Friday, February 27, 2009

This Is My Quest . . .

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm always on the lookout for tasty food. We tend to travel around a bit, and this provides ample opportunity to sample varying cuisine. This also means that periodically I end up with something rather interesting for my taste buds to experience. Like the time my husband and I were in New Orleans and I decided to order the blue crab special with a side of sweet potato fries.

Now usually, and my husband can attest to this, I end up with something savory that he wishes he had ordered too. The one time I missed the boat immensely was the afternoon I ordered the blue crab special with the side of sweet potato fries. I guess I was feeling adventurous; after all, we had just survived wrestling alligators on a bayou tour.

Actually it was our tour guide who wrestled the alligator. We mostly stayed inside the tour boat and observed, although my husband did coddle a baby alligator at one point during this adventure.

After we survived the bayou episode, we journeyed to a nearby seafood establishment located on the west side of Lake Pontchartrain. The special that day, as I already mentioned, was the ever-popular blue crab delight with a side of sweet potato fries. And I ordered it. This was bad. In my defense, I tend to sample new and interesting types of food. I love seafood, and I've always liked crab. When I picture crab, I envision tender white meat that you pry from a red-colored leg segment with an interesting metal utensil that tends to flip the meat across the room. (A story for another day.) This kind of crab is very succulent. Let's just say that the blue crab special wasn't my idea of a fun time.

I was slightly goaded into trying it by my husband's co-worker we'll call Gary. Gary had come to New Orleans like my husband, to help with a special project at the Monsanto Plant in nearby Luling, Louisiana. Gary had also experienced the alligator bayou tour with Kennon and me, and he was now having lunch with us. When we learned what the special was, Gary leaned over and said something like:

"Cheri, you've got to try the blue crab. It's part of the New Orleans experience."

Gary was not my friend that day. I followed his advice and when my plate of food arrived, I know my face turned an interesting shade of whiteish\green. Instead of delicious blue colored leg segments filled with tasty white meat, I was handed a plate that looked like a giant spider was sitting on top of it. Spiders are my least favorite creatures on the planet, so maybe you can understand my dismay.

The crab was deep-fried, but to my way of thinking, this just made it look like a big spider that had been breaded and deep-fried. Not a cool image when one is hungry. So I sampled the sweet potato fries first. One word sums up that experience for me: "BLEAH!" I should have known better. I've never been a yam\sweet potato fan. I love potatoes, but not the sweet variety. Maybe it's the diabetes thing I endure, but they taste too sweet to me. I always avoid dishes that contain them for that reason. (Nothing personal, Mom. I know you love sweet potatoes covered in a brown sugar glaze and decorated with tiny white marshmallows. Just not my thing.)

What a lovely combination I had ordered for lunch that day. All of my favorites sitting on one plate together. Deep-fried spider and sweet potato fries. (My stomach just knotted up at the thought of it.) The downside was I had already punched in a bit of insulin (via my insulin pump) to cover this meal. This meant I had to consume carbs or suffer an insulin reaction. And since I had ordered a diet drink that day, the carbs had to come from the food I had ordered.

I suffered through a goodly portion of the sweet potato fries, then kind of poked at the deep-fried spider looking thing with my fork.

"You need to eat that before it gets cold," my not-so-good friend Gary advised.

I shot him a withering look and then bravely attempted one of the legs. Blue crabs are smaller than normal crabs, and you're supposed to eat the entire thing. Yum. The legs weren't too bad. I tried to convince myself that I was eating a crunchy type of french fry. It was the rest of the crab I had a difficult time enjoying.

Gary and my husband each volunteered to help. I think by then my retching had indicated I wasn't enjoying my food that day. ;) I did courageously sample a tiny portion of the crab body, and I was relieved when it disappeared from my plate compliments of Kennon and Gary. Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief that this traumatic event was over, here came our waitress with another plate complete with a deep-fried blue crab.

"I didn't care for that crab the cook sent y'all earlier," the waitress drawled with a bright smile. "It just didn't look right. {This brought me great comfort. It also made me wonder what was wrong with the first crab.} So I'm bringing y'all another one . . . on the house. Enjoy!" And with that she deposited the deep-fried spider-looking thing in front of me. Rapture filled my bosom. NOT!!!

Once again, I bravely tried the legs, and Gary and Kennon took care of the rest. [I had pointed out that "y'all," was plural and meant them too.] When it was mostly gone, I beat them both to the cash register, intent on leaving before I was blessed with yet another crab. ;)

That was the only less-than-tasty meal I consumed during the entire trip. Everything else was heavenly and divine, from the char-grilled oysters at the famed Drago's, to the muffaletta sandwich we sampled near the French Market in the French Quarter, to the spicy Cajun shrimp kabobs I devoured at this fun establishment one night:

I love food. I love sampling different kinds of food, and although I'll never order the blue crab special with the side of sweet potato fries ever again, I can actually look back on that experience and not endure a session of dry heaves. ;) It's all part of the life experience to my way of thinking. It's good to step outside of our comfort zone and try different things. Just avoid deep-fried spiders and you'll be fine. =D

YourLDSneighborhood has added exciting new things to its website. Please drop by and take a look, browse around, check out our vendors, our radio station, our authors, our musicians and more. Check out the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to the yourLDSneighborhood Newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the newsletter brings you articles, products, services, resources and interviews from around the world-all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Book Review\Timely Author Interview

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Greetings. Today's blog entry will tackle a different subject. Instead of blogging about travel adventures, fun traditions, or interesting culture observations, I will be reviewing a wonderful new book, entitled: "The Forgotten Warrior," by Kathi Oram Peterson. I thought I would begin by helping you all get to know Kathi a little better. I e-mailed her today with several questions that I thought were pertinent. =) They are as follows, complete with her responses, and my helpful remarks. ;)

But first, here's a picture of the author in question: Kathi Oram Peterson. She's a nice young lady from Idaho, just like someone else we all know and love. (Okay, for those who aren't aware, I was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho . . . a "few" years ago. Also, in an interesting coincidence, I attended junior high with people from the land of Rigby, which is where Kathi was born and raised.)

