Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Scarred For Life

My son, Kurt, claims that I scarred him for life. As he was growing up , it was nearly impossible to get him to make necessary phone calls, speak to adults he didn't know well, or answer the door if he knew it was a solicitor. It all stems back, he claims, to a bad experience he had as a little boy. Maybe around age eight. And it was all my fault. He claims.

I belonged to a neighborhood book group and it was my turn to choose the book. I chose Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. As the hostess and presenter, it was my responsibility to find out how many copies of the book were available at the public libraries, price the book, and take orders from anyone in the group who wanted to buy their own. I did this, and then ordered the appropriate number of books from a local bookstore. When they came in, I distributed the copies and collected the money from those women who had ordered them. Except for one. I had trouble catching one woman at home. The book sat on my kitchen counter for a couple of weeks. The date for book group was approaching. I needed to get the book to Laura Hughes so she'd have time to read it before our meeting. And besides, the woman owed me money!

I had just returned home from somewhere, and as I had driven past the Hughes's house, I had seen signs of life. I hurried into the house and picked up the book off the counter.

"Kurt!" I called to my son. "I need you to do me a favor, Bud. Take this book over to the Hughes's and tell Sister Hughes* she owes me $7.35." (or however much)

Off he went.

A few minutes later, he returned, still in posession of the book. And he looked a bit upset.

"What's the matter?" I asked. "Weren't they home?"

"Yeah, but they didn't want it."

"What do you mean 'they didn't want it?' Did you talk to Sister Hughes?"

"No, Brother Hughes came to the door."

"Did you tell him his wife owes me $7.35?"


"Well, what did you say?"

"I said, 'My mom's selling these books and they're $7.35. Do you wanna buy one?' and he said 'Aahhh, it looks like a really good book, but I don't think we'd be interested.'"

I could see his ears burning and he was about to cry. He felt humiliated.

Somehow I guess he thought I was trying to bring in a little extra money for the household budget.

"Kurt!" I exploded. "I'm not selling books! She ordered this book and I'm just trying to deliver it!"

I guess I should have taken the time to explain to him what it was all about before I sent him off on my errand. And now I was feeling a little humiliated as well; Jim Hughes was under the impression that I was sending my kids around the neighborhood peddling books!

I took Ethan Frome from Kurt and headed over to the Hughes's. Jim Hughes answered the door. He looked surprised.

I immediately spoke up.

"I'm not selling books door-to-door," I assured him. "Laura ordered this for book group. Would you please give it to her and tell her she owes me $7.35? She can get it to me whenever."

Poor Kurt. We still argue about it.

"It's not my fault!" I tell him. "If you had just said what I told you to say, it never would have happened."

"Mom," he insists, "How could I have known? It sounded to me like you were selling books. I felt so stupid."

Scarred for life.

I don't know. Maybe I should offer to pay for therapy.

*In our church, we call each other Brother or Sister So-And-So. In Utah, since almost everyone is L.D.S., this is what the kids call everyone instead of Mr. or Mrs. Except at school. At school, they say Mr. or Mrs. When I substitute teach for neighbor kids, sometimes they slip up and call me Sister Gassman and then they say "Whoops! I mean Mrs. Gassman!"

Monday, July 19, 2010

Raspberry Chipotle Pork Tenderloin

This recipe for pork tenderloin is fabulous. They sell Fischer and Wieser Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce at Costco and I found the  recipe in a small booklet attached to the neck of the bottle. I also buy the pork tenderloins at Costco. They come in a two-pack, with two tenderloins in each pack. I have made this in the oven several times, but yesterday I grilled it. Inside or outside, you will need a meat thermometer.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 T. minced garlic
1 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 (about 1 lb. each) pork tenderloins
1 3/4 cups Fischer and Wieser Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat (350 degrees). Combine the olive oil, rosemary, garlic, sea salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to blend well. Place the tenderloins on a baking sheet and rub generously all over with the seasoned oil. Place tenderloins on grill and immediately turn down to between medium and low. Shut the lid. Grill until meat reaches a temperature of 145 degrees, turning often as it cooks. While meat is grilling, heat the sauce in a small saucepan on the stove. When meat is done, place it on a platter and cover with aluminum foil. Let sit for ten minutes. Slice meat in 1/2 " to 1 " thick slices and arrange on platter. Pour sauce over meat and serve.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Enter Mrs. Belchamber... by Elizabeth Cadell

I love to read and I’m always asking family members and friends for book suggestions. They always have titles to recommend. The problem is that I don’t write them down. I repeat them very deliberately a couple of times and think my brain will be able to just call them up when I get to the library. Never happens that way. Once in a while I write them down, but do I ever have the paper with me when I get to the library? I almost always end up wandering the aisles, scanning the shelves, picking up and reading the inside cover or the blurb on the back. (However, the blurb on the back almost always has a large sticker over it that prevents you from reading it. Why do the library people do this? It’s maddening.) Actually, wandering the aisles of a bookstore or library is one of my favorite ways to spend time. I’ve discovered some of my favorite books this way, as a child and as an adult.

