Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snakes and Updates

Picture this.  I have a nice long sleep, finally, and get up to go take a nice hot shower.  Still a little sleepy, I reach in the shower to turn on the water so it can run for a minute and get hot before I get in.  But instead, just as I touch it, I also see out of the corner of my eye that there is a brownish, creepy looking thing coiled around it.

A snake.

I'll leave you to imagine what I did next.

My son Tyler is the sweetest kid. Good natured and funny, loves to make people smile. And scream too, apparently.

Now, it is no secret that I have many fears or phobias. Heights, we've already discussed here on this blog. Compared to my fear of snakes... heights are a piece of cake!

(Why do I get the feeling Shauna Rose and Kris are laughing right about now as they remember scaring me to pieces with the whole innocent sounding "Rachel, what should I do with this?" mouse incident?)

Luckily for me -- or should I say, luckily for him -- it was a fake, rubber snake he bought for Jonnie the other day.  Of course, his brother had to buy it for him, since I won't buy a toy snake.  Or look at snakes in books.  I look at the ceiling the whole time the kids drag me through the reptile house at the zoo. The whole snake pit part of the new "True Grit" movie was just way more than I could handle and my anxiety levels went through the roof as I sat there shaking and crying. Again.  I know -- I'm a freak.

So, here is a picture of Jonnie with his rescued snake... and a few more updates.  You can tell I haven't taken many pictures over the last few months, luckily someone has grabbed my camera and taken a few. And sadly, have posted even fewer.



Girls at Halloween... you read about their costumes already.

 Amanda and Laura tackled giving the boys haircuts. First time for both of them... the boys were less than thrilled to be their victims. I was thrilled that finally the boys hair was getting cut!

Can you tell how thrilled he is?

 I think they turned out pretty well though, especially since neither of the girls had cut hair before :)

 Taliesin was less than thrilled with his haircut.... but that's par for the course. He never likes ANY haircut.
 And here is my little snake culprit with his best friend and sister, Miss Carolina.
Tyler also bought Jonnie this new teddy bear.  What a sweetie!


Last year, for me, was a year of healing.  This year, feels like it will be a year of change.  Not just for my life, but for many of my friends and family too.  Not that last year wasn't full of changes... it definitely was.

One of the changes, and one that has spurred me being open to more change, is cancer. A few weeks ago when I couldn't sleep so I posted on my blog... that is the biggest thing that was weighing on my heart, but I couldn't face it enough to write about it and process it through.

My friend and sister in law Val has cancer. This isn't new news to most of you reading this. She had a second surgery to remove her thyroid, and faces radiation and treatment.  Everything should turn out fine, it is a very "treatable" cancer, as far as cancer goes. But still -- it just brings everything into perspective to face something like that. And if cancer, if the thought of losing Val, brings everything into perspective to me... I can only imagine what it has been like for her.

I hope this year is a year of healing for Val.

I cried at the drop of a hat for a couple weeks.  I'm emotional, I know. I told Ryan that I just wanted to move back to Salt Lake.  I want to be close to his Mom. I want to be close to the people that have stood by me through the years and never wavered their love and friendship. I want to be there to support Joe's family as they go through some difficult and trying times both now, and ahead. I want to be there with everyone while their family is still mostly all together before their teenagers move into adulthood and build their own lives.

I also want Ryan home with us each night.  When we moved here, it felt like home.  It felt like we had moved to a place we could stay for many years.  I felt immediately surrounded by friends. And some of those friends even felt like family, for a little while. But now, it doesn't feel much like home anymore.

Ryan's gone. And I'm at home when I'm with him.

Maybe I've just adapted to his "flexible" way of living life. Maybe I've come to thrive on change just like he does.  Maybe I just don't want to stay in one place and face the changes that have come in different friendships.  Maybe I'm just looking for the golden answer for us financially, when really there isn't one.  Maybe I'm just so worn out and tired.

Maybe.  But really, I just miss him.

I love you Ry.

No plans to move back to Salt Lake, or anywhere else, yet. We'll see what life brings us. Mostly we're just in waiting mode, seeing where the next week takes us in our lives, and then the week after that. Obviously we have a family to feed, and new shoes the kids all need, and obligations to pay, and all of that plays a part.  We can't just up and move without taking some of that into consideration. On the other hand we can't just have him come home and stay home without taking some of that into consideration. And so, I began to stress out about some of the decisions we have to make the other night, had a fitful night tossing and only have sleeping (which is NOT good when you have to be to work at 3am the next day!)  I decided to listen to some scriptures on audiobook so I turned on the Book of Mormon.  3rd Nephi and Moroni are always my favorites to read, and as I lay there listening, I heard the part in chapter 13 and 14 where the Savior is teaching the people.