And now for the informative interview:

1.) "Kathi . . . can I call you Kathi?"

"Most people do."

"Ah. Kathi, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?"

What first pops into my mind is I'd love to live in a cabin near the Tetons. But here's the deal. My parents had a cabin near Palisades Lake in Idaho. I went up there once all by my lonesome
. . . for two very long weeks. I wanted to finish a book I was writing. I took a watch dog, my fearless Yorkie, Lizzie. A lot of help she was; she'd bark if the wind rattled the windows. But the most troublesome thing was, I was so lonely. Sure I had my cell phone, but still to just see another human being was a treat. So while I'd love to live in the mountains, I couldn't do it alone. I'd have to have my family and friends there, too.

I hear you on that one. I love quiet moments in the woodsies myself, but I would eventually get lonesome. And for the record, the area surrounding Palisades Lake is gorgeous. Not to mention the square ice cream cones available at nearby Swan Valley. Okay, we weren't mentioning ice cream, but I threw it in for bonus information. And while these ice cream cones aren't necessarily gorgeous, they are extremely tasty.

2.) Kathi, I see you were born in Rigby, Idaho. Has this fact influenced your writing?

Yes. I had a very idyllic childhood. My summers were filled with floating down the canal, walking to the movies (there were two theaters in that small town), drinking Coke Floats at the drug store, going to the rodeo (the rodeo grounds were a block away) and participating in the town's parade. As much as I loved the summers there, winter was a magical time. Santa Claus would arrive in town on the fire engine and pass out small bags of candy and an orange. The stores would light up with beautiful displays in their windows. We would hookie-bob to school (don’t ever do that), have ice-skating parties at the Dry Beds, and most people participated in lighting up their homes for the town's Christmas Lighting Contest. The town definitely influenced the writing of my Christmas book, An Angel on Main Street.

Way cool. As you may have seen above, I once attended Midway Junior High with people from the realm of Rigby. (I lived in Menan during my formative years.) I travel through Rigby a few times every year, on purpose, even. And now my m-i-l and her current spouse live in this location. You're probably happy I shared that information.

3.) What is your favorite color? Dark purple.

What another amazing coincidence. Aside from the fact that my favorite color is blue and not purple. But purple is a great color. I even have a purple dress.

4.) What is your favorite animal?

I admire horses, have respect for lions, but I adore my little Yorkie, Lizzie. I didn't know how much until one day she disappeared. My husband was watching both Lizzie and our grandson in the back yard. I went in and took a shower. As I was toweling off, I heard my husband calling the dog, and I knew she'd escaped our fence. She's so little she can crawl under in many places. Everyone in the family started looking for her. She was missing for several hours, when we received a phone call. It was our dog's vet. A lady had found her, read her tags which had the animal clinic's phone number and called. I'm so grateful she was an honest person.

Me, too. That's often a surprise in today's world, finding an honest person. As for animals, I like horses, lions, and dogs, too, but I really like penguins. They're so cute; pinch their cheeks.

5.) Did you know that television was discovered in Rigby?

You bet I did. I had a science class in the very room where Philo T. Farnsworth drew his first diagram of a television tube. I wasn't there when he drew it. He was much older than I am. But the legend of the room lived on. The sad thing is the building is no longer there. Okay, so I am old.

You're not old. Trust me. And Midway Jr. High was torn down, too. I understand your pain.

6.) Where did you attend college?

The University of Utah. I graduated in 2000. See, I'm not that old. Okay, here's the thing, I went back to college after my children finished high school.

I'll bet you were excited over how well the football team from your alma mater did this year. I saw U of U play against Alabama, and I don't even like watching football on TV. But that was a great game. I even cheered when Utah won.

7.) What is your favorite food?

Love Italian. Pizza, noodles, cheese, and creamy sauces.

We could so be close friends. ;) Have I mentioned that I have a talented Italian friend who makes her own pasta and sauces?! Heavenly, simply heavenly.

8.) If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 items would you consider crucial to have with you?

My goose-down pillow, a strawberry Pop Tart, and my computer with internet access or maybe my cell phone, unless there's no service, then definitely the computer.

I so agree with two of those choices. (Lifts eyebrow over strawberry Pop Tart.)

9.) What are your favorite hobbies?

Other than writing fiction and reading, hmmm I'd like to learn digital scrap-booking. I received the latest and greatest software for Christmas, I just haven't had a chance to use it. I love going to the movies, I guess that's a hobby. Oh and I quilt. My oldest daughter and I took some classes. I'm not very good, but working on it.

Great hobbies . . . aside from quilting. Not that I have anything against people (like my m-i-l) who live to quilt, it's just not my thing. Mostly because I'm so bad at it and I usually stick myself with the needle and bleed all over the place, but that's just me.

10.) If you could visit a certain era during Book of Mormon times, when would that be?

Although I love the stripling warrior story and I'd do most anything to meet Captain Helaman and Captain Moroni, I'd have to say that I'd like to be in the land Bountiful when Christ came to the people. I can't even imagine how joyous that would be. One time I had a dream that I was on a boat that Jesus was on. His back was to me. I walked over to him. He started to turn about, and I knew at any moment I was going to see him . . . and then, I woke up. I've often wondered why I awoke at that time. And I realized I wasn't ready to meet him, even in a dream. There's so much to do and so little time.

Great answer, Kathi. I've often wondered what it would have been like to have existed during that time. I think it would have been so wonderful.

And you were probably wondering how I was going to lead back into commenting on your new book that is centered around a historical moment from the Book of Mormon. Now you know. ;)

I love history, and I love the Book of Mormon. Combine the two and add in a dash of time travel and you have Kathi's novel, " The Forgotten Warrior." Thumbs way up on this book!!! I was hooked from page one and had a difficult time putting it down once I started reading. In fact, I read the entire book in less than two days time, which says quite a bit for me . . . and for this book.

