No Muss, No Fuss

I told you I would introduce a new challenge last week and I got a little caught up in stuff and never got around to. I had hoped to let you in on the challenge so that you could (if you so chose) use the weekend to kick start the challenge (I don't know why it is easier to kick something on the weekend instead of a Monday but it just is). So, anyway, this challenge is all about de-cluttering our homes. To play along officially you can go here. To play along with me, here are the rules:

1. Plan Your Purge: Make a plan of attack so you do a real purge (instead of just moving piles around). What are the trouble spots? Do you need to buy new organizers?

2. De-Clutter for 1 Week: Spend an hour a day for one week tackling one specific area of clutter (Thursday's the junk drawer, Friday's the bedroom closet, etc.) Sort everything into 3 piles: "trash," "donate," and "keep."

3. Donate What You Don't Need: Have your friends come by and pick out the best giveaway goodies. Then round up the leftovers and bring them to your local Goodwill or Church re-sale shop, both of which often accept clothes, toys, and household items. Call ahead to make sure they're accepting donations.

4. Celebrate Your Clutter-Free Home: All hard work deserves a reward. Take it easy for a night - order takeout and relax in your nice, clean house.

I am currently working on my week of de-cluttering and so far it has gone really well. As part of the challenge I reorganized my bookshelves and went through my closet and dresser. My bedroom is now so neat and tidy and such a nice place to be. I have one room to go until I finish this challenge but it will be a big project and will probably take me most of this week. Can't wait to take it easy, order takeout (maybe Iceberg--although Chinese sounds really nice right now as well), and relax.

Another Cookbook--of sorts

I don't know how I managed to forget mentioning my favorite cooking website: allrecipes.com. This is an absolutely fabulous site because A. it has a recipe for just about everything. And B. it allows for reviews to be posted. This allows others to try it out before you and then tell you what they would do differently (or tell you it was perfect as is). It is great. Even with all my cookbooks most of my cooking is done from this website.


A Couple Recommendations

A little while back I did a post about my addiction to Cookbooks. In the comments of that post Jen asked for a suggestion of a good cookbook. Well, it has been awhile but I'm finally getting around to posting my list. I do this with some trepidation as I am in no way a professional cook--in no way. With that in mind, here is my list of suggestions:

I consider Joy of Cooking and The New Basics Cookbook the bibles of cookbooks. Neither one has pretty pictures but I consider both important cookbooks that cover the basics to the fancy. If you get just one I would get The New Basics Cookbook--it is especially good at giving the basics about different kinds of fruits, veggies, meats, fish, etc. and how to prepare, cook, and store them.

Simply Salads is a great starter book for beginning cooks because its premise is to start with a pre-packaged salad (does it get easier than that) then you add a few ingredients to make really great salads (both side salads and main-dish salads). Plus this one has some really great pictures.

For desserts I'd have to go with Rosie's All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book. Really the title says it all. This is another one without pretty pictures but it isn't hard to imagine what the recipes look like. Also, everything I have tried is delicious.

Another new one that I will recommend is Light Cooking. It has pretty pictures and the recipes contain pretty basic ingredients (I love Martha Stewart and Williams Sonoma but their recipes tend to have really long ingredient lists and some of those ingredients can be rather unique and not stocked in my kitchen).

So there is my brief list of suggestions. What books would you add to my list?


Speaking Engagement

I've been tagged again. But this time it isn't one of those fun tags where I get to show off my purse and give everyone trips to Paris. This tag comes to me via a member of my Bishopric. Really I knew this day would come. While I was living in Northern Ireland I was speaking in church something like 5 times a year (way too much by the way), but since returning to Utah I haven't spoken a single time. It has been pure bliss. Well, the bliss has ended. This Sunday I am speaking in church (for those not familiar with my church (the LDS church) we do not have a paid preacher or priest that preaches to us each Sunday. We essentially take turns taking on the role of preacher. It really is a bit of nastiness in an otherwise upstanding institution that I wholeheartedly believe in). I only have to speak for about 10 minutes so that is good. And I was asked to speak a week ago so I have had some good prep time so that is also good. So anyway, yesterday (after almost a whole week of research and organizing) I finally sat down to write my talk. (STM--I did it in my room next to my bookcases and there were several long glances toward them) Now I understand that you may not want what is coming next, but you are going to get it anyway. Here is my talk (It is kind of long so I will hold no grudges against you if you don't read it):

You may or may not have noticed, but there is an increased interest in the study of Mormonism by scholars and academics around the United States and even the world. You can take a class titled Mormonism & the American Experience at Harvard. Claremont Graduate University, a very prestigious school in the field of religious studies, recently formed The Council for the Study of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/Mormon Studies and endowed the Howard W. Hunter Chair in the School of Religion. And throughout the world Mormon Studies seminars and symposia are being held at some very prestigious Universities and institutions such as the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the University of Durham in Great Britain, and the New South Wales Parliament in Australia. This attention comes partially as a result of our growing status as a global religion. As stated by Philip Barlow at Utah State University, “The study of Mormonism can be like going back in a time machine to the second century and studying Christianity as it emerged from Judaism into a new religious tradition.” So basically people are interested in studying us because of a belief that we are on the verge of becoming one of the major world religions and scholars have never before witnessed such an emergence.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to attend a Mormon Studies seminar and would like to briefly tell you about the keynote address that was given at this conference. While most of the presenters at this conference were LDS giving the expected sympathetic view on Mormonism, the keynote address was given by a non-LDS scholar who had spent the previous 10+ years studying LDS communities. Interestingly enough, the gist of his argument was that the LDS Church has all the answers. And he was not being sarcastic in this argument. He was being absolutely serious. He spoke to us for over an hour about how most of societies problems, problems ranging from cancer, AIDS, and diseases associated with obesity to problems such as racism, crime, pollution, homelessness, hunger, debt, and war would evaporate completely or nearly so if everyone would adopt and live by the tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was, as you can imagine, a very interesting address. Once he concluded his remarks he spent around 30 minutes answering questions from the audience. One young man raised his hand, identified himself as LDS, and asked if the speaker had ever met with the missionaries and if he was interested in joining the Church. The speaker tried to laugh off the question and move on but the young man persisted and asked again. And so the speaker responded the question. In his response, and I am paraphrasing here, he told us that he had spent over 10 years studying and living in various LDS communities and has found the LDS people to be good people who raise good families and generally do good things with their time and lives. And while all these things are good, he had observed that as a people we do not do what we say and so he was not interested in officially joining with the Church. Can you imagine the sinking feeling that hit me as he spoke these words? Here was a man who was absolutely sure that we as a Church had all the answers to the social ills that plague today’s world and yet because of his observations of us he was not willing to join with us.

