Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Overrun by Minions

My husband comes from a very talented family. For our reunion this summer they are asking every family to prepare a musical number, from an actual musical. And though Frozen is BANNED (for reasons of saturation, not for reasons addressed in my last post), I think there will still be plenty of little girl love to go around.

In my house? Not so much.

So last night we all made one of these:





We used felt and markers. And glue, because, you know, not a lot of sewing going on around here. And yes, they are just as easy as they look, and with tee-shirts 3/$9 at JoAnn's this week, cheap too. 

We are going to sing the Minion version of YMCA. One of the kids will sing the lead (does anybody know where I can pick up a kid's sized headdress??) and the rest of us will do back up. With actions. The chorus we will all pitch in singing "BA-NAN-NAN-NA" for YMCA. Before the whole thing gets too annoying (so, yeah, like a minute), the youngest (aka Minion Dave) will shoot said lead singer (Minion Carl) with a dart gun. The whole number will dissolve into a minion fight and we will all live happily ever after.

Fiddler on the Roof, it ain't.



Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Let It Go. I Mean, REALLY, Let It Go.

Apparently "Frozen" is being heralded as the "gayest" Disney movie yet. Okay, okay, heralded in some corners and vilified in others.

I first became aware of this theory after I followed one too many links to an LDS blog where the author went OFF on this delightful movie and our culture in general.

The post takes approximately 45 minutes to read because it essentially analyzes every scene from the movie, with particular venom reserved for Elsa's "Let It Go." She also cites about 14 critics who came (joyfully) to the same conclusion. Not only are there "gay themes" in the story, but she concludes that Else herself is probably gay. They whole magic-powers thing is a just a cover for a hey-baby-I-was-born-this-way agenda. 

Because Frozen has become such a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, it has already begun to be studied in various contexts to try to put together some kind of magic formula for creating the mega-hit. What some preliminary studies show is that people of all walks of life feel like they can relate on some level to Elsa. Everyone has had times when they feel outside the normal, when the pressures of regular life become too much, etc. etc. Elsa is real and flawed and vulnerable and people relate to that. She also looks like a Barbie doll. Which, you know, a lot fewer people can relate to.

To all of this I say: don't you usually find what you are looking for?

It is pretty clear from the tone of the sister's piece and other links within the piece that she has already decided that modern America is going to hell in a handbasket, and that no possible good can come from any part of our culture. She envisions a vast entertainment conspiracy designed to primarily make us comfortable with homosexuality; that is wasn't just a subtext in the movie open to interpretation by some, but an actual plan to propagandize the children of the world, especially little LDS children with crazy-big hair and feathers. I'm guessing she doesn't let her grandkids watch Bert and Ernie at her house either. 

My first (and subsequent) experience with the film, Frozen, is very different. In fact, I think when viewed through a lens of looking for what is good and uplifting, there are gospel principles to be gleaned. There are gospel principles to be gleaned everywhere if we seek them and cease to be obsessed with evil. I'm not advocating complacency against true darkness, mind you, I'm just advocating seeking after that which is light and good.

So, to the movie.

1.  I love Disney's recent trend away from romantic love and a shift toward familial love--Rapunzel, Elsa, Ana, Meridah--these are all women that girls can look up. Besides learning about the importance of family, these women are all very strong and independent. Mulan and Belle are their predecessors, not Cinderella or Snow White. For this reason alone, Frozen is a stand out movie with TWO strong women.

2.  That earworm song contains the line that some have seen as problematic, "No right, no wrong, no rules for me! I'm free!" But what they overlook is that this show stopper is not the climax. . . it comes right at the beginning of the rising action. Elsa isn't singing THE TRUTH, she is singing her truth in the moment. Just fifteen minutes later into the movie she sings "I'm such a fool, I can't be free . . ." realizing that her previous assertions are all wrong. Nothing in the story is righted until Elsa finally confronts what she has done, faces her fears, and overcomes all her doubt with love. Isn't this repentance? Elsa's only refuge from the "storm inside" is to love, not to run away and shun all the rules.

3.  We are all unique and special. Sometimes these differences can seem like a burden. They can seem like things that put us outside the norm and make us ashamed. But when we bridle our passions and fears with love then we find we can still be ourselves, but we can be our best selves. And while, yes, this is a message that resonates strongly in the LGBT community, it is a message that can resonate powerfully with anyone who has ever felt they are on the outside looking in because of their differences. Ana's cheerful optimism about loving her sister regardless of what she learns about her is an important message about charity.

