Thursday, January 31, 2008

Life is Full of Irony

The other night, as we said our prayers and climbed into bed, I snuggled up to my husband and sighed with contentment. In spite of the trials we have, I felt nearly overwhelmed with how blessed we are and how many things are going right in our life.
"You know, we have a good life." I said to Jared.
"Mmm-huh" he murmured, already half asleep.
Anticipating a good night's sleep before my alarm went off at 4:45 for spin class, and proud of us for making it to bed by 10:00, I closed my eyes.
"Waaaaaaaaa," cried Bronwen, who has been fast asleep for two hours. "Waaaaaaaa."
Trying not to lose the happy feelings I had just expressed, I wearily got out of bed and went to go comfort the baby.
Oh well. We still have a good life. It's just easier to feel that way when you're tucked into bed with everyone asleep!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

100th Post!!

I'm so excited to write my 100th post. Since it has taken me FOREVER to get this post done, I have lots to say. But most of it, I will save for another day, another post. I've been planning on taking you on a walk down memory lane with me for this special post, plus sharing a previously unpublished recipe that you will want to have.

Just in case you don't make it to the end of this very long post, I'm going to make a request of my readers. Just this once, this one time, if you read my post, please leave me a comment! I think it would be so fun to see who is out there reading it, and I know that the majority of people reading this do not comment. You are free to comment under "anonymous" and then write your name in the message section so I know who you are. Pretty please? For me?

In reading other's blogs, I have realized that for the milestone of a 100th post, many bloggers choose a special topic, hold a contest, award prizes, and otherwise celebrate. I thought that I would tell you about a place that was a part of my life in my teenage years, a place where I had my first real job (if you don't count the tele-marketing research job I had briefly when I was 15,) where I made many friends, further developed my discriminating food palate, and picked up a few foodie tips. (The recipe at the end will be the special prize, to all who are willing to try it. You won't be sorry.)

Mason's Community Bakery was already a well known establishment in Uptown Whittier before I went there seeking employment. Before my job there, I knew it as the place my mom got full sheets of orange rolls when family was in town, and the bakery that made the 100 foot long cake for Whittier's centennial celebration. My mom suggested that I look there for a job, since I wanted somewhere that wouldn't require me to work on Sundays and that was the day they were closed. I applied and started working there just before the end of my junior year of high school (spring of 1990, if you must know how old I am). I quickly felt at home with the staff there and soon my best friend, Stephanie, was working there as well. Aren't we cute in our aprons and white collared shirts?
(The staff all referred to the color of our aprons and the decor in the bakery as "Mason Mauve." I still call it that when I run across it!) I worked there throughout my senior year, and then full time the next two summers. Many of the Christmases while I was a college student I would come home in time to work during their crazy holiday rush that came the week before Christmas and I would earn a little holiday cash.

Here's a photo that Mrs. Mason sent me of my family singing in 1990. It's blurry, but since it captured my family doing something we often did, I had to include it. Not sure why we are singing in the bakery (maybe caroling at the Uptown Whittier Christmas Cantata?) It was my dad's dream that we be like the Von Trapps and from my very early childhood we performed together in friends' homes, at church, and other spots (apparently at the bakery!)

My wedding cake came from Mason's Bakery. Their traditional wedding cakes were not only beautiful, but tasted amazing. The flavors weren't the gourmet ones that are popular at the moment--they were all tried and true classics--but once you tasted the cake, you wished you'd taken a bigger piece. Brides came from all over Southern California to get their wedding cake from Mason's Bakery. One summer after I was in college, my younger brother, Martin, was their wedding cake delivery boy. I still cringe to think of how dangerous that was, since Martin is at least as accident prone as I am! Here he is with a cake ready for delivery:
Other favorite memories of my Mason's days include singing to the music in the back (on a good day, it was tuned to a station that sang hits of the 70s, 80s, and 90s,) eating lunch on the flour sacks, cracking jokes with Baker Bob and teasing Walter, the German baker (who many of the staff thought was a grump, but Steph and I knew how to make him smile and share a hot cookie!), watching Lupe split and fill cakes and Sue work the butter into the Danish, watching Mr. Mason decorate wedding cakes, and trying to see who could make Helen smile first. Helen had been with the Mason's for something like 30 years and she pretended to be scary and mean but she was actually sweet and soft and positively wonderful.