In an Ensign article written by President N. Eldon Tanner introduces his topic by writing:

“Never in our time has there been greater need for all mankind to turn their lives around and live by the teachings of Jesus Christ. One has only to read a newspaper, listen to news broadcasts, or engage in conversation with someone to become despondent with the state of the world, his nation, or individual plights of his neighbor and himself. ‘Where will it all lead?’ we ask in dismay. What is happening to the leaders of men and of nations that has brought us to such a condition? Where, along the way, have we failed? The answers are found in an examination of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the nonconformity in our lives to the truths found therein. It is the individual responsibility of each of us to so live that we may extend our influence for righteousness to others who, seeing our good works, will be led to glorify our Father in Heaven.”

Later in the article President Tanner asks:

“But how committed are we to sincerely and honestly living as we preach? Each of us needs to reexamine his life and resolve to keep the commandments and be an example of righteousness and an influence for good in a troubled world.”

It strikes me that what both the Mormon Scholar and the Mormon Apostle are arguing is that the solutions to today’s most serious problems are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ and that those of us who have received the fullness of the gospel into our lives need to do a better job living it.

It is on this last idea, the idea of living the gospel or more specifically teaching the gospel or teaching of Jesus Christ by our example that I would like to spend the remainder of my time.

A couple of years ago when I was living in a different Stake the Stake President directed us to purchase the Preach My Gospel study guide and begin a daily study of it. As you know the study guide is primarily written as a guide for full-time missionaries and so there are some areas that may not directly pertain to so-called “regular” Church members. Because of this I decided that when I came to these sections I would skim through them and then continue on with my study. I continued this practice for some time until I came to one section on page 123 titled Activity: Personal Study with a picture of a missionary name tag. I skimmed through it and was moving on when I changed my mind and went back and re-read it. It reads in part:

“Look at the image of the name tag. How does your name tag differ from that worn by an employee of a company? Note that the two most prominent parts are your name and the Savior’s name. How can you ensure that you represent the Savior as one of His disciples? Why is it important for people to associate your name with the Savior’s in a positive way? Write your thoughts in your study journal.”

I decided to do this particular activity with a bit of a twist and in part this is what I wrote in my study journal: “I don’t have a name tag which makes me think about how important it is that the things I say and do clearly manifest to others who I represent and whose name I have taken upon myself. I am a representative of Jesus Christ and that should be clear to those around me.” In a sense, I think, missionaries actually have it a little easy. They have a name tag that declares who they represent. We, though, through the ordinances of baptism and the sacrament have taken upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ just as surely as any missionary with a name tag and have the responsibility of representing the Savior at all times and in all places. In the March 2008 Ensign Elder D. Todd Christofferson states: “People should be able to see in us something of Jesus Christ. The way we act, speak, look, and even think will reflect Him and His ways.” So here is the question: Do the people in our lives know who we represent by the way that we live each day of our life. Do they know this not simply because we have explained it to them in words or because we have told them how righteous we are because we spend X amount of time preparing a lesson or attending the temple. Do they see it for themselves in the things we spend our time doing and in the manner in which we carry ourselves. Are we following the command in James chapter 1 verse 22 to “be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only”? Or should we be applying the words of Christ when he addressed the scribes and Pharisees, saying: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me”?

Tough questions I know and not easily answered. In fact, Elder Dallin H. Oaks in his conference address in October when commenting specifically on choices for family activities stated “there is no easy formula for that contest of priorities.” I think this comment very well applies to this topic. There are plenty of good activities and things available to us. But filling our lives with merely the good will not necessarily be representative of the man that we represent and may place us at risk of becoming hearers only. While there truly is no easy formula, there is direction given.

In opening his talk, Elder Oaks declares:

“We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best…Most of us have more things expected of us than we can possibly do…We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”

So step one perhaps is to begin a better system of prioritizing. But, choosing the appropriate activities to fill our time is merely the start of our quest to stand as a witnesses of Jesus Christ. To do this I think that we must not just merely fill our time with a so-called list of approved activities but we must fulfill these activities in a Christlike manner. If we are to witness of Jesus Christ by our example we must ourselves become more Christlike. In that vein may I recommend the same challenge given to me that I have already mentioned: That we begin (or perhaps continue) a study of the Preach My Gospel study guide. I would particularly recommend section 6 titled “Christlike Attributes” beginning on page 115. In this section you will find 9 topics that will instruct you on becoming a more Christlike person. These topics are brief and may take only 10 minutes each to read through but they are powerfully written and will give us a great deal of knowledge and a great deal to ponder over. They will, with serious contemplation, change our attributes and our lives. In addition to this book, of course, are a myriad of other means of learning about and applying the attributes of Christ in our lives and I hope we will or have chosen at least one course of study.

In closing his address, Elder Oaks provides an illustration of the need not to be merely doing good things but to be doing them in a Christlike manner that I think very much reflects my opening story. He says “It is good to belong to our Father in Heaven’s true Church and to keep all of His commandments and fulfill all of our duties. But if this is to qualify as “best,” it should be done with love and without arrogance.”

