Monday, December 31, 2007

Welcome, 2008!

I was watching the ball drop on some New Year's special (I don't even remember whose it was), and as the crowds at Times Square were laughing and cheering, the camera caught a particular couple: He was on one knee, proposing in the middle of the hoards of people. It touched me, and it reminded me why we celebrate the coming of a new year. A new year marks a new beginning, a time for us to start over, to leave the past behind and make ourselves and our lives better.

And so, dear friends, here are my wishes for you at the coming of this New Year.


May your souls be filled with joy, your hearts with love, and your life with laughter.

May this year be better than the last.

May you continue on the path of love, whether it involves finding your someone or cherishing the one you have.

May you set and meet worthy goals.

May you forgive yourself your mistakes.

May you strive to be better than yesterday.

May you show your love with words and deeds.

May you help someone in need.

May you reach for your dreams.

May you and yours be healthy and happy.

May your trials not break you and your heartache be eased.

May you have someone to lean on in through the rough patches.

May you find joy in the small things in life.

May you love and be loved.


Happy New Year! The slate is blank again - it's up to you to fill it in.




Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Venting Fruststration So I Can Get Back in the Christmas Spirit

My dog just attacked another dog. Not just any other dog, either, but her best doggy-friend, my boss's dog. How does one respond to a situation like that? Especially a one like me, who is rather prone to freakoutage.

Here's what happened. I'm sitting at work, trying to make another 2400 labels because the last 2400 got all messed up, and all of a sudden I hear doggy yelping and screeching. So I look out the window, and they're in their usual wrestling position, only it's clear something has gone very wrong. I can't tell which is yelping, so I yell and them both, which usually gets them apart, but not this time. So then I think maybe their collars got stuck together somehow, so I run downstairs and get outside just in time to see my boss (who is my dad's partner, which is how he's my boss even though I work for my dad) walking out of the pen with his dog and a stick. "What the heck is going on?" I ask
"These dogs can't be together anymore!" he yells. "Your dog had mine by the throat and damn near killed him!" So he's yelling at me, which I understand, because it's an upsetting situation, but I don't respond to yelling well at all. And my dog is just sitting there inside the fence, just like nothing happened.

I go into the pen with her and check her out to see if maybe she's hurt or something, thinking that maybe he hurt her and she was defending herself, but no, she's fine. I start lecturing her, she she's just looking at me like, "What the heck are you talking about?" Then Lee (the boss-guy) comes out carrying Buddy (the dog victim) and Sadie (my dog) freaks and starts barking and growling!

So now my dog is an outlaw. Well, not really I suppose, but that's how I feel. I have to leave her at home now - not mandated by anyone, but it's the obvious appropriate reaction - and it's going to be as hard for me as it will be for her. It frustrates me that everyone seems to think she's a bad dog, when she's acutally very sweet. And I know you're thinking, "But she attacked another dog!" but this is VERY out of character for her. She's generally very submissive, and she and Buddy have been playing everyday for six months without a single incident.

Really, this is about me. Frankly, I haven't had the best couple of years, and I've been so lonely. Getting Sadie was the best thing I've done for myself, and I'm really attached to her. She pretty much goes everywhere with me. I'm having issues with my current situation, and I know this is going to end up being a big issue, and I'm going to end up crying. The most frustrating thing? If I talk to anyone about it, they'll tell me that I'm overreacting, and I'm taking things too personally, and I'm being irrational, all of which I already know. It just doesn't change how I feel. So I'm sending it out into the void in hopes that it will cure me of the need to vent and the anxiety, and I'll be able to go spend the evening with my family without freaking out. See? I'm already freaking out. I will not cry. Will. Not. Cry.


Does she look vicious to you?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

More Nativity

Eight Maids a-Milking



Nine Ladies Dancing



Ten Lords a-Leaping



Eleven Pipers Piping

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Laryngitis S-U-C-K-S

I've never really had laryngitis before. I've been hoarse, obviously, but never acutally lost my voice. And trust me, this time it's GONE. No matter how hard I try, all I can get out it a pathetic whisper. I've given up talking for today, which has made me realize what a chatterbox I actually am. This is hard!

Laryngitis. What a bummer. Just my luck that it would happen two days before I'm supposed to sing in church.

I could use your prayers, or your whatevers if you're not the praying kind.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Seven Swans a-Swimming


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Tagging

I'm it! Jessie tagged me.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?


I'm all about wrapping paper. I love to wrap gifts. I did see this way cute bag the other day though, and had to resist buying it.

2. Real tree or artificial?

Growing up we always had a real tree, and I love it. I love the smell and decorating it - basically the whole thing. Now, though, I think that artificial trees are just so much more cost effective and convenient.

3. When do you put your tree up?

I always wanted to put up the tree way before my parents did. I'm a first week of December kind of girl, and my parents are week before Christmas people.

4. When do you take it down?

We always took ours down on New Year's day. I've been known to leave mine up until February (when I was in college).

5. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?

Hot chocolate all the way.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

One year my brother won some money in the lottery and he bought me a Barbie car and boat with a trailer. That was the coolest present ever - plus it was the biggest package.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene?

Yes, I bought it in Stewart Island, New Zealand. It was ridiculously expensive, but I love it and to me it's invaluable.

8. Hardest person to buy for?

My brother-in-law. I NEVER know what to get him. Neither does my sister, acutally.

9. Easiest person to buy for?

Felicia. I know her so well, I'm always coming across something and thinking, "Felicia would love that!"

10. Worst Christmas gift ever received?

I can't think of one, but one year my very "au-naturale" sister got a giant bottle of hairspray.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards?

Mail. Email cards are lame.

12. Favorite movie?

It's a Wonderful Life. I watched it for the first time last year and bawled my head off. Seriously, runny nose, choking sobs. I was almost recovered, but the the angel got his wings and that set me off again.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

No way. I'm not really a re-gifter. I like finding the perfect gift too much.

14. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Pine nuts and fudge. Not together.

15. Clear or colored lights?

I'm a big fan of colored lights, especially on houses. There are these new colored icicle lights that I LOVE. I'm all for white lights on trees, though.

16. Favorite Christmas song?

O Holy Night or The First Noel.

17. Travel or stay home?

Either, as long as I'm with my family.