Here's a brief synopsis:

A young woman named Sidney Morgan is transported back in time to the land of Zarahemla right smack dab in the middle of the famed Stripling Warriors. Accused of being a Lamanite spy, Sidney has to prove herself worthy of trust. A black belt in karate, she quickly establishes a reputation as a valiant warrior, and she is asked by Captain Helaman to help train the Stripling Warriors for future battles.

Because of her short hair, and a tendency to defend herself, Sidney is mistakenly labeled as a young man. This proves to be an interesting plot twist. As is the fact that back home, Sidney's mother is fighting a battle of her own against cancer. It is after Sidney bumps into a trio of strange gentlemen I suspect may be the three Nephites, that she is propelled back through time, away from the hospital where her mother is being treated.

I thought Kathi did a great job of blending the two eras. It is obvious that she has done careful research and there were moments as I read when I felt like I was right there watching as history unfolded. This is a sign of a good book.

Warning: This novel ends on a cliff-hanger. Will Sidney find her way home? Will the young Stripling Warrior she falls for survive the current battle? Will Sidney's mother win her personal battle with cancer?

For answers to these and other questions, be sure to read this book--and all future books in this series.

And here are two purchase links where you can buy Kathi's book:

Also, Kathi is sponsoring a neat contest on her website. Here's the information:

People nominate a youth girl or boy between the ages of 8-18 to be Latter-day Stripling Warriors simply by writing down a kind deed or deeds that the youth has done. The entry forms are on my website, click on "Events", then print out the entry form and mail it to me. I will then sent each and every entry that has a return address a certificate that says "_____ is a Latter-day Stripling Warrior. It will be signed by me and three of the heroes in the book. The grand prize winner will receive a $50. gift certificate from"

This sounds like a cool contest. I encourage you to participate in it, and to read Kathi's book.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dog Gone Tradition =)

I think a unique tradition in our culture is the manner in which we spoil our pets. We cater to them, love them, and there are even entire stores dedicated to providing for their needs, not to mention animal hospitals, boarding schools, grooming salons, etc.

As my husband and I did our best to raise three boys, we were blessed with numerous pets. We've endured lizards (who would only eat live crickets we purchased at a pet store, or flies we painstakingly caught), white canaries, a small parrot with attitude, a goldfish who grew to be the size of a small Twinkie, an aquarium full of a variety fish, a tortoise who had a fetish for red lollipops (I suspect he thought they were a type of fruit), bunnies (one of which took the grand prize at the local fair, then flopped over with a heart attack later that same week when the neighbor's dog scared it as it was relaxing in its special "lawn resort"), a cat name Lucy who figured she was in charge of us all, and a plethora of dogs.

The dog who has owned us the longest is an interesting creature we call Brandy. I say interesting because of how she looks (much like a dirty dalmation: grey with black spots). Number two son (Derek) somehow learned of Brandy's existence when she was a tiny puppy. Her brothers and sisters were all sold as pureblood labradors. Brandy was the runt and looked nothing like her coal black siblings. We suspect there may have been an Australian Shepherd in the woodpile somewhere because of her coloring, but we'll never know for sure.

Because of her unique size and coloring, the people Brandy originally owned were anxious to get rid of her. I suspect it had something to do with the "One bad apple . . ." theory but that's just me. ;) So Derek was able to rescue this young puppy free of charge. (Brandy's siblings sold for around $300.00---$400.00 a piece.)

Derek earmarked Brandy for his future wise and all-knowing bird dog. Brandy earmarked Derek early on as the person who would feed, water, and care for her every need. It was a match made in heaven, or so these two thought. Derek spend hours training Brandy, and vice versa. Brandy and Derek both proved to be avid learners and it wasn't long before Brandy had taught Derek to fetch, heel, and roll over. In turn, Brandy learned how to sit on top of sage hens in a helpful manner. =D

In time, Brandy advanced to retriever status. Derek would take her bird hunting and she would often retrieve whatever Derek managed to "bag," (a hunter term I still don't understand.) Then one day Derek shot a duck who then plunged into a local reservoir. He gave Brandy the command to dive in after the duck. Brandy sat down and looked at Derek like he was crazy. She had no intention of getting wet. So Derek restorted to something Brandy has never been able to resist, he threw a stick. True, it landed in the water and Brandy later gave him a dirty look for this trick, but she finally plunged in and brought back the stick. Derek had to wade in after the duck. ;)

Brandy has developed strange fetishes through the years. She dearly loves to ride on the back of the 4-wheeler. She will even somehow manage to jump into the back of our truck and sit on top of the four-wheeler when it has been loaded for a camping trip, etc. As far as she is concerned, that 4-wheeler belongs to her and she is the only person who should ever ride on the back behind the driver.

Brandy buries every toy we've ever bought for her and they are never seen again. She prefers to play with rocks. She'll dig up rocks during the spring, summer and fall (she even manages to find them in the winter) and carries them around in her mouth. Then when you least expect it, she'll drop that rock on your foot. This is her signal to throw the rock so she can retrieve it. It's her favorite game, and she doesn't care if you happen to be barefoot. When that rock is dropped on your foot, you'd best pick it up and throw it.

If you don't play this game with her, she has interesting ways of getting even. I say interesting because for some reason, she has decided that if something goes wrong in her life, it's my fault. I've never quite understood this, since I'm the one who usually feeds her and I've saved her life, twice. Once when she was really sick, I hoisted her into the truck (no small feat considering she fought me every step of the way and we're about the same size) and I drove her into the local vet. (I was the only one home at the time.) The other adventure I'll share in a moment.

To get even for whatever has ticked her off, Brandy digs huge pits in my flower beds, ripping out flowers in her quest for revenge. This certainly teaches me a lesson for whatever infractions someone in the family has committed. She has also chewed up more trees and bushes than I care to remember. (And I still really hope it hurt a lot when she passed what was left of my Mulberry bushes. They possessed impressive thorns that I thought would deter her from eating them. Au contraire.)

