Friday, May 15, 2015

Foodie Friday~ 2X Baked Taters

Decades ago I watched a friend make twice baked potatoes, but when I tried, it turned out horrible. I had cut the potatoes in half so they weren't stable. They were dry with little flavor. I tried a couple more times with different recipes and none ever became keepers. So, one day I decided I'm gonna stop trying to copy anyone else. I just thought my way through it and created a twice baked potato that we LOVE. 

They go great with chicken that's been simmered in bbq sauce. The sauce really compliments the potatoes, surprisingly. I have also made these for a going away party once where I let ppl pick their "add-ins" like mushrooms or broccoli or chicken or bacon. The potato was the meal with finger food sides. 

Anyway, when I'm crunched for time, I will "bake" the potatoes in the microwave first while I get the chicken cooking. Then, put them in a 375* oven to crisp up the skins for ten or fifteen minutes while I sauté the veggies. 

So, for seven small potatoes, finely mince one stalk of celery and half a smallish onion. Sauté this in butter till they're soft.  

When you cut the tops off the once baked potatoes, just do an oval right off the top, enough that you can easily get a spoon in to scrape it all out. Be careful not to gouge holes in the skin! I have done this many times and patched it with pieces from the tops.  

Into your bowl of potato innards, add the veggies, 1-1/2 to 2 cups grated cheese, about 3/4 tsp salt, about 1/3 cup of ranch dressing, and about 1/4 cup of milk.

When adding milk, I go for a mashed potato consistency. Stir it all up really, really well. Don't be afraid of lumps. Use your small scraping spoon to cram the innards back into the skins. Press it into the ends, fill up every bit of space. 

You will have a lot more than will fit in the skins. I just dollop the extra on top of each potato. Put them back in your 375* oven for ten to fifteen, basically to get them hot again. 

As I said, you could put anything in these. That one piece of chicken left over from last night. That half cup of broccoli that no one will ever eat. You know, whatever. 

Tell me if you try this!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Music Monday~ The House That Built Me

My dad was in the Air Force which meant we moved a lot. When we left Guam I was seven. We went straight to Minot, North Dakota where I used my moon boots to skate on the streets. I made snowmen taller than me. I dug a snow shelter under a bush right by the front door of our standard issue base accommodation. My mother went to the neighbor's across the street and made a huge seal out of snow. Yes, a seal.

In the summer, I played in the gutters flowing with water. We flew kites in the open field behind our house. I tried and failed at swimming lessons. We did target practice down at the junk yard. My dad walked me to a house down around the corner once. The man who lived there built bikes from parts he gathered. I finally got my "BMX" bike. I stole a playing card from my mom's deck (she loved solitaire) to attach to my bike frame. The wooden clothes-pin held it in place while it clicked against the spokes which sounded to my mind just like the engine of my dad's dirt bikes. Somehow, that sound propelled me faster and faster.

Then, with a little sister in tow, we moved to England. Our first home was a temporary one called the Bird in Hand motel. There were lots of other American kids there, too. I remember the cold on my bare feet as I ran around playing. I remember the other mothers' concern because I was barefoot. We dined in a fancy dining room with white cloths on the tables. At nine years old I met there a mushroom soup that is forever embedded in my memory. I would sprinkle tons of pepper in it and slurp up every drop.

My dad then took assignments at every AF base in southern England.  We lived on base only once, and in my memory, for only one season. Summer. It was in this Lakenheath neighborhood where I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I imagined my very neighborhood to be Scout's. Placing the characters in their geographical proprietary.

A bunch of us kids would be allowed out late to play hide-n-seek in the shadows created by the street lights. I played my album single of Lucille on my little record player. I stole Barbie clothes from a neighbor and I didn't even own Barbies.

Then, we lived in English houses. One was very cold, with tiny bedrooms, a narrow spiral stairway, and an actual thatched roof. Did my mother love it? Did she mind that the bathroom was split between each end of the tiny and very blue kitchen?

Our last home in England was a brick row home. Here, my sister attended primary school and started speaking with a British accent. Here, I brought my black American best friends to sleep over. I angrily chased the boys who never came very close when they made their rude racial remarks.

