Friday, October 31, 2008

The Valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman

Have you ever noticed that there are some places in the world that inspire a sense of reverence? At times it is because of the tremendous beauty that exists. There are other moments when sites of historical significance strike a spiritual chord deep within.

(You'll have to click on the picture above to read this description of Adam-ondi-Ahman)

The Valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman is such a place.
I've been given the opportunity to visit this location twice in my life. Both occasions were tremendous spiritual boosts. It is comparable to an inspiring temple session. The valley itself is gorgeous. However, the feeling of peaceful calm that can be felt in this location is what has touched me most.

Our first visit to this sacred valley took place on June 3, 1997. Our family had traveled to this site with two other families, close friends. We had journeyed to other historical Church sites during this trip, but it was the Valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman that would imprint itself strongest within my heart.

It was a tender day. It was the birthday of a beloved daughter of our friends. This young lady would have been fifteen that day. Taken from this mortal realm in a car accident five months earlier, her memory was etched in our hearts.

We had been praying that day for this girl's mother, who was with us on this sacred journey. Uncertain of how best to help her through this emotional time, I know it wasn't a coincidence that we visited Adam-ondi-Ahman on the anniversary of her daughter's birthday.

As we drove into the parking lot, the feeling of peaceful calm that we had prayed for descended in a huge fashion. Even our young children whispered, exhibiting a sense of reverence for this sacred site. We quietly walked around, each lost in our separate thoughts as we experienced a sense of healing.

For a short time, three of us wandered together, three mothers united in a prayerful cause. Two of us had brought along a small bouquet of flowers we had initially intended on placing on the grave of our 4th-great-grandmother in Nauvoo. However, when we had learned that her grave had been lost when angry mobs destroyed much of the original cemetery, we had kept the bouquet, uncertain of what to do with it. That day it became apparent why we had kept those flowers.

As the three of us walked down into a tight grove of trees, we left the bouquet of flowers there in memory of a beloved daughter. A calming spirit of love eased tremendous heartache that afternoon. It was with great reluctance that we returned to where our families waited in the tiny parking lot above.

When we reached the parking lot, we observed a young couple standing there. Both were holding cans of beer; cigarettes dangled from their mouths. The young man commented: "I don't see anything special about this place!" The three of us looked at each other in stunned silence. We had just experienced a sacred moment we couldn't adequately put into words. We knew this site was of tremendous significance. How could this young couple not feel what was there?

Then it occurred to me that there are indeed times when our attitudes and demeanor will determine what kind of experience we will encounter, whether it's a physical or spiritual perception. If we journey to sacred sites with a mindset that is negative, we will miss so much of what is there. (Yes, this is an important analogy of life in general.)

Ten years passed by. Then last summer, I was given another chance to see Adam-ondi-Ahman. I rejoiced at this opportunity. As we planned this second trip to Nauvoo, I persisted in wanting to revisit this sacred valley. It was an uphill battle to arrive at this destination. I have found in life that things of worth are usually this way. We were on a tight schedule. I was the only one who was filled with a desire to stop for a little while as we passed through Missouri. Fortunately, the others were gracious enough to permit this short visit.

As I exited the car, I prayed fervently for the peace of heart I was seeking. Recent events in our family had left me feeling spiritually exhausted. I desired the peaceful healing I had experienced ten years before.

At first, it didn't seem like this would happen. Then I wandered off by myself, retracing steps I had taken in 1997. A quiet inner nudge guided me toward something I hadn't planned on seeing. Kneeling in that sacred spot, I quietly prayed for guidance. While the answers I had sought didn't surface, I will never forget what I felt that day. The hopeful peace that eased my torn heart that afternoon is a treasured moment in my life. I left with the knowledge that despite what we were enduring, all would be well.

We need moments like this in our lives. Currently, the world is in a state of constant turmoil. How blessed we are to have the opportunity to journey to temple settings where the cares of the world can be left behind, where spiritual healing can give us the courage to continue on, facing the challenging trials of our day. Take advantage of this great blessing. Push past the negative influences that exist to attain the peace of heart and mind that will help us survive the days ahead.

I'm closing this post with lyrics that were written about Adam-ondi-Ahman. Composed by William W. Phelps, this hymn (#49) sums up what I'm trying to say:


This earth was once a garden place, with all her glories common,

And men did live a holy race, and worship Jesus face to face,
In Adam-ondi-Ahman.

We read that Enoch walked with God, above the pow'r of mammon,
While Zion spread herself abroad, and Saints and angels sang aloud,

In Adam-ondi-Ahman.

Her land was good and greatly blest, beyond all Israel's Canaan,
Her fame was known from east to west, her peace was great, and pure the rest
Of Adam-ondi-Ahman.

Hosanna to such days to come, The Savior's second coming,
When all the earth in glorious bloom, affords the Saints a holy home,

Like Adam-ondi-Ahman.

Return to the Neighborhood

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Whitney Benefit Auction

Hi there. You may be wondering what the Whitney Benefit Auction is, and how this will affect you. This is a really cool idea, trust me. ;) The Whitney Academy is promoting excellence in LDS literature. Since this fledgling organization depends largely (around 100%) on donations, it is striving to raise money for the annual Whitney Awards Banquet. You can read more about this by clicking here: Whitney Awards

This fund raiser is giving you a chance to bid on items donated by some of your favorite LDS authors. These items include copies of autographed books, plus all kinds of treasures that these same authors are donating to go along with the books. What a win\win situation. So if you're looking for a special Christmas present for someone, or an autographed book for yourself, you're apt to find bargains galore when you access this link: Whitney Auction
beginning on November 1st. New items will be added daily through the 18th of November. Be sure to check this out and to tell all of your friends. Happy bidding.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Elmer Fudd Rides Again

I experienced a bit of an adventure last Friday. I rode 42 miles on a 4-wheeler (4-wheel-drive ATV) with my husband. True, I limped for a couple of days afterward (arthritis is not my friend) but it was a lot of fun and it provided an opportunity to take numerous shots with my camera. Those were the only shots fired that day, incidentally. ;)

My husband and his brother, Jeff, decided it would be fun to take their wives on a 4-wheeler ride. This was a thinly disguised hunting adventure. =) However, the only animals I spied that day were a moose and a squirrel. Moose and squirrel . . . hilarious, but only if you are a die hard Bullwinkle and Rocky fan. ;)

Here's the picture of the mommy moose and baby moose I captured with my trusty digital camera toward the end of our ride that day.

