Saturday, August 30, 2014

Turning Mayonnaise into Roasted Veggies

Okay, so I've again not posted absolutely anything in forever. No excuses, no long sob stories - other things got in the way and took priority. Leave it to life to make you choose how to best use your time. So why am I writing? Because today I found a life lesson... or it found me.

I moved back to my college apartment and thought I had taken care of all the preparations for the new school year... books bought and organized, apartment clean, belongings put in their place, roommates all arrived, and the stock-the-shelves grocery run. But I forgot a few things at the grocery store. One of them was mayonnaise. How can you make shredded chicken salad without mayonnaise? But I did have eggs and olive oil and some spices and some vinegar. So why not make my own? I researched recipes and found one that looked normal and reliable. Looked easy enough, right?

This. I wanted this. (via

So I got started and everything was going great. The egg, spices and oil were coming together beautifully and it was starting to look like mayo. Then it suddenly didn't. I got too excited and added too much oil too fast. Emulsification ruined. Does anyone know how to save ruined mayo? I don't. I tried. I had a base with more oil than it knew what to do with and well, I wasn't going to toss it. So my broken mayonnaise became a balsamic dressing.... but it still separated really easily. The oil to everything else ratio was still too high. What needs oil and spices? My answer: Roasted Vegetables. And guess what! They taste awesome. Crisp outsides and wonderful flavor. Now I'm writing around large mouthfuls of hot zucchini and golden sweet potato. My day of culinary mistakes turned into a wonderful meal. No mayo required. I'll try for that another day...and the rest of the "dressing" will make a great marinade for chicken later this week.

And the moral of today's life object lesson? A day of mistakes can still have a good ending if you take what you have and make it into something better. You won't always get what you started out for, but you can be satisfied with the end results (and it doesn't mean you won't ever have what you first wanted).

And maybe I'll throw some brownies in the oven to celebrate.

(...and now I've finally found a post to fix my first mistake. Ha! Next time it will be my friend.)

Back to the kitchen. Signing off till my next life object lesson.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Christmas all year round... or at least for two months or more.

Christmas is the very best time of year. I will disagree with anyone who dares to tell me differently. Christmas season in my life starts quite early in the year…. Like Halloween early. It’s fabulous. Not Christmas season like the consumer chaos season, but the grateful, spend time with the family and hope for the peace that Christmas brings to reach the entire world kind of season. This season includes family left and right. I think most of our traditions are all packed into the last couple months of the year…. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years…. All of them are just packed with the spirit that Christmas requires to be Christmas. As of now, I’ve already started singing Christmas music (thank you Women’s Chorus for starting Christmas music on Halloween), watched A Christmas Carol, pulled out Christmas stories and made a traditional family dish just for fun.

I love Fall. I love Christmas. And I love that they are right next to each other. It is so beautiful as the seasons change and the holidays come. The last time I was home I went on a drive to the neighborhood where my grandparents lived. The colors were absolutely gorgeous. The only other time I have seen a picture perfect scene like the one I found… well, it was a photoshopped picture – a work of art kind of like this except real… the vibrancy and contrast were really there. Add the charming houses from the township of Millcreek in Salt Lake City framed in great old, colorful trees and the emotional attachment of beloved family memories and that was the scene. Next time I will make sure to take my camera. Maybe I will live there someday. I very much want to.

As I mentioned, I’ve already watched A Christmas Carol…. Not the Muppets version if you were wondering (as good as it is, it doesn’t compare to the real story). Every time I read, watch or listen to A Christmas Carol one quote always stands out. “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” This is moment of great internal change for Scrooge and I believe that it is possible for the scrooge-self that pops up every now and then to have this change as well. What does it take to honor something with your heart? Not the mind or out of customs or ethics, but the heart… fully and intentionally honorable every moment because you feel the necessity to make it an irremovable part of your life, like the heart to the necessity of the life of the body.