Here, I made a British best friend. There, I left my British best friend. And all the others.

The song I share with you today is what I call a "modern" country song to distinguish this type of country music from Country & Western, which I love. Modern country? Ehh. Occasionally, a modern country song will come along that grips my heart and forces tears out of my eyes.

Here is one such song.

When we lived in the green cottage, you know the one. It used to be uninhabitable, unloved, unwanted, and we made it lovable again. We restored that cottage so that it could once again be warm, inviting, full of life and love. Rylee came to me one day, as she frequently does, and said, "Can I show you a song?"

We watched the video. I barely kept back the tears. I watched it again and again.

Here are my thoughts when I listen to this song.

I didn't have one home. I had many. So, what built me? My mama. My dad. My little sister.

Mama's constant experimenting in the kitchen. Dad's off-roading, and get-togethers with friends. Inexpensive crafting projects to decorate the house. Fish tanks containing octopi, or frogs, or bright tropical fish.

Two parents who had no idea what struggles I was going to put them through. Two parents who had to make decisions from the hip because, what did they know? Now that I'm a mom, I see that I created a brokenness not only inside myself, but also inside my parents' hearts. I apologize to my dad every now and then. I think he has forgiven me.

I don't need to return to any home for healing. There are no walls on this Earth that can help me make sense of my past.

My healing has come from my Heavenly Parents.

I never forgot who I was. I never KNEW who I was. In each home where we lived, my parents gave me love. They tried to guide me. But, there was something they couldn't give me.

That came from my Heavenly Parents.

Human beings are notorious for trying to "find" themselves in the things of this world. Well, guess what? You came from God. You know what that means? That means that the place you're trying to return to? The house that built you? It's your Heavenly home.

God wants you to be whole. He is the memory that you're seeking. You left home, you moved on, you forgot who you were. Trust me when I tell you that Father wants you to find your way home.

(Sorry if there's an ad. Ack.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bringing January Home

 Do you remember Rylee's horse, January? Remember that she was pregnant? Well, her time finally came...
...and so did her baby boy. Meet January's colt. This was about an hour after he was born.

So, Rylee and I hooked up truck and trailer- okay, Jake actually hooked it up- but I drove it. Across Wyoming. Again.

We arrived at cousin Ashby's before they got home from a track meet, so Rylee and I walked around visiting the many horses on the ranch.

This is Eddy. He is the sire of January's colt.

He has that charm about him.

This is a cute, horse-crazy gal.

This is Rylee's favorite room. The tack room.
Tack. Rylee loves the smell.
This is not a jail.

This is an actual sliding barn door. Not a fake one made to decorate a house.
This is Uncle Rod's branding mark. Rafters of the heart.

Eddy facing me. He was so cuddly and lovable.
Me facing Eddy.
This is inside the Quonset hut. They've been working hard in here fixing it up.

It's a great place to take pictures.
So this is where Daffy retired to.

This is a lovely bale of hay.
Checking on the ponies.
The horse people finagled our mama and her baby into the trailer, and we headed back.

Getting gas with the big boys.
Fifteen hours on the road, but driving conditions were optimal.
C'mon little guy. You can make that leap.
Meeting Papa Bear.

Meeting Baby Bear.
Meeting Dog.

Never mind!
Their new home for a while. It's just around the corner from our house.

Rylee decided to name the baby Pete.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I'MPOSSIBLE~ Cheering in a Pocket

Hollywood does such a vivid job of making life seem so perfect. The world gathers around and sees what today's decided perfect is. Soundtracks play our emotions. Dialogue captures our hearts. All on a big screen, and saturated with color, and aimed right at our comfy couches. 

Books, even, create visions in our psyches of perfect love, perfect friendship, perfect peace... perfect war. 

I believe it is our job as the single sentient species to get in touch with reality. 

Life is not perfect. There are pockets of perfection, but even those pockets... so many different kinds of pockets. Some are khaki, some are polyester, some are frayed denim, or plaid. 

Pockets come and pockets go as we wear pants after pants after pants. After pants. 