If we lock Brandy out of the garage to go somewhere (this is her domain, according to Brandy) we'll come home to find an array of flowers all over the lawn, freshly dug from one of my flower beds. One day we came home to find the new little flowering crab tree my sons had given me for Mother's Day, chewed off at the middle. I know I was in shock when I witnessed this particular moment of revenge. We had to place a fence around this tree's replacement to prevent Brandy from killing it.

A few years passed by and our sons began growing up. One year, son number one headed off into the mission field. This was the same year son number two (Derek) went off to college. Brandy didn't like this trend one bit. Her humans were supposed to stay put where she could keep track of them. So when son #3 boarded the bus for his first day of high school that fall (Devin was a freshman), Brandy did something she had never done before, she chased the school bus. There was no way she was going to let another one of her humans get away from her. I called to her, but it was all to no avail. Brandy doesn't listen to me even on her good days.

I figured\hoped that Brandy would tire of chasing the bus by the time it rounded the corner and return home, but she didn't. After nearly an hour went by, I drove around looking for her, but couldn't see her anywhere. I called neighbors, but no one had seen her. Then, fearing the worst, I drove down the main street of our small town, a deathtrap for numerous pets in our village. There was no sign of Brandy anywhere.

When Devin arrived home from school that afternoon, he helped me search for our missing dog. He was missing his brothers as much as Brandy was, and to lose his dog too, proved to be a bit much.
We looked for that dog for three days. We called the local animal shelter, but they hadn't seen her. We posted a notice on the local radio station, but no one called to tell us they had found her. And we looked everywhere we could think of to find her. Finally, Kennon sat down with Devin and told him that we had done our best, but obviously, we weren't going to find Brandy.

This news tugged at all of our hearts.
I remember going into a room and closing the door to pray for Brandy's welfare. Devin was heartbroken, as was Derek. We had called to alert him to the news, and to pick his brain about some of Brandy's favorite hiding places.

As I knelt in prayer, I felt certain that Brandy was still somewhere in Bennington. I hurried out to where my husband and son were sitting in misery and told them that I thought we should look one more time. And we did. We found Brandy nearly an hour later. She had run down to the main road the morning she had tried to follow Devin to school, and got all turned around. She had found a 4-wheeler that looked just like ours and had sat by it for 3 days, refusing to move, certain we would make an appearance eventually. Luckily the owners of this 4-wheeler had provided her with food and water, but they didn't know what else to do, since Brandy stubbornly clung to the 4-wheeler.

You would think after that adventure, that Brandy would've ceased digging up my flowers or chewing on my trees and shrubs. To my way of thinking, I had helped to save her yet again. To show her thanks, she promptly dug up an entire section of one of my flowerbeds. It was her way of letting me know this entire thing was my fault. ;) I was still relieved to have her home.

There were other Brandy adventures. Like the time I accidentally locked Brandy in the garage with a skunk. Yeah, I paid for that one for a long time. ;) I smile when I remember the first time Derek brought his future wife down for a visit. Brandy seemed to pick up on the fact that she now had competition for Derek's attention. She walked next to Kristen, and whapped her hard across her bare legs several times with her tail as a sign of protest. I also laugh when I remember how Brandy dropped a rock down Kennon's pants when he was trying to fix a tire. This is a dog with a sense of humor and she has enjoyed life to the fullest.

Brandy is still going strong. She is older now, but she still rides the 4-wheeler with my husband, and yesterday, she went snowshoeing with him up a local canyon. (And yes, she is the dog who tripped me when I went snowshoeing a few weeks ago.) She dearly loves a good rock, and she still buries the toys I try to buy for her. In true Brandy form, she dug up more flowers than I care to remember last spring, and I'm sure she'll continue this tradition until her dying day. And when she's gone, I'll miss the tug of war we've played through the years over my flowers and bushes. She has definitely been one of a kind and part of our family. I think that's the way it's supposed to be.

YourLDSneighborhood has added exciting new things to its website. Please drop by and take a look, browse around, check out our vendors, our radio station, our authors, our musicians and more. Check out the Neighborhood.

And while you're there, subscribe to the yourLDSneighborhood Newsletter. In addition to being able to shop in the new virtual neighborhood, the newsletter brings you articles, products, services, resources and interviews from around the world-all with an LDS focus. Look for issues delivered to your email inbox every week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Contest

LDS author, Anne Bradshaw, is sponsoring another contest. Click on this link to check it out.

This week the prize is an autographed copy of "Lemon Tart," by Josi Kilpak. I've heard good things about this book. I'm thinking this contest is well worth entering. ;)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

Alexander Pope truly hit things on the head when he penned the infamous words I quoted above. It goes a little something like this:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

-Alexander Pope,
An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733

Incidentally, I looked up "expatiates" and it means to wander without limits. Food for thought. =) So in other words, we cling to hope in this life, doing the best that we can, and someday, we'll get to catch up on little things like rest, relaxation, and travel in the next realm. =D That's something to hope for, to my way of thinking.

As you can possibly tell, I've been thinking about hope lately. It must be important, considering how many times it's mentioned in the scriptures. I believe that hope is crucial to surviving mortal mode, and all of the adventures that go along with it.

We've been experiencing a few adventures in our neck of the woods lately. Some are incredible blessings, like the sealing that took place between a nephew and his wife on Saturday. Several of us gathered for this event at the Logan Temple and it was a wonderful day. Tim and Heidi were glowing with happiness, as this picture depicts:

It was truly the highlight of our week. And after witnessing the eternal union of this wonderful couple, we then traversed across town to the famed Bluebird Restaurant for a delicious bite of lunch. We ate, we visited, we took lots of pictures.

