Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Do Mormons Believe?

I'm a Mormon.  Maybe my readers know that, maybe not.  A lot of my readers are friends, or friends of friends, or acquaintances and virtual acquaintances through the local and distant blogosphere.  Those close by probably know what Mormons are;  I live in Utah, and pretty much everyone here knows what a Mormon is.  But some people I blog with or who randomly chance upon my blog have no idea who I am and maybe no idea even what a Mormon is.  And with the U.S. Presidential elections right around the corner, I'm guessing the news of Mitt Romney, the republican presedential candidate, being Mormon is pretty top on people's minds.  So even though I'm not generally much of a preacher about my religion, and I'm not a Republican, and I'm very sensitive to letting people decide for themselves what to believe and how to live their lives, I thought I'd put on my own thoughts on what it means to be a Mormon.

First of all, Mormons are Christians.  You might not know that.  Or you might have been told otherwise.  It surprises every Mormon that there is even debate about this, but somehow there is.  Our church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Waaaay to long to say every time!  So we got called Mormons somewhere down the line.  But for us, Jesus Christ is the head of our church, the center of our lives, and the person after whom we try to pattern our thoughts and actions.  We believe Jesus Christ is a real person, and the Son of God.  We also believe He lived the most perfect, kind, amazing life, and that by following His example, we have the highest chance at happiness in our own lives, and the greatest chance of returning to Heaven and living with Him and with God some day.

The thing that made me think of writing this post was that I was listening to a CD last Sunday that my kids got at church.  It was a CD of all the songs they were learning for the church Primary program (the Primary is the organization we have for kids ages 3-12).  A few times a year, the kids put on a program for our church meeting where they sing and recite scriptures and sometimes do little skits about what they believe.  While listening to the CD of this year's songs, I thought, pretty much everything we believe, everything significant we stand for, is in these songs.  If anyone want to know what a Mormon really believed, they should listen to what we're teaching our kids.  What our kids learn every single week at church, all year long, is what they will believe when they grow up.  There isn't some mystical illumination between childhood and adulthood where everything we've been taught changes.  We believe what we've practiced since we were small.  I feel like for some reason there are people out there (oddly, mostly other Christians) who seem bent on proving that Mormons believe other than what we profess to believe.  So here it is, the truest example of what we believe: it's what we teach our kids, through song.

Mormon Children's Songs

This is a link to the songs that are on the 2012 children's Primary Program CD.  If you really want to know what we believe, start here.   Of course, there's more.  But everything basic we believe and hope for our children to believe is within these inspired words.  Scroll down until you see the MP3 icons, and choose" MP3 Music and Voice."  Click on each one to listen to the words and hear the things Mormons believe. 

If you have other questions, feel free to ask me!  Or you can go here to order a copy of the Book of Mormon, one of the scriptures we use along side the Old Testament and New Testament, to teach us of Jesus Christ.  It teaches a lot about who we are.
 What ever else Mormons believe that may or may not invite controversy, to me the most important thing about us, the thing that keeps me wanting to be a member of this church, is the fact that I've never found another life path--in all my travels all over the world, and in all my studies of world religions--that helps me be a better person and which has my ultimate happiness in mind.  I am a kinder, more generous, more honest person because of my Mormon beliefs.  I am a better mother, a truer friend, a more faithful wife, a more caring neighbor.  I avoid common pitfalls that are rampant in our society today like drugs, alcohol addiction, and infidelity.  My children will have a fighting chance to keep from ruining their lives because they have a moral compass that always leads them back to true north, back to God.   That's what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints means to me.  I hope sharing this has helped anyone wondering about what we believe hear it from a real Mormon. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Apple Salad With Cinnamon Yogurt Sauce

ACK!  It's almost fall!  Mostly I'm sad about that; I'm a spring/summer person.   But there are a few perks to fall: 1) jeans.  I really hate wearing capris.  I've missed my jeans!  2) My skin usually improves.  No idea why.  3) Comfort food!  I feel guilty eating comfort food in the summer.  Like I'm a sinner if I don't eat salad twice a day.  But once the weather turns cold, bring on the rolls and the gravy!  4) Apples.  I love how apple prices get super low in the fall and I can make apple cake or apple pie dirt cheap!  Here is one of my favorite fall apple recipes.  I invented it myself.  It's kind of a variation on Waldorf salad, only way yummier.  Think Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's "apple pie" caramel apple.   In fact, it can barely be called a salad--it's good enough to be a dessert.  (Just the way a salad should be!)

Apple Salad With Cinnamon Vanilla Yogurt Sauce and Candied Pecans

7-8 crisp apples, washed.*  I like half red and half yellow ones.  (Not Granny Smith!)
2 single-serving containers vanilla yogurt
1 bunch red grapes (about enough to fill a measuring cup)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup pecan pieces
1/3 cup sugar

* It took me years to figure out how to get a nice, crisp, non-mealy apple.  There are two keys:  1) The kind of apple.  My favorites are Braeburns, with Galas and Johnathans as runners up, and Golden Delicious if you like a sweeter apple. Don't buy red delicious- they are always mealy.  I don't like Fujis for that reason either--too inconsistent.   2) Squeeze the apple.  You shouldn't be able to feel any give, no matter how hard you press your fingertips into the apple.  If you feel the apple give under your fingers, forget it.  It's a mealy apple.  A rock hard apple will be crisp and delicious!

