Best-est and Unique-est, Yummiest Salad Ever

>> Thursday, December 30, 2010

This is a dish I never would have eaten if it weren't for a polite try at a dinner party. That polite try turned into a full dish that night and many happy meals since. It's adapted from a vegetarian cook book called, Jump Up and Kiss Me by Jennifer T. Thompson.

1 cup bulgur wheat (you can find it in health food stores, or with other grains by the flours in the grocery store)
1 cup boiling water

Boil the water then add the bulgur wheat. Stir and let sit for one hour.

In a large bowl, add to the cooled bulgur wheat:

2 teaspoons cumin
3 cups frozen corn, thawed (You can use corn cut off the cob, too. About 4 ears of corn.)
4 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons canola or veggie oil
1 green pepper *see note
1/2 (or so) red onion, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 cup fresh cilantro
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

Mix well.

1 cup chopped walnuts, added just before serving

This salad has a great blend of flavors with the lime, cumin, and cilantro. I sometimes like to add even more of these ingredients than the recipes call for. So yummy!

Oh, and one more thought. This makes a really big dish, so if you don't have lots of mouths to feed then it might be good to halve it.

*I have mentioned before that I have a great aversion to spicy foods. The original recipe calls for 2-4 jalapenos roasted, pealed, seeded, and diced. I like a small Anaheim with some green pepper, but that's about all I can handle. Adjust to your spice palate.


Tomato Salsa

This salsa is my absolute favorite!

3 tomatoes chopped (I like mine about 1/3 inch)
1 small white onion, finely chopped
4 radishes, grated
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 green pepper *see note
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2-3 tablespoons lime juice or lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Mix together.

I love these over homemade tortilla chips which we used to have all the time back when our ayi would hand make the tortillas and then fry them up for us. And this is me letting out a sigh for the good old days. And this is me now serving this with white corn tortilla chips purchased from a grocery store.

*I am a spice-wimp. I can't stand any heat. The recipe calls for 2 jalapeno chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped (don't forget the plastic gloves when doing this!) You can add them or any other pepper that fits your spice comfort level. I tried Anaheim peppers once and it was o.k.


Ginger Cookies

I've been asked for a few recipes lately so I'll post a few right now.

Every time I make these cookies for someone, they want the recipe. They're that good.

When I worked with Kim Miles in the RS in Bryan, she used to give these cookies to the people who didn't come to church. These cookies are so good that I half-considered becoming one of them just so I could get the cookies every month. Lucky she gave me the recipe and now I'm passing on the good will to you. Enjoy!

Ginger Cookies

Blend together:

¾ cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

½ cup molasses

Add dry ingredients:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Set aside:

additional sugar in a bowl for rolling the dough

Preheat oven to 350°. Scoop the cookie dough and shape into balls. Roll the cookie dough balls in the sugar bowl. On a greased pan, evenly space the cookies dough balls. Leave enough room because the cookies will spread quite a bit. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, but leave the cookies on the sheet to cool for 5 minutes. They will flatten. Remove the cookies and cool completely.

These are delicious with vanilla ice cream or on their own.


City Heart, Country Feet

>> Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I realized recently that I’m a city girl. That’s probably no surprise to many of you who know me well. But I grew up in a tiny town called Fruit Heights, Utah and now I live in another tiny town, Crookston, Minnesota. Sandwiched in between these two places are the magical metropolises of London (only for a few months) and Beijing (for a few years), and Boston. I also had a few brief tours through Hong Kong, Bangkok, Paris, Edinburgh, and Wales (and, yes, I realize Wales isn’t a city) and various U.S. cities.

When I got my mission call to Boston, someone said to me, “Oh, you’ll fit in so well there.” Included in that was a bit of the sinister implication that I didn’t fit in so well in Fruit Heights. That person wasn’t really very nice.

They were right, however. I got to Boston and felt right at home. I didn’t have culture shock until I had to go back to Utah.

When I lived in Bryan, Texas, Matt did his research near Dallas. I would go up with him just to smell the city air and see the buildings. Oh, and visit the Kimbell Art Museum. Wow, what an amazing place. These visits put a spring in my step and renewed me.