It was a fun day, and one we'll remember fondly for a very long time---even if we had to drive back to Bear Lake in yet another winter storm. ;) We returned home safely to the 2-3 feet of snow that blankets our front yard. Despite the white fluffy stuff, we have hope that someday spring will make an arrival. The Gurney's Seed Catalog showed up at our house over the weekend, so I know winter will eventually depart and I can play in the dirt. =)

Tomorrow I will be singing at a funeral. My sister's m-i-l passed away and it is a time of sorrow for this family. Still, there is hope. This good woman is no longer suffering from the physical ailment that caused such misery in her life. And family bonds are eternal bonds. This should give us all the hope in the world when a loved one moves on past mortal bounds. There will be tears and tugs at the heart, but in time, that will be replaced by a calming peace we call the Comforter. That precious gift helps us to survive stormy moments in our lives. It is a gift of loving hope.

Recently I faced quite an obstacle. I serve as the YW president in our ward, and the famed New Beginnings program is on the horizon. As a presidency, we had decided that it would be wonderful to show a DVD containing all of the pictures we had taken of our YW during this past year, complete with accompanying music. We planned for it to be a goodly portion of our program, something we hoped would be entertaining, and inspiring. The only downside: one of us needed to put the thing together.

I volunteered for this task. I had received a new external DVD burner for Christmas this last December, and I had high hopes that I would be able to figure out how to run it, and the new programs that came with it. As time progressed, I discovered that the manual that came with this DVD burner wasn't much help, nor was the online "help" site. It repeated everything that I found in the five page manual, which pretty much shared how to turn on the machine and plug it into my computer. Ahhh.

Now if you have been faithfully reading this blog, you may recall that I suffered a little head injury this past summer at girls' camp. A heavy metal pipe bonked me on top of the head. I suffered a bit from this adventure, and I still seem to have a few glitches, as my children would be the first to point out. Like the time over Thanksgiving when I asked one of my sons to retrieve some potatoes from our pantry downstairs. I handed him a bag and said:

"Would you please bring up some Yakima potatoes?"

I thought I had made perfect sense. In my mind I had said Yukon. It wasn't until my children roared with laughter (thank heavens my cute granddaughter was too little to point fingers and make fun) that I realized my mistake. Sigh . . . and yes, "Yakima" has become a family saying whenever someone in the family slips up in some way. "Was that a Yakima moment?" tends to be asked. Did I mention, "sigh . . ."? ;)

Time passed and I figured all was well. I've been playing several computer games that make one think, like puzzles, word games, hidden object adventures, etc. determined to help my poor brain heal. Then the other night as I attended a town meeting, I messed up again. This time I butchered someone's name. I've known this lady for years, and I completely botched her name. Once again, people were rolling off their chairs laughing hysterically. It was another "Yakima" adventure.

Despite all of that, I still had hope that I would be able to figure out my new DVD burner and complicated programs. And after a week of pulling out my hair, I finally experienced success. I was able to put together a DVD of the YW pictures, and I even figured out how to make a copy of this same DVD for all of our YW, since I'm certain it will be a treasure for them to cherish. ;)

I'm sharing this experience because I think it represents how we can cling to hope during these crazy latter-days. First, we have to be grateful for all that we've been blessed with, even items like snow. Because of all of this snow, we'll have plenty of water during the warmer spring and summer months. Stuff like that.

Next, we have to persevere, despite "Yakima" moments. We push on, doing the best that we can, trusting that we'll have the help of heaven after we've done our part.

And after we've endured a bit of testing and stretching, then we'll see the end result if we don't give up, whether it's a temple sealing, mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, or an inspiring DVD for New Beginnings that is our goal. =)

Hope does spring eternal within our souls, though we may not realize it when trials descend and all seems lost. The key again is to never give up.

Thomas Edison is one of my heroes---for this very reason. The man never gave up. When he was growing up, his teachers thought he was slow. He finally dropped out of school and his mother taught him at home. He finished his own education by reading constantly and performing experiments in the basement of his home. He never did attend college. This didn't stop him from inventing numerous devices that we still use to this day, like a durable incandescent light bulb, and the phonograph. He invented the phonograph despite the fact that he was partially deaf. What a guy! People like Tom inspire me to hang in there, despite my little Yakima glitches. ;)

So my message today is simply this, despite the challenges of our time, allow hope to spring eternal. I suspect when it's all said and done, items like that will be what really matters.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Blissful Tradition of Roadshows

Years ago, it was a tradition in our stake to put together roadshow productions. These were mini-plays based on whatever theme our stake leaders settled upon. Shortly after my husband and I were married and began residing in the realm of Bennington, I was nabbed to write my first attempt at this sort of thing. The end result was an impressive classic: "Dallas in Blunderland," complete with Uno Cards who danced the card shuffle. =) It was a silly thing, but as I recall, we had a lot of fun as you can see from the pictures posted above and below this paragraph.

Through the years, I've been asked to help with several of these productions. It was great training for the future Primary Christmas programs I would be asked to write, the numerous camp skits I had to pull out of the air, and writing\directing\producing a tri-stake Christmas musical I was called upon to put together one interesting year. =) It was a two act production that involved a double cast and lots of sound and light effects. [Yes, I lived to tell about it.] I entitled it "A Christmas Prayer," and believe me, there were several of those offered as we struggled to pull this thing together.

Our dress rehearsal was a complete flop. Someone, who shall remain nameless, (he was a grown man who should have known better, one of our cast members, and not anyone related to me) played around with our light and sound board, messing up all of our computerized settings. So that night, our cast sang acappella, there were no sound effects, and we had to leave the house lights on to see. Good times. ;)

This play was based on something that really happened in my father's family; it was something of a tribute to his memory, and I was crushed by how awful that rehearsal was. A handful of people from our valley had come to watch the dress-rehearsal since they would be out of town the rest of the week, and they tried to be supportive.

"A bad dress rehearsal means it will be a great performance," one brave woman said, patting my shoulder in a sympathetic manner.

"My prayers are with you all," another remarked.

