Do You Believe?

A few houses down, a nice older couple has recently returned from Bolivia on a mission for their church. Their grandkids are living with them while their house is being remodeled. They are homeschooled and I can tell their mom is a very devoted conservative Christian. The sweet girls came to play this weekend. While they played American girl dolls, I began to set up the Christmas tree for Ellery's room. We all chatted. Amara asked Ellery, "Do you believe in Santa Claus?"
"Yes, I do. It grows out of adults though."
Then Amara turns to me. "Do you believe in Santa Claus?"
By now I could tell she didn't. She's nine. Should I say that I don't (knowing that I am Santa) and ruin one of the few opportunities my child has for communal fantasy?
I said, "I do."
"We don't believe in Santa. We believe in God. He was born on December 25th."
"Oh, ok." I said "We believe in God too."
Ellery said, "No, God was born on April 6th."
They both looked at eachother like they were crazy. Ellery believes in Santa and that God was born on April 6th. Amara doesn't believe in Santa and that God was born December 25th. How sad that belief systems can run the risk of ruining friendships.
Binary thinking is the pits in my opinion so I don't think Ellery has to disbelieve in Santa to believe in God. Secondly, I may know that a fat, red-suited man doesn't shimmy down my chimney. But I do believe in the story of St. Nicholas who helped people by giving financial gifts anonymously. I also don't care even a tiny bit when Jesus was born. I just celebrate that he was. I also am happy that Siddhartha Gautama, Gandhi, St. Nicholas, Judith Plaskow, Confucius, Jane Addams, and Paulo Coehlo were born. They have made this world a bit easier for me to live in. Hopefully as these girls come slowly to the truth of things, they can remain friends--because they are both so terribly wrong-and right.



Z' Menu:
Cornbread dressing
Gravy (a meal in itself)
Cranberry dressing
Deviled eggs
Mashed potatoes
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Green beans
Green Bean Casserole
Lime salad
Pomegranate salad
Ambrosia salad

Z' Desserts:
Lemon Meringue pie
Chocolate pudding meringue pie
Pecan Cream cheese pie
Pecan pie
Pumpkin pie
chocolate butterscotch and cinnamon cookies

Good company. Trivial Pursuit. Aggies and Longhorns game. I'm still full.

Leftover Pumpkin?

Fall Goddess Yogurt Body Mask
(To help relax after hard Turkey Day work)

1 Cup Yogurt
12 T Honey
12 T Puréed Pumpkin

To Make: Drain and purée pumpkin in a blender. Pour into a bowl with the yogurt and honey.

To Use: Draw a warm bath. Lather your face and body with the yogurt mask. Sink into a warm bath and soak for 10-20 minutes. Rinse in the shower, tone, and apply a light moisturizer.


T-Day Antidote Chili

Who wants to make food for the family while busy making Thanksgiving preparations? Try this recipe. It's quick, hearty, meatless and is a great foil for T-day.

Serves 4

1T Olive Oil
1 stalk celery
2 med onions
1 red bell pepper
2 C fire roasted canned tomatoes with garlic
1-2 cans light kidney beans and/or chickpeas in water
1 t black pepper
1 t minced basil
1 t minced oregano
1/2-1 t chili powder
1/4 t cumin
1 bay leaf
1-2 T cider vinegar
1 C cashews

CHOP the celery, onions, bell pepper, then saute in olive oil till tender.

ADD tomatoes, beans with water and all spices. Cover and simmer 10 min. till you're happy with the amount of liquid. Add vinegar and cashews.

ADJUST seasoning. I added more chili powder. Remove bay leaf and serve.



Hrithik Roshan Weekly Tribute

Maybe Heaven is full of Bollywood houseboys.


Great Wolf Lodge

By our house, this family resort has this cool interactive game that reminds us of Dungeons and Dragons. My kids' eyes are red because of their amazing magical powers.
They went on a scavenger hunt based adventures through the entire hotel. When they point their wand, things, amazing things happen. Treasure chests open, crystals alight, Pixies talk.

I sat and made love to a waffle cone.

Someday we would like to try the water park. That huge bucket on top dumps water on peeps down below. What a fun place to have a family reunion (hint, hint, Dad) But it is expensive-any takers, Ence-side of the family?


Leaves and Leaving

Forty bags of leaves gathered from our lawn. The mulchers come to pick it up this year so I am glad it doesn't become useless landfill. But it's a lot of work (for Cyler). I wonder if that is why Cyler is ok with this on our lawn instead of a bunch of leaves.


Island Tacos


Shrimp, shelled and deveined, thaw and remove tails. (Walmart sells frozen bags for a good price.)
Taco Seasoning, your favorite blend or packaged
Avocado, sliced
Radishes, sliced
Leaf Lettuce, for wraps, or taco shells
Lime and Cilantro for garnish

Toss thawed shrimp in the taco seasoning. Heat some olive oil in saute pan and cook shrimp on med heat till just pink. Do not overcook. Assemble tacos with other ingredients.
Soren made this for us and it was "one of those nights." So we just stood around the island (get it? Island Tacos?) and assembled tacos to our hearts' content.