It’s so odd, I know. I should love the mountains and find solace in the whispering trees. My heart should long for the solitude of a quiet lake. Isn’t that what normal people do? Go to the ocean to rejuvenate?

Maybe so. But then I’ll just have to be not normal. I do love the ocean… as long as it’s in Thailand and I’ve already spent a few days in Bangkok. I do love the trees… around Harvard Square.

All I need is a good bit of art and music to make me whole. For example…

One time while in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, I was contemplating one of Rembrandt’s self portraits. The complete museum nerd that I am, I was staring at the painting. Looking at the brush strokes, studying the light. Experimenting with different distances and perspectives to see how the painting changed. And most of all, wondering just how it is that a person can replicate the soul with paint on a canvas.

While immersed in the painting, a concert on a period harpsichord started up in one of the main museum galleries. It was far enough away to not add more people to the room I was in, but close enough to hear the music. I was overcome with beauty and pure enlightenment—almost as if a conduit to truth opened up to Heaven. Every part of me was touched with beauty. It was one of the crowning moments of my life.

I don’t get moments like that in small towns. I like the good neighbor, folksy ways. The careful driving and friendly waves, but I haven’t found transcendence in them.

I suppose there’s a place where one naturally belongs and I suppose my place is in an art gallery or music hall found in a big city. I guess that’s where my heart will always be. Even when my feet are planted on terra firma, small town, U.S.A.


Sam's Playlist

>> Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blessed China gave us so many gifts--one of which is a great music collection. Free, legal downloads (really, truly legal, licensed!), were heaven-sent.

One of the added benefits is that Sam has access to a great range of music. Tonight he wanted to listen to music together while we did the dishes and then danced. He picked the songs. Here's the playlist:

Shakira, This Time for Africa
Ella Fitzgerald, I'm a Poached Egg
Linkin Park, New Divide (Please note: that's the only Linkin Park song we have!)
J. Geils Band, Love Stinks
K'Naan, Wavin' Flag
The Presidents of the United States, Video Killed the Radio Star
LMNT, Juliet

This list is a little heavy on the dance/rock side. He's also got lots of other stuff in his favorites folder. Yo Yo Ma, Cat Stevens, and the King's Singers are favorites. And he has been especially taken with Scott Joplin at times. Oh, and R.E.M. How can I forget R.E.M.?!

Here are a few links to his very favorites:

Ella Fitzgerald, I'm a Poached Egg (after which he always says, she has SUCH a good voice.)
Ashes of Time with Yo Yo Ma. (Please just listen to the music, I can't find it without a trailer/words)
Cat Stevens, Matthew and Son

I think good music is a gift that comes in all forms. I'm so glad that Sam has such varying tastes and that he can experiment and find what is good. I think I'll always smile at the Linkin Park Ella transition.


Do I Dare To Eat a Peach?

>> Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When I was pregnant with Sam, I craved peaches. Not the, “oh, it sounds really really good so I’ll have some” kind of craving, but an “I have to eat this now to nourish my soul or I will shrivel and die” kind of craving.

Before the blessed peach season arrived where we were living (in Provo) I sometimes dreamt I lived in Georgia. I am not making this up.

When I finally had access to peaches, I would take my big belly rambling through the farmer’s markets up on 800 N. in Orem. I was a fixture at their stalls. I ate as many as 8 peaches every day. Fruit flies took over our kitchen but I was sated.

It was about this time that I thought about t.s. eliot’s poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I had read it, of course, in my literature courses, but I didn’t really understand it. I had a vague notion that there was something poetic about my welcoming this new life into my world and craving peaches. But vague was all it was.

Now, more than a few years later, I ask myself the real question with full knowledge of it’s significance: Do I dare to eat a peach?

You see, I have tried to get pregnant after Sam. I really have. We’ve gone through all sorts of fertility treatments and prayers and everything in between. Really.

I’ve been pregnant twice. The first time I lost the baby at around 8 weeks. It was an awful experience. On an airplane. Matt was in China. Sam was with me. You can work out any other details. Awful.

