Saturday, December 26, 2009

ladies and gentlemen, secure your hams

As we age, I think it's natural for the holidays to lose just a bit of their child-like magic. I don't mean to say that it isn't a great, happy, beautiful time, but with access to the Playbook, we adults now have to juggle both perspectives. We have to choose to take part in the Christmas pixie dust so to speak.

I think I'm good with that. I mean, I can scurry quickly away from the parking lot scene of two Christmas shoppers exchanging merry F-YOUs and throw myself headlong into the toy aisle for comfort.

I can pretend I didn't hear hissing and swearing from two Christmas hopefuls in the first 15 minutes of their black Friday extravaganza at Target. Merry's going to be okay. Those chicks need a serious dose of figgy pudding or something, but I can hum a really loud Christmas symphony in my head and concentrate on candy canes.

But when I walked into my friendly ham store to pick up the main act for Christmas dinner this week and there was a security guard at the door packing a loaded pistol on his belt, my mental Christmas music came to a screeching, clanging halt. Okay, so I was in West Valley, but we're talking the strip mall part, not the hood. No need to shoot, sir, I just want a ham and I'll be on my way.
Unbeknownst to me, these ham sellers know that actually waiting in line for something like a ham is for some people like putting their Christmas spirit straight into a juicer (even saying the word ham makes you think you need to come up with a joke or something, not devote an hour of your life to getting one). And in West Valley it requires loaded weapons to protect the hams and other innocent bystanders.

But count me one of the innocent bystanders...I was dumb to this yule-tide secret. I settled down for my long winter's wait in the warmth of the ham store while holding my 3 year old - who is too old to be held for long periods, but my Christmas spirit had not yet met the juicer, however alarmed I was to see the pistol-toting uniform a few feet away.

Several minutes went by before I was tapped on the back and turned to find myself directly in the firestorm of an irate ham shopper. Where is Mr. Indiana Jones Security Guard when I need him? Evidently I had unknowingly entered the store without first winding my way through the line in the tent outside the store - in the snow storm that was going on I had barely noticed the tent on my way in, hadn't even looked inside. It was too darn cold to figure out what those crazies headed into the tent were doing. I'll take my ham in the warm store, thanks.

I was so shocked by what was happening that I found myself weirdly focused on the fact that my accoster was wearing hearing aids on both ears. Could he hear me? Wait, what did that matter? I had yet to utter a peep. He, however, was going to town just fine. Still, the double hearing aids and the bellowing attack were incongruous. I was off my mark, on the losing end of this holiday battle. Where was my freaking security guard? Sir, can you at least wave your pistol around a bit to deter this madman? I need to get back to waiting for my delicious ham. And really, I'm holding my little girl who albeit is protected by a solid armor of Christmas cheer and magic sugar plums, but still, she doesn't know about the jolly business of Christmas F-YOUs and I feared we were quickly headed in that direction.

I lamely sputtered that I had no idea there was an outside line meant to be endured before the lovely inside line. I think the appropriate thing to have said, what they are used to in this particular ham store, is a healthy, full-lung shout of F&*% YOU, FREAKY HAM MAN! Back off!! That must be what the guy heard in his head because my startled and lowly explanation garnered no sympathy. He merely kept stride and hollered more searing insults. I think I saw some spit take to the air.

Maybe if I'd shopped in this lady's costume he'd have remembered his Christmas spirit

Thinking back, I can't remember when he left my field of vision. All I know is that he was there and then he was gone, like a dirty little Christmas tornado. Later I looked for him; he wasn't in front of me or behind me. Tragically, at the moment of greatest need, my verbal gears had gotten supremely stuck. I was wrestling with what exactly to say, the fighter in me ready to link arms with Ava and physically take the guy down, or at least lash out with something acid and beastly. Sadly my life in times like these (which thankfully are not many) runs on a 5 minute delay. By the time I had found my rightful place in the poorly-marked outside tent, my defense gears were running like a well-oiled machine. Oh, if only he'd been winding around that annoying little tent with me.