4.  Romantic love is secondary to selfless love. In addition, romantic love will fade unless it is coupled to selfless love. The sweet little trolls in the movie are often overlooked as a silly plot device, but I dearly love their song. "We're not saying you can change him, 'cause people don't really change/All we're saying is that love's a force that powerful and strange/People make bad choices when they're mad or scared or stressed/Throw a little love their way, you'll bring out their best/True love brings out the best." Wow. There is truth in that. Big truth.

"Frozen" is all about the transformative power of selfless love. Is there any message more at the heart of the gospel than this? This is the definition of conversion. It is at the heart of understanding the Atonement. 

I know that our society contains darkness and evil. Every society in every time has. I'm not sure that we are any more wicked now than we were once upon a time. The same vices and darkness have always been available. But light and goodness is available to us too. We just have to seek after it and share it. 

And sometimes, you know, we just need to lighten up. . . to, you know, let it go.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Made It!



I'm sure I have some really meaningful commentary to offer . . . and there is so much writing that wants to be done this summer. But today we're going to lunch and the movies. I'll see you when I see you!

Friday, June 06, 2014

A Costco Recipe

 Do any of you shop at Costco? We like to call it the hundred dollar store because it seems impossible for me to get out of there for under $100. And it doesn't do me one bit of good to go less often because then I just seem to be making up for all my "missed" visits.

Anyway, thanks to Costco, I think I have perfected the pulled pork sandwich. 


A few years back our Costco started selling a very eclectic variety of salsas under the brand name "Robert Rostchild Farms." They only seem to sell one kind at a time, but they keep swapping them out. In the winter time there is a darker red one that is cranberry-based (I think I haven't actually bought this one), in the summer it is more of a mango thing. A few months back they had a new one that is like pineapple-lime-tequila-coconut . . . yes, all of that is in there. Well, when I saw it, I decided to try it on my pulled pork.

The key to pulled pork is to use something on it that has a fair amount of vinegar. I also like a topping that can be used for pulled pork sandwiches or pulled pork tacos. I'm not a big fan of BBQ sauce, so I never cook it directly in the sauce, but add it later for those that do like it. Also, BBQ sauce burns to the side of your crock pot if it sits in there too long.

So this "recipe" is going to be less effective because it really won't include measurements, but here we go.

Pork roast--any variety. I like my meat a little paler and drier so I usually get a loin roast because it has more white meat on it. Get what you like! I usually get a pretty big one and cook a bunch, freezing the leftovers.

Funky salsa--I highly recommend the pineapple-lime-tequila-coconut stuff from Costco. If you cannot find it, a mixture of green tomatillo salsa and brown sugar is effective

Put the roast and about 1 1/2 cups of salsa in the crock pot on low for about 8 hours. Drain at least part of the juice off. Depending on how fatty your roast is, you don't want your pork soupy when you pull it.

Pull the roast with two forks until it is shredded and then add about another cup of your preferred salsa into the pork, stirring it really well. 

Toppings:

Onions are a must. For a healthy option, pickle a red onion in a cup of vinegar, half a cup of water and a few teaspoons of sugar. Seal the whole thing up in an airtight container, making sure all the onions are covered and leave in your fridge for several hours prior to putting them on your sandwich. For a less healthy option, and a real Southern-style sandwich, try these from Pioneer Woman.

Coleslaw is the next deal-breaker. I discovered coleslaw on pulled pork about two years ago and never looked back. To keep it simple I just buy a bag of shredded coleslaw mix cabbage and stir in a little bit of Lighthouse Brand coleslaw dressing. Again, a more healthy option is to add your cabbage to your pickled onions. It is less sweet and more tangy that way. 

Cilantro. There is a Vietnamese sandwich shop here in town that makes a great sandwich. They put a generous spring of cilantro on top of their sweet pork and pickled veggies.

The bread. I cannot overstate how important this is. Back to Costco and their bakery. You can buy sandwich buns in their bakery at about $5 for a dozen. They are very large and have the perfect texture for this sandwich. Especially when grilled a little bit. Oh. wow.

Plantboy didn't stop there. He added a sharp, creamy white cheddar (also from Costco). I opted out; I don't like cheese on sandwiches generally. He also put a large slice of red pepper right on top--more flavorful than a tomato this time of year. 