As I have prepared my talk I have very much been reminded of a quote by the Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” In closing I would like to leave all of us with the challenge to reexamine our lives to make sure that what we are doing speaks for what we say. [END]

There it is. I just wrote it last night so it is still a bit rough. Any suggestions? Normally I don't spend so much time introducing the topic but I decided that I wanted to shock people into seeing the need to examine their own lives rather than me giving them a point-by-point description of what they should and should not do. Sadly, though, it does seem to end a bit fast right now--but that may just have to be ok this time since I just timed myself and it takes me about 14 minutes to read it so I need to either read fast or cut 2 minutes out (they said ABOUT 10 minutes and the most I am willing to go with an about is 12 minutes). Also I am in the process of looking up that scholar's name so I don't have to keep refering to him as the scholar.



Don't know what has gotten into me. 3 posts in one day?

Over the weekend I finally got around to organising my bookcases. I've been wanting to do this for quite awhile now but it actually seemed like such a daunting task and so I kept putting it off. But thanks to Nemesis' latest post on bookcases I finally got myself moved into gear and I love the results. They are still a bit of a work in progress but here is where I am at right now:

I really need to get myself a nicer camera because these picture just don't do my bookcases justice (why is it that when I look at the pics on my computer they look much more clear than they look once I upload them to my blog?). The process of organizing the cases was actually a really interesting process that showed me a few things. I realized that at some point I must have gone through a David Brinkley phase because I have two of his books (books written by him about him); I have lost a couple of my Fforde books; I CLEARLY need more cookbooks (I mean the old-fashioned scale is cute but I don't think it quite works in a bookcase in my bedroom); I also need some taller books for the middle right shelf (and more books--how sad for me I need to go out and buy some more of my favorite books;)). Just in case you are wondering, the purple packages on the top right are indeed chocolate covered marshmallow eggs (I am a total sucker for chocolate covered marshmallows). Also at the top right is my space for library books because some of the best books I have read have belonged to the library but for the short time I am allowed to borrow them I like to pretend they are mine by giving them a spot in my bookcases.
So there they are. I love them. I would actually really like to copy this bookcase by Nemesis at some point. I am afraid of splitting up volumes of books that happen to be different colors but some day I will have a bookcase that looks like that.
(I am actually going to be using this as part of that clutter challenge that I was telling you about below)

Post 101

I just noticed that my last post was post number 100. Go me!

U Pump It Up

Have you heard of this website? I heard about it on CNN a couple of months ago and kept meaning to check it out. Yesterday I final got around to it and I love it. Here's the premise of the site: "This is a place where women meet up with friends, inspire each other to do more of the things that make us feel great, and help share that good feeling with others! Join our lively community and try the challenges you'll find here." Basically it is like Girl or Boy Scouts online and for adult women. You join and then pick challenges (merit badges) to work on. Each challenge has 4-5 steps to help you complete them that you get to check off as you go. Leaving comments as you go is also encouraged both to help you complete the challenges by creating plans of attack and to help inspire others. And as you do these things you get virtual merit badges that get attached to you name. This is my favorite part (well that and accomplishing some great things). I was one of those Girl Scouts whose sash was covered in badges and I have turned into an adult who loves lists (I have my to-do list in my pocket right now as we "speak"). Add these two things together and you basically get U Pump it Up.

So about each week or so I am going to be working on a challenge and you get to play along. You can either join U Pump It Up and officially play along or you can unofficially play along with me-- or you can even leave snarky little comments about how lame I am for being sucked up into this. To play along officially you need to go
here to join or you can leave a comment below asking me for an invite and I'll send you one (I get points for that as well)--that is if I know your email address or your blog profile lists an email address; if you think I might not have your address you can email it to me via the email address I have posted with my profile accessed on my sidebar--don't leave your actual email address in a comment box cause then the whole world will have access to it.

OK, so this weeks challenge is a bit of a cheat since I have basically done it but it is a great challenge and I wanted to be a part of it. It is called
Good Hydrations and is all about reducing bottled water waste. See I told you it is a bit of a cheat--I have told you lately that I love my Sigg water bottle? Anyway here are the steps:

Step 1: Take the pledge to use reusable water bottles. You can do that

Filter For Good: Pledge to reduce bottled water waste.

Step 2: Choose a sturdy reusable water bottle.

Step 3: Stay hydrated green-style for 1 week.

Step 4: Encourage others. (Once I finish this post I am going to consider this last step done!)

So there it is challenge #1. I think it is a good one so I do hope you play along. Stay tuned for more challenges (I've actually already started another one dealing with clutter but I'll tell you about that later).

p.s. If you check out the site you will see some of my comments. I'm YankeeGirl (one word cause they don't like two-word names).


Happy Easter (two days ago)

Really I should have posted this yesterday but I didn't have the pics that I wanted so it had to wait.

I hope that you all had a lovely Easter. I did. Although it did sneak up on me a little bit--okay a lot. Also I really found myself missing Easter in the UK where they gave me 3 weeks off of school and I traveled Europe in the same easy manner that people in Utah head down to Vegas or St. George for some warm weather. But since I am not in the UK and do not have 3 weeks to travel around and enjoy yummy European foods, the Easter I had was rather nice. We even had some lovely Easter weather. It may come as no surprise to you that my favorite part of Easter this year once again revolves around the food. In particular this cake:

It may not actually look like much but it was really, really very nice. I borrowed the recipe from Oh Happy Day and I think you will agree with me that it is really quite simple. The recipe for the lemon curd filling comes from Epicurious via Stephmodo (It doesn't say in the initial recipe but you do need to strain it after cooking). I think it is so cool that I made my own lemon curd from scratch. Now all I need to do is buy a lemon tree and I can grow the lemons as well. How cool would that be? This recipe is a definite keeper and I highly recommend it to you!

Another bit of fun I did was grow some grass for an Easter Dinner centerpiece and surprise, surprise it actually turned out really well (the second time around--had to scrap the first attempt. Only I could mess up growing grass). Here it is:

This idea comes from Design Mom (or at least came to me from Design Mom) and the result makes me smile so much every time I look at it that this will definitely become one of my rites of Spring. One of the metal buckets has even made it up to my room for permanent display.

Anyway, I rambled a bit. I hope you did have a really nice holiday.