Here are your ingredients:

First you will make your pecans.  This is the most time intensive part of the recipe, and it takes all of 5 minutes.  You want to prep your landing zone first.  So lay out a square piece of aluminum foil and spray it with Pam.   Also spray your stirring spoon with Pam--caramelized sugar is hard to get off, even in the dishwasher!  Then, in a small saucepan (also sprayed with Pam) on medium heat, dump your pecans and sugar.  Stir occasionally (every 20-30 seconds) until you start to notice the sugar crystals melting on the bottom of the pan.  At this point, lower the heat a little and start stirring pretty continuously (about every 5 seconds).  Your sugar will first melt (clear) and then begin to caramelize (golden, like caramel!).

This process will simultaneously brown your nuts and crisp them up.  But you don't want them to burn--which can happen pretty fast once the sugar melts-- so as soon as you see the sugar pretty liquefied (either clear or golden) and sticking to the nuts, remove the nuts from the heat and pour them onto the foil.  Spread them out with your stirring spoon so that they are pretty flat, not in mounds.  Let them cool while you make the rest of the salad.

For the salad, cut the grapes in half and throw them in a big mixing bowl. Don't use the bowl you'll serve them in because it's going to get pretty messy.  Next cut the apples. If you don't have one of these handy gadgets, go get one!  They're brilliant.  They slice and core the apple at the same time. 

You want the pieces to be bite size, so cut the slices into chunks and throw them in with the grapes.  (I don't peel my apples--they brown too quickly if you do.  Plus, the color of the salad is much better with the skins on.)

Next pour in both containers of vanilla yogurt.  Add the cinnamon.  Stir it all up really nicely.  Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.


Just before serving, break up the pecans.  I like to cover them with a little wax paper and smash them gently with a meat hammer.  But you could put them in a baggie and hit them with a heavy book or something a few times if you don't have a meat hammer.  It doesn't matter.  Just make sure they're broken into small pieces because they will have cooled into a giant hard sheet of nuts.  Then transfer your salad into a pretty bowl, and sprinkle with the candied pecans.

Voila!  The prettiest, yummiest thing healthy enough to get away with being called a salad!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Tomato By Any Other Name Would Still Taste As Gross

...or would it?

I hate tomatoes.  Have always hated tomatoes, for as far back as I can remember tomatoes have made me want to barf, copiously.  So slimy!  So bitter.  So reminiscent of putrid dirt coated in mucus.  So utterly, absolutely disgusting!

Growing up, our mom let us choose 2 foods we never had to eat.  I had three foods I detested, so I had to do some fancy footwork any time something I didn't like was served, trying to assure my mom that tonight's food was one of my two foods.  Squash and bananas rotated through.  But tomatoes?  They were always on my list of "won't eats."  I let liver stay on my list more often than tomatoes!  (And, yes, my mother actually served us LIVER!  And you thought YOUR parents were mean.)

Anyway, I hated tomatoes so much it took me all the way to high school before I ever tried salsa for the first time.  And even then, I would only dip the chips in the watery stuff around the tomatoes and then shake the chip off.  Tomato soup was out.  Tomatoes on sandwiches were a deal breaker.  Even soups and stews and chili with obvious tomatoes were given the heave ho. 

And then, about a year ago, I went to a wonderful restaurant with a girlfriend where they serve primarily home-grown, local, organic, and scratch-made food.  We decided to share a salad for an appetizer that I thought was a green salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil on it.  It was listed as a SALAD, you know.  But when it was served it was just tomatoes with mozzarella and basil on top!  That's not a salad, that's a travesty!  That travesty is called a caprese, which everyone on earth who eats tomatoes would probably have immediately recognized from the description.  But being a tomato hater, I was clueless.  And now I didn't know what I was going to do. So as I sat there contemplating just how rude it would be on a scale of 1-10 to eat all the cheese myself and leave my friend with the nasty tomatoes, she took a bite of one...and proceeded to assure me how delicious it was.  (YA RIGHT.  I've heard these tomato tricks before.  My dad has been pulling them on me since I was born.)  But since, ultimately, eating all the cheese would have scored me at least an 8 1/2 on the dirtbag scale, I decided to suck it up and eat a tiny sliver of tomato with my cheese.  (I'm SUCH a good friend.)  And can you imagine what happened next?   I did NOT puke!  In fact, I was stunned to discover that this tomato was honestly not disgusting!  Actually edible. Borderline...good??  Well, I won't go that far, but very very NOT AWFUL! 

