Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A dream is not always a wish

I've been recently rifling through some old pictures on my computer, and I stumbled upon my trip to the Jay Leno show.  That had to have been one of the most crazy, exciting, and embarrassing things I've ever done.  Upon reliving that event, I drifted off to sleep to the sound of Paul's homework and had the following dream:

Being a couple of years since the Jay Leno experience, I assumed/hoped no one in the entertainment industry remembered the event.  However,  a producer from Saturday Night Live calls up my mother-in-law and tells her he saw us on Jay Leno and though we were so hilarious that he'd love to do a skit about us on his show.  Most importantly, he'd like us to star in the skit about ourselves.  She talks it over with the family, and we agree to go.  Because we are all masochists.  Apparently.

The dream cuts to our arrival in California.  We immediately head to a studio to begin rehearsals.  We're given scripts and matching blue shirts.  However, when rehearsals get underway, the SNL producers begin to realize that our little stunt on Jay Leno was not in jest, but that we were serious about the performance.  Embarrassed for us and themselves they decide to not do the skit.  It would be too mean.  Because they'd already flown us out, they decided to give us tickets to watch the show.

I've not seen much Saturday Night Live in reality so my subconscious compensated.  The women of the family, so afraid of seeing something inappropriate, sat backwards in their chairs.  The SNL producers were mortified.  This awkward family was in the front row, and the audience was staring at them more than the show.  One producer came out and discretely invited us backstage for a chat.  Once backstage, they offered us another chance to participate in a skit.  The final skit actually, where we'd play an audience to a balloon artist.  They told us there was no script but that we should just play along with the scene.

What they didn't tell us was the balloon artist was planning on making a lot of wiener jokes.  Being pure heart and of mind, no one in our family realized what he was doing.  He began to make his first balloon "animal"  and I asked him if he was making a worm.  The camera zooms in on me, and in my nervous state I start rattling off every fact I know about worms. "Over a million earthworms can live under an acre of land.  When cut in half an earth worm can grow back it's segments.  The longest earthworm ever found was 22 feet long."

The balloon artist stares at me blankly for a while before creating another balloon figure.  This time my sister-in-law asks if it's a sword and proceeds to lecture on sword making.  Feeling like he's lost complete control of his skit, the balloon artist drops his balloons and walks off stage.

Since the show is LIVE the cameras continue to roll.  Confused and mortified, we sat nervously for a moment hoping they'd send someone back out to finish the skit.  But when the silence grew to be too much, my mother-in-law began singing, "Love at Home."  One by one we joined her and then some audience members who were familiar with the song joined in as well.  The cameras kept rolling.  We finished all of the verses and the audience applauded.  I guess it was so awkward they found it funny after all.

I woke up completely embarrassed and entirely amused.  I never cease to be amazed at some of the things the subconscious can concoct.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Not to pin

This is was kinda how I was feeling yesterday:


Andrea and the computer don't mix.  If I get on at all during her waking hours she's immediately at my side tapping my leg indicating she wants on my lap.  She doesn't just sit and watch either.  She wants to type like mommy.  I know I've sent out some interesting Primary e-mails because I was in such a hurry to finish so the child crying at my feet could have some attention.

When I put my sweet child to bed, I am finally able to decompress and spend some time online staring at the IKEA website or lovely blogs with brightly colored furniture.  After an hour of this I am ready for bed and start encouraging Paul to join me.  He resists going to bed at nine.  Weird.  So we compromise and I nap while he finishes tax homework or gets three stars in Angry Birds.

At least, I try to nap, but when I close my eyes I see yellow dressers and purple couches and turquoise chairs and orange mirrors and black cribs and red picture frames and an angry bird being hurled at all of them.  It's not relaxing.  Giving up on the nap I sit up in bed, grab a Reader's Digest, and stew about how ugly I find the mismatched furniture in my bedroom.  Then I wonder if I'll ever be able to buy a proper bed frame.

Last night as Paul joined me in bed we knelt across from each other in preparation for prayers.  He asked me to pray (as he does five out of the seven nights a week) but instead of praying I blurted out, "I don't think I can ever join Pinterest!"  He probably doesn't even know what that is as I have yet to see a man with an account.  But he didn't inquire what it was rather why I was opposed.  I told him about my dreams and the images burned in my retinas.

He said it sounded like coveting.

"No!" I defended.  "I'm not coveting.  I'm just struggling to feel gratitude for what I have when I see all of the things I don't."  As soon as the words came out of my mouth I realized it DID, in fact, sound a lot like coveting.  What a coincidence. . .

Neal A. Maxwell said:
Myopic selfishness magnifies a mess of pottage and makes thirty pieces of silver look like a treasure trove. In our intense acquisitiveness, we forget Him who once said, “What is property unto me?”
I think it's time for a break from the IKEA website and beautiful DIY blogs, and I should start that gratitude journal I've been talking about for years.

