Monday, December 6, 2010

I've become one of "those" people...

Six months is right around the bend. Sadly, that is how long its been since I last posted. I know many of you think I don't love you anymore, but that's simply not the case. I do. I do love you all. It's just that roughly six months ago, the universe shifted slightly and everything switched gears. Mind you, these are good gears, mostly chosen gears, but different gears all the same. 

Goodness. Where do I begin? Well, the first gear shift was a move. We left our lovely, and far-too-expensive abode in Bolton Hill for much more affordable and fitting digs in Remington. (For those of you non-Baltimorians,  these are neighborhoods to which I'm referring.) The new place is great. We love it. It's fits us. I may grace you with a few pictures this holiday season. No promises. 

Second gear shift, no more homeschool. While this made me terribly sad to consider at first, it is absolutely the right decision. The kids got in to an amazing charter school in our old neighborhood and we couldn't be happier with the sitch there. Still some of you are asking why. Why?! Why switch back to public school? 
Let me introduce you to shift #3 in my universe, the one that turned things upside down and put an end to my blogging for an embarrassing length of time -- I am a student again. It is amazingly true!  We're talking F/T people! It is my time again to return for that ever-elusive degree. The return also brought a change of major. I finally decided what I want to be when I grow up - a nurse. That's right folks, I'm going into nursing. I cannot tell you how perfect a fit it is. Some of you were surprised when I told you this. I'm not sure what to make of that. In fact, I think I'll delve into that - and the whole nursing/school thing - in another post.  (I promise there will be other posts, and many. Sheesh!! You people have so little faith. I see your doubtful, raised eyebrows. I've been busy! There's some serious adjusting going here.)

Final shift, Jon's new job. At the end of a difficult and challenging summer with only sporadic work, Jon was hired at a restoration firm in Baltimore. He works in the central shop restoring windows and doors for historic buildings primarily in Baltimore and the DC area. While not exactly what he went back to school for, we are indescribably grateful for a job in this tough economy. (The unemployment in Baltimore is @10% these days.) He works 6-2 M-F, which actually translates to 6-3 or 4 M-Sa. While somewhat stressful, it has been such a great blessing, this job. 

If you shuffle these new variables into the deck of cards I call my life, I'm looking at a seriously different hand these days. A great big thank-you to those of you who asked about the blog, encouraging updates, didn't presume I was dead, etc. And a huge hug to everyone who has been so supportive this first semester back. I pretty much let 90% of my life slip by the wayside these last 14 weeks. With only two finals left to take this week, I will be back in "previous" me mode for six glorious weeks. (Don't get me wrong, I love "student" me too, she's just so exhausting to keep up with.)

Oh, there is one other little gear shift I didn't mention before... A little something in the oven. 

I'd better go get it out before it burns. It's biscotti, my new-old favorite snack. 
What?! What did you think I was talking about? I bake. It's why I workout more than once a day this time of year. Sheesh!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

learning to be still

I originally wrote a very long post explaining the last few months of our life and how we have been dealing with some difficult trials and disappointments. As I got ready to publish, I decided not to put it all out there. Let me just say this month has been an amazing one. I have learned things about myself and had to exercise my faith muscles more than ever before. The most difficult and wonderful thing I have experienced is the concept of being still. My personality is such that I like to be doing. I like to moving towards something, a goal, a plan, whatever. I like to get things done. That wasn't the way things went this time around. I got great advice from my mom and another dear friend that was so similar that I decided to test it out. I decided to be still and have faith that God is in charge. Guess what? He is. He is in charge. He is aware. He is in everything. And in my case He was just waiting for me to figure that out. Once I turned it over to Him, things were different. I continued packing but my mindset was different. I felt the Spirit as I packed. My home has been calm. I have witnessed the windows of heaven being opened up. Yesterday a wonderful couple came to the apartment and signed the lease for July 15. A miracle really. That's just what it is. A blessing from heaven. 