History according to Cavemen

Can you tell I work in Texas by the kind of FW spam I get? I do love this one though--anything that combines history, idealogy and beer merits a look-see from me. For those that don't know about history ... Here is a condensed version: Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter. The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups:

1) Liberals……………………….2) Conservatives……………….

Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early humans were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed. Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Conservative movement.

Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly B-B-Q's and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement.

Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. Those became known as girlie-men. Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare. Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer, mostly Bud or Miller. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, engineers, corporate executives, athletes, members of the military, airline pilots and generally anyone who works productively. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America . They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Here ends today's lesson in world history: It should be noted that a Liberal may have a momentary urge to angrily respond to the above before forwarding it. A Conservative will simply laugh and be so convinced of the absolute truth of this history that it will be forwarded immediately to other true believers and to more liberals just to tick them off. And there you have it. Let your next action reveal your true nature……………………………………………………



Performing for children needs to be a good experience from the get-go. Ellery sang a solo at her baptism and I wanted to make sure she had every chance to have a good time. We prepared for months, sang in front of whoever happened to be sitting in the music room at any given time, and I made her sheet music user friendly. To turn the page easily, I taped a file label to the pages which I soft bound. Keep the music as much like it is during prep--she was used to looking at the sheet music so I didn't retype just the lyrics for her or put the music in glossy page protectors (both things I was tempted to do). The best thing we did is to focus on how fun it is to do music and when some nervousness comes, just sing to Dad in the audience. It worked and she had a good first time.


Trailing Clouds of Glory

do we come. Are you sure? Check this out.



The Nativitiy Exhibit is coming up. I have a love/hate relationship with this event--too labor intensive but the finished product is so nice. Several LDS congregations in our area compile and display nativities from all over the world and open it to the public. Some ladies have around 80 (or more!) sets they have collected through the years. What do you collect? Email me a pic and I'll post it. I would like to collect harps--the one above has been added to the top of my wishlist. I also would collect Havanese dogs if I had hired help to groom them. 'Tis a chore!

Hrithik Roshan

My new favorite movie star: Hrithik Roshan
Can he act? I don't know. Do I care? I presume not. I netflixed "Jodhaa Akbar" so I can find out. Thank you India for producing this. . .this. . . morsel.


Mikveh Day

Ellery's baptism. Such a mixed bag of emotions. Excitement, nervousness (we performed a little musical number that turned out just fine), concern (does she really know what it means), apprehensive (wishing I could be a part of the ritual), comfort (in the tradition of it all.)

After, we had people over. Salad bar and red velvet bundt cake.

It was a busy and draining day for me. But it was for Ellery so it was worth it. She was so happy. I just hope that she doesn't forget that Christianity is for unifying God's children and for transcending mortal boundaries for girls as much as it is for boys. Sex segregation in education, administration and service/leadership will end someday in my church--I just wish it would have already happened for my daughter's generation. Oh well, all I can do is make sure my home is an integrated home, teaching that although bodily experience may be different, it does not justify exclusion of one sex or another. Male empowerment does not need to come at the expense of female exclusion. Men aren't punished for Adam's transgression--why are we still punishing women for Eve's? Ellery, may you grow to never be excluded from any circle, any office, any boardroom, any altar, any service opportunity. I love you.

This one can play! The Israeli harp competition is the cream of the crop.


All I Had to Say

Was that the laundry room felt a bit dark. And I got new lighting.
It's pretty sexy to see your counterpart spouse teaching one of the children something they will need to know someday.


Why tribal patriarchy can stink for women

Caution: Hard-to-hear material to follow. Some material highlighted by me:

Four boys charged in the rape of an 8-year-old girl
A 14-year-old boy is charged as an adult. The other boys -- ages 9, 10 and 13 -- are charged as juveniles. Authorities say the victim's family has rejected her for bringing shame on them.
July 24, 2009
Phoenix — Authorities said Thursday that four boys ages 9 to 14 took turns raping an 8-year-old girl for more than 10 minutes after luring her into a shed with chewing gum, and now her family has rejected her for bringing shame on them.
"The father told the case worker and an officer in her presence that he didn't want her back," Phoenix Police Sgt. Andy Hill said. "He said, 'Take her, I don't want her.' "