But, just a few months later I found myself going through the fertility process again. This time I got pregnant with twins. It was touch and go. I lost those babies at 15 weeks just 6 days after we had arrived in Beijing.

I thought I would die. I couldn’t imagine how it was possible that my body could breathe in and out. I didn’t know anyone could hurt that badly and live.

But day after day and month after month and, finally, year after year, I began to breathe again on my own.

And now, I wonder if I can do it all again. I have been that “patient etherized on a table” both figuratively—as I’ve lost my soul in the yellow fog of grief— and literally—as I’ve had multiple surgeries involved in the whole fertility, birth, loss process. Ether, whether emotional or chemical, is not kind.

But that peach still calls to me with its furry skin that somehow hides the grit but yet peels off to reveal the moist, succulent sweetness. I can feel my teeth pressing through the flesh and the juice running down the side of my mouth and my tongue pushing the pulp from the sweet-sensing front of my tongue to the better-sensing back of my tongue where I swallow. And now, as I write this, I am weeping.

Tonight we were at a ward activity. One of the young married girls brought her week-old baby and I was standing around admiring him along with three other young married girls. In the course of the conversation, I found out that they were all pregnant with their second child.

I am not a young, married girl any more. I am not pregnant. I can appreciate peaches. But do I really want to eat one? Is it worth risking the Ether? Or is not eating a peach a form of Ether itself? Do I dare to eat a peach?

1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse

A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,

Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.

Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo

Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,

Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

LET us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats


Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question …


Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,


The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,


And seeing that it was a soft October night,

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time

For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,

Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;


There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;


Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go


Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time

To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—


[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—

[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]

Do I dare


Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,


I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I know the voices dying with a dying fall

Beneath the music from a farther room.

So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—


The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin

To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?


And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—

Arms that are braceleted and white and bare

[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]

It is perfume from a dress


That makes me so digress?

Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.

And should I then presume?

And how should I begin?
. . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets


And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes

Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!


Smoothed by long fingers,

Asleep … tired … or it malingers,

Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,

Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?


But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,

Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,

I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,


And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,

After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,

Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,

Would it have been worth while,


To have bitten off the matter with a smile,

To have squeezed the universe into a ball

To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—


If one, settling a pillow by her head,

Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.

That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,

Would it have been worth while,


After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,

After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—

And this, and so much more?—

It is impossible to say just what I mean!

But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:


Would it have been worth while

If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,

And turning toward the window, should say:

“That is not it at all,

That is not what I meant, at all.”
. . . . .


No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

Am an attendant lord, one that will do

To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

Deferential, glad to be of use,


Politic, cautious, and meticulous;

Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—

Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …


I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.


I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown


Till human voices wake us, and we drown.


A miracle

>> Sunday, October 17, 2010

I visited a ward for their ward conference today in my new official capacity as a member of the Stake Young Women's presidency. During the lesson, one of the Young Women leaders asked if any of the girls had ever experienced a miracle. A few hands raised and the girls shared their stories. Then one girl, who is blind, raised her hand. She said that twice, when she was looking in the mirror in the privacy of her bathroom, she has seen herself. Her whole face. I could feel the wonder in her voice as she shared this simple miracle.

I have been thinking about that all day. I wonder what it would be like to never know what I looked like. Or what other people looked like. And then, for one miraculous moment, glimpse a picture of who I am. What a wonderful blessing that would be for me. A moment of pure self-knowledge.

I love that she didn't need to see anyone else for comparison. Just knowing herself was enough.

I often seek for pure knowledge of myself, asking "What do I want to be when I grow up"--even though I'm coming up on 40 years old. I wonder what it would be like for me, in my spiritual blindness, to really see who I am, to see myself as God sees me--minus the faults and insecurities and blemishes that are all too apparent every time I look in the mirror or reflect on the state of my soul.

My guess is that I, too, will experience moments of clear vision. Maybe just a few or maybe many. I hope I recognize them, just like this young woman did, as miracles.

God gives me what I need. I can rely on his sight until he shares his vision with me. That's a miracle, too.


Too Much Information?

>> Monday, June 21, 2010

I’m afraid that with my last blog post I was a little too graphic for some of my more gentle readers. Sorry about that.