This school year I have found that anything that can be cooked in my crockpot is my favorite recipe. I only have one week of school left and dinners have been anything but consistent in recent weeks as I feel like all my domestic endeavors are coming apart at the seams. 

One week to go. I can do this. I can do this.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Group Ideas

I have been in my current book group for more than six years now. In that time we have read dozens and dozens of books. Every May we gather and choose our books for the coming year. Unfortunately, my reading is WAY down this year. I haven't updated by sidebar list for weeks and weeks and never did my 2013 reading wrap up.

Nothing like full time work to really send your priorities out of whack, I know.

Anyway, as our annual "book sell" comes up (you bring 2-3 books you think the group would like, give your pitch and then the group chooses which to read), I find myself a bit stuck. Whether by design or accident I have emerged as a leader in the group, and they usually pick what I sell. This puts enormous pressure on me to make good choices. My three picked this year were: Great Expectations (great, as expected); A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (a wonderful conversation) and The Screwtape Letters (epic fail).

Here are some of my thoughts for this year . . . though I'm looking for other recommendations too.

1.  A Wrinkle in Time. One young adult book is usually chosen and I think this would be fantastic. I have tried to sell it before and it fell flat. On the other hand, several people have told me that if I did try to sell it this year they would vote for it after a very mixed reception to Tuck Everlasting. Don't you love the background intrigue?

2.  The Rent Collector. I don't know anything about this except that my sister recommended it; I doubt I have time to finish it before the end of the month. I was less than enamored by the Shadow Mountain Publication (an arm of Deseret Book) because I'm skittish about LDS novels like that. Also, our group tends to like stuff they can get at the library. This would not be one of those.

3.  The Poisonwood Bible. Read in my Texas book club about 10 years ago. I remember really enjoying this book but wonder if it might be too . . . edgy . . . for this current group. I know--the book isn't really edgy--but this group definitely isn't.

4.  A Separate Peace. Such a weird, dark novel of unhealthy and yet necessary friendships. I loved this book once upon a time. Another young adult novel though certainly not feel-good.

5.  The Chosen. Too cerebral, maybe? I don't know; it is such a lovely book with cool insights into modern Judaism.

I want to read Steinbeck but it is definitely too edgy and nobody wants to do Austen. In the past I've sold (and we read) The Help, The Potato Pie Society book with the absurdly long title, Rebecca, The Good Earth, To Kill a Mockingbird, Goose Girl, Tess of the Dubervilles, Ethan Frome, Mrs. Mike . . . there are more, but I'm trying to get YOU to do the thinking here!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Full Circle

My youngest cousin had his mission farewell a Sunday or two ago. My mom called to tell me about it, asking if she remembered when he was blessed at that same Church 19 years ago. I was in college then and I did remember going to the blessing. It was very exciting--he is a twin and I think most of us knew that these young grand babies would be the last of their generation in a very large family. At the time, their parents weren't active in the church and my dad did the blessings. 

Because I have no filter, I felt strongly impressed to bear my testimony that day. I spoke about the miracle of children (I was studying childbirth in a physiology class at the time; I had no direct experience) and the joy of family. I quoted this scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants:

"And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be couple with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy."

I know, I know it was 19 years ago . . . what a ridiculous thing to remember! Well, I didn't remember, not really, not the details anyway. But for some reason my mom did and when she told me about it the other day I thought back to that time. My mom said it stood out to her powerfully because when I was finished, my aunt (the twins' mother), tears streaming down her face said to my mom, "She said exactly what I would have said had I been able to.

In my cousin's farewell meeting, a little less than 19 years later, a high councilman spoke after my cousin finished. He commented on the enormous number of people/family at the meeting (these boys are still the pride and joy of a large family and their community to boot) using the same scripture. This time, my aunt, tears streaming down her face said to my mom, "Who would have thought, 19 years ago, that I would send TWO sons on a mission?" His twin brother is currently serving in Spain. 

My mom had one of those profound moments when everything feels like it comes full circle. I wish I had been there. Sending my love out into the universe today; I hope it lands on something that needs it. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tenderhearted

We have decided to try and move forward with buying a house. We had one offer fall through. I don't think I really regret it, though, so it maybe wasn't THE ONE. I thought we might have found it this morning but it turns our that they accepted an offer just last night and failed to tell us. 

