Thursday, July 28, 2005

Summer food

It's so hot here. Nobody wants to cook. The only options are to heat up your kitchen, or go stand on the 105-degree back patio over a hot grill. Neither is fun.

On Sundays, though, I think it's blasphemy not to cook a good dinner. There could probably be some discussion there about whether that's really keeping the Sabbath holy, but good grief, if we're going to have a day dedicated to God I think there ought to be good food. So two Sundays ago I was grilling some salmon with teriyaki sauce, and I had a brainstorm.

"Gee, I am already here with this hot grill ... I think I will cook up some chicken that I can use all week when I come home from work and I'm all hot and tired and cranky and don't want to cook."

So I salted and peppered some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cooked 'em up with nice black grill marks, and threw 'em in the freezer. Best idea I've had in a long time. We've had chicken taco salad, chicken pasta salad, chicken Spanish rice, and this little baby, which tasted so nice and summery I am tempted to have it again tonight, except I have beef in the crockpot with barbecue sauce, and that will be nice, too.

Chicken Caesar Subs

4 fresh sub buns, sliced open
4-6 leaves romaine lettuce, chopped
2 grilled chicken breasts, cut in strips
shaved Parmesan cheese
Caesar dressing

Fill each bun with lettuce and sprinkle generously with cheese. Put about 4 strips of chicken in and drizzle with dressing. If your buns are fresh you won't need too much dressing. Add black pepper if desired.

Have some carrots and cherry tomatoes on the side, and a big glass of ice water with lemon. Then go turn on the hose and play with your kids in the back yard. Summer's too short to be cranky.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The cute ones don't stand a chance

The reverse side reads,

Dino saurs

T_ReX eats diNoSaurs.

DinOSarS are cute.

BY Sam

Poor cute dinosaurs. -ed.

I am triumphant

Four hours later. I thought it was because I had tried to install my old printer on my new computer. In reality it was spyware, there because I tried to save $20 by buying a computer with an open box and BestBuy did not fix it. Dorks. But I won. It's running clean now. See, I'm handy with more than the power drill.

As a maybe-or-maybe-not unrelated followup to the post earlier today: Before bed, I told 4yo he was the best Batman ever. He responded, "You're Wonder Woman, you know." I'm movin' on up!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My new identity

So my 4 year old is totally obsessed with super heroes, especially their costumes. The important people in his life know this. His birthmom sent him a Robin (the Boy Wonder) costume for his birthday a couple of months ago, and he was a lot happier with that than with the action figures from mom and dad. Even though we did give him Green Lantern, John Jones, Batman, the Batmobile and the Bat Jet/Motorcycle Combo.

Today I emerged dressed for work in flowing red pants, a white tee, and a big white linen overshirt. Nice loose clothing for a very hot summer day in the Central Valley. I haven't worn the linen shirt since last year because it needed to be ironed. Ironing takes a year at my house.

4 year old immediately responded.

"Are you doing science at work today?"

You see? He thought it was a lab coat. His dad has one. So does Bill Nye.

I didn't take the time to explain that I am a mere science writer, not a real scientist. So why was I surprised at his farewell when I dropped him off at preschool?

"I love you, Science Girl."

I am now a superhero. Figures I would be a nerdy one.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Parts of my testimony

On one of my favorite bulletin boards -- a group of LDS women that has posted together in different locations for about 7 years and is now pretty much a closed group of friends -- someone asked these questions this morning:

What is the weakest part of your testimony?
What is the strongest part of your testmony?

This prompted me to do a little sorting. You have to sort your thoughts to write. That's why I like writing -- to me it's the best tool for the process of thought.

Here are the answers I posted, with some additions and clarifications. I'm an editor, too, after all.

What is the weakest part of your testimony?

