Monday, July 18, 2011

Learning to Hold My Tongue ...

About a week and a half ago, I read a compilation of quotes from Elder Neal A. Maxwell. (He was an Apostle in our church.) One has stuck with me; I find myself thinking about it a couple of times a day. Perhaps this is because I need help in this area; perhaps it is because applying it will help me to become more who I would like to be. Whatever the reason, it is important enough that I wanted to share it here.

He stated:

"Young or old, my priesthood brothers, be grateful for people in your lives who love you enough to correct you, to remind you of your standards and possibilities, even when you don’t want to be reminded.

A dear and now deceased friend said to me years ago when I had said something sardonic, “You could have gone all day without saying that.” His one-liner reproof was lovingly stated, illustrating how correction can be an act of affection."

The scripture that it made me think of:

"8. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another,love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

9. Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

10. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:"
(1 Peter, Chapter 3, Verses 8-10, Holy Bible, KJV)

Quotes ...

For one of my classes, I was required to watch "The Emperor's Club". There were a couple of quotes that I wrote down while watching the movie. All were uttered by Kevin Kline's character, Mr. Hundert.

"The end depends upon the beginning."

"Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?"

"It is a teacher's burden always to hope that with learning a boy's character might be changed and so the destiny of a man."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Baked Omelets for Breakfast

Oven-Baked Omelet

Cheese (I used about 8 oz.)
Fresh Mushrooms (I used about 1/2 a container)
Green Onions (about 3 complete stalks-- white and green portions)
1-2 tsp. Minced Garlic
Ham (No clue on the amount-- just eyeball it.)
6 eggs
Milk (about 1/4 cup)
Olive oil (again, no clue. Use about what you would regularly to pan saute)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a square cake pan with cooking spray. (I think my pan was 9x9".) Sprinkle shredded cheese to cover the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in saute pan & slice mushrooms and green onions. When oil is hot, add mushrooms, green onions, and garlic. Saute til tender. Layer over cheese in baking dish. Cube ham (leftover spiral ham worked great for us) and either layer in baking dish or brown slightly in saute pan and then layer over cheese mixture. Combine milk and eggs in a bowl and scramble. Pour over all other ingredients in baking dish. Optional: Top lightly with more cheese. Bake 25-30 minutes until eggs are set and lightly browned.

This was delicious. The kids loved it! (They don't love mushrooms or green onions usually, so I was a bit nervous about their reaction. Totally worried for nothing.) It was also a great way to use up some leftover ham from the freezer. The best part about this meal is that it was easy, easy, easy! There was enough flavor that we didn't need to add any extra seasoning, so any salt in the dish came from what was naturally in the ham-- I don't add any salt when I cook my ham-- and the cheese. It's really filling, and pretty well-balanced. Definitely a keeper!

Cooking From Scratch ...

In trying to better use what we have lately, I've been cooking a great deal more from scratch again. I came to the conclusion a couple of weeks ago, that there's no reason for me to be buying bread. It's expensive, loaded chock-full of preservatives, and not actually all that tasty; on the flip side, I love making homemade bread. It's easy, and while it is time-consuming, most of that time doesn't involve hanging out in the kitchen watching the dough rise. Really, it forces me to either get other things done around the house or take time to do something fun-- like reading a book ... for pleasure-- while I wait between steps. Biggest bonus: I actually know what all the ingredients are that make up the end result.

Not long after I began my homemade bread crusade, I came to the same conclusion about salad dressings. I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much money for something like that. Not only that, but if I make my own (most ingredients seem to be ones that I keep on hand anyway) I only need to mix it up when we are actually going to use it. Lots less food waste that way! This weekend, I made homemade Creamy Italian Vinaigrette for the first time. Holy cats! If I'd known that it would be that easy, I'd have done it long ago; and it tastes so much better! (I've been craving this dressing. In short, I've rediscovered my love affair with salad ... ) The kids enjoyed it, and nobody seemed to miss the preservatives.

