Friday, September 30, 2005

Lonely junior

I was all jazzed about moving upstairs. It's still going to be cool. That office is freaking huge.

What I didn't realize, though, was how haunted this building was going to feel after everybody else moved out.

There are now only four of us left working here, and it's going to be that way for a few weeks, until we move upstairs and HR and some other offices move in.

On the positive side, I can now, with impunity ...

- Eat chili garlic tofu for lunch without worrying about offending my office mate, who has moved to campus

- Play music a little louder while I work (old Tori Amos for now, Spoon in a minute)

- Make phone calls in relative privacy

- Burn a candle

It's still going to be a weird few weeks.

"Solitude stands by the doorway ..."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

You missed it!

So did 4 others of the 7 people who said they were coming to lunch at my house today. Grrrrrrrr. What did their mothers tell them about RSVPing, anyway? Didn't they know I took the day off work for this?

Here is what they missed.

Chicken Salad a la Toni's Courtyard Cafe
(as close as I could get it, anyway)

1 bag Emeril's Kicked Up Salad Greens
2 Gala apples, cut in 1/2" chunks
2 navel oranges, peeled and cut in 1/2" chunks
1 bag dried cranberries
1 c walnut pieces
2 grilled chicken breasts, cut in 1/2 " chunks

1 c balsamic vinegar (just get the cheap stuff, you're gonna cook it)
1 c sugar
3-4 tbsp rice vinegar
3-4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook vinegar and sugar on high heat until mixture forms a thick (really thick!) syrup. Stir in rice vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Funnel into a squirt bottle.

Toss salad ingredients together. Serve and pass the dressing.

Out of This World Rolls
You missed my luncheon, but you can still make these for Thanksgiving, and your family will kiss your feet for it. And they are easy. No kneading! No kidding! You just have to remember to start them the night before, and plan to roll them out 3 hours before serving.

2 pkgs (2 tbsp) active dry yeast
1 1/4 c warm water
3 eggs
1/2 c butter, softened (very soft)
1/2 c sugar
4 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt

More butter

Place the yeast in the warm water in a small bowl to soften. In your mixer (I hope you have a Kitchenaid for this) beat the 3 eggs with the wire whisk attachment.Add butter, sugar, water/yeast mixture, salt, and 2 1/2 c of flour. Beat with wire whisk until smooth. Remove wire whisk. Gradually add remaining flour to form a very soft dough.

You will think this dough is too soft. Don't add more flour. It's supposed to be this way.

Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray and allow to rise until double. Punch down. Refrigerate overnight.

Three hours before baking, divide dough in half. On a smooth, well-floured surface, roll each half into a circle about 1/4" thick. Butter generously with a pastry brush. Cut into eighths (I use a pizza cutter). Roll each wedge starting at the wide end. Curve ends to make a crescent shape. Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray and allow to rise for 3 hours.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake rolls for 12-15 minutes.

This also makes an excellent dough for sweet rolls. Mmmmmmmm ...

One of the ladies who was supposed to come to the lunch today is in the middle of moving. Maybe I will take her some salad and rolls for dinner. I have a heckuva lot.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Foolproof sleepytime music

1. Lullaby - Singers Unlimited
2. Puff (The Magic Dragon) - Peter, Paul and Mary
3. My Father - Judy Collins
4. Skye Boat Song - King's Singers
5. The Little Horses - Kathleen Battle
6. Dreamer - Toni Childs
7. Corcovado (Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars) - Stan Getz
8. The Nearness Of You - Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
9. A Child Is Born - Singers Unlimited
10. Rain, Rain Beautiful Rain - Ladysmith Black Mambazo
11. Is My Family - John McCutcheon
12. St. Judy's Comet - Paul Simon
13. All Through The Night - King's Singers
14. Stay Awake - Harry Connick, Jr.
15. La Petite Poule Blanche / Fais Do Do - Michael Doucet & Family...
16. Fais Do Do - Kathleen Battle
17. The Long Way Home - Norah Jones
18. Family Garden - John McCutcheon
19. Train In The Distance - Paul Simon
20. Golden Slumbers - King's Singers
21. Rock Me To Sleep - Willie Nelson
22. In the Sweet By and By - Dolly Parton
23. Why Should I Cry For You - Sting

Blogged from within Rhapsody as a test! Not perfect (I had to edit) but not too bad ...

And the little connivers are FINALLY asleep! They were on one tonight!

