Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Normal Person

Magpie #29

She could hear him yelling again. Sitting on her balcony in the cool Southern California fall morning, Jen could hear her famous next door neighbor screaming at the top of his British lungs. Unfortunately the trees and bushes between their properties were not enough to keep out the sound of a loud human voice.

“Geez, again?” she muttered to herself, as shaking her head, she turned her attention back to her morning paper and cereal bowl.

Living next door to a true-blue movie star had seemed exciting at first. Paparazzi were almost always hanging around out on the street. Cars came and went. Jen could only wonder at who was in them and why so many people were necessary for one man, as she never recognized their faces. Once in a while Jen caught glimpses of the famous man, his close-cropped dark hair and fantastic body, sans shirt, standing on the stairs by his back door, talking on his cell phone. The sight of him took her breath away.

Over the months she’d gotten used to the noise on her quiet street in the canyon. She’d lived there for five years, quietly living and writing. Her parents had passed away leaving her a great deal of money, so she’d purchased this house. Her house, while small compared to her neighbors' homes, was sheer heaven to her because she could write in peace. But her sexy neighbor had changed things. The paparazzi, the cars full of people coming and going, had interrupted her once blissful existence.

“What the bloody hell?” she could hear him yell from next door. More curse words could be heard over the canyon breeze and the birds chirping. His English accent gave even curse words propriety. Jen sat up and turned towards his house again.

He stood there at his back door, shouting into the phone and gesturing with his free arm. His eyes caught hers. She froze.

“Crap!” she thought. “I’m busted eavesdropping and watching him,” but she couldn’t move. He sighed, defeated, still holding her eyes. Ending the conversation with a close of his phone, he gave her a sad smile and waved one hand. Jen waved back, smiling a cheerful grin that she hoped masked her embarrassment at getting caught.

“Hey---would you like to come over for some coffee?” he shouted.

Stunned, Jen looked around and behind her. “Me?” she called back, pointing at herself.

“Yes, you,” he chuckled. “I could use a normal person to talk to this morning. You look fairly normal. Are you normal?”

Jen laughed and shook her head at him. “Normal? Me? Not quite, but . . . I’ll be over in a sec.” Intrigued by his request, Jen carried her empty cereal bowl and paper inside and shut her balcony door. “What the heck? What do I have to lose?” she thought.

Grabbing her keys she checked her appearance in the mirror before walking next door.

Photo credit: Willow @

Thursday, August 26, 2010


My trusty laptop is down (dead fan) so I am forced to use my hubby's old one or our ancient dinosaur desktop until my new fan flies in from Hong Kong next month. At the same time I am going back to teaching 7th grade English and reading next week and am exhausted from setting up my classroom. I haven't written and it's driving me crazy!!!

The good news? I watched the movie, "Invictus," with Matt Damon the other night. It's about South Africa and the end of apartheid. In it Nelson Mandela quotes the poem, "Invictus," by William Ernest Henley, who lived from 1849-1903.

The movie was excellent, but it was the poem that caught my eye. (It's the English major in me.) It is an amazing poem made even more inspiring by the fact that Henley wrote this poem while in the hospital after having his leg amputated because of Potts disease. (Tuberculosis of the bone.) This poem inspired a future leader to forgive and to take responsibility for his own destiny and that of his country.
I give you . . . (drumroll) Invictus!


