We always buy a straggly, thin, uneven, and very tall Christmas tree. For the 17 years we've been in this house, it's always been in the same corner and usually has to be cut down just a little so the star can fit. This year, our tree did something it's never done before. It bloomed. A couple days before Christmas, we noticed little red berries all over the branches.
They're everywhere. And, usually our tree is extremely brittle by this time. It still feels as fresh as can be.
Millie and I were driving home from music lessons a different way. We came upon this tiny little house in Orem with not-so-tiny amounts of bright, turning, spinning, waving, flashing Christmas. I'll admit that while I think this amount of decorating is tacky, I am also drawn to it. I always stop and look. Where do people store all this stuff? Must they rent a storage unit?
One of our favorite stories... When Xander was little, he couldn't say his "L" sound. We would always drive around to find Christmas lights. Brent pronounced the word "lights" the way Xander would say it, "Xander, look at those yights." And Xander said, "Dad, it's not yights, it's YIGHTS!
Several years ago, we just happened to be roaming the Springville Art Museum on a Sunday afternoon and we saw that a handbell choir was going to perform. It was one of those magical moments. It was beautiful and so unexpected. For a year or two, I had a hard time catching their performances. Last year, we were able to catch them at the Provo Library. And this year, we saw them once again at the Springville Art Museum on a Sunday afternoon.
The conductor is a hoot, making the concert informal and interactive. We sang a few carols along with the handbells. She lets folks in the audience ask questions between songs. They do all sorts of things with the bells besides just ringing them. They tap them with a mallet and treat them like xylophones. They tap them on the padded table like percussions. They tap them against their bodies to stop the sound. They also use tuning forks for different sounds.
For the past 4 or 5 years, my sister, her grown daughter, my mom, and myself have spent a long weekend making chocolates at Mom's house in Portland, Oregon. My mom has been at this craft for over 25 years now. This year we counted them. Nearly 2000 pieces of candy.
Caramel macadamia nut clusters with white chocolate and toasted coconut
Chocolate fudge centers
Strawberry centers and peanut butter centers in background
Large dining room table and 3 card tables
Mom in a sea of boxes
Melanie, Mom, Me, Chelsea
This year we didn't have Dad around to fix us meals, buy groceries, run errands, tell jokes, and give impromptu ballroom dance lessons in the kitchen. We miss you, Dad!
Before our 13.5 hour drive home from Oregon, we stopped at the famous Voodoo Doughnut store in Old Town Portland. They are famous for wacky-topped doughnuts with unique (and sometimes irreverent) names. But what intrigued us most was their Bacon Maple Bar. I just had to try it. Brent and the boys waited in the 30+ minute line outside in the cold and brought our orders to the car. I was expecting little bacon bits sprinkled on an ordinary maple bar. No. These were substantial good quality slices of bacon over fresh, thick homemade maple icing.
Sounds pretty gross, huh? But think about a nice ham with that yummy sweet glaze on top. It works. Or think about your pancake and bacon breakfast, with the maple syrup spilling over onto the bacon.
This is the Voodoo Doll. It is filled with raspberry jelly, so you can poke it with the pretzel "stake" and see the ooze.
Oli says that Day's Market in Provo sells these types of unique doughnuts. Maybe I"ll have to try their version of the Bacon Maple Bar for comparison.
Every once in a while, you just happen upon a gem. Put this movie in your Netflix queue, or get it from Redbox, or see if any video stores are still in existence and rent it. Watch it with the whole family. You'll all laugh and cry. Claire Danes was fantastic.
Our friends host the most fabulous Halloween dance party every single year. We happened to have some photos of this painting from last year's party, so why not turn Brent into the Abe Lincoln clown?
Steph's Mexican skull cake
And look. Someone just happened to dress up like the cake!
This is Millie's Bollywood costume that I borrowed. Sadly, I have no pictures of Millie wearing it. Why? Issues related to dog barf, hail storms, and a panic attack.
Mango from Saturday Night Live
Eve had plenty of leaves covering the back side. But Adam, not so many. Well, none.