Several years ago, I came across a book in the large print section of the public library. This was before I even needed large print. I’m so glad I looked. It was called Enter Mrs. Belchamber… by Elizabeth Cadell. It looked kind of fun, so I checked it out. It was a fast and easy read and absolutely delightful. It had the feel of one of those great old-time movies (the book was first published in 1951) and as I read, I was picturing it on the big screen of back-in-the-day. Mrs. Belchamber is an unforgettable character. I won’t even try to describe her. This is a story about a young twenty-something-year-old Englishman who finds himself the legal guardian of three orphaned French children. As they are traveling by train from France to England, the young man and these children encounter the elderly Mrs. Belchamber. She attaches herself to their party, and, for reasons of her own, refuses to budge. It’s a sweet, simple story. It’s humorous and romantic, and maybe a little cheesy in some of the dialogue between a couple of the characters. But it’s a lot of fun. It's nothing literary, and you're not going to learn a thing from reading it. It's purely for entertainment. And the entertainment is refreshingly pure.

Elizabeth Cadell (aka Harriet Ainsworth) lived from 1903 to 1989. She was British, born in India. She wrote 52 light-hearted, humorous novels with a romantic bent. This is the only one I’ve read.

Elizabeth Cadell

I now own a copy of Enter Mrs. Belchamber... If you feel like something simple, light, and pleasant,  come over and borrow it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Homemade Ice Cream

A lot of people make homemade ice cream in the summertime. When I was growing up, we always made it on the Fourth of July. We had an old fashioned hand-crank ice cream freezer. Sometimes we'd fuss about having to crank, and our mother always told us that hand-cranked was so much better than what you got from the electric kind. My mother would prepare the base and pour it into the metal canister. She'd get the freezer all set up on the driveway or in the garage and layer the ice and the rock salt between the wooden bucket and the canister, and attach the crank mechanism across the top. Then she'd call to all of us kids.

"If you don't crank, you don't eat!"

That was the rule. There were always cousins and friends around. The smallest of us would crank first, when the work was easiest. Easy but tedious. As the mixture began to freeze, the dasher had a harder time moving through it, and the cranking became more difficult. By the end, the adults would take over and finish it up. We never ate it until night time, after the fireworks. We'd all walk down to the beach just before dark and claim a spot either on the sand or on the footbridge. The fireworks were set off out over Lewis Bay. It seems like as many years as not it was too foggy to see them. But we still oohed and aahed as we listened to the cracks and booms. Then we'd walk back up to the house and have ice cream. Maybe the fireworks were sometimes disappointing, but the ice cream was always fabulous.

As soon as we'd all grown up and moved away, my mother bought herself not one, but two electric ice cream freezers. Electric? We all thought she'd sold out. But we didn't mind that she had two of them. Married kids, grandkids, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends continued to show up for fireworks and ice cream for many years. My mother would start making batches of ice cream a couple of weeks ahead of the holiday, pack it in containers and keep it in the freezer. Her specialities were lemon and raspberry.

Lemon ice cream, you ask? Yes. It's my favorite.

Okay, so some people will have a problem with these recipes because they contain uncooked eggs. Here are my feelings about it. How many of us eat cookie dough before we bake it? I do. And I love to lick the beaters when making a cake. Raw eggs don't make us sick. In order to get sick from raw eggs, three things  have to happen. First of all, the chickens have to be sick. Secondly, the eggs that the sick chickens lay have to be contaminated by chicken manure. And then the bacteria has to get from the shell into whatever you're making when you crack the egg. The chances of this happening are very slim. It's a risk I've always been willing to take. Maybe because I grew up occasionally eating things containing raw egg and I never got sick. My boys make smoothies and throw in an egg or two for the protein. Never been sick. I imagine I'll change my mind once it happens, but for now, I'm living on the edge.

If you are worried, you could still use these recipes and before freezing them, heat the mixture on the stove until it's hot enough to kill anything. Stir constantly. Then you'd probably want to strain it before freezing to remove any little pieces of egg that might have cooked. You would also need to chill the mixture really well before freezing it. Your final product would probably taste a little custardy, but i'm sure it would still be yummy.

Or, you could live on the edge.

My Mom's Lemon Ice Cream (makes one gallon)

1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
2 cups light Karo syrup (corn syrup)
5 cups whole milk
1 quart heavy cream
4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk together eggs, sugar,and Karo syrup in a large bowl. Whisk in lemon juice. Then stir in milk, cream, vanilla, and salt. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions.

My Mom's Raspberry Ice Cream (makes 5 quarts)

6 cups fresh raspberries
2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 3/4 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
3 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 tsp. salt ( I don't have one either - more than 1/4 and less than 1/2)

Puree raspberries, 2 cups sugar, and lemon juice in blender. Strain through a fine sieve or layers of cheese cloth to remove seeds. Whisk together eggs and 2 1/4 cups sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in raspberry puree. Stir in milk, cream, vanilla, and salt. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions.

