2009 Reading, part II

Another six months has come and gone, and here are the (30) books I've read.  I'm not sure what happened after August, but my reading went way down.  I think part of it has to do with the fact that Louie no longer sleeps all the time, and gets around and into everything.  I had a lot more reading time when she was stationary, not to mention always eating or sleeping.

Quick review on the scoring system: The first number is my totally subjective preference rating, the higher, the better (out of 5). Next is the cleanliness rating, including language, violence, sensuality, etc. 0=squeaky clean, 5=PG13. The last number is recommended age level in my opinion: 2=elementary 3=Jr. High, 4=High school, 5=adult.

See the first half of the year here.

Once again, feel free to ask for a more detailed review or explanation of rating.

Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George: 5.0.3
I love Jessica Day George.
The Actor and the Housewife, by Shannon Hale: 5.1.5
Alternately laughing out loud and bawling my eyes out. So good.
The Little Lady Agency and the Prince, by Hester Browne: 5.3.4
Perfect ending to a great series.
Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen: 5.3.4
One of my favorite Sarah Dessens. And I loved many of them.
My Fair Godmother, by Janette Rallison: 5.0.3
We already know how I love Janette Rallison.
The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan: 5.1.3
Another great ending to another phenomenal series.
If I Stay, by Gayle Forman: 4.5.4
More language than I like, but so powerful and thought provoking.
Mira, Mirror, by Mette Ivie Harrison: 3.0.3
Meh. It was good.
The Monster in Me, by Mette Ivie Harrison: 3.1.3
Abrupt ending, but decent.
Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George: 5.0.3
Dragon Flight, by Jessica Day George: 5.0.3
And wonderful.
Dragon Spear, by Jessica Day George: 5.0.3
And did I mention that I love Jessica Day George?


The Princess and the Bear, by Mette Ivie Harrison: 3.0.3
I really want to love Mette Ivie Harrison, but I'm not quite able to get past like.
City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare: 5.3.4
Love, worship, etc. Can't wait for the third.
A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck: 4.2.3
Great historical fiction. Quite humorous!
The Luxe, by Anna Godbersen: 5.3.4
A side of American history I've never seen before, but loved! And I want the dress on the cover.
The Language of Bees, by Laurie R. King: 5.3.4
I love this series, but the last three words of the book are "To Be Continued..." and it was just published-gah!
The Summoning, by Kelley Armstrong: 4.3.4
I seem to be reading a lot of books of this genre: the modern fantasy with an emphasis on the "dark" side... and for good reason, I quite enjoy them.
Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, by Sophie Kinsella: 4.5.5
Hilarious. Though I must admit I find myself cringing at Becky's logic...
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, by Beth Fantaskey: 5.4.4
More modern fantasy. Lame title; good book.
Shopaholic Ties the Knot, by Sophie Kinsella: 4.5.5
More laughing out loud.
City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare: 5.4.4
I'm pretty sure we know how I feel about this one. Lovelovelove! Great ending to the trilogy. Please go check out City of Bones right now if you have not already read these books.
Rumors, by Anna Godbersen: 4.5.4
Envy, by Anna Godbersen: 4.5.4
By halfway through this book I was ready for the "happily ever after" already, but there is still one more book!

Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull: 4.2.3
This book took me for.e.ver to read. I don't know if it was me or the book.

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke: 4.3.3
It must have been me, because this one did too, even with Catching Fire sitting on my shelf.
Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins: 5.4.4
Love, love and also LOVE Suzanne Collins.  The ending killed me, because I have to wait for the next one...

Forest Born, by Shannon Hale: 5.2.3
Shannon Hale is great.  This is not my favorite of her books, I would be hard pressed to pick one, but it was a solid story with strong characters and a thought-provoking plot.  
Fire, by Kristin Cashore: 4.4.4
A little more focus on physical relationships than I appreciate, but it was done tastefully, and was overall a great book. 

The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown: 4.4.4
Interesting and intriuging, but quite a bit of crazy talk presented very logically, not to mention some disturbing violence, but you know that if you've read Dan Brown before.  The end was a little slow, since the action climaxed early.


Love might be blind,

But that doesn't make blind dates a good thing. 


It was winter of my freshman year at BYU, I don't remember exactly when.  I was hanging out in my apartment Friday night, since none of the boys were smart enough to ask me out.  The phone rang, and I picked it up, hoping for the best. 

It was Fabio, a guy from my ward.  I knew who he was (his name was Fabio, of course I knew who he was!) and he quickly outlined his dilemma: Several guys from his mission were in town and they wanted to do a group date (ice skating and dinner!), but one guy wasn't going to come because he had just gotten home and didn't know a soul; was there someone in our apartment who could help him out? 

I (stupidly) agreed to go.  I love ice skating, and who doesn't love free Italian food?

So I quickly dressed and met the group in front of my building. 

My date was a decent looking guy, not anything to write home about.  He seemed nice enough, but I realized that when Fabio said he had just gotten home, he meant he had JUST gotten home from his mission, like that week, and was still a little socially awkward.

The car ride was fairly silent, seeing as it was just the two of us.  We got to the rink and I laced up my skates.  The great thing about ice skating is that not much conversation is necessary.  And you don't have to spend every minute with your date. 

Or so I thought.

It turns out that my date couldn't skate.

He spent the entire hour and a half clinging to me: holding my hand, clutching my arm, all of the above.

Holding hands while skating is one thing, but he was holding on for dear life. 


Dinner wasn't much better in the awkwardness department, but at least my body was my own. 

All the guys were with their girlfriends (or at least friends of the girl variety) and of course all the guys knew each other, so I was by far the odd one out.  Add to that the facts that 1. my date (and all the guys, really) kept reverting to Italian (they had served in Italy) and mission stories, and 2. my date was not talkative anyway, and I was feeling all sorts of included.

I've never been more grateful for a date to be over.

And I've never been on a blind date since.



My cute brother JON!  

Jon returned home last Friday from  the DC area, where he has been serving as a missionary for the last two years.  
 With my cute mom at the airport.

You can tell I was slightly excited to see him.  
Yes, the big hair is from jumping, not from hairspray.

Lou wasn't quite sure what to think.

Even though he'll be leaving for BYU soon, we are so happy to have him home!


I'm glad you found me!

Sorry for the inconvenience of switching URLs, but thanks for stopping by!  I promise I won't do this again anytime soon!


I love Christmas music and this song and video are so touching!  Enjoy!


A Scout is...

{and always hungry}

I'd like to congratulate my Uncle Eric on earning his Eagle Scout Award!  Here's to a job well done!

{And yes, he's 18.}

{And yes, I said UNCLE.} 


This might make me a bad mom,

But everyday I put Baby-Lou down for a nap in the bathroom.

