Year: 2010 (page 1 of 23)

Books I’ve Read In December

(So this is an incomplete list – let’s say it begins a week before Christmas.)

GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (Armageddon and British humor – very funny, perfect style. A little language. 1 instance of Big language. Snort. Snicker. Re-read.)

THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER by Barbara Robinson (After we finished A CHRISTMAS CAROL, I read this one out loud with the Kids – again. Love it still. But as a writer, I think I woud have begun the book at the end of chapter 2, the part where our nameless narrator tells us that the wicked Herdman kids are all going to hell. Funny, and hook-ish.)

MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins (I know, finally, right? My Kid 2 disagrees, but I feel like this was a great wrap up to a series I wondered how I’d even manage to read. But I’m glad I did. All the way to the end.)

THE LOST HERO by Rick Riordan (Are you a Percy fan? Yes? Read this. Are you not? Read it anyway. Riordan’s voice is perfect – voices, really. He’s a Writer. Loved it. Bring on Book 2.)

FLAWED DOGS by Berkeley Breathed (This was one of Kid 4’s Christmas books. Good. Maybe not so much a little kids’ book, but Kid 4 liked it a lot. Even to the point of a few glisteny spots in his eyes at the end. It would have been hard for him to understand all the words (even the flatulence humor is a little… dense) but a fun read-aloud.)

Right Now

The house is quiet. Just the hum of the dryer and the snap of roasting potatoes in olive oil. Kids are playing in various other people’s domains.

Snow total (can I call it that, when it’s nowhere near being finished?) approaching 20 inches for today. Canyon closed. Husband worked at home (in the quiet). Kind of awesome.

I’m looking at the Christmas tree, wanting someone to come over and take it all down for me. It’s not Scrooge-y of me, I just want my sunspot back. The tree is a west-window sun hog.

Thinking about goals. I like to start them a little before the new year. That way, things are already a habit by the Big Day. Or something.

Planning some bribes reinforcements for myself. Fifteen of them. One for each of the fifteen, um, things I need to, um, lose. I’ll post them when I figure out what they are.

I want to start a gratitude journal. I want to do it on paper. I need a little notebook, to dedicate just to that. Sally gave me one in September. I’ll tear out the pages I’ve already written on and use that one. It is very cute, with a flower on it, and it will sleep beside my bed. Then I can write first thing in the morning (except that first thing in the morning, I’m generally most grateful for indoor plumbing, if you follow me…) or right before I fall asleep, or at nap time, or when I climb into my bed to hide from the doorbell. Or whenever I feel grateful.

We’ve been passing around a scratchy sore throat. I took a sick day yesterday (the kind where I tell the Kids to parent each other) and I’m back to about 90%. Can’t complain about 90%.

I’m going to start doing an end-of-month post about what books I read every month. Then you will know just how much work I do not do around here. I read a lot of books. As you will soon see. To prevent jealous fits, I’ll only post the PUBLISHED books I read, not the sneak-peeks that will make some of you pull your hair, or the hair of your nearest neighbor. I’ll start this weekend, but the list will only include this last week of December. Because I’m too old to remember farther back without notes, and I didn’t take any. Notes, I mean.

I can’t see out one of the windows in my bedroom. Well, I can, but only straight out, not down. Because the snow is tall there, on the roof gable thingy.

I made truly excellent peppermint ice cream. Perfect consistency. If raw eggs gross you out, don’t ask me how I achieved it.

Happiness = World Market’s Hazelnut Vanilla Spread. “Spread” sort of implies that I should put it on something other than a spoon…

(Did I mention those fifteen things I need to lose? Yeah. Not easy today.)

I love Christmas vacation when there’s nothing to do, and nobody expects much. And the snow blows in, thick and strong. And the fireplaces all work, and the Kids got a fat stack of great new books that I can steal share.

I have some things I want to talk to you guys about. Stay tuned.

But right now, I should turn on those pretty plug-in candles in all my windows (at least the ones that will still show in all the snow) because it’s my second-favorite way to see my house, with all the front-facing windows winking fake light at the neighbors. (Favorite? With busting-out hanging flower baskets and a porch you have to inch your way through for all the pots of green and growing things. But that will have to wait six months. I’ll take what I can get right now.)

Happy, Happy Christmas

I think I like it better that way. “Merry” isn’t a word I’d (ever) use in a conversation (and that’s just too bad, isn’t it?). But Happy happens all the time. All the time.

And so, I say Happy to you.