No, he was gone, like an evil apparition. I have had the thought, Was he way ahead in line when I came in and had his little run-in with me on his way out? If that was the case how could he have mustered so much venom if I hadn't infringed on his personal ham-waiting time? I wonder if he thought of me while eating his precious time-bought ham this year. What does a person like that think of during Christmas at all? Though it shouldn't bear much thinking, it is an interesting question. I wonder if this is a Christmas tradition for him, waiting in the corner of the ham store out of sight of the useless security guard, arms loaded with purchased pork and pies, ready to pounce on the first person who makes the sensible decision to buy her ham in warmth, and then disappear into the snowy afternoon?

I found out that they don't have armed guards at this company's other ham stores. I bet this guy has made the West Valley store what it is. Next year I may have to buy my ham in Provo. I wonder what the security guard tells his friends and family. That he stood brave guard at the ham store?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

maleficent 's in the house

Ava's not the only thing going on....just all that we blog about lately.

thought we needed to post a bit about maleficent's first preschool halloween party. one of my all-time favorite costumes. half-homemade, because out there the don't believe littler pricesses can turn to the dark side. that's only because they haven't visited our house.
I love 'Leficent, as she calls herself, with her backpack on waiting for the carpool.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

sturdy as heartwood and I didn't even know it

Yesterday marked the first day of preschool, but a runny nose and general down-in-the-dumpness made today Ava's first day. Given her refusal to leave the house yesterday morning I was amazed when she got herself dressed and matter of factly notified me that she needed her backpack. She marched into her room and got it, we put on her shoes, and the girl was ready to go.

At that moment, this moment I had been dreaming of, I suddenly didn't want to give her up. What am I thinking? Of course I want to give her up! I've been plotting and planning for this wee smidgen of free time since I don't know when. How could I be hedging now? Oh, but a part of me definitely was.

I expected to have to gently pry her little fingers from my arm, wipe away a tear or two, and extol the many merits of preschool before zipping away (of course not when her innocent little back was turned, silly). She's pulled the rug out from under me with this wanting to go. At least she asked me to stay and watch her at the door for a minute. We blew kisses and signed I love you and then she was on her own. This mini thunderstorm of a girl who's own hip bones didn't measure wider than 3 inches when she was born went and did the hokey pokey with a group of strangers today.

So, Miss Diana Gabaldon, your sentiments perfectly sum up a day like today:

"Babies are soft. Anyone looking at them can see the tender, fragile skin and know it for the rose-leaf softness that invites a finger's touch. But when you live with them and love them, you feel the softness going inward, the round-cheeked flesh wobbly as custard, the boneless splay of the tiny hands. Their joints are melted rubber, and even when you kiss them hard, in the passion of loving their existence, your lips sink down and seem never to find bone. Holding them against you, they melt and mold, as though they might at any moment flow back into your body.

But from the very start, there is that small streak of steel within each child. That thing that says "I am," and forms the core of personality.

In the second year, the bone hardens and the child stands upright, skull wide and solid, a helmet protecting the softness within. And "I am " grows, too. Looking at them, you can almost see it, sturdy as heartwood, glowing through the translucent flesh.

The bones of the face emerge at six, and the soul within is fixed at seven. The process of encapsulation goes on, to reach its peak in the glossy shell of adolescence, when all softness then is hidden under the nacreous layers of the multiple new personalities that teenagers try on to guard themselves.

In the next years, the hardening spreads from the center, as one finds and fixes the facets of the soul, until "I am" is set,
delicate and detailed as an insect in amber."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

free association, scripture-style

Being the off-spring of a child psychologist, our kids will never be short of intriguing childhood stories to tell. Were it not for the risk of ruining the mood, I would have taken pictures of our family home evening the other night. Instead, you can picture this: each kid sitting cross-legged, eyes closed. Instructed to clear their minds. Each in turn are given a prompt and told to spit out the first thing that comes to their minds. in other words: free association.

Our oldest, in a deft attempt at earning obedience points said, "Joseph Smith" when prompted with Book of Mormon. The other kids were more conscientious about showing their true free-associating colors. Try 2,000 stripling warriors --> I'm thinking General Grievous, how about you? or how about Heavenly Father ---> if you're a 3-year-old girl then it's pretty much Barbie and the Diamond Castle no matter what, or Aurora.
However fruitless it might feel at first, do try this little activity because the kids catch on and it's fun to see what's on their little minds regardless. Plus, they think it's loads of fun and had to be forced to stop. And as a measure of success it's always good to end on a high note.