Rico takes a nap in his and Ella's room, Ella has "rest time" and "quiet play time" in Louie's room, and Louie gets the shaft and has to sleep in the bathroom.

But it meets all the requirements: dark, quiet, and big enough for the port-a-crib.

And I get a little peace and quiet.  Hooray!


Ummm, let's pretend this is a post.

So it's Late Night Thursday again, and I sat down to write a blog post.

I was finally going to get to the three questions that resulted from my bloggiversary post.  (Why did spellcheck not underline that word?  I just made it up.  Or stole it from someone else.  I don't know which.)

But thanks to Janssen and her sharing, I spent most of my time reading Kayla's blog instead of writing.

Well that, and wishing I had a sewing machine so I could be cool like Kayla and make adorable coats.

But since Tom's still not home, and I successfully wiped down all the counters in the kitchen, I'll answer the questions anyway.

Question Numero Uno:
From Stephanie
If you were a superhero, what would your superhero name be? And what would your superpower be? And what color would your outfit be? And would you wear a cape?(Basically I would like a bio on you as a superhero cause I'm sure that you already are one. I just want to know which one you REALLY are.)
Oh dear.  Me as a superhero.  Ummmm.  I'll come back to that.  In another post.

And 2
From Lisa
I want to know what a typical day/week in the life of Janelle is like. Your routine etc. We've only gotten glimpses of your Friday/Monday routine :)
Well, I'm pretty much a hermit.  Sad, but true.  And I don't even sit around and watch TV all day, because I don't (ahem) watch TV.  At all.  Which is not about superiority or anything.  Good for you if you do, but I never have, and quite frankly we couldn't afford anything special anyway, so there you have it.

In my ideal world I get up early MWF and go running.  Recently, not so much.  A) my partner is sick (dang her!) 2) it's sooooo early and D) umm, if you live here, you'll know it's been C O L D here recently.  And I don't mean cold.  I mean freeze-your-ears-and-fingers-off-if-you-happen-to-step-outside-cold.  But ideally I do.  And ideally the kids are still in bed when I get home so I can shower, read my scriptures, peruse Reader, and lolly-gag about for an hour and a half until they get up.  Recently, not so much.  Since the time change Rico has been getting up at 6:00 +/- half an hour.  Not cool.

After that, Monday is shopping day.  We typically hit Fred Meyer and Costco around 10ish because that's when Costco opens, and also when Fred Meyer's playland opens. (How I love playland! What?! you'll watch two of my three children for me while I peacefully meander about the store? Score!)  Then we come home for lunch, naps and afternoon crazies while I attempt to make soup (and frequently some variety of bread) before Tom gets home.

Tuesday is laundry day.  I do between three and seven loads (okay, the seven bit only happened once).  They rarely get folded before dinner, but sometimes I'm amazing.   (So most of the towels are still sitting in the dryer and it's now Thursday...what?!?)

Wednesday... um, we play.  And I do stuff.  And then it's magically dinner time, and I run off to Young Women's while Tom puts the kids to bed.  Oh, and then I take out the garbage.

Thursday, playgroup! (Most of the time.  Except today when we had cousins over to play who are in town from Tennessee.) And Tom is gone FOR.E.VER.  He gets home around 10.  And hopes he still has children.  So far, so good.

Friday is movie day.  The kids only get to watch one movie a week (poor deprived children) and Friday morning is it.  Then once again, it's lunch, naps, dinner prep (pizza!), etc.  And in the evenings Tom and I usually chill and watch a movie and eat popcorn and all kinds of healthy things.  Or not healthy, as the case usually is.

And Saturday is pretty unpredicatable.  Lately Tom's been doing homework all day.  And I try to get the house really and certifiably clean (read: scrub toilets, vacuum, etc.).

Sunday is busy.  Tom's got early meetings, then I get up and get the kids ready for church (by 9! Are you kidding?  We barely make it to playgroup at 11!).  Then he gets them home and to bed while I do choir practice and/or YW meetings.  Once I'm home, we attempt to take a minute to coordinate our schedules for the upcoming week, but then it's dinner, scriptures and bed again, and before I know it we're back at the beginning.

And Question # 3
From Pauline (who moved/is moving and I'm terribly sad.  I could write an entire post about how great she is.  And I just might.)
What is your favorite childhood memory and how would you describe that using food?
 I'll be totally honest, I'm not quite sure what to do with this one.  I think I'll interpret it as "What is your favorite childhood memory related to food?" because that's a little easier to get my head around.

The first thing that pops into my head is the barbecues/neighborhood parties we used to have in our backyard.  This was back in the days before digital, um, anything except clocks, and we thought that what I'm about to describe was the. coolest. thing. ever.  We had a second story deck from which my parents would hang a white sheet and then we would use a rented (borrowed?  from the library?  Help me out here, Mom) film strip projector to watch old movies.  {Yes, I just said film strip projector.  You probably don't know what that is.  Google it.  They were invented shortly after dinosaurs.  And I think they're also extinct.  Much like dinosaurs.}

What does this have to do with food?  Oh, right.  Also on these evenings of childhood bliss, we would have watermelon eating contests.  Or at least we did once.  And I've never seen a skinnier boy eat more watermelon than Dallas.  I'm pretty sure he was storing it in his hollow leg.  Or his pocket.  {No, I would have noticed that.}

Hey, look!  It turned into a real post after all!

{I totally should have milked that question thing and turned this into multiple posts.}

{Oh well. Too late now.}



In 8th grade, I was in Mrs. Methot's 9th grade math class.  In this class, we were responsible for keeping track of our grades.  We had a chart to fill out where we would enter the scores from our homework and tests and Problem of the Week (I had a love/hate relationship with those).  The problem with this method was that toward the end of the term, I started calculating what my grade would be if I chose not to do certain assignments. 

And provided I would still get an A, I would skip the homework.

This, unfortunately, was the beginning of my downfall. 

Soon, a B was good enough.  And by my junior year, I wasn't even turning in enough math homework to get a passing grade.  In our school, one had to have at least 60% of homework turned in to pass math.  Even though with my test scores I would have had at least a C, I didn't have enough homework turned in by midterm to pass.  As failing was not an option, I would have to work my back end off doing homework for the second (and fourth) quarter to bring my homework score up above 60% by the end of the semester.  Those two semesters of precalc were the only Cs on my transcript, but at least they weren't Fs. 

My friend Mindy had (a much better grade and) pity on me, and would help motivate me to do my homework.  After determining that I worked better with positive reinforcement than negative, she made me a star chart, and provided stickers and would randomly bring rewards when I was doing well.  Without her, I may not have passed. 

But that is not the point of this post.