How could this be???  I have two words for you:


Don't ask me why God created a whole class of tomatoes that are not revolting and then hid them away for 30 odd years while tricking us all into eating the revolting kind, but He did.  Heirloom tomatoes are not gross!  Really!  Take it from a true tomato despiser. 

Of course, I thought it might be a fluke. So a full year later I raised the courage to try them again.  I bought some baby heirloom tomatoes at the organic store this week, bought a basil plant, made a balsamic vinegar reduction, and cut up some fresh mozzarella balls.  I put it all on top of toasted baguette (because I figured drowning tomatoes out with strong bread is never a bad idea...just in case they revert to being revolting) and drizzled the whole thing with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  And, miraculously, once again, I actually ate tomatoes that didn't make me want to barf!  Now, I won't say I want to marry an heirloom tomato or anything.  But I just wanted to share this little piece of information:  if you're ever backed into a corner where you are forced to take hot needles in the eye or eat tomatoes, ask for an heirloom!  Your eyes will thank me. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

New House Finds

As I was saying, when we first got married, we had a lot of random, ugly, hand-me-down, thrift store furniture.  We slowly replaced those as time went by.   But our tastes have developed since then. And the colors we like have changed.  And we can finally buy things that haven't been in 20 households before ours.  So I've really enjoyed having carte blanche to spruce up our decor with my garage sale money.   

First stop: Etsy. To comission new throw pillows for the living room/family room (we're now back down to one common room from three, unless you count the spot in the unfinished basement where we've stowed the big TV and the old sectional. I don't.) We've had the same living room decor since we got married.  A black/grey/beige theme. Stripes. Very masculine.  Not ugly.  But very very...neutral.  And our dining room was shades of gold and red.  Jewel tones.  Very rich.  I'm over it.  Here, this new house is very modern.  Clean lines.  Grey linen tiles.  White trim.  Chrome.  Black leather furniture.  I love it.  But it is also quite neutral.  So here's what I got to liven things up and give the room some punch:

Also to correspond with those, curtains.   My old kitchen was aqua with red accents.  I LOVE red and aqua together.  But this house has pale grey walls.  A lovely shade.  And I'm not about to paint over them and then paint them back in a year, so grey they will stay.  In order to bring in more of the aqau (more of a robin's egg blue, really) I've gotten curtains in that shade.

And there are the red and aqua accents in the media cabinet.  Some really fun ones.



 Lastly, I have these great apothecary jars that I like to fill with seasonal things when the fall and spring holidays come around.  But I realized recently that I don't have anything to fill them with inbetween holidays.  So I comissioned these fantastic felt swirls.   Thank you again, Etsy!


I also filled one with red and aqua ribbons. 

The third jar I haven't decided on, but I think I'll try to find some aqua glass pebbles or something.  Anyone have any other cute ideas for filling apothecary jars with either bright red or robin's egg blue items? 

So those are a few of my favorite new decor items.  Hooray for new things!  And garage sales to pay for them!

Cry Baby

Ok, I'll get back to my house posting soon .  I haven't forgotten (and I know SO MANY of you are waiting to find out what cute accessories I've bought for my house. Right.)

But right now I need to wax sentimental.  Because my baby boy is a big boy.  My sweet, chubby, lovey dovey, cuddley, singing, dancing, sweatheart of a mama's boy somehow grew up, despite my repeated demands that he return to age 3.  Nope.  He's a Kindergartener now.  Triator!

We just moved, if you didn't know.  Everything in our lives is new--new house, new friends, new church, new school.  And Beck could not wait for his new school, to go to REAL school with the big kids.  To get homework like the big kids.  To go every single day like the big kids.  I tried to tell him that being big is overrated.  He wasn't buying it. 

I didn't think him going to school would hit me so hard, because as I walked him out to the bus stop on his first day, I wasn't emotional at all.  We sat and waited for about 20 minutes because the bus was SUPER late (and because I couldn't keep him in the house another minute when he knew it was 10 minutes until the bus.) So we skipped rocks from the neighbor's landscaping in to a mud puddle by the road.  We climbed the tree across the street.  We reviewed instructions for exiting the bus at school and finding the right classroom (because Beck is REALLY into instructions and rules, and going over them is one of his favorite things to do. No, I'm not joking.  He loves it!)  We watched three different (wrong) buses go by and jumped excitedly each time.  Finally THE bus came.  Beck ran to the door and I could only barely stop him in the doorway in time to snap this shot by screaming WAAAAIT!

We had a Forest Gump moment when the skinny, tan, bleach-haired old lady driving the bus introduced herself (Tawna) and asked Beck's name and told him she'd be his driver to Kindergarten.  And then they drove away.  I couldn't see where Beck sat down.  But I waved like crazy anyway in case he was looking.  And then I stood there while the cars that had waited behind the bus began to move forward.  And all three cars smiled at me and either waved or gave me the thumbs up.  All women.  All, undoubtedly, moms.  I had just completed a rite of passage.  And that's when I started to bawl.  Right there on the pavement next to the bus stop, I cried like a baby that my baby boy was a big boy.