Geography Quiz

Do you need to waste some time? I love geography and have been addicted to this quiz for the last 30 minutes. So far I can't get past level 11. I think I need to buy a map to hang up and study. Here's the link for future use.

presented by TravelPod, the World's Original Travel Blog ( Member of the TripAdvisor Media Network )

Romeo and Juliet

Over the weekend I had the really, really great opportunity of attending a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Granted Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite Shakespeare play (it just hasn't been the same since I realized it wasn't the play about true and undying love that I thought it was--just a play about stupid teenagers with short-term memory), but any time I get the chance to see anything performed by the Utah Shakespearean Festival I am going to jump at it. Plus I didn't even have to drive all the way to Cedar City. You see, the festival has this great program called Shakespeare in the Schools which sends a small troupe of actors into schools throughout Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Idaho to perform a play written by Shakespeare. I've never really paid enough attention to this program to take advantage of it when it has travelled into my area in the past but on a whim this year (and an accident of hearing about it) I decided to try it out. Like I already said, the play this year is Romeo and Juliet and while it is not my favorite play I must say that this version of it was really well done and quite enjoyable. The only other production I have seen of Romeo and Juliet (live) was a few years ago in Stratford-upon-Avon--and sadly it must be said that that production was hands down the worse production of any Shakespeare play that I have ever seen. So I suppose in this light the production performed by the USF couldn't really have been any worse. Luckily, though for me, it was much, much better.

Since the whole point of Shakespeare in the Schools is to make Shakespeare more accessible to students I was pretty sure that the version being performed was going to be a more modern and updated version of the play (which I am not opposed to--in the question and answer session after the play the actors were asked if they like doing a modern version and as part of his answer one of the actors pointed out that for the most part that plays written by Shakespeare were performed as contemporary plays in his time and so it seems to make some sense that we occasionally continue to perform the plays as contemporary to our time--the words of course are not changed) which it was. And the cast was rather small for a Shakespeare play (sometimes at the beginning of the play I found myself a little confused about who was playing who at what time as all of the actors played at least 2 characters). And the play was cut down to 90 minutes and there was no intermission. But really all these things worked together to create a unique opportunity to delve a little into Shakespeare on a bit of a casual basis.

The acting was, of course, top notch--I particularly thought that the actress playing Juliet did a great job of portraying her as a bit of a teenage drama queen--and from what I understand 2 of the actors will be performing in the festival this summer. To sum up, I highly recommend this production of Romeo and Juliet. Click here to see the schedule of where they will be performing. The cost of my ticket was $5. You just can't get better than Shakespeare performed by professional actors associated with a great festival for $5.

(Just as a general note: Shakespeare wrote with a lot of innuendos about sex and they portrayed the play as he wrote it. I didn't find it at all inappropriate but I did hear a parent sitting behind me make a comment about it. If you feel nervous about taking a teenager may I suggest that you read the play to inform yourself about its content.--there was a play performed at the festival last year that had some innuendos and I think some swear words as well and there was quite an uproar from some individuals who were offended by it and felt that the festival either should have edited the play or informed its audiences ahead of time about "inappropriate" content. Well the entire conversation drove me nuts because really people the responsibility of filtering out inappropriate material is your responsibility and only yours. If you choose not to inform yourself about what you are seeing and subsequently are offended by it that is your fault and only your fault. Stepping off my soap box now.)


Week of Gluttony--Last Recap

Ok so I thought that I would do one last recap from last week's week of gluttony. This last recap is actually necessary as it is a review of the cutest little bakery I have ever been to. As those of you who know me well will know I love the Your Heart Out blog--practically live by it. I especially love it when they review a store or activity in the Orem/Provo area and have made several good discoveries as a result of their postings. So when they reviewed a new bakery in American Fork and declared their buttercream frosting the best in Utah I decided I had to go and try it out--not that I am any sort of an expert on buttercream frosting. The bakery is called Dippidee and Your Heart Out was absolutely right the sugar cookie was delicious and the buttercream frosting was fantastic. The cookie did cost me a whopping $1.99 so this is not the kind of a bakery you are going to run out and buy a dozen cookies from. That said the cookie was large and rather filling (and delicious) so I don't even begrudge them the $1.99 I spent on the cookie. I also tried a cupcake which I must say was of good size, texture, and moistness. The frosting on the cupcake, though, was a bit much but it was pretty.

See, Pretty! (and yummy)

Now on to the decor: so cute!!! Not much seating so I don't know what will happen once the place gets noticed, loved, and visited often, but for now it works and I would highly recommend planning to go in and take a seat. Once you have taken your seat (actually once you have walked into the shop) you will undoubtedly notice the cute bowls, plates, platters, etc. lining the shelves--they are for sale but I didn't trust myself to check out the prices. In addition to these cute offerings they have cakes on display--and their cakes are amazing--like breathtakingly amazing--like a good enough reason by itself to get married. See:

So to sum it up GO. Try a sugar cookie first. Then on future visits branch out a bit cause it all looked rather good.

Dippidee, LLC
476 North 900 West, Ste D
American Fork, UT 84003

(Across from Walmart and near Lehi's Main Street)


Here is a link for all you mothers (or people in general who have ever been in the presence of or actually been a child). http://inthemotherhood.msn.com/ I am in love with this show and wish they were actually doing 30 minutes every week on tv.

St. Patrick's Day Parade Recap

Well, I have a bit of catch up to play since I was a very poor blogger while my sister was in town. Today's theme: the Salt Lake City St. Patrick's Day Parade. I love this parade for two basic reasons: 1. You don't have to arrive hours in advance to get a good seat:

Please note the massive crowd turn out. More people did show up a bit later and I think other parts of the parade route had a better turn out.

And 2. They throw out lots of candy during this parade.

Tess kept her collection in her pocket until we had so much that we had to start using the diaper bag.