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."...

"Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on."...

"Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith."...

"...your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need... but seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

And then later...

"Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

Well, I laid there awake long enough to get to chapter 13, and that was after I had already been tossing and turning.  There really was a good reason for that headache I had!

But after that, I finally fell asleep and I've felt so much more calm about everything since.

Thank you Father, for taking care of us, and for loving us.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gingerbread and Snowmen

The holiday season was busy, as I'm sure it was for all of you.  The day after I got back from Kansas, I started a new job working in the deli at the local grocery store. What started out as a part time job quickly turned to full time hours as two of their full timers went on extended sick leave. When I wasn't at work, I was busy at home make the holidays sweet and special for my kiddos.

A large part of my Christmas memories include staying home from school the week before Christmas, making cookies and other crafts with Mom. She taught me how to make Gingerbread Cookie dough, and Sour Cream Cookie dough.  Then we would roll them out, cut them out, and later decorate them.  After trying to roll out Sour Cream Cookies into giant snowmen cookies and decorating them with my kids for neighbor gifts this year, I'm pretty sure that what I remember as excited children all having fun cutting out cookies looked or felt more like mayhem to my Mom. I'm sure she had fun too... she was that kind of a Mom, and obviously she kept on doing them with us from year to year, but doing them with my kids this year made me appreciate her even more.  She let us have the rolling pin, cut the cookies out, place them on the baking sheets, guiding us rather than doing it all herself while we watched. 

I'm convinced that bakers everywhere, after tasting a properly made, soft and moist Sour Cream Cookie topped with Cream Cheese Frosting, would abandon all other sugar cookie recipes. There isn't a better roll-out cookie dough recipe than Mom's Sour Cream Cookies. Unfortunately, her Gingerbread Cookie Recipe didn't fare so well. The dough was delicious.  The rich, full flavor of molasses and ginger is still one of my favorites, and gingerbread cookies are as much a part of Christmas to me as the tree and presents. We would make the dough, wait impatiently while it set up in the refrigerator, roll them out and bake them.  But after decorating them, the fun was over.  They were tough, hard, and nearly inedible. Still, when I found Mom's original recipe cards years later, I snagged both cookie dough cards and saved them til I could make them with my own kids.

After yet another batch of unedible gingerbread cookies while living in Duchesne, I finally decided it was time to research other recipes and see what could be done to make them edible. Funny, Mom's recipe was identical to the one I found on America's Test Kitchen website.  Except hers was missing a couple key ingredients like butter and soda.  Perhaps it wasn't the original recipe card but instead a hastily transcribed version, sans a few important ingredients.  For the first time, I tasted real gingerbread cookies. Delicious! My friend and neighbor Jackie Johanson got a plate of tiny, soft gingerbread bells and stars topped with melt-in-your-mouth cream cheese frosting with hint of maple.  Good thing I sent them to her, or I would have eaten them all myself.

Another Christmas memory I have is of Mom sewing.  She sewed every year, but one that I remember most was the dolls she made us.  I remember watching her sewing a dark pink, perfectly stitched, round nose and then later seeing it attached to the dolls she gave to Danielle and I. Big, wide faces of cloth, with big eyes, noses, and mouths all hand stitched.  Sadly, I must have been enchanted with makeup at one point because I ruined the doll after applying blush to her cheeks with a purple marker.

And, I sewed this year too.  Yep! Me, sewing.  It's been a while, but I was pretty excited to use the 1954 green machine I bought at a garage sale.  Sadly it died on me before I was able to get the girls dresses sewn, but I did finish the homemade stockings at least.  A few long nights sewing to the wee hours of the morning and several stockings later... the machine all of a sudden started grinding gears together and stopped moving. All that I had planned for the rest of my nephews and nieces and friends were going to have to wait for another year.

I hope they all had fun getting the stockings as I did getting them ready.  They were made of sweaters and a wool coat, bought at the thrift store and used for fabric.  Turned out pretty cute I think!  Sadly, all the pictures are on Ry's phone, so I'll have to update you later...