Here’s my quandary. I want so much to be honest on this blog, but I don’t want to give too much information.

For example, I have a friend who recently went through a divorce. We were good friends with both her and her husband and it was difficult to watch. But I loved that she was genuine in her blog posts. She did not sugar-coat her pain, divulging her inner most feelings. Her posts were so true that I often found myself weeping after reading them. (It also doesn't hurt that she has supernatural writing skills.)

She didn’t give the gory details and I still have lots of love for her now ex-husband. But she did share her pain and her triumphs, too.

In contrast, I read some blogs and it doesn’t seem real. The family vacation. The new dresses for Easter. The perfect report card. I don't believe it. No one’s life is so cozy and perfect. I want to know what is really going on.

Everyone faces challenges and I think a bit of real-life grit never hurt anyone. The stories we remember are about challenges and how people face them. The real stuff of life is what touches me and spurs me on to better things. It's how we as humans connect to others. So, when I read a blog that doesn't really share much, I don't feel edified or enlightened. It’s just an update.

I guess that’s all well and good if that’s the goal. But I want something a little more. But how much do I share? Is it o.k. to post pictures of Sam with a messy house in the background? Do you really want to know about my self doubts and inner turmoil? I doubt you really want to know all the skeletons in my closet.

So, what's the balance? What do you think?



>> Thursday, June 17, 2010

Many of you who have watched the Veggie Tales, know that Usta means "lips" in Polish. Well, today Sam got stitches in his usta.

Matt and I were sleeping in while Sam was playing his new Nintendo DS. All of the sudden there was a thump and then a few seconds later, a groan/cry. We ran out to find Sam on the couch with his lip bleeding profusely. He said he was playing DS and then stood up. Then he described the perfect faint. There was a little puddle of blood on the floor.

Luckily (unluckily?) I had cut the tip off my finger over a year ago and a friend of ours took us to a new, clean hospital. They did a great job with my finger so we went there.

Or tried to, anyway. We couldn't remember exactly where it was, but we knew the general area. Our cab driver took us to one hospital but when we walked in it was unfamiliar. Worse, it was dark and dingy and smelled like urine. We left.

We caught another cab and drove around until we found the place. Hallelujah. We were familiar with the process of getting registered and we headed up to see the doctor. As it turns out, the office and equipment were new and, most importantly, the doctor was professional, skilled, and even spoke a little English. She took a long time checking the wound and finally decided that stitches were in order.

This is her checking the wound.

Sam was a pretty brave kid. During the exam and even during the anesthetic shot.

This is his big lip after the anesthetic.

Matt actually took video of the stitches, but I don't really want to post it. Ick. I figure the before and after shots are good, or gross, enough.

This is after the stitches.

And here's a little smile.

I suppose most boys have stitches every once in a while. Nothing to be concerned about. I did learn a few things:

1. Matt will feel faint when an emergency first happens.
2. I will feel faint after the worst part is over.
3. Sam is surprisingly good at medical Chinese and is great at translating for his parents who feel faint, even when his lip has a huge gash in it.
4. Calling a cab is a pain in an emergency.
5. I will be glad to be back in a country where I speak the same language as the doctors I visit.
6. We'll survive.


Can't Sleep

>> Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I can't sleep tonight.

But, then again, I haven't been able to get to sleep for the past few nights. It's pretty bad. I keep thinking of all the moving related stuff.

I feel so sad and so happy at the same time. I keep thinking of things I am excited about. And then I remember the things I will miss terribly.

What I really want to do is take my mental landscape of Beijing and roll it up like a scroll and pack it in my suitcase. Then, when I get to Minnesota, I want to unroll it again. And then I want to have my family move in and then the Target and Walmart pop through the scroll. And then one by one all the new people I add in my life can set up shop in this perfect blend of China and the U.S.