I had the chance to use my Sis' fancy Nikon camera, too, so that was lots of fun (although the pics look a bit better blown up on my computer than they do on this post). Now, without further ado, the parade:

Of course we came prepared with our own pits of green:

And there was plenty of Irish jig dancing:

Check out the massive Irish Wolf Hounds. Not the kind of animal that I would want to meet in a dark alley (or anywhere really).
There were, of course, lots of Irish dancers:

And more dogs:

And some big trucks all dressed up:

But my favorite floats were the ones that brought the Irish people into the parade. Now, if you know much about Ireland you will know that there are lots of different classifications for different types of Irish. There is the traditional term: Irish. There are the Scots-Irish. If you are LDS in Northern Ireland your Irish classification won't actually include the word Irish but it is still very much an Irish classification: you would be either Protestant Mormon or Catholic Mormon. Well here are a few more classifications that you may not have heard of.

Polynesian Irish (You might not be able to tell in the photo but they are all Polynesian):

Mexican Irish (again you might not be able to see it--sorry):

There are even the Civil War Reenactors from the North Irish:

And from the South:

And the scary silly string artists Irish (which I didn't get a shot of but I think you can tell how scary they were):

We didn't stay for the entire parade so who knows what other Irish classifications I missed. I can't figure out exactly why it is that on St. Patrick's Day everyone thinks they are Irish. I mean on St. Nick's day we don't all feel the sudden urge to claim Greek heritage. All in all, it was a fabulous parade. Can't wait 'til next year. Maybe we'll see you there.



Hello everyone my name is Yankee Girl and I have a problem. I collect cookbooks. It is a secret problem that many of you probably don't know about. I have a real weakness for pretty much any cookbook that was ever printed. Really there should be some sort of group for me to join: Cookbook Collectors Anonymous. Until there is (an until I decide to follow their 12 steps) I will go on collecting cookbooks. Now if you are thinking that my collecting of cookbooks has lead to me becoming a world-class chef that deserves to have her own show on the Food Network (I love the Food Network as well--is there a group for that?) you would be dead wrong. I am improving (slowly) as a cook and learning to really enjoy it (except the part where you are supposed to clean up your mess) but my favorite thing about collecting cookbooks is reading them. Almost all of my cookbooks contain really lovely pictures that I love to look at. Then I will move over to the ingredient list and begin to imagine what it must taste like. If I am truly inspired I might even finish off with a perusal of the directions to be followed by grand imaginings of me whipping up a wonderful meal that everyone will appreciate and rave over. Rarely, though, do I follow through all the way to the whipping up of a wonderful meal. Mostly I am just content to browse and dream. Knowing that I am not going to really use cookbooks for their intended purpose should probably deter my buying habits just a little, but the reading of them makes me happy and happy just shouldn't be messed with.

Here is a little gem that I purchased recently (and have used for its intended purpose twice!): The premise of this particular cookbook is to create fabulous salads starting with your basic pre-packaged salad and then adding a few extra ingredients. And not only are the recipes actually really great sounding and easy but the book is filled with pictures as great as the one of the cover (one for each recipe--and there are something like 100 recipes). So I am really pleased with this cookbook: it is pretty and useful. What's on tonight's menu? Well I'm having salad topped with shrimp grilled in a honey glaze. I guess sometimes addictions can turn out to be a positive.


I'm Tired

I don't know what it is about today but I was really unhappy when it started this morning. Therefore, I don't really feel like blogging (it is only 8:15 am and already I want a nap--and I went to bed at 10pm last night. I hope I'm not getting sick). But I thought I would at least throw something up here so here it is the recipe I used for my farls of soda bread last night:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
salt (the recipe didn't specify how much so I used 1 teaspoon but I think it needed a bit more so next time I think I will try 1 1/2 teaspoons)

1. Preheat heavy based flat griddle or skillet on medium to low heat.
2. Place flour and salt in a bowl and sift in baking soda. Make a well in the center, and pour in the buttermilk.
3. Work quickly to mix into dough and knead very lightly on a well floured surface. Form into a flattened circle, about 1/2 inch thick and cut into quarters with a floured knife.
4. Sprinkle a little flour over the base of the hot pan and cook the farls for 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

I was really surprised how easy these were to make. Make sure that you flatten the circle to 1/2 inch and no thicker or else it won't cook right and will end up a little too dense (my mistake of last night). To eat I usually slice them in half lengthwise to toast them and then spread butter and/or jam on them. Honey is good as well. I used to have these (alone without all the other fried stuff) for breakfast on a cold Irish morning with some hot chocolate. Yum! I did take a picture of mine but I left my camera at home so here is a picture of some soda bread someone else took (just to give you an idea of what it should look like:


Man-Candy Monday

Here is a special St. Patricks Day Man-Candy Monday edition. I just noticed that the Orem Public Library will be showing a special screening tonight of Darby O'Gill and the Little People. I don't remember much about the movie (I'm sure it is a bit cheesy--but I like cheese) but that is not what is really important here. The important part of the movie that I would like to draw your attention to is its leading actor: Mr. Sean Connery (or is he a Sir?) in his prime. Now to most of us Connery will go down in history as one of the most stunning men to grace the silver screen. Most of us, though, have only seen him with his lovely silver/white hair. And really most of us are fine about thinking about this silver haired Sean as being in his prime. But like so many of us, he was young once and didn't have silver hair. In fact his hair was a rather nice black color. So make sure you check out this movie to get a glimpse of Connery's gorgeous self back when his hair was jet black. For those of you who can't make to Orem, may I present to you a bit of man-candy:

Check out the movie for a look at him without the goofy smile!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I hope all of you are taking a wee bit of time to ponder all the green things you have in your life on this the day of St. Patrick. Having lived in Ireland over this holiday sets me up a little bit for a bit of amusement now that I am back in the States. You see, I lived in Northern Ireland where slightly more than half of the residents don't like the Irish and don't consider themselves Irish (kind of a funny notion particularly when you consider that they do consider themselves British but most of the British would consider them Irish--it is a strange, strange place). So while in Ireland I never actually celebrated the holiday. I never had corned beef and cabbage. Didn't run around pinching people who weren't wearing green. Didn't go to a parade. Nothing. It was just another normal day. From what I understand, even in the South (or the Republic of Ireland) there is not much celebration going on--aside from getting drunk but let's face it the Irish don't really need a holiday to do that.