18. Can you name all the Santa's reindeer?

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Ruldoph. I have an album with this guy reciting "T'was the Night Before Christmas" to music, and he skips Cupid. It drives me nuts. What's wrong with Cupid? Does he have something against Cupid?

19. Angel or Star?

Angel, but it has to be a classy one.

20. Favorite Christmas memory?

Playing poker with my family and the "ghost" of John, and the look our foreign exchange student gave us when we wouldn't let her sit in his chair. I love my family. We're such freaks.

I tag Sara, Laurel and Esme.

Four Calling Birds, Five Gold Rings and Six Geese a-Laying

I'm clearly not very good at this everyday thing. Sorry.

Sunday:




Monday:






Tuesday:


Monday, December 17, 2007

Judging a Book by Its Cover

I was reminded of the truth of an old adage "don't judge a book by its cover" yesterday (that only applies metaphorically, by the way - you can totally judge an acutal book by its cover). There is this man that attends my church, and I have been rather impressed by him since I moved back home. He's a very rough-looking man. His hair is cut short, he has a beard. He had pierced ears and occasionally wears earrings to church. He has several tattoos on his arms; one on each forearm, so they're visible when he is in shirtsleeves. He usually wears a nice suit that fits him well, but it looks unnatural on him. Let's just say that if I didn't know him, I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley.

Here's where the lesson comes in: This is one of the most gentle, loving men I have ever met. He's married and has four kids, only one of which is his. The older kids use his name, even though they haven't been legally adopted. No one knows where their dad is, so he can't relinquish parental rights. I have seen this scary-looking man play with his wife's hair and stroke her cheek during meetings. I've seen him cuddle his 10 year old daughter on his lap. I've seen him drop her off and activity with a hug and several kisses. The entire family is at church every Sunday, and if I didn't know that the older kids weren't his, I would never guess.

The moral of this story? If the "book" is a person, don't judge it by the cover. You never know what goodness is living inside the pages.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Three French Hens

Friday, December 14, 2007

Two Turtle Doves

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Partidge in a Pear Tree

There are two traditions in my family regarding The 12 Days of Christmas. When I was young, my mom and I would choose someone who we felt needed a little boost around Christmastime, and we would leave a gift on their doorstep everyday. They were usually small things, but the people appreciated the thought. I couldn't think of anyone to do it for this year, and I'm a little short on funds, so I can't give 12 gifts, so I thought I would gift you all for the 12 days.

The other tradition we have revolves around a nativity set. We've had the same set for years. My dad made a stable to house all the figures, and he would put out a new one every morning. Each day I would race into the living room to see which new figure had appeared that day. This year, I'm doing the same thing for you! And so . . .

On the First Day of Christmas:




Two pieces today, since they're both background.

One Finger

I found a fun new blog today - Vintage Thirty, written by Tootsie Farklepants. Yes, it's the coolest name ever. I was inspired by Ms. Farklepants (who shared her favorite commercial here) to share my own favorite commercial. Ready? Here we go!



Save Holland. Hahahahahaha! Dang that's funny.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

German Pancakes

Here's a recipe for one of my favorite lazy morning treats.

3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter

Coat large cast iron pan with oil. Place pan in oven to preheat. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Whip eggs with french whip until well mixed. Combine flour and salt (original recipe says to sift, but I never do). Add flour and salt to eggs in four additions, beating just until smooth after each addition. Add milk in two additions, beating slightly after each. Lightly beat in melted butter. Pour batter into cast iron pan (carefully!) and bake for 15 minutes at 450. After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake for 10 more minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR! Top with syrup and powdered sugar and enjoy!

German pancakes are my favorite, and they're so easy to make, but they make you look like a fabulous cook. Look:




However, take note of the all caps "DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR." Don't do it. Not ever. Your pancake will fall and it will cook funny. Just trust me.

If you don't have a cast iron pan, you should buy one. Just kidding. Well, actually, you should, since cast iron pans are good to have, both for cooking and for weapons. The point is that you don't really need one for this recipe. You could do it in a glass cake pan, but if you do, don't preheat the pan with the oven, and you'll have to cook it at 450 for 25 minutes instead of 15. Still cook it for 10 at 350 though.

Here's some more advice. When pouring the batter into the pan, be very careful. If you're not, you might accidentally touch the very hot pan handle and end up looking like this:

In case you can't tell, that's my arm, and the nasty red streak is an incredibly painful burn.

Also, this doesn't really feed that many people, so if you're feeding more than four, you should probably double it. Don't worry about using a bigger pan or anything - they'll just be thicker.

So, grasshoppers: mix, bake and enjoy! Carefully.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cleaning, Exercise and Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie

I cleaned my bedroom, bathroom and car on Saturday. It was pretty gross. Actually, the bedroom wasn't so bad at all, once I put away the clean clothes and washed the rest. I also had to wrap presents because they were starting to pile up. The car wasn't so bad either - Windex wipes are my best friends. It was the bathroom that got me. It was dirty. Like, really dirty.

I won't go into too much detail because, well, I'm embarrased, and I don't want to send Jessie into cardiac arrest (she's kind of a clean freak). The first problem is that the counter in the bathroom is this really pretty grayish marble. It always looks clean. On one hand, that's great, but when you're cleaning it, it's just gross. The second problem is that my bathtub is made of this weird plasticky material, rather than porcelin. Stuff sticks to it easier, and it's a lot harder to get off. I really won't go into detail about that. Suffice it to say that there was enough gunk to look like a tiny male cheerleader. Tough little guy, too - it took some serious scrubbing to get it off. Actually, I ended up on my hands and knees in the bathtub.

Things I learned from my cleaning experience:

  • I'm more devoted to cleaning every week, because it was just plain yucky.

  • Vaccuming up dog hair sounds easy, but it's not.

  • Laurel was right - the best time to clean a shower is when you're in it. I'll get the cleaning supplies with my clothes on, though, if it's all the same.
On to topic #2. I started an exercise routine today. Can you call it a "rountine" on the first day? I probably can't. Okay, then, I exercised today with the intention of making it a routine. I'm going to let you in on a secret: I hate the gym. Hate it. I loathe it. I waited until 2:00 to take my lunch because when I bought my pass, the lady said that was the slowest time of day. There were other people there though, so it was still too busy for my taste. It's not that I dislike exercise (okay, so I don't love it), it's that I hate doing it with other people around.

