Ruminations

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Family Stuff, Beef Soup, Cupcakes, German Pancakes, and more food

Family: Nothing warms my heart like seeing my guys do their homework without me asking! I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven when I walked in on them.

My girls adore Dad. He thinks they're pretty swell, too.

Synchronized swimming starts with the costume and the smile, right? Well, although we don't match exactly, we do all have caps on. And grins.

Early on in my blog I posted the very cool bike rack Jeff made out of PVC pipe. Now that it's winter, I'm posting the also-very-cool ski rack Jeff made. Super easy, super convenient. Every time I drive in the garage I just stare at this piece of board in awe - it has tidied up things so well. Thank you, Jeff!

The girls were sick enough to stay home from church, so they kept themselves quietly busy by piecing together this alphabet mat. They also dressed themselves to match from head to toe. Charlotte is by "C" and Eleanor is by "E". Of course.



RECIPES:

Beef Veg & Noodle Soup: This soup is one of those things I just put together without a recipe or measuring, so I'll try to remember what I did. Whatever it was, it turned out incredibly delicious. This is my new favorite soup (for this week, anyway).

I pan seared 2 beef round steaks,in a little oil and a lot of garlic and onion salt, then while it was resting on the cutting board (let meat rest before cutting), I sauteed veggies in the same pan. I used onions and celery and carrots (from the garden - they're still holding up from our fall harvest of my in-law's incredible garden). I then cubed the meat and threw the meat and veggies into the stock pot with water to cover it all by about 2 inches, beef bouillon (to taste - or beef broth), garlic salt, onion powder, and plenty of pepper (this is the secret ingredient - lots of pepper, but not too much). Bring it to boil and add egg noodles. Egg noodles will not swell and take up more space at the end than they do at the beginning like pasta, so put in as much as you like and know that it won't take up more room. Boil until noodles are soft. At the end, I added a can of home-canned green beans (drained, but you can add the water if you want - might be too salty, though). AND - for the OTHER secret ingredient - add a little basil. It gives it a rich deep taste similar to the Vietnamese soup Pho, which we LOVE. In fact, Jeff added Hoisin sauce to his soup (and Srirache sauce for heat - as in SPICEY) and he found it even more delicious.


To have my cake and eat it, too, is really just a bit too much for me.

I'm in charge of making the desserts for our upcoming Relief Society birthday party. I have a giant cupcake form and my friend (THANK YOU HEATHER!!!!!!!!!!) has two sets, so she came over yesterday and we baked 12 tops and 12 bottoms to these giant cupcakes for FIVE HOURS (plus a good 3 or more hours with a 6 am grocery trip, then 11 pm. clean-up, wrapping, finding freezer space). In my near future I see us spending another couple of hours unwrapping these frozen treats, filling the little hollow part inside with pudding, frosting them and decorating them. And then cleaning up. And then delivering them.

I am having nightmares of giant cupcakes eating me alive.

Jeff asked me why I didn't just order a large sheetcake, and who's idea was it anyway to do all this?

I had to answer him honestly - It was entirely my idea and I thought it'd be cuter than a sheetcake. In other words, I've dug my own grave. At least it's a tasty one.


You have to trim the cakes so the tops and bottoms match. With all the extra cake trimmings, I made this Trifle. Starting from the bottom up, the layers are cake, pudding, cool whip, blueberries & strawberries - then cake, pudding, and strawberry-flavored cool whip, topped with strawberries and a little raspberry jam in the center. It was sweet. Really. It was very sweet. I took this picture with it strategically placed in the fridge surrounded by a delightful background of Saran Wrap, Ranch Dressing, a jar of pickles, with just a glimpse of sour cream under. Oh, yeah, I'm definitely the great photographer. At least the lighting was good.


Here's a Chocolate Cupcake (pudding-filled) that I made for my family last week. I just can't seem to get away from these cupcakes.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake Mix Cake: (NOTE: I'm going back to baking this in a Bundt pan and won't make this particular recipe in a giant cupcake pan again - it just doesn't end up right).