P.S. This is just too cute.  She no longer wants us to cut her food up, but she gets a little too eager to eat it whole.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dear Paul,

You were so quiet. So quiet it bothered me. You’d stare at me with your half-amused grin and say nothing whilst I took offense at what appeared to be mockery. Soon, you noticed other boys teasing me, vying for my attention. You were jealous, protective, and completely strategic. Armed with chivalry, you would return my stolen gloves, find my missing name tag, unlock and rescue me from the freezer, and, most importantly, protect the pole I’d named Richard. And I let you, because it made you feel better about the situation somehow. But after a few months I started to like you too. I tried to tease you and you wouldn’t tease back.


I wondered if my playful personality was going to mix well with your serious nature or if they’d repel like water and oil. One day, as I priced loaves of frozen bread and you stocked the shelves I asked you why you wouldn’t bicker with me. You looked up at me with those sincere blue eyes and said, “I never want to fight with you.” You were so different.

The next day I hesitantly left for a family reunion in Illinois, terrified you’d move on to another girl while I was gone. Then the text messages started rolling in, reassuring me you were serious about being my friend or more. As exciting as I was to come home and see you, leaving my extended family is always difficult. That first day back I cried. You showed up at my house, put your arm around my shoulder, and channeled those calming powers I suspect you inherited from your mother.

I was addicted. My uptight and theatrical tendencies were medicated by the sound of your soft voice, and I felt so balanced. I returned the favor by loosening you up a bit. I introduced you to IKEA the amusement park (remember IKEA? ;P), and taught you how to build some really goofy snowmen.

We were ridiculous newlyweds. We made cakes and burnt food and ate homemade pizza while watching the Olympics on one of our only two channels. I use to ask you to play two player games with me and you’d always suggested Strip Othello. Thankfully, that never happened, but nice try. There were some pillow fights, but mostly you'd just steal my pillow while I was praying. When you’d come home from a stressful day of school I’d poke you, make a joke, and ask you to wash dishes with me. It seemed like the kitchen sink was a perfect place for you to unwind. When I faced my own tragedies you always said and did the right thing. When I was throwing up and pregnancy sick for eight weeks you went to the store to buy me ramen whenever I asked.

Remember when Andrea was born? Things got pretty hard for a while. I was too depressed to loosen you up and you were too uptight to calm me. I never told you that part of my depression stemmed from the foreign feeling that settled into our marriage. Perhaps it was unhealthy how I’d come to rely on you so. In June, Andrea slept through the night and things started to change, get better, you know? But it wasn’t until December when I stopped nursing that I started to feel like myself again. Weaned from my dependent, I was entirely my own person. You, rejuvenated by Christmas break, were coming around too. A cleansing rain fell upon our relationship, ending the melancholy drought and transforming you and me into US, new and improved.

I’d almost forgotten how we were before our little addition. The atmosphere of our home changed and smiles returned. We started laughing again-- so hard we had to shush each other afraid we’d wake the baby. The shingles poem? Ha ha! It’s been lovely.

Almost four years ago on a warm June night, sitting on the swing in my parents’ backyard, my logical brain told me there would be hard times, but my heart didn’t believe it. I hoped that if and when trails arose, you’d make them worth going through somehow. I was right, my sous chef, I was right.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Eye of Sauron Cake

The amazing thing about in-laws is more birthday parties.  Yesterday, my family threw a little birthday bash for Paul.  He wanted to keep with the Lord of the Rings theme, but for reasons that are still unknown to me, he requested and Eye of Sauron Cake.  Oh boy.  I went all out for this thing.

 Last year, I made a zebra cake (tutorial here).  I thought the results were pretty sweet.

I had the idea to use the same technique but with orange and red batter.  This way, cutting into the cake would reveal a flaming interior.

With three layers, this thing weighed a ton.  Sandwiched between the layers was banana cream pie  buttercream.  I made my typical buttercream (1/2 cup of butter, 1/2 cup of unflavored shortening, 1 tsp. vanilla, pinch of salt, and 3 1/2-4 cups of powdered sugar, 2 tbsp. milk) but substituted one cup of sugar with instant banana pudding mix.

*It was too thick and incredibly hard to spread.  I recommend adding a lot more milk.

I rustically covered the cake with dark chocolate buttercream.

Then I began adding layers of tinted buttercream for the "Eye of Sauron."

I used four different shades to get the effect I wanted.

Twenty-seven candles framed the eye.

Once it was lit on fire (once again feeling like an orc) it really brought out the different shades.

Apparently, the cake of Sauron was so life-like that Paul cowered in fear.

Make a wish!

I got to throw the ring into the fires of Mount Doom cut the cake.