Jon and I celebrated our 14th anniversary yesterday. Fourteen years. We looked forward the next fourteen to realize our children will no longer be 8 and 12, but 22 and 26. I will be in a career and nearing 50. Jon will be past 50 and famous. :) Time never ceases to pass. But our life is blessed. We have everything we need and more. So much more. We have family far and near. We have friends dotting the globe. We are healthy, strong and happy. I don't know what more I could ask for in life. 

The next few months will be filled with great changes for our fam. But if you know anything about me, you now I don't mind change. I would say I even appreciate it, dare I say embrace it? I am excited for what lies ahead and what new adventures are in store. Mostly I am grateful. I am grateful to a Father who loves me and allows me to learn and struggle, always waiting in the wings for me to recognize Him. So patient.

I need to say thank you to everyone who had my family in their prayers or on the rolls at the temple or helped us move things to storage. It helped so much. I appreciate it immensely. As things get figured out, we'll keep you posted. So stay tuned for big changes.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I am officially training for a half. I am not yet committed to a marathon, but I am on board for a half. I knew if I didn't choose a race, time would pass with me half-heartedly training and I would regret the lost weeks. So.... without further ado I announce to you my race of choice - Montour Trail Half Marathon on September 11 in glamorous Pittsburgh, PA. I chose Pittsburgh because of its equidistance for my sister and I. It is 87 days away roughly 12 weeks from Saturday. A dear friend and supporter in UT is helping me with weekly fitness plans and moral support. I also have friends in UT who are in training themselves for a race on the same day. I am excited and feeling motivated. I have two additional races picked out for the fall, but I will keep those under wraps for now. On my mark...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A challenge or rather an invitation

Life has been crazy lately and I've been a slacker at blogging the last few months.  I've pretty well kept everything else up and running, except sadly my own running pursuits. Since the end of April I have been encouraging or rather forcing, Et (my 12 yr. old for those of you who don't know) to run with me. This has been done under the guise of helping him with his Personal Fitness merit badge. Don't get me wrong, he needs to be exercising regularly, running even, but maybe not so much and maybe not with his mom. See, the thing is, I have no one to run with here in Bal'more. I've been hoping that running would grow on him, but it just isn't. Case in point: The other day as we walked the dog past the park that we run at sometimes, he said "Mom, this place has some of the best and worst memories for me." I asked him what the best was and rather than recount his answer I'll just let you decide what a 12-yr. old would like best and you can go with that. Then I asked what the worst was and he replied "running".  Ahhh! Seriously smalls - you're killin' me! Needless to say, my cunning scheme isn't going according plan.

Yesterday a friend, with whom I once trained, posted the need to sign up for a race to get her moving again. It seems she and I have both become derailed in our running endeavors. (This is the part where everything gets all wavy as I think back in time to a memory.) I think I first began to love running with her. Our running styles were so different and so helpful to the other. She was a little slower, but always consistent. She didn't like to push it so hard that we would have to stop and walk. She was and is steady. Steady is a very good word to describe her in general. I, on the other hand, like to run fast and hard. I end up walking more because of it. I am varied. In most cases this wouldn't be a big deal, but when we were running partners (6+ years ago) we were tethered together with an ipod. We had one between us and one set of headphones and we had to keep the same pace or the buds would pop right out of our ears. It was pretty slick really. (Memory complete.)  Her post got me thinking about this idea of signing up for a race. She was looking for a running partner - and chances are she'll find one among her many peeps - but I am hoping to be a homeless gypsy* this summer and will therefore only have myself and my reluctant 12-yr. old to partner with.  Enter the long-distance running partner(s) idea... Formulate a plan... Post it on the blog at on unholy hour.

I'm issuing an invitation. It is simply this: I am inviting anyone and everyone who wants to join me in a race to do so. I realize many of you reading this live 2000 miles away, so the race itself may be run apart, but we will train together. My goal is a half-marathon. The last time I ran a half was years ago. I trained for that one alone and it was tough, but I did it. I am only running 5k distances currently, so I will start my training from there. We don't have to follow the same regime, or even run the same distance (as many of you are already in top-notch shape), but I would like to keep each other apprised of our efforts and accomplishments. With a preliminary look at my timeframe, I am going to look for a race occurring sometime from mid-August to mid-September. My initial list has 5 potentials with 2 more in the latter part of September. I found this website helpful in locating potential races.