1 Devil's Food Cake Mix 4 Eggs

1 (5.9oz) box chocolate pudding mix (instant) 1 Cup. Vegetable Oil

1 Cup Sour Cream 1/2 Cup Water

2 Cups semisweet Chocolate Chips

Beat well (except Chocolate Chips) together, stir in chocolate chips, pour into greased 12 Cup Bundt pan, bake in preheated 350F oven for 50-55 minutes until top is springy and toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for an hour or more before turning out onto plate. Dust with powdered sugar.


BREAKFAST: Oliver reminded me on Wednesday night that he'd signed up to bring German Pancakes to his class's International Food Day. So I got up early and made these. Thankfully, they are easy. And I really like them. Plus it's a good alternative to the typical scrambled eggs if you're trying to get protein at breakfast. Thanks to my mother-in-law for this recipe!

German Pancakes:

6 Eggs 3 Tbs. butter/margarine

1 Cup Milk 1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 Tbs. Sugar 1 Cup Flour

Generously butter inside of large cake pan (I use a 10x15 usually, but you can double the recipe and use a jelly-roll pan like picture above). Preheat oven to 400F.

Crack eggs into blender and blend briefly. Then add all other ingredients and blend together. Pour into pan.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400F, then an additional 10 minutes at 350F. (or you can fry large individual pancakes - they turn out kind of like crepes - in a well-buttered frying pan, putting enough batter in the pan to cover the bottom. Turn over when set. When slightly brown on both sides slide out of pan onto plate. Add butter to pan before frying each pancake). Serve immediately - sprinkle with powdered sugar, or use syrup, jam, applesauce, or fruit as toppings.

Casserole is just another word for "Clean out the fridge". I really did have to clean out the fridge. Here's proof that you can create something ex nihil (out of nothing). I'm only posting it because it makes me feel like I've "arrived" at being the all-powerful stereotypical housewife - a place I never in a million years would have imagined I'd be and never aspired to be, but now that it has happened I'm darn right proud of it. :)

The best part of this creation was that everyone liked it. Lots.

Ingredients: Whatever you want. :) This has left-over chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, radiatore pasta, the rest of FOUR different pasta sauces, Italian sausage (the only thing I made anew for this dish which probably made the dish palatable), olives, green onions, baked together until heated through (about 20 minutes at 350F) and topped with 3 different kinds of cheese for the last 10 minutes to melt.


More Soup

I also made myself a Squash Bisque this week. Since I'm apparently the only one in my family who loves squash, I realize this is purely for me. The kids tried it, and were silent (at least they didn't complain, but I knew it wasn't their favorite). I sauteed onions and carrots and used squash (that we had harvested from my in-law's garden and I had already baked and frozen), chicken broth (or bouillon and water), seasonings (a little nutmeg does wonders). Boil it all until very soft, then use an immersion/stick blender to blend it all in the pot until smooth (or transfer to a blender in batches and blend - but BE CAREFUL! Hot soup in the blender has a tendency to explode on the first blend. Believe me, I know.)

At the very end, you can add cream (DON'T let it boil w/cream - it separates and curdles) but since it was just for me, I didn't. I like it without cream. Not that I'm trying to be all that healthy (okay, I am), but it just doesn't seem worth it to add the cream. So instead I added sour cream (yet another "secret" ingredient).



My friend Carole taught me how to make this amazing pizza. The crust is better than anything at a restaurant, and you can mix and match toppings to your heart's desire. I know I posted the pizza thing a long time ago, but it was tonight's dinner so I'm posting it again. I'll keep the crust a secret (since it's not my recipe), but I'll share the topping.

Spread olive oil over stretched pizza dough, then spread a generous (like 1/4 cup or more) amount of Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (instead of pizza sauce), cheese on that, cooked & cubed chicken or turkey, green onions - bake on hot pizza stone at 500F for about 5-8 minutes, remove and add fresh matchstick carrots, cilantro if you like, or any other vegetables (bean sprouts go with it - and you can substitute the chili sauce with peanut sauce if you want a milder taste).

Running: Okay, enough of the food talk. Now how about running... Well, I ran 7.25 yesterday, then I swam a mile today, and I plan on biking tomorrow and running again on Friday. Right now, it's all just for fun. I'm not in training mode at the moment. It simply makes me happy to get moving. I took a few weeks off then I got sick on my fourth week (what's up with this nasty flu/cold season re-emerging!? I thought winter diseases were over already!) so I'm getting back on my feet again and it's a little (okay, a LOT) discouraging that I've lost so much of my fitness, but it's coming back. Sheesh, with all this food I'm making I should have plenty of fuel to keep me running for the next six years!