Happy anticipation. Happy celebration. Happy gathering. Happy family time. Happy food. Happy reminiscing. Happy lights. Happy travels. Happy kids. Happy presents. Happy thoughts. Happy worship. Happy gratitude. Happy pondering. Happy testifying. Happy contemplating. Happy Joy.

Enjoy your Happy.

Pagan Celebration Day

We’re not actually pagans at our house.

(Surprised?)

In fact, we think ourselves rather committed to all things Godly. But today, on this Winter Solstice, we have a little bit of a heathen celebration. Every year. Because, you know, this is an important day. It’s the shortest day of the year. Meaning (by logical extension – see if you can follow me) that tomorrow will be a little bit longer than today. There will be more theoretical sun time (even if it keeps snowing until our house is buried*). And days will continue to stretch a little longer every single day until Spring comes, and beyond.

And that feels good. Spring, I mean. And also longer days.

When I was in college, I took an American Folklore class, which was a perfect combination of cool and ridiculous. One day, our teacher (he was a grad student who always needed a haircut, and I regularly had to resist the urge to fix his tie) invited in a pair of witches to guest lecture.

They were weird, I’m not going to lie to you.

They explained Wicca business, and it was strange and earthy and slightly unwashed. But then they said this. “When we see the first crocus of Spring, we kneel down and say a prayer to Mother Earth, thanking her for the world’s rebirth.”

And I got simultaneous chills and shivers. Like, “Yes! I do that, too!” and also, “Wow. That is truly strange.” CLARIFICATION: I don’t pray to Mother Earth. If you do, right on. I’m partial to praying to God, myself, but I respect your right to go your own way. But I do say a little prayer of thanks when I see shoots and blooms popping up through the muddy springtime ground. I get wet knees and possibly a smudge of mud on my nose from exploring REALLY closely.

And it’s coming. Closer every day, starting today.

So we’ll celebrate with our tomato-basil soup and our homemade bread, and our shoveling and our slipping around. We’ll enjoy this last darkest day, and we’lllook forward to what is to come — today, this weekend, and several months in the future.

But if we go without showering for more than 24 hours, please send help.

*8.5 inches between last night and 6:0 a.m.

Overheard

Kid 1 (15) Kid 3 (9) and Kid 4 (7) are playing with the dollhouse in the basement. This is, naturally, because I planned to give it away for Christmas. It hasn’t been played with for years, maybe. But as soon as I decide to donate it, it becomes once again Beloved.

Anyway. Kid 4 was telling me about his “family” – the FisherPrice doll people he’s in charge of.

Him: They thought the didn’t have a dad anymore, but they do. He’s just sluffing Family Reunion.

Kid 3, kinda snarky-like and under her breath: Like Dad.

Kid 1 and Me, perfectly in synch: Dad did NOT sluff family reunion.

Kid 4: But he wanted to.

This is, once again, what passes for Function around here.

This Goes Way Beyond Licking the Spoon

(If you’re lactose intolerant, please don’t even read this post. It will make you so, so sad.)

So the Boy (Kid 4) asked for a Tres Leches cake for his birthday. And I made it. And as I’m now buzzing with a sugar high and carefully licking the sticky off my face (where it landed after I totally licked the plate), I thought I’d share the goodness.

thanks, google images. this looks good enough to eat.

If you’re my neighbor, come on over for a hunk. Otherwise, make your own. Here’s how.

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup white sugar
5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon (really good) vanilla extract

1 and 1/2 cups cream (go ahead and sub if you want, I’m just giving it to you The Right Way)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream (but this time, I mean it)
3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13 pan (except I just sprayed the pan, because you don’t need to turn the cake out).

Sift flour and baking soda together and set aside. (I love this direction. I have a very lovely vintage metal sifter that I inherited from Grandma Jennie’s kitchen, and I love recipes that ask me to make use of it.)

Cream the butter with the one cup of white sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat between each. Add in the half-teaspoon vanilla and beat well.

Add that perfectly sifted flour mixture to the butter mixture, two tablespoons at a time. (I don’t know why. Just do it.) Mix until well blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. When the cake is done, poke it all over with a fork. Don’t skimp on the poking. Get it good and poked. At this point, you can cover the cake and wait till you need it, freeze it, whatever. But at least 8 hours before you eat the cake, do this part. Combine the first 1 and 1/2 cups cream, the sweetened condensed milk, and the evaporated milk together. Stir it all up. Pour it slowly over the cake. Yes. All of it. This is where the cake gets its name – Tres Leches means Hard Arteries in Spanish.

