Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Accidental Child Abuse and Fudge

For some odd reason I did something different today. Usually I think to myself daily that I sure wish I was the exercising type. Today, instead, I exercised.

Oh, I used to exercise every day. I spent about ten minutes doing a little workout I'd clipped out of a magazine that for sure would give you a flat tummy. I'm not dumb, though. I didn't expect a flat tummy. Didn't get one, either. But I did get a tiny sense of accomplishment every morning for a few years and off and on for a few more years after that.

I could tell it had been a long time since I'd done the routine this morning when there were little boy legs and baby heads and bums everywhere I needed my legs and arms to be. Small children used to know to give me a wide berth when they heard me chanting, "One, two, three. . ." (spoken aloud for purposes of educating young people in the vicinity in the numbers, their order and a practical way to use those numbers.)

If I don't start exercising more regularly Spencer may grow up thinking the proper way to count out your leg lifts and torso twists is more like this, "One. . . tw--excuse me!. . . two. . . three. . . oops, move your little bum sweetie!. . .four. . . five. . . six--oh! Sorry honey! Did I bop you on the head with my elbow?. . . " because he'll hear that a couple times a month and will never learn to get the heck out of the way.
So that was all way too many words to dedicate to exercise (see, I haven't quite got the exercise bug yet, even after doing it for seven minutes today). On to fudge.

I'll share with you the recipe I used for orange fudge. I have never had such smooth and delicious fudge. Never. I grew up on Christmas fudge that contained chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and marshmallows. I think. It was yummy, but only now do I realize that fudge can be both yummy and inferior.

Maybe it was a fluke. After all I DID mess things up a little. I only had cheap (Store brand. Ick.) chocolate of the milk variety and I was supposed to use two different kinds (milk and semi-sweet, I planned). I didn't have any sweetened condensed milk and had to make my own. I swapped out the vanilla or mint extract called for and replaced it with some orange flavoring.

It was delicious. Just like everything else I've made from my Chocolate Never Faileth cookbook. I've had the book for four weeks, one of which I was away from home, so I have made five* recipes out of it in three weeks. (plus three** more that I made before I got the book).

I'm only saying this for your benefit and not as an advertisement but you really ought to get this cookbook for everyone you know who loves chocolate and loves to bake and create. Even those who don't do a lot of baking/creating will love it. You really have to hold the book in your hands to see how lovely it is. It is beautiful inside and out. Just like you. That's why I think everyone should have one. I have spent hours and hours looking at it and reading all the quotes about chocolate and little stories about the creation of each recipe. Plus the recipes themselves. I am a reader of recipes (ingredients, instructions, all of it).

I love it. You should own one.

Here's how the fudge recipe goes (in my own words):

Quick and Easy (I'd call it Fabulous) Fudge
4 tbsp butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk (or one recipe of this)
2 cups of two different kinds of chocolate chips (or whatever you have on hand)
1 tsp vanilla or 1/2 tsp almond or mint extract (or orange)
1 c chopped nuts (I don't like them and left them out)

Butter an 8x8. Melt butter, stir in SCM. Stir in chips (or chopped bars), let them sit a minute and stir again until they are melted. Stir in extract and nuts. Mix well and pour into pan. Refrigerate for an hour (or two) until set. Cut and try not to eat the entire pan yourself. Seriously. Ugh. Do you think seven minutes of non-strenuous exercise works off an 8x8 pan of fudge?

Smooth and delicious. You should seriously make it. (And I should make it again with better ingredients and see if it turns out worse. It couldn't turn out better.)
*Quick and Easy Fudge
Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Muffins
Chocoholic Lemon Bars
French Silk Pie
**Classic Chocolate Buttercream Icing
Sinful Chocolate Cupcakes

Perfect Chocolate Brownies

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just Now

15 minutes ago:
I cut the kids each a piece of fudge (Chocolate orange fudge tastes like Christmas and I can't stop myself from eating it. Which is neither here nor there, but I said it anyway.). After she finished hers Evie asked if she could cut herself another (I was feeding Spencer). I said yes. She asked, "A sensible piece or what?" I looked over her shoulder at where she was holding the knife poised to cut and I said, "Yeah, that's a sensible piece." She replied, "So. . . bigger than that?"

20 seconds ago (as I typed that last paragraph):
David screams "SPENCER'S UPSTAIRS!!!" A minute ago he was down here with us and then suddenly he was upstairs in my bedroom. He "learned" (i.e. started trying, a few days shy of 11 months old. I tell you, my kids are not overly adventurous) to climb the stairs two days ago. We are vigilant (obviously. . .) about not letting him. Our stairs are terrifying: hard wood, foot-wide gaps between the rails (you can see in one of the pictures here), even all around the landing at the top. We need to do something about it. Like get a gate.

10 minutes ago:
Looking through David's books for homework I noticed they were all covered in crumbs. I helped him clean out that nasty backpack on Monday and today it's all full of crumbs and wadded papers again, so I very calmly and patiently (ahem) ask him what on earth happened. He replies, "It's not my fault, mom! I did not put ANY crumbs in there!"