Wouldn't it be great to have a group of people spread far and near training together, encouraging one another, cheering the others on in their goals? I'd love it if you'd join me. I'd love to hear about your adventures. I'd love your motivating words. I think it would be pretty darn fantastic, but regardless of who's on board I just want you all to know, I am now officially in training.

On your mark...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We're Alive!

Breathe in, then out. Again. That's what I have been doing for the last few months. Trying to stay calm and levelheaded. The blog has suffered, but sanity is mostly intact. I may or may not get back posts done, but let me fill you in on the latest.

Jon graduated! He now has a Masters of Fine Art(MFA)! We're finished! Well... for a minute anyway. 

At commencement Jon was awarded a fellowship studio space for a year. The official award is MFA Fellowship Studio at the Bromo Seltzer Tower. I am certain many of you have no idea what the Tower is all about, so I'll do the work for you and you can just click here to see get the details. Basically he is given a studio space, rent free for 12 months. During the year, each month has an open-studio day where the public can come through the building, tour the studios, talk with the artists, see plays and purchase or commission art. It's a great opportunity and it gives Jon somewhere to paint besides the basement of whatever place we rent next. Of note: The building was modeled after the Palazzo Vecchio, an amazingly beautiful building we passed every day when we were in Florence, Italy. Talk about a place to be inspired!

See the similarity? Pretty neat.

So for today, know that we are alive. We're just packing, free-cycling, recycling, cleaning, planning, playing, working, looking, praying, hoping, helping, and loving life in general. In short, we're still here. Don't give up on us, that includes you Ms. Crane.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

its the little things...

I admired this little beauty while visiting the gallery space at Jon's studio during the Christmas break. I wanted it so much Jon had to talk me out of swiping it right off the wall. Weeks later, for no apparent reason he brought it home to me (with a blessing from the previous owner). 

Now it's mine. 

It's the simple things in life that make me smile.

I now enjoy the soft glow of electric sex in my kitchen.

and Ralphy is alive in my heart all year long.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snowed In

Last Friday a big storm system came through town. We were headed back from VA when it rolled in. It dropped nearly two feet of snow before it was finished. Then a few days later, another system blew through leaving maybe six inches more. And in the last 36 hours we got another 12+ inches.  Needless to say, we're not going anywhere for awhile. We haven't been going anywhere for the last five days.  Here's how the snow has effected us in that time:

church last week - cancelled
stake conference this week - postponed
power bill - doubled (as if it wasn't already scary enough)
MICA(Jon's school) - closed all but one day in the last seven
Members' night at the Nat'l Aquarium - cancelled
violin lessons - cancelled
youth basketball - cancelled
youth Temple trip - postponed
friends' birthday party - postponed twice
waistline - expanding
sense of time - gone

I feel like I have had five Saturdays in a row. I have to check my phone to see what day it is. It feels like Christmas break all over again. Is it really Thursday today?

This is a how we've been filling the hours...

snowshoeing around our neighborhood
the makings of a snowcave
homemade valentines
Et's neverending supply of legos
too many gingersnaps
games, games and more games
a couple of good books
watch instantly - as no movies are getting to us through the mail
we're memorizing the Gettysburg address and making homemade lightsabers
Et torturing Claudio with bionocles

In short, we've been getting up late, eating gallons of soup, reading, bundling into snow clothes for hours of outside play, reading, drinking gallons of cocoa, watching tons of movies, reading, playing games, doing little schoolwork and loving most every minute of it. I mean, how often are you truly snowed in?!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gingersnap Throwdown Results

This was a tough one! I think because I love gingersnaps so much I expect more from this cookie. First the background...

Six recipes. Three from cookbooks. Three from individuals. Finished product: 28 dozen cookies!
Let me introduce you to the contenders, in no particular order.

