Follow by Email

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Last Day for Whitney Nominations

Today is the last day titles by LDS writer-written books can be nominated for The Whitney Award 2008. Criteria are limited to:

1--Author must be LDS (But the book can be published in the national or LDS market)
2--Book must be published in 2008
3--Book must be a book--as opposed to a creative dance choreography using palm fronds and silly string (sorry Rob)
4--Authors serving on the Whitney committee or as a judge are ineligible for nomination--this is why Her Good Name is not eligible this year, because I'm on the committee, however you can still send your shameless compliments my way whenever you like

There are hundreds of eligible books out there, many which have not yet received the 5 reader votes necessary for them to become a nominee. After today, the judges will be reading all the nominations in order to vote for the top 5 in each category that will then become The Whitney Award 2008 Finalists. This list will be published in February, to then be voted on by The Whitney Academy which is made up of publishers, authors, bookstore owners and other industry professionals. The winners will be announced at The Whitney Gala on April 25 at the Provo Marriott. Click HERE to buy tickets to the Gala.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

That's it? Well, then Merry Christmas I guess

Hmmm, it must be Christmas:


One garbage bag full of environment destroying gift wrap, eight plates of half eaten neighbor gifts, one broken crock pot lid, one new guitar for guitar hero with a broken whammy bar (thanks eBay), an extra foot of snow, one husband with the flu, one kid crying because he doesn't want to share his Legos, two hours without power (You wanted to play the video games? You are so spoiled), an extra five (or twelve) pounds on my backside, and all I got was a freaking back up camera for my car--I guess Santa doesn't want me backing over anyone's bikes anymore--he has no sense of adventure.


At least my house is clean










Or not.


And my kids are happy--except for the one that went to his room crying--oh, and the one that realized the guitar was broken--oh, and the one with the Littlest pet shop toy that had a battery dated May 2007 so it doesn't work--oh, and the one that was not impressed with Mom's admittion that she forgot to buy the lil wayne CD--oh, and the one that got a bike even though he wanted a Wii--oh, and the one that got the cedar chest--oh, and the one that's mad cause I won't let her see "Yes, Man" until Dad and I approve it. Wait--that's eight. I only have four kids. How does that work?


At least my kitchen is clean too.










Cynicism aside, I love Christmas--though I probably prefer Chrismas Even to Christmas Day. We had a nice dinner and read the Christmas story. Some freinds stopped by, we had trifle, and the kids were in bed by nine. Today, we're all just chillin--I've written almost 1000 words on my current book--a very Merry Christmas for me--and we have enough left overs that I won't have to cook for a couple days and I've got a good 11 months before I have to do all this again :-)

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

LDStorymakers Conference Registration Now Open!

The 2009 LDStorymakers writer's conference, to be held at the Provo Marriot on April 24 & 25 is officially open for registration. Registration is online this year and in addition to the conference, you can choose options such as one on one meetings with editors, boot camp, and The Whitney Award Gala. For more information go here

http://ldstorymakers.com/conference.html


Past conferences have been an astounding success and have recieved high praise from both attendees and the visiting agents and editors. Regardless of what market you want to publish in, the LDStorymakers Writer's Conference will be an asset to both your writing skill, publishing industry knowledge, and network of other writers, both published and on the path toward publication.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, December 15, 2008

I got Awarded!


Last week, Don, at fifteenminutesofdelusion.blogspot.com nominated me for the Real Life Blog award. I was very flattered--you can see from my sidebar that I don't get many blog awards. I'm not sure why that is, but assume it must be because people that award awards don't like me--could it be possible? Or maybe they don't think I care. Or maybe I smell funny. But, regardless of why THEY don't give me awards, Don did and that made me very happy!