This season I’ve been finding different perspectives on Christmas. Have you ever considered what the Wisemen felt as they searched for the newborn Messiah? How about the Shepherds in the field? What about the people throughout the ages and their Christmas experiences? How about Mary and Joseph as they held their newborn son and began to fathom the importance of that moment? How can it be captured or understood?

(Can you tell what is coming? Yup… a music analogy and choral experience.) I am blessed to be a member of BYU’s Women’s Chorus again this year. Auditions may have been stressful but I can attest that it was worth it… especially since we’ve started Christmas music. We are singing “The Candlelight Carol” by John Rutter – I believe that the lyrics may have begun the thought process of a Christmas perspective. We have been challenged to “sing the language” rather than the music or the words of the song and I had to ask myself how I could sing the language if I did not spend the time to understand what they meant. Here are the lyrics to The Candlelight Carol…. (the other Christmas pieces will probably come later.):

How do you capture the wind on the water?

How do you count all the stars in the sky?

How can you measure the love of a mother,

Or how can you write down a baby’s first cry?

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and adore him,

Seraphim round him their vigil will keep;

Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Saviour,

But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep.

Candlelight, Angel light, firelight and star-glow

Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn.

Gloria, Gloria in excelsis deo!

Angels are singing the Christ child is born.

Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger:

Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay,

Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation:

A child with his mother that first Christmas Day.

Candlelight, Angel light, firelight and star-glow

Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn.

Gloria, Gloria in excelsis deo!

Angels are singing the Christ child is born.

We’ve discussed a couple different concepts in class: the significance of the different types of light and the meaning of the first verse.

I have not held wind as it traveled across the water, nor can I count all the stars. I am not blessed as yet to be a mother and I have never heard a child’s very first cry. BUT I have felt this wind as it has flown across a great body of water. I have starred up at the night sky and lost myself in the beauty of the stars and how numberless they are. I have a mother and am beginning to understand how much she must love me and what she must feel like when she heard me for the first time and held me that first birthday. These nearly unexplainable things may not be the experiences I know or have had, but some things I will hopefully be privileged to experience and maybe someday fully understand. If the expert in anything had to start out knowing nothing then at least I have started somewhere.

Concerning the lights mentioned. My first thought – what do they have in common? First, they are all natural. Second, they dispel darkness. Third, they are guiding lights. Fourth, they are comforting, hope-giving and sustaining until greater light returns. Finally, they were probably all present during the first Christmas evening. I find these lights rather unexplainable as well – kind of like the taste of salt, possible but difficult. What a event to have all those types present in the same location at the same time and place! I personally can consider only one time when this was so… this one time on the first Christmas eve. Does this not increase the significance of the moment, made even more special by the circumstances?… a celebration… an international celebration. Gloria, Gloria in excelsis deo! Angels are singing the Christ child is born!

I hope this season means something more for you, dear reader, than it has ever meant before. Share it. Let it grow and spread. Let it make a difference in your life and then go and make a difference for someone else. Learn to love as a mother loves her child. Learn to yearn as a mother desires to comfort her crying child. Learn to love as the Savior loves all enough to be born and die for them. Learn to live Christmas all year round.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

Let the Christmas season begin!

Guess what? …I’m back!

I know it has been quite a while since I’ve written. I sincerely apologize for my absence. There was a period of time that became rather dark making it hard to write of happy things. Luckily life finds a way to brighten itself and come full circle back to happier times. Well, now I have lived through the experiences life has brought me and I am beginning to understand more the finer details of how to live happily with joy and love and even some sadness and grief. I will attempt to share some of them here.