A bit of official history: Mason's was owned and operated by Walt and Barbara Mason. It had been in Mrs. Mason's family since 1946, when her father bought Community Bakery in East Los Angeles. In 1954, Walt & Barbara got married and Walt, just home from the Korean War, decided to work for his father in law while he figured out what he wanted to do in terms of college, etc. He found that he was good at it, and in 1965, Walt and Barbara bought the bakery from her parents. In 1985, they sold Community Bakery and opened Mason's Community Bakery in Uptown Whittier, closer to their home. Here is a photo that hung in both bakeries, of their oldest daughter, Teri, on her second birthday.Mason's Bakery was well known for many of their specialties: their chocolate eclairs were incomparable. I've never had anything like them. The custard was absolutely divine. Their traditional stollen was only made at Christmas and people came from all over to get it. Their breakfast danish was sooo good (although watching how much butter got worked into the dough each night was enough to keep will power strong--sometimes!) We also loved their white bread and cheese bread, which somehow tasted more like cake than bread. My favorite (and my family's) cookie out of the entire cookie case was the Dutch Girl. My dad called them Angel Tongues--I don't know why, but that's what they were known as around our house for years.
The Mason's and I have kept in touch over the years, writing letters to one another and often seeing one another when I'm in Whittier for a visit. Here's a photo of Mrs. Mason with Bronwen in May of 2007. I can't find a single picture of Mr. Mason, unfortunately. I'll have to get one. A few years ago, after they had sold the bakery in 2000 and moved into that glorious era known as retirement, they shared the Dutch Girl recipe with me. The bakery, under new ownership struggled, perhaps because others were not willing to sacrifice profit in order to use the highest quality ingredients, or perhaps because they were not willing to put the amazing amount of time required into the business. In any case, it is a loss for the community. I wish I could bop in for an eclair and a visit with the Mason's when I'm in Whittier. Instead, I do often get to visit with them in their home (which is nice) but without the eclairs. Bummer!

I recently asked the Mason's what they missed most about the bakery. Mrs. Mason named many of my favorite foods from there--the pecan rings, orange rolls, individual danish, and eclairs. Mr. Mason said he misses the plain butterhorn danish, but gets a hankering for orange rolls now and again. (Incidentally, the Mason's are very healthy eaters and as much as they miss these things, I am sure that they rarely indulged in them.)

Mrs. Mason also said she misses the people, both employees and patrons. She does not miss the financial pressures, the turnover of employees, or the health department visits!:) Mr. Mason does not miss any part of it!:) He enjoyed making it a success, but it so glad to have time now to do things he loves more, like golfing, playing music, making a guitar, and working in their beautiful garden that he wouldn't dream of going back! They frequently travel to visit their children and grandchildren and old friends.

Anyhow, the closing of the bakery is to the good fortune of my readers, because now I can share the Dutch Girl Recipe with you. It is somewhat labor intensive, but is well worth the work. The delicate pastry cookies are so light and heavenly (I guess that's why my dad dubbed them Angel Tongues.)

Mason's Bakery Dutch Girls

Ingredients (in two stages)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. rapid rise yeast
The first step of these cookies is to make a roll dough from the above ingredients. in your mixer, combine 3/4 cup flour, the sugar, undissolved yeast, and salt. Heat milk, water, and butter in the microwave until very warm (around 120-130 degrees.) Add to dry ingredients. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed, scraping sides of the bowl. Add the egg and mix in, then add remaining flour and mix until well combined. Weigh out 1 1/2 lbs of the roll dough and set aside for the cookies. Use the rest to make a couple of rolls!
Next, Combine the following ingredients in a mixer bowl:
  • 3/4 lb. flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1 lb. butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 lb margerine (I use butter, since I never buy the M word, and it works fine)
  • 1/4 oz salt (about 3/4 tsp.)
Once well mixed, tear off chunks of roll dough and add to the bowl with the dough hook going, mixing lightly after each addition. Once all the dough is incorporated into the butter mixture, form long, thin logs, about 1" in diameter. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for easy handling.
Once the dough is firm enough to not be tacky, remove the logs from the fridge one at a time. Put sugar down on your work surface instead of flour. Cut the logs into balls about 1" or so and shape them into little fat sausages.Now put a generous amount of sugar on your work surface and roll them out two or three at a time into long, thin pieces (about 6" x 1.5"), turning frequently in the sugar. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated oven at 360 degrees for about 12 minutes. (I like them best when they are just a little bit brown on the edges, when the sugar has really carmelized.)
With the rolls of dough we made, each one made about 20 cookies. I froze several rolls to bake on another day, since these are irresistible, and one batch makes about 200 cookies, which is more than I want in my house at any given time. The day we made these, I took a big plate to an open house and asked the babysitter to finish them off while we were gone! Self preservation--these cookies are heavenly!