I have been through some struggles in the last year with my testimony. I don't always talk about them because I know deep inside that I am never leaving the Church, and I don't want to inflict my concerns on other people who maybe do not have that same deep-down knowledge. I would never ever want to be the cause of anyone leaving the Church over stuff that I know in my heart is not central to the gospel plan. I grew up with a good tradition of balancing faith and questioning. I have a dad and grandpa who are very good examples of those things. Dialogue and Sunstone sat on our coffee table along with the Ensign. I think that background, and recognizing it for what it is, leaves me maybe a little better prepared to navigate the boundary between faith and doubt than some people. But it's not like I want to sit on that boundary. It's emotionally draining and I know sometimes lingering there is not healthy for someone who ultimately wants to choose faith.

I struggle because sometimes it seems like nothing significant is done centrally from the organization of the Church to correct flaws in LDS culture regarding the position of women, treatment of people with same-sex attraction, stuff like that. I think sometimes things are allowed to develop within the Church that do not have doctrinal reasons, and are just wrong, and that's hard to cope with. An example of that to me is when Black people were not allowed to hold the priesthood. IMHO there may be other things happening in the same vein right now. I think there are problems in the way we deal with different kinds of abuse, for example. I think there are many abuses of priesthood authority that occur unchecked. I think sometimes we assume that every decision in the Church is inspired, when that's just not the case. Sometimes we're just people trying to make things work. And sometimes we really screw up. It's hard. It can be devastating to people's faith when they recognize these kinds of problems.

I struggle because the Church regularly whitewashes its history to try to avoid explaining inconsistencies or changes. Recently a story was told in General Conference about Mary Fielding Smith and her ox crossing the plains. The person telling the story either said she prayed for the ox, or called for a man to bless it. Well the truth is that she laid hands on that ox and blessed it. And to me there would be nothing wrong with saying, "We did that then, but we don't do it now." But for some reason the Church does not want to deal with that. And it's frustrating to me. It's such a little problem and not worth getting worked up over. But it just sticks in my craw, especially because it involves removing the truth from the story of a woman who used her faith and power righteously.

And that just becomes part of a kind of corporate slickness I see happening in the Church that is distasteful to me. The beautifully produced videos and magazines, the satellite regional conferences, all smack of messaging and branding and other stuff I deal with at work all week. And it is a shame, in my mind, to have the real gospel message glossed over with all of this.It's ironic to some degree that I struggle with these things, and I will tell you why in my answer to the next question ...

What is the strongest part of your testimony?

Okay here is what is ironic about my doubts and problems. I think some things, like corporate-style messaging and "faith-affirming" presentations of history, might be necessary in order for the Church to make progress all over the world, and I have a firm testimony that the gospel message is needed everywhere. When I read about temples being built in Ghana and Nigeria I weep like a child. It's beautiful and right.

And as for the operational problems I see, I have a firm testimony that the Church is true and LIVING, and that means any changes needed will be made, little by little until the perfect day. So that is what allows me to continue in full activity in spite of some degree of discontent with comparatively minor practices. (Minor when compared with the importance of the real doctrines of the gospel, that is.)

I totally have a testimony of the core doctrines of the Church: the Plan of Salvation, the Book of Mormon, the Restoration under Joseph Smith and the continuation of living prophets all the way to President Hinckley. (Although I DO NOT believe that prophets never make mistakes. I think that sometimes they even make mistakes in Church policy. I think when we say they will never lead us astray it means they will never lead us away from the core doctrines, especially from Jesus Christ. And that is good enough for me for the most part.) I totally believe in the involvement of God in our everyday lives, in the importance of prayer and study and listening to the Spirit. I believe in eternal families and the importance of the family, although I think our understanding on that subject is pretty limited right now.

There is a lot, a LOT we have yet to learn. I think when we say we have the fulness of the gospel it does not mean every answer is there to be found in current scriptures, revelations and teachings. It means we have all we need to return to Heavenly Father. And again, that is enough for me, for now.

This is the first time I have ever really been totally honest about all this stuff in any forum. It was interesting to think about. Hope no one is overwhelmed. And I truly hope I don't shake anybody up too much. That is a difficult process to go through.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Props to Jake

My little brother Jake (who has been taller than I am for about 10 years now, causing people to look at me with scorn when I call him my little brother) just got a new job. He is going to be the property master at Juilliard. Yep, the Juilliard. It only took me three tries to spell it correctly when I googled it after hearing this news, so that's pretty good.