I didn't get a picture of the squirrel. He\she was bouncing from tree to tree much too fast for me to zoom in on. But I did get a great shot of a scene that makes me excited for Christmas. Along one hillside were all of these beautiful red berries.

Combined with the bright green pine trees and the snow in that high elevation, it made for a great Christmas card scene.

And here's a shot that shows just how much snow is up on top of the mountains these days. (Also the reason why we were all bundled up, looking like a character from the ever-popular movie, A Christmas Story.)

We stopped on top of one mountain to take some scenic shots of the valley below. Yep, we were in nosebleed territory, but it was beautiful.

By the way, I love the first picture featured on this post. My husband and his brother, Jeffy, as we call him, had decided to climb up even higher on a ridge. My s-i-l, Dannyel, and I gracefully bowed out of that adventure, deciding if they wanted to roll down the mountain, that was their choice. =D Fortunately, they climbed up safely and returned in one piece.

We did have one mishap about halfway through our adventure. Since good brother Jeff is much more familiar with the trails we were riding on that day, he and his wife, Dannyel, led the way. There were several other hunting parties out and about, and since my husband is a social butterfly, we stopped to visit with every one of them. ;) This meant we were usually a few minutes behind Jeff and Dannyel during a goodly portion of the jaunt. After Kennon had commiserated with a small group of hunters about the sad lack of bucks in the area, we headed down the nice dirt trail after his brother and his wife. As we came around a corner in the road, we saw a strange sight. Dannyel was lying face down on the road, and Jeff was reaching for his rifle. I wondered if this was a new hunting tactic: Dannyel was listening for deer while Jeff was getting ready for the kill.

We soon learned that Jeff had taken that corner a little fast, and had nearly tipped the 4-wheeler over. When it went up on two wheels, Dannyel had jumped to what she hoped was safety and had landed face down in the dirt. Jeff was reaching for his gun to make sure it had survived the topsy-turvy moment. It's nice to know these menfolk have their priorities in order. ;) Luckily, everyone survived with minimal damage and we were soon off again.

We paused on top of yet another ridge for a Kodak moment. This time Kennon and I posed in front of a beautiful mountain. Too bad my husband doesn't like to smile when his picture is taken. ;)

All in all, it was a fun day. Toward evening, when the temperatures really started to drop, we headed back to where we had parked the trucks. Just as they were in sight, Kennon stopped our 4-wheeler and reached for his binoculars. Excitedly he told me that he had finally spotted a deer. I hastened off the ATV and hurried into Jeff's truck to warm up with Dannyel as Jeff took my place on the back of our 4-wheeler. Off the two brothers went, hurrying up the hillside. It was all to no avail. They returned several minutes later with sad faces.

"It was a propeller-head," my husband explained. (This means it was a doe, a female deer. I recently learned that avid hunters call them names like propeller-heads, indicating the lack of horns---doe people just possess large ears. I'm sure this isn't their fault and names like this hurt their feelings, but I digress.)

By then, Dannyel and I had regained feeling in our feet and hands compliments of the nice heater in Jeffy's truck. This was good. ;) We quickly loaded up all of our gear into both trucks, and headed home. And I heard it exclaimed 'ere we drove out of sight:

"Nayner, nayner, nayner!" Indicating the bucks had won this particular round of hunting. ;)

Return to the Neighborhood

Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloween Habits

I can't believe how fast this month has flown by. And next week is Halloween. Doesn't it seem like it was just August? And yet when I venture into various stores, the Christmas stuff is up, so it must be Halloween. ;)

I've been thinking about past Halloween adventures and decided to share a few of those. The idea for today's blog started when a friend of mine mentioned that she was being proclaimed perverse for celebrating this holiday. If that's the case, then I've been perverse since I was about four years old. I think that's the first time I went trick-or-treating. At least, that's the earliest I can remember embarking on this fine tradition.

What's not to like about this holiday as a kid? You get to dress up in costumes, and then travel around from house to house collecting candy. =) And sometimes you get to attend a fun party where you also get to dress up and play entertaining games.

Here are some of my favorite memories of this fun-filled holiday:

Years ago when I was nigh to a tadpole in human years (around six or seven) my parents decided to throw a Halloween party. We were living in a fairly new brick home---my mother's dream house, something they had contracted to have built about the time I was almost five. The basement wasn't finished and this is where the party was to take place. One side had been turned into a spook alley. The other had been decorated to the hilt for Halloween.

When the great day arrived, I remember both of my parents bustling around in preparation for the great event. They had invited a lot of people, including kids around my age, and it was a blast. We played games like pin the band-aid on the mummy, and we even bobbed for apples, my first experience with such a thing. As I recall, I never did capture an apple with my small (at the time) mouth but I did manage to get really wet. It was still a lot of fun.

The spook alley scared me to death, in the fine tradition of Halloween. I remember passing through the entrance that was draped in black plastic, not sure what to expect. Suddenly, every time I took a step, it sounded like firecrackers were going off around my feet. Screaming, I ran through, experiencing "guts" made of spaghetti, and a variety of scary looking people who were dressed up for the occasion.

I later learned that the "fire-cracker" effect had been achieved compliments of bubble wrap. My parents were ingenious with this sort of thing. The party was a huge success.

I also remember going trick-or-treating each year, filling a huge plastic pumpkin with candy treasures. Then we'd come home and sort everything into piles to admire and count what we had received. We were each allowed to keep our own candy, but we were restricted to one treat per day until it was all gone. My candy stash lasted until about December. It was great.

