Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bucking the Trend

I was talking to one of my younger sisters about the research that shows that the more education a woman has, the fewer children she is likely to have.

"Well, Mom sure bucked THAT trend, didn't she?"


Six children. One PhD in math. An intact marriage. All I can say is, my parents are amazing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's back

That feeling of peace, love, happiness, contentment, joy, and being loved-- all rolled together, in such strength as to be undeniable-- have, as of this morning, entered into my heart again.

I find this event to be unexplicable and the feeling to be unexpressible, despite the attempt I have made just now to do so. I feel that it must be a gift of the spirit, because 1) I am completely certain that it is not of my own good works that I have received it ("not the labors of my hands/ can fill all the law's demands," as the song says); and, 2) I feel that it helps me to accomplish the Lord's work.

I feel like shouting for joy and crying for gratitude.

Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to help me feel loved, along with all those other things that I mentioned above. I can only respond by praying that you are blessed in gabillion measure for your good works.

I'm off for Maryland today, and then to Germany on the 31st. I feel excited, and less frightened than I have in some time.

Just so you know, I also started a separate "religious stuff" blog. It's called Gideon Aquinas, and here is the link: . It should work just to click on it, but if it doesn't, the highlighted text is also the web address. I don't expect the writing on that blog to be very good yet, but I'm certain that it will improve with time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From driveway to driveway

I visited my aunt and uncle this last weekend. They live in Arizona, a place where-- as various people said over the weekend-- the sun always shines, and it never snows. They said this because my uncle's family lives in a town on a mountaintop, so that when towns even a few miles away have gotten a normal amount (for northern Arizona) of precipitation, they have gotten enough snow in their town so far this year that their schools have already used up all of their "snow days".

Yesterday morning it began to snow. Early. As in, ahead of schedule.

[This next part is later-- I don't know how to edit the posting dates on these things.]

Joyce blogged the whole thing (check out Now We Are 2 and 2, over on the side there). She even put up pictures! It's hard to beat that. Be sure to read my comment.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Vampire Story I promised

I told Sroon on Saturday night that I would write up a vampire story. I'll get around to writing the back story eventually, but for now I'm just writing the new one.

Once upon a time, after Rupert and Griselda got married, they had four children. I think that I might have already named the children, but I've forgotten what I named them, so I'm just going to rename them and you guys can remind me of what the real names are when I get back (or in a comment on this posting). The little boy vampire that I am going to tell this story about was named Alexander.

Alexander was seven years old, and he loved to help his mother. One day, his mother, Griselda, decided to send him on an errand to her mother, whose name was Hildegaard. Hildegaard was an avid gardener (that means that she liked to garden a lot), and Alexander's mom was trying to grow a very particular kind of plant, called Dragon's Tongue, but her plant was turning brown on the edges and purple in the middle of the leaves. She asked Alexander if he could take a leaf to his Grandma Hildegaard so that she could tell them what was wrong with it, and Alexander immediately said yes. Not only was he a helpful boy, he also liked to visit his grandmother.

His mother packed a lunch for him, gave him a couple of levitation spells and invisibility spells and things like that in case he ran in to any trouble, and sent him on his way. He walked past the castle where Robert the vampire and Tatyana the ice skater lived with their children, past the lake where Tatyana and the children ice skated in the winter, and in to the deep, dark woods.

Almost as soon as he stepped on the path, he heard someone crying. It was another little vampire boy; in fact, it was his friend Robbie, who was Robert and Tatyana's son.

"Why are you crying?" he asked. Robert said that he had some magic locusts that his mother had packed for him as a treat in his lunch, but he had lost them in the woods and he was sad that he wasn't going to get to eat them. Alexander knew that his own mother had packed some magic locusts in his lunch, so he offered Robbie a few. Robbie smiled and said yes, and they decided to eat them together. There was one left over after they had both eaten what they wanted, so Alexander decided to save it for later.