This is great news for Jake because after a degree in Theater Tech Design in 1999 or 2000 (sorry, I forget which year) it has been a constant struggle for him to stay employed in the fickle world of the theatre, with an -re. He's had some good experience but nothing you could call steady. He deserves this just for sticking with the theatre, which was more than I could do after I started taking drama classes in college and realized how strange everyone there really was. Even stranger than me. So I fled. But Jake just switched to the tech side and with only the bias of a big sister I have to say he is extraordinarily talented with it.

When I hear something as outrageous as the recent flap from Tom Cruise and his fellow Scientologists about medications and stuff, I just remember to myself how weird all those theatre people were, and say to myself, "Tom Cruise is one of those people."

Anyhow, props to Jake! Get it? Huh?

I'm so proud of him! Now we have two higher-education staff members in the family!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Shameless raves

Here is some stuff I am loving lately. Yes, I know it's just stuff. I know this is a blatant knuckling under to commercial interests. Frankly I don't really think they care.

Orbit gum. I never thought I'd leave Trident, but I'm a sucker for the cool package.

RealRhapsody. I just cannot say enough about this. Without it I probably would not be enjoying Frank Black's new CD Honeycomb right now, and it's awesome. Not to mention my rockin' awesome playlist of '80s electronica.

Power Bars. It's like giving your kids expensive candy, but it has vitamins and protein, so it's more than that.

Those little bowl-shaped corn chips made by Tostitos. I forget what they call them. They are so cool. Every bite is like a little Mexican-tinged hors d'oeuvre.

Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche with half the fat. There is a god.

Snapfish. I've been using it for almost 5 years now and I told our IT guy this morning that it's like a backup. If my house burns down I don't have to rush into the smoke for my family photos. They're all online.

Coldwater Creek's 50% off sale. Oh, yes. Yes, yes.

Self-tanning spray. Mine is a generic. It still works great. It's the only way my skin will ever be anything but transparent. And I certainly cannot go around wearing pantyhose in this heat.

I think that's all the rave reviews for now.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The babies who are not babies anymore, Part 2

Equal picture time. Here's my little guy trying on Grandpa's hat at Disneyland.

He's home with an ear infection today, being cared for by his daddy. Get well soon, Potato!

The babies who are not babies anymore

Not much time for a post today, so I'll let the pictures talk.

Here's my big boy at Disneyland, almost a month ago now. Could he be any happier?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Blueberry-Hazelnut Streusel Coffee Cake

I made this last night for my boss's birthday breakfast today. It turned out great. Our resident domestic diva (NOT ME, believe it or not -- we have a real Martha Stewart type on staff here) even asked for the recipe. I was very flattered. So here it is.

Blueberry-Hazelnut Streusel Coffee Cake

Heat oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 baking pan.

2/3 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter
1 small package chopped hazelnuts

In your mixer, which I sincerely hope is a Kitchenaid for your sake, use the whisk attachment to cut the butter into the sugar and flour to create a mixture with pea-sized crumbs. Gently stir in hazelnuts. Place in separate bowl and set aside.

4 c flour
2 c sugar
1/2 c butter
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 c whole milk
2 c fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

In your mixer bowl (you don't have to wash it between the streusel and this, by the way, always a nice bonus) place all ingredients EXCEPT blueberries. Mix 30 seconds on low. Scrape sides. Mix 2 minutes on medium.

Pour half of the batter into buttered pan and spread. Sprinkle with half the blueberries, then half the streusel mixture. Repeat with remaining batter, berries and streusel.

Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes (test with knife or toothpick in center for doneness.)

Can store, covered, until the next morning. Will make everyone in the office think you are a kitchen hotshot!

Friday, July 15, 2005


Some kids in my almost-six-year-old's summer program taught him the word f****t. He was so sad when he told me he got in trouble for this. My heart was breaking for him! And for the kids who probably learned that word from their parents, and the world they're going to grow up to. This could lead to a HUGE post about my agonies over choosing schools and programs for my kids, but I'll save it for another day.