When I was older and much too mature to go trick-or-treating, I was privileged to take my younger sisters around. (By then my brother also thought he was too old to participate in collecting candy. I think he enjoyed pulling a few pranks instead, but I digress.) Halloween was still fun. It was great watching the excitement my sisters felt as they ran from house to house, collecting treats.

I've shared this before, but it's a classic family moment we laugh about whenever we think about Halloween. That year, my father had volunteered to take my sisters trick-or-treating. My brother and I were off to attend a mutual Halloween costume party at the church. That left my mother home to hand out treats. She has always enjoyed seeing the costumes and handing out candy, so she was looking forward to her part in this fine Halloween tradition.

Earlier that day, she had made a pumpkin pie, also a Halloween tradition. She dished herself up a huge slice, topping it with whipped cream. Then she sat down in a chair in the living room to enjoy this luscious dessert. She was watching a scary movie, another one of her favorite things to do on Halloween night. It was getting late enough, she had assumed there would be no more trick-or-treaters. Just as a scary part of the movie occurred, the doorbell rang out, effectively scaring her. She jumped as she cut into the pie and it flipped up into her face. There she was, covered with pumpkin goo and whipped topping and she had trick-or-treaters waiting at the door. Not wanting to risk getting tricked for not handing out treats, she went to the door wearing her piece of pumpkin pie. She later told us that the kids standing on our porch were very impressed with her "costume."

The years passed by and suddenly, I had my own kids to teach about the wonders of Halloween. It was great. We always carved pumpkins and either Kennon or I would take them around to trick-or-treat. Each year I helped my sons create the desired costumes for Halloween. They wore them to school for the traditional parties and for the annual Halloween Carnival sponsored by the local elementary school. Needless to say, we have lots of pictures of them posing in their costumes.

One year, when our boys were quite young, Kennon and I were invited to participate in a fun Halloween activity. After we had taken our kids trick-or-treating that night, we arranged for a babysitter. Then we dressed up rather scary to rendezvous at a certain place in nearby Montpelier with other fun-loving adults.

First, we went into a local grocery store and had some fun with the customers. A member of our group, who was dressed up in a gorilla suit, grabbed a bag of candy, opened it, and began handing out the goodies to everyone in the store. When one of the employees panicked and started to call for the police, the gorilla removed her mask---she was the wife of the owner of the store. =)

When we left the store, we headed for the local movie theater. A scary movie was playing during the second show that night. The theater managers, who were also dressed up for the occasion, wanted us to go inside in pairs during the movie, and sit by the movie-goers and have some fun with them. It was great, even if inappropriate language was uttered by one or two of those who were frightened by our appearance. We would walk in, and randomly sit by whoever we wanted. Sometimes it would take a minute or two for them to realize a ghoul was sitting beside them. Other members of our party would wait until an intense scene, and then tap the shoulder of someone sitting in front of them. We heard a lot of screams that night. =) It was a fun Halloween adventure.

After we tired of scaring the movie people, we headed for our final destination, a nearby truck stop that is open 24 hours a day. As I recall, we entertained the truckers, and others who were out having a late night snack. By then we were more silly than scary and a good time was had by all.

As our boys grew older, they really got into carving pumpkins, using a variety of patterns to create impressive works of art. And they still enjoyed dressing up for parties, YM activities, etc. when Halloween rolled around.

Earlier this week, my husband and I drove to Logan for an eye doctor appointment. While there, we swung by to visit our oldest son who is living in Logan while he attends college. In the fine tradition of our family, he has decorated his apartment, inside and out, for Halloween. It's good to know that this holiday will continue to be celebrated by our posterity.

This coming Halloween will be an important first for our little granddaughter. As her grandmother, I couldn't resist purchasing a pumpkin hat made especially for babies. ;) Yep, I'm going to be that kind of grandma.

To me, Halloween is all about good, clean fun. I love seeing the costumes and handing out treats. I enjoy decorating my house in Halloween attire. It's a great season. This year, things will be slightly different. Our ward is sponsoring a "Trunk & Treat" party at the church. I was told the other day that because of the cold weather, the party will take place inside the church on Halloween night. We will each be assigned a classroom we can decorate as we wish for Halloween, then the little kids can still come around, knocking on doors for treats. I'm looking forward to this event. It may become a new tradition in our community. Usually the weather is so nasty, the trick-or-treaters have to wear heavy coats over their costumes. This way, we'll get to see the little cowboys, princesses, and ghouls in full regalia. I can hardly wait.

What are some fun Halloween traditions or memories from your realm? Feel free to share. (This is a hint.)

Return to the Neighborhood

Monday, October 20, 2008

Roots in Roxie, Mississippi

I could have been born in the South. It's interesting how I've always had an affinity for that region. It began when I was quite young, after learning that my paternal grandfather grew up in a place called Roxie, Mississippi. I would watch movies like "Gone With the Wind," and wonder what it would have been like being a southern belle. =)

My father was born later in life to his parents; they were in their forties when he bounced into mortal mode. As such, my siblings and I almost skip a generation when we begin looking back toward our ancestors. This means that two of my paternal second-great-grandfathers fought in the Civil War. I'll leave it to your imagination to guess which side. ;)

In the fall of 2006, my husband and I embarked on a trip of a lifetime, spending two wonderful weeks in New Orleans. It was a business trip and each day, while my husband took care of said business, I studied maps and learned all I could of the surrounding area. Then when Kennon was done for the day, we would explore the highlights of this beautiful location.

When we caught on that he would have a couple of days to sight see, and I realized how close we were to my grandfather's old stomping grounds, I contacted a cousin who had been to Roxie, Mississippi and learned the necessary facts and contacts to see Grandpa Jackson's homeland.

It took us a few hours to reach Roxie, and along the way, we saw places like Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Natchez, Mississippi. We stopped for lunch in Natchez for two reasons:

1) It was lunch time and we were starved.
2) One of my second-great-grandfathers is buried in the Civil War section of a cemetery located in Natchez.

Silent tears threatened to descend when we found this grandfather's grave. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put into words what it felt like to see this site in person. That feeling would increase as the day progressed.