Reading: I'm reading The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute. IT IS FABULOUS. Talk about learning how to make peace! Believe it or not, it all starts with yourself. Dang. That means I have to take responsibility? Oh, and it's my second time through. I just can't seem to remember to behave all the time and I need the reminder.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Skiing

videoThis goes along with our Harriman adventure, I just didn't post it at the same time. Jeff is pulling Charlotte (nice, smooth skiing!) and Eleanor has decided to sit down for a moment and complain about being sweaty - which I could hardly believe because I was FREEZING!

Harriman State Park

This past Monday (President's Day) we took the kids out for a family cross-country ski trip to Harriman State Park (Island Park). It was gorgeous. I love these memory-making activities. They are fun at the time, but still seem to get even better the more time passes (I'm already forgetting how cold I was). Here's the crew getting ready for our day. Sam, Oliver, Charlotte (in the sled), Jeff, and Eleanor. I'm behind the camera.


Sam gliding down the trail.















Oliver catching up to Charlotte.
















Here's a picture of my backpack and me (proof that I was here, right?), giving great advice to Oliver on untangling yourself from the skinny skis. I'm not sure he listened, but he did get himself upright. Eleanor is the pink and purple gal.





Eleanor (my budding naturalist) was a great sport - nothing kept her down. In fact, all the kids were great and would just hop back up when they fell. Also pictured is Charlotte (in the sled behind Jeff), who happily coached us all while munching on fruit snacks. Sorry we didn't get good face pictures, but the scenery is lovely, isn't it?

Wow. Just wow.

Beautiful swans just off the trail - they kept poking their heads up over the snow bank to peek at us. We peeked back.

I was absolutely delighted to run into one of my dearest friends of all time! Years ago (like almost 18!? Is that right?) Sarah (who did a great job as camp cook) and I worked together at Badger Creek - an Outdoor Learning Center where we took groups on high ropes course, horse back rides (I loved the horses), climbing walls, initiative courses, taught outdoor survival (oh, yeah - I was queen of the bow drill and the flint-started fires) and all things camping.

On our time off, Sarah and I took to hiking in the surrounding mountains and canyons (read: the Tetons!) Now we're all growed up. She was skiing with her husband and two little girls (pulling her baby in a chariot kind of like ours) when we bumped into each other (not literally). I can't tell you how that brightened my day. Pictures are post-bump (back at the parking lot).

Charlotte's Cafe: I couldn't resist posting this, although it has nothing to do with cross-country skiing. Charlotte set out the stuffed animals and fed them all lunch. I think it's adorable.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Baklava, Tortilla Flat, Braces

RECIPES:
I had a hankerin' for a hunk o' Baklava this week, which I've never made but have eaten enough to know it's yummy. The first time I had it was during my study abroad in Israel. The most recent time I had it was at a restaurant in Williams, AZ on our Grand Canyon trip this past October. It's delicious, but too sweet to have regularly.
Anyway, after perusing sites and reading reviews and comparing recipes, I merged a couple of Baklava recipes to yield the following successful dessert. Have fun!

Ingredients:
1 (16oz) package phyllo (fillo) dough THAWED (to thaw it takes 2 hours on counter or overnight in fridge)
1 lb. chopped nuts - I use walnuts and hazelnuts (Note: lightly toast nuts on nonstick pan prior to chopping)
1 Cup real butter, melted
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
zest of one lemon (OPTIONAL)

Honey Syurp (some recipes called for less, some for more - this is in between. Next time I might do a little less because it was pretty sweet):
1 1/2 Cup water
1 1/2 Cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup honey