My point is, occasionally our circumstces may not be beautifully saturated with color while we speak Darcy and Elizabeth dialogue sparkling with tension that seems so fun when we watch actors pretend it on a screen. 

Real life is way better for us than that anyway.  Real life is the vegetables mama makes us sit at the table until we eat. Real life is the bitter pill we swallow because we know it's important for dang good reasons. Real life is the acrid smell of what the heck happened in here and now we gotta clean it up. 

Real life balances the sweet and bitter hoping that we, the ones with consciences, the ones who don't operate on binary code and basic survival instincts will learn what is important and do it. 

Some are born into better circumstances and destroy the gifts they were given. Some find themselves in hopeless or completely unjust circumstances and claw their way out to a better way. 

Well, guess what? You may not have chosen your script. The plot of your life may have taken a turn that pretty much sucks. The current scene you find yourself in might be considered ugly when you're standing in it and looking at what's flickering from that electronic screen. 

No matter. You still pick the character you play. You can be one the world cheers on. You can be the one causing sniffles in the audience. You can be the beauty in the world of ugly. 


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Undercurrents


I had heard of Jesus Christ. I knew “of” him. Kind of like how I knew “of” the popular kids at school. I had heard of Mormons. I had laughed at the jokes people made about them. At that time, I did not know there was any connection between the two.

Then one day two girls my age knocked on the door. They held that little blue book with the word “Mormon” on it. This was my chance to do some investigating, to find out from the horse's mouth exactly what these Mormons were all about.

I learned much more than who Jesus is. I learned what scripture is. I learned what prophets are. I learned the purposes of life.

First, missionaries taught me. Then, I learned by attending meetings and classes at church every Sunday. Eventually, I began to study on my own at home. I used the Bible, which I now understood to be the word of God's people in the Holy Land. I used the Book of Mormon, which I had easily accepted as the word of God's people in the American Continent. I used talks from conferences and other meetings, and began to seek out books written by prophets and apostles since the restoration.

Studying the words of others, I learned. The knowledge became mine. Now, I can share words of my own to spread the message of Christ, and to allow my life to be a light; a candlestick to light the room, a city on the hill which cannot be hid.

My message today is about Easter.

Easter is a celebration of victory. Victory over death. Victory over sin, which separates us from the presence of God. This victory was won by our Savior, who loved us so much he used his life here to prove his power, then to prove that he would not use that power to stop the abuses he was about to endure. He had to endure to prove that we were so important to him that he would put all of us before himself. He, a god, served his life for us. He, a god, gave his life for us.

That first Easter, Jesus gave to us two gifts. One is a freebie. Immortality. Every single person born to the earth will be restored to their bodies in its perfect and immortal state of being. No matter when you lived. No matter what you did. Is that a little hard to swallow? This is the victory over death.

The second gift can only be given when we have readied ourselves to receive it. This is the gift of Eternal Life. This is not just living eternally, as is indicated by the first gift. This is gaining the Glory which allows us to be in the presence of our Heavenly Father. This is the victory over sin.

Believing in Christ can open your life to a joy that nothing else in this world can replicate. If you believe that you know all there is to know about Christ, you have shut the door to gaining further understanding, and thereby a fulness of joy.

As a person who has been studying the Gospel for 20 years, I can tell you that the learning never stops. There is always more. Some believe that the heavens have been shut. That the Bible is the only word of God. That the only prophets were the ancient prophets.

As a person who is actively trying to work out my own salvation, may I emphatically claim that this does not make sense? Do you have children? Do you provide for just your first and second born and then shut yourself off from the third and fourth? What kind of a game plan involves coaching only the players in the first half of the game, and then completely abandoning the players in the last half? What is so durned scary about the existence of holy scriptures that have been saved for the restoration of the Lord's church?

When God saved his people, the Israelites, from their enslavement to Pharoah, He must have desired to endow them with His full Gospel. Instead, He had to give them a lesser law; a preparatory law, because that was all they were able to bear at the time.

In these latter days, this final dispensation before Christ returns to claim his kingdom, we have been given the higher law. We have been given a collection of scripture which has not been defiled by thousands of years of reinterpretation by men whose hearts were far from God. We have been given the chance to ready ourselves for that gift of Eternal Life. Eternal Life which exists because of eternal laws.