For the final touch, before serving, whip the last 1 and 1/2 cups cream with the powdered sugar and teaspoon of vanilla. (Did you know if you whip cream with powdered sugar instead of white grain sugar, it holds its shape longer? It’s true.) Spread the thick and fabulous whipped cream (we used heavy cream, remember? because that is the good kind?) over the cake. Serve with strawberries, if your Kid isn’t celebrating a birthday in December (who has Kids in December, anyway?) or pretty little pomegranate seeds, which is sure to make you look classy (if your fingers come clean). If it lasts overnight, this is even better on day 2.

Disclaimer #1:  I am not really a cake girl. I always prefer pie. But I think I love this cake with a deep and abiding passion. But if you’re expecting crumbly, box-mix cake, you might be disappointed. It’s more like a Pudding (not the Jell-O box kind, the English kind).

Disclaimer #2: I combined three recipes to get this one. But it’s most like one from allrecipes.com

Disclaimer #3: Apparently I’m on sugar again.

On Your Marks, Get Set…

Go to writer’s conferences.

I know. I’m using the Bossy Voice again. But here’s the thing: Writer’s conferences are so good.

So, so good.

And here’s one that I’m speaking at. It’s the LDS Storymakers’ Conference in May, 2011. Here is registration and information. I’m teaching a class on Truth and Fiction on Saturday, and lurking in lots of other classes that day. I’m also heading up a Boot Camp class. Intense. Personal. Helpful. (Do I sound a little like a purveyor of psychiatric services? I’m not, really.) And I noticed that there’s a red-meat salad for lunch on Saturday, which I’m sure the conference planners did just for me. Mmmm. I love red meat.

Shall we clarify LDS Storymakers? LDS is Mormon. Latter-day Saints. You don’t have to write LDS fiction to go to the conference. Some do. Others don’t. You don’t even have to be LDS to go. But most people are, and I can’t guarantee you’ll understand all the lingo, if you head in there unwarned. But I can guarantee there will be excellent classes, top-notch agents and editors, and loads of food. Mormons love food.

And writing books.

So go over to the registration page, and get yourself signed up.

See you in May. I might go hibernate until then…

Happy Birthday, Kid 4!


Seven Years.

Here are seven ways you’ve changed my life:

1. We bought a minivan to herald your arrival. I have never become emotionally attached, but I am grateful for it. That is a surprising attitude change. CLARIFICATION: I never resented you. Just maybe the van.

2. You’re not a girl. Up until you arrived, I was feeling like I had a handle on the parenting-of-daughters business. This boy thing is a nice change in our lives. NOTE: If  my brothers read this, they are all equally likely to comment thusly – “Hey, Bec, remember when you said your first daughter would be your last child?” Answer – yes. I remember. I was wrong. And I’m happy to be wrong.

3. You are my only child who ever said (in my hearing) “I hate you, Mom.” You were two. You really, really needed to run through the Wal-Mart parking lot all by yourself. I stifled your creative energy. And forced you bodily into your buckles.  You sat in your car-seat muttering two-year-old curses and kicking the back of my chair. I cried real tears when I heard those words. But the change? The change is that I somehow learned to hear what you meant as opposed to what you said. And that has been tremendously helpful to me. (What you meant was, “Hey, Mom? That place is not good for me. Let’s not go there anymore.” We’re still doing our best to stay away.)

4. You are a seven year old boy, and you still hold my hand in public and choose to sit on my lap in church (and not only when I have mints in my pocket). You hug like a koala. Remember when we used to rent out your hugs? Like when Mary was doing chemo and she needed a fix every now and then, and we’d go over and you’d hug her? I hope you remember that. Those hugs were worth more than gold. More than chocolate. More than anything. And they’re still good.

5. You’ve showed me that you can (almost) have it all. You are * handsome * smart * athletic * interesting * kind * funny * musical * gentle * generous. Also you keep your room cleaner than any of your sisters keep theirs. (I’m not saying “Favorite.” I’m just saying “cleaner.” Geez, girls. Lighten up.)

6. You gave me permission – even the commission – to find your wife. Remember? I tried to get out of it. I told you that would be your job. But you said, no. I want your help, Mom. You pick her. Well, all right. If you insist.

7. You multiplied my heart (again) and filled it right up.

Happy Birthday, Buddy. I hope it’s magical. Like you.