After they ate, Alexander went on his way. As he was walking, he saw a Big Bad Wolf coming towards him on the path! Big Bad Wolves think that vampires are some of the yummiest things they can eat, but they don't get to eat them very often. They only eat little vampires, when they can catch them alone.

Alexander didn't want to be seen or caught or eaten, so he quickly took out some vanishing powder and sprinkled it over his head and the leaf he was carrying. Alexander tiptoed a little to the side of the path as he walked past. The wolf put up his head and sniffed. "Mmm, that's a good smell!" he said. "That smells like a little vampire to me!" and he started sniffing closer and closer to Alexander. Alexander knew that any second now, the wolf would sniff him out, so he wasted no time in pulling out a speedy-spell miniature broom from his pocket. It was one of the things his mother had sent with him in case he got in to trouble.

"Speedy spell, speedy spell, make me go fast!" he said, and held on tight to the little whisk broom. The broom would have jumped out of his hands, because it went so fast, but he held on tight and it did make him go fast. The wolf was also going fast, and almost caught him, but then he came to a fork in the path and went to the right (which was towards his grandmother's house), and luckily the wolf went left. Unfortunately, as he was rushing down the path to get away from the wolf, he accidentally ran into a gorgon!

"What is that?! Watch where you're going!" said the gorgon. Alexander didn't turn to stone when he looked at her because he was invisible, and that is one of the effects of invisibility. However, he didn't want to be rude, so he pulled out some visibility powder and sprinkled it on himself (but he put on some sunglasses first, so that he wouldn't be turned to stone after he became visible).

"I'm so very sorry, Miss Gorgon. I wasn't watching where I was going. I was running from a Big Bad Wolf."

"Harrumph. That's no good reason to be running into delicate old ladies!"

"I'm very sorry," he said, even though he wasn't sure if he really could have avoided it. As I mentioned, he was trying to be polite, and he knew that sometimes being polite means listening to someone say something that you don't think is true, without correcting the person. Besides which, it was true that he was sorry to have run into her, whether or not it could have been avoided.

"Could I do anything to help you feel better?" he asked.

"Not really," she said. She really was very grumpy. "Not unless you can make my lunch of sour slug soup reappear. It spilled all over the ground when you bumped in to me." He looked down and saw that this was true; a little kettle of soup was tipped over on its side on the ground. Only about a tablespoon of soup was left in it.

"Oh! I would feel sad if my soup spilled, too. You know, I still have one magic locust left from my lunch," he said. "Would you like to eat it?" He had kind of wanted to eat that locust, but he felt that it was better to not offend the gorgon than to eat the locust.

"Hmm... maybe," she said. She took the locust from his hand and sniffed it. Her eyes grew big as she noticed how tasty it smelled, and then she popped it into her mouth and swallowed it in one gulp. "Do you have any more?" she asked, because she was not polite.

"Um, no, I'm very sorry, I don't," said Alexander.

"OK. Well, I guess that I'll be on my way then," said the Gorgon, and then she whistled, and that big bad wolf came right to her side! But she didn't let the wolf eat Alexander, so he was especially glad that he had been polite to her.

A little further down the path was his grandmother's house, and he stepped inside and gave her a hug. "Grandmother! You wouldn't believe what happened! I met a Big Bad Wolf, and then I met a Gorgon, and I gave her my last magic locust, but she didn't even say thank you, and the wolf was her pet, and it was scary!"

His grandmother smiled at him. "It's sometimes hard when other people aren't polite even when you are. I am proud of you. Now, did I hear you say that you gave my friend the Gorgon your last magic locust? I saved some from the last batch I caught, especially for you. Would you like to eat them now?"


And so Alexander sat down at his grandmother's kitchen table, and ate the magic locust she had saved for him and watched her perform tests on the leaf he had brought, and wondered why his grandmother was friends with a rude Gorgon. I know the answers to these questions, but that is a story that I will tell another day.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Sunday Story, while I am away

For Sroon (and his siblings, but Sroon was the one I promised the story to).