The truth is we probably won't find THE ONE. Because I can't afford that house. I think at best it will be a compromise (a yard big enough for Plantboy, but still not the 1/2 acre he would love; a house big enough and new enough for me, but still in need of lots of updates; and a neighborhood that may disrupt the ward or the schools for the boys but not both). I'm sure that puts me in the same boat as most people, but it is still pretty discouraging.

Talk about first-world problems.

I am mostly tenderhearted because my nephew is going to be getting his mission call today. Some of Plantboy's side of the family has been through this, but this is the first on my side. Elder Nephew was born the week I left on my mission. I didn't know my SIL had delivered until she showed up at the airport with her very new baby in tow. I don't think she'd even been home two days, bless her heart, after a horrific delivery my mother later told me they called a vaginal Cesarian. (If that doesn't make you want to never have a baby . . .)

 
Granted, he'll be one of those young missionaries because he won't even be 18 until August, but it still means that it was 18 years ago that I left as a missionary. How is that even possible? In any event, Elder Nephew's existence strangely bolstered me throughout my mission. The airport pictures were developed in my first area, when I had been out for several weeks. (C'mon . . . you remember developing pictures, don't you?) When I saw the pictures of my family at the airport I felt so powerful about the reason I had come to serve--to share with others the message of eternal families. This same picture sat in a frame on my study desk throughout my entire mission. It gave me courage on the days I needed it. Which, admittedly, was often. Missions are hard. But if it was easy everyone would do it. 

Maybe he will be blessed above all measure and be called to Oz!! The big reveal is set for 8 pm tonight. And though the ritual has been enacted tens of thousands of times, it is always special.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Break 2014

These pictures are not a month late, not quite. For Spring Break we went to the Puget Sound. Plantboy and I honeymooned near Port Townsend almost fifteen years ago. There was no way to swing a visit up on our own over our actual anniversary (once upon a time that was the plan), but this was a pretty good alternative. We found a house on Marrowstone Island to rent for the week and had a really good time. Not a lot of sun . . . but a good time nevertheless! 

The map is for those like me who have no idea where Marrowstone Island is!




Here is the porch of our house. This is actually the day we left. 


 This was the sign hanging on the little store where we went about four times a day. For a little store in the middle of no where it wasn't bad; I think they shopped at Costco. And yes, I'm unzipping my coat in response to that sign. The funny part about that sign? It was never warmer than about 55 degrees. I cannot imagine a worse place for a nude beach.



My mom joined us also. Here we are on our whale watching tour. Plantboy and I did this on our honeymoon, but it was orca season then. We got the (much) less dynamic blue whales on this trip. It was definitely more watching than whales, but we still had fun. The sun came out near the end of the tour and it was nice to stand on the deck. Thankfully we brought the Uno and Skip-Bo cards to pass the time!




 Getting our sea legs back in Port Townsend. The sun finally came out in time for us to get off the boat. And then it went away. And then it was windy. Then it rained. Then it was sunny again. It must be spring time in the Puget Sound!






On the third morning we took a walk along the beach. We wanted to find the sea lions we had seen from the Glacier Spirit that we could tell were just down the beach from the house we were staying at  on Marrowstone.  Sure enough, we found them, lazy and perched on the same rock. Unfortunately, it was a rather further walk down the beach than expected, as well as colder and wetter. It was quite an exhausting adventure.



What is that phrase?May the wind be always at your back? It wasn't.



Out the back window of our house we could see huge container ships from all over the world spend their days coming in and out of the Puget Sound headed toward Seattle. To say the Jedi enjoyed this is a huge understatement.


 At the north end of Marrowstone is the remnant of an old fort that was considered necessary to defend the United States against the Russians prior to the first world war. There are three such forts around the entrance to the Puget Sound. This one has been preserved as a state park with two replicas of cannons still in place. One of the bunkers was named after a Bankhead from back east. I took pictures of his history because my grandmother is a Bankhead whose family originated in the southern United States. I wondered if there might be a connection.



This bunker was still open all the way around the back, in the creepy darkness. It was kind of U-shaped built into a huge hill. You could stand on one open end and yell and your voice would go all the way around the U. 





Mom watched the kids one evening while Jeff and I went into Port Townsend for dinner. Dinner was marginal--it was still a few days shy of the beginning of "the season" and most places weren't open. After dinner we decided to go hunting for our honeymoon cottage. Here it is. It seemed bigger when it was just the two of us. We would never have fit this week! That is what fifteen years will do. 




