically remember the Christmas singing parties, The Tabernacle Choir Hanukah party (or something like that – there was Jewish food and my Dad’s Tab Choir friends came), Dad’s spontaneous 40th surprise birthday party, and then the small dinner parties. I remember one in particular when we invited a family over. Mom wanted to do placecards, but wasn’t sure how to spell one of the kid's names who was coming. So she just misspelled everyone’s name.

I love how Mom knows what’s important to me and she wants me to have it – even if it isn’t necessarily important to her.

I love that we look the same -- especially when we were little. It makes more sense for siblings to look alike because their DNA is more alike, but I can always differentiate between Lisa and myself in pictures, however, sometimes I’m not sure if that little girl with dark hair and bangs is me or my mom.

I think I like that we look the same because any comparison between me and my mom is the biggest compliment in the world. She puts her heart, soul, genius and precious time into everything she does. You talk to anyone who knows Becky and they can’t say anything before telling you how much they adore and admire her and how brilliant she is.

At some point, my mom started asking for my advice on certain matters and ideas and projects. It’s a wonderful feeling that she can trust me and appreciate me in that way and still be my mommy as she continues to deliver Easter baskets, bring me valentines and buy me toys.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I'm Actually a Very Bright Person

I worry about me sometimes. There were two incidents today:

1. Troubleshooting with my printer connection.

I spent 20 minutes this morning installing new cartridges in my printer and then trying to figure out why my computer couldn't find my printer. I plugged the USB cord into the back of the printer and for some reason, the print jobs would just line up in the queue but the jobs would be stopped.

Finally, this evening I found a friend online who professed to be "handy" at one point. I asked him to come over and look at it. He fiddled with it for awhile. He decided it needed an updated driver. He asked me where the USB plugs into the computer. I looked down at the carpet and handed him the USB cable and watched him plug it into the back of my Mac as I thought, "You have got to be kidding me" (you being me, by the way). "Laura you MORON." I played it cool as I thought, "That couldn't have been the only problem." Fortunately, it wasn't. The computer still couldn't find the printer. I was a little relieved to be honest. Then he bent down behind the printer and when he looked up he was holding the other end of the cable that plugs into the back of the printer. I swear that was plugged in earlier. He was nice not to make fun of me. At least I have an updated driver now.

2. Troubleshooting with my contact lenses.

Earlier today, before I headed out for Father's Day festivities, I went into the bathroom and put my contact lenses in. It's not uncommon that one of my lenses has some lint or something in it that irritates my eye so I have to take it out, rinse it and try it again. I did this a few times. I went out into the living room sat on the couch and thought, "I can see better without these," as my right eye tried to focus. I went back to the mirror, took them out again, cleaned them, put them back in and then want back out to the couch. My right eye felt better, but I had this strange sensation in my left eye, like my lens was so heavy it was sinking. I went back into the bathroom, took out the lens in my left eye and discovered I put both lenses in my left eye. No wonder my right eye felt so good.

No, I don't want Lasik.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

B Plans

When I was younger, I played this game with magazines or catalogs where I would flip to a random page and ask myself questions such as:

If I had to wear one dress on this page, which would it be?
If I had to eat one thing on this page what would it be?
If I had to marry one boy on this page who would it be?

I think a lot of girls played this game. At least my friends and cousins played it with me. What made the game even more fun was when your choices were less than desirable.

The funny thing about that last question is I remember at recess in grade school giggly girls would cluster around the pavement while the boys played base soccer and ask, “If one of the boys in our class had to be your boyfriend who would it be?”

More often than not we chose the same guy. Interesting – and a little revealing as to how few we regarded as “dateable”.

A couple years ago I went to a softball game to watch a group of friends from my ward play, as I often did. One of the girls from my ward was watching the game as well. She scooted next to me and whispered, “If you had to marry one of those boys out there tomorrow, who would it be?” I wasn’t surprised at her question because this was actually her favorite game. She played it at parties, at barbecues, in Sunday School…

Funny thing was, even though I adored all my friends out there, my choice as to who I would actually marry was the same as hers. And she informed me the other girls she polled previously had the same answer.

Things really haven’t changed much since 4th grade.

How practical we were at such an early age. The questions weren’t set up as “If you could” they were “If you had to”. We already understood it was futile to think in ideals. We had to look at the page in front of us and make our decision based on availability. If someone took away that page and you were allowed to have unlimited options you probably would have a different answer – what you REALLY wanted whether it was real or imaginary.