OUT of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

~~~William Ernest Henley

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bathtub Soak

Magpie #28

Long day,
sore feet.

Good soak,
relaxing treat.

Photo credit: Willow @

Block Walls and Bullies

There is a tale still told amongst my siblings and myself. It started as a small incident in the late 1970’s, but over the years has grown into tale of larger than life proportions. It involves my middle brother, AJ, and how he saved us from neighborhood bullies.

To better understand this story, let me give you some background into my family. I am the oldest of 5 kids. The next kid is Terresa, then AJ, then Nikki, and lastly Truman. We grew up in the suburbs of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the 1970’s and 1980’s. My parents bought a large, new home and yard when I was 7. They installed a pool and tennis court/basketball court in the back, ensuring that their children and children’s friends would stick around the house to play. (We did. It was the house everyone migrated to at one time or another.)

The house, situated on a cul-de-sac, was chosen by my parents because of the relative safety of kids being able to play in a cul-de-sac and not get hit by cars. That was back when kids could actually play in the streets in Las Vegas without constant parental supervision. (Our previous house had been on a straight street with 3 entrance/exits to it and lots of traffic.)

There were some ugly older boys who were twins living in a cul-de-sac across from ours. They were in junior high or early high school at the time and they were mean and scary. They cursed and spit and I always sensed a mafia connection with their family, if you know what I mean.

One day they were riding a new scooter they bought/stole around and happened to come into our little circle street. We were bored (as usual) that day and were sitting on a tall block fence next to the house. Looking back it was dangerous and I would probably not let my kids sit on a 6-foot high block wall, but it was the 70’s, and those were different times (no car seats) so we were okay.

Watching them drive by we smiled at each other and thought we could get away with something we’d never dared to before. Along with our next-door neighbor friend, Noelle, we began yelling at them as they rode by.

Keep in mind we were good kids. We never used profanities unless we wanted to get in huge trouble with our parents. But potty words and words like “stupid” and “idiot” were safe. Each time they drove by we’d yell something and hide behind the fence. The twin riding the scooter would whip his head around trying to find us and yell profanities back. We’d laugh and laugh, watching them through the cut out blocks in the concrete brick fence.

After a while it wasn’t enough to yell things at them. We wanted to throw things at them. Rocks weren’t safe; we didn’t want broken windows in anyone’s house or car. Sticks weren’t that available (we’re talking the desert folks, plus it was still a fairly new house and the landscaping wasn’t what it is today). No, my brother AJ had a better idea. Throw dog poop at them.

Yes, AJ was always willing and able to pick up the most disgusting things possible and fling them. He would throw stuff at us or neighbor kids or strangers driving by or even bullies riding their scooter around our cul-de-sac. Over the years AJ has thrown roaches, moths, dog poop, spiders, and anything and everything gross and disgusting at me. Being the middle child and the first boy in our family we were appalled at this new and gross behavior. We didn't know any better. (FYI: He continues to throw things at me to get a rise out of me and it usually works. I love him regardless. Now that I have 2 boys I better understand the male psyche and the need to throw gross things, I love him even more.)

Our dog at the time, Tally, a prolific pooper, had left several tasty treats for AJ to use as ammo. Use them he did. The only one of us not afraid to touch dog poop, he flung that poop like no one had flung poop before. The twins were so angry, but couldn’t get to us (the fence, remember), and we had the pleasure of laughing until we cried. They stopped driving their dumb scooter into our cul-de-sac and actually I don’t remember them ever coming back.

We reminisce about this story when we’re all together and it still makes us laugh. The day AJ helped us humiliate and drive away 2 bullies will go down in our family history as one of the best days ever. My parents still live in the cul-de-sac house and the block wall is still there. Bullies beware!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rusty Pipes

Mag #27:

“Wow! You’ve got some serious rust and corrosion goin’ on here!” The chunky plumber exclaimed.

The two-bedroom, 1,000 square foot basement walkout we rented near East High School in Salt Lake City turned out to be a plumber’s dream and my nightmare. The sump pump, which pushed our dirty water and sewage up the hill to the sewer line in the street above us, had quit working. Also many of the pipes were leaky and needed to be replaced. Luckily we rented. The owners were responsible for paying for this mess, not us. I watched dumbstruck as the plumber pointed out the rest of the problems with the plumbing. It was a post-World War II home, so it was bound to have some small issues I thought, but I had no idea about this mess.

The plumber climbed back out of the small, closet-like room where the sump pump was set up. Where they had found this guy, I don’t know. He seemed honest enough though. He was married (wearing a wedding ring), tall, plump, and big-boned. He had a small town accent. I figured he was from one of the small towns outside of Salt Lake. Being a nosy woman, I asked him.

Turned out he was from Copperton, Utah, out by the Kennecott copper mine. When I asked him why he chose to become a plumber he smiled.