I had to explain to my kids what a Smurf was.
Dave's Pharoah costume was pretty darn gutsy. He owned it! Steph was one of a set of 3 sassy witches.
Doesn't everyone need a plastic horse lamp hanging in their family room?
Mr. Peepers from Saturday Night Live. Not only did he look the part, but he acted the part for most of the evening. Hilarious. Although, I'll admit that I had to Youtube both Mango and Mr. Peepers when I got home.
Jersey Shore group. I've never watched this reality show, but I think I get the idea.
Garage/art studio/dance room.
Some of the fellers.
Noelle had this oversized ice skating costume in her basement and was hoping it would fit somebody. Oli snatched that thing up no problem.
Simon threw this together in about a minute. There's a cute little top hat on the purple hair, but sadly, my photography skills are lacking.
I think I'm pretty normal. Maybe a few mild quirks here and there. I don't remember why it started. It probably had to do with one or more of these:
1) Running out of candy for trick-or-treaters
2) Ending up with a ridiculous excess of candy after trick-or-treaters
3) I rather like numbers and charts
For whatever reason, I began keeping a tally of trick-or-treaters back in the year 2000. If someone else in the family answers the door, they know they better add the tally marks - or else... This revised chart is much more cute and readable than the original ripped-off piece of cardboard, bent and wrinkled, with uneven lines and thick Sharpie writing.
So, in case anyone ever asks me these questions, I have the answers:
Q: What year did you have the most trick-or-treaters?
A: 2008 with exactly 200 decorated children getting candy at the door.
Q: What years were cold and miserable?
A: Easy. 2000, 2002, 2010. I don't have a record of 2004, so it could have been cold also.
Q: Over the past 10 years, what is the average number of trick-or-treaters?
Once in a while, I cook one of these for dinner for the kids. The following instructions gave me a chuckle.
Seriously? Are there people out there who would just take this out of the freezer and proceed to eat it raw? Secondly, does anyone actually put a thermometer in their pizza? Turkey, pork, candy? Yes. Pizza? Not ever.
About 8 years ago, two smoke alarms went off in the middle of the night. Brent was traveling for work, so it was just me and the young'uns. No signs of fire or smoke. I pulled the 2 problematic detectors out of the ceilings for the night. They began chirping on the kitchen table. I removed their batteries. They kept chirping. I was about to throw them off the deck into the field, but then settled on wrapping them in towels and stuffing them in a drawer. I accused them of being possessed.
Last night, at 12:30am, it happened again. What a way to wake up. I grabbed a chair and began yanking the hallway one closest to us out of the ceiling, but we could clearly hear another one going off in the basement. I didn't even suspect a possible fire, I just wanted the damn thing out and a chance to regain my hearing. Brent hollered from the bedroom, "Don't you think you ought to check out the basement?" My first thought was, "One of us is standing on a kitchen chair in her undies trying to get this stupid thing to quiet, and one of us still in the bed!!!!" I thought better of replying with sass (I saved that for today's post), and ran downstairs. No sign of smoke or fire. I pulled the basement detector out of the ceiling and put them both on the kitchen counter. Back in bed, I hear the chirping. Deja vu. Yank out the batteries. Still chirping. How are these things making noise? No electricity. No batteries. What is living inside of them? I pressed some buttons which must have reset them.
Back to bed, and now my alertness and hearing are hypersensitive - the neighbor boy out late with a friend, the dog barking because of the neighbor boy, creaks in the house. Each noise makes me startle, worrying that one of the 5 remaining smoke detectors might decide to cry wolf.
Three Truths About Smoke Detectors:
1) They can save lives.
2) If they are going to malfunction, it will always happen in the middle of the night.
3) As deafeningly loud as they are, they still don't wake up my children. How is this possible? (Oli did wake up this time - but none of the kids woke 8 years ago!)
If we ever have a real fire, we're in trouble. I won't even suspect fire, and the kids won't even wake up!