Why do we feel we must resolve ourselves to settle for something simply because it’s in front of us? Is it because we think what we really want isn’t available or "out of stock"? Do we think we're being unrealistic, too picky and should be happy with what we have in front of us?

I know I'm using boys as an example here, but I'm talking about all choices we have to make. Where we want to live, what job we want, what skills we want, what dreams we have.

If you’re familiar with Randy Pausch, he said something in his famous “Last Lecture” that I really liked. He said brick walls aren’t put there to keep us out; they’re put there to show us how badly we want something.

I guess sometimes we just don’t want something bad enough. I know that’s true for me in certain situations. But we also learn as we grow up that we don’t always (or sometimes ever) get what we planned no matter how much effort we put into it.

I was in a car with one of my good friends the other night and I told her I’m beginning to think life is just a long strand of “B Plans”. But what I think to be more true, is that life isn’t about plans at all. It’s about the opportunities that come to you, the choices you make, and how you deal with the consequences – good or bad. It’s about what you do with what you’re given.

It’s like that old saying, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.” Hopefully you’re making the most of what is given to you and you accept accountability for the choices you make. And then maybe later you realize the choices you made opened up possibilities that weren’t even on the page you were looking at to begin with.

I’m not building up to reveal any life lesson I’ve learned here. I don't write from any specific retrospect or hindsight. I'm old enough to have gained a little bit of hindsight, but I have yet to prove what I’m saying is true to my life and everything works out for the best and if we live right and make wise choices we eventually find what we really want -- whether it was there to begin with or not.

I’m counting on it though.

Monday, June 01, 2009

My England Stats

I make it a point not to blog unless I have something I really want to say. This isn't a diary for me or even a log of my life. It's stories, ideas, etc. -- things that are important or amusing to me.

But I was in England for the past few weeks, and although I have a couple stories I want to develop and write about, I'm tired. Instead of writing about everything I did, I'm going to make a list of everything I did. I am a list person, and one of my favorite types of lists is categorized lists. I even categorize my shopping lists. Anyway, I'm impressed with everything I packed in, so to me, my activities are worth listing.

Here is England 2009: Things I did, listed categorically.


Calendar Girls
Jersey Boys
The Winslow Boy
The 39 Steps


Norwegian Chamber Orchestra at Cadogen Hall
London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican


Eucharist at Southwark Cathedral
Matins at Durham Cathedral
Evensong at Westminster Abbey
Sacrament Meeting at the London Brittania Ward


Southwark Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Durham Cathedral
Exeter Cathedral
Truro Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral
Westminster Abbey
St. Mary Abbots
St. Pancras Church


Jane Austen’s Home (Chawton)
Benjamin Franklin’s Home (London)
Blenheim Palace (Churchill’s Family Home)
Kensington Palace (Queen Victoria’s Home)
Apsley House (Duke of Wellington’s Home)
The Old Post Office (Tintagel)
Kenwood House (Hampstead)


National Gallery
National Portrait Gallery
Churchill Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Museum of Smuggling and Fishing


The British Library
Oxford University
Cabinet War Rooms
Royal Albert Hall
Durham Castle


Borough Market
Spitalfields Market
Covent Garden


The London Eye
The Tube

Not bad eh? There are still things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go, but there's always next time. Next time I'll go to Kew Gardens and Greenwich and the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising.

I created an England 2009 album on my Facebook page, so if you have access to that and want to check it out, please do. I got a new camera and it was fun learning how to use it.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

No one better lay a finger on her Butterfinger.

The other day I was at a conference. Several display tables were set out and one of them had a big basket of candy for the taking. When I approached the candy, there was a girl standing there.

"Sorry, I got the last Butterfinger," she said.
"Oh really? Dangit."
"Oh, wait!" she said, "There's one more."

And then she took it.
Dead serious.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

While You Were Away...

This post is for Dad because when he calls me from London, he usually asks about the house. He seems concerned that it's being trashed by either us or neighborhood vandals when we're not there.

You can't blame him, leaving your home for 6 months can be a little unsettling. So last time I was there, I decided to take some pictures. I apologize for the low quality, these were actually taken with my cell phone because I didn't have a real camera with me.

Here is the north side of the house. Doesn't look too bad...

Front porch...

Family Room/Kitchen area...

Living Room.

Mail Room. Junk mail is piling up...

Here's the fridge. Looks like you have some fry sauce from Arctic Circle waiting for you. I'm thinking that was Lisa. I'm going to say the yoplait is Kelly's. And I'm going to say the fountain drink is mine.

I can't guarantee this is how it will look when you get home. This is how it looked as of April 24.