Don commented on why they called it the Marie Antoinette Award and subtitled it with Real Blogs, Real People. I'm certainly no scholar, but I have a particular fascination with Marie Antoinette. She was basically sold as a child bride to a cold man who wanted nothing to do with her. She'd been ripped from her family, country, and life she'd known all her life and I believe she made up for this by enjoying the privilege she was afforded as Queen of France. Living this way, and being so young, created in her a definitive lack of understanding in regard to what most of France was dealing with at that time. She lived beyond opulence and luxury at a time when the people of France were starving to death. When told of the poverty taking over Paris she responded "Let them eat cake". I believe that rather than this being a dismissive comment, she was saying in the sense of "I'll give them some cake, then they'll feel better" she simply did not understand that cake today would not mean they would have bread tomorrow--she was a woman who had always had the THINGS she wanted and yet I don't believe she was ever truly filled by any of it, much like we are never filled by the things in our lives--it's the people, the relationships, and the time spent enjoying both that fill us. When reality finally made itself undeniable, she lost her life for the opulence she was in a sense forced to live within. Much like the starving people of France, she never had a choice in the life she lived either and she did not understand that other people were really suffering. In that way I think she's as much a victim as they were--definitely when her head dropped into the basket of straw on the wrong side of the guillotine.

Therefore, my theory on why Marie Antoinette is the poster child for this blog award is because it symbolizes that not facing reality, in the end, does us no favors. Whether that reality is what our weaknesses are, what are commitments are, who we fall in love with, or who we judge to harshly--living in reality is a good thing and we deserve to be honest about that to both ourselves and the world at large.

That said, I feel a bit hypocritical in regard to receiving this for my own blog. While I am thrilled to be seen as real, and I am honest in my posts, there are many, many, things in my life I do not blog about. You've heard very little about my children, my family, my husband's family, my ward, neighborhood or children's schools. That's not to say I haven't written up posts on these topics, but I delete them before they go out to the world because although it is my reality, and many things occupy a great deal of space in my brain, I am conscious of the relationships I am in and I worry about hurting people that, despite driving me batty at times, I love or respect or just don't want to hurt. THAT SAID (Yes, I realize I'm being redundant and rather circular) I think we can be 'real' without being all-telling. I believe that it's not dishonest for me not (yes, that was a triple negative) to rant against the woman at church that makes me want to plug my ears and sing la-la-la-la-la all through relief society. I believe that it's not dishonest for me to keep my increasingly fractured and frustrating relationship with a particular family member to myself. It's not fair for these people to have me make a public display of them, hence I don't. Instead, I try to keep my blogs within my own sphere, where they aren't going to cause someone else heartburn. Unless of course I want them to have heartburn--but I don't think I've found that situation I'm willing to flog someone about.

And so because of all that loopy explanation, I was thrilled to get this award, to have someone say that despite the things I leave out, I've managed to be real. That, for me, is a compliment.

And now I get to compliment some other folks for doing the same thing:

Carole Thayne at Musings in Paradise. Carole is a very good friend of mine and has helped me feel at peace with some of my personal and political feelings that are not as mainstream as many people around me. She is someone I truly think I could talk to about anything without fear that she was judging me for it. I appreciate that very much in my life and feel that she has helped me with a great deal of self awareness. And I love her blog because she's very honest about herself and her beliefs, I admire that.

Kristi at Kunz Family. Kristi is an inspiring woman to me, she lives amid some trials that I know would overwhelm me, and she neither lifts herself up on a pedestal for it or feels she's being picked on. I love reading about all the things going on in her family, because I know that there are extra layers of difficulty for those things, yet she does it all with such an optimistic attitude. She inspires me to see beyond the hardships and not just pretend it's okay, but to truly make the best of it.

Julie at Scattered Jules is one of my favorite people in the whole world. She's the person I call when life crashes around me and she always--and I mean always--picks me back up and hugs me back into reality. Her heart is among the biggest and funnest hearts God ever made and I cherish her friendship as one of the gifts God has given me. On her blog she rants, and compliments, and laughs and just puts it all out there.