My son, Elder Alexander Hulme, was called to the West Indies/Suriname Dutch-speaking mission. He reported to the Provo MTC on March 24, 2010. When the four Elders were preparing to depart for Suriname on May 25, 2010, only one Elder received his Visa. Fortunately, my son has had a very positive experience learning and serving in the Birmingham, Alabama mission for the past 3+ months.
As a parent, I was hoping for some information about the Visa issues. I am unaware of the scope of Visa problems - that is, I don’t know how many you must deal with at any given time, so perhaps sending information to the families is not a reasonable option. However, with no information given to us, it is natural to wonder if perhaps my son’s Visa problems have fallen through the cracks and been ignored. I very much doubt that this is the case, but I really felt I needed to check.
Would it be possible to provide updates to families who are in this situation? I would love to have some or all of these questions addressed:
1)Is it typical for the West Indies missionaries to have Visa problems? If so, how long does it typically take for a missionary’s Visa to arrive?
2)Is it common for a missionary to serve his/her entire mission in the temporarily-reassigned location?
3)Can anyone explain the root of the Visa problem?
4)What steps are being taken to acquire the necessary Visas?
I would be so grateful for any information at all, either by paper mail or e-mail. I’m certain other families would appreciate some sort of communication as well. Thank you for your time and all your hard work to sustain and benefit the missionary program.
6-9 cloves garlic, minced or blended with some tomato
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 TB Kosher salt
2/3 cup vinegar
2 limes, juiced
1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped
1 bell pepper, finely diced
Tomato sauce, canned (optional)
After squeezing the tomatoes, stir them around in a colander to drain out most of the juice. Most of the tomatoes get slightly blended in the blender. However, I dice the Romas without blending them, or skinning them to keep some nice chunks in the salsa. I always blend my peppers with some tomato, then add a little at a time for desired heat. If the salsa needs more substance, add some tomato sauce.
I've been donating blood at the American Red Cross for many years now. Yesterday, they presented me with a little "2 gallon" pin, which I had apparently earned last June. So after yesterday's bloodletting, I've donated and replenished 34 cups of O Positive. Never thought I'd keep statistics like that.
I know that they have to be careful when collecting blood. I know they have to ensure that I am really me and not some impostor. They ask me to say or confirm my name and address 4 times. Is that because, if I were an impostor, I might be likely to slip up and reveal my scheme? But my favorite is when they ask, "What is your gender?" Seriously? I realize that gender can be ambiguous sometimes, but does it matter? I mean, it doesn't affect the blood type. It doesn't affect who draws your blood, or how they draw it, or where they draw it from. So why do they need to confirm my gender? They only started asking that question about a year ago, and the 1st time they asked, I was so startled. It's such an odd question, that now I fear I'll slip up on it... "Male - I mean female - girl - yes - female." Well, I'm not offended or even annoyed. I just find it peculiar.
I like the snacks. I like the excuse to take it easy for the rest of the day. Surely, that means a little extra reading followed by a nap. Yesterday's phlebotomist jokingly told me that I shouldn't cook dinner.
That is, our 23rd anniversary. Not a noteworthy anniversary by most standards, but for us, it is significant. Why? Because it's the first we've spent together in about 12 years. You see, Brent always had a sales meeting in Wisconsin during our anniversary. The year that Milly was born was one exception, and they happened to hold it earlier than usual. So I guess we were together for our anniversary 10 years ago, but we were expecting a baby the very next day. So now, he still goes to these meetings, but he doesn't have to stay as long. So, we mooched off my sister and borrowed her condominium in Park City.
We enjoyed good entertainment at the Gallivan Center during Craft Lake City 2010
Little tiny kids tried their break dancing skills, too
And belly dancers
Mad Max and the Wild Ones
This cute little band is local from Springville. It is a father and sons band (but one son is currently touring with another band, so guitar teacher filled in). This was so much fun. Little 5th grader playing on a dime store guitar and doing lead vocals. Dad on the bass, and brother on the drums. They were amazing and so much fun.
Dinner at a Tibetan restaurant right close to the bike shop