Heard at my house tonight after bedtime

Sam: You can't have a scuba diver. Both of the scuba divers are mine. I got one for getting a haircut and one from Jakob.

Abe: How come you make up all the rules?

Sam: Because you don't make things up fast enough.

Abe: I make things up when Mom plays with me.

Sam: You're the gazebo. That's something that makes shade. Now, come over here, gazebo.

Abe: Okay.


Sam [clearly enjoying the rhythm of this phrase]: Butts are gonna be kicked, butts are gonna be kicked ...

Abe: Mom, you forgot to kiss me goodnight!

I can't help but notice

No love on the new format. None at all. Is it possible that that shocking green became the Watch Out for Mama brand? It was just a Blogger template, guys.

Maybe more than that, though. Shocking green is the color of my eyes, which people often mistake for colored contacts. It's the color of my faaaaaaaaavorite outfit in 1991: a silk portrait-collar blouse, a fuzzy wool tulip skirt (that I SEWED, with a purple lining, thank you!), and curvy-wurvy high-heeled pumps, all in shocking green. I used to dream of driving a VW bus in shocking green. The carpet in my last house was also green but the most shocking thing about it was how desperately ugly it was and how quickly it became gray in the entry way and in the doorway from the dining area into the back living room. Since I moved there is very little green in my life, in the indoors. Just the old towels.

Also shocking: there is no substance in this post. None. None at all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Time, will, food, fat

I just got back from my first of three trips to the gym this week. I actually like the gym okay. I go to a pretty down-to-earth gym where people are there to work out, not so much to show off. They run TBS with subtitles so I can watch/read silly movies while I exercise even if I cannot find my headphones (this is currently the case). I like machines because I have this slightly OCD thing about the numbers on the readout. Watching the calories, watching the time, watching the heart rate, watching the speed and the total revolutions. I do this the same way I used to count the steps up to my bedroom every single time I stormed up there and slammed the door as a teenager.

But I cannot say I love to exercise. I find it a little boring. My OCD thing is not enough to get me through a 45 minute workout and neither is reading the subtitles of The Waterboy. What I really need is a book; that really makes the time fly. I cannot keep myself in books. It's that binge reading thing.

I still go to the gym though, because I feel guilty if I don't and because at least nominally I am trying to lose weight. Yeah, just try to forget that thing with the peanut M&Ms from yesterday, okay? I do all right at getting my workouts in but I stink at controlling my eating. I'll just admit that right now. Maybe you would too if you rocked the kitchen like I do! HA!

Anyway, um. Where did that little burst of ego come from? I think it's designed to get me through this next part.

Next to me on the elliptical trainer tonight was an older woman, maybe in her early 50s. Not old, just older than I am, OK? I had to look twice. I've seen her before. Since April she has quit smoking and lost 60 pounds. I kid you not. I talked to her. Which is a little odd since I am not all that big on talking to strangers normally. But she was really nice.

60 pounds is about what I would like to lose. Is it possible I could have accomplished that since April? What a slacker! I didn't even have to quit smoking!

She spends 90 minutes at the gym, every day. I spend 60 minutes 3 times a week. There's a big key right there. I don't know if I could spend 90 minutes every day. I just reamed my husband last night for spending 2 hours at the gym and not doing the dishes, his regular job. (He does love to exercise, lucky dog. How do you get that way?) Really, though, if I spent that kind of time at the gym, wouldn't it take away a lot from my family? Or at least from blogging? Or making delicious creamy desserts?

Blah, I have to think about this.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Inherently evil

No, I'm not going to talk about treats in the office again, although I did just negate my Special K breakfast by eating a whole bunch of peanut M&Ms for second breakfast.

Saturday I cleaned the dead plants off my front porch. My herb pot died as soon as the summer got hot and I left it there along with various houseplants that never got moved inside after we moved into our house this past spring. It was kind of a death garden. Not really that pretty. But I always forgot about it because I hardly ever use the front door, sad as that is to say. I'm always getting in the car and driving off somewhere. (I miss my walkable Salt Lake City neighborhood a lot.)

Anyway if you leave a lot of dead plants out all summer in this part of the world, you have created a wonderful habitat for spiders. Lots of daddy longlegs and one fat, shiny black widow. I stomped on it first, and then stopped to shudder and think about what would have happened if it had been resting on the rim of the pot instead of behind it. I would have been bitten.