Now on to some better things: I truly hope that you have had the opportunity to read Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit. It is such a fantastic tale – simplicity and genius in one. In the beginning Peter Rabbit’s mother tells Peter and his sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail “you may go into the fields or down the lane…. But not into Mr. McGregor’s garden”. The whole world was out there for the little bunnies to roam and explore, only one man’s garden was off limits. Isn’t it interesting that when we are offered two choices we first try the one that will hurt us and cause setbacks in our progression. Would it have been different if Peter’s mother had told him that he could either choose freedom, hope, and happiness or fear, misery, and captivity? Which would you choose? Surely the garden looked like an adventure and good idea without weighing the dangers that also laid waiting behind the fence but what about the rest of the world. What great adventures does it hold even though it is not ‘off limits’? Well, Peter got what he asked for, adventure wherein he lost his jacket and shoes and received a cold and a bellyache. “But Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.”

I’ve found in life that there are places we are recommended to avoid and yet sometimes those are the places we go and find. The Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontails of my life are my heroes. Life must be a bit more beautiful if the entire world is their adventure and each day the reward. My new goal is to forget about Mr. McGregor’s Garden and find better, more rewarding adventures…. And I dare you to try it as well. Make every day a spectacular adventure and Mr. McGregor’s garden will no longer be appealing. Which choice will you make?

Hope: this way. :)

Signing off for the day.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Endurance for One Moment More

Well, if my last mini performances had an impact on my life then this last performance of the semester has truly changed who I am in such the smallest but greatest ways. As a member of BYU's Womens' Chorus our solo performance has been the goal of all the rehearsal time we have had and every other performance has been like a train station on the journey through the semester. Important stopping places but it was not the final destination. Last night we made it. We arrived with each other and some important deliveries: 3 months of improving technique, countless hours in and out of class of practice and memorization, the internalization of lyrics, melodies and harmonies, and the many small successes all presented in 13 pieces (two of which were premieres). We had one shot at making each piece become everything that it should be. Each moment had to hold all the an hundreds of other things to be excellent. This is what music is to us; it is excellence. This is what we wanted to give to the audience. It was no longer about us, the single group of unified singers and director enjoying music in an acoustically brilliant atmosphere, but about those we love and those who love us. The audience was placed in the most important position. We invited them to receive the gift that we wished to present them with in hopes that each individual found what was for them.
I have never performed in that extent before. I have sung songs in a way that they have been dedicated to loved ones both present and absent. I have driven myself towards the goal of perfection. I have always tried to give something of myself to my fellow choir members, director and those who come to hear us but there was more I could do. I had to give all of myself to the whole of the choir which in turn gave all of itself to the audience. Our love of music blended seamlessly into our love for every individual in the audience whether known personally or not. They made our music into what it was; it could not have been the same without them. They came ready to receive and we came prepared and willing to give. We could not give anything perfect in form but we could give them of ourselves.
When there is nothing left to give, give of your very being..... we discussed this one day in class. I've discovered that when there seems to be nothing left to give and I choose to take a piece of my most inner being and present it as an offering free to be taken I am not broken or torn but find the room to grow and find a great peace in being able to do so. I have also discovered that I cannot give perfection. Even in my best performance I can find mistakes or missteps or even a moment of less than perfect focus. I am not perfect and all I could offer to our efforts was my imperfection. However, we together can take our varying imperfectability and combine them so our strengths outweigh our weaknesses and we can become something excellent. While we aim for perfection working hard with a focused unity we overcome great hurdles in learning and creating what we could give we missed the mark. Luckily, we knew that we would but we did not miss by very much. The point of perfection lies in a beautiful field of excellence. We were never asked for perfection, we were asked "Do you want to be excellent?" And we did. We want to give excellence.
I cannot say that we were alone on that stage. The power and presence of every note and harmony cannot just come from any choir or acoustic hall or director or composer. It must come from the presence of the music itself. Who is to say that the composer of a wondrous piece was not enlightened and that it was not a spectacular gift? Who is to say that the performers that understand a piece let it come into being rather than create its existence? There is no feeling that I know of that compares with a piece well performed --- it lives and glides through the air unlike anything that I know exists. It penetrates lives and begins to change them in the smallest ways. This is music. This is the magic. This is excellence. Herein lies the gift that is both given and both received: love.