Peach or Strawberry Ice Cream (makes about 6 quarts - maybe a little more)

8 eggs, lightly beaten
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
8 cups cream*
fresh strawberries or fresh peaches
1 more cup sugar, or maybe two

This is my recipe, so naturally I have no idea how much sugar or fruit I actually use in it. Taste the mixture before you freeze it. If you need more, add more.The amount of fruit doesn't really matter too much. The more you put in, the fruitier it will taste and the more it will make. Cut up the fruit and toss it in a bowl with the cup of sugar (or more - probably more). Then mash it up with a potato masher. Mashed fruit is better than whole chunks. Whole chunks of fruit tend to be icy in the final product. Whisk together eggs and 2 2/3 cups sugar. Add mashed fruit. Stir in cream and vanilla. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer's directions.

*If you wanted to, you could use whole milk for part of the cream.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fast Sunday: part of the "Every Weird Thing..." series*

In our church, the first Sunday of every month is known as “Fast Sunday.” Many people, especially my kids, ironically consider it to be the slowest Sunday of the month. During this twenty-four hour period, we go without food or drink for two consecutive meals. We then donate the money we would have spent on those meals (and usually more) to the Fast Offering fund of the church. The church uses that money to aid the needy, locally and around the world. While fasting, we pray for the poor, that their needs might be met. We also use this time to pray for help with specific problems that we or our family members or friends may be facing, the idea being that fasting aids in bringing us closer to the Spirit of the Lord. When we fast, we show our Heavenly Father that we are willing to sacrifice in order to receive His divine assistance in our lives and in the lives of others.

Our main Sunday meeting is called Sacrament Meeting (See February 26, 2010 post “now go sit down”), however on Fast Sunday, we refer to it as Fast and Testimony Meeting. Rather than have assigned speakers for this meeting, members of the congregation are given the opportunity to come forward and share their testimonies of the Gospel with everyone present. Many of the women who do this get quite emotional. And my kids can tell you exactly which ones they are. When they see certain women stand and walk up the aisle to get to the podium during Fast and Testimony Meeting, they’ll lean toward the family member seated next to them and make a bet about how soon the woman will cry:

“Two sentences.”


"Six words.”


“Before she even starts.”

Hey, women get emotional. And maybe we feel the Spirit more strongly than guys do. We’re definitely more sensitive, as a rule, than men are. So there.

Another common occurrence on Fast Sunday is the naming and blessing of new babies, known in other churches as Christening. In other churches, this ordinance is performed by the priest or minister, and sometimes includes a baptism. In our church, all worthy men are ordained to the Priesthood, and therefore, are able to name and bless their own children. This is generally done at the beginning of Fast and Testimony Meeting, before the Sacrament is passed to the congregation and before the time is turned to the congregation for the bearing of testimonies. The father (or another worthy Priesthood holder) carries the baby to the front of the chapel. He is accompanied by male relatives and friends (also worthy Priesthood holders) who have been invited to participate in the ordinance. They stand in a circle. The father holds the baby out on his two hands in the center of the circle. Each of the men places a hand under the infant for added support. The father then offers a special prayer during which he names the child and pronounces a blessing upon the child that will help him or her throughout this life. During the blessing, an odd thing almost always occurs. It has nothing to do with the ordinance, and is not an official part of Mormon doctrine. The men invariably start rhythmically bouncing the baby up and down on their outstretched hands. This may have started out as a way to calm an upset infant, because naturally some babies cry during the procedure. But I’ve always wondered if sometimes it’s why the baby cries. Sometimes I get this silly picture in my head of a circle of men, each holding onto the edge of a receiving blanket, tossing the baby repeatedly high into the air of a big top.

A few months ago, some neighbors of ours named and blessed their new baby in Fast and Testimony Meeting. The dad carried little baby Esther to the front of the chapel. The male relatives and friends also went forward to form the circle. I was too far back in the congregation to see how soon the bouncing began, but fairly soon, Esther started crying. Actually, crying is an understatement. Esther wailed. Wailed might be too mild a term to use in this instance as well, but I can’t think of another word right now. Screamed? Esther screamed through the whole thing. Toward the end of the blessing, the dad included something like, “And we hope that someday you’ll be able to look back on this day with fonder feelings than you’re having right now.” I thought it was great. Why shouldn’t she cry? I, of course, was picturing the big top.

Later in the morning, as we were waiting for Sunday School to begin, I was talking to Esther’s mother.

“That was a beautiful blessing,” I told her. "And I loved that she screamed through the whole thing,” I added sincerely. She looked at me kind of funny for just a second. Then we talked about other things, and she went to sit in another part of the room where she had set her belongings. After a minute, she got back up and came over to me.

“You know, while I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting,” she told me, “I caught a glimpse of you and I thought ‘Melinda probably thinks it’s great that Esther screamed the whole time. And that it didn’t matter or ruin it or anything.’”

How disturbing, I thought, that someone has figured out the inner-workings of my mind.

Esther’s fine. Like all those other women in Fast and Testimony Meeting, she was just feeling the Spirit.

* Every Weird Thing You Wanted To Know About Mormons But Were Afraid To Ask Because Then The Missionaries Might Show Up At Your Door