I have a feeling it's irrational of me, but I think black widows are inherently evil. Those ugly webs, that Darth Maul color scheme ... they seem like they don't really deserve to be part of nature. They are chaos and menace and destruction and death. Also, scorpions. One time I watched a nature show about scorpions and had nightmares.

And cancer.

Our good friend H, my husband's first counselor in the elders' quorum, has just been diagnosed with a relapse. When we first met him he was battling a growth in his sinuses. Now it's in his chest cavity, a soft-tissue tumor that is attacking his bones. He's hurting a lot. It's supposed to be incurable. They can fight it, but most likely this is what will eventually take him. Today he meets with his doctors to make a treatment plan.

I wonder if Lucifer spent some time on one of the creation teams before he was cast out. It's hard to make sense of this any other way.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More product raves

I did this a while ago and I have another product rave post brewing in my head, so here goes:

Yoplait whips in any of the chocolate flavors. It's almost like you're not eating anything healthy at all. Like when Peter from Belgium made me chocolate mousse when I was 16. Why was I clueless about this boy who was tall, blonde, gorgeous, European and made me chocolate mousse and brought it to drama club in a little yogurt cup? I don't know. It was high school and I swear I didn't realize he liked me until a year later. Duh.

Fiesta Cheesy Taco flavor Cheez-Its. They're made with masa so eating one is kind of like eating a small, crunchy, triangular tamale. This might be a pilot program in my area because this particular flavor is not on the Web site. Or it may be as difficult to get content up on the Keebler site as it is to get content up on the site I write for. Who knows.

J. Marco for clothes. I am saving my pennies for this now.

Sweet Cicely Oil for wood furniture. I got mine through my food co-op's quarterly order from Lotus Light. You can order direct from them if you like. Great deals on all kinds of stuff! The alder wood table I bought with my wedding money is once again shiny and beautiful. And it smells fantastic, too. Trouble on the monitor. Rising credit card balance. 'Nuff said.

Charmed by Dana. Email to get pictures of beautiful custom-designed glass and silver jewelry in your inbox every day. Plus she is the nicest friend! (Now can I get something free, Dana?)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Food for comfort: Rice Pudding

I am a totally emotional eater. For various reasons, some of them admittedly hormonal, this is the perfect recipe for this week:

Lion House Rice Pudding

1 5 1/3 oz can evaporated milk
2 c whole milk
1/2 c sugar
1 tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt

2 c cooked white rice
1/2 c raisins (don't be stingy, I always use more)

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

Scald milks together in a medium to large saucepan.

Combine sugar, salt and cornstarch in medium mixing bowl. Add to milk mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth. Add rice and raisins and bring to boil.

Add about half the pudding mixture to the eggs, stirring while you pour. This is important so that your eggs don't curdle. Return egg mixture to saucepan and stir over medium heat until thickened.

Remove from heat. Add vanilla and spices. Serve warm or cold. Chill to keep several days.

Makes an excellent breakfast. Hey, it's less sugar than a doughnut, and that's what some people eat. I want to make it with dried apricots and lemon zest. Wouldn't that be good? Maybe next week. I also have a recipe somewhere for chocolate rice pudding.

So many desserts, so little PMS to use as an excuse ...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Crazy is the spice of life

My friend B always has a little bit of crazy for me. It keeps things interesting. She is forever hawking some MLM thing or giving dire warnings about Armageddon or enthusiastically advocating various forms of alternative medicine or therapy. Yes, dear readers, the crazy we are talking about here is Mormon Crazy.

B has organized a book club. It's a Deseret Book book club. Oh, snap out of it. Stop groaning and read. I'm in the book club. Sometimes we read really interesting books like Moving in His Majesty and Power by Elder Maxwell. Mostly we read your standard DB stuff. I just finished volume two of The Brothers, a military-religious series about the premortal existence and the last days. It's painful, really. The writing is abysmal, the agenda too obvious, the gender roles nauseating, and the doctrinal premise questionable to say the least. But I plow through so I can go to B's house and sit with all my friends and talk. Because we don't really talk about the books at all. We talk about life, about being a woman and a mom and a Mormon. And that's what I find valuable.

Because in the middle of all the craziness, there is something about B. When she has a party, she doesn't invite all the doctors and dentists and their wives who live in her neighborhood and serve in leadership positions in the ward and stake. She invites us (the student family) and the HVAC workers and the IT guys and the carpet cleaners. She goes to the temple (an hour away) every week and takes a different person with her each time. And it doesn't come across as a charity project, it's just what she does.