Before I say much about Roxie, I should explain something. There is a reason why a southern boy of 15 left his home and journeyed all the way across the nation to a small town in Idaho known as Lewisville. My grandfather had been primed to become a Baptist minister by his family. At the tender age of 15, he met a couple of Mormon missionaries and began to have stimulating gospel discussions with them. In time, he realized he was hearing truth and he embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ with religious fervor.

This excitement was not shared by his family.
Long story short: my grandfather was asked to choose between joining the LDS Church, or his family. This was a decision that would tear him apart, but my grandfather made his choice and found himself disowned when he was baptized. Since one of the elders was about to return home to Idaho, he invited my grandfather to travel with him, and my grandfather agreed. And that is how Thomas William Jackson Sr. (my father would eventually be named Jr.) ended up living in Lewisville where he would meet and later marry my grandmother, Elsie Clement.

Grandpa didn't talk much about his life in the South. He went home once, shortly after he was married. It wasn't a pleasant visit. He learned of the death of his mother and saw how his family had fallen apart. As such, Grandpa brought his youngest brother home to Idaho where he lived with my grandparents until he was old enough to be on his own.

Once in a while my grandfather would comment on how much easier it was to grow things in Mississippi than in the deserty realm of Idaho, but that was about all he would say about Roxie.

Grandpa was right. To see how green and lush Roxie was for myself was quite an experience. It is gorgeous.
I contacted a cousin who still lives there and he took us on a tour. As we traveled in the back hills of Roxie, I fell in love with this area. At one point, my newly found cousin carved my initials on a tree, telling me that it would forever record my visit to Roxie.

Among other treasured sites we saw that day, we were shown where my grandfather's boyhood home once stood. Elation collided with tears as I walked around, trying to memorize what I was seeing. I experienced a sense of peace I hadn't expected, all things considered.

A few years ago, I stood proxy for my great-grandmother, Susan Beach Jackson as important temple work took place. From the joy I experienced that day, I sensed she accepted this work with delight. I've felt a closeness to her since that time. She was a woman of remarkable courage and strength. She protested my grandfather's dismissal from the family, but my great-grandfather wouldn't listen to reason. Soon after my grandfather left for Idaho, one of his brothers left Mississippi and joined the Foreign Legion. He later died during a battle fought overseas. Three of Susan's babies died at an early age. Life for her was heartbreaking, and it became worse. My great-grandfather didn't like it when she disagreed with him. As such, he locked her away in a sanitarium where she spent the remainder of her days.

We found a record written by a doctor that stated Susan was perfectly sane and that she had spent the rest of her life caring for patients who weren't. You can understand why my family holds her in such high esteem. She is an elect lady who endured more than any one person ever should. One of these days, I will write her story to preserve it for her posterity.

My Jackson cousin showed us a private family cemetery where Susan's father and her babies are buried. We spent several minutes in silent reverie, then reluctantly left to explore the rest of the mountain.

Along the way we came across wild turkeys who ran for all they were worth down the hillside. I managed to get a shot of them before they disappeared. We also saw a dirt road named after my family. =) I'm still wondering if that's an honor? ;)

It was a remarkable experience to visit Roxie and to see firsthand the beauty that exists in this location. As the saying goes: "Time heals all wounds." I sensed during that visit that my grandfather's family has healed. Grandpa grew up during the final days of the reconstruction era that took place in the South after the Civil War. I believe that same process has occurred with his family on the other side of the veil, and I look forward to meeting them all some day.

Return to the Neighborhood

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Can it =)

My blogs are supposed to touch primarily upon traveling adventures, tradition, and culture. Today I've decided to tackle something that would qualify as a tradition and part of our unique LDS culture: canning season.

Now before you start groaning, let me just state for the record, that canning home-grown produce can often be a source of inner peace. (I was going to say, "pride" but we all know that word is evil, so I won't go there.) There is a certain sense of satisfaction that settles deep within when you see the end result of all of your hard labor. Trust me. ;)

Earlier today, I bottled\canned apple pie filling, using apples from that tree I was talking about earlier this week. I thought I would walk you briefly through this process, using pictures I took as I processed these apples this afternoon. But first, perhaps we should discuss why one would want to endure this hard work when it's so easy to run to the store and purchase whatever you need\want. NEWSFLASH: the economy tanked recently. It might not always be feasible to buy everything from the store. Also, when you can food items, you know exactly what is going into whatever it is you are processing. And it's a cool tradition---our grandmothers would be proud to know that their offspring are following in their footsteps . . . to a certain degree. These days, if you are careful and follow the latest guidelines established by the local county extension office, you can avoid things like food poisoning. ;)

A couple of months ago, I took my trusty pressure gauge in to be inspected (from my pressure canner---in case you were wondering) by the county extension office and I bought the latest guidelines for canning tomatoes and fruits---I like to keep abreast of any new developments. It's just a good idea to stay on top of things with regard to food processing.

So far this fall I have canned: mustard pickles, pickled beets, chokecherry juice, salsa, basil tomatoes, pears, & apple pie filling. When I've finished with all of my apples, I plan to can jelly from apple juice, grape juice, and chokecherry juice. I don't think I'll be bored any time soon. =)

We planted a garden earlier this spring, and it produced quite bounteously. We harvested red potatoes, carrots (I washed, sliced, and blanched 32 pints to put in my freezer this year. These will come in handy for stews, soups, roasts, etc.), onions, beets, garlic, peas, & zucchini squash. Not bad for an area renown for early frosts and snow. ;)

I just feel better when my pantry shelves are full of food. Plus, it's a great way to share the joy when my college kids need supplies. But I digress. Back to canning apple pie filling.

Reasons why I like to can this product:

1) It makes tasty pies, cobblers, and apple crisp.
2) It looks cool on my pantry shelves.
3) It makes me feel useful in my old age.
4) It uses up lots of apples so they won't go to waste.
5) It's easy to do. Time consuming, but easy. ;)

Hokay, as my youngest son is fond of saying, first you pick the apples, either off the tree, out of the box you bought from a fruit stand, or off the display table at the local store. Wash said apples, remove the stems, and peel. I use a handy-dandy apple peeler I purchased at a cool store in Logan, Utah called "Kitchen Kneads." I think it cost around $20.00---well worth the price when you consider how many apples will be peeled with this fine product.