Whew. That has got to be my longest post ever. But I couldn' t leave anything out. I probably lost most of you long ago, but if not, don't forget to leave a comment as a special 100th post gift to me! (Yes, it is all about me after all!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Who Needs It?

You remember from this post that one of my goals for 2008 is to be content with the blessings that I have been given, rather than always wishing and praying for more.
People who know me well know that I love beautiful things. Clothes, decor, STUFF FOR MY KITCHEN, etc. My wish list at Christmas and birthdays is legendary for it's length. My wish list for our house is even longer, and almost everything on it has a big price tag: a new backyard, kitchen, flooring, crown molding, etc. And let's not even get started on the trips we'd like to take.
I have always tried to live within my means, sometimes doing this better than others, but I always want more. I guess it's a part of human nature, but it's a part that I'd like to do away with.
Anyhow, I'm going to share some of the strategies that I am using to help me combat the materialistic thirst within. I really feel like they are working--although we are only a few weeks into January, so I guess it's too soon to declare a victory!
  • I am really trying to ask myself before each purchase, "Is this a want or a need? If it's a want, can it wait? Will my life be richer because I have this?" You'd be surprised how often the answer is that it wouldn't make any difference at all in our lives. I took back several Christmas gifts that I'd purchased for the kids (I took them back the week before Christmas, not after we gave them to them!) because we just decided that they didn't need that much. And I don't believe that we missed them in the slightest on Christmas Day.
  • I automatically delete the emails that I get from my favorite stores, offering a sneak peak at their new spring line or their upcoming sale. If I don't know what's being offered, I'm not tempted to buy it, nor do I really wish we had it. I find that this saves me lots of time as well, since I used to spend lots of time looking at Baby Gap, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, and other pretty websites, window shopping and otherwise. (Is it called window shopping when you are online?)
  • Along the same lines, I have stopped flipping through all the catalogues we get. What I intend to do (and haven't gotten around to yet) is to cancel those catalogues, since I have access to the same things over the internet, and can save some trees as well (not to mention trips to the recycling center.)
  • Jared & I have always been full tithe payers, giving ten percent to the Lord without questioning or feeling like it's rightfully ours. We have also always prayed that the Lord would, as promised, "Open the windows of heaven and pour [us] out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." (Malachi 3:10) Now that's all well and good, but we have changed our prayers recently, to ask Heavenly Father to help us be wise stewards with the things He has given us, so that it will be enough to meet our needs. We know that His promises are sure, but perhaps we need to be content with less before there cannot be room enough to receive it, rather than just having our perceived needs grow along with our income.
  • I'm also striving to spend more time thanking than asking in my personal prayers. Expressing gratitude for the gifts I have been given in my life helps me realize how blessed I am with the things that matter most.
  • I found this blog, which I am enjoying, and am hoping that she posts regularly throughout the year, as I appreciate her perspective. And it's nice to feel like you are doing these things by choice rather than being forced into it by tight finances.
Check back soon for my 100th post. It's one I've been planning for a while.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I am a wimp. I do not like to work hard, especially physically. I was always the one on the verge of puking when we ran the mile in school. Wimpy. I watch The Biggest Loser and hope that I wouldn't be like Neill, always looking for an excuse to take a break or ease up on a workout.
For this reason, I force myself to go to classes at the gym. Having an instructor there pushes me to work out harder and longer than I would on my own. Let's face it--even with my new Zen (mp3) pumping out tunes or conference talks, I still hate to be on a treadmill. It's boring and it's work.
The other problem is that I am highly uncoordinated. I could never do a cartwheel and it took me years longer than most to learn to ride a bike. Kimball was diagnosed a few years ago as having minor Cerebral Palsy, which manifests in an inability to smoothly coordinate both sides of his body. I secretly wonder if he inherited it from me and that I have been undiagnosed all these years. (At least it would be a good reason to be so clumsy.) Needless to say, I am lost and look ridiculous in an aerobics class. By the time I finally get the steps down, they have long since moved on to another step.
For the past 9 weeks, I have been going to a spinning class on Thursdays at 5:30 am. If you've never been to a spin class, it is one of the best workouts I've ever known. One of the great things about it is that you don't have to be coordinated. There are no routines to learn and no tall step to slip and fall off of in the middle of class. You ride a stationary bicycle with adjustable tension and spend the hour "riding" up hills, pushing harder and harder all the time. It makes me sweat like a man. And I love the way it makes me feel. I do not, however, love getting out of bed at 5:00 am one day a week.
But this week, I had an epiphany. If I really want to get to my goal weight, if I really want to be healthy and fit, then I might have to pay a higher price. I might have to get my sorry, wimpy, clumsy butt out of bed before it wants to be more than once a week. Getting up at 6:00 to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill most mornings is not cutting it. I checked out the schedule at the gym and found that on other mornings, there is a 5:00 am spin class. Why does that seem so much earlier than 5:30? Perhaps because I actually have to set the alarm for a time that starts with a 4. That's just plain obscene!
Tuesday night I decided to go to that dark and early class the next day. "Think of it as a last chance workout before your weigh-in," I told myself (you have to watch TBL to get that.) Not only did we go to bed at 9:30, but I wore my workout clothes to bed! The next morning--if you can call it that--when the alarm went off, I wanted to die. Instead, I pulled myself out of bed, put on my shoes, socks, and contacts, and headed for the door. The streets were empty and I wondered if I was being a complete fool on the way there, tempted to turn around and go back to bed. When I arrived at the gym, I was surprised to see at least 20 people on the spin bikes--twice the attendance of the 5:30 class! As we climbed our 13th hill of the morning, it dawned on me that I was in on the secret now that these people already knew. If you want to be healthy and fit, you really do have to pay a price that is painful. But everything truly worthwhile in life requires sacrifice and hard work, doesn't it?
I left the gym at 6:00 feeling invigorated, accomplished, and sweaty. Amazingly, by the time my kids needed me to be their mom at 7:00 am, I had already showered and spent 30 minutes studying the scriptures. Not a bad way to start the day.
I am planning on making it to an early morning spin class three times a week from now on. I'm posting about it so that you'll expect it from me and even follow up with me once in a while. And if you've never been to a spin class, you might just want to give it a try. Just remember your water bottle!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Weight Loss Wednesday