Exercise is supposed to make you feel better, right? Endorphins and all that? Well, I didn't feel better. I felt hot and sweaty and embarrased. My face looked like a rudabega, my head is still throbbing and everything looked a little blurry around the edges for a while. I'm hoping for improvement with consistancy.

Exercise. Blech. I'll do it, but you can't make me like it.

Finally, on to topic #3: letting sleeping dogs lie. In this case, it's literal.

My sleeping dog:




Notice how her nose is snuggled up to her back feet. That's my baby. She's a freak, just like her mama.

This is what she looks like awake, except without the glowing demon eyes. She acutally has very pretty brown eyes. One is blue around the pupil.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Things Every Woman Should Know

My sister sent me an email containing this "poem," attributed to Maya Angelou.

Every Woman Should Have:

Enough money within her control to move out and rent a place of her own, even if she never wants to or needs to.

Something perfect to wear if the employer, or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour.

A youth she's content to leave behind.

A past juicy enough that she's looking forward to retelling it in her old age.

A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra.

One friend who always makes her laugh, and one who lets her cry.

A good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family.

Eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored.

A feeling of control over her destiny.

Every Woman Should Know:

How to fall in love without losing herself.

How to quit a job, break up with a lover, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.

When to try harder and when to walk away.

That she can't change the length of her calves, the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents.

That her childhood may not have been perfect, but it's over.

What she would and wouldn't do for love or money.

How to live alone, even if she doesn't like it.

Whom she can trust, whom she can't, and why she shouldn't take it personally.

Where to go - be it to her best friend's kitchen table or a charming inn in the woods - when her soul needs soothing.

What she can and can't accomplish in a day, a month, and a year.

[Editors note: I made some changes in the format; mainly puncuation. The person who originally formatted it must have has some kind of obsession with ellipses.]


After doing some research, I discovered that this list was not actually written by Maya Angelou, but rather by Pamela Redmond Satran. It was originally published in Glamour under the title, "30 Things Every Woman Should Know & Have By The Time She's 30."


Here are some of the original items that are not on the previous list (read the complete original
here).
Things a Woman Should Have:

Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it.

The belief that you deserve it.

A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don't get better after 30.

Things A Woman Should Know:

How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn't like to happen next.

The names of: the secretary of state, your great-grandmother and the best tailor in town.

That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs or not flossing for very long.

And because Maya Angelou rocks my socks, here's something that was written by her:

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou & Pamela Redmond Satran

Friday, November 23, 2007

Scrumdidilyumptiousness and Snow

Here are my contributions to Thanksgiving this year. I'm not going to post the recipes because it would make this post forever long, but I might post them later.

Chocolate Marble Cheescake


Sooooo yummy.

Stuffing


This was my first attempt at homemade stuffing, and it turned out really well. I was quite proud of it.

And my failure: Lemon Supreme Pie


I've never had this pie not turn out. Usually it's really easy. For some reason, this time the lemon gel just never set. It was much prettier, but it got sloshed around in transport. It still tasted good, it was just more of a lemon syrup pie rather than a Lemon Supreme Pie.



And finally, I woke up this morning to this:



It's the first snow of the year, and I thought that it was quite appropriate at the beginning of the holiday season.

I also turned on the Christmas music today. I'll put it on my iPod tonight, but right now I'm listening to KOSY 106.5 out of Utah. All Christmas, all the time.

Happy First Snow Day!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Day to Give Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a day reserved for being grateful. They should call it Count Your Blessings Day.

The fun part of Thanksgiving is the yummy food - the turkey and stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, pie. In the midst of all the food and family fun, I think we often forget what Thanksgiving is all about: giving thanks. It's easy to do; I mean, the stores skip right over Thanksgiving these days. They go right from Halloween to Christmas. It's horrible, especially in a society that could stand to be a little more grateful.

So, in honor of the true meaning of Thanksgiving Day, here are some things I'm most grateful for this year:

1. A family that is rock-solid. I have five siblings and two parents who I know will always be there for me if I need them.

2. The knowledge that there is a God, and He is actively involved in our lives.

3. Modern conveniences. I can't say how grateful I am not to live in a time when I have to cook over a fire and pee outside.

4. Two amazing friends who love me unconditionally and put up with my weirdness. I love you!

5. The fact that I didn't have to go into debt to get my education.

6. Modern medicine. Without it, I would probably be one of the crazy aunts hidden in the attic.

7. That I live in this era, and not another. I often think how great it would have been to live in the 40's or 50's, but really, I'm glad I don't.

8. That my parents let me come back home and live, rent free. It's given me a chance to re-center myself, figure out what I want to do with my life, and save some money.

9. My dog. I know it's totally lame, but she's a loyal companion who offers me unconditional love. I'm never lonely anymore.

10. Art of all kinds. whether it's photography, painting, writing or video. It brings light and joy into my life that I've never found elsewhere.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends! I hope you remember some things you're grateful for today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pictures of Soup

See the previous post for my rambings (not an exaggeration) about the second attempt at the mock-Olive Garden soup. Here are pictures:



Can you tell which is which?



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Two Completely Unrelated Topics

First topic:

For those of you who are interested in the recipe for Sorta Zuppa Toscana, I made it again tonight, and there was no red film this time. I did a couple things differently. First, I used the ground Italian sausage that comes in the flat saran wrapped package like a steak comes in, not the tube-y thing that some comes in. I hope you know what I'm talking about, because I just can't explain it better than that. Also, when we cooked it the first time, we let the soup sit a while before we added the cream because we weren't ready to eat it yet (and I think Mom forgot). I think that's most likely what made the difference. Also, she may have sauteed the sausage in the pot she used for the soup, which is more effective for doing dishes, but probably leaves some extra grease.

The point of that extremely long paragraph: If you use the right sausage, cook it in a separate pan and add the cream right away, the soup comes out as an almost exact replica of the soup at the Olive Garden. Oh, and I used kale this time, which was definitely better than the spinach.

Pictures coming tomorrow, when I get to work and can use my camera card reader I left there.

Second, totally unrelated topic:

I love the show Bones on Fox.



It's probably close to my favorite, although Grey's Anatomy holds a special place in my heart (I'm such a dork). The main character is Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel), a forensic anthropologist at the Jeffersonian Institute. She often consults for the FBI, working closely with Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz). Booth gave her the nickname "Bones."