This particular apple peeler can slice the apples, as well as core them for you---but it cuts the slices very thin and I prefer my apple pie filling to be filled with good-sized chunks of apples. So after peeling the apples, I use an apple slicer. This is an inexpensive item you can purchase anywhere they sell cooking supplies. You merely hold it over the middle of the apple, press down, and behold, it separates the core and slices the apple into cool pieces that will look great in the pie filling.

After trimming off the odd bits of apple skin still attached, I throw the apple slices into specially prepared water to soak until I'm ready to fill the jars. Since apple slices tend to brown quickly, it's a good idea to either mix something acidic like lemon juice, or that powdered substance you can buy at the store: Fruit Fresh, into the water to keep the apples looking nice.

After you've peeled a ton of apples and your arm feels like it's going to fall off, it's time to start the filling portion of this canning adventure. I use the following recipe:

Apple Pie Filling
(Makes enough for 7 quarts)
4 & 1/2 Cups Sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp.
1 Cup cornstarch
10 cups water

3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Mix all of the dry ingredients together inside of a good-sized kettle. Then add the 10 cups of water and stir well over medium heat until thick. Add 3 tbsp. lemon juice. Fill jars with sliced apples. Pour filling over sliced apples in sterilized jars. Seal. Process in water bath canner for 30 minutes. (If you live in a lower elevation, you can process the jars for 20-25 minutes, depending on your region. Check the guidelines for where you live.)

I like this recipe because it always turns out and it's delicious. =) And here's what the finished product looks like:

Way cool, eh? This is an extremely handy item to have around. If you learn company is coming over and you're not sure what to fix, grab a bottle of this stuff and throw together a quick and easy apple crisp. And pies are a snap. Mix up your favorite pie dough recipe, throw a bottle of this inside, bake, and wala---scrumptious pies. As for cobbler, you can either use a cake mix, or mix up a cake from scratch. Open a bottle of this wonderful pie filling, put it in the bottom of the pan, throw the cake mix on top, and bake. Instant crowd-pleasing dessert.

Are you excited to can things now? =) It's not hard. It does take time and a bit of elbow grease, but it's well worth the effort. The best part: the end of canning season. Then you can bask in the glow of a job well done, and enjoy tasty treats your family will love. ;)

Return to the Neighborhood

Monday, October 13, 2008

Falling into Winter =)

This past year has been entertaining here in the metropolis of Bear Lake. Okay, it's not a metropolis, but a wonderful mountain valley. =) Lots of people like to visit here, as is evident from the number of tourists who pass through. Most come to enjoy beautiful Bear Lake, that pristine body of water that resembles the Caribbean. Campers enjoy our tree-filled forests. Others stop by on their way to Jackson, Wyoming or Yellowstone Park to partake of food, fill their cars with gas, etc. Some come to explore the impressive Oregon Trail Museum that lies along highway 30.

After a weekend like we've just endured, several people want to know what possesses us to live in a place like Bear Lake. Spring didn't make an appearance this year. We went straight from winter to summer in one fell swoop about the middle of June. Summer lasted from June until about the second week of August when the temperatures began to plummet. Our first snow storm of the season took place this past weekend, and it was a doozie. Nearly 8 inches of snow fell upon us on Saturday. About four more inches dropped down from heaven during Saturday night\Sunday morning.

We witnessed blizzard conditions about 11:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, from the comfort of the stake center where many of us were busy making things for the humanitarian effort. Myself, I was knitting winter hats with one of those handy loom thingys. I should have made a hat for myself. ;)

When we learned that a winter storm was on its way here, most of us smirked. We figured we'd see one to two inches, not a big deal. Imagine my surprise when I journeyed out of the stake center to see about 7 inches of snow all over my car. Imagine my disgust with myself when I realized I didn't bring along a handy snow-scraper. I had to use my umbrella to wipe the snow from my car windows so that I could see where I was going.

Heeding some advice from a well-meaning local type, I took 8th street out of Montpelier. Bad idea. Not much traffic had passed through that street and it was a slushy mess. I slid sideways a couple of times before I made it to highway 30. Once I arrived home, I had no intention of traveling anywhere else. It was cold, snowy and yucky outside and I began wondering why I live in this location myself. ;)

Sunday dawned cold and snowy. I looked out the front room window, appalled by the amount of snow that had accumulated on an apple tree I've been nurturing for nigh onto 13 years. Lest you think I'm silly, let me share why. My children gave me this tree for Mother's Day one year. It was a beautiful, baby flowering crab tree, and I was excited, since I had always wanted one of those. Then behold, during the following winter, my sons managed to mow it over while giving each other rides on an inner tube strapped behind one of our snow machines. Most uncool.

When the next spring rolled around, I was all set to dig up what was left of this tree and plant a new one. But it had survived. A sprout was bravely clinging to life, poking its way out of the root. So I let it live. I figured if it had that much desire to exist, I wouldn't stand in its way. An uncle of mine examined it later on and he told me that flowering crab trees are often grafted into an apple tree root, since those roots are sturdier. He figured my "new" tree would be something akin to a regular apple tree.

Through the years, this tree has been lovingly pruned, nurtured, etc. This year is the first time it has produced apples that are fit to eat. And not only fit to eat, but delicious. Neighbors and relatives have been enjoying its produce the past couple of weeks. We've harvested quite a bunch of apples from this industrious tree so far. Then this freak winter storm hit.

When I looked out of my front room window Sunday morning, I saw that this tree was in trouble. Its branches were hanging on the ground, weighted down by icy snow. The snow from the day before had melted just enough to freeze into solid ice. And it was still snowing, adding to the weight. So, after church, I fractured the Sabbath a tiny bit and went outside to knock the snow off my treasured tree.