Stephanie at Write Bravely. I really enjoy Stephanie's blog because she also blogs about real, every day life, but the more I read, the more depth I find. I assumed for the first few months that she had lived a very typical, traditional life. Then I discovered a twist, and then another one, and then another one. It's intriguing to me that she does not simply put it all out there at one time, rather it's all just part of the life she lives. She also has an inherent goodness that reminds me that being good is strong--I need those kinds of reminders in my life and her posts always do that for me.

So there you have it, my pontifications of no substance, and my referrals to those blogs that have that very substance I enjoy so much. Thanks again Don

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why the Move

So, word has gotten out in our ward that we've listed the house--if we'd in fact wanted to keep it a secret we should have a) not told the kids b) stopped being Mormon and c) not blogged about it. Seeing as how we didn't do any of those things, everyone knows. And everyone asks the same thing, Why?

It sounds like a simple question, which means it ought to have a simple answer. Most people can answer that somewhat simple--we got a new job, we want to build, we want to be closer to family. We don't have that kind of simple answer, but here is my attempt at trying to sum it all up and dispel the myths.

Myth 1--We want a bigger house.

Nope. My house is plenty big, and we're on five acres of land, and we love it. I don't mean we like it, it works, and we're happy here, I mean we LOVE it. The floorplan is perfect, the yard is great, and we've worked hard for ten years to make it perfect--with every amenity we have ever wanted--except for the lousy basement carpet. We have molded this home into exactly what we could ever want. It is our dream house--it really is.

Myth 2--If you aren't going for bigger and better, then you must not be able to afford it anymore.

Hmmmm. Yes and no. We CAN afford it and don't forsee that we will hit a point where we can't afford it in the near future. My husband makes a good living and we only owe a little over half it's worth, so the payment isn't horrible. BUT my husband is involved in real estate investing and an economy based buisness--both of which have been hit hard of late. We don't get paychecks, we don't have a 401K, we don't get sick days or group plan insurance. We do pay a lot of money in taxes (and will likely be paying more once our new president takes over), we do tend to get lump sum payments a couple times a year that we have to stretch out, and our health insurance is through the roof. We are our own job security, which is great except when you wish someone else was in charge of some of these aspects. It's not that we can't pay the mortgage as much as it is we're not sure we want to pay it.

Myth 3--If you don't want bigger and better and you can afford the house you have, you must be sick in the head.

Possibly. I'd be the last person to deny insanity and I admit that I really do fear that if we sell we'll regret it, always wishing we'd stayed. And yet, we just have a . . . feeling. I don't know what the feeling is. Maybe it's just us finally understanding what it means to live below our means and us wanting to adjust our lifestyle to fit that better. Maybe it's a forshadowing of our future income situation, maybe we're just bored and need a new challenge. Maybe it's a test to see if we'll act on a feeling we both have--a little like the Abraham Isac thing but without the deadly weapons involved. Perhaps it won't sell, we'll live happily ever after right here and this is all just a phase we're going through. I don't know. What I do know is that last summer when the yard work was making us both cranky, I suggested selling and my husband shut it down without a discussion--something he doesn't do very often because he usually wins the discussions. But he wouldn't even consider it. A month ago he's the one that brought it up. We discussed and discussed and discussed and then called a realator. Which, ironically is exactly the way it happened last time we moved. We weren't considering a move despite owning a buisness an hour from our home. We talked about staying there forever and running the buisness with the help of an on-site manager and Lee making the drive once a week. We were very happy there. Then one day Lee said maybe we ought to move. Within two weeks we'd listed the house. Two months later it had sold and we were on our way to Willard.

This kinda feels like that did and we've had two walk throughs this week that both really liked it and are taking a few days to think about it. That's promising.