The victim is in the care of Child Protective Services, authorities said.
The 14-year-old boy was charged Wednesday as an adult with two counts of sexual assault and kidnapping, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said. He is being held without bond.
The other boys were charged as juveniles with sexual assault. The 10- and 13-year-old boys also were charged with kidnapping, the county attorney's office said.
Phoenix investigators said the boys lured the girl to an empty shed July 16 under the pretense of offering her gum. The boys held her down while they took turns assaulting her, police said. (More graphic details deleted by me.)
"This is a deeply disturbing case that has gripped our community," Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said Thursday. "Our office will seek justice for the young victim in this heart-rending situation."
Hill cited the family's background as the reason it shunned the girl. All five children are refugees from the West African nation of Liberia.
In some parts of Africa, women often are blamed for being raped for enticing men or for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Victims are often shunned by their families.
"It's a shame-based culture, so the crime is not as important as protecting the family name and the name of the community
," said Tony Weedor, a Liberian refugee in Littleton, Colo., and co-founder of the CenterPoint International Foundation, which helps Liberians resettle in the U.S.
"I just feel so sorry for this little girl. Some of these people will not care about the trauma she's going through -- they're more concerned about the shame she brought on the family."

(I have found that in the name of protecting women, cultures/religions/societies slowly develop policies, practices and governing structures that actually end up stifling them and eat away at their human rights. Don't let it happen in yours.)


Living the Dream

The Ladies: A Journal of the Court, Fashion and Society, came chatting into existence in March 1872, offering scientifically precise fashion advice and demanding political rights for women. The weekly London newspaper sought out the burgeoning female readership, explicitly catering to upper-class society women who could pay the sixpenny rate but implicitly offering middle-class women a guide to social-climing success. Although The Ladies--with its fashion plates, housekeeping tips, suffrage demands, and employment advice--collapsed after nine months, its reign reflects a cultural moment and its deposing, a cultural instability. The journal proposes an impossible dream of womanhood allowing for femininity, domesticity, brilliance, assertiveness, and political activism. This project opens the window onto a forgotten Victorian periodical and its attempt to create a place in the Victorian culture and the Victorian press for the well-dressed women of England.

Here's to living the dream. (and to dreaming dreams of our own to live.)

Kale? It's been a while

Sausage, Kale and Cranberry Pasta that is:

1 lb Rigatoni
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
1/2 lb hot bulk Italian sausage
1/2 lb sweet bulk Italian sausage (veggers can omit)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 med red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 C whole berry cranberry sauce
3/4 C dry red wine, eyeball it
1 1/4 lb kale, stems removed and chopped (rinse this well, I'm telling you now. I'm serious.)
Black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 tsp nutmeg to taste

*3 generous handfuls Romano cheese, plus some to pass at the table.

Boil lg pot of water and add rigatoni and salt. Cook al dente. Drain, reserving 2 ladles of pasta water.
While pasta cooks, heat oil in lg deep skillet med-high heat. Add sausage--brown and crumble it. Add garlic, onions, cook 5 min. Then add cranberry sauce and wine. Cook and stir to combine and reduce a minute.

Add kale in bunches and stir to wilt down. Add reserved pasta water and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. ( I love nutmeg in pasta dishes.)

Add pasta to pan with sausage and kale. Top with cheese and toss. Serve immediately with extra cheese.


Rediscovering Walmart

I love shopping by myself. I went last night to WalMart and had a such a good time. It has been a while since I have been able to "amble."

Bananas .39/lb
Ellery pajamas $7
Latex free cleaning gloves (Melissa, check these out if you haven't already) $2.40
Frozen Sweet Potato fries that I thought I could only find at Sprouts or Central Market $2.50


Pumpkins, Parents and Passion Defraggers

From the intensity of the sunshine in this photo, you would never guess that it has been raining here ad nauseum now for a month. This weekend my parents came to visit for Ellery's birthday. We went to the Arboretum where they had pumpkin houses, and cool playhouses designed after certain children's storybooks.

Always the construction guy. Figuring out how this one was put together with all these crazy angles and slopes

I am kind of obsessed with floral photos that have a horizontal/assymetry. I want to get a whole bunch framed to put over the Living rm couch--that wall needs something. Here's another one but I turned it on its head. I like morphing things--keeps me on my toes. Those yellow dappled leaves are pigmented like that--although it almost looks like the sun is filtering through something above.

Sorry for the photo quality--I need to figure out the night shooting techniques for my camera. I was good to get something at all. Here's fairy, swampthing and fortune teller.

I took the dogs to Soren's Monday football game and then was told to read the sign: "State Law: No Pets allowed." "Told you so." Cyler said. He did but I didn't listen (imagine that). Too far to drive all the way home. I took them to a baseball field and hung, getting text updates from Cyler about the game. This was the best photo I took all weekend.

Well, my blog has lost direction as I have found some. I am busy all the time which I love. Not much time to reflect (and drive myself wild) which is healthy. I am working on a few projects (started writing that book, researching and developing a plan to sell oral history interview/transcription services for family history collectors, started learning jewish wedding music). These all in addition to thinking about adopting (still). Cyler does this defragmenting thing on my computer to make it work faster. I need a passion defragger.