The point is, that internal motivation is not the easiest thing for me.  I do much better at accomplishing things that I know I am outwardly accountable for, especially when I have motivation such as point systems or star charts, and let's be honest, rewards never hurt. 

I know that things like homework and exercise have intrinsic value, and that alone should be enough to motivate me, but let's face it, I'm not that mature (yet?). 

So, exercise.  Eating well.  Not bingeing on sugar.  These things are really not that hard to do, but for me are hard to motivate myself to do. 

Which is why this health competition was so good for me.  It gave me the motivation to do the things I want to be doing anyway.  I hoped that after the 10 weeks were over that I would have created habits that I could continue, but that's easier said than done. {For the record, I came in second, losing 3 points when I went to California for my Grandma's funeral, and four more the last week, since I knew I wasn't going to win.}  Since it ended, I have slid back to my previous habits, despite feeling so much better when I exercise regularly etc.  So I'll be doing it again.  Starting Sunday, January 3rd, I will again be living by these rules.

Why so far out, you ask? 

First, because what is Christmas without dessert? and second, to inspire all of you to join me!  This is the perfect way to start off the new year, and I can hope once again that these habits will stick.  I will be sending out an email in the next week or so to recruit.  If you want to be included, either comment on this post or email me.  And I might just email you anyway. 



I mentioned a while back that I had lost some weight, and got a couple of requests for a before/after shot.  Well, if you take that last picture I posted as the after, here is the before:

{And that's a month before my due date!}

Okay, but really, here's the year before:

{This is a chain that I made for my mom two Christmases ago as a countdown for Jon's mission.  He's coming home it two weeks. (!!!)  It's much shorter now.}


I can't stop!

You know how I mentioned that addictive personality?

Um, yeah...

While, yes, I made the clip I'm wearing, I also made the necklace...

I think I need some intervention.

I'm thinking of adding some beads or something in the middle of the flowers.  Opinions?

And no, Grant, I don't expect you to like it.


I'm thankyou for

On the days leading up to Thanksgiving we talked several times with the kids about all the things that we have to be grateful for.  They came up with lots of cute ideas, including "my toys," "my family," and my personal favorite: "another baby brother, if we had one, I would be thankyou for" {not an announcment}. 

Yesterday (or maybe the day before) Ella decided to draw a gratitude list.  I thought I'd share.
First, we have her eating ice cream. "See how I'm opening my mouth really big?  I'm thankful for ice cream." Then Tom and  I to the left.  Down below we have her bed, and next to that, a plate of peas, because "I'm thankful for food."

Following the theme of people, she decided to draw our whole family.  Clockwise from the top is me, with Baby-Lou underneath, Tom, Ella (with flowers above her--not part of her hair), and Rico.  In the middle, Ella is thankful for movies, as you can see from the lovely rendition of Cinderella and her carriage. {Yes, Cinderella is a floating head, like the rest of us.  I feel good about it.} Also included on this page is a plate of pizza (below Rico-boy), her sandals at the bottom, a jump rope ("if I had one") and a book on the left.

On this page, Ella was thankful for the park (see the slide and swings?), hamburgers (top center), hot dogs (top right),  flowers, her cup (big purple thing) and her dresses.

Next she started to draw Grandma and Grandpa (he's the one with the red shoes), but then we got distracted, and pretty soon it was time for dinner.

Her sweet innocence gives me such a great reminder of all the many, many, MANY things to be thankful for!


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Saturday we ventured out to procure for ourselves an arbre de noël.  We bundled up against the cold and traveled to the conveniently nearby Wilson Hill Tree Farm.  We looked at {nearly} every tree on the farm, and finally picked a nice smallish Frasier, which Tom then cut down for us.  Ella and the Rico-chico were exuberant helpers (though Rico's frog boots are a few sizes too big {they are Ella's} which slowed him down a bit).  Lou opted to ride in the baby bjorn, so she wouldn't have to help carry the tree. {Maybe I should try that next year!}
Mr. and Mrs. Claus were quite happy with our choice, and even let me take their pictures!

I put the lights {white only!} up Saturday night after the kids were in bed, and we set about bedecking it with ornaments Sunday evening after dinner.  Once more we had enthusiastic little elves, who shrieked with excitement over each decoration.  I was surprised how much they {particularly Ella} remembered from last year.

Tonight I added the finishing touch: icicles.  In my book, no tree is complete without them. {I would like to state for the record that I would be happy if these were the only kind of icicle I ever saw.  I do not have a need for a house trimmed with their frosty cousins.}  I don't know where the tradition started, but both my parents and paternal grandparents have had them on their trees as long as I can remember.  In fact, I may have helped make the ones that now adorn my tree--back when I was two!

They are super easy to make (I'm told--I don't remember) and are so perfect and festive {in my humble opinion}.

Should you desire to add them to your Christmas decor (so you, too, can look like ME!) all you need are a few simple materials. (Like I mentioned, I haven't actually made these in my memory, so these are my grandma's instructions, but they seem pretty clear to me!)
  • Glitter Sticks (silver pipe cleaner things) cut in half (about 6")
  • Craft glue (optional)
  • Clear beads (AB finish, if desired) in the following sizes:
    • Large (18mm) and small (12mm) "cartwheel" beads
    • Large (8mm) and small (6mm) round beads
    • Tri beads
    • Faceted or plain spaghetti beads
Place one spaghetti bead on the end of the glitter stick and glue if desired.  (If kids will be touching these, save yourself some grief and glue the bottom one!)  Follow by three small round beads, three large round beads, four tri beads, six small cartwheels, and six large cartwheels.   Bend the remaining stick in half and attach an ornament hook.



Since I first posted about Soup Monday, we have successfully had a different soup each week. This week marks the first repetition.

Which is not a bad thing, seeing as I'm making taco soup again.

Since the first week, where we enjoyed taco soup, we have sampled (more or less in order):

Sausage Bean Chowder
Baked Potato Soup
Cream of Broccoli Soup
Lasagna Soup
Beef, Barley, and Vegetable Soup
Mint Pea Soup

Some were old favorites, some were new favorites (hello, pea soup!) and some were mediocre in my book, but much appreciated by others (read: Tom).

What is your favorite soup?


A little obsessed

You may recall the two bows I posted as an option for the winner of the giveaway.Since then, I've become a little, um, obsessed.
No scrap of ribbon is safe.
Yesterday I expanded to crochet.And yes, that's just a sampling...



Standing at the post office today, my phone rang, got a text, and then rang again. Being the polite customer that I am, I only checked it the second time it rang to make sure that it wasn't Tom calling with some kind of emergency.

It wasn't.

When I got back to the car, I checked it more carefully. Both calls and the text were from the same number that I didn't recognize, and the text said:

"I want my 20 Back or more bud"

Hello, confusion.