Monday, June 22, 2009

will work for food

I will describe the fathers day celebration at our house by giving you a walkthrough of our menu. Divine is the best word. A great tribute to the daddy of the house who works so hard and does so much.

Breakfast in bed was served (I think the kids are more excited about doing this than anything else): European-style rice pudding (cooked without eggs or sugar) with freshly-made warm strawberry jam swirled on top and just a pinch of sugar and butter.

After church we had the Spanglish sandwich. You have not lived until this has crossed your lips. We changed it up by marinating the tomatoes in balsamic and including sliced avocados. So, it is as follows: toasted good french bread, jack or havarti cheese, mayo, lettuce, avocados, marinated tomatoes, soft-cooked fried egg, bacon, and there you have it. Most amazing to behold. Watch the movie just to see him make the thing. And we had Brazilian limeade with some strawberries thrown in for good measure.

Matt requested something with ice cream for dessert, so this is what we came up with:
Frozen hot chocolate with a big scoop of sweet cream ice cream from Cold Stone and chewy double chocolate cookies.

No hours of slaving in the kitchen. We could actually enjoy the day together and played soccer at the park to burn a little of it off until we couldn't see the ball anymore because it got dark.

And I also might mention that since I had things I couldn't get out of at church, Matt stayed home from to tend the son with the flu and meanwhile cleaned the house, ran two loads of dishes through the dishwasher, vacuumed, and washed a couple loads of laundry. Yeah, I have it good. Happy father's day Matt! We love you.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

shedding hair and sanity

At long last, the story of Hazel: She actually belonged to the Wyoming mountains before we got her. My father-in-law found her when he was there fishing 4 months ago. She followed him around all day. She had a collar on but no tags and there were no other people around. So at the end of the day he took her home with him rather than just leave her. After Jake saw her and burst into tears at the thought of her not coming home with us, she came home with us. We had been promising the kids a dog for a couple years and blessedly not following through with it.

Most who know me, know that I'm am not a dog person. After a few months with Hazel I am still pretty much not a dog person, except when it comes to her because she's really great. The best word to describe our sweet Hazel is MELLOW. Hyper only happens when she's about to go on a walk, and then she just jumps around and makes it hard to get the leash on her. When we open the door she doesn't bolt, she doesn't chew our stuff, she goes potty outside, she comes when she's called. But Matt has diagnosed her with dependent personality disorder because her love tank is always in need of filling, it's actually relentless. She will follow us around the house making it hard not to trip over her, will paw us for petting if we sit down anywhere near her, can be found waiting patiently outside the bathroom door for us to come out.

The only drawback is that the girl sheds like there's no tomorrow. Holy smoke. If you pet her, it's like a puff of doggy hair smoke when your hand comes in contact. I fear for my carpets, any black clothing, and my sanity. As a last-ditch effort at not giving this perfect dog the boot, we got her shaved today. The groomer pleasantly informed me that labs are some of the worst shedding dogs. Awesome.
I waited to see her new look with anticipation, like the kind you might have when your kid gets their hair cut and you know you're going to feel a little guilty at having made them look 3 years older in the blink of an eye. Well I was pleased to see that Hazel came out of the event looking a little like a tough rowdy doggie. I'm not sure why I say rowdy because she isn't, but she looks great. Oh, please let the shave thing work because when I find dog hair on my headboard {and she's never been on my bed} and on my counters something's gotta give.
Here she is:

Isn't she cute?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

hey, Cindy

Cinderella morning, noon, and night ----------------------------------------- Princesses must hold up the dress when walking

Little Cinderella (or Tinkerbelle or any type of Princess actually) has moved out of her crib. It's gone, as in purchased by someone else and living in their house as of tonight. We weren't really prepared for a quick sale and she is currently sleeping (which hasn't happened yet) on my old king-sized mattress that we plopped on her floor. This was a huge mistake as she's been using it more for partying and trampoline fun than rest time. Is she too young to banish to a timeout in the snow? I am dreading the nights to come. She's been watching her 5-yr-old brother's example. He gets to spend a nighttime minute in the snow now and then (just outside, not actually in the snow). Bedtime sucks. I want my sweet crib-prison back.