I've decided that next on the list is tortillas. Once upon a time, I did make these from scratch pretty regularly. They're not a bit difficult. They're inexpensive, and once again, they just plain taste better. I like the texture better as well. I have to admit that this decision came about when I stopped to read the ingredient list on the tortilla package. Holy Preservatives, Batman!! Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to the preservative thing ... I just don't see a need to have quite so much of it in my food when it's less expensive, usually tastier, and not much more difficult to make it fresh.

We still eat junk & I still use some convenience foods. I just figure that even the junk (desserts and snacks) is healthier when I do make it from scratch. Since there are just three of us at home, using more real food and less convenience food lets me control portions better. I don't have to use an entire container of something at one meal, so I can cook what we will eat or freeze rather than an amount that has been dictated by the manufacturer's packaging. The other advantage that I've noticed in this is that the food that we're eating now seems to be so much more filling. Less goes so much further. Better yet, the girls actually stay full longer. HALLELUJAH!!

Becoming a Wise(r) Steward ...

One of the areas that I have lapsed in (a lot) over the last year is that of cooking regularly at home. I'm not talking about Mac & Cheese, fried eggs & toast, or pb & j type meals. Those have been plentiful. I'm talking about the plan out a menu & use up what you have on hand to make healthy, tasty meals. While ultimately I must take responsibility for not making more efforts in that department, the fact that in one year, I had two fridges die and my stove was older than me ... and cooked like it ... had a lot to do with building bad cooking habits. (It's hard to cook well when your fridge ruins most of your ingredients & your oven finishes off the few that survive.)

Enter New Fridge (Third time seems to be the charm!) and Newish Stove (with a window in the door and an oven light -- I'm absolutely in heaven!!)

I'm finding that it is taking some time to ease back into good culinary habits. It's hard sometimes to remember that cooking is so much easier now. Bread actually turns out; foods cook in the time that they are supposed to-- I don't have to tack on an extra hour or two. It's beautiful! This weekend for the first time in a long time, I had my kids all weekend. I hadn't realized how much I miss that! It was fun to cook since there were two very appreciative little mouths to feed. At one point, I even sat down to make out a menu plan. I didn't end up getting anything so organized done, but I did set aside several recipes that use up ingredients that I have on hand and that will be quick and healthy to make.

So far, we're on target to use up our Bountiful Basket produce before it goes bad. Not only that, but the kids have access to healthy snacks on a consistent basis. Yes, they still get a less healthy snack occasionally, but the fact that they can eat as much produce as their little hearts desire tends to keep their diet pretty well-balanced.

It's definitely still a process, but we are making better use of what we have.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I MIGHT Have to Consider ...

apologizing to my cute friend Suzie. Maybe ...

Let me begin with a little background. My sister and I are eleven years apart. (I may have mentioned that before, but it has bearing on my tale today.) Growing up, I was a VERY mediocre, scraping-the-bottom-of-the barrel sort of piano player-- unless it was a piece I REALLY wanted to learn, and then I could pass for just plain mediocre. One thing that I did do, however, was sing. Once again, I was nothing special, but I did well enough at it that several opportunities to sing solos or in small groups came my way.

My sister was just the opposite. She has always been very talented at playing the piano, and she learned to play the organ at quite a young age as well. She could sing just fine, but she usually chose to play when given the opportunity, and she was forced into it pretty regularly too. I have also always had a lot of friends who play the piano brilliantly. So the long and the short of it is that there was ALWAYS someone better around to play. I managed to skulk in the shadows-- just exactly where I preferred to be.

As I got older, if there was sheer (So can't think of how to spell that word) desparation, I'd fill in on the piano. I steered clear of the organ completely until my mission and my young adult ward. Even then, it was only under EXTREME durress or dire need that I'd step in and play. (I never took organ lessons-- EVER-- so I was even less comfortable with that instrument.) Once I married, I occasionally filled in on the piano during various church classes, but until this spring it had essentially been several years (Read: over a decade) since I'd done any kind of consistent playing.