View from the honeymoon cottage where I first fell in love with the Northwest. 



The ocean was just a five minute walk from our house. The house sat up on kind of a cliff. I say "kind of" because all of Marrowstone and the Puget Sound islands are made of glacial till rather than bedroom. As a result they are kind of loose and unstable. I would not be surprised if half the backyard we so enjoyed ends up on the ocean within the next few years.

 Every time we went to the beach we found something to enjoy. This is a picture of the bald eagle that spent the week more or less perched in the tree in our backyard. Jedi Knight called it his "sniper post" and we did see him swoop down into the water several times in pursuit of a meal.





This driftwood marker helped us discern where the tide was. The first night it was out of the water by 20 or 30 feet. On one particularly cloudy and blustery day it never got out of the water. Our first day was especially lovely and we got a shot of our marker with a seabird perched on it in the sun. 





Where's Waldo? See if you can spot the eagle in the tree. 


After hunting all over the Internet for Puget Sound kayak trips and realizing they were all a)very expensive, b) not kid friendly or c) not even running yet, we nearly had despaired of getting to kayak until our very helpful landlady mentioned that they did kayaks down at the little store with very cheap rentals. Indeed. The store owner had to scratch his head and look at prices posted from 20 years ago to remember what they were charging. We paddled about the fishing boats in our little corner of the Puget Sound for nearly three hours. 













Admittedly, it was like bumper boats out there sometimes. It was also really fun to race around the bouys. 





The bay in Marrowstone had a lot of crabs in the shallows. We also saw one guy make about about ten runs about with his little speed boat to pick up pounds and pounds of clams or mussels.


Even Grandma agreed to a ride.


Here is one of our whales. We did get a little bit closer than this, but not a whole lot. They can hold their breath a long time and swim a long way and it was hard to gauge where he would be. It actually ended up quite close to that shore there and then exhibited what our driver called "feeding behavior" where it was kind of frenzied and splashing. It was speculated that he had maybe driven a school of shrimp toward the shore and then had lunch. We never got to seen one breach, but we were close enough to see the barnacles they were covered with.





 This is the stellar sea lion rock that was a mile or two down the beach from where we stayed. We boated to it from this side and then later walked to it also. Our captain said these were juvenile males and this rock was like the "frat house." He said that most days they could be found there. It is too bad the tied wasn't lower when we walked on the beach toward them. We could have gotten much closer.


This is about the most activity we saw. Laziest creatures ever.







The morning of our long beach walk actually started pretty nice. That was why we went so far. The return trip wasn't quite so smooth. If you look above our heads to that green roof up on the cliff then you are looking at Stephenie Meyer's house. It was only about a mile down the road from where we stayed. We tried to drive up past it, but she owns a huge property that is all gated. You can't see the house from the road, only from the water side. Even then you can only see the roof. 

My cousin is in Port Angeles and she came down to eat with us one night. She said that when she is actually in town, Stephenie Meyer is in her stake. I don't know why that seems noteworthy to me. I think it is funny that she bought an enormous house in the Northwest, but fitting to. We did not go to Forks. Or see a vampire. Mom did mention she wouldn't mind seeing a werewolf.



A huge stump is always a good photo op.







 The sea lion rock as viewed from the shore.




At Fort Flagler. 




No, Plantboy, as a matter of fact, I will NOT "straddle the cannon." Also, I hope you have noted my fabulous orange coat. It isn't very often that I really feel vain about a clothing purchase, but I have to admit that this coat is a bit of an exception. Plantboy bought this for me with his REI dividend money so I would have a good raincoat for the trip. It was perfect.




And, admittedly, HE is quite perfect. At least for me.




As for what we've created together? Well, they have their moments of perfection too!








This beach was at the north end of Marrowstone, demonstrating that "as the crow flies" or the "seal swims" we were quite close to Port Townsend. Though it took nearly 30 minutes to drive there, it really was just across the Sound. The Youngling picked up this random piece of really gross seaweed and starting swinging it around asking, "What is this??"






 Harbor seal in the sound with Port Townsend in the background, just off the north point of Marrowstone Island.







All in all, a lovely vacation. Originally we were supposed to go to San Diego, but our spring break was cut from two weeks to one and our reservations down there were for the wrong week. In some ways I hope for something warmer next year, but it was remarkable to be a place so pristine with so few other people. I'm so grateful to live in such a remarkable part of the world!