It's difficult, raising trees in our climate---and this tree is important to me, a symbol of not giving up when life mows you down.
As I carefully removed the snow from each branch, I figured I would repent by going to choir practice that afternoon. However, after saving the tree, I saw that I was snowed in.

In the tradition of our valley, we have a metal roof on our house and garage. Since winters here are usually vicious, these roofs are a necessity---they allow the snow to slide harmlessly to the ground. Unfortunately, it always manages to slide from the roof above the garage to the driveway below, effectively blocking the way for one to travel out of the garage with say, a car.

Locating a snow shovel, I began the tedious task of removing just enough snow to permit my car to back out of the garage. At that point, there was about a foot and a half of snow blocking its way. Keeping in mind that it was the Sabbath Day, I only shoveled enough snow for my tires to fit through. Just as I finished, a bunch of snow came crashing down on top of my head from the roof. Nice. I wasn't seriously injured, but I couldn't see for a few seconds; part of the snow had slid between my face and my glasses. Most of it plastered my head, effectively ruining my hairstyle. The rest went down my neck, saturating the sweater I was wearing.

Realizing there were about 10 minutes before choir practice, I hurried inside. Then I caught on that I didn't feel very good. So I checked my blood sugar. I'm a type 1 diabetic, and sometimes when I exert, it causes that level to drop. It was low, so I grabbed a container of Gatorade and hurried to the bathroom to fix the damage to my hair and face. Mopping off the water, I dried my hair, changed clothes, then restyled my hair before I left the house. And there was the little matter of my low blood sugar level. It usually takes about 20 minutes for that to return to normal. Since I only live about 3 blocks from the church house, I waited an extra five minutes, to make sure I wasn't going to pass out. Then, deciding I would live, I headed down to the church.

It was all for naught---the only ones who showed up for practice yesterday afternoon were the choir director, the pianist, and myself. Everyone else must have decided it was too yucky of a day to venture forth. =) Isn't that the way?!

Back to why I live here:

1) The people in Bear Lake Valley are awesome. We're a small enough community that there are no strangers. Most are willing to help whenever life's adventures descend.

2) Huckleberries! Der!!! Need I say more?! These delicious berries don't grow every place. But you can usually find them on the mountain sides of Bear Lake.

3) It's never too hot in the summer. ;) [This is called looking on the bright side.]

4) Winter lasts 9 months. Okay, maybe that's not a plus, but it does give me a chance to catch up on all of those projects I don't have time to tackle during our short, but busy summers.

5) We seem to only have 2 seasons: Summer and Winter. I kind of miss spring and fall, but in way of good news, the mosquitoes only last 3 months. =)

Bear Lake might not be the perfect place to live, but I seriously doubt that such a place exists. There are pros and cons to every area. I saw this when my family moved around . . . a lot . . . while I was growing up. I've lived longer in Bear Lake than I've ever lived anywhere else and for now, it's home. There's something to be said for that. When a place feels like home, I think it's a good idea to stick around. ;)

Return to the Neighborhood

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bambi Wins, Hands Down

In our neck of the woods, an annual tradition is about to occur, the great deer hunt. I remember years ago, as a little girl, watching as my father gathered his treasures for this event. He usually went hunting with my maternal grandfather, someone who was an avid outdoor enthusiast\employee of the Star Valley, Wyoming Fish and Game department.

My father would assemble all of the necessities: space food bars (remember those---they were available around the late 1960's---early 1970's), beef jerky, pop---since bottled water wasn't born yet, massive sandwiches, bags of chips, and varied treats like cookies, candy, Twinkies, etc. We would watch as he would lovingly pack all of these items into coolers, periodically sharing some of his "food stash" with his posterity as he continued to get ready. I especially liked the chocolate-flavored space-food bars.

Next, Dad would assemble bright red and orange clothing which included baseball hats, vests, coats, mittens, sweatshirts, and warm, strong leather boots for hiking. The only part of this ceremony that I hated was seeing him clean his rifle. I've always hated violence and I didn't like the idea that soon, my father and grandfather would be out hunting Bambi and Bambi's mother or father. I had seen that movie---I knew what happened on the great deer hunt. So secretly, I often prayed for Bambi and his relatives to survive.

One year, my father decided to try his hand at bow-hunting. He not only purchased a fine bow for himself, but he bought cheaper models for my brother and sisters and I to try out. This time, we went on the annual hunt as a family, filling even more coolers with wonderful food items. Then we journeyed to the hills above Grays Lake, Idaho where we embarked upon an adventure. My father headed way up on the mountain side, while the rest of us hung out near our picnic area, practicing with our own little bows.

I soon tired of injuring myself (I have a knack for this kind of thing) with my bow---I'd managed to hit myself in the face a time or two with the back end of a couple of arrows, not to mention scraping the tender inner portion of one arm in the process, so I went for a nature hike instead.
I love the forest. I love walking around, savoring the smell of pine trees and wild flowers. Soon I happened upon something I had never seen before. It was football shaped, gray in color, and it looked really strange lying on the ground. So I kicked it really hard. Then I ran for all I was worth as a feisty group of hornets chased me down the hillside. I made it to the family car before they did and somehow avoided getting stung.

When my siblings and mother heard me screaming, they took cover, and also avoided getting stung.
My father never did take us hunting with him anymore after that adventure. I guess he thought someone's screams (okay, mine) were detrimental to his hunting success. ;)

The years passed. Along the way I married a young man who also believed in the tradition of the annual deer hunt. One year he decided to take our son, Derek, with him. Derek has been an outdoors enthusiast since he could first toddle. I swear that kid came complete with camouflaged diapers. In fact, by his second birthday, he possessed his very first gun---a pop gun his mother thought was hilarious.

