Monday, March 31, 2008

Coal Stoves

If you follow my blog for any length of time you will see that Chicagoans love to whine about the weather (in every season). And for good reason. We've bumped up against April and it's still cold and miserable. It snowed again last week. And if the temperature should creep up to forty it's still blustery, rainy and dreary. However, over the weekend I was reminded how blessed we are to have a warm and comfortable home.

I served my mission in Germany a hundred years ago (give or take a few). Most of the places we lived did not have central heating, and yes, during the winter the water in your wash bowl could freeze. When we got up at 6:00 a.m. to study we built a little fire in the coal stove with coal which we had schlepped from the celler three or four floors below. One of my missionary companions gave this perfect description of what happens when MOLLY MORMON MISSIONARY MEETS THE COAL STOVE:

I didn't even know how to start a fire in the thing, so we just froze until our landlord took pity on us and started a fire for us. Since we didn't know how to do it ourselves, we figured we'd better not let it go out, so we just kept dropping coal in it day and night. Then one time I opened it up and it looked like there was no fire in it. Upon closer observation, I saw that it was about 3/4 full of ashes. I finally got the little door at the bottom open, pulled out the pan (which was overflowing) and dumped it in a paper sack. After about 15 minutes of fishing the ashes out, coughing from the dust sifting through the kitchen, sticking to my hair, etc., I had them all in the paper sack which I set proudly in the middle of the floor, planning on taking it down to the garbage when we left for work. I was so proud of myself for having done it that I didn't even notice the burning smell. In fact, it wasn't until the paper sack started going up in flames that I realized -- ashes stay hot! So I ran quickly and got a plastic bucket. I scarcely had time to pour it all in when it came pouring out the bottom. Well, it wasn't too good for the floor, but I did learn something about ashes.

Our landlord was even less happy about it than we were. About two days later he came storming in asking us if we were planning on burning the whole house down. He told us we were "young enough to know better." That must be German logic, it doesn't make sense to me. "If you had lived in a backward country like Russia all your life I could understand it," he said, "but a modern country like America, surely you should know how to take care of a coal stove."

Well, I did tell him that I had never seen one before in my life and that we didn't have anything like that in America, but I resisted the urge to tell him about the little thermostat on the wall that needs just a flick of the finger to bring the temperature of the whole house up to 70. It's probably too bad I didn't, because to this very day he is still wondering how in the world American can be considered the country with the highst standard of living the world has ever known when we don't even have the coal stove yet.

I'm thankful for that little thermostat on our wall and for a home that stays 70 degrees without any effort on my part!
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Saturday, March 29, 2008


This applies to me today. I'm drawing a blank. Catch me on Monday!

Friday, March 28, 2008


Quinn is preparing for his Ph.d. prelims -- spending all day and most of the night at the lab, so Tiffany and Clarissa are heading to Salt Lake to spend some time with Grandpa Brent and Grandma Connie. They rode the train as far as Chicago yesterday. It was Clarissa's first train ride.

Our children grew up riding the commuter train. Randy would often call and suggest that I send one or the other or all of the kids into the City for the day. He would meet them at Union Station and take them to the museum or a special exhibit, or perhaps they would just spend a half a day at dad's office counting paper clips, sharpening pencils, and getting drinks from the water cooler. One of those train rides was particularly memorable for me.

Quinn was a newborn. Randy called and said to put little Randy (8 years old) on the train and they could spend the day together. We were rushing to catch the 10:30 Burlington. I only had Randy and Quinn in the car with me. It was b.c.s. (before car seats). Randy was rattling around in the back of the station wagon and Quinn was laying on the passenger seat. As I said, we were rushing when I saw the red lights behind me. I pulled over. An officer came to the window. "Do you have any idea how fast you were going?" "No," I said, "but I don't have time to talk to you about it right now. I'm trying to get this boy on a train. If you would follow me to the train station, perhaps we could discuss it there." He gave me that "what the heck" look, but he stomped back to his car and followed me to the station.