The only thing I could possibly imagine was that a little over a week ago I sold our crib on craigslist for $20, but I was totally upfront in the ad about it having been chewed on, and the guy obviously saw it before he bought it, so I was miffed as to what the problem could be.

I continued to ponder this on the way home wondering what in the world it could mean. When there was no message on my home phone or email, I texted the person back expressing my confusion:

"Who are you, and what are you talking about?"

And he/she replied:

"rong number"

Oh good. I'm not crazy. You are. And I'm okay with that.


I promise they go together.

When we were first married, we somehow acquired a doorknob-hanger-thing. It had "DO NOT ENTER" on one side, and a little white board on other, with a dry erase marker clipped to the side. I don't remember where it came from, but it quickly became the traveling love note. Tom would write a sweet something on it and hide it somewhere where I would be sure to find it. Then I would reciprocate. In one of our many moves, it disappeared, and was all but forgotten.


I used my last check the other day. I have cute Disney checks with Tinkerbell, Bambi, Cinderella, and Lady and the Tramp on them. They make me happy. Knowing I had more somewhere, I went looking.

And looking.

And looking.

And I could not find them in any logical location.

Even after Tom checked where he thought they were, they remained elusive. Last Saturday, I finally started pulling down each box in our closet (we have far too many) and going through them, even if I thought I knew the contents. There was one of candles, one of stationary etc., one of frames, one of random stuff from Tom's desk that was thrown together when we moved and was never unpacked (it was obviously important stuff!) and finally the last box was of things I had determined I wanted to keep, but not on my desk. And in that last box, lo and behold, was the checks. Hooray.


I am the ward choir director. Each member has a black binder to keep all their music in, and I keep all those binders in a cardboard box which I tote to and from church each week. Having had the calling (and, therefore, the box) for over two years, it was beginning to fall falling apart. I had taped it back together, but it was really quite pathetic.

Last Sunday, as I was getting my box out to take it to church, I commented to Tom (who is not usually at home Sundays before church, as he has early meetings) about the dilapidated state of the choir box.

Remembering the half-empty box of randomness in the closet, (which was in pristine condition) he pulled it out, dumped the contents on the bed, and transferred the choir binders to their new, much sturdier home.


As Tom sorted through the contents later, he found the door-knob-hanger-thing and quietly recommenced the traveling love note.

And I love it.



You may remember the Santa debate. Well, he didn't come to our house last year, and I don't think he'll be coming this year either. (Maybe it's because we don't have a chimney!) Some of you may applaud this, and others think we are mean parents.

That may be so.

In fact, here is another example of our child abuse: Our kids have never been trick-or-treating.

I know. Mean!

Last year was the first year that Ella even dressed up. (Aside from when she was 9 months old and we put a pumpkin costume on her for five minutes just because someone gave it to us.) And it was the first year we carved pumpkins. (Thanks to the Reyes' who invited us to carve pumpkins with them.)

It's not that we're against Halloween. I think it's a combination of things. We like to get the kids to bed early and the church trunk-or-treat always starts at 7. And we are lazy, and once you start, you're stuck doing it FOREVER! But most of all, I guess we just don't see the need for pumping the kids full of sugar. And they don't know what they're missing out on.

We do pass out candy to all the little ghouls and goblins who come to our door. In fact, that's Ella and Rico's favorite thing. Each time the doorbell would ring, they would shriek and run for the door vying to be the one who got to hand out the candy. And they even got a couple of pieces from our bowl before they went to bed.

And this year, as Ella climbed in bed, she said to Tom:

"Maybe next year, we can knock on some persons doors and get some candy."

And Tom said:

"That would be great."

So our cruelty ends here.



The following is a text conversation between Grant and me on Halloween:

Grant: Do you listen to Pandora?

Me: Of course! Why?

Grant: Stop! We found something a million times better!!! It is called Grooveshark.com. It OWNS Pandora in every way possible! Literally!

Me: Most excellent. I shall try it out promptly. :-)

Grant: You can choose ANY song to listen to, you can make your own playlists (like on iTunes), you can play it Pandora style, you can slip forward and back, etc!!!

Me: That is most excellent! I wish we knew about it last night, Tom tried to put on some halloween music, but pandora was just not getting the right idea.

Grant: Type in "halloween music" to the search bar and press play all and you got it! We are listening to it right now. And there are no limits on how many you skip!

We promptly checked it out and I'm a huge fan! Tom spent like an hour on it that night listening to his favorite songs. I'm been listening to a little Michael Bublé right now.

If you like music, and have not yet checked this excellent website out, I urge you to do so now.

Why are you still here? GO!


I would not have you miss out on this comment from Grant:

I once again affirm my promotion and support of this FANTASTIC site!!!

Think of all of the things that you don't appreciate about Pandora (limited skipping forward, no skipping backward, no looking for specific songs and just hoping that Pandora would just happen to have that song in their random playlist so that your soul's need could be met, the new ads in the playlist, the 40 hour limit per month, etc).

Well, my friends, you can throw those concerns out the window with grooveshark.com. I am still fruitlessly looking for flaws in this very user-friendly interface. I have tested it's depths of resources and found the site to be amazingly comprehensive. And let's say that you find that it doesn't have something...throw your copy in there and upload it to the system so that others can enjoy it.

Some things that you will find that grooveshark.com provides, that inferior competitors do not: You can create your own playlists (much like iTunes), you can skip to the middle of a song, you have your own library, etc.

If your heart yearns to not have to create it's own playlist, then just plug in a favorite song of yours and press the "Radio" button and you have the same service that Pandora provides, without the annoying ads, restricted mobility, etc.

I can't stress enough how much stress relief this site will provide you and your friends and your family AND for the strangers on the street that you share this information with in your newly found enthusiasm for your new favorite music listening resource, grooveshark.com. So join in the celebration and enjoy life to a greater degree!


My little goblins

Happy Halloween!


A little bit of this, a little bit of that

For playgroup this week we had a halloween potluck.

Interpretation: bring your costumed kiddos and some finger-food to share.

I woke up late (or as late as you can with three kids) and realized I had no idea what to bring. I think I made homemade rolls last year, but there wasn't time for that. I looked through the appetizer section of several cookbooks but nothing was jumping out at me, except spinach dip.


I had a couple of bread bowls in my freezer that would go well with spinach dip, but none of the recipes sounded just right, so I ended up winging it.