Dr. Brennan is flawed. Actually, she has some major issues. Her parents disappeared when she was 15, and she was put into the foster system. This probably explains her obsession with identifying lost victims. One of my favorite scenes is one where Bones passes on a night out with her co-worker and best friend, Angela, to identify one of several sets of remains of unknown soldiers from World War I.

Two of my favorite aspects of the show: One, Brennan is completely out of the loop when it comes to any sort of pop culture. She doesn't watch TV, she doesn't read magazines. Often, when another member of the team makes an allusion to popular culture, she's totally left out of the loop. It cracks me up. Especially since she's managed to write a bestselling novel. Go Brennan!

Two, I love the chemistry between Brennan and Booth. It's a real Mulder/Scully thing (and if you said that to Brennan, she would say, "I don't know what that means."). They have tons of chemistry, both professionally and personally. I keep waiting for them to get together, but I don't think they ever will.

My review? Two thumbs way up. Or on my sister's rating program: Friday Night Full.


P.S. - I know this post is horribly written, and I'm kind of embarrassed, but it's late and I'm tired, but I can't sleep, so I pretty much don't care. But I do apologize.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I love!

My friend Jessie does this great thing where she posts 10 things she loves every Friday. I know that sometimes it's easy for her, and sometimes she has a hard time. I also know that I love reading them.

I'm going to copy Jessie. If we were in Junior High (and thank God we're not - you might think that was taking His name in vain, but it's a fervent prayer coming from me), this would be cause for major discord. Friend would turn against friend, brother against brother. It would be like the Civil War, but with glares and mean notes instead of guns and bayonets. However, since Jessie and I are Mature Adults (right, Jess?) , I'm sure she'll be fine with it.

And now, for your reading pleasure . . .

10 Things I Love (November 16, 2007)

1. My dog. Seriously. Taking her home from Wal-mart was the best spur of the moment decision I've ever made.

2. The fact that it's November 16, and we haven't had snow yet. Don't tell the people I work with; they'll yell at me. Something about water and not having a job.

3. Living in a place where someone can say, "And if you want a leg of lamb, I'll just kill one" and it's no big deal.

4. The road I live on. To get to town, I have to go down this windy hill, and it give a great view of town. Almost every time, I get this wonderful feeling of contentment.

5. That my best friend Felicia got a job in Grand Junction and moved back home, so now I get to see her all the time.

6. Daveto's. The most amazing Italian restaurant in the world. Just ask Felicia, she goes there all the time.

7. DVR. Need I say more?

8. The fact that I get the whole house to myself tonight. Dad's hunting, and Mom and Steve (who doesn't live with us, by the way) went to pick up Steve's new dog.

9. Picking out the perfect Christmas gift. There's nothing like it!

10. That I'm going to have another nephew!! Did I mention that yet? No? Well, thanks to my brother Sam and his wife Cara, I'm going to have another nephew.

And there is it. Dat-dah-dah-DAH!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Take This, Olive Garden!

My fellow Olive Garden lovers, this is your lucky day.

BEHOLD!


A recipe for Olive Garden's yummy Zuppa Tuscana.

It doesn't look quite the same, but it takes almost exactly like the real thing.


1 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage, casing removed, crumbled
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
2 1/2 cup water
2 (14 1/2 oz.) cans chicken broth
3 large russet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, sliced 1/4" thick
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly group pepper
1/2 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Saute sausage in oil. Remove sausage to plate and set aside. Add onion, saute until translucent. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, cook 1 minute. Add water and broth, stirring to dissolve any bits on bottom of pan. Add potatoes, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat, simmer about 10 minutes. Add kale and sausage, simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in cream. Heat to simmer over medium heat, cook 2 minutes.

My variations:
*I used ground Italian sausage rather than the link kind. It's easier to work with. The finished product had kind of a red oil at the top, and I think it was from the sausage, so if you're a perfectionist, either use the link sausage or drain your ground sausage, really, really well.
*Kale can be kind of hard to find, so I used spinach. I actually liked it better. The texture was a little different, but the flavor seemed to add something. Just be careful not to overcook it!

Buon Appetito!


The Olive Garden version, not mine.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gaaack!

Words just can't express my horror. I wouldn't say it was a crisis, that's a little too dramatic, but it's definitely more than an occurrence. Traumatic. Yeah, that pretty much covers it.

It was a traumatic morning. I woke up and was getting ready to go to work. I was brushing my hair, trying to get my bangs to lay right, and I saw a little glint of something in the mirror. I took a closer look, and mild swearing ensued. I isolated the anomaly, took a closer look, and more mild swearing followed.

Yes, that's right. This morning, I found a gray hair. GRAY!! In my head!! GRAY, people! And not from my birth mark gray patch, either. An actual gray hair. The worst part is that it's not the first. A couple years ago, I found another little short one. I never say another one, though, so I could attribute it to some kind of fluke, like stress around finals time. Not this one. First of all, it was in a different place, and second, it was still sort of brown at the end, but gray at the root. Definitely a gray hair.

I showed Mom and Dad. Dad laughed at me, several times. Mom said, "Oh, don't worry about it. Talk to your sisters, they know what color to use." And then she laughed at me.

THIS IS NO LAUGHING MATTER! I'm 23, and I found a gray hair! I went to a baptism on Saturday, and the other Primary counselor told me that she found her first gray hair the other day. She's 28! I'm 23!

So give me the dirt. How old were you all when you found your first gray? Am I doomed to a life of premature aging and dying my hair, futilely trying to copy my natural color, which is FABULOUS, but who's days are obviously numbered?

And don't laugh at me. It's not funny.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My Christmas Wish List

Remember when you were little, and every year in November, you would start composing your Christmas list? You'd write the letter to Santa, and hope you'd get the one thing you wanted the most.

When we get older, we realize that Christmas is about more than getting gifts. In fact, my favorite part of Christmas is acutally giving the perfect gift. Really, the whole, "This is everything I want for Christmas" thing is pretty selfish.

Here's the thing, though: It's fun. (Being selfish usually is, I figure that's why so many people do it.) I decided to take a trip back to childhood and write my letter to Santa. I've divided my wishes into two categories.


Reasonable Wish List


Monday, October 29, 2007

The Primary Program is Over!!