Derek took this gun with him when he went hunting with his father for the first time. I believe he was around three. Sneakily hiding behind the trees in the forest behind our home, my husband, Kennon, spotted a small herd of deer. He told Derek to be very quiet and as he lifted his rifle in place, he heard a rather noisy "POP!" Derek had also taken aim, effectively scaring off the deer. I was very proud. ;)

About a year later, my brother and his wife bravely took my oldest two sons to see the movie, Bambi. My sons were respectively five and four. It was an afternoon matinee at a theater in Logan, Utah. At the climax of the movie, when Bambi's mother is slain and nearly everyone in the audience was crying, a loud little voice called out, "Nice shot!" Yep, it was Derek, and needless to say, my brother and his wife hurriedly gathered my boys and left the theater before they were accosted by the traumatized audience.

More years have passed by. Lately, my husband finds that he would rather take camera shots of wildlife than do any actual hunting. But being the good sport that he is, he will be taking his 83-year-old stepfather hunting in the morning. It will be my responsibility to pack treats, food, and drinks for this occasion. We call this kind of thing, "male-bonding."

I recently came across a certain pop gun the other day. I'm tempted to pack it, too. Maybe my husband could use it in true Derek fashion, allowing Bambi and his relatives a chance to live on to frolic in the woodsies for another day.
=) I will call it my contribution to the hunt.

Return to the Neighborhood

Monday, October 6, 2008

Liberty Jail

I noticed over Conference Weekend that there were several references made to Liberty Jail and to what our beloved prophet, Joseph Smith, suffered while incarcerated there. Two of my favorite scriptural passages are a result of that trying time: D. & C. 121:7-8; and D. & C. 122:5, 7-9. I can't tell you how often I've drawn comfort from these inspired words.

Twice I've been given the wonderful opportunity to see the Liberty Jail Visitors' Center that now exists where the original jail was located. The first time was in 1997 as our family traveled with a couple of other families to see as much as we could of the LDS Church sites that spring. The second visit took place last year, exactly 10 years later. Both visits were a much-needed spiritual boost. Here's why:

All of us will endure difficult trials in our lives. Lately it seems like that process has been stepped up a few notches. It is comforting to realize that not only is this necessary for our spiritual refinement, but that we're never as alone as we sometimes think we are. When you visit a place like Liberty Jail, you come away with the feeling that no matter what we endure, it pales in comparison to what others have suffered. A sensation of hope fills your heart as you realize that God truly is in control and that all things will work toward our good, if we so choose. So much is hinged upon our attitude. If we follow Joseph's courageous example, we will endure our challenges with quiet dignity. We will keep faith and hope alive, comforting others despite what we are suffering. We will not dwell long upon our own pain, but will keep our focus upon a brighter future, never giving into black despair.

Joseph Smith suffered, learned, and grew through all he endured in Liberty Jail. This dark jail cell was cold, damp, and crowded---several of Joseph's closest associates were jailed with him: Hyrum Smith, Joseph's older brother, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin, Alexander McRae, and Sidney Rigdon. They were kept within the confines of Liberty Jail from November of 1838 until April of 1839 on trumped up charges of treason and murder that were later proven to be lies.

The only light in this dungeon-like prison cell came through tiny slits that barely allowed sunlight to peek in at varying times during the day. There were moments when they were permitted to use candles, but for the most part, they were plunged into total darkness in this dank cell. Despite these horrific conditions, this sacred location is often referred to as the Prison Temple---a place where our prophet endured countless miseries, and yet received comfort and knowledge not available any other way.

I am grateful for the example of our Church leaders, past and present. If we will follow their counsel, we will survive all that lies ahead. The messages of hope we received this past weekend are greatly appreciated. I know that no matter what, things will come out right in the end. The future is not something to be feared, but something to be embraced as we heed the will of our Father, and remember the counsel given to Joseph: " . . . hold on thy way . . . thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever." (D. & C. 122:9)

Return to the Neighborhood

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Welcome Baby Crane, otherwise known as Aari

Eternal families are an important part of our LDS culture. And I think it's tradition to brag a little bit when a new family member arrives. =) As such, today I will share something I wrote the day before my first grandchild was born. I hope you'll enjoy it, and I really hope Blogger doesn't mess up the paragraphs again when I paste it in.

An Open Letter to my first grandchild (and to all of those who will come hereafter):

I’m a brand new grandmother as of September 30, 2008. To say I am excited would be a huge understatement. Adding to this excitement is the fact that my first grandchild is a beautiful little girl. Don’t get me wrong, I love my three sons dearly and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world, but I always thought it would be fun to have a daughter, too. Unfortunately, my decrepit body was uncooperative when I pondered having more children. So my husband and I have been blessed with three wonderful sons, a marvelous daughter-in-law, and now a gorgeous tiny granddaughter.

As I pondered your arrival into our family, it occurred to me that it might be appropriate to share some tidbits of wisdom for my posterity. [The rest of you can read along if you so desire.] ;) I look at it this way, I may not live forever, but blogs do. I read an article about it online just the other day. So in case the unthinkable happens and I’m not around in person to share these items when you’re old enough to speak my language, they will exist in cyberspace long after I’m gone.

First, Aarielle, and the rest of you cuties (I would call you all by name too, but you aren’t in mortal mode yet), know that your grandmother loves to laugh. All the time. At silly things, and even at things that aren’t silly. Laughter helps us cope with embarrassing moments, stressful situations, and life in general. I learned this philosophy from your great-grandmother who taught us to laugh even when you manage to hit yourself in the face with a piece of pumpkin pie laced with a generous helping of whipped topping. (My mother is gifted like that. Where do you think I get it from?)

Embrace life with gusto. This means enjoy the journey. Don’t sit the corner. Part of why we’re here is to gain experience and that doesn’t happen if you hide under the bed. Besides, that’s where the monsters live. =) Kidding. (Hey, my mother once told me that sliced apricots were the ears of bad little boys and girls. I still don’t eat them.)

Seriously, one day, we’ll be asked to account for our lives. We will have to look our Elder Brother and our Father in heaven in the eyes and share what we did with our talents, our time, and our testimonies. Don’t be like the foolish servant the Savior warned us about—the one who hid his talent because he was frightened that he might lose it. Show up for that final interview with grass smudges, dirt under your fingernails, and maybe even a bruise here and there. Explain that these things happened while you were climbing mountains. Then describe the view from the top.