She is open, wide open, about her kids and the struggles they have had, about her siblings and their issues. This is stuff that tells me she "gets it" about my life. She has taught me what it means never to give up on someone you love who has lost their testimony or left the church.

She hugs my little terrorizers and sends them off to jump in her beautful swimming pool. And she puts her hands on my shoulders and looks in my eyes with her own eyes full of tears and says, "You can do it." She reminds me that when my kids are driving me nuts, they need a hug and a prayer instead of a scold and a spank.

She calls at the right times. She sends e-mails full of exclamation points and capital letters detailing her spiritual insights -- insights that are real and good and helpful. She holds these book club meetings that are ... nourishing is the best word I can think of. Enriching. Maybe the way Enrichment ought to be, because we actually get to talk to each other about real, important stuff, not just listen to a speaker or chat over a craft project.

Basically, there is a lot more Mormon Good than there is Mormon Crazy there. And that makes me kind of love the Mormon Crazy.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Corner office!

There's often some confusion about where I actually work. Our people are a bit spread out. Some are on campus, about 5 miles northeast of Merced. Some are up in the former engineering building at the former Castle Air Force Base. Some are at our centers in Fresno and Bakersfield.

My group, for now, is in this gorgeous historic building in Downtown Merced. Formerly the home of the Bank of Italy, then various medical and dental offices, it's now fully restored and rechristened as the Mondo Building. County Bank is on the first floor and various UC folks work upstairs. Oh, you wanna stalk me? Bring it on. Pbbbbbbbbbbbt.

Most of my group will move to campus at the end of the month. The offices on the third floor of the library are not big enough for all of us. Space on campus will be at a premium for a while yet. So some of us -- yes, that means me, since I'm the most junior PIO in the group -- will stay at Mondo. My director and vice chancellor feel bad about this ... but there was really nothing anyone could do do get more space on campus.

And yesterday, I learned something that makes it all cool. See that corner staring at you from the third floor? That's gonna be my new space. It's currently the chancellor's office. I'll be sharing with the graphic designer, which is fine. That space is honestly big enough for four or five people at least. I'm gonna have to sneak up and see HOW MANY windows are in that room. A bunch, for sure. I'm thinking at least four, possibly five of those sets of two windows.

So, SWEET! Corner office, baby!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Team

No no, not the A-Team. That was a different thing.

Although looking at that picture, I see me all sexy and sultry in the center with the off-the-shoulder blouse, goofy Abe with the big smile on my right, terrorizing strong Sam with the Mohawk down below, handsome husband behind me to my left and ... the weird old guy with his hand on his face .... maybe I am destined to adopt a weird old guy next.

Okay, the team I really meant to talk about was the team I found in the meeting we had this week with Mr. T/Sam's teacher, principal, and the school learning/behavior specialist.

I went into the meeting extremely nervous. Not about what I'd hear ... I already know what a meeting about Sam is going to be like. I was nervous about how I would react. This crap is so emotional for me. When someone starts listing all the annoying and disruptive behaviors Sam is exhibiting, I kind of freak out. Most often I end up crying. Which is embarrassing. But I tend to take it personally. I feel like people (teachers, most often) are giving me this list with one of two subtexts: "This is obviously the result of poor parenting" or "You must know how to fix this, right?" I don't have an answer for either imaginary subtext which is probably just as well because neither one is valid anyway, and my head knows that. It just freaks out my mommy heart.

But things started looking up almost right away in this meeting. First of all my husband showed up. Thank you, students of Environment in Crisis for not hanging around too long and letting your T.A. get the heck out of there. (Isn't Environment in Crisis a horribly melodramatic name for a class? I mean, good grief. Let's not pretend to be objective or anything. Myself, I try to recycle and stuff, but my dad is a mining engineer and probably due to my upbringing, I just can't swallow the whole "earth first" thing hook line and sinker.) Anyway when Glenny walked in I knew I would be stronger. That says something, doesn't it? I should remember that at other times when he is annoying the hell out of me.

Then the learning and behavior specialist came in and it was a lady I knew from church -- not from our ward, but from a stake choir. A super nice lady. Who had sweet wonderful things to say about me to the teacher and principal. Somebody on my side! And then she started the meeting by having us all list positive things about Sam. Okay, looking back I know these are all professional techniques she uses so parents will not freak out. That's okay! I appreciate a professional who will help me not freak out! I love her for it!