Words cannot even express how relieved I am that the Primary program is finally over.

Primary is an organization for children in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every year, the kids put on a program for Sacrament meeting. I was called to be in the presidency one month before the program.

For those of you who have never tried to organize a musical performance among fifty children ranging in age from 4 to 11 years, don't. Take my word for it. Don't get me wrong, it's great. They're all adorable (even if they're not so much in tune), and people love it. It's just that getting that many kids to do the same thing and sit still . . . well, it's a challenge.

It's possible that I'm a little biased. We finally called a teacher for the Sunbeams (4 year olds), but she got sick the day before the program, so I was in charge of them. I don't know where they get all that energy! I wish it rubbed off on me rather than sucking it out of me. It was all I could do to keep the boys from tackling each other, right there in front of the whole congregation. The girls kept waving to their moms. When it was their turn to speak, every one of them looked at me instead of the audience, and Collin, this adorable little redhead, just kept saying, "I jus' don' wemembuh it," even though I was prompting him with the words.

All of this, however, was nothing compared to the dream I had the night before. In that version, the Sunbeams kept leaping over the banister that surrounds the stand. There they were, dangling off the railing when they were supposed to be talking about having faith in Christ. I would pull them up, and there would just be another one attatched, holding onto a foot or something! And they just kept coming. Then the Primary president took me and my class out into the hall, right there in the middle of the program, and gave us a good tongue lashing. I think she may have fired me. Needless to say, the dream made me a little nervous for the real thing.

Despite all the hiccups, it really was a pretty great program. The kids did a really good job, and the songs were so pretty. There's one song in particular that I just love. It makes me cry almost every time the kids sing it. It's the song that the theme of the program is based on, "I'll Follow Him in Faith." You can listen to an mp3 version of the song here, but these are the lyrics:

The Lord has blessed me with Gospel truth
I have learned His ways in my early youth
I will share my light
For I know it's right
To testify of Him.
The Lord has blessed me with simple faith
If I pray for help He will give me strength
I will do His work
I will gladly serve
I'll follow Him in faith.
The Lord has blessed me to feel His love
I have felt His promptings and learned to trust
So in all I do
I'll be faithful to
The things I know are true.
The Lord has blessed me with many things
With a thankful heart I will sing His praise
I will raise my voice
And proclaim my choice
To follow Him in faith.
He has shown the way
And through all my days,
I'll follow Him in faith.

It's so touching to hear those little kids sing those words. I only wish they could really understand what they mean. If there is one thing that I could give them, it would be knowledge of how much difference the Gospel can make in their lives. I was talking with an old friend the other day, and she said, "I wish I could go back and do things over again. If I knew then what I know now, I would just be good." Then we thought, why wait? Why do we have to go back? Just be good now.

Well, anyway. Basically, these parents are entrusting their children to me (and several other adults) every Sunday. I'm still not sure about the whole thing. Even scarier, they gave me a key to the church.

Does this mean I'm really a grown-up now? Weird.



My very own key. What are these people thinking?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Okay, I'm a liar. These aren't stories.


I found this at The Tea Party Place, which I found blog surfing. I'll tell you how I got there.

I started at Keeping Up With the Evans. From there I went to A Little Sussy. Then I went to Mrs. Dub's Musing and Adventures. From there, I found Little Miss Sassy Pants, and it was from there that I ended up at The Tea Party Place. Blog surfing is fun! Anyway, I liked this one, so I thought I would post it here.

P.S. Laurel, from The Tea Party Place is pretty much my new hero.

5 Things I was Doing 10 Years Ago:
1. Attending 8th grade.
2. Trying to survive Junior High, with minimal success.
3. Enjoying my first nephew and looking forward to the second.
4. Wondering if I was a freak because I hadn't started my period yet (I would start later that year)
5. Thoroughly enjoying Mr. Hypio's English and Science classes.

5 Things on my To-Do List Today
1. Clean my car!
2. Take my car to the garage to see if the window can be fixed.
3. Play with Cara
4. You know, work.
5. Call Qwest.

5 Snacks I Enjoy
1. Ben and Jerry's Karmel Sutra ice cream
2. Rice crispie treats
3. Orvil Redenbacher's Tender White popcorn
4. Taco Time
5. Parmesan Goldfish

5 Things I Would Do if I Were a Billionaire
1. Travel the world for a year with Felicia (we have a route planned).
2. Buy a Roadster
3. Buy a house
4. Invest!
5. Go on a Mediterranean cruise

5 of My Bad Habits
1. Eating
2. Snapping at people I love
3. Getting cranky (are those the same?)
4. Picking at myself
5. Leaving trash in my car

5 Things I Will Never Wear Again
1. High-tops
2. Leggings (I know they're back in, but I don't like them!)
3. My jeans rolled up
4. A wetsuit
5. A long shirt tied in a knot. (Can you tell I was a child in the late 80's early 90's?)

5 Favorite Toys
1. TIVO!
2. Google Talk
3. My iPod
4. Scrabble
5. Audiobooks

5 People I Tag.
1. Jessie
2. Felicia
3. Sara
4. Jessie
5. Jessie (I only have a few friends).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Not a Story, but Great!

Check out this video: Baby Laughs And Falls Over



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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Claire's Mimsy

From Once Written's Daily Writing Spark: First line: "I'm Claire's imaginary friend."




I’m Claire’s imaginary friend. Let me tell you, this imaginary friend business really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When you go into it, you think it’s going to be play, play, play; no one tells you about all the complaining and being dragged around everywhere. And no one tells you about the tea. If I have to drink one more cup of tea, I’m going to be sick. It will, of course, be imaginary vomit, so no one will know, but still. I’ll know. And I’ll aim right for Claire’s Mary Jane’s.

I didn’t start out this bitter. At first, I was a great imaginary friend. I followed Claire everywhere without complaint; always anxious to see where our next adventure would lead. I curtsied to strangers, not caring that they didn’t notice me. I even participated willingly in tea parties. The problem is: I’ve been doing this for twenty-one years! Oh, right – did I mention that Claire is 26 years old?