"Have you contemplated moving from the area?" still another person sympathized. =D

We persevered and by the next night, my dedicated group of co-directors had helped me paste our sound\light board back together and the production was a hit. I remember sinking to my knees later that night in grateful prayer, stunned by the complete turnaround that had taken place. Everyone had remembered their lines, the songs had been rendered without a hitch. In short, we had witnessed a Christmas miracle.

Here are three pictures from this tremendous effort:

This first shot shows the nativity scene, and yes, that's my husband posing as an angel in the white suit. =)

These are some of the main characters from one of the casts. They did such a good job!

This is the final musical number---the entire cast came out onstage to perform, including me. (I'm the one holding hands with my angelic husband. What you can't see are the tears that were streaming down my face that night.)

One year, a good friend of mine was asked to write a script for the ward roadshow. That year the stake theme was centered around scripture stories. Her creativity hit genius level as she wrote and directed something she entitled: Mrs. Noah's Prayer. She asked me to compose a special musical number for this endeavor and we worked together to make it a success.

All three of my sons took part in this production (all three were also involved in the Christmas musical I mentioned earlier) and they portrayed some of the animals from Noah's ark. Two were bunnies, and my oldest son was a frog:

One of the neat things that came about as a result of these experiences was my sons' interest in music and the dramatic arts. All three of them took part in various productions in the years that followed.

Our two oldest sons joined a local performing group called "Showcase," and they eventually went on tour in California--an experience they loved. Here's a picture of our oldest son, Kris, posing in traditional "Showcase" attire:

Here are a couple of pictures of my two younger sons who were later drafted\encouraged to take part in yet another stake production. (This time I was merely the supportive mother and part of the audience, a nice change.) This play was based on Lehi's dream and it involved the past and the current time. As such, Derek was cast as the traditional Nephi:

And Devin portrayed his modern-day counterpart. He's wearing his football jersey, standing to the side of Derek in this picture:

These talented sons of mine even formed their own garage (I should say "basement") band. They all play musical instruments by ear and each one has been blessed with the ability to sing.

During his senior year, our youngest son was awarded a starring role in the high school musical "Grease;" he portrayed Kenickie. One night, during his solo performance of the song, "Greased Lightening," the recorded music locked up and ceased to play. Devin continued on with the song like nothing had happened and the neat thing was when the music suddenly cued back on toward the end of that number, Devin was dead on with the pitch. [This means he remained "in tune." I suspect there is an analogy in there somewhere, something about staying in tune despite challenging obstacles. ;) ]

(Devin is the one standing up inside the car)

Through the years, because of productions like roadshows, etc. talents were developed and shared. Confidence was hatched and nurtured. Lives were changed for the better, and most importantly, we all had a lot of fun.

For some reason, roadshows became a thing of the past in our stake. I suspect in part because of the busy pace we find ourselves enduring in these lovely latter days. I was happy to learn that this year, our stake has encouraged each ward to put together a roadshow. And even though I've been drafted to help with our ward's production, I'm still excited. ;) True, we're borrowing a script from the past (Shelley Burdick's creation: "Mrs. Noah's Prayer,") but we're planning on adding a few extra features here and there to make it a little different.

I was able to come up with a set of lyrics for this roadshow that has already inspired a smile or two. I'm hoping our cast will have fun with it, and that the people involved will take advantage of this opportunity to polish talents, nurture confidence, and spread their wings. That's what roadshows are all about, and that's why I'm so happy to see a return to this art form in our stake. I think we live in a time when it's important to encourage people to develop their talents and to boost self-esteem, considering that the adversary is having a hey-day tearing everyone down. It is my hope that the roadshow legacy will live on, providing opportunities for growth that are amazing and important. As with anything else in life, it's up to us to decide just what will be gained from occasions like these.

I'll end this blog entry by pasting in the lyrics I mentioned earlier. May they inspire a smile and perhaps a desire to spread your own wings:

The Smelly, Yucky Ark

(Sung to the tune of “Yellow Submarine)

Lyrics by: Cheri J. Crane

We all live in a smelly, yucky ark
A scary place that’s dark
This is not a lark.
We all live in a smelly, yucky ark
When will we disembark?
Noah’s the patriarch.

1st Verse: This began not long ago
When the world was full of woe
People sinned, and sinned some more
Then the rain came down, began to pour.

2nd Verse: If they only’d changed their lives
There’d be more than us and our wives.
But repent was not their style
Now they’re fish bait down a mile.

3rd Verse: We don’t know when we will land
The whole world is minus sand
We’re just out riding the sea
The only place that we can be.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Buford Rides Again

Sometimes it's the impromptu trips that are the most memorable. During the summer of 1999, my husband decided we needed to go for a jaunt. He had about three days off in a row that week and he wanted to drive across the Wyoming desert to see Cabela's in Sidney, Nebraska.

"Ah," I said, wondering if I had heard right. Only two of our sons could accompany us on this trip as our oldest son was working for a local grocery store at the time. When I explained this to Kennon, he didn't feel it was a problem.

"The boy has to learn about responsibility," I was told. "He's nearly a man---he'll be a senior this fall, it's time to cut the apron strings."

"But we've always taken family trips together . . . all of us," I replied, still thinking we should plan this trip for a time when our entire family could make the journey.

I was quickly outvoted and told we were leaving in about ten minutes. So despite my misgivings, we prepared to depart.

I made sure our oldest son had plenty of food to partake of (it's a mommy thing) in our absence, then I packed. As I recall, I was the last person to add my small suitcase to what had already been stowed inside the car. My husband's plan was to spend most of one day driving to Sidney, Nebraska. There my husband and two younger sons would enjoy the wonders of this huge sporting goods store. Then we would spend the night at a local hotel, and return home the next day. Since it was a mere 440 miles from our home in Bennington to Sidney, I knew this was going to be the road trip from hades. But it was a chance to get out of the valley and to see the loveliness of the Wyoming desert. ;) So I brought along my trusty camera and a pillow to sit on.