Be thankful. Appreciate all that you have been blessed with, even if you don’t like spinach. (Incidentally, your grandmother loves that particular veggie, just so you know.) Realize that our Father has given us everything, and express gratitude to Him as often as possible.

Sad things happen. It’s part of life’s test. That doesn’t mean the Church isn’t true or that we aren’t loved by our Father in heaven. It just means we’re learning about sorrow, an emotion we experience here on Earth. The good news is the sadness won’t last forever. Have yourself a good cry, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue forward. You’ll savor joyous occasions more thoroughly because of those moments of sorrow. And when you see that someone else is sad, lend them your shoulder because you’ll understand how they feel.

Don’t be afraid to cry. I’ll be honest, I detest crying. But it’s an important part of the healing process. And there are different kinds of tears. Happy tears, like those I shed on the day you were born. Tears shed when we’re proud of someone, and tears triggered by heartache or physical pain. They all make our eyes red and puffy and our noses run. I’m not sure whose idea that was, but that’s what happens. =) It’s still okay to cry.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll see this statement on t-shirts, posters, etc. It’s true. Too many people get caught up in worrying over things that don’t matter. I know because I’ve done it myself. The trick is to learn to live by faith. Do the best you can each day that you live and don’t beat yourself up over the “What-ifs.”

satan plays dirty. (By the way, I purposely don’t capitalize his name.) he will hit you below the belt any chance he gets. he is miserable and he wants everyone else to be miserable, too. Remember this, we are stronger than he can ever hope to be. And we have the power of heaven on our side. Don’t let him get a foot in the door (this means avoid temptation) and heed the standards and commandments we’ve been given to keep us safe. As the Primary song stresses, “in this there is safety, in this there is peace.”

We all make mistakes, even your daddy. =) Ask him about the time he blew up our toilet in the main bathroom. None of us can be perfect in this world. But we can be happy if we’ll heed gospel principles. When you mess up, confess to the proper person. It may be your parents, your bishop, or those you may have wronged. Do whatever you can do to make things right, and learn from what happened. Then move on. Remember, it’s just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive other people.

That brings us to an important philosophy. It is crucial to forgive others. I recently read a book that stresses that when we deny forgiveness to others, we are denying forgiveness to our Savior, since He already paid the price for that transgression. It’s not always easy to forgive. Sometimes when someone has hurt us deeply, it can take a long time to move past what has happened. Simply pray for the strength to eventually let go of the pain. Peace of heart and mind are possible, regardless of what has taken place.

Never cheat. When I was young there was a saying. It went something like this: Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat. I can honestly state that I never cheated. I earned every grade I ever received in school, even the “D” I experienced in Algebra after moving to Ashton during my freshman year of high school. A former straight-A student, this grade didn’t set well with me. So I worked very hard to catch up with the other students who were pages ahead of where my former class had been. I raised that grade to a “C.” Still not an “A” but I knew I had given it my best, and that I had remained honest. Despite that bad grade, I still managed to graduate in the top ten of my senior class. ;)

This epistle is getting very long. I can see that I may have to write a few of these open letters, since I’ve gleaned so much wisdom during my “Adventure of a Lifetime.” ;) (Ask your daddy about the musical I wrote a few years ago for the YW I taught at the time. That was the name of the play, “The Adventure of a Lifetime,” and it was.)

I will close by stressing these final thoughts: Always honor your parents. You have been blessed with wonderful parents who love you dearly. They went through a lot to bring you into this world. You may not always agree with what they think is important—humor them anyway. They have been where you are, and they understand more than you think.

Know that your grandmother possesses a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was not an easy thing to gain (you’ll have to read my life history for the whole story), but it is something that I’ve treasured dearly. Knowing who I am, where I came from, and where I will go someday (hopefully) has been the glue in my life. You will have to gain your own testimony—never lean on anyone else’s. It is important for you to find out for yourself what is true.

You are a beloved child of God. He sent you here to learn, grow, and experience life tests. Never blame Him when bad things happen. Instead, ask for His guidance and He will never leave you to face dark times alone. It is said that we communicate to our Father through prayer. He answers us through the scriptures. I know this to be true. I have found so many answers to life’s questions in scriptures that popped out at me when I’ve needed them most. Study the scriptures daily and you will achieve peace of heart and mind despite dark and stormy times.

Know that you will be watched over your entire life. My own life has been repeatedly spared on more occasions than I care to count. Several of those experiences were miracles, like the time I was speeding toward a brick building on a motorcycle a young man was teaching me to ride. (I was a college student at the time, attending Ricks College.) I had confused the gas feed with the brake and terrified, I kept giving the stupid thing more gas instead of slowing it down. At the last possible minute, just when I thought my life here on earth was finished, that bike jumped at least five feet sideways. It then went through a narrow open metal gate, and the engine shut off, just like someone had turned off the key. A second brick building lay in front of me. I would have smashed into it if the motorcycle hadn’t shut off. My date came running up behind me, demanding to know how I had jumped the bike sideways. When he tried to pry my shaking fingers from the handlebars, he caught on that I wasn’t the one who had shut off the engine. I wasn’t the one driving either. =) Ask your father about seeing the small piece of brick that is still missing from the corner of the first building. It’s in one of my scrapbooks. The only injury that day was a small gash on the back of my left hand. I still possess that scar, a reminder of my brief patty spank that day. I call it one of my memory dents.

We don’t die until it is our time. So when someone we love passes from this life, it’s because they are needed on the other side of the veil. It’s okay to grieve for them when they’re gone, but don’t remain in that briar patch of emotion. Pick your way out and move on. Eventually that heart wound will fade.

Savor life. Enjoy each day as it comes, and always remember to find joy in the simple things. Money is a tool, not a way of life. Someday, how much money you made will not matter at all. But how you treated people will.

Goodness, I have waxed eloquently (IE: rambled a lot). So I will end this epistle for now. Know that I love you with all of my heart and that I will be cheering you on every day of your life from wherever I am.

Love you tons,

Grandma Crane

Return to the Neighborhood