I jumped right out of the car and said, "Sorry, but I've got to purchase a ticket for my son. Hope you don't mind. I'll be right back. And oh, by the way, would you mind watching my baby while I'm gone?" (After all, if you can't trust a police officer with your child who are you going to get to babysit). We purchased the ticket and then waited, and waited, and waited. Randy was getting more and more nervous about getting on that train alone. I'm thinking, "Hey, kid, you think you're nervous. I've left my baby alone with a police officer. And I'm sure this ticket isn't getting cheaper by the minute." When the train finally came I asked the conductor if I could help this boy find a seat. He agreed. There were lots of good seats on the lower level, but no, Randy wanted to go upstairs (double-decker trains). We went up and he picked a seat. Just as he sat down I felt that unmistakable lurch and, yes, we were moving down the track --

"Oh will she ever return?
No she'll never return
And her fate is still unlearned
(Poor old Judy) . . .

When the conductor saw me flying down the stairs he looked like he might have a heart attack. "Too late," he said, "You'll have to go to the next stop." "I cant," I begged, "I've left my baby in the car." (I didn't mention the police officer). He pulled the emergency cord. The train ground to a halt. He opened the door and I looked down . . . down . . . down into a gravel pit. I knew it wouldn't be fun, but it would be better than jail. I jumped.

As I dragged myself up out of that gravel pit, the officer was still standing by my car -- arms folded, toe tapping, jaw clenched. He could have been a little bit sympathetic. This wasn't fun for me either. He gave me a ticket. Oh, did he give me a ticket. You'd have thought he might be just a tiny bit lenient. After all, Quinn was a really easy baby to tend!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Out of the mouth of two or more witnesses

You know how you can have goals of things you want to get done that day, or things you want to get done this week, or maybe even this year? I have a bunch of goals with unspecified completion dates that just sort of lurk around in my subconscious. For over two years I've had a goal to locate an old friend and send these pictures to him. I finally checked it off my list this week.

In January of 2006, Randy and I went to the Holy Land. We spent one day in Haifa, which is a beautiful city.

One of the women who was traveling with us told us that two Mormon missionaries were buried in the Haifa cemetery. One of them was an ancestor of hers. Because this same man was the ancestor of our friend, we became interested in this story.

John A. Clark was born in 1871. As a young man, he was called to serve as a missionary in Palestine. His parents were anxious about his serving so far away and begged him not to go. But John believed that the Lord had a "purpose" in sending him to Palestine, and was determined to go. He even offered to relinquish all claim on the family property if they would support him in his desire to serve. While serving in Haifa he contracted small pox and died. Because of the nature of smallpox, his family was not able to have the body returned home. John was quickly buried in Haifa and all of his personal effects were destroyed. His parents were bitterly disappointed. What possible "purpose" could the Lord have had in a life cut so short.

Almost 90 years later, the church began the process of purchasing land and obtaining permission for the building of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. There was great resistance. The Jewish people asked why our church should be allowed to have a building there when it had never been a presence in the Holy Land. They did not want us there. Then it was discovered that two Mormon missionaries were buried in a cemetery in Haifa, which proved that the church had established a foothold in the Holy Land many years before and had had a presence in Palestine for almost 90 years.

The scriptures tell us that the Lord establishes the truth by witnesses. These two missionaries served as witnesses for truth, making it possible for our church to establish a learning center in Jerusalem, which has blessed not only the lives of thousands of BYU students, faculty and members of the church who have been able to visit the Center, but thousands of Palestinians who have visited the Jerusalem Center for lectures and concerts, including the extremely well-received Tabernacle Choir. Randy and I felt so touched by this experience. We know that we are among the thousands whose lives have been blessed by the Jerusalem Center. Two of our own children had the privilege of studying at the Center. We were able to attend sacrament meeting there, which we consider one of the choicest experiences of our time in the Holy Land. We are grateful for the life of Elder John A. Clark.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Last week I learned about quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). I had never heard of it before, but apparently it is a very trendy and popular grain right now. I guess it is technically not a true grain, but the botanical fruit of an herb plant. But it is treated like a grain in cooking. Nutritionally, it is considered to be one of the most perfectly balanced grains.

So, I made this salad which we really liked.

Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 can garbanzo beans
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 cup craisins
2 oranges, peeled and cut up

Tahini Dressing:
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
1/4 cup tahini
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Rinse quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa, water and salt until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water.

While the quinoa is cooking make the dressing. Whisk together the garlic, tahini, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil. Add the hot water to thin a bit and then the salt.