Can you see the flames?

Okay, so the flames inside were a little pink.  Perhaps the next time I make an "Eye of Sauron" cake I will use red velvet.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hobbit birthday

Can you tell what these are?  I'll give you a hint: they are not aliens.  They're Hobbit hole cupcakes!

Today is Paul's birthday.  Naturally, I began thinking of cake ideas in December.  Completely stumped on what cake to make AND what present to give him, I all but gave up on his birthday until he excitedly insisted I watch the trailer for "The Hobbit" coming out and the end of the year.  Thank you, Paul, for finally dropping a small inkling of a hint.  I googled (don't ya love how that's become a verb?) Hobbit holes and found inspiration is this painting.

I began with gluten free devil's food cake and filled them with a homemade coconut cream pie filling.  Each cupcake got a healthy smear of chocolate ganache. 

 I piped on some green-tinted, coconut-scented buttercream.

And dipped each one in green and yellow coconut shreds.

I thought about stopping here because these looked pretty cool on their own.  But they wouldn't have been Hobbit holes, would they?

(Although, they're not Hobbit holes as much as they're Hobbit Mounds!  Get it?  Because they are coconut and chocolate!)

I strategically placed three chocolate chips, two small for the windows, one large for the door. . .

And piped on frames and a door knob.  (Had I a smaller tip I would have added window panes.)  My hands were so shaky at first, but after a few trial runs I relaxed a bit.

Which was good because I had to pipe eighteen of these Hobbit hole cupcakes.

Then. . . I got a little nerdy and built The Shire.

Soooo nerdy. . . Don't judge me. . .

I asked Paul to clean the kitchen because Andrea was begging for some "Mommy time".  This was his version.  Nice try, Paul.  You're lucky it's your birthday.

Andrea and I finished the job.

I packed up The Shire in my amazing cupcake carrier that I got for Christmas and went to the in-laws for dinner.

I loving jabbed candles into the Hobbit homes-- there weren't one hundred and eleven, but pretty close. . .

Then I lit the shire on fire!  I've never felt more like an orc.

Happy birthday, Paul!  I love you a "hole" bunch!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A teacher

I loved watching my second grade teacher, a short and stout, grey-haired woman named Mrs. Shannon, teach multiplication and read Arthur books.  She was kind, personable, strong, and smart.  Basically everything I aspired to be.  On a chilly Fall day while cutting out construction paper leaves, I decided, at seven years old, if my plans to become a cartoon Disney character didn't turn out then I would teach.  In junior high, I picked the grade that seemed most enticing and during high school my choice was solidified by my discomfort around small children.  I wanted to teach high school English.

The English major at BYU was not what I expected.  I had no passion for it.  If I was throwing thousands of dollars and four years of my life at something, I had to feel passionate about it.  While trudging through my generals I stumbled across a major that brought fire and desire into my soul.  It was a major worthy of my money, so I quickly changed directions.  The more I delved into that major the more conformation I received that it was right for me.  It was not conventional and didn't translate easily to high school curriculum, yet I was optimistic.  I would still find a way to teach.

Then. . . I got married and had to put school on hold.  As I unregistered for classes I waved goodbye to some future dreams and went into mourning.  Thankfully, just one month into my life as a newlywed I was extended a church calling to TEACH TEENAGERS.  It was obvious to me that Heavenly Father knew the desires of my heart.  I looked forward to Sundays every week and gained a great fondness for the adolescents of that ward.  When we moved a year later I wept.  I'm not talking about a few well place tears or a lip quiver.  There was blubbering and mascara waterfalls.

In my new ward I was called to the Primary Presidency as the secretary.  This calling is so flexible in terms of nursing, diaper changes, walking the halls with a fussy child, but best of all is Andrea can be a little noisy without much notice.  She loves watching the children and dancing during singing time.  Unfortunately, this calling does not require me to teach.  I've missed the Saturday night lesson plans, personal epiphanies, and my mind has wondered down some well-traveled roads of discouragement and self-pity.

January's visiting teaching message was on the importance of visiting teaching.  After reading the initial message I wasn't feeling super uplifted.  I decided to research the topic further to better understand what it was Heavenly Father wanted me to learn and teach about this.  As I was preparing my lesson, a little voice said to me, "See?  You're still a teacher."  And I recognized another tender mercy.

The gentle reminder that I was still a teacher opened my eyes to a myriad of opportunities I am given every day to hone these skills.  This morning, over a messy breakfast of applesauce and oatmeal, I patiently showed Andrea how to hold her spoon.  She snatched it from my hand, stabbed the bottom of the bowl rhythmically while I sang "Do Your Ears Hang Low," and licked the tip with her tiny, pink tongue.

Guess what?

I taught her that. . . because I'm a teacher.