With this in my background I have been trying to figure out how to celebrate this holiday. I purchased some green headbands with sparkly shamrocks held 3 inches off the head by wire and some rub-on tattoos for the nieces because they were just too cute. But for me myself, I'm not really wearing green. (I have a green sweatshirt that says Ireland across the front but I decided that was too typical and obvious.) I did decide to do a little bit of a nod to the holiday with a headband with a bit of green and a pair of socks that say Ireland (but you can't see them because I'm wearing boots).

So I have pretty much failed in the American sense of the holiday thus far today. But I intend to rectify the situation with dinner tonight. What to have, though? At first I was feeling a bit lazy and thought I would make some Irish oatmeal (which is different than normal oatmeal) and soda bread but the forces (family) around me thought that was not good enough. I never really considered corned beef and cabbage because I never actually had either the entire time I was in Ireland so I'm not really convinced that it is Irish. I did think about having potatoes cause they eat that--a lot! I went there knowing that the potato was a big deal in Ireland but really I had no idea how big. Potatoes are served with pretty much every meal. In fact, most dinner meals have two different types of potatoes (usually boiled and fried). Once I sat down to a dinner and pointed out to the hostess (with whom I was very close) that we were having 4 different types of potatoes. She looked at the table and said no we are only having 3. I counted them out for her: boiled, mashed, fried, and potato salad. Here response was that potato salad isn't a potato dish. I still can't figure out how that is true since the only things in potato salad in Ireland are potatoes and mayo (nasty stuff). Anyway, my point is that potatoes are a substantial part of an Irish diet. (If you go to a pizza hut in Ireland and order a pizza it comes with a side of fries) Still I didn't really feel like making potatoes.
So in the end I decided to do an Ulster fry. Ulster is a province in Ireland and an Ulster fry is a traditional breakfast there. This is actually a really great choice because not only is it something I did eat (and really like) but also because it is rather symbolic of the food in Ireland. An Ulster fry consists of: fried bacon (more like our ham); fried sausages (nasty stuff that I never learned to like); fried eggs; fried farls of soda bread (I'm still hoping to find some of this--so far the recipes that I have found is not for the farl form of soda bread); fried potato bread (because there has to be some potato in the meal--really good bread!); fried tomatoes; and fried mushrooms.
Symbolically this is important because I rather quickly discovered the Irish fry a lot of their foods--and I mean a lot! Like I said I am still hoping to do the soda bread, but I am changing the sausage to American sausage which is good and not doing the fried tomatoes cause I never really like those either.
What are you eating/doing on this fine holiday?


Exhibit 2

Today was a bit of a busy day around here. My sister, her husband, and 2 little girls are in town and so we are trying diligently to be good hosts. Today's good hosting responsibilities included hitting the Salt Lake Aquarium, lunch at The Pie, and a little shopping at Steve and Barry's. The Aquarium was kind of fun. It was good that the girls are young, though, and have never been to Sea World. It had a small section of Utah fish and a small section on marine life (the emphasis here should be on the words small). In the marine section they had sting rays swimming around in an open pool and if you are brave enough you can stick your hand into the water and pet them. My brother-in-law Josh was the only brave one. The stuff they did have was pretty cool--my favorite part was the jelly fish so cool. I'd recommend the Aquarium if you have kids who are say 3-8 years old (and haven't been to Sea World). I hear that the Aquarium has plans to expand so hopefully it will be better in the coming years.

After the Aquarium we hit one of The Pie locations and had some really delicious pizza (and cheese pull aparts a.k.a. breadsticks). It is at the point in my post that I would like to introduce exhibit B into our proceedings:

My sister is probably going to kill me for showing you this picture, but just focus on the food in the picture and I might just live. So here it is the second reason this week is becoming a week of gluttony. Seriously good pizza. Anyway, I've got to run (exhibit C is calling my name as we speak).

Oh but before I go I have to tell you of the near encounter I had with another Sigg user. It nearly happened in the cafe at the aquarium. There was this woman sitting in there with two small children and there was a Sigg bottle on the table. I nearly went up to her and told her how cool it was that she was so fashionably saving the world, but I didn't. Instead I ran over to my sisters and told them. Do you think I have a problem?


Week of Gluttony

It begins. Have you ever noticed (or do you remember) how peanut butter bars made at a cafeteria are so much better than the ones you (or at least I) make at home? I don't really understand why, but it is absolutely true. It therefore has become my one cafeteria splurge. My local cafeteria, fortunately, is only serving peanut butter bars once this month and, sadly, it falls at the beginning at the beginning of what is sure to turn out to be a true week of gluttony (my sis is coming into town so all diet rules are off--except portion control!!! I hope, but I am a weak, weak person so I can't even promise you that). So here for your viewing pleasure is exhibit 1 of why I will not be losing any weight this week (and also why I don't even care, yum)

Did you notice the good portion control? I could have chosen a much larger one but I went with the more reasonable medium sized one. Also, please take note of the fat-free milk I had with it. Diet only partially broken (I think).

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Whenever Oprah does her ‘Favorite Things’ show, I am always curious about the things she chooses and why. Tell me, if money were not an issue and you wanted to load up a basket of five of your most ‘Favorite Things’ and give it to your friends, what would you choose and why? It can be something simple, like the type of pen you use or something big like the type of car you drive. I will list my ‘Things’ and then I will tag a few of you to do the same thing. Here they are in no particular order...

1. A Sigg Bottle. I love, love, love mine. Plus I think we should all do a little bit to save the world. Just think of how many plastic water bottles would not be thrown away if we were all carrying these around instead.

2. An iPOD. I love my iPOD, but I am so jealous of the new, sleeker ones that are out now. I would pre-load them with a few Barry Manilow songs (especially Copacabana); a few Neil Diamond songs; everything by U2 and Barenaked Ladies; some K.T. Tunstall; the song "I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker by Sandi Thom; Bad Day by Daniel Powter; Everything by Pink Martini; the P.S. I Love You soundtrack; Donald Davis' Grand Canyon story; the finale of The Vicar of Dibley; and there is more but I don't have my iPOD with me to check.