1 - Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
2 - Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food
3 - Judy Brown's from Favorites cookbook
4 - Ingrid's
5 - Adrienne's
6 - Bridget's

I'll tell you right now, I could not pick one. It came down to the final decision from everyone. Let me just say, I will be keeping more than one recipe.

#1 - Martha

Dough - This recipe was the only one to use fresh ginger. It resulted in a very strong ginger flavor. It was only one of two to use dark brown sugar as well. This recipe called for 1/4 t. black pepper which I thought gave it a nice kick. It needed chilling and I found the proposed cooking time to be far too long for my liking. I believe the intended result was a much crunchier cookie, but I prefer mine chewy, so I decreased it by almost half.

Cookie - Jon didn't like how the surface cracked but I thought it looked as a traditional gingersnap ought to; maybe a little on the flat side. It had a chewy consistency that we all liked. Jon didn't like the "hairs" from the fresh grated ginger. I didn't notice them. Far and away this cookie had the strongest ginger flavor of the bunch.

#2 - Alton

Dough - Crystalized ginger set this recipe apart from the others. It also needed overnight chilling and was done so rolled into logs and wrapped in wax paper.
When it came time for baking this was the only cookie to forgo the traditional sugar coating and instead preferred to be sliced and left bare.

Cookie - The texture of this cookie was almost crunchy but still chewy; not dry. It had a strong ginger flavor. The color was paler than I usually like and due to the rolling there was a slightly flattened edge. The crystallized ginger chunks were a nice touch though.

#3 - Judy

I'll be honest and brief. These were everyone's least favorite. The dough was bland; the cookie too crunchy. It tasted less like a gingersnap than all the others. Unfortunately it also produced the largest batch. Finally on a positive note, it was a nice looking, consistently shaped and colored cookie.

#4 - Ingrid

Dough -  A tasty dough. Easy to work with. Needed no chilling. This was the only dough to use vegetable oil.

Cookie - The flavor was a very traditional gingersnap flavor. It had a very nice appearance and a perfectly chewy texture. The baking time was shorter than all the others by a minute or two per batch.

#5 - Adrienne

I have had these before from Adrienne and they tasted much better than I was able to produce. The dough was very sticky and soft, needed chilling and tricky to work with. The cookie was flat in both texture and flavor. I wish I knew how Adrienne achieved the results she achieved, but alas I do not.

#6 - Bridget

Dough - This recipe produced a large batch. It was the only recipe to use butter and shortening and both white and brown sugar. Of note was the fact that traditional white sugar was replaced with turbando (raw sugar) for the rolling. I rolled larger balls than most of the other recipes and still came out with 6+ dozen cookies.

Cookie - A large, attractive cookie. It was extra chewy, but with an added crunch from the turbando coating. The taste, mellow. We all loved the raw sugar touch.
Final result? Let me explain...

We chose #2 (Alton's) as the overall winner based on its wonderful ginger flavor, the added texture from the crystalized ginger and the wonderful chewy consistency.  Even though it needed to be made ahead, I liked that the baking prep was so simplified. No rolling, just slice and bake. And no rolling means less sugar and less mess. I have given you two links to get this recipe. This is a great site. This one easier to read and print.

We also loved #6 (Bridget's). The taste was more mellow. The raw sugar was a fabulous addition. It too had a very pleasing chewy texture.

4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
 2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
 1/2 cup + 2 TBS molasses
1/4 cup raw sugar (I used closer to 1 cup.)

Preheat oven to 325 F. In a large bowl whisk flour through cloves. In another bowl with mixer, beat butter, shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time and then molasses, mixing well.  Gradually beat in flour and combine well. Form large walnut sized balls and roll in sugar. Arrange balls 3" apart. Bake cookies for 13 minutes or until puffed and golden.(I baked for 11 minutes.) They should still be soft. Transfer to racks to cool.

In addition I personally liked the flavor of #1. The fresh ginger was so refreshing and intense. 

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 1/2 tablespoon finely grated, peeled ginger (one 3-inch piece)
1 large egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and salt; set aside.