Directions:
1. Make honey syrup first so it has plenty of time to cool. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer about 20 minutes, then let cool to room temperature (place in fridge to cool faster if desired). Apparently a cool sauce poured on hot Baklava makes it turn out crispy.
2. Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 pan (I used glass, although metal might work fine, too).
3. Lightly toast nuts (unless they're already chopped too small) then chop (I used my blender). Toss nuts with sugar and cinnamon and lemon zest (if desired). Set aside.
4. Unroll phyllo dough. If the sheets are long and not pre-cut, cut the whole stack in half to fit the pan. Sheets may be a little long and a little wide - it's fine. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth or damp paper towel to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, then butter thoroughly. I used a pastry brush and melted butter. (Lighter but less tasty versions call for spraying cooking oil instead). Repeat, buttering every 2nd sheet, until you have 8 sheets layered. Butter the 8th sheet, also. Sprinkle 3-4 Tbs. of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, dough, butter, nuts, etc. until all the nuts are used up, but make sure you have about 6-8 sheets left for top layer. (Butter between every 2nd layer on top 6-8 sheets, too. Butter top sheet also).
5. Using a sharp knife, cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You can cut 4 long rows, then make diagonal cuts. Make sure they're not so big they won't fit in the muffin cups if you use them for serving (which I recommend since they're so sticky). Bake for about 40-50 minutes until Baklava is golden and crisp.
6. Remove Baklava from oven and immediately spoon cool syrup over it. Let cool (and let honey syrup be absorbed). For extra crispness and a nice golden top, I then placed the pan on the lower racks under the broiler for just a couple of minutes (WATCH CLOSELY!). Let cool again.
7. Serve in individual paper muffin cups. Top each piece with chopped pecans or chopped pecans & walnuts, if desired.
8. Leave uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up. This freezes well, if you have any left over.





Tortilla Flat: Well, sometimes I just don't want to follow a recipe, so I make it up as I go. That's what happened here, although I'm sure there are plenty of similar recipes running through my mind that unconsciously contributed to the final outcome, which ended up being really tasty. I was surprised because usually when I make stuff up it's a total waste of time and ingredients.
I took some (12) corn tortillas and lightly fried (is there such a thing?) them up in some very hot vegetable oil. Alton Brown said if you fry things hot they don't absorb the oil, so it's the least unhealthy way to eat fried foods. I have no idea if that makes it okay, but I don't mind a little justifying as long as it tastes good.
I then took my fried up tortillas and baked them in a 350F oven on a sheet pan for about 15 minutes - I was going for crisp, not greasy.
Then:
1. 1 can of black beans, drained, then blended with a hand blender and about 1 tsp. cumin mixed in. Spread a thin layer of black bean mush on each crip tortilla.
2. Sprinkle cheese over black bean mush and pop back in the oven just until melted.
3. I sliced onions and tomatillos and sauteed them until soft and caramelized (sprinkle a little sugar for caramelizing and a little salt for flavor while suateeing).
4. Top with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, green onions, cilantro or whatever you like.
5. Serve with Mexican rice - I just cook long grain white rice in the rice cooker then when done I mix in monterey jack cheese until it's melted then dump in a little salsa and mix it up.
Everyone liked it, so that was a huge accomplishment.

FAMILY:
The big news this week was that Samuel got braces! Friday morning while everyone else was at school, we were at our friend's orthodontic office.

Sam only has the front four teeth and the back molars on top in braces right now. We have to wait for baby teeth to fall out before he gets the full set.
Oh, while we were there, Andy lazered Sam's mouth because of a canker that would rub on his new braces. They got to wear cool glasses.

Final product (semi-final, actually, since there's a lot more to come): Glow-in-the-dark braces. Whoa. I told him that seeing floating, glowing, teeth would be just creepy, but Sam just smiled.

After braces and on the way to school, we stopped say goodbye to little cousin (my niece) Marianna and her mommy Annmarie. We've really enjoyed having them here and watching her grow up a little, but we're excited they can be back with Uncle Ted who has been serving as a Captain in the Army in Afghanistan (his 2nd deployment).

No braces here, but those are some mighty fine chocolate eyes. But Oliver, where are your glasses!?

Ah, there they are - Oliver lounging around (with his glasses on) and a winter storm in the background. We were sooo close to spring, until last night. As Jeff says, this is Idaho after all - it's too soon for spring. Boooo :(


While digging through some of my stuff, I found these jeans that Charlotte is sporting. Yes, they were mine. And I had long braids like she did (except my hair was red). And, best of all, my very own mother made these jeans. My, my time flies.