And I thought it turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

First, I (very loosely) filled my Vitamix with spinach from my in-law's garden (maybe 3-5 cups?). Then I added a scant cup of reduced fat sour cream, and one of reduced fat mayonnaise. Next I threw in a large scoop (or two) of minced garlic, and 1/4-1/2 cup of chopped onion. After processing it, I poured it into a bowl and looked through my cupboards to see what else might be tasty. I added a splash of Worcestershire sauce, a few drips of hot sauce, half a package of Lipton onion soup mix, and a squirt of brown and spicy mustard. I topped it off with some freshly ground pepper and probably a cup of Parmesan cheese from my freezer and stirred it all up. Then I decided that all the spinach had gotten more minced than I wanted, so I added another handful of spinach leaves ripped into small pieces.

It was great with bread, crackers, pretzels, chips, or whatever else you might like to dip.



I've said for years [in jest] that I have "Insufficient Bulimia"--I binge, but I don't purge. That is now its own official eating disorder: Compulsive Overeating. But I've never, never understood Anorexia.

The idea of denying myself food for some body shape ideal is totally out of my ability to comprehend. Especially when they continue to see themselves as fat, even when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

However, I am beginning to understand that last bit.


If you haven't seen me recently, you may not know that in the last six months I've lost about 30 lbs. {Losing weight was never my goal, but it has been an appreciated side effect. My goal was to increase my health both by eating more fruits, veggies, and whole grains and by exercising more, so that my body will be able to do all the things I want and need to do, and it will last as long as my mind does.}

While I can tell that my clothes fit better (or don't fit, as the case may be), when I look in the mirror sans vêtements*, I really don't notice a difference.

Now, whether that's because I've persisted in seeing myself as I was pre-baby(s), or because my mind continues to conjure my post-gravid self, or because the change has been gradual enough that I didn't notice, I don't know and quite frankly don't care.

Because when it comes right down to it, as long as I'm healthy, I don't really care what I look like.

Which is why I'll never be anorexic.

*French for without clothing


The one that started it all

As I mentioned before, I don't like soup. Or, at least I didn't for a very long time. The following recipe is probably the first soup that I really actually liked.

And for good reason.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

In a 3 quart sauce pan, sauté 1 cup chopped onion with 2 cloves minced garlic in a little olive oil.
(I buy minced garlic at Costco, and I put in a whole big scoop--yum!)
Add 3 cups chicken broth.
(I use water and chicken bouillon, because I'm cool like that.)
Add 1 lb broccoli florets.
(I just pack in as much broccoli as I can, making sure it can all boil in the broth.)
Boil/simmer 10 minutes.
Mix 1/3 (+) cup flour with enough milk to make a smooth paste.
Add more milk to bring the total milk to 2 cups, making sure to mix it well so there are no lumps.
Add the milk mixture to the soup and stir it in.
Heat until it thickens.
Add some pepper and grated cheddar: the more, the merrier.
(Unless you're going for the healthy thing, then probably less is more. I'd guess I use about a cup +/-)
Put 1/3 of the soup in the blender and purée, then return to the pot.

Perfect in homemade bread bowls. Mmm, mmm, good. And healthy, too.


As per Pauline's request, I give you

Crusty Soup Bowls

2 T yeast
1 T sugar
2 cups warm water
2 t salt
5 cups flour

Combine yeast, sugar and water and let it sit. Add salt and 3 cups flour. Beat 3 minutes. Gradually add remaining flour to make stiff dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise till double, about 30 minutes. (I am inevitably in a hurry, so I turn my oven on warm, turn it off, and let the dough rise in there. It goes much more quickly.) Punch down and divide into 4-6 pieces (depending on the size you want). Form each piece into a ball and place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise till double. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool. Cut off tops, scoop out bread to make a bowl. Pour hot soup or chili into bread bowl and serve.


And the winners are...

Eliza and Pauline!
And since neither of them have little girls, I don't get to make any bows. :(

So both of you should comment, or email me, or talk to me at church on Sunday, and tell me what color you would like.


Hip, hip, hooray!

Yesterday was another visit with our favorite cardiologist. {Okay, so he's really the only cardiologist that I know, but I do really like him, especially after yesterday.} After listening to Louie's heart and looking at the EKG, he said that the VSD sounds smaller, and looks like the meds she been on have done their job and helped un-enlarge her heart.

Then we did an ultrasound.

This was, by far, the worst one. She has usually been all sorts of happy, or at least content, to let the tech do his (or her, depending on who's working) job, but not yesterday! We tried Sesame Street, her pacifier, toys, and putting her on my lap, but nothing worked until finally the angel nurse came in and blew bubbles which got the job done.

After the doc looked at the ultrasound, he said it shows that the hole is indeed shrinking, the left side of her heart is smaller, (as it should be) so we can discontinue her meds and check up again in 6 months! {As opposed to the one to two months we've been doing.} She won't need the RSV vaccine, and he expects not to need another ultrasound until he can no longer hear a murmur and wants to verify that it is fully healed, at which point she will "graduate" from being a cardiology patient.

Thank you everyone for your prayers and kind thoughts! I know that they've helped.


Have you noticed?

Despite my warning to the contrary, you may have noticed an upswing in the frequency of my posts of late. In fact, in order to coordinate my recent milestones, I had to stop myself from posting more frequently.

Why the change? you may wonder.

Maybe it has to do with the change in weather. Maybe I was just in a funk. {My reading has also picked up pace.} Maybe it has to do with Tom being gone more often, and for longer.

Or, it may be that my prediction and reasoning were correct: Two weeks ago my running partner hurt her ankle and running has been verboten (and will continue to be for the next two weeks).

So, I've been running alone.

And I miss her! It is oh so much easier to force myself out of bed when I know she'll be waiting. It is easier (and more fun) to keep running when I have someone to distract me with conversation {even if I am more out of breath from talking}. And I have come to prefer our route over the one through my neighborhood (despite the hill) but I don't dare do it alone.

But, I do enjoy blogging, and am relishing in this return to the written word. I have missed it. I am hoping I will still have it in me when she's back.


Also: If you have not entered my giveaway, please do! You can enter until midnight Wednesday and I would be more than happy to come up with an alternate prize if you don't like the ones currently offered (because I know they are not universally desirable).


2 years, 200 posts

Today is the two year anniversary of my blog. Or my blog's second birthday.

So, Happy Birthday Blog.

This is also my 200th published post. There are many other drafts and unfinished beginnings that will never see the light of day, but this marks the 200th post that has been finished and made the cut.

I have been pondering what I could do to celebrate these two achievements, and have settled on a giveaway. I'm a sucker for a giveaway myself, so it seems fitting to offer one to all of you. This being a celebration of twos, there will be two winners, and I have planned two options for prizes. If neither spark your interest, feel free to enter anyway and we can figure out an alternate prize.

And speaking of entering, there are two ways for you to do this.

First, leave a comment with your name, a way to get a hold of you {if your profile (or my brain) does not already contain this info} and which prize you would prefer should your name be drawn.