Back home, in the Land of Fable, whimsies (those are imaginary people – they aren’t really people, you know) line up around the block at Imaginary Job Placement when Imaginary Friend Recruitment Day comes. Everyone wants to be an imaginary friend. They don’t let just anyone in, either. There are rigorous tests involved. It’s a commitment, too; there are no days off, no vacation time (although there are benefits – health, dental, 401K – it’s actually a pretty good plan). The only down time comes when your human friend forgets about you for a while. This is generally considered to be an acceptable situation, since the career life of an imaginary friend is quite short: 10 years, tops. From what I hear, 21 years is the record. Actually, I’ve held the record for the last 7 years. And I thought the kid who held onto his imaginary friend through his freshman year of college was bad.

I don’t get back to Fable much anymore. There was a decade or so (from about Claire-age 12 to 24) when Claire only called upon me occasionally. When a child starts outgrowing an imaginary friend, the whimsy assigned to them goes to on-call status; and you’re always on call. Anytime your human friend decides to call you up, you go. I was on call with Claire for almost 12 years. It wasn’t so bad then; I was even managing to hold down a second job with Imaginary Mail, the post service in Fable. They understood my limitations and were willing to work around my schedule. Claire would call on me every once in a while when she was lonely or needed a sounding board. I guess it made her feel more secure.

All of a sudden, when she was 24, Claire started calling on my constantly, like she had when she was a little girl. She would complain about her job, about her apartment, about her boyfriend. She started imagining me at work with her. She would act adult and professional, but I would be perched on the counter next to her, and she would talk to me under her breath. I think this had something to do with her supervisor. Even I can admit that he wasn’t a nice guy, and whimsies are generally pretty tolerant. He belittled Claire and reprimanded her in front of her peers. It humiliated her, and the more he treated her that way, the more she pulled away from her co-workers and talked to me.

One day he pushed her too far. She managed to hold herself together until she could escape to the restroom, where she cried like a little girl. I stood next to her and stroked her hair, but of course she couldn’t feel it, as I am, after all, imaginary. That night she brought me home with her. She showed me around her apartment, pointing out her little treasures, just as she had when she was young. I was started to get concerned. Granted, there wasn’t really a handbook on 19 year imaginary relationships, but I was pretty sure this wasn’t normal.

Over the next two years, Claire kept me with her constantly. I had to quit my job at Imaginary Mail so I could spend all my time with her. Every morning we had breakfast, and then we took the subway to her office. She continued to work at the same job for the same boss, who continued to demean her. We ate lunch alone, and went home alone. She would talk to me under her breath or in her head while at work, but out loud the rest of the time. At first, she would spend time with her other human friends after wok or on weekends. Sometimes I would tag along; other times I got the night off. After a while though, Claire stopped going out with her friends. First, she just turned down invitations for after work. Then she started staying in on the weekends. Slowly, her friends stopped inviting her to do things.

I tried to talk to Claire and encourage her to do more things, but she never wanted to listen. Her jerk of a boss was slowly wearing away her self-confidence, and she always wanted to stay home. She would tell me, “No one wants to see me anyway. They don’t even call anymore.” I tried to explain that they didn’t invite her because she never accepted the invitations; I tried to point out that they did still call. She wouldn’t listen to me. I know that she knew I was right, but her low self-esteem spoke louder than her logic.

Every day, I had to go to work with Claire and listen to her boss say cruel and demeaning things to her. He had no respect for her as a person. He talked like he had no respect for her work, either, but I knew that he did. In fact, I knew that he occasionally passed Claire’s work off as his own. Claire didn’t know that, though. As far as she was concerned, nothing was ever good enough.

Claire and I often talked about how much she hated her boss and how much she would like to leave her job. I always encouraged her to quit, pointing out that there was nothing holding her back. She always came back with the same argument: She couldn’t afford to quit.

One Saturday while Claire was eating ice cream and watching Roman Holiday for the eightieth time, I snuck a look at her bank statements. I was shocked by what I saw. From Claire’s protests about not being able to afford to quit her job, I had assumed that she was barely making it month to month. The statement I saw proved otherwise. Actually, Claire was making plenty of money. She had always saved her money, but now that she was staying home all the time, she was saving even more. Claire could definitely afford to quit.

I confronted Claire about this the next day, while she was moping about it being the end of the weekend. I pointed out that she had sufficient funds to leave her job, and she yelled at me for looking through her things.

“What do you care?” I said. “I’m imaginary! Who am I going to tell?”

“That’s not the point!” she yelled back. “You invaded my privacy!”

“Oh, you’re just mad because now you don’t have an excuse.”

She slammed the door in my face. Quite rude, I thought, especially considering she was the reason I was always there.

The next day at work, her boss treated her worse than ever. He actually reduced her to tears again, something she had not allowed since that first day in the bathroom. While she hid in the same stall as before, Claire and I came to an agreement. She would seek the advice of a financial advisor, and if he concluded that she could afford to leave her job, she would split like a banana. Claire made an appointment for the next week.

A week or so later, Claire and I walked into the office of Philip D. Hartman. We were both expecting an older gentleman, and were surprised when we were met by an extremely handsome young man. He looked to be a few years older than Claire, with wavy dark hair and wire-rim glasses. He welcomed us to his office and took a minute to look over the files Claire had brought with us.

After familiarizing himself with Claire’s finances, Philip said, “Claire, I have to say, I’m very impressed with the state of your financial portfolio.”

Really? I didn’t think it was that great. I’ve just been saving, and I put a little bit in a money market account every month.”

"Actually, that’s pretty great. Most people live month to month, or are in debt. Almost no one has a money market account at your age. You’re very wise.”

"Well, thank you. The reason I made this appointment is because I’d like to quit my job, but I’m worried I can’t afford it.”

“Oh, I don’t see that being a problem,” Philip said. “You have enough to go six or seven months without a job, easily. Although, given your financial acuity and your general resourcefulness, I don’t think it will take long to find one.”

Claire blushed at his compliment. It had been so long since she had been praised that I could practically see her self-esteem swelling.

“You mean it?” Claire asked, “I can really quit?”

“Definitely. Congratulations on your pending unemployment.”

“Thank heavens!” Claire breathed. She wasn’t the only one. I was doing a happy dance. I can do things like that in public, since I’m imaginary and all. And that wasn’t even the best part of the meeting.

When Philip showed Claire out of his office, he asked her to dinner. She accepted and chatted excitedly about it all the way home. I could already tell the difference leaving her job would make.