3. Two Dozen Smart Cookies. Cause they are really so very good. And a cheeseburger combo with a mini cherry and chocolate chip shake from Iceberg. Can you tell that I have been trying to limit my intake of these foods--they're on the brain (and on the menu this week since my sis is coming into town and has yet to experience either).

4. An all expense-paid trip to London, Rome, and Amsterdam. Three of my favorite European cities that really should be on everyone's to-do list.

5. 5 Books (cause everyone should read--and love it). Let's see I'd pick: A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens; Persuasion by Austen; The Ladies Auxiliary by Mirvis; The Eyre Affair by Fforde; and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Metaxas.

This was a fun one so I hope some of you will choose to do it, so tag you're it.


My New Best Friend

It took me a little while to get down off the soap box of my previous post, but it is that time of the week again--the one where force you to read about my weight-loss resolution whether you want to or not; well I suppose you could technically stop reading now so I can't really force you).

I would like to start off by telling you that I have a new BFF: my scale! I love it and on Saturday it loved me. Last week I lost 3 1/2 pounds! Celebrate with me; do a little dance of joy! So that brings my total loss since starting my sister's challenge (of losing 4 pounds) to 6 pounds. What this primarily means for me is that I don't have to worry too much when my sister is in town this week. I can eat! I hope to still be good and continue going to the gym and all that, but there will be no weighing whether it is worth it this week. Bring on the cookies, the shakes, the pizza (all still within reasonable portions of course because just because I'm not going to worry about the item itself I think it is still a smart idea (as in healthy) to contain my portions).

Oh, and by the way, to those of you who haven't done a little dance of joy for me: I would have done one for you.


Please join me in a little (righteous) indignation. My parents serve in a BYU ward (this is a position of service in my church) and were asked to pass on a bit of lecturing to the BYU students they work with. This lecture apparently came down from the Prove Temple Presidency (a temple, in my religion, is a very sacred place of worship). Apparently the Provo Temple workers are having a bit of difficulty convincing BYU students that cell phones have no place in the temple. The temple is willing to allow cell phones in the locker rooms (where one can lock up personal and valuable items such as a purse that not needed during one's time in the temple) but would appreciate that they were turned off so that the feelings of reverence and worship are not interrupted even there. The problem is that so many individuals who leave their cell phones in the locker rooms do not turn them off that the locker room sometimes ends up sounding like a telephone exchange center.

Okay, so this far into my mom's retelling of the lecture I was merely annoyed. I mean as far as I am concerned cell phones don't belong in the temple period! But at the very least they should be turned off the entire time you are in the temple. Right? So now is when the righteous indignation will start to kick in. Apparently, Provo temple goers don't merely have problems leaving their cell phones in the locker rooms. They are taking them into endowment sessions (a portion of temple worship)! The lecture cited an increasing problem with cell phones ringing during the endowment sessions and in the celestial room--can you imagine anything less celestial than a cell phone going off--particularly with some of the ring tones that people have these days? And it gets worse! Recently the cell phone of a young lady in the celestial went off, she answered it, and carried on a conversation! Can you imagine?

At this point I was nearly boiling over in my (righteous) indignation and then my mom gave me one last piece of information that caused it to boil over completely. The lecture was given (by my mother) in Relief Society (a women's organization in my church--the same lecture was given Elder's Quorum, a men's organization in my church) and these girls (young 18-19-year-old freshman girls) who are supposed to be this great rising generation didn't understand what the problem was with a cell phone going off in the temple and someone answering it. Really I suppose that by the time we got this far in the retelling my indignation was nearly gone out of complete frustration and replaced by utter disappointment. Instead of indignation I was left to wonder how on earth they had gotten so far in their religious training without any sort of proper understanding of the terms reverent, sacred, holy, etc. I think that perhaps this stands as a bit of a lesson to those of us who have any kind of contact at all with children of all ages (which pretty much means everyone of us) that as technology continues to invade every aspect of our lives we need to spell out the definitions to terms like reverence and sacred as well as what it means to act in a reverent and sacred manner and not merely assume that our youth will understand that it is not necessary to have a cell phone permanently attached to our hands.

I think starting next week I will have to start telling my nursery kids that cell phones are evil--they'll believe me and it will for the most part be true! ;)


Grace Time

Well to start off I would just like to welcome my cousin Jen and my Grandmother who I just found out read my blog (eek--now you know that I mentally swear at adults in nursery; I promise that I don't do that on a regular basis and that they really did deserve it and they weren't really bad swear words--if there is such a thing--I blame it on the Irish in me). Jen I think you should start blogging--I would love to read about what you are doing (Grandma to).
Now on to my post, last night I kidnapped my niece Grace for a bit of museum fun. It isn't the first time I've kidnapped her, but it is the first time it went well. The last time I took her we went to IHOP and she spent the entire time sitting in my lap reaching out for the door (I think in hopes that her mom would walk in and save her). Not wanting to give up, I took her up to the mall and walked around a bit. After awhile she relaxed and got into the walking around the mall thing that we girls love to do so we stopped and bought some pretzel bites. Then on the way to Grammy's house we stopped at Partyland to get some St. Patrick's Day supplies (a very important holiday). It was at Partyland that Grace first met Zac Efron--or at least a life-size cardboard cut out of Zac Efron. Apparently it was love at first site. I had to pull her off of him at least 4 times. Hannah Montana's cut out was next to Zac's and she couldn't have cared less. Just over 1 year old and already boy crazy!
Well, I tried again last night and it went much better (and this time I took pictures). We went to the Bean Museum and had a lot of fun looking at all the animals. Grace would walk from animal to animal pointing (and grunting) at each one. If I happened to get too far behind her she would turn around and grunt at me and wave me forward. There were only like 3 other people in the whole museum so it was really great.

Here is Grace with a Tiger

Here she is checking out the deer and elk (and rope)

Here she is with the Rhino (her favorite; we went back to it at least 5 times)

She approached the hippo (hanging on the wall with wide-open mouth) to check it out (very brave) and realized a little too late that there was a crocadile on the floor under it.