Wednesday is my Weight Watcher's day. I had a fantastic week--better than I have in ages. I went to the gym, counted every point that came near my mouth, drank my water . . . it doesn't get much better. And I'm rewarded with 2.6 lbs down. I know I shouldn't be disappointed; 2.6 lbs is good, solid weight loss. I guess I've been watching the Biggest Loser too much, because I was really hoping for more.
Nevertheless, it is weight loss. And if I take a look at what 2 1/2 lbs of butter looks like, I am thrilled to have that off my body.
We have been eating fabulously this week, dusting off some favorite recipes that we haven't had in a while, and I thought I'd share. Here's one that never fails to please. We have to stop ourselves from licking the plate clean, and yet it is very filling and satisfying.

I first discovered this recipe in my Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen cookbook. I highly recommend the cookbook—it is hysterical, practical, and full of delicious and healthy recipes. I have made a few (but not many) changes to this meal. It tastes like wonderful, filling, hearty comfort food, but is very diet friendly.
A Ragu is a chunky meat tomato based sauce. This one is fabulous. Do not leave out the mushrooms—they add a richness and meatiness of their own.

Creamy Polenta and Chunky Ragu

Creamy Polenta

  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • ½ tsp. coarse kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 cup coarse ground polenta (buy stone ground if you can)
  • ½ T. butter
  • ¼ c. shredded Parmesan (throw away the green can and buy the real thing!!!!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour broth into 1 ½ quart oven safe dish (not metal). Add salt, pepper, polenta, and stir. Add butter to the top. Put it in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes UNCOVERED. Stir it halfway through. It will be finished when the liquid is almost absorbed. Taste it—if it’s still gritty, give it a few more minutes. If it’s creamy, take it out.

Stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve with Ragu over the top.