In the past, whenever we had come through this area, it was on our way to other places like Nauvoo, Illinois. I suspect this is why my husband decided we had to journey specifically to see Cabela's. On those other trips, we were limited on the amount of time my husband and boys could spend inside this huge store that caters to outdoorsy types. Now they could savor this store for a good 2-3 hours, while I read a good book I had brought along for this purpose. =D

I did wander about the store for a little bit, stretching my legs after the lengthy trip that day. There are several large aquariums to gaze upon that contain a plethora of different kinds of fishies. And I always enjoy looking for bargains, so I had fun browsing in the clearance section of the store. Then I sat down in the little snack bar sipping at a diet pop, reading the book I had stashed inside my purse.

When the menfolk were finally through savoring their favorite store on the planet, we headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Then it was on to explore the small town of Sidney. We saw a few quaint homes and stores, and my family decided to stop at a local grocery store to pick up snacks and such for the next day when we would bravely cross the "entertaining" Wyoming deseret for our journey home. (Those of you familiar with the area that lies between Rock Springs and Cheyenne know whereof I speak. Sagebrush for miles, emphasis on miles.)

It was at this store that my husband became rather silly. He put his baseball cap on sideways and embarrassed our sons severely, acting as though he was a few fries short of a happy meal, portraying his alter ego---Buford. The funniest part of that adventure was watching the horrified faces of those who had seen the Budford performance as Kennon then climbed in behind the wheel of our car and drove away from the store. ;)

The next morning, we took a family vote. None of us wanted to see the Wyoming desert again . . . for hours, as appealing as that may sound. ;) Kennon looked over a map we had brought with us and decided we would drop down into Colorado for the trip home.

"That way, we'll see country we haven't seen before," he exclaimed, excited over this idea.

I was all in favor of seeing mountains and trees as opposed to say, sage brush, so I agreed, as did our sons.

It was a beautiful drive in comparison to what we endured the day before. I've always loved the mountains and forests and we saw plenty of those as we journeyed home. There was only one drawback, by about 7:30 p.m. we were all tired of riding in the car. And we were still in Colorado. Our shortcut through Colorado was proving to be the long way around. It took some doing, but we (my sons and I) finally convinced Buford that eleven hours of riding in the car was plenty long enough, and we needed to find a place to stay the night.

Buford wasn't a very good sport about this, at first. He wanted to finish the drive home that night, which meant another 5 hours at least, but when he could see that he would be facing a mutinous crew, he finally caved.

The next town we pulled into happened to be Steamboat Springs, a ski resort village I had never heard of before. It was wonderful. We quickly found a place to stay, then grabbed a bite to eat at a local restaurant. Afterward, we walked around the town, seeing the sights. And that is when I fell in love with Steamboat Springs. It reminded me a lot of Jackson, Wyoming, a favorite family hangout. There were walking trails beside a small river, fun parks, and you could see the green colored mountains in the not too distant realm. In short, we had a wonderful time. And after a good night's rest, we were ready to face cutting up through a portion of the famed Wyoming desert to return home.

I learned several things on this trip. I learned that sometimes it pays to be spontaneous, and that numerous treasures await to be explored when you take the path less traveled. It's important to stop and smell the roses along the way. I also learned to vacate the store whenever Budford makes an appearance. ;)

Friday, February 6, 2009

High Speed

Today I'm going to discuss an oddity in our culture, the term "high speed." I suspect this came to mind because my husband and I finally joined the human race (pun intended) a couple of weeks ago and switched to a high-speed connection with regard to our computer. It has been a fascinating adventure. Before we made this change, our computer was reminiscent of a mule stubbornly trudging up a muddy hill against the wind; downloading anything took hours. Now it surfs the web at breakneck speeds, bringing to mind a chaotic internet freeway where things happen instantly.

My son and his wife send us pictures and tiny movies of our new granddaughter and within seconds, we can access these treasures. I can now watch all of those You-Tube clips friends and family members have sent, and I have enjoyed watching clips of some of my favorite bands performing. High-speed does have its advantages. That said, I am going to raise a yellow flag of caution.

Back in the early days of the world, or when I used to attend elementary school, we learned that two terms were direct opposites: slow meant one moved gradually or leisurely. Speed indicated that things were hurrying along at an accelerated pace, or according to my good friend the dictionary: "Speed is the rapidity of movement; the rate or swiftness of motion or action."

At a young age I read a story about a slow-moving, patient turtle who literally beat the stockings off his nemesis, a rabbit who moved like the wind, but was evidently not the sharpest knife in the drawer. The speeding rabbit raced about the turtle, mocking his slow movement, dashing off ahead to take a nap to prove how much faster he was than his opponent. As we all know, the turtle went on to win the race, and we were taught the adage: "Slow and steady wins the race." Hmmmm.

Another image was planted inside my young mind. At the early age of seven, I began reading Greek mythology. It was part of the programmed reading curriculum at our grade school. I devoured the stories that were intriguing to me at the time. One of my heroes was Mercury, the Greek God associated with speed. If you read the definition (the link you see available in that last sentence) from Wikipedia, you'll see the following phrase: "The word mercurial is commonly used to refer to something or someone erratic, volatile, or unstable, derived from Mercury's swift flights from place to place." Interesting. Also interesting is that a popular floral delivery service uses Mercury as its symbol. I wonder if they've read the definition of their mascot?

In today's society, we want things to happen instantaneously, forgetting that good things come to those who wait, yet another axiom of a by-gone era. We want our food fast, (And isn't it mind-boggling to put those two words together---they are direct opposites. Food indicates eating, and fast means that we abstain from consuming meals.) Even when we choose to eat at a nice restaurant where the food isn't cooked until we order, we still expect our food to be placed in front of us in less than five minutes. When it isn't, we pout . . . a lot, and take it out on the poor waiters or waitresses who have the delightful task of keeping irate customers happy.