However, we keep reminding ourselves that it's a horrible time to sell, and yet it's a great time to buy. We want to stay in Willard and have dozens of homes to choose from. We've looked at several via the internet and have one we're quite interested in and have walked through, but we're not taking any action until/unless our house sells, then we'll panic :-)

I'm not expecting to sell right away and I'm not packing boxes, but as I go through my days I'm taking note of what I'd take, what I'd throw out, and what I'd sell in a moving sale. I'm surprised how much of the space in this house is taken up with things I don't use, don't need, or don't even want--but I have room to store it so I do. That seems a little bonkers, doesn't it?

And I'm still not convinced the 'feeling' had nothing to do with selling and everything to do with my keeping my house clean--it looks so good! And every day the kids and I get it back into top shape so that if someone wants to walk through it, I'm ready. It's been nice to have a super clean house--it's been years since I've been this vigilant and rather than taking away from my writing time, after a few days spent just cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, I have less to do than I used to and I feel more at peace when I sit down to write because I don't have a dozen household chores calling at me. That's been nice.

Anyway, this is my attempt at a simple answer. We'll see where we go from here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Feeding a crowd with roaster ovens

I was in charge of the food for last weeks' RS dinner, and spent a ton of time googling all over the web to find instructions on how to make the meal work. I didn't want the typical pot luck or ham dinner, but creativity can be a butt-kicker since most meals for a crowd on the Internet use commercial kitchens and cooking equipment meant for mass production. It worked out reasonably well and so in the spirit of paying it back I decided to post what I did here so that the next time someone was also goggling the how to, they might find this blog and get some answers, or at least idea starters for their own meal. All the cooked items were done in 18 quart roaster ovens--which is something I was able to beg and borrow from enough neighbors to make it work.

Salad:
Mock olive garden salad dressing x 4
15 heads of iceberg lettuce
1 #10 can of olives
4 standard size boxes of croutons
15 sliced tomatoes; slices cut in half

Mock Olive Garden Salad Dressing (I think I found this at Recipe Czar a year or so ago)

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used Canola)
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 1/2 T. grated Romano cheese (I used an Italian hard cheese blend)
2 T. dry pectin
2 T. egg Beaters
1 1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp. Garlic
1/4 tsp. Parsley (I used dried)
pinch of Oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes.

Combine everything in a blender, mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Chill 1 hour.

**For this dinner I made the dressing a couple days before and stored in the fridge. A couple hours before the dinner I cored and rinsed the heads of lettuce and put them, cored side down, in big bowls of ice water to keep the lettuce cold and crispy. We then broke them into LARGE bowls, added dressing and tossed well. We put on a plate with 4 olives (we could have done up to 6), 5 croutons (just the right number), and one slice of tomato, sliced in half.

**WHAT I WISH I'D DONE: is drained the lettuce after breaking it into the bowls. The tight leaves held on to a lot of water which made the salad a little wet. Simply putting it in a colander and letting it drain for a couple minutes would have made a difference. I also wish I'd bought more tomatoes because I love them and we had to go kinda skimpy. I have to say I did not get many specific compliments on the salad. Not sure why since people are more kind than honest and I didn't get much specific feedback on it. But, it's just the salad, most people don't think about complimenting it anyway. I myself didn't get any as we ran out so I can't gauge it.

Main Dish:

Crock Pot Chicken Cordon Bleu x 10

Crock Pot Chicken Cordon Bleu (From my wonderful Friend Erin Klingler)

10 chicken tenders
20 slices of deli style ham (can use lunch meat type)
10 slices Swiss cheese (can use another type of white cheese)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1/2 soup can of milk
1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder (can use prepared mustard in a pinch)

Make sauce by combining soup, sour cream, milk, and mustard powder. Mix well and set aside.

Lay ham out on counter so that two slices overlap one another, you should have 10 2-slice portions. Place a slice of swish cheese in the center of each ham portion. Roll chicken tender in ham and cheese, place seam side down in the bottom of a crock pot. Cover with sauce. Cook 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low--do not stir. Serve over rice or noodles.