God lives in harmony with eternal laws because He is pure love and pure righteousness. Just as you want your children to live a happy life full of joy and success, Father wants us to gain a fulness of joy and live an Eternal Life. Just as you are there for your children on a daily basis trying to help them make sense of this earthly life, Father is there providing as much knowledge as we are ready to bear. Those who will not receive this gift will have effectively weeded themselves out.

The only one who can prevent you from receiving the gift of Eternal Life is you. Father promises that if we seek Him with honest intent and a true heart, it shall be answered unto us. But, the Lord “can only teach an inquiring mind.” (Russell M. Nelson) If you have decided that all the questions have been answered you have effectively shut the heavens on yourself. May I tell you, with utter excitement, that there is SO MUCH more to learn about our Savior!

Now, back to Easter. If you were to visit my home, you would see that my house is not adorned with cute Easter decorations. My table is not laden with a ham, a turkey, and pies galore. My body is not covered by a fuzzy Easter-egg sweater and matching earrings. You may, justifiably because of the world we live in, judge for yourself that Easter must not be very important to me.

May I please now assure you that I believe in Christ's resurrection? I feel immense jubilation in my heart because the sinless Son of Man was willing to be my substitute on the altar. He paid the demands of justice so that I could overcome my own separation from God.

My celebration of Easter is happening within my heart as I ponder the significance of taking on someone else's suffering; of spilling one's blood so that another wouldn't have to.

Easter is unfolding for our family as we discuss with our children the last week of Jesus's life. The celebration is felt when we sing an Easter hymn and the Spirit whispers to our souls, “It's true!”

The true meaning of Easter elevates itself above the dying of eggs and bunny-shaped chocolate as we figure out how all this applies to us on a personal level.

If you have made it as far as this sentence, thank you! Thank you for allowing me to share the knowledge I have worked so hard to gain.

I pray the Spirit has been able to communicate with you on this special day, in the way that only He knows best, because only He knows you best.






Morgan's mascots. They're thunderbolts.




Mine- 99% eclipse



Nicking eggs.

No chance.

Defend yourself.
 Morgan won the egg-nicking battle. (With one of my eggs. Ha)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Foodie Friday~ Trois Jours? I fold.

We have some friends. Yes, I know, hard to believe, but we DO!

We have some friends whom I'll call the Harrises and Mr. Layton. We have built our friendship around meals. Dinner at our house. Dinner at theirs. Come over for some treats. Let's deep-fry hamburgers... you know, the way everyone makes friends.

So, one day, Matt suggested we try making cronuts, which my clan had never heard of. I needed help. I couldn't use my logical powers to figure out what worlds collided to make cronuts. Did you just figure it out? You're so smart! Yay! Croissant donuts. A dude named Dominique invented them.

One thing I did know, because I asked my mom once when I was a kid, is how to make flaky dough. Not a simple undertaking. And Dominique makes it even worse. If you, or anyone you know has ever attempted his recipe, please share. We want to know if it was worth it!

When our date with cronut destiny was set, I was at my house looking it up, and the Harrises were at their house looking it up. I told Jake there was no way I was going to make puff pastry. The Harrises texted and said we should change plans because it takes three days. Jake said, "Let's just buy those tubes from the grocery store."

So, we did. I looked up "simple cronuts." We weren't the only ones trying to hack the real deal.

It was fun getting the band back together again.

Not just because their four little boys are so loveable and heart-wrenchingly cute.

The big boys were fighting. Around a fryer.

We did a glaze and also cinnamon-sugar.

This one is our favorite Harris. I'm just kidding. But, he has magical powers that cause you to want to be his everything.

Here's the consensus on hacked cronuts. The cinnamon-sugar donut holes were really good; extremely light and puffy. The donuts didn't puff up as much, but they tasted good. We tried two layers of dough, but three was definitely better. Matt was combining glaze coating with cinnamon-sugar which was new to me. We did, eventually, invite the boys, and they devoured cronut after cronut. The best part, though, was spending time with friends.

MaKe a cROnuT, maKe A fRIeNd.