“When I was a kid my brother, friend, and I used to swim in the tailing ponds out near the copper mine. We didn’t know the water was contaminated. Hell, THEY (meaning the copper mine owners) didn’t know what was in that water. One day I lost my sense of taste and smell and it never came back. What better qualifications could a plumber have?”

Made sense to me.

P.S. True story!!!
Photo credit: Willow @

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gorilla Snot

My hubby called me from Walmart the other day. Here's how our conversation went . . .

Hubby: "Hey, I just saw this hair stuff called Gorilla Snot."

Me: "No way! The boys would love it just because of the name! What does it do?"

Hubby: "It's hair gel. Should I get it? They don't really use hair gel."

Me: "Are you kidding?" (Picturing the hours of fun the boys would have with this product, thus staying out of trouble and keeping the mess in one location---the bathroom.) "How much is it?"

Hubby: "A couple of bucks."

Me: "Buy it!!!!"
Yes, there is actually a product called Gorilla Snot. The hubby brought it home and the boys went nuts. Here's the proof.

Whoever had the fantastic idea to invent this product and the name of it (which 10-year-old boys find so cool) I want to hug them. I hope they become millionaires. If it helps my guys want to style (and actually comb) their hair, I'm thrilled. So thank you Gorilla Snot inventors. You deserve an award. By the way, we aren't too busy for commercials and work for cheap. ;o)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Promise Kept

Magpie #26

She found the watering can on the ledge, under a fern. Her grandfather had left it there for her, knowing she would carry on after he was gone. She’d promised him she would. His garden had been his greatest joy. He spent hours watering, wedding, and tending his plants. She spent her youth playing under the trees, creating make-believe castles and fairies, running down the paths, and weaving crowns from his beautiful flowers.

He told her that there was one area of the garden she was never to enter while he was alive. The rough rock walls around it were higher than she could ever dream to see over. The heavy wooden door was kept shut and only opened with a key grandfather kept around his neck. Even with her curious nature she knew grandfather was serious about her staying out until he had died. She had obeyed his wish. Now that he was gone, it was time to discover what was behind the walls and locked door. As she gripped the key in her hand, she anxiously walked towards the locked garden door, wondering what she would find on the other side.

Photo Credit: Willow, from her inspirational website

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Today I have the writing blahs. I’m tired and unmotivated to be creative. (All I want to do is drink a chocolate milkshake like the one above.)

I have enjoyed reading other people’s blogs and perusing through websites, so I thought I’d share my finds instead of writing something new today. (Besides my sis Terresa tells me it’s good karma to do blog “shout-outs” for other people’s blogs. I need some good karma today.) Here are my shout-outs. :o)

Best Poetry Blog:

Terresa is one of my (very talented) siblings. She writes like a dream and takes her work very seriously. She’s a great example of a writer, mom, sister, and friend. Plus she always finds the coolest pictures to go with her poems and essays.

Funniest Blog:

Hands down Cheeseboy is the FUNNIEST blogger I have ever read. He reminds me of my younger brother AJ (if AJ ever discovered blogging and wrote down half the stuff he and his four boys do.) Cheeseboy will make you laugh--even if he went to the U of U. (No one’s perfect.) ;o)

Great Site to Keep Track of the Books You Read:

I can’t remember who turned me on to Goodreads, but I love it! I can keep track of all of the books I’ve read, make lists of books I’d like to read, compare what I’m reading with others, post and read book reviews and see authors’ pages. Feel free to find me on Goodreads and add me as a friend.

Best Cook on TV:

Sam the Cooking Guy. (Sigh.) I may have a teeny, tiny crush on Sam. (Yes, my hubby knows this. It’s a sensitive subject in our home.) I got hooked on his TV show a couple of years ago when I had insomnia (it was on at a weird hour) and then turned to his website for recipes when I couldn’t remember exact ingredients. He makes fairly simple recipes that you would actually eat!

He’s funny and a great cook. (He made the BEST Kettle Corn recipe ever this summer and I’ve been hooked ever since. Here’s the link to his recipe.

If it doesn’t work let me know and I’ll just post it.)

Great Site to Get Used Books:

I’ve been using Paperback Swap to trade books for years. Basically you sign up, post the books you want to get rid of, agree to pay postage (printable from your home printer) for a book someone wants, and then mail it. You get a point for every book you mail which you can then redeem for a book you want from someone else. (They will pay the postage to send it to you!) It’s saved me hundreds of dollars and I’ve found obscure books I need to use in a lesson that I can’t find anywhere else (or it’s a heck of a lot cheaper.)

For More Information About My Religion:

People often ask me questions about my church and my beliefs. I can answer them, but I know people may feel more comfortable reading about it at home alone, instead of me talking their ears off. There are many misconceptions out there about us Mormons and the LDS Church. I have recently found this website the church put out and am grateful for it. There is lots of info and personal stories about other people (probably more normal than me) who are LDS. :o)

Best Writing Prompts:

I was looking for inspiration to write this summer and my sis Terresa persuaded me to check out Willow’s Magpie Tales. I’m so glad I did. It’s been good practice writing (she takes a picture and posts it once a week) and you get response from other writers. I’ve really enjoyed it.

I’ll stop there for now. I’m always on the look out for good blogs and websites, so if you happen to know of one I might enjoy or the owner wouldn't mind sharing, let me know. Have a great day!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Syrup Fiasco of 2010