Once upon a time, when Grandmother Starflower's mother, Grandma Tommy, was a little girl, she was a picky eater. That means that she didn't like to eat very many kinds of foods. Her mother, Granny, kept a boarding house at that time, which means that they had people at their house who stayed in the extra bedrooms and paid Granny money for rent, and they also ate with Granny and Grandma Tommy's family.

One Thanksgiving, there were several people staying at Granny's boarding house who were very good cooks, and they prepared a Thanksgiving feast which was better than anyone there had ever seen! Unfortunately, when Grandma Tommy sat down at the table, she saw that there was not a single thing that she liked to eat at that table. Right then and there, Grandma Tommy decided that she was going to learn to like some things, so that she could enjoy eating Thanksgiving dinner along with everything else. I don't know all of the things she picked, but they included turkey and cranberry sauce.

That is all of that story, except for the fact that Grandma Tommy still likes to eat those things, and has learned to like other things, too.

I was talking to Morrow about this the other day, and I told her that I think that the food in this story is a little bit like people, sometimes. When I was little, I didn't like people very much because most people scared me; almost everyone scared me except people in my family and old people and babies. Then I decided that I wanted to learn to like some people, and now I have practiced a lot, and I have found that there are a lot of people that I like. The wonderful thing about people, instead of food, is that people like it when you like them. I think that food doesn't care very much if you like it.

You don't have to like everyone. Sometimes you feel like you don't trust someone, and sometimes that is the Holy Ghost telling you, so you should trust that feeling. On the other hand, sometimes the Holy Ghost tells you to start learning to like someone, because maybe that person needs a friend, or maybe you need that person as a friend. You never know, so it is important to practice and learn what the Holy Ghost feels like.

I love you! I think that I will be back on Wednesday.


Auntie Cornelia

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Maybe it shouldn't be funny...

but it is.

I bought a plane ticket a week ago today. I meant to buy one for Freiburg, Germany. Instead, I accidentally bought one for Frankfurt. Because it is expensive to change plane tickets, and because I didn't have any specific plans for particular cities, I've decided that I'm just going to go to Frankfurt.

The other day in the car, my nephews were buckling themselves in to their car seats, pretending that the Big Bad Wolf was coming and that they had to attach themselves to their ziplines so that they could get away. Then their mother got in the car.

"Is that the Big Bad Wolf?" one asked the other.

"No, that's the Big, Good Pig" was the reply.

I had to wait a minute to start the car, because we were both laughing so hard.

A couple of weeks ago, I looked up to see a stark-naked nephew standing in the doorway of my room. "Look!" he said. "The mailman just gave me the mail!" And indeed he had.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Vampire Jellyfish

I have WAY not been keeping up with the stories I've been making up for the neeflings of late; there's a whole spate of witch-princess stories, and then there are the vampire jellyfish that I'm just going to give you the highlights of now.

Oh. The vampire jellyfish were, as usual, not my idea. They are the idea of the resident six-year-old--the one who, with his sister, also has a mania for princess-witches. I have, so far, gotten away with telling about the vampire part of vampire jellyfish only once in the several stories I've told. I would be pleased to keep it that way, so if you see said six-year-old, please don't point it out to him. The stories themselves have been, in my opinion, lacking in plot, so I'm just going to give you the most interesting bits in this post.

Such as: vampire jellyfish have cell phones, though they are an unusual kind of cell phone. Vampire jellyfish are actually quite good at drawing, so they just draw extremely accurate portraits of each other, and the vampire jellyfish cellphone telephone operator looks at the picture and then connects you with the person (/jellyfish) you want to talk to. (Later in the story, the operators have been replaced by computers.) This can lead to problems from time to time; for instance, when you are very tired and hungry and trembling, you might accidentally call the meanest jellyfish in the world instead of calling your grandmother. Or, if your cell phone screen is busted so that it only shows half of the picture you draw, you might not be able to call anyone unless it is the magical good old lady jellyfish that you were kind to earlier, who can help you get away from a predator (yet to be determined; I'm really not sure what things eat jellyfish, though I've promised to look it up).

