Friday, January 28, 2011


There are a few things I own that I have had forever. Of course there are things I keep for their sentimental value - dresses made by my mom for my high school proms and balls, elementary school art work, letters from friends, raggedy blankets. I don't think I'm a pack rat, but for me to still have something that I had 20 or even 30 years ago is not that unusual.

The rare thing is that object that is still used regularly.

This sweatshirt came from a shop in Trolley Square in Salt Lake in 1989. I believe I suckered my dad into buying it for me. Sometimes I was successful like that. For the record, I have never been to Scotland. I do have Scots ancestors and, you know, a tartan and stuff. And a really, really soft, old sweatshirt. Useful for days when I am sick or cold or both. It is starting to get a few tiny holes in it.

These are my huge, chunky Vasque hiking boots. They were one of my splurge items when I got my first job after college. In case you're wondering, that was in 1996. They went up Rock Canyon in Provo, a lot. They have also taken my feet out hiking on active lava flow on the Big Island, up a lot of stone steps in Yosemite, and recently, on a lot of long walks on icy sidewalks with Heidi the dog. I think they might need new laces soon, but other than that, they are as good as new. Excellent traction and stability. Hiking boots don't usually look like this anymore; the design has definitely changed in the last 15 years. I don't care. I love them.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Earlier this month we had a massive swapfest at Relief Society. I was super proud of myself because I brought about three boxes of books to it, and I only came home with two books! One of them was Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I grabbed it because it had an Oprah's Book Club emblem, I cannot tell a lie. I never watch Oprah and I have some issues with her whole materialistic/pseudo-spiritual philosophy (and she called her new thing OWN? Really, as in OWN more stuff!) but I have found she usually chooses decent reads.

Midwives was a good one. Part legal thriller, part women's health manifesto, part family drama, it kept me engaged as I blasted through it in just a couple of days because I have not been feeling too hot. (Would that a midwife could perform a lithotripsy for me, because all the doctors around here seem to be very busy.)

The story is told from the point of view of the teen daughter of a young Vermont ex-hippie lay midwife in the early 1980s. It's also seen through excerpts from the midwife's diary. The midwife is assisting a home birth during an ice storm when the laboring mother dies suddenly and the midwife must perform a c-section to save the baby. The state prosecutes the midwife for manslaughter and for practicing medicine without a license. It gets more complicated than that, but that's kind of the foundation of the story.

Considering that it's about late-20th century secular mores and pregnancy and childbirth, it's a pretty darn chaste book. OK for even very sensitive readers in that regard, I would say.

What I really liked was its treatment of how different people view events and remember them differently, and how even people who are as sure as they can be of themselves may look back on past actions with doubt and regret. Moments come in life when we make huge decisions. And sometimes we have to look back and question those decisions the rest of our lives.

It was interesting for me to read it as I am permanently closing the door on fertility. (Yes, that process is taking me a while, ok?) I used to have opinions on everything related to pregnancy and childbirth and nursing and parenting. Now, a lot of it is pretty irrelevant for me. I guess I have also learned that everybody does whatever works for them, and homebirthing hippies and regimented schedulers can both make good parents and have good families. Times have changed! I'm still interested in what people do, but I'm kind of past making those decisions for myself and definitely past thinking I have a clue how other people should approach them.

Thumbs up on the book. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sa-weet muffins

I found a recipe for agave-sweetened pumpkin muffins online and made some modifications. They turned out fantastic and I thought I would share!

Agave-Molasses Pumpkin Muffins
3 cups finely ground whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup agave
3/4 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons water

In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg; set aside. Melt butter in large saucepan; cool. Whisk agave, molasses, egg, water, olive oil, and pumpkin into the butter. Gradually add to flour mixture, mixing until just blended. Spoon into 24 greased or paper-lined 2-1/2 inch muffin cups. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Breakup letter

Dear Sugar,

We've been together a long time. My mom says you may have honed in on me even before I was born. We've had some great times and been to some great places. I've met you in pies and cookies and lately, some really fabulous handmade caramels.

Here's the thing, though. It's been almost 37 years and I've realized that no matter how much I'm into you, you're never going to love me back. I don't say this to hurt you - not that I think you'd care if I did - but I'm thinking that makes you a bad boyfriend. You might not be doing it on purpose, but you've been hurting me.

You're making me fat, honestly, and ashamed of myself. After I hang out with you I have a harder time being nice to the people who do love me back. Recently I found out that all this time you've been cutting me up inside, literally, scraping my artery walls so it's easier for plaque to hang out there. Dude, that's gross. Everybody knows you're not good for my teeth. You wear me down and make it easier for me to get sick. Also, I can't prove it, but I think the adult acne might be your fault.

So I think this means I'm breaking up with you. I know you'll be all cool about it and say "let's be friends" and stuff, but I just can't. At least not until I'm over you, and that might take a while. Maybe like a year.  So I'm not going to be seeing you anymore for at least that long. Period. I may occasionally get together with your cousins Agave and Honey, in a cup of tea or on a pancake or something. And you know I cannot quit hanging with that gorgeous natural beauty, Fructose. But you, I have to let go.

If you see me in a dark chocolate bar every now and then, just turn the other way. I will not acknowledge you. I'm just there for the antioxidants.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Swan Thieves

It's been a while since I reviewed a book. Heck, it's been a while since I read a book. Fall and winter got crazy. But getting lost in a book is good for my soul sometimes, and I was excited to read this second book from the Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian, The Swan Thieves. So excited that I had no idea it was available until I happened on it at the dreaded WalMart. This is my life now. Our library is closed because of a flood, I have a shelf full of overdue books, and I am getting my reading material from the evil empire because I can sometimes disingenuously squeeze it in with the laundry detergent budget.

I have told numerous people that if they want a vampire novel that will not make them resent the time they spend on it, they should read The Historian. Still true.

The Swan Thieves was engaging all through. Kostova has created a nice group of flawed but likable characters - even the main artist, Robert Oliver, is sympathetic in his mental illness. The book has a lot to say about the cost of loving a genius, specifically a genius who is kind of imbalanced in the brain, and the sacrifices made by women in terms of art and career when they love men and become mothers. I liked that.

It did remind me a lot of Possession, in that it traced a dual story - modern people studying about predecessors in their fields and discovering a hidden romance.  And Possession was so amazing, I wouldn't blame any writer for taking a shot at imitating the structure. Kostova did a pretty good job, I would say.

Maybe because I kept thinking about the Byatt book, The Swan Thieves didn't have the same wow factor for me that I felt with The Historian. But it was still a great read.