Toss the cooked quinoa, beans, cilantro, red onion, and half of the dressing. Add more dressing if you like and season with more salt to taste. Add the craisins and oranges.

This makes a tasty and satisfying meatless meal. I think it will be a great summer recipe!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Someone to blog for me!

I learned about blogging from my friend, Ellen, in Boston. She was the first person I knew who blogged. She has a huge circle of friends. Not only does she stay connected, she stays involved in their lives. I check her blog almost every day, and occasionally I'm surprised by something like this blog about my own grandkids. Way to go, Big Red!

Monday, March 24, 2008


I'm feeling lonely today. Last week was Randy's Spring Break. We've spent the last few spring breaks in California (which would have been a wonderful place to be this past cold week), but Randy is leaving for India next week and has stake conference the week following his return. With so many things on his plate we decided to stay at home and get some things done. We made a list of 32 things that needed our attention (some big and some small). We fixed the shower, worked in the yard, prepared conference talks, and completed a number of home projects. It was a wonderful week, not only because we got a lot of things done, but because we got to spend so much time together. We ate out every night -- not anything fancy, but just so we didn't have to stop to cook and clean up. We slept in every day and savored the morning time we got to spend together. We went to the temple. When the temperature hit 40 we went for a long and invigorating walk. Every night we did something fun -- a movie, a video, we went to Drury Lane to see Sweet Charity. We went to dinner with friends (their treat, wooohooo!). We hosted a 5-stake council meeting here and after everyone left, we spread out in front of the fireplace and enjoyed the dying embers. We shared journal entries and had long conversations about talk ideas.

It's Monday. Randy's gone back to work. I'm feeling a little empty. We're at a great stage of life. Can't tell you how grateful I am that I have someone to grow old with!
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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Baskets and New Dresses

Yesterday we drove down to Champaign to spend the day with Quinn and Tiffany. Quinn had some outdoor projects he needed help with. He and Randy created two flower beds, cleaned up the back yard, and moved a lot of dirt around in preparation for seeding new grass. It was freezing (yes, 32 degrees) and they worked very hard. Tiffany and I wanted to be fair, so we did some hard jobs too -- we played with Clarissa and then watched that physically exhausting and emotionally draining movie, Charly, while Clarissa slept.

When we were raising our kids we tried to always keep the Easter Bunny separate from Easter. So, we celebrated on Saturday and worshipped on Sunday. Yesterday was Clarissa's first exposure to Easter baskets, new dresses, and egg hunts.
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Friday, March 21, 2008


So, I understand that today is the first full day of Spring. I keep seeing blogs with pictures of spring flowers popping up everywhere. I decided to go out and check out my yard to see how Spring was manifesting itself.

Not one shred of evidence. Nothing but dead dried-up winter kill that didn't get cleaned out in the fall. I did spend a couple of hours and cleaned out a couple of the beds so that if our temperatures ever decide to creep above forty anything that started to grow would be able to force its way through the mat of dried leaves and branches. And then last night, just for fun, Spring delivered us another surprise! Happy Spring!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March Madness

I'm blogging tomorrow's post tonight (barely) because I'm trying to learn something new, and who knows how long it might take me to figure it out. I've never gotten much into March Madness, but something like this could really make a game exciting. Swish!

One thing bothers me. It reminds me a little of "You Did It! from My Fair Lady. The guys are so busy congratulating themselves I think they've forgotten Who Did It!


The weather in Chicago is still cold enough that when you go out you want to wear a coat, gloves, scarf and hat. The last time that Randy and I were in the City we saw a lot of people wearing really funky hats. It reminded me of a Christmas years ago when our oldest son had just returned from his mission. Being a student, he had no money so he went to DI and bought a hat for each one of us. He's always been good with words so he wrote a poem to go with each hat. We had a ton of fun with those hats, including a mini-movie with type-casting and featuring our new chapeaus. So mostly for our children (who are probably the only people who read this blog anyway) here is a little trip down Memory Lane.

For Dad:
Mornings downtown often get downright chilly,
Yet most stocking caps can make one look quite silly.
Your old hats are tacky -- the wrong way to go,
Yet you can't go to work, your bald spot topped with snow.
So here's a high-class fashion statement for you. . .
A little red bonnet -- your career-dream come true.