Chunky Ragu

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, peeled and finely diced (shhh—Jared doesn’t know this has celery in it)
  • ½ lb. fresh mushrooms— use porcini or crimini, (or white if you must)
  • ¾ lb. extra lean ground beef (93%) or lean white turkey Italian sausage
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • ½ c. red wine
  • 28 oz. can peeled plum tomatoes (chop the tomatoes and reserve the juice)
  • ¼ c. loosely packed, roughly chopped herbs (I use basil, oregano, and parsely)
  • Coarse kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

In 3 quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 15 minutes. Add meat to pan, breaking it apart with the back of your wooden spoon, and cook about 6-7 minutes—it won’t all be brown yet. Add tomato paste, wine, tomatoes, and their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 25 minutes, until thickened. Add herbs and cook 5 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This recipe is great if you are doing Weight Watchers, this recipe is Core (you might take a point for the Parmesan, butter, and red wine, but there’s not really much in each serving. If you are counting points, the polenta (this specific recipe) is 2 points per cup and the Ragu is 3 points per cup.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Overheard at Our House

The other morning, when I called Kimball to come out to breakfast, I heard sobbing from his bedroom. I went in to investigate. Kimball was on top of the bed, crying as if all was lost (this is not terribly unusual--he only knows one way to cry, and that's as if all is lost.)

Me: Kimball, what's the matter?
Kimball: I can't come to breakfast. (sob) I can't get down from the bunk bed.
Me: Why can't you get down?
Kimball: Because I have a shell instead of legs (wail.)
Me: What? (Then, noticing that his legs are in a pillowcase,) What's going on?
Kimball: Henry destroyed the Transmogrofier and now I'm stuck forever with a shell instead of legs!
(He points to a large piece of cardboard on the bedroom floor, that has intricate drawings all over it that are obviously machine parts and a faint "X" drawn through them. Clearly, this is the destroyed Transmogrifier.)
Me: I don't think that this Transmogrifier is destroyed. Perhaps Henry was trying to ruin it, but it looks like he failed to me. Let's transmogrify you back into a kid with legs. And let's do it quickly. I'm clearing away breakfast in 15 minutes.
Kimball: (Sniffle, sob) Mom, it's destroyed. And now I'm doomed!
Me: (Deep breath) Son, let me see if I can get the shell off your legs. (I peel the pillowcase from his reluctant body.) Ok, it looks like I transmogrified you. Now come to breakfast.
Kimball: Now my hideous spider legs are exposed! I can't get down.
Me: Well, please figure out how to get yourself out to breakfast if you want to eat. (Yes, I'm kind of a killjoy. Except for the fact that there didn't seem to be any joy involved in this game, anyway.)

A few minutes later, Kimball arrives in the kitchen in an army crawl. He warns us:

Kimball: No one look at my hideous spider legs. And no one touch them--they are covered in deadly poison! (sniffle)

Obviously, this kid reads too much Calvin and Hobbes!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Woman of the Year 2007

If you've been on my blog lately, you'll see that I've been giving awards for 2007. If you've missed these, check this post and this one. My award for Woman of the Year 2007 goes to Julie Beck of Alpine, Utah. In March of 2007, she was called to be the General President of the Relief Society (the LDS Church's Women's organization.) This is a responsibility that comes without formal training or pay. Since members of the Relief Society live in countries all over the world and number over 5 million women, her stewardship is far spread and surely a heavy burden to bear. (I thought it was hard when I was responsible for the 150 women in our congregation--I can't imagine what that must be like on such a large scale. I wonder if she can ever sleep!) She oversees an organization that assists in providing for the humanitarian and welfare needs of people all over the globe, in and out of the Church. The Relief Society helps women across the world with literacy, employment skills, and homemaking skills so that they can improve the quality of their lives and the lives of their families.
This assignment comes without a salary. It comes with little glory and frequently with much criticism from those who would do it differently. It is not something that you apply for, rather it is something that she was asked to do, called by a prophet of God. It requires great personal sacrifice of time, energy, and a willingness to subject oneself to the criticism of others. Sister Beck handles all this with grace and gratitude because of her testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the things that I love about Julie Beck (and, incidentally, has brought much criticism against her) is the way that she stands up for motherhood as a divine calling. She asks us to honor all that is good and godly in mothers. When she addressed the Church as a whole in October of 2007, her talk was bold and simple and extremely heartfelt. I sensed that she felt deeply about the importance of the subject of mothers, and more than once her voice wavered as she held back tears. She taught us how vital our role is as mothers. She spoke of how important and desirable are even the seemingly mundane tasks of housework, as keeping an orderly home contributes to the atmosphere in the home. (Incidentally, she did not say or imply that our husbands were not responsible to assist us in these tasks, although many women have been resentful that housekeeping was even mentioned, as if it will just get miraculously done.) She talked about the importance of choosing wisely how we as mothers will spend our time and energy, as well as making careful choices about the time commitments of our families, so as to ensure enough time for family dinners, Family Home Evening, family prayer, and other critical family times that enrich and build our families. I loved that she essentially rejected the idea of the "Supermom", who can do everything and pointed out that we need to make choices if we want to do the most important things well, rather than spreading ourselves too thin. She offered hope and peace that we can "have great power and influence for good on [our] children," inspite of the world in which we are raising them, if we will strengthen our own faith in God and seek to strengthen our families. Her talk was inspiring and motivating, and I have listened to it on my mp3 player and studied it online many times since then.
I sustain Sister Julie Beck as called by God at this time to lead the women of the world, to stand up for women and mothers, to strengthen families across the globe, and to testify of Jesus Christ. Because she does this without apology, even when some of the things that she teaches are not popular, I have chosen her as 2007 Woman of the Year.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Awards Show Continued