We had a good talk about words that people use for hate and why we don't use them.

But look how good his writing is!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Stress, not gonna do it

So I was thinking about the laundry mountain, which I conquered Tuesday night, and the dish mountain, which has been growing since that time. Oh, don't get all bent out of shape, all we've eaten at home is turkey sandwiches, pizza and cold cereal, and we do rinse.

There was a time, a little over a year ago and for the five or so years previous, when I would have seriously berated myself for things like this. I used to say my work belonged in Bad Housekeeping Magazine. (That also reminds me of the magazine my dad calls Better Homes Than Yours, which I think may be a design of conspiring individuals to make women feel bad about themselves. Same goes for Martha Stewart, and don't even get me started on women's fashion magazines.) Now -- eh, not so much. Sure we have dust, and we have some dishes piled up, and the bedrooms could all use a good vacuuming. But the laundry is clean and folded, your feet don't stick to the kitchen floor, and you can usually pretty much find whatever you need. It is not like we are slogging around in used paper napkins and mouse turds and dirty socks up to our ankles. My husband is the Elders' Quorum President now and he has seen AND MOVED THE CONTENTS OF houses like that. (Their version of packing involved handing out garbage bags to the elders present. Ewwwwwwww.) My house is just not bad at all, thanks. It helps to have nice white tile and birch-colored Pergo instead of yucky green carpet. Even dust looks better on that stuff. I think I'm normal, and I think it's liberating to just say, my house is not going to be spotless. So you see, I'm not gonna stress about my house.

Yesterday at work I started thinking I must be unknowingly high on crack because I could not find two papers I needed -- a sheet of changes for a publication I'm working on, and a copy of a grant proposal. I still cannot find them. So when I was about to blow my top I left. Just left. Looked at some computers at Best Buy and all the crap (crap that I love) on sale at Pier 1. Nobody around here needs a high-on-crack writer with lightning coming out her ears. I was gone for an hour and then I came back and conducted a wonderful interview with an incoming freshman on whom I will write a spotlight article for our home page. Ah, much better. Moral of the story: I am not gonna stress about work.

Even DH is picking up on the no-stress vibe. He is up in Yosemite during the days this week (that's right, he's home at night, all you creeps who were planning on robbing my house and scaring me and my kids) and he is actually not leaving until about 7:30 AM, and coming home by 7:30 or 8 PM. In the past his field days have been more like 5 AM to 9 PM. Psycho! He confided in me that he was starting to hate field work. I told him maybe it was because he intentionally kicks his own butt every time he goes up there. Hm, there's a concept.

This is California. No stress.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Slash, slash, slash

I just finished Isabel Allende's new novel about Zorro's California childhood and Barcelona adolescence. It was totally wicked!!! Exciting and romantic as it should be, but with twists of irony, feminism, and awareness of its own constructs that made it just delicious, like rich chocolate with a tangy lemon zing. (Must I always come back to food? Um, yes.)

In Allende's work, everything Diego de la Vega encounters through his youth plays into how the famous California Zorro creates himself. The Native American values of his childhood, the political events in Barcelona in the early years of the 19th Century, even historical figures like the dastardly but lovable New Orleans pirate Jean Lafitte. Add in a few familiar figures from the old TV show and you have a downright fascinating exploration of the world of Zorro.

I always love reading novels translated from Spanish, like Allende's or Gabriel Garcia-Marquez's. There is a lilt to the language, somehow, even in translation. I so should have listened to my mother and taken Spanish instead of French in school. I love French, too, but seeing as how I live in California and not Quebec ... yeah. And it would be so cool to read books like this in the original language.

Back to Zorro. Man oh man, there's some awesome stuff that I just can't tell you without messing it up for you. Get thee to the library, or Amazon or something.

Bonus: my four year old has a black cape with a red lining in the dress-up box. I think I see a Halloween costume forming ...

Monday, July 11, 2005

This could become a problem

Okay, posting photos is fun. So fun that I will actually show you nerdy me. This is cropped out of a group shot of me with my siblings when I visited in April for my grandma's birthday. I really was this happy after a weekend being spoiled by my mom, sitting there with two of my brothers' arms around me. That was a very good trip.