The night before we headed up to Salt Lake, we made Rice Krispie snowmen.  Fun, fun, fun.  Too bad they turned out "socially unacceptable" and looking like abominable snow babies.  They were supposed to be our gifts to each of the Dutton Family... plus gifts for the remaining neighbors and siblings who were missing out on stockings.   Fun to make with kids though.  We'll have to try again another year...

Here are the cookie recipes... I hope you enjoy making sweet holiday memories as much as I did.  I think next year my siblings are all going to get a plate of soft gingerbread cookies and a recipe card.

Thanks Mom, for making the holidays sweet.

America's Test Kitchen GINGERBREAD COOKIE recipe

3 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon soda

Add and mix til it resembles fine meal:
12 Tablespoons of butter, cut into 1 Tablespoon pats.

Gradually add while mixing:
3/4 cup molasses
2 Tablespoons milk

Divide dough into smaller portions and roll between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4" thickness.  Refrigerate 15 minutes until well chilled and firm.  (If you don't have parchment paper, you can refrigerated the tightly wrapped ball of dough for 2 hours before rolling onto a surface sprayed with cooking spray. (Do not flour the surface or your gingerbread will be dry.)
Cut out the desired shapes and bake on 350 degrees for 8-11 minutes.
Bake til set in center and a touch of the finger barely leaves an imprint.
Cool them on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

I like to make some small cookies and top them with Cream Cheese Frosting to which I have added a drop or two of Maple Extract. Remember, the key to Cream Cheese Frosting is to whip it for ten minutes until it is nice and fluffy.


1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter or shortening
2 eggs
1-2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 1/4 cups unsifted flour
Mix sugar, shortening, and eggs.  Beat until fluffy.  Add vanilla, sour cream, and soda.  Mix well.  Stir in flour, baking poder, and salt.  Divide in half.  Chill 1 hour. Roll to 3/16" on lightly floured board.  But,. Bake on greased sheet at 35 degrees 5-7 minutes.  DO NOT BROWN.  (4 dozen cookies)

Rachel's notes:
The recipe is written above just how Mom had it. I always withhold the extra 1/4 cup of flour.  If the dough is quite sticky, add it.  If the dough is just a bit sticky, don't add it. One day I'm going to weigh this recipe out so I can get it just right every time... til then, we'll have to do with cup measurements. I usually use both teaspoons of vanilla for flavor, and around 3/4 teaspoon of salt. The most important parts of this recipe are not to overmix the dough and not to overcook the cookies.  It should be thoroughly mixed, but not overmixed or they will not be light and fluffly. And they cook fast! Overcooked cookies will be dry.  Undercooked will have a heavy center. Perfectly cooked will be moist and delicious.  Do a test batch or two to guage how they will be in your oven.

And last but not least... I chill this dough for 15 minutes, and then roll it between parchment paper or plastic wrap, then chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. I never use the floured surface.

Jonnie Cake

Sleep eludes me tonight. My heart is full.  A bit of joy, anguish, heartache, love, and missing Ryan all combined I guess. Eliza asked me where my blog went, and so I decided rather than lay there tossing and turning, I'd write it out, catch you up on my life lately, and some of the things that have been in my heart through the holidays.  It's either that, or an overdose of Benadryl to knock me out. I think this is the healthier way to medicate :)

But first, a cute story that I want to remember later.  Facebookers already heard about it... but here it is anyway. 

Earlier this evening, little Jonnie found a box of cake mix and asked me if he could "buy it."  I said yes, and a few minutes later he came back with a fork and tried to poke the box open.  That didn't work, so he trotted off to get a spoon.  No luck.

Next he came back with a butter knife, trying to stab it open.  Mean old Mom is watching him, laughing.  He hands everything to me, telling me to open it.  I tried stabbing the box and said "it won't work!" He finally decided the butterknife wasn't going to do the trick because a couple minutes later he comes back with a small sharp knife from the kitchen, takes the box from me, and starts stabbing the box top with it. When I asked him where he got it he said "at school."  Keep in mind the kid is barely two.

Ten minutes later, with Mom watching closely so that he didn't get hurt in the process, he succeeded in getting the flap open and the cake mix out.  Each movement sent a puff of cake mix all over my bedroom floor as it escaped from one of the many holes he had stabbed through the bag. He handed it to me, ran back to the kitchen, and brought me back a plate for his cake.

Off to the store we went to buy eggs so we could make a Jonnie Cake.  He's such a fun kid! Two years old with long-ish tousled hair.  He reminds me so much of my Dad sometimes.  Not sure why...

I think I'll post separately on a few things. Probably easier for me to process that way.
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