We find ourselves growing impatient whenever we stand in line, regardless of the reason. We may be in a grocery store, at an all-purpose super center, at a drug store, at the bank, or in line to watch a movie, play, sporting event, etc. This common pastime annoys us greatly. We want things "NOW!" We've come to expect instant gratification in all aspects of our lives. That may not necessarily be a good thing.

I realize I'm probably a throwback to days of yore (incidentally, I'm only 47, not quite ready to be put out to pasture) but I enjoy the days when I don't have to run quite so fast. I like taking the time to read a good book, and to possibly write such a thing. I savor listening to good music, and I love playing games that take forever like Risk or Monopoly. And as wonderful as I understand the instant exercise programs like the famed Wii are, I still prefer going for a leisurely walk outside, enjoying nature.

Slowing things down in a world that is constantly finding new and improved ways to increase speed is a challenge. I often find that I am running faster than I have strength, and as memory serves, we are cautioned about that item. (See D. & C. 10:4) In fact, we're encouraged to spend some time every day pondering what is really important.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I spend time each day studying the scriptures. I also prayerfully ask for guidance each day---usually several times in a given day depending on the circumstances. There is no way to improve or hasten this important item, aside from being sincere and not rushing through our daily chats with our Father in heaven.

To my way of thinking, it is crucial to walk away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reflect on where we're really going. Perhaps this new favorite thought of mine: "Life is what's happening when you're too busy to notice." (Wayne Muller) is really onto something.

My favorite way to relax is to soak in a nice bubble bath and read a good book. That's how I start most of my days. I endure a form of rheumatoid arthritis and I've discovered that when I take the time to relax in the tub, I'm in less pain the rest of the day, and I can move about in a better fashion. This is good. =) I tend to pay for the days when I jump in the shower for 3 minutes before hurrying on my way. This lovely body that I've been blessed with, has been teaching me for years the wisdom of taking time out each day for important things. ;)

What are some of your favorite ways to relax and unwind? (This is a hint.) Regardless, I think it's crucial to spend time every day doing just that. Take an exit from the high-speed freeway our lives have become, and learn to enjoy life all over again.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Salsa Superbowl

It is a tradition in our family to get together on special occasions. We gather for holiday celebrations, birthdays, weddings, reunions, etc. throughout the year. This weekend a bunch of us spent quality time together for a couple of reasons.

Saturday was the birthday of one of my nieces (Kayloni) on my husband's side of the family. Thirteen of us journeyed to Idaho Falls to enjoy a fabulous dinner at one of our favorite restaurants: Chili’s. A good time was had by all. ;)

As we enjoyed a luscious dinner, we decided it would fun to put together homemade tamales and chips complete with fancy green salsa for Sunday dinner the next day. I’m sure it was just a fluke that this dinner coincided with what some people call the Super Bowl. ;) Since we were all together anyway and we did eventually have to consume food, we figured it would be great fun to create fun dishes for everyone's benefit.

Here is a documentary of the process we endured\enjoyed as we put this dinner together:
First, my noble brother-in-law, Curt, tidied the kitchen so we could dirty it all up again. We appreciated his efforts on our behalf. =D

Next, we cleared off the bar in my sister-in-law's (Jackie's) kitchen, sterilized the surface, then cut up a large bag of corn tortillas into triangles to make our own chips. We used a cutting board and a pizza cutter for this process, then left them to dry before we deep fried them.

While they were drying, we made up the tamales. We began by soaking the corn husks in a sink full of water. You can buy bags of corn husks in any grocery store. Soaking them in water for a little bit helps them become pliable when you use them to make up the tamales.

As these corn husks soaked, we browned the hamburger for the filling. Then we added taco seasoning to make things tasty. We placed the seasoned hamburger, refried beans, and cans of chopped green chilies into the blender and made up a delicious hamburger paste.

Next, we mixed up the tamale dough. Using a mix we purchased at a local store, we added all of the other needed ingredients to form the dough. When it looked like this, we covered it with a towel to keep things moist.

Now the real fun began. We dried off the corn husks and began to spread a thin layer of the tamale dough over each husk. It's a bit like spreading peanut butter on bread. ;) Jackie and her two beautiful daughters, Cassi and Cori, helped me with the process. We formed an assembly line, with part of us spreading the dough, as others placed a strip of the hamburger paste in the center of the dough.

The final step was to fold each completed "husk" so it was ready to be steamed. I'm sure there are a variety of ways to do this. We fold each side of the tamale dough over top of the meat strip to form a nice looking tamale, making sure we sealed the ends:

Then we folded the husk, beginning with the ends. We folded them up over the tamale, then rolled the husk up on the sides to form a neat looking package:

The next step involved placing all of our tamales (we made around 32) inside a juicer that also works great to steam foods. Since these tamales have to steam for an hour to cook, we like using the juicer since it's an easy way to accomplish our goal. =)

We made up green salsa for the tamales. We had purchased tomatillos, Annaheim and jalapeno peppers, onions, cilantro, & garlic paste for this adventure. After carefully washing the tomatillos (we removed the husk from each one first) we placed them in boiling water for just shy of two minutes. You never want to overcook the tomatillos or they ruin the salsa by tasting bitter. I'm just saying . . . ;) Then when they're cooked, you throw everything into a food processor and mix it all together with a dash of salt. This makes extremely yummy stuff that looks like this:

We placed it in the fridge to cool so the flavors could "marry" and began frying up the chips which were now dry. I forgot to mention that we had flipped all of those chips over to dry on the other side before we fried them. It's crucial to let them dry out---it makes for crisper chips and less chance of the oil splashing when you add them to the Fry-daddy. =D

It doesn't take very long to cook up each batch, and you place them inside something layered with paper towels to absorb any oil that might have latched onto the finished product.

Yummy!!! =) We were now ready to feast, and we did. A good time was once again had by all. I heartily endorse gathering together with family members to celebrate special occasions. Even if we sometimes invent reasons to celebrate, it's still a lot of fun. =D