You will note that I am a below-average Photoshopper. Please forgive my clumsy glare correction.

Child art

So Blogger has this nifty new picture feature.

This is art by my almost-six-year-old son, completed when he visited my office last Friday. You can see some interesting little-boy themes here, such as man (black), gun (red) and alien (Watch Out for Mama green). And unidentifiable cloud thing. In cooking we call that rustic, but in art it's abstract.

I have fond memories of visiting my dad's office to draw with all his cool pens and highlighters. Far be it from me to break that tradition. Viva the green highlighter!

True Confessions: I keep my clothes on the couch

Okay, regularly I do not. But this past Saturday afternoon, I got a pedicure and went out to dinner and then went to the gym, instead of folding the 5 loads of laundry I'd done that morning.

Now I will be standing in my living room in a towel every morning for the rest of the week, digging for underthings. 'Cause you know laundry does not get folded on weekdays.

But my toes look soooooo sexy!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Margarita Red Lentil Salad

I just made that name up to sound fancy. I made this salad up last night. Actually it is kind of fancy. It was so delicious that my husband took the leftovers to work with him today. And I was kind of mad that he did!

I will freely admit that I borrowed this concept from a recipe in my Moosewood Daily Special cookbook. (An excellent cookbook, by the way.) But I think I have made it my own. Theirs used regular brown lentils, apples, herbs, and a dijon dressing. It was good, make no mistake. But mine is so much more ... summer. And summer it is. High of 96 today. Soak up the sun!

Margarita Red Lentil Salad

1.5 c short-grain brown rice, cooked
1 c red lentils, cooked until slightly firm (how about al dente for lentils? Can you do that?)
About 1.5 c firm summer fruit, diced (I used apricots and nectarines, but peaches or plums would also be lovely)
1 small red or yellow bell pepper, diced
2 green onions (scallions), white and green parts, sliced thin

juice and zest of one large lime
1/2 c olive oil
liberal salt and a little black pepper

Combine all salad ingredients. Whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over and stir to combine.

Serve on a bed of mixed greens with some nice crusty bread.

Ah, summer!

This would probably serve 4-6 if they were not pigs about it. We were pigs about it, ourselves.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hey, I won

I called the radio station today and won 2 tickets to the preview of The Fantastic 4. Yay, a date! To get there, we have to drive to Fresno to pick up the tickets and then find the theater in Clovis (north of Fresno -- kind of where the temple is). Yay, a long date! And it's tomorrow!

I'm totally excited for this movie. I don't know if this comes from living in little boy world as I did for 5 years, or what, but I get totally jazzed over superhero and comic book movies. Maybe it is just my inner geek showing through. For example, that upside down kiss in Spiderman? Hottest movie kiss, ever, in my book.

Speaking of which, the DJ was a huge flirt. He kept playing my laugh back to me and it got a little embarrassing. Then after finding out my birthday (they have to do that, I guess) he asked me if what he heard about thirtysomething women was true. Thank goodness we were no longer on the air at that point. I told him ...

YES, IT'S ALL TRUE! Not that it's any of his business, but life is good lately. That will set his little mind spinning when I pick up the tickets tomorrow ... slightly chubby, slightly mommyish looking me.

Guess I better start calling for a babysitter.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Now reeling in an office near you

After a week on vacation (Disneyland) and a holiday weekend with houseguests, I am back at work.

Once again we had an awesome vacation, and I have to remind myself that staying at home with my kids on an everyday basis was not, is not and never will be the same as taking a vacation with my kids. It was hard to come back into the office today. I have to remind myself I'm doing the right thing here.

I am reading "Eve and the Mortal Journey" by Beverly Campbell for my friend's Deseret Book book club. There's a lot of fluff in there but there's also an amazing passage from President Hinckley that made me cry, expressing his understanding and sympathy for working moms. Maybe tomorrow I will find it and blog about it some more.

For now, I have so stinking much to do, and I'm so tired.