I think thanks to her leadership, the whole tone of the meeting was very positive. We spent most of the time not listening to the frustrations of the teacher, which heaven knows I have heard already and school has only been going for a month. (I always feel like telling teachers to try being locked up in a house with this child for five years BEFORE he was on medication, because that's what I did from 1999 to 2004! Welcome to my world!! Of course I never actually say this.) Instead we spent our 45 minutes talking about ways to help Sam. Actually help! A multi-pronged approach that is not all about medication -- though it includes a change in that area -- but also includes sessions with the school counselor, techniques for the teacher, tools we can use at home. I feel so good about all of this. I feel like I am not the only one who cares about Sam's success. I have a team.

Sometimes when things get rough for Sam at school my first instinct is to pull him out and teach him at home. It is so hard to watch him deal with an environment that is difficult for him. But I can't do that at this point in life, and when I really think about it I know this is the best thing for him now. We are going to teach him to cope with the school environment. I know we have found good helpers. A team. And that means a great deal to me.

Today is Sam's first day on 20mg Adderall XR. Wish us luck and no side effects -- gulp ...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I'm not normally big on quotes. But this one will not leave me alone, ever since I heard it in the keynote address at the grand opening last week.

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Marianne Williamson (famously quoted by Nelson Mandela)

Right to my heart.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A day off

So I scheduled a day off today, to decompress and to get crap done around the house. You can probably guess, I have not done crap around the house. I moved Mt. Washmore from the bedroom (where it had to hide last night when we had company for dessert) out to the family room. I got out the power drill so I could hang a curtain rod. The charger is not working and both batteries are out. No power drilling today, alas. I ran a lot of errands, including getting a badly needed haircut and getting the oil changed in the car. While the oil was getting changed, I did some early Christmas shopping. Go me! I even got a movie to watch while folding laundry. But no laundry is folded.

This day is not turning out to be a whole lot more useful than a day at work. I guess I'll go back tomorrow. But first, Mt. Washmore must be conquered, quick before I pick up the kids ...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

And back again

I'm back at my desk. We have a new university and one exhausted staff. We can't rest completely because -- hello -- we have students now, classes are in session. We have a public campus where we can't control everything anymore, and that's a little weird. But it is awesome, awesome, awesome to see the students. They are so positive, in spite of the little quirks and challenges of a brand new campus. It's amazing and fun and cool.

As for me, I can't really remember what I usually do when I sit at this desk. It has been so intense with grand opening projects for such a long time. It feels weird to think about science writing again. Maybe blogging a little will help me bridge that gap. I hope.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Processing: the day after

So last night was my big event, the "Launching the Future Celebration." I made the programs, I wrote the script, I directed the soundtrack, I created the visual presentation. There was a lot of stuff I DIDN'T do (food, setup, tech work, speaking on stage, donor work, and much more) but this project was, to me, my work-baby.

For two days I thought I was getting the flu. My stomach was in knots. I had moments of panic where I thought I was going to cry or vomit. At the last moment I ditched the cue book I was supposed to be writing and my very understanding boss told me it was okay. Thank God for an understanding boss.

I used to perform quite a bit in plays and musical stuff, when I was in high school. I haven't done any of that in many years. My last show was the English Society play at BYU my senior year. I played Hermione in A Winter's Tale. (Great role, in my opinion!) At that point I grossed out about playing in-love with someone other than my husband, but other than that I did not have a lot of nerves. I wasn't me. It wasn't my heart on the line. Maybe that's why I didn't stick with acting and performing.

Last night it was my heart on the line. The words came from me. The sincere emotion came from me. I told the table of grad students I was sitting with (my husband is one of them), "No cynicism tonight."

It worked. Not just with the grad students -- the whole audience. I could feel the hush in the right moments, we got the laughs when we proclaimed UC Merced's athletic teams undefeated and when we showed a picture of a fairy shrimp, we got cheers when we showed faculty and staff members doing their jobs. The lights on the buildings were gorgeous, the fireworks exciting, the music triumphant.

The palpable relief I have felt since the end of the evening last night is an amazing feeling. My dad would say it's like quitting knocking yourself over the head with a mallet. Maybe. But I love it. So maybe writing and directing is more up my alley. Maybe I'm a risk-taker after all, and I just never knew it before!

By the way, the picture above is from the Merced Sun-Star, our hometown paper. You can read their description of the event here.

Oh, and the governor's coming today. I'm skipping it. I'm tired.