I woke up this morning and had the brilliant idea to make Scone Syrup. (See recipe below.) It calls for buttermilk and since I had most of a ½ gallon of buttermilk that needed to be used within 2 days, I took the challenge to cook up a big batch.

My problem is not cooking. I love cooking. My problem is math. You see I have an English degree. Math makes me nervous. Fractions make me even more nervous. Following recipes is not a problem as long as I stick to the recipe. I get into trouble when I quadruple or multiply a recipe by 6 or 8. (Anyone know the lingo for multiplying by 6 or 8?)

I try to add the fractions in my head and get confused and this causes cooking grief. Long ago my mom told me not to add the fractions, but just decide how many times I wanted a make a recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar and I want to quadruple it, I would add 4 cups of sugar to the bowl. The same works for fractions. If a recipe calls for ½ cup of buttermilk, I would just fill my ½-measuring cup four times (if I were quadrupling it) and add it to the bowl. Make sense?

This morning I decided to multiply the syrup recipe by 8. What was I thinking? I was thinking I would use all of that grody buttermilk no one remembers why we purchased in the first place.

My son, Josh, was on the couch watching a DVD, and the hubby was asleep. Our two dogs were hovering around my feet in the kitchen, hoping to get a treat. I began combining ingredients.

I haven’t made syrup since wintertime, so I was a little rusty. I knew I need a big pot just for doubling the recipe, and thought that multiplying the recipe by 8 my biggest pot will be fine. Not even close.

Everything went fine until it started to boil. The beautiful caramel colored syrup must boil for 5 minutes. So it started to boil and I set the timer. I was still thinking it would be fine. It was fluffy and bubbling and then began to overflow my biggest pot. I yelled for Josh to help.

Josh ran in and his eyes grew as big as hubcaps. “Mom! What are you doing?” he yelled.

“Open the cupboard!” I call. “Grab the next biggest pot! Hurry!”

Josh ripped open the cupboard, grabbed the next biggest pot and we scooped boiling syrup into the next biggest pot. That pot began to boil. I sensed that once again, I would need another pot. Crap! I grabbed yet another pot and scooped syrup out of the second pot into the third pot, all while stirring the first huge pot.

As I stirred and monitored all three pots, I realized the third pot is going to overflow. Too late. It overflowed. Because it was sitting on the front burner, it overflowed down the front of the stove and onto the floor. I decided no more pots, it was too late, and kept stirring what pots I had. I would clean the mess up later.

In the meantime, our dogs went nuts. They thought they had hit the food jackpot. They were slipping and sliding all over the syrupy tile floor in front of the stove. They licked the floor, they licked the stove, and they licked the cupboards the syrup was flowing down. I tried not to gag and promised myself I would scour everything when this nightmare was over.

Finally the timer dings. My five minutes of hell have ended. I gently kicked the dogs away, removed the sticky pots from the stove, poured the syrup into containers and surveyed the damage. It was bad, really bad.

The dogs went right back to licking the stove, cupboards, and floor. One dog, Oscar, had syrup all over his head. The other dog Snoopy noticed, and began licking Oscar’s head. I rolled my eyes. I caused this chaos with my stubborn stupidity.

I called faithful Josh into the kitchen and begged for his help. He sensed my desperation and asked what he could do. I handed him paper towels, a rag, and some Ajax and we got to work.

After excusing the dogs from the kitchen, we wiped down the floor, pulled the stove out from between the cupboards, and each took a side. Once the sides were clean, I began scrubbing off the hardened syrup on the burner top. What started as a hideous chore became funny to us. We laughed and talked until everything was clean. (Let’s face it, the sides of the stove needed a good scrubbing anyway.)

The syrup fiasco of 2010 ended on a light note, until we remembered the dogs. They were filthy with syrup. (See picture below. It doesn't do their filth justice though.) I sighed and asked Josh to grab the car washing towels from the garage. We had two dirty dogs to wash.


Scone Syrup

1 c sugar

½ c buttermilk

½ c butter (1 stick)

1 T Caro Syrup

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients in big pot EXCEPT THE VANILLA. Stir it as needed. When the syrup begins to boil set your timer for 5 minutes. Keep stirring. When the 5 minutes are up add the vanilla and whisk the syrup. Let it cool for a minute or two and then place in containers. Store in the fridge.


Dirty dogs

The Key

Magpie #25

She held the old-fashioned key in her hand, weighing it. The door had been painted and repainted so many times, but the original lock had been carefully painted around. The lock was slightly rusty and scratched from long ago use. She didn’t know if the key would still work. She had to try it though. She needed to know what was on the other side of that door.

Her grandmother had never allowed her to open that door. It had always been locked, ever since she could remember. Neither of her parents would talk about the room, but insisted that she ask grandmother. Only once had she dared to ask and her usually kind-hearted and easy-going grandmother had turned away, her face frozen in a mask of despair, saying that the room was not to be disturbed.

Now that her grandmother had passed away, it was about to be disturbed. What was behind that door? Why had her grandmother kept it locked? What had she been hiding in there?

She inserted the key and turned it. Grasping the knob in one hand, she pressed the door open with her other hand. Holding her breath, she stepped forward into the room.

Photo Credit: Willow @