This morning's monologue.

Let's see if this is as funny on paper (er, as it were) as it was coming out of my mouth. I thought about turning it into a monologue from an unwritten play, but I'm blogging it instead.

This morning I was talking to my sister about the fact that while it is better to be married than to be single, there is not something inherently wrong with me for being single. She said that when you are single, you don't get as many opportunities for growth, and that she was sure that when Heavenly Father wanted to give me that opportunity, he would.

So. Imagine me saying this with my eyes very bright, and my voice very, very sweet.

Yes. I will marry a widower with seven children, who has just been called to be the stake president. And he will be the CEO of a struggling corporation with a thousand employees to feed, and he won't lay any of them off because we are in the middle of The Second Great Depression. But we will have a big garden, and much love [cute, invisible hearts come out of the word "love" as I say it].

Criticism is like Chlorine

or lye.

Used well, you can fix a problem. Use a little too much or use it a little too long, and you wear a hole through the thing you are trying to fix.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, December 8, 2008


And again, I didn't want to do my family home evening (it is evening, but I'm in my office; I do what I can) on procrastination, but I felt like I should-- NOT that I ever engage in such an activity, but maybe I could study procrastination for academic purposes, you know. I kind of didn't want to because I was afraid that reading about procrastination might just be too depressing.

However, (speaking of Marvin J. Ashton, of not-being-afraid-of-budgeting fame-- look at my last posting), I found a conference talk by Elder Ashton called "Straightway" which was really uplifting, and here are the things I copied in to my to-do list to help me along:

Do not doubt your abilities. Do not delay your worthy impressions.

We need to develop the courage to straightway take the first step. We need to remember that children learn to walk only because someone encourages them to take the first step.

May we launch straightway toward setting goals that are gospel oriented, knowing that if we use the talents that are ours—that if we help others, strive for peace, avoid being overly sensitive or overly critical—strength upon strength will be added unto our own abilities and we will move straightway toward greater growth, happiness, and eternal joys.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


So, I am not really an organized person. In many respects. As evidence of this, I put forth that for the last five years running, every single January I have resolved to keep a budget. I wasn't really keeping track, but this last January it hit me: this resolution sounds familiar. I still need to learn how to keep a budget. And I am still afraid of them (budgets).


the prophet says the we should be financially prudent, and be frugal and so on, and Marvin J. Ashton gave this lovely talk called One For The Money when I was too small to pay attention to General Conference (and, interestingly enough, in the printed version which they have made into a booklet, they have inside-cover art by Richard G. Scott which is really quite beautiful) and I believe with my heart and soul in following the prophet, so with a sigh, I resolved AGAIN in 2008 to try to keep a budget.

Two days ago I settled in again to do that awful task again. I tend to dread it because I usually don't think I am going to find it emotionally rewarding. The truth is that in the end, I always do feel happy that I have done it, but getting myself to start is very difficult. I do love saving for things, and I've been saving for a camera for I think about six months now, but there have been problems, and I was afraid that I wouldn't make it


I just made my savings goal!

And I just realized that the reason I was afraid of budgets is because I was afraid that if I kept them, then I would never get anything I really, really wanted, which would be true if I didn't save for things I wanted. But I do save for things, and budgets DO work, and that makes me really, really happy.

(Hopefully this means that as soon as finals week is over, and I get around to actually buying said camera, you will be getting lots more pictures on this blog than you have in the past (even one is lots more than none);)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Three Delicious (or at least highly edible) things to do with frozen Spinach

You know how whenever there's a new report about whatever essential nutrient you really, really need, they always say it's found in "blah, blah, blah, and leafy greens like broccoli and spinach"?