Here are a few of my favorites for 2007 that didn't warrant their own separate posts:
  • Favorite New Recipe--I discovered the recipe for Beef Carnitas in Cooking Light this year. It was published last year but I didn't make it until this year, so I'm counting it. It is definitely my favorite new recipe of the year. I actually make it as written, which is unusual for me. The only modification that I make is to double it so that I can (hopefully) stretch it into two or three meals. But the meat is so good that it doesn't last long! Given that I try at least a couple of new recipes every week, this is a significant award.
  • Favorite Kitchen Tool--This would have to be my Cutco Santoku knife. It makes chopping, dicing, and slicing a dream.
  • Favorite Blog Post (somebody else's)--although this was hard to choose, my favorite has got to be Debbie's Got Milk? post. I could not stop laughing, and even now, remembering, I chuckle. I can't wait for her book to come out.
  • Favorite Reality Show-- Although we really enjoyed Dancing with the Stars and were inspired by The Biggest Loser, my favorite reality show remains The Amazing Race. (Which, painfully, we had to miss this last weekend because our satellite was out after the wind storms, as was our TiVo.)
  • Favorite Comedy--Hands down, the award goes to The Office. I just laugh out loud every week at Michael, Dwight, and the gang. Curse the writers' strike! I guess I'll just have to be happy watching webisodes for a while.
  • Favorite Drama--We've got a two way tie here for Lost (can't wait for January 31st) and Heroes.
  • Favorite Technological Toy--As much as I love my cell phone and new Zen, now that you see how much TV we watch, this award must go to our TiVo. We couldn't do it without you, little box!
  • Favorite Children's Book-- This is hard for me because I love so many of them. A couple of new board books that I got for Bronwen this year have been wonderful, both for their beautiful illustrations and their lilting text. They are Mommies Say Shhh by Patricia Polacco (one of my favorite children's authors) and Goodnight Goodnight Sleepyhead by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Jane Dyer.
  • Favorite New Thing in My House (baby not included)--is still definitely this. With this being a close second. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so this was a no-brainer.
  • Best Thing To Happen To Me in 2007--Besides having a daughter and having my sister move near by, I think that the best thing that happened to me is that I really fell in love with mothering and came to terms with the mother that I am, even though she's not perfect. After seven plus years of beating myself up over my faults (which are too many to be named) and worrying about the years of therapy my children will probably (read: definitely) require later, I have really felt a sense of peace that if I am trying my best and seeking the Lord's help and counsel, that it will be enough. Not perfect, but enough. After all, plenty of people turned out well even though their parents were just doing the best they could, right?
So there you have it, folks. Now you know some of the things that made me smile this past year. I still want to dedicate a post to my pick for Woman of the Year--maybe tomorrow. I've got laundry to fold!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Michal's Book of the Year 2007