**A couple ladies in the ward met me at the church around noon and we did a mass production of the recipe. They laid out ham and cheese and I made sauce. We covered each layer with the sauce before adding the second layer and fit 50 chicken rolls in each roaster oven--2 layers. We then cooked it at 300 for about 5 hours. I had bought 7 bags of chicken tenders at Costco, and only used four. The serving size was listed at 4 oz., but a chicken tender is only about 2 oz. The cooking time was just right and the chicken turned out very well. I was able to turn it down to 200 for the last hour and a half because the chicken was fully cooked.

**WHAT I WISH I'D DONE: I miscalculated the ham and only ended up with one slice per chicken roll. This did not stay wrapped around the chicken as well, but it was still yummy. I also worried I wouldn't have enough soup and sour cream so I thinned out the sauce a little while making it. This was not good as the sauce was runnier than it should have been. It was still okay, and no one knew what it was SUPPOSED to be like, but I wish I hadn't cheaped out and had a thicker sauce. Ironically, I had both soup and sour cream left over. I got lots of rave reviews for the chicken and will definitely do it again should I get asked to do this again.

Rice

7 3.2 lb. containers of Organic Harvest Medley Wild Rice mix from Costco
2 containers of Chicken Stock from Costco.

I followed the water ratio on the back of the package to mix up the rice and can't remember how much I put in each roaster, but it was close to 18 cups of rice and 36 cups of water per roaster, adding 1/2 the chicken stock to the water of each of 2 roaster ovens. I then cooked it at varying temperatures for just over 2 hours. We served about 3/4 of a cup of this on the plate next to the chicken. We had nearly 1/2 a roaster oven worth of rice left over--this was the only item we had excess of.

WHAT I WISH I"D DONE: This was the most frustrating portion of the dinner and caused me a great deal of stress--the result was somewhat blah. I had worried that the chicken stock would be too strong so I ended up only using 1/2 a container per roaster instead of of a full one and the rice was bland. I should have used the whole thing of stock and then tasted it to see if it needed more salt. Also, I needed another hour for the rice. It turned out okay, but was a little too chewy and BARELY finished in time. 30 minutes before the dinner it was still swimming in the water and I had to turn the roasters up as high as they would go. I really should have experimented with this at home first. People said it was good and they took a lot of the left overs, but I was not pleased with it. Another option I had read about online was to make the rice ahead of time, store it in the freezer and then simply heat up. This would have been a pretty good idea. I could have frozen it in the roaster oven insert covered with foil quite easily and played with it more during the cooking process to get it just right, then heated it up over a few hours on low, fluffing the rice as I went. Being as I was frantically working on several aspects of dinner meant that I did not give it the attention I think would have benefited it greatly.

Vegetables

4 bags frozen California Blend Veggies from Sam's Club (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots)
1 bag frozen green beans
Rosemary Veggie Marinade x 5

Rosemary Veggie Marinade (From my good Friend Anne)

1/3 cup olive oil
3 TBSP lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Mix 6 ingredients well, drizzle over veggies (fresh or frozen) and bake at 450 for 30 minutes.

*I made the marinade the morning of the dinner. That night, we combined 2 bags of California blend and 1/2 bag of green beans in 2 roaster ovens, and drizzled 1/2 the total marinade over each pan, tossing to coat the veggies as well as we could. Then we set the roasters to 400 and let them cook for an hour and a half. They turned out fragrant and yummy and were a nice change to the typical canned green beans that are often used at these types of dinners.

WHAT I WISH I'D DONE: I should have started the veggies at least an hour earlier. That much frozen food takes a while to heat up and toward the end I was worried and had to turn up the heat which scorched some of the veggies. I also would have made three more portions of the marinade so the flavor would have been stronger AND added another bag of California blend. We had EXACTLY enough, which is stress inducing when you get to the bottom of that final pan.

Rolls

We ordered 10 dozen rolls from Idle Isle Cafe, a local restaurant famous for their yummy rolls.