 In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, molasses, and ginger on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg until smooth and combined. Add flour mixture, and beat on low until just combined. Transfer dough to a bowl and wrap in plastic; refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place granulated sugar in a shallow bowl; roll balls in sugar until completely coated, and place about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets (as cookies spread).

Bake for 15-18 minutes (I baked mine for 9-10 minutes so they would be chewier). Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be kept in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

So for my personal library I will be keeping #'s 1&2, as they are found in cookbooks I currently use. I will also be adding #6 to my personal library. 
In my opinion, any gingersnap recipe would be made better with the addition of crystallized ginger and the exchange of white sugar (used in rolling) for raw. 
(This is what I look like at 11:00pm after baking for hours.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

550 Pages

I'll keep it brief. I finished The Book Thief yesterday. As I read the book, especially the last 150+ pages, I wept. I had to put the book down more than once because I couldn't see the words through the tears. When I closed the book, I was exhausted and filled. I cannot say enough good about The Book Thief. It is an amazing book, comprised of beautifully written passages and perfectly crafted storytelling. Markus Zusak weaves a tale that changed words into tangible things. I am buying a copy of my own so I can underline and mark the passages that jumped off the page at me, of which there were many.

In short, I highly recommend this book. Have you read it yet? What are you waiting for?!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

First throwdown of the year - Gingersnaps

Its that time again - THROWDOWN time baby!! I'm ready to give it another go and I have chosen gingersnaps this time 'round. If you have a recipe to throw into the ring, send it my way by Friday. I will take up to ten recipes and I already have three so you'd better hurry up if you want in.  Let the games begin...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Resolutions and Relationships

I have been trying to decide what I want out of this new year. My mind has been spinning the idea around like a clothing dryer on an endless cycle. I set goals. I usually do. I feel good about them. There are five. I could add more, but I'm not going to. I'm baby-stepping it this year. I know I can accomplish them all and I think they will each challenge me in different ways.

But the goals don't sum up what I want from 2010. What is it that I want? What matters to me most? I spend a heck of a lot of time worrying/thinking about money, homeschool, the future (in relation to Jon finding a job), lessons/sports for my kids, my calling, my pant size and lots of other random things. There are important elements in all of those things, but most of those things are simply that - things. They aren't lasting. Yes my children's education is important as are their extra activities. Money is necessary as is a job. My pants size? I would like it to be smaller but in reality it isn't something that needs to be mingling with the more important thoughts in my mind. What is it them that should garner my attention?

This is what had me up last night lying in bed listening to my man breathe evenly beside me. Finally, my mind found something clear in the chaos. One word: Relationships. Simple right? Okay maybe not, but just what I was looking for anyway. I want to improve the relationships in my life this year. I am going to invest myself more fully, honestly and genuinely than I have in the past. Some relationships are already good, strong and healthy and still I know they would benefit from a little more attention on my part. Others, I struggle to feel okay with. I don't have much of a relationship with my father Rod. I need to change that. He may not be capable of contributing much at this point, but I certainly am. There are others too I have let fall by the wayside and with just a little more effort they could be wonderful again too.

So in addition to my five little goals and my ongoing mantra to simplify! simplify! simplify!, I am going to strengthen the relationships in my life. They are absolutely the most important things in my life. Without them I would be lost. I would not be me. It just wouldn't be worth it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!

My new mantra. What'd ya think? It's a good one right?! I can hardly call it new to me though. It's something I try to live by already, but lately it seems I've gotten caught up the craziness of this world and I needed to remind myself again.

In trying to simplify, I always find myself creating more chaos than I resolve. This time, I am doing two things differently. First off, I am a list maker. My mother is a list maker and I am guessing that is where I got it from. This isn't something I have loved about myself because I never feel like I finish a list - NEVER!! I just about get there and then I revise and add and start all over again. Also, the lists I make are all over the place. Short-term to-do's mixed with things that will span months. So this time I am changing it up a bit. I am making lists that make sense. I have a list of things that will take less than a week and things that are more long-term.