Second, in order to provide myself fodder for future posts, you may post any question you may have for me. The question can be anything that you can think of, and I will do my best to answer it. (I do reserve the right to use my discretion on inquiries of questionable content--this IS an all-ages blog.)

The winner will be chosen by random.org so that I am not accountable for the results.

Now, to the prizes.

On Tuesday this week, I was feeling bored and decided to attempt to make a cute flower/bow for Ella's hair. So I came up with these two little numbers.

While I did not follow any instructions, I am not so naive as to think that the idea is original. Ella would, of course, complain if these two were given away, so for the for the winner, I will create two unique, one-of-a-kind bows of this variety for you and/or whoever you choose to give it to. The bow is equipped with an alligator clip, but it can be easily switched out for a bobby pin, safety pin, broach pin, or what have you.

Several weeks ago, we made these for Young Women activity. I love mine, and will take color requests from the winner.

It's probably about a foot long and four inches high or so. I could measure, but I'm a little lazy. After painting, I sanded it to give it that "distressed" look.

Because both prizes will be made to order, both winners could, in theory, select the same prize. How nice am I?

Drawing will take place in one week; entries accepted until midnight Wednesday.



Or, more specifically, Caspar Babypants.

A few weeks ago we went to a concert (if you want to call it that) at our library to see Caspar Babypants. I had no expectations other than that there would be kid music involved.

I was dang impressed.

Chris and the other two guys (Fred and Dan, maybe?) were so cute with the kids, and the kids had a blast dancing, running, crawling and boogieing all over the library.

All the kids but mine, that is. They just sat and watched. I'm not sure why.

(Please forgive the inferior photo quality. I still haven't mastered my phone's camera.)

In their defense, I think they were both feeling a little under the weather, but it still took me by surprise that they did not join in the "rollicking, frolicking, carrot-shaking" that was going on.

But either way, I would highly recommend purchase of the CD if there are children in your life.

Or if you just like kid's music.


And speaking of baby pants, I don't get why someone thought it would be a good idea to put snaps between the legs on little kid's pants. I mean, I get that it's to facilitate easy diaper changes, but it's easier to just take the pants off.

The snaps almost make sense on overalls, because there's always the chance that a child will be wearing something over the overalls (a sweater or somesuch) that will make total removal difficult, but they never stay snapped on overalls.

And then your kid looks ridiculous tromping around in a bizarre dress-looking thing.

Or crying to you every five minutes to re-snap him.

Until you superglue them.

Yes, I did.



Soup season brings with it a host of accompanying pleasures, as well as some not-so-pleasant prospects.

Among the anticipated arrivals are sweater season, scarf season, boot season and bread-baking season (I can't bring myself to turn on the oven in the heat of summer-I use it as little as possible between June and September).

The unappreciated? Nylon season. Yuck. {Am I the only one who avoids wearing them as much as possible?}

The arrival of soup season also heralds the end of sandal season, capri season (I don't wear shorts), and fan season (or air conditioner season, if you're cool like that). {Pun unintended, but appreciated--by me, at least.}

And this may make me a nerd, or maybe just alert you to one of the many facets of my nerdiness, but I'm going to tell you about it anyway.

Each year, at the end of summer, I dismantle, clean, and repackage our fans in their original boxes. Our house is not one of abundant storage space, and unused fans take up an excessive amount when left assembled. Besides that, you may have noticed the insane amount of dust that can build up on fan blades left unattended for years on end.

As I do this yearly, the build-up at the end of each summer season is not excessive, and requires a mere wipe with a dust cloth before the fan parts are ready for storage. This year, however, we inherited a pair of fans from my in-laws that had not been in the habit of receiving this yearly treatment.

And yikes did they need it.

After vacuuming off the majority of the dust, the layer of grime left behind had me scrubbing--not wiping, scrubbing!--to get them clean. After cleaning and reassembling them (we do not, unfortunately, have the original packaging), I was astounded at the difference.

And then I wondered: Am I the only person who does this? Do people just accept and live with dusty, dirty fans? Does this really matter?

So I ask you: am I alone?

{And if so: Can we still be friends?}


the sooner, the better

As we were chillin' at home tonight--Lou napping, Rico wandering aimlessly, Ella coloring, Tom at school, and me avoiding the mess in the kitchen--I decided to put on some music. I pulled up Pandora {I'm a huge fan, can I just say?} and turned on some calm, soothing Josh Groban {yum!-to the ear that is}.

Ella promptly asked if I could turn on some Christmas music, and I happily complied, and created a brand-new, holiday-themed station. We're almost a full month earlier than last year, but I feel good about it.

And I don't think it will last throughout the month, {especially not when Tom's home,} but I guess we'll see.


The return of Soup Monday

As you might remember, I'm a fan of Pizza Friday because it gives me an excuse not to think.

And we all know I'm a fan of not thinking.

So, during the winter months I like to add in Soup Monday. It doesn't quite work year round the way pizza does, because somehow the last thing I want to eat in the middle of July is a warm, hearty soup.

"But wait, Janelle!"
You might say, (especially you, Mom) "You don't like soup!"

It is true. Soup and I generally don't get along. But I am slowly and surely building a repertoire of soups that I do like.

And so, in honor of the inauguration of the 2009-2010 soup season, I will share with you my version of Taco Soup.

{I would be remiss if I did not credit my wonderful aunt Debbie for the original recipe, but I've changed it enough that she might not recognize it.}

1/2 lb ground beef (or turkey)
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1/2 can tomato sauce
1 can water
1 can corn (I fill an empty can with frozen corn)
1/4 cup taco seasoning (recipe calls for "one package" but I buy it in bulk at Costco)

The recipe also called for 1 can olives, but I'm not such a fan, but Tom likes to throw some in his bowl. Also, you could use other beans, those are just my faves.

Brown the meat (you could throw some onions in if you were in the mood), add the rest of the ingredients and heat. Don't drain the beans or corn (if you use canned), but do drain the olives if you add them. Could also be made in a crockpot: brown the meat and toss everything in to heat.

Serve with grated cheese, chopped fresh cilantro (yum!), chips, sour cream (yuck!) etc.

Add a salad, or maybe some cornbread, and voila; dinner.

Also makes great left-overs. I don't know if I've tried freezing it, but you should be able to.

{And yes, I realize that today is not Monday, but I did make this on Monday, and was just emailing the recipe to a friend with whom I shared a bowl, and I thought I would broaden my audience.}


Right Now:

Ella's at the table coloring.
The laundry is sitting on my bed waiting to be folded.
I'm waiting for it to fold itself.
The towels are still in the dryer.
Baby-Lou is sleeping peacefully.
Rico's sitting in a box begging to be scooted to Japan.
Tom is still at work.
Dinner has yet to be made.