Angele Dei, qui custos es mei,
Me tibi commissum pietate superna:
Hodie, hac nocte illumina
custodi rege et guberna. Amen.

Angel of God, whose guardian is mine,
To me you have committed your heavenly love:
Day and this night illuminate
Guard, rule and govern. Amen.

(lyrics and translation from Angele Dei, composed by Lindsay Goodson to whom we are so grateful for her talents and the beauty of this assuredly inspired piece.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Refuge from the Storm's Front

Since my last posting the storms of life have rolled in leaving only glances of sunlight and the stars as the clouds of one storm faded into another. But the sun still shines above the masses of darkened clouds and the candle-light still warms and brightens the internal refuges. Today I was re-introduced to my personal refuge. Music.
Music has always been and currently is very important in my daily life. I am currently in Women's Chorus and have begun to dabble in composing hoping to find a new form of self-expression...we will have to see how that turns out... however I don't think that I have ever been more grateful for a daily choir rehearsal than I was today AND we even had a performance this morning. After our performance I had been told by our choir assistant, director, family members and friends that our performance was "beautiful".... Mom even said it was sounded "luscious" and our dear director expressed to us how extremely wonderfully we were. To be honest, it nearly made me cry which is kind of awkward while singing. The success of our performance set the whole day to be a little bit better. The lyrics are timeless and well known. Here they are and if you already know them, read them again. They have power that cannot be held only in the words but in the spirit:

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch, a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
I once was blind, but now I see.

T'was grace that taught my heart to fear
And that same grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour when, I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already safely come.
This grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And surely grace will lead me home.

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the glorious sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than since the day we first begun.

It was such a great way to start a day and rehearsal made it better. Sometimes we incorporate physical activity into warm-ups and sometimes there are mental activities. Today we closed our eyes and imagined a wonderful, magical place to share our music. That is our rehearsal. We were asked to leave our burdens and sufferings outside of our new magical place where we could find them later and address them in another time and location. Rehearsal literally became a place of refuge and we, the performers, became the sorcerers of this great magic. Music is a form of magic. It expresses what cannot be expressed through words. Music is the physical form of all emotions... joy, sorrow, exultation, love, fear, delight, woe, melancholy, or hilarity (etc.) Music brings the ability to create something out of silence. It opens the unknown and new and has the power to change lives. I believe music can save the world from the terrors and sorrows that besiege it. Music can be healing and today I found some of that healing.

I've always wanted to wield a form of magic. I guess I never realized that I already am apprenticed as a sorcerer in training....

"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent"
- Victor Hugo

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pursuing Happiness

I have come to the decision that I will do something that I told myself that I would not do --- create a blog. Never say never, right? Therefore, I welcome all and any readers to my personal musings, contemplations, disclosed thoughts, and insights. This may become the way that I record how I spend my time and tell the world the things that I cannot express through coherent verbal means. Well here it is, the unveiling of how I view life. At slight personal risk and with a strange motivation I will attempt share my perspective and accomplish something I have not tried before.

I'd like to explain the title of my newly created blog. Often the phrase "happily ever after" is tossed about explaining what people perceive others' lives to be. Inside fairy stories and magical tales this seems to be the norm, but since I haven't found my fairy story I will live after the manner of happiness. I can only recall one truly perfect day (that was when I was eight years old) but each day can and does have something happy that can be recognized. Whether it is the birds singing in the trees as I walk down the street or a planned afternoon with friends, they are happy things that fill my life. I believe that when people search for happiness they will find it; much like the glad game in Polyanna. As I search for my happily ever after I want a record of the happily nows that exist. This is that record. There will probably be a number of postings that will not always seem happy at first but they will be important to who I am and what I wish to share. The glass is always full of something; it all depends on the perspective.
Consider yourself prepared (or warned).