My mom also made this Strawberry Shortcake costume that the girls have fallen in love with. I wore it for Halloween when I was 6 or 7. The white dress Charlotte has on is actually supposed to drape over the pink one Eleanor has on, but both girls wanted to wear something so I split it apart (which is why Eleanor has on a pink stocking hat instead of her own Strawberry Shortcake hat - this is only one costume).


This looked so pretty I just had to post it. Happy Valentine's Day to me from Jeff.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fine Dining and some family time

Recipes:
It's a baking day. Yesterday I got the laundry done and house cleaned, so there was nothing left to do today but make food.
I love it.
Here's dinner:


Baked Potato Soup

6 bacon strips, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 Cup. flour
1 Tablespoon fresh basil minced OR 2 tsp. dried basil
2 teaspoon fresh oregano minced OR 1/2 tsp. dried oregano (optional)
1/2 tsp. pepper (or more to taste)
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
6 cups chicken broth (or 6 cups water with 6 bouillon cubes)
4 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
dash hot pepper sauce (optional)
Shredded Cheddar cheese

- In a large saucepan, cook the diced bacon until crisp. Drain - reserve about 2 tbs. drippings. Set bacon aside. Saute onion in drippings until tender, add garlic and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, herbs, and pepper. Mix well. Gradually add broth. Bring to boil and stir for minute or two until thickened to taste. Add potatoes, cream, hot pepper sauce, and heat but DO NOT BOIL. Garnish with bacon and cheese (and parsley if you want).
- Note: I boiled carrots in the broth before adding to flour mixture. You need to make sure any veggies you want to add are already cooked before adding potatoes and cream.

Okay, we like our soup on the thicker side, so after going through all that above, I played around with the recipe a little more and ended up melting about 2 Tbs. butter in a pan, added about 1/4 C. flour, mixed up, added slowly some of the soup until I got a nice, thick mixture, then poured it all back into the main soup pot. Perfect.

Beautiful Bread
I got the original recipe from my friend Mary's blog, but then I tweaked it and ended up with the following:

10 C. Flour - (I used 1/2 whole white wheat, 1/2 bread flour)
3 Tablespoons instant or rapid rise yeast
1 Tbs. salt
1/2 C. sugar
6 Tablespoons lecithin powder (this is a lot less messy than the liquid stuff) - I know, it's a lot of lecithin. The package said to add 3 Tbs. per 4 C. flour, so there you go. I don't think you really need that much...
1/2 C. powdered milk (optional)
1/2 C. instant potato flakes (optional)

Mix all the above in a bread mixer or large KitchenAid.

While mixer is going, slowly add:

4 Cups of HOT water

Let dough mix, adding flour if it's too sticky or water if it's too dry, until it all comes together in a nice ball. Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.

You can then form the dough into 4 loaves and let rise until dough rolls over the sides a little, or you can lift dough out of the bowl, spray w/cooking oil, put dough ball back and let it rest (covered w/soft cloth) and rise about 20 minutes (which I did because I had some other things I had to do right then), punch down, then form into 4 loaves.

Bake in pre-heated 350F oven for 25-35 minutes until tops are golden brown and sound hollow when you tap on them.
Remove from pans and let cool on cooling racks. You can freeze loaves for later.


Family:
Jeff took the boys to a Utah Jazz game on Saturday. They left in the afternoon (after their own basketball games), drove 3 hours to the game (picked up Uncle Jon on the way), watched the game, and drove 3 hours back (dropped off Uncle Jon on the way).
Basketball has become even more important since the Jazz game, oh - and there's also some guy named Jimmer the boys keep talking about...I guess he's pretty good. :) Go BYU Cougars!
It warmed up to, like, 25F outside. No need for winter coats - just go out in your fleece pullovers and shoot some hoops! The sun is a blessed sight.
Jeff and Oliver. Playing basketball. I bet you knew that.

While the boys were away, the girls and I walked over to Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Don's house (ALL the way across the street!), picked up Uncle Don, and walked all the way home with him. (See, the boys took off with Uncle Jon to the Jazz game, so us girls kidnapped Uncle Don. It was that kind of day, I guess). Eleanor and Charlotte put on quite the crazy mix of ballet, jazz, clogging, hip-hop dance show. I wonder if Don wished he was watching the Jazz....? Naw.


I love this picture. I think I'll call it "A Study in Technology - Or Male Bonding".