Oops! Scratch the bit about Louie sleeping.
Time's up.



I use this blog as a bit of a sounding board. Somewhere to bounce my ideas into space. I can be boring, witty, sarcastic, funny, snarky; whatever I want. I can talk about kids, siblings, church, books, recipes; whatever I want. But mostly I can get the words out of me and into the mysterious beyond.

For the last month I've been running with a partner. This is new to me, and I find this thrice-weekly conversation is taking my ideas and making this blog redundant in purpose. While talking has a much smaller audience, once it's off my chest I don't feel the pressing urge to record my thoughts/feelings/rants/ideas here.

I wasn't sure how I would feel about running with a partner. As I'm a fairly new runner, I'm still self-conscious about my pace and worried I would slow her down. {Not the case.} While I like to talk, I wouldn't say I'm a great conversationalist, especially with someone I don't know super well, and I wondered what we'd find to talk about. {Not a problem.} I was intimidated by her put-together-ness, and was nervous that she would find me boring and uninteresting. {Though I can't say for sure, does not appear to be an issue.} But also, running was my alone time, and I wasn't sure I wanted to give that up. {I'm loving it.}

But for all of that, my blog is the one suffering. Besides having another outlet, I think my running time was my blog brainstorm time. That was when posts would form in my head, titles would volunteer themselves, and topics would appear. So, if you find my blog lacking, my humor flat, or my posts infrequent, you can blame my running partner.



I think I have an addictive personality.

Meaning that I'm one of those people who are easily addicted to things, not that people get addicted to me.

It's probably a good thing that I don't drink, or I would be an alcoholic.

For me, it seems like everything is either all or nothing. If I'm reading novels, I read multiple books a week. When I index, I do batch after batch after batch. When I get into family history, my housework goes to pot. And if I'm eating sugar... well, I think you get the picture.

Luckily, it's not that I have a hard time quitting, it just that I haven't figured out that whole moderation thing.

Going a month without dessert was easier than I would ever had imagined, but now that I am done with that, I find myself right back in my same habits. I tend to graze through the afternoon, and sugar is my favorite. A handful of chocolate chips here, a slice of banana bread there. Unfortunately, it all adds up. Add dessert a couple of times a week and it's not a pretty picture.

So, once again, I have decided that some action is necessary. And so I will be participating in this. You're welcome to join (by tomorrow).

I'll let you know how it goes.



I got a phone call this morning from my brother, informing me that he had a "bone to pick" with me. Apparently he was not a fan of my last post in which he claimed that I alluded to his inability to get a date.

That was not my intent at all.

In fact, I believe him to be quite datable. Were I not married, and related to him, and older than him, I might just be tempted to date him myself.

I did intend, however, to point out that as of now, I do not forsee a marriage date in the near future. And that could just be me.

My brothers, you see, are two very different creatures. And that is the way it has always been. While Grant would barely admit that girls existed (I'm sure that he was well aware of them, but not interested in discussion), Jon would come curl up on my bed to have "girl talk." Even after I moved out I was usually aware of Jon's current girl situation (as updated by him), and would have to virtually pull teeth to get anything out of Grant.

So seeing Jon married in the next three years would not at all surprise me, and I'll expect to be fully up to date on any and all relationships, while I wouldn't be shocked if I get Grant's wedding announcement in the mail without any warning.

So, Grant, it does make things a little hard to predict.


Apparently I can do no right. I just got a call accusing me of sullying Jon's good name. . . oh man. And since he's not available to protect himself, Grant's roommate had to do the job. I guess I just can't win.

Either way, I love both of my brothers. :)


Happy Beginning and Sad Ending

This morning, five years ago, I awoke early, did my makeup, had my hair done, picked up my fiancé and drove (rode, actually: my parents were driving) to the temple. We were a little late, but we had plenty of time to sign all the official paperwork before being married. And at 1:30 pm, were were married, not just until "death do you part" or "as long as you both shall live," but for eternity.

And that was the birth of our family. As we have added children one by one, they too are bound to us by the covenants we made to God and each other five years ago today.

Such a joyous beginning.

And now for the sad ending.

This summer had been one of sisters, brothers, cousins and fun. But as of today it is all over. Sarah and her family are on an airplane as we speak, winging their way across the sea to live in Japan for three whole, depressing years.

Grant left last week, and while I'll miss him, he'll be back at Christmas. And just knowing he's only in Utah is much more reassuring than trying to imagine my sister in Okinawa. I know Utah. I can picture it. I've been there. Okinawa? Not so much. The most I've seen of that is Karate Kid 2. I can't picture where they are, what they're doing. And that makes it so much harder.

Sure, we can talk. Sure, we can "Skype." And sure, they might even come back for Jon's wedding.

(And Grant's, if he gets around to it)

(And no, that's not an announcement. Jon is not any more engaged than he was when he left on his mission.)

But they're gone.

And I already miss them.


a little heart to heart

{I obviously need to take more pictures: this one is from the fourth of July.}

Because Sweet Lou's heart is not something I can really see an outward manifestation of how it's doing, I never quite know what to expect. However, I was thrilled to hear her cardiologist say:

"Irrespective of what I see on the ultrasound next time, I think she's made enough progress that we won't need to close this hole right away. I'd like to give it a chance to close on its own." (This is a paraphrase, since I wasn't recording the appointment.)

The EKG looked similar to the last one, and the murmur "sounded" smaller. We didn't do an ultrasound this time, but will in two months. All in all, it was good news.

At her next check-up in mid-October, we will determine if she can make it through the flu season on her own, or if she'll need help. Babies with heart problems are more susceptible to things like RSV and pneumonia, and they like to avoid that at all costs. Depending on the size of the hole, the doctor may recommend that she get a vaccine for RSV, which consists of four muscular shots. That doesn't sound fun, but it doesn't sound terrible either, until he mentioned that each shot is about $1200. He said she's borderline now, so it will all depend on the progress made in the next two months.

What amazes me is how God knows what he's doing. While I didn't appreciate it at the time, it's a good thing that Louie was born so big. Because of her heart, she's gained less than 7 lbs since birth. If she had been an average or small baby, she would be unhealthy now, but since she started at nearly 10 lbs, she's still close to 50th percentile.

No matter what happens, I know that I have a loving heavenly Father who is watching out for my little girl, and whatever happens will be for the best.

{If you're just tuning in, click here for previous updates.}


Good for a laugh

My brother Grant is a bit of a crack-up. I pretty much laugh more than half the time I'm around him. For an example of his hilariosity, please click here and read his guest post on my sister's blog.

And laugh.


Sweet Success

I've had a couple people ask how my dessert-free July went and if I was able to make it. And I've been able to say

YES! It went great.