I really don't like spinach, but in the name of trying to get myself to eat healthier, I keep experimenting, trying to find ways to get myself to eat more. Spinach salad is pretty good, but I will save writing about that for later. For now, I will focus on Our Friend the Package of Frozen Spinach, which avoids some of the problems associated with fresh spinach and is highly store-able, to boot (as long as your freezer is working).

Spinach and Cheese
If your frozen spinach is loose, in a plastic package (this is slightly more expensive but easier to work with, especially if you need to use only some of the spinach at a time), then just dump it into a baking pan which is big enough for it to spread out a little. Something smaller than 9x13 works well for the size of package I usually get.

If you get the cheaper, more compact, more recycle-able cardboard box of spinach, defrost it first, so that you can spread it out without having to use an ice pick to pry the pieces apart. I normally do this in the microwave, but if I have enough forethought, I will move the spinach from the freezer to the fridge the night before. Once it is defrosted, then spread it all over a pan.

Slice some cheese. Now that I think about it, you could also grate it, if you wanted. I have never tried this, but have no reason to believe that it would not turn out well. You could use mozzerella, cheddar, colby jack, gouda, brie, or anything else your heart desires. If you use American Processed Cheese (how the name of my beloved country got permanently associated with that product is something I would like to make someone answer for) then do not tell me.

How much cheese? As much as you want. I would probably use a third of a half-pound brick of cheese to cover one pan of spinach, but it's up to you.

Cook the dish. You can cook it in the microwave, but then the cheese wouldn't brown; you can also cook it in the oven (my preferred method; this also decreases sogginess) for maybe five minutes. At 350 or 400 degrees. I just go until the cheese is melted.

Take an unbaked pizza crust. Add tomato sauce and whatever spices you want (or, use store-bought pizza sauce). Put on some (defrosted, if it came in a box) spinach. Add whatever other toppings you want (I particularly love artichoke hearts, which are dreadfully expensive but go far when chopped small.) Cover the whole thing with (grated) cheese. Bake it according to the directions which came with the pizza crust, or, if you are using bread dough, bake it at 350 C for ten to fifteen minutes (more for a bigger pizza, less for smaller).

Incidentally, I like to use Semolina, Farina, Germade, Cream-of-Wheat, or whatever you want to call it, to dust the bottom of my pizza crust. The traditional stuff for the bottoms of crusts is cornmeal, but I don't keep cornmeal around my house because for some reason it's prohibitively expensive around here. The wheat-based uncooked hot cereal product works fine for me.

Spaghetti Sauce
I was skeptical when my sister first told me that this tasted good. I mean, Papa Murphy's puts spinach on their super-delicious Vegetarian Deluxe Pizzas, so that makes sense, but putting spinach in spaghetti sauce just seems like it is one of those "hiding" jobs, where if you put in too much of the "secret" ingredient, everyone will take one bite and then refuse to touch the food in question.

I was wrong.

In the case of spaghetti sauce, spinach is the ingredient which insures that there are no leftovers. I am serious. Even just plain frozen spinach in canned tomato sauce makes a darn good red sauce, and if you add just a couple of spices (I usually use basil and nothing else, but you can look up other stuff in a real recipe book) and some fried onions and mushrooms, and a can of drained olive pieces, it becomes so good that people start asking you for the recipe.

A couple of notes on spaghetti sauce:
  • I really do think that the organic canned tomatoes really do taste better. They are more expensive, so it's your call to make, but in this case I feel that you receive value for your money, and where I live, they are only twenty cents a can or so more expensive.
  • Also, wateriness is death to a good sauce, so either drain your spinach and your olives, or else give yourself some time for the sauce to simmer (just start dinner earlier, if it is humanly possible, and read a novel while the "low" setting on the stove does the hard work for you-- umm, but be sure to stir it occasionally).