I decided that I am going to do my own "awards show" this year. Why not? It seems like everyone else out there gets to do one. The first three months of the year you can't turn on the television without accidentally finding an award show. Mine will not have a red carpet with scantily clad superstars on it, but I hope you'll tune in anyway!
I'm going to start with my Book of the Year award. It wasn't published in 2007 and it wasn't even the book that I enjoyed reading the most, (actually, I haven't even finished it yet!) The award goes to Covenant Hearts: Marriage and the Joy of Human Love by Bruce Hafen. This is the book I read this year that I felt made the biggest difference in my life (not including scripture.) I actually bought the book for Jared for Valentine's Day and then decided a few weeks later to pick it up and read it myself. I'd read a chapter here and there throughout the year. I really like Elder Hafen's perspective on marriage. He spends the first several chapters making the case for why marriage is so important and why it has been so undermined by Satan. Once the reader sees the covenant marriage with new eyes, the author identifies the "wolves" that can tear apart a marriage. He draws from his experience as a marriage and family therapist as well as from the Scriptures.
This book helped me become more aware of the ways that I was unintentionally hurting our marriage. As I read it a chapter at a time, spread out over the course of many months, I had time to ponder each chapter and how its teachings applied to me in my own relationship with my husband. Reading Covenant Hearts has truly changed my heart, and has helped me unlock a deeper love and joy in my marriage--even though I was already in a loving and rewarding marriage.
This book is written for an LDS audience and includes scripture and teachings that are specific to the LDS Church (such as the doctrine of eternal marriage) as well as Biblical references. I believe that whether you are LDS or not, your marriage can benefit from reading this book if you believe that the marriage covenant is the most important relationship in your life and one worth making better, and that God has a desire to see you succeed in your marriage.
This past year has really been one of the happiest of my life so far, in spite of having my share of trials and struggles, and I believe that this is partly due to my experience with this book as I try to apply the principles in it. I wish I could give a copy to every married couple that I know!
So, check it out if you haven't read it. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Here are some resolutions I had this time last year. Let's see how I did:
  • Stop raising my voice with my kids--Even though I have by no means accomplished this goal, I'd like to think that I am better most days at controlling my temper with them. I am definitely mindful of this goal always, which helps. Nevertheless, it continues to be a major struggle of motherhood for me.
  • Get back into a good exercise routine after Bronwen is born--I did finally accomplish this, although it was quite a bit "after" Bronwen was born. After struggling all spring and summer with this goal, getting out for occasional walks, etc, I got back in my gym groove in November and managed to keep it up pretty well through the holidays. I have a long way to go to meet my fitness goals, but I know that regular exercise will help me to get there.
  • Stick to a budget and be better at discerning between wants and needs--My goodness, as I read over these in my journal, I realize that I have the same resolutions this year! I guess I still have the same old weaknesses. I do feel like I made strides in this department, particularly towards the end of the year.
  • Eat healthy and help my kids develop a healthy lifestyle--We had our good days and our bad days--and an awful lot of those bad days came in the month of December. Once again, this is a big one on my list for the year.
  • Be more regular about my scripture study and prayer. Try to do it in the morning.--This one really has gotten better in 2007, though I still have an occasional day that I miss. The point is to have the habit well established, and I think I can say that it is.
It's a little bit discouraging to review last year's goals and have them look so much like 2008's goals. Here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2008:
  1. Take the time each morning to reflect on the day and what my goals are. Prepare myself mentally for the challenges which could push me from my course. This preparation is best done if I will rise early, exercise, pray, meditate on my day, and study the scriptures or at least listen to a Conference talk on my mp3 player.
  2. Be content with the blessings that I have been given, rather than always wanting more, especially when it comes to material things. Take the time daily or a few times weekly to record in my journal some blessings of the day.
  3. Reach outside of myself to serve other people each day. Look for opportunities to do this.
  4. Continue my new habit of exercising 5 times per week. Incorporate the principles of healthy eating habits to achieve my weight loss goal for 2008 of 40 lbs.
  5. Learn to be more self- reliant in 2008 by a) planting a garden and tending it, b) building up my food storage that is waning, and c) learning a new skill such as sewing or canning.
Thanks for letting me list these for you. I think that accountability is important for me. Now that I've committed this to all of you I am more likely to follow through. Feel free to share some of your resolutions if accountability helps you (translation--comment, please!:)

In the coming days, I'm going to post some awards for 2007, including "Book of the Year" and "Woman of the Year." So keep coming back!