Enter Suzie:
As I've mentioned, I had the terror, er, I mean, privilege of accompanying the ward choir during the Easter program. (Have I mentioned that I had told Suzie-- and several members of the Bishopric-- that choir accompanist is the one calling in the entire church that I would refuse? Further, have I mentioned that Suzie and I had had this conversation MULTIPLE times?) Thanks to Suzie's intervention, I was no longer able to dodge the notice of a certain Bishopric member. The long and the short of it is that I was added to the organ player line up and officially issued the calling of Assistant Ward Organist.

I blame Suzie. :)

It's been a few months, and today my turn finally came. July is my month to play. When I got the list of hymns a week or two ago, I was HORRIFIED to see that the opening hymn for my first time playing (Read: Today) was listed as The Star-Spangled Banner. Fabulously enough, while I adore our National Anthem, and I look forward with great anticipation to singing it whenever the opportunity comes up, I have never, ever, even once been able to play it at all well-- or even passable. Truly, if I had a nemesis in my accompanist world, that song would be it. Really, it's that bad ...

I practiced as much as I had the opportunity to do with two little ones, a holiday, 18 credit hours of school, a weed-bitten garden patch, oh--and running a food co-op site for the first time officially without any of the usual other coordinators around would allow. (What can I say? Life's been a little bit crazy. As you can imagine, the time that I've actually practiced has not been excessive.) Then I took a deep breath and tried not to think about it.

I have been terrified. Not just an occasional tremor of fear, no minor shaking in my shoes ... No, this was all-encompassing, brain-bending, gut-wrenching-- to the point of feeling like I was going to vomit at the mere thought of what was approaching-- TERROR. I literally had to just avoid thinking about it; the horror was that painful. I briefly considered going inactive-- at least for one Sunday-- but rapidly rejected that idea as cutting off my nose to spite my face. I even thought about asking someone else to cover the first hymn, while I played the rest. If I thought too hard about it, I was likely to burst into tears and begin to hyperventilate. Really, it's not been a pleasant weekend that way. :)

However, I did it. I showed up early and butchered The Star-Spangled Banner one last time on the organ, and once on the piano for good measure. When the time came, I marched to the stand, sat on the bench, and began to play the prelude music. I didn't cry when the people just kept coming and coming. (Did I mention that there were four babies blessed today? Picture four large extended families plus all the regulars crowded into the chapel, the overflow room, and the gym. No, I don't have an estimate of how many there were. I intentionally didn't look. I prefer to avoid self-torture where possible.) I didn't flinch when the time came to play the National Anthem. (I did sob great, loud, crocodile tears-- on the inside.) We all survived. Almost all of the notes landed in the right place-- on all three verses. (Note: ALMOST) Suzie was filling in leading. THANK HEAVENS! I'm used to watching her for cues while I play. As the meeting progressed, I noticed that I automatically paused without realizing it, in the places that my brain seemed to think that Suzie would normally pause. It worked out well. (I think ... )

This afternoon, as I've thought about the events of the day, I realized that I MAY have to consider apologizing to Suzie for blaming her for this. Not that she isn't still just as culpable, but ... I realized that playing the organ wasn't so bad. My dad's mother was an organist, and it made me feel very close to her to be able to fill that role today. I also came to the conclusion that had Suzie not thrown me into the bus, I'd never have had the courage to say I was ready to play. Heck, I might not ever have really buckled down and prepared to play the organ at all. I definitely wouldn't have ever had the strength to face these personal demons.

I learned today that I truly CAN do hard things. Not just the big things you do because you have to, but the little ones that you do just because there's a need. I know that the Lord truly makes more of us than we are. He knew that there was an ability lying untapped within me that I would NEVER have chosen to focus on if not forced to. I've got a long way to go, but at least I've taken the scariest step. So perhaps, instead of blaming Suzie for my woes, I should thank her for the growth.

Thanks, Lady! You really are a good friend!!