The total price for this dinner was about $350, and we fed about 115 people.

Overall, the meal was good and different. I should have given myself more time on the rice and the veggies, and I should have tried out everything at home before making it for such a large group. However, on a scale of one to ten I think I would give myself a pretty solid 6.75. It could have been better, but it could have been worse.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Proof I'm a Terrible Person.

Our house is officially listed (click HERE if you know someone intersted in horse property and a custom home in Northern Utah to see the listing)and we had our first walk through last weekend. The feedback we got was that they hated the basement carpet (I don't blame them, so do I) and that they smelled the cats.

I was truly shocked, and embarrassed, by this. My husband, however, was vindicated. He's been telling me for years that I've lost my ability to really smell them and at least twice a week he goes down stairs and says he can smell them. I've truly felt he was being over reactive and since I know he's never wanted the cats in the house, I haven't given his opinion much weight.

I stated a couple weeks ago that I'm tired of the cats, that the kids aren't taking care of them and I've hit my limit. One had peed in my room in the middle of the night, the other one has shredded the carpet on the stair landing. I vowed that I was done doing anything other than buying cat food, that if the kids wanted cats, they would have to step up. Since then the kids have been trying to do better--but they pretty much suck at it. They'll feed the cats without complaint, but the litter box is ignored until mom throws the cats out and says they can't come in until the litter box is changed. Before the walk through we cleaned like crazy, I cleaned all around the litter box, we put it outside, we sprayed air neutralizer and yet it STILL smelled like cats.

Husband and I decided the cats were outside from now on but the kids simply could not keep from letting the cats in. The cats would go into their window wells and meow until the kids broke. They still aren't emptying the litter box.

We want to sell the house and we can't have it smelling like cats.

We discussed options but decided, in the end, to take them to the shelter. One cat is a Siamese fixed, declawed female that is a really pretty and really good cat. We feel like she'll be easily adopted. The other is a fixed male. I worry about him, but he's pretty too. We decided we had to do what was ultimatly in the best interest of our family--and it's in our best interest to sell this house and to do that it needs to be in top shape.

It all made sense until I went to gather them up this morning. By the time Lee drove off I was a mess. He didn't know what do to make me feel better about it, and I don't know either. I beleive this is the best solution, but I feel like I've just given away part of my children's childhood. Lots of people have cats and manage to take care of them. Why is it so hard for us to do it? We sold our puppy two months ago because we were over our heads trying to train her and take care of her properly. We kept Tex, but we're struggling with that too. The kids are put out to have to feed him and play with him every day, we can't let him in the house because he's not house trained and he likes to get skunks mad at him. It seems like a miserable existance for the poor thing--so do we get rid of him too? Are we just total snobs?

To make it worse, the kids have no idea we were planning this. It seemed like the best way when we came up with it, but now I'm not so sure. They're going to ask, and since Lee's going out of town I get to deal with it by myself again--like I did with the puppy. I feel like I've failed them--the kids and the pets.

So please, I beg of you, if I ever talk about getting another animal (other than chickens) please tell me to come back and read this post. I'm not cut out to properly care for them and then it breaks my heart when I finally act on that truth.

It might be a very long day today.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Elder Wirthlin Passes Away


Elder Joseph Wirthlin of the Quorum of the 12 apostles passed away this morning at the age of 91. Like many other members of the LDS church, Wirthlin is a voice that has followed me throughout my life. I love conference, and I've loved his remarks. His grandaughter married my cousin and I was privileged to shake his hand at thier wedding reception. He was a very kind, intelligent, and obviously service-oriented man, a cousin to Gordon B. Hinckley and a father of eight children. He will be greatly missed. His wife died about two years ago, and I can only imagine the joy he is feeling at that reuinion. Men such as himself, and woman, that give so much for so long are truly inspiring.

You can read more about this at

http://www.sltrib.com/News/ci_11119183