And I REALLY love this picture, taken this past October on our way back from the Grand Canyon. The kids, Jeff, and Jeff's grandparents (my kids' GREAT grandparents!) Ellis and Oda Rasmussen, two of the loveliest souls you could ever know.









Speaking of our trip to the Grand Canyon, I promised way back when that I would add pictures of our trip. I still plan on it...Really! But here's proof that we actually went. What an amazing place.









And we visited other beautiful places on our trip. Here we are just outside of Sedona, AZ. Slide Rock State Park. Because you slide down the rock. In the water. It was fun, but on the chilly side.









Reading: I finished, "The Help" and wanted to turn right around and read it all over again. I'm not, though. I'm moving on. I'm now reading, "Girl of the Limberlost" and "Cold Sassy Tree." I love reading. I'm not going to review the books in depth because it's late and I'm tired, but they're good books.

Friday, February 4, 2011

How Fragile We Are

Yesterday left me thinking about how fragile life is. How fragile, and how very little control we have. And how precious every moment is that we live and breathe and carry on.
Two experiences, back to back, put me into this mood. First, we as a family attended the kick-off meeting for this year's Relay for Life. One of Jeff's patients had invited us to the meeting because the patient would be speaking. Of the three speakers, one was the mother of a patient and two were patients, so I don't know which one invited us. They all touched my heart.
As they spoke of their battles with cancer, of the support from friends and family, and even a little of Dr. Hancock's help in saving their lives, I couldn't stop the tears. My heart aches for their struggles, yet I know we'd all rather be loved than pitied. I listened to the speakers in awe, overcome by their incredible endurance. I am so inspired by them for being so strong, and proud of my husband for doing this difficult line of work.
There are many times when Jeff has to stay late or go in early or go in on a day off or spend so much of the limited "our time" on the phone. Having survived the long years of medical school, the brutal hours of residency, and the rigors of Fellowship, I cling to the free time that we actually get together. I remember Samuel asking once, "Can Daddy come over today?" It has been a long row to hoe. And often a lonely one. Still.
But at the Relay for Life, I was reminded how it is all worth it. The best thing we can do is to help each other through this life. I gave up my career to stay home and help the kids through their life. It's not all that glamorous, but it is all that important. I give up much of the time with my husband so he can help others, too. Sometimes his help is to simply assist others to live another day. And that is truly important. Every new day is a precious gift. A few years ago I told Jeff that I had realized something: that even though I'm not out saving the world like he is, I am supporting him so that he can. That's my contribution. I sometimes miss the satisfaction I had when I was working, and I often miss the chance to socialize, but in the grand scheme of things, they don't really matter.
Dr. Hancock, one speaker said, saved my son's life. I bawled. Dr. Hancock, the second speaker said, told me I was all clear. I bawled again. Dr. Hancock's wife, the last one said, befriended me at the park shortly before I found out I had cancer and went to meet Dr. Hancock for the first time. I blinked in amazement that she remembered. I'm sure to her that was such a little thing for a stranger to chat with her, but hearing her last night talk about how I'd been kind, well, it meant the world to me. It was as if she recognized that I'm doing what I can, that even though I'm in the shadows, I matter. I'd had a really hard day yesterday, and she just pulled me straight out of the murky, choking waters of self-pity. She is the one fighting cancer, not me. She is the one who deserved praise, not me. But how blessed those words were. Thank you. I don't even know her name, but thank you.
The people around us at the meeting hadn't asked for cancer. Hadn't asked for leukemia. Hadn't asked that they or their children or their parents or brothers or sisters become fighters in this battle. But there they were, standing up together with the courage and hope of a trained army. I am so humbled by their strength.
So disease can throw off our life plans. That was the first of two how-fragile-we-are reality-checks last night.