Then I look through his English homework (they're learning how to tell time, or rather translate it "It's a quarter past two.") and see that probably 40% of the words he's written are misspelled. This is awful and much worse knowing that he was copying off the blackboard. As I point out some mistakes one by one, he says, every single time, over and over, "That's how my pani (teacher) wrote it!" He's such a punk.

This afternoon/evening:
Greg is gone. After getting home from driving back from Germany on Sunday, Greg decided to make a 4 hour round trip journey on Monday to visit a church leader who's having some life struggles. Today, Wednesday he is making a 6 hour round trip drive to a training meeting/fireside. Tomorrow he's agreed to participate in a discussion with investigators: 4 hour round trip drive. On Friday he drives 5 hours to Wrocław for a meeting and from there flies to Prague for an area meeting on Saturday. Sunday he conducts a training meeting back in Wrocław and Monday teaches a class on church history at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, before coming back home. (Hours given are just the drive, not including meetings.)

That's some driving/meeting/teaching/etc.ing. A good way to spend the week after spending a week at the temple.

Right this minute:
I quite love my family.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homely Comparisons

I think I learn something every time I go to someone else's house. I know we say we're not supposed to compare ourselves to others, but I think life would be flat and silly (maybe even pointless?) if we didn't. We're all different. That's what makes the world interesting and allows us to learn and grow.

When I go to someone else's house, of course I notice differences between theirs and mine. (not including decor. Most everyone has better/nicer/newer decor than we do. I don't compare there.) I might make mental, often hardly conscious observations like this:

Man, clean (uncluttered) surfaces everywhere!
Eeek. I'm sticking to the back of this dining chair!
What a great idea for a chore chart!
Wow, they're really teaching responsibility the way they have their kids care for their pet!
I hope that stack of books doesn't fall off the piano onto anyone's head.
I have to ask for this recipe!

I learn about things I could improve in my own home. I also learn about things I am doing well. I am reminded that the little things I neglect and don't notice anymore will be noticed by visitors to my own home (hello, piles of papers on the stairs!). It's pretty easy not to judge because our strengths and weaknesses are different and it is easy to recognize that. It's also pretty easy not to get down on myself because I do have strengths, and can work on my weaknesses.

In every house I learn something about how I think my own home should be.

And then I visit the house in which I learn everything about how my home should be.

  • The people working there are happy, helpful and calm. They work and seem to care only for the smooth, proper functioning of the house and the joy of those who are inside. They stand, not preoccupied or absorbed with any distraction, but very open, always looking for ways to help anyone that may have problems or who even just may want to chat for a moment.
  • It is clean there. Very clean.
  • There is a schedule. It is followed and everyone goes about their business knowing what to expect. Things get done; people do those things willingly.
  • A spirit of service and love is felt everywhere.

I learn all of these things and do my best to make my own home a house of order, peace and love.

But more than what I learned through observation in that house, I learned through the spirit. I learned what I already know. What I have always known. What matters most to me. But somehow learning it again changes me.

I learn that my Father really, really loves me. I am his. That is amazing. He has big plans for me. I can be so much more than I have been. I have not been who I am. How did I forget who I am, even while I knew it?

How did I forget why on earth I'm here? Or rather why I'm here on Earth? I knew it. I did, and I was reminded and refocused over and over again, but even then, I didn't really get it all the way, I think.

In that house I learned how my home should be. And I learned how and what and who I should be. And why.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In Heaven

I'm going to be in heaven this week.

What constitutes heaven?:

  • Greg is not working for a full week and I get to be with him most of the time.
  • I get a break from the three oldest kids for the week.
  • We're traveling. I love road trips.
  • We will spend the week in Germany.

Each of those things alone is a little bit (or a lottle bit) of heaven, but the thing that will make it most heavenly is that we will be in the temple for hours on end for days in a row.

Heaven, I tell you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Different Over Here, But Also The Same

It is 1 am. We just got home.

We went to church, went straight to a temple recommend interview and then came straight home. And here we are at 1 am.

I had my interview with my branch president after church at 12 pm, then we drove to meet a member of the mission presidency on his way home from visiting a distant branch to have our second interview, which took place around 7:30 pm.

We had our interviews in his car.

We drove 9 hours today, instead of the 4 we would have driven if we'd only gone to church.

We made a large triangle instead of just boring lines going to and from church.

Life is interesting in Poland.

I had the privilege of giving my favorite answers to my favorite questions on the most important subjects to the Lord's representative.

I love saying yes.

(well, and no, but it's the yeses that make me teary. The nos are a formality.)

It's as awesome saying yes when you drive 5 hours out of your way to do it as it is when you wait for a half an hour in your own chapel.

It's as meaningful to hear those questions and say those yeses in a car as it is in an office.

This was a hallowed e'en.

I am going to bed.