But don't worry, I still love me some chocolate. And ice cream. And cookies. And, and, and...

I think that July was the perfect month for this experiment for several reasons.

First, there were only three occasions where dessert was offered, and none of them were anything super amazing. I had no reason or excuse to be making birthday cakes, celebratory cookies, or anything of that nature.

Second, at least at the end of the month, it was bloody hot. There was no way in heaven that I was going to turn on the oven to bake dinner, let alone dessert.

Third, there was fresh fruit in abundance and variety. I don't generally consider myself a lover of fruit because apples, bananas and oranges (basic fruits that we almost always have around) just do not excite me. I'll eat them, but they're not my favorite. But during the summer when there are cherries, watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, blackberries, pineapple, etc. cheap and available, I'm in heaven. And my sweet tooth was mostly satiated.

So now I'm back to eating dessert, but I can tell I need to set a limit (daily, weekly, something) so that I don't revert to my previous ways.


Can somebody please explain this?

Sometimes I just don't get it. Life just doesn't make sense.

Like in high school, I wore makeup everyday. And not just eye makeup like I do now, but full-on concealer, foundation, powder, blush--the works. And I never washed my face. I mean, I would rinse the makeup off in the shower, but I didn't shower everyday, and I went to bed with makeup on nearly every night.

And I had perfect skin. (So I'm really not sure why I was wearing so much makeup in the first place--teenagers, bah!)

Then I got to college, and realized that makeup was way too much effort and stopped wearing so much, and less often. I'd like to say that I started washing my face regularly, but that would be lying.

And I broke out like nothing else. In fact, there was a while where one side of my face was so riddled with bumps that I looked like a before and after picture for some acne treatment. We even drew a line down my face and took a picture, though not with my camera, so I don't have a copy, or I'd share. (Lisa, if you have one, feel free to send it my way.)

Wouldn't it make sense to have better skin when I put less junk on it?

Another, more current situation.

I had braces, like many of you, I'm sure. And while I brushed my teeth at least once a day all through high school (you really can't go to school without brushing your teeth if you want people to talk with you), I flossed, like, never. Even after I got the braces off, I still never flossed.

And I never had cavities.

Since I got married nearly five years ago, I've only skipped flossing twice. Or maybe three times, I'm not really counting. And I brush my teeth way better than I did in high school, but I just got back from the dentist yesterday, and I get to go back next week to have not one, not two, but three cavities filled.

Yes, they are small. And yes, one is actually to replace one of those lovely metal fillings that I've had since before I can remember. But really? Cavities? Why now?

If someone could shed some light on this conundrum, I would really appreciate it.


a thousand words (or three)

Why one should not use one's ancient barbecue on one's dry lawn:


Fabulous Reads

While I occasionally post book reviews here, I worry about boring people.

Besides that, I don't like to know too much about a book before I read it; I prefer to be surprised. However, I do like reading good books and love getting recommendations from those readers I trust.

One blog I follow is called Fabulous Reads. Both the contributors, Stephanie and Karen, are women I know and love and who's judgment I trust. I have recently submitted several book reviews which will be posted in the next little while. (I must admit that I feel special to be guest-posting on another blog.)

So, if you're looking for book recommendations from me and a couple of others, feel free to check them out here.



We all know what happens when we assume.

So why do we do it?

I have found my self increasingly using the phrase "I assume" to begin sentences, particularly to my husband, when it would be just as easy to rephrase the statement and ask a question.

Instead of:
"I assume you don't mind..."
"I assume it's okay with you if..."
"I assume you're going to..."
"I assume you did..." or
"I assume you want..."

I should be saying:
"Do you mind...?"
"Is it okay if...?"
"Are you planning to...?"
"Did you...?" and
"Do you want...?"

It takes the same amount of time, but avoids all assumptions and allows the other person to express an opinion other than the one I've already decided for them. While these are frequently trivial matters, when I start by saying "I assume" I leave less room for other opinions without making the other person feel bad or appear disagreeable.

Besides, it's very narcissistic of me to assume that I know what the other person thinks or feels about any given topic.

Feel free to punch me if I start doing it to you.


Culinary Disappointment; or The best $100 I ever spent

About three years ago next month, Tom had the opportunity to be a groomsman in the wedding of a good friend. The tux rental came to about $100, which we were happy to spend, though we could have thought of many other places to spend it. After the rehearsal dinner, the wedding party and families were treated to dinner at Vince's by the groom's mother.

Vince's was an Italian place, and we were proffered pizza, pasta, salad, bread sticks: the works. There was one dish, however, that excelled all other dishes. It was a pasta dish with creamy pesto and chicken.

And it was divine.

Maybe it was because I was pregnant {with Rico}, or maybe I was just really hungry, but it was probably the best food {dessert excluded} I had ever had. Whatever the reason, I was blown away. That alone made the tux rental worth every penny.

When I got home, I knew I needed to attempt to recreate it, but I had no idea where to start. I found a recipe for pesto in one of my cookbooks and made a batch.

I was sorely disappointed.

It was okay, but nothing like the dish I remembered. I tossed the rest of it into the freezer and moped.

A couple of months later I was cleaning out the freezer and was ready to chuck the rest of the pesto, when Tom recommended that I try adding it to a white sauce.

Hello, genius plan!

I made a basic white sauce, plopped in a couple cubes of frozen pesto, added some garlic powder, a little more parmesan cheese, and voila! perfection.

Now you too can enjoy the world's tastiest pasta dish, and you don't even have to spend $100.

First, I start by making basic pesto. You can find the recipe on the package of basil, or use this one:

2 c firmly packed basil leaves
3/4 c parmesan cheese (grated, not powder)
1/4 c pine nuts (I use walnuts, because it's what I have on hand, though I've also used pecans)
1/2 c olive oil
3 cloves garlic

Blend all ingredients in blender. This makes about 1 1/4 cups, which I freeze in ice cube trays.

I think I've used a different recipe each time I make it, but they are all similar. Like I said, there is usually a recipe on the package of basil. You can use it as is (with pasta or something,) but I like it better in a creamy sauce.

Then, when I want to use it, I make a basic white sauce:

2 Tbsp butter (or marg.)
2 Tbsp flour (or more, if you like a thicker sauce)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 c milk

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, add the flour, salt and pepper and mix and stir till bubbly, then add milk, mixing till smooth, and cooking over medium. I then add one of the pesto cubes (I usually double this sauce recipe and use two), some parmesan cheese (the real stuff, not powder) and garlic powder to taste. Cook until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

I usually mix the sauce with cooked sliced chicken and pasta and serve immediately, but I've also made it in advance, topped it with mozzarella cheese and baked it to warm it up. I like it better served immediately because it's more saucy. The sauce also tastes great on rice.