Friday, January 16, 2009

breakfast of champions

Zach: Mom, why can we eat Pop Tarts for breakfast, but we can't eat cheesecake?


Twice this week I've turned down my son's request for a breakfast of leftover cheesecake. Then this morning he watched as I happily toasted two different kinds of Pop Tarts for the kids. My 10-year-old, he's a thinker. And the logical question followed. Now I'm stumped. I'm also worried we might be eating cheesecake for breakfast tomorrow. Tell me there are some vitamins hidden somewhere in those PTs.

Monday, January 12, 2009


This is a post dedicated to a little bit of everything. My beloved September has come and gone. Those 30 delicious days were fleeting. Then I was launched into the holiday whirlwind, and though it was decidedly fun, I am now thankfully skidding to a bumpy stop.

My Christmas tree finally came down a few days ago, three cheers. The state of my mind is justly represented by the torrent of sticky notes and lists left like tracks of where I've been. Lists on my nightstand, on the fridge, the console of my car, and a running tab in my Google calendar. It is a beast. With horns. The upside to lists, you might agree, is checking off the things that have been done. Kinda like popping zits it's so fun.
And now for a little catch up. Our family has been having fun with various activities: a bunny hunt (that I wasn't a part of -- when hunting, I get to stay home), indoor swimming while snowing outside (which is fun until you have to run to the car in wet clothes), obsessive playing of speed Scrabble (I can't even tell you how much fun), continued work on the cookbook (which will hopefully be wrapped up in a couple months or so), kitchen remodeling (not so much fun), trying Bluberry Muffin Mini Wheats (yum), making a recipe from the kindergarten cookbook (good times), a little shopping at Ikea (always a good idea), playing with our new dog, Hazel, and seeing how she looks with a little makeup. We'll dedicate a different post to her.

We combined these two amazing recipes - Jake's is the chocolate chip one

A little glimpse at our cookbook work
Hazel with a faded makeup job

I thought I'd pass along a recipe to you since it's quite delicious. I sent these out as neighbor gifts for Christmas. They're from a recipe gotten from a friend of a friend which I tinkered with slightly until they were just right, also reminiscent of a treat from a bakery down the street from my house. A friend called me after receiving these and said she dreamed about them. They're pretty good.
Raspberry Cream Cheese Sandwiches

2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 tsp. almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt, maybe a touch more - just taste the dough, but be sure to add enough or they don't taste right
3/4 cup raspberry preserves
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 oz. cream cheese
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 Tbsp. milk (or more to reach coating consistency)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour and salt; set aside. Cream together sugar, butter, and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add eggs, one at a time and beat until incorporated. Add almond extract and mix well. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix just until smooth dough forms. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into 2-3/4" diameter circles. This is profoundly easier with a biscuit cutter and makes these less of a drag to make. Spray your cookie sheet and lay the disks of dough out on the cookie sheet.

Spoon a rounded 1/2 teaspoon onto the center of each disk. Cover each with another disk of dough which you can offset like a lunar eclipse to let the jam peek out. Astronomy and baking, who knew? If you want, you can press lightly down on the top disk where it meets with the bottom layer to help seal, but don't press hard. Bake 12 - 15 minutes depending on your oven, or until the bottom of each begins to turn a little golden. Don't overcook! After cooling, the cookies should still be moist inside. Remove from cooking trays to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Combine softened cream cheese and milk in a bowl and whisk together until combined. Add powdered sugar and almond extract and continue to whisk until a thick but pourable consistency. Add milk a little at a time if necessary to reach the right thickness. Spread a spoonful on the top of each with the underside of a spoon. Let airdry 1/2 hour to 1 hour. You can freeze these prior to the icing stage and then thaw and ice before serving.

Okay, I have my Monday list burning a hole in my kitchen table. My youngest is running around with a bottle of washable glue and my 5-year-old has just opened Junior Monopoly and is asking me which color marker I want. The week has begun. Gotta go.