I want to keep the vegetable markets and street food and people sweeping with willow brushes tied together for brooms. I want to find bargains at the Zoo market. I want explosive fireworks for Chinese New Year and world-class tennis for $30 a day. I want to hold Ezzie during sacrament meeting and lead the primary kids in the primary program in November. I want to get to know the Morrises and the Hoskinses. I want to hang out with Ashley and find a really good tailor. I want to eat dinner with the Lewises. I want to learn to make jewelry and finally get that set of Tahitians I've been eying. I want to be able to look at the mountains and see graves and think of my babies. How can I leave this place?! The list goes on, but I'll spare you the details.

But then I think of all the wonderful things I'm looking forward to. The temple! Seeing family again. A bathtub. The convenience of a car. Being able to talk to Sam's teachers. Being able to read signs. Controlling my own heat in my own home. No one peeing or pooping or spitting on the street. No more taxi drivers trying to tack on extra miles. Hot running water in the kitchen. A dishwasher. My very own washer that really gets clothes clean AND my dryer. Clean air. Water than you can drink from the tap. Again, the list goes on.

I get the feeling that moving back to the U.S. will be just as difficult as moving to China. Only this time the loss will be greater because we may never come back to China. We always knew we'd move back to the U.S.

I've been reading a book called Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. It talks about children who have spent a significant amount of time outside their primary culture. It's wonderful to see the benefits and so helpful to know some things we can do to make the difficulties easier. It's a good read for anyone who has spent time in any cross-cultural situation.

I hope I can make it through these next few months with at least a bit of my heart and sanity intact. My heart aches to leave and aches because we're leaving.

No wonder I can't sleep.


Shopping at San Yuan Li

>> Thursday, May 13, 2010

I love shopping at San Yuan Li. It has the freshest veggies and fruits in all of Beijing. Plus it has a great selection. Rumor has it that most of the fancy restaurants get there produce from here. I believe it. I can always find fresh basil and other herbs.

I also love it because even though it has lots of foreign ingredients, it has a distinctly Chinese feel. It's in an old building with vendors occupying small spaces. They jam as much as they can in their few square feet. You never know what you'll find.

I always come in on the side of the building because there are always the same beggars in front. But that's another post. Entering from the side means that I hit the veggie stands first. Here are some of the scenes that greet me.

This is a woman in her vegetable stall. Can you see the herbs in the plastic at the top of the stall? I use the basil to make pizza and pesto. The produce is top quality.
Below, a closeup of the goodness.

The vendors are all lined up side by side in their stalls.

And, just in case you're in the market for seaweed, here's a stand just for you!

And here's a stand for mushrooms. China has amazing mushrooms!

I come to the meat next. Not my favorite part. It smells like raw meat and, as you can see, there's a fairly reasonable explanation: it's everywhere.

And, with the intent of full disclosure, I have to admit that I am a raw meat germophobe! I have never liked it, but I deal with it. When I was pregnant with Sam, it would make me sick. I would go grocery shopping and every time I passed the meat aisle, I would have to exit to throw up. Ick. Matt ended up going shopping with me. He would get the meat and I would get the veggies. I loved it cooked, but couldn't stand it raw.

So, now I come to China and I have to buy meat in these open air markets. Even in the big chain stores like Carrefour and Walmart, people pick through the raw meat with their bare hands. It has taken me a long time to get over that. I'm still not really o.k. with it, but I try. Because San Yuan Li is a little far from my house, I usually get my meat from an open air market closer to where I live. Before I go, I make sure to have an extra bag, exact change, and hand sanitizer. I buy the meat with exact change, put it in my new bag (preferably without touching the slimy bag they put the meat in) and then sanitize. I take it home and wash the meat and freeze it and bleach the kitchen like crazy. Hanying thinks I'm nuts, and maybe I am. But raw meat is not for me.

It is, however, for these people.

I must admit that they have good seafood at San Yuan Li. I have schlepped their salmon all the way across the city (over an hour) on the subway and in taxis just so I could have it. It's pretty good, even if I find the buying part of the process repulsive.

And, speaking of repulsive:

Pigs ear, tongue, entrails, heart, feet, and other unidentified mushy stuff.

But did I mention the good seafood? Like lobster?!

And, if truth be told, here is the real reason I shop at Sanyuanli market:

cheese and dairy products

non-Chinese spices


oh, and a little more cheese.


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