For Mom:
Though you may be near 50, your face tells a lie.
It says you're just 30, you've got to be sly
And keep your skin supple, soft as a rose,
Protect all your features, especially your nose.
This hat with nose flap will ward off the cold
And keep you (at 50) looking just half that old.

For Kristin:
When we were just kids our lives surely were rough.
We had no Girbauds, Nikes and all that stuff.
Our folks were still poor and we had to wear Trax.
The Clothing Exchange was the source of our slacks.
But times have now changed and I went to great cost
To give you the style that you in your youth lost.

For Heidi:
This year you've picked where your priorities lie.
Your fondness of boys just about makes me cry.
But if you must chase them, at least do it right --
No guy worth getting gets got without a fight.
So I give you this hat -- but beware, guys will swarm
When they learn that this hat (through your love) could keep them warm.

For Travis:
You talk much of hugeness and bodily bulk.
You clearly see yourself as some sort of hulk.
To find a hat that fits a head big as yours
Was certainly among the worlds toughest chores.
But at last I found one that matched your physique,
And you've got to admit that it looks rather sheik.

For Robert:
I noticed with glee that you've started shaving.
The long road to manhood you now are paving.
Maturity oozes from every pore,
But shaving's not all -- no, there's quite a bit more.
To act like a man is a strenuous art,
So here's a hat that will help you play the part.

For Quinn:
For him who sews eels on a regular basis,
A gift of marine life would be rather tasteless.
You need a gift that sparks your creative juices,
That all of your billowing mental strength looses.
The only gift worthy is a "thinking cap"
That fastens beneath with a fancy chin strap.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Leaky Faucets

A few years ago we remodeled our master bathroom. No, it's not one of those bathrooms as big as a living room. No his and hers showers. No sauna. No fireplace. No jet tub. We subscribe to President Hinckley's counsel to buy a "modest" home (sufficient for our needs) and make it beautiful. I'm not sure if we've totally met the "make it beautiful" part, but I do love our home and am so grateful for all the wonderful and sacred things that have taken place inside these walls. Back to the bathroom--we took out the tub and put in a nice travertine walk-in shower, which we have thoroughly enjoyed. About a month ago the faucet began to leak. Randy wasn't able to get to it for a week or two, and by the time he checked it out he discovered that the water had leaked inside and damaged the ceiling on the stairs below. You've heard of needing a "bigger hammer." Well, Randy needs a "bigger pipe wrench," and a day he can devote to a fairly major project. He rigged up a way to keep the water from leaking, but we haven't been able to use our shower for weeks. While I was on my mission we seldom had bathing or shower facilities in our apartments. We went to the City Bath on our P-days. For a quarter you could rent a little bath stall for 15 minutes. The rest of the week we did the best we could with a basin full of water we heated up on our little electric hot plate. We're grateful that we have two other showers in the home and don't have to go to the City Bath, but are both anxious to get back to our own. Randy has his spring break this week, and since I will be at the temple tomorrow it seems like a good day to turn off the water and tear into it. As we would have said in Germany, "I'm pressing my thumbs."
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Monday, March 17, 2008

Cut and Paste

In a couple of weeks I'll be going out to BYU for our spring board meetings. My four years of service will end in October so this will be my last "full-board" meeting. I wanted to give the Chapter Level Directors who serve under me a little remembrance. I decided to make this little photo book for each of them. I started taking photos a couple of years ago and and purchasing the paper and supplies. It's been on my "to do" list for months, so over the weekend I decided to get started. It's a lot more work than it looks like. I've finished six of them, but have another six to go. Giving them each a box of chocolates would be cheaper and certainly easier, and sometimes you have to wonder how much people value something that is handmade. I have to say that I really do admire the people I've met while serving on the board and will truly miss the association I've had with them.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

The Bishop's Storehouse

This is my friend, Connie. She's helping me package up broccoli at the Bishop's Storehouse. About once a month I get a chance to help prepare the produce. I always enjoy myself. It would be difficult to find people more pleasant to be around than those who are serving others.