The next day, Claire turned in her resignation, and left her boss with a few choice words regarding his management skills. I’ve never been so proud.

It’s been three months since Claire quit. She found a new job within two months and has been at her new job for three weeks. It’s a lively, positive environment, and she’s very happy there. She’s also been dating Philip for the last ten weeks. They spend an awful lot of time together.

Claire’s been talking to me less and less. There are actually weeks at a time when I don’t hear from her. I got my job at Imaginary Mail back, and I’ve told them that I’ll probably be able to work full time in another few months. I’ll miss Claire, but we’ll still be friends, I guess. It’s time for us both to move on with our lives. I’m excited to be back in Fable full time, and I know Claire will be fine without me. She has real friends now.

Monday, September 03, 2007

6 Reasons Why I Cannot Live Without The Internet

Currently, I don't have access to the World Wide Web at my home. It's driving me crazy - absolutely bonkers. Granted, I can, and do, access the Internet at work, but it's just not the same. Here are my justifications for losing my mind:

1. Inability to check Keeping Up With the Evans, Brown Cracker Barrel, A Thousand Words and Snide Remarks on a daily basis.

2. How am I supposed to check my bank account everyday? What? You mean I actually have to write it down? Preposterous.

3. Writing on one computer but posting from another is a pain in the patoot. Plus, all my inspirations come from the Internet, so how and I supposed to just get a spark and let it flow?

4. I have this overwhelming need to look up words I don't know, but I don't have a dictionary. Why would I? I've always had the Internet!

5. I also have a compulsion to look up random facts. Without the Internet, how would I ever find out that the first Taco Time restaurant was a walk-up stand on the campus of the University of Oregon (go Ducks!) in Eugene in 1960. I wouldn't. And all of our lives would be less rich.

6. If I need some information from the 'Net, I have to make a mental note (like that's effective), drive to work, and look it up there. The problem is that I never remember everything. I end up sitting in front of the computer saying, "Crap! I know there was something else. What the heck was it?" Eventually I give up, go home, and promptly remember what I wanted to know. I can't just pop open Firefox again and look it up though. Oh, no.

There are many, many more reasons, but I can't think of them on the spot like this. Stop pressuring me! Maybe I'll post them as they come to me. Well, not exactly when they come to me, because that will probably happen when I'm at home, and I don't have the Internet!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tagged!

My fantastic and talented friend Jessie (A Thousand Words, Keeping Up With the Evans) tagged me. So here's 10 random things about myself.

1. I'm the youngest of seven children, by a ways. I'm spoiled, and I don't care.

2. I can (and often do) read a book in a single day. All day.

3. I've always wanted to have red hair, but I'm too scared to dye it. It would probably turn orange or something.

4. I love love love Jennifer Crusie. I have read everything she's every written, except for her old novels, Sizzle and The Cinderella Deal, and her brand new novel, Agnes and the Hitman. In fact, I own all her novels except those three. I wish I could write the way she does.

5. I dance and sing in my kitchen when I'm alone, often to the music in my head. And not just in the kitchen.

6. I adore birthdays. I love my birthday, and I try to make a big deal about them for other people. I mean, come on! It's a whole day just to celebrate the fact that you were born!

7. My pet peeves: People who leave their blinkers on, and people who mispronounce words. I had a roomate to said "liberry" and "fustrated." Drove me crazy.

8. I have a nasty temper and can make people cry with pure rhetoric. Luckily, it takes a lot to get me that mad.

9. I'm a total Mama's Girl. My mom is my best friend and my hero. I would be lost without her.

10. I spent four months in New Zealand, the most beautiful country in the world. Lots of green, lots of rain and lots of sheep.

There's my ten random things. Now I'm tagging Cara.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Power's Out

From http://www.creativewritingprompts.com/: Electricity is a recent discovery. Think of 12 things to do when there's no power.

1. Play Hide-and-Seek
2. Star-gaze
3. Roast marshmallows
4. Tell scary stories
5. Have a sing-along
6. Make out
7. Clean out the refrigerator
8. Eat all the ice cream
9. Play Truth-or-Dare
10. Hide in the bushes and jump out as people walk by
11. Write in your journal
12. Play with the dog

*Not necessarily in this order


Monday, August 06, 2007

Character Development

From www.creativewritingprompts.com: Open a magazine or newspaper and find 3-5 pictures of people. Then write a 300-500 word profile on each individual.

Anita

Anita is 38 years old; too young to be a widow. She was 25 when she married Philip; he was 46. She was 36 when he went for his morning run and never came home. He had a massive heart attack at 57, leaving Anita behind to bear the whispers alone.

Everyone always said she married Phil for his money. True, she enjoyed his money; she always dressed well and loved throwing lavish parties. But the guests of those parties who called her a gold digger, well, they couldn’t have been more wrong. She knew it was difficult to understand, but Anita loved Phil. It didn’t matter to her that he was 21 years older, or that he had a bald spot and a slight paunch. He was a good man, a remarkable man, and she loved him.

They met when he gave a special lecture at her college. She was young and starry-eyed, impressed with this man who had been given so much, and who made it a point to give so much back. She approached him after the lecture, to inquire about his work. He agreed to pass along some information to help her with her own studies.

They spent more and more time together, their relationship eventually evolving from student and mentor, to friendship, to love. It took seven months to convince Philip to marry her. He was convinced he was too old for her, refused to hold her back. Eventually she made him understand what with him by her side, she could go farther than she would ever be able to alone.

But she’s alone now. Phil left her enough that she doesn’t have to work, but she volunteers at the library and the children’s center she and Philip helped to create. She’s desirable – a rich young widow – and men often request the pleasure of her company. She always politely declines. She dresses well and attends parties. She shops and donates to charities. But in her quiet moments, she’s just a widow, too young, who aches for the lost husband who she loved so dearly.

George

Everyday, after coming home from his job as a buyer for Kaufmann Department Store, after taking off his suit and tie, George takes Daisy for a walk. Daisy is a floppy eared, floppy jowled St. Bernard. She’s the only woman in George’s life. He tells her that a lot, “Daisy, you’re the only woman for me.” It’s not because George can’t meet a girl; he just doesn’t want to bother with the dating scene. He had enough of that in his twenties, he tells people. If he hasn’t found anyone by know, well, he’s happy with his job and his dog.