After the museum we went to a place called Smart Cookie and had (of course) cookies. I had a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie and Grace had a snickerdoodle cookie. They were great! Can't wait to go back. Sadly, I didn't remember to take pictures here--which is truly too bad as Grace was in a particularly good mood (with all the sugar running through her veins) and was laughing at everything. So thanks for joining me for a bit of fun Grace and thanks for enjoying it more than you did last time.


Saving the Planet

So if you having been lurking around Nemesis and MBC's blogs (a past time that I highly recommend) you have probably read a little bit about their concerns for our planet and our health covering subjects from eating locally-grown foods to storing/heating foods in glass not plastic. Well Nem and MBC have become my source for being a better person (I am too lazy to read the books that they read so I just wait for them to read them and talk about them--must work on that lazy thing) and so thanks to their persistence (and MBCs specific suggestion on how to get rid of my water bottle consumption) I have entered the world of Sigg. Here it is, my first Sigg bottle:

I purchased the "azure" one. It isn't my favorite design, but I love the colors so I went with it. These bottles are great because they are made with aluminum so they are entirely recyclable. Also since they are aluminum Sigg has created a special lining so that none (like 0%) of the aluminum leaches into the water. The lining also prevents the water from tasting like anything else than water. Can you tell that I am rather pleased with myself? Well I am and rightfully so. It isn't everyday that I save the planet, but I'm working on it.


Resolution Time

Well it is about that time to be reporting on my resolutions so here goes:
  • Will not be lazy--I have been fairly productive over the last few days, but I still watch far too much tv.
  • Will stay in control of mail in-box--Have been very good with this (and there is nothing in it right now!)
  • Will not get annoyed with family--Doing better here too.
  • Will not get upset over men--Easy one as there are no men in my life to get upset over.
  • Will be positive about everyone --I mental swore at two adults in nursery on Sunday--must work on this one.
  • Will develop inner poise--next month?
  • Will lose 10 pounds--I have lost about 3 pounds and am very pleased.
  • Will purge flat of extraneous matter--next month?
  • Will give away horrible clothes--done
  • Will improve career and find new job--still in my classes.
  • Will read books and listen to classical music--Am reading books am not listening to classical music. next month?
  • Will go to the gym--Have been very good at this!
  • Will make music mood mixes--done
  • Will read Book of Mormon--am in Ether.
  • Will read Joseph Smith lessons--next month?
  • Will read from Preach My Gospel--next month?
  • Will write in journal--could do better.
  • Will do Family History work--worked on it twice last month for several hours and am working on it again this weekend in Salt Lake!
Well, I am rather impressed with myself. I have a few listed as 'next month?' that are really quite simple if I would just make the time.


Vantage Point

So how many times can you roll your eyes during a movie and still come out of it partially satisfied and willing to recommend it to some individuals? Apparently at least 20 times. I saw Vantage Point last night and spent a good portion of it rolling my eyes (especially during the first half). And yet it wasn't all that bad. The tagline at imbd is '8 Strangers. 8 Points of view. 1 Truth.' and really I wish I'd paid attention to the tagline a little more before I went into the movie because, yeah, they give you 8 points of view of the same event. By the fourth point of view I was beginning to get annoyed and just wanted them to get on with it but points 7 and 8 were better and finally get the movie moving. It is actually kind of funny to think that the points I found most boring and slow were the shots fired and multiple bombs going off. With all the points of view being shown one after another, I did find it a bit hard to follow the actual sequence of events but if you pay attention you will figure out what is going on before they actually tell you (I like this about some movies. It drives me nuts when a director purposely keeps the audience in the dark so as to surprise us. Let the smart people be smart and the slower people be surprised). I've got to say I didn't much care for Forest Whitaker's character and really disliked using the news team as the device that told us about Quaid's background. Also, Dennis Quaid is starting to get old, but not so old as to be completely unbelievable. In the end I would say if you liked the Bourne Identity movies you will probably like this movie. It is probably, though, a movie you could wait to rent (or see at the dollar movies); renting would be good because when it is all over and you still have questions about people's connections to each other you can simply go back and re-watch certain parts--also it might be interesting to watch it again knowing what is going on to see how clever the movie is.


Reporting Day

Well ladies, it is reporting day once again. How much weight did you lose? I lost 1 pound which brings my total to 2 1/2 pounds. This, of course, means that I have 1/2 a pound to lose in the next week and a half before my sister comes to town. I think that is completely doable. I am actually rather pleased with my efforts and have begun to notice my clothes fitting a bit better so Yeah! I think that I have actually lost a bit more than 2 1/2 pounds in fat but have gained some in muscle which makes me even happier.

On another (and completely unrelated) note I watched Becoming Jane last night. I had not heard very nice things of this movie and so I watched it with very low expectations and was therefore pleasantly surprised--of course, I spent most of the movie pretending that it was not Jane Austen's life they were attempting to portray but simply a character from her time period. I think that helped me enjoy it a bit more--of course you can imagine my surprise when things ended badly and Jane didn't get her happily ever after! It is an interesting thought that perhaps something of this sort might have occurred in her life thereby prompting her to create heroines determined to marry for love and in the end overcoming money or family trouble to see their happily ever after. There is no proof, though, that this ever did occur or of Tom Lefroy and Jane Austen ever having such a deep love for each other. Back to the movie, I wasn't entirely in love with Anne Hathaway's portrayal of Jane Austen. I didn't hate it, but it seemed a bit forced and contrived--problems with writing as much as with acting I think. I did, however, very much enjoyed James McAvoy and thought he performed in his role quite well. In fact, he is very close to getting on my list of 5 (except I think he may be a bit short) and I am now thinking I need to search out some of his other works and watch him a bit more. Did anyone see Atonement? I haven't and don't even know what it is about. What else has he done that I can watch? Oooh, I just checked and his in in Penelope. I must get out to see that one, but I'd like to see him in a period piece again--period pieces are nice.