The second was on our way home after the Relay for Life meeting. We'd stopped to tour the new (and AMAZING) Conference Center at BYU-Idaho, then hopped in the car to go home. It was already past the kids' bedtime. We were a block away from home when suddenly we had to stop the car. In front of us, on the street, were two bodies covered in blankets and people running frantically around. Apparently, just moments before we got there two college students had been crossing the street and were both hit by an oncoming car. The driver pulled over, another car stopped behind her, traffic stopped in both lanes, and people were scrambling to find even more blankets to cover the two students. It was a cold, February night. The students had landed with one on each lane. As Jeff pulled over and my brain pieced together the scene, I knew Jeff had to help. The kids and I sat in the car with the hazard lights flashing, watching as Jeff attended each of the victims. Each student had a cluster of people around them. Jeff knelt to assess each one, and was shortly joined by another physician who was driving the same road. They stayed on the scene until the ambulance and police arrived. As far as we know, the students will be okay but were pretty well banged up.
The students had been crossing the street on the pedestrian cross-walk. The yellow lights for their crossing were flashing, so presumably they'd pushed the light before crossing. Legally, they had done nothing wrong. I imagine they assumed the driver had seen them and would stop. Unfortunately, she didn't see them. I'm positive she didn't mean to hit them, but sometimes it's hard to see at night or a driver isn't paying attention. Luckily, nobody died.
You know, even when you have the right of way and are obeying the laws, it doesn't make a difference if an oncoming car doesn't stop. Maybe the students had even paused to see if the car saw them... I don't know. (We talked with our kids later about how so often students here cross the road rightfully, but they don't make sure cars see them. And it is scary. It happens alllll the time.)

Reality check: life is fragile. And ultimately we don't have much say in how long our time here will be. And even if we've taken all the precautions, pushed the cross-walk button, looked both ways, taken care of our bodies...well, any of us could get hit by something - whether it be a life-threatening disease or an oncoming car - at anytime. And it might not be anybody's fault. It just happens. We can't control these things that affect our lives. The only thing we can control is how we react.
I think when we respect our mortality and respect each other, when we do our best to help each other and walk hand-in-hand, when we watch out for each other, then it doesn't really matter how long or short our life is. What matters is what we've done with it. What matters is who we've helped in our own little sphere - whether it be the children around you or the patients who come to your husband's office, or the students who cross the street - we're all a part of this beautiful, fragile, wonderful world.

______________________________

Ideas to keep kids occupied on a day off from school (when it was -24F with a -36F windchill!):
Play-Doh Penguins

Then put the penguin on your sister's head.


If all else fails, dress up the lampshade. Just don't let anything burn.


Charlotte's hair is so long it reaches her waist. Jeff put her hair up in my swim cap, which was a smart idea and I wonder why I never thought of it. Sam's off to the right, under water. Eleanor is sporting her pink goggles. Oliver was at basketball practice, or else he'd have been in the picture, too. Just pretend he's there.






Recipes: Good ol' fashioned New England Whoopie Pies.

Heads up: this is NOT a low calorie food.
Yield: 16 Whoopie Pies

3 Cups sugar
1 Cup butter or margarine, softened
4 eggs
1/2 Cup Vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla
6 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 Cups milk

Preheat oven to 350F, or convection to 315F.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter and eggs together until well combined. Add oil and vanilla and beat again.
In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add half of the dry mixture to the egg mixture and beat or stir to blend. Add 1 1 /2 cups milk and beat again. Add remaining dry mixture and beat until incorporated. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups milk and beat until blended.

With a large spoon, scoop out 32 circles of batter onto a greased baking sheet. (6 circles on a large jelly-roll sheet, each circle about 3" diameter). Bake for 10-12 minutes - there will be cracks in the top of the pies. Let cool.

Make Whoopie Pies into sandwich-style with filling between two flat sides of pies. Try to match circle sizes as best as possible.

Filling:

I'm including two different ones - 1st is the one my mom always made when I was growing up, and 2nd is the one we like to make now. (The recipe above is very similar but not quite the same she made, but I found it works better for the elevation I'm at right now).

#1: Mom's (I've doubled it because I always run out otherwise):
1 1/2 C. Flour
2 C. Shortening
1 tsp. Salt
Beat above until creamy. Gently add 1 1/2 C. COLD water and beat thoroughly. Add 6 C. sifted powder sugar, beat well.

#2: The one we use now:
3 Cups Shortening (I know, ugh. Oh, well)
6 Cups powdered sugar
~3 Cups marshmallow fluff (topping)
Dash salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 - 1 Cup milk (as needed)

In a deep bowl (so stuff doesn't fly out everywhere), combine all ingredients except milk and beat well. Add just enough milk to achieve a creamy consistency. Spread filling inside Whoopie Pies.