Daisy is pretty sure this is a pile of soggy dog treats. She knows George gets lonely. Daisy knows she’s good company (she is, after all, Man’s Best Friend), but she thinks George needs a woman of his own species in his life. So Daisy keeps a big brown eye out for the perfect girl, thinking she’ll know her when she smells her.

On this day, Daisy and George are going for a walk in the park. The park is their favorite place. Daisy like it because she can bark at the ducks and watch them flap away. George likes it because the meandering paths and cozy nooks with benches where he can read his latest book.

The two reach the park, and Daisy stops to do her business (with dignity, of course. She’s a lady). They’re walking towards the pond, Daisy already anticipating the flight of the ducks, when she smells something unusual. She stops to take a closer sniff. This smells a lot like . . . the perfect women. Daisy looks around, following her nose until she spots her. She’s sitting on a bench, wearing a fluttery skirt and with her nose buried in a book.

Daisy pulls George along until they’re in front of the bench. She sits down in front of the woman, facing the ducks. The woman never looks up from her book. George barely notices her, just says, “Come on, Daisy, lets go chase the ducks.” He tugs on her leash, but Daisy just blinks at him and settles in. George continues to pull on the leash, and the woman continues to read. Annoyed, Daisy decided to take things into her own hands. She lies down, right across the reading woman’s feet.

Daisy’s bulk gets the woman’s attention. She looks down at the furry lump on her feet, up at the man straining against the leash, saying, “Daisy! No! Up! Come!” He sees her looking and says, “I’m sorry! Geez, I’m so sorry! Daisy!

The woman looks back down at the dog, which has now rolled onto her side, up against her legs, and is staring at her with adoration. She bursts into laughter, and looks back at George. “I don’t think she’s going anywhere,” she says. “I guess I don’t mind. Hi, I’m Lily.”

Right then, Daisy was sure this really was George’s perfect woman. Lily looked down at Daisy, and she could have sworn the dog winked.


Albert


In 1939, America was in the throes of the Great Depression. Millions of people had lost everything. People were living in their cars, selling everything they could, trying to survive.

In a small Midwestern town, things were mostly the same, but for one saving grace – Albert Allread. Albert was an old-fashioned man. He didn’t believe in being in debt, so he owned his land outright. He didn’t like banks, and he didn’t make much money anyway, so he kept what he had at home. He and his wife had managed to save a little money, but not much. They didn’t own a car – Albert still used a horse and wagon to get around, and still used his horse pulled plow on his fields. Most of the money he made went back into his farm, improving the land or trying new crops.

Because of his simple way of life, the stock market crash and run on the banks didn’t affect Albert the way it did his neighbors. True, things were more difficult, but he still had his land, his house, and his horse. They would get by.

Albert was known for his generosity. Many people in town had begun to give in to despair, only to find a basket of produce on their porch. Other’s received small amounts of cash, just as the electricity was about to be turned off. Albert never talked to these people, he never left his name. All the same, everyone knew who was responsible for the acts of kindness. There were few in the town that had not been touched by Albert’s generosity.

One summer night, a storm blew through the town. The citizens batted down the hatches, children squealing at the thunder and lightening. Albert and his wife were sitting by the fire in their little house when they heard a loud crack and smelled the acrid smoke. Albert went to the front porch and found his barn had been struck by lightening and was burning fast. He rushed inside and told his wife; they gathered buckets and tried to put out the flames. Neighbors arrived to help fight the fire, but to no avail. The barn burned to the ground.

After the flames had died down, one neighbor saw Albert, sitting on an overturned bucket, smoky and wet, with his head in his hands. “Albert,” the man said, “We will rebuild your barn. We will help you.”

Albert stared at the ground. “My crops,” he whispered in a hoarse voice. “My crops were in the barn. What will I sell? How will I harvest? How will I buy seeds? What will my family eat?” He looked up at his friend, tears making tracks through the grime on his face. “What will I do?”

After the neighbor had returned to his own home, he continued to ponder Albert’s situation. The man had himself been a recipient of Albert’s generous ways. He turned to his wife. “Something must be done.”

The next morning, the man sent his son to town with a message. “Albert needs help. Bring what you can.”

Later that day, as Albert and his wife sifted through the ashes of their barn, people started to arrive. Some brought seeds, some food. Others brought produce, bottled from the very gifts Albert had given them. Some brought strong backs and animals to help with the rest of the harvest. Still others brought money, and all brought words of comfort, love and support. No one brought much, for there wasn’t much to spare; but everyone brought something. There was no one in town who hadn’t been touched by Albert’s actions, either directly or through another.

By the end of the day, Albert and his family had enough supplies to sustain them until the next harvest. It would be a hard winter, but they would make it. The community Albert had continually helped had come to his rescue when he needed them.


Marianne


Marianne is a mother of two. She has a son and a daughter, both in school, and a little yellow house. She loves being a mother and feels fulfilled in her life.

Her passion, though, is gardening. She has an immaculate flower garden, with winding paths, bird baths, benches and fountains. At the edge of her flower beds is a vegetable garden, where she grows a variety of produce and herbs.

To Marianne, gardening is a metaphor for life. You plant the seed, water it, nurture it, and watch it grow. It fights its way up through layers of soil, evades weeds, reaches for the light. Eventually, it bursts into bloom, unveiling its full glory.

That’s Marianne’s philosophy for raising her children. She plants them, feeds and nurtures them, tries to keep obstacles out of their way. One day, after the struggles of youth, they will emerge in full bloom. Until that day, Marianne treasures the time she has with them.

During the summer, she teaches her children about produce and canning. She shows them how much more flavorful home grown vegetables can be; how a salad from your own garden is so much more satisfying. They can tomatoes, make pickles, can beets, peaches, and berries. In the winter months, they’ll enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Sometimes, her daughter comes outside while Marianne is working in her garden. Marianne teaches her about planting and weeding, grafting and propagating. The day her daughter asked for her own piece of dirt was one of Marianne’s happiest.

Day by day, Marianne teaches her children, cooks for them, tends her house, loves her husband. She knows it may seem like a trivial existence to some, but it is the life she’s always wanted. She watches her children grow, smiles as she watches them play. She knows that one day they will leave behind the safe haven she’s created for them, armed only with what she has taught them. Until then, she tends her garden.