I seldom work at the storehouse without buying something for our own food storage. For a while they quit carrying the dehydrated refried beans. They may still not be available in some areas, but because we have a lot of hispanic people in our area they have started carrying them again. We were down to the last two #10 cans. One cup of the refried bean powder makes two servings. I think Randy and I have some serious bean-eating ahead of us.
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Grandma Judy's afghans

I just finished this baby afghan. I think it looks kind of masculine and not too foo foo for a baby boy. I love to crochet because it's kind of mindless and you can talk or watch TV while you're doing it--you know, multi-tasking. I think afghans aren't very useful, but I do think it is nice to have one when a baby is blessed, and especially nice if it was handmade by someone who really loves that child.

I decided last year that I would make enough afghans ahead that each of my grandchildren could have at least one to use when their babies were blessed. I have fourteen grandchildren and I'm already working on number seven. Who knows, perhaps I'll have enough made that they can have a different one for each of their babies.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I know some of you follow Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. I do. I had a busy weekend and didn't have a chance to check her blog. Yesterday I logged in to catch up and received quite a jolt of dejavu when I saw this entry. It's Marlboro Man wearing the same shirt Randy wore for his 3rd grade school picture.

Marlboro Man actually looks a lot like Robert. It's something about the expression on his face. I'm sure Robert also wore this shirt (everything got passed down), but I just moved a thousand pounds of boxes to try and locate his photo albums to no avail. I've never seen a picture of Marlboro Man before. All the pictures of him have been from behind. Or with a cowboy hat over his face. Or riding a bucking stallion in the distance. I've died a thousand deaths as I've looked at old family photos. We've had more than our share of bad hair days. That's what happens with little boys. But I think Marlboro Man wins this contest hands down!
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Our Not so Famous Children

It would be interesting to know how many famous musicians had performed at Orchestra Hall (See yesterday's blog). I know that Yo-Yo Ma is performing there tonight. I would love to be there for that! Over the years there have been a few "not so famous" performers. In August of 1981 Heidi and Travis performed on that very stage. Yes, we are the proud parents of two of those little dots! And if you know where to look, you can zoom in and see that Travis (front row) has very good cello form. While you can't see Heidi's violin form (third row) you can clearly see that she has the cutest piggy-tails on stage!

I have two memories of that evening. First, it was very difficult keeping a six and seven-year-old awake long enough to perform. Suzuki concerts always begin with the most accomplished musicians and work their way backward so that every performer plays the last number -- Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It took a ton of shaking, jiggling, bouncing, and expensive gingerales to make sure they were still on their feet when it was their turn.

The second thing I remember was watching the stage technicians. They are union people, and they are responsible for every piece of equipment and the safety of all performers. Believe me, no musician so much as moves his own music stand without assistance. Five hundred children between the ages of 3 and 18 performed that evening. While they jumped and jostled their way around the stage, the technicians definitely had that "wake me when this is over" look in their eyes. I wonder if they have ever experienced another evening like this!
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Orchestra Hall

Saturday night we had a "way cool" experience. One of our Christmas gifts from our children was an evening at the Chicago Symphony. It is always an amazing experience to be at Orchestra Hall. As you can see, that upper balcony is way up there.

We've sat in the upper balcony a time or two. For me, it is literally a "dizzying" experience. I feel like if I lean forward I will fall straight onto the stage.

Saturday night we sat in the Terrace Section -- a few seats that actually ring around the back of the orchestra. This was the view from our seats. It feels and sounds like you are sitting right in the middle of the orchestra. Having played in an orchestra for many years, I always enjoy watching the conductor, but watching him from behind can't begin to equal watching him from the orchestra's view. I kept expecting him to point to us and cue us in. Whenever we go to the symphony (we are not regular attenders) I try to purchase a CD of at least some of the music we enjoyed. Listening to it once is a delightful moment, but listening to it many times makes it a friend for life. This morning I purchased and downloaded Schumann's Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97.

To be continued . . .
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Friday, March 7, 2008


Quinn and Tiffany are coming up for the weekend, and that means I'll get to see my little Clarissa. We haven't seen her since Christmas. Will she remember us? I'm sure she will have changed. This is the age where their knowledge is growing exponentially. Can't wait to see her. I think Clarissa looks a lot like our Kristin did at that age